March 9, 2012, - 5:47 pm

Wknd Box Office: John Carter, A Thousand Words, Friends With Kids, Rampart, We Need to Talk About Kevin

By Debbie Schlussel

As you’ll see below, it’s a Netflix weekend because I really didn’t like any of the new movies debuting in theaters, this weekend.  I did not see “Silent House” because the screening was late at night, and I didn’t want to attend with a trial early in the morning the next day with over an hour drive to get to the trial.  Sorry.  I’ll try to see it over the weekend and post my review, so stay tuned.  Here’s what I did see:



*  “John Carter“:  Sorry, but I was bored to tears by this “Star Wars: Phantom Menace” “rip-off.”  I put the word “rip-off” in quotation  marks because the author, Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also created and wrote “Tarzan”), was really ahead of his time (back in the late 1800s) in writing science fiction involving a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars and involved in wars between various species-nations.  He dreamed this stuff up when it was new and exciting, more than a century ago.  But now that his work is finally a movie, it’s old hat, passe, the same old thing we’ve seen a million times before.  The aliens look almost exactly like Jar-Jar Binks or the “Avatar” (read my review) creatures. The pet “dogs” look like miniature Jabba The Hutts (or is that, “Jabbas The Hutt?”).


The story, aside from also being all-too familiar, is also boring, uninspired, and extremely confusing.  I don’t speak “alien,” and haven’t a clue what they were fighting for or why.  Nor did I care.  I was so bored that I was trying to come up with a drinking game for each time Dominic West (who plays a villain) came on screen and noted how he didn’t look nearly as handsome as in HBO’s “The Wire.”  Yup, that’s what a girl like me thinks about when the story is so dull and I’m trying to find a way to stay awake and pass the time.  And West is one of the biggest names in the movie, which should tell you something.

I liked the first and last ten minutes of this movie.  The rest was a custom-made excuse for a double shot of espresso.  Yaaawn.

HALF A REAGAN
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “A Thousand Words“:  More evidence that some things from the ’80s don’t stand the test of time and shouldn’t make a come back.  And I’m not talking the ghost of Michael Jackson, neon clothes, or leg warmers.  Nope, this time around it’s Eddie Murphy, the star of this boring, unfunny “comedy.”  Sorry, but he’s just not funny anymore.  His ’80s-style dopey humor just isn’t funny in 2012.  At least, it wasn’t in this movie.

I can’t say the message in this movie is so bad, but if you need this movie–or any movie–to figure out that money and ambition aren’t more important than love and family, well you probably won’t get it, anyway.  I mean, it’s not exactly a novel or genius insight.

Murphy plays a wealthy, high-powered Los Angeles literary agent who tries to hook a New Age Indian guru (think Deepak Chopra, and just as phony) as his latest author.  Murphy is very materialistic and cares more about money and status than about his wife, his son, and his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother.  He’s also bitter about his father, who left them when he was young.  The Indian guru makes a tree appear in his yard that loses leaves with each word Murphy speaks.  The tree is an extension of Murphy, and when it loses all its leaves and dies, so will he, so he stops speaking.

You can probably figure out the predictable ending.  The movie was silly, boring, and I barely laughed.  Sorry, Eddie, but even “Beverly Hills Cop 17″ or “Five More 48 Hours” would be more exciting.  Your time has come and gone.

HALF A REAGAN
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Friends With Kids“:  Real-life unmarried “life partners” Jennifer Westfeldt and Jon Hamm made this unoriginal, annoying movie glorifying random sex and kids in unconventional single mother households.  Yes, it has a predictable ending with a decent message, but getting there wasn’t worth it.  Mostly, this was just a really long, repetitive, raunchy movie starring two very unattractive people in a chick flick.  The guy, Adam Scott, looks like Liza Minnelli.  The woman, Westfeldt, looks like an aging warped Cabbage Patch doll.  It was painful to watch two such unattractive people in what you know will finally turn out to be a sappy romance.  It’s not that I’m vain.  It’s that I enjoy unenjoyable, liberal-minded movies even less when they feature such weird looking people in a “romance.”  Even the real-life alter ego of the very hot Don Draper, Jon Hamm, looks terrible.

And who on earth can take a movie that features married couples shrieking, fighting, yelling, and otherwise connipting in nearly every other scene?  No thinks.  I can wait outside divorce court and see much better fireworks and arguments. This is “comedy?” Riiiight.

The story:  a guy (Scott) and a girl (Westfeldt) are close friends who share every detail about their sex lives, but they aren’t sexually attracted to each other.  Their other friends are all married with kids, but miserable because they have kids.  So Scott and Westfeldt decide, since they don’t want to ruin their dating relationships and romances, that they should have a kid together and continue to date other people.  It works out well for most of the movie, until, well . . . if you can’t see the predictable movie ending coming, you’ve never seen a movie. There have already been several equally or only slightly less annoying movies with nearly or exactly the same story line.

In real life, lefties Hamm and Westfeldt (both produced the movie, and she wrote, directed and stars, while he co-stars) don’t believe in marriage and have lived together for ten years.  They also don’t believe in kids.  And that’s kind of the message they are sending here, despite the predictable, sappy, annoying ending.

Skip at all cost . . . unless you like non-stop, overwrought melodrama and chick flicks at their worst mixed with vile filth that just isn’t funny.

FOUR MARXES PLUS FOUR BETTY FRIEDANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Rampart“:  This is (very loosely) based on the true story of corruption among real life Los Angeles police officers in the late ’90s, Woody Harrelson plays a corrupt L.A. cop in 1999.  He sets up criminals, kills innocent and not so innocent people, is involved in robberies, stealing, and drugs, and cheats on his wife with various women.  He’s violent, dishonest, and a piece of crap who drinks, etc. He is married to the sister of his first wife, and has kids with both of the sisters, who live in the same compound.  The movie was depressing, boring, and pointless.  Plus, the corrupt cop thing  has been done to death already and done better in “Training Day,” “Internal Affairs,” “Serpico,” and a host of others.

Skipworthy.

FOUR MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “We Need to Talk About Kevin“: The weird-but-talented actress, Tilda Swinton, was nominated for an Oscar for her starring role in this creepy and pointless movie. But there’s little acting. It’s more like brooding and looking sweaty and emotionally barren. In fact, to me, Jasper Newell, the actor who plays her son, Kevin, as a little kid, is the real star of this movie. For such a young kid to get the wicked nature of a person so spot on–well, that’s great acting. Sadly, the great acting was in a horrifying movie not worth the time you’ll waste. It’s way too artsy and herky-jerky, tells you very little, and what it does tell and show you, you’d rather not see.

Later, another actually plays Kevin in a movie that eventually shows us he’s a horrifyingly violent person who commits unspeakable acts against his family and others. Not worth watching unless you are the guy who is selecting Gitmo cinema-torture. An arthouse movie best skipped.

THREE MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

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28 Responses

‘John Carter” reminded me of ‘Gulliver Jones, Warrior of Mars’, a Marvel Comics ‘Creatures on the Loose’ story.

http://www.archive.org/stream/GulliverJonesWarriorOfMars/GulliverJonesWarriorOfMars1970sMarvel#page/n0/mode/2up

Gulliver Jones was a Marine transported to Mars’ past when it’s perfect civilization had fallen apart due to some un-natural catastrophe, back when earth was still in the age of dinosaurs.
Most likely a rip-off of Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.
I only know this because I bought the first issue.

theShadow on March 10, 2012 at 1:19 am

    BTW, Deb, I figured either you were very busy in court or ill…nice to have you back. You weren’t the only one feeling like a junkie in need of a fix! :) LOL!

    theShadow on March 10, 2012 at 1:30 am

I’ve worked in theatres for years, and had no particular hopes for John Carter, but I was pleasantly surprised. I did feel the Jabba-puppies were a genuine rip-off from Star Wars, but aside from that, it’s reasonably entertaining, and far less derivative than most things coming out these days. Quality-checked this @ midnight following a full day of work, and had no problem staying awake sans caffeine.

Robert on March 10, 2012 at 4:10 am

The common theme this week seemed to be married or unmarried with kids. The only two on the list I may see are “Rampart” and “We Need To Talk About Kevin”. (Sociopaths need to be discussed and pointed out more in life for the protection of society).

I really appreciated your review of “Friends With Kids”. I don’t watch “Mad Men” (I would but I don’t have cable) so I am not taken with Jon Hamm (a less famous George Clooney but better looking) but for those gals that think he is so deep and complicated (because he won’t marry) the simple news is he is NOT. He just does not respect women. And he has no respect for the 10 year shack-up-honey (and she, even less for herself). Feminists would like you to believe that women are ok with that now and the truth of the matter is we are NEVER ok with being an unpaid whore no matter how much we sell ourselves out. It’s pathetic and why women feminists can never be trusted. If a man does not respect you, you are retarded to act like a “wife” without the love, respect, commitment and covenant. It goes against our intrinsic biology and people who do live like that have no self respect. It’s pitiful (when it does not involve kids).

That being said, I appreciate when couples like that don’t have kids. They confine their affliction to themselves and kids have enough to deal with in 2012 with selfish parents, step-parents, shack-up-honeys and step-brothers and sisters. It’s nightmarish and the chain continues…

I do hear people panning every Eddie Murphy movie that comes out and I have always wondered WHY…what were these people looking for that was present in the 80′s? DS cut to the chase and said it’s a brand thats time has come and gone. I know I haven’t been a fan since the 80′s and he has a weirdo past some have forgotten but not me.

Skunky on March 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Skunky, I was never a fan of Eddie Murphy while he was so wildly popular in his early comedy-action films (e.g., “Beverly Hills Cop” and “48 Hours”). At that time his persona was of a fast-talking, street-smart hustler who could make white cops look like clowns because whites were too square to be hip to the rules of the street. But then his whole career changed when he made “Norbit.” That film stirred up a hornet’s nest because it seemed to ridicule fat women. Actually, it did no such thing. Instead, it lampooned overbearing women who dominate their husbands. But there were lots of fat jokes in the film. I still remember the rage of reviewers like Liza Swartzbaum and others who were furious that Murphy had taken on this sacred cow. Even worse, he made a ton of money doing it. That was unforgivable.

    Ever since then, Murphy has not received a decent review, though he’s made many endearing and funny films. His Donkey in “Shrek” is still a motormouth as were his characters in his early films, but I enjoy it because it’s a self-deprecating role which doesn’t sleight supposedly stupid white people who are too square to be cool with the street. In “Tower Heist,” he unfortunately returns to his early persona as small-time, street-savvy hustler and that’s still one more reason to hate everything about that particular movie.

    Burke on March 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

Thanks for the Carter review…oh, well, back to Blood in the Snow, a superb documentary of the Stalin era…nothing for kids to see.

(BTW, Tilda Swinton is an ugly woman, who has never interested me…)

Occam's Tool on March 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Oh, yeah, about all those couples with no kids—my kids have been nothing but blessings to me. The reason why Europe and China will fall while the US will recover is because we have kids, at least sufficient to replace us.

Occam's Tool on March 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I really enjoyed Kurt Russell’s portrayal of a corrupt cop in “Dark Blue.” I’ll have to watch that again and see if it still holds up. I’ll probably go see John Carter next week because I am dying for a sci-fi fix, even a mediocre one.

Daniel Middleman on March 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Correction: Tilda was “snubbed” by the Academy this year and received no nomination.

Joe D. on March 11, 2012 at 11:13 am

Your back!!! Whoopie!!! I liked the review on Friends With (benefits) Kids. I saw the trailer & it’s selling point was “if you liked Bridesmaids you’ll love this”. No, I won’t.
How many more SNL alumni do I have to suffer through?

Hollywood on March 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Let’s see….

John Carter, nah. Tired of cutesy Star Wars movies. It will be a monster hit with the Disney hype.

A Thousand Words = Liar Liar with Jim Carrey. Just as predictable, just as not funny I am sure. The white bread audience will like it I’m sure.

Friends with Brats movie will bomb. People only care about these if Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon type are in it.

Let’s Talk about Kevin and Pretend this is Intellectual Because It’s Talking a Lot and Being “Serious”….no thanks. Just because it’s in art houses, and it is here in Nashville at the Belcourt, doesn’t mean it’s smart or you’re smart just seeing it and telling everyone.

Forget the movies. It’s March Madness and baseball season. Major league baseball is very boring, but college and minor league baseball in person is pretty fun.

Jeff_W on March 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I saw “Silent House” which Debbie didn’t see because it was screening so late. I loved it. It wasn’t a by-the-numbers teen thriller as I expected it would be from the film poster and trailers. Instead it was more psychological horror like “Martha Marcy May Marline” that Elizabeth Olsen also starred in. It was original and subtle and besides that, Olsen was tremendous in it (as she was in MMMM); she’s about as superior in acting ability from her infamous bubblehead sisters as one could possibly imagine. The ending (last fifth of the movie) stunned me even though I was already looking for and expecting a surprise ending.

I also saw “John Carter” and reacted the way Debbie did. Like her, I thought the first and last ten minutes of the movie were the best (that is, the “frame” of the story, which, incidentally, has been widely criticized by many critics. The frame, though, was an important part of Edgar Burroughs’ original “Princess of Mars”). As for not liking the film, I’ll admit that this genre–”adventure romance”–isn’t my favorite. A common denominator of most of these stories seems to be liberating “oppressed” peoples. This was as true in Errol Flynn’s “Robin Hood” as it is today. In a cliche that’s almost a parody of this type of story, John Carter in the movie begins as a cynical, selfish gold seeker but ends up realizing that the only thing that can make a person really happy is to find a “cause.” In fact, he advises his nephew to find one himself–adding that it doesn’t really matter what that cause might be, any one will do. There’s so much I dislike about this idea on so many levels.

Despite Debbie’s negative review, I wanted to see “Thousand Words” because I’ve been a loyal fan of Eddie Murphy ever since his film Norbit got him into so much hot water with feminists. Unfortunately, gas prices are too high to drive to a theater that was showing it, so there you go–welcome to Obama’s utopia.

Burke on March 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Haven’t seen ‘John Carter’ yet.

However, all comparisons to George Lucas are obviously reversed – this is the material that George Lucas was cribbing from. This is the sun source.

The only ‘stealing’ is the visuals – in that if you’re going to have a fight in an arena against monsters, that’s been done a lot before and you’re going to have to find something clever to do with it.

luagha on March 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Debbie,

Do you have any of your former calls into the Mark Scott show, when you were about 15-16 years old? You have built a nice career for yourself.

Chris Putnam

Keller, TX

ChrisP on March 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Debbie and everybody else who normally comments or comments here once in a while, what are you’re opinions and viewpoints about this movie that was shown on HBO last night, “Game Change”?

The film is mainly about the 2008 election between John McCain-Barack Hussein Obama, in it a woman played the role as “Sarah Palin”, DS you’re a film critic who works for a film-critic company, a) did you watch this film last night, and b) was this film the whole facts of the 2008 election or was it pure left wing Democrat Party propaganda in order to sway more voters to vote for Obama this coming November?

I didn’t see the film last night or today (I was too bust watching NCAA Basketball and the NCAA Basketball Selection show, I was not going to watch potentially a propaganda movie) so I’ll give the link for all of you to see.

http://latimesblog.latimes.com/movies/2012/03/game-change-sarah-palin-stars-in-her-own-backstage-drama.html

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on March 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Sean, I actually read the book and am NOT shocked that the Liberal pukes (out of all the stuff they could depict in the book) who filmed this POS HBO movie only focused on Sarah Palin and that idiot John McLame. It would be one thing IF they kept to the facts but of course they won’t do that. They have a meme to keep alive.

    I am not a Palin fan or hater…she really never interested me at all so I know almost nothing about her (except her daughter really has Mummy issues and had done more to mess up her public image than the rabid Liberals…and that’s saying something!) but when the Left has to invent sh** for their stupid movie to make her look really stupid, that pisses me off because if she is as dopey as the Left says there should be much grist for that mill sans making up crap.

    In the stupid book, Hillary and Bill come off as annoyed with Obama-Putin and scared, scared, scared to take it to Obama-Putin because they’d be called raaaaaaaacist (soooo tentative). And the book makes Obama-Putin look perfect in every way. I knew that was horsesh**.

    McCain, however, comes off as a lunatic and the way he treats his wife is horrible. I am pretty sure they will depict him treating her horribly in a certain way in the book and I really wanna see that part because I have pictured it in my head ever since I read it.

    The Liberals really know how to play their game. In Bush’s first few months in office there was actually a Comedy Central TV show called ‘That’s My Bush’ and they made many films about him BEFORE HE LEFT OFFICE that depicted his assassination and other things. Just TRY to to that with Obama-Putin. He’ll throw your ass in the clink faster than Putin himself (just ask Khodorkovsky and that Russian girl punk band last week!!!).

    Sandra Fluck is not the only double-standard of Liberal outrage and she will certainly not be the last.

    Of course the parts in the book that BEG to be depicted are the REAL goings-on in the Obama Campaign and the Clinton Campaign. As well as the dirt-dog John Edwards and his floozy Lisa Druck (Rielle Hunter).

    And never forget that POS Charles Ogletree has admitted keeping the video of Obama holding a rally for that dead, BLT freak in 1991 under wraps. THAT was the most important part of that leak for me because we have known for years about how the Obama-media is in the bag for their messiah and we know that the LA Times has been sitting on the Rashid Khalidi tape for years and will never give it up.

    Compare and contrasts to the vetting the Republicans are getting in this farce of a race Something stinks!!!

    Skunky on March 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Once again== I love you Skunky :)

Hollywood on March 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Tilda wasn’t nominated for “We Need to Talk About Kevin”…

Jeffrey on March 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Factoid: …originally, George Lucas tried to get the movie rights to the ‘John Carter’ series. When he was unable to secure such, he then created his own one-off of the books….

Nick Fury on March 12, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Debbie, your review of “Ramparts” was perfect. The whole “cops-are-corrupt-so-why-should-we-respect-them?” genre in films is comfort food for liberals who want a reason to once and for all eliminate the need for rules and authority. Liberals are stuck in life as whiny teens. They hated daddy and his rules and the ritual of going to these movies to see daddy brought down is exciting to them. You see right through this scam and realize that it’s not just this particular movie that might be flawed but the corrupt-police genre more generally. That’s why you are unique. No other critic gets the way entire genres represent liberal’s pernicious influence (except maybe John Nolte, a little, but he reviews one twentieth of the films you do).

Your critique of “Friends With Kids” was also beautiful. This film is one step more disgusting than “Friends With Benefits” which took shots at traditional romantic love, here extending the idea one step further (now not just to romantic love, but to kids, too, which apparently have become just annoying baggage). You get it. Nobody else does. Thank heaven for you. Without you, there would be nobody to go to for clear, reasonable, smart comments and analyses. I hope you never stop what you’re doing.

By the way, I laughed when you confessed you were so bored by the movies you were watching that you were forced to look at the actors and sometimes criticize their looks. That was funny and honest.

Burke on March 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

RE: JOHN CARTER being based on a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thast reminded me of an old, totally lousy Charlron Heston movie called THE AWAKENING. Anyone else remember it? It was chock full of adultery, incest and OMEN type gruesome violence, NONE OF WHICH appeared in the original Bram Stoker novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars. Hollywood just MAULS books now.

Miranda Rose Smith on March 13, 2012 at 3:22 am

That reminded me of an old, totally lousy Charlron Heston movie called THE AWAKENING.

Miranda Rose Smith on March 13, 2012 at 4:41 am

Miranda, the very worst case of a movie being based on a classic and being mauled, I think, was “Omoo” based on an early Melville novel. I was really looking forward to it, since none of Melville’s early works had been made into a film. As it turned out, though, there was absolutely nothing similar between the movie and book–not the characters, not the plot, not anything. But at the beginning of the film, in large letters, appeared: “Based on Herman Melville’s Omoo.”

I’m sorry you had to sit through “The Awakening.” That sounds very painful and I feel for you.

(I think the best adaptations of spooky horror tales have been made by Stuart Gordon who did some excellent Lovecraft and also Poe.)

Burke on March 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I enjoyed John Carter as standard popcorn fair & having read the books (the 1st one was the only worthwhile one) I can say the movie people had an opportunity to do far much better a job but failed in their attempt to dare try and compare their virtually unknown commodity to that of a super hero. Outside of the really enjoyable beginning and end, the dialogue reaked of typical cliche’ and the concept of saving a dying planet (part of the book) got forgotten to make room for some female saving and CGI action. If less action and better dialogue and more nobility of character the movie could’ve done much better.

Fred on March 14, 2012 at 5:19 am

Fred, that was very interesting. It was good to hear your take on the movie since you’ve read the original series. It’s interesting to me that you, Debbie and I all found the beginning and end the most interesting part of the film–that’s the very part that critics in general didn’t like (saying things like, “It took too long to get to the real story”). I think I liked the film a little better than you did since I felt the important parts of the original (the conflict between the two Martian races and the way Carter was exploited due to his newly acquired strength, and the pulpy romance between Carter and the princess) were retained. Your criticisms are still valid, though, in my opinion.

Burke on March 14, 2012 at 9:11 am

fred that is how i saw this carter movie but it gave me a couple of hours where i did not think about what president bongo is doind to us.

BRUCE on March 17, 2012 at 8:19 am

Debbie, I think you were a bit too harsh on John Carter. I thought it was better than a lot of other recent sci fi fantasy movies. American war hero rescues beautiful Martian princess from bad guys. What’s wrong with that? If this movie had been made by James Cameron it would have portrayed Carter as a racist and a ruthless capitalist intent on exploiting the Martians. Lighten up, Debbie.

Pete on March 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm

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