April 27, 2012, - 7:11 pm

Wknd Box Office: Five-Year Engagement, Safe, The Raven

By Debbie Schlussel

Ironically, of the new movies debuting in theaters this weekend, the one I liked best was not screened for Detroit-area critics.  And then there is the girlie-man movie, about the guy who checked his testicles at the door.


*  “The Five-Year Engagement“:  This movie is delusional feminist fantasy . . . or used to be.  Sadly, there are more and more “men” who have assumed the role of Jason Segel in this sick “romantic comedy,” checking their testicles at the door permanently.  Segel plays an up-and-coming chef in San Francisco who gives up his career to move with his fiancee to Ann Arbor, Michigan, so she can pursue graduate school and a career in psychology.  Oh, and the reason this movie takes place in Ann Arbor is that the taxpayers of Michigan financed this crap with millions of dollars in tax-credits and rebates through the Michigan Film Tax Credit.  The movie is disgusting and vile and the “humor” groanworthy in this Eleanor Smeal/Betty Friedan/Gloria Steinem wet dream.


While initially Segel agrees to forgo his career for two years, two turns into five and so on and so forth.  And his fiancee, played by the much overrated Emily Blunt (whose weird overbite is much on display–far too much on display–in this movie), is incredibly selfish, as is the case with virtually all women who make their love interests give up their dreams for the women’s dreams.  Segel’s character assumes the role of the chick.  He does the housekeeping, cleaning, cooking, and eventually becomes the wedding planner.  Blunt is the man in the relationship.  And it’s scary.

Even more scary is that, after finally coming to his senses (after losing a toe and five years of his life), there is a “happy ending,” after which Segel takes her back and moves back to Ann Arbor for her and her career . . . again.  For most guys, this would thankfully still not happen in real life.  But, as I noted, more and more men are voluntarily surrendering their testicles to a life like this.

Segel twice shows us his butt in this movie, whereas he displayed his penis a few times in the equally execrable “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (read my review), which was essentially the same movie, but with a nicer setting and much better looking women.  He was the chick in that flick, too.

And then there’s the issue of the snooty left-wing grad student intellectual life, which the movie captures spot on.  All of the grad students are annoying, weird, and pretentious, and they dream up completely stupid and obvious “studies” to get more government grants for their boss.  Blunt dreams up a stale donut experiment in which she draws all kinds of derogatory conclusions about people who eat donuts that are a day old.  Um, really?  Most people would eat day old donuts, depending upon how hungry they are.  And you cannot tell anything about anyone from that.  Only a deceitful, snobby intellectual seeking a phony career and government grants does that.  And in that alone, the movie was on target.

But that one accurate portrayal in no way made this dopey, predictable, girlie-man movie worth watching.  And it was very slow and waaay tooo looong.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about this movie was the constant gratuitous insertion of Judaism because Segel’s character is Jewish (in name only).  The parents and Segel–who have zero to do with Judaism (he loves pork and pigs) and are all for his intermarriage to a Gentile–are insistent upon an Orthodox rabbi and yarmulkes at the wedding.  And then, in a completely stupid and inaccurate turn, Segel gets a Chassidic rabbi from the Lubavitch Chabad movement of Judaism to agree to marry him and the woman in a pork restaurant, like that would ever happen.  Haha, funny!  Do you get the humor?  I don’t.  Memo to Segel:  Lubavitch Chassidim do not look like the rabbi in the movie, as they do not wear long sidecurls hanging from their faces (they tuck them behind their ears, instead).  I remember when they were casting for this nauseating movie and sent out a casting call looking for Chassidic kids with long sidecurls to play Hackeysack, and I warned people I knew not to try out for this.

I was right.  Not funny, not worth your time, and just plain disgusting. I guarantee you that men in the Muslim world are not giving up their careers and assuming the Mr. Mom position to help their women pursue their dreams.

FOUR MARXES PLUS A BIN LADEN PLUS FOUR BETTY FRIEDANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Safe“:  I’ll preface this review by noting that I like Jason Statham and most of his movies.  If you feel the same way, you’ll like this, as I did.  It’s not one of his best, but it’s still enjoyable and entertaining, if very violent.  You know the drill:  lots of action, fighting, car chases, and some blood.  In this case, there’s a lot of blood.  This wasn’t screened for critics in the Detroit-area, so I paid to see it at my local theater and was disgusted that parents brought their young kid to this movie, which is completely inappropriate for anyone under 17.

Statham plays a down-and-out-on-his-luck New York City cage fighter who makes the mistake of winning a fixed match and upsetting the Russian Mafia.  They kill his wife and family, and he is now homeless.  We soon learn that he was apparently a corrupt cop before all of this.  He sees a young Chinese girl being chased by the Russian mobsters who killed his wife, and he takes an interest, trying to protect her.  The Chinese girl is gifted at math and was seized by the Chinese Mafia to work for them in New York.  Her brain is a way to keep track of business without the paper or digital trails, respectively, of books and computers.  And her mind contains an important numerical code everyone wants.  Soon, Statham is engaged in a war against the Russian and Chinese Mafias and corrupt cops he knows from the NYPD, all in an effort to protect the girl.

Like I said, it’s your typical Statham fare.  And even though it’s quite violent and a good number of the stunts just aren’t believable, I still enjoyed it and liked it better than the other new movies this week.  If you like mindless action films with a decent story and lots of shoot-outs and fights, this is for you.  If that isn’t your thing, this isn’t either.

TWO REAGANS
reagancowboyreagancowboy

Watch the trailer . . .

*  “The Raven“:  John Cusack plays famous author and poet Edgar Allan Poe in this fictional murder mystery set in mid-19th Century Baltimore .  When we see Poe, he is a drunk and broke after spending everything he made from “The Telltale Heart,” “The Raven,” and his other works.  He’s a contributor to the local newspaper, begging his editor to run his work.  And he’s in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy man who hates him.

Soon, murders happen all over town with one common denominator:  they use the imagery of Poe’s work in their clues and the methods of killing.  Poe is enlisted by the local police detective to help solve the murders and find the killer.  But the woman he loves, the daughter of the wealthy man, is kidnapped by the killer, and Poe must save her before she’s murdered.

This was a little slow, especially in the first half and could have been tightened up and moved along.  But it wasn’t bad (though it wasn’t great, either).  It’s just that it’s extremely violent and bloody, complete with severed body parts and a man sliced in half by a blade on a pendulum.  Those things weren’t necessary.  But don’t send your kids to this.  It’s rated “R” for a reason–several of them.

ONE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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Watch the Trailer . . .

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25 Responses

A man sliced in half by a blade on a pendulum? Sounds like it’s taken from ‘The pit and the pendulum’, which was Poe’s depiction of how things were in Toledo under the Spanish Inquisition. Just wonder how would they transplant that to Baltimore?

Infidel on April 28, 2012 at 3:51 am

And of course Jason Segel is a child of an intermarriage himself, with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish, Christian mother. I guess he’s playing his dad in a way.

dee on April 28, 2012 at 5:14 am

Debbie, thanks for the graphic warning on The Raven. Too many times, reviewers never properly alert moviegoers to the graphic violence in today’s flicks. I solve that by barely going to the movies.

JeffT on April 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

Debbie,

I am sick and tired of all these Jewish actors portraying as badly. Why is it every time there is a movie with disgusting behavior it always has either a Jewish Director or Jewish Actors. Why are we all always debasing ourselves just to make others laugh. I always feel angry/guilty telling people I am jewish here in Pennsylvania because most of my friends are really devout Christians and always complain that American TV was much cleaner before the Jews began entering the field.

We are not like these losers who portray us on TV. Its no wonder Muslims/Christians look at us with disdain and view us immoral liberals. Thank you Jason Segal/Gene Simmons/Jerry Seinfeld/Judd Apatow etc…..

We need more Speilbergs

Thanks for the Reviews

Avi on April 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Don’t beat yourself up. An Orthodox Jew is Jewish. I don’t think of the Reformed folk, and most Conservative and Reconstructionists as Jewish at all (despite the definitions made in “To Be a Jew”). I am a Southern Baptist, and very conservative. I regard many Main Line Christians as Pagans, i.e. holding to homosexual marriage, pro abortion, etc. It is true that some who call themselves “religious Jews” fly too close to the flame when it comes to managing goyem in pornography, etc., but I doubt that is your case. Overcome evil by doing good.

    EDS on April 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Going to see the Raven, been a Poe fan for a long time. Not a fan of Cusacks politics, but Grosse Pointe Blank made me like him briefly. Until he started publicly outing himself as a uberlib.

samurai on April 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

I do not go to movies, I refuse to support Hollywood instead I support people like Debbie. Thank you Debbie for your work. bye the by can you get anything on Obama’s Enemies list & his sending the IRS after them? Namely I read where they are targeting anyone who has contributed to Romney.

A_Zion_State_0'mind on April 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

I enjoyed your review (very much!) on that girly-man movie. And you pin-pointed the strangeness of Emily Blunt’s face. And you’re spot on—she is waaaaaaaay over-rated.

Movies like that make it fun being an ex-feminist. It just cements my view now that feminists are frauds, selfish, stupid and don’t have a clue (because, basically, they have become everything they hated in men). It shows the ugliness of women and proves they do not corner the market on being the better class of humans.

Since I avoid America films I hadn’t seen any action films in a long time. At the gym I saw a cable network play some Jason Statham film and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it! The action was crazy and hard to believe but I enjoyed it (when he landed on a bus or truck with a jet-ski or something!). So when I was away last month working, I got to enjoy some action movies on cable tv.

Skunky on April 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Debbie, Thank you for your reviews, I’ve been making and keeping notes for a long time regarding key words and ideas you implement in them. I use this list to review which films may have been obtained by my library for my viewing, since I decline to spend any money to support the industry. I’d rather donate those dollars to my local library since I’ve discovered the librarians locally are mostly non-libs, and some depend on me to recommend movies to them. I generally use your rules of thumb, or recommend they seek your site and read for themselves.

Kent on April 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Debbie,

I saw Safe today while the wife and kids saw the chimp movie. It was a delightfully escapist movie. I really enjoyed just vegging out on this dreary Michigan day.

Michael on April 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

“that American TV was much cleaner before the Jews began entering the field”

Fiction. American television has been very Jewish behind-the-scenes, and somewhat in front of, since its very inception. The idea that TV “got dirtier” once Jews got in is an anti-Jewish canard because television didn’t exist before the Jews and the networks, most of which were founded by Jews. If anything, TV is much less Jewish now than it was in the 1950s.

dee on April 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Emily Blunt is a funny, charming, pretty, sexy woman. Debbie S. has nothing better to do than write about a small imperfection in her in teeth. Meow?

I believe the rest of the review, though. I can’t imagine watching that movie when it’s free on cable.

JGlanton on April 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm

“If you like mindless action films with a decent story and lots of shoot-outs and fights, this is for you.”

Yes!!!!! I love anything Jason Statham is in, most especially The Transporter series by my favorite director, Luc Besson.

Debbie, you need to move out of that awful Michigan and come down to Nashville, TN. We can go to the movies together since we have pretty similar tastes.

Jeff_W on April 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm

@ Avi,

I am a really devout Christian and I have nothing but utmost respect for the Jewish people. That definitely goes for Debbie. We might believe differently, but Ms. Schlussel is so respectful of Christians and the respect is more than mutual from me.

I can’t speak for all Christians of course, but most I know feel the same about Israel and Jews. Of course, Jesus was a Jew, same for Paul who wrote most of the New Testament. Most Christians I know have utmost respect for Jews because we acknowledge and believe they are God’s chosen people. In fact, Caleb from the Old Testament is one of my all time favorite heroes (He was the Chuck Norris of the Bible!!!!).

I know Christians haven’t always been as respectful towards the Jews, but there are a great deal like me who have great respect and admiration for Israel and the Jews.

Jeff_W on April 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

My wife and I saw The Raven today and I really enjoyed it. I read your reviews every week, and wondered while I watched it whether you sould like it or not. Glad you gave it at least 1 1/2 Reagans!

John F on April 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

“The Raven” looks like it has an interesting take on the Edgar Allan Poe stories by transforming him into a Sherlock Holmes-type character. Of course, Poe INVENTED the modern detective story, and Holmes (like many other great literary detective) was based on the character that Poe created named C. Auguste Dupin, who is featured in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (involving a grisly double homicide), “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter.” So, it would seem that in this movie, Poe, in effect becomes Dupin.

Many of Poe’s stories involved acts of violence, terror, and gore, but Poe’s writings were not so much concerned with the acts and results themselves, but with the “state of mind” of both the perpetrators and the victims of those acts. Consequently, Poe is very difficult to translate into cinematic terms, without substantially altering the nature and quality of his works. It appears that this movie focuses on the physical acts, rather than on the intellect and emotions of the characters, taking the more commonly traveled and easier road to script.

The best film version of Poe’s works is still “Spirits of the Dead” (1968) which is really three short subjects separately directed by Rogert Vadim, Louis Malle, and Federico Fellini. And the best of the best is Fellini’s short based on Poe’s short story “Never Bet the Devil Your Head.” Although Fellini’s work is very different from the original story as well, Fellini, in my opinion, best captures the true spirit of Poe’s writing, as he focuses on the state of mind of the protagonist in his story, rather than the overt violence. In Fellini’s short, the violence is only implied. But then, few filmmakers have been able to create cinematic visions that refect inner thoughts and emotions with the genius and verve of Fellini.

Ralph Adamo on April 29, 2012 at 2:15 am

‘I am jewish here in Pennsylvania because most of my friends are really devout Christians and always complain that American TV was much cleaner before the Jews began entering the field.’

Hmmmm….’most of my friends…complain…before the Jews began…’

And you’re a Jew? Yeah, right.

Nir Leiu on April 29, 2012 at 3:19 am

Avi

You don’t need more Spielbergs – wasn’t one Munich enough? But I agree w/ others – don’t beat up on yourself.

After coming to America in 1991, I realized that there is a difference b/w Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Shintos/Hindus/Taoists vs Atheists and Agnostics. Previously, I’d have associated one just by his ancestrial/nominal religion, unless s/he happened to have formally converted.

Honestly, if someone were to point out to me that Stanley Cohen, a top American-Israeli lawyer who’s worked for both Hamas and Hizbullah, is a Jew, I’d laugh @ him. The ‘Jew’ label in his case is just a facade – in reality, what he does is something that even most Muslims would be hard pressed to match. The same goes for a huge number of his comrades in both the US and Israel, as well as elsewhere.

I just wish people like that were a minority in the Jewish community, rather than a majority. Officially, the world’s Jewish population is said to be 14 million (as per adherents.com), of which only 2 million are said to be orthodox, while between Reform and Secular Jews are 8 million. Since I’m not a Jew, I’d not have bothered too much about their religious practices, but the fact that their religious practices translate directly into whether they are self-hating or not is what is bothersome.

Infidel on April 29, 2012 at 4:22 am

Jason Statham gives street cred to guys with thinning hair everywhere. DOWN WITH ACTION HEROS WITH THICK, BEAUTIFUL, LUSTROUS HAIR!

DS_ROCKS! on April 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I saw “Safe” and, like Debbie, I enjoyed it. Actually, I think I liked it even more than she did.

I like Jason Statham in general as an action star. The problem with action films of the last decade, though, is that the stars generally play nihilists with no core values except doing their job (of killing) well. This is the main idea behind “The Mechanic” and also “The Professional.” So the action heroes haven’t been all that heroic.

In this new film, “Safe,” Statham plays someone I found myself admiring, not just respecting. He goes after organized crime, here updated from the 80s and 90s to include both Chinese and Russian, and meanwhile has to battle dirty New York cops as well. All the people he has to fight are very evil and I also felt they were convincing as characters I could genuinely hate. Also Statham here isn’t looking for trouble, and he even goes to extra lengths to avoid collateral damage as he should.

Another thing I liked in this film was the little Chinese girl. The trailers made her look like a cynically included extra, something like the gorgeous-but-not-very-interesting tag-alongs who are used as props in the “Professional” films. But actually in this case, the kid was likable, spunky and interesting in her own right–reminding me of the kid in “Commando” which I consider one of the best action films of this type ever made.

Burke on April 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I also saw “Five-Year-Engagement.” I knew the film was going to be weird when I reached the scene where Jason was dressed up as a pink bunny for the party. His girlfriend Blunt was dressed up as Diana which makes sense because Diana wore the pants in her relationship with Charles.

Thanks for explaining the pig references, because I didn’t get why they were making a big deal of them in the film (such as the bed-and-breakfast scene at The Drunken Pig). So it was simply the director’s way of making a point that a little rebellion against religious rules is fine and healthy. I see.

There are two kinds of corrupt comedies, it seems to me: those that are merely raunchy like “The Hangover” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and those with a liberal ideological axe to grind like “Friends with Benefits” that purposefully are made to undermine traditional conservative values. This was of the second type. It’s set up as a women’s lib parable to show that if a woman sacrifices her career for marriage, the couple will be miserable. By showing what happens to a man in similar circumstances, we’re to understand that the same principles will apply with women. Drip drip drip–the erosion doesn’t stop.

About Blunt: she had two excellent movies with conservative subtexts a few years back: “Young Victoria” and “Wolfman.” Since then, she’s been in very unappealing liberal films, “The Adjustment Bureau” being the worst.

Burke on April 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I also saw “The Raven” and pretty much agree with Debbie’s assessment, that it was okay so long as you don’t take it too seriously. Like Debbie, I’m glad Cusack has apparently outgrown making sentimental stinkers like “Martian Child” and liberal propaganda like “War, Inc.”

Poe is admired by conservatives because he used rhyme and meter in his poems instead of going the way of Walt Whitman and producing formless, narcissistic slop. He’s also loved by liberals because supposedly he was a heavy user of drugs, and from a liberal’s perspective, that’s enough to catapult even an ordinary individual to superstardom, let alone a literary figure. The dirty little secret not known by most liberals is that Poe was a passionate racist who detested blacks; his longest work “Narrative of Gordon Pym” is an allegory where blacks are depicted as demons from hell (actually the Antarctic).

I think the worst and most notorious Poe adaptation to film was “The Raven” (1963 version). For many years this film was considered a campy film classic because it included as stars not only Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, but also Jack Nicholson during his early Roger Corman years. But the movie doesn’t resemble the poem at all, not a bit. Even the sorcery in the film wasn’t similar, because the original raven didn’t speak the phrase “Nevermore” because of supernatural ability, but because ravens can actually talk a little, like a parrot or minah bird (Poe got the idea after reading Dickens’s then recently published “Barnaby Rudge” which also had a slightly talking raven).

Another pretty bad Poe adaptation was “Masque of the Red Death” based on Poe’s story about an arrogant prince named Prospero who’s not afraid of a coming plague. Because Poe’s stories are all so short and minimalist, this adaptation into full movie length was greatly padded so that it really didn’t resemble the original either.

One film adaptation I really did like was “The Tomb of Leigeia” (1964–Roger Corman, of course). This actually weaves two short stories together–”The Black Cat” and “Tomb of Leigeia”–and does it in a scary way keeping many of the original details of the originals.

(I’m looking forward to seeing the film adaption “Spirits of the Dead” which Ralph Adamo (in the above comments) recommends. Excellent insights, Ralph, all of them.)

Of course this particular film “The Raven” which came out this Friday isn’t trying to be an adaptation. Instead it builds Poe into a mythic figure running around solving complicated murder cases as if he were a real detective. It reminds me in that way of the film coming out soon, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer.” The wave of the future, maybe, where real historical figures become heroic protagonists? That device was common during the most decadent years of Greek Hellenism and it would fit with our own culture’s decline.

One last comment: the gruesomeness of the pendulum scene in this just-released film doesn’t resemble Poe’s original short story which– oddly for a Poe story– has a happy ending and includes no mayhem whatsoever.

Burke on April 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm

The Raven sounds like the pilot episode of “Castle,” only bloodier.

Michelle on May 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Michelle, this plot device of patterning murders after crimes written about in novels is way, way, way, way WAY older than “Castle” and has been used literally hundreds of times both in films and on programs like “Murder She Wrote,” “CSI,” “Perry Mason,” and really any long-running show that has run out of plots and so goes back to the storeroom and borrows one from the back shelf. My favorite film borrowing this plot variation was “Basic Instinct.”

(I admit, though, that the basic setup in “Castle” does seem particularly similar to “The Raven.”)

Burke on May 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Wow. Your ideas are digusting. If you honestly believe so little of women, you should slip off your shoes, get knocked up and go back to cooking dinner. Clearly this is where you believe women belong.

WomanWithABrain on November 18, 2013 at 2:49 am

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