May 16, 2014, - 7:33 pm
With the “summer” movie season already heating up, the two major blockbuster movies out today are movies that make America look like jerks and idiots. And the two art house offerings aren’t any great shakes, either.
* “Million Dollar Arm“: This could be more aptly titled, “Jerry Maguire Masala,” or “Don Draper Does Jerry Maguire,” because it’s basically the same story as 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” minus the charm and the humor (no great lines like, Jerry Maguire’s “Show me the money!”). And it’s really kind of an anti-American movie, dressed as an “uplifting movie” in its cloying, treacly Disney happy ending. The lead character, a complete creep with all of the accoutrements of wealth, plucks two Third World boys and brings them to America to use and “abuse” them for his own venal purposes. The only decent “American” in the movie is a granola-ish, earthy woman who is a glorified Kato Kaelin (O.J. Simpson’s pool boy). I’m sure this will go over very well in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where Hollywood is now making more and more of its box office take.
This is designed to be actor Jon Hamm’s first step into lead movie actor status, now that his iconic “Mad Men” leading role as Don Draper is coming to a close. But the movie shows Hamm can’t really play anything beyond Don Draper, the unethical, cheating, sleazy advertising executive. His character in this movie, J.B. Bernstein, is what you would imagine if Don Draper lived in 2014 and was a sports agent instead of an advertising guy. He’s a complete jerk through most of the movie. When he finally, momentarily, seems to become decent, the movie’s over.
“Based on a true story,” Bernstein is a sports agent who left his big time agency to start up his own shop with a partner who is of Indian (Asian not American) descent. While they were very rich and represented big time athletes, like Emmett Smith and Barry Sanders, on their own they are struggling to survive, pay their bills, and sign the next big athlete. About to lose everything, Hamm–after mocking cricket to his partner–comes up with the idea for a contest, “Million Dollar Arm,” in which he searches India for cricket bowlers who have the talent to become the next great Major League Baseball pitcher.
Bernstein is an impatient, materialistic guy, who lives in a mansion, drives a Porsche, and only dates models–the caricature of “the evil Western capitalist.” And when he brings the two Indians who’ve won the competition (and their translator) to Los Angeles to train for the year, he is rude and selfish, demoralizing the two boys and making them feel like investments and pieces of meat instead of part of a “family.” He is given a dressing down about this–at least three times by my count–by the granola-ey female medical student (Lake Bell) who rents out his pool house (she’s the glorified Kato Kaelin figure) and who soon becomes his love interest. And, as you can probably predict–and this movie is very predictable–they soon call themselves a family (complete with minivan–for which the Porsche has been traded in). Leave it to Disney to go along with this “alternative” concept of family that is now being shoved down our throats all over Obamerica.
Bernstein promises his wealthy Chinese-American investor that the two Indians will get a Major League Baseball tryout within a year, and about half of the movie focuses on Bernstein’s push to get them ready and up to snuff and to get them that tryout. I’m sure you can figure out what happens in the end.
While this movie is supposed to be true, I can’t believe the real J.B. Bernstein was such an unlikable and rude guy. But, again, this movie is going to be marketed in places like India, where 150 million Muslims don’t like us too much, and other such places who see us as the evil Americans “farming” their indigenous peoples, which is essentially what’s going on this flick. It’s the usual America-hating Hollywood narrative the rest of the world loves to see.
And the movie makes a big deal out of the fact that the real-life two Indians were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. But look at MLB’s team rosters. There are no Indians there. And that’s because the two Indians only made it to the minor leagues. That makes the real-life story–and the feat allegedly accomplished here–far less compelling than this movie would have us believe.
I’m sure this movie will do well because Disney has been hyping it to death. But that doesn’t mean I have to applaud. That said, the movie is definitely entertaining. I wasn’t bored for a second, helped in large part by the great Alan Arkin, who plays a retired baseball scout and whose comedic timing is excellent as usual. And I normally would have given a movie like this ONE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS and maybe even TWO REAGANS. But because it’s such a sub rosa Anti-American movie cross-dressing as a feel-good sports movie, I’ve deducted a lot and give it only.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Godzilla“: Nothing against this movie. It has very good special effects (but don’t splurge on the 3D–it isn’t that great). And the story is mildly entertaining. But it’s mostly repetitive stuff with lots of plot holes, and I found my self bored in the last third or so of the movie. Also, you should not that Godzilla doesn’t make his appearance until about half way into the movie.
The story: Bryan Cranston (wearing the world’s worst and most obvious toupee) is Joe Brody, the American chief of a Japanese nuclear power plant (what–the Japanese don’t have anyone local who can run their nuclear plants?). His plant has a meltdown and is evacuated, and his wife is stuck in the radiation and dies. He doesn’t believe there was actually a meltdown and believes the government was hiding something else. So he spend the next 15 years in Japan trying to figure out what really happened and has become something of a nut, or so the Japanese believe. At this point, his son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), has grown up and has just returned home to his own wife and son after a stint in the U.S. military.
As soon as he returns home to California, Ford learns his dad has been arrested again for trespassing in Japan, and he heads there to bail out and talk sense into his father. But soon, Joe and Brody are trespassing in the quarantined, allegedly radiated area, and they find that there is actually zero radiation there. They are arrested by the Japanese and put in a jail near the old power plant, where a giant monster is being held. The monster–a “massive unidentified terrestrial organism” (MUTO), which feeds on nuclear power and material and looks like it came out of the Alien v. Predator movies–gets free and wreaks havoc everywhere. Ford and his father escape, but his father dies.
The rest of the movie consists of Ford trying to get back home to his wife and child in California, while he also helps the U.S. military in its failed, repetitive efforts to fight several MUTOs which are attacking America and other countries around the world. Suddenly, Godzilla pops up in the water, and the U.S. military is following Godzilla in the water. The U.S. military is portrayed as a bunch of largely inept, useless idiots engaged in futile attempts to stop the giant MUTOs. Finally, after a very brief fight between Godzilla and a MUTO off the coast of California, Godzilla comes to California and kills the MUTO, saving America.
The movie probably should have been called, “MUTO-Zilla,” as there’s very little actual Godzilla in the movie. Most scenes of the giant lizard only show the prickly back of Godzilla in the water, and that’s it.
Like I said, the movie is kind of boring in the last third, as it is endlessly repetitive. And the story is ultimately predictable: you know that Ford–despite being about to die at the hands of the MUTOs repeatedly–will survive, as will his wife and son. And I could have done without the endless crying of his wife (Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins). But it’s okay and fine to take your family to see.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Locke“: Most of the mainstream media movie critics are raving over this incredible waste of time. Don’t believe the hype. What is only 85 minutes seems like 185 in this long, slow, boring slog of nothing. Shot entirely in a car, the movie shows us Locke (Tom Hardy), who is a reliable, dedicated family man and construction manager. He is scheduled to oversee the cement pouring of a giant building the next morning.
But he spends his time in the car letting his employers know he won’t be showing up. Nor will he show up to be with his wife and son that night, as they’d planned to watch a soccer match together. You see, Locke got a woman pregnant during a one night stand, and the woman is having her baby at a hospital in London that night. He’s driving to see the birth of his new baby. And he’s using this time in the car on the drive there to call all of them and let them know that he is “finally becoming courageous” by being with his babymama and illegitimate kid. The movie consists of his informing everyone of this and arguing with them, etc. You feel like you are stuck in a bad day at family court and can’t get out. At least, that’s how I felt. Pointless and useless. And a complete waste of ten bucks-plus and 85 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “God’s Pocket“: Sooooo bad. Absolutely awful. Another pointless, boring waste of time. John Slattery, an actor on “Mad Men” has been getting a lot of hype about this piece of crap, his directorial debut. But the hype is like bad strong cologne meant to cover up the stench of someone who hasn’t showered in a week. Yuck. This movie was slow, disjointed, depressing, and meaningless.
In one of his last roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Mickey, a lowlife who lives in a working class neighborhood, called “God’s Pocket,” with his wife (Christina Hendricks) and crazy, violent, racist stepson, Leon. Leon is killed by one of his co-workers because they hate him so much, and no one is sorry to see him dead. Mickey, who is engaged in petty organized crime (he and a friend–John Turturro–have just stolen a refrigerated truck full of meat), must now pay for the stepson’s funeral, and he simply doesn’t have the thousands of dollars it costs to pay for it. He placed the money, which others donated to pay for the funeral, on a losing horse race bet.
While he is desperately trying to find a way to pay for the funeral, he is also lugging his dead stepson’s body around in a truck because he violently attacked the mortician at the funeral home and couldn’t pay. At the same time, his wife doesn’t believe the story that her son’s death was accidental and is sleeping with a crappy local newspaper columnist who says he is going to look into who really killed her son. The end. That’s the whole movie, in which nothing ever happens and nothing is resolved.
More time from your life and money out of your wallet that is basically thrown down the toilet.
Watch the trailer . . .
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