September 30, 2011, - 12:00 pm

Wknd Box Office: 50/50, What’s Your Number, Machine Gun Preacher, Detective Dee

By Debbie Schlussel

Nothing spectacular debuting in theaters today.  The best of the new movies is very raunchy, so it’s not suitable for kids or teens.  I did not see “Dream House,” as the screening for that was scheduled during the Jewish Rosh HaShanah holiday (will try to see later over the weekend and add a review).  My review of “Where Soldiers Come From” (along with a review of the far superior “Restrepo”) will be posted on Sunday or Monday.


*  “50/50“:  This is the best new movie of the week, but as I noted, it’s quite dirty, so do not send your kids to this.  This is an adult movie (though kind of juvenile).  It was very funny, mostly due to a guy I normally don’t like at all, Seth Rogen.

The story:  a relatively young guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds out he has cancer, and he has a 50/50 shot at living.  He goes through the trials and tribulations of a cancer patient, cheered along with the humor of his loser-ish best friend and co-worker at a public radio station (Rogen).

As I noted, it’s quite funny, something you wouldn’t expect or expect to like with a cancer movie, but it has it’s place.  A really funny set of scenes includes Rogen trailing and tattling on Gordon-Levitt’s pretentious, selfish girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard).  Anjelica Huston plays Gordon-Levitt’s hovering mom, and Anna Kendrick plays his therapist, as we watch him fight to battle a rare form of spinal cancer.

If you don’t like raunchy movies, you probably won’t like this.  But it wasn’t bad, even if the ending is somewhat predictable.  One thing that was missing:  they didn’t mock tax-subsidized, far-left public radio nearly enough.  In fact, barely at all.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “What’s Your Number?“:  Absolutely awful. This romantic comedy was barely romantic and only sometimes funny.  But it was consistently absolute garbage throughout.  I can sum the “plot” (if you can call it that) of this in one line of dialogue uttered by lead actress Anna Faris:

I’m a jobless whore who slept with 20 guys and I need to be with someone who appreciates that about me.

Yup, that’s what passes for a movie “heroine” these days:  a slutty bimbo.  The story:  a young woman in marketing, who just got fired from her latest job, is reflecting now that her younger sister is getting married.  She writes down the number of guys she’s had sex with and the number is 19.  At her sister’s engagement party, the women bring out an article from Marie Claire magazine that states that women who sleep with 20 or more men are unlikely to ever be married.  Duh!  So, in order to avoid sleeping with a 20th man, Faris hires her good-looking neighbor (Chris Evans) to track down all 19 of the men, so she can rekindle a romance with one of them. Hey, just the job for “Captain America” (Evans’ alter ego in another movie).

If this sounds like a really bad proposition for a movie, it is.  I’m making it sound even better than it was.  Yes, there were some funny lines, but mostly, this was a vile stinker. I guy putting his hands on his testicles and then smelling his hands–this is funny? Skip at all cost.

My fellow Detroit-area movie critic, James Sanford, aptly described this as “Whore-ible” and “Sex-cruciating,” and I concur.  Hey, Hollywood, thanks for more garbage.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Machine Gun Preacher“:  Gerard Butler plays an ex-con thuggish loser who finds G-d and goes to Africa to build orphanages for Christian kids ravaged by the war in Sudan.  While this is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker, and could have been a great movie, it missed the boat and I found it completely disappointing on several levels, not to mention on the level that it was heavily subsidized with the Michigan film tax credit.

First, while the movie mentions–just once!–the Muslim violence of the Sudanese government against the Black Christians of South Sudan, the movie instead focuses on violence by Christian warriors of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army).  Hey, let’s whitewash Islam and blame all gruesome attacks and violence against children in Southern Sudan on “warring Christians.”  That’s what this movie does, and it’s shameful.  There isn’t a single scene in this movie showing the janjaweed, the Muslim militia gangs sent by the Muslim Sudanese government, attacking, hacking, mass-murdering, and/or gang-raping the Sudanese Christians, as they did throughout Southern Sudan.  Given that, the few parts in which Butler plays Rambo in this movie are empty and silly.

Next, the “hero” in the movie, Sam Childers, isn’t exactly a hero.  In fact, even though he’s become a Christian preacher, he’s still a piece of garbage.  He’s always angry and self-righteous, not to mention abusive of those who’ve helped him.  And he doesn’t change.  He drives his best friend to a drug overdose and suicide.  He abandons his family and spends every dime they have to build more and more for kids in Africa.  There is doing good, and then there is abandoning what is important in life to do more good at the expense of your family.  This guy goes overboard.  And, then, the movie leaves you hanging without telling you what happened and how or why his family stayed together after he neglected them for African kids.

The movie is also pointedly anti-business and plays class wars, with a couple of scenes showing a wealthy car dealer as the bad guy because he only gives Childers $150, instead of the $5,000 for which he asks, for the African orphanage.  Then, the movie shows the man holding a fun Mexican party at his fancy home.  Yes, cold rich people in America abandon the poor to hold fancy parties in their homes, right?  That was the message.  Not shown is that Americans are the most generous people on earth.

For a movie that preaches Christianity and forgiveness, I was surprised that it begins with a scene of Childers (Butler) and his former stripper wife (played by Michelle Monaghan) having sex in public and daylight on the front seat of their crappy car, while parked on the service drive of a highway.  Classy.

Perhaps I’m a snob for not liking this movie about a lowlife pretending he’s become something better.  But, remember, snobbery is vastly underrated.  Especially in this case.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame“:  I like a good Chinese martial-arts-mixed-with-ancient-fable movie.  This wasn’t it.  Instead, I found this to be long, boring, simplistic, and kind of stupid.  The special effects were cool, but not enough to make up for the time I felt I’d been cheated out of with this unsophisticated story.

This takes place in ancient times when the first female Chinese Emperor is to be inaugurated.  She has and has had many opponents, including Detective Dee, who is in prison for a plot against her and a crime for which he was framed.  But the Empress brings Dee out of jail to investigate who is starting a series of fires that kill people.  The fires magically start inside of the particularly people and they burn to death.  Many of these people are connected with building a giant Buddha tower set to be finished by the Empress’ inauguration.

The movie seemed to go on and on and on, and the answer of who was causing the fires and why seemed silly and was never hinted at anywhere in the movie before the end.  I found the movie mostly pointless, even though I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and cool effects.  And there was was very little martial arts in the movie.  By the time there was, I was already bored to tears and not interested.

This wasn’t a good story, it wasn’t tight, and it just wasn’t interesting in the least.  I also wondered about the presence of a blond Chinese warrior back in the late 600s.  Did they have hair bleach then?  A minor detail, but one which you focus on when the story is boring.  If this is an attempt at Chinese feminism, it’s an epic failure.


Watch the trailer . . .

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15 Responses

Another Reason to download a Riff-Trax and tell Hollyweird to screw off.

Occam's Tool on September 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

The LRA is hardly a Christian organization, albeit liberals regularly describe it as such. In fact it once portrayed itself as Islamic. It is in fact a former shamanistic cult that has degenerated into a criminal/warlord led enterprise. The fact that the producers did not know as much is disheartening and shows how little empathy they have for the Sudanese.

pat on September 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    For the South Sudanese who are Israel’s friend. Guess what? Leftists in Hollywood attack Christians more than they attack Muslims. Its a predictable script that has no basis in real life. They could have made an inspirational movie but chose not to make it cuz it would have made Christianity look good and we can’t have that today. And negative stereotypes of religious people don’t impress any one.

    NormanF on September 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I want to see 50/50, because of Joseph-Gordon Levitt, I haven’t seen the guy appear in many shows, movies, etc. since his with “3rd Rock From The Sun”. He’s a pretty good actor to his own credit and I saw the commercial ads on television promoting this film for the last few weeks, and some of the ads for this film looks kinda funny. So Debbie, I’m glad you gave this film a good/decent review.

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

Sean R. on September 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm


“Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born al Qaeda leader, was killed this morning in Yemen in a joint operation between the CIA and U.S. Special Forces.”

“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”

“I get by with a little Help from my Friends.” Sir Paul McCartney, Friend of Israel.

Occam's Tool on September 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Two words why not to see 50/50: Seth Rogen.

‘Nuff said.

Pats on September 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. [1 Timothy 5:8 NIV]

And Anna Faris is confusing correlation and causation.

sg on September 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm

The Kushans (white aryans) and the Hun Chinese have been going at it for more than 3000 years. The Kushans were among the people thru which the Chinese got their Buddhist religion. Beginning 200 BC and lasting for about four hundred years the Kushans had an empire in areas spanning from parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia. Due to their bigger physical size some of the captured Kushans and other Aryans did end up serving in the Chinese armies. Anyways, since Aryans were very tribal and clannish with propensity to wage wars among themselves, some of the Aryan tribes did form alliance with Hun Chinese. This is part of the Indo-European history.

Rex on September 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm

DS, there is no shame in being a movie snob at all! So snob away (as they say) and you are so right…vastly underrated indeed. I have been a movie snob since 12 years old and it has served me well.

Loved your review on the Gerard Butler film. I was looking forward to your take on it as I read a pre-review last week and rolled my eyes when the obvious Liberal reviewer was so upset that the GB character was NOT anti-gun since he had turned religious. I wonder if Sexist George Clooney had a hand in the film as it seemed to view the Sudan just as he does…the Muslim conflict does NOT exist to him in the Sudan. I think Mooooslims are hard to see for Sexist George when you’re too busy trying to bag babes…even if you think you really do care about Darfur (or babes). Maybe Sexist George thinks Darfur is another word for a females genitals?

And in typical fashion, the supposed “good guy” sacrifices his own family to BE SEEN AS caring about others. Another one of my favourite dichotomies. Charity begins at home…but don’t tell the self-righteous that!

Skunky on September 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Heh, I can find better, more creative movies on Netflix and not have to go out to an expensive movie theatre.

Squirrel3D on October 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Machine Gun PReacher another Great White Hope fantasy. Whitey is gonna save the po’ Africans from themselves! Those savages need pale-skinned justice to right all the wrongs!

John Wayne playing Genghis Khan was less offensive than Hollywood’s patronizing African fantasy stories.

Tarzan 2011 on October 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm


China of the Tang Dynasty (c. 600-900) was actually quite multiethnic, and included large populations of Tocharians, many of whom were blonde (as well as significant Middle Eastern Christian, Manichean and even Jewish communities).

So a blonde in China c. 600 is not at all preposterous.

See Ethnic Identity in Tang China by Marc Samuel Abramson (U. Penn., 2007)

Once the Tang Dynasty fell in the early 900s, there was a huge backlash against “foreigners,” and non-Chinese populations were slaughtered (a similar phenomenon happened in the late 1300s when the Mongolian Yuan dynasty fell to a native dynasty, the Ming).

ibn Abu on October 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Now that’s a lie.

    There’s no scientific DNA conclusive genetic evidence that blonde hair blue eyed genes existed in SE asia before about 600 yrs ago. So in a sense, Debbie is quite correct. Blonde hair originated in Scandinavian and Celtic countries, so basically you’d have us naively believe on your word without cited sources that Swedish. Icelandic Irish etc folks were hob nobbing around the Great wall.

    Please. Try growing up. Just once.

    Jimmy on October 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I saw 50/50 a couple days ago. It’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long while. The problems go way beyond being “raunchy.” The film is soaked in liberal attitudes and values. Gordon-Levitt plays a liberal who works in public radio (as you mentioned). Strike one. In his off time, he watches Steven Colbert. Strike two. But that’s just the beginning. Everyone is smoking or eating marijuana constantly in the film. One of the “perks” of getting cancer, the movie suggests, is the ready access to good pot. Even the oldsters love it. Naturally smoking pot leads to incredible bonding. That’s a liberal trope, and it’s probably true for liberals–that’s probably where they did meet all their best buds. One bit of “humor” is when Gordon-Levitt gets more stoned than he intended. Um, is that funny having him sport a goofy grin while the music goes weird? I guess so. Pot is also used to entice hotties that are picked up at clubs into bed. Of course. Then dad has Alzheimer’s and wanders around kind of kookily withdrawn and passive; it’s all part of modern liberal family realism common to indies like this. Another tip-off about the liberalism in the film is that whenever anyone gets emotional (even tenderly emotional) they start using fu– and sh–. That’s how liberals express deep emotions in case you didn’t know.

Then there’s Seth Rogen. Seth Rogen plays the only role he ever plays: crude and oafishly manipulative but with a heart of gold underneath. He’s disgusting as is the rest of the movie. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing conservative in this film. It’s filled with artists with their art galleries, therapists, therapy sessions, public radio employees, and others who compose the liberal world. In the end, the cute therapist begins dating the patient, and that’s okay in this film because there are no rules or ethics in liberalism, so why not do it as long as it feels good?

I also saw What’s Your Number? and liked it better than I thought I would. I did chuckle at the weirdly mannered and extreme characters. At the rotten core, though, is Anna Faris playing a slut, whose girlfriend is also a slut, and they are so hiply self-centered and clueless and slutty that the movie as a whole generally turned me off. There are a lot of movies this year about cool, hip sluts (Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits come to mind also). I guess this is the wave of the future, and for the young set these are the new role models, even in a genre–the chick flick– whose worst flaw used to be just sappiness.

Burke on October 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hi Debbie – just watched 50/50 on On Demand (Comcast). Having had breast cancer about 14 1/2 years ago, I thought the movie did a good job potraying what the cancer experience is like. As an example, the buzzing in the ears feeling when the doctor tells him it’s cancer. Personally, my doctors could not have been kinder — in contrast to the doctor in this movie.

As a long-time reader (learned about you from Smerconish before he crossed to the dark side), thanks for watching so many movies so that the rest of us don’t have to.

Meg on January 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm

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