October 14, 2011, - 5:30 pm

Wknd Box Office: The Thing, Footloose, The Big Year, Toast, Sholem Aleichem, Weekend, My Afternoons w/ Margueritte

By Debbie Schlussel

Lots of new movies this weekend, but only a couple that I really liked.

*  “The Thing“:  Although this is technically supposed to be a prequel to the 1982 version with the same name, it’s kind of like a remake with a very similar story and events.  And I liked it.  It’s not the greatest horror/sci-fi thriller I’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t bad.  It’s got suspense and alien creatures with a creepy, isolated frozen Antarctic setting, just like the original.

This one stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton and is the story of scientists who discover an alien spaceship and an alien frozen in ice, which they excavate and take to their outpost.  Winstead, a graduate student, and her boss, a scientist, argue over whether or not they should take a sample of the creature, which they believe is dead.  Soon, the creature comes alive and escapes, and strange things begin happening with the scientists as they fight for survival.  Who is a genuine scientist, and who is merely a host to alien forces?

Entertaining, but not anything you haven’t seen before.  But pretty good for a prequel in terms of explaining why they are shooting at the dog at the beginning of the 1982 version.  But they never do explain in this one why these scientists go for excavating the frozen creature instead of trying to explore the spacecraft, which seems more interesting.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Footloose“:  This is absolutely awful and painfully stupid.  Looking back, I’m really not sure why the original 1984 version of this was such a hit.  It’s essentially the same dumb, anti-Christian, anti-middle America story, though.

A small Texas hicktown, Bomont, outlaws dancing in public because they feel it contributes to the corruption of minors and because a few years ago some kids died on the way back from a dance.  The city is under the influence of an evil, out of touch, right-wing, conservative Christian preacher, Dennis Quaid, whose daughter is a slut, Julianne Hough.  Soon, a big city boy from Boston–some unknown actor with the world’s worst stage name, Kenny Wormald–comes to this backward town and does his best to rebel and find a way to get the town to change its mind and allow dancing.  And, in the process, he schools the stereotypically backward town folk on their hypocrisies and how to break dance and enjoy hip hop.  Ugggh.

Hokey, preachy, and,  yes, this is an attack by liberal Hollywood on the Red States population and their conservative values.  Like a broken record, and a very scratchy, old one at that.  The bad covers of cheesy ’80s songs from the original 1984 soundtrack don’t help.  Yuck.  Oh, and one other obvious thing:  all the bad people in the town are White.  The many Black characters are the good guys, who help make the dance happen, provide the space for it, and teach the “backward” White kids how to dance.  How touching.  Not. This movie was bad enough in the ’80s. It’s even worse now. Some things–many things–should never make a comeback.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “The Big Year“:  This wasn’t a deep or great movie.  But it was entertaining enough.  I thought birdwatching was a pointless and pathetic activity.  But this makes it somewhat enjoyable, while poking fun at it.

Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson compete against each other in a “big year.”  It’s a calendar year, during which birdwatchers travel all over and compete to see who can see or hear the largest number of different types of birds.  They take pictures of the most beautiful and rare birds, but it mostly goes by the honor system.

Black is a loser who works a menial job and, in his 30s, lives at home with his parents.  He mooches off of them to do the big year.  Martin is a wealthy CEO who wants to retire from his company, despite the urgings otherwise from his underlings.  And Wilson is the champion “birder” from the year before who doesn’t want anyone to break his record of 722 birds.  Meanwhile,  his wife feels neglected and is trying to have children with him, while he’s off hunting birds.

As I noted, it’s not a particularly great movie, but it’s not bad.  It’s a very light, superficial movie.  But sometimes that’s why people go to the movies.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Toast“:  This movie was extremely weird, though mildly entertaining.  Based on the true story of British chef Nigel Slater, it mostly takes place in 1960s Britain.  Slater’s parents are very boring, stuffy, middle class British people who hate fresh produce and won’t eat anything that doesn’t come out of a can.  His mother is a horrible cook, and Slater loves reading about cooking.  He dreams of becoming a great chef and tries to get his parents to try new foods.  He’s not close with his father, and his family situation changes drastically.  Oh, and he’s gay, though that’s a very tiny  part of the movie.  It mostly focuses on his development of his cooking talents and his baking competitions with his stepmother (Helena Bonham Carter), with whom he competes for his father’s and attention.  In addition to the weirdness, parts of this movie were very sad and depressing.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Sholem Aleichem:  Laughing in the Darkness“:  I very much enjoyed this documentary on one of the greatest contemporary Jewish writers and storytellers, Sholem Aleichem (also spelled, Shalom Aleichem).  But I’m not sure if non-Jews and those who are not interested in Judaica or Jewish history would find it of interest to them.

The film explores the life and times of Aleichem, the pen name of author Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, the Eastern European author whose work was the basis for the famous musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”  It talks of his life in the “enlightenment” age of Judaism in which Jews learned secular subjects and wrote stories, etc. beyond the Torah.  He wrote his work in Yiddish, the German-Hebrew hybrid language, and the movie explores the golden age in Yiddish literature from around 1860-1950.  Among the experts interviewed in the movie is the great Ruth Wisse, the politically conservative Harvard professor who is a fantastic columnist and writer about political topics.

What I found most interesting is the movie’s observations regarding Aleichem’s insights about how America affected Jewish life and Jewish survival.  He felt that Jews were so comfortable in America and that there was so little anti-Semitism that the religion would die out here due to intermarriage and assimilation.  And regarding that, he was prescient.  I also found it interesting that his “Tevye the Milkman,” on which “Fiddler” is based, has a different ending.  In it, one of Tevye’s daughters marries a gentile and leaves Judaism.  He disowns her, but she returns to him after leaving her husband and discovering that she was wrong to abandon the beautiful Jewish religion.  In “Fiddler,” written by assimilated American Jews, Tevye accepts his daughter’s leaving of the faith and still embraces her, telling her they will see each other in America.

This is a great, short, sweet set of insights into one of the great minds and writers of 18th and 19th century Jewish literature and the changing face of Jewish life in the West.  If you are interested in either of those topics, as I am, you will like this movie.  Odd fact:  Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch does the voice of one of the female figures in Aleichem’s life.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Weekend“:  I think this movie was trying to be the gay version of “Before Sunrise,” but it doesn’t cut it.  I found this movie to be long, slow, and boring, not to mention that I really didn’t need to see the multiple gay make-out and sex scenes.  Ick.

A bearded gay British lifeguard meets another bearded British gay at a bar and they have sex.  Then, they meet up again and have more and more sex.  But the lifeguard finds out that his new paramour is leaving for a couple of years in America and he is sad.  The end.

Not for me, nor for most of you.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “My Afternoons with Margueritte [La Tete en Friche]“: Gerard Depardieu plays a large, illiterate, simple 50-year-old man who is considered a loser and rejected by his slutty, gold-digging mother.  He now lives in a trailer on the property of her house, where she still lives in her drunken life as an old woman.  One day, Gerard meets a classy, elderly woman in the town park.  She encourages him to learn to read and gives him a book and a dictionary.  The movie is about his budding friendship with the woman and how he “falls in love” with her, a 95-year-old who cares about him.

I’ve seen movies like this a gazillion times before, with a tighter, much more interesting script.  This was long, slow, and boring, and just not very original, even if it wasn’t that objectionable.  It was obvious, predictable, and manipulative without much there, and it wasn’t for me.  And I doubt you’d want to spend ten bucks and two hours on it, either.  In French with English Subtitles.


Watch the trailer . . .

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23 Responses

Kenneth “Kenny” Wormald isn’t a stage name. It’s a real, though perhaps relatively rare, English last name.

dee on October 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Dee – regardless; it still becomes a ‘stage name’ if that’s it’s designation in a staged or cinematic work.

    shegundala on October 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

I love the Friday reviews! I’m a big movie fan even though I rarely go. But that is because most are crap. In fact, I have no idea what I like more…movies or reviews. I used to buy Ebert’s review book every year.

Yuck. Footloose. I am so very proud that I have never seen the original one. Never had interest. Thought it was gay. There is no way I would see the remake. EVER. I have enjoyed avoiding popular films most of my life (like “Visionquest”, “Flashdance” and “Pretty Women”) and I am sure that there are more bombs that I have missed than gems I saw accidentally (like “Tootsie”…I am glad I saw that after all).

However, the original “The Thing” is one of my all-time favourites. Movies made at that time were so spectacular and have a feeling that can’t be beat. I may see the remake but only ‘cuz the original was so rad.

And birds. What can I say? You are either a bird person (and I so am!) or not. Being around and liking birds is sorta like a passionate affliction. It takes you over and one can become obsessed with them. Presently, they are my favourite animal and being with them gives me such joy…especially the talking kind.

It’s a bad reference (but apt none-the-less), that horrible Hollywood Madame Heidi Fleiss is currently bitten by the bird bug. It’s the only thing I like about her. One day you don’t give a stuff about birds and then the next they are your whole life. You’ll never know until you get bitten.

Anyway, I would love that movie but for Jack Black. I just can’t stand that unfunny bastard!

Skunky on October 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Skunky: The original story is “Who Goes There” by John Campbell (perhaps under his pen name, Don A Stuart) and it is one of the greatest short stories in the history of science fiction. And here is the link to read it online. Have fun! http://www.outpost31.com/books/who.txt

    “The Big Year” book is very good.

    Occam's Tool on October 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

Loved the original 80’s Thing by John Carpenter. Probably will wait for the remake on DVD.

Skunky, give Vision Quest a shot. It’s a good 80’s flick.

Chris on October 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm

“Gerard Depardieu plays a large, illiterate, simple 50-year-old man who is considered a loser…”

So, he was basically playing himself. Not much of a stretch for him based upon this character description.

Pats on October 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm

You folks do know that John Carpenter’s “The Thing” isn’t the original, don’t you? There’s a version from 1951 called ‘THE THING from another world’ which stars James Arness of Gunsmoke Fame in the monster role. Both movies are based on the 1930’s story ‘Who Goes There’ though I read that Carpenter’s version stays truer to the book. Love both versions and I also think that of all the alien body invasion type movies Carpenter’s The Thing was the best.

theShadow on October 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Shadow, thank you for reminding us. You are absolutely right. Forgot about that.

    Chris thanks for the DVD recommendation.

    I recommend John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and “Halloween”. And as I said, movies made from like 79-81 have this real, gritty true feeling to them. Here are some of my favourites.

    Back Roads (Sally Field/Tommy Lee Jones)
    Sharkey’s Machine (Burt Reynolds/Rachel Ward)
    Gloria (John Casavettes DIR:Gena Rowlands)
    Urban Cowboy (John Travolta/Debra Winger)
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The Original!)

    They all make me think of Tarantino films. He’s a DB but his films are awesome. His “Jackie Brown” reminded me of the films I listed above. DVD them. They are great!

    Skunky on October 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I saw the new The Thing and also The Big Year. Your reviews were right on the money as usual. This version of The Thing was very, very derivative, practically a scene-by-scene remake of the original. Also, I admit that I did kinda miss in this version the fine character actors of the Carpenter film (Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Kieth David, Richard Dysart, etc.). But the creature effects of this new film were weirdly frightening and worth seeing on their own, and revisiting the bleak Antarctic snowscapes for a couple hours also had its appeal. It’s funny to read the way critics who pan this new film (Rotten tomatoes: 35% approval) are so reverential in referring to the original Carpenter “cult classic,” because when that film was released, it was almost universally excoriated for being too dark to the point of nihilistic, for not including women, and for not making any logical sense. Now, though, it’s become a masterpiece, of course, just going to show that there is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to judging films, just context and culture.

I liked The Big Year, too, as you did–an affectionate look at the way slightly nerdy eccentrics pursue their quixotic passion. That’s a conservative message that I appreciate more than the liberal view that we all need to join together in one big group so that we can accomplish something socially enlightened and useful.

Burke on October 15, 2011 at 12:12 am

If you’re referring to Chava’s marrying a non-jew; I don’t believe that ever happened in the musical. I saw Fiddler three times on Broadway (Zero Mostel – Harry Goz – Paul Lipson), and don’t recall the Russian she married being a goy. Have an enjoyable holiday………………..p

shegundala on October 15, 2011 at 9:36 am

re: Toast.
Not surprising, given the Brits reputation for taking perfectly good ingredients and demolishing them. They’re great with gardens,good with movies, but keep ’em out of the kitchen….at least from what I’ve seen.
re: Jack Black.
I find him amusing on screen but what I don’t find amusing is more and more guys seem to be playing him in real life.

Not Ovenready on October 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Oven, your last sentence is so true. Funny, but not so funny (you know what I mean).

(DS…I am catching up on my iPod NRP shows and I am listening to “Fresh Air’s” interview with Robert Malley. He’s suppose to be a “conflict resolution expert” but as I was listening to him wax poetic on the “Arab Spring” and his thoughts on Hamas/Fatah and Israel, he sounded like the world’s biggest dope/dupe. I just looked him up in your archive and sho’ enuff…just what I smelled (a big, fat, Moooooooslim apologist rat!) was proven!

My education here is working. And I advise all regulars to use your archive search button. Keep up the good work. You have all these a-holes sussed!) (The interview with that butt-munch Farid Zacaria was also a real pip, too!)

Skunky on October 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Before I write my comment, I’m going to try to use this comment to see if I’m able to do a link within a word. I hope that this works. If not, then I apologize in advance and will correct it with my old style link. So here it goes:

Re: “The Big Year”

I just saw the movie and it was indeed good just like Debbie and Burke said.

However, there was one bad moment on the movie–when they played one of >herf”http://tinyurl.com/448vfsk”ColdPlay’s/a> songs. Ugh!

JeffE on October 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Nope, it didn’t work. Maybe I’ll try again later. But for now:


The link should have been over the word “ColdPlay”.

JeffE on October 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I’m so tired of Hollywood with their promotion of the Gay lifestyle in an attempt to normalize its so called popularity, with such movies like Weekend. Our young people are so brainwashed to the point they will sleep with anyone no matter what gender or character of the partner which usually causes further problems down the road.

Koeteus on October 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Debbie that Sholem Aleichem (Sholem Aleichem) trailer gave me chest pains. As for your Lions G-d (Hashem) willing they beat the 49ers today. I think the Lions home field advantage will be a major factor and they will consider their path to Zion (the land G-d promise to the Jews, also used as a metaphor for the olam habah ((world to come))). I know you’re not blogging on the Lions due to fear of ayin harah (curse of the evil eye) so I will continue to provide Lions commentary from a Jewish point of view.

A1 on October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

Not surprised to read about the racist angle in the “Footloose” remake. Tinsletown’s ever gonna stop with the Whitey-Can’t-Dance propaganda,are they?

Phineas on October 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Footloose was one the stupidest movies ever made. I hate to see Dennis Quaid playing such a role. He’s been in some good, uplifting movies lately; “The Rookie” and “Soul Surfer.” I guess why they call it acting.

Blayne on October 17, 2011 at 7:22 am

Debbie—were you aware a Ron Paul ad just came up on your website?

Occam's Tool on October 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Occam’s Tool, I was aware of a Ron Paul ad popping up on this blog of Debbie’s, but also saw a “Rand Paul” ad appeared on this blog as well.

And we all know Debbie is NO fan/supporter of any of the Paul’s (Ron and Rand) because of their stand of this country, Israel, the rest of the middle east, etc. Debbie, wherever you are right now, I hope you’re enjoying this current jewish holiday of “Sukkot”!

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

Sean R. on October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm

They should make “Horrible Conservatives”. Everyone here would be cast perfectly. All it takes it thie Hate Group described as a “Forum” and viola! Instead retards.
Oh and by the way, Reagan was a Horrible president. Look it up. Bye now!

Right is ALWAYS wrong on October 19, 2011 at 11:45 am

I never thought of Footloose as anti-religion. More anti-fanaticism and hypocrisy. The pastor wasn’t evil. He was paranoid about losing any more of his flock than he already had. He focused on dancing because it would be too impractical to say, “My son and his friends were killed in a car wreck, so we must get rid of all forms of mechanized transportation.”

The play is better.

As for casting, well, there weren’t many blacks in the original movie because there weren’t many blacks in the town, and they cast a lot of townies for the bit parts. I watched it once, with a friend from that town. We had to keep pausing while he told me about how he got a ticket from that cop, and he used to hang out with that guy, and that girl was a really good dancer, and. . . It took HOURS. But it was fun.

In a play, of course, the parts are for whatever color the casting director casts. They’re not “whites are evil and blacks are good.” It’s “youth are young and want to have fun, and the elders are older and have forgotten too much.”

I’m not saying you should pay $60 to see it on Broadway, but if it comes to a local community theater, you should give it a try.

A lot of the time, the plays that are based on the movie are better. It’s like a final draft – they fix the problems the movie had, and make the story tighter, cleaner, and better.

Now, when the movie is based on the play, it’s 50/50. Hollywood often takes good properties and makes them bad. But plays can’t make up their profits on videos. They HAVE to be good.

For good entertainment, spend your $10-$15 on a play ticket, instead of a movie ticket.

Michelle on October 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Jag äter som jag vill tror inte ett bajs på olika dieter som LCHF Atkins o allt va de heter. Inte är jag tjock heller ! ! ! Tror poängen är att äta det man känner för, när man följer olika dieter blir man bara fixerad ! ! !
psychologicallyinsane https://psychologicallyinsane.tumblr.com/

psychologicallyinsane on May 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm

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