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Make Your Weekend Plans Now!

[ 70 ] July 13, 2013 |

Grown Ups 2 (2013)


While it’s certainly the movie event of the year for filmgoers passionate about deer piss humor, Grown Ups 2 will bore, annoy, and disgust audiences of nearly every other persuasion.

But then again…


90% liked it
Average Rating: 4.3/5

Honestly, I have no recollection of the existence of the first installment, which apparently scored an All Critics of 10% and a Top Critics of 8%.



[ 15 ] October 21, 2012 |

Everything you wanted to know about flying the F-35B:

Tony Scott

[ 21 ] August 20, 2012 |

Tony Scott RIP. Not a great director, but I certainly enjoyed some of his movies.

Completely Unnecessary Dark Knight Rises Post (Spoilers)

[ 92 ] July 23, 2012 |

There’s absolutely no reason to write a post dissecting the shortcomings of Dark Knight Rises in security analysis terms.  Nevertheless (spoilers etc):

  1. A cursory glance at FM 3-24 would have indicated to Bane et al that the project of managing a city of 12(?) million with a few thousand poorly trained and organized soldiers, many of whom have only the most tenuous of loyalties to the ideological project (I don’t see the 1000 organized crime veterans as following Bane with any enthusiasm) was… ambitious. It’s possible that the population of Gotham isn’t terribly restive, but in general blowing up the football team and threatening nuclear destruction aren’t great ways to win the hearts and minds.
  2. By Day 10, I’m guessing that JSOC would have infiltrated the city with several thousand SOF. The population of the city is easily large enough to absorb such an influx without difficulty, and Bane’s organization showed little capacity for monitoring the population in any case. It goes without saying that managing the city on a day-to-day basis would have been impossible under these conditions.
  3. Bane’s only card is the nuclear weapon, but as we know nuclear weapons aren’t very useful for fine tuned coercion. Within the first few hours it would have become clear that Bane was not prepared to detonate the nuke at any escape/infiltration, because hundreds of private boats would immediately have attempted to flee the city. Once Bane’s tolerances had been established, the salami slicing would have begun; SOF would arrive in the aforementioned throngs, electricity would go on and off, shipments of food would only be made on pain of concessions, etc.
  4. None of this matters if Bane’s only goal is the destruction of the city, but of course it isn’t; Bane wants to hold the city captive in order to make an ideological point.  This means that he values something, which means that value tradeoffs can be forced. Arms and Influence should be required reading at League of Shadows HQ.
  5. A thermonuclear weapon is a device; a machine that requires a variety of equipment to function properly in order to do its job. If you hit a thermonuclear weapon with a Tomahawk missile bad things happen; radioactive material is strewn across the blast radius, etc. What normally doesn’t happen is that the device operates properly and detonates to full capacity. Destroying the nuke might not be option 1, but it would be part of the toolkit.

“He Wasn’t Rabid!”

[ 59 ] May 30, 2012 |

If this doesn’t find its way into the Top Gun 2 script, I’m gonna cry:

Former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., who in 2005 pleaded guilty to accepting more and larger bribes than any other member of Congress in history, has appealed to the judge who sentenced him to help him regain his gun rights when he leaves prison.

In a remarkable May 2 letter to U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego, Cunningham said he needs guns for the ex-con life he plans in a secluded cabin in the Ozarks—far away from Southern California and Washington, where his corruption made history. He said he will use the guns for hunting and fishing to feed himself. He also claimed he needs firearms to make money in sporting competitions and to protect himself from rabid cougars.

“I plan to live in a small cabin near Greer’s Lake and write my books, several I have finished in prison,” he wrote in the rambling letter, adding, “I competed nationally in trap, sheet [sic] and sporting clays would rather be in the woods hunting and fishing than anything else. I will live in a very remote part of Arkansas and not much threat from people but they do have a lot of black bears, cougars, and history of rabies.” Greers Ferry Lake, in the foothills of the Ozarks, is noted for its large walleye and striped bass and its duck and waterfowl hunting…

He also made a pointed reference to his former status as a naval aviator and the only Navy ace in the Vietnam War. In arguing he should be allowed to carry guns when he is out of prison, Cunningham wrote: “I flew aircraft that could disintegrate your building with a half second burst and now can’t carry a 22 cal. Pls help me your honor. I don’t have much left but this little thing is a big thing for me.”

Imagine Maverick, Ice, and a rehabilitated Cougar seeking wisdom at a scary backwoods cabin inhabited by a scraggly, heavily armed Tom Skerritt. Things go well until Viper goes crazy and blows Cougar away with a shotgun. “He wasn’t rabid!” cries Maverick, as Cougar dies in his arms.

This stuff writes itself.

Today in Great Hatchet Jobs

[ 85 ] January 31, 2012 |

When a studio 1)dumps a movie based on an expensively acquired series of detective novels clearly intended to be a franchise in the January dead zone, 2)based on the Saturday reviews apparently refuses to screen it for critics, and 3)it stars Katherine Heigl, winner of the 2011 Nic Cage Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Indiscriminate Script Approval, the review pretty much writes itself.   Nonetheless, to his credit A.O. Scott put in more effort than the filmmakers:

“One for the Money,” the latest Katherine Heigl vehicle to park itself in the multiplexes, is also the title of a best-selling novel by Janet Evanovich. It is worth stating this fact at the outset to avoid the mistaken but entirely plausible assumption that the phrase somehow made its way onto the lobby posters from the subject line of an e-mail from Ms. Heigl’s agent.

There are now 18 volumes in Ms. Evanovich’s series about Stephanie Plum, the Trenton bounty hunter played by Ms. Heigl with brown hair and an accent that might suggest New Jersey to someone who once overheard a conversation about an episode of “The Sopranos.” “One for the Money,” in other words, is an attempt to inaugurate a new movie franchise, something that might appeal to women and mystery fans. This is a perfectly sound ambition, but the movie, directed by Julie Anne Robinson from a script by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius, is so weary and uninspired that it feels more like an exhausted end than an energetic beginning.


A caper unfolds, clumsily and without much conviction, bringing Stephanie into contact with a cheerful prostitute (Sherri Shepherd), a nasty kickboxer (Gavin-Keith Umeh) and his trainer (John Leguizamo), and various others. There is action of a sort — a car blows up, shots are fired — and what might pass for witty, sexy banter to someone who once overheard a conversation about an episode of “Moonlighting.”

Speaking of television, the one mildly interesting thing about “One for the Money” — apart from Debbie Reynolds’s scene-stealing shtick as Stephanie’s grandmother — is that it offers a data point for those studying the cultural decline of cinema. I don’t mean this in any grandiose or melodramatic way. Not long ago it would have been possible to convey the bland, lazy, pedestrian qualities of this picture — its lackadaisical pacing, by-the-numbers performances, irritating music and drab visual texture — by likening it to a made-for-TV movie or an episode of a series on basic cable. But nowadays that would be praise, and movies like this must set their own standard for mediocrity.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Shitty?

[ 204 ] January 24, 2012 |

This was truly a banner year for terrible movies, with most of the worst directors in Hollywood coming out. Schumacher! Emmerich! Bay! Snyder! Marshall! Several films from Adam Sandler’s Straight-to-Video Quality Films LLC!

But I was interested to see several critics in the New York survey mentioned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. About 15 seconds into the first time I saw the preview it was clear that it was going to be a major threat to be the Academy’s middlebrow doorstop of choice. And that was before I knew it had been directed by Stephen Daldry, the homeless man’s Lasse Hallström and the most obvious choice to produce the kind of kitschy “serious” films that simulate content without having any. It’s based on a prominent bad novel using one horrible historical event as a backdrop, and also invokes two other horrible historical events while telling you nothing you didn’t already know about any of them or about anything else. It has an annoying precocious kid, who encounters Noble African-Americans. It has Tom Hanks. I mean talk about your Oscar bait. So did it get nominated? Oh, yes, and I can’t imagaine anyone thinks this is surprising. Has anyone seen it? Could anything be as bad as it looks?

A Brief Movie Note

[ 30 ] December 31, 2011 |

I’m ambivalent about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But you have to admit that it was inspired for Fincher to make the first villain a dead ringer for Mark Steyn and the second one an Enya fan.

Friday Links

[ 40 ] October 28, 2011 |

This Will Not End Well

[ 38 ] October 28, 2011 |

Erik beat me to the Oliver Stone/Power Broker* project. And yet, I think it might be more promising than fellow Belaborer of the Obvious Alan Ball** doing a movie about George Tiller. Fans of actors reading lengthy position papers telling you things you already know who are still upset by the cancellation of Studio 60 should get more than their quota from that one.

Speaking of Ball, since it’s hard to overstate how badly American Beauty has aged, I’m disappointed that Robert Stacy McCain missed his recent opportunity to create some common ground between liberal aesthetes and conservative aesthetic Stalinists.   He asserts that Ball’s politics in American Beauty (which are flattered by comparisons with Adorno rather than Frank Rich) were expressed in a matter that is “contextual and nearly subliminal.” Subliminal? Christ, the only way they could have been more foregrounded was if the experience involved paying 10 bucks to have Ball to repeatedly hit you over the head with a 2×4 that has “suburbs are conformist and homophobia is bad” written on it. Which, come to think of it, is what re-screening American Beauty felt like. (The whole hilarious post via Roy, of course.)

*Am I crazy to be considering reading The Power Broker again? Look, I need something to tide me over until Caro’s LBJ: The Vice Presidential Years 1961-2 (2144 pp.) appears in 2016.

**I don’t mean to suggest that Ball doesn’t have him moments when other collaborators are able to moderate the BOTO. Especially in its initial seasons Six Feet Under was very good, although the dream sequences were not merely aesthetic disasters like 99.9% of dream sequences but also involved spoonfeeding the audience neat morals in the way that the show at its best resisted. And while True Blood is not for me overly crude politics aren’t really an issue. My one-line review would be “I didn’t understand what’s particularly interesting about vampires, and after a season of True Blood I still don’t.”

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Catching Hell

[ 44 ] October 15, 2011 |

I recently watched Alex Gibney’s Catching Hell, which was excellent.   Linking together two unjust scapegoats — Buckner and Steve Bartman — it perhaps belabors the point about the fake “curses” that surround both organizations too much, but the point is a good one.   The curses serve the same function as scapegoats, inside sports and without — giving people with power a pass.    See, it’s not that the Red Sox didn’t win because their (Hall of Fame!) owner was substantially more committed to white supremacy than winning, and once they started to accumulate real talent entrusted it to sixth-rate hacks like Don Zimmer, John McNamara and Grady Little.  No, it’s because some guy wanted to finance No, No Nannette during the Harding administration.

I was interested that the movie implicitly makes a point I’d like to make more explicit about Game 6.  The general point that making Buckner the goat is irrational, since by the time of his error the Red Sox had already blown the lead and were facing a better team on the road with no good pitchers left, is by now well-known.   To me, even worse than the failure to replace Buckner with Stapleton was what Gibney correctly portrays as a panic move — replacing Schiraldi with Stanley.   Chris Jaffe’s empirical analysis found that the hapless McNamara had the worst bullpens of any modern manager with any kind of long-term career, and this is Exhibit A.  Stanley was nearly done and having a less-than-mediocre year — lefthanders hit .338 off him.   And while this tends to be forgotten, Scharaldi had pitched extremely well.    I would certainly never argue that you shouldn’t consider whether a pitcher has it on a given day, and if Schiaraldi was nibbling or giving up line drives I might get him out of there even if it meant bringing in the Steemer.   But he wasn’t.   He was throwing strikes, and none of the singles was particularly hard hit (with the Knight opposite-field jam shot that drove him from the game actually being the least authoritative.)    Classic panic overmanaging, and Stanley’s wild pitch was the most important play off the game.    To top it off, Gibney shows priceless footage of the gutless Stanley throwing Buckner under the bus after the game.    (Sox fans can help me out here, but IIRC Stanley also tried to blame Gedman for the wild pitch, although he couldn’t have caught it with a net.)

Buckner, at least, did make a mistake that made it impossible for his team to win.   Making Bartman the scapegoat is even worse, not only because he didn’t do anything wrong but because the Cubs only needed 5 outs with a three run lead even after “the Bartman play.”   The real goats were Alex Gonzalez and Dusty Baker, the latter of whom displayed the same fetishes for leaving starters in to get beat up and irrational intentional walks that Don Zimmer (there’s that name again!  Amazing how curses follow the guy around, isn’t it?)  showed in the 1989 NLCS.    The most remarkable part of the film shows the atmosphere in Wrigley, which focused solely and angrily on Bartman, leaving him in real fear for his life.   (Speaking of lazy sixth-rate hacks, he also has footage of the Kornheiser and Wilbon throwing gas on the fire the next day.)    It may be true that Cubs fans don’t care about Bartman now, but at the time they sure made him the focal point of a loss he bore no responsibility for whatsoever.    It’s a remarkable and chilling sequence.

The Artist and the Art

[ 61 ] September 21, 2011 |

This won’t be surprising to longtime readers, but I agree with Dargis in almost every detail here. Plenty of great art has been made by extremely odious human beings and I don’t think it makes much sense to deprive ourselves of it, but the temptation to apologize for great artists should also be resisted.

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