Beyond the Gates

Even the best-intentioned of these movies is, in reality, a total Western sham. Like sugar in our coffee, we can only take the black when it is lightly tempered with white. So we prop up these true stories of horrifying African genocide with fake stories of charismatic Londoners who come one day to teach, and then slowly begin to learn. When all this chap’s new local buddies who obsequiously speak English with him start dying by the shipload, he makes the tough decision to stay and “help the people” in “any way he can.”

Wrong Turn 2

As formulas go, the scared twentysomethings vs. family of post-nuclear flippos model is pretty solid. It can be entertaining in just as many ways as it can suck. Since blood and fake kidneys are cheap to produce, these films (and their sequels and remakes) will continue to get funding long after we’re dead. Just don’t expect to be scared at all, because you know exactly how this story goes.

Wild Hogs

Even though it’s not my place to tell people what they should and should not watch, I feel that I am within my rights to strongly urge that a film never be viewed by anyone. There are things in this world that must be considered absolutes, like “murder is wrong,” and “don’t eat poop.” I can say definitively that Wild Hogs belongs in that category. It is not just a badly-written, badly-acted, badly-made comedy, it is bad. Bad like the Devil is bad.

The Number 23

The twist-ending movie (which by now is its own genre) is in many ways like a furtive sex act. Sure the buildup can be fun, and even offer some nice thrills of its own, but there can be nothing but frustration if the accumulated pressure isn’t released in a wholly satisfying way. When a twist sucks and is totally unearned, not only do you want a refund, but you also want back your emotional investment: “Who gives a shit if she was the killer’s daughter? I was here for two hours!”

The Contractor

Hopefully, no one will be ruined by The Contractor, but hopefully no one will skyrocket to greatness. It, in the most Buddhist of ways, should just be. Hovering on the boundary of bad, never to redeem itself, but never quite falling into the chasm of sorrow. It has everything a DVD action flick always has: guns, plot holes, one-dimensional villains, a car chase, and a little girl. It has everything, and yet, it has nothing.

Black Snake Moan

It is the fate of a film this smart, well written and well acted to remain unseen by the public. Black Snake Moan is a tough sell for a Friday night crowd. No movie this year has dealt with race more deftly, but just the hint of controversy is enough to keep some away. Then there is the sex, the nudity, the young woman/older man thing, and the fact that some real heavy shit goes down. I say, whatever. If you skip Black Snake Moan because of that stuff, then you will be missing out on Samuel L. Jackson’s best performance to date, in a film that is at times the funniest and most interesting I’ve seen in ages.

Primeval

The promise that comes from that brilliant line on the cover of Primeval is completely and brutally dashed by the film’s end. It seems like it would be a no-brainer to make a film about a humongous, man-eating crocodile into something either fun or scary. It would be only the act of a true moron to screw such a premise up. Well, apparently director Michael Katleman is the type of person who could trip over a cordless phone or get hit by a parked car. Through sheer force of stupidity, he has made the impossible possible.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (2-Disc Special Edition)

I don’t believe any future Die Hard could ever match the ruthless combo of brains, action and fun that Die Hard: With a Vengeance manages. It is the kind of film that could immediately drop the testicles of a foppish preteen boy, while at the same time preparing him for his SATs. This is action at its best, and twelve years later, we have to worry that they just can’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Reno 911!: Miami (Unrated)

In a new age of comedy that has encouraged Carlos Mencia’s continuing existence, the “COPS” parody still seems like the cheerleader’s frumpy little sister. Everybody’s done it, because it’s not any kind of a challenge. Classic, venerable television shows have piled on, including “SNL”, “Mr. Show”, and even “The X-Files.” However, until Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” came along, no one had ever thought about marrying the poor girl - that is, turning the concept into a series.

Half Past Dead 2

The original Half Past Dead was an obvious butt-scraping that took place in Alcatraz prison and starred Steven Seagal and Ja Rule (the rapper). It was horrible, made only a buffalo nickel at the box office, and ruined a lot of people’s lives. Well, someone with money decided that it didn’t, and chose to green-light the sequel, Half Past Dead 2. Of course, Seagal and Ja have much better things to do these days, as do the rest of the cast, and the people who allowed filming in or around Alcatraz. No sweat, it can still be done.

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

Every couple of weeks there’s that report on the news about some bony artist that made a poop-statue of Queen Elizabeth, or painted Christina Aguilera vomiting sardines into third-world children’s mouths. The story is called something like “Art or Garbage?” and debates whether or not we should be angry because we don’t understand what this thing is. The creator of the work comes on and explains that it is an expression of some hopeless emotion, says it was meant to shock us, then chuckles condescendingly at the fact that no one has been “enlightened enough” to purchase it.

American Dad, Vol. 2

When Law and Order couldn’t round up enough sobbing, obvious criminals in its time slot, it split into three peaceful factions. Now the Fox program Family Guy has joined those shows in scraping off a chunk of its immense popularity and reforming it into something that appears adequately new. The product of this mitosis is the pseudo-political animated comedy American Dad, which features the same writing and producing staff as the show that spawned it.

Code Name: The Cleaner

Upon seeing the previews for Code Name: The Cleaner, I became anxious to see the actual film. It’s like hearing that the guy who slept with your girlfriend is coming to your party; you desperately want him to give you a reason. Well fear not, folks, because this film most certainly gives us a reason.

The History Boys

When an adaptation is attempted, the idea is always for the film to stand completely on its own. The original version must act like a mother mare, allowing her gooey, placenta-soaked baby to gain its own footing before licking it clean. In the case of The History Boys, this natural process succeeds, creating an excellent piece of film that, while it could not have existed without the play that birthed it, still has the look of a proper show-horse.

Copying Beethoven

The film is like a drunk truck-driver that put on some Victorian clothing and is stumbling around the room forcing everyone to call him Beethoven. The film knows what it wants to be, but seems to not care or have any clue how to make people believe it.

Rocky Balboa

Like delicious deer meat kept safely in the freezer, a good film franchise will still tend to go rancid after about four years. By the third summer release, you’ll begin to hate all the characters, the replacement director who has a “new vision,” the plotline that inevitably kills off a major character from the first two movies. Even the original film, which once seemed so original and ingenious, is cast under suspicion because of its relation to this end-of-the-trilogy crap festival.

Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny

Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny seesaws between stupidity and genius, with too little of the latter. When the D have a fantasy about playing their open mic as conquering heroes, the sequence makes one wonder why the whole movie wasn’t just like it. A great song, great sight gags, and the kind of fireball-up-the-ass machismo that made Tenacious D famous in the first place

Fast Food Nation

To pay another fifty cents to buy “organic” is to die slowly, and for the majority of regular people, guilt can’t cost more than a nickel. But deep down, we know that a few terrible things had to happen before the burger hit our plate. So if everybody is in agreement that these food conglomerates are soulless, greedy, and deeply ingratiated in Faustian deals, then what is the point in telling us again? The answer is, this movie really doesn’t.

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