Monday Morning Critic – 1.4

On tap this week:
— Jackie Chan whips out his Thunderbolt
— Travis Leamons’ favorite film of 2004 is bad? No way
— The Tiger Zone
And slightly much more!

Over the holidays, the big topic de jour was Tiger Woods. Still. Especially in light of a since rebuked story about how Woods was having facial reconstructive surgery because of his injuries. It would make sense, especially since he hasn’t been seen since the shenanigans involving his wife. However, it does mark something interesting.

In less then two months we’ve seen an athlete go from being incapable of being viewed in any way but an extremely positive one to being incapable of being viewed in any way but a negative one. It’s all because he liked the “strange tang” of probably several hundred women who weren’t Mrs. Tiger Woods, God bless him. I mean if a guy is willing to hook up with a Denny’s waitress in his car not 10 minutes from his house, the dude loves his strange tang. But the one thing is that if you asked me on October 15th if I’d believe any of these stories about him and I’d go “no way.” If Mike Tyson can be so loony as to dictate his own zone, “The Tyson Zone” in which when one enters anything is believable, we used to have “The Tiger Zone.” In there, anything is wholly unbelievable if it goes against what has been perceived to be their character.

I mean, really, up until women who had evidence of Tiger’s affairs came out no way in hell does anyone believe them. This is Tiger Woods, after all, and while the tales of womanizing professional athletes aren’t even news anymore the fact that it was following his wife practically curb-stomping him makes it all the more interesting (and somewhat newsworthy). Which is why when Bill Simmons created “Tyson Zone” needs its opposite, he ought to have created the “Tiger Zone” to compliment it.

The Tiger Zone: When the status an athlete or celebrity reaches a point that no matter how outrageous their behavior, no one would believe any story or anecdote about the person, no matter how shocking or bizarre.

Like if you told me Peyton Manning was running a dog-fighting ring, no way in 100 years I’d believe you. You could have a picture of Peyton and Archie with a rape stand, him holding up a big thumbs up as Eli poses in front of the sucker with his New York Giants jersey on with a sign that says “Manning Brothers Dog Fighting Inc,” and I still probably wouldn’t believe you. The Manning family is in that rare air where they could be doing virtually anything behind the scenes and no one would believe them. Like Eli could be a serial killer like Dexter Morgan from my new favorite show, Dexter, and yet no one in their right mind is going to look at Eli Manning for killing people in gruesome ways. Like he could walk onto the field in the Meadowlands with a bloody knife and the reasonable thing to say would be “Well, who doesn’t have a bloody knife just lying around?” Really, he could be interviewed at his home and show off a room where he murders people and people would go “Who doesn’t have a room where you gratuitously torture people until they die?”

We laugh now, but I remember when Michael Jordan was working out because “he needed to fit into his suits again” amidst reports he was trying to make a professional basketball comeback with the Wizards. And we all believed it until it happened as everyone acted all surprised to see a washed up greatest player of all time try and relive his past glory. MJ lived in that zone, but Tiger perfected it. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With 2009 coming to a close, as well as the decade closing as well, the one thing surprising is that now people are opting to try and label a film as the “worst of.” And what’s amusing is that the one I keep seeing on nearly anyone who matters is a film that won an Oscar: Crash

The big thing about that film was that it examined race, but one thing that bugs me is that it wasn’t a horrible film. It was quite good at the time but hasn’t aged as well as some other films. I watched it again for my Top 10 of the Aughts, wanting to cover my bases because if a film has won an Oscar it deserves at least consideration. And I discovered something:

Five years in cinema is a much longer time then it used to be. Listen to me now and believe me later.

The DVD has made film a much different art form then it used to be. This isn’t your daddy’s movie viewing, that’s for sure. One of the reasons why I love cinema is the experience in and of itself; being in a theatre with a massive image, paying $10 for my entertainment. The ability to sell a movie for viewing has changed cinema significantly because it’s much more immediate. I’m beginning to think that might not be a good thing anymore.

A film can be released in three different formats within the span of eight months now, as it can debut in theatres in the spring, on DVD in the summer and for download on the computer in the fall. You can watch it half a dozen times on each in less then a year, which is amazing in some aspects. One can really get into source material much more and be able to view on one’s own terms.

But the problem is that films now age much less gracefully then they used to, and with the expansion of things like the internet we now have the ability to discuss film on such a different level then we used to. If Crash wins an Oscar in 1984 instead of 2005 it has just begun to age now because it wouldn’t have been viewed as often and with less criticism of it. Hindsight has now become so much faster. Crash is this decade’s version of Forrest Gump in that everyone loved it in theatres but it’s become trendy to really thrash it after the fact. It’s like owning a Carpenters record; everyone did in the 70s but no one wants to admit to it.

For the record I loved Gump and still do; plenty of people think the same of Crash and it’s understandable. Once a decade there’s a film that gets tons of praise when it comes out but then comes a massive backlash; I imagine it’ll happen to Precious come 2013.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge


This Week’s DVD – Thunderbolt

Another as part of the raids on dying Blockbuster stores that I have made, I found this in the 99 cents or less bin at one that was in the final death throes. They were selling the furniture in the place without any success and the employees had officially stopped caring. So a Hong Kong action flick for under a buck is never a bad thing, especially with Jackie Chan.

Chan stars as a champion race car driver, working for the police to help catch a notorious street racer. But there’s a catch as the illegal racer is also a crime syndicate heavyweight and he’s none too pleased at Chan for helping the po-po out. Kidnapping his sisters, and making his life a living hell, Chan has to race (and beat) him on Asia’s deadliest track to free them.

And … well …. it certainly isn’t the best film Chan has ever done. But it might be amongst the worst, at least among his Hong Kong films. Some of the putrid crap he’s been a part of in the U.S is way lower in terms of quality then most of his stuff from before he became more then a cult hero in the U.S.

It’s your typical Chan action flick except that it tries too hard to make him too virtuous. Chan is the requisite good older brother, et al, and only wants the best. It’s cookie cutter Chan and seemed more like a film that represented a break between Police Story sequels then something that would become a franchise in and of itself. Chan probably has a good enough idea now, and back then, about what kind of action film lends itself to a franchise and which don’t. This was probably a one-off to go in with that he had no intention of doing more then just one film, especially considering he did it after Rumble in the Bronx with a bum leg if memory serves me right.

The other problem is that car racing in general doesn’t lend itself to cinema. Car chases are a staple of film-making but car racing doesn’t have that sense of urgency. It’s like watching NASCAR, except it’s scripted and has better camerawork. In reality there’s only so much drama you can get out of a bunch of rednecks making left turns at 300mph.

It is a bit interesting, though, as Chan is a good enough action hero that even a slightly above average film could be elevated into something better because of his involvement back at his peak. But Chan kind of mails it in, using a noticeable stunt double (because of the aforementioned injury), and seems less then inspired to be doing this film.

Slight recommendation against….good for 100 minutes but nothing memorable.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Daybreakers – The world is filled with vampires. Ethan Hawke is trying to cure them.

See It – I was a little leery of this until I heard their inspiration before shooting: John Carpenter. Hawke and crew wanted to make a film like one of Carpenter’s old school action classics, ala Escape from New York, and got the entire gang ready for it. That’s worth it alone.

Leap Year – Amy Adams gets her “wacky romantic comedy” out of the way.

Skip it – Again, Amy Adams needs to star in one stupid romantic comedy in order to flesh out her cinematic resume. Hopefully she gets it out of the way and goes back to starring in good movies.

Youth in Revolt – Michael Cera becomes a one man crime spree to win the heart of the prettiest girl in the trailer park.

Skip it – Before the film was moved from a late 2009 release to an early 2010, they did screen it for the press. It wasn’t too exciting then and I imagine hasn’t aged gracefully since then.

Crazy on the Outside – Tim Allen is a recently paroled convict who moves in with his sister and her whacky friends.

See It – Tim Allen appears to be growing as a comedian, going from children’s flicks on to more mature roles. His directorial debut, I’m interested to see how a masterful comedian like Allen does in charge.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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