Monday Morning Critic 2.15.2010: John Edwards (and his hair), riffing on JCVD and a quickie with Alice in Wonderland

On tap this week: An 80s action star … acts, John Edwards and his hair, Alice in Wonderland and slightly much more!

I’ve been watching intently as the whole John Edwards divorce fiasco unfolds, mainly because it’s gotten to the point of being “VH1 Bad.”

Kubryk’s Quick Explanation of “VH1 Bad” for the uninformed – In life, it doesn’t get worse then if your fall from grace is so horrid that it feels like its out of something you’d see on VH1 right after ‘For the Love of Ray J’ and before ‘Megan Wants a Millionaire.’

Going from being three percentage points from the Vice Presidency of the United States in 2004, and nearly defeating both (then) Senators Hilary Clinton and B. Hussein Obama in the Democratic Primary for President in 2008 early on, Edwards’ fall from grace has been swift and painful. Cheating on his wife (diagnosed with terminal cancer), while hiding behind her skirt as she defended him from attacks on the campaign trail, Edwards fathered a child out of wedlock and used all sorts of shenanigans to cover it up.

Finally separating from his wife, Edwards has gone from being a sitting United States Senator to ‘Persona non grata’ in politics in almost as much time as Tiger Woods has gone from committed family man to acknowledged poon hound. But we should have seen this coming from Edwards in the same way we should’ve seen it in Woods.

In the latter’s case, hanging out with noted womanizers like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley should’ve been a clue that maybe Woods was similar in personality. There’s something about birds, feathers and flocking that makes sense here.

In the case of the former, we should’ve seen this coming because of one thing: his hair. Listen to me now and believe me later.

The first time I saw John Edwards, then merely the junior Senator from North Carolina, I knew the guy was a scumbag. It wasn’t because he was a trial lawyer who sued doctors for malpractice using junk science; I hadn’t done any research on the guy and his past before he was nominated on Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s failed Presidential ticket. Just looking at the guy something seemed off. He just looked like a d-bag who needed a punch in the mouth but I couldn’t figure out why. And then, it hit me.

It was the hair.

Any politician with great hair that they obviously spend a lot of time on is a scumbag, pure and simple. It’s the easiest way to spot a crook in a room full of politicians. Granted most politicians are crooks anyways, but the biggest ones always have the best hair. I do hail from a state where we had a huge crook that used to be governor, Rod Blagojevich, so it was easy to spot him. Dude has excellent hair. I think we need a new rule when evaluating politicians, and for sake of argument we’re eliminating balding and bald politicos from the conversation.

Since there are women in Congress, and in roles in the White House, we need to think of them too. In the case of any male politician, the following rule applies: If they’ve spent over $100 on a single haircut, they’re a scumbag. Or if you have an amazing head of hair that looks like you spend a small fortune up-keeping, you are also a scumbag. No exceptions (and this means you, Mitt Romney). Female politicians shouldn’t be trusted if they don’t spend a decent amount of money on their hair. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi can afford at least Mario Tricocci, even if she does look like a wildebeest.

It’s why I thought both Senator McCain was a good guy and why I think President Obama (despite disagreeing with a chunk of his policies) is a good man. Both look like they get their haircuts from the same guy I do. And most politicians in Washington, D.C, have that same look. Good, but not perfect, heads of hair. And whenever they show a guy with a great head of hair immediately no one in the room trusts him. Why?

Because any guy who spends that much time (and money) on his hair is up to no good. We make fun of guys under the age of 30 who use product and style their hire like the mutants from Jersey Shore. Are we really to believe the same guy with 20-30 years more experience is suddenly more trustworthy? No way, not at all. They used to say don’t trust anyone over 30. I say don’t trust anyone who’s haircut costs more than your car payment. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

One of the more underreported stories this week came right out of The Hollywood Reporter, as Disney is thinking of shortening the theatrical run of Alice in Wonderland to a shade over 90 days from the usual 120. We made mention of it here, as Disney is making the first wave towards what might be the next huge trend in films: near instant release onto all mediums.

It’s not a bad thing, either, as Disney might be setting the stage for something that makes sense for their business model. Families aren’t the big connoisseur that gets catered to by theatre owners. Films aimed at kids do well, but they make their money in the DVD market. With the advent of the home theatre, it’s hard to argue against spending 40-50 dollars on tickets alone for a family for just a night out when you could spend $20, own the thing afterwards and do it in the comfort of your own residence. Why spend all that money on a home theatre system when you’re watching big things at a movie theatre, right?

Me, I think it could wind up being something even better for film goers, as children’s fare will disappear from theatres quickly and as such maybe the market for smaller fare or even independent films could populate the theatres more often than children’s films. One of my major complaints about the cinema experience is people bringing young children to films they have no right to be in, like Watchmen last year, so maybe with children’s fare being removed the cinema experience might not be as awful a thing anymore during normal hours.

It could be a boon for films trying to find an audience. I can see a film like Crazy Heart or The Hurt Locker, neither of which have found audiences in the theatres, being able to have wider releases because there won’t be nearly as many films from the big studios taking up screens. So if there’s less G-Force and more Whip It I’m all for it.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – JCVD

For a brief, shining moment Jean Claude Van Damme was the next big thing to grace an action film. Starring in such “classics” as Bloodsport and Kickboxer, Van Damme turned out to be just another in a long line of guys trying to ascend to the throne of Bruce Lee as “martial arts action hero” and falling quite short. His rise, and bigger fall, coincided with the rise and fall of Steven Seagal to the very same mountain, but I don’t think you’d ever see Seagal in a film like JCVD.

Van Damme stars as himself in the usual sort of film an actor makes when they want to try and transcend from being just a crappy genre actor. Caught in the middle of a bank robbery, the actor has to find a way to get the hostages out in an escape plan while the media (and the police) think Van Damme is behind it all. Stuck in the siege, and with an adoring fan, it’s an ok film but really makes me think of another film: Lost in Translation.

My best guess is that Jean Claude has always really wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, not just because he’s a world class martial artist and reputed tough guy, so the script seems like something that would appeal to that instinct. Jason Reitman said in an interview lately that if George Clooney hadn’t taken the part that it would’ve been retooled for Steve Martin as his LiT and I think every actor who succeeded as a genre actor wants to be known more as an actor then as a “comedian” or as an “action star.” You could probably do a film with Stallone or Schwarzenegger about an aging action star trying to be taken seriously as an actor and have the same sort of “emotional impact” that this film, or LiT, tries to pull off. It’s easy to play yourself, or a thinly veiled version of yourself, and try to get critical acclaim. It’s an acting trick that usually works because people are stupid in that regard.

It explains why Jim Carrey takes on dramatic roles and why Adam Sandler took on Funny People. Much like Bill Murray has managed to completely redefine his career over the last 15 years or so as a dramatic actor, I think Van Damme really would like to leave the direct to video action movie market and become an actor able to be in dramatic material. If so, JCVD is a good start. But there’s one problem with it.

Jean Claude Vam Damme is a bad actor.

Not just bad for a regular actor but good for action flicks, but he’s awful even in action films. He’s atrocious in this, which makes the cover quote (“Give Van Damme an Oscar, not a black belt” or something along those lines) even more ludicrous. It’s a good performance for him, but any actor with the semblance of dramatic chops would destroy in this film. Van Damme has charisma and screen presence, still, but his big dramatic moments (including a monologue about fame at the end) are unintentionally hilarious.

For the $2 I spent on it at a Blockbuster going out of business sale, JCVD is a decent purchase. Anything more, though, is uncivilized. Tepid recommendation.

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

Shutter Island — A pair of U.S Marshals investigates the disappearance of an inmate at an institution for the criminally insane.

Skip it — I LOVE Marty Scorsese, but everything about this film reeks of “stupid twist at the end” and some Deus Ex Machina to wrap it up. The novel has it, apparently, and I hate twist endings because usually they’re stupid. Don’t expect Marty’s brilliance to save it but do expect the usual suspects to give the film verbal fellatio because it’s Scorsese.

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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