Monday Morning Critic – 5.24.2010 – Jesus Christ, Seven Swords, Megan Fox and a bit more.

Every Monday morning, Inside Pulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

When you grow up in a multi-faith family, matters of religion tend to be more fascinating to me than most. Not in the whole “I want to be multicultural and explore other faiths” but more along the lines of “people actually believe that?” kind of thinking. I’m not one who actually enjoys any aspect of organized religion, but I have a healthy respect for people who are religious. Religion can be a good thing but like most good things gets abused by enough people to cause an inherent distrust from me. But it gives us a look into early mankind by seeing how religions begin, et al, and we’re missing tons of information on the early days of Jesus, for example, that when I see articles like this I immediately click. That and Cracked.com is a great website for goofy stuff like this.

But it got me thinking, which is always a bad thing if you’ve read this column for more than two weeks. In particular about the “Q source” because it’s something that’s always been something to contemplate. We only have like a thimble’s worth of the teachings of one of history’s most influential human beings. So to think about everything he said and taught, and how we don’t have it, gives us a bit of a blank about Christ. Or at least I’ve always thought. But something else popped into my mind:

What if the “Q source” contained a whole bunch of really horribly awful things from Jesus of Nazareth mixed in with his religious teaching?

Listen to me now and believe me later.

I keep thinking that maybe the reason why this “Q source” was lost was because it had any number of really filthy, awesome stuff about Jesus of Nazareth. So I’ve decided to break it down into potential chapters of what I shall call the “Book of Jesus” that vanished from the early Church:

1. Hooking up with shepherd’s daughters: the do’s and don’ts
2. Of whiskey drinks and bar fights: my journey through Egyptian tavern life
3. Phoenician girls are flexible and other stories of debauchery
4. “Care to make a miracle in my pants?” and other surefire pickup lines
5. “I’m the son of God. Who the hell are you?” and other witty sayings that won’t impress Roman soldiers
6. Arrested in Tyre: my three days avoiding forcible sodomy
7. How I was banned from Joppa: a tale of sweat and sandals
8. You can never go home: Nazareth still sucks

But then again, thoughts like these would probably get me excommunicated if I was a Catholic. They did keep me out of the good colleges, though.

Random Thoughts of the Week

Nikki Finke reported earlier this week that Megan Fox either quit or was fired from Transformers 3. Technically her options wasn’t picked up but it’s a firing either way you look at it. This was the hit franchise that made her a mega star and kept her as one; with a number of models and low level actresses vying to replace her (my money would be on Gemma Arterton if I was a gambling man, but rumors are that Jason Statham’s misses is going to be stepping in), Fox’s career is basically riding on Jonah Hex to be a big enough hit to keep her as a box office draw that How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and Jennifer’s Body didn’t provide. Between her and Shia LaBeouf, who also made some interesting remarks of his own, Transformers 3 is shaping up to be something amusing. But, art does come from adversity so if $200 million and a major firing begin Michael Bay’s finale to the franchise maybe a film that is excellent could come out of all of this.

But the more amusing thing out of all of this is where exactly Megan Fox goes to after this. Hex (which has some insanely bad buzz surrounding it – never a good sign) is a bit of a make or break film for her at this point because being successful in Hollywood requires one of two things. Some actors/actresses do both, but usually most actors make their living by being able to do one thing better than most, but usually A-list status comes from one of two things.

The first is to be brilliant at the art of acting, box office returns be damned. It’s the Sean Penn method of being an A-list actor in Hollywood despite not having a film that has drawn over $100 million (Mystic River got the closest at slightly over $90 million). He’s got two Oscars, a plethora of nominations and is probably the best actor of his generation. I’m not a huge fan of him as a person, as he seems a bit of a scumbag, but you can’t deny his ability to turn it on when the camera turns on. It’s why I will pay money to see him, despite my disliking of his public persona.

The other is to be able to pack crowds into your films on a regular basis. Bruce Willis isn’t even in the top 20 of best actors of his generation and yet has been behind films that have grossed $2.6 billion in box office receipts and averages at least $50 million in box office receipts a picture. He’s probably the least likely actor to win an Oscar in the next 10 years but people pay to see his movies, pure and simple. I pay money to see Willis because if he’s in a film it’s usually going to be perfectly acceptable entertainment at a pure minimum.

Most actors tend be hybrids of both of these methods. Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, et al, all are talented actors who people want to see in films. I would think that most actors would want to be in this category as well, to have people want to see films with you in it because they know it’ll be good and they think that you are talented as well. The problem arises when you have success in just one of these categories, and Fox is in the same situation that Lindsay Lohan was in before her substance abuse issues made her more famous than her acting talents.

Lohan was the exact opposite of Fox in terms of career arc. She was respected as a thespian and was en route to becoming the best actress of her generation. When you get compared to a young Julia Roberts because of how talented you are that’s never a bad thing and Lohan was on the right track to being in that air. Mean Girls may not have set the box office on fire but it did put people on notice that Lohan was going to be the next great talent. The rest is history as she’s managed to have her career nosedive to the point where the last film she’s completed that made its way to the big screen was I Know Who Killed Me in 2007. 2010’s Machete looks to be a comeback film of sorts for her, but she’ll never that same buzz that she did in 2004-2005 when she had that respect as an actress (as opposed to the curiosity as a booze-fueled sex machine who dabbles with both genders). She’s really been replaced by Emma Stone, as she gets the roles that Lohan would’ve gotten without the problems on set. She easily could’ve been in Superbad and The Rocker, or even The House Bunny, but Stone has kind of supplanted her in that role.

Fox is in that same predicament now that essentially took down a huge portion of Lohan’s career except in an opposite way. She’s been at the heart of two of the biggest films of the last 25 years and is a sex symbol because of them. But she isn’t known as an actress, just for her sex appeal amidst robots fighting one another. And the key is that nearly any beautiful woman could do what she has done in the series, it’s just she got lucky and got the part. Unfortunately the down side of being a sex symbol, much like being one with the label of “next great actress of her generation,” is that ultimately you have to grow into the part or you will no longer have a career. Plenty of actresses have been “it” for a while on both ends of the spectrum and have not sustained the momentum.

The interesting thing, as always, is where she goes from there. That’s the more interesting thing in the discussion because at this point she’s so identified with one signature franchise that being the token “hot girl” in a blockbuster franchise is both beneath her status as well as something she probably couldn’t get cast in. For the Battleship film, in example, Fox really couldn’t be cast in a similar role without being identifiable as the “Transformers chick” in the similar way that Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger. Yeah Englund has done a ton of other roles but he can’t be in another horror franchise because he’s Freddy, for better or worse, in the same manner that Stallone can’t play another burnt out Vietnam Vet, Michael C. Hall can’t be a serial killer, Adrian Grenier can’t play a big time movie star and Christian Bale can’t be another masked superhero.

And she really can’t pull a Kate Hudson and try doing a ton of romantic comedies because of how she’s been elevated in Hollywood. It’s hard to imagine her not being able to land a man or engaging in shenanigans ala The Backup Plan. She sounds like she’s got a bit of the tard in her so you can eliminate any role involving her to play a scientist/doctor/engineer. Where does this leave her? Not in a whole lot of good places, unfortunately, and it’s a bit of a shame because she does have more than just good looks going for her. She has charisma and screen presence, both of which are hard to come by. But there is one place that could be a landing pad for her career: Premium Cable, a.k.a. Showtime, HBO and its ilk.

Plenty of stars have been able to find a home on pay cable and rejuvenate a career or jumpstart a stalled one. Look at a few small examples:

— Thomas Jane went from The Punisher and buzz as an action star to career hell in the DTV market quickly. But he has gotten rave reviews for Hung, which I’ll be reviewing soon BTW.

— Jeremy Piven was the acerbic sidekick stuck playing second fiddle to A-listers and John Cusack before Entourage, now he looks like a young Pacino next to a group of moderately talented actors.

— Anna Paquin has raised her profile from being a great young actress, and Academy Award winner as a child, to finding a niche while being able to take good roles during the times when she isn’t filming True Blood.

— Michael C. Hall is building up a solid resume of film roles in between seasons of Dexter and Danny McBride leveraged Eastbound & Down into some better movie parts, as well. Both aren’t major stars …. Yet.

So it’s not out of the question that Megan Fox could take the lead in a show with a decidedly hard-R rating for a while, build up some credibility as an actress, and emerge a bigger star in the process. But that’s just my opinion, and it’ll be amusing to see where she goes from here.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Seven Swords

When it comes to martial arts films, there’s only one source I trust: Rob Sutton, author of our most ass-kicking column “Robtrain’s Badass Cinema.” Dude knows his stuff better than anyone I know … well as much as you can know someone from writing on the same website as they do hundreds of miles away. If anything, we always joke that he looks like Superman crossed with Walter from The Big Lebowski. But I make his column one of the things I have to read the day it gets published because usually I learn something or find a film I can enjoy. And when I saw that he had reviewed Seven Swords, and that it was a homage to one of the greatest films ever made (Seven Samurai), it was worth a blind buy. That and I had a gift certificate that needed using and so I killed a couple birds with a stone or something.

The film is an epic tale of seven swordsmen banding together to save an innocent village from an army bent on cashing in on the death of martial artists. Anyone who is skilled in the deadly arts is to be killed to quell any thoughts of a rebellion, the heads worth large amounts of money. What follows is a two and a half hour film of awesome sword fights and mediocre story points, culminating in a good but not great film.

The problem, and Rob nailed it right on the head, is that this is a film without a whole of great story but with a ton of awesome action. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when you ape Seven Samurai you have to bring an awesome film. The Magnificent Seven understood that and that’s why that film was a classic. This … this is a good film. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mild 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

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Jake Gyllenhaal is Persian and has a dagger that turns back time or something. Apparently they don’t have a DeLorean and/or the ability to gun it to 88 MPH back then.

Skip it – Jerry Bruckheimer needs something to replace Pirates of the Caribbean as his franchise de jour. It just looks 100 different ways of awful.

Sex and the City 2 – Three old whores and their mother return for more sexcapades.

Skip it – Women get a blockbuster franchise all their own. I’ve tried to think of something mocking but I can’t think of anything suitable for print (even on Inside Pulse dot com). So insert your own insult here.

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

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