Monday Morning Critic – 4.18.2011 – Heartbreak Ridge, Scream 4 Thoughts

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse 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.

I normally don’t discuss new releases after the fact but since nothing really massive came out this past week I decided to turn my gaze towards a film I saw this weekend: Scream 4.

One of the things I questioned about Scream 4 coming into existence was whether or not Wes Craven had anything useful to say about the horror genre via his signature series. The original Scream was so remarkably brilliant in that aspect; it was a great parody of where horror had gone since Halloween while also being a greater slasher film. There was a marked amount of brilliance and its sequels only confirmed how brilliant the first had been. Saw had been the same way, starting with a brilliant first film and then just becoming about the kills than the first’s engaging story.

But here’s the thing: Scream 4 had so many shades of brilliance than it could’ve but wound up trying to hammer on a brilliant reason behind the killing spree as opposed to setting it up throughout. I noticed it because I’d watched Teenage Paparazzo beforehand, so it had been on my mind. It was the one thing I thought they absolutely blew, which kind of took out the momentum it had been brewing.

One of the things that the killer cites at the end is that of fame, and how since we live our lives online that getting famous is much more difficult than it ever has been for one reason: everybody’s trying to get famous without having to actually achieve anything. It’s insanely brilliant but it never really uses it until the end, when it seem tacked on during the big “this is why I’m doing it” when you have a slasher film with someone in a disguise that isn’t a monster. Why the killer is doing it makes a huge deal, sometimes taking a film from mediocre to brilliant by the big denouement. This didn’t, just giving us a big twist in a film that was angling towards a twist the entire time, but one thing kept bugging me.

It would be brilliant to do a film like this, with the same motivations, as a sign of our times. We live in a society where people like Rebecca Black can get famous, and make a small fortune, and we’re raising a generation who want to be famous at nearly any cost as opposed to doing something great. It’s kind of a quirk of fame now; you don’t have to actually accomplish anything. You just have to get eyeballs, which is easier with social media but tougher in a more diverse marketplace. So there’s something to be had exploring this new way where people both pursue and avoid internet fame.

A modern serial killer film, with a killer filming and broadcasting on the web live as it happens with the inherent motion of trying to become famous, could make for a brilliant film. I didn’t think Scream 4 went far enough; with so much happening real time on the web there was so much that could’ve been done and it just doesn’t. It can’t be that hard, especially with the ability to use an iPhone to directly broadcast to UStream with professional cameras able to be hooked into an iPhone. Throw in some technological mumbo-jumbo about the police not being able to track them down with technology and you have the tech ability. Throw in a perspective about someone trying to become famous, etc, and you could make a great piece about the pursuit of fame at all costs.

Untraceable played with the concept, using it from the police officer’s perspective, but I think the right director with the right script could pull it off.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Heartbreak Ridge

There comes a point in an actor’s career where they have to admit to themselves they just can’t play certain characters anymore. Heartbreak Ridge was the point for Clint Eastwood when he couldn’t play a war hero anymore in the same way The Dead Pool was the last time he could really play “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Eastwood was in his mid 50s at that point being a badass action hero was pushing it. I mean he’s still a guy you don’t screw with, as I’d still heavily favor Eastwood against most of Hollywood’s young acting core, but there’s only so long you can be an action hero. It’s why the last Indiana Jones sequel was disappointing on a number of levels; you wanted to give Harrison Ford some Geritol and some hair dye. Eastwood knew when to walk away and Heartbreak Ridge was it.

Heartbreak Ridge follows Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, on his last assignment after 24 years in the Marine Corps. Assigned back to the same Recon platoon he was thrown out of years ago, he’s given a group of characters that need his old school methods to shape up including a young Corporal (Mario Van Peebles) he meets along the way. With some old friends still around, and his ex-wife (Marsha Mason) in the area, Highway has a lot of work to if his men are to succeed in combat.

And if you needed a film for Clint Eastwood to walk away from war films, this would be it. This is essentially the role that Clint Eastwood played until he perfected it in Gran Torino as the crusty old guy around for one last rodeo. Highway is the usual sort of character Eastwood played later in his career, the old grizzled veteran who has the know how that young turks don’t have because they didn’t have the actual experience. When it comes to actual combat, this one based off the brief military excursion in Grenada in the 1980s, Highway’s experiences in Vietnam and Korea come into play as the young soldiers learn the lessons of war from a man who’s been through the worst and survived.

The film itself is rather innocuous; the ‘80s didn’t produce a whole of brilliant action-oriented war films like prior decades had, as it was more in the “war as a grand motif” type like Platoon, and this isn’t brilliant in any aspect. It’s a good film, definitely rewatchable and worthy of multiple viewings, but it’s not something you have to see before you die.

Recommended.

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

African Cats – A documentary from the usual suspects

Skip It – It’ll be on DVD sooner than later

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family – More wacky shenanigans from Tyler Perry dressed in drag

Skip It – You seen one Tyler Perry film, you’ve seen ‘em all.

Water for Elephants – A circus drama with Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and the kid from Twilight without the abs.

See It – The novel was quite good and I do have to give Robert Pattinson credit for one thing: he has great choices of films outside of the one that made him famous. There hasn’t been a film involving the circus for a long time and perhaps this could be something worthwhile.

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.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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