A Film Review Blog

My Photo
Location: Dallas, TX
We Have A Mailing List! Subscribe Here!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hole in The Wall May Be A Portal Into Hell

The idea of Fox’s new game show, Hole in The Wall is a simple one: You stand on a platform as a giant styrofoam wall slides towards you. There is a hole is the wall. If you can fit through the hole in the wall, you win. The show, we are reminded by the smarmy, unctuous host, is based on a “hit Japanese game show,” a fact that is suppose to keep us from noticing that the entire thing is incredibly stupid. We have truly reached the bottom of the barrel; this is 1 step above the game shows from the dystopic game show in Cyril Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons

Three people, all unfortunately proportioned and shoehorned into silver lamé jumpsuits, line up on each team to compete for who can fit through the hole. If they fail, they fall into the chartreuse pool below. I came in on episode four in which six shrieking gorgons get soaked as punishment for not conforming to size norms. How dare they.

First up is Portia, who, we are told numerous times, happens to be the daughter of Fred "Rerun" Berry from the 1970’s sitcom What’s Happening? Apparently, Rerun’s genetics, or perhaps simply the shame of being Rerun’s daughter, have gotten the better of Portia, who stands 4’11’’ and weighs 320 pounds (we know this because Fox displays her stats in big, pastel digits next to her). She has spunk, however, and she greets the oncoming wall with admirable alacrity. The crazy-yoga-ballerina cutout shape in the wall is obviously too small for poor portly Portia who tumbles, vanquished into the neon ooze. Next up is the fat girl on the other team, 270 pound Beth. She makes a better effort than Portia, but alas, her hips are too wide.

The Japanese version, referred to as Brain Wall or “Human Tetris” on Youtube, is almost identical, save it features smaller players and more difficult shapes:

Indeed, Fox might as well just call the American version of the show “Is Your Ass Too Big?” What apparently started out as a test of spatial reasoning has turned into a simple test of girth. It is also a test of my patience. I hated I Survived A Japanese Game Show, another recent Japanese-inspired program that can be seen on ABC, because I found it to be silly and dismissive of Japanese culture. Hole in The Wall, however, is really just a testament to how dumb we are getting all over the globe. Now I realize there is a counter argument to this, namely, “why is it okay to have a game show testing random trivia but not spatial reasoning?” That’s a good argument, since both are important measures of intelligence. The program I just watched, however, only appeared to measure one thing: the willingness to humiliate one’s self for ephemeral television exposure. And I got a chilly feeling about why people watch this in America—they like to see someone who is even heavier or clumsier than they are fall down and get hurt. Make no mistake, the people on this episode of this show were all overweight, and I don’t think that was an accident. They failed almost every challenge, falling consistently, screaming and flailing around in the pool like stuck pigs. This is how far our schadenfreude has taken us—through a hole in the wall that may very well lead us straight to hell, full of Cenobytes with puzzle boxes threatening to tear my soul apart. Don't make me go through that hole, Fox; I don't want to fit through that hole. What's next? How about Coverage, the show where Americans compete for health insurance? Or maybe Hammer on a Table in which you have to sit at a table and hit yourself on the hand with a hammer until they give you money?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Was This Popular? The Bank Job

Here at Celluloitering, I have decided to start a series called “Why Was This Popular?” in which I examine films that miraculously garnered critical praise despite numerous flaws and sometimes outright suckage. Have you ever seen a film that everyone else loved but that you thought was terrible? And you wondered what you were missing, what was wrong with your interpretation? You are not alone. If there are any popular films that you hate, leave a comment or e-mail them to me at mmcashan@gmail.com and I will feature them in the blog.

I was inspired to start this series by the 2008 film The Bank Job a dreadful heist picture directed by Roger Donaldson (Species, Dante’s Peak). Donaldson is not a bad director, just mundanely competent; and his films are only as good as his material. For example, he made the delightful 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian in which Anthony Hopkins breaks the land speed record on his old souped-up Indian motorcycle. Then again, he also directed the 1994 remake of the Getaway which was never worth remaking in the first place. The Bank Job’s plot is as vague and pedestrian as it’s title. Former hood Terry Leather (yes, that's right, his name is Leather), played with indifference by Jason Statham (Snatch), and a congeries of hastily sketched ne'er-do-wells played by people I don’t particularly care about are hired by government officials to break into a London bank and steal some nasty pictures of Princess Margaret engaged in a steamy tryst. The pictures belong to Michael X, a black militant who is using the pictures to blackmail his way out of a prison sentence. A good heist picture requires that you be able to root for somebody (usually the thieves), but The Bank Job doesn’t provide well developed characters or character arcs. Furthermore, they aren’t particultly subtle or clever thieves, and their burglary is a variegated tapestry of incompetence. The criminally slow first 40 minutes is only made worse by a second half that is too fast, too choppy and too disorganized to follow. Also, a I the only one who noticed that the black political radicals in this film are depicted in the most egregiously stereotyped way possible? What little character development we see involves smoking weed and bedding white women (mindless, nattering white women devoid of personality, no less). The real Michael X, who called himself the “Britain’s Archbisop of Violence” and who was jailed for publically calling for the execution of interracial couples, was a despicable character—but at least he was a character. The film’s Michael X, played by Peter de Jersey, is a lazy, poorly drawn afterthought. Like all the other characters in the film, he is flat, lifeless and completely uninteresting to me. I don't care what happens to any of these people because the film sets them up to be two-dimensional pawns in a needlessly convoluted game of chess.

For a film based on a seemingly fascinating real-life case, The Bank Job is really very boring. I think we should begin clearly marking movies featuring Saffron Burrows because everything she touches turns to absute shite. And as much as I love Jason Statham, he’s no great thespian. Perhaps if the film was been made by David Mamet and starred Daniel Craig we would have had something. As it stands, the best thing about The Bank Job is the awesome leather jacket worn by Statham in most of the scenes.

Why it was popular: Awesome leather jacket, gratuitous tit shots, cool accents