Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday Night at the Movies

Last time I went:

"Sean Penn’s ‘‘The Gunman” was no match for the rebel kids of ‘‘Insurgent.’’ The second installment in the ‘‘Divergent’’ series easily topped the box office with $54 million from 3,875 theaters, according Rentrak estimates Sunday. Penn’s geopolitical thriller stumbled with only $5 million. While the second films in both the ‘‘Hunger Games’’ and the ‘‘Twilight’’ series boasted opening weekend gains over the first, ‘‘Insurgent’s’’ opening nearly matches that of its predecessor, ‘‘Divergent,’’ which debuted to $54.6 million just last year. Disney’s live-action ‘‘Cinderella,’’ meanwhile, fell 49 percent in its second week to take second place with $34.5 million. The PG-rated film has earned $122 million domestically to date. Also in its second weekend, the R-rated Liam Neeson-led action film ‘‘Run All Night,’’ managed a slight edge over Open Road’s ‘‘The Gunman.’’ Neeson’s film, a Warner Bros. release, dropped 54 percent with its $5.1 million weekend, while Penn’s film debuted in fourth place with only $5 million. ‘‘Kingsman: The Secret Service” rounded out the top five with $4.6 million in its sixth weekend. The 20th Century Fox film has now earned over $114.6 million domestically (AP)."

"We hear that pre-production work and location scouting has started for “Central Intelligence,” a blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart that’s expected to film around Boston in May. According to Variety, the action comedy is about an accountant (Hart) whose former classmate (Johnson) gets him involved in CIA business. The director is Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose credits include “Dodgeball” and “We’re the Millers.”

"In “Get Hard,” Will Ferrell plays an entitled finance millionaire so desperate to brace himself for an imminent prison stretch, he hires Kevin Hart to coach him. Audiences are going to want to brace themselves, too – for a movie that refuses to recognize when it’s going too far, with its wince-eliciting jokes about jailhouse rape in particular. The frequent uncomfortable moments take an inordinate amount of fun out of what could have been an enjoyably loopy Ferrell-Hart dream-teaming."

Which one do you want to go to?

"Is ‘Get Hard’ racist?" by Ty Burr, Globe Staff  March 26, 2015

Our mainstream entertainment product — the popular, profitable junk — almost always reveals more about our cultural values than the stuff that’s actually trying to say something. So what does “Get Hard” say about us?

Related: Noah's Arc

It’s pretty complicated.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when the new big-screen comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart premiered at the South by Southwest film festival earlier this month. Taking questions after the screening, the film’s director and co-writer, Greater Boston-raised Etan Cohen, was confronted by an audience member who, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, called the movie “racist as [expletive]” and asked the filmmaker “how nervous were you presenting this in front of a live audience being completely, absolutely and unapologetically . . . racist and hysterical at the same time?” Other moviegoers chimed in, and Cohen found himself uneasily acknowledging that trying to satirize negative cultural attitudes without appearing to condone them can be “a dangerous thing.”

In the movie, Ferrell plays a rich white boob convicted of embezzlement and facing hard time in prison. Desperate to toughen up, he reaches out to the only black person he knows — a car-wash owner played by Hart, who the boob mistakenly thinks is an ex-con. There ensue many jokes about prison rape, blackface, white entitlement, and who can and can’t use the N-word. It’s the latest and most in-your-face of a long lineage that arguably stretches back to “Stir Crazy” and “Trading Places” in the early ’80s.

So is “Get Hard” racist? Yes and no; the question itself opens up an interesting conversation about how our entertainments reflect and distort the social realities we choose to believe in (as opposed to the ones that are actually out there). I saw the film at a promotional screening the other night, and I can say this: It’s broad as a barn, occasionally gross, and generally pretty stupid. Funny? I laughed about twice. But the packed preview audience — as solid an ethnic cross-section as you’ll find in downtown Boston — ate the comedy up, and as I left the multiplex I could eavesdrop on groups of black moviegoers, among others, who thought the thing was hilarious. They didn’t find it racist, so what’s your problem, chump?

Actually — and now I’m going to commit the unpardonable sin of analyzing and thereby killing comedy — “Get Hard” is a fine example of how our pop culture products blur the line between the racial and the racist, creating a schizophrenic gray area where offenses are both taken and soothed, sometimes at the same time. The movie does parody white fears of blackness, with Ferrell’s clueless 1-percenter assuming the hard-working Hart has to be a criminal based on the color of his skin. It also indulges those fears, since, aside from Hart’s character and his wife and daughter, just about every other person of color is a pistol-packing gangbanger glowering from a ghetto porch.

Well, the white characters are just as cartoonishly drawn — it’s a Will Ferrell movie, for pete’s sake, which means we’ll get a shot of the actor’s naked butt cheeks before the opening credits are even over. But saying that all white people are rich and uptight isn’t the same as saying every black guy except for Kevin Hart is a thug — not in an age of Ferguson protests, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. (And Tony Robinson.) (And Anthony Hill.) There’s a larger imbalance of power that’s not being addressed. “Get Hard” illustrates how trying to explode racial assumptions can easily turn into exploiting them when lazy thinking (and screenwriting) get involved. The attitudes the movie wants us to think about and laugh at only end up being confirmed.

Actually, “Get Hard” is as much a cartoon about class and the divide between the haves and have-nots. (There are no visible have-somes; according to this movie, the American middle class, black or white, doesn’t exist.) That’s no surprise since many of the conversations we have about race are really about social class or some inextricable mixture of the two. This is our lot in America, a country founded on a racial disparity that has only partly transformed over the centuries into a mind-bogglingly complex field of social caste and signifiers. It’s a birthright that we have to figure our way out of — by thinking and talking about it — or turn helplessly inward to tribalism and insularity. “Get Hard” is a particularly silly example of both tendencies.

Of course, what the movie’s really about is little boys onscreen and off and the things that terrify them. Women, for one thing: Aside from the car-washer’s wife and daughter (likably played by Edwina Findley Dickerson and Ariana Neal), the only female roles are the rich guy’s castrating gold-digger of a fiancee (a waste of the talented Alison Brie) and the gang-banger girl (Dominique Perry) whose sole purpose is to shake her boo-tay in Ferrell’s and our faces. Well, we do see a Nazi biker chick — or, rather, her breasts squished against a car windshield.

Another area of concern? Other men’s penises. “Get Hard” is the latest in a long line of Hollywood bromances that positively cringe with gay panic. (Please, that title.) The jokes that aren’t about race are about prison rape (which means they’re about race) and fellatio, complete with a shock cut to a random guy’s naughty bits. (The preview audience shrieked as if they were at a horror movie.) Is this really about homophobia? Not really — it’s just the reigning entertainment-industry metaphor for guys wrestling with their feelings for each other. If you love your buddy, is it, y’know, gay?

That’s an adolescent concern, obviously, and “Get Hard,” like most of our mainstream comedies, plays as though it were created by 13-year-old boys for a nation of 13-year-old boys. (It’s rated R, of course.) That fake edginess — the giggly shockwaves from saying rude, “daring” things about race and sex — is probably what will make the movie a hit. You could hope the creative comic minds of Hollywood would some day just grow up; Ferrell is pushing 50, after all. But that would mean a sizable portion of the audience would have to as well.


We would be better off watching home videos:

"Sailors traded illicit videos like Pokemon cards, Navy says" Associated Press  March 13, 2015

MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. — A group of male submarine sailors traded illicit videos of female officers in various stages of undress as if they were Pokemon cards, a Navy prosecutor said Thursday.

Navy prosecutors presented evidence against two of 12 male sailors accused of illegally making and trading videos of female officers aboard a nuclear submarine that was among the first to allow women to serve alongside men.

Related: Down Periscope 

The two men in court Thursday, both missile technicians aboard the USS Wyoming nuclear submarine, were accused of trading the videos with other sailors.

Another sailor aboard the Wyoming, based in Georgia, made the videos with his smartphone and then told others that he had a ‘‘gift for them,’’ a Navy prosecuting attorney said.

Defense attorneys said that the videos were not put online, and they showed partial nudity.


Maybe I'll just stay home and watch the fights on DirecTV instead:

"Agents Mulder and Scully are making their television return. Fox announced Tuesday that it will air six new episodes of ‘‘The X-Files’’ that will begin this summer. Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will reprise their roles as the FBI agents (AP)."

There careers must be tanking.

Related: ‘Star Wars’ release date

I don't see how it can be better than the last one.

Time for me to cut out. One of my favorite movies is coming on with no commercial interruption.


Movie just got out.

"Netflix confirmed Thursday that a fourth season of its “House of Cards” political drama, starring Kevin Spacey as a ruthless Washington politician," is in the works and will debut next year. Also this week, Netflix disclosed a new original drama series called “Montauk,” written and directed by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. Set in 1980, the series of eight hourlong episodes explores a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young boy in Montauk, N.Y."

Isn't that the place where mind control experiments were being held?! Just another case of preprogramming the populace while trying to debunk the evil truth?

More coming attractions.

Darlene Love, Sally Field speak at Simmons forum

That place gives me the Benz.

Boston Jewish Film Festival names new artistic director

"Sex therapist, author, and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer brought her wit and wisdom to Waltham on Wednesday evening, speaking to 450 women at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies annual Pomegranate Society benefit. Dr. Ruth talked sex and Jewish identity at the fund-raiser, which was hosted at the Westin by Kim Altschuler, Andrea Finard, and Lori Leif. Westheimer, 86, who spent the better part of an hour signing books after her talk, joked that she was surprised — and impressed — that so many women managed to come to the event just three nights before Passover. She said she’d be staying in Boston a second night to give a talk at MIT."

So will INathan Abrams on Jews in the American porn industry 

At least it comes with a nice pun

Just trying to keep the peace, readers.