The Decline of the American Empire

In a wisely deleted scene, Mater finds a vending machine where you can buy other cars' used oil filtersEveryone’s learned to steer clear of Pixar’s chosen weekend, so this is a pleasantly calm frame at the megaplex. (And god knows we can use one.) Here’s what’s new at a theatre near you:

Bad Teacher“: Jake Kasdan invigorates what seems to have been a pretty rote script with spot-on casting and weirdly unpredictable comic rhythms. (I don’t know why we’re all surprised; he did the same thing with “Orange County”.) And Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel remind us that they’re at their most appealing when spewing utterly profane dialogue.

“Beginning of the Great Revival”: Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin’s political epic — released in China as “The Founding of a Party”, the companion piece to “The Founding of a Republic” — is nearly two and a half hours long, very expensive and features John Woo in the cast. Beyond that, I know nothing.

Cars 2“: Hey, kids, guess what? Someone decided that a sequel to “Cars” should (a) focus on its most annoying character, (b) aggressively court American rednecks with a weirdly xenophobic take on a world of talking vehicles and (c) deliver the most garbled statement about fossil-fuel technology since, um, ever. I take no pleasure in pointing out that the critical consensus sounds remarkably like my take on “Toy Story 3”. I take no pleasure in any of this, really; I love Pixar and I think John Lasseter is a genius. But they’ve both dropped a very big ball on this one.

The Future is Now!“: In a feature-length homage to the 1949 French film “Life Begins Tomorrow”, Gary Burns and Jim Brown tell the story of a cynic (Paul Ahmarani) given the chance by a journalist (Liane Balaban) to speak to various philosophers and artists in order to convince him that the future will be so bright as to requite some sort of sunglasses. It doesn’t exactly work as a concept, but it is chock-full of ideas, and that’s never a bad thing.

Oh, and TIFF is screening “To Die Like a Man” at the Lightbox this weekend as part of a New Auteurs spotlight Joao Pedro Rodrigues. Glenn has some things to say about that, too. Also, I’m doing another Defending the Indefensible screening tonight, serving as the prosecutor to Adam Nayman’s promotion of “The Butterfly Effect“. He’s wrong, he’s just so wrong. Come down to the Underground tonight at 7 pm and support me as I help him see the light. It’s just eight bucks, and it’s for a good cause. Join me?

3 thoughts on “The Decline of the American Empire”

  1. Please tell me that Nayman is defending Butterfly Effect as a comedy. I sure laughed a lot when I saw it.

  2. 1) Cameron Diaz is at her best when in a venonmous state. Any Given Sunday is still one of her top performances, and a fine compliment to her rectal jiggling in Charlie’s Angels.

    2) You can’t defend Butterfly Effect. It’s just plain awful, and Ashton Kutcher fails completely to prove he’s an actor (with *and* without stubble growth). Great idea, bad script, awful central performance.

  3. @ Don — One can only hope.

    @ Mark — “Posterial jiggling”, surely. Also, I’m not even sure you can say the idea is all that great … especially if you’ve seen the director’s cut.

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