Monday, December 1, 2008

At the Movies, 11/30/08

Finally, a Ben Lyons review that could be the title of a Bond film: Shooting People And Chase Scenes Are Not Enough

After seeing their ratings drop by 23%, it seems like maybe somebody at Buena Vista Entertainment asked Ben Lyons to tone down the stupid, or maybe he is taking Mank's suggestion to "Calm down". On this week's show, Lyons did not find it in himself to say that he liked something for a really stupid reason, which is a step up. Unfortunately, the two critics seem to be meeting each other somewhere in the middle.

In fact, the reason Lyons gave for disliking Transporter 3 was that the acting sucked and it had no story. That left it to Mank to say that the main problem was that there was not enough blood, taking a cue from Lyons's review of Max Payne.

But Lyons ends the review with the comment, "It's a nice commercial for Audi, though. You've got to admit". I certainly will admit it--the first time I saw the trailer in the theater I assumed it was just another car commercial, not a trailer for a movie. Turns out, it was both. The problem, though, is that these words would come off as more convincing had Lyons not already sold his soul to Microsoft.

Another comment from Mank that I thought was a bit senseless was, regarding Frost/Nixon, "Even if you don't like politics and don't know anything about these interviews, actually I don't think it matters. I think you enjoy it flat out if you like movies." I suppose that's fine if you want to get people out to see a good movie they might be intimidated by, and maybe I am just nit-picking, but can you really appreciate a movie like this if you don't know anything about Watergate? On the contrary, you SHOULD know something about Watergate and I suspect that you will appreciate this movie more if you actually know something about recent American history.

Lyons finds a way to sympathize with the movie on his own terms saying, "I think everybody can relate to it in that gearing up for that big moment in your career and the preparation that goes into it the night before and they really captured the humanity in that." I can't help but to picture Lyons getting ready for the first episode of his new big-boy show with Mankiewicz over the summer, although that moment had much less historical importance than the Frost and Nixon interviews.

Most inexplicably, at the end of their critical discussion of Four Christmases, Lyons says, "Skip it, but I guess maybe if you are on an airplane you can watch it to stay awake." Perhaps Ben read Erik Childress's lengthy attack on the "Rent it" recommendation last week and decided to add another rating. So I guess the ratings go (in this order): "See it," "Rent it," "Netflix it," "Skip it," "See it on a plane."

Jon Favreau: Time to lose another 170 pounds?

Lyons could not help himself from gushing over his buddies, though. The one positive he gave Four Christmases was the scenes with Jon Favreau. It looks like these comments have been removed from his defunct blog, but Google tells me he wrote this on 4/9/08:

I've been in the city all week for the Tribeca International Film Festival, but have mostly hung with the director of "IRON MAN," Jon Favreau, and my good buddies . . . I interviewed Favreau on Sunday, kicked it with him and the cast at Odeon on West Broadway Monday.

Whether Favreau is a real fake friend or just a fake fake friend, it is once again hard to take Lyons's praise seriously.

But this review raises another problem. Though they gave the same recommendation to every movie, Mank spent much of the show defending movies from Lyons's harsh criticism. Both Transporter 3 and Four Christmases were, "right on the edge for me" according to Mank--although still not good enough for a "Rent it," but presumably better than "See it on a plane." Suggestion to Mank--defending bad movies from Lyons may not be the best way to differentiate yourself from him (attacking Slumdog Millionaire as over-hyped is probably not a good way to go, either).

Finally, Mank recommends the new DVD for Casablanca, "one of the greatest films of all time" (I agree), but then adds, "Also out now on DVD, the blockbuster Hancock." Blockbuster? Ok, I guess that is like the Twilight ad that quotes critics saying things like, "It's a pop culture phenomenon!" Ok, but is it any good? Did you, Mank, actually like it? With a mere 39% on the Tomatometer, I suspect the answer is "probably not," but we don't know because YOU DIDN'T TELL US!

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