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This week:

Filthy says:
"I'd rather be fooled by apes.

Few people appreciate cleverness more than me. After all, I've been screwed over by clever people more times than I've screwed myself. About two years ago I stopped counting the number of times I traded a car for beer. Sometimes for 40 oz. Of malt liquor,sometimes for a six pack, and once for a bottle of Zima. Holy shit, did I get screwed that time. The thing is, I know that the cars I drive, like my 1977 Ford Pinto with the vinyl top, or my sweet 1984 Pontiac Fiero 2M4 with the fire-scarred engine bay, are worth more than a few beers. Some are worth whole kegs, but as soon as some smooth-talking sharpie in the Tavern starts in one me, I'm like fucking Play-Doh in their hands. Once, I was so bedazzled by this clever fellow's story of a disabled child who could make diamonds come out of their exhaust pipes that it never occurred to me that he was wearing his socks outside his shoes, sitting in his own vomit and wedged between two barstools so that he couldn't budge. Had I thought about it, I probably wouldn't have given him my keys. Then again, he might still bring me some diamonds. He said he would when I gave him my watch last Saturday. And then I can trade those diamonds to Worm to get my pants back.

The point is, I'm not exactly a genius, or what some call quick on my feet. And I was still able to figure out the twists of Criminal, a grifter movie that wants so badly to be one step ahead of us that it pretty much throws out common sense in the process. Besides being improbable and obsessed with twists, the problem is that about halfway through it, even I could figure out that the next thing to happen would always be the thing we're supposed to least expect.

Criminal is a remake of the Argentinian movie Nine Queens, which only came out a couple years ago. Why remake a movie that's just a few years old? Because some of those "independent" asslickers in Hollywood have no more imagination than their big-money counterparts. They just have less money to be unimaginative with. John C. Reilly is a seemingly slick veteran con man and Diego Luna is a seemingly amateur who team up when they come across a forged rare bank note and a wealthy buyer in a hurry. Maggie Gylenhall is Reilly's seemingly strait-laced sister who Reillyis trying to screw out of a large inheritance.

First, this movie isn't set up as a con movie. Con men take suckers into confidence on shady deals, and then screw them. They take advantage of greedy fucks who think they are going to get rich. Because the movie is too lazy to set up some grifts, Reilly and Luna are established as out-and-out thieves. They steal from old ladies, helpless ladies stuck in elevators and working women. Not exactly a good set up if we're supposed to like them. It's like learning your neighbor is a chiropractor whose hobby is choreographed rollerblading and then being ordered to hope she's happy in life. No fucking way.

I suppose if someone went into Criminal not thinking it was a "big con" flick you may be surprised by the end. That is, if you didn't fall asleep along the way. For all the backstabbing and alleged twists, the movie is pretty damn dull. Part of that is because the movie has no reason to exist beyond the twists. I sat there so damn uninterested in the characters that I had no choice but to guess the next turn the plot would take. Another part is that this is just another movie where the plot drives the characters.

Give credit to Reilly for playing against type, but you know what? The guy is just better at being a schlub than he is at being a shark. Diego Luna is fine, but the character is sketched so fucking thin he was more like Subway lunchmeats than a person I'd want to spend any time with. Hell, I didn't want to spend any fucking time with these people, and they've all done good movies before. I just don't understand the reasons behind trying to make a movie solely to surprise them at the end, especially when I have to sit through nothing of interest for 90 minutes to get there.

And I'm also confused by movies so hellbent on surprising us that they throw out all logic that preceds it here. Criminal is a great example of a movie that completely falls apart under closer inspection. The movie tries so hard to get you thinking along one train of thought that the conclusion makes no sense and completely destroys any of the character development that is essential to believe its own ending. It's just crappy, lazy "pow!" moviemaking where the makers can jerk off for 95% so long as we get a pow at the end. I bet M. Night Shymalan would like it, but I bet folks like Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene and James M. Cain would want to garrot the director.

One word about the fucking assholes who make up the audiences at the Landmark Esquire in Denver. I know I've complained about these pretentious fucks before, but every time I go there the crowd stumps me with some new display of smug self-reverence. During a preview for John Sayles' latest obvious allegory for conservative greed and corruption, these pompous fucks applauded tiresome jokes and then actually congratulated each other for their political beliefs. Apparently, this takes less energy than affecting change, and it helps validate your opinion that you're a fucking genius too. The last place I want to hear your political opinion is while sitting in a movie theater Pat yourself on the back at home. If you want to be heard, just vote, you assholes. Make the effort and shut the fuck up. You make my ears bleed.

Two Fingers for the tepid Criminal and One for the self-serving fucks at the Landmark Esquire.

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Jim Ferguson of ABC - Tucson

Resident Evil is "Bigger and better than the original!"

Wimbledon is "The perfect match!"

Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene - The Third Man

Listening to
Modest Mouse - Good News for People who Love Bad News


The Third Man