Tag Archives: Satire

Book Review: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

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Rating: B+/ I find this to be a somewhat hard book to review, because as a longtime fan of the David Fincher film I found there to be few surprises upon reading the novel. There were a few major changes made in the transition from book to film, especially the ending, but the fact that I had watched the film many times made it impossible to go into this novel blind. Hell, I already knew the twist ending before I even saw the movie for the first time; my dad spoiled it for me (he insists that he didn’t think that it would even be a movie I’d want to watch, so he saw no harm in spilling the beans about the big reveal.) Continue reading Book Review: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Movie Review: Idiocracy (2006)

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Rating: B-/ Joe (Luke Wilson) is nothing special; he’s startlingly average, a slacker, and doesn’t seem particularly bright or capable of thinking things through any more than is absolutely necessary. His name is no accident, he’s an ‘average Joe,’ and no one thinks much of him or considers him to be anything particularly special. So when Joe is chosen for a military experiment and cryogenically frozen, supposedly to be woken up a year later, it is precisely his averageness and his lack of meaningful relationships with anyone who might start wondering where he had gone to that makes him perfect for the job. Continue reading Movie Review: Idiocracy (2006)

Movie Review: Office Space (1999)

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Rating: B/ I can’t relate to Office Space personally, having never worked in an environment like the one portrayed in the film, but almost twenty years after it’s original release this movie hasn’t lost it’s charm. Friends and acquaintances tell me that it is a spot-on portrayal of working in a bureaucratic office setting. And don’t let the fact that director Mike Judge created the show Beavis and Butthead deter you from watching this movie; similarities are limited to absurd humor, and the dryly satiric Office Space is much less juvenile than Judge’s crude, crass animated duo. Continue reading Movie Review: Office Space (1999)

Movie Review: Galaxy Quest (1999)

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Rating: B+/ The sci-fi Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest is a delightfully good bit of fun, and rings true in terms of showbiz satire. It’s hard for a normal everyday person to imagine fame becoming a terrible burden, but we see many celebrities making a downward spiral into drugs, alcohol and general excess and we wonder; with all the money and prestige in the world, how could they let themselves go like that? I think one of the main reasons is the negative influence of fans and paparazzi who insert themselves into every aspect of an actor’s life. I mean, they pretend for a living! You don’t know them personally because you ‘loved them in that show’ and you have no right to fill their websites with sycophantic emails and stalk them at comic con. People don’t realize that actors are human beings with a right to their own lives and their own privacy.

Continue reading Movie Review: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Zero Motivation (2014)

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Who’d of thunk that the women’s training sector of the Israeli military would be a lot like high school? Cat fights, cliques, and general snarkiness are all par for the course. Moody Daffi (Nelly Tagar) would like nothing more than dispose of her uniform in favor of serving coffee at the Tel Aviv, but her service is mandatory, which means that she’s pretty much screwed until her senior officer Rama (Shani Kein) decides she can go. Daffi’s bestie Zohar (Dana Ivgy, star of the heartbreaking Or, My Treasure) tries her best to keep Daffi’s spirits afloat, but several differences of opinion turn the two friends into the bitterest of enemies.

     Zero Motivation is broken into three ‘stories’- one about a girl on the base’s suicide, another on Zohar’s self-consciousness about her virginity, and the third about a power shift between the two friends and the epic falling-out and stapling-gun war that ensues. The film seems to suffer from uncertainty about what genre it belongs in; sometimes it seems to be making a valiant attempt as a comedy, but it lacks much of the requisite mirth and humor; other times it comes off as dark and even depressing (as with the bloody suicide of a lovesick girl (Yonit Tobi) who was passing off as a soldier to get the attention of a boy who was, as they say, ‘just not that into her’ in the film’s first segment.)

I think I should be able to relate to these people, as a world-class slacker, but the characters lack likability. This is not the fault of the cast members, who are very good- it’s just that the protagonists (except Daffi, who seems pretty sweet for all her drama) take bitchiness to a whole new level. Sometimes their bile is funny, but mostly not so much. I guess this is kind of the point; to humanize the military in far away countries that people generally picture as dramatic or extreme by portraying their raucous, even silly set-backs and foibles. And the film is not a bad effort by a  long shot.

But there’s a crisis of tone at play here, as evidenced by the scene where the Daffi and Zohar beat the living shit out of each other when Daffi threatens to delete her former friend’s much-loved collection of online games from the military PC. The situation is absurd, and I guess they’re going for comedy, but by the end the girls are full of staples from a staple-gun attack and bloody. Not only that, but one girl tries to actually strangle the other with a length of cord. So, it’s a bit too dark to be slapstick, but is it supposed to be dramatic? (we’ve got to remember that the fight was over some video games, which is ridiculousness if I ever saw it.)

Is Zero Motivation a comedy? An attempt at dark and cynical absurdity? A drama with humorous elements? In the end, it’s just so hard to tell. I found myself chuckling a few times, but other times it seemed astonishingly dark but didn’t have the seriousness to be a drama. I love black comedies if they’re done right, but I’m just not sure this one is. Ultimately it’s just a curiosity (albeit a well-acted and competently written one) about raging estrogen and histrionic back-stabbing in a military facility for women. Which is not in of itself funny.

There is, however, some interesting political and social context to this movie,  like the patriarchal hierarchy the male soldiers inflict on the women, refusing to listen to their opinions, enlisting them to fix them nibbles at staff meetings; and surreptitiously ogling shapely female asses when the women come to bring them said nibbles. We see how hard it is to be taken seriously as a woman in the military; you kind of have to be mean; as Rama the perpetually angry and overlooked officer well knows. It is in these moments that the film really excels; showing us how unappreciated women who choose to be soldiers are, whether it be here, there, or anywhere.

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that 99% of the men in this movie are huge dicks. This Borderline display of misandry might frustrate male viewers, but to be fair, the male characters are a minority here, as the film focuses on femininity and how the women balance it in a job dominated by men, and men annoyingly mired in their own machismo at that. Just like I imagine it would be hard to be a female cop; especially an attractive one (if you’re a female officer and unattractive, it’s easier to blend in and become one of the guys.)

    Zero Motivation is not a movie without value, it just could have done so much more with it’s intriguing premise. When all is said and done, it feels a little lightweight, which is a shame. it could have been great. However, it still worth watching for buffs of multicultural films that look at social issues in a slightly skewed way, if not for those in search for a laugh-until-you-cry comedy.

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Fido (2006)

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In “Fido”‘s candy-colored, whimsical 50’s-esque  world, zombies are obedient servants of mankind and as gentle as a family dog- just keep those pesky electronic control collars turned on so your faithful friend stays domesticated and servile! Zombie-phobic Bill (Dylan Baker,) haunted by the years when the undead ran rampant before the collar was invented, is not pleased when his ditzy wife Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) brings home ‘Fido’ (Billy Connelly,) a amiable walking corpse to serve their every need.

Timmy (Keysun Loder,) their son, quickly makes friends with Fido, but Bill’s worst fears are realized when Fido eats Timmy’s crotchety old next-door neighbor Mrs. Henderson (Mary Black) in a freak accident. But, gee, Mrs. Henderson wasn’t a very nice old bird, and Timmy is determined to keep his best pal there at home with him, where he belongs, and is willing to cover up Fido’s kill and the carnage that follows.

“Fido” is very funny, cute and charming (in a dark, sweetly diseased way,) and a wicked satire of 1950’s manners and customs. I honestly don’t know why it didn’t get more attention at the box office. The costumes and sets are eye-poppingly colorful and stand sharply in contrast with the decomposition of the monsters. And Billy Connelly- who knew that an actor could make his character of an occasionally flesh-eating zombie a lovable and empathizeable character?

I’ll admit it, guys- I was rooting for ‘Fido’ to get away with his massacre of the next door neighbor all the way through. With a masterful mix of body language and facial expression, Billy Connelly creates perhaps the only zombie worth squeeing in adorableness for in the history of cinema. If you’re anything like this slightly wacked viewer, by the end of this movie you’ll want to envelop Fido in a warm hug- cautioning, of course, that his collar is fully functional.

Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker are a riotous pair as they provide a send-up of 50’s values with a dark and homicidal twist. Tim Blake Nelson delivers as a oddball neighbor with an overly familiar relationship with his female zombie (it’s not like it’s necrophilia… right?) If “Fido” pales in one respect, it’s that zombies are an overused cultural icon and it seems to dim slightly in comparison to the truly great zomcoms like “Shaun of the Dead.”

It’s not particularly novel in terms of it’s themes theme (either as a satire of nondescript 1950’s suburbia or a comedy featuring zombies as some of it’s main players,) but it delivers on it’s oddball premise with some great gags and jokes. There’s an uncanny weirdness lurking behind it’s goofball amiability- maybe this outwardly silly satire is darker than it lets on. But the inherent corniness of the violence- like a wacky midnight movie- ensures that “Fido” should be enjoyed by viewers of twelve and up- especially those who are seasoned on slightly edgier horror fare.

You may have overlooked this movie when it passed through theaters (not with a bang, but with a slightly piteous fizzle,) but “Fido” has the potential to become a cult classic if it gets attention with lovers of cheesy horror and slightly subversive cinematic oddities. It’s dry, dark humor earns it a place in my heart- even if it’s not as memorable as “Shaun of the Dead” or even “Zombieland,” it’s the little movie it could with some actual thoughts in it’s twisted little head- a sad rarity in modern horror. For an opportunity to root for the zombies and their unholy cravings, watch “Fido.”

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Fast-paced, gory, and with a razor-sharp sense of humor, “The Cabin in the Woods” borrows elements from older horror films and twists them around, making them its own. Never since “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” have I seen such originality and creative scriptwriting in a modern horror-comedy.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is truly a marvel to watch, and stands as an excellent addition to co-writer Joss Whedon’s repertoire. The plot starts out “typical” and soon reveals itself to be a lot murkier (and more awesome) than it initially seemed.

Five friends- innocent Dana (Kristen Connolly), “cool dude” Curt (Chris Hemsworth), slutty Jules (Anna Hutchinson), amusing pothead Marty (Fran Kranz), and sensitive guy Holden (Jesse Williams) go off on a trip to a cabin in the woods. Marty quickly establishes himself as my favorite, with his pseudo-profound pot-addled ramblings and surprising perceptiveness.

But wait! Something is amiss! As the gang break the various rules of horror-film etiquette (Don’t have sex. Don’t go in the basement. Don’t wander off…) they find themselves fighting for their lives. But it gradually becomes clear that a lot more then the lives of a couple of college kids may be at stake.

Naturally, the pothead gets all the best lines from the very beginning, Marty establishes himself as a humorously addled and continuously likable presence, even if half the time you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. The acting is good, not extraordinary but decent, particularly for this kind of movie.

One of my favorite character actors, Richard Jenkins, is here as an ethically dodgy and somewhat dirty old man. The script is funny, cool, and sometimes willfully ludicrous, as characters get bear traps in the back and somehow get up with little to no permanent injuries.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is definitely worth a watch to anyone who wants to see a new twist on an old story. You actually root for these kids to live, which is a rare occurrence in a dead-teenager movie. The script is often funny, sometimes hysterical, and worth a go for the killer-unicorn sequence alone. My professional opinion? Watch it, and don’t take it too seriously.