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We reject the effete "Holly-weird" activities of the outlaw band that calls itself the Margarita Movies crew. Join us now in experiencing cinematic entertainment fueled by entirely too much gin. We bring you: MARTINI MOVIES.

Your hosts:
BMAC
Cecil
The Monster
PB
Wrong
Lamb (emeritus)

Archive

Sep
20th
Tue
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The Poors … They Rapin’ E’erbody Up In Here

Years ago, in an era lost to the mists of time, violence was taken seriously by mass entertainment. Before the mindless and consequence-free fireworks shows given to us by recent films, before the MTV-style editing of Messrs. Bay and Scott, before a rubber shark caused studios to aim their fare each summer at fourteen-year-olds, American movies every now and again would tackle some pretty heady subjects. They would treat violence with the gravity that any thinking person knows it should receive. In the year 1971, for example, movies such as DIRTY HARRY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and THE FRENCH CONNECTION explored society’s willingness to accept violent impulses, in all these cases highlighted by white male protagonists shooting or beating up minorities, foreigners, and the homeless. Naturally, this made it the perfect year for my birth.


 Words fail us too.


Also making its arrival on the scene in that glorious, glorious year was Sam Peckinpah’s original STRAW DOGS, which has now been remade by the fools over at Screen Gems. In Peckinpah’s version, Dustin Hoffman plays a math teacher who tires of all the hippies and their anti-war nonsense, so he and his limey wife move to her hometown back in Cotsfuck-upon-Shitswold, or whatever backwater hick town it was supposed to be.

I say, guv’nor, care for a spot’o’tea?

I got the sense in that movie that Hoffman was assuming every single redcoat is a tea-sipping Hugh-Grant-esque charming and sophisticated individual. That by joining them in England, his days would be filled with conversation about the great works of art, and his nights spent by the fire listening to Brahms. This is a misestimation most Americans labor under. I’ve been to England twice now, and I can say firsthand that instead of Simon Le Bon, mostly they resemble Toby Jones. They’re all piss drunk by 8PM and only seventeen of them have chins. Many of them are terribly racist, and the vast majority of their TV is shit. But we Yanks only see their movie stars and the programs that do well, so we go on thinking it’s a nation of savoir faire. Meanwhile it’s pretty much just like America, only without so many bibles or guns.

And even more retarded sports fans.

 
What I didn’t know was that outside the cities they have redneck hillbillies, just as we. Poor, rural trash, with the only difference being that sometimes American hicks bother to pronounce the letter “R.” In 1971’s STRAW DOGS, this lesson is learned by Hoffman when he hires a bunch of them to work as repairmen on his country home. It turns out that his wife used to date one of these handymen, before she wised up and moved out of the fucking boonies. Hoffman is intrigued by the locals - uneducated manual laborers who fix things and hunt and shit like that. He tries to buddy up to them, which would be White Guilt if they were Mexican or black, but is only Class Guilt since there never were any non-whites in this particular town. If there had been, they’d have long ago been sacrificed to the Old Gods, whom I’ve been told a number of times that rural Englanders worship in the form of giant wicker men.

It’s the bees’ knees.

 
Hoffman’s Class Guilt is put to the test when his wife gets gang raped by the townsfolk, who then attack his house and try to kill him. Even after he executes them one by one, he’s mildly surprised that he was able to beat them, him being an upper-middle-class intellectual, and them being lower-class carpenters and gardeners. His sense that their poverty made them superior remained even after they tried to set him on fire. He probably came to believe this commie horseshit from all the Hollywood movies working from the premise that the poorer you are, the better you are.

We laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s true.


As I write this, that movie THE HELP has been in the top five earners for six goddamned weeks. Movie after movie has the boss as the bad guy, and the working man as inherently noble. Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS was not one of these films, portraying the underclass as the unwashed rabble we all really know them to be. I was expecting this new liberal Hollywood version to change this up a bit, and maybe show the blue-collar workers as possessing some form of decency. Nope. 


Wrong and myself met in front of some bizarre statue of an elephant in the middle of the street near Union Square Park. Little Town, the bar from where where prior Martini Movie expeditions had been launched, was jam-packed with yahoos wearing football jerseys, rooting for whatever team was playing that day. As there was not enough room, my faithful Asian manservant and I were turned away - much like Mary and Joseph, forced to find more meager accommodations.

No room for drunks, Dr. Jones!

We ended up at Old Town, not because it’s another park-adjacent watering hole with “town” in the name, but because it’s a classic NYC spot, written about by no less a wordsmith than Pete Hamill and featured in movies like STATE OF GRACE. Also, the top-shelf martinis at Old Town are made by an aging Mick bartender and are only ten bucks each, which in Manhattan is about as affordable as you’re going to find.

It also sports bathtub-sized, century-old Hinsdale urinals.

 
Wrong conducted himself like a gentleman and didn’t try to start a fight with anyone, but this is probably only because the place was near-deserted. Had there been anyone else in there, he no doubt would have tried that kung-fu shit to push them around. While I’ve never seen him perform any eastern martial arts, I assume he knows kung-fu because he’s Chinese, or Japanese, or something like that. I’m sure he’s told me which, and I’m sure he thinks there’s a difference. 


A few drinks in us, it was time to head to the movie. It doesn’t bode well for this flick that it was as empty as it was on opening weekend. I think there were seven people in the theatre, including Wrong and myself (and my pal Faherty who came along). 


If you’ve seen the original STRAW DOGS, there’s little reason to see this version, aside from Kate Bosworth teasing to remove her shirt at one point (this goes nowhere, so don’t get too excited). It isn’t a shot-by-shot remake, and there are one or two differences, but mostly it’s the exact same movie. Dustin Hoffman’s part is played by James Marsden, who’s spent the last decade being the guy who loses the girl to either Ryan Gosling or Superman, and I think Hugh Jackman once. In this he gets to kill the dudes who want to fuck his wife, which must have been satisfying for the guy. 


Much like in the original, Marsden hires the locals to work on his barn, he tries to convince them that he isn’t an effete coastal elite, they take him on a hunting trip and ditch him in the woods while they go back and rape his wife. The village idiot then accidentally kills a girl, and the townsfolk get together to lynch the poor dope. Marsden and Bosworth protect the dullard by holing up in their house, where the workmen lay siege, trying to get in and perform any number of horrors. Marsden and Bosworth crack, and they wipe out the entire bunch.  


The differences between this and the original are mostly that instead of a math professor who moves out to rural England, this one is about a Hollywood screenwriter who moves to rural Mississippi. He sits around wearing a Harvard T shirt, writing a script about the Soviet Union. I almost expected a title to appear under these scenes that read, “GET IT?!?” 

Jesus, why not just write her next book for her, Hollywood?

 
Wrong noticed that in the original, the husband kills all the intruders as the wife pleads with him to not murder them all. This time around the film makers let the wife shoot a guy, and she pretty much helps her husband take care of another. Also, the rape scene is handled differently (and probably better, honestly) in that the ’71 version is unclear as to her feelings on the matter. A number of viewers feel that she enjoyed the experience in the older version, while in the remake there’s little to lead to that assumption. 


All in all, It’s refreshing to see something like either version of this film, which justifiably hold the position that manual laborers are the enemy, and that they cannot be trusted at all. From my own experiences in life, I know this to be the truth. 

Two summers ago, my family’s lake house needed a new deck in the backyard. My brother had tried by himself to install a badminton court back there, and he’d fucked up the landscaping before giving up and heading off to go sailing. It was decided that instead of replanting the grass, we’d just hire some local construction guys to come out and extend the deck so we could add a few more chairs and a grill. It took these fucking people over a week, loudly working while they built the new deck, as I was trying to litter the eastern shores of Lake Michigan with golf balls and emptied Pirate Jimmy bottles. 


The house sits on a bluff from which you can drive balls off into the water. I once got one at least a quarter mile, when the wind was at my back. No, really. If your swing falls short, you can easily hit sunbathers and swimmers down below. It’s amusing to watch them scatter. If they want to call the fuzz, I’ll kindly ask them which part of “Private Beach” they didn’t understand. Although, now that I think of it, it’s probably the fact that the sign is written in English that causes the confusion. With all the Muslims in Michigan, the sign should probably be written in Farsi, or Afghani, or whatever it is those people speak. 

LOOK OUT BELOW, POORS!


If you ever try to launch golf balls at immigrants while a pack of high school dropouts are hammering and sawing and generally making a racket only a few yards away, you’ll quickly learn that you miss the ball a good four times out of six. And how many summer weekends am I going to get in this life, sipping dark & stormies while attempting to send a Calloway into the deep? Not many, is the sad answer. And those workmen took one from me. Then, when I fired them and told them to get off the property immediately and without being paid, they actually had the effrontery to threaten legal action. Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to forgive. 

In a way, I’ve lived the STRAW DOGS story, myself. 

The world needs ditch diggers too.


Anyway, on to the (upper) CLASS scale! 


COMEDY: 2. No real jokes, but watching a dude literally being nailed to the wall got a chuckle out of me.

LADIES: 6.Willa Holland, a girl who was born while I was in college but whom I’d still totally bang, is pretty hot as a cheerleader with a fetish for the mentally retarded. Kate Bosworth runs around wearing flimsy stuff, which is certainly worth seeing. Mostly this movie is a bunch of dudes, though.

AWESOMENESS: 7. A fairly high score, but only for the last twenty minutes, which is when all the righteous violence is dished out to the lower classes.

STORY: 2. A very, very straight-forward tale. Dude gets pushed around, dude fights back. Roll credits.

SOMETHING ELSE: 1. One last difference between the two versions of this movie is the inclusion in the remake of one black guy, in the form of the local sheriff. And no, he is not the first person to die. He’s the second. Progress!


- Cecil

Sep
14th
Wed
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APOLLO 18: HOUSTON, WE HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM

[START TRANSMISSION]

 
On Saturday September 3, 2011, two members of the Martini Movies Collective were sent on special assignment to drink martinis and view one of that weekend’s major (major in the same way that porn stars are STARS really) film releases: APOLLO 18. This is the last known record of their experiences during that event:

11:45 AM: PB arrives at the local, classy watering hole, prepared to drink some classy martinis in preparation for that classy weekend’s classy Martini Movie viewing. With the Labor Day weekend upon New York, attendance at MM that weekend was looking to be spotty at best. PB would be one half of a two-man team, a skeleton crew if you will (not unlike a two man exploration team on the Moon or a classier version of Mojito Movies). Martini Movies had missed the previous weekend’s movies (Thanks, Irene!) and so skipping this new weekend’s fare just wasn’t an option. Someone had to drink the martinis. Someone had to see the sci-fi horror film. And one of those someones was PB.

He tried the door to the bar. LOCKED. A decidedly unclassy thing.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo……..


[Obviously nothing says “class” quite like showing up to the bar before it is open. Obviously.]

11:49 AM Phone conversation

PB: Hey what’s up. What are you doing? Where are you?
MONSTER: I’m like three blocks away.
PB:  OK. I am outside the bar. I don’t think they’re open yet.
MONSTER: [laughter] OK.
[End call.]

12:01 PM: PB enters the bar. It was College Game Day, a much more important event in pretty much everywhere else in the United States other than NYC – that bar pretty much had to be open eventually. The Monster arrived shortly afterwards.

12:10 – 1:45: The complete dominance of college football (because clearly someone out there has to give a damn about Penn State/Indiana State) and speakers that were clearly designed for a stadium made for some rough going in the early hours of the Martini Movie excursion.  But as it turns out booze and mac & cheese bites (CLASSY mac and cheese bites) heal all wounds and it was soon business as usual for the MM duo. That business? Drinking martinis and noticing how much one of the sideline coaches resembled BMAC. (Because all gingers look alike.)

Sadly, they have no souls.

HIGHLIGHT: The insurance commercial with a spokesman named Tony Nuckolls.

Editorial Note: We’re sorry, but if you are named Tony KNUCKLES and you don’t go into boxing or MMA, then there’s no helping you. You’ve wasted all our time and we hope you’re happy in your miserable and unfulfilled life. Good day, sir.

1:57: PB: Wait, wait, 2:50? The time on the website said 2.
MONSTER: Really?
PB: Yeah is there another movie theater? Have we been going to the other movie theater?
M: Uh no. We’ve always been going to this one. Remember when you almost fell down the escalator trying to grab your 3D glasses?
PB: I told you to never speak of that again!
M: Okay, okay.
[Tickets are purchased for the 2:50 showing of Apollo 18]
PB: I guess we have time for more drinks.
M: To the bar!

[Footage lost here, but just assume it involves them returning to the bar and quickly downing more drinks. In fact, let’s just go ahead and say that’s a given.]

2:50: Our intrepid drunken movie viewers arrive on location (balcony seats no less, ala Statler and Waldorf) just in time for the previews.

"You call this a review? BRING BACK THE BEAR!"

Previews that must have been so unremarkable that we have no record of what they actually were. As this was a low-budget horror flick, let’s assume there was one for an indie dramedy starring either Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Paul Giamatti called SCHLUBBY IN LOVE and one for a torture-porn horror film in a maternity ward called LABOR PAINS. That sounds close enough.

[NOTE: The absence of Wrong from the outing meant no potential fights with fellow audience members. But don’t worry, the dullness of the movie probably beat more out of them anyway.]

Actual review in capsule form (just like the astronauts in this movie who were in a capsule) of APOLLO 18 (Now Apollo is Legal in Most States):

Three astronauts, let’s call them Not-Dennis Quaid, Not-Sam Worthington, and Other Guy (Other Guy is pretty much the most ineffectual Other Guy to ever be the Other Guy in a movie) are sent on a secret mission to the Moon (because we all know how effective the government is at keeping secrets). NDQ and NSW go to the actual moon while Other Guy just Other Guys around in orbit. Surprise, surprise they discover the Russians have landed there as well. If this was an 80s teen comedy, this is when hijinks would ensue and someone would learn how to dance. But no this is a serious business horror film where the Moon… IS the haunted house. Clever enough concept, but dull-as-heck execution. Stuff happens. There’s possibly a Moon Monster (that’s also a moon virus) or something…

Artist’s depiction.

[From earlier at the bar: “Hey the movie starts in 5 minutes.” “Okay, let’s just have ONE more round.”]

Not Dennis Quaid becomes Killer Undead Virus-Infected Not Dennis Quaid and tries to kill someone with Moon powers or something. Eventually all of the astronauts die (in this movie where they forgot there was no gravity in space, spoilers are the LAST thing anyone’s worrying about). And everyone (including our Martini Movies reviewers) leave the theater slightly disappointed.

Out-of-context quotes from the actual movie seen by actual members of Martini Movies

“Don’t make me think of Watergate, Nate” [Note: Okay one of the guys was named Nate apparently.]

“Strange beauty on the backside.” [Indeed character from the movie who said this line of dialogue. Indeed.]

4:35ish: PB and the Monster exit the movie theater. In search of more drinks. To ease the dullness of Apollo 18 and to hash out their plans for the Martini Movies review. Reports vary on their condition following this rather boring exercise. From here there are only flashes of street fairs, bar stools, cigarette smoke, and an overabundance of talk about Tony Knuckles and the various careers he might best be suited for.

[END TRANSMISSION]

In honor of our two drunken, intrepid reviewers let’s keep things classy re: APOLLO 18

C –COMEDY: A few moments of inadvertent horror-based comedy and some “Hey look they’re really trying” banter from Not Dennis Quaid and Not Sam Worthington: 2

L-Ladies: There may have been wives in the beginning footage and for all we know maybe the Moon Monster was a lady. A deadly, sexy Moon Lady. But probably not: 1

A-Action: Some decently intense, horror-action moments. Not Dennis Quaid doing his best Jack in The Shining impression. But it’s a movie that makes space travel dull. Honestly Space Camp made space travel more exciting than this movie: 6

S-Story: Pretty much by-the-numbers horror. Like Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity but ON THE MOON: 5

S-Something Else: The Moon. How about it? Right? People walked on that thing. In space. And they didn’t even have to encounter Moon Monsters or Deadly, Sexy Moon Ladies. Why did they do it? Because of America and because of fuck it why not. 10 for the Moon. Way to go Moon.

Sep
8th
Thu
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We Kind Of Wish It Was Conan O’Brien, Honestly

A day after watching Conan the Barbarian, my eyes feel exhausted. I could blame the fact that we watched Conan the Barbarian in Real 3D. However, my current theory is that my eyes were the first to witness how awful the movie is, so the film’s effects on my eyes will last the longest. And there is no equivalent of alcohol for my eyes to deaden the pain. 

Can you smell what Conan is cookin'?

Can you smell what Conan is cookin’??

The day started off well enough. We met at Little Town, an establishment across the street from the Belmont Lounge, where we had steeled ourselves to watch Cowboys & Aliens last time. Little Town had some distinct advantages over the Belmont Lounge:

  •  Bar stools instead of couches that consume all who would sit in them;
  •  Waitresses who are pleasing to look at, even if they did condescend to BMAC;
  •  The view. 

Is there, like, a gym… or a school or something near here?

In fact, the view available at Little Town deserves more than a bullet. While BMAC and I were late to the drinking, the Monster and PB were on time.  PB was drinking at the bar, but PB only has dumbphone technology. (Someone Warren Ellis this guy immediately.) While PB was drinking alone at the bar, the Monster was waiting outside, anger and confusion slowly growing wondering if he had been stood up, mitigated only by the steady stream of young flesh parading past on 15th Street. And there’s nothing the Monster loves more than young flesh….except booze!  Note:  so much booze was consumed by Team Martini that we drank the bar out of not one but TWO brands of gin.  

Hells yeah.

BMAC and I went ahead to get seats while the Monster and PB upgraded their tickets to 3D, causing BMAC and I to miss the greatest event of the day: PB vs. the escalator vs. his mandals. Drunkenly missing the basket of 3D glasses on the first go, PB rashly leaned over the (moving!) escalator railing to grab a pair, trapping his mandal in a riser, nearly losing a limb for the privilege of sitting through Conan the Barbarian. 

Newly-minted mojito-drinking, shorts-wearing hippie Lamb failed to mention in his review of Cowboys & Aliens that during the trailers to that film, we — by which I mean “I” — had driven away the pair of gents who foolishly sat in front of us.  

I mention this to provide context. We – by which I again mean “I” – drove our second consecutive couple away before the start of movie. Honestly, if you can’t take loud pleasure in the idea of Ghost Rider’s Napalm Piss-stream, what can’t you take pleasure in?  Apparently the irritating hipster one row ahead of us is incapable of pleasure, because he let us know that he was not inclined to join in. Despite BMAC’s diplomatic effort to make clear that we would be quiet during the actual film, the Decemberists and their girlfriend didn’t make it past the emergency Caesarian section that opened the film. 


C’mon honey, let’s leave.

Let’s boil my disdain for Conan the Barbarian to its purest criticism: it was the worst piece of videogame moviemaking I’ve seen in a long time, primarily because I don’t watch many movies these days. Suffice it to say that the Monster and I both fell asleep during the middle of the movie. 

The best I can recall in between snores is that the film started out with some sort of Cimmerian easter egg race that was broken up by Magua from Last of the Mohicans.  Conan, being an avid easter egg racer, killed the fuck out of Magua and his cronies, busted some Cimmerian tweens up, and won the race.  Bloody for sure, even if most of the blood was CGI.  Laame!  Anyway, the Cimmerians are eventually attacked by, I don’t know, the entire Iroquois nation and a bunch of other people including somebody who seemed to be named Invader Zim.  Alas, Cimmeria!  By Crom!  Something happens to Conan at some point, I guess?  His dad is played by Ron Pearlman, who seems to have grown his hair so long that it merged with his rough-hewn fur coat, so you know, that’s kinda cool.  Anyway, Invader Zim is looking for some kind of crazy magic mask that the Cimmerians are hiding, and, shocker! He finds it.  And then he kills Hairy Hellboy using this totally fiendish Rube Goldberg setup that results in Conan, Sr., pouring molten steel all over himself, and I don’t know, goes away or something.  Oh yeah, he has this creepy witch daughter who grows up to be Rose McGowan, which honestly just shows you what happens when you let your daughter get boned by Marilyn Manson.


Kill it!  Kill it with fire!!

FASTFORWARD 15 YEARS!  And suddenly Conan is played by Dave Navarro AS Khal Drogo AS Conan of Cimmeria!   Who has an African-Cimmerian buddy played, apparently, by Theo Huxtable.  Twist!  Grown boy Conan has a hate-on for slavers, so when he and Malcolm Jamal Warrior find some, Conan concocts a cockamamie scheme to set them free, setting in motion his Holmesian discovery that Invader Zim is alive and well, but not for long if Conan has anything to say about it!  

So, tits and ass, a bunch of blood, some totally ludicrous sex scenes, more ludicrous fight scenes, and we learn that Invader Zim has, for some reason, not used his crazy Lovecraft mask to bring about the end of the world over the last 15 years.  But now he is going to.  Go figure.


Naturally Conan is against this, and thus begins a series of fights and chase scenes that make little sense except to tease the audience with a very convincing body double of Rachel Nichols.  And Castle Greyskull somehow figured into this.  Still not sure why.  We were briefly enthralled by Invader Zim’s sailing ship that was dragged on wheels across the Hyborean wastes but completely confused when there was no payoff putting the ship in the water.  Honestly?


Robbed by a body double again.  You’d think we’d learn!

BMAC was so outraged at this lack of payoff that when we were in the men’s room after the show, he ranted about it loudly, prompting a guy who BMAC insists was Leon Black from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to proclaim his own review: “This version needed more titties. Arnold’s version had titties.” 

C – Comedy:  Almost entirely unintentional, an even then there were more lamentations than chuckles. Conan torturing the noseless guy was funny, I guess. 2.

L – Ladies:  After Malcolm Jamal Warrior and Conan freed the slaves by starting a rockslide (wait, aren’t the slaves chained up, and thus unable to get away from the rocks rolling down the hill?), there were a lot of bare breasts on the slave girls. That was nice. Rachel Nicholl’s likely body double in that sex scene had nice breasts too. 6.

A – Action:  The fight scenes definitely had energy until the climactic duel between Invader Zim and Conan, which was dull. At least there was not much distractingly noticeable CGI. 5. 

S – Story:  A simple revenge tale dragged out with side adventures and bewildering jumps in geography. The Arnold version had a more elegantly crafted story. 4.

S – Something Else:  Fuck you, tattooed hipster. Fuck you, 3D movie making my eyes hurt a day after viewing. But the view from Little Town was quite pleasant. 7. 

 - Wrong

Aug
4th
Thu
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Cowboys & Aliens & Two Hours We’ll Never Get Back

Welcome to the first installment of Martini Movies, the east coast response to LA’s own street-gang-turned-bloggers organization, Margarita Movies.  Why Martinis?  Because we have some fucking class, that’s why.  New York is a city of car-less alcoholics, and we celebrate this with proper drinks before indulging in the latest cinema offerings.

Our inaugural outing sees us gathering at the Belmont, a bar in the NYU-infested region of Manhattan called Union Square.  Cecil is absent, leaving myself, BMAC, PB, the Monster and a press-ganged Wong to pre-game for Cowboys & Aliens, a movie about James Bond and old Indiana Jones fighting special effects.  I should be more excited for this, as cowboys and space men shooting each other is exactly the sort of reptile brain call to action I can’t resist, but the trailers are all people looking super serious and not at all enjoying the ridiculous situation they’re in.  Not to mention that Harrison Ford’s film choices of late have led us as a people to some very dark places, and it’s hard to shake the fear that Shia Labeouf may appear at any moment, swinging from vines and pissing all over our childhoods.

Before we get to the movie itself, however, a quick word about the Belmont Lounge.  I wasn’t expecting a lot from a bar nestled in a neighborhood known for its college student scum and hobos, but what we got was an overpriced shithole with the lighting and slow jamz R&B of the worst prom you ever skipped to go have sex in your dad’s Honda.  My Manhattans were terrible, and you would think BMAC was speaking a dead language from how long it took the waitress to get his drink order correct.  Top it off with a humid, claustrophobic nightmare of a bathroom and you have one of the worst bar experiences I’ve subjected my liver to in several years.  Future Martini Movie outings will no doubt find a nicer watering hole, like maybe a crusty kid in the park who’ll let us drink paint thinner out of his shoe.  The Monster tells tales of twin sister boites in the neighborhood, one boasting of female staff in tight shorts, the other of female staff in plunging necklines.  An embarrassment of riches, if true!

And so, after paying our outlandish bill and getting the hell out of where drink-ups go to die, we make our way to the theater. 

Cowboys & Aliens, for those who don’t know, is a movie based on a comic book in much the same way that Olivia Wilde is based on a human being with real feelings and emotions.  It’s clear the only thing the studio was interested in was the title, and I can’t blame them – Cowboys & Aliens is the sort of turn of phrase that’s equal parts dumb and intriguing.  It sounds like a fun summer romp, or at the very least the realization of my dreams of Trekkies and a rodeo forced to share the same convention space.  I’ve only flipped through the comic in an airport bookstore, but what I saw was a far cry from James Bond packing a Slap Wrap bracelet ex machina that shoots lasers while Indiana Jones scowls at the scenery.  It’s probably for the best, as the aliens in the comic looked ridiculous.  And really, how can you go wrong spending $200 million on certified action heroes blowing up space monsters while the girl from Tron 2 gets naked?

Yes please.

Lots of ways, it turns out.  Enough wrong to fill two hours of movie, to the point that Wong, who took his receipt instead of his ticket from the ticket machine (proving hundreds of years of perceived Oriental Wisdom a lie) suddenly looks like a cunning mastermind who surrendered his means of escape to gallantly suffer along with the rest of us dirty round-eyes.

The movie opens with Daniel Craig waking up in the desert, clothed only in old-timey long johns and an alien wrist thing that looks a little too much like the Pip-Boy 3000 from the videogame Fallout 3.  Some BAD MEN ride up on him, and you can tell they are BAD MEN because one of them has a bunch of fresh scalps hanging from his saddle.  One of them pulls a gun on him, and his MI6 training kicks in as he handily disarms and murders the trio of BAD MEN and then, in keeping with the Fallout 3 theme, loots their bodies for clothes, money, weapons, and even their horse and dog.  Oh and the BAD MEN were a crusty old dude and his two sons, so way to go on wiping out that particular patrilineal line, Bond.  So far, so my saved game that I really need to get back to one of these days.  He rides for the town of Absolution, because this is set in the part of the Old West that was crazy big on metaphors.  Prepare your Western Cliché Bingo Card, gentle reader, because it’s all downhill from here.

Upon arriving, like ya do, he breaks in to the home of the local preacher, played by the wonderful Clancy Brown (meaning this movie is now in Highlander continuity). 

"Hiiiiighlanderrrrrr…"

In short order he meets Percy, local spoiled rich kid and eerie Nick Locking doppelganger, Deadwood’s Wild Bill Hickok as the small town sheriff, and the local saloon owner (who is apparently also a doctor?) played by a slumming Sam Rockwell.  Honestly, the amount of talent in the movie suggest director Jon Favreau paid them all in night vision pictures of their children sleeping, as there’s no other reason for so many good people to be in something so bad.  He also meets Olivia Wilde’s character, who never actually gives her name, but is immediately creepy and inhuman and a Mysterious Lady.  This is apparently the height of subtlety, to have a character act mysterious and alien in a movie called Cowboys & Aliens.  There’s clearly something off about her, but it’s hard to get past how badly she needs her bangs back from Tron Legacy and a sandwich, not necessarily in that order.  She has lovely eyes, though, and since lady clothes in the Old West were basically khaki burkhas, that counts for a lot.

Pip pip, cheerio ooooh me dad’s the local cattle rancher.

The law soon interrupts their conversation at the bar, and it’s revealed that our amnesiac 007 is actually a wanted criminal guilty of all sorts of criminal acts, from robbery to arson to killing a whore.  The whore in question lives on a farm out in the middle of nowhere, which seems like bad location planning from a business point of view, and Daniel Craig has flashbacks to her lying in a field and being kind of thrusty in a creepy way.  This should matter but it doesn’t, as the whore lady (if she even is that, it’s really unclear) has all of two lines in the movie and barely claws her way to the lofty role of cipher.  At any rate, they arrest James Bond and put him in a cell next to the spoiled rich kid he kneed in the dick earlier, with the promise that they’re being taken to a federal marshal that night.

Surprising no one, rich kid Percy is the son of Harrison Ford, whom we soon learn has a ruthless reputation and goes by the frankly amazing name of COLONEL DOLARHYDE.  It’s never mentioned if he has a side career in professional wrestling, but it’s hard to believe anyone could bear such a name without stepping in to the ring in pursuit of the championship belt and their own pay-per-view special.  He gathers up a posse of men to ride in to town and demand his son back, including a token Injun that he apparently took in as a small child and raised as his own (only less important than his white kid).  This actually sets up a theme of the movie, where grizzled and growly Harrison Ford picks up surrogate sons everywhere he goes.  They flock to him like STDs to a sailor on Fleet Week, and in his scowly benevolence he finds time to have a tender moment and fatherly speech with each of them.  Ford’s performance in Cowboys & Aliens is no better than anyone else’s, but it’s still leaps ahead of his sleep walk through Indy 4.  He actually emotes!

So of course he goes to town to show the sheriff who’s boss, and of course the aliens choose that very moment to attack.  They arrive in small ships that handily devastate the primitive shit-kickers killing some and kidnapping others using their crazy space lassos, at least until the Bond With No Name uses his zap gun bling to blast one out of the air.  It’s at this point that one begins to suspect the movie should be called Cowboy, singular, & Aliens, as the rest of the townspeople are so useless against the invaders they might as well be carrying noisy slingshots.  In the wake of the attack, all of the supporting cast realize someone they care about was taken, from COLONEL DOLARHYDE’s son to Sam Rockwell’s wife to the sheriff, who leaves behind the requisite annoying kid grandson who will spend the rest of the movie learning to be a man at the hand of the Dolarhyde.  This of course is the same man whose favorite hobby is humiliating the kid’s grandfather, but that hardly matters once Indiana Jones gives his new Short Round a knife/penis metaphor and tells him to use it to become a man.

No time for creepy metaphors, Dr. Jones!

Despite being hopelessly outmatched, our cast of characters decides to follow the tracks of a wounded alien in hopes of getting their stolen people back.  Along the way they encounter a wrecked steamboat, presumably picked up from a distant river and dropped upside-down by the aliens, and decide to make camp there.  This gives us a chance for our first view of the alien invaders, creatures that look properly alien and menacing until their chest cavity opens up to reveal a hilarious second pair of tiny T-Rex arms that serve no real purpose other than to draw attention to their huge weak spot, which appears to be their heart just hanging out between the arms.  The next day they encounter James Bond’s old gang, consisting of a comedy Mexican, comedy bumpkin, and random Irishmen who actually demand to know where their gold is!  The blatant racism had BMAC up in arms.  There’s a fight, then a chase, then some aliens show up, and then a bit where Olivia Wilde (still no name!) gets kidnapped in a way that requires Bond to save her so she can get killed in time for mystical Indians to show up.  For those of you who only needed “mystical ceremony performed by noble savages” to fill a row on your card, prepare your best BINGO shout.

"I’d rather pollute the Hudson for a century than watch this movie."

The Indians – apologies, Injuns – capture Bond, Indiana, and the rest, dragging them back to camp.  These guys are so far past the point of stereotypical native Americans that they are little more than Ewoks, to the point that every time one of them did something good I cried out “YUB YUB!”  They wrap Olivia Wilde’s body in a sheet and throw it on a fire, as savages are wont to do, but wait!  All of a sudden she comes back, emerging from the fire Jean Grey-style, only naked and more accurately proportioned.  Committing the closest thing to a villainous act we’ve seen so far, Daniel Craig throws a blanket (no doubt riddled with small pox) over her before we get to see the goodies, and she proceeds to tell the gathered Cowboys and Injuns about how she’s an alien whose people were wiped out by the ones currently invading earth disguised as a human, and she “wasn’t sure she could heal this body”.

Team Martini Movies stands ready to assist you, Ms. Wilde.

There are moments in a sci-fi film, see, where you’re inevitably going to pull something a bit ridiculous on the audience.  If you’re making a good movie, then you’ve built up enough credit with your viewers by then that they accept it happily and roll right along.  This did not happen with Cowboys & Aliens.  Instead, the “I wasn’t sure I could heal this body” line was met with bemused laughter the likes of which I haven’t heard since Santa Claus showed up in the first Narnia movie and started handing out deadly weapons to children.  I genuinely felt a little embarrassed for all involved in the movie, at least until I remembered that I’d not only paid for a ticket to watch this but given up two of my last hours in New York before moving to San Francisco at the end of the week to be here.  Then I just laughed harder, both at the film and the life choices that led to me watching it.

Olivialien explains – and it’s important to note that her telling her tale to the Indians is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of C-3P0 telling the Ewoks the story of Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi – that the aliens are here to mine gold from the ground (but not why they need it), and that they’re kidnapping people to experiment on and learn their weaknesses.  Apparently, humans are particularly weak against having bowling ball-sized holes shot through them with lasers!  Who knew?  A special savage ritual restores Daniel Craig’s memory, and it turns out the whore he keeps flashing on was killed on an alien lab table next to him, and the thing on his wrist is an alien weapon handily put next to him so he could slam his wrist on it while escaping.  Because aliens are really good at torture and gold mining, but not so much at keeping their advanced weapons out of the hands of deadly cowboys who are also dashing secret agents.

You can probably work out the rest of the plot from here.  Token Injun convinces the made-up tribe (I don’t remember the name they called them by, but it sounds like Chimichangas) to fight with the white man, and they all ride to the tall mesa the aliens are living in (only it’s no mesa, it’s a spaceship).  Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde take the one weapon they have that’s worth a damn against the aliens inside the ship to rescue the captured humans while Dolarhyde leads the rest against the incredibly powerful aliens.  Things look bleak and surrogate Injun kid even dies, but then they discover the alien’s big weakness – being lassoed and then speared through the chest by giant fucking pieces of wood!  SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?

Anyway, the abductees are saved, James Bond finally gets the alien laser bracelet off (thanks to the fantastic instruction of alien Olivia – “It comes off the same way you shoot it – with your thoughts.  Just stop thinking!” – would that she gave us that advice a couple of hours sooner), and Olivia, whose name is apparently Ella, sacrifices herself by ex machina-ing the Pip-Boy in to a bomb and taking it to the ship’s core, finally answering the question “What really happened to the Challenger?”

Seriously, it looked just like that.  WTF, FX guys?

Why did the aliens want gold?   Did Ella die, or just Dark Phoenix herself to life again?  What will Dolarhyde do now that Short Round has gone back to his grandfather and Nick Locking’s stunt double has learned a valuable lesson?  No one cares, least of all the filmmakers, and there’s nothing left to do but sit through the entire credits in hopes that maybe Nick Fury will recruit cowboy James Bond to the Avengers.  I was initially bummed that Jon Favreau wasn’t directing the third Iron Man, but now I’m positively gleeful.  I hope Smurfs wipes the floor with this slop.  BMAC reports from San Diego Comic-Con that Favreau’s DJ skills were about on par with this pile of crap.

We reject the crass SCALE scale of our Los Angeles counterparts, and instead turn to the finest noble savages central casting can muster to mystic us up the CLASS Classifications!

C – Comedy:  Almost entirely unintentional, other than a few bits of abusing spoiled Percy.  3.

L – Ladies:  Olivia Wilde is very attractive, though not as much as she was in Tron Legacy, and the closest she comes to nude is obscured by magic Injun fire.  5.

A – Action:  The action scenes, when they happen, are largely good, except for the battle at the end.  Everyone but Bond as his deadly friendship bracelet is so hopelessly outclassed (though the humans at least have the infinite ammo cheat turned on) that it sucks a lot of fun out it.  Much better when it’s just space ships indiscriminately murdering cowpokes.  7.

S – Story:  When they bothered having one, it was like a bet gone wrong to see how many Western clichés could be fit in to one film.  2.

S – Something Else:  Easily the finest moment in the two hours we spent at the theater was the trailer for SHARK NIGHT 3D, a movie so dedicated to its schlock-craft that the black guy doesn’t even survive the preview.  When a character cried “WHERE DID ALL THESE SHARKS COME FROM?” I could actually feel the future drinks this movie will require hit me.  8.

- Lamb

Jul
31st
Sun
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This is a test.

This is only a test.  If this were an actual Martini Movies event, drunken hilarity might even now be ensuing.  Stand by.