The Boys Are Back in Town: Hall Pass (2011)

Posted by Charles Reece, July 3, 2011 11:07pm | Post a Comment
hall pass poster christina applegatehall pass poster jenna fischer

I don't know why the Farrelly brothers' Hall Pass wasn't more successful. It's no worse than Kingpin or There's Something About Mary and is about the same thing: men trying to get it up. If you found the previous efforts funny, then there's a recommendation. It was, for me, like spending two hours with a couple of pot-bellied sports radio listeners in a Dallas elevator. Not that I have to like the protagonists in a story, but I do have to find them interesting in some way. And there's nothing interesting about the particular strain of the bourgeoisie know as the sports aficionado. I moved thousands of miles to get away from him. To their credit, I guess, the Farrellys have captured, with a cinéma-vérité authenticity, this khaki-clothed repressed memory of mine ("the 'Boys are back in town": shudder), and without ever explicitly discussing sports. They do, however, frequently turn the camera to old pictures of the leads, Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), in their glory days as high school football stars to reinforce the effects of domesticity on male potency: use it or lose it. The husbands aren't getting enough from their respective wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), which regularly erupts in pornographic disquisitions on what they'd be capable of if not for the ball-and-chain.

After hearing their husbands natter on about sexual defilement one time too many, the wives grant them hall passes at the suggestion of a psychiatrist friend. For one week, the men can pretend not to be married without any repercussions for whatever might happen while the women are away on vacation. For most of the week, the husbands drink with friends and continue to dream about molesting young women while young men are actually flirting with their vacationing wives. If you've seen any romantic comedy about infidelity from the past 80 years, you'll recognize Hollywood's reduction of the hedonic calculus to a ratio: cheating isn't bad so long as (1) the betrayed lover is an asshole, (2) the jilted one is given a replacement, or, as in Hall Pass, (3) both parties are equally unfaithful. Marital bliss (a.k.a. love conquers all) is defined through parity: Rick and Maggie resist the temptation to cheat, while Fred and Grace both give in (but feel awful for doing it afterwards), with both couples renewing their vows by the end. What's perverse about this resolution is that it isn't some satirical undermining of romantic love using utilitarianism, but a moronic conflation of utilitarianism with romantic love. These couples are the libertarian base, supporting any candidate who romanticizes capitalism as naturally just.

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The Late, Great Peter Falk

Posted by Charles Reece, June 24, 2011 11:43am | Post a Comment

"Goddamn right": Peter Falk explains the world to Alan Arkin in The In-Laws. He died last night.


Posted by Charles Reece, June 19, 2011 11:50pm | Post a Comment
I just got tickets to the Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson show in October at the Greek, which makes me a happy boy, so here's a brief look at some of the former's mostly good albums:

Swinging Doors and The Bottle Let Me Down (1966)

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If 'Tweren't for Bad Luck: Game of Thrones, Episode 9

Posted by Charles Reece, June 12, 2011 11:53pm | Post a Comment


game of thrones ned's beheading

game of thrones ned's beheading

game of thrones ned's beheading

game of thrones ned's beheading

For the past three weeks, I've been able to do little else but read the first four volumes of George R. R. Martin's bestseller, A Song of Ice and Fire. For an entertaining pageturner, there's so much morbid cynicism and so little gratification that it pretty much reconfigures what's typically thought of as a diverting crowd-pleaser. The TV version is a lot of fun, too. The lead character, Ned Stark, was just beheaded tonight, and it only gets worse from here.

Love Thy Vampire? Priest (2011)

Posted by Charles Reece, June 5, 2011 10:16pm | Post a Comment
priest poster blood thirsty

I wasn't going to see Priest until I read Noah Berlatsky's critique. I could tell from the trailer that it wasn't offering anything new, nor was it going to even try. Indeed, it is cobbled together from clichés, tropes and designs borrowed from other films -- many of which would best be forgotten, as well. There's not one, but two "I won't let you / don't you let go" scenes as someone is dangling from the hero's hand. The villain conducts while his minions play a catastrophe on a town, just so you know how evil he is. Black Hat, the villain, is a former member of the superpowered priesthood, now corrupted by vampire blood, making him more powerful than both the pureblood vamps and the priests. The vampires are based on the same boring, wormlike design that was used in I Am Legend -- preferred, I guess, because it's generic and doesn't require eyes. Black Hat's main plan is get his old friend, Priest, to join him as a halfbreed and take over the world for the vampire queen. The worst offense is that the action is yet another uninspired appropriation of The Matrix's bullettime. Why, then, did I see it? Because Berlatsky argues that the film is virulently racist, and I can't stay away from films that unintentionally go horribly ideologically wrong. He had my hopes up for another 300 or the aforementioned I Am Legend, but is it a "racist piece of shit," or just shit?

The film's one innovation -- if you can call it that -- is borrowing the basic plot from The Searchers. In John Ford's classic, the Comanche kidnap Ethan Edwards' (John Wayne) niece, torch his brother's homestead and kill most of the family. The vampires do the same to Priest's (Paul Bettany) family, bringing him out of forced retirement to find his "niece" (actually, his biological daughter), and, thus, against the direct commands of the church state that he serves. The heroes are accompanied by the nieces' suitors, both of whom intend to keep the girls alive against the uncles' vows to kill their nieces if they show signs of infection -- cultural in the case of the Indians and genetic in the case of the vampires (or, I guess you might say, genetic mutation determines an ideologico-moral shift in the latter). It's the substitution of vampires for Indians in the plot that is central to Berlatsky's condemnation:

[I]f the Indians are vampires, suddenly you don’t have to shilly-shally. One by one the Western set pieces are trotted out and stripped down to their primal level of racist hatred and fear. The (white) family of peaceful farming folk out on the frontier is beset, utterly without cause, by slavering, hideous eyeless beasts. The reservation on which the vampires are herded is an impoverished, backwards tract of dirt—surrounding a slimy, stinking pit of sub-human insectoid breeding and bloodletting. 

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