Cedar Rapids is an example of a cancer in American movies, a horrible disease that has befallen independent movies. Every year a movie pops out from Sundance that seems to be the little indie movie that could. This would be nice if it were usually movies of ideas made outside the system like Shane Carruth’s Primer, but most of the time it just ends up being stupid crap like Miguel Arteta’s Cedar Rapids.
Looking at the DVD/Blu-ray cover of Cedar Rapids makes me want to punch someone. The image of Ed Helms grinning is a face that begs for a beating, not because he looks like an idiot, but because we’re obviously supposed to feel like superior beings upon seeing it. As though seeing a DVD box with the face of a naïve man-child is supposed to attract me, so I can feel superior to some fictitious character today. The same goes for the pathetic family of pitiful dipshits populating Little Miss Sunshine, it’s a film culture that feeds narcissism by depicting creeps that behave like sweethearts with depraved cores.
While independent movies that lack the big comedy stars of today struggle to get shown at Sundance, shit that stars the guys from The Office and Walk Hard gets carte blanche. Nothing against Ed Helms and John C. Reilly, they’re funny fellows. It just annoys me to see the brilliant programming from Sundance like Forty Shades of Blue or Primer struggle for audience while calculated crap like this stinks up the marketplace.
Cedar Rapids is one of those movies where big comedy stars show up in the little independent movie in a calculated career move. Don’t believe the hype. Just ignore this crap. If you aren’t convinced, read James Frazier’s epic smack-down, or Greg Victor’s description of two-and-a-half-stars worth of no one cares.
(Note: My colleague, Parcbench Senior Fellow Chris Yogerst, who is an expert on film noir, offers his thoughts on Kiss Me Deadly below!)
Classic film noir is one of the darkest genres in film history. Full of corruption, death, mystery, sexy dames and fast-talking men, classic noir films continue to win over audiences today. One of the quintessential genre films is Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) that is finally getting the Criterion treatment (DVD and Blu-ray). Aldrich, known for films like The Big Knife, Ulzana’s Raid and The Dirty Dozen, brings to life Mickey Spillane’s story about Mike Hammer (played by Ralph Meeker). Noir stories often deal with private detectives and Mike Hammer may be the most brutal one of them all (not to mention the best noir character name ever!).
Kiss Me Deadly is a memorable film because it famously uses “the great whatsit” that Quentin Tarantino lifted for Pulp Fiction (i.e. what’s in the box?? …then we never find out for certain). The difference is that in Kiss Me Deadly the contents of the box play on the fear of nuclear disaster (common during the mid fifties). If I remember correctly, we don’t know exactly what is in the box but the film does have an apocalyptic ending (that is shown at the end of the trailer from Criterion’s website). The film actually has two endings, one that is less apocalyptic (that they used on the film’s initial release) and one that is more reflexive of the time that they put in many years later.
The Criterion release offers both endings. In addition, there are features that revisit the film’s locations (it was shot primarily around LA), a documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter, a documentary on Mickey Spillane as well as movie commentary by film noir experts James Ursini and Alain Silver (editors of the influential Film Noir Reader series). I have not seen this film in years and it will be great to watch it in high definition Blu-ray this week!
Other Noteworthy Releases
The Women in Cages Collection: Featuring excellent Corman exploitation classics like Big Doll House, Women in Cages, and The Big Bird Cage. You can’t go wrong with the director/actress combination of Jack Hill and Pam Grier.
The Adjustment Bureau: Good adaptations of Phillip K. Dick stories come few and far between. This is not one of them.
The Eagle: Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell star in a period epic that references the same events as Neil Marshall’s Centurion. It seems I have a habit of recommending Neil Marshall movies over new releases, but I only do it because Neil Marshall is awesome. Watch Centurion. If you can’t get enough of Roman garrisons disappearing into Scotland, check this one out as well.
Unknown: I love that Liam Neeson has found a new career as an action hero. Unlike the pretty boys that fill action movies today, Neeson has that old school Hollywood tough-guy quality that gives him a vibe not unlike Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules: A sequel to the sleeper family film.
Happythankyoumoreplease: An indie that, like all indies today, looks oh-so-precious and aimed at fans of Garden State and Juno.
The Sorrow and The Pity: I know what Woody Allen will be buying on DVD this week…
Available on DVD
Mister T – The Complete First Season: Almost as cool as Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos.
Available on DVD
This article originally appeared over at Parcbench