Rex Reed Regains Notoriety and Importance at Melissa McCarthy’s Expense

Rex Reed

Rex Reed, the film reviewer who thinks he’s better than Melissa McCarthy.

If I was to call Rex Reed a nasty, ugly, old, bulbous-nosed curmudgeon instead of thoughtfully critiquing the pros and cons of his ridiculous, purposely attention-inciting and unnecessarily scathing review of Identity Thief, I’d probably get a lot of hatred thrown my way. And rightly so. Attacking someone on a personal level when you’re trying to make an argument is the sure sign of an arguer that has not enough intelligence to even construct a sentence that is meaningful, or in many cases, doesn’t have the actual intelligence, experience or general knowledge to even make an argument. So people like this have to resort to pot shots to try to make their weak points. That’s exactly what film “critic” Rex Reed did in his recent review of the film Identity Thief for the New York Observer.

Identity Thief is by no means a fantastic movie, but it’s certainly not drivel, as Reed calls it. Trust me, I’ve seen drivel. I know it. I’m sure Reed’s seen actual drivel too in his many years as a film critic, and he knows this movie is not truly that bad to sit through. But he’s a poor, flailing, quickly-becoming-unrecognizable “movie critic” for the upper classes in New York who still apparently want to relive the days of Reed’s career when he was actually something meaningful, recognizable and important to the arts and to the country. And I say this out of no disrespect because what I mean is, he was good at his profession for a moment in time, but Reed doesn’t see the cinema that he once knew and loved as now evolving and so he will forever be curmudgeonly against anything that doesn’t fit neatly into his box of acceptable and worthwhile film fare.

What Reed doesn’t seem to realize is that he’s no longer a singular voice, he’s just a speck of dirt in the large stain that is the news media. The only purpose of a critic as bygone as him anymore is to give glowing sound bites for the indie, sleeper hits and foreign films half the audience wouldn’t have seen if it hadn’t been for the snippet or quote on the poster or trailer that he’s paid to provide – or, in cases like this, to help bring some much-needed notoriety back to a sinking newspaper by throwing out some slurs that are sure to be picked up by the media. Reed doesn’t know, understand or truly appreciate the cinema anymore, not like the thousands of real movie critics and cinema aficionados who live online now, arguing intelligently over the latest films, or reviewing them using a sense of humor or tangible knowledge and a general appreciation for the genre of the film they are reviewing (and most of those guys and gals do it because they love it). Unfortunately, this is the point in Reed’s career where he no longer really cares for or understands the cinema or knows what’s good. He clearly has no taste for comedy and certainly not the comedy of today’s younger generations.

Maybe he was bitter that he was required to even review Identity Thief in the first place, and so he went into it with a bad taste in his mouth to begin with, or maybe he just doesn’t care anymore unless it’s something that meets his pretentious standards ahead of time. It probably has to have Ryan Gosling and/or be a documentary on an impoverished country or HIV. I don’t think he was even really paying attention to the film while he was watching it, if we’re being honest. In fact, I’d debate that he even watched it to begin with (I’ll explain why below). There’s a lot of obvious errors and inconsistencies in his review to back this up. In fact, I think Reed’s contentious review is worthy of a review itself. So, here goes: the first ever Cinematic Public Enemy review of a film review.

Is Reed a critic or a reviewer? If Reed was a film reviewer, I’d let him get away with his ridiculous drivel of a review, because film reviewers are just people offering their opinion on something, and opinions, even when they’re mean, vicious and from the mouths of mean-spirited people are just that – opinions. But Reed is supposedly a Film Critic – a title I take to heart very dearly. Criticism is a skill. Criticism can and is a learned ability. Criticism, while it may very well include opinion, is rooted in critical thinking, critical comparisons and in-depth examinations, topped off with maybe an opinion or two for good measure and a little bit of engaging readability. Reed has lost any sense of film criticism that he ever may have had (and I know he had some, just read his review of the amazing classic Hearts and Minds).

First, let’s take his opener in his review of Identity Thief: “How many ways can a person waste valuable time and lose vital I.Q. points at the same time? If you’re movie critic, the possibilities are unlimited.” Read this opening very carefully. Right here, Reed has already given up his whole profession and reduced what he does to a ludicrous job. He’s essentially saying that much of what he sees in the cinema of today is not worth his precious New York Observer-paid time. So why would (or should) anyone ever care about one word that he writes in a review ever again? I don’t think we should. Rex Reed clearly thinks the cinema of today is stupid and a waste of his time as he alludes to in the opening sentences. And frankly I don’t need to take advice from someone who is clearly not impartial or willing to weigh all aspects of what he is paid to do, so everything he writes after that in the review is really negated (and you’d think this would have been a red flag to his editors too), but for the sake of criticism and a fair argument here, let’s continue on with the review of his review.

In the second paragraph, Reed calls the screenplay “stupefying” although he never actually backs up why he is making this claim, so I have no way of actually knowing what about it is stupefying. I guess Reed’s opinion on the matter is just supposed to be enough, because he’s such a world renown critic. Riiiight.

Identity Thief

Soon after he’s referring to Melissa McCarthy’s character as “tractor-sized” which is where he started to repel readers. I agree, it’s a harsh way of describing her, and because he placed it in parentheses, it even seems more like he is referring to her as the actress and less as the character she plays. What’s interesting though is, clearly McCarthy is overweight, maybe she can help it, maybe she can’t, but regardless, that’s her look right now and like many of the other great overweight actors she knows how to use her size to enhance her character’s presence – and there’s no doubt the producers and director Paul Feig (whom she worked with on Bridesmaids) had any thought that she wouldn’t be great in a part like this as well, because of her size and the demeanor she has grown fond of portraying with it.

She started the character in Bridesmaids, was honored for it by Hollywood even, and so of course she’s going to be reviving that character type and building on its outlandishness and craziness in this movie (and most certainly her next one in the can with Sandra Bullock, where by the look of the trailer, she’s playing the exact same type of character, yet again). This is her role and she inhabits it well, so yes, to refer to her as “tractor sized” and later a “hippo” in the article is crass, but at the same time, it is the role she wants to portray and right now it’s working well for her, so I’d say McCarthy is probably not as burned by this name-calling as everyone thinks she is (or should be), and it’s just actual overweight people without the luxury of a fat SAG paycheck who are offended that her flaws are being pointed out in an unnecessary and cruel method when she’s become a beloved character actress for many 18-35 year old women (who are a core audience for Hollywood these days).

Another reason to pan his pointless review and anything Reed actually says, is because he clearly wasn’t even paying attention to the film when he reviewed it. I truly believe this is equivalent to not performing the duties of the job as required and should really be grounds for termination, if nothing else. If you are getting paid to review films and you can’t even get the details of the film’s storyline right, then what good are you at your job? Let’s start with Reed writing that McCarthy’s character is in Miami, Florida, when in fact she is noted as being in Winter Park, Florida (and once as being in Orlando, which is the same area). Additionally, the area code on the phone number from the salon Jason Bateman’s character is called from is 407, which is the Orlando area. So where did Reed get Miami from? If I was being cruel, I could ask, Is it senility setting in? Or deafness beginning? But really I just want to ask was he just that uninterested in performing his job to best of his ability (regardless of how much he hated the film, or it wasn’t for him, he is still being paid to pay attention and review for his audience), and at this he failed miserably.

Further on, Reed embellishes the description of how “bad” McCarthy’s character is when he lists her as “beating him up,” (which she never really does, unless you count punching him in the throat a couple of times; Bateman’s character smashes a guitar over her face and throws an iron Panini press at the back of her head). How come that’s not considered “bad?” Reed then goes on to say she “wrecks his rental car and leaves him stranded on the highway in a pair of pants stolen from a dead hobo.” While both of these details are somewhat accurate, they are most certainly not carried out in this contextual proximity, and technically, Bateman’s character was responsible for his rental car being wrecked because he stopped it in the middle of the highway without pulling to the shoulder and consequently it was t-boned by an 18-wheeler. Not McCarthy’s actual doing, in other words, but I guess it worked for Reed’s quippy sentence. This all helps to prove that he likely didn’t even see this film before reviewing it, he just phoned this in, maybe watched a trailer or two online and probably read some other synopsis’. This man should not be allowed to review films anymore, he’s clearly not a valid part of this business and is a horrible representation of what film criticism is all about.

Reed’s next couple insults are all having to do with the wackiness of the “road movie” aspect of the story. He can’t seem to fathom that they could be pursued by gangsters and bounty hunters (he also embellishes here, saying “bounty hunter and skip tracers,” but they are one in the same, and there was only one of them in the movie), and that people can jump parole and get arrested for things they didn’t do or get away with things they did. First of all, let’s talk about the standard Hollywood movie: it’s called suspension of disbelief, Mr. Reed. As a long time critic you should be fully aware of this. You don’t always have to believe what is happening on the screen is something that would happen in real life exactly the same, that’s why people like the movies, because they’re fun, exciting and they take us on adventures that are unexpected, dangerous, comical, outlandish, and likely and many times hopefully wouldn’t happen to us. Audiences like to watch movies with things happening to characters that they wouldn’t want to happen to themselves because it makes us feel better about our lives. We see movies for the escape. Second, a lot of the things that happened in the film are very much possible, just maybe not in such a concentrated amount of time as the movie portrays, but again, this is what’s referred to as suspension of disbelief.

Next Reed talks about McCarthy’s sex scene in the film, in which he unnecessarily refers to her as a “hippo.” It’s crass, pointless and just shows what an uptight, un-open-minded man this Rex Reed really is, and basically destroys any positive image one may have ever had from reading one of his film reviews during his prime as a critic. McCarthy is anything but a hippo, and in fact, is very funny in her sex scene and not in the least “grotesque” in a bad way. If you can watch any of the litany of R-rated Judd Apatow comedies of the last few years, hell, if you can watch HBO’s Girls, you know what a truly grotesque love scene can be like, this is PG-13 stuff by today’s standards. Reed is displaying that he is really a repressed prude, if he found this offensive. Also important to note here, Reed got yet another fact wrong when he notes the love interest of McCarthy as “demanding a threesome,” when that was not the case whatsoever. McCarthy’s character actually set the whole threesome up, and the guy she picked up was even scared to do it. Did Reed not even see the part of the scene where the man is crying on the bed in anticipation of having sex with her?

I find it infuriating how little interest Reed even had in doing a proper review for this movie, whether he liked it or not, the filmmakers deserved his time and meaningful criticism and instead all they got was this drivel Observer let him publish. They should be ashamed and he should be ashamed. To top it all off and even add a laugh at how preposterous and literally outdated Rex Reed is now, he ends with a closing sentence that basically criticizes the film on the fact that it uses identity theft as comedic plot device. Reed confesses that he is so afraid to even approach an ATM without the threat of someone stealing his glowingly perfect identity, that he thinks the filmmakers should have made a film that deals with this topic in a serious way. (Pretty sure that’s been done, by the way, The Net? Single White Female?).

Identity Thief is a fun comedy, and Melissa McCarthy is great in her newfound character type. Check this one out sometime, the rest of America is.

Rex Reed can be disregarded, he says what he says so that someone will pay attention to him. He’s clearly scared at becoming irrelevant. Unfortunately for him, he already is irrelevant.

Advertisements

The Ghost of Piramida

Efterklang star in this unique and interesting documentary about their travels to a ghost town near the North Pole where they spent 9 days recording audio for use in their album Piramida. Directed by Andreas Koefoed, the film quickly becomes more than just a travelogue or behind-the-scenes look at their music-making process as we learn more about the previous inhabitants of this once rich, fertile, now barren and cold landscape.

Even better, the film is being released in a rather uncompromising fashion: all screenings will be free and open to the public, but can be held by anyone who wants to get more than 5 people together at one location. Kudos to whomever is behind this idea for finding ways to engage communities of the film, music and artistically-minded. Here’s a list of all the scheduled events so far. Find one near you!

For an added bonus, watch this oddly engaging, albeit personally invasive music video for the song, “SEDNA”:

Warm Bodies Leaves You Cold

Warm Bodies the number one movie in America last week? Am I dreaming?

First of all, with the ridiculous amount of Oscar Best Picture nominees again this year, you’d think the Academy’s plan to generate more interest in the movies would be working – at least in their favor – but instead, the top grossing movie is a pre-teen snoozer cashing in on both the lucrative zombie genre and the beastly, psuedo-horror/romance fad 13-year olds all seem to identify with these days. It’s so much cooler to be hot for vampires, werewolves, zombies and other one-off horror show freaks, than it is to fall for just a normal, run-of-the-mill kind of guy, isn’t it? Why don’t they ever make movies where the male characters are the ones falling in love with a physically flawed female character, by the way? I’ll tell you why, because Hollywood knows that in their already dwindling audience of males age 18- 35, none of that demographic wants to lust after a girl who looks like a zombie or the guy from Beastly. Not even if it was Bar Refaeli playing the part.

Lucio Fulci will likely rise from the dead as soon as he finds out about this comparison.

Lucio Fulci will likely rise from the dead to eat someone’s brains as soon as he finds out about this horrendous “inside joke” comparison.

Warm Bodies is a pathetic excuse for a zombie flick to begin with, falling way short of ever providing any sort of truly cinematic zombie movie goodness. Instead it just recycles the old zombie apocalypse theme with the people who haven’t yet been bitten hiding behind a makeshift wall somewhere in a city that looks vaguely like London or New York City and with zombies milling around outside. Warm Bodies even appears to borrow a little bit of the I Am Legend look with its laughably CGI “Boney’s.” What’s worse though is how the film expects its audience to reject every perfectly plausible zombie movie guideline they know and just blindly go with this stupid story which at one point even turns into Romeo and Juliet.

The film is void of any sincere laughs, and gets by – if on anything – on its ability to make the lead zombie boy look and act cute because he’s fallen in love with a un-zombified girl. There are too many plot holes and inconsistencies to even bother referencing them here, but suffice it to say, no one seemed to notice (or care) except me. Something about this movie spoke to people. I am baffled. Look, I’m a sucker for a good romance and I love horror films from all sub-genres, so the unique plot concept about zombies painfully being alive inside their bludgeoned heads even when their bodies are dead, and the idea that they can gradually come back to life when embraced with the feeling of love, was a huge selling point for me – but this movie completely missed both marks and gave up all its opportunities to exploit its unique storyline to the fullest.

Then there are the actors – they’re terrible. Yeah, the lead girl is cute in a rip-off Kristen Stewart kind of way, but she is ultimately and instantaneously forgettable. The boy is similarly bad – the worse zombie ever in fact – I’ve seen zombie extras play more believable and horrifying than him. The boy’s movements inconsistent, unrealistic and his moaning and groaning ability to communicate short sentences to the girl and other zombies is a real chore to sit through. Even the director Jonathan Levine clearly felt that way after he saw the footage edited together, because the amount of songs which they conveniently edit into the film to absolutely no added effect, is equally boring to sit through. I find better zombie music videos online at least once a week.

The director Jonathan Levine should be ashamed of himself. This is utterly and obviously a job he took for the money, as I can see no effort, interest or talent that was put into this – especially comparing it to previous stellar work he’s done when he’s motivated and inspired, such as the hilarious and poignant 50/50. Even The Wackness was better than this.

…As I think about it more now, maybe this is the best movie to see in theaters at this moment. At least half of the Best Picture noms are unjustified and obvious promotional tactics / pats-on-the-back, but at least filmmakers like Spielberg and David O. Russell care about their craft and what they bring to the screen and if they’re making a film for the paycheck, they put a little effort into it still. The writer, filmmakers and actors (including Malkovich) of Warm Bodies, should all be ashamed of themselves for letting such drivel cost $12.50 in pointless Cinema XD since there’s about as much XD worthy action in the movie as there is in Lincoln, and as little tangible romance as there is in Silver Linings Playbook. Go see something else.

What You Get When Harmony Korine Tackles a Topic Like Spring Break

I can’t help but be reminded of the film Havoc when I watch this trailer. Not sure why, but I also keep thinking Larry Clark must be involved somehow… must remember to look that up… Anyway, here’s a trailer for Harmony Korine’s latest anomaly, Spring Breakers. Conveniently hitting theaters (somewhere) right around, um, spring break.

The Iceman; or, Here’s to Hoping that Cheesy Titles and Goofy Mustaches Can Help Revitalize the Suspense/Thriller Genre

Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Missing Person) has been up to playing some pretty gritty roles in his time on screen, and even though the mustaches in this trailer don’t do the actors any real justice (then again, neither does the Top Gun-reminder of a title), don’t let that turn you off – Ariel Vromen‘s third feature looks like it might be pretty Summer of Sam-meets-Zodiac badass.

Girls

The writing and producing team of Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow is brilliant. Dunham can provide for the real world dramatic back-and-forth of the characters and Apatow can provide for the off-the-wall hilarity which brings a typical dramatic scene to a whole other unexpected level. Season One of the HBO TV series “Girls” is basically like a new Lena Dunham film. I watched the episodes as they premiered on Sunday evenings last year, and then I watched them all over again in one long 10-hour marathon. Either way they’re bound to stay with you, affect you and peak your interest into what a second season would bring. And Season Two premieres this Sunday, January 13.

Girls TV Series

The set up for the series is simple and brilliant. It’s like a much more intelligent Sex and the City and for a much less Princess-syndrome-plagued audience. An audience not any less self-important and self-aware, but one whose just may be a little hipper, listens to Sleigh Bells, The Echo Friendly and prefers writing and art over college football and keg stands.

There’s even an ingenious referencing to Sex and the City by the most appropriate character for enjoying that kind of show on the series. She’s also the one who enjoys game shows, reality TV and is hyper-obsessed with perfection and losing her virginity. Let’s start with her – the least obvious of the cast of characters – and with the most befittingly bohemian uptight name: Soshanna. Soshanna’s still in college, lives with doll house decorations in her apartment and needs a serious wake-up call to life. She’s also the cousin of Jessa.

Jessa is your typical Urban Outfitters / Free People adorned Williamsburg hipster, although she has a little edge to her with the aloof-albeit-endearing foreign accent (which you have to even wonder if not unlike a Madonna-like play for attention, she puts on). She’s working in the most inappropriate job ever for someone as uninterested in personal responsibility as she is – an au pair for a well-off family with a too-busy-for-the-kids glamour industry mom and a shlubby, out of work musician dad who becomes more enamored with Jessa then his own children.

Then we get to the stars of show, Dunham herself (playing as Hannah) and her “best” friend and roommate Marnie. Marnie starts the whole series off on a downward trajectory which destroys the heart of a perfectly good boyfriend and finds her literally seething with hatred for her relationship with him because he’s “too nice” to her, and clearly because he sees beauty and perfection in her which she could never see in herself due to a plethora of hidden self-esteem issues which she’s dutifully masked throughout most of her life from everyone she knows – including the lowest self-esteemed of all – Hannah.

Marnie in GirlsMarnie’s the kind of girl I literally find myself hating now, because I’ve seen what someone as damaged as she is can do to a relationship, and I don’t think they can ever really change. She’s too pretty to realize she’s pretty and she’s too uptight and self-obsessed to ever want a man who doesn’t beat her down with his disinterest in her any waking hour except those in which he’s horny.

Hannah is the most well-developed character (and interestingly the only one whose parents we’re introduced to), and best of all she’s got the perfect boyfriend. On the outset, her boyfriend Adam is a perverted loser, but the beauty of the way this series unfolds is that you learn to not judge any characters by their initial affectations, and instead (like real people) give them a chance to get to know you. Adam is a unique, artistic guy who’s not afraid to stand up for himself and not afraid to tell Hannah what he wants, even if it frightens her. What’s cool about the series Girls is that Dunham is pleading to women her age out there to give guys like this a solid chance, because honestly you could write him off over the first few episodes, but by the middle of the season you’re kind of hooked. He keeps Hannah honest, doesn’t necessarily tell her what she wants to hear, but always tells her what he’s feeling (when she takes the time to become un-self-absorbed and actually ask him). They’re a good combination of emotional intelligence and creativity for each other and really, Dunham puts all the pressure on the character she’s playing to keep it together with Adam, because (like most self-absorbed and low-esteemed girls) she’s unsure about a good thing.

girls-hbo-adam-hannahSeason Two has some changes in store for Hannah and Adam though, as Hannah will obviously be freaked out by the realization that Adam is actually in love and committing to her. Dunham actually sums up the feelings her character has for Adam in an honest and perfect real life example from her past (via Vulture), depicting just how some girls can be when they’re not emotionally mature at all:

The thing is, I’ve been in so many situations where, like, the power balance just shifts and shifts and shifts — like, I remember when I was 16 and I had this boyfriend from camp and I liked him so much, and he did not like me that much. He was really cool; he was a rapper, but he was not that into me. But then I went back home, he went back home, I started calling him a little less, and he turned into this mixtape-sending, flower-wielding person. I went to Boston to visit my friend and saw him, and we all went to a thrift store together, and it was like his passion for me was so unbridled he shoved me into a coat rack and tried to kiss me. And I was like, “Get off of me!” I just had this feeling like, “Where were you before?” I felt revulsion, because when you’re not mature enough to handle being responsible for somebody else’s feelings, their need is disgusting. When you really love someone, and you’re adult enough to understand that life is a back-and-forth of sometimes you need and sometimes they need, then you find somebody else’s vulnerability beautiful, and you want to nurture it, and you want to keep it safe. But I feel like, until pretty recently in my life, somebody expressing any kind of desperation or any kind of vulnerability — it was like your parents showing you they have real feelings, it was like running into your teacher on the subway. It was awful, and so I think that for Hannah this switch with Adam, even though it’s everything she had dreamed of, was overwhelming, and suddenly he’s a real person and she’s scared, and there’s this feeling of somebody else is wanting her time and her energy, and she’s not about that.

All the characters in this series are perfectly crafted out of real-life, they’re perfectly flawed and ingeniously paired. It’s a risky series for someone like Dunham to reveal because of its level of personal reflection and commitment as both filmmaker and star playing a role in which she must reflect many of her own personal demons. It’s also a challenging series because initially it was hard for me to become so invested in it; the girls are just so utterly off-putting to begin with that I found it to be more socially un-redeeming than socially revealing, but it’s an important and intelligent (and funny!) examination on young women and men and their ability to process and maintain meaningful relationships in today’s technocratic and constantly evolving world. Stick with it through the first few episodes and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised and glad you met these characters.

Gamers Making Fun of Gamers: Support Group

It’s not often I see films made by avid gamers that also poke fun at avid gamers, but with the in-production web series Support Groupwritten and directed by a gamer (full disclosure: who I personally know), Joshua Earles-Bennett, along with his co-writer Ashley Earles-Bennett, has put together a concept that is unique, humorous and insider all at the same time. Support Group centers around a group of gamers addicted to the game Skyrim (aka The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim). The crew is currently trying to raise funds to produce and direct an entire first season of this new web series, and their IndieGoGo campaign can be found here. Check out the teaser trailer below.