Ten Minute Guide

An inside look into the unusual,
the newsworthy and the asinine stories
of the last week in the film world.

New Releases

The Boy Next Door

THE PLAYERS: Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman and John Corbett; written by Barbara Curry; directed by Rob Cohen. Released by Universal. Rated R.

THE PLOT: A woman’s (Jennifer Lopez) younger neighbor develops an obsessive crush on her.

– This is basically The Crush (with Alicia Silverstone) with the sexes reversed.
It kind of surprises me that this type of thing doesn’t go on more often.  Hollywood has been doing this for different races for a while now—The Wizard of Oz was turned into The Wiz, Vacation was turned into Johnson Family Vacation and The Honeymooners was turned into, well, a black version of The Honeymooners—it really does strike me as odd that more movie characters aren’t swapped around for the different sexes.  I feel like 48 Hours with Frances McDormand and Wanda Sykes might actually work.  Sure they’re doing it with the Ghostbusters, but why stop there?  It would also allow me to watch the male version of Sex and the City and ponder how Ms. Big turned out.  I’m excited by the thought already!

– This is exactly the type of movie I’d want to star in if I was an ego-centric, forty something actress.  Wait, I get to be the lead in a movie where a hot teenager with wash board abs is willing to kill to be with me?  Where do I sign up?

– I’m pretty sure I saw this on an episode of CSI: Miami.  David Caruso took off his sunglasses, announced that justice would come to both boys and men and then walked off frame leaving nothing but a blood red sky behind.

– I’m not sure what would get the average person to see this movie.  It’s not just that everyone has seen a variety of this before, but there isn’t anyone anywhere that will be surprised by anything in The Boy Next Door.

YES IT’S TRUE: North and South Korea are still officially at war.  They signed a cease fire agreement that culminated in the creation of a 148 mile wide demilitarized zone, but still are technically at war.

The Gambler

THE PLAYERS: Starring Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange and Brie Olson; written by James Toback and William Monahan; directed by Rupert Wyatt. Released by Paramount. Rated R.

THE PLOT: A man (Mark Wahlberg) owes a lot of money to a loan shark and tries to gamble his way back into the black.

– I like my Mark Wahlberg wearing track pants, a Red Sox cap and running away from the Southie cops.  I don’t like him playing an English professor.  Granted, his English professor is dating a student, owes his life to a loan shark and attempting to gamble all his money back, but this is not my Mark Wahlberg!

+ Omar!!!!  I mean, Michael K. Williams (who played Omar Little in The Wire)!!!!!!!

– Williams plays a lawless figure who doesn’t take shit from anyone and throws around beatings when necessary.  Way to cast to type…

+ Based on heavy gambler James Toback’s earlier script—The Gambler is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name—the material in the film is sharp, poignant and littered with good lines of dialogue.

– The sad thing is that in the last 31 years, there was another film about the semi-non-seedy gambling underworld made, Rounders, that holds up a lot better than this version does.  Frankly, the best way to describe The Gambler’s plot is Rounders if the characters of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) and Worm (Edward Norton) were combined.

– Also heavily features ‘professional’ gamblers betting on roulette.  Really?  I mean, really?  There’s a quote I really like about roulette.  It goes something like this, “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are an idiot because you’re all suckers.  Roulette is truly a game of chance and one that’s odds are ever tilted in the house’s favor.

– The biggest problem with The Gambler is that there isn’t a cure for stupid.  Mark Wahlberg’s lead is so stupid and makes so many stupid decisions, it’s genuinely hard to care what happens to him.  Wahlberg’s lead is so stupid, he could tell you that the sky was blue and you’d question him because everything he does is wrong.

– Ah, the pain of having to gamble to make cash to pay your gambling debts that you incurred after borrowing money to gamble with so you could pay your earlier gambling debts.

 YES IT’S TRUE: Playing blackjack, I once split tens three times on the same hand, much to the chagrin of everyone else at the table. Epilogue: I won all four hands.


THE PLAYERS: Starring Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent; written by Paul King and Hamish McColl; directed by King. Released by Weinstein. Rated PG.

THE PLOT: A talking bear goes to London and tries to find a home.

+ This film has an outstanding 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

– Maybe this is because I’m old, but I have no idea what’s going on with Paddington.  I remember being slightly confused by the original Paddington books that my parents read to me when I grew up.  Not as confused as I was by The Velveteen Rabbit, but still confused.  Having not looked at a Paddington book in 30 odd years, I thought he was just a stuffed bear who talks, kind of like a kinder, gentler, less orgy focused version of Ted.  Nope.  Paddington is an actual bear that talks.  Granted, his fur kind of looks like a stuffed animal in this movie, but he’s a bear that can talk…  Not only is the biology of this never explained—the movie simply asserts that an explorer taught Paddington’s family how to speak—but the two women who serve as the film’s bad guys are only interested in killing Paddington and stuffing him.  Because, when you learn of a bear that can talk, your first reaction is naturally, “Let’s kill it and put it on display in a museum!”

+ If you can get past this little series of plot points—if you’re not a cynical bastard and can buy into the film’s premise—it’s an entertainingly good movie.

+ What I liked best about Paddington was its warmth.  It is impossible to watch any number of the physical sight gags included in the film and not smile.  Director Paul King carefully and creatively tweaked the bounds of reality to ensure that some of the jokes packed a harder punch than they otherwise would have.  The thought of Paddington’s British dad opening the bathroom door to a wall of water still gets me to smile.

YES IT’S TRUE: Jay Cutler has been the Chicago Bears quarterback for six years.  During that time period he has worked with five different offensive coordinators.

The New Releases are written by Chris Neumer and Victoria Fitzsimmons



News & Notes Inside the Week in Film

May the Force be with Them...Please?

Chris Neumer

I’ve been working on a lengthy series of pieces on the original trilogy of Star Wars films that will be posted soon. I’m a big fan of Star Wars and it was an incredibly fun experience for me to re-watch the movies. They really are fantastic pieces of cinema. One thing I couldn’t readily remember from earlier viewings though was just how incredibly stupid the Rebels were.

This thought first popped into my head within minutes of the start of Episode IV – A New Hope. Darth Vader walks into Princess Leia’s transport looking for the stolen Death Star plans. Seconds later, an Imperial officer approaches Vader and states that the plans aren’t in the ship’s main computer. At that point, I made a note in my notebook: “Just how stupid does the Empire think these Rebels are?”

I wrote it down because I thought it might make for a humorous little piece at some point in the future. Because, who in their right mind would steal plans for the Death Star and then put them in the most obvious place possible?  The tone of my comment was going to be along the lines of, “C’mon, Darth… give them a little credit!” But then the rest of the movie (and series) happened. Now I am well aware of why Vader had his crew check Princess Leia’s ship’s computer: because the Rebels are really, really stupid.

Leia got her hands on the Death Star plans and, rather than give them to someone—anyone—else, she decided to take them back to Alderaan herself. Given that she was one of the most well-known (and best looking) of the Rebel leaders, it didn’t take long for the Empire to track her down to ask her about her role in the affair. If I was Grand Moff Tarkin, I’d have been questioning Leia as often as possible, about anything and everything I could dream up.

As Leia’s ship was being overtaken by the Empire’s Star Destroyer, she jettisoned the stolen Death Star plans in R2-D2… with instructions to Obi-wan Kenobi to bring the plans right back to her. And, might I add, she instructs Kenobi to bring the plans right back to her on her home planet of Alderaan. Exactly where she was going in the first place.*

* Just think, if email had been around in the Star Wars universe, Luke Skywalker would still be a moisture farmer on Tatooine and the Empire would be running (more) amok.

stumped-magazine-empire-strikes-back-darth-vaderI am certain that this is writer/director George Lucas’s handiwork. Not just because he wrote the script to Star Wars and oversaw the creation of the film, but because, interestingly, this exact kind of stupidity is on full display in another Lucas/Harrison Ford production, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

In that film, the Nazis are spying on Jones’ father (Sean Connery). Not wanting them to get his Grail diary, he sends it off to Indiana (Ford). Indiana comes looking for his dad with the Grail diary in his possession. It led to this wonderful bit dialogue from Jones Sr. to a senior Nazi officer, “You dolt! You think my son would be that stupid? That he would bring my diary all the way back here?” Then, when Jones Sr. leans that his son is, in fact, that stupid, he turns to Indiana and says, “I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers! … Why do you think I sent it home in the first place? So it wouldn’t fall into their hands!”

The logic of this entire scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade can be easily applied to Kenobi’s decision to bring the Death Star plans back to Alderaan. Unfortunately for Leia, she didn’t even have the option of sending the Death Star plans to the Marx Brothers.

However, The Empire Strikes Back marks the, yes, holy Grail of Rebel stupidity. That’s when we learn that the Rebels chose the uninhabited planetary rock of ice known as Hoth as the location of their newest secret base.

First, a tangent.

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of hating on Star Wars. I’d love to use another word than ‘hating’—I originally tried ‘nit-picking’ and then went to ‘dissection of minutia’ before landing on the present choice—but nothing seems to capture the feeling as well as ‘hating’ does. Pointing out all the flaws of the original trilogy in an article replete with a click-bait headline gets views. It also adds negativity to the discussion of movies that don’t deserve much, if any, negativity surrounding them.

Let me be clear, I think the new Star Wars trilogy, Episodes I – III, are reprehensible in pretty much any way you choose to look at them. Even as moneymakers. Because if Lucas had made a prequel trilogy that was even sort of good, it would have earned him significantly higher amounts of cash. Fox executives mentioned to me that had The Phantom Menace earned even a ‘B’ grade with critics, they thought it had an outside chance to do a billion dollars domestically.

I do love the original trilogy though. I think the first Star Wars movie is probably the greatest example of what Hollywood can do; it drops a viewer into a new world with fascinating characters and entertains us in jaw-dropping fashion for two plus hours. From my point-of-view, there is simply no way to improve the original Star Wars. It is perfect as it is.

Sure there are some inconsistencies and hiccups here and there—a parsec is a unit of distance, not time; a storm trooper comically whacks his head on a blast shield—but you can find things like this in all movies, especially science fiction movies. While it is fun to note that Kenobi has to walk 75 miles, give or take, from the Death Star control room to the tractor beam controls or that people respect the storm troopers for their incredibly accurate shooting ability, it’s also done in jest. There’s a big difference between pointing out a movie’s foibles and pointing out a movie’s foibles as a sign of why a movie isn’t good. And this column is decidedly the former. I think it’s pretty entertaining to consider how stupid the Rebels’ major decisions are; I also don’t think that the presence of this trait negatively impacts the movie in any real way. For me, it’s just funny to think about what conversations must have taken place amongst the Rebel leaders prior to their deciding on Hoth as the location of their new base. Funny because nothing about Hoth in any way suggests it’d make for anything other that a preposterously horrible location for a base of any type.

From a creative and visual standpoint, I complete get why the world of Hoth was created. It was a million miles from the locations of the first film; possibly literally in the context of the Star Wars universe. It was somehow the opposite of both Tatooine and Yavin 4. It was cold, snowy and devoid of almost all life forms. Interestingly, all the aforementioned planets seemed like they would have been an enormous pain-in-the-ass for the people there, but for completely different reasons.

Stumped-Magazine-Empire-Strikes-BackTatooine was hotter than hell and didn’t seem to have any natural source of water; it needed moisture farmers, after all. Frankly that there was any life there at all is kind of surprising. Maybe space-Bugsy Siegel founded Mos Eisley for precisely that reason. Yavin 4 was also hotter than hell, and had the opposite problem as Tatooine; it had entirely too many sources of water. It would have been more humid there than Costa Rica in July. The amount of talcum powder the Rebels needed must have been overwhelming.

Hoth, on the other hand, had absolutely none of these problems. It was basically a large chunk of ice floating in space that would sometimes get so cold that its indigenous species’ would die from exposure. If it was kind of surprising that there was life on Tatooine, it’s downright shocking that there was life on Hoth. The entire planet was covered in snow and ice and, as I mentioned a few sentences back, it would sometimes get so cold that the life forms that were there, the taun-tauns and wampas, would simply keel over and die. If people did live there, I’d venture that suicide would be the number one cause of death by far, beating out even cancer and wampa attacks.

The wampas would eat the taun-tauns, this much we know. Whatever the hell the taun-tauns ate is well beyond me. Where either animal found water to drink is also next to impossible to imagine; such is the nature of life where the daytime temperature is said to be able to reach -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

The entire rationale behind the Rebels relocating to Hoth seems to be that they figured that the Empire would never look for them there because no one could be so stupid as to put a base on Hoth. And while there is some truth to this—there weren’t any settlements on Hoth anywhere else—the Rebels seemed to value this element of their new location over anything else. At the expense of everything else. And I do mean everything else.

At first I considered the possibility that the Rebel logic was so stupid it was brilliant. Putting a secret base on a planet that no one could be stupid enough to put a base on would throw the Empire off track… but only because of how stupid it was to put a base there. Ultimately, this did not qualify as ‘stupid like a fox’, for a host of reasons.

Hoth was so cold, the Rebel equipment didn’t work there.* It’s why the Rebel forces couldn’t go out looking for Luke Skywalker when he was missing. It’s also why Han Solo risked his own life to go looking for Skywalker; he knew that Skywalker literally would not survive on his own. These were not issues on Yavin 4.

* Uniquely, the Empire’s equipment didn’t seem to have these same issues.

Hoth was also located right next to an asteroid field. The Rebel commanders made note of this feature because it not only gave rise to a spectacularly high number of meteorite strikes on the planet surface that they had to investigate, but because it also precluded them from seeing any approaching ships. The asteroid field didn’t protect Hoth from approaching ships or act as any sort of defensive barricade, it just made seeing approaching ships impossible. In short, it was like being on the wrong side of a space two-way mirror.

Unfortunately for the Rebels, the downside to being on a planet devoid of any humanoid life is that if any type of settlement, building or weird snow lump that kind of looks like droid is spotted, it instantly blows their cover. For there is absolutely no (other) reason for anyone to be on that planet. It’s not exactly like there’s a lot of cover on Hoth, as absolutely nothing grows there. It’s exclusively open terrain. And this is precisely what dooms them.

I may be alone in this thought, but if I’m planning out a location for my secret rebel base, I’m going to search out a temperate or preferably tropical spot, the space Bahamas if you will. I will make sure I have both cover for my base and good sight lines in every direction that my mortal enemies might come from. I will also make doubly sure that my chosen location will not prevent my equipment from working without footnotes or asterisks. And, if I have my druthers, this location will not have any angry local creatures that actively will work to eat me and my rebel mates. But this thinking is precisely why I would never cut it as a Rebel leader in the Star Wars universe.

The Photo of The Week

Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

This is a really nice shot.  I love how the camera is pointed directly down to the ground.  It’s provides for a really unique perspective!  Tim Robbins is essentially an island surrounded by water.  And the visual parallels how Tim Robbins’ character was figuratively an island surrounded by water.  What really makes this photo for me is the cool color temperature.  The blues are just beautiful and really help convey how cleansing and freeing this moment was for Andy Dufresne.

The Five Things I Learned This Week

Fascinatingly True Things to Broaden Your Mind

1. Barry Manilow got married for the second time in April of 2015. To a man.

2. Manilow’s real name is Barry Pincus.

3.He was first married (to a woman) at the age of 19.

4. Thanks to the proliferation of cashless transactions, bank robberies in the United States are down 47% from 2003.

5. As a gambling game, baccarat earns more than poker, blackjack and craps… combined.