Arts + Scene » Screens

Are You a Moron?

If so, the totally awesome new Crank film has everything you want ... plus racism!




Hugh Jackman is back as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a tell-all lead up to the events of X-Men. The Wolverine-centric flick schools you on the mutant's violent yet romantic past and his dynamic relationship with his bro, Victor Creed, plus you get to see all you favorite mutant pals. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence and some partial nudity. 107m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

Heartthrobs Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner come to us this weekend courtesy of the latest chick flick, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. McConaughey is Connor Mead, a committed bachelor that gets a special visit at his younger bro's wedding from the ghost of his late Uncle Wayne, also a legendary ladies man. Wayne takes Connor on a tour of girlfriends past, present and future, and lo and behold the lovely Jenny, played by Garner, has a big place in Connor's heart. Rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Mr. John Malkovich himself plays Buck Howard, a dried-up magician extraordinaire that just keeps on truckin' in director Sean McGinley's comedic flick Great Buck Howard. Buck's trying to make an epic come back, so he enlists recent law school drop-out Troy Gable, played by Colin Hanks (Orange County, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny), to help vamp up his image. Rated PG for some language including suggestive remarks and a drug reference. 90m. At the Minor.

Get some super-sweet 3D animation in you life by hitting up the Fortuna Theater for Battle for Terra, an intergalactic action-adventure tale. Terra, a peaceful alien planet, is coveted by the homeless remainder of humanoids on Earth and therefore faces annihilation. Mala, a rebellious Terrian teenager, will stop at nothing to prevent those evil humans from taking over her home. Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action, violence and some thematic elements. 85m. At Fortuna.

-- Emily Hobelmann


CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE: Back in the ’80s, grade-Z movies gained hipster cred when a pre-Mystery Science Theater 3000 vogue of hunting down, viewing and snarking at such films became a mark of cinematic sophistication.

Of course, like all good things, this was eventually co-opted by The Man, first in the frat-boy-ized Buckaroo Banzai, then in the "take it easy; we'll do it for you" format of MST3K, and finally in Quentin Tarantino's attempt to make A-list versions of Z-grade movies.

But at the same time, the tradition of the Z-movie continued, mostly unnoticed by the co-opters. Horrors like Time Barbarians, N.Y.P.D. Mounted (starring Dennis Franz and a very unhappy horse) and Menahem Golan's ouvre -- including such gems as 2000's Escape to Grizzly Mountain, in which Dan Haggerty basically just says, "Fuck it; I basically do grizzly movies" -- were still made, ignored, sent directly to video and marked down to $6.99 for sale at the impulse-buy rack at the drugstore.

So there were basically two tracks of Z-dom: the ironically self-conscious version, wherein people viewed these films as a joke or a source for more elevated art, and the unironically unselfconscious version, wherein people with no discernible talents were given the opportunity to display that indiscernibility.

And then there's Crank: High Voltage. This is a full-throated Z-movie, with no higher pretensions, which nonetheless is completely aware of its Z-ness. It revels in it, but does not betray it to the frat boys, snarkers or sophisticates. Choosing to have its cake and blow it up and then have sex in it, Crank: High Voltage simply strings together a video-game-inspired theme (someone has stolen Jason Statham's heart, and he must constantly jolt himself with electricity to stay alive while he hunts for it) with some graphic sex (thank you, Amy Smart!) and a seemingly endless series of racial slurs and stereotypes.

It is not a good film, in the moral sense of "good," but it might be an entertaining film, and is in many ways an innovative film. For example, this is the first time I've seen "massive homo cunt" in the subtitles to any movie. I also can't recall ever seeing another film that used the word "slantard" as a slur for people of East Asian descent. And, in keeping with the film's need for constant speed and action, it includes the inter-title "9 seconds later," which I think is the briefest unit of time ever expressed in an inter-title.

So kudos to cinema pioneers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who co-wrote and co-directed this film, for coming up with these innovations. And also for their refusal to refuse to pander. For example, the film contains a scene in a strip club. The problem with most strip-club scenes is that they contain nudity, but not blood-spattering violence. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say that, if you want to see what it looks like when a bullet passes through a silicone-enhanced chest, you might just want to check out Crank: High Voltage.

Also, Neveldine and Taylor understand that very few films have had the courage to deal with one of the most pressing issues of our time: the fact that Chinese crime lords want to steal the organs of white people -- specifically, the heart, because the white man's heart is like that of a lion, and the penis, because the white man's penis is girthy and rich with history.

Or at least that's the story on Jason Statham's penis, which, sadly, doesn't appear in the film, though some video blurring of his crotch region during an intimate sequence indicates that it wanted to appear, but contractual difficulties made it impossible. I was surprised and frightened to learn that Chinese gangsters wanted to steal white penises, so I asked my Korean friend Soyeon, who saw the movie with me, if it was true. She said, and I quote, "I don't know. The Chinese are very different from Koreans."

Z-movies are very different from A-movies. There's no effort at social redemption here, no sense that the "hero" deserves to win (mostly, he goes around committing a series of public-service murders that have a very high collateral-damage count) and no strong concern with realism. (At one point Statham recharges his electrical heart by "skin-on-skin friction," which seems unlikely, although visually appealing.)

Further, Crank: HV is one of the most racist, sexist and violent movies I've ever seen. It's not, for all that, a bad film, except, again, in the moral sense of bad. It's even occasionally funny, if you think gay black bikers with guns are funny.

I was sort of amazed by the racism, though, and the fact that so many Asian actors were willing to speak in corny chop-socky accents. The most racist part is that of gang leader "Poon Dong," who's played by David Carradine. Carradine is largely thought of as a white guy, though he's no stranger to putting on the yellow face. The performance is slightly less offensive than the one Mickey Rooney gave in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and certainly more aware of its own racism, but I don't think Carradine or the film will be getting any awards from the Anti-Defamation League.

Still, it's nice to see that a couple of guys with consumer-level video-cameras (a Canon XH-A1 and a Canon HF10, total cost less than $4,000) can convince a bunch of semi-famous actors (including Dwight Yoakam, Corey Haim and Bai Ling) to demean themselves for 96 minutes of socially irredeemable instant gratification, and still get nationwide distribution. Rated R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language. 95m. At The Movies.

-- James DiGiovanna


17 AGAIN. Middle-aged father wakes up one day as a 17 year-old, so he tries it on for size. Rated PG-13. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

ADVENTURELAND. Recent college grad must abandon his dreams of world travel for lack of funds, but still has mad adventure at his new amusement park job. Rated R. 106m. At The Movies.

EARTH. Story of three animal families and their journey across the planet we all call home. Rated G. 95m. At the Broadway.

FAST AND FURIOUS. Fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto returns to L.A. and to his feud with agent Brian O'Connor, all while pushing the limits of what's possible behind the wheel. Rated PG-13. 108m. At the Broadway.

FIGHTING. Small town boy meets scam artist on the streets of NYC; small town boy then discovers his inner street fighter. Rated PG-13. 104m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE. Hannah Montana's popularity reigns, so Miley takes a trip home to rediscover her roots. Rated G. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT. Family moves to Connecticut to have a nice place to treat their son for cancer, but too bad their new house is haunted. Rated PG-13. 92M. At The Movies.

I LOVE YOU MAN. Straight dude embarks on series of "man-dates" to find a suitable best man for his hetero wedding and ends up in a serious bromance. Rated R. 105m. At The Movies.

KNOWING. Professor finds terrifying predictions of doom in time capsule; now he must prevent said predictions from coming true. Rated PG-13. 122m. At The Movies.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Ragtag crew of monsters must combat an alien robot to save planet earth from imminent destruction. Rated PG. 94m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

OBSERVE AND REPORT. Head of mall security versus police detective in the race to crack the case of who's flashing people at the local mall. Rated R. 86m. At the Broadway.

OBSESSED. Big-ballin' asset manager's life is all good until the super stalker temp worker gets hired on. Rated PG-13. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN. Vegas cabbie and UFO expert must save two teens with supernatural powers from exploitation by evil peeps/aliens. Rated PG. 99m. At The Movies.

SOLOIST. Journalist discovers former classical music prodigy living on the streets of Los Angeles; bonding ensues. Rated PG-13. 117m. At the Broadway.

STATE OF PLAY. U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins is the latest rage of his political party, until his research assistant's dead body turns up. Rated PG-13. 127m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

SUNSHINE CLEANING. Mom starts biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service to fund her son's private school education. Rated R. 92m. At Mill Creek and the Minor.

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