The Reel Deal


Quick Takes on Three Films

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

August 2011


Reel Rating: 1 out of 5

Conan the Barbarian was a somewhat dull pulp character, whose stories were turned into an even duller movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, which in turn was remade as this film: the dullest of the dull. If you’re going to remake a movie, I think it is your responsibility to find a reason to remake it. In other words, find something new to be teased out of the old. Give us a new take, give us something different, but most importantly: give us something. This film gives nothing but graphic violence. It has two characteristics, it’s barbarity/sadism and it’s banality/unnecessity. Of course, it was directed by Marcus Nispel who, unsurprisingly, directed two other remakes: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. Both also contained the same two features (with little else): barbarity and banality. I can always handle the barbarity of excessive violence–this is actually not that violent in comparison to a number of films I know and love (anything by Tarantino, for example)–but only so long as the violent film offers something else in addition to it, or uses it in a greater context, or as a means to some end. But besides the severed heads and limbs (which had people in my screening cheering), there’s only over-the-top acting, terribly written dialogue, a hackneyed plot, and a less-than-satisfying third act. As well as that dull character made even duller. Like I say, the barbarity of this film isn’t what turned me off, but rather the banality of it. Conan the Barbarian really should be called Conan the Banality.


Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I’ve always been a self-described Potter-hater, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and colleagues. I may not agree with the great literary critic Harold Bloom when he writes that kids are better off reading nothing than reading Harry Potter, but I like the argument he’s making. I think in the end, it is perhaps better to read Potter than to read nothing, but I also think the easy argument of “at least it gets kids reading” must be challenged on every front, and I commend Bloom for being one of the only ones with the gravitas to do so. Just because something “gets kids reading,” doesn’t automatically give it literary merit. I agree with most of Bloom’s criticisms of the first book–especially that it is written by a woman whose “mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.” But the truth of my Potter-hatred is that I don’t actually hate Harry Potter. There are many worse things (and worse books especially) to hate in the world. The Harry Potter books may be “governed by cliches,” but how many books in your average Barnes & Noble aren’t? The Harry Potter books, and even more so the Harry Potter films, aren’t that bad. They could be much worse. In fact, the films could even be called “decent,” in my humble estimation–maybe even “upwards of decent,” if I wanted to be generous. I think my so-called “hatred” for Harry Potter comes from a want to counter-balance the rabid obsession of the disconcerting amount of followers of the books and movies who have praised, and continue to praise, the mediocre series at every turn. So many millions overrate Harry Potter that if I vastly underrated it, I felt that I could perhaps help to even out the world’s average appreciation level of the Potter-verse (and make it somewhat more reasonable). But upon the completion of the final film, I will admit that though the movie is nothing like the great picture it is being touted as–really? not even one mediocre review on Metacritic? all positive?–it is undeniably better than over half the movies I’ve seen this year. It may be governed by cliches, and obsessed with its own schoolboy Tolkein-ness, but it at least manages more than a modicum of entertainment (which is more than can be said for far too many films that Hollywood churns out each year).


Reel Rating: 4 out of 5

Errol Morris is a weird dude who makes some really interesting documentaries. Tabloid is yet another strange but successful addition to his brilliant oeuvre. Joyce McKinney’s story is interesting, sensational and odd–enough of all three that it kept the public’s attention for quite some time, especially in Britain. It started as a sex-kidnapping scandal, where the American McKinney came to England to kidnap her old boyfriend (who was a Mormon on his mission in the UK). That’s only the beginning of this weird woman’s story (which unravels on screen for our pleasure). But the film never seems judgmental or exploitative. It actually isn’t like the tabloids after which it is named. Instead, it gives each of the characters (real-life characters, astoundingly) a voice to say their side of the story. It is mostly left up to the viewer to decide where his or her sympathies lie, and where he or she thinks the truth lies. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he mentions Rashomon–and it is an apt comparison. Though Tabloid will not end up as memorable or as important a film as that Japanese touchstone, it does follow the same logic (or anti-logic) of setting up a platform for multiple people to tell different versions of the same events. And like Rashomon it ends there–never judging, never answering, never coalescing, just letting the various versions exist, letting all the inconsistencies sit with the viewer. In a way, it is as unsettling as it is entertaining. It may not be a perfect film, and certainly not Morris’ best, but it’s a damned good movie that ought to be seen.

Conan the Barbarian is a film directed by Marcus Nispel, written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood, and based on the character created by Robert E. Howard. It stars Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan and Ron Perlman. The tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a film directed by David Yates, written by Steve Kloves, and based on the novel by J. K. Rowling. It stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord.

Tabloid is a film directed by Errol Morris. A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.


IMDB: Conan the Barbarian

IMDB: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

IMDB: Tabloid

Written by Tyler Malone

Picture Courtesy of Lionsgate and Allmoviephoto.com

Design by Jillian Mercado

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