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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘The Spy Next Door,’ ‘Leap Year,’ ‘Daybreakers’

UPDATE: Looks like Daybreakers will screen after all. I’ll see it tonight.


Pity me. It’s January, and I have to go to the movies. The Spy Next Door (opens in the U.S. and Canada on January 15; no U.K. release date has been announced yet) is from director Brian Levant, who is to cinema what Pol Pot is to human rights — he is responsible for such atrocities as Snow Dogs and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. And how sad is it going to be to see Jackie Chan refusing to grow old gracefully? Obviously, he can’t do the kung fu anymore, so he’s reduced to romancing a woman (Amber Valletta) young enough to be his daughter and babysitting her kids in the hopes of getting into her pants. It’s as if someone figured Are We There Yet? — also from Levant — wasn’t crass enough. Also: Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez in the same movie? Is that even legal?

Just the trailer alone for Leap Year (opens in the U.S. and Canada on January 8, and in the U.K. on February 26) makes me want to curl up into a fetal ball and cry for my mommy. I dread to see what the film itself will do to me.

Looks like Daybreakers (opens in the U.K. on January 6, and the U.S. and Canada on January 8) won’t screen for critics — at least, I’ve heard nothing yet about screenings, and time is running out. Unless something crops up before Friday, I’ll catch it on opening day, just because I like the Spierig Brothers.



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  • amanohyo

    Jackie Chan has some real life experience romancing (and fathering children with) women young enough to be his daughter… however, I’m guessing that his character in the movie isn’t already married. Although he’s no saint or spring chicken, I’d wager he can still perform more martial arts/gymnastics/stunts at 55 than most American action stars half his age.

    The movie does sound horrible though.

  • Bill

    ‘Undead’ was a nice surprise. I’ll see ‘Daybreakers’ first chance I get.

  • Jackie Chan can still do kung fu, but his American movies have never showcased his genius for physical performance and choreography as well as his H.K. movies. His latest U.S. films in particular have tended to rely egregiously on CGI, which is stupid, seeing as how J.C. is the best special effect you can ask for (although I was quite satisfied with The Forbidden Kingdom).

  • Jurgan

    Jackie Chan’s also starring, along with Will Smith’s kid, in a Karate Kid remake. The Miyagi role might be good for him, as he’s supposed to be an over-the-hill martial arts expert. On the other hand, karate is Japanese. Will they make it The Kung-Fu Kid instead? You lose the marketing appeal that way, of course. But making Jackie Chan do karate would be strange. My fear is that they’ll just ignore the distinction completely, because hey, they all look the same, right? Chinese and Japanese are like best friends, right?

  • Well, I’m happy to report that Daybreakers is an excellent movie, so there’s that at least.

  • Actual Filmmaker

    Whoa MaryAnn, pretty harsh words for Mr. Levant and Chan. – Pol Pot? Atrocities? Lighten up! they’re movies!

    Your profile is spot on, you DO think way too much about movies. Particularly ones like Mr. Levant makes which, for the most part, are family comedies aimed at children. Are you familiar or expert at making films for that part of the filmgoing market? What exactly are you expert at? You claim to be a writer/producer but a quick IMDB search of your name reveals you’ve written and produced NOTHING.

    I mean, it’s SO brave of you to sit in your insular little world there in NYC drinking wine and tearing into those who’ve had the gumption, balls and sure, maybe a little luck to make it in the film industry.

    NEWSFLASH MaryAnn, you’re a mean drunk. Your “writing” reeks of another failed bitter “screenwriter” who’s ideas are too small and self centered to be of any commercial value. Aren’t we all so lucky that we have the Internet so losers like you can regurgitate their pathetic and meaningless lives on the rest of us.

    I’m sure you don’t have the balls to print this, but it will be up for a little while before you delete it. so at very least YOU and a few of you lucky readers will get a taste of what one passer-by thinks of your rabid spew.

  • Bluejay

    At least she has the balls to publish under her own name–which is more than I can say for Mr./Ms. “Actual Filmmaker.” Or for myself, for that matter. :-D

    I’ve never understood the argument that critics who aren’t filmmakers themselves should just shut up because filmmakers know what they’re doing and should never be questioned. And of course critics are only “unqualified” when they say bad things about one’s favorite films; if they say good things, why, they’re eminently qualified after all!

    Since art is made for an audience, I should think that an audience member has the right to say what s/he thinks about the work.

  • Bluejay

    The other thing I don’t get is why brave, noble souls like Actual Filmmaker feel that opinions voiced on sites like these are an imposition on “the rest of us.” It’s like those commenters who go out of their way to say that a particular line of discussion bores them, and they have better things to do. Who’s the one imposing their judgment here? If you don’t like what’s being talked about, just walk away.

  • amanohyo

    Well Mr. Filmmaker, you certainly seem to be an authority on mean, bitter, pathetic regurgitations; I’ll give you that one. And by the way, MA is an expert on both The Princess Bride and Dr. Who, and all the cool nerds know that fantasy and science fiction geeks are awesome (and I think our moms would concur…sometimes).

    I haven’t read any of MA’s screenplays, but her writing is some of the best I’ve seen when it comes to movie reviews. Just out of curiousity Mr. Grumpypants, what Actual Film(s) did you make? Do you happen to have a website containing hundreds of reviews (or any other professional writing samples) that we could skim through to learn how to write like a successful, commerically valuable, oversensitive winner?

  • Actual Filmmaker

    I have no problem with real film criticism. It’s this turd’s nasty and unfounded personal attacks in her post that I found particularly offensive.

  • Bluejay

    If you don’t see anything ironic about your last statement at all, you are absolutely… fascinating.

  • Paul

    My dad used to watch MASH and guess when a Korean was playing a Chinese, or a Japanese playing a Korean, etc. Then he’d watch the credits to see if he was right. The actor who played Miyagi in “KK” had bit parts in MASH as a friendly South Korean officer, and another actor who played unfriendly Koreans went on to play Japanese bad guys in movies.

    So while I suspect Jackie Chan would prefer to play a Chinese kung fu teacher in a KK remake, nothing would surprise me. You can get your black belt in aikido in Shanghai or in Tae Kwon Do in Nanjing, so he could play a Chinese teacher of all sorts of things.

  • Bluejay

    he could play a Chinese teacher of all sorts of things.

    True. No reason he can’t play a Chinese man teaching Japanese martial arts. Kinda like the Chinese man who teaches Spanish class in Community. Being Chinese (or whatever ethnicity) doesn’t mean having to do only Chinese things all the time.

  • Victor Plenty

    I could easily tear apart the self-contradictions and other stupidities of Actual Filmmaker, but… Boring troll is boring.

    If MaryAnn ignored the troll’s lame reverse psychology “I bet you’ll delete this!” ploy, and deleted all its posts, nothing of value would be lost.

    Moving on to something worth discussing, the use of Asian actors as freely interchangeable parts, suitable for any Asian role no matter where they came from, has a long history indeed. But at least it’s better than the days when Hollywood thought all they needed for an Asian role was a European-descended actor with heavy eye makeup, an obviously glued on Fu Manchu beard, and an ability to switch around the pronunciation of the letters R and L.

  • Bluejay

    Moving on to something worth discussing, the use of Asian actors as freely interchangeable parts, suitable for any Asian role no matter where they came from, has a long history indeed.

    And it’s still considered offensive, yes? (I’m Asian, and I personally think so.) But what I’m curious about is that it doesn’t seem to be considered problematic when non-Asian ethnicities are involved. Or am I wrong about that? Was there an outcry when Andy Garcia played Italian for Godfather III, or when Al Pacino played Cuban for Scarface? (I wasn’t personally offended in those cases, but maybe I wasn’t sensitive enough.)

    And then there’s the argument that actors should be able to play anything, because it’s in the definition of acting to pretend to be someone else.

    There have been at least a couple of past threads about whom actors “can” and “can’t” play (see http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2009/02/020309question_of_the_day_should_whi.html and http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2009/12/120709question_of_the_day_must_gay_a.html ). I’m not sure I have anything more to add to that discussion, so I’ll stop here.

  • MaryAnn

    Particularly ones like Mr. Levant makes which, for the most part, are family comedies aimed at children.

    I think Mr. Levant — who may or may not be “Actual Filmmaker” — must hate familes and children, then.

    You claim to be a writer/producer but a quick IMDB search of your name reveals you’ve written and produced NOTHING.

    I would love to know where I’ve claimed to be a producer. Because I have never made such a claim.

    It’s really too bad, actually, that an IMDB search does not return the links to the thousands of film reviews I’ve written.

    I’m sure you don’t have the balls to print this, but it will be up for a little while before you delete it.

    Well, I *don’t* have balls, as it happens…

  • MaSch

    Ideas too *small* to be of any commercial value?

    Looking at the plots of some movies by actual filmmakers which made a few millions, no idea is too small to be of commercial value.

    I mean, someone got paid to come up with the following tagline for “Clash of the Titans”: “Titans will clash” …

  • JoshDM

    I’m just gonna comment this link again on the full Daybreakers review when you post it.

  • You claim to be a writer/producer but a quick IMDB search of your name reveals you’ve written and produced NOTHING.

    I’m guessing that a quick IMDB search of the name “Actual Filmmaker” isn’t likely to turn up anything either…

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