Thursday, February 17, 2011

Theme Song Thursday

I've always been oddly talented when it comes to remembering theme songs, and my mother always told me to share my talents. Thus Theme Song Thursday is born. No these jingles may not have much to do with cinema, but each one will speak to formation of the brain that brings you all of The Reel Deal reviews and posts.

One random day last month this theme song jumped into my head, and I've been singing it ever since. Now it's your turn! Many an elementary school weekend afternoon was spent sing along to this music. As an interesting note, years later I would realize that my strange and rarely admitted to love of Christine Taylor was born on this very dude ranch.

Thanks to cool245flashmail for the post.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I bought that for a dollar!

If you haven't heard about the statue of Robocop that has been proposed (and denied) in the city of Detroit then I honestly have know idea how you can be reading this without your airways closing since you're obviously allergic to the Internet. Nonetheless, I'm glad you chose to stop by my humble blog- though you were probably trying to get somewhere else but were to woozy to type straight with all that Benadryl in your system.

Here's a quick recap: Dave Bing, Mayor of Detroit, asked an open ended question to the Internet and is now paying the price. Upon asking for ideas on how he could clean up the city, one twitter user suggested that they erect of statue of the Silver Servant himself- Robocop. Bing, being of sound mind and body, declined the idea. Unfortunately nobody could hear him over the sound of wildfire. Now the entire thing has progressed so far as to see the birth of a fund raising website (via Kickstart) devoted to corralling the needed funds to commission an artist to build said statue, which would then be erected in a public art space. Now normally I silently bare witness to an event like this- mentioning my more entertaining thoughts to those I choose to confide in; i.e. Watcher X and Kello. However, this story has two things that most Internet spread, movie related stories do not: Detroit, and Robocop.

Growing up my entire family lived in Detroit, and most still live in the surrounding area. This could well have something to do with why I took to Robocop so quickly as a child. Every other rated R movie I was exposed to reduced me to such a state of shivering terror that I could barely walk straight, let alone sleep at night. But I've been an adoring fan of Bob Morton, Clarence Boddicker and the gang since before I can remember- literally- despite mutant road kill and shotgun amputated arms. Which is why I went on down to the official website and made my donation as soon as I could (while still verifying that the site was legit). The minimum is $1, so even the young and monetarily challenged can rally around the Metal Marshal.

If you'd like serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law yourself, head over to There you can read the whole story, revel in the fact that the site exists, and make your own donation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Company Men

"You know what the real tragedy here is Bob? We could have been friends."

The first poster I ever saw for Company Men had a tag line on it that read: "In America, we give our lives to our jobs. It's time to take them back." I have no idea what this statement has to do with the movie Company Men. This is not a movie about realizing your worth outside of work. If anything, it's study on how low losing your job can bring you when you define yourself by what you do. This is a perfect example of the kind of decisions writer and first time feature film Director John Wells makes all over Company Men. When he's faced with a decision between what would make for an honest story and what he thinks will generate mass audience appeal, he consistently goes for mass appeal- to his projects detriment.

Ben Affleck plays Bobby Walker. Bobby is high level executive who has the rug pulled out from under him when he is caught up in his corporations first round of unapologetic downsizing. Affleck does well in the role of the well off executive turned job seeker, as does Rosemarie DeWitt as his stay at home wife. Together their relationship serves as an expository tool for all the many paradigm shifts and uncomfortable adjustments that come with the sole bread winner losing their job. Their situation is also used to show the all to common condition of many American households; The Walker's may drive their Porsche from their huge house to their Country Club, but even the slightest hiccup in income exposes the fact that none of their possessions are owned outright. We watch them struggle not only to make ends meet but to keep their relationship healthy as egos are bruised again and again. Despite the at times ham-fisted direction, Affleck and DeWitt's chemistry can burn quite hot, more so when their forced to antagonize each other than during their conspicuous scenes of tender exchange.

If this story was the only one this movie followed, many of my complaints would be left on the cutting room floor among the pruned scenes. However, Bobby Walker's story line is only one of three that receive the most (read:only) screen time. This set off a red flag as I watched the other two stories that make up Company Men, each also being about high level executives being laid off from the same company. If this was a movie about Bobby Walker and his families struggle than I wouldn't question, but with these other two stories on board I'm forced to wonder why at least one can't take us through the struggles of an employee of this company who doesn't own a car that's worth as much as the average starter house. But this minor complaint is nothing next to the stories themselves. The first gives us Tommy Lee Jones as Gene, who serves as little more than a slow draw deus ex machina, while Chris Cooper gives a great but wasted performance as Phil Woodward- an on rails character for whom story resolution is bombastically telegraphed long before it ever comes to fruition.

Sprinkled throughout the film and used to no effectiveness are done-to-death cinema tropes hand picked to coax smiles and tears from the audience in equal measure. The most frustrating of these is the money grubbing, soulless CEO and the little independent business owner with a heart of gold. It seems that this whole movie is divided along the insinuation that all big business is the Evil Empire, while independent and small business is the Rebel Alliance. Anyone who wears a suit to work is evil and underhanded, while hard working blue collar Americans will never leave a man behind. Watching Company Men it soon becomes clear that everyone who's not a Walker is a static character with little to no use (or depth) outside of the Walker's. And just when you can't take anymore the entire thing ends with a resolution that flies in the face of reality but feels like warm blankets, and a shot of a well chosen but glaring metaphor for a struggling America.

This is a movie that I am very sad to have to say I didn't like. It feels more like a missed opportunity than anything else. Boiled down it struck (and strikes) me as a chance to tell a very poignant story at a time when people are most willing to hear it. But writing and direction that tries far to hard to stir emotions gets in the way. I expected much more from a script penned by a man with The West Wing on his writing resume but Aaron Sorkin, Wells is not. The questionable script is unable to overcome it's blemishes in the hands of an inexperienced Director. At it's heart is a strong and emotional impinging story that ends up drowning in a thousand bad calls. It's truly a shame; I was so ready to love Company Men.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Boiler Room: Ben briefly but bringing his best.
Rachel Getting Married: A good movie, a great performance from DeWitt.
Married Life: A smart film with Cooper shining out of his element.