Monday, April 30, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Darkest Hour

2011, Chris Gorak (Right At Your Door) -- download

Is this going to be a new trend in alien invasion movies?  Instead of the massive floating ships of the 80s (V), 90s (Independence Day) and the 00s (District 9) we get pretty floating lights falling from the sky (Skyline) that disguise the deadly intent of the invaders?  In the typical invasion movie, the beachfront is obvious with the massive ships dropping troop carriers and enemy aliens (Battle Los Angeles) reminding us of our own wars and setting our sights on a very obvious enemy. In this movie, we have a gentle beginning full of beauty which is transformed immediately to terror when the pretty lights disintegrate a police man in a burst of dust and minimal flame.  It is strange but this movie establishes almost a monster-movie mentality as the invaders cannot be seen and are very hard to detect let alone hide from.

The novel setting of the movie gives us two American visitors to Russia having a very The Social Network like experience, seeing their "great website idea" stolen out from under them by a co-investor. That is also made stranger given Max Minghella was IN that movie.  Anywayz, this is just an excuse to get the movie to Russia, a very unfamiliar (but lovely) Russia of crowded streets of young & beautiful, pretty vistas and big shopping malls.  I am not sure why the movie was set in Russia, for it contributes little to the plot. What it does contribute is the obvious heavy handed nature of the backers as certain characters and certain situations must have been directly written by the Russian producers.  "Russians are tough, Russians are resourceful, Russians are very loyal !!" 

It was a very very B-movie of stilted dialogue, dispensable characters and scenes lifted from the cliche box of all monster & alien movies.  The inserts of the Russian supporting cast actually made it more fun as they looked like they walked out of the FPS adaptation of the movie to assist the usual weak-willed panicking characters of such movies as this.  Nothing is really, truly bad but nothing ever reaches out and establishes itself as a fresh take on the genre.  So they learn to fight back -- they always learn to fight back -- but I would have liked to something more to the typical get invaded, get devastated, learn alien motivation, learn to fight back sequence.  Still the latest version of people-go-poof attack was very well CGIed and horrifying to see, especially when we realize they will indeed kill the puppy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Grey

2011, Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces, The A-Team) --- download

Once again I bring up that I like small focused movies and present this as an example.  The premise is just that -- small and focused, where we have a small group of survivors deciding to walk out of their air crash predicament and are hounded by hungry wolves the entire way.  That is it, just the walking and surviving.  And of course, the weather, the grey bleak northern clime that gives the movie its name. 

Liam Neeson does these movies so well, wrapping himself up in a character whose emotional landscape is also the reason for the movie's title. He is a man at the end of his life, at the end of the world, in a drilling camp somewhere we assume must be northern Alaska but would have been better suited if set in remote Nunavut.  He has lost someone, someone he loved and cannot live without. But his suicide is interrupted by his job in the camp, the defense of the men, against wolves. These are not the fuzzy, wuzzy wolves we have been raised with, those that are more afraid of men than they are a danger.  These are the Big Bad Wolves of German forests who eat people and carry an evil, cunning with them. The interruption gives him a reprieve and sits him on a plane flying south, taking the hard, dangerous and angry men who work the camp. But then the plane crashes and these men find out exactly how not hard they are.

The ensuing walking battle between the survivors of the plane crash and the huge dark, mostly CGI wolves is not remotely realistic.  These are monsters, not pack running mammals of the Canadian wood.  Their growls echo loudly in the hills, even more haunting than their howls.  Their attacks are timed with deadly precision, more cunning than the men can conceive.  But Neeson's Ottway knows these wolves, fearing and respecting them where the others walking with him are just set dressing, showing just how little mankind controls this wilderness. They are loud, violent and despairing fools given only the role to die under teeth and claws.  Only Ottway is destined to survive, a man who defies his own desire to die not so much that he wants to live but for the simple fact he has been given a choice of how he will die, repeatedly quoting his father's poem, "Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I'll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: In Time

2011, Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne) -- download

Yes, I am that guy who is fond of those light-weight scifi movies.  I enjoyed I, Robot and Minority Report purely because I enjoy being presented with The Future.  And that italicize is a phrase, not another movie reference.  I like the glossy technology and the postulated extravagances.  Too bad but the only futuristic element of this movie is the premise -- that in the future, nobody ages past 25 (and apparently are engineered as beautiful) but then they have one year left. This one year is counted down on a sub-dermal clock and the seconds, minutes, hours and days are traded like rare commodities.  Yes, the cliche of how previous time is.

Niccol's previous movies are about the moral implications that technology sticks us with, whether it gene manipulation, artificial life or even just the age old ease of access to firearms.  There is a hint of a morality play in this movie but it's really hard to find in all the pretty people running around jumping off things and waving guns around.  The story would have been better if it had been an adaptation of a PK Dick story for the conspiracy would have been deeper and the cynicism so much more dark.  Alas the simple story is that it is wrong to steal time from people in order to just stay relativistically young and beautiful.

I could have forgiven the story if it was just a little more ... futuristic.  So, we have an established lower class where they live in fear of their 26th year. They have to trade time for food, for amenities and for the basic necessities of life.  Oh yeah, and booze.  And gambling.  They are all completely tied down by their need for more time.  Add in a few more puns or cliches cuz the movie sure does.  Meanwhile a few concrete blocks away the rich and beautiful lives for hundreds of years just because they are rich. But if they have this much time, why is technology and lifestyle so stunted and ... familiar?  Beyond the tech that establishes their world, there is not much else to enjoy.  So, all we end up with is a Bonnie & Clyde story of freeing time for everyone.  Pun.  Cliche.  Pun. Beautiful body. Cliche.  I don't have time for this.

Friday, April 20, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Red Tails

2012, Anthony Hemingway (a bunch of TV including CSI and Treme) -- cinema

I admit, when I saw the ads for this movie, I was sucked into the cheese. I like heroic movies, I like war movies and it is a nice change of pace to see one that was less gritty-and-realistic and more rah-rah, like they were in the 40s.  I ignored the whole George Lucas connection on this because, as all us geeks know, he really isn't worth any cred these days.  The Tuskegee Airmen is one of those spots in war history that I have bumped into a few times but never absorbed much about, only really knowing they were an all black fighter pilot group who continued to fight racism ever after being deployed to Europe during the war. Accurate historical depiction or not, I hoped for a movie about heroics and dog fights.

I say I was sucked in, but really, I was more suckered. That speech in the trailers where the commander says they are going to provide bomber support and for every plane they save, that is another father going home to his family, another brother, another husband.  They might not be sent out to be true fighter pilots but the support of the bomber divisions was important work and it was the hot shots who were causing the losses as much as the german pilots.  I get that, I like the idea of highlighting the underdog support group.  I am all about the little guys who get the job done so the big guys can perform their tasks. And the whole "to the last bullet... last minute... last man" is stirring.  Too bad the rest of the movie, in it's entirety, fell completely on its face.

I get the ensemble cast for a war movie, different guys from different backgrounds of different temperaments and personalities. It makes a war movie, especially when they gel together for the big goal. But for gawds sake, get some actors who can carry it off.  Let's ignore the guys who cannot separate themselves from being from 2012 but even the guys who were able to live in the history, carried their character's personalities like cardboard standups.  Lines were stilted, unbelievable and left me constantly rolling my eyes.  I could forgive Cuba Gooding's constant pipe chomping if I could believe him as an experienced Major.  Don't get me started on Terrence Howard looking like he was about to cry.  To be honest, the only characters I actually got wrapped up in were Method Man and Andre Royo as the two crewmen/mechanics.  I guess small characters supporting small guys came across well? If they only just saturated the movie with exciting dog fights so we could just ignore our boredom with the actual acting, then maybe, I would have had a more favorable memory of this movie.  Alas, no.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

2012, Jonathan Liebesman -- theatre

The Clash of the Titans remake from 2010 left what could be called an absence of impression upon me.  Fact of the matter was I couldn't remember the film at all, so I had convinced myself that my lack of memory of the film meant it must've been an utter failure, and a complete piece of shit.

Imagine my surprise upon digging through my old blog archives to find that I kind of liked it.  Okay, perhaps "kinda liked" is too strong... more appreciated the technical side of it (having watched in 2D rather than the universally panned 3-D conversion) but was all to aware of its failure in storytelling. 

Having absolutely no fondness for the first installment, expectations for the second installment weren't even low, they were nil.  I flat out ignored any set reports, any buzz, any reviews, and kept myself detached entirely from trailers and commercials.  I just didn't care, and didn't have any desire to see it.  But the power of free passes beckoned, and with a willing -- nay, eager -- compatriot in David to go with, off I went.

And I'll be damned if I didn't like it. 

While I'd like to tell you what's different between Wrath and Clash, obviously, given my lack of memory of Clash (there was precious little recall happening whilst watching the latest), it's a dicey proposition.   What I appreciated most about this latest production was how streamlined and focused the story was.  It's a bare bones adventure plot that starts at point A, points at point B and moves unwavering towards it.  Most films of this sort get sidelined by all sorts of diversions, and for some the diversions make the story, and for others it kills it.  Wrath goes virtually diversion free.  It does so by sacrificing a lot of in depth character and relationship building, but it's also not entirely necessary.  In this case the minimal amount it provides is about all it needs.  Anything more would more than likely be hokey or painfully weak but left as primarily glances or the briefest of exchanges, it actually has more meaning.

There's a "troubled relationships between fathers and sons" aspect to the film, as Zeus (Liam Neeson) is captured by his brother, Hades (Ralph Feinnes) and offered up as a sacrifice to their father, the Titan Chronos (yes, there's an actual Titan in this one) as he shows signs of breaking free of his prison.  Hades is joined by Zeus' estranged son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), while his other, beloved son Perseus (Sam Worthington) is his only hope.  Perseus reluctantly accepts the quest to abandon his own son rescue his father.  Joined by the son of the recently slain Poseidon, seeking to honor his own father,  and Andromeda (Rosamond Pike), whom Perseus should fall in love with any minute now, they set off for the Underworld, encountering obstacles such as the Cyclopes giants, the Minotaur and, of course, Ares before the big final battle against an unleashed Chronos.

Unlike the last film, there's more right than wrong here, even though the story itself isn't remotely connected to the myths.  Set at a time when belief in the Gods are dwindling there's a lack of power available, which makes the displays of them all the more impressive.  Chronos particularly was a visual wonder, an oozing molten mess, standing tall as a skyscraper, absolutely monstrous and seemingly unstoppable.  The display of abilities by Zeus and Hades, equally, was impressive, with a nice distinction in the effects of their powers.

After the fact I learned that the film was the product of Jonathan Liebsman, director of the equally focused and direct Battle: Los Angeles (which astute G&DSD readers will recall being the inspiring film for this blog).  Suddenly my enjoyment of this film made a lot more sense.  Liebsman is proving that an idea doesn't need to be complicated to work as a film and that with good direction, relentless action can create a momentum all its own that doesn't need to be overwhelmed with forced drama or cliched character distractions to be appealing.  Sometimes simpler is better.  In this case, it's certainly better than what came before.

We're not talking anything groundbreaking, anything challenging here, just enjoyable, escapist, at times pleasing and awe inspiring entertainment.  Sometimes that's just good enough.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Altitude

2010, Kaare Andrews (comic book artist & writer) -- download

Ever heard of sky squids?  No, either had I. But apparently they are one of those cryptozoological creatures covered by the Fortean Times that stretch the limits of believability.  They are supposed to be a flying version of those giant white squids that few believed Newfoundlanders were finding for decades. Ancient gods of the flying sphagetti monster religion?  Cthulhu's illegitimate children? Whatever they are supposed to be, they do make for a rather novel creature that goes bump in the night, especially when the night surrounds your small, light aircraft and you are not the only thing in the sky.

Like the Campbellian archetypes of horror movies, we are given a small group of college students on their way somewhere for the weekend, destined for dark events.  We have the usual group: the jock, the skank, the dweeb, the average guy and the good girl.  A short flight later Sara, the pilot and the good girl of this story, loses control of the plane to an errant nut (as in screw) and the control of the cabin to the other errant nut, her boyfriend the dweeb. His fear of flying and the storm they have just flown uncontrollably into ignites a panic attack. It doesn't help that he is being teased by the jock and the average guy over his fondness for classic comic books.  Then, in flashes of lightning we are given glimses of ... something.  OK, not something, but a very obvious giant kracken of a sky squid.

This is your usual closed room horror given a spin by containing it to the cockpit of the personal aircraft.  Our characters shout at each other, cry, fight and blame each other as the fear mounts. Not only are they at odds with the monster but the environment and each other.  There is no slasher to take the kids out one by one, but tentacled nastiness definitely does begin to take the kids out... of the plane.  But the fun of the story is not in the cliches of the genre but the flip it does. In the end, we are given more a Twilight Zone style story of mental abilities and effecting the timestream. Oh, we get that this squid is not flying in the same world as we are, that the plane has flown into some place ... else... but even though, as the ending's proximity alert sounded, I expected what was to come, it was enjoyably not what I expected when I clicked play.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

2011, Michael Bay -- Netflix

I get why critics hate the Transformers movies.  They're loud and in your face, they feature convoluted plots but give you little reason to care about the outcome.  The character focus is not on the titular Transformers, who have next to no personality or even really motivation of their own, other than Decepticons are the bad guys who want to take over the planet and the Autobots are the good guys who want to stop them.  Forget that in this film the Autobots are effectively reduced to slave labor for US military special operations and essentially told to step in line.  What they actually want doesn't really matter.

The character focus instead, again, lies on Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), who, after saving the universe twice, is now an unemployed college graduate lamenting ad nauseum about his status in life, despite having a "hot", well-employed girlfriend who supports him no matter what (that is until he decides to try and save the world again at which point she becomes yet another of the selfish whiny bitch girlfriend stereotypes that big Bro action films like these like to create).  LeBeouf's character is still self-conscious, and still runs at the mouth a mile a minute without a censor in a razor-thin tightrope of amusing/annoying dialogue.

At the third movie of the series, there's been precious little character development in Sam Witwicky's life, and, to be frank, he contributes very little to the proceedings, other than allowing the effects department to take a break for about an hour out of it's 155-minute run-time.  His Megan Fox replacement, Rosie Huntington-Whitely is even more a useless character, with only his boss (an unnecessarily padded cameo from John Malkovich) and her boss (the modern cliche of the moustache twirling villain played by Patrick Dempsey) usurping the both of them in pointlessness.  About an hour of this film's plot and "character development" could easily have been expunged without really harming the story at all.

The story that would remain is that of the Autobots, who discover that the US military have been withholding information about a crash landing of a Transformers spaceship on the moon back in the 1950's, which is what spawned the space race.  This is set up in a well-handled flashback sequence that opens the film and is further embellished with shameless appearances from various Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldren, telling of their exploration and extractions of the spacecraft.   What is further revealed is that Optimus Prime's predecessor, Sentinel Prime (voice by Leonard Nemoy, in a nod to the 80's Transformers movie) has been in storage and Optimus resuscitates him. Etc. Etc.

Really, your enjoyment level of the Transformers movie will depend almost entirely on how invested you can get in the war of the Autobots versus the Decepticons (although I imagine there's a tipping point that if you're a big, big fan of Transformers, the movies might be disappointing in their lack of Transformers character development).

Dark of the Moon positively jiggles with fat, for nearly 2/3 of its running time, but in some respects, it's not all that bad.  Like some sort of chubby chaser, I think the films fat was kind of enjoyable... excessive yet still entertaining in a way.  There was no reason to have John Malcovich playing Sam's whackadoo boss, but it's kind of fun that he's there.  A cameo from Community's Ken Jeong as a conspiracy nut was a flagrant deus ex machina, and yet, I enjoyed it.  Was it necessary to have John Turturro back once more?  No, but seeing him molest his friend's wife (Francis McDormand, wife of one of them Coen brothers) was kind of fun.  Did we need a visit from Sam's parents?  No, but I think Kevin Dunn and Julie White are fabulous.  And Alan Tudyk's weird German assistant to Turturro with a black ops past?  Ridiculous, but scene stealing, and wildly amusing.  It's all just deep fried butter, but it would be meaningless if not for the chocolate covered bacon it accompanies.

Sweet and salty is the third act, a nearly hour-long action set piece in the heart of Chicago, with the Autobots and Decepticons running wild, blowing shit up at every turn, skyscrapers toppling over after being compromised by some weird robotic worm thing.  There's paragliding suits which are fricking amazing to see in action (not a CGI effect) weaving between buildings, and Bay has finally honed his robot fighting to a degree where you can actually makes sense out of what you're watching.  I may never watch this film in its entirety again, but I'd definitely watch this sequence over and over and over.

The film, and the entire series' biggest failure is in the design of the Transformers.  They're unnecessarily busy, obtusely complicated, and downright ugly, making them hard to look at and even harder to appreciate.  The fact that the Decepticons are rather generic and lack much if any colour makes them disposable and indistinguishable villains (whereas the Autobots at least are coloured distinctly to differentiate them).

Given the massive financial success of these films, obviously the populace, if not the critical community is enjoying them.  I get it, they're not good films, but they are goddamn entertaining ... for the right crowd.  I would never recommend this movie to anyone, but I also won't say I didn't enjoy it.

3 short paragraphs: The Lorax

2012, Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda -- In Theatre

Okay, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but the first time I'd ever heard of the Lorax was on a Saturday Night Live sketch during the New York Gubernatorial election when Jimmy McMillan, founder of "The Rent Is Too Damn High" Party where he was referred to as "The Black Lorax" (because he has a big, swooping, Lorax-ian moustache).  The name stuck in my brain only to find out, oh, about a year later that the Lorax was a relatively famous Dr. Seuss-ian creation that was being made into a CGI animated movie by the makers of Despicable Me.  As the promotional materials, trailers, commercials and reviews started hitting I became more and more aware of Seuss' ecological-inspired character/story but still not familiar at all with it.

The marketing definitely worked on my kids, aged 10 and 2, the latter of whom became obsessed with the Lorax after staring at a poster for the film for 20 minutes on a subway ride (this is why there are laws about advertising to children on television).  So I took them to the theatre and it was definitely an experience to remember, more because it was my daughter's first experience at the movies than really anything to do with the picture itself, which was passably entertaining and visually stimulating, but bloated and preachy but without really getting the message.

It's an oversimplified eco-fairy tale about consumer excess, but lacking any of the subtlety of WALL-E's rather alarmist view of mankind's ever-expanding need for stuff.  There's a decent half hour of story in there, which, if extracted, would probably equal Seuss' source material.  The add-ons were obvious, including a whole plot about a kid (Zac Efron) who wants to impress a girl (Taylor Swift) by finding her a tree (which have long been depleted) who is led to the hermit outside city walls.  There a story is told by the Once-ler (Ed Helms) of his own part in the destruction of all that was beautiful and wonderful in nature, despite warnings from the friendly, if annoying magical protector of the forest, the Lorax (Danny DeVito). It's at first a charming, then alarming story that features a slew of cute little bears, awkward birds, and fish that walk on land, who slowly come to learn they're defenseless against the power of a resource-consuming society they're not a part of.  Once the story is over, it's up to the kid to bring nature back to life by planting a seed, but the evil owner of the canned fresh air company (Rob Riggle) does everything in his city-wide power to stop nature's resurgence.  In the end, it's fine, but it's not that exciting, and really only needed a third of its running time to tell.  The kids liked it though, but they have no discerning tastes at all (and my 2 year old was about done by the start of the third act... but then, she is only two).  It is a very striking poster though.

Friday, April 6, 2012

John Carter

2012, Andrew Stanton -- In Theatre

Maybe it's just me.  Maybe I'm just not wired right to enjoy the Barsoon stories as I've tried a few times recently to read A Princess of Mars, both the original text and the recent Dynamite Comics adaptation.  I made it roughly halfway through the novel and about four issues into the series before giving up.  Okay, that might not be fully accurate.  I actually did enjoy reading the stories, but, I gave up the comic series because I though spending $4 per issue on a story I could download for free from Project Gutenberg was a colossal waste of money, and I've just not managed to pick up reading the novel where I left off months ago.  Watching John Carter was the first time I made it through the story, and yet I could tell, even with my limited exposure, it was an inauthentic experience.

I have great respect for director Andrew Stanton's Pixar work, but all the seemingly effortless charm, warmth, emotion and adventure Stanton was able to create in Finding Nemo and Up is missing from John Carter, which is a labored over, convoluted, and exhausting envisioning of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars.  The first ten minutes alone is a dizzying whirlwind of exposition (detailing the history conflict between two of Mars' populations), an abrupt transition to turn-of-the-20th-century America where John Carter is followed by a typical Kafka-esque figure, a tedious introduction to Carter's nephew (Edgar Rice Burroughs) who is the inheritor of Carter's estate following his death, and then a narrative backtrack into Carter's past as a Confederate veteran and aspiring prospector.  It's a plodding half hour before Carter winds up on Mars, and while the intentions are there to establish Carter as a reluctant soldier and selfish warrior, it really serves to keep Carter an ambiguous protagonist, and not much of an enticing hero.

As, really, the first major planet-spanning sci-fi fantasy that both establishes alien settings and cultures, Burroughs' Barsoon series can no doubt be a major influence on much of the SF that followed it.  In this regard it's hard to damn John Carter as a film for feeling so derivative of works as disparate as Star Wars, Planet of the Apes and Masters of the Universe, and yet there's direly little that feels exciting or innovative throughout it's lengthy run time.

The major sticking point for purists seems to be the translation of the Therns, from a near-extinct, conniving, secretive, manipulative race to a mythical race of demi-gods with fantastical powers.  They stick out like an albino at a Black Panthers rally.  What I had hoped from John Carter would be more of a Sci-Fi/Western/Fantasy hybrid, and the religion and magic as introduced via the Therns perpetually feels like it was shoehorned in, continually steering the story away from what seems like its natural path.

The film seems to lack focus in general and if there's a theme to the film, I can't place it.  There's a love story, but it's not very central.  There's an aspect of family, but that's only touched upon tangentially.  There's a religious angle, but it seems more world building than a theme.  There's the old "what it means to be a hero" but John Carter never becomes the hero he seems like he should be (he's terminally self-serving, and we're supposed to like him, but being the only human of the picture he's quite hard to identify with).  There seems to be an anti-war screed somewhere within, but it's not committed to. There's preaching about separate races coming together, but if it was an intended allegory in 1912, it's kind of lost today.

The world of Barsoon is well established as a desert planet in the film, with the Tharks civilization building organically outward from it.  As such the metal, fabric, and super-science of Helium and Zodanga, in particular the film's Roman-influenced design, conflict with the setting.  There's obviously a great deal of money spent in bringing these environments and characters to life, and I guess it's praiseworthy that they succeed in making it all feel tangible rather than look just effects, but it still doesn't seem nearly as awe-inspiring or fantastical as it should.

Stanton's direction is serviceable and unobtrusive, but there's no style there either.  At times the film feels like an animated production, with characters expositing aloud frequently, which works with the separation from reality that animation provides but in a live action picture feels clunky and unnatural.  It's a shame after watching Brad Bird triumph with style transitioning to live action with Mission Impossible 4 that Stanton couldn't match him with John Carter.  It truly feels like the product of someone uncomfortable with the size, scope and format of the project before him.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Bad Santa

2003, Terry Zwigoff (Ghostworld, Art School Confidential) -- download

Yes, the last of the Xmas movies from... well, just before Xmas.  This was the unexpected choice as I usually shy away from movies about completely unlikeable people.  Remember Billy Bob's unlikeable American president in Love, Actually ?  I thought that was the perfect Billy Bob character because I generally think that is the way he is.  So, escalate that personality as a nasty, criminal Santa, and I am cringing.  But I was also curious as I have heard a lot of good things about the movie.  I did not know that it was by the same guy as a handful of movies I really liked, in fact, I liked all of this other movies.

Billy Bob plays a criminal, a thug in a Santa suit who insinuates himself into a shopping mall with his equally criminal sidekick elf.  They set their place dealing with cranky kids and demanding moms but once the season is just about done, they spend a night in the mall and rob it blind.  I am not sure if malls would actually retain a massive safe full of money, as I always thought each store handles their own deposits, but that is what they do, along with a long shopping list filled.  Really, if you are robbing a mall, wouldn't you also just do your own complete list of shopping?

Now, Billy Bob's Willie is completely despicable.  He is a drunk, he is nasty, he swears and he is just astoundingly crass.  He abuses the kids, mouths off to everyone and can barely hold it together long enough to do the job.  He pisses himself.  There is absolutely nothing to make you root for this character. And yet, as things progress in the current Xmas caper, you kind of do.  He gets wrapped up in the life of a ... well, the most politically correct thing you can say is a mentally challenged kid.  But really he is more just a very very damaged young boy.  Willie might just be living in the kid's house as a place to stay and completely taking advantage of him but I think it's because he actually sees the kid is even more messed up than Willie sees himself, that he actually tries to help the kid, ever so faintly.  We never should actually like Willie but compared to his homicidal partner and the crazy mall security head who tries to find the evidence of what Willie and the elf (ok, dwarf actually) are up to, we kind of do.  The movie was worth the cringes I felt and it was actually as well done as I would expect from the director.