Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bringing In The New Years With Reviews And A Look At The Rubik's Cube Filmography

"Now I have seen a lot of movies. I've taken classes and have seen many of what people consider to be classics but I have to say that JACKASS 2 is the greatest movie I have ever seen!" - Overheard at the Blue Horn Lounge, Chapel Hill 2006 


With hope 2007 will be a better year for movies than 2006. I mean it is very difficult to make a best of the year list (especially since there are many movies I have yet to see) but making a worst of list is as easy as 1,2,3 - those being: 1. SNAKES ON A PLANE 2. LADY IN THE WATER and 3. CLERKS 2. Maybe, I'll let you know what 4-10 are later. I've already spent a chunk of the new year in a dark dank theater and here's some of what I've seen:

CHILDREN OF MEN (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron) This movie kind of snuck up on all of us because of little to no publicity but it is buzzing rapidly now and may really soar come awards season. It sure deserves to - its an exhilirating yet rough ride well worth taking. Set in the grimy future of 2027 it depicts London as a warzone and the human race on the verge of extinction because of world wide infertility. 

Activists (Clive Owen and Julianne Moore doing their gritty best) struggle to protect the sole pregnant saviour (Claire Hope-Ashitey) and may have to sacrifice themselves to complete the mission. Some may be turned off by the harsh unpolished nature of this picture but I believe most will find CHILDREN OF MEN to be one Hell of an satisfying experience.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (Dir. Gabrielle Muccino) This played at my theater for a few weeks before I saw it so I heard a lot of comments in the lobby. "Not enough happiness!" one lady exclaimed. It's about the pursuit you see... Essentially a series of worst case scenarios, HAPPYNESS deposits Ernest Will Smith and real-life son Jaden into a tale of the American dream gone sour in the Reagan era *. Based on the true hard luck story turned inspiration tome, hospital equipment salesman Chris Gardener (Will Smith) can't seem to get a break and neither do we watching his tedious trials. 

The movie does contain the best acting I've ever seen Smith do, the kid is cute, and the heart is in the right place so put me down for a 'liked it'. The lady was right, it seems. It could have done with more happiness. 

* One unwritten rule ('til now) is that every movie set in the 80's has to have a Rubik's cube in it. Another rule of the popular puzzle is if you want to show an audience that a character is smart, ambitious and can get the job done - show them quickly solving a Rubik's cube to the amazement of others.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS obeys both rules to a tee. Will Smith on his Oprah appearance to promote the film even proved he could solve it and did so during a commercial break. So since the 25th anniversary of the Rubik's cube came and went in 2005 with little notice (from me at least) I thought it would be a good time to pay tribute to the multi-colored brain teaser with a handy snappy list: 


1. THE WEDDING SINGER (Dir. Frank Coraci, 1998) Set in 1985 this Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom com definitively cast the cube as a time setting prop. Barrymore's bimbo ditz sister Holly (Christine Taylor) frustrated that she cannot solve the popular puzzle, declares that "no one will ever solve that thing." 

2. THE SIMPSONS (TV, 1989 -to when the show is no longer profitable) The Rubik's Cube has been featured in a number of episodes but probably the most notable was from "Homer Defined" (airdate : 10/17/91). Homer receving on the job training at the nuclear plant (in an 80's flashback of course) misses out on vital life-saving information because of his pre-occupation with the cube. 

3. DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? (Dir. Danny Leiner, 2000) Wikipedia tells me that in this Ashton Kutcher/Seann William Scott stoner comedy a Rubik's Cube serves as the MacGuffin. I'm sure Erno Rubik is very proud at the cinematic homage herein. 4. UHF (Dir. Jay Levey, 1989) - Used for a cheap sight gag involving a blind man trying to solve it with a homeless man's help, the cube ends the 80's in something resembling style - I mean this hit or miss Weird Al Yankovic vehicle did become a cult classic or at least something resembling one. 

5. DEATHTRAP (Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1982) There's not a single Rubik's cube in this witty thriller but check out the poster! Only a year after it hit the scene the cube is co-opted by movie ad campaign. Now that's marketing. 

6. THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR (TV 1990-1996) This makes the list soley because of the Will Smith HAPPYNESS connection. Smith solves the cube in moments during an interview for Princeton in an episode from the 90's staple. Just warming up I guess. 

7. ARMAGEDDON (Dir. Michael Bay, 1998) - NASA employs Rubik's Cubes as testing tools for astronauts in training. Did you know that? I sure didn't but after the over 2 hours wasted watching this Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck save the world monstrosity I'm glad to have learned something. 

8. RUBIK THE AMAZING CUBE (TV 1983-1984) - Christ, I forgot this existed! After watching some clips and reading the info on this quick cash-in cartoon all I cansay is it looks like complete crap. 

9. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (TV, 1975-FOREVER) SNL satirized the snazzy primary-colored pop fad several times but the funniest has to be Rubik's Hand Grenade - "maybe the last game you'll ever play" the announcer ominously concludes. 

10. ANCHORMAN : THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (Dir. Adam McKay, 2004) Man, like just about everything else this movie gets the cube angle wrong. 

As noted on Amazon's lengthy goofs section: "The movie is set in the mid 1970s, but when Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is crying about his dog, Bryan has a 2x2 Rubik's Cube on his desk. The famous 3x3 Rubik's Cube wasn't introduced in the U.S. until the 1979 Christmas season, and variations weren't introduced until the 1980s." Yep - it had to be noted because it'll surely happen again - the cube as anachronism. 

More later...

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