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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

7 Dwarves: Men Alone in The Woods

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By Craig R.


Until now, my only exposure to German humor has been Sprockets, on Saturday Night Live, which one could argue doesn't count. I have generally stayed away from German humor because of prejudice in thinking that they are a dour, brooding people. I guess that may be a result of watching only German horror, World War II movies, and documentaries on the History/Military Channel. I wasn't sure of what I was getting myself into with this experimentation.

Not appearing in this film.
7 Dwarfs, (in German: 7 Zwerge), is not surprisingly a take on the Grimm Brothers’ story. It is set in an alternate universe (I’m guessing), where there is a bright side, the cozy home for humans, which was created in 6 days, and a dark side, the Sinister Forest, which was created on the 7th. Of course, the Dwarfs live in the Sinister Forest.  A river separates the two, which no one is supposed to cross. We are introduced to the dwarfs when Little Red Riding Hood crosses the bridge, tempted by a flower, and is seen by one of them (Bibi).


This kind of sets events into motion, because Bubi had never seen a woman before, and becomes curious, asking "Are there any more of those creatures with no willie?". The others, led by Brummboss, try to curb his interest, by reminding him that he was abandoned  (tossed out of a hot air balloon) by his mother, who was a bank robber, so that she could make an escape. They decide to take measures to prevent any more women from crossing the river. Since they are unable to blow up the bridge, they use other, much less effective, means.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to the Evil Queen, who, as usual, is vain, and being blonde, all of the jokes her jester tells must be about brunettes (he is later thrown in the dungeon because he is caught telling blonde jokes). When asking her mirror the usual question, (Do I really need to tell you?) finds out that Snow White is still alive (servants were told to "get rid" of her, but thought that meant to take her to an orphanage). After the Queen sends her huntsman to find Snow White, the mirror warns her, and she escapes to the Sinister Forest.


The rest of the story plays out pretty much the same as the story that we are familiar with: Snow White meets the Dwarfs, and improves their lives. 
The Huntsman and the Queen pursue Snow into the forest, eventually capturing her, in order to execute her (for the crime of deliberate & delicious beauty). The Dwarfs go to the rescue. Being a comedy, there are detours on their way to the rescue, but of course the dwarfs eventually succeed. There is at least one twist, though not really surprising, if one is paying attention, but I won't spoil it.

Snow White and the lads

A running joke is that they aren't really dwarfs, they just call themselves that. They don't even have real beards, but fake ones that they wear whenever going out into the forest. They are actually a sort of He-Man Woman Haters' Club, like in the Our Gang series (google it). They are each in the forest to get away from women, who had somehow done them a serious (mostly perceived) wrong. Each had answered an ad placed by Brummboss.  

You thought I was lying about the beards?

This movie is really funny, and dense with jokes. I generally dislike comparisons to other movies, but it's necessary here, because the humor covers a broad range. Like with the Police Squad and Airplane franchises, and Mel Brooks films there are constant gags. Even during serious scenes, there is something happening in the background, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. Also like those films, much of the humor is visual and absurd, and based on the characters not being very bright, or as bright as they think they are.

There is also quite a bit of slapstick humor (their favorite games involve hitting each other with boards), like The Three Stooges.  Most of the Stooge-type humor is dealt in a Moe Howard style. Unfortunately for Bubi, he, like Larry Fine, gets most of the abuse.

Of all of the characters, only Brummboss, and the Queen's Jester appear to have any sense. Well, that might not be totally fair, since Snow White and  Bubi's cluelessness probably has more to do with their naiveté than lack of sense or intelligence. At the beginning of the film, Snow is only 17, and Bubi has only ever known the forest, and what the other dwarfs have told him (If women are nice to you, it's only to trick you).

I have two major pet peeves about comedies, bathroom humor, and direct references to other movies. Thankfully, there is no bathroom humor in this film, though there is some mild sexual innuendo (the Dwarfs' hats pointing straight up when they first meet Snow White, and the "willie" remark"). My other peeve is present here, though there is only one occurrence. At one point, pretty much randomly, Brummboss seeks the counsel of a Gandalf-type character (please don't admit to googling that). Really, that is my only criticism of the movie, it just sticks out, and didn't seem to help move the action. Unless a film is a sequel or a type of spin off, it should be like cheese, and stand alone.

I highly recommend 7 Dwarfs. It is highly amusing, and is quickly paced, 
a great, original take on the classic story, and the cast all appear to be great comedic actors. Having been filmed entirely on a soundstage, it has a classic fairy tale-type feel. Unless I missed something, outside of the slight innuendo, it is probably suitable for all ages.

To summarize how much I enjoyed this film, I rarely laugh during Comedies, but I laughed out loud more than a few times watching it.

7 Dwarfs is in German, with subtitles, and is available on Netflix and Amazon Instant. I give it 6 1/2 of 7 pointy hats. I docked it 1/2 a hat because of a terrible song, their version of Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho. 

Note: The trailer below has no subtitles, but it still gives a great feel for the movie.


                                         7 Zwerge Trailer

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Iron Sky (or How Politics Ruined A Foolproof Concept)

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By Craig R.

This is not an overtly political blog. Genre movies should not have overtly political messages,  and if there is one, it should be subtle enough that the viewer does not notice it until long after it is over. Yes, Matt and I are conservatives, and fair or not, that affects the way we view movies. That being said, the following review is a political screed, and I would promise that it won’t happen again, but I don’t want to make myself into a liar later on. 

Nazis. On. The. Moon. What a perfect, foolproof idea! Nazis are the gift that just keep giving. They were so diabolical that they make the perfect villain. In a world that many want to view as having many shades of grey, they were pure evil. They were also secretive, and they controlled so much of Europe, that new things are constantly being discovered about them, and there are some things that the world may never know. That is the basis of Iron Sky, that towards the end of the war, a group of Nazis escaped to the moon, and built a secret base, with plans to one day return to the Earth and conquer it. That is just a great freaking idea.

Unfortunately, the people behind the film blew it. As I mentioned before, if a genre film, heck, any type if film, has a message, it should be subtle enough that if someone wants to think back over their viewing, they might realize the message on their own, and easily put it out of their mind, if they so choose. If a film has an overt message, it can offend viewers, who relate their displeasure to their friends and family, who in turn may choose not to see the film. The latter route is the one that Iron Sky chose to take.

Their mistake, as far as whatever my opinion is worth, was to blatantly mock Sarah Palin. The first time you see the character based on her, she’s working out on a stair climber, in the Oval Office, dressed similarly to the famous Runner’s World cover:

Anyway, the character is portrayed as Palin often is, as something of a shallow ditz. The basic plot, or what I gathered from as much as I could bear to watch, was that for her reelection, she chose, or her staff directed her to choose (because they’re her puppet masters dontcha’ know) an ethnic male model, to attract certain voter blocs. He is then sent on a mission to the moon, where he stumbles upon the Nazi base, and is captured. That’s about as far as I got.

I quit watching when the Palin character was introduced. Lampooning her in such a blatant way irritated me, to the point that I couldn’t focus on the movie any longer. I wasn’t annoyed by the simple fact they mocked her. Every pubic figure has aspects of their personality that are fair game to be mocked. The problem I had was the fact that they were lazy about it. All they basically did with the character was copy a Saturday Night Live skit, where they made her look dumb. Whether you are a fan of Palin’s, or not, that is just plain lazy, and you should be offended by that. 

The reason that you should be offended is that the writers didn’t think any more of their target audience than to throw a caricature at you. There should be no sacred cows in satire, but for the love of Pete, if you’re going to mock someone, be creative about it. A personal example: I’m a native Southerner, and for my entire life, we’ve been mocked as dumb, inbred rednecks. Anyway, back in the ‘80s (I think) Dennis Miller refers to the South as “Darwin’s Waiting Room”. Was I offended? Heck no, I thought it was hilarious. Why? He actually put thought into his insult, which in an odd way showed respect for both the target, and the audience. 

Wow, I got way off track there. 

I tried to watch Iron Sky about five months ago, to do a review here. I quit watching between fifteen and thirty minutes into it, after the Palin character was introduced. I had totally put it out of my mind, until today. Whatever genius was running Netflix’s Twitter account decided that it would be a good idea to tweet this:

Wow, way to go, on the day that they announced that they were losing the Warner Brothers catalogue. Last year they lost Starz, and they may very well lose Viacom. Those titles just aren’t going away, they are going to competitors, and it is not a wise move to risk alienating probably about half of their subscribers, by directly linking Iron Sky to Palin.

Outside of politics, here’s my review of what I managed to see: It’s a B-Movie, albeit with pretty good production values. The acting is over-the-top, all the characters I saw were caricatures, and the dialogue was pretty terrible, as one should expect from such a film.

Do I recommend it? You’re kidding, right? I’m not even going to bother rating it, especially since I don’t remember enough about it to rate it on one of my quirky scales.

A production of Germany, Finland,  and Australia, Iron Sky is in English and German