Wanted (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Timur Bekmambetov
viewed: 06/29/08 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

From director Timur Bekmambetov, the fine filmmaker who brought us the Russian Sci-Fi/action films Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006), Hollywood slings Wanted onto movie screens across America much like the key image from the film itself,…like curving a bullet’s path by whipping one’s arm.  I gotta say though, the image and silliness of the so much of the action and imagery is a big part of the film’s appeal.  That is if you are of the kind that can be appealed to that way.

It’s been a hellishly dry summer for movies.  I saw the trailer a little while back and thought, “Well, that looks like it could be fun.”

Oddly, though, the film isn’t a lot of fun really.  The story follows James McAvoy who is a nebbishish “loser” who has a job in a cubicle, an overbearing boss (straight out of the casting of a John Waters movie), and a girlfriend and pal, who are playing around on him.  He is miserable and is developing serious neuroses via panic attacks and depression.  His plight could have been more appealing, but he’s also an annoying complainer who also seems to hate the world.

Well, life has a way of changing when Angelina Jolie shows up and starts wanting to hang out.  Suddenly he finds out that he is a natural-born member of a thousand year old society of assassins who get their instruction from a weaving loom.  After a brutal training period in which he is regularly beaten violently, he manages to achieve the form of a superkiller who can speed up his heart so that the whole world slows down for him, making him able to do crazy stunts and bend bullets.

The whole world is rife with cynicism.  These killers kill strangers, unquestioningly.  They may have the sexiness of Angelina Jolie and ability to do things that only actors with green screens and lots of post-production can do, but they are essentially utterly a-moral.  It’s not just that that is essentially how they are supposed to be, it is also how the whole film is.  It lacks warmth and humanity.  But it does have some entertaining, if rather violent action set pieces.

Oddly, it reminded me a bit of Ms. Jolie’s role in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), in which she also plays an elite assassin, a member of a highly covert and top of the line organization.  Oddly, though, even though that film sort of suggested that neither she nor her beau/hubby Brad Pitt were really “average American” material, and while she was still a ruthless assassin, it didn’t leave you with the sense that the film lacked a soul.

It’s wrapped up in the final comment, in which McAvoy gives the audience a look, “breaking the wall” as it is known, validating his murder spree by suggesting that those of us who are sitting there watching this film are doing very little with our puny little miserable lives.  Is it really better to be a lonely brutal killer than to lead the life of “quiet desperation”?  Kinda scary suggestion, if you ask me.

Duck, You Sucker


Duck, You Sucker (1971) movie poster

(1971) dir. Sergio Leone
viewed: 06/29/08

Duck, You Sucker, known alternately as both A Fistful of Dynamite and Once Upon a Time… the Revolution, both titles more easily associated with the brilliant director and co-writer of the film, Sergio Leone (he of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) as well as Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984)), is perhaps one of the lesser recognized of his films.  I’d seen it more than a decade ago on video and on some whim put it back up on my queue.

This newest DVD version of the film has an excellent commentary track by a British film historian and Leone biographer who has much to offer.  I do not make a practice of listening to commentary tracks on the whole unless its a historian or critic, and even then, I rarely listen to it all.  I ended up hanging in with this one longer than I had intended.  It was quite enlightening.

The film is set during the Mexican Revolution, featuring a peasant bandido (Rod Steiger) and his tribe of sons and fellows who happens upon an ex-IRA explosives expert (James Coburn) with whom he tries to team up with to rob a bank.  Dupe after dupe, duper gets duped and Coburn’s character tricks Steiger’s character to join in the revolution, which is what has brought him to Mexico in the first place.

Though the film starts with the polemic words of Mao Tse-Tung “(a) revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence…”, the film has a somewhat subversive attitude about revolution and socialism, though it’s is clearly set against fascism.  The political subtext is quite significant and surprisingly erudite and intelligent.

Of course, I love Leone for his visual surprises, his visual language, contrasting extreme close-ups with wide-angle shots of open desert and grand vistas with huge crowds.  It’s truly epic, as his films increasingly were.  But some of the visual play is so clever and pleasing.  In one shot, the camera starts looking in the distance about a set of peasants who are about to be executed by shooting.  The camera pans slowly over to the left, moving away from the violence while the voice-over of the commandante is counting off the orders of execution.  The camera happens upon some posters that bear the image of the current presidente, the figurehead of the soon to be toppled government.  But, as soon as the camera settles on the poster, a pair of fingers start ripping the poster from the side, tearing a stripe across the president’s face, which is funny enough, but then Steiger’s face appears, peering through the newly cut slat to view the execution.

It’s a lot to describe, sure, but it’s that type of visual play that tells the story all the way through.  Leone plays the story and scenes out with turns of fate, holding off on the really telling element until the drama has paused, tricking the viewer.  His play is alive in the relationship of Steiger and Coburn, who both are quite great despite some largely painful accents.

It’s a pretty brilliant film.  It’s fun, but not without depth.  In some ways, it feels much darker than Leone’s other Westerns (though I haven’t seen Once Upon a Time in the West in an even longer time.  I recall it being quite dark.)  Leone is a brilliant filmmaker, one of my favorites.


WALL-E (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Andrew Stanton
viewed: 06/28/08 at Century San Francisco Centre, SF, CA

The latest from Pixar (Ratatouille (2007), Cars (2006), Monsters, Inc. (2001)), the cream of the American digital feature animation crop, WALL-E, is an attempt at the higher eschelons of art and movie magic.  And it almost gets there.  It comes close.

Directed by Andrew Stanton whose previous directing effort was Finding Nemo (2003), WALL-E is a dystopic vision of the future of Earth and humanity.  It’s so dystopic that humans have become fat, boneless, actionless entities, and it’s the robots that have developed “humanity”.  In fact, it takes robots to teach humans how to be human again.

It’s hundreds of years in the future.  Earth has been abandoned by humans because it’s so full of trash that it’s become totally uninhabitable.  The last of a line of clean-up robots, a mobile trash compactor, WALL-E himself, is the last “man” on Earth, friends with an unkillable, unsquishable faceless cockroach.  But he’s lonely.  He longs for a culture of humanity and communion that he only knows through more cultural effluvia, the the flotsam and jetsam in which he toils.

Human beings, meanwhile, have become portly and indolent, hovering on chairs and using no muscle, attached to video screens so that they no longer see the world at all, nor one another.  They float in space in a ship that was cultivated by commerce.  Beyond all this, WALL-E is a critique of consumer culture (though ironic if you want to get down to it because though the whole “consumerism” that it critiques is vague while much of the cultural items that it adores like the Rubik’s Cube and Pong are actual artifacts of consumerism).

It must be said that any movie produced by Disney, a corporate and cultural powerhouse of consumerism, for it to try to critique consumerism is highly at odds with itself.

The film is also an odd love-hate with modern design and an appreciation for pre-digitalized design.  WALL-E himself is something that looks expressly like the robot of Short Circuit (1986), though was apparently inspired simply by a pair of binoculars.  The film has a distinct appreciation with animating the inanimate, or perhaps robots or constructs that don’t reek of anthropormorphism.  The film excels at the animation and personality given to less readily character-like creations.  It’s part of its aesthetic.  The animate (humans) have become inanimate while the machines, the inanimate, the non-beings, have become beings.  And they are.  And they inspire the humans to become human again.

Largely wordless, though not entirely, WALL-E is also an attempt at a non-verbal narrative largely.  This, along with its simplistic themes of love, humanity, and hope, packed in with a score that pretty much tells the audience how to feel pushes hard for the sensation of movie magic.

Movie magic.  The ultimate of cultural alchemies.  I guess, if you come down to it, the film’s biggest weakness is its belief that it is achieving magic.  It’s certainly been marketed that way.  The scene in which WALL-E, clinging to a rocketship, lifts his hand to “touch” the stars as they pass them and they move and sparkle as he utters a sound of awe…  Genuine magic is not so self-aware, I would think.  I would hope.

WALL-E is very good, very enjoyable, very well-produced.  It’s just not as simple and remarkable as it would like to come off.


Jumper (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Doug Liman
viewed: 06/27/08

Director Doug Liman has had an interesting career thusfar, but when Jumper was released, I read an article about him that cast him in an odd light.  He’s considered a bit difficult and tends to run his films overbudget.  Having started out in the indie world with Swingers (1996) and Go (1999), he transitioned into the mainstream and “action” film with The Bourne Identity (2002), inventing a franchise, and then started skidding with Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).  So, then he comes back with Jumper, what kind of director are we talking about?

I’d say that Liman is a guy with some interesting bents, not unintelligent, not boring, but certainly also, not a director of particular note.  How does one characterize his films?  Okay, it’s been ages since I’ve seen Go or others of his films.  It just doesn’t all fit together exactly.

Jumper is a weird film, sort of a superhero film without the costumes.  Hayden Christiansen of Star Wars fame plays the protagonist, a boy who suddenly realizes that he has the power to teleport, jumping from spot to spot, eventually all over the globe.  He takes this as an opportunity to run away from an unhappy home and to stuff his pockets with money from bank vaults.  His situation is all well and good, though arguably soulless (he sees people on t.v. at one point in peril in a flood and does nothing to help them, assuming that he could).  He’s all about the lifestyle, the flashy world, but friendless and alone.

Well, it turns out that there is a group of “paladins”, a long-standing cult of religious zealots who say that “only God has the right to be in all places at once”, headed by a very white-haired Samuel L. Jackson, who spend all their time and resources killing “jumpers” simply because they are “special”.

This leads to some good action and adventure, don’t get me wrong, but it’s all sort of weird that teleportation would raise such issues for people.  Anyone who’s read the X-men probably sees teleportation as one of many possible special powers.  It’s not the biggest or sexiest of special powers, though I would say truly convenient and something to fantasize about when you’ve got nothing better to do.  Still, it’s not something as compelling as Iron Man (2008) or Batman.  It’s not poetic or profound.

And ultimately, some of the location shooting feels more gratuitous than inherently natural.  Yeah, this guy, this jumper, this loner, one of his favorite picnic spots is on top of the head of the great Sphinx of Egypt.  Like no one ever spots him up there.  Nobody ever looks at the head of the Sphinx.  So this guy with his surfboard and stuff…

I guess that is simply Jumper‘s biggest problem.  It’s not bad.  It’s not done badly.  It’s just sort of silly.  Silly to the point of feeling superfluous.  And still, it’s not that it makes for a bad DVD rental.  I don’t know.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) movie poster

(2002) dir. Chris Columbus
viewed: 06/27/08

There’s been a lot of discussion in our house about the PG vs. PG-13 ratings.  My son is a bit obsessed with films that are PG-13, partially due to the fact that he wasn’t allowed to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).  He fantasizes about developing his own films that are all rated PG-13 and is also quite excited about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, wanting to read it even though he’s never read the other books.  We are actually reading the first Harry Potter book right now, and partially because he already got a chance to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) because we have his uncle’s copy on DVD at the house, I decided to sit through it with my daughter and him.  I’d seen it in the theater at the time of its release and had thought it was decent.

Frankly, the Harry Potter film series blurs a lot in my mind, with few exceptions, though I more or less remember them all.  My practice is to read ahead enough to have read the book before the movie comes out, simply to stay a tiny tidbit ahead of the game.  I’ve been enjoying them on my own thusfar, so this is in many ways my first experience seeing them through my children’s perspective at all.

The first two Harry Potter films were both directed by Chris Columbus, to whom we owe Home Alone (1990) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), among other things.  The big thing about the series of films is that the casting has been good as has the art design.  I’ve got no beefs with J.K. Rowling or the whole thing, really.  I watch them.  I largely enjoy them.

This run through with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets surprised me only in a small way in simply that I did enjoy it.  I hate Dobby the house elf, though Felix enjoyed him.  It’s all pretty complicated for the kids, definitely over my daughter’s head largely.  Lots of narrative, lots of plot points, lots of details.  It’s almost baroque in a sense.

But hey.  It’s not bad.  My favorite of the books and movies so far has been part 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).  It’s been impressive how they’ve kept this film franchise rolling, keeping the main actors in place, watching them age and develop along with the narrative.  An interesting experiment if nothing else.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Jon Turteltaub
viewed: 06/22/08

Not exactly at the top of my list of films to see, I may have even made comment somewhere that I probably wouldn’t ever see these films even in my Nicolas Cage slumming that I like to do.  But I think, influenced by some reviews stating that these movies were made to be like the Indiana Jones films but rated PG, I guess somewhere I opened myself up to this.  So, on a cold and tired Sunday afternoon, I put the DVD box in front of Felix at the video store and he bit.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a sequel to National Treasue (2004), which is pretty much a watered down history-focused Indiana Jones filtered through The Da Vinci Code (2006) but with no blood, no serious scares, just a bit of relatively clean action and globe-trotting.  And it’s all-American.

The films, as their titles suggest, focus on the secrets and Illuminati types that have populated American history, differing from The Da Vinci Code in that their not so focused on the Catholic church or out-and-out European history.  It’s America, dammit!  And the heroes, Nicolas Cage, his dad (played by Jon Voight), and his pal and his girlfriend are all proud Americans.  Why, even the president is a history buff and a non-idiot (which goes to suggest this is not meant to represent the current administration, I guess).  The motive of the story that gets the heroes involved with the ultimate adventure is triggered when they want to clear a great-grandfather of having played a role in the assassination of president Lincoln.

The funny thing is that my son couldn’t figure out why they should care if someone who was long-dead was worth clearing the name of.  And though Cage is given a speech in which he means to clarify this important thing and what it means to being an American, I wasn’t going to try to argue the point.  When you come down to it, the motivation for the villains is also very odd and dodgy.  This guy wants to make an important archeological discovery in his own name, his family name again, but has to do it through dastardly schemes, blackmail, physical threats and intimidation and in the end…why?  Just for his name?  He could have collaborated on this whole thing on the up and up and probably have come out better.

The film is entertaining enough, though barely.  The big set-piece action a la Indiana Jones doesn’t really show up until the last half hour.  Felix liked the film well enough.  He told me that he thought that the first one, National Treasure, would probably be better.  I don’t know why he wanted to see the second one first.  I didn’t protest.

Frankenstein Conquers the World

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) movie poster

(1965) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 06/20/08

Originally intended to be one of my “with the kids” series, I just ended up watching this one on my own, simply because I felt like watching it.  Directed by Ishirô Honda, director of the original Gojira (1954) and several of its other Godzilla sequels, Frankenstein Conquers the World was a personal favorite as a kid, as was its consequent sequel (which doesn’t seem to currently be available on DVD), The War of the Gargantuas (1966).  It had been so long that I would have had a hard time specifically saying exactly why this was one of my favorites.  It hadn’t been its obscurity.  My guess now is that it had something to do with the fact that the “Frankenstein” of this movie is essentially an over-sized kid and a sympathetic character, despite his inability to articulate himself.

From my reading, it seems that this film evolved from some versions of ideas of both King Kong and Frankenstein and eventually wound up with this very odd, East meets West scenario, set amidst the end of WWII.  As the Germans are losing the War, the secret out a box containing the beating heart of “Frankenstein” (Frankenstein’s monster), an undying body part, swapping it over with Japan and sending it to Hiroshima.  The heart winds up in Hiroshima just in time for the atomic bomb explosion, where it is lost to history.

Jumping 15 years into the future (or so), an orphaned child is seen running about the streets of Hiroshima (one of many left so by the bombing we are told).  Doctors who are treating people dying of radiation poisoning wind up discovering the boy, who is called “caucasian” though hard to tell why.  He’s less some re-constructed man from body parts and much more a caveperson or something, with a jutting forehead and even more jutting teeth.  He grows and grows into a giant and after some harrassment by the media, he escapes into the countryside.

Enter Baragon (a kind of cool-looking monster with a glowing tusk on his nose), another underground dinosaur awakened by radioactivity or something, who starts wreaking havoc on Japan’s countryside.  Frankenstein gets blamed for the villainy, though in reality, he’s just a protein-craving teenager who is 40 feet tall and growing, and really, the misunderstood good guy, whose chief proponent is the female doctor with whom he bonded early on.  It all turns into a fight scene, set against the outdoors, not an urban locale, which Frankenstein wins eventually.

The truly odd moment comes at the end, when out of nowhere, a giant octopus shows up on land and drags Frankenstein to a mysterious “death” (is he or isn’t he?  only a sequel will tell) by drowning in a nearby lake.

Frankly, it’s not the stuff of cinematic legend.  But for some reason, and maybe it’s just deeply embedded in me, in my positive feelings about it from childhood or the resonances therein, I still kind of liked it.  It’s got lots of more than usually far-out logic and pseduo-science and narrative, but what the heck?  I remember sitting in the cinema over the summer days with this film being shown as part of the kid summer series and really being pretty satisfied.  I hope I get a chance to see The War of the Gargantuas sometime soon.

Diary of the Dead

Diary of the Dead (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. George A. Romero
viewed: 06/20/08

George A. Romero has long established his place in American cinema, not just the horror genre in which he wound up working in almost exclusively and influencing and creating.  From his zombie films, starting with the amazing Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Day of the Dead (1985) and his fantastic vampire film, Martin (1977), Romero not only created intellectual and scary horror films ripe with social commentary, he was a unique voice.

What happened to his career after the 1980’s is probably a combination of things, with a few decent and probably a few out-and-out bad things.  When his career got “brought back to life” with remakes of his more classic films, and he was given the opportunity to direct a zombie film again, he brought out Land of the Dead in 2005, reinventing aspects of his series, showing that he still had some commentary left for society, even if his actual film was a not up to the level of his earlier work.

So, when Romero returned yet again with another re-take on the genre with which he is so specifically affiliated, this time back to the low-budgets and largely unrecognizable cast, one has to imagine that the “old master” had truly renewed his flame.  But this time, he makes the explicit mistake of taking a “viewer-shot” approach to the film, not unlike last year’s giant monster film, Cloverfield (2007), which also used a semi-found-footage approach to showing a traditional type of monster movie.

The conceits and the goals are the same in some ways.  They both seek to comment on the technology that has put cameras and the means of production into the hands of “users”, or average people.  No doubt the proliferation of the camera eye in society and the changes to consumption and production are altering culture in strange and unusual ways, perhaps profoundly, but neither film really manages to really do anything other than point that out and then rely on the contrivance of a narrative shot with hand-held cameras, with lots of cameraperson voiceover.  And of course, this pretense is a pretense because these films were not really made the way that they are meant to look like.  Diary of the Dead goes even further from believability in so explicitly making the student filmmakers so self-aware of their process and self-criticism, commentary, and ultimately, even the act of editing, showing the “strings” behind the puppetry.

It’s too bad.  I think this film could have been pretty decent without that approach.  There are a few good moments of zombie gore.  The eyes bubbling out and popping from the sockets of a zombie who got zapped with an electrical appliance, the zombie clown at the kids party (actually quite funny), and the highly corny death of the mute Amish guy who scythes his head to get himself and his zombie pursuer.  Actually the Amish farmer is good for several gags.

I don’t know all of what I would advise Romero in regards to next steps.  Keep making the films.  They are still more interesting than a lot of the dreck that comes out.  Do stay away from the hand-held, first person director stuff.  Just keep doing what appeals to you.  There is some decent stuff here.  Overall, its pretend self-awareness depicts a lessened self-awareness.  It seems that the reflexive qualities would be more apt to recognize its true means of production.  Wes Craven “discovered” post-modern self-commentary back in the 1990’s with New Nightmare (1994) and Scream (1996), but he also showed how shallow all that could be without anything really interesting to say.


Bubba Ho-Tep

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) movie poster

(2002) dir. Don Coscarelli
viewed: 06/18/08

Bruce Campbell fans are pretty much geeks.

Which is something that I think they’d be proud to agree with.

Campbell, whose career as a B-movie star was cemented forever in his part in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, has had a long career of oddball roles, some big, some small, all over the place.  And yes, I guess that I would consider myself a fan of Bruce Campbell.  It all comes down to Evil Dead II (1987), which was Raimi’s masterpiece and perhaps Campbell’s as well.  Pretty much created and perfected the genre of horror-slapstick-comedy.

Bubba Ho-Tep, I want to say, is a concept that looks good on paper.  But that isn’t quite so.  The concept, Bruce Campbell plays an aging Elvis Presley (who swapped identities with an Elvis impersonator and never really died), holed up in a low-rent nursing home battling an Egyptian mummy who is feasting on the souls of the aged and decrepit.  It sounds good on paper if that is your kind of thing, is what I mean.  And I remember when it came out in the theaters, that I thought it sounded fun.  After a recommendation by my brother-in-law, I queued it up.

Written and directed by a semi-notable B-movie-maker, Don Coscarelli, the film has its B-movie pedigree in place.  Coscarelli was the creative mind behind the cult horror film Phantasm (1979) and The Beastmaster (1982) and their respective sequels.  The film is odd in a number of ways.  It’s a bit slow-paced, actually taking a good deal of time to get moving, spending the first half hour establishing Elvis’ backstory and the milieu of the nursing home.  The eventual battle between Elvis and the mummy takes a long time to come around.  So, it is kind of dullish at times.

But the odder thing than its pacing is the deliberate quality of that pacing.  The film is in many ways quite a sympathetic take on aging and the lives of the elderly.  Elvis is a very sympathetic character, whose perspective on life is one of regrets and loss, loneliness and abandonment.  While he is reempowered by the fight with the evil creature and his friendship with Jack Kennedy (Ossie Davis), the film’s tone and focus is spent on character development and the depiction of the world of the elderly, sad and lonely.  It’s kind of touching.

So, that’s weird.  Just not what one would expect from the scenario.

All told, the film isn’t all that great.  It’s not all bad, but it feels like the kind of thing you stumble on Comedy Central on those slow afternoons when there’s nothing on television that you can bear to watch.  And it doesn’t necessarily sustain you.  Still, it has some merit.

The Foot Fist Way

The Foot Fist Way (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Jody Hill
viewed: 06/17/08 at AMC Loews Metreon 16 with IMAX, SF, CA

Produced a couple of years ago, but just recently picked up for major (or semi-major) distribution by a company affliliated with Will Farrell and others, The Foot Fist Way has been getting some pretty good chuckles in reviews that I have read of it.  Me, being more or less up on current releases than anyone else I know, seem to be the only one that I know who had heard of it.  I can tell you, now having seen it, I can think of several friends who would probably like it even more than I did.

A low-budget comedy about a Tae Kwon Do instructor in a strip mall in North Carolina who is in most every way conceited, obnoxious, and not even a fraction as intelligent as he thinks he is, the movie is a bumpy ride along the goofball world of Mr. Fred Simmons, fourth level black belt.  Written collaboratively by star Danny R. McBride, co-actor and director Jody Hill, and actor Ben Best, the film is choppy and sloppy, occasionally with an almost mockumentary aesthetic.  But the bottom line is the hard punch comedy, wheeling around the hilarious performance by McBride as the asinine instructor.

The film isn’t funny all the way through, but its best moments are very funny.  There are numerous quotable quotes, which I am finding hard to deliver verbally when I am telling people about it.  The one I’d read in one review cracked me up, “Meditation is terrific and all, but I’ve never heard of it saving anyone from a gang rape type situation.”  But you really have to see it to get the full force of the gags and the performance.  McBride delivers lines that are classics, but in context and in delivery.

I normally note what a sourpuss I am about comedies, but this film appealed to me.  The odd thing was that there were trailers for two other upcoming comedies that look funny, in particular Tropic Thunder (2008) which looks funny enough in Robert Downey, Jr. alone, and The Pineapple Express (2008), which looks good but potentially sappy as well.

I guess I was in the mood for laughs.

This film is a little bit “Borat” and a little bit Office Space (1999), a genuine future for cultish imitations in social settings all over, and probably a career kick for all involved.