Genetically Superior

Anatomy of a College Party Movie by Tony
August 2, 2008, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , ,

For eager freshmen, dreaming of their days of limitless debauchery, and alumni drawn back into glossy-eyed reminiscence of nights spent any way but asleep, there is a clear champion of the college party genre: National Lampoon’s Animal House. Its legacy in campus culture is forever emblazoned in “To-ga! To-ga!” chants, and is seen on every campus in T-shirts with “College” stamped across the front.

The tale of a houseful of Greek miscreants and their battle to be the best — at being the worst — is the essence of the college movie. Animal House’s formula has influenced films for decades, and hasn’t stopped short on the upcoming film, College (not to be confused with Raven Symone’s College Road Trip which sucked), which will be released August 29. Included in the trailer are obligatory “don’t remember” tattoos, pubescents rounding second base, and a heap of traditional fraternity hazing.

It’s all part of the standard curriculum here in College Movie Anatomy 101, where the golden equation is:

Babes + Beer + Scheming Frat Boys = The Ultimate College Party Movie

Exhibit A: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Exhibit B: PCU (1994)
Exhibit C: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Behind every rambunctious big man on campus, there’s an equally stunning gotta-have-her hottie who shakes things up. For Van Wilder, chasing white hot Gwen (Tara Reid) is enough reason for Van (Ryan Reynolds) to end his 7-year playboy stunt and finally graduate college. In Animal House, it wasn’t just one girl, but many: the party-preying cougar who doubles as the dean’s loose-minded wife; the 16-year-old who snuck out of her bedroom to attend a party; and Otter’s (Tim Matheson) cute girl-next-door main squeeze. PCU falls a little short in the babe category by modern standards, but for the early ’90s it’s hard to deny the hot factor of Katy (Megan Ward) and her navel-hugging jean shorts.

Exceptional exception: Legally Blonde (2001) stars Reese Witherspoon—not exactly babe material — whose chase involves a sweet and charming guy throughout their stint at Harvard law school.


Droz (Jeremy Piven) serves up a bit of advice to a visiting pre-freshman in PCU: “Beer: It’s your best friend. Drink a lot of it.” And college party movies do — except in Hollywood, the kegs never run dry. As Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House puts it: “Grab a brew, they don’t cost nothing!” The effervescent beverage is the prime catalyst for every blowout party. As for Van Wilder, wherever Van distributes red cups, the signature of beer sipping, a party blossoms.

Exceptional exception: In Real Genius (1985), Val Kilmer’s buddies spend their time building lasers instead of drinking. Predictably, this movie never hits a heady high.

Scheming Frat Boys
Opposing partying protagonists in college movies is the job of whiny, pretentious frat boys at the upper echelons of campus society. In Animal House, it’s the evil Omegas who team up with the dean to get hard-partying Delta kicked out. In PCU, it’s the evil Balls and Shaft fraternity that teams up with the school president to get the hard partiers in The Pit kicked out. And in Van Wilder, it’s the evil president of Delta Iota Kappa (that’s DIK for short) who teams up with the school board to get Van kicked out. It’s a storyline as predictable as their uniforms: blue blazers with red ties, of course!

Exceptional exception: In Road Trip (2000), the good guys’ only encounter with Greek life is a pleasant run-in with a black fraternity chapter with a good sense of humor.


The [K]night is Always Darkest Just Before Dawn by Tony
July 19, 2008, 1:10 am
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony

Yeah, I did it; I went and saw the Dark Knight again. After catching the midnight premiere last night, a friend of mine asked me to go this afternoon and I, of course, obliged.

I’m pleased to announce the movie is just as good the second time around. I’ll try to avoid repeating what Kevin has already said about the Dark Knight.

But really, this movie is an instant classic. I was skeptical of the hype (my roommate has been telling me for weeks that this was going to be the best film of the summer) but I fully agree. I expected the action scenes to be too explosive—artificial in their excess like so many others in the genre.

Maybe it’s the Chicago setting, or maybe it’s just the fact that every fight scene is a plausible scenario. Batman is no Jason Bourne when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, but he gets the job done—and never once lifts a gun. Sure, he has gadgets, but they’re cooler (yet somehow more realistic) than James Bond’s. But I think what’s best about his character, unlike other superheroes, is the notion that he has his limits; it’s an idea that’s wound into the plot throughout the film. He’s only as invincible as a teenager with a few 40s under his belt.

And then there’s the Joker. Call me insensitive, but I never understood what all of the hoopla about Heath Ledger was. Perhaps I’m just too distant from Hollywood for it to really hit home for me. What I do know is his performance rivals Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) in my category of favorite role as a heartless villain. What gives the Joker depth however is his rage: it’s not entirely senseless. You know he’s hiding a brutal past of abuse and psychological disorder behind his caked and cracking face paint. At times you truly feel sorry for him, before tension turns on a dime and you’re cringing in fear of his next move.

I could go on and on and on. But the most I can say is to see it for yourself. It will frighten you, delight you, and make you laugh. It’s everything a comic book movie ought to be: explosive, dark, scary, introspective, inspiring, and buoyant. It does tension better than the Saw series, gadgets and action better than 007, and totally beats Spiderman in superheroics. Just don’t forget to close your jaw the first time it drops, or it’ll stay open for the whole movie.

by Kevin
July 18, 2008, 9:04 am
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Kevin

As much as I realize posts like this are going to be a dime a dozen in the next 24 hours, I can’t allow myself to not talk about this. As you probably already realize, I’m talking of course about The Dark Knight, normally I would be tempted to summarize and give a brief description, but fuck that, and don’t worry, no spoilers.

Going into this movie, my expectations were sky high, and I honestly didn’t expect them to be met; as I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to movies like this. But I can honestly say this movie blew me away, and I left the theatre feeling completely satisfied. This movie is definitely among the best movies I have ever seen, I had no idea a movie of this genre could deliver on that level, but it did.

First off, the movie itself was gorgeous, every scene was shot beautifully. I really enjoyed the lack of CGI, I think that made the movie so much more believable. Watching the action sequences from The Dark Knight in comparison to something like Wanted, and its an easy choice to make. The plot was flawless, I was nervous that it might be predictable, much like other superhero/comic book/action/whatever movies are, but it wasn’t. I thought the movie was long, but that wasn’t a negative because I absolutely loved every minute. The acting was spectacular, every role was well casted and extremely well done. I am convinced that Heath Ledger should get an Oscar nod, not just because of his untimely passing but because he really deserves it.

I’m so happy a movie like this was made, because its going to make an obscene amount of money. I hope this will show Hollywood what a movie can be if you invest the money and the right people. Hats off to everyone involved in production of this film because its absolutely incredible.

I know this is poorly written, and I don’t intend on proof reading, but its three in the morning and I’m still collecting my thoughts, so whatever.

Go see the movie.