If You Saw Vertical Limit, You May Be Entitled To A Small Cash Settlement

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Sony settles the long-running controversy over "David Manning," the fake film critic who gave raves to Columbia stinkers like The Animal, Hollow Man, A Knight's Tale, and The Patriot. (Actually, I kind of liked The Patriot, and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't save my ticket stub.) It's unclear how Sony intends to make the payout: The company will pay a "$1.5 million settlement" for the class-action suit, which I guess means they're confident no more than 300,000 people—a figure that probably exceeds the number of tickets sold for all these pictures—will claim the award. In any event, Manning, bogusly identified as the critic for Connecticut's Ridgefield Press, is gone (or is he?). News courtesy of A.S. Hamrah.

Extremely spartan site for the actual Ridgefield Press.

UK Ambassador to the United States Sir David Manning declines to comment on the controversy.

Recent headlines by ostensibly real critic Joel Siegel: "Johansson Finds Winning Ticket in 'The Island'" "'Bewitched' Offers Tricks and Treats" "'The Interpreter' Translates Perfectly" "Roaring Laughs in 'Madagascar'"

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  1. Hey, I liked A Knight’s Tale. But I don’t listen to movie critics. Or Tim Cavanaugh now either.

  2. Okay, I still have my ticket stub from HOLLOW MAN. I save all my ticket stubs, even the ones to terrible movies (natch), since I am a movie fanatic.

    So how do I get my cash?

  3. A Knight’s Tale wasn’t a stinker, I thought it was above average.

    The Patriot is in my top 5 movies of all time (the other four being: Gladiator, Princess Bride, The Matrix and Return of the Jedi).

  4. I used to read the Washington City Paper’s critic Joel Siegel and found him to be pretty interesting. The one morning I somehow saw Joel Siegel on “Good Morning America,” which was almost as confusing as an out-of-body experience. How the hell did an acerbic newspaper movie critic turn into this ultra-jackass grinning yes man? Very odd. I just figured at some point he got his chance and decided to sell out.

    Of course it turns out they’re two different guys. I don’t know if the City Paper guy is still working but he took to using Joel E. Siegel at some point to distinguish himself from his “brain dead namesake,” as he called the TV guy once.

  5. Not that anybody cares, but here are my top five…
    1) Braveheart
    2) Swingers
    3) John Carpenter’s The Thing
    4) Usual Suspects
    5) Goodfellas

  6. I haven’t seen The Patriot yet, but I plan to. I thought The Animal was kind of amusing.

    This might be my top five list (in no particular order) of all time (this week, anyway):

    1) Rob Roy
    2) King Kong
    3) Airplane
    4) Planet of the Apes (the original)
    5) The Road Warrior

    The original Die Hard almost made the list. It’s my favorite romantic movie.

  7. I’m still waiting to get the two hours of my life back after the free showing of “Starship Troopers” I attended back in 97.

  8. dude, starship troopers rocks. You can’t go wrong with Paul Verhoeven, the guy who brought us “Showgirls”, “Total Recall”, and “Robocop”. All of these movies are great satires of modern society that bring a tear to this libertarian’s eye — remember the fake newscast in “Robocop” where Reagan gets killed by an accidental firing of the “Star Wars” defense satellite?

    I especially like how PV assembled a cast of nobodies for the film; bigger actresses wouldn’t have shown so much skin.

    “Service Guarantees Citizenship!”

  9. Awww, Starship Troopers wasn’t that bad. Supposed to be a satire, had some funny bits. But it did pale in comparison to Verhoeven’s Total Recall and Robocop.

    Anyway, if this is turning into a TopFive postapalooza, here are mine:

    1) Chinatown
    2) Miller’s Crossing
    3) The Hustler
    4) The Road Warrior
    5) Brazil

  10. Well considering the combined domestic box office for those 4 pictures is about $300.7 MILLION ( the lowest grossing being about 56.7 mil), it seems that 300,000 would be less than 1% of the tickets sold. Let the average ticket was 8 bucks, at least 37 million or so people bought tickets.

  11. Starship troopers got better each time I watched it.

  12. Cool…eveyone loves lists, right?

    My tentative top 5:

    -Office Space
    -Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
    -Pulp Fiction
    -Boondock Saints
    -Reservior Dogs

    (Honorable Mention: Braveheart, Usual Suspects, Dogma, Swingers, Full Metal Jacket)

  13. Oh come on people. Starship Troopers sucked, hard. It not only didn’t have much to do with the book, but it managed to be little more than a string of action movie cliches, like the script was churned out of some automatic sci-fi action movie version of the Chomsky-bot.

    I can’t believe the quality of that movie, even as satire, is even up for debate.

  14. On it’s own, Starship Troopers was probably a pretty good satirical movie, despite its logical problems.

    However, it was twisted in order to slander the very book on which it was based.

    Robert Heinlein wrote a book that explored the role of force in politics, and asked how a person might prove that he/she can be trusted to wield that force? For that, Heinlein was slandered as a militaristic fanatic and a fascist. Verhoeven tinkered with the pro-responsibility society that Heinlein originally imagined, and portrayed as one where military fanatics and fascists actually were in charge.

    And that’s why I hate the movie.

  15. … and Verhoeven portrayed that society as one …

  16. … and I keep using that superfluous apostrophe in the possive form of “its,” dammit.

  17. “Robert Heinlein wrote a book that explored the role of force in politics, and asked how a person might prove that he/she can be trusted to wield that force? For that, Heinlein was slandered as a militaristic fanatic and a fascist. Verhoeven tinkered with the pro-responsibility society that Heinlein originally imagined, and portrayed as one where military fanatics and fascists actually were in charge.”

    Interesting, Stevo. I’d sort of wondered without ever really exploring it how Heinlein could be considered a libertarian and write a book like Starship Troopers. I knew that Verhoeven made the movie as a parody of the book, but I didn’t realize he twisted Heinlein’s message like that. Now I know. (And I should probably now read the book since I’ve seen the movie.)

  18. I watched the movie, and then read the book. Both were entertaining, I didn’t really look deeper into the meaning of each. I just figured that Verhoven took the name, and the idea of humans fighting bugs, and made a really silly, logically flawed, but entertaining movie, with a good shower scene.

    I didn’t see the movie being based off the book at all, except for the name and the idea of men fighting giant bugs. From the SOF-esque tatoos, to the “you kill bugs good”, to the unanswered; why do we have better weapons now than they do in the future?

  19. Best Mel Gibson movies’
    1 Payback (one of the best movies ever)
    2 Braveheart
    3 The Patriot
    4 Mad Max.

    Of course when I talk to Brits, I always say that his best movies are Braveheart and the Patriot.

    Also, Knights Tale wasn’t a bad movie at all. (I don’t know if I have any credibility saying a movie is not bad, with the post above saying that about Starship Troopers.

  20. Taken in a vacuum, I guess the movie Starship Troopers is a pretty good parody of the book. If Heinlein had written 50 books in the same vein as ST, maybe Verhoeven would be giving him what he deserved, but it was just one book toying with one idea. And as Stevo says, the movie really does twist the message. Still this would all be forgiveable if Verhoeven’s movie had actually had the sort of action suggested by the powered armor the mobile infantry wore in the book, rather than that sissy, not-even-full-body plastic looking shit.

    Matt, what would be even more interesting is if you went and read Stranger in a Strange Land or To Sail Beyond the Sunset first and tried to reconcile that with the sorta nut ST the movie suggests Heinlein. (Actually either of these books probably do suggest Heinlein is a nut, but of a much different variety then you have been led to believe)

  21. Omnibus respondibus:

    Hey, I liked A Knight’s Tale. But I don’t listen to movie critics. Or Tim Cavanaugh now either.

    Why do so many people consider it some big whoop to brag that they don’t listen to movie critics? I know all those other sheeple are just flocking to whatever Rex Reed tells them to see, but you know what? If there’s one thing all critics agree on, it’s that nobody listens to movie critics-or at least, nobody makes their ticket-buying decisions based on critical reviews, as the difference between the tomatometer and the top-grossing films eloquently attests. (This is the logical flaw in seeking damages against Sony, by the way, but that’s another story.) You don’t go by the critics, fine: That makes you just like 100 percent of the American population. Bragging about not reading critics is like bragging that you don’t read detective novels; it means neither one thing nor the other.

    A Knight’s Tale wasn’t a stinker, I thought it was above average.

    For all I know, A Knight’s Tale is better than Citizen Kane but these are public relations forces beyond our control: When you end up paying people on the principle that you lied by telling them the movie didn’t suck, that movie’s address, deserved or not, will always be Stinkerville-by the same principle that you can build a thousand bridges but if you fuck one pig they ain’t gonna call you a bridgebuilder.

    The Patriot is in my top 5 movies of all time

    Like I said, I liked it, but The Patriot isn’t even in the top 5 Mel Gibson movies of all time. I’m not even sure it’s in the top 5 Rene Auberjonois movies of all time.

    Well considering the combined domestic box office for those 4 pictures is about $300.7 MILLION ( the lowest grossing being about 56.7 mil), it seems that 300,000 would be less than 1% of the tickets sold. Let the average ticket was 8 bucks, at least 37 million or so people bought tickets.

    Wow, Sony’s really screwed! Thanks for the info. Not only did I not know this, but I’d have bet The Patriot, which I saw in a half-full house on opening day, was the $56.7 million cleanup. Not even close. It ran through October and had surprising legs.

    Robert Heinlein wrote a book that explored the role of force in politics, and asked how a person might prove that he/she can be trusted to wield that force? For that, Heinlein was slandered as a militaristic fanatic and a fascist. Verhoeven tinkered with the pro-responsibility society that Heinlein originally imagined, and portrayed as one where military fanatics and fascists actually were in charge.

    And that’s why I hate the movie.

    Am I the only one who liked the book and the movie? I’m afraid to see the movie again, though, out of a near-certainty that the special effects that looked so kewl in 1997 will be embarrassing now.

  22. “|The Patriot isn’t even in the top 5 Mel Gibson movies of all time.|”

    OK, now I am curios, What are your top 5 Mel Gibson movies, I mean, besides ‘What a Woman Wants’ and Lethal Weapon 3′

  23. Nice blog.I like this.
    john

  24. Well this thread seems to be all over the place. Which means it’s as good a place as any to ask a question. What is the greatest libertarian movie of all time? (I’m seriously asking; I have no idea.) My criteria are (a) must espouse classical liberal ideas like “free markets and free minds” without being preachy, or even necessarily intending to do so,(b) must be highly entertaining to a general audience, and (c) must be a major and at least fairly well-known release. I’m just curious what, if any, movie would fit these criteria.

    By the way, the greatest movie of all time, regardless of political content, is Casablanca. This is a scientifically established fact which is beyond dispute. And it has a nice individualist message: you can’t judge a person by their ethnic/national/political associations. Even Louis, the admitted “minor corrupt official” of Vichy France, turns out to be heroic in the end.

  25. Anybody here every play Dungeons & Dragons?

    Just curious.


  26. What is the greatest libertarian movie of all time?

    I’m partial to “The Fountainhead”, despite her highness being dissatisfied with Gary Cooper’s reading in the courtroom scene. Also I think too many people associate Roark with FL Wright, whose politics are suspect.
    I kinda liked “28 Days Later” (the pharmacists “wake up and smell the coffee” speech was a passable “A is A” argument), in which we learn you can’t trust the collectivist military / public authorities with your safety. Also, how about “Omega Man”?

  27. What is the greatest libertarian movie of all time?

    Right now I’d have to say Space Bandits. Ask me again on Sept. 30.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_%28movie%29

  28. The greatest libertarian movie of all time? How about L?on?

  29. Hmm, the MT software didn’t handle the second character too well. As the link shows, I meant Leon.

  30. It’s true that people are fond of saying that they don’t pay attention to movie critics, but I think they do.

    The average American probably sees fewer than 5% of all films released. You can’t tell me that when chosing which movies to see, we are not affected by the opinions of authority figures, which critics are when it comes to films.

  31. I’ll happily admit I pay attention to critics. But, like political commentary, one of course has to filter for biases and particular taste. Between The Onion, Ebert, and the Tomato-Meter I can get a good idea if a movie is worth seeing or not. Not to mention trailers. You can’t tell from trailers if a movie is going to be good, but you can sure weed out the obvious stinkers.

  32. Screw a cash settlement; I want them to cover the cost of my coffin, since I died of embarassment for the producers…well, actually it was my friend Steve who died. No, I didn’t so much buy the movie, as watch a borrowed copy. Well, why don’t we just forget about it…it’s not that important…

  33. I’d sort of wondered without ever really exploring it how Heinlein could be considered a libertarian and write a book like Starship Troopers.

    Well, Heinlein’s politics did evolve from small-government arch-conservatism to cheerful promulgation of outright anarchy.

    However, as a politically hard-to-classify friend of mine put it a few years back, the film is something akin to a Michael Moore movie made in the setting of the book. He then pointed out, amused, that if you put aside the issue of service-for-voting and ignored the Nazi-esque costume design and set dressing (at least where it markedly differed from WW2 Allied propaganda), nothing really ominous or even authoritarian is depicted about the society. Civilians are free to openly sneer at the military, the press doesn’t just get to tag along, but also send uncensored video from the front lines showing troops being ripped apart, the Air Marshal (?) whose invasion plan fails disasterously resigns without a show trial, etc…

  34. Eric the .5b, I think there are other ominous signs in the movie that weren’t in the book.

    One is the propaganda “commercials.” Especially the “hate fest” one where they encourage kids to stomp on Earthly bugs. All bugs are bad! It was so parallel to, “The Jews are weaking our society! They must be stamped out! All of them!”

    The other is at the end, where they show the war continuing and the Earth spaceships are sleeker and more streamlined — implying a “next generation” design. Implying that the war has gone on for a long, long time and that it might go on forever. Implying that the society depends on war, kind of like Sparta.

  35. Coincidentally, I meant to respond to this myself:

    I’d sort of wondered without ever really exploring it how Heinlein could be considered a libertarian and write a book like Starship Troopers.

    Something that Heinlein emphasizes in the book that I didn’t even notice in the movie: Politics is force. When you vote, you’re basically saying, “I think people should be forced to do this.” And that can lead to Party A pludering Party B for party A’s benefit. In Heinlein’s society, you are not allowed to vote until you have proved that you can put the good of your society as a whole before your own interests. And what is one way to prove this? By joining the military, and putting your own life on the line in defense of your society.

    It’s controversial whether, in the book’s society, military service was the only way you could earn the right to vote. As I recall, Heinlein himself later said people could earn the vote through other forms of selfless “national service,” such as teaching, firefighting or tending to the sick, perhaps — but he never actually made that point clear in the novel itself.

    It could be interpreted as collectivist or elitist, but it’s hard to get that impression when you’re actually reading the novel. I think Heinlein just meant that the universal franchise put enormous amounts of political power — the power to push their fellow citizens around — into the hands of too many people without a balancing sense of responsibility. Therefore the power tends to get abused, which is why democracies tend to tear themselves apart. Starship Troopers explored a possible way of reconnecting that enourmous power with a sense of responsibility.

    We should also bear in mind that Heinlein was an experimentalist who wrote about all kinds of different societies without necessarily endorsing them. He also described, in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, a rather smoothly functioning anarcho-capitalist society on the Moon. It’s a bit informal compared to the visions of, say, David Friedman, without many of the formal institutions that Friedman predicts would arise, such as professional security agencies. However, it all it functions so smoothly that most inhabitants probably don’t even realize they are functional anarchists. I think only the Professor is consciously a “philosophical anarchist.”

    In his book The Machinery of Freedom, David Friedman credits TMIAHM as an influence on his own anarcho-capitalist thinking. He might even have said it’s what started him thinking along those lines, but I am not 100% sure.

  36. Oh, there’s another important way the book and movie versions of Starship Troopers differ.

    In the movie, an officer says, “We have just one rule: Everybody fights. Nobody quits.”

    Well, in the book “everybody fights” in the sense that every member of the lean, mean military is a fighting soldier, right down to the chaplains and the cooks. No nocombatant support staff.

    However, every would-be warrior is encouraged to quit, at any time. The only exception was that you couldn’t quit if you were actually in the middle of combat. But you could resign right during the last few minutes before a combat drop.

    The military’s “recruiters” were in fact “discouragers.” If a kid walked into their office, they stressed how unpleasant and dangerous military service was. The recruiter the hero talks to is an amputee, who has perfectly functional and undetectable prostheses but doesn’t wear them on the job — for the express purpose of scaring recruits off.

    The training is tough, in part to squeeze out any waverers. They constantly encouraged recruits to quit. In the book, one guy deserted (senselessly, because a formal resignation would have been quick and painless to obtain), and the military didn’t care or bother to hunt him down. (Until the guy committed a crime while AWOL; them the unit hanged him, because he was officially their responsibility.)

    The rationale: Unless you are absolutely 100% committed and willing to put your life on the line, the military in ST doesn’t want you, not if you have the least bit of doubt. (And if you aren’t committed to sacrificing your interests for the good of your society as a whole, you don’t deserve the vote.)

    However, in the movie, you see none of this attitude that was so striking in the novel. Instead, “Nobody quits.” Instead, especially with the propaganda commercials, you get the sense that the gov’t is actively recruiting, and trying to militarize the society — another fascist trait.

  37. “Well, Heinlein’s politics did evolve from small-government arch-conservatism to cheerful promulgation of outright anarchy.”

    Hehe…Sounds like my kinda man, Eric. 🙂

    Stevo:

    Thanks for the Heinlein and ST info. It’s definately changed my initial, uniformed opinion of the movie, book, and Heinlein himself. I’m usually not so much into fiction, but he sounds like someone I’ll definately have to check out in the future.

  38. Thanks for the WSJ link Stevo. Looks like I might have to go hit up amazon or ebay for some Heinlein books in the near future…..

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