Dr. Strange-fight

Dr. Strange-fight

I forget how hard titles are to come up with.

Anyway, Dr. Strange.  I liked it.  Are we done?
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Please Give The Rock Good Movies

Please Give The Rock Good Movies

Central Intelligence is a movie that smashes up the high school comedy with the spy thriller, as opposed to Grosse Pointe Blank which smashes up the high school comedy with a great cast, wonderful music, and an assassination thriller.  The movie stars Kevin Hart as Calvin “The Golden Jet” Johnson who was a universally liked, beloved member of his high school and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who was a overweight, unique member of his high school, who was bullied into leaving the school after being thrown, naked, into a school wide assembly.  The rest of the cast is essentially there for Hart and Johnson to bounce off of in a plot to discover “The Black Badger”, a terrorist attempting to sell a MacGuffin to other terrorists.

As the Rock and Hart grew up, they took different paths, with the Rock becoming an Agent of the CIA and Hart becoming an international accountant.  The Rock has gone rogue from the CIA to find the Black Badger, and the CIA is pursuing him for alleged crimes on his last mission.  Hart is brought in because his accounting skills are necessary for the Rock to get in the middle of the deal, but the movie, delightfully, leaves his motives and background ambiguous.  The stuff that works is essentially all Johnson.  He lights up the screen with personality, completely committed to playing whatever silly scenario comes up, without any regard for self image.  He boldly states that he’s into “‘corns” after repeated Unicorn references, and is a complete badass from the moment you meet him.  Literally every scene he is in is better for having him, and several times, I asked if we could just get a movie with just that character.

A lot of this movie didn’t work though.  Hart is in a marriage from high school with his sweetheart which is on the rocks because no marriage is good at the start of a movie unless the movie is about them falling apart and sometimes getting back together.  His wife is essentially involved in three or four scenes in the movie, but the movie attempts to make the whole thing out to be about their relationship.  She is also written as not fulfilled until she has a child and her husband is in a happy job, which is disappointing.  With this premise, it would have been great to have her figure into a twist or two, or become the McCoy to Hart and The Rock.  The movie has no idea how time works.  The climax is in Boston at night, and the finale is in Woodlawn, MD the same evening.  Those two places are in the same time zone, and the Macguffin is not a teleporter.

I went and saw this movie in a packed theater with people who were excited to see it.  It is a fun movie, and you might enjoy it if you try it out.  They do a good job of set ups and payoffs, they have the structure down well, and The Rock is by far the best thing on screen right now.  I just wish we could get him into better movies.

Total Blackout: Human Terror is Hilarious!

Total Blackout: Human Terror is Hilarious!

Total Blackout is the worst show I have ever delighted in.  I watched two episodes last night and laughed myself to tears.

The entire show is designed to make the audience feel superior to the poor schlubs who submit themselves to gross indignities for a nominal cash prize at the end.  We are never meant to root for our fellow human beings or feel a moment’s empathy.  We see all while they are blind, with helpful captions in the upper left corner to ensure our omniscience. In the black and grey world of Total Blackout it can be difficult to discern the nuances of the objects our contestants are placed into contact with, but the show makes sure we are never left with a moment of doubt.  We have perfect knowledge.  We watch and laugh as the fools scream in terror while sticking their hands into glass tanks filled with (ha!) feather boas.  They are just so silly! Check out his eyes wide with fear, his every expression kept visible in our night goggle vision, as he tentatively touches rubber duckies, quickly pulling his hands back as if striking a hot stove and yelping that there is something moving in there.  Bask in your superiority; you would never be that foolish, that vulnerable, that bare faced and unguarded in the false privacy of the dark.  Look at their unitards, see them jiggle, watch them stumble, listen to the narrator taunt and tease them as they fumble.  He (and we) know what they should be doing, we know when they should stride forward without fear.  Yes, somehow, the contestants’ giddy joy in discovering the right answers is contagious and it is carefully doled out to make us forget what the real draw is.  This situation must be okay, look at how happy and excited she is now!

Next up, after another helpful recap of the funniest moment this segment, we’re putting them in fishbowl helmets and dumping random objects on their faces!  No, really, that is a thing we are totally going to do.  Are you not entertained?  I sure as hell was.  As the contestants writhe in horror, slowly realizing what they are sharing their breathing space with, my favorite contestant starts tasting whatever is put in his sensory range.  He proudly announces that the current mystery objects are peas.  It is a delightful moment of triumph, though we knew it was peas all along.  We always know, we know all.  Then come ducklings, live ducklings dumped on top of peas, in a fishbowl, with a person’s head stuck through the bottom.  One man shrieks that it is mice.  I momentarily feel bad for the baby ducks stuck in such an unnecessarily loud environment, but the show breezes us right through that to the next challenge.  Now, we are strapping our contestants into harnesses and lowering them into vats of various substances.  Tasting guy is ruling this one, dried leaves have not deterred him from employing his sense of choice.  Now, I say ruling, but there is no indication as we go along as to who is actually winning.  Occasionally, we are given a timer, but these serve only to assuage our subconscious.  It is okay, we are watching a game show, there is a point to this beyond pointing and laughing at others’ misfortune.  We are really not meant to root for anyone, it isn’t about the contest, it is about the experience.  Tasting guy doesn’t eat vegetables, but correctly declares that the mash potatoes are disgusting.  His next course of kitty litter really upped the ante, however.

In between each challenge, we are treated to an elimination reveal which perfectly fits with the casual cruelty of this show: each contestant is placed in front of a trap door and must jump on cue.  Either she hits a solid platform or falls out of sight and is immediately forgotten.  Where do they go?  Is it soft?  Why hasn’t PETA protested the fuck out of this show?  What about Amnesty International?  How do the producers of this show minimize their liability? Who cares! We still have play things left to dance for our amusement!

When the last contestant disappears down the memory hole, we are left with our finalist whooping and hollering and celebrating their “victory”.  Don’t worry about the disappeared ones (you won’t), they’ll be back to try again on the next reunion show.

In the Battle of Magic vs. Science…

In the Battle of Magic vs. Science…

Both Sides Are Actually Using Science

Now You See Me 2 (2016) is, shockingly, the sequel to Now You See Me (2013).  The first film was a mediocre movie about Jessie Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco fighting injustice as magicians.  The sequel is Jessie Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco fighting injustice as magicians. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like the second one.  If you are good at watching movies closely, you’ll figure out what is going to happen really early in the movie, and you’ll be sort of bored.

Speaking of good, there is some decent performance in this movie, and the villain does a good job of seeming threatening.  As you know, it’s Daniel “Please Don’t Call Me Harry” Potter (Oh, whoops, I mean Radcliffe) playing against type as a sociopath who wants to be able to spy on the world. Of course, this being a sequel to a movie that lived and dies on twists, this isn’t the only thing to know about him.  The Horsemen return to do their speechifying about social issues while doing illusions (tricks are what a whore does for money.. or cocaine).  The magic, as with the first, is the best part of the show.  The tricks are generally inventive, have really good set ups and payoffs, and do a great job of keeping you invested in the movie.  Lizzy Caplan also does super necessary work, replacing Isla Fisher and creating a pretty nice little reverse power dynamic with James Franco.  Why there is only one female magician in the world at any given time is amazingly weird, but I am glad that they gave her the gross out magician, which is an improvement over magician’s assistant Fisher.

The bad things in this movie, however, are really bad.  The music in the first half is overbearing, attempting to make you FEEL EVERY FEELING, and KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON, when any average viewer can track it.  There is one occurrence of diegetic music in the film, and it actually worked really well. Do that more please.  The twists and turns feel less earned this time, and cast doubt over the whole of both movies, giving motivations and ideas that don’t make sense for all the characters involved.  The movie is generally boring, which makes one long for Mark Ruffalo to turn big and green and just start smashing everything in sight.  If you didn’t care about these characters from the first one (and I was shocked that they actually had names), you’re not going to learn more about them now. Oh, and they forced Woody Harrelson to play against himself as his own twin brother. Next time, and this is just a suggestion, get an “actor” to play his “brother” and then it won’t be uncanny valley hell, but sure, it’s a little fun to watch him insult himself, and balltap himself, repeatedly.  It gets less fun the more it happens though.

So, in conclusion, watch this movie in the background, and every time you feel exposition coming on, look away.  It’s like a good heist movie, in that you only really need to watch the heist.  Then, go back to playing on your phone.

A little housekeeping

Those of you who voted in my Facebook Poll to force me to see Warcraft!  I will be seeing it this week.  I had people express interest in seeing it with me, so I am going to try to make that happen.  At least they didn’t have to watch this with me.

The Lonely Island is: Spinal Tap

The Lonely Island is: Spinal Tap

Snarky headlines aside, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a movie that was created for the kinds of people who watched Spinal Tap over and over, love the idea of satire about pop culture, and critics.  It stars The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg. It also features a huge number of cameos from celebrities, cutting to interesting perspectives on pop culture, and aping the tropes of the music documentary.  It involves a lot of swearing, weird asides, and a story that you’ve seen before.  I enjoyed it a bunch.

The film is made in the mocumentary mold that Spinal Tap is most associated with, and follows similar arcs.  You have the mostly oblivious group facing a decline, and the way that they overcome that decline.  If you read my Spectre review, you’d know that I think formula has a place in these kinds of movies.  As a framework to hang jokes on, with three of the most marketable comedy stars who can draw from relationships across the industry to make jokes, the overblown pop obsessed world is a pretty deep mine.  However, for every surface level joke that they go for, they also draw on the masterful lessons of Hot Rod, allowing their characters to make insane asides that don’t make sense in ‘reality’, but work perfectly for the movie.

Andy Samberg holds the center of the movie well, but it is important not to ignore the other creative partners in the Lonely Island, who do the hardest work in the movie.  Schaffer spends a lot of the movie acting alone, creating a weird dystopic small farm, looking wistfully and angrily at his past.  The challenge of that role and making some of the funniest moments about boiling resentment make him an MVP of the movie.  Taccone is also spectacular in the role of the friend who has stuck through thick and thin with his friends ascent, trying to allow him to make good decisions.  They do incredible work supporting the central pillar of Samberg’s completely oblivious “hero.”

The reviews of this movie and the focus of the story is going to be celebrity culture and Kardashianification of the world, but it is important to not lose sight of what they accomplished.  The music, the style, the story, and the asides all work together.  If you see it, make sure that you are ready for profound silliness, profanity, nudity, weird asides, and great performances from Taccone and Schaffer.  If you aren’t up for silly jokes about TMZ and Seal, this might not be the movie for you.

Damn, I should have named my review site Snarky Headlines Aside.  Don’t steal that.

X-Men 6 or 8 (or 9), Depending On How You Count Them

X-Men 6 or 8 (or 9), Depending On How You Count Them

X-men, X2, X3, Wolverine Origins, X-men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-men: Days of Future Past, (Deadpool?)

X-men: Apocalypse is a movie that depends a lot on how much you enjoy the X-men movies.  If you enjoy watching people on tiny sets backed up by huge CGI action set pieces, it’s a decent movie, that tells a pretty fun little story.  Oscar Issac (Poe Dameron), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops, non-Marsden division), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark/Not Famke Janssen), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler, non-Gyllenhall/Cummings division) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) all do decent work with very little screen time.  Also, the return of Quicksilver is exactly as overpowered as you thought he was last time, and he is once again the second best part of the movie.

Michael Fassbender is the heart and soul of the movie as Magneto.  Fassbender is living a daily life in Poland, behind the Iron Curtain, with a wife and kid.  If you know anything about plots, you know what is coming: a huge tragedy and Magneto going on a murder rampage.  Thank God.  As an aside, can someone point me to a movie that Fassbender doesn’t elevate?  He was the best part of Prometheus, the previous two X-men movies (including the one where he played the same character as Ian “Effing” McKellen), he was incredibly charming in Inglorious Basterds.  Also, he’s the name of Donna Meagle’s car, which only scores points.

If you’ve ever seen an X-men movie, you’ll know the story.  A power hungry person is attempting to control and/or destroy the world.  The X-men have to come together to stop them.  Apocalypse is decently played by Oscar Issac, who projects power and recruits four horsemen to accompany him in taking over the world.  As usual, Charles is drawn into the plot due to his ability to use Cerebro to connect all the people in the world.  Apocalypse leverages his ability to communicate with everyone to spread his message and completely disarm the world.  Then we have a big action scene at the end.

I am not going to tell you that this movie is high art, but there is a lot to say for it.  It’s pretty enjoyable.  If you like X-men movies, go see it! If you’re indifferent, live in your ennui!

Spoiler Alert, sort of, since he was in all the advertising.

Yeah, Hugh Jackman shows up.  He doesn’t even have a line, nor is he in frame with more than like two other characters.  So, if you’ve been wondering what happened to Wolverine since the last movie, that’s it!

If you’d like me to do a more full review of this movie later, please, leave a comment below.