Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

This is…*sigh*…not bad but also not what anyone was hoping for.

Solo will likely always be overshadowed for its price tag/wallet and was predetermined to suffer such a fate no matter how good this was. It’s unfortunate and a disservice to those who helped construct this artwork but where there are stalls in production and the termination of directors, there’s generally fire.

Ron Howard, under the tight reins of executive producers, ended up reworking nearly three quarters of the film.

The entire tonality of the film was flipped on its axle, leading stars actively questioning their roles, a major red flag for any production. Disney had botched this.Image result for solo star wars movie poster free use

But Disney, or any large megacorp, for that matter, would rather surge through the hurricane than wave the white flag and that they did. I discussed Disney’s reluctance to see straight on John Carter this summer (Was actually one of my better works this year. Worth a click).

Solo runs much smoother than broadcast but I use smooth as a detriment here. While Solo doesn’t scream panic on the screen, the story lacks narrative depth, no doubt a byproduct of a mosh pit of tonalities. The film was originally directed as a comedy since directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were expressly told to distance itself from a Star Wars taste and to instead look toward a character novella surrounding the famed smuggler.

And while I’d have no issue with a Star Wars comedy, producers were thoroughly against it. Some reports said Lord and Miller of Lego Movie fame were targeting a western more than anything. Whether space cowboy or straight comedy, all involved could agree that Han Solo deserved his own enterprise but there was enough vitriol in the disagreement to take an ax to the directing duo altogether, leaving all agreed to the “we need something different” statement but undecided on what qualified as different and what served as walking the plank.

In news that may shock some, the question of ambiguous texture arises on more than one occasion, making even “the dumb friend” in the group question what kind of park ride he got on. While Rogue One carries the Star Wars title, it also proudly states its individuality many a time across filming, a boastful demeanor which continues to magnetize audiences to this story in a familiar universe. Removed from that nostalgic environment, Rogue One still works on a narrative and character level. Being included in the Star Wars pages is simply a bonus.

Rogue One also didn’t reject the label like inheriting such a surname carrying tragic history.

Solo can’t decide if it wants to embrace the label with pride or trash it like a hand-me-down. If those are the only two options, given the Solo character is already part of the cannon, the former seems the right course of action but for whatever reason, the studios were deadset on something they deemed organic when the fragrance they’ve been churning out for forty years is still fresh.

And if western comedy is what you’re going with, that’s totally fine! Hell, might even be something *gasp* innovative.

Innovation scares people just like things and creatures people can’t understand. The unknown is unpredictable, not part of the plan and that upsets the schemers. (Sidenote: I’m in love with The Dark Knight. Truly a masterwork.) Films like Solo aren’t complicated or at least shouldn’t be. Complications arrive because of the parties involved.

And that truthfully sums it up, folks. Disney got too cute with this one and a bout of indecision during a dinner date with one of its finest suitors ended with some thrown handkerchiefs and dramatic exits.

Despite a clear miss at the shooting range, Solo, unlike John Carter, survives as an average endeavor. I give credit to Ron Howard, a man who’s been in the business a long time, and a crew who did what they could to make it all work. Star Wars has a family of its own and I believe those in Hollywood given the opportunity to add to the legacy do so with the utmost respect and reverence for the material.

Woody Harrelson’s bounty hero, along with most of the cast, can’t escape generalities, however, a pit Disney essentially pushed them into. I can almost visualize producers taking a far too active role in directing, correcting the cast’s portrayal of their vehicles at every turn, relaunching them onto a different set of tracks. If producers knew what was best for them, they’d put forward the funds and let the artists focus on the art.

Alden Ehrenreich is the picture’s best figure, an earnest and honest effort. There’s wit, showmanship and charisma here. Shame the script couldn’t have given the guy more to work with. Han Solo is begging for a comedy, howling for more one-liners. The producers stubborn resilience to frame this as a serious smuggler score rattles the mind.

Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Harrelson and company don’t execute anything poorly and I can’t emphasize enough that I hold no resentment toward the cast for this one. It’s hard to win five-card poker with a pair of sevens.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Batman BeginsThe MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTaken)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Spider-Man: Far From Home, Dumb and DumberPokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,Wanted)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The ExtendablesThe Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Solo: A Star Wars Story: 77. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a broken thoroughbred rounding the final bend of what was a promising start to the franchise. The original trilogy has aged tremendously and the prequels, while displaying poor acting and writing far more often than fans would like, are still watchable. The Force Awakens is arguably great despite being a near carbon copy of A New HopeRogue One may be better than any of the new trilogy installments.

Solo is the adopted stepchild who never finds a role to play in the family and despite promise, its parenting and circumstance prevent it from ever reaching its full potential.

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Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

It’s been far too long. I’d rather not blather on about my absence or make any promises regarding my publishing schedule. What gets done get done and I’d rather not chain myself to a planner. Just know I’ve missed this space and while I may disappear at times, I’ll always come back. Now, to our feature presentation.

The Marvel cinematic universe is quite an achievement. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy started it all, although Downey Jr.’s Iron Man gets most of the recognition (Iron Man has aged far better than when I wrote that review, by the way). Regardless, there have been a lot of achievements set by the comic superpower and very few missteps. The Thor franchise is a blight on the resume, with the first piece being average and the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, being a complete trainwreck. Ragnarok was the best of the three and Marvel, having recognized the underachieving so uncharacteristic of them, has green lit a fourth installment under director Taika Waititi’s helm. While Marvel has yet to fire a successful Hulk feature out of its cannon (and perhaps wisely so. They’ve plodded with this character for a while and now that Mark Ruffalo has cemented himself in the role and delivered in a supplementary space, best not to mess with the formula) and handed the public what I considered a copycat film in Doctor Strange, Marvel has been practically flawless otherwise, churning out premium content on a yearly basis for a decade. It was quite a period of prosperity for comic nerds and fans of heroes. Marvel has demonstrated finesse in discussing current events, aided by top-of-the-line casting and prestigious writing.Image result for SPIDERMAN far from home movie poster free use

This chapter, however, is now over. Infinity War, likely the best Marvel ever got or will ever be, followed by Endgame, put the final ink blotches on a stunning manuscript.

And so now, at least for me, appears uncertainty. With some of its best content explored and finalized, it is a question for me of how long they can keep this up. I said this once before and everything turned out fine. Of course, when Iron Man and Cap are part of the picture, you probably shouldn’t be too concerned. They are no longer here and less dominant works are naturally more difficult to adapt., so it comes as no surprise that Marvel turns to the Spider-Man well once again.

As I said, Marvel likely doesn’t consider making Iron Man if not for the success of Raimi’s trilogy. While I’m not a fan of rebooting a character every five years, the Spidey universe is quite extensive. They haven’t finished mining the caverns.

While Marvel and Sony together made a mistake with the Garfield entries (have not aged well and weren’t good to begin with. Further reading/research regarding the two projects reveals Raimi’s reluctance to make a fourth while Marvel decided to immediately reboot the saga with most of the same farmhands in place, leading to what was likely a burnt-out and heavily pressured creative team). Marvel was much smarter this time around.

Following a rights agreement between Sony and Marvel, a unified effort made the wheels go round in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Originally skeptical of a relative unknown (always will be. Comes with a lot of pressure), Tom Holland has worked well in the recipe Marvel has concocted. Straying away from the serious drama of Raimi and the repugnant bad boy of Marc Webb, Marvel has gone lighter, returning to the enhanced but overwhelmed teenager that makes Peter Parker so relatable and likable. Despite his reflexes, abilities and intelligence, Peter finds himself on the hunt for confidence and validation. Pair the immense shadow of responsibility with an even larger one from a lost mentor and Peter is gasping for air.

Hopefully an international field trip will do the trick.

Try as he might, you can’t run away from yourself and often not from your problems. Spider-Man: Far From Home is about Peter accepting and acting on that information. Peter wants a relationship with MJ but over the course of the film, begins to realize he needs to embrace himself before he can open up. Those feelings of vulnerability and helplessness are not something a relationship can cure. Those are monsters you have to conquer solo. Sometimes, doing things solo, even as a superhero, feels impossible.

You would think the introduction of superpowers into our lives would solve all our issues. Spider-Man, perhaps more than any other, proves otherwise. Yes, you can swing from rooftops but that’s not a skill highly pursued in a professional field. Being a superhero means sacrificing yourself and your life for the greater good and that is not a responsibility taken lightly. It also means having to always wear a mask, even in front of those you care about in plain sight. Everyone who knows is a potential target. If anything, superpowers make life, which is already difficult, impossible. And yet, despite all he loses by donning the mask, Peter does it anyway because he knows it’s what he’s been tasked with, what he’s supposed to do, who he is.

There are times where Peter questions it, deals with the same self-doubt many of us battle. Peter is human and Marvel’s depiction of these heroes’ humanity is one of their products’ best qualities.

Has Jake Gyllenhaal ever had a bad role? I’ve yet to see it. Samuel L. does his usual, the direction stays direct and perhaps most importantly, it stays true to itself. Plenty of pieces have become imitations rather than creations. Spider-Man: Far From Home never even dreams of it and we’re all the better for it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Batman Begins, The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTaken)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Dumb and DumberPokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding Citizen)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The ExtendablesThe Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Spider-Man: Far From Home: 89.

I’m excited to rewatch Spider-Man: Homecoming and put my thoughts down on that but until then, I’ll smile over Far From Home, a film which reminds us even the most powerful and most gifted sometimes feel weak.

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Movie Review: Batman Begins

“It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.”

June 15, 2005. That was the release of Batman Begins. Depending on when I’ve published this, the 14th anniversary is either right upon us or just passed (haha, so much for that). Little did we know then that the beginning of what is, arguably, the most dramatic illustration of the Batman/Bruce Wayne persona was being revealed.

There have been a healthy variety of caricatures and molds but none, in my opinion, have ever done Batman the justice he truly deserves like Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, a course few in the superhero genre can compete with. Marvel is clearly the gold standard in comic book lore but its formula often dissuades serious undertones for a more humorous experience. Marvel is by no means one-note or incapable of doing so. Far from it. The Infinity War films are beyond reproach as is Captain America: Civil War.

That has always been Detective Comics calling card, however: a relentless dedication to the serious, dramatic and less perused material. D.C. has also built a reputation of messing it up. I’ve gone over this in a few critiques already (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Constantine, Suicide Squad, Catwoman, Watchmen). I need not mention it again here.

When they get it right (how few times that is), it can compete with just about anything.

Image result for batman begins movie poster free useBatman, despite being a billionaire, is heavily relatable, a man racked with guilt and a sense of powerlessness despite the absurd amount of weapons at his disposal. All that he achieves? Meaningless. It doesn’t take away the pain. Money is fruitless and offers no respite. He can only look back at what he could have done, what he should have done, burdened by regret over his parents’ murder. That angst fuels him, drives him to serve justice and hold those in power accountable. He is Lady Liberty.

As is discussed in the film, he is not a man. He is an ideal. A man can be killed but an ideal, an ideology? That’s more powerful than any man can ever aspire to be, a theme paraded in another of D.C.’s best pictures, V for Vendetta, which, speak of the devil, is a Wachowski film. It’s as if I planned all this. (If you haven’t read my comments on The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and/or The Matrix Revolutions, please click!)

An ideal can be chased. It can be battered and chastised, drowned in a roar of denial and hatred. Assemblies of men in power will do what they can to twist it to their own ends, utilize it to win a war of their own but it will stay pure. It cannot be bought, cannot be ransomed with or threatened. Its being is never in question. It holds realm over all things, even those that would rebel against it. It won the war when it came into existence.

As we see in the first third, Bruce Wayne wants to fight injustice and corruption but man is and always will be limited by his own mortality and quantity of resources. A symbol has no such limitations. A symbol sacrifices everything for the cause but none of its identity. It will never betray itself. So became the Bat.

Batman is that symbol for Gotham, a city ravaged by poverty, economic turmoil, corruption and crime, a city with no hope for the good and the innocent. Batman is that beacon, the bat signal in the sky, the light in the darkness.

To those who would seek to prey on the helpless and the vulnerable, he is a monster in the shadows. He is no man and something greater than man frightens people.

Over the course of the film, Nolan demonstrates direction guided by an intricate knowledge of character and scope, captured in the film’s tape. Batman Begins runs like an opera, with smooth transitions in both key change and stanza whilst providing an oh-so-familiar melody. Nolan knows Batman deserves a serenade of severity and remains diligent with the sculpting of that tone but is aware when to pluck some humor into the chapters, not unlike a comic book-stylized work. The dark savior deserves a dark commemoration but not one without charm.

Alongside the maestro’s baton is some excellent writing from the quill, scripted by Nolan and writer David Goyer, who would go on to write the screenplay for Man of Steel, the evasive Superman success that took D.C. decades and multiple failed attempts to create. No character goes unrendered in these pages, each with their own textures and motives to pass along to our palettes. Films with great writing are interwoven with quotable moments and immersive messages. Count Batman Begins as one of them.

This edition is no doubt aided by excellent casting. Christian Bale serves quite well as our titular character, a man who knows what he will and will not do. He will sacrifice everything for the greater good. He will not betray the symbol, the idealogy that brewed him. Michael Caine is especially good as Alfred, both whimsical and cheeky. Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Liam Neeson finish off quite a list, not to mention Katie Holmes.

Last but not least, Hans Zimmer has been one of the most influential composers in Hollywood, crafting masterful product repeatedly. The list of truly impeccable work extends back more than 40 years. It is a near impossible task to pick any one collection as Zimmer’s best given the ensemble in his portfolio but The Dark Knight trilogy is my personal preference. Riveting, capturing and hopeful, Zimmer’s Batman disc is one of my all-time favorite scores. Many of my top-tier soundtracks originated from Zimmer’s beautiful mind but this delivery and this punch are too immersive to resist.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Dumb and Dumber, Pokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding Citizen)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The ExtendablesThe Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Batman Begins: 93.

“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” It’s a lesson we all need to read from time to time. Bruce Wayne had to learn how to pick himself up, too. Often our greatest successes come from the ashes of our defeats. It is never too late for redemption, not for the criminals, not for Gotham and not for ourselves.

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Movie Review: Dumb and Dumber

“I’m sick and tired of having to eke my way through life. I’m sick and tired of being a nobody. But most of all, I’m sick and tired of having nobody.”

That is a powerful set of lines from Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. If you expected a serious installment to Carrey’s resume, however, I’m not sure what part of the title gave that impression.

1994’s Dumb and Dumber is a special kind of stupid and I mean that in the most polite way possible. Those lines displayed at the top are resilient and hit me where it hurts. I’m sure many viewers felt the same. As is commonplace, much of comedy comes from a dark place. That’s one of the reasons Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) are so funny. It’s because they’re so pitiful, so hopeless and there is something rather inhumane about our enjoyment of that. It’s schadenfreude, to find enjoyment in someone else’s suffering. I’m not shaming anyone. I’m a huge advocate of schadenfreude but for some reason, I kinda sympathize with these two, probably because of those lines above. If you watch the film for fun, it’s likely you don’t even recall them. They’re dropped and forgotten rather quickly, not dwelled upon and that may very well be why they pack such a punch. We were given a peek before the secrets were pulled back behind the curtains.

Image result for dumb and dumber movie poster free use

These feelings of inadequacy urge Christmas and Dunne to do very desperate and absurd things, which is where much of the film’s entertainment comes from: acting out in ways, any way required, to be accepted. The film, perhaps unintentionally, looks at bullying and ostracization, though I may be absorbing the film far more poetically than it was intended to be. Christmas and Dunne are so lacking in intelligence and sense, so dramatically bumbling, it’s quite natural to look at them through a lens of disgust and neglect and many do during the course of their journey from Providence, Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado.

Failing at seemingly every obstacle in front of them, Christmas and Dunne carry a weight of self-loathing and had this film wanted to, it could have turned down the path of dark comedy and had a stronger message than it does.

But this is Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber is really dumb.

There is such a thing as too dumb and every comedy, whether a college humor entry like Adam Sandler 90’s/early 2000’s or a Ben Stiller classic like Zoolander and Tropic Thunder have to mind that. There comes a point when too dumb starts to be detrimental to a film (Along Came Polly). Someone, whether the director, the writers or actors themselves, needs to know the difference between dumb and fun and thankfully, most do. Sidenote: the discrepancies between dumb and funny are not an objective science.

I’m sure there are some entries in Carrey’s journal that don’t but I’ve watched quite a few that have, The Mask being perhaps his finest work. The Ace Ventura installments are also quite good. Carrey’s slapstick is loud, absurd and in your face. It also has a very high success rate for me.

Add Dumb and Dumber to the list.

In addition to perhaps stumbling onto character connection, the dialogue writing is thorough. There are some sequences which exude the childish nonsense that would drive the insane mad. It’s no wonder our villains think them so dangerous. They might slip intelligence under the disguise of outrageous stupidity. Or just ride up their blood pressure to the point of a heart attack.

Bouncing gaffe to gaffe, Dumb and Dumber maintains solid pacing, transitioning smoothly most of the time from set to set. A comedy like this functions like a train: gotta keep shoveling coal to keep the fire burning and Dumb and Dumber is an astute worker. Jim Carrey has made a career manifesting material out of thin air. Like many other comedians, sometimes you need to let go of the reins and let the stallions run. I believe that to be the case with Dumb and Dumber. Too much of it reeks of Jim Carrey. I’d love to know how much input Carrey had in the writing.

Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey showcase contagious, organic chemistry. Sometimes things just mesh well and the Carrey/Daniels special does wonders for the funny bones. Truly a delight to watch.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Pokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The World)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Extendables, The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Dumb and Dumber: 83.

Dumb and Dumber was one of Jim Carrey’s earliest and most recognizable works. 1994 might have been Carrey’s best year, churning out Ace Ventura: Pet DetectiveThe Mask and this.

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Movie Review: The Extendables

“A vapid photon, glittering for an ignorant audience…I wish they knew what an appalling effort it takes to get your facade ready to be photographed.”

Today’s post comes days after watching Pokemon Detective Pikachu, a film I truly enjoyed. It was a product Pokemon deserved, a lot of fans deserved. It was nice to see a creative project turn out that way. Offered quite the euphoria, the passion of a honeymoon.

All nice things come to an end, however. In comes The Extendables, a picture my brother nominated for Worst Ever. Surely, it could not compare with the infamous Alien 3?

Now, our feature presentation.

Annihilation of art is apathy, approved of affluent if not agitated aggression against amorous activity and an affiliation for assembly. Bemoaned of both brethren and breed, it behooves this beast to bluntly and brutally banish bright benevolence and broach banality boastfully as both benefactor and beneficiary. Cold, collected, calculated, conceded and consumed with callous contains, cancerous cats carry cautiously, carefully clawing cleverness, charm and chivalry whilst creating chaotic confines and crippled creatures. Devoid of desire and detached from development, a drift destined for destitution and desolation, this decrepit and diseased, dour and damaged delicacy devours destiny, destroys design and disables emotion, envious even enamoured with elegance whilst estranged from empathy.

Image result for extendables movie poster free use

If you struggled to understand that poetic dedication, let me dumb it down for you. Apathy is love’s greatest villain and apathy chomps at the bit at any sort of attachment whether emotional or intellectual. It is to apathy’s salvation to eliminate the arts, creativity and all that is good in life. It rips at the fabric of imagination. Color, intrigue, tonality, character, story, passion, apathy wants all of it off the reservation. Apathy is manipulative and a control freak. It’s a parasite and its existence depends on sucking the life out of everything around it.

Apathy presents a large hurdle to progress. Education and resolution depend on conversation. If someone doesn’t care, why would they engage in discussion? It stifles dialogue and emboldens annoyance and frustration. If you get frustrated enough, you’ll start throwing things.

I wanted to throw all the things while watching The Extendables, a film so destructive to the finer qualities of life it’s hard not to mistake it for a toxic waste facility. This production is pretty upfront about its sewage. Its opening sequences reek of an unimaginable fermentation. You recoil from the discharge, effusive and debilitating as it is. The stench is overpowering, paralyzing even. You want with all your power to flip the switch, pull the cord and toss the television off the balcony. It’s infected and your house must be cleansed but you have already been traumatized, made immobile by the force of this wretchedness. There is one option:

Burn it.

All of it.

Rid this poor planet of its existence. Save humanity, for the love of God. Don’t let this cretin escape the premises or we are all doomed. Our extinction is inevitable if you don’t. It is up to you, dear reader, to do what must be done, for the sake of not just this world but the universe as a whole. Black holes, suckers of all things big and small, fear The Extendables. Global warming is caused by this picture. The Sun is being sucked closer to Earth each and every minute by this evergrowing wormhole. The fragments of reality shake in its presence.

The Extendables is a hit piece, designed to attack the framework of Hollywood and art itself, painting the experience of film making with a broad brush of power, greed, negligence and sexual harassment.

Director Brian Thompson had worked in the industry previously and given the blurb he dictates here, he doesn’t think much of the place, slathering it in debauchery and hate-filled rhetoric. If Mr. Thompson wanted his concerns aired, an interview would have done the trick, even a documentary. A parody was not the right format to air his grievances.

And as stupid and unlikable as Mr. Thompson is, I think he was well-aware of this. The Extendables wasn’t about making a point; making a point involves critical thinking, persuasion, communication and a somewhat functioning heartbeat, none of which the abomination possesses. It just is.

The Extendables is all that is wrong with this world: contrived, arrogant and narcissistic, unwavering in its incessant need to control the room. Selfish, short-fused and with the attention span of a fly doused in kerosene, The Extendables is one of those movies that has a face asking to be punched and it feels righteous and right to do so. No redeeming qualities can be found in this hellspawn. Best light it on fire and kick it off a cliff.

Brian Thompson is a sick, sick man, a man full of himself to the point that interacting with him induces vomiting. He’s one of those people who views himself as a supremacist, superior and undeterred until the end. A megalomaniac drunk with self-adulation, Mr. Thompson can’t help but check off the boxes of ways he’s better than everyone else. He probably sends himself a birthday card, the chump.

This dolt, jealous of the success of the musclemen of Hollywood, decided to devise a smear campaign rife with politics and rumor mills. It felt like watching a political commercial if political commercials were an hour and a half long, shot in abandoned buildings in Detroit on film from the 90’s and edited like a college news station in your mom’s basement.

Brian Thompson is a hack. No real artist could ever compose something this unspeakable. The dialogue’s blood flow is clamped with the exception of two snippets where I caught myself edging forward with the slimmest of hopes, the same type of desperation one buried alive shudders with when they see a pinprick of light.

It wasn’t light.

It was water. The cemetery was being poured on and soon I would have the luxury of drowning whilst being entombed. Quite the entertainment.

Beings with such a disregard for human life are often locked away. Thompson walks freely under the “It’s art” license. What crud.

Bumbling birdbrains meander from shot to shot uttering content that makes Billy Madison look like Harvard law school. With such a narrow scene of production, it’s impossible for creativity in shot selection or cinematography to take place.

It’s a single droplet of feces on a canvas, so small and yet so inexplicably damaging. Abrasive like racism and soothing like the Saw franchise, The Extendables leaves me unsympathetic. It’s undeserving of pity or empathy. It wouldn’t know what those things were anyway.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Pokemon Detective Pikachu, The Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The World)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the Union, The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Extendables: 3.

Apocalpytic agony awaits anyone attempting to extend their life after watching this atrocity. Truly terrible in every critical way, The Extendables is the type of work that needs all of its copies burned. Erase it from history. It will take weeks to soothe the scars on my memory.

With that, we have a new champion. The Extendables is officially the worst to be critiqued on this site.

Congratulations, tool. Now go lock yourself in the basement and swallow the key.

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Movie Review: XXX: State of the Union

“Wars come and go but my soldiers stay eternal.”

Tupac. Nice.

As I went over in a few posts back, XXX wasn’t a good movie. Its spark faded quickly but Hollywood has a severe case of separation anxiety and could not dare distance itself from XXX. It must coddle it and breathe new life into its corpse.

It’s difficult to have a relationship with the creative pasture. Hollywood is the same friend we all have who complains about the many problems of their current relationship. There’s an evident, clear solution but he/she can’t help his/herself. They can’t let things go. Neither can the big wigs.

The brainiacs in California have nightmares about leaving pennies in the trash. They wake in the middle of the night and fling heaps of it all over their mansions, searching for even a speck of metal that might have gone lost. To forgo even a smidge of potential is punishable by death.

No, throwing millions into skydiving without a parachute projects is much more logical.Image result for xxx state of the union movie poster free use

Like many awkward seconds before it, XXX: State of the Union seems destined to fail, with callback after callback in its screen time, as if “remember the first one?!” was its go-to marketing strategy. It spends a considerable amount of film doing this, a coworker who’s jumping from negligible points to unneeded details constantly before even approaching the subject matter of the story. It cuts the air supply to the room, in essence, leaving little wonder why we begin drifting into unconsciousness.

For whatever reason, Ice Cube is told to act like a punk, plain and simple. Spinning your main character as a tough talk jerk isn’t a great sales pitch. That’s part of the XXX program. I understand that. As the original grew, we saw Cage for what he was: an idealist with a rebel streak. Darius Stone is a Navy SEAL who questions authority but his motivations, from start to finish, incur skepticism. Despite his resume, you’re never real sold on his character. The course of the film seems predetermined regardless of the inherit good involved here. The movie doesn’t have the backbone to take a surprise twist into dark canals. It would rather take a trip down memory lane than boat us past storyboards.

Removed from dynamic characters, XXX: State of the Union…I mean, it’s bad, people.

People are usually creating the intrigue in stories, the ones who make the cogs in our head move around. Whether that occur through lust, humor, adrenaline or rational/irrational thought is of little consequence. When the personas are revealed to have little volume, us intellectuals get disgruntled, discouraged and disinterested. We start asking questions.

What is going on?

Who are these people?

And why do they all suck?

Once you’ve lost the dog, you need to have a leash to redirect it. That leash can be cinematography, action sequences, some drops of comedy or sound editing/musical score. I can recall exactly one scene of any of these things that fulfilled its calling and only because of its direct statement to subtle racism. Even a film with poor adventure arches can be tied together with some dialogue composition, banter thrown here and there. This film can’t even get banter right. This movie would be awful at whack-a-mole. Never knows when to swing and when it does, it misses.

It’s not like the director is out of his element either. Lee Tamahori directed Along Came a Spider and Die Another Day, which was the most profitable Bond film to that point in time. He wasn’t a scrub so why does State of the Union play out like one?

A change in writers likely played a role. Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen chose other projects (wise choice) and the writer who originated the idea was, I assume, nowhere to be found for this adaptation. The tone doesn’t transfer and the rebel cause which was the driving force behind the 2002 tale can’t find its footing.

It’s a straight shot from here to the station. You can see the pieces lining up rather easily and nothing quite shoots a film in the face like predictability and the absence of the realm of possibility. A walk down the street is fine and sometimes a bike ride a few miles down the road but international travel from believability, especially when you don’t have much else going on, is not recommended.

With so little to report, it’s hard to put copy down for this. What am I supposed to talk about past character disorientation, tone betrayal, an absence of showmanship or theatrical prowess, graphic mediocrity and plot pushing?

Can I move on with my life now?

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Pokemon Detective Pikachu, The Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The World)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for XXX: State of the Union: 22.

It’s been quite a few months since I’ve reviewed a film that got a suckage label. XXX: State of the Union just missed out on the honor. Still, we get a new addition to the 20’s, the crudfield before the Chernobyls.

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Movie Review: Pokemon Detective Pikachu

“Harry is still alive. Case closed but still open until I solve it.”

Video games don’t have a great track record and despite my initial reluctance to identify it as one, that’s what Pokemon Detective Pikachu is. Pokemon’s emergence came from its GameBoy release, Pokemon Red and Blue. Since then, it’s developed into one of the largest universes in entertainment, with stocks in anime, manga, trading cards and television.

Unlike some franchises, however, Pokemon has already found success with animated films, composing over 20 projects, though they were all shipped by Kunihiko Yuyama, an acclaimed anime director. Its animated television run is still ongoing, spanning 22 years.

Surely, this would be the one to do it. There’s too much right for this to go wrong.

We’ve said that before though, haven’t we? Numerous times, correct? It’s predetermination, part of sacred cinema texts: Video game movies shall not work.

There were concerns before it came out. Justice Smith had made himself into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s most hated character, a film which had plenty wrong with it. Casting him in the lead role made my stomach turn. Director Rob Letterman hadn’t released a film in four years and didn’t have the most extensive nor impressive resume. Seemingly innocent flags start to look like red ones when connected to a video game adaptation.Image result for detective pikachu movie poster free use

However, my compatriots, you can finally, after all these years of torment, breathe a sigh of relief and toss that monkey off a cliff. Pokemon Detective Pikachu got it right.

There were other flags before it released that said it might. Ryan Reynolds, who has completely revived his career, was a perfect cast for bantering anime rat, the adrenaline shot a film like this needed. The studio also decided to write an original character rather than bring Ash to screen, a choice I applauded. It demonstrated backbone and a willingness to create. That meant an introductory character arc which could be viewed as its own commodity rather than torn down and berated for not being an exact replica of what was demanded by hardcore fans. It would be able to distance itself from the mass expectations smashing against theater entrances and gather the confidence to walk out on stage.

That’s what this film was going to be about at the end of the day. It wasn’t going to be about the Pokemon themselves, though it could have been. It wasn’t going to be about the spectacle, though that would inject some nostalgia into the room. It was always destined to formulate itself upon the plateau of character. Pikachu became more than a colorful rodent who squeaked “Pika, Pika”. He became a street detective with a caffeine addiction, the writers ascribing a character upon a creature that, even after all this time, the fellas at Nintendo had never considered personifying. Suddenly, Pikachu became even more likable and certainly more relatable. He was funny, whimsical, light-hearted and became a central focal point of the experience more than a sidekick who never had much say in decisions or discussions. Pikachu had an enlivening spirit.

Ryan Reynolds is the best Pokemon Detective Pikachu has to offer and it’s not remotely close. It’s quite remarkable, the difference voice acting can make. Reynolds is the perfect talent for such a thing, as hopefully all my readers have seen from Deadpool, Reynolds’ most iconic role, a performance I believe he’s unlikely to eclipse. Some roles you’re just born to play and Deadpool was and will forever be Reynolds’ baby.

Whenever you feel Pokemon Detective Pikachu begin to teeter, Reynolds brings it back, serving as both quarterback and coach. The story funnels through him and though he’s not the main character, whenever he’s gone too long, the product suffers. Reynolds looms over the picture, in a good, encouraging manner, like a heavy-handed father urging his son forward. Despite his best intentions, that father, and Reynolds here, will continue to overshadow his son until he finds his way, which is what this film is driving towards. It’s pushing Tim (Justice Smith) to become who he was meant to be. Reynolds is just far too talented for his presence to be forgotten for more than a few minutes. Letterman does a commendable job directing the spotlight but it begins to lose some of its glimmer without our bright yellow friend.

Tim is one of the populace, childhood aspirations killed by reality. He wanted to be a Pokemon trainer, wanted to be somebody. Now, he sells insurance.

Tim is coming to the road many shall come upon: deciding to fall back into the plush comfort of running in the hamster wheel at 9-5’s or leaning forward into the gamble that might make us feel whole again. Throw in some family dysfunction and social inadequacy and we’ve got a character, a genuine Poke nerd.

While much of the film is catered to a young adolescent audience, there’s material for more seasoned generations, allowing those to relive what they used to dream of in simpler times. Most notable is the dialogue writing. Sometimes the vehicle is more entertaining than the destination and such is the case here. Stories, especially films, often suffer from anticipation anxiety, so obsessed with getting to the big hurrah that they forget about all the intricacies that make the build what it is. We see this with adaptations especially, production executives jumping with glee when they get to throw Godzilla onto the screen or reveal the Power Rangers mech. One of these films demonstrated self-control and was a box office hit. The other? Oh, the stench.

The best things come to those who wait and toil in the meantime. Reynolds and Smith demonstrate chemistry with their lines and most of the production’s best work comes in the middle frames.

The visuals are fine though not overly glossy. Sometimes, that is what we as an audience needed. Not all pictures have to be so crisp. Sometimes the mind fills in the blanks. That’s not to say Letterman doesn’t take luxuries. A well-composed product will shoot for the awe star from time to time and Letterman makes sure to fire a couple rounds off to remind us he’s standing at attention.

The final third leaves us with some questionable narrative choices and a plot more complicated than it needs to be. Does stint the finale a bit.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The WorldThe 40-Year-Old Virgin)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Detective Pikachu: 82.

I do not find it coincidental that Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero is the hit Legendary went with as their trailer song. It’s awfully on the nose. We have been holding out for a hero for quite a while, us video game people. We’ve had to put up with a lot of crap for it. We’ve had some that seemed close but never quite got there like Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft films. We’ve had the Mortal Kombat editions, Doom, which, having reviewed it recently, I can confirm has not aged well. Hitman, Max Payne, Need for Speed, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider and we mustn’t forget this surefire trainwreck coming up. They’ve all abused us but salvation has come. We have a good live-action video game movie and it’s a taste I’ll do my best to savor. Who knows the next time this’ll happen.

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Movie Review: John Carter

“We do not cause the destruction of a world, Captain Carter. We simply manage it. Feed off it, if you like.”

John Carter has quite the reputation. Such a branding occurs when you’re known as one of the biggest box office flops in film history. Based on literature from 1912, dreams of bringing the Mars man story to silver screens had been on an 80+ year tour of development hell, an unprecedented run of conflicting approaches and rights transfers. Many were familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work, the same man who created Tarzan. None had a clear vision of its future. Scripts were drafted and scrapped, illustrations and footage lost, rediscovered and edited. Directors and destinations were seemingly picked off a roulette wheel.

All of this infighting demonstrated two things: 1) the material was highly regarded and 2) the standards placed upon any adaptation were very high.

Tarzan was a huge hit back in the early 1900’s. It was an ongoing series for over 20 years and spurred an animated Disney classic. The ceiling for any production of the John Carter franchise was just as ambitious. This was a gold mine of content others had decided to stow away. The technology to make this work isn’t here yet, they said.Image result for john carter movie poster free use

As we well know, the causation of anything in Hollywood is due to the pursuit of the greenbacks. The idea any production company would sit on something this big demonstrates the added pressure on any poor soul who decided to undertake this. Whoever it was and whenever it was, it needed to be a grand slam. Anything less would not suffice.

100 years, a full century after its inception, John Carter arrived.

It bombed.

Massively.

Those at the top of the food chain shoulder much of the blame.

Prior to John Carter, director Andrew Stanton had never coached a live-action picture. Stanton was a golden boy for Pixar, responsible for heading the ships Finding Nemo and WALL-E to Oscar gold. He was an illustrator and a painter was what Disney needed for John Carter.

However, a painter, or an engineer, for that matter, are often only as good as their tools and Stanton had zero, circle that, zero experience with live-action filming. He had the vision, sure but not the ability to implement it. Many people are musically talented and many can create singles but they are unable to transcribe what’s in their mind onto a track nor mold and finesse it past a rough draft. They don’t have the knowledge to do so and are therefore handicapped. Some people can translate and some can’t. Stanton could communicate but not in the medium he was tasked with.

Stanton would later admit to reshooting much of the movie twice. TWICE.

The Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying, “The thing I had to explain to Disney was, ‘You’re asking a guy who’s only known how to do it this way to suddenly do it with one reshoot.'” he explained later. “I said, ‘I’m not gonna get it right the first time, I’ll tell you that right now.'”

This should have been a bright red flag. To reshoot a majority of a film once is concerning. It strongly suggests a lack of confidence in your product and a conflicting direction, not to mention rising costs. To reshoot twice? Take us to DEFCON 1.

According to that same Los Angeles Times article, multiple media analysts and people familiar with the picture’s funding said the film would need to broach $700 million to break even. A piece from The New York Times reported the number was closer to $600.

It managed $284 at the box office.

The New York Times reported gross mismanagement of the product from the top down. The heads of Disney at the time carried little knowledge of live-action filmmaking and Stanton seemed reluctant to listen to anyone from Disney anyway, turning instead to his old animation buddies at Pixar for consultations.

Disney, fed up with years of stagnation on the project, gave almost universal decision-making responsibilities to Stanton, allowing him to override Disney’s own marketing and advertising departments.

So yes. John Carter has quite the reputation.

I curate my research post viewing to remain unbiased. I can tell you I’m not surprised to be discovering all this.

No, I did not enjoy John Carter. It reads disheveled and uncoordinated. It suffers from a heavy dosage of expositional overheating. There is a lot of information to go over and the film utilizes little tact in divulging it, leaving its universe resembling a young child’s room post playdate: flung upside down and sporadically placed, with pieces to who knows what in the corner and other key items from the room seemingly escaped via time rift. So, a film shot three times, essentially.

Such gross mismanagement in any endeavor is near impossible to shield. Opening exposition, especially with rapid name dropping, is often concerning. Steering of the wheel in reshoots can cause actors to lose grip of their characters, creating broken glass art. Representations without a strong heading exude banality and blanks. That’s why John Carter feels like a heavily underwritten character. We know little of his past and possibly less about his current goals and desires. I can’t comment on a diaphanous character arc.

Taylor Kitsch won’t get a lot of blame from me. I would like to know if he read the novels and what his ideas regarding John Carter were. It’s likely his ambitions were curtailed along with everyone else’s under Stanton’s calling. The acting is subpar, although I will give a pass to Mark Strong, who served well in a limited role.

While all of this stuff could have been foreseen, one would think Stanton’s expertise in computerized graphics would carry over. I can think of no rational reason why it wouldn’t.

It doesn’t.

John Carter had plenty of capital behind it and as we’ve gone over, Stanton was given near full control of the reins. Those reshoots afforded him and his team the opportunity to polish the visuals Stanton had built his brand on but you can shine a turd from sunup to sundown. Doesn’t change what it is at the end of the day.

It’s quite an underwhelming spectacle. The contours aren’t exceptionally strong nor vibrant. Much of the creature and vehicle design is average. I can’t think of one shot of cinematography that was memorable.

The only reason I didn’t score this film even lower than I did is because I think the original content, written a century ago, is strong. I’m intrigued by some of the concepts perused, if ever so slightly. There’s simply too much material to express and not enough time to do so. It’s quite possible a creation like this is better in written form and I’d hope so. This was quite a slog.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The WorldThe 40-Year-Old Virgin)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix Revolutions, Triple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXX, The SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for John Carter: 43.

A romance in the preliminary stages of budding let alone blooming, a character carousel with no pull and a stark panorama, John Carter doesn’t connect on many punches and certainly not on its calling cards.

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Movie Review: XXX

“Do we want to drop another mouse in the snake pit or do we want to send our own snake and let him crawl in?”

No, this isn’t a porno.

You can’t talk about this film without first mentioning how ridiculous its premise is. I’m sorry, I don’t like to be that guy but someone has to be.

The government has lost three of its agents and its next course of action is to hire a convict. Doesn’t seem to be a great plan. Samuel L. Jackson will make the same argument that Viola Davis makes in Suicide Squad: they’re expendable (true), programmable (haha, no) and controllable (also no).

If you’re going to run with this story, that’s fine. Some people need to be taught who’s really in control and often the best lessons can only be learned in trying situations. Do I think it’s illogical to believe this procedure would work? Yes. Do I think it’s unreasonable to think someone would try it? No. Humanity will never fail to surprise you and it regularly takes the wrong path multiple (sometimes an infinite number of) times before figuring it out. See the Jurassic Park franchise, for example. Some would argue our species never learns.Image result for xxx 2002 movie poster free use

People, more than anything, like to control. They do not want to ride shotgun. They manipulate and pull strings for their own benefit and the thrill and reward of steering what is perceived to be uncontrollable comes with quite a thrill of accomplishment and a grand source of power. It is the darker side of ambition. What we can’t rationalize, whether that is criminal behavior or superheroes, we want to control. They’re not part of the plan. What’s not part of the plan upsets the established order of things. What isn’t part of the program is by definition something which seeks to disrupt it and what seeks to destroy must be rerouted to a more essential purpose or erased from the picture.

I’ve highlighted this scene quite a few times on this blog. It is one of my favorite sequences in cinema because it is a message so pervasive and applicable. The reviews of the Nolan trilogy are on the horizon.

Insert Xander Cage, an idealistic extreme sports expert who can’t be bought. Cage isn’t excessively violent but he rejects the established order. What is true of any idealist is true of Cage: his mind is his greatest weapon. When you can’t be bought and won’t shun your values, you can’t be manipulated and that scares people because it means you’re a rogue dog. We know what people high up in the food chain think of strays.

Cage is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group suspected of dangerous activity, the chemical weapons variety. Given Cage’s personality, it’s a perfect fit. This film could become Point Break real quick.

It doesn’t and I find myself wishing it did. The initial setup is well executed, dialogue mostly tolerable and action scenes with Vin Diesel always seem to test the absurdity scale. Unique gadgets becoming of the spy genre are introduced.

The second half…oh, boy.

It’s a doozie. The likableness of the first half is because of its distinctive differences. It wants to be a spy movie but shows a potential bloom of disparity, a promising individual rather than an additive to an already predetermined sum. Its guts disappear in the second portion.

Xander Cage is the seed which was supposed to grow as the film progressed. His character gets predictable in the second half, demonstrating an arc drawn many times over. The intrigue, the pop this film initially demonstrated? Fizzled and no one likes flat pop.

Unorthodox approaches pique interest but people like things to stay irregular with some familiarity sprinkled in. Charisma and confidence in your story is far more attractive than cowardice. XXX starts following a blueprint and floor plans just don’t have the same glamour and personality as a first-of-its-kind model.

Removed from action sequences and, let’s be honest, what Vin Diesel does well, XXX loses its flair. It doesn’t have the script to thoroughly explore rebellious nature, settling for scratching the surface of the topic before casually walking away from the exhibit. This is about as awkward as your mind imagines it to be.

The forced romance ploy is growing old with me and doesn’t do this production any favors. It absorbs screen time which should be utilized on that departed exhibit or a subsidiary of it. The motivations of our nemesis are left purposely vague and Diesel’s Cage seems to love playing hero, for whatever reason. Usually one would like to see the gradual transition of the character rather than see him jump off a cliff for no particular reason other than there being a female in the near vicinity.

With the wit from the opener removed, character lacking and story suffering, XXX ends up looking like this: a horse coming across the finish line without a jockey.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The Matrix,L.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The WorldThe 40-Year-Old Virgin)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix Revolutions, Triple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath RaceWind River)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower Rangers,Underworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for XXX: 59.

XXX is a room with one sparkler. It dazzles early but sparklers have a short lifespan, leaving us in a void waiting for the next one to light for a considerable amount of time. That doesn’t happen and the only appropriate response upon leaving the attraction is to inform the operator, “I think it’s broken.”

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Movie Review: The Matrix Revolutions

“‘Why, Mr. Anderson, why? Why do you persist?’

“‘Because I choose to.'”

Warner Brothers made a daring decision in 2003 to release both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions in the same year, something no studio would have the gonads to do today. It was a move that may have cost them. Reloaded had a box office haul of $740 million while Revolutions ran out of gas at $427. Over a billion for two films is a good day’s work but had the third and final chapter been held hostage until the next calendar year, it’s possible the sum might have been doubled.

The two sequels were made concurrently, similar to Peter Jackson’s initial photography of all three Lord of the Rings films simultaneously and despite that, The Matrix Revolutions is an disowned cousin of its older family.

I’m unsure if the studios put pressure on the Wachowskis. Given how long ago these films were made, it’s information not readily available but it’s certainly worth wondering. The Wachowskis are artists in the purest form. It’s hard to believe they’d bend but with pressure, sometimes it’s only a matter of time before we break.

Image result for matrix revolutions movie poster free use

The Matrix Revolutions runs like an imposter, a copycat and shell of its former self. It lacks original tone and message and becomes a The Hobbit: The Battle of the Seven Armies gorefest rather than what the material dictated. A series thus far built on heavy dosages of thematic dissertation and sociopolitical undertakings runs like a wounded soldier jacked with Toradol.

That might be a bit harsh. The Matrix Revolutions still offers a pedigree on spectacle. As with everything else, it can’t compare with its elders but it hasn’t completely lost its identity. It knows what it’s good at and where its talent lies. It’s just overzealous and doesn’t know when a little subtlety and tact would be to its benefit.

With its brains run amuck, chapter three is a nonstop shoot ’em up reminiscent of scores of blockbusters who have tried bullet porn as a cinematic formula. The Wachowskis are capable of much more and audiences deserve better than this effort.

The Matrix Revolutions gets so bold as to throw in a Man of Steel bout in its final stage, one whose punches can only land so hard given the lethal combos we’ve seen in earlier installments, flurries this match never brings whether because of preparation or fatigue. I think it’s more likely the dog’s heart wasn’t in the fight.

This trilogy built itself on complexities of the human psyche and lectures of intellect. This was a welcomed approach. I think viewers would agree most action novellas don’t get very mentally taxing. Many of them are braindead. Go read my review of The Fast and the Furious, for example. I could hyperlink quite a few more of them. At times, it feels like they’re this blog’s calling card.

This trifecta’s want to be an individual made it appealing and enabled its rebellious nature. It meshed well with the punk nature of the 90’s. It both had its own style and adopted it from the direction America was taking at the time: one of character discovery, technological innovation and an expanded understanding of what was and wasn’t possible. All three of those identities are present in The Matrix. It’s little wonder why this premise caught on. Yes, the visual flourish was some of the best of its decade but the message was what really hooked you. Visuals can awe you at a high level but story and character are where it’s at, my dudes. The Matrix had that.

The Matrix Revolutions? Not so much. Established characters find their arc limited to the arm strength of a teeball player while any new supporting characters or transfers from part two will find their script lacking any emotional impact. The writing the Wachowskis’ reputation is built on doesn’t arrive and in bonanzas like this, actors find themselves doing more action than acting.

With few lines and much of the camera’s time spent on visual effects, Keanu’s presence is shortchanged. The film’s second act completely removes him, leaving nearly a half hour absent of two of the franchise’s principle characters and very little of the third. Without the team’s star playmakers, the unit struggles. Better casts can hold a film together, carry the torch per se but not The Matrix franchise. The series has orbited Neo from beginning to end. Abandoning that orbit has consequences for everything else in the system. Keanu Reeves in his signature role is almost purposefully pushed aside in the finale, abandoning the choir with a dissonant chord.

I found myself waiting for the cavalry during this presentation. Surely, the generals will send them in. It’s a neck-and-neck race and they have the aces. We’ve seen them before. What are they waiting for? Why is this the path they chose?

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (The Matrix, L.A. ConfidentialHerTakenCaptain America: Civil War)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Matrix Reloaded, WantedLaw Abiding CitizenScott Pilgrim Vs. The WorldThe 40-Year-Old Virgin)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Triple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull Island)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath RaceWind River)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Matrix Revolutions: 76.

Allured by theatrics rather than its own talents, The Matrix Revolutions tastes of betrayal and views like splatter art: disinterested and without any sense of decorum. People dabble in blotches hoping to accidentally uncover splendor. The first two introductions already had it and so, while it’s an average picture, The Matrix Revolutions feels like a waste of time.

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