“Batman v Superman” is Ambitious… And Flawed…

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“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” just might be the world’s most expensive Rorschach test.  Everyone that comes out of this movie sees something different.  It’s been downright fascinating to watch it unfold… And somewhat puzzling, because I’ve never seen such emotion attached to a single film.  Like, this one movie is going to end world hunger, create world peace, and cure cancer… and aids…  and herpes too.  And, anything less than all of those things is a disappointment.

Perhaps, it’s the connection that people feel to these characters.  What they represent in our lives gets read on to them.  We trust these characters, whether in comics or film, to take our baggage, our fears, our anxieties.  This goes deep.  However, with these particular characters also being attached to a big giant capitalistic machine like Hollywood, it ALSO has to do the job of making a lot of money.

That’s why I’m so surprised by the fact that, for a big tent pole action film, it’s risky.  It’s probably the most thematically ambitious superhero film I’ve ever seen.  However, I’d say that it fulfills those ambitions to varying (a keyword here) degrees of success.  As a result, the film is big, grandiose, undeniably messy, yet utterly fascinating to watch.  But, it is also unquestionably flawed.  Flawed in ways that I don’t believe damages the film seriously…  But, I do believe these flaws are indicative of the dual purposes of this film’s existence, and how it never quite reaches greatness.

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First, the most glaring problem is editing.  A good chunk of the film lacks a narrative flow.  There’s no connective tissue to glue these scenes together.  So, while watching it go on, it literally just seems like “this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.”  See the problem?  All of these things, yet the flow isn’t there.  They just happen.  Scenes are just dropped anywhere, seemingly at random.  This made it a bit difficult to figure out the rhythm of the film for at least the 2nd act.  Now for me, this would only be serious damage to the film if the events happening were confusing and didn’t make sense, but I never felt confused.  I always felt like I knew what was happening, and why it was happening.

This is where you’re introduced to a lot of subplots and characters at a very very rapid speed.  The film never gives any space for these things to breathe.  It’s a very very stuffed film.  I think this is the single biggest narrative failing of the movie.  By placing focus on ALL of these stories in one film, we can’t explore them as thoroughly as we’d like.  There’s a general feeling of unfocus for the first two thirds that doesn’t dissipate until we’re into the third act. Which is especially a shame, because this film tries to tackle some very complex ideas.

What I admired the most about the film is its willingness to ask hard questions about these characters, and its refusal to give easy answers.  Superman is tasked with understanding how the world perceives him while dealing with the consequences of trying to do the right thing.  Batman, in his rage and cynical state of mind, becomes the kind of criminals he swore to fight.  Each main character in the film represents a sort of cultural mood and point of view.

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This Batman is the best one I’ve seen on film.  Ben Affleck’s take on him is completely spot-on.  Of all the characters in the film, I feel like I can hook into his mind and his motivations the most.  Affleck is really the first actor I’ve seen be able to effectively play both Batman and Bruce Wayne.  It’s a very brutal Batman, one that reminds me of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Rises”.  We’re seeing a more aggressive Batman, one that in the wake of an incredible amount of personal loss, retreats deeper into paranoia and anger.  This is a take on the character I’ve always wanted to see.

I think Henry Cavill plays a Superman that is still trying to figure himself out.  I do wish more of the film centered around him.  I wanted to feel the weight and enormity of his very being, and the film stubbornly keeps him at arms length, preventing me from doing so.  Upon further thought, I view this as an intentional choice.  It puts us in the mind frame of the humans that inhabit this world, and makes us understand the distrust many are feeling towards Superman.

Which brings me to Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor…  Look…  I loved his take.  I’m not even gonna lie.  I thought his take on the character was really unhinged and creepy in a good way.  Although, this is CLEARLY a matter of taste, because it seems like everyone is coming at this character differently.  But for me, a lot of my favorite scenes in the film involve him.  I think he brings an energy to the role that it has never had before.  I think that there is somewhat of an issue with character motivations, specifically involving Luthor.  I feel as though I wanted to know more about his intentions.

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It’s interesting, because so much of this film is about the very nature of mythologizing and deification.  I think that’s the thematic core of the film.  Humans can choose to believe or tnot believe in a supreme being.  But, what if we actually gain access to the knowledge that God is actually real?  How would that change society?  Would humanity ever be the same?  I think this idea gets teased repeatedly in the film as characters try to grapple with a post-Superman world.  Again, I don’t think these ideas are explored very thoroughly, again the main narrative failing of the film.

Well, that and what I complain about in every almost comic book movie as of late…  REFERENCES AND SET-UPS!!!!  This is ubiquitous in the subgenre…  “Avengers: Age of Ultron”…  “Amazing Spider-Man 2″…  “Iron Man 2″…  So much time spent setting up films that aren’t the one we’re currently watching.  I have a particular beef with that, because it’s fucking presumptuous…  It presumes that the movie will be successful enough to get a sequel, and it presumes that we, the audience, want to see it…  Which is irritating to me.  It’s no different here.  The “Justice League” gets teased, but they get teased so randomly, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the film.  There’s one particular sequence, a dream sequence, that is such a moment of “what-the-fuckery”, that it totally could’ve been excised from the film entirely, and we wouldn’t have lost anything at all.

As you can probably tell, I’m not mentioning the things that you already know are good…  The visuals.  Zack Snyder, for all his failings as a storyteller, is INCREDIBLE with visuals.  Right at the start of the film, the way he shoots and edits Bruce’s origin (yes, we see it again) makes it feel more horrifying and tragic than it has EVER felt.  And, the action scenes really hit you in the gut.  You feel every punch.  This is especially true for the much-hyped fight between Batman and Superman, which was….  AWESOME.  There’s one sequence where Batman is taking down a warehouse full of guys that so represents the kind of combat I’ve always wanted to see from Batman.  He’s a straight-up brawler, which is different pretty much every other iteration of the character.

Speaking of awesome, Wonder Woman.  She’s a badass.  Her scenes, whether in costume or not, are moments when the film especially pops.  But, you expected that.  Let me bring up another character that probably won’t get the shine Wonder Woman is getting, and that’s Lois Lane, as played by Amy Adams.  Her character is strong because she’s portrayed as capable and smart, in stark contrast to a lot of other films treating their women as scenery.  Such is not the case here, and it’s quite frankly refreshing.

The film is, admittedly, a bit of a mess narratively speaking.  But, frankly this film excites me because of how ambitious it is.  It’s, like I said in my opening paragraph, a Rorschach test…  One in which I see a superhero film that hits more than it misses…  One that makes me happy that different tonalities can exist in comic book films.  One that, while very flawed, goes-for-broke visually and thematically.  In a safe and unchallenging world of entertainment, I respect the films that actually takes risks.  “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, to my surprise, does.

SCORE: 7.5 (out of 10)

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“Batman v Superman” and Why Fandom Sucks

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“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is not like other movies.

Sure, you’ll get films that have fan loyalty to them, or films that have pre-decided hatred attached to them.  But, never in my entire life of being a film buff have I seen these two emotional states taken to such psychotic extremes.  It feels as though the hardcore fans of DC comics have become this Jim-Jones-esque religious cult, and the films detractors have become this gang of laughing hyenas screaming “I TOLD YOU SO”.  It’s quite frankly terrifying to see that this is the state of fandom… a hellish landscape where lunacy is mistaken for logic.

For reasons I can’t quite understand, “Batman v Superman” causes intense emotional responses just by being mentioned.  There’s so much anger surrounding this film, that I have to literally stop and ask…  why?  But, of course, this is not the first time fan rage has reared its ugly head.

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Back in 2012, “The Dark Knight Rises” was released to pretty damn good critical reception…  Not good enough, however, for Batman fans, who proceeded to send death threats and vile messages towards those that gave it a middling-to-negative review.  It got so bad, that Rotten Tomatoes had to disable comments from their site, which is still the case four years later.

These are the people that call themselves “geeks” and “nerds”.  This same brand of fandom extends beyond film, and into other mediums like TV and video games.  This brand of fandom likes the things they like, and quite simply cannot handle being told that what they like isn’t “good”.  These people can’t hear an opinion that isn’t their own.  They affirm their own convictions with loose logic, never questioning the critique, but instead questioning the one criticizing.

The people criticizing, the people who’s LITERAL job is to do just that…  CRITICIZE, have felt the need to bolster their positions as some sort of show of “I’m not affected by you”.  So, the anger from critics and skeptics are beginning to match those of “geeks”.

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Yesterday, the embargo on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” lifted, and thus began an incredibly negative whirlwind of reviews, and denial from fans, and arguments, and anger, and so on.  The anger got to be so much, that some critics considered going completely offline, and deleting their twitter/facebook accounts for good.  This is not fandom.  This is not nerd culture… at least, not what it was when I signed up for it.  It was depressing to watch, not as a fan of comics, not as a fan of movies, but as a human being.  Just depressing.

Which begs the question, why does “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” of ALL movies inspire such impassioned defense and fervent hatred?  There is so much baggage attached to this film, all its fans, all its preconceived notions about what it should be, and what it shouldn’t be.  My ultimate point is “does any of it matter?”…  Does any of the arguing, and screaming, and anger, and hatred mean anything?

This is where fandom is right now.  Fandom, I thought originally, was about liking things more than average folks do.  Like, I remember seeing “X2: X-Men United” as a teenager, and being so excited about it, I walked down to the Borders bookstore in the same mall as the movie theater, found the comic book section, and read as many X-Men comics as I could.  That was a special moment for me…  Being so excited about something, that you wanted to dive into the world of that thing, and immerse yourself in all of it.  That’s what I thought fandom was.

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I was 13 then.  I’m almost 27 now.  And, fandom is a place where fan loyalty gives you the right to hate, gives you the right condescend, and gives you the right to be an asshole.  Fandom allows racism, sexism, and homophobia to exist under the cover of “fan loyalty”.  So much of this fandom shit has devolved into just pure undirected anger, a ceaseless scream forever clashing with itself in an infinite echo chamber.

This isn’t even about “Batman v Superman” for me, this is about being a fan, being a nerd, a “geek”…  I hate it.  I absolutely hate fandom right now.  It simultaneously hurts my soul and breaks my heart to see what fandom has become.  A place where, I thought, discussion, disagreement, and passion were allowed alongside respect and open-mindedness.  This is not that, not even in the slightest.  This is pure unfiltered madness, and I want no part of it any longer.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is not like other movies.  Inspiring intense hatred and insane devotion, the film, regardless of quality, exposes the most ugly parts of fandom, which has, unfortunately, become the regular standard.  This “nerd” thing is passing me by, and the more I watch these arguments take place, the more I think that’s a good thing.

I used to be excited by it, now I’m looking for a way out of it.  Damn.

WEEKLY ENDURANCE TEST #1 – COOL CAT SAVES THE KIDS

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REBOOT!!!!  Everybody loves a good reboot, don’t they?  Well, Endurance Tests is getting a reboot, bigger, stronger, and badder (literally) than ever before!  I’ve seen some truly awe-inspiring garbage, and I can’t wait to share that garbage with you.

Some of you (about five of you probably) may be wondering what exactly has kept me from posting any new “Endurance Test” blogs.  Well, the reason was THIS particular movie.  Ever since I saw the trailer, I knew there was no way I could justify continuing to do this blog, and not seeing this film.  The film in question, of course is “Cool Cat Saves The Kids”.  For context, here is the trailer:

“Cool Cat Saves The Kids” is 75 straight minutes of unbridled what-the-fuckery.  It starts out as just confusing and dumb, then slowly descends into a madness that can only be described as infectious.  It pummels otherwise intelligent brains into a delirium not unlike the kind one would experience after taking some flakka, mixing it with bath salts, and chasing it down with the tears of orphaned babies.

Make no mistake, this is meant for very VERY young children.  However, parents out there, heed my warning: if you buy this for your young kids to watch, they will grow up to resent you.  And, rightfully so.  I’m convinced that showing this movie to children legally counts as a form of child abuse.  In other words, if you get this for your kids, it can only be for one reason:  You hate children, and get sadistic pleasure from their suffering.

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Cool Cat’s rap single is the hottest thing on the streets, yo.

“Cool Cat” inhabits a corner of existence where sanity and logic aren’t feasible concepts.  We follow the tale of a talking human-adult-sized yet clearly childlike cat-person, his elementary-school aged friends, his human father and cat mother (???), and his never-ending struggle against bullying, graffiti, and guns.  Cool Cat doesn’t have a name other than “Cool Cat”.  And, Cool Cat is never seen doing anything actually “Cool.”  On the contrary, he’s cool because the movie tells us he’s cool.

But, perhaps Cool Cat is “cool” because he has an annoyingly positive attitude about EVERYTHING.  He’s always excited.  He’s always happy.  Except this one time he has a bad dream, and finds himself rocking back & froth in a closet in a fetal position (not a joke, by the way…  this REALLY happens).  It, for two short minutes, becomes like “Requiem for a Dream”.  But immediately after that, it’s back to being happy and positive.  If this were a horror movie, you wouldn’t have to change a single thing about “Cool Cat” to make him creepy.  He’s constantly excited, incessantly laughing maniacally in between his sentences.  I’m convinced that in the script (if there was one), every other line of dialogue written for Cool Cat is “LOL” or “ROFL.”

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The heart of true madness.

Over time, it becomes painfully clear that they had only one costume on set, and had to do a split screen effect for when Cool Cat and Mom Cat are in the same shot.  Any other time, they’re never seen on screen with each other.  If they’re talking, it’s always in between shots.

Speaking of, it’s kinda gross and weird to see the human dad curl up next to Mom Cat, and call her a “fine looking’ kitty cat” in a way that says “I’m so damn hard right now.”  In fact, the dad keeps looking at Mom Cat as if he’d have sex with her right then and there if Cool Cat wasn’t there (though, I’m not convinced he wouldn’t think about it).  It’s unclear how Cat + Human = Cat…  But, clearly logic doesn’t exist here.  And, neither do laws against bestiality.

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You may ask, “is there a story?”  Well, yes… barely.  What we get is a series of weakly connected vignettes that revolve around a different “lesson” meant to educate children.  The recurring theme is “bullying” as an A-Plot while the B-Plot is about another issue.  Most of these vignettes feature this asshole kid named Butch the Bully.  Butch hates Cool Cat because “reasons.”  Now, I get the purpose of this.  Bullying is a huge huge problem that isn’t taken seriously in our culture.

However, I’d argue that movies like “Cool Cat” are the reason why it’s not taken seriously.  Obviously, there’s things that happen psychologically and emotionally that causes youth to lash out, and become bullies.  This film is not at all interested in trying to figure out why Butch is a bully.  He just is because, once again, “reasons.”  We think that bullying is just this thing that happens…  Kids will be kids, right?  If adults don’t take the time to actually figure out what kind of trauma or psychology creates bullies, then isn’t it just lip service?

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Cool Cat almost never changes his facial expressions.

As for how this relates to the film, it gives shitty advice to kids…  Not just regarding bullying, but about a lot of things.  At one point, Cool Cat’s friend Maria gets a text from a number she doesn’t recognize.  When asked by Cool Cat what to do, he enthusiastically goads her into opening the text, and reading it.  He even suggests that maybe they’ve just won money.  So, first of all, you suggest that a young child should answer a text from someone she doesn’t know?  Isn’t that what pedophiles hope for?  And, that she might’ve won money from a contest she didn’t enter to win?  Isn’t that how people get their identity stolen?

Yeah, obviously Cool Cat isn’t a very good role model.  Nor is he a very interesting character.  Based on a series of children’s books by a former playgirl model/male stripper name Derek Savage (who writes, directs, and stars in the film), Cool Cat is pretty anonymous except for one thing: he’s good at everything, gets everything he wants, and is always happy… ALWAYS.  At one point, Cool Cat gets invited to be part of the Hollywood Christmas Day parade.  He writes and sings a shitty song about himself as Derek plays his Van-Halen autographed guitar.  And then, there’s a scene with Cool Cat performing a rap song.  Kill.  Me.  Now.  Then, he goes to the parade, which is when the movie literally stops to gloat about Cool Cat being in this parade.  We see Cool Cat riding around in a convertible as kids on the sidelines wonder who the fuck this is, and why they should care.  Spoiler alert: they shouldn’t.

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This is Derek Savage in a Playgirl spread.  To be honest, I can’t even write a joke here, because the jokes write themselves.

But, Derek Savage wants to convince you that they do by taking the sound clip of applause from the audience, and looping it over and over to make it sound like everyone gives a flying fuck about Cool Cat (they don’t).  This scene goes on for like 10 whole minutes.  At this point, the movie becomes actively irritating.  From this point on, we have go back to the vignette style of storytelling, which begins with Cool Cat going to picnic with Vivica A. Fox and Eric Estrada.  Dafuq?

And then, we get my favorite part of the whole.  Cool Cat solves guns.  So, Butch the Bully finds a gun, and then cartoonishly proclaim that he’s gonna use it to “take everyone’s lunch money”.  Yeah…  I’m not making this up.  Cool Cat and his friend Maria find out, tell Cool Cat’s furry-enthusiast dad, and then goes to Cool Cat’s school to find Butch showing the gun off to his friend.  And then, a cop comes, hand-cuffs him, and arrests him, and that’s the end of the movie for Butch.

Now, the fact that Butch is treated with dismissiveness throughout the entire movie leaves a rotten taste in my mouth.  At this moment, you could have Butch show a little bit of remorse, and salvage the character by offering an olive branch to Cool Cat.  This is simple shit…  Storytelling 101.  But, no.  Butch gets arrested, and never gets a moment to get redeemed the way most bullies in every movie do.  It gives the kids permission to view the bully empathetically.  Having Butch be a complete and total dickhead throughout the entire movie to never find any redemption makes the entire film feel gross and cynical.

I’ve written a lot about this film while not even delving into the technical shittines of the film.  If I were to do that, I’m pretty sure this review would be much much longer.  Suffice it to say, “Cool Cat Saves The Kids” is a piece of shit.  It’s not so bad that it’s good.  It’s just bad.  The people who get amusement from this film are sociopaths.  And, the trailer made the movie look more random and funny-bad than it actually is.

I give “Cool Cat Saves The Kids” a Cringe-Meter score of:

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3.0 (out of 5.0)

Every week, I will watch and review whatever terrible shit you send me.  The setup is the same: the only big rule is that they can’t be gross/gory/too easy to make me quit with.  Aside from that, it’s fair game…  Send me recommendations via email at: Lewis.Morris@flatlinepoetry.com

Thanks for reading!

“ANT MAN” needs to be weirder – A REVIEW

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“Ant Man” is a film at war with itself. In the first act, it’s very explicitly a comedy (a pretty damn funny comedy, but still). Then the second act comes around, and all of a sudden, we’re dropped headfirst into what feels like a Disney film from the 90’s (more on this later). It quite simply feels like it doesn’t belong in the same movie as the first act. But, then we get to the third act, and it feels like we’re in a completely different movie than the second act.

Ant Man is at its best when it dials up the weirdness, and goes to areas that many Marvel films won’t dare venture. Like, the stuff in the 3rd act is truly fun and inventive, and might be my favorite 3rd act in ANY of the MCU films. But, you have to get through a torrential downpour of “cliche soup” in the 2nd act to get there. It’s a chore, not because it’s “bad” nor even “boring”. It’s more so just “okay, I know where this is going, can we just hit those beats so we can move on to something more interesting?”

Let’s back up, though… The film follows the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an ex-con fresh out of prison who wants to go clean and reconnect with his daughter. But, he gets pulled back into a life of crime, and through doing that, catches the attention of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who recruits Scott to become the “Ant Man”, much to the chagrin of Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily). But, they’ll have to learn to work together to stop Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from doing… something.

Even she’s bored with this film’s 2nd act.

The big villainous plan is to sell Pym’s tech to some unsavory people, so Ant-Man has to steal the tech before Cross can sell it.

Now, when I say it reminds me of a Disney movie, it’s because there are a series of cliches that appear at rapid fire speed… And, they’re as follows:

1. Ex-con trying to go straight.
2. Reasoning for ex-con going straight involves a daughter.
3. Step-dad doesn’t like ex-con because he’s an ex-con.
4. Inability to see and/or raise daughter causes ex-con to (for some reason) go back to a life of crime (this particular part is VERY hard to swallow).
5. Meanwhile, estranged daughter has resentment and daddy issues for scientist dad.
6. Reasoning for resentment involves one or more of the following: (a) a dead mother, (b) dad works too much, (c) wants to protect daughter by not (for some reason) explaining the details behind mom’s death. In Ant Man’s case, it’s ALL THREE!
7. Daughter doesn’t like ex-con.

There’s more, but you get the point. The movie becomes so muddled and so utterly (and unfortunately) predictable in that 2nd act, it almost drains the life out of the rest of the film. First of all, Scott Lang’s relationship with his daughter just isn’t given enough time on screen to mean anything by the time we get to the climax of the film. His daughter, and that subplot all but disappears from the saggy middle of the film… Which is a shame, because I think a lot of this film’s issues with character motivation could be fixed with a little more of that. Lang’s arc feels the most emotionally realized.

Hey kids, remember when Hank Pym beat his wife?? Yeah, you won’t find that in this movie.

And, that fact makes it that much more unfortunate that they focus in on Hank Pym and his unlikable whiny daughter. The stuff involving them is so textbook novice screenwriting, you can almost see the [insert emotional beat here] in the script template. When their big emotional resolution comes, it’s not cathartic. It’s “thank God that sh*t is over.” Their stuff doesn’t feel interesting enough or developed enough for me to care by the time the movie ends.

Mind you, most of my criticisms mainly (and almost exclusively) involve the 2nd act. Because, the first act was awesome. It’s funny, it picks up quickly, and feels like it has a sense of movement. And, the third act, as I said before, is absolutely excellent. Unfortunately, said third act doesn’t work UNLESS you buy into the emotion stakes set up in the second act. It’s funny, because you can almost feel Edgar Wright’s writing in the first and last act. There’s a cleverness to the dialogue in the first act that reminds me of sh*t right out of Hot Fuzz. Yet, there’s visual inventiveness in the 3rd act that reminds me of “Scott Pilgrim”. The rest feels like a TV pilot, and a not great one at that.

The villain Yellowjacket is easily one of the weakest and most boring villains in the MCU. He poses no credible threat to anyone. In fact, his forced characterization at the end is another cliche I could add to the list of cliches I already gave.

8. Villain holds resentment against surrogate dad, and wants to get back at him.

You see what I mean when I say the middle act feels like a Disney movie?

Marvel’s problem with weak-ass villains continues.

I can’t fault the director for this. He directs the film with energy and attention to detail. And honestly, he did as best as he could with the script given to him. Because, it certain feels like a script of three different movies mashed into one, and of the three, I mainly liked (maybe even loved) 2 of them. But, the one I didn’t drags the whole thing down a lot.

One of the more surprising aspects of “Ant Man” is a very particular scene in the third act that reminded me of Interstellar’s “5th Dimensional” sh*t. It’s when the movie gets strange that it pops. The weirdness gives it a unique voice. I feel like I’m watching something I haven’t seen in the MCU before in those scenes. But, that’s the problem…

The film I could most readily compare this to is “Guardians of the Galaxy”. It’s unapologetically… even flamboyantly strange all the way through. Ant Man could use that weirdness in the entire film. The film fails to commit to the strangeness of its premise. It feels like it wants to be semi-respect, yet is self-aware enough that it reads as comedic.

So, what you get is a film that wants to be two things, and satisfies neither of those things. “Ant Man” isn’t bad, nor is it boring. What I liked about “Ant Man”, I LOVED. But, what I didn’t takes it down major notches. But, not enough for me to not recommend seeing on the big screen. It’s fun and entertaining… But, in the end, rather than being bad, it feels more like a missed opportunity.

I’d recommend for a matinee.

ENDURANCE TEST TUESDAYS #5 – ALL MUSIC VIDEO EDITION

Last week’s “Endurance Test Tuesdays” was… shall we say, rough.  So, this week, I’m doing something COMPLETELY different.  Instead of reviewing one movie, I’m going to watch and review SEVEN awful music videos!  These span different genres, different styles, and cover all kinds of random acts of what-the-fuckery.  So, with that in mind, let’s do this!!!

1. BLACKSTREET/MYA/MA$E/SOME RANDOM NIGGA – TAKE ME THERE

Have you ever thought “WOW, I wanna hear a song about orgasms that also samples the Rugrats theme song”?!  If you have, I hate you.  This is an awful song made more awful by the fact that it’s clearly about things that are way too adult for its intended audience.  But, alas here we are, a song made for the Rugrats Movie soundtrack (in theory).  The music video tries to connect itself to the TV show by having an annoyingly colorful palette, and also having outright weird and creepy visual gags.  For example, you have MYA singing about sex while sucking on a pacifier in an oversized crib…  Um…  Nah, B.

Blackstreet comes in later on after some shitty dancing from Mya and her no-name back-up dancers, and continues singing creepily about things that shouldn’t be associated with Rugrats.  Each and every one of them looks like they’re doing this as some form of court-ordered community service.  Speaking of, Ma$e comes in, and raps an unbelievably shitty verse to go along with all the other unbelievably shitty verses that defined his joke of a career.  This video depicts Ma$e and his other rapper buddy riding around in a Reptar car chasing the Rugrats…  Grown men… in a car that attracts children… chasing after young toddlers as they run screaming….  Erm…..

My greatest hope is that this music video, once and for all, exposes the 90’s as the weird and messed up decade that it was.  If anyone wants to complain about how Millennials don’t know good music, just google this, and shut the hell up.

NEXT!

2. TONJE LANGETEIG – I DON’T WANNA BE A CRAPPY HOUSEWIFE

If there is any song that could count as an acceptable form of torture, it’d be this.  “I Don’t Wanna Be A Crappy Housewife” is a song about a late 20-something woman-child’s attempt to find her youth by going to a lightly attended nightclub in broad daylight.  Tonje (pronounced like TOENAIL) starts out the video lamenting that she’s a “little pretty girl trapped inside a grown-up’s body”.  A relatively generic sounding EDM-lite track starts as Tonje and her butterface friend get out of a car, and are mobbed by about 10 people standing around before going into a mostly empty nightclub, and singing about not wanting to be a “crappy housewife”.

This song seems to indicate that a woman who might want to start a family, and raise children is “crappy”.  On the contrary, women everyday are either relegated to cultural roles like (a) being a housewife, or (b) being one of the idiots in this video.  This video, of the two extremes, seems to prefer the latter.  So much so, that by rejecting being a “housewife” who is also “crappy”, it completely ignores… y’know, the majority of women who don’t fit either roles.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the actual politics of the song, because the song has no politics.  The song has no anything.  It barely has lyrics.  That is, until two wiggers come in to save the day, and rap (horribly) about how our female protagonist’s youth is fading, as if to throw it in her face repeatedly.  Of course, the rapping is shitty…  Because, it’s Norway’s assumption of what rappers are supposed to look like and sound like.  Except, they’re about two decades behind, and end up settling around the vicinity of 1992 rap stereotypes.  I’m sure all of these people, include Tonje (or Toenail) thought they were making something amazing.  But, what they made was shit.  So much for not wanting to be a crappy housewife.

NEXT!  (MORE FROM NORWAY)

3. JILL-HAD/BIG J/LITTEL T – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HOMIE & A HOMO

This is either the world’s second worst rap video (we’ll get to the 1st in a sec), or the world’s worst attempt at a parody of rap.  The lines blur, and I’m not entirely sure if these guys are actually failing at rapping, or failing at making fun of rap.  Either way, they fail.  “What’s The Difference Between a Homie & a Homo” is, homophobic title aside, almost too-stupid to be offensive.  Almost.  We go through the video, and it’s a bunch of assholes hanging out at a golf course rapping while another guy who is clearly supposed to be the “homo” in this video gets irate and angry at the guys.  This leads to a chase between golf carts that ends with our “homo” hero hitting the guys with golf balls.

I’m bothered by so many aspects of this music video…  Mainly that it’s trying to be funny.  And, almost nothing is worst than watching something try to be funny, but fail so spectacularly at it.  One can tell it’s trying so damn hard.  It’s probably one of the more cringey music videos I’ve seen.  “What’s The Difference Between A Homie & Homo” one guy says at the end of the video.  “I don’t know!  I don’t know shit!” says another guy.  That much is true.

NEXT!

4. CINDY ST. VIL – BOAZ

Little known fact: I love Gospel music.  Growing up in the Pentecostal Church, I have a fondness for the genre.  But, when it sucks, oh boy…  And, “Boaz” is no different.  What makes “Boaz” terrible (other than the fact that the music/singing/production/everything is shitty from top to bottom) is that it acts as some sort of clumsy attempt at a love song while also teaching people to NOT HAVE SEX.  That’s right.  “Boaz” is a song in which a woman sings about waiting for the right man and staying celibate whilst waiting.  Ah…  The ol’ “NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE” thing, huh?  Plus, this woman can’t sing.  She just can’t.

She also can’t act!  Which is especially unfortunate since there’s so much damn acting in this video.  There’s this stupid prologue that seems to last forever about our protagonist rejecting men, and lamenting how she’s waiting for her “Boaz” (For non-Bible people, Boaz is a central character in “The Book of Ruth”).  Then, it transitions into a series of awkwardly acted scenes and awkwardly choreographed dancer numbers.  The video just lurches on… and on… and on… and on…  There was a point where I thought it’d never end.

Look, I know there’s good Gospel out there.  Listening to this reminded me of other BETTER Gospel singers like Kierra Sheard or Dottie Peoples.  Those songs just rouse something in you where you feel it even if you don’t believe in God.  Songs like this make people actively become Atheists.  And, I couldn’t blame them either.

NEXT!

5. A BUNCH OF ASSHOLES – THE ANDOVER SONG

Of the videos, this one was the truest Endurance Test of all.  Mostly due to its length.  What you get is nearly 8 minutes of (mostly white) teenagers rapping about how great their boarding school is…  Unfortunately, their teachers rap too.  I feel like I’m seeing a theme in every single one of these videos I’ve watched tonight…  They all seem to take place in some weird alternate dimension where EVERYONE can all of a sudden bust a rhyme at a moment’s notice.  All of these students look like they’re out of their depth, obviously made to do this by their teachers or else they would’ve flunked.

Phillips Academy Andover, being the WASPiest place on the planet, of course would be able to drum up some stupid bullshit like this.  Kids with parents that can afford to put their ungrateful asses in a fancy boarding school sing and rap about how privileged they are to have parents with money!  Oh, I’m sorry, was that not what the song was about?  Because, that’s all I could hear while listening.  This is one of those videos that tries to go for something that could go “viral”…  Teenagers rapping?  Check!  Their teachers rapping too?  CHECK!  All this needed was a cute cat, and this would be viral gold!

“The Andover Song” is like High School Musical for sociopaths.  Unfeeling, nihilistic, floating in an indifferent and apathetic musical universe devoid of substance or sustainable life, “The Andover Song” is like the Mein Kampf of high school pep rally songs.

NEXT!

6. LAFEAR – THE SECRET

If you ever need to convince kids to not do drugs, just show them this video.  It’ll scare em straight with ease.  This is the worst rap video I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  I’ve seen a lot of them.  This is the very worst, and it’s not even close.  First of all, can we talk about the clearly high-as-shit rapper at the center of this?  I mean, clearly he smoked a shit ton of crack before shooting this, that much is known.  But, even the recording matches the energy level of the actual video…  Meaning, THERE IS NO ENERGY.  And then, his video girls dancing around awkwardly.  The one thing I can applaud this video for is actually having video girls who look like actual hood rats.

There is so much that is “hood” about this music video.  Bodegas, backyard pools, strip clubs in someone’s basement where they throw around one dollar bills like ballers on a budget.  This nigga…  his eyes all bloodshot, lookin’ like he just woke up before shooting this, standing around while hood rats apathetically dance around him.  Can’t call this ratchet, it’s too BORING to be ratchet.  Everyone looks BORED as shit in this video.  The actual song is incredible… in its shittiness.  The beat sounds like some Fruity Loops bullshit, and the guy’s actual rapping makes me question whether he was really tired.  He sounds like he’s on the verge of falling asleep the entire time he’s on record.

Originally, I had another video in this one’s place.  But, after stumbling upon it, I knew there was no way I could get away with writing this without watching it.  In the hands of someone good, this could be some messed parody of rap in the way that our Norwegian idiots from a couple of videos ago could only dream of.  But, this dude is serious… Let that sink in.

NEXT!

7. R.A.E.D. – I’VE COME A LONG WAY

This song is pretty much the worst thing to happen to rap music since the Crack epidemic.  I think I’ve heard enough shitty rap tonight to never complain about the radio ever again.  If you truly think that Drake or Lil Wayne are ruining hip-hop, I’d refer you to this.  This is the type of shit that qualifies as “rap music”.  Unfortunately, this video doesn’t have quite the same level of what-the-fuckery as our previous video.  But what it does have is a guy rapping to a completely different beat than the one that’s backing him, utilizing a strange auto-tune/transposing effect on his vocals.  It’s like listening to one man’s slow descent into insanity.  From what I can gather, this video is just this guy on vacation, rapping, petting animals, and grabbing young boys and making them (unwillingly) appear in front of the camera.

This dude is like a male Iggy Azalea…  I had to know who the hell this asshole is.  He’s a guy born from Melbourne, Australia.  He apparently used to be an Ecstasy dealer, and used his money from his drug trafficking days to fund a rap career.  It’s the kind of heartwarming story that makes me wish he stayed in the drug trade.  That sounds cruel, I’m sure.  But, then again, I’ve sat through TWO (count em…  TWO) of this asshole’s music videos expecting something not shitty.  Apparently, that’s a tall order.

This isn’t to imply that rap isn’t inclusive.  We ALL know it is.  There’s rap music that spans cultures and countries…  Polish rap, Korean rap, French rap, German rap (my personal favorite kind of international rap)…  This genre opens its arms, and gives most people a chance.  And, then there’s asshole’s like this who seem to have a self-congratulatory attitude about his own rhymes.  I can’t make this funny, I can’t say witty things about this video, or the song it’s based on.  I really just wanna curl up into a ball, and die after listening to this.  Which is what I think I might do after finishing this post.

Ugh….  I thought this would be a fun palette cleanser after “Megan Is Missing”…  But no.  Next week, it’ll be back to our regularly scheduled shit of shitty movies.  So keep in mind…

Every Tuesday, I will watch and review whatever terrible shit you send me.  You can send me stuff to watch via facebook… Post it to my wall, and next Tuesday, you’ll see which video(s) made the cut.  So, send in your submissions (facebook.com/LewisMorrisPoetry) before Friday!

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” Isn’t That Kind of Movie – A Review

Suits for days.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is, in a lot of ways, an embodiment of Matthew Vaughn’s entire filmography. There are parts that have the wide-eye optimism of “Stardust”. But, it also takes on the grit of “Layer Cake”, the subversive satire of “Kick-Ass”, and the dramatic style of “X-Men: First Class”. It feels like Vaughn has been building to this film, honing his individual talents for a film like this.

Which is to say, this is Vaughn’s James Bond. But, it’s Bond in a way that the suits at MGM and Sony would never allow that franchise to be… R rated…. Hard R rated. In many ways, that is the film’s biggest statement on the state of the spy genre. It’s not halfway about anything, it goes all the way. Perhaps, one of the best thing about this film is that it commits. It never quits.

Which is to say, I really liked this film a lot. I don’t love it, though. Even though there are things I love about it, it doesn’t necessarily add up to a great movie, it’s a good movie with great parts in it. Let me explain…

First of all, I think the casting is phenomenal. Colin Firth does a Liam Neeson, and takes on his first full-on action movie role. Only, this time, I think Firth does superior work to what Neeson does in any of the “Taken” movies. Firth brings weight and class to the film, creating a character that feels like it belongs in the world of spy films. What sells his character is that Colin Firth, not a stunt double (for the most part), does almost everything in terms of fights. And, you can tell. He’s actually performing in a way we’re not used to seeing him perform.

Seriously, this scene is worth the ticket price alone.

Much has been made about the film’s long-hyped “Church Scene”. But, one cannot oversell this scene. It is INCREDIBLE, almost on a “The Raid 2” level kind of insanity and violence. It’s beautiful choreographed, and amazingly filmed. Which makes sense, seeing that all the fight scenes were designed and choreographed by Brad Allen, a man who trained under Jackie Chan’s stunt team, and graduated to the big leagues with films like this. I’d argue that this scene might become a new classic fight scene in due time.

This isn’t, however, Colin Firth’s film. This is the story of Eggsy, played by newcomer Taron Egerton. He does great work here, and fits in well as a leading man. One can tell that this kid is gonna be a big star in the future. I got an almost early Tom Cruise-like vibe from him, he just has that charisma and swagger that creates big movie stars like this. Egerton carries the film for the most part, and he does it well… Although, I have one beef with his character. More on that in a sec.

The rest of the casting works too. The likes of Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Mark Hamill show up here. But, the one supporting cast member who stands out is Samuel L. Jackson as “Valentine”. He plays a straight-up villain, however he is humanized by certain quirks. He speaks with a lisp, and cannot stand the sight of violence. It’s one of the weirdest bad guy roles I’ve seen in awhile.

A villain with a lisp, and a weak stomach for violence… Got it.

But, this movie gets repeatedly held back from greatness because of its flaws. First off, the visuals (for the most part) are well done. However, towards the end, the visual effects take on a cheapness as if the filmmakers ran out of money by the end. This is a problem I feel like plagues ALOT of Matthew Vaughn’s films. I liken this to the ending of “Kick-Ass”, in which I felt that movie betrayed its (strong) first two acts, and became a totally different movie. “Kingsman” doesn’t necessarily have the same problem, but I feel like the film’s ending is compromised by its weirdly inorganic pace, and its visual limitations. In fact, I’d argue that the film’s ending just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same world as the film’s beginning. It just doesn’t fit.

The issues with this film also bleed into some of your side characters also. Like Roxy, our female counterpart to Eggsy, is given a half-baked story arc. There’s a promise that doesn’t get fulfilled thanks to the movie under-developing her. The same goes for who is supposed to be Eggsy’s nemesis. He disappears from the movie in the middle, and then comes back again towards its ending in the lamest of ways possible. It doesn’t sell. What also doesn’t sell is Eggsy supposedly coming from what is London’s equivalent to “The Ghetto”. He seems a little too well-spoken, and a little to clean-cut to realistically convince us that he’s from a South London slum. It just doesn’t sell.

The film prides itself on not being very PC.  So, there’s ALOT of shit that will bother people in this film.  In particular, the final gag left a rotten taste in a lot of people’s mouths.  I’m not sure where I stand, I don’t think the movie was undone by what happens, but keep in mind that it’s there.

These individual pieces keep it from being a “great movie”. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun with this. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t wanna see it again just to re-experience the scenes that I loved, and the moments that make this something special rather than something average. I have no problem recommending people to go out to the theaters, and check this out. It’s well-worth your time and your money.

ENDURANCE TEST TUESDAYS #4 – MEGAN IS MISSING

TRIGGER WARNING: This film is about sexual violence against teenagers.  Seeing as I’m reviewing this, some of the (nsfw) images here are direct still shots taken from the film.  Still, just a heads up.

Once again, it’s time to discover the worst of the worst.  That’s right, it’s time for “Endurance Test Tuesdays”.  This is a recurring blog in which I willingly watch the very worst shit out there, and review it.  As always, Endurance Tests can come in any length or any style.  The only big rule is that they can’t be gross/gory/too easy to make me quit with.  Aside from that, it’s fair game…  With that said, this week’s Endurance Test is…

MEGAN IS MISSING (suggested by anonymous)

Every so often, there comes a film that demands our attention…  A film that rattles our collective lives, and forces us to reevaluate our world and how we relate to it.  That film is NOT “Megan Is Missing”.  You wouldn’t know that based on the quote from the poster above, or the director’s own self-congratulatory attitude about his own film.

Let’s not get it confused…  “Megan Is Missing” is a vicious little turd of a film…  Both utterly bewildering in its ineptitude, yet incredibly angering in its contradictory storytelling.  The main conceit here is that it’s supposed to be some kind of found footage film, compiled entirely from video chat, cell phone chat, etc.  This film fails majorly on all of those points.  More on that in a bit.  Let’s run down the plot.

The film is about two teenage girls.  They wear make-up, go to parties, and drink, and shit.  One of them (Megan) starts talking to some guy named “Josh” online, goes to meet him, and then goes missing.  Police get involved.  Then, the other girl (Amy) starts talking to the same guy (I’m getting a headache just typing this, it’s so fucking stupid), goes to meet him KNOWING it’s the same guy, and also goes missing.  What follows is about 20-30 minutes of rape/torture scenes involving a minor until the guy sticks the second girl in a barrel where Megan’s corpse has been left to rot, and then buries her alive with said corpse.  And, that’s the end of the movie.

Because, people totally use cell phone video chat for this rather than, y’know… a compact mirror.

Literally writing that rundown makes me wanna chug a gallon of bleach.  This film is bullshit in multiple ways, I don’t even know where to start.

Okay…  First, the film’s most egregious issue… it’s logic… There is none.  NO ONE ACTS THE WAY PEOPLE WOULD IN REAL LIFE.  Which is especially heinous here since this is found footage, and… y’know… IT’S SUPPOSED TO SIMULATE THINGS THAT REALLY HAPPENED.  If you ever decide that you hate yourself enough to watch this piece of shit, here’s a series of logic issues to have fun with:

A). When Megan goes missing, Amy (for some reason) doesn’t feel compelled to report this “Josh” character to the police.
B). After she does tell someone about “Josh”, the police don’t feel the need to monitor Amy’s online activity despite the fact that her best friend is missing, and that her online dealings could have something to do with it. I mean, Megan did go missing AFTER meeting up with this “Josh” character. Is it plausible AT ALL that Amy wouldn’t put two & two together.
C). Even after that, Amy feels compelled to chat with “Josh”… What the fuck?
D). Amy’s parents don’t feel compelled to monitor her online activity, or to tell her “no more chatting”, or “you can’t go outside right now”.

Ugh…. I hate having to post these actual stills from the film.

There’s more, but you get the point.  Also, let’s talk about the filming technique, since it makes no fucking sense at all.  Logically, this film is supposed to take place entirely via online communication.  So, video chat, and things of that nature.  In the film, the camera is always perfectly aimed, with characters sitting in one spot, talking, never multitasking at all.  Because, when I video chat, I don’t have other tabs open, I don’t surf the web, I sit in one spot for the entirety of the conversation not moving, or anything…  Bullshit.  Also, where I live, my reception is perfect 24/7, and NEVER drops out, or freezes, or loses resolution EVER… BULLSHIT.  Also, all of my friends rely ENTIRELY on video chat on their phones to talk to everyone and communicate plot points… er, I mean information to each other!!!  Because, no one fucking texts, or calls anyone EVER.  BULLSHIT!!!!!!

Ugh………  It also doesn’t help that the actual video quality is too good to be on a wireless network.  At multiple points, the movie contradicts its own logic with things like this.  Yet, it wants us to buy into the illusion of “this is all real”.  Another thing that ruins that illusion is that the acting is some of the worst I’ve ever seen.  No one talks the way people talk, and no one acts the way people act.  Our protagonists are supposedly “best friends” because the movie tells us they are.

Once it comes time for the movie to actually get into the abduction, the film goes from confusing and inept to insulting and harmful.  This film, which has been mostly about minors talking about sex or having sex, becomes a snuff film as it fetishistically depicts a young teenager being tortured and molested repeatedly until she is eventually buried alive with the corpse of her best friend.  I mean, what the fuck.

This is that corpse, by the way. I really truly hope something bad happens to this director.

The director is some asshole named Michael Goi, a cinematographer who has worked on shows like “Glee” and “American Horror Story”.  Looking into his filmography as a director, which includes films with titles like “Sexy Urban Legends” and “Voyeur”, I can’t help but view this as torture porn of the most despicable kind.

But, wait…  Do you hear that?  That’s the sound of BULLSHIT RATIONALIZATION!  That’s right, folks!  The defenders of this film (idiots, by the way) might suggest that this film is a call to action for parents everywhere to be more weary of their kids’ internet interactions.  Even the director himself has rationalized his shitty dialogue as “taken from real conversations from real 13/14 year old girls”.  You know what, I don’t know any girls that talk like the ones in this movie.  I don’t know any girls that consistently rely on video chat as their main mode of communication with each other.

The director… If I ever find this man, I’m gonna punch him directly in the face repeatedly.

And, another rationalization is that it’s “based on actual events”…  According to the director, it was culled together from like 8 different cases of child abduction.  Okay asshole, WHICH ONES?

You know, let’s cut the bullshit.  I’m sick of movies that try to hide their true intentions under the pretension of being about “important things”.  This is straight up nothing more than torture porn given more importance than it deserves because it’s about kids and the internet.  But, if it was REALLY all that important, then the director would’ve worked harder making sure that the logic of the film, and the actual visual presentation of it held up to scrutiny.  It’s so fucking lazy, I can’t believe it even exists.

“Megan Is Missing”, for all I know, could have been made with the absolute best intentions.  But, this final product is complete and total garbage not worth the DVD its printed on.  This is an absolutely AWFUL and downright DESPICABLE film, and I truly truly hate whoever suggested that I watch this bullshit.  Whoever that person is, we aren’t friends.

Please, I beg of you, do not give your time to this film.  I now feel like a permanently damaged person for having watched it.  Please don’t put yourself through it.  Seriously, I’m begging you, don’t watch it.  Ever.

I give this the highest cringe-meter rating….

5.0 out of 5.0

Every Tuesday, I will watch and review whatever terrible shit you send me.  You can send me stuff to watch via facebook… Post it to my wall, and next Tuesday, you’ll see which video(s) made the cut.  So, send in your submissions (facebook.com/LewisMorrisPoetry) before Friday!