“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)

WEEKLY ENDURANCE TEST #1 – COOL CAT SAVES THE KIDS

ENDURANCE TEST

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.

“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.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is DISHONEST and MANIPULATIVE – A Review

Creeptastic!

“50 Shades of Grey” is an erotic drama that isn’t really erotic, nor is it even dramatic. A relatively plotless movie, it’s handsomely made, well-acted, but mostly boring, and even problematic for its intended audience. This film is a self-contradicting mess from start to finish. Nothing makes sense here emotionally at all. The fact that this is billed as a “romance” makes me question how stupid Hollywood thinks we are.

The answer: VERY. This is based on the best-selling (for some reason) novel by E.L. James. It became a cultural phenomenon, mostly because of its racy sexual content – mainly the BDSM aspect… and its astonishingly shitty writing too. And, it’s gotten a lot of heat from the BDSM community for its portrayal of that culture. It’s a very very trashy book.

The look of a stupid character who’s only stupid because the writers wrote her that way.

However, if we look at this movie fairly, we’ll find that the filmmakers tried to mask the trashiness of the novel. They perched it up with glossy production values, and positioned it as a semi-respectable romantic drama. It fails on multiple counts.

First of all, this movie is dishonest. Clearly, this “Christian Grey” character (played by Jamie Dornan) is disturbed. But, the movie repeatedly wimps out on exploring that, and instead tries to portray him as if he’s Bruce Wayne… A lonely mysterious billionaire. Not to mention, this guy is a stalker… The movie tries to convince us that his actions are romantic. But, try this as an experiment: replace Danny Elfman’s score with Michael Myers’ theme song from Halloween, and see if any of his actions are still “romantic”.

Also, Dakota Johnson plays our protagonist Anastasia Steele, an aggressively average nobody that, for some reason unbeknownst to the audience, Mr. Grey finds himself drawn to. Both of these performers suck. They can’t, at all, convince me that this is “love”, or that their love is in any way applicable to real life. Both of these characters are unlikable. Well, Anastasia Steele is unlikable, Christian Grey is a fucking creep.

No joke here. Just gonna say that this movie is a piece of shit.

So, you can easily see how this started out originally as Twilight fan-fiction, because it shares a lot of the exact same issues as “Twilight” does… Weak female characters, creepy male love interests, clear confusions between “romance” and “creepiness”, shitty writing, etc. I can hear some of the excuses now: Oh, but it’s made for women, you wouldn’t understand…

Well, fuck that. That’s exactly what pushes this from merely being a bad movie to being an actively harmful movie. The BDSM aspect of the film does a sh*tty job of representing that community of people who are into that sh*t. It confuses that with straight-up abusive controlling relationships. There’s no illusion to us that this relationship is abusive. But, this movie is so dishonest and manipulative about this fact, it would like us to believe that this is all fine. A man stalks a woman across state lines, texts her at a random bar saying that she’s had too much to drink, and then shows up at said bar to take that drink from her hand? That’s not creepy?

By the way, ABSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!

All of this could be helped if the movie didn’t try to class itself up. This is all very trashy lurid material… I’ve seen sh*t like this in other movies, but what gave those the edge over this is that they’re clear about their intentions. Take a movie with “Secretary” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, which is a better version of this film. That film was clear about its tone from the very beginning, so we were able to buy into the kind of relationship our protagonists had. “Fifty Shades of Grey” fumbles the ball on this very early on, trying to position itself as a serious romance when it could use a more tongue-in-cheek tone to offset the CLEARLY problematic nature of the material.

This doesn’t need the kind of gloss this has. What this needs is a more honest approach. But, it’s blatant manipulation of its f*cked up gender politics takes this down MAJOR notches. This is not a good movie at best. At worst, it’s an incredibly boring film that ultimately becomes irritating thanks to its dishonesty. If your girl drags you to see this, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship. Fuck this movie.

“Annie” is pure anti-cinema…

Let’s make this quick…  “Annie” is a jaw-droppingly shitty movie.
You know, I should end the review there. Never before have I seen a movie of this kind that seems to have such an open and unhidden hatred for its audience and its genre. That genre, of course, being musicals. Musicals only work if (a) the music is actually good, and (b) the story surround the music is compelling. Neither is the case here as the story drips with ooey-gooey sentimentality that becomes sickening five minutes in. And, the music?

Well, the music is mostly composed of shitty and uninteresting numbers. Some of the more popular songs from the original musical don’t make an appearance here. Surprisingly, director of the music was none other than the ultra-talented Sia. Yet, the music here sounds generic and flat. And, your main actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, sing-talks her way through musical numbers that feel just about as fun as jury duty.

This movie sucks.

I cannot believe how wrong this entire production was, from the acting, to the directing choices. Everything here feels cheap and manipulative, and everyone in the movie looks like they just want it to be over. Who fares the worst is definitely Cameron Diaz. Her performance is so awful, it’s like watching an elementary school play. It’s embarrassing. In fact, the only actor who seemed somewhat comfortable in their role was Jamie Foxx. Makes sense, because he is the most versatile performer in the film. He can sing, he can act, he can dance, and he’s funny. It’s just to bad that this script constantly undercuts all that with wrongheaded choices.

It’s like the filmmakers are embarrassed to be making a musical. So, what you essentially get is a movie that is actively at war with itself, never fully committing to being what it is… That’s depressing. This whole movie is depressing.

I mean, we can talk about the film technically speaking, but every creative choice feels wrong. There are straight-up just awful editing choices, which I assume are a byproduct of a cinematographer who has no idea what they’re doing. The whole entire production is dunderheaded in a way that I haven’t seen in years. This is a straight-up awful movie. Annie is indeed one of the worst movies I’ve seen all year.

“The Interview” is… Good Enough?

“The Interview” is a movie made more relevant because of the circumstances surrounding it rather than the movie itself. News outlets, entertainment media, and even Obama have made this movie out to be more-or-less an event.
It’s not.

That’s not to say that it’s bad. In fact, it’s actually quite good in places. But, the fact remains, with the terroristic threats and the unprecedented (and frankly entertaining) Sony hacks, one might wonder if the movie would get any play at all if the controversy wasn’t trumped up and blown up by various media outlets. The ultimate undoing of this film is not the film itself. And that is particularly tragic. There was no way this film could possibly live up to the epic drama surrounding its making. So, when watching this, I tried to separate this from the real-life shenanigans that swirled around it since late November.

As a movie, completely and totally separate from all the bullshit, it’s pretty solid. It’s not great. It finds a nice comfort spot in being good. Just good. It’s funny (for most of its runtime… more on that in a sec). It scores some pretty interesting dramatic situations. And, what I found most surprising is that the movie looks GORGEOUS. The cinematography, the richness of the production design… All the money is there onscreen. I haven’t seen a comedy pay this much attention to its visuals in a long time.


The film’s plot is solid (if somewhat flimsy when given further thought). It surrounds a celebrity tabloid talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco), and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). They’re generally disrespected by their colleagues for essentially feeding the American public trashy television. When the opportunity to interview Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) appears, they see it as a way to legitimize themselves to the general public. But, the plans change when the CIA asks the pair to assassinate Kim Jong Un. Obviously, things don’t go as planned.

As with any of these Seth Rogen comedies, there is a formula. That formula is becoming more apparent with each movie he releases. This time around, we’re getting a formula sorta/kinda similar to Superbad. There’s two guys, one smart, the other dumb & crass. They have different ambitions. They get caught up in an epic quest. That epic quest introduces a female love interest for at least one of these guys (or the female love interest is the reason for the epic quest). And then, plans get more complicated, and causes a rift between the two guys. But, then the two guys reconcile when the situation becomes a little more dire. Cue bromance. Then, the two guys execute their plan, and through dumb-luck, end up coming out of it okay (and one of them ends up getting the girl too). Of course, in between these plot points, you can insert dick & shit jokes to pad out the runtime.

You know… “This is The End” had a more original approach. That movie had several opportunities to bow down to the conventions of the genre. And, for the most part, it didn’t. Unfortunately for this movie, it is almost entirely an exercise in formula without the reward of something new.

However, that’s something most audiences won’t care about. Because where it counts, this movie works… It’s really funny for the most part. But, the movie does hit a pretty sizable dry spot somewhere in the middle, and doesn’t recover until the beginning of the third act. I understand why it has to slow down. It has to spend time (out of obligation) to develop Kim Jong Un’s character.


I think Randall Park’s performance as Kim Jong Un is part of the main reason why the middle of this film works. He somehow finds a way in his mannerisms and body language to make an otherwise despicable person somewhat relatable. Here, we get a tragic character given power when he doesn’t know what power actually is. Park builds off of that, and ends it on a note that makes us almost feel sorry for him… Almost.

Of course, predictably, Franco & Rogen have great chemistry, and play well off each other. These guys could do this shit in their sleep, they work so well. You get the impression that these guys have known each other for years. That’s unlike a lot of other movies of its kind where we are told this information rather than shown it.

If there’s one big thing I can’t forgive the movie for, it’s its length. The movie is not particularly long at all (just under 2 hours). However, this film (like a lot of comedies that come out of the Rogen/Apatow production house) feels like it needs about 10 minutes shaved off of it. There are scenes that feel like they’re only as long as they are to pad out the runtime. Scenes that stop being funny midway through are milked until dry.

Shakespeare once wrote “Brevity is the soul of wit”… That quote might be a lesson to apply to further Seth Rogen films.

All in all, “The Interview” is a good film for what it is. It could’ve been great. It could’ve had a cultural relevance that most comedies don’t have. Unfortunately, it will. But, it won’t be because of the movie itself. It’ll be because of the controversy around it.

Such a shame. It’s a good movie. But with so much hoopla, I wish the movie that was the cause of it was a little bit better.