Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: "The Disaster Artist" is a hit! It is true! It's NOT bullshit! It is a hit! It is!

The Disaster Artist Review

Oh, hai James Franco. You make good Hollywood movie.

Deep down in my Man Cave at home, I have hundreds and hundreds of movies in my home theater. One of the films amongst my collection is “The Room.” It’s been dubbed the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, but its also developed a cult status, and has had sold out screenings take place all around the world. Now, why would I buy the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” and add it to my collection? Possibly for the same reason why its developed a cult status. Don’t get me wrong, “The Room” is a incoherently bad movie, on a narrative and logical level. But there is something about the strange performance of Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer, producer and lead star of the film, which is, dare I say, endearing. The film is so willfully bad that its funny. And its crazy to me that Wiseau set out to make a drama, and ended up making a comedy.

“The Disaster Artist” is based upon a book by Greg Sestero, who was the second lead in the film “The Room.” Apparently, Greg Sestero was an aspiring actor living in San Francisco in the late 1990’s when a met Tommy Wiseau. Tommy was an odd fellow, who loved deep American values and he loved movies. He sounded as if he had an Eastern European accent, but when asked, he would say he’s from New Orleans, Louisiana. Greg was struggling in his acting classes, but Wiseau saw something special in him, and he invited Greg to Los Angeles with him (because he apparently had an apartment in BOTH San Francisco and Los Angeles) so that they could pursue acting together. Just as long as Greg didn’t ask about Tommy’s shrouded past nor talk about Tommy to their peers. After many years of failed attempts to break into the acting scene, they decided to make a movie themselves. Wiseau buys top-of-the-line camera equipment, hired personnel and they got right to work. Tommy never disclosed where he was getting his money from, but apparently costs for the film ballooned to five million. The shooting of the film itself was a nightmare for many involved, simply because Wiseau had no directorial experience.

Greg’s book is intended to be autobiographical and Wiseau claims none of it, if any at all, really happened. But James Franco shoots the book in an honest yet heartfelt way. There are moments of “The Disaster Artist” that are laugh out loud funny, and moments of deep, personal anguish. I always get a tad nervous when movies try to walk the tightrope between drama and comedy, but James Franco pulls it off flawlessly. Not to mention that James Franco disappears into the skin of Tommy Wiseau, becoming the man completely. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen “The Room” or heard Tommy Wiseau talk before, but he does sound like he’s from Eastern Europe and while he seems incredibly nice, he does come off a little odd. James Franco captures that with a powerful accord. I don’t know how Academy voters are going to react to this, but I absolutely believe that James Franco deserves the nomination for Lead Actor this year, as well as a Best Director nod.

The rest of the cast is equally solid. I will let you all in a little secret here, I have never been a huge fan of either of the Franco brothers. I’ve always thought Dave has ranged from good to mediocre, and James absolutely makes me cringe when I watch him in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies. But I have to say that Dave also delivers an incredible performance. Full of innocence and excitement and you feel this, you feel his emotions. In fact, “The Disaster Artist” is filled with lots of actors I do not normally like who deliver some good performances. Zack Efron does some brief yet strong work, and in his couple of scenes, he had me in stitches. Seth Rogen does great work here, as does Alison Brie. Josh Hutcherson. Jackie Weaver. Hannibal Buress. Paul Scheer. Everyone down to the smallest cameo, like Bryan Cranston. Everyone delivers. Everyone makes their moments in front of the camera count, no matter how small their role may be.

“The Disaster Artist” could have been a shameless vanity project. It’s a gamble that it got made in the first place. But what James Franco does is focus on an endearing friendship that buds between two unlikely people. The movie has some insightful things to say about friendship, and how it’s a joy some days and how other days it can be a chore. But it also says that we need to keep our eyes open and try to get to know all the people we meet in our lives, because we never really know if those people will change our lives for the better. Not only that, but the film also has some smart comments on the creation of art in Hollywood. It’s a tough business to break into, and that can sometimes destroy people. But when thinking of art, no matter if its movies or music or whatever, once you’ve created it and delivered it to people, it belongs to the audience. Tommy Wiseau set out to make a drama out of the room, but something else was released in theaters in July 2004. You may have set out to say something with your art, but what translates out to the audience is what it ultimately will be about. I honestly don’t know if I can name another movie that really dissects that creative process in such a funny and smart way.

“The Room” may ended up being a disaster. But James Franco captures that sometimes wild, sometimes enraging, sometimes sincere and all-around crazy time perfectly in his movie. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Annihilation trailer 2

From the guy who made "Ex Machina" in 2015.

Making some really exciting Science Fiction.

This film just shot up to the top of my most anticipated films of next year list!

Final "Bright" Trailer

If there is one movie I've been immersed in this year, surprisingly enough to you, it's been David Ayer's "Bright."

I read a few scoop pieces in 2016 about how Ayers was going to regroup with Will Smith from "Suicide Squad" and they were going to make some kind of "fantasy cop movie." Sounded a little weird, a little cheesy and even a little bit fascinating at the same time. During the Super Bowl this year, we saw that small spot, not giving much away. I have to admit, I was intrigued. I started paying closer attention to "Bright," this fantasy cop movie that Ayers was making. I even got my hands on a script for the movie, it was the first script review I ever wrote for my site here. I have to admit, I enjoyed what I read. I plan to give it one more look before next weekend, but I did enjoy what I read.

What "Bright" could be is the first streaming franchise. There is a juicy hook for a sequel at the end the script, and I am hoping the script hasn't changed much. Ayers did say in a recent interview that he really liked working for Netflix, and that they allowed him to make the movie he wanted to make. Sure, he took a little jab at Warner Brothers, but that interview gives me hope that there is no middle party muddying up a good script. Now I can't wait for the finished result. Heck, I even like Will Smith's Big Willie Style persona here. Also since I think Ayers got Smith to give one his best performances in awhile, I have faith.

This hits Netflix next weekend, I am dying to take a look at it.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Gary Oldman delivers all sorts of goods in Joe Wright's "Darkest Hour"

Darkest Hour Review

Did any of you catch the 2018 Golden Globe nominations? If so, then you probably saw that Gary Oldman has been nominated for his work in “Darkest Hour.” After finally seeing the movie myself, it is no surprise whatsoever that has been nominated.

For me, that’s never a surprise when Gary Oldman delivers an unbelievable performance. Because, remarkably enough, this feels like something Oldman is always doing, and I can’t believe he never gets the attention and discussion I feel like he deserves. He should be the male Meryl Streep, though lots more likable. I think this because he seems to vanish in his roles all the time. How can someone watch something like “The Fifth Element” and NOT be totally taken aback when the realize the villain of that movie is Gary Oldman. Or how about his work as Dracula? How is the guy who was in “The Contender” also be the guy in “The Professional” and how is that guy the same guy from “Air Force One” or “Lawless?” My favorite example is Oldman’s work as Drexel in “True Romance.” A role wear Oldman plays a wigger pimp who is viciously ruthless. There is a verbal showdown that escalates to violence between Oldman’s Drexel and Christian Slater. I have seen the movie about a dozen times now, and that one moment still makes me tense up. When I show that movie to friends, they are stunned silent throughout the scene, then finish it with a deep sigh of relief. All in part from Oldman’s talent.

Some actors only disappear into a role once, Oldman made a career out of it. That’s why I totally buy his transformation into Winston Churchill, during the early days World War II, when he was appointed as Prime Minister. Oldman once again completely becomes Churchill, almost as if he evaporated into the skin of the man himself. It looks like Oldman put on a tremendous amount of weight, and I really can’t tell if he actually did or if that is mere movie magic. He completely transformed the way he talks, the way he moves, and he completely reinvented his mannerisms. This is what method acting looks like, and when it’s at its absolute best.

Funny, because the movie is actually full of stellar performances. Lilly James has had an absolutely great year of movies. “Baby Driver” STILL makes me swoon. And now, she caps off the year with another memorable performance. Here, she plays Elizabeth Nel, who was the personal secretary to Churchill throughout the war. It plays out mostly like typical Hollywood, but it never becomes weird or awkward or romantic. And James does great enough work that their subplot counts. Ben Mendelson plays King George VI who eventually appoints Churchill to his position, and he does a fine job here. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Churchill’s wife and she’s as stalwart and stern as he is, Thomas once again displays some raw talent here. Even old Stannis Baratheon himself, Stephen Dillane appears as Lord Halifrax.

Joe Wright has a keen eye for detail here. As it feels like every costume and piece of scenery is absolutely lived-in. Any time I am watching a biography film and it feels like I just stepped off a time machine, that’s a good sign in my book. I don’t like cheap looking sets and costumes, it really is distracting to me. Either it all counts, or none of it does, so I like the extra detail in these biographical films. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is that typical rough-edged, rugged look that appear in most World War II movies, but its totally fitting here. The music by Dario Marianelli is powerfully suiting.

The story of “Darkest Hour” is kind of familiar at first glance. It feels like a movie we have seen before. It feels like an alternate version of “The King’s Speech.” We’ve seen plenty of films where a person of power has to prove themselves during a moment of extreme crisis, and that’s essentially all “Darkest Hour” boils down to. The thing is that Oldman is so unfathomably good here that he makes the good stuff stand out and the mediocre stuff disappear. There have been plenty of movies that were good but were elevated to great thanks to a particular performance, I think a modern example of that is here, Gary Oldman with “Darkest Hour.”

Oh, and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a perfect companion film to this. I can’t wait to have both in my possession and have a nice double feature.


Review: "Wonder" is Wonderful.

Wonder Review

There is a type of movie that I really can’t stand. And it’s the tearjerker. Now, I don’t necessarily mean romantic movies, or sad biographies. I would call something like “The Notebook” a romantic movie, not a tearjerker. Sure, “The Notebook” is sad, but it doesn’t shamelessly rip tears out of your eyes. That’s the type of movie I can’t stand, when its specifically designed to jerk tears out of you. Those emotions are artificial to me, not organic and if I can’t reach an emotional crescendo by myself, then it doesn’t work.

One of the best recent examples of this I can think of is “A Dog’s Purpose.” It’s a movie that came out earlier this year, that I missed in theaters and then finally caught up with when it was hit home viewing. The movie is only designed for people to go clamoring for their tissue boxes, without a story or emotional arc to support it. It simply makes up rules as it goes. The movie basically revolves around a dog who lives the life of a different dog after it dies, then miraculously finds its first owner. It’s a terrifically stupid idea on paper, and I wish I could been present for the pitch meeting for this. Is there any scientific evidence or religious dogma that says dogs just go into the body of another dog after they die? Do they recognize smells from old lives? If so, how? The movie doesn’t even try, it’s too busy trying to jerk those tears out of you.

I didn’t have high hopes for “Wonder,” because I couldn’t get a good read on it. I couldn’t tell if it had a genuine story to tell or if it was going to just set up sad scene after sad scene and win the audience’s affection through waterworks. Thankfully, it’s the former, because “Wonder” is actually a brilliantly told film. Sure, it has its sad moments, but it doesn’t lean on those moments like a crutch. Instead, “Wonder” relies on good acting, good storytelling and genuine emotion in order to reach its audience and it’s impeccably successful in its actions.

Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is a fifth-grader who has been homeschooled most of his formative career. He has been homeschooled because he’s afraid to go to a real school with peers, he was having a rare medical condition called “mandibulofacial dysostosis” which required much surgery as an infant, and now his face is suffers heavy scarring. Auggie wears an astronaut helmet to cover his face. As Auggie gets older, his parents Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson) worry about his future, and they enroll him at a private school for his fifth-grade year.

Sometimes, the movie feels like its going to be Auggie’s story, and at its center it truly is Auggie’s story. But its also sort of amazing how the movie also focuses on how Auggie affects many people’s lives. The film shows how Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) struggles with her parents constant monitoring of Auggie and how she sometimes feels left out. The film deals with the many classmates of Auggie, some of them friends, some of them friends by the end and some of them not friends at all. The film has some things to say about bullying in our school systems that I found significant. The film deals with Auggie’s principal (Mandy Patinkin) and how a certain teacher (Daveed Diggs) touches Auggie’s life. It’s all handled with a genuine amount of ease. Everything is handled with delicate care and never once feels too bloated with story.

So much of the film hinges on Jacob Tremblay. Who was so powerfully good in 2015’s “Room,” that I can’t say I’m surprised he can carry a movie here. Tremblay is a bright, bold, young performer and he’s got quite the career ahead of him if he wants to manage it. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are always reliable, dealing some good performances here. I have always loved Pantinkin ever since I saw him on Showtime’s “Homeland” and he does some great work in his small, brief moments here. But it’s really Tremblay who really steers this thing. He is funny at moments, tender at others and he is constantly etching in the details.

There are some classic tearjerker moments in this movie. There are many times when Auggie comes home crying, not wanting to go to school the next day. There are some serious family arguments we feel like we’ve heard millions of times before. There are the bullies that grow consciences. There is even a moment when I thought that “Wonder” was just going to become the same kiddie tearjerker like we’ve seen to hell and back, but it didn’t. Not quite. It stayed the course of the new and the fresh and I salute the film for that. There are moments when you think “Wonder” will tip into that territory, but there is so much uplifting entertainment here that feels real that I still really liked it.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trailer Two of "Ready, Player,One"

There is a book I am planning to power through from January to March, and that book is Ready Player One.

The second trailer makes the film look fantastic. Again, we are visually assaulted by popular culture references. This may not be for everyone, because it seems we are living in a world where our popular culture is affecting everything. But perhaps this film will be a comment on all of that, perhaps the movie will have something to say about that. Stephen Spielberg is actually pretty good at hiding mountains of meaning in his movies. Perhaps, he can do the same here?

is that Depeche Mode in the beginning of this trailer? If so, extra points Warner Brothers!

I can't wait for March 30!

TV Review: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Season Five, Episode Two)




Last week, we got a closer look at that weird room in outer space we found Phil Coulson at the end of season four. We learn that the team are trapped on a Kree-ruled space station which seems to orbit a destroyed Earth. This station is well into the future, which means our heroes got themselves into some kind of time jump and are now trapped on a space-ship. We also found out that perhaps Daisy Johnson was the one responsible for destroying the Earth.

The news of Daisy destroying Earth is given to her by Deke, the new character who maybe-a-hero or maybe-a-villain. He explains the theory of a multiverse and how there are millions and millions of versions of ourselves, one making every choice we've ever pondered or gone down a direction in life that we never did in our real lives. I figured it would only be a matter of time before this show started playing with the idea of a multiverse, something that is fairly prominent in the Flarrowverse shows on the CW. No matter how Deke explains it, Daisy doesn't believe that she destroyed her home planet. I wonder how this is going to pay-off by season end. I hope this doesn't boil down to a big battle of doppelgangers, for two reasons. One, we saw a version of that already last season. Two, I have already seen so much of it in the Flarrowverse shows that I have had my fill of it. I hope something more exciting is at the door. 

It will be interesting to see how Deke progresses as a character. By episode's end, it feels like he might be more villain than hero. There is a Kree named Kaisus. He's the ruler of this space station. Apparently, the humans left on Earth blast off into the heavens after "Daisy" destroyed the planet. The space station was intercepted by the Kree and they left Kaisus in charge. Kaisus soon turned into a totalitarian style dictator, who turned the human colonies on the station into slaves. At the end of last week's episode, Kaisus enslaved Jemma. At the end of the episode, Deke leads Kaisus to Daisy Johnson and he soon enslaves her too.

Kaisus is kind of a gladiator-style ringleader. He finds people who can fight, displays their abilities and shows them off only to get them sold to the highest bidder. Most of this week's episode is devoted to Jemma meeting and talking to one of Kaisus' "champions," or people he trains to fight so he can sell them. This little girl in particular is an Inhuman, an Inhuman who can put her hands through things. The gladiator fight that takes place so that Kaisus can attempt to sell this Inhuman is fairly brutal. We are definitely seeing the Friday late night ABC ratings kick in. Because not only do we see a girl who is no older than a young teenager get brutally beaten by a man. But we also see a girl put her hand through his chest, killing him, with an arm covered in blood. Jemma is pretty distraught when her new friend is sold off by Kaisus.

Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo are working for Grill, who is a powerful, merciless human who has people forcefully work for him. There seems to be a Mafia-esque hierarchy within the human communities that has sprung from the Kree rule. In order to pay Grill back for anything, you have to work for him. Coulson, Mack and Yo-Yo meet Tess, who gets them out of a day's work for Grill in order to go on a "mission." Coulson is desperately trying to figure out more about this strange, new world. I love that there is a special section of the remaining part of the Earth called "616." If you know your comics, you know what that means. It's the number designated for the mainstream Earth in Marvel comics. There is something special about this piece of land, and it could lead to unlocking the answers of this season. 

Oh, and did I mention that the Earth's surface is crawling with these strange aliens?

One thing is for sure, this season is going to be unlike anything we have seen from this show yet, and that fills me with joy.

What did everyone else think?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom Trailer

I thought "Jurassic World" was fine. Not terrible, not great, but fine. I think all the "Jurassic Park" movies have been the same. Even "Jurassic World," made by a passionate Colin Trevorrow, essentially just made the same movie over again. Now, believe it or not, there was a version of "Jurassic Park 4" that was literally going to involve five humanoid dinosaurs learning how to use guns and talk and save children and kill bad guys. I have written about this idea before and trust me, the script reviews are out there. This was an idea being seriously considered by Universal. The way these sequels have gone, I would love to actually see the dino-mercenaries movie.

"Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom" looks like its going to be the "Dante's Peak" of the franchise. A volcano is erupting on the island of Jurassic World. A protection group for the dinosaurs wants to Chris Pratt to go help bring the dinosaurs back to safety. Because, you know, bringing the dinosaurs to safety has always been a great idea in this franchise.

I am sure this will just be more of the same, but also featuring a volcano. I will admit though, I do like the idea of Jeff Goldblum coming back. I sure hope this isn't just a cameo. The rest of the trailer? I don't really know. I don't know if I'm really curious. I have already seen four movies of dinosaur carnage, do I really need more?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Baby Driver 2? Edgar Wright says yes!

It's no secret that "Baby Driver" was my favorite film of the summer, and still one of the top films of the years for me. I think Edgar Wright has a great ear for dialogue that feels unique and fun, he creates provocative characters. He takes typical pop culture references and delivers something fresh and modern with them. And Hell, the guy can just tell a relentlessly entertaining story. I never would have guessed that we'd ever see a sequel to it. But apparently Edgar Wright is hard at work writing a script for the movie. Apparently, the sequel is getting fast tracked, so we could see it sooner than we think.

“Those talks are already in the works. The deal is being hammered out as we speak. So, hopefully, I’m going to at least write a second one. I’ve definitely got lots of ideas. Whether it’s the next movie, I don’t know. I’m just working that out at the moment, actually. I have a couple of things that I’ve been offered since [the release of “Baby Driver”] I would like to get back in the saddle shortly.” He told Entertainment Weekly, “There were four years between “The World’s End” and “Baby Driver.” I don’t want it to be that long again. I would love to have a film out in the next two years.”

Well, personally, I'd love a new "Baby Driver" in two years. I'd be interested to see if this could become some kind of a franchise. I liked the cast and the fun of the first film, and I think Edgar Wright could really make something outside the box with this series of films, if that is what he wants to do. I'd love to see all those floating "ideas" hatched out onto a screen.

Oh, and it may be a little early for this joke but...would anybody want to bet money Kevin Spacey gets replaced by Christopher Plummer?

More on this as the story progresses.


Review: Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" is minor-key Allen, even with the shocking ending

Wonder Wheel Review

Woody Allen is one of my all time favorite filmmakers. Say what you will about his personal life, but that’s a different conversation for a different day. I responded early to the rhythms of his style and storytelling and very few filmmakers have had such a profound influence on me. Yes, not everything he makes is great, but nobody working in Hollywood has a perfect resume. Yes, it can be argued that he makes the same the movie over and over again. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Does he use the same themes over and over again? I would agree with that. But if you really over-analyzed the careers of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and Spike Lee, legendary filmmakers have made entire careers out of the same themes. Some actors avoid typecasting while others embrace it. So, to harp on Allen for using the same themes seems a tad unfair. I have to also say that I admire a guy who can churn out a new movie every year, that’s impressive for an eighty-two-year-old man.

Depending on how many Woody Allen movies you’ve seen, and how much you’ve tolerated his style will greatly impact what you think of “Wonder Wheel,” his new film starring Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple and Jim Belushi. Allen uses many of the tricks of his old bag, and at first, it feels like your typical Woody Allen film. Part of the reason I don’t mind that Allen has recycled the same themes is how he’s been able to redefine them with each new film. “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “Shadows and Fog,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Small Time Crooks” are just some examples off the top of my head that deal with the typical Woody Allen themes; cheating, divorce, family drama, forbidden romance, unachieved life goals, all under a New York backdrop. But if you were to binge those movies, they won’t feel like the same movie, story-wise. He’s usually really good about taking familiar themes and molding them into something unrecognizable.

Sometimes though, his movies just go through his familiar motions to no avail. For much of “Wonder Wheel’s” running time, this feels like Woody Allen-light. Kate Winslet plays Ginny. She’s an inspiring actress whose career went nowhere. (get it?) She’s married to Humpty (Belushi) and her married life in unsatisfying (get it?) Ginny’s first marriage failed because she cheated on her spouse, (get it?) and her son from her first marriage lives with Humpty and his daughter from his first marriage, Carolina (Temple). One day, walking on the beach, Ginny meets Mickey Rubin (Timberlake) a lifeguard. Both of them become attracted to each other, despite Ginny being much older than Mickey and already married. No matter, Mickey really likes her and an affair ensues. True Woody Allen fans probably aren’t surprised by any of this, they probably won’t be surprised the moment Mickey coincidentally meets Carolina, he falls for her too!

For much of the running time, “Wonder Wheel” plays like a typical, yet uninspired Allen film. He seems go in circles as Ginny realizes Carolina likes Mickey, and the all-too-familiar family arguments Allen usually writes come into play. I will admit there were moments that made me laugh out-loud. The film is set in 1950’s New York City and that provides for some catchy music, unique costumes and a fun style. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro creates a bright, dreamy 1950’s Coney Island, which fits the mood perfectly. What also makes this stretch of the film bearable is just how well Allen’s actors are. This is some of the best character work by Winslet that I’ve seen in a while and that’s saying something since she’s always strong. Justin Timberlake is really funny here, and his narration of events fits the style of the film well. Jim Belushi provides some good laughs and I generally liked his work here. Juno Temple has played characters like this before, but that doesn’t mean that she’s bad at it.

Near the end of the film, the movie takes a dark turn. Some may think the film picks up with an ending nobody saw coming. If you’re a seasoned Allen fan, this ending won’t surprise you. Those who saw and enjoyed “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Match Point” and “Cassandra’s Dream” probably won’t be phased. Allen's movies have taken a dark turn before, his characters have sold their souls to The Devil before. For me, “Wonder Wheel” feels like Woody Allen on auto-pilot, even with the dramatic shift in tone right at the end. I think the actors sell it well enough, so I didn’t hate the ending, nor did I hate the experience. I just think Allen is better than this. Even when making one new movie a year, he’s still capable of standing in one spot, stuck in park when he’s ready to accelerate. “Wonder Wheel” is one of those movies.

In recent years, Woody Allen has gone up and down with the quality of his films. Last year’s “Café Society” wasn’t a film I reviewed for the site last year, but I did enjoy it once I caught up with it and I liked it much better than “Irrational Man” and “Magic In The Moonlight” the two years prior. I loved “Blue Jasmine,” which I thought made up for “To Rome With Love” before it. Still, my favorite Woody Allen film of the 2010’s so far is easily “Midnight In Paris” and I think perhaps Allen should make another high-concept comedy set in Europe. For now, “Wonder Wheel” maybe minor key Allen, but he somehow made most of it work. He’ll bump back up again, maybe next year, maybe the year after.


Monday, December 4, 2017

TV REVIEW: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Season 5, Episode 1&2)




Ever since I started writing weekly recaps and reviews of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” the road has been long, wild and often bumpy. There have been times when I have jumped for joy over the show and there have been just as many times when the show left me cold. I don’t think I’ve ever outright hated the show, but I don’t think it’s ever reached its highest potential. That is mainly due to several missed opportunities and not fully exploring a big idea it offered up. But the show has managed to play it fun throughout its successes and failures, which has kept my attention.

I’ve been waiting for the moment when the show was going to mix things up. Albeit, it already has to a degree, mostly thanks to the movie end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was glad that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” graduated to higher place in storytelling instead of just being an “NCIS with superpowers” type show. I like that the show decided to tell a different story each season, with the previous season’s having an impact on the next. I would eventually get bored with the idea that all this organization could investigate was HYDRA or Inhumans or some weird way to mesh both in one season. Introducing Ghost Rider and Life Model Decoys last season was fun, but didn’t provide the great storytelling I was hoping for. Introducing the Secret Warriors, a season earlier was fun, but it never lived up to the potential it should have. All of this evidence to the fact that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was fun, not great, and sometimes coming off as afraid to try to new things.

Telling from the season five premiere from Friday, which delivered the first episodes of this new season, I can tell the show is trying something new. I can say with honesty that this new ambition will hopefully help this season stand out for the show. There is always a little stinger scene, which will have the audience guessing until next season, at the end of each season finale. Season Four’s stinger scene involved Phil Coulson looking out a window into space. What could our dear agents have anything to do with what goes on it outer space? The season five premiere opens with an unidentified bald guy (NOTE: NOT Carl Creel), taking a swim in a pool and evidentially starting his morning routine. Which includes taking off his skin before stepping in the shower. Then he brings a group of heavily armed men to the diner our beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. team was at the end of last season. They are frozen and taken away from this mysterious group, except Leo Fitz.

The next thing we know, Coulson, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons, Mack, Yo-Yo and Quake are all in outer space. They are trapped in some kind of weird space-station, although its inhabited by a small colony of humans. Which may or may not be forcibly there by a group of Kree. Oh, and there are bigger aliens known as “roaches” trying to kill everyone. Oh, and the team is seemingly trapped in the future, and finding that planet Earth has been shattered in two. So, yeah, what the hell is going on, team?

It definitely looks like the writers are proactive in taking this show in a different direction, setting up an entirely new challenge for the team. Personally, I couldn’t be happier for that, I just hope its in the direction of something we haven’t seen before. If this just boils down to the plot of an Inhuman or a HYDRA rogue cell then that will be a disappointment for me. S.H.I.E.L.D. has battled many foes during its run in the comics, and I want to see every corner explored, I don’t want to see the same challenge with a different look every season. Quake discovers at the end of this two-hour episode that humans on this mysterious spaceship use The Framework as a “vacation” from their lives. So, it seems like The Framework will play some kind of role in this new season. Okay, fine. I am game for that. That isn’t a big deal. But if the villain turns out to be another robot, that will be disappointing too. There is some potential in this upcoming storyline, and I hope it leads to satisfying conclusion. I am sure there is some kind of set up that will parallel with whatever happens in “Avengers: Infinity War” this summer, and I am hoping for some fun with that as well.

The cast is as good as ever here. All continually doing good work. There is a new addition here, a guy who kind of reminds you of Star-Lord when you fist meet him. But once you get to know his personality, he’s anything but Star-Lord. This guy’s name is Deke, played by newcomer Jeff Ward. I don’t know what side he’s really on. Before seemingly helping Coulson’s team, he severely hurt Melinda May. He may just be pro-Deke, but we’ll see. He seems to have an interestingly stark personality, and I think Jeff Ward is off to a good start with the character so far.

So, our heroes are trapped in the future, the Earth has been destroyed. They are being hunted by Kree on a ship they don’t know how to get out of. This ship is full of humans who may or may not want to help them. There are tons of people with their own agenda’s seemingly. Oh, and there is a HUGE pest control problem that needs fixing on this big ship. So, it looks like our heroes have their work cut out for them this season. It’s a wildly ambitious move to go off-Earth, and I hope this isn’t something that lasts one story-arc. I am intrigued, so that’s definitely good. 

Review: "Daddy's Home 2" is an unfunny holiday romp suffering from an identity crisis.

Daddy's Home 2 Review

If you haven’t seen “Daddy’s Home 2” yet, but you have seen “A Bad Moms’ Christmas,” then you can go ahead and skip “Daddy’s Home 2.”

It was a little before halfway through “Daddy’s Home 2” that I felt as if I was suffering from déjà vu. I understood why. I watched “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” a few weeks ago and now I am watching “Daddy’s Home 2,” essentially the same movie but the gender of its lead actors reversed. Both feature people getting ready for a big Christmas holiday, both feature lead characters who have a parent of the same gender they are dreading, both feature the whole coming together for a crazy Christmas holiday, both feature a Hallmark Christmas style moral lessons and everyone understands each other at the end. They are basically the same movie, so if you haven’t seen either of them, I’d say flip a coin and whichever film you assign heads or tails is the one you see.

Although, telling from the trailers for both movies, you already know yourself whether or not you want to see either film. I never saw “Bad Moms” so I only had “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” to judge. “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” was fine, but featured too many montages and wasted its talented cast. “Daddy’s Home 2” doesn’t really have any montages, but completely wastes its cast. There is no reason for a film featuring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson, and Linda Cardellini to not be funny. There isn’t a single actor in this entire movie that doesn’t have a good witty line or a fantastic scene of hilarity.

It goes deeper than that though. This is a movie that bulldozes through half a dozen different story threads and sometimes doesn’t finish them or does, but in the most half-assed way possible that the film feels disjointed. “Daddy’s Home 2” doesn’t know if it wants to focus on men with daddy issues, or how families sometimes keep secrets from each other during the holidays, or how children are affected by step-parents and co-parenting or how children can be negatively affected by divorce and separation. This is all tricky terrain to navigate for a drama, so when someone tries to construct a comedy on these themes, that’s even trickier. A smart screenwriter could possibly write a smart, thought-provoking comedy around these themes and still make something crowd-pleasing and entertaining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris only aimed for the easy targets, while bringing up some big issues without exploring them. Don’t let the story fool you, this is a slapstick comedy that never fully explores its characters.

If its slapstick you want, its slapstick you are going to get. But I can’t promise any of the comedy will land. Always telling when watching a comedy is how often I laugh, and I personally have a broad sense of humor. I am almost thirty and still laugh at fart and poop jokes. It doesn’t take much to get me red-faced with laughter, so when an hour and half rolls by and I never cracked a smile, its jarring. Especially with all the funny people in this. I love Will Ferrell. I love John Lithgow. I love the comedy they can produce. Hell, even Crazy Mel can produce some big laughs when given the right notes and direction. Nobody has any memorable dialogue here, nobody has one good line. The film relies heavily on shock humor and slapstick to push the audience along, it is humor for the lowest common denominator.

I never reviewed “Daddy’s Home” on my site. I never got a chance to see it during its theatrical run and I never caught up with it until it reached DVD. I found it to be woefully ordinary, not something that warranted a sequel. But with the cast they brought together for this, I figured they were going to throw the kitchen sink at the wall with humor. Sadly, “Daddy’s Home 2” is an unfunny, holiday romp that seems to be suffering from an identity crisis depending on what else you’ve seen at the theater this holiday season.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

TV Review: "The Inhumans" (The Last Five Episodes)




I am beginning to notice something about myself. When it comes to TV shows, if the show doesn't really grab me in the first few episodes, its really hard for me to get into the show. No matter how much of a fanboy I am before hand. I have yet to finish the first season of "Iron Fist" on Netflix, and even though its a Marvel property, it's snail pace move and its wooden characters kept me from finishing and as I watched "The Defenders" at the end of the summer, it felt like it didn't matter. We are living in the Golden Era of television still, and the playing field is beyond competitive. I don't have time to waste on a shitty show, not when there is so much potentially great stuff I could be watching instead.

I meant to start reviewing one episode of "The Inhumans" a week, like I do with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." but I just couldn't. "The Inhumans" is, without a doubt, in my mind, the worst of the Marvel television shows. As the last five episodes played out, I sat on my couch very confused, very baffled and very letdown. What a big waste of a golden opportunity. Here was ABC's opportunity to make more sense of the Inhuman storylines from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Here was their chance to make something much more outside the box. It was an ambitious idea to opt out of making an "Inhumans" movie and making their debut on television. But they are so far off course that it is mind-numbing. All my complaints from the first few episodes were only heightened in the last five. A story that could have been told in perhaps four episodes is spread thin beyond breaking point. Beyond that, it just gives us more time to hang out on an ugly set, with actors who can't act in service of a story that mostly goes nowhere.

I feel bad saying this, but I am really trying to think of some redeeming qualities. I really am. I just can't think of any. How could a performance by Iwan Rheon go so disasterously off-course? How could they turn Black Bolt into such a non-character? How could they make Attilan so visually uninteresting? How could they run around in circles in these last five episodes, making the same highlights and the same points over and over again?

Even the other Marvel shows I wasn't too crazy about had some redeeming qualities. In "Iron Fist," at least there was some fun episodes and David Wenham had some fun hamming it up as a villain. At least "The Defenders" had Sigourney Weaver and the team had some good chemistry, even if the scripts nearly made them stiff by design. At least in "The Punisher," there were times when Jon Bernthal actually resembled The Punisher, and the birth of Jigsaw should lend for some good stories later. I don't see "The Inhumans" can move past this in any significant way. I don't see how they can pitch a new season. I don't see how anybody can see anything positive in this train-wreck of a mess. I don't see how they could make what looks like a 1990's TV show look any more appealing.

"The Inhumans" is the ultimate "coulda, woulda, shoulda" of Marvel entertainment, and ABC made all the wrong decisions, right to left. What could have saved these last few episodes would be more Lockjaw, but we barely see him and it left me feeling cold. The story doesn't improve in the end, the characters don't improve, the actors don't improve. It felt like watching the sequel to David Lynch's "Dune." And the show featured possibly the most unexciting "season finale" in any superhero show ever. I can't remember the last episode of anything feeling so goddamn bland.

I hope that Marvel is taking a long look at fan reaction to its television arm this year, because it's been pretty mediocre. I still have to push through "The Runaways," and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." starts tomorrow (AKA the only reason why I decided to finish this season) and I hope Marvel can win back some good graces. But one thing is for sure, it really feels like this might be our one and only trip to Attilan. Fox's Marvel shows are blowing Disney Marvel out of the water this year, and I hope they have a solid plan to get back in the game next year. They need one badly.

Review: "Suburbicon" is a place I wouldn't recommend visiting. Not quite.

Suburbicon Review

Man, I was really thinking I was going to love "Suburbicon." The film is directed by George Clooney, who, believe it or not, is a good director. I loved "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "The Ides of March" and "Good Night and Good Luck." I also thought "Leatherheads" was a pretty decent film too. He is working from a script by none other than the Coen brothers. The film stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac and Glenn Fleshler. I thought for sure this was going to be a movie I would have lost my mind over.

I sat on the film for a whole day, and now I can't believe it. But my mind is boggled that I didn't love it. In fact, I am a little deflated that I didn't love it. It's frustrating because there is lots to like about this movie. "Suburbicon" is a film that is full of good performances. The cinematography by Robert Elswit paints a 1950's suburban nightmare. The grimy promise of an American Dream with a dark secret at its core. The music by Alexandre Desplat is a remarkable one, setting mood with some simple key notes. The thing is, there is lots of extra that makes this movie look and sound good, but that doesn't carry the movie. 

I have written before on this blog about the dangers of putting multiple storylines in one movie. It's unfair to treat movies like mini-television shows and it takes someone really special to juggle several storylines at once. The problem with "Suburbicon" is that two stories take center stage. One story revolves around the Mayers family, the first African-American family to move into this nice little slice of Americana, the problem is that the town is all white and as soon as word gets out that there is a black family in this all white community, things get hostile in a quick! The entire neighborhood wants them out. Then there is the story about a robbery in the home of Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his wife Margaret (Julianne Moore). Their son Nicky (Noah Jupe) watches from the dinner table as his family is put to sleep and robbed, and when he awakens, he learns that his mother died during the attack, leading Margaret's twin sister Rose, also played by Moore, moving into the house. Things aren't what they seem in the Lodge household and Nicky soon realizes that he never really knew his father ever. 

Nicky spends a lot of time with the Mayers son Andy (Tony Epsinosa), and it appears that Nicky may be the link between these two stories, but perspectives switch like the wind blowing and the stories are so willfully disconnected that it becomes disjointed quickly. The tonal shifts of each story work against each other, not for each other. Dramatic comedy is a real chore to capitalize on and as good as the Coen brothers are, even they don't always get it right. I think Clooney comes close to making the stories and the humor land, but some of it falls flat. There is never a good firm grasp of the tones, and the film feels like a scattered mess throughout much of its running time. I didn't know whether I should be laughing or gasping from horror and that uncertainty worked against the film.

The other problem is that George Clooney never really makes the film his own. I think its really interesting that if you look the movies he's directed so far, he's never really identified a certain style as his signature. "Good Night and Good Luck" doesn't look like "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and neither of those films looks like "The Monuments Men." But I think Clooney was able to make you feel his vision through each of those films. With "Suburbicon," it feels like he is leaning on the style of the Coen brothers so heavily that he never makes the film its own, it feels too much like a stunt. Before I did some research, I actually firmly believed that this was a Coen brothers movie, and Clooney could certainly be a "ghost director" for the brothers. But Clooney never makes it his own, this feels like a karaoke movie, instead of something of its own.

I will say that Noah Jupe does great work as Nicky and he handles some emotions that I think the average adult actor would have difficulty with. I don't even know how you explain to a child the material he has to play here, but he does so without blinking an eye. Damon is good here, a seemingly innocent man who becomes more vile as the film wears on. Moore has played characters like this before, and she proves that she has real control of her craft. Oscar Isaac shows up as an insurance fraud investigator, and he pops in and does some good work and gets out. Isaac is on the rise of being a big star and he proves his range here. But the power behind this film is done through Jupe, a grand child performance.

I can also say that the film does seem to have something on its mind. I can tell it has something important to say, even if it is a little muddled in its message. I can get that we as humans have a bad habit of pointing the finger at those over the fence, those in other regions of the world, those we don't trust. When in actuality, the people we should be regulating the most are those that live right next to you. One of the best moments in the film is the opening credit sequence, when an informational film about living in the town of Suburbicon plays out, just like they used to do in the 1950's. I love movies about communities who harbor secrets, innocent towns that have a dark heart. But the tones are all over the place here that I can't focus. If this is a dark movie, then why don't I feel unsettled? And if this is supposed to be a comedy, then why am I not laughing more? 

George Clooney is a good director, and one minor misstep won't change that. He gets lots right here, which makes "Suburbicon" more frustrating then just another down-the-nose bad movie. There is lots of thought and meaning in the scenes of this movie, even if I don't think they quite add up. George Clooney will make another complete film. "Suburbicon" just doesn't add up to anything.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The "Avengers: Infinity War" trailer promises the Mother of all blockbusters

May 2nd, 2008 will be a date I will never forget. I also think most comic book and film geeks worldwide won't forget this date. This was the day that everything changed in the industry. The entire way of blockbuster filmmaking was altered. The possibilities in which franchises in film are made somehow became limitless once Samuel L. Jackson came out of the shadows, introducing himself as Nick Fury and discussing The Avengers Initiative with Robert Downey Jr.s Tony Stark. Ever since, Disney has been formulating a universe on film, stretching onto television, sometimes running across distribution companies. Ever since that glorious evening I had back in 2008, I have been enjoying this wild ride.

I mention this because, when Kevin Feige took the stage somehow hidden in California in October of 2014, he announced "Avengers: Infinity War," which at the time was going to be one giant movie cut in half. He announced that these two films would be an culmination of everything that has happened since "Iron Man." Now, "Avengers: Infinity War" is one film and "Avengers 4" will apparently be a separate film with its own story, even though everyone in "Infinity War" will show up in "Avengers 4." No matter. The next two Avenger movies will be closing out a huge chunk of storytelling that's been told since 2008 and it will set the stage for...whatever's ahead. While I can't wait to see what's next, and how the universe will be change in 2020, there is also a melancholy sense taking over.

I know some people are getting some superhero movie fatigue. I can understand that. If you haven't grown up loving these characters, you may not understand just how awesome it is to be fan of this stuff, how fun its been to be a fan of this stuff for almost a decade now. I can see when each year is flooded with all sorts of superhero movies that it may seem a little much. But for me, it's not an option. I grew loving superhero stories. I still love superhero stories. It's just the way I'm wired. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been my own personal "Star Wars." This all matters very much to me, and I hope and pray I am singing these same praises about the DCEU at some point. I love that we live in a world right now where these movies can be made, and that they are taken seriously.

Ever since Feige announced his Phase Three plans on that day in October 2014, I have been keeping a close eye out for "Avengers: Infinity War." The movie where Thanos' (Josh Brolin) plot to collect all the Infinity Stones would come to a head, and would feature literally every Marvel hero introduced so far to challenge him. The trailer is everything I hoped we would get and more. I only have to patiently a little while longer, for now, this incredible trailer will do.

In January, I have a big announcement regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Something that will celebrate all the great work Disney and Marvel have done, something I think fans of this series will enjoy. So be sure to check back in the new year. 2018 will be a year of many celebrations for me, and since this is possibly the biggest film franchise I have lived through in its entirety so far, I want to write something special leading up to "Infinity War." The future is so cool!

What a great trailer! Thanos looks awesome and I think the big lead up since 2012 will pay off big time. The bearded Steve Rogers is cool. That battle in Wakanda looks EPIC! I sure hope Vision isn't dying in this! But what is with that human form of his? And is he finally dating Wanda? We didn't get too much, just a taste. This is a good teaser trailer. I don't think I could piece together plot details yet. While I liked the beginning of the trailer with the various Avengers saying the famous Nick Fury line. Although, I would have loved if they said the famous Avengers issue one line. The same line Samuel L. Jackson said in the first Avengers teaser trailer. Missed opportunity there!

Everything is coming together nice. I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: "The Snowman" is yet another surprise in Micheal Fassbender's recent bad films list

The Snowman Review

So, I don’t know who this imposter masquerading as Michael Fassbender is, but he needs to go the fuck away and bring the real Micahael Fassbender back to us. Especially now rather than later before he makes any real damage to Fassbender’s career.

When I first saw Fassbender in “300,” then saw him in “Hunger” a year later, then in “Inglorious Basterds” a year after that, it was pretty clear what was happening. It becomes pretty clear to anyone who truly loves movies when you are seeing an actor’s career mold together. I figured it was only going to be a matter of time before we saw Fassbender nearly everywhere, and sure enough he became a household name in no time. It’s not surprising, he’s a good-looking guy with some real range as a performer. He’s had lead roles and supporting, he’s played heroes and villains, and he’s been funny and serious, all in synced and equal measure. The guy does good work. But suddenly, he’s hit a slog. He seemed to be phoning it in with “X-Men: Apocalypse,” he turned in a weird performance in “Alien: Covenant.” Then he pushed for his long-awaited “Assassin’s Creed” adaptation, a movie that baffled more than anything I saw last year.

Once again, he’s made a head-scratcher of a decision starring in “The Snowman.” “The Snowman” is based on the seventh book of a series of novels by Jo Nesbo. Why they decided to begin this film series with the seventh book is never explained in the movie, but the film never delivers a good reason to explore the novels. They revolve around Harry Hole, the type of police detective you’d find in the old 1930’s film noirs. He’s tired, he’s burdened by a dark past, he drinks heavily and is constantly falling asleep drunk on a bench instead of finding shelter. I don’t know if this is how Hole behaves in the books, I got all of this from the weird performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays Hole in the movie.

Hole takes on a case to find a serial killer named The Snowman who has resurfaced after many years. The Snowman has been operating on and off for a long time, and he’s never been caught. He’s a man who cuts the heads off his victims and replaces them with snowball heads. Not that this really matters, the snowman motif never pays off in the movie and for an R-rated creepy movie, there is very little visceral material in the film. This is another one of those thrillers with no thrills and horror films with no horrors. It also features a mystery that wraps itself up in the film’s opening credit sequence.

Oh yes, you’ve seen movies like this before. “The Snowman” features a laughably ridiculous opening credit sequence which pretty much gives away the origin of the serial killer. This quickly becomes a mystery movie that gives you all the answers upfront, a simple fill-in-the-blanks movie. Kind of like “Lucky Number Slevin.” The audience basically sits around waiting to find out who the little kid is, which takes very little effort, and the rest of the film slugs on with disjointed scenery. It has been rumored that 15% of the script was never shot. It clearly shows when character sub-plots go nowhere, and the entire experience as a whole is blitheringly incoherent.

Instead of a compelling, invigorating mystery, we get J.K. Simmons sporting a weird British-ish accent. We have Chloe Sevigny wooden and stiff. We get Toby Jones, Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsberg all looking bored. And Val Kilmer…Wax Doll Val Kilmer. At least, that’s apparently what all the casting notes say it is. It doesn’t look like the real Val Kilmer. I had to sit and stair at the screen to really figure out who that was. It looks like someone mad a rubber Val Kilmer mask, cut their hair in a weird way, then superglued the rubber Val Kilmer mask to their face. The noise that comes out of Val Kilmer’s mouth doesn’t sound like Val Kilmer’s voice. I suppose there is a network of imposters that are kidnapping all of our favorite actors, even though Kilmer has been phoning it in since the end of the 90’s. Why did all of these great actors sign up for a film so rotten? Didn’t they watch a copy of the finished film and not bother to ask what their characters were doing half the time?

When Wax Doll Val Kilmer shoots his gun in the air for no apparent reason, all I could really do was laugh. It’s takes something so wildly off-base with a serious drama or a mystery or a horror movie when I am literally laughing at all the nonsense on screen. But sadly, that’s what “The Snowman” is, it’s complete nonsense. From beginning to end, a bunch of complete nonsense. Whatever goodwill that may lay in the Jo Nesbo’s books was miserably lost in this adaptation. I also don’t know what is going on with Michael Fassbender but he really needs to get back on track. He needs to stop pushing these franchises that will go nowhere and he just needs to start keeping an eye out for quality movies again. Fassbender was once a name that was so promising, and he may be set to tarnish everything that took so much time to build.

“The Snowman” is a bland movie. A mystery that has no mystery, it takes the lazy route at every turn, and when the movie isn’t being lazy, its wackily incoherent. When the killer is “revealed” and when you learn how they connect to the other characters in the movie, you are going to beg for Rick Moranis to pop out in his Lord Helmet outfit and recite the killer’s reveal. It’s that remarkably stupid that only comedy could save this from being a total mess. But this is a serious drama and we are supposed to take this story serious. But the film is so willfully bad that none of it matters. 


Monday, November 27, 2017

A Wrinkle In Time Trailer

One of the first books I remember reading in school was A Wrinkle In Time. I thought the book was incredibly cool, something that stuck in my head as I grew up. As me being who I am, I grew up imagining what the movie version would look like. It appears that there have been a few movie versions, all of them seemingly TV movies, that I just never got around to seeing. I am happy to be getting a big budget, silver-screen version of this story.

I think Ava DuVernay is a interesting choice for director. I like that she is given free reign to give this story a try. I think she definitely has an eye for great drama, and it will be cool to see what she does with the more fanatical parts of this story.

This movie clearly looks cool and DuVernay has got some big talent on deck here. I can't wait to see.

Review: "A Bad Mom's Christmas" should have had the montage song from "Team America" in it

A Bad Mom's Christmas Review

I never saw the original "Bad Moms." I just never got around to seeing it, from what I have heard, it doesn't sound like I missed much. I have always liked Mila Kunis and I think she's grown as an actress over the course of her career. I think Kirsten Bell can be hilarious when she chooses the right material, which is usually about fifty-fifty. I think Kathryn Hahn is pretty freaking hilarious in most of the stuff she was in. I wasn't expecting anything amazing with "A Bad Moms Christmas," I was solely hoping for something enjoyable.

"A Bad Moms Christmas" isn't offensively bad, but I think its a bit far from enjoyable. I hate to break it to you, readers, but the only word I could use to describe it is "odd." It's a very odd movie. It feels like a begrudgingly odd experience. The movie feels like one big montage. I was reminded of the montage song from "Team America: World Police," because it seemed like every other moment of screen-time was devoted to a montage. That song should have been in the movie. When Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn) decide that their uninvited moms are there to pester them for the Christmas holiday, there is a montage of them getting drunk and eating food. Then there is a montage of their family on a fun trip, then there are listless montages after that. It's weird that the whole film feels like a montage.

When we aren't looking at a mirage of unconnected scenery, we get a typical, Hallmark-type Christmas tale. Each of these women has a separate problem with their mothers. Amy's mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski) likes traditional Christmas's even though they bore the rest of the family out, and after Amy promised her family a mellow Christmas, she clashes with Ruth. Kiki doesn't feel like she ever receives space from her mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines), and when Sandy plans to buy the house right next door to Kiki's, it drives her insane. Then there is Carla and her mother Susan Sarandon playing Isis. It's a typical, modern Sarandon role where she plays a wild, sexy lady. Isis needs to borrow money from Carla, and Carla doesn't want to give it to her because she knows she's reckless with money. Each of these storylines is satisfied with a typical Hollywood ending, with a nice green and red holiday bow wrapped around the film's ending. There are no surprises here.

The film doesn't even promise what the title eludes to. There is nothing "bad" about these bad moms. Oh, maybe they grind a Santa Claus and they go watch the guy from "This Is Us" in a Christmas-style strip tease. There is no raunchy dialogue, none of the comedy lands, and there are no situations that are funny. I usually base my reaction to comedies on how often I laugh, and I didn't laugh very often. In fact, I will admit that I fell asleep a time or two. 

The movie is predictable. The film really isn't funny. It's not raunchy at all. The acting is fine, I guess. The movie doesn't really bring anything new to the table. That what makes it so odd. It's an oddly passive experience and I can't say I will remember it a week from now.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Rampage Trailer

I always knew that The Rock would be destined for great things as an action star. Funny too, since for a long while in his acting career, he didn't do lots of action. I get it why, I know lots of people fear being type cast or adopting a certain persona that you can't get out of. The problem is that he went so far in the other direction that he became a joke. Lots of the kiddy stuff he did wasn't funny nor was it particularly good, and I am glad that he finally returned where he belonged, in the action movie arena. I have enjoyed The Rock's turn in "The Fast and Furious" franchise. I have really enjoyed his presents in a lot of the other action oriented stuff he has been doing. Even though it's not an action show, The Rock is really good on HBO's "Ballers," a show everyone should check out.

Just because it feels like The Rock is back home doesn't mean everything he is going to do is going to be great. I am a little hesitant for when "Rampage" gets released. What looks like a fairly typical monster movie is actually based on a video game. A video game that my brother use to play frequently on our Nintendo 64. I also had a game boy version of the game too. The movie being set in Chicago is no random movie setting. The first place you destroyed in the video game were cities in Illinois and you do attack Chicago. One of the first cities you destroy was Peoria, and since we are from Peoria, we made a big deal about that. The game was simple, you chose a monster, between a giant gorilla, a giant wolf or a giant lizard and you destroyed cities. That was basically it, so that didn't leave lots of room for crafting a story.

The video game is getting adapted into a movie and it seems like they are going the most generic way possible in explaining how three animals became huge monsters. I suppose I would have thought this was cool back when I loved playing the game. But after many recent years of CGI things destroying cities, this just looks like more of the same.

Incredibles 2 trailer

The trailer for "The Incredibles 2" hit over the weekend. We barely got any footage. If that, I honestly don't know if anything we saw will actually end up in the film. But it was great nonetheless.

"The Incredibles" is my favorite of the Pixar films. Not just because it has superheroes in it, but because it was a smart, clever movie with superheroes in it. It still holds up today as Pixar's biggest and best film. While so many Pixar films got prequels and sequels, there was no continuation of "The Incredibles" for over a decade, and I thought we'd never see this superpowered family ever again. But I was wrong. I am hoping that it ends up being awesome. I want a whole series of these films and I want them all to work!

Review: "Mayhem" is exactly what it sounds like.

Mayhem Review
Steve Yeun grew in popularity thanks to “The Walking Dead.” Everyone grew to love Glen, that is if you weren’t like me and found him endearing from the beginning. It was a lot of fun watching him grow as a character and the incredible work Yeun did on the show highlighted the best of what the character had to offer. Even though they jumped the shark with his “death” scene only to kill not too much later in the show, it was still a worthy death and the show has missed him greatly.

I am fondly happy to learn that Yeun’s career is on the up even after “The Walking Dead.” He appeared in “Okja,” the Netflix sleeper that I think more people should sit down and watch. Now, he’s stared in “Mayhem,” a twisted, crazy thriller about one man having a very bad day that only gets worse. Many of us already don’t like working a job we hate. It only gets worse when you framed by your company for something you didn’t do. It gets even worse still when the building you work in that just fired you is quarantined and a infectious virus that forces you to unleash your deepest, darkest fantasies, no matter the stakes, is unleased in your building. All three of these things happen to Derek Cho, the character Steve Yeun plays in this movie. The virus is called D-13 or maybe it was D-17? Anyway, it allows to unleash your wildest impulses. You become extremely violent, you become extremely horny, everything you are thinking about is taken to the extreme. Choas reigns in this once peaceful office building.

Despite the chaos taking place in the office building, Derek Cho is determined to get to the top floor, where all the executives are barricaded, and plead his case to keep his job and uncover the shady dealings that got him fired. He must fight his way through the never-ending people that look like they have been hit with a slight version of the Rage Virus from “28 Days Later.” He joins forces with Margot Robbie look-alike Samara Weaving who plays Melanie who has a grudge of her own with the company’s executives. What ensues is a blood-soaked satire of office life and how we are sometimes too bound to the jobs we live, even when we don’t particularly like them.

The film doesn’t even pretend to be grounded or gritty. “Mayhem” knows full well it’s a movie, and it is aiming to please you for every amount of its running time. It is a movie that is covered in blood. There are some cold, hard laughs, but they land with a sharp punch. Don’t expect a Oscar nominated script from this one, because you ain’t gonna get one. Don’t expect “Mayhem” to change the world or hold some significant hold on the genre, because that ain’t happening either. This is a movie that you throw your feet up on the recliner for and just enjoy.

All the performances in this movie range from good to ridiculous-but-in-a-good-way. There is very little, if anything at all, that is meant to be taken literally or seriously in this movie. People kill each other in highly gruesome fashions, people run around naked, people don weapons of all types. None of it is meant to be taken out of context, it’s all crazy cool, hilarious fun. I do really like Yuen here, and I think he’s going to have a fine career moving forward. I also really liked Samara’s work in the film. We have seen these archetypes to hell and back, but they make the most out of them. Most genre fans may compare this to “The Belko Experiment,” and they would somewhat be right. I think “Mayhem” is different enough that it stands apart. But there are some striking similarities and it’s kind a “Armageddon-Deep Imapct-1998” thing. But I think its worth seeing, it’s a hell of a lot of fun!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

TV REVIEW: Marvel's The Punisher



When we look back at 2017 in regards of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we will remember that it was a tough year for their television branch. “The Defenders” was quasi-fun, but too short for its own good and mostly boring. “The Inhumans” was completely terrible on nearly every conceivable level. And “Iron Fist,” honestly, I never finished it. We still have “The Runaways” coming to Hulu and season five of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on the way, but I can’t in good faith say I am excited for those. I feel deflated as far as Marvel television goes, a feeling I never thought I’d have.

I thought “The Punisher” would be the savings grace for the year. After all, Jon Bernthal made a huge statement as the character in season two of “Daredevil.” It was never Netflix-Marvel’s plan to make a “Punisher” show, but after how popular the character was on “Daredevil,” he was given a spin-off. I liked the idea of a Punisher television show. I love myself a good revenge story, and a Marvel version would be something I would never protest to. I will also let you in on a little secret. I like watching justice be served. Even as a kid, I couldn’t stand watching people get away with stuff, either in a fictional world and even real life. I was a big tattle tail and I would do anything to make sure people who did something bad had their day. It’s always nice watching someone really kick ass, which is why revenge flicks are some of my favorite flicks.

Sadly, The Punisher has had a tough track record on live-action popular culture. I have a soft spot for Thomas Jane’s turn with the character and I think the 2004 movie is criminally underrated. I thought the Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson versions were criminally dumb. So, it’s mostly been a tough road, but I had high hopes for Jon Bernthal’s turn as the character would be a new beginning in a new direction. He was so good in “Daredevil.”

After I finished the first episode of Netflix’s “The Punisher” I was totally on board. I raved about it on social media, saying that’s the Punisher alright. The series begins with The Punisher (Bernthal) chasing some bikers on a big truck, killing them. He kills a cartel leader in Mexico with a sniper rifle all the way in El Paso, TX. He kills a guy in the bathroom by choking him with his own neck-tie. He then burns his skull armor and blends into society as a construction worker. He keeps to himself, mostly ridiculed by a group of assholes. The new worker tries to befriend anyone he can, and falls in line with the assholes. Turns out the assholes are trying to rob a mob card game and they are more than just assholes, they are thieves. The bring in the new guy to their crew, and take him on the mob robbery. The robbery goes wrong, and it’s the new guys fault, so they plan to kill him. The Punisher steps in and kills the assholes, saves the new guy then takes out the mob guys before they can reach the new guy. It’s a fantastic episode, really sets a tone that works for The Punisher. I was hungry for more after that episode.

I wish I was as enthusiastic about the other twelve episodes. Sadly, the whole series slows way down after that explosive episode. There is action here and there, but not nearly on a scale that you would expect from a Punisher series. The Punisher isn’t a superhero, he doesn’t wear a cape, he has no superpowers. He is a hand-to-hand combat, explosives and weapons expert. He’s a militaristic, comic book version of Paul Kersey. If this show focused on The Punisher going around New York City, killing drug dealers and murderers and mobsters and the corrupt, this would have been something. This show would have worked in spades had they just kept things simple.

Alas, things are not kept simple. In fact, it gets so bogged down in a useless, needless plot and at times, The Punisher’s supporting cast gets more screen time than The Punisher himself does. But none of his supporting cast is really that interesting. The show also completely retcons everything we learned in “Daredevil” season two. It wasn’t mobsters who were responsible for The Punisher’s family dying. They were, but they weren’t. We see The Punisher before he became a vigilante, his alter-ego Frank Castle. Frank Castle and his close friend Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) were lieutenants in the United States Marines. They are brought into a special team by CIA officer William Rawlins (Paul Schulze). Rawlins promises making the world a better place. But Castle finds out that they may be killing innocence and that Rawlins tactics are questionable. Rawlins nearly gets Castle, Russo and his men killed on a mission Castle advised against. All of this and more makes Castle the enemy, and it was Rawlins who targeted Frank’s family.

The show is more of a government conspiracy than anything else. Frank catches wind that Rawlins and Russo are still alive and doing some shady shit with each other. And their conspiracy also got a computer’s guy named David Lieberman (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) on their trail. Lieberman was shot by corrupt cops on Rawlins payroll, but he didn’t die, and he’s been in hiding ever since. Lieberman and Castle will join forces and go after Rawlins and Russo.

I don’t mind the different origin of The Punisher and the government conspiracy storyline would have been cool, but it’s so painfully dull that it’s mind numbing. There is so much devotion to Russo banging Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) a Homeland Security agent hot on the trail of Rawlins. There is so much devotion to Castle and Lieberman sitting around talking about morality. There is so much devotion to a sub-plot involving a soldier with PTSD, that leads him to become a terrorist-of-sorts. There is so much devotion Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) and his support group for troops, all making the same political messages repeatedly. There is also a ridiculous sub-plot revolving around Castle meeting Lieberman’s family, and doing stuff for them, while Lieberman watches from his computer because he bugged his own house to watch his family while he was underground. It’s a weird, weird sub-plot.

The show tries to make some points on gun violence in America, soldiers coming home with PTSD, and soldiers being forgotten by our government and the system once they got home. All worthy points to make, all ideas that would make an intriguing television show. But “The Punisher” never explores these points in any significant way, that it feels like wasted time. One of the biggest problems with “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist” and even the eight episodes of “The Defenders” is that they have a story that would be told in three to five episodes. But they get stretched to eight to thirteen episodes. With “The Punisher,” it feels like they have enough story for a two-and-a-half-hour movie, but it got stretched across thirteen hours of television show. The last two episodes feels like a finale stretched across two hours. Pacing has been hard to pin down with these Netflix-Marvel shows. It was an annoyance with the other shows though, here it’s a distraction.

It’s too bad because Jon Bernthal is acting his ass off here, trying to make it all count. I wasn’t a big fan of Ben Barnes in the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies. But that was a long time ago, and he’s clearly matured as a performer. He does good work as Russo, and he’s one evil bastard in this. The entire cast does good work, and it’s tough to see so much good work on a show that is mostly boring.

When I sit down to watch a show called “The Punisher,” I don’t want to meander in a sub-plot about a kid with bad PTSD, especially when the pay-off is so rotten like it is here. I don’t want Frank Castle sitting around talking morality episode after episode. I don’t want to see the sexual encounters of the main villain. I don’t want a finale cut into two episodes. I want to see The Punisher blowing scum away. That’s what his character is supposed to do. That’s the core of the character, getting vengeance on those who killed his family, then making sure no evil-doers do something similar to other innocent people. This should have been non-stop action from beginning to end, instead we get a somewhat political conspiracy thriller that has no idea what the fuck it’s about and that’s just sad all around.