Sunday, May 31, 2015

Aloha: A Disastrous, Unsavable, Mess Of A Film

Aloha is a mess.  A huge mess of a film.  There is absolutely no way to salvage this film in any way and I don't know of anyone who is going to enjoy the movie. Even if you're into the cheesiest of romantic movies, there's really nothing to latch on to here.  There was a movie a few years ago written and directed by the genius James L. Brooks called How Do You Know? James L. Brooks is the co-creator of The Simpsons, he's been nominated for and won Academy Awards for his writing and directing of Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets.  He even wrote and directed the quiet, but still pretty decent, Spanglish.  So, naturally I would assume that his latest film How Do You Know would be great-- especially due to the cast (Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson).  But, when I saw the movie it felt like pieces of a puzzle that didn't fit together but were smashed haphazardly anywhere Brooks wanted whether they fit or not (usually not).  It was also this really really sad realization that James L. Brooks had pretty much lost everything that made him great. It's a movie that would fail a film class in college, much less a Hollywood produced movie that NO ONE saw.  This isn't exactly what has happened with Aloha, but based on its writer/director's previous work compared to this... I'm worried.

I was aware that Aloha was probably not going to be that great of a movie first when I saw that it wasn't being screen in advance for critics.  That's never a good sign.  Then, other than a few in theaters trailers, I never saw the film advertised on television.  It seemed like the production company wasn't getting behind their film.  But, it's my love of Cameron Crowe films that kept me deciding to go see it. He's responsible for writing some of the best romantic comedies in film history: Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.  Not to mention Vanilla Sky, We Bought A Zoo, and the brilliantly written, but terribly acted Elizabethtown.  So, my respect for Crowe and his films is clearly not unwarranted. But after having seen Aloha, I have to wonder if this was just a major misstep for Crowe, or if he's pulled a James L. Brooks and completely lost all writing/filmmaking intuition that once made him great.  I hope it isn't the latter.

There's so much wrong with Aloha starting with it's characters.  Bradley Cooper plays Brian, a military service member who... I think... USED to be a part of the Air Force... but now works for a billionaire contractor played by the unbelievably wasted Bill Murray.  He's returning to Hawaii in order to... launch a satellite into the sky... I think... but is ordered to be watched by Sargent Ng played by Emma Stone, easily the most likable person in the movie.  However, while on the island he runs into his ex-girlfriend played by Rachel McAdams who he hasn't seen in thirteen years and who is now married with two kids to John Krasinski... a guy who doesn't talk. Brian and Ng have to go to a part of the island to convince the natives to come to the rocket ceremony to bless the rocket?  I think.  And along the way Brian and Ng fall in love.  Then out of love.  Then back in love.  Then there's a sub-plot involving Brian and the ex and a child he may or may not have fathered and how she's having a problem in her marriage because she's married to John Krasinski who doesn't talk.  Have I convinced you of this horrific mess, yet?

First of all, Cooper's character, Brian, has literally zero consistency.  He starts off like a softie, a warm-hearted dreamer who is happy to be back to Hawaii.  Then, he kinda turns a little bit into his character from Silver Linings Playbook where he's got weird things about him and becomes kind of a jerk and wants to work alone.  Then, he begins to love Emma Stone... for no real reason whatsoever... and becomes a lovestruck idiot.  I couldn't follow it at all.  Emma Stone, beyond being sunny and quirky, has almost no character as well.  She's the "lovable weirdo" who also happens to be attractive.  When Brian falls for her, I guess it's reasonable because she's kind of likable.  But, when she falls back for Brian... I had no clue as to why.  He showed nothing that allowed her to be even remotely interested in who he is as a human.  Then, our B-story, which could've been written entirely out of the movie, involves Brian hanging out with his ex.  He doesn't seem to be interested in getting back with her, but also likes being around her and her husband doesn't like it at all.  Did I mention he's John Krasinski?  Krasinski is upset that she's "changed" now that Brian has come back into her life... yet we have no idea what she was like before he came back because we don't know her at all.  So, we see no change... she essentially appears normal to the moviegoer.  She's ready to abandon her marriage due to no communication between her and her husband played by John Krasinski.  He's given a "character quirk" of not speaking and saying a lot more with his eyes than anything.  It's used as a joke more than once.  But, then out of nowhere, it's stopped being used as a joke, but more used as the MAIN PROBLEM OF THEIR MARRIAGE.  You can't turn an individual character quirk used to distinguish one character from another... as A CENTRAL PROBLEM OF THE MOVIE!  That would be like if the Dude from The Big Lebowski got married and had kids and his wife wanted to leave him because he said "man" too much and always drank White Russians. You don't turn a quirk into a problem... it's terrible and very unbelievable.

The actors themselves are very underutilized.  Cooper and Stone are serviceable.  McAdams is wasted with a pointless storyline.  Krasinski doesn't say anything.  But the worst offense is Bill Murray and Danny McBride.  They're minor characters with a couple of brief scenes that lend almost nothing to the story... and they're not funny.  Not that they tried to be funny and failed... their characters aren't meant to be funny.  Why cast brilliant comedic actors to stand there and do nothing??  Cameron Crowe, I love you dude, but you dropped several balls in the midst of making this movie.  And it sucks too because it's not like we get a Cameron Crowe movie every couple of years... his last movie was five years ago and the one before that was six years prior to the last one.  He's the Daniel Day-Lewis of directors, but, unfortunately, this wasn't a quality film.  It was bad.  It was really, really bad.  Halfway through the movie, I leaned over to my beautiful signficant other and complained that I didn't care about a single person in the movie, to which she agreed and responded with-- I don't know what the hell is going on-- to which I realized that I didn't either. It was scene spliced with scene spliced with scene with no continuity or flow to them.  

The movie is just full of colossal miscues. A lot of it comes from the fact that the writer is the director and he's unable to separate himself from his own script and see where the major problems lie. This movie is the first draft of a script at best.  There is the slight glimmer of a good story beneath all the shit... but it would take a LOT of rewrites to get it even close.  It's not a funny movie.  It's not very romantic.  It's hardly interesting.  It's mostly confusing.  And it's just a mess.  Do yourself a favor and go see The Rock fight the weather in San Andreas and skip this movie.


Friday, May 29, 2015

San Andreas: The Rock Punches Mother Nature In The Throat

As I was sitting there in my seat watching San Andreas there were a few things going on in my mind.  The first was how much I realized that sitting next to an Asian dude holding a baby is the WORST moviegoing experience you can have.  Next, it was if this actually happened, I think The Rock is the number one person I'd want to save me to basically ASSURE my survival. But, the third thing was me wondering why people even want to see disaster movies in the first place?  The whole schtick of a disaster movie is to show all of the different horrific ways nature can fuck with humanity, kill SO MANY PEOPLE and destroy everything in sight.  It probably has something to do with the fact that there is the fear, even the tiniest bit, in everyone's minds about the end of the world and how Mother Nature is going to decide to end us.  But, when that time comes, chances are, we'll all be dead and won't get to see what happens.  I'm fascinated by tsunami's... yet, I'm never going to get a good view of one (at least I hope not) and live to tell the tale. And it's almost sick looking up tsunami videos on youtube because it's essentially a nature-snuff video. So, what I have is the movies.  I get to be able to see the mighty power of a tsunami, killing fictional people, and I'm safe in my seat enjoying my large Diet Coke (used to be Dr. Pepper, but that silly fear of diabetes creeps up on you) and popcorn.

As far as disaster movies go, they used to be localized entirely on one single disaster.  Movies like Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, Twister, Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano, Dante's Peak, etc. picked one disaster and stuck with it. Nowadays, our ADD riddled culture gives no shits about a single disaster-- that's pussy shit.  Today, we need EVERY disaster.  I want to see tornadoes on fire swirling over tsunamis in the midst of a hurricane created by an asteroid or Mayans or something.  That's when we got movies like 2012, The Day After Tomorrowm and now... San Andreas.  I do have a soft spot in my heart for disaster movies, but I have to say... San Andreas is probably one of the best.  Yes, you heard me right.  It's a freaking blast.

It's ironic that my last review of Tomorrowland I chastised it for being too idealistic without a payoff and not very much fun.  That film was written by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof.  Ironically, one week later, San Andreas is released and it's TONS of fun.  It just so happens to be written by Lindelof's old writing partner and other co-creator of Lost, Carlton Cuse.  I enjoyed San Andreas far more than Tomorrowland because San Andreas knew exactly what it wanted to be-- an epic disaster movie.  Tomorrowland wanted to be like eight different things.

Reasons why San Andreas is a superior disaster film is first, and foremost, because of it's lead: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.  Dude makes a movie.  Dude owns a movie.  Dude can not exactly act in the movie.  But it doesn't matter because Dude doesn't need to act in the movie.  He's able to do badass things that are believable because he's a human cartoon character and he's just fun to watch.  (Which, by the way, there is a moment in the film where he's trying to apologize to his ex wife for something in the past and attempts to cry-- anyone responsible for writing The Rock movies from here on out, please avoid this).  Second, is that the disaster scenes are on point.  CGI is finally catching up to expectations and what real-life shit actually looks like. I was genuinely impressed. And third, because it isn't filled with dumb characters who do dumb things.  All of the terrifying situations the characters get into aren't out of their own stupidity.  No one is punished for doing something that the audience rolls their eyes at.  In fact, some of the solutions to problems in the film are quite smart.  And, finally... you got Giamatti in the film.  Come on.  You knew it was going to be good.

While I will say that it wasn't as smart as Mad Max, both films knew exactly what they wanted to be.  And while San Andreas is getting flak for completely disregarding character development, I don't think it's a just complaint.  While there is some cringe-worthy dialogue and some definite "I've seen this before" moments, there was never a point where I didn't care about the characters.  I liked the characters and truly wanted to see them survive.  When you can watch the epitome of a B-movie and still give a crap about the characters, I'd call that a success. I thought 2012 was a decent film, especially disaster wise... if they all died, it wouldn't have changed my opinion of the film in the slightest... might've even made it better.  At least this movie was given some backstory and character history and decent acting.

I was unfortunately unable to see it in IMAX, but I'd highly recommend doing so if you get the chance.  Obviously, no need to see it in 3D, but IMAX is worth the extra bucks. It's a fun movie that holds literally nothing back.  They kill EVERYONE.  I'm not talking about characters you're invested in. I'm talking about innocent bystanders... there are no fucks given about the complete onscreen desecration of billions of people.  It's pretty great.  And save for the last 12 seconds of the film, it's nearly perfect (trust me... it was not a solid way to end the movie #mericuh).  Anyone going to see San Andreas knows what they like and what they expect to see and what they want to see.  I will say this... if you're even slightly interested in the movie-- you'll love it.

Long live The Rock.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tomorrowland: A Film Adaptation Of A Part Of A Map At Disneyland... What Else Did We Expect?

Pirates of the Caribbean... lightning in a bottle.  I'd like to say it was going to be challenging to make a movie out of a theme park ride... but honestly, it wasn't really going to be that hard.  The ride already has somewhat of a fun little narrative to it anyway.  But, still... Hollywood made a movie out of a ride.  Yes.  Out of a ride.  Actually... this isn't even the weirdest adaptation.  Let's not forget--

Clue... a movie based off of a board game.  A board game for ages six and up was made into a movie.  And as far as I'm concerned it was pretty damn good.  It was funny, it was quirky, and it had three alternate endings.  It was inventive to say the least.  But there's even more nonsense adapted onto screen.  How about--

Transformers... a movie based off of a toy.  Okay, that one failed pretty mightily, but still.  It was based off of a toy.  Hollywood has this strange desire to ostracize original thinkers and screenwriters and are compelled, nay, driven to make movies based off of trivial shit.  Sometimes it works (The Lego Movie) and sometimes it doesn't (The Haunted Mansion).  But, unfortunately, if there isn't a recognizable name attached to a film... Hollywood has this incredible fear that us moviegoers are too stupid to recognize whether or not it's going to be worthy or not.

Coming this summer... based off of your favorite kitchen appliance... it's Microwave: The Movie!

Now, we're given our newest installment-- Tomorrowland-- literally based off of a section of the park in Disneyland.  It's named as such so that when you look on a map to find Star Tours, you can see that it's in the Tomorrowland section of the park, you know... as opposed to Frontierland. There's no magical mystery behind Tomorrowland... it's just a section of a theme park.  So, that's obviously what makes it the perfect candidate for film adaptation.  But, it's not a perfect movie.

I was excited about the possibility of Tomorrowland exceeding expectations.  There is a very competent director at the helm, Brad Bird, who has really never directed a bad movie (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, The Simpsons), but when paired with severely hit-or-miss screenwriter Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) there is margin for error.  While I respect most work Lindelof produces, more times than not, its reach far exceeds its grasp. And that's exactly what happens here.  While we should've been on a journey through Tomorrowland, the film spends most of its time vaguely giving clues as to what it might be and sending our stars on random adventures trying to get IN to Tomorrowland.  Of the two hour and ten minute movie, I'd say only a good twenty or thirty minutes are actually spent inside of Tomorrowland.

Essentially, you've got two stories converging into one here.  First, is young Frank.  A ten-year-old inventor of sorts who brings his newly invented jet pack to the 1964 World's Fair in order to win a "change the world" prize.  When he's given a pin by a little girl named Athena, he's given the opportunity to go into Tomorrowland, an other dimensional world next to ours full of geniuses bent on changing our world. Flash-forward to present day, now we follow Casey (Britt Robertson) whose dad is about to be laid off by NASA.  So, nightly, she breaks into NASA's launch pad, stalls the demolition of the pad in order to keep her father from losing his engineering job.  She's a dreamer and highly idealistic.  She's also given a pin.  Then, as fate would have it, she's united with Frank, who is now in his 50s and played by George Clooney.  They need to get into Tomorrowland in order to save both it, and Earth.  Now, there's a hell of a lot more going on in the movie, but this is the Sparknotes of essentially what happens plot-wise.

The thing about Tomorrowland, however, is that it sets up this grand world that's supposed to be full of dreamers and geniuses and visionaries all bent on making the world a better place.  But, it's in jeopardy of coming apart.  Yet, because Casey is so innocent, she's able to see that destiny is what you make it.  Just because it's predicted that something might be doomed, doesn't mean it necessarily is.  We all have a choice.  This causes some sort of positive rift in the Tomorrowland/Earth timeline.  So, we're looking at some sort of message of hope and choice and individuality... but when it comes time to put these ideas into practice... the problem is solved by a bomb and an explosion.  Lindelof, and Bird even, had these grandiose ideas of sending a positive message (some of which comes through), but at the end the only way they can stop destruction... is by destroying something.  It's like they saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but couldn't figure out how to get past a few creative barriers, so instead of using their brains... they just blasted their way through with fire.

The characters were poorly written as well.  Clooney is the disillusioned "old" man, while Casey is the idealistic young girl.  Paired together they're supposed to learn from each other, but all they really end up doing is arguing for most of the movie. Clooney, in my opinion, is a very fun actor to watch.  Generally, depending on the role, and the type of film, he brings a fun quality to a film, much like Denzel does in all his roles.  Yes, for some reason, in a film that's as potentially fun as it could be, Clooney's character isn't that much fun.  He's more or less humorless and doesn't exactly seem to give a shit that he's in the movie.  Casey is the most obnoxious character in the film  While she's supposed to be our lead, our role model-- she's one of the most passive characters in film history.  Yes, she's trying her heart out to get into Tomorrowland... she doesn't exactly know why.  Then, she spends the rest of the film literally asking questions.  She has no input to give, she just asks the right questions so that we, the viewer, get just a little bit more plot description.  Most of the dialogue is very explain-y and repetitive.  But, Casey is the worst.  She probably only has a handful of lines that don't end in question marks.  Yes, you need to explain the world and provide the viewers the rules to this world... but don't make your main character a passive question asker just so she's your vessel for explaining EVERYTHING that is going on.

But, for all it's faults, the movie is very visually stimulating.  It's beautiful to watch and the actual world of Tomorrowland is something to be seen.  And, believe it or not, there are a lot of moments of fun in the land.  And, while it's not Roberston's fault that her character is so passive, she does an alright job with what she's given.  I would've liked to have seen a film that took place mostly in Tomorrowland (maybe it's the perfect place, but somehow evil has snuck in and it must be stopped... that would make for a better plot).  And, at the end, there really is a very positive message to send to kids.  But, beyond that, it's not a very good movie.  I'd say see it in theaters just for the visuals on the big screen, but try not to focus too hard on the writing and story.  It will end up frustrating you.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Poltergeist: Slandering A Good Ghost Movie Name

How do you get away with writing a mediocre movie and make a lot of money off of it?  You slap a franchise name on it.  I might be just a little bit too biased to review Poltergeist, but remaking this film was completely unnecessary.  It's like remaking Jaws.  I'm sure it will be remade in the next ten years, but the movie is already so perfect, there's no need to update it.  But, it WILL happen.  The remake of Poltergeist forgot everything that made the original one of the best horror movies ever made.  It's like if they actually did remake Jaws, but got rid of the music, the shark looked cheaply computer-rendered, and they showed it immediately leading up to no reveal whatsoever. While the finished product is more or less unscary, it isn't a total mess.  There are still a few bright spots, but can't, unfortunately, save this unimpressive reboot.

Due to the recent influx of haunted house movies with Insidious and The Conjuring, remaking Poltergeist for a modern day audience didn't seem like the worst idea ever. However, with a highly respected horror film from the 80s, it comes with some directorial responsibilities.  Director Gil Kenan showed he had some chops for making a family-horror film with the wildly underrated Monster House, but Poltergeist may have just been a little bit too beloved and original to be remade today.  Most of the haunted house PG-13 horror faire have been tiny offshoots of the original Poltergeist and the one that has succeeded the best is the first Insidious. A child is essentially "kidnapped" by other worldly ghosts and taken to a new dimension of sorts.  The family has to go into this other world in order to save him and return him to this world.  They call in an older female medium in order to contact the child and find out exactly how to rescue him.  This is, fundamentally, the plot of the original Poltergeist... with it's own modern (and very creepy) spin on it.  What made Insidious so good and scary is that it took this structure and slowly built up the rules and mythology.  Then, once we hit the other world, or "The Further", it's not filled with poorly rendered CGI demons, but actors covered in dark and terrifying make-up to provide a terrifying experience for horror lovers.  This is where our remake of Poltergeist fails.

So, in this reboot, we have our nuclear family-- father (Sam Rockwell), mother (Rosemarie DeWitt), eldest daughter, young son, and youngest daughter, Maddy.  Due to serious financial hardship, the family must move into a new house on a budget.  Immediately, Maddy is drawn to voices coming from her closet that have become her "friends" (Hollywood, the ghost friend of the little girl trope is getting seriously old).  Eventually, the "friends" start making weird things happen around the house.  Lights and TVs turn on and off.  Clown dolls move around bedrooms,  Floorboards move and a mud-like tar substance comes pouring through.  Until finally, the spirits capture Maddy and take her to their other world.  Mommy and daddy contact a paranormal research team and famous medium Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) in order to rescue Maddy.

This pretty much follows the plot of the original film, but without any of the pacing and build up scares.  To me, the most frightening scene in the original film involves a storm and an old tree near the young boy's window.  In the scene, the boy is afraid of the impending storm and startled by each bolt of lightning outside of his window followed by the rumble of thunder.  This is before anything ghostly has happened as of yet.  His father tells him to count the number of seconds between thunder and lightning.  If the number gets larger each time, then the storm is moving away.  The first time he does this he counts one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.  Next time he gets up to four, then five.  The second time this happens he counts and gets to three.  Then two.  Then one.  And the terror reaches its pinnacle... because we have no idea what is going to happen.  It's just a storm moving closer in a ghost story... how are the two going to come together to produce a terrifying moment?  Well, we know now, that the tree crashes through the window and snags the boy out of bed, taking him outside.  It's horrifying.  In the remake, the tree, in the wind, bats at the window a few times... then crashes through the window... it's branches cheesily head down the stairs and snag the boy from a completely different room.  It's anti-climactic and scare-free.

Another good example is the clown from the first film.  This is what most people remember about the original.  And rightly so.  The clown is terrifying, which makes sense that this reboot would use it for most of its marketing.  In the original, the clown just lingers around for the ENTIRE movie.  It does nothing.  You keep waiting for it to do something, but it does nothing.  It just sits in the chair.

The family goes through Hell to get little Carol Anne back and when the finally do... you've pretty much forgotten all about the looming clown and figure if it was going to do something, it would've done it already. Then, when everything seems like it's about to end, the clown comes to life and makes a horrifying appearance:

He even appears under the kid's bed!  So, it takes the scary clown trope, pair it with the something is under the bed trope, at a time when the viewer had given up on the clown's appearance!  It's perfect.  This time around... the clown shows up during the initial scares (about thirty minutes in), leaps off a mantle at the kid aaaaaaaand... that's about it. There's no clown resurgence.  There's no build up.  There's nothing.  It's a decent call-back to the original, but it never pays off.  It feels pretty lazy.

There's a bunch of little things along the way that kill the terror for me, as well.  There's no half-built swimming pool that winds up getting filled with rainy mud and skeletons. There's no paranormal researcher tearing the skin off his face in the mirror only to find out he's being screwed with by the ghosts and nothing actually happened.  There's no big glowy demon monster:
It is replaced by an almost underwater sea of terribly CGI'd demon/skeleton bodies.  There are a lot of CGI moments that tend to take the viewer out of the scene.  It removes all terror from a scene and makes the audience realize they're watching a movie, which is not something you want when making a horror film.

The last bit that kind of got me a little bit, is that the medium in the original film was that creepy little old lady who had to guide little Carol Anne through the other world and keep her from "going into the light".  She was a necessary character in the film and a key to the survival of the little girl. In this one, he does nothing.  He's there to explain what's going on, but the little girl just naturally assumes NOT to go into the light.  She's six and surrounded by a swirling pool of evil ghosts and makes the conscious decision that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably a worse idea.  His character made little sense. The only thing he contributes is a giant rope he brings in his bag... that's about it.

The strengths of the movie come with the casting.  Sam Rockwell is such a wildly watchable actor.  He's a guy that pretty much anyone would want to be friends with.  His exchanges with his kids and his wife are the best of the movie.  He's able to add humor to the movie when it's needed and deep hurt and emotion when it's necessary.  Also, the kids are quite impressive for young actors, as well.  They're a very fun family to watch bad shit happen to them.  For all of its faults, the film does have a great personality.

It may be my bias towards the original, but had this movie stood alone on its own, I still don't think I would find it that impressive.  I have high regard for Sam Rockwell and the rest of the cast, but there's really nothing more beyond that brought to the table. It's mostly a let down.  If you're going to remake a classic, make sure you're able to add something profound and fun to the equation, don't just lazily regurgitate what's already happened before.  We're about to be on our fifth Mission: Impossible movie.  Each film could stand alone on its own because there is legitimately ZERO connection now to the old TV show... but they know the "name" is what brings in the money.  At least in that franchise, they're able to up the stakes and live a little bit more creatively the the previous entry.  Poltergeist forgets to do this entirely.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Grown Man's Real Time Liveblog of Fifty Shades of Grey

So, I lost a bet with my girlfriend.  The bet itself doesn't matter, nor does it how I lost the bet, it's the stipulations that have led me to this point.  You see, the loser of the bet is to be subjected to a film that he or she would NEVER have seen other than by losing said bet.  The winner gets to choose the film and the loser must watch the film.  She chose Fifty Shades of Grey because she knows that I would never see this movie in my life and to even give Redbox any money for it goes against everything I stand for.  What's worse, is that she didn't want to see it either.  Ladies and gentlemen, I found the one girl that had no desire to see the movie or read the book... yet I still ended up having to see it because she's part human and part pure evil.  To be fair, had I won the bet, she'd have been watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  I still feel like I got the worse end of the stick here.

However, I decided that if I was going to put myself through this... I would have to live blog my experience with all of you...  So, below... is my real time reactions to what is happening on screen with the classic tale of... Fifty Shades of Grey.

--So, we've got a view of Seattle and the lead pervert guy (I know this from the trailers) is jogging around an empty city.  Apparently people only exist in different parts of the city at this time.

--I've learned so much about his character so far... like he has a lot of variations of blue neckties.  Also that he has a terrible perm.

--Danny Elfman did the music?? Oh, my God.  Someone must've threatened his family or something.

--Okay, we got the lead girl.  She's wearing a terrible floral shirt and... yep... she's putting her hair in a ponytail.  Could the filmmakers be screaming virgin any harder than they are right now??

--Ohhhh, her name is Anastasia Steele... that's DEFINITELY NOT a porn name.

--How clumsy is she?!? She trips and falls right in front of the bad perm guy (code name: Grey).

--So, she's shy and nervous and barely can ask him interview questions as he locks onto her with some serious rape eyes.  Like holy hell.

--And he's got pencils with his name on them right on his desk (this, so far, believe it or not, is the least douchy thing about him).

--The dude like owns a company and tells her he's apparently giving a graduation commencement speech at her college.  Jesus, do they know this guy is like 14 years old?

--He tells her that "people say I don't have a heart".  Wow.  He's like some sort of freaky bondage Grinch or something.

--She keeps biting her damn lip while he talks.  They're trying to make her ugly.  This is like the Skinemax She's All That.

--Oh, my God, are they pushing this virgin thing.  She works in a hardware store!  Just tattoo virgin on her forehead... or lesbian... I'm not sure what they're going for yet.

--And creep ass Grey just happens to show up out of fucking nowhere to her hardware store to buy tape and rope... everything he buys suggests he's mostly a murderer... and yet she's getting all complicated in her pants making 'do-it-yourself' jokes with the Zodiac killer.

--Okay, this is much too much boring mindless exposition... let's Fast Forward a little bit...

--I hit play and he immediately saves her from getting hit by a bike messenger.  I assume she was just walking alone and he came out from lurking in the bushes somewhere to save her just in time.  Blah blah blah.  He saves her.  She creams a little.  He tells her to stay away from him, that he's bad news.

--Her roommate says it's time to party and we have a two minute scene of them doing make-up on her to make her prettier.  This movie has just gone full 90s.

--Grey has sent her first editions of some literature.  Oh, so he's hot and has a brain.  Wait, what?? This is psycho shit!

--She legit has a flip phone.

--Hahahahaha so she drunk texts him and the shot of him is him sitting in a hotel room looking at a computer shirtless with a glass of wine.  It's either porn or good places to bury a body.

--After she hangs up on him, giving him ZERO indication of where she is... he STALKS HER PHONE TO SHOW UP OUT OF NOWHERE AND DATE RAPE HER.

--Her friend Jose confesses his innocent love for her.  In the midst of this, once again, Grey, JUMPS FROM THE SHADOWS, to shove him out of the way and establish some Anastasia dominance.

--How cute.  She's such a virgin, alcohol makes her faint.

--If anyone had any semblance of a personality, I might be willing to take this movie more seriously.  Probably not though.

--She wakes up hungover.  Dude is sitting in front of her staring at her like some dog.  Makes her toast.  He whips off his shirt, says "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit for a week".  Okay, dude... right... you own a helicopter and a six-pack because your dick is enormous.

--DUDE STRAIGHT UP JUST CRAWLED ACROSS THE BED AND EATS THE TOAST OUT OF HER HAND.  And she's not upset at this.  She's just been essentially kidnapped.  She's showing some major signs of Stockholm Syndrome.

--Dude tells her he as to come up with legal documentation in order to touch her.  However, he decides to "fuck the paperwork" and chomp on her face for an uncomfortable few seconds in an elevator.

--They're not going on a date.  This date immediately consists of a helicopter.  Does she not remember he bought tape and rope from her???

--"Are you going to make love to me?" "I don't make love.  I fuck. Hard." -Actual lines spoken in this movie.  I shit you not.

--Now it has officially been revealed that she is a virgin.  Decides it's his job to de-virginize her before they get into more freaky stuff.

--And, of course, because she's a virgin... she only has granny panties.

--At least they got a classic 'ass in the moonlight' shot of him.

--She wakes up from sex.  Hears him playing the piano.  This gets her in the mood for round 2.  (If only it was that easy)

--Now they've decided to take a bath together using a yellow sponge from 1887.  There is no soap to be found.  They just decide to relax in some dirty sex water.

--Dude's mother just literally interrupted them having sex.  It makes wayyyy more sense that he is DEF a serial killer.

--Fast forwarding some more...

--So apparently he was driving her home and they decided to take a detour to have a conversation in the middle of the forest.  This is normal.

--So, he has now purchased her a computer for her to do some "research".  And I half expected his dick to be the background of the home screen.

--We get explanation of the sex contract.  Safe words, conduct, etc.  Tells her she has to eat right-- aka if dis bitch gets fat the deal is over.

--He legit breaks into her home again!  She blew him off via email so he just showed up in her house. And she's not scared! They strangle-bang!  And in the middle of it, I shit you not, she says "owwie".

--In the midst of this angry break-in sex, he SPITS WINE INTO HER MOUTH.  He has essentially turned this girl into a human garbage disposal.

--Now they have a business meeting discussing the negotiations of his "sex contract".

--Awwww.  She won't let him anally fist her.  PRUDE!

--"What are butt plugs?" Really?? Of all the creepy shit in that contract, you have to ask the one question that is so self-explanatory, it's the name???  What's a lawn mower?

--Sushi break!  (Not me... the two in the movie in the midst of talking about fisting and dildos and genital clamps...)

--"I would like to fuck you into the middle of next week." - Again, a REAL line spoken in the movie.  Probably a fan-favorite among housewives reading the book.  EL James: "I really want to write something dominant and sexy.  I want to fuck you... well, it's probably Saturday and a good fuckin would take like four or five days which would put them into the middle of the next week... wait a minute!"

--And now she graduates.  Que out of place and irrelevant gay joke.  There we go.

--"And so it begins"-- It has officially launched into her getting some ill-fated sexual adventure while he treats her like a sexually abused petulant child.

--Legit bends her over his knees and spanks her. "Welcome to my world"... I punish a lot of ass here.

--He just french braided her hair.  He might actually be gay.

--How does she not realize that his sex room is so intricately set up and vastly stocked up with shit that it's CLEARLY been used several times before with several different women.  She's definitely getting a lot of sexual backwash.

--I was waiting for the smelling her panties and stuffing them in his pants moment that's in all romantic films.  Thank God they didn't forget that one.

--Awww he just asked her out to dinner.  It's like his way of saying "you know what? You let me beat the shit out of you and you were such a good sport about it-- I'd like to get you food in order to humanize you just a tad."

--Boringgggg fast forwarding....

--Hahahahaha.  At this point, he has bought her a computer, a car, and an apartment yet the movie is almost over and she still owns the same shitty flip phone from 2002.

--Back to the sex dungeon-- can someone explain why he always has to wear the same ripped jeans with no shirt on?  "It's time to Ambercrombie and Fuck".

--He just molested her with a peacock feather.  The peacock I'm sure he brutally murdered with his bare hands and then bathed in its blood.

--Jesus.  He just goes to town whipping her in the stomach and chest like she's some sort of lady Mandingo fighter.

--"I'm fifty shades of fucked up." -I can't make this shit up.  I really can't.

--She asks him why he NEEDS to punish her and he replies by telling her that if he told her she'd never look at him the same again.  Yes, because all men know the exact root of their sexual perversions and just accept it.

--So, of course, after he says vague rapey murdery shit, she asks him to show her the worst punishment he can give so she can know.  This results in a reenactment of the whipping scene from 12 Years A Slave.

--NOW she finally gets offended.  I thought it would take a little more.  Like getting pissed on and dragged into the street by her hair, sold to some Chechnyan dude for a hundred and fifty bucks and getting her finger prints filed off so no one could identify her.  I guess she just has more standards than I thought.

--Jesus lady, you don't have to be so hard on the guy.  He did buy you all that crap.  The last you could do is let him smack you around a little bit so he can get an erection.

--She leaves his ass... gets in the elevator... and THE MOVIE ENDS?!?!?!? Of all the fuckery!!! The writer literally had the audacity to end this movie with a cliffhanger so retarted people can give more of their retarded money to this retarded franchise.

--This girl is legitimately scarred for life.  She's left him finally, but sex with anyone else is going to be so foreign to her.  "I don't get it?  Why aren't you beating me??"  "You love me?  But, you haven't spit in my face and broken a couple of my ribs... how can I ever trust you again?"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mad Max Fury Road: Funnel Cake French Toast Fruit Loops Fury

How can I properly explain what it's like to watch Mad Max Fury Road?  Alright, you ready for this?  Stick with me, now.  Picture you've got Attention Deficit Disorder.  You've forgotten to take your pills for the day.  Someone offers you a large coffee, you drink it in four seconds.  After that you have a Red Bull chugging contest.  You eat fourteen hundred pixie sticks.  You snort a little bit of cocaine.  Then you snort a lot of cocaine.  Until finally you shove an adrenaline needle through your own eyeball.  That's a bit what watching Mad Max is like.

The movie is batshit crazy insane.  Like I've never seen anything like it.  I mean, I've accidentally watched CartoonSwim at 3 in the morning, but this is something else.  This is so crazy I can't really compare it to anything.  In fact, Mad Max is now the new staple for insane that I will use when I need to compare something crazy I saw.  If I saw a half-naked Santa Clause playing tug-o-war with a fully grown adult moose while his midget elf friend was fighting a tree and singing the 'We are Farmers' jingle at the top of his lungs in front of an elementary school in Florida-- I'd say it was like Mad Max-lite.  And that's totally a good thing.

You know how when you watch Fear and Loathing or any Terry Gilliam or David Lynch movie and you sit and watch and wonder what the hell is going on-- that's kind of what Mad Max does, except you know exactly what is going on you just can't believe it. Even though it's technically a sequel/prequel/remake/spinoff/reboot-- whatever-- this movie is one of a kind.  I can safely say that you have never seen a movie like this one.  Trying to explain the plot would be like trying to explain electrodynamics to a four year old in a language you made up yourself.  You kinda just skip to the big ideas and put them in four year old terms.

Uh... well, Tom Hardy is Max.  It's the post-apocalypse.  And the entire movie is essentially one long chase.  There's not much dialogue.  There's hardly any down time between chase sequences (which last a long time for each one and get more and more preposterously amazing as they go on).  Charlize Theron plays a one-armed BADASS named Imperator Furiosa ("It's Furiooooosa, not Furiosaaaah").  She is pretty much a one woman wrecking ball of female-testosterone and kick-assery.  Other than that, you just need to see it to believe it.  I'm serious.

Here's what separates Mad Max from other popcorn summer blockbusters and explosive post-apocalyptic films-- it's actually got a story hidden beneath all the frenetic action and carnage.  It's got humanity laced all through it, when really no one on screen even remotely resembles a human.  It's shockingly got incredible UNSUBTLE feminist undertones.  I might actually call this movie an action movie for feminists.  It's incredible.

Even further, you will have no clue what the hell is going to happen next.  After you think you've seen the craziest "ballsack stapled to the wall by psychotic ex-girlfriend with rabies" shit in the movie, somehow director George Miller (who directed the original three films back in the 70s and 80s) seems to come up with something even more absurd and surprising.  It's a great movie to kick off the summer and I hope it reflects the quality of summer films we're going to see this year.  I know this is wishful thinking, however.  Definitely make time to go see this movie.

One caveat, though.  If you are squeamish, or faint of heart, or any sort of baby back bitch about witnessing anything visually disturbing (and I'm not talking about gore, because there is some, but not much)... you may want to be cautious.  There are some nauseating scenes/creatures/humans/situations that are not for the faint of heart.  I've got a pretty strong stomach when it comes to disturbing sights in films, and even I had to set down the popcorn.

Don't see Mad Max on an empty stomach.  In point of fact, don't see Mad Max on a full stomach either.  See Mad Max on a regular stomach... whatever the hell regular stomach means.  Just see the movie and witness crazy/beautiful for the very first perfect time.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Upcoming Best and Worst of Summer 2015


Mad Max: Fury Road

Everything I've seen/read about this film suggests that it's going to be two hours of batshit craziness and fun.  Tom Hardy has a great track record when it comes to scripts and original Mad Max director George Miller is finally able to make the movie he wanted to make with all of the effects he can use at his disposal.  There's legitimately not a movie this summer that I'm THIS excited about.  It's going to be an awesome ride.



I'm not entirely confident that this movie is going to be one of summer's "best" per se, but there is a lot of positive going for it.  For one, yes, I know technically it's not an "original" idea because it's based of a section of an amusement park, but beyond that the story is actually all original.  Though the concept isn't, the script is and I don't rightly believe that Clooney would sign up for it if the script wasn't up to par.  Also, director Brad Bird (The Simpsons, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) turned down doing a Star Wars movie for this one.  He's got a track record as well for not letting me down, so I have to take a shot and say this movie is going to be good.


Remakes of good, old horror movies usually don't instill much confidence in me or in the general public.  Yet they still mass produce them every single year.  Growing up, Poltergeist was one of my favorite scary movies.  It's got elements to it that still hold up (the counting down of the storm, the attack of the tree, the clown under the bed, etc.) and it upsets me that it has to be redone instead of letting someone else come up with their own horror classic.  However, it it must be done, I'm glad it's Sam Rockwell, Sam Raimi and Gil Kenan.  Raimi is [mostly] trustworth when it comes to horror remakes and Kenan, who directed Monster House showed us that he can be scary and fun at the same time. I've got a good feeling about this one.


San Andreas

Oh, shut up.  I know it's probably going to get a 33% on rottentomatoes and it's going to get laughed at by indie arthouse snubs who are walking out of the latest french dickfest.  I don't care.  Disaster movies are fun.  And The Rock is even more fun.  Put them together and you're going to have a blast.  The characters are going to be hollow.  The dialogue is going to be cringeworthy.  The plot is going to be awful.  And the movie is going to be amazing.  Just let that 12 year old boy inside of you win this one.  You know you're going to like it.



San Andreas and now this?  I have a feeling I'm losing you.  Hang on just a second.  I know watching Melissa McCarthy falling down a lot sounds about as much fun as Paul Blart 2, let me give you my side of it, first.  So, the director, Paul Feig, also directed Bridesmaids, so we know he's not a complete idiot.  He's also the one helming Ghostbusters, the all female version.  The reviews from Cannes was that this movie is going to be one of the funniest, if not THE funniest movie of the year.  That they finally found that balance of fat chick falls down and heart.  Also, Jason Statham apparently has hidden comedy chops that come out in this film and steal the show.  So, I'm all for funny and I'm all for Statham.  I bet the movie doesn't suck the way you think it will.

Insidious: Chapter 3

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Insidious.  I thought it relied a little too heavily on jump scares but at least it was something new and clever.  Director James Wan of the first two hands the reigns over to his screenwriter Leigh Whannell to direct the film for the first time.  Now, we've got the writer in the director's chair.  It's at least going to be a fun little scary movie that will probably provide for one or two major scares if nothing else.  It looks like it'll be better than the second one, at least.


Jurassic World

Speaking of letting the 12 year old boy inside of you out... this is the mother of all summer movies right here.  It's probably not going to be even close to the original, but chances are it'll be better than two or three.  Two was a little bit too awkward and King Kong-y and three was just lame.  I mean, seriously, three people died in Jurassic Park 3.  I've seen more people die in the trailer for Jurassic World than in 3.  Plus, it's got Chris Pratt... probably the most watchable actor in film right now.  If nothing else, there's gonna be some cool visual shit and some Pratt quips to keep you in the game.  I mean, it's dinosaurs dude.  Don't be so high strung.  You know you'll see it.


Inside Out

YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! Pixar returns!!!  This might be the most obvious post of all of them.  It's Pixar's return to the big screen that isn't a sequel, prequel, or spin off.  It's an original movie (which will bring with it an original short) that looks as endearing as it does hilarious.  This looks like classic Pixar and I'm very excited about it.



Amy Schumer is about as brilliant as it gets right now for contemporary comedy.  With Judd Apatow behind the lens in a Schumer penned script, there's not really a duo that I'm going to trust more (minus, like, a Key and Peele movie written by Louis CK or something).  It's only an added bonus that prelim reviews come in that it's smart and hilarious... and Bill Hader is in it.  It's going to be raunchy, it's going to be hilarious, and it's going to be great.



He was snubbed for Nightcrawler, so here it is... Gyllenhaal is going for that Oscar gold.  It's a boxing movie.  Check.  It's a family drama.  Check.  He's all deformed and mentally unstable.  Check.  Yeah, this is pretty much all the Oscar bait you need right there.  It doesn't hurt that the movie genuinely looks good.  And whoever found the little girl playing his daughter probably deserves a promotion because kid looks like she can act.  Get 'em Gyll.


Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation


What can I say?  They have figured out how to do Mission Impossible movies.  Other than the second one, they're all pretty entertaining, smart, and fun.  I know that Tom Cruise still isn't a huge box office draw, but he makes good movies.  Edge of Tomorrow was one of the best movies of last year.  Also, with the addition of Simon Pegg as a regular really helps boost the fun factor.  I'm excited for it.


Straight Outta Compton

As much as Selma was a movie that needed to be told, so is the story of N.W.A. Especially with what's been happening in the world lately, this is a movie that is going to speak truth as well as be a biopic.  Unfortunately, I can't eloquently explain WHY exactly the movie needs to be told due to my whiteness... just watch the trailer and you'll see why this movie is going to be exactly what people need... and why it's going to be a really good film.  (This review was intentionally written by a dumb white male).




To be fair, I never have seen the show Entourage, so maybe there's something in the trailer or the premise that I just don't get... but this movie looks like piss.  From what I've heard from former fans of the show is that it went on waaaayyyy too long and that there is no need for a movie (unlike, say, an Arrested Development movie which NEEDS to be made).  It's going to be an unfunny mess that will make zero money because no one gives a crap about these guys anymore.  I don't have to tell you to avoid it-- you know you already will.



Never heard of this movie?  Don't know what the hell it even is?  Don't worry.  You're not alone.  I don't even know if this is going to come out wide or straight to Redbox or not.  But, it's going to suck.  Kid goes into the marines.  Kid has friend german shepard.  Kid dies. German shepard returned to kid's little brother... brother bonds with dog.  Dog has PTSD.  Dog probably dies at the end.  It's hokey Warner Bros. trash and it needs to not exist.


Terminator: Genysis

Oh, this one hurts, folks.  This one realllllllyyyyyyy hurts me to say.  Everything in me WANTS it to be good.  Everything in me wants whoever took the reigns of this franchise to just "get it", you know?  To have that James Cameron-esque epiphany and really give us something new!  But, it's going to suck.  It's going to kill everything I love about Terminator 2 and piss me the hell off.  Arnold won't... I mean, he can't, but everything else will.  Jai Courtney has the tendency to ruin franchises that I love (see Die Hard 5) and while I like Jason Clark, from what I can tell, his John Connor is a freaking robot bad guy.  I mean, what the terminating fuck??? I'm going to see it.  And I hope I'm wrong.  But, it's probably going to really really suck.



I have to throw this one up here on principle.  Edgar Wright, the brilliant writer/director behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End, and Scott Pilgrim wrote the script for Ant-Man and is the reason it has come to fruition.  It's his favorite comic book and his passion project.  He was excited about doing the film more than anything.  He cast the film, got everything ready and was axed by the studio over creative differences.  His script was essentially tossed and a new director was brought in. Now, we don't know how great it could've been.  And I assume it was going to be a masterpiece.  Joss Whedon, director of the freaking Avengers is on record as saying it was the best script he'd ever read.  Now, we've got this garbage heap of cheap CGI and phony acting.  Ant-Man as a concept is pretty stupid, but without a genius behind the camera... I don't think there's any saving it.  Even if I do love me some Paul Rudd.



Sandler... you've fooled me too many times.  I just can't get behind anything you do anymore.  You seem to have no more regard for your audience.  While I still respect the comedian and actor you once were... I just can't do it anymore.  I love the fact that you still come out with original movies... I hate the fact that they're shit.  So, maybe I'm wrong about this one.  But, chances are... I'm not.  Damn you, Sandler... damn you.

Paper Towns

I legitimately know NOTHING about this movie.  I know that at the top of the poster it says from the author of The Fault in our Stars and that's proof enough that it's going to be a festering heap of emotionally manipulative trash.  Do you deny it???


Fantastic Four

This will never be a good idea.  Ever.  Rebooting it.  Sequel-izing it.  Re-casting it.  It's never going to be good.  It's too silly to be Avengers and too stupid to be X-Men.  There's a reason the other two bombed.  It's like Spider-man... just let it die already.


Hitman: Agent 47

Because of course!  That's what the end of summer needs!  A sequel to a movie no one saw with an an actor no one knows about a video game no one cares about!  I'm glad a ton of people took months out of their lives to make a movie that six people on the planet are actually excited to see and four of which will actually see it.  God, Hollywood, you can really suck the balls sometimes, you know that?




I'm a big Cameron Crowe guy.  Jerry Maguire and Say Anything are near perfect films.  Elizabethtown is a very well-written movie that was poorly acted and therefore terrible.  Crowe knows how to write endearing romantic comedies, but he hasn't had a hit in a quite some time.  While this doesn't necessarily look like Crowe back into full form... it could be a nice step in the right direction.  Or pure garbage.  It's hard to judge just yet.


Ted 2

You never know with Seth McFarlane.  He can show up and do something hilarious like with the first Ted or he can let you down constantly every second of every day like with Family Guy.  Judging by the trailer, Ted 2 looks like it comes with the same amount of raunch as the the first, but will it be as funny?  Who knows?  I'll definitely see it... but cautiously.



Let's be honest.  The minions are the best parts of the Despicable Me movies.  They're adorable and hilarious and the extended trailer for the Minions movie made me laugh harder than any movie that came out in the last year.  I could watch a whole movie of just those stupid looking bananas chitting away in a language funnier than The Sims.  But, there's people in the movie.  And a story.  And it could very well screw everything up.  Or not.  That's why it's a wildcard.



On one hand, the cast (Kristin Wiig, Zack Galifinakis, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudekis) is ripe for a brilliantly weird comedy.  On the other hand, it's directed by the dude who did Napoleon Dynamite which everyone knows is a shitty movie, but no one will seem to admit.  This one is either going to be genius, or one of the worst comedies in the history of film.  There will be no middle ground.


Sinister 2

The first one was a let down.  And sequels are usually worse that their predecessor's.  But, it might be trying to fix where the first one failed.  But, then again, I thought the exact same thing about The Purge 2 and I wound up driving a rusty spoon into my leg during that movie just so I'd feel something other than pure anger and disgust.  It's probably going to be bad.  But, there's that small chance it could be alright.  Either way, there's probably definitely going to be a Sinister 3-9.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron: What's The Difference Between An Avengers Movie And A Michael Bay Movie?

There's nothing new about how I feel towards the superhero/Marvel trend of releasing comic book based movies every couple of months.  I'm sick of it.  I'm sick and damn tired of seeing these movies.  I'm tired of watching their trailers, I'm tired of seeing all the impressive CGI that is being/has been developed to make these movies more and more visually impressive... I'm just over the comic book/superhero genre.  I'm over it.  Every time I see one, I swear to myself that it was the last one.  I don't get excited for them like I used to.  I don't count the days until I get another look into a world that was only two hours long.  I'm over it.  I'm trying to keep myself from becoming entirely disillusioned with the thought that I will, one day, still make it as a screenwriter.  Every single time I see another one of these movies coming out, I realize that the original script/idea is dead.  Unless I've adapted an obscure comic book, no one really gives a shit anymore of what original ideas I have written down on paper.  They just want Iron Man.  Or Thor.  Or Ant-Man (God knows why).  So, I'm over it.  Yet, like an Alzheimer's patient, I still manage to end up at the theater to watch the next one.  And here's what pisses me off - they're all not bad.  I'm serious.  Minus, like, Thor 2 and The Hulk and maybe some sort of Superman film... they're all put together very well.  I mean, hell, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of my favorite movies of last year.  It's just not fair.  I have the utmost respect for Joss Whedon and if they're going to keep pushing out Avengers movies, then I'm glad they have someone capable to pen the script and direct the film.  It's just infuriating that he keeps making decent movies and people keep seeing them because this trend isn't going to go away for a very long time-- if ever.  I mean, once the actors from The Avengers finally get sick of playing these heroes, Marvel will freaking reboot the series all over again with younger more up-and-coming actors.  They will literally never end.  Ever.

So, Avengers: Age of Ultron... what can I say unbiased about the movie?  I can't bash the movie because it wasn't bad in the slightest.  I can't praise the movie because then I'm perpetuating this endless cycle of asses in seats to watch these movies.  So, I guess I can just tell you what was good about the movie and what wasn't and let you decide for yourself.  First, off, there is a lot of good, I hate to say.  The biggest praise I can give the film is the chemistry of the actors and the characters.  It's not like the first film where they're all getting to know one another and there's little tiffs here and there and everyone distrusts everyone and all that.  Now, they know each other, and like each other.  They get along well, they can poke fun at each other, and they genuinely seem like friends.  What's also good is that somehow, with 187 different characters in the movie, Whedon ends up giving ample time to [almost] everyone and giving them character.  They're not just superhero names... they're people that we, as an audience, care about.  With the exception of Thor-- because I don't think even Joss Whedon knows what do do with him in the mix of all these other heroes-- everyone is pretty well defined.  Even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is given ample time in the film so that we don't just think of him as a weird, bow-and-arrow-only addition to a super human team.  (He is, by the way, my favorite Avenger.  Just so you know.)

James Spader, who voices Ultron, is also fantastic in the film-- like almost everything he's ever been in.  He's got a perfect blend of black humor and psychotic in his voice that lends to a pretty sophisticated villain.  Even if he's a weird CGI robot who is supposed to represent the antithesis of Tony Stark, Spader still brings his own brand of weirdness to the character.  Tom Hardy already showed us with Bane that a good actor can bring a hell of a lot to the table with just the sound of his voice.  The humor is perfect.  The movie, while I guess is fun and exciting, is actually pretty hilarious. While I can appreciate a Christopher Nolan dark and foreboding Batman film, the Avengers need to be funny.  They need to be able to interact with each other like people do... like friends do and give the audience some comic relief without being too stupid.  Whedon is able to walk this line with finesse.

As for the negative of the film, well, let's see-- Ultron's motivation is a tired movie trope.  Artificial intelligence is born, evolves, realizes that humans don't accept the gift of life and therefore in order to sustain a perfect Earth, humans must be eradicated.  It's been done countless times and, to me, is tired.  It's also not a great enough motive to base an entire character around, but Whedon is even clever enough to use this old idea and not make it seem hackneyed. Elizabeth Olson's character is pretty badass-- her "Russian" accent is not.  The death and destruction and smashing of buildings and robots gets pretty old after awhile because there's too much of that in summer blockbusters.  You get together some good people to fight bad people and shit is gonna get destroyed.  After awhile, there's really nothing new to blow up.  There's just different locations.  Which brings me to the question-- really, what's the difference between an Avengers movie and a Michael Bay movie? (Obviously, I'm not talking about The Rock here, either.  That movie is GOLD.)

Think about it.  Is there really a difference between Avengers and Transformers?  You've got some good mech-heroes paired with tough human heroes.  You've got bad mecha-heroes hell bent on destroying the Earth... mostly from space.  Is this any different?  Not really.  So, why do I find myself enjoying Avengers and mocking Transformers? As I was watching Iron Man and Captain America and Thor and Hulk and Black Widow and Hawkeye rapidly fight and subsequently destroy things around them, I realized that I actually gave a shit about these people.  I didn't want to see any of them get killed.  The one thing that separates the two films is the writing.  It's easy to blow up buildings and have epic CGI fight sequences, but it's difficult to care about the fighters in question.  If Shia LeBouf was fighting Megatron or if Optimus Prime was trying to save Mark Wahlberg's daughter from death and it went completely to shit... I don't think I would care.  I'd applaud Bay for having the balls to do something like that, but really it would be okay with me.  If anything happened to any one of the Avengers, even though I'm sick of the films, it would probably sting a little bit.  So, that's what will keep me from being entirely disillusioned from my screenwriting dream-- even though there's really nothing original to be seen for, probably, the rest of our lives... good writers can still exist and make sure to take secondary source material and make it good.

See the movie or don't see the movie.  It doesn't matter.  It's going to gross a billion dollars and make way for a cavalcade of sequels and spin offs and prequels and TV shows.  But, if they're going to keep churning them out like some sort of super assembly line, I'm glad they've got a writer/director who is capable of not making me hate myself every time I forget I'm sick of the genre.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ex Machina: Slow, Subtle, Brilliant Sci-Fi

I saw this movie a little over a week ago and it's taken me that long to be able to express how I felt about Ex Machina.  It's a brilliant little piece of science fiction, a creative twist of the artificial intelligence sub-genre.  If you're looking for I, Robot or some sort of ultra-violent summer popcorn blockbuster, then it's going to let you down.  But, if you're a fan of character-driven, slow moving, smart science fiction, then look no further than Ex Machina.

What's strange about this film is even though the pace moves rather slowly, the film doesn't meander around what goals it wants to accomplish.  There is no long character explanation and set-up.  It begins immediately with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) winning a work contest where he gets to go spend a week on a secluded island inhabited by the CEO of his computer company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac).  He gets to the island and is immediately greeted by Nathan who appears to be normal, but also very lonely... and of course, secretive.  Nathan reveals to Caleb that he has created authentic artificial intelligence and would like Caleb to be the subject in his Turing test.  Over the next seven days, Caleb will have "private" one-on-one interaction with Ava, the robot, to determine if he believes her intelligence is genuine, rather than simply programmed. Of course, there's many small twists and turns and much to find out about the recluse, Nathan.  He's a drunk whose brilliance is unparalleled, but whose anger is quick.  He's a complex character that isn't at all who he appears to be.  Especially when Ava tells Nathan during the first couple sessions not to believe a word Nathan says and that he isn't his friend.

It's a thinking person's sci-fi.  It's not overly computer animated, although the design of Ava is flawless and a marvel to look at.  It's a quiet movie with only a few onscreen characters, but it's the evolution of the two characters that makes the movie interesting to watch.  At first, Caleb is enamored with his boss and hangs on his every word, but each day that passes he becomes more and more weary of the man Nathan actually is and what his motives might be.  While a twist may or may not be expected, I will tell you this-- while it's not a twist, per se... the ending is quite unexpected as well as satisfying.

However, it's the two leads that really drive the film.  Yes, the conversations between Caleb and Eva that draw the most interest, it's Gleeson and Isaac that truly run the room.  They're essentially two up and coming actors that have begun to make themselves known in the film industry (I mean, hell, they're both in the upcoming Star Wars movie), but they're two very good and very watchable actors.  Director Alex Garland, making his directorial debut, knows how to write an engaging script that moves at a slower pace to make way for character development.  Though it's his first directing job, he's written some very compelling sci-fi in the past.  Check out Sunshine, Dredd, and 28 Days Later... for confirmation.

Like I said... it's not all thrilling sci-fi action and mayhem.  It's drifts down the river comfortably rather than careens down it horrifically.  Check it out, if it sounds like it's for you.