Wednesday, June 17, 2015

“Fifty Shades of Grey” – WARNING: The following review may contain as much sex as the movie.

Due to being on kid duty for the week (while the wife is travelling) and coupled with no decent movie to screen that isn’t animated, I decided last weekend to watch Fifty Shades of Grey. The condition was that I was allowed to comment during the movie while my wife took notes. Here is how watching Fifty Shades of Grey went for us.

[piracy warning] If this movie is as bad as we think it’s gonna be, piracy won’t be a problem.

(opening credits)

I feel like they shouldn’t be using a song from Hocus Pocus.

Is Marcia Gay Harden one of the best unintentional porn names every?

Me: I keep forgetting you didn’t read the book.
Kevin: um, no!

(Interview scene)

Nice sweater, Grandma.

What. Does she not know where she is that she dresses like that?

She’s already on her knees.

Can I hold your PEN?

“I enjoy various physical pursuits.”
Kevin: Like banging.

“which author inspired you”
Stephen King, say Stephen King!

“What do you want?”
I want to chew on your pencil some more.

I can see your horrible sweater and ugly blouse, yet I still want to see what’s underneath it.

Two metaphors already: chewing on his pencil, and now she’s getting all wet. This movie is NOT subtle.

(back in Anastasia’s apartment)

Staring at his pics
And now I’m going to write some fan fiction.

She still has his pencil. Roll it in your mouth! Roll it in your mouth!

Now THERE’s the gay friend.

(hardware store)

“Ana, could you give me a hand out back?”
Yeah. A hand. In the hardware store.

“Do you want anything else?”
Your vagina.

…That was the worst conversation I’ve ever heard.

Hey big guy. (laughs)

He had a driver take him to the hardware store?! What a douche. There is no way that any woman finds that attractive.

(coffee shop)

“Tell me about your family”
“My dad…” “is a vampire”
“My cousin…” “is a wolf”

[Christian abruptly leaves] Sorry, I don’t give a shit.

So, ten minutes in, and they’ve already had the Misunderstanding?

(at the club)

She’s drunk dialing him? Nice. Thanks for the boooooks….

Why the fuck would he come to get her?

Christian shows up.
Nice. You missed his shoes, though.

He has a very pointy nose.

Who faints when they’re drunk? I’ve never met that person.

(hotel room)

What the hell just happened? He goes from I took care of you and changed your vomit clothes to….biting her toast.

“I don’t do romance.”
Except when I send first edition books to people I just met.

You still smell like puke.

“I won’t touch you without your written consent.”
That’s hot. That’s so hot. I’m just gonna eye-fuck you all movie until you sign. Face Caress Fucker. Oh, just kidding about the not touching you thing. Shit, that lasted about eight seconds.

(Apartment)

NO one is that happy after being interrupted during sex. It was a pleasure to meet you. Does my hand smell like vagina? I’m sorry. Wait, this is your house.

(helicopter)

I don’t do romantic….but I fly women in helicopters to places.

Thanks, I don’t know how seatbelts works.

What is this awful song?

I don’t need to watch where I’m flying.

(his apartment)

Alright, it’s Contract Time.

Douchey thing #2: he has opera playing when he gets home.

My lawyer? His lawyer knows what he does?

That’s what every woman wants to hear, right? “I don’t make love. I fuck. Hard.”

Now it’s time for you to see my sex jungle.

“Just open the door…” of looooove.

Douchey thing #3: I keep my sex jungle locked. In my own house.

Did I mention, I like to fuck. Hard.

No seriously, honestly. Doesn’t a girl who wears a cardigan to an office building run screaming from this room?

It’s called a flogger.

I do this to women. Wait. Hold on, scratch that.

Did he just say he’s a Donut?

“what do I get out of this?”
My big boner.

I’m not a romantic, but I hold hands.

“I don’t sleep with anyone.”
Except when I do. Except with ones who are covered in vomit.
Okay, I just want to point out that this movie is 40 fucking minutes in already.

Please, I gotta know. How many bases?

You’re biting your lip.
I wanna bite it. (whispering)

Wait. But she hasn’t signed the agreement yet. This guy is the worst businessman EVER.

I’m curious how her underwear changes as the movie goes on.

First nipple at 43 minutes.

DOH. Male ass cheek at 43:48.

At least the music is better than other porns.

Are they seriously showing him opening a condom? I really want her to ask “are you gonna fuck me hard now?”

How did you get through this book?! It’s the least sexy 45 minutes I’ve ever seen. Including San Andreas.

For someone who is a virgin, apparently, and an English lit major – she sure was like “alright. Hit me. I just saw your sex dungeon. I’m good, let’s go.”

(next morning)

She dances worse than I do.

You know how this sounds? It’s like a really bad Dawson’s Creek episode.

I’m not a romantic….i just gently scrub women’s backs in the bathtub.

Nope, I don’t trust you. We’ve had sex at least three times already.

I can see why people who like the book didn’t like the movie. Two of the three sex scenes they’ve almost completely cut out.

Less then 24 hours after taking her virginity, he’s already tying her up.

(mother shows up)

That’s why he locks the sex dungeon.

Her name is Grace Grey??

Do you think in the screenplay that they told all the actors to deliver their lines breathy like Twilight?


(whispers) You can decorate it however you want. (giggles)

I liked your mom. I met her for 8 seconds.

“That room is much more about pleasure”
For meeeeeeeeeee.

Now, I don’t want to do anything YOU want to do. But keep an open mind.

(in car)
He has a permascowl on his face.

I’m not a romantic…..but let’s go for a walk.

The other 15 girls were just like “let’s do this dungeon thing.”

I want that car.

(in apartment)

He bought you a new computer?! Definitely sign!

I’m not a romantic….but I leave helicopter balloons and wine.

I’m gonna get you drunk a little bit, so that you’ll sign my fucking NDA. After I broke into your house.

(contract meeting)

If you don’t want to be analy fisted, you don’t want a butt plug. I thought you were an English major.

Heh heh. My staff.

“I’ll suggest it in Appendix 5”
This is so hot.

There must have been some hard up housewives to really want to read this.

Who’s the submissive now?

How the hell is this Twilight fan fiction?

(graduation)

Douche thing #4: all that badgering, and then he just leaves.

(playroom)
“you’re biting your lip. You know what that does to me.”
It makes me think of Kristen Stewart.

We’re gonna come in here and braid each other’s hair.

It also said in the contract, I’m not allowed to wear a shirt in half of this movie. Oh, wait, different contract.

…lowering the drawbridge.

Here comes the song. Crazy right noooooow!

[sniffs her underwear} ahhh NO!! He just smelled McRib’s underwear.

(dancing in apt)
This is also douchey. What is that, #6?
Me: no, it’s 5.
Kevin: it feels like 6.

(she dances)
You just ruined sex forever.

(Georgia)
Savannnah’s awesome this time of year.

(he calls her)
Remember that time I braided your hair? I miss you.

Wanna see my glider? ….best pick up line ever.

[INTERMISSION] my wife was bored, the movie was so fucking boring, that she was surfing Facebook, and we took an intermission and watched Chris Pratt talking about his toddler.

Is this the Pretty Woman ripoff part of the movie. “I’m not gonna sell off the company!”

Weird. We’re gonna have Church Music Sex?!

Really? You needed safe words for that? Green! Green! Ramp it UP.

Piano sex? Another Pretty Woman rip off?

Holy god, how long is this movie? I thought there was supposed to be a lot of sex in this movie. There’s more sex in an hour of Game of Thrones.

Wait. Is that the end of the fucking movie??!!

Ok. Knowing that this movie opened in theaters on Valentine’s Day, I now know there are lot of people that did not have sex on Valentine’s Day.

Rating: Not worth it even if you are paid to watch it. Every porn ever made is better than this movie.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

“Jurassic World” – Rawr and stuff.

Do you remember, twenty-two years ago, how terrified you were while watching Jurassic Park? The T-Rex, raptors, electrocuted children, and Samuel L. Jackson’s dismembered arm? It was like nothing we’d seen before and it was awesome, even if it scared the bejeezus out of us. Do you remember yet? Now, imagine the exact opposite…and that’s Jurassic World. If you’ve seen any of the previews, you already have an idea of what I’m talking about because you saw Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle alongside a pack of raptors. The raptors were easily the scariest part of the original film and now they’ve been relegated to Star Lord’s posse? The correct reaction to that preview is – wait, what now?

If I had to describe Jurassic World in one sentence it would be as follows: take San Andreas and replace earthquakes with dinosaurs. For a movie that took twelve years to make (Jurassic World that is), the finished product makes you wonder what the writers were doing for the other eleven years, eleven months, and twenty-five days. And we’re talking about not one, but four writers. Yeah, four writers took twelve years to come up with “the raptor whisperer” and drop him into a lazy ripoff of the original story.

(Side note: If you are the kind of person who gets upset at critics trashing movies that are “pure entertainment” or “not meant to be deep,” what the hell are you doing reading reviews in the first place? If you just want to see dinosaurs chase people around and occasionally eat one, you should stop reading this and go see it.)

If you are still reading this after my side note, let me tell you why this movie was such a massive waste of time. As I said, the movie is essentially a remake of the original, with a couple of tweaks to make it seem as different as night…and later that night. Jurassic World is a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, built on top of the original Jurassic Park theme park. After several years of operations, the owners want something new to keep people coming to the park, so they genetically engineer/invent a new dinosaur (called Indominous Rex and, yes, it’s okay to laugh) that is a cross between a raptor and a tyrannosaurus, is really smart, can camouflage itself, and can even make itself invisible to infrared heat sensors. In other words, it’s the dinosaur version of the Predator. If you are in any way surprised that Predator Rex escapes and tries to kill everybody, well – welcome to Earth.

The similarities continue with a couple of kids (Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson) being sent to the park to be with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who just happens to run the park (I know; it gets worse). The younger kid knows all there is to know about dinosaurs and the older kid is a moody teenager whose sole trait is ogling every titted person in the park (as opposed to being a computer hacker). Unlike the original pair of children, these brothers have no useful skill or knowledge to help them survive other than how to change the battery in a Jeep Wrangler. But they will most definitely be attacked by Predator Rex while they are trapped in a park vehicle. And just in case they weren’t annoying enough, they will whine about their parents possibly getting a divorce because that’s exactly what the audience wants to care about in a movie called Jurassic World.

(Another side note: there’s a particularly crappy scene in which the boys’ mother – Judy Greer – calls up Claire to scold Claire for not spending time with the boys. I’ll repeat that – the mother who sent her boys thousands of miles away is scolding her sister for working instead of being with her nephews and is making that phone call from her own place of work. Again – FOUR writers; TWELVE years.)

The last major thing ripped off from the original is the idea of an insider looking to make himself rich by selling out to another party. I won’t ruin who the insider is (though if you can’t guess, seriously – welcome to Earth), but you will immediately recognize Vincent D’Onofrio as the one non-dinosaur villain. Here, the “writers” tweaked the story a little by making Vic (D’Onofrio) the head of an outfit training raptors to replace human soldiers. Owen (Pratt) is the one actually doing the training, but Vic is pushing for a field test to prove his idea so he can make billions sending raptors to Afghanistan. If that’s not ridiculous enough, Owen is able to communicate with the raptors using English and a little clicker. I sincerely hope Michael Crichton is haunting these writers because if he wasn’t already dead, this would have killed him.

There are lots of other, smaller rip-offs throughout the film, from feeding the most dangerous animal in the park with a side of beef, to the main protagonist hugging a dinosaur, to two goofy control room operators (whom the writers didn’t even have the decency to kill off this time around), to humans magically able to outrun the T-Rex while holding a flare (I have to stop because this could go on for a while).

But all of that pales in comparison to the movie’s biggest problem – it doesn’t feel like anything is really at stake or that any of the main characters are ever in any real danger. Owen can talk to velociraptors – how much danger can they ever really be in? Not to mention none of them suffers more than a scratch or two and out of the more than 20,000 people on the island, less than twenty people actually die.

If there’s one thing that keeps the film from being a complete failure, it’s Chris Pratt doing what he does best by delivering a solid performance and adding some much needed comedy to an otherwise dreary film. Hell, he earned his paycheck simply by getting through the motorcycle scene without crashing because he was laughing so hard.

It is possible that I’m being a little too hard on the writers for this one. It occurred to me that maybe they resented writing this film, but couldn’t turn it down because they have bills to pay. There’s a scene early on in which Claire is explaining to Owen why they created the bigger and more terrifying dinosaur and Owen replies with something to the effect of “you already have dinosaurs.” It makes sense as an allegory because this movie could have at least been decent if they had just focused on the regular dinosaurs and the park and put the characters into some real danger rather than doubling down on soldier raptors and a Frankenstein Rex and making F-Rex fight the raptors and the T-Rex at the end (I wish I was making that up). Maybe the writers put that line in there as a protest to the studio forcing them to churn out another bad Jurassic Park sequel, then wrote some of the dumbest shit they could think of just to see if it would get the green light. And you thought this was going to be a negative review.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back, go home, and watch the original again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

“Entourage” – Great. Now I’m going to lose two days of my life.

One of the most confounding things that happens to me is when people ask if I’ve seen movie X and when I say “no,” they act shocked and become incredulous. My immediate response to that is “how many movies released last year did you see? Because I saw seventy.” And it’s always the so-called classics – “You’ve never seen Reservoir Dogs (gasp!)?” – “How have you never seen any of The Godfathers (double-gasp!!)?” – “You have to watch Blues Brothers (head-shake).” Etcetera, etcetera. I don’t necessarily blame them because people have an expectation that movie reviewers have seen every movie ever made. While it’s possible that some reviewers have seen every movie you name for them, those reviewers get paid to do that. I, on the other hand, do this in my spare time for free because I chose to be a cog in the corporate machine, so I have a lot less time to watch movies, not to mention I consume a fair amount of television as well. Incidentally, the same question happens with television shows and the answer is no, I have never seen even a minute of an episode of Entourage. Now, close your mouth before a fly flies in there.

My choice of movie screenings this week was Entourage and the annual Melissa McCarthy abomination, this year titled Spy. Normally, this would be an easy decision because McCarthy’s movies make me want to die, but I had to consider it because I’d never watched Entourage (the show) and there was a good chance I would hate Entourage (the movie) because I wouldn’t know who the characters were or get any of the inside jokes or references that would undoubtedly be splattered throughout the film. Ultimately, my loathing of McCarthy won out and I picked the movie that had eight seasons and 96 episodes of development preceding it, hoping they wouldn’t pull a Mad Max: Fury Road by expecting you to already know the characters. In other words, produce actual writing beyond “car explodes and bodies go flying.”

Even though I was going into the movie blind, I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew that there was a group of four dudes comprised of at least one actor and three dudes following him around, plus Jeremy Piven as said actor’s agent. Other than that – nothing. Much to my delight, the movie provided ample character introduction and even more development on top of what the show previously delivered. I won’t bore you with a recap of these five characters and neither does the movie, which does a great job of sprinkling historical information about the characters without making it seem like a history lesson. It’s this kind of thing that makes me wonder how HBO could have done such a good job with Entourage, yet shit the bed so badly with both Sex and the City movies (especially since Entourage and Sex And the City have essentially the same formula for its makeup).

The plot of Entourage (the movie) was the other thing I was worried about. Based on the previews, Ari (Piven) is now the head of a film studio and he wants Vince (Adrian Grenier) to star in his first movie. Vince agrees, but with the stipulation that he also gets to direct the film. I thought the rest of the film was going to be a struggle between Ari and Vince over additional finances, which sounded a lot like watching a sports movie where the main plot is going to be a contract dispute between a player and general manager. That doesn’t exactly sound riveting, not to mention confusing because Vince and Ari are supposed to be friends. Thankfully, that is only the catalyst for the actual plot – Ari trying to obtain the extra money from a couple of filthy rich, redneck Texans (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment). While that is going on, the other three guys each have their own subplots that have nothing to do with the main plot of the film. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is working on a relationship with Ronda Rousey (playing herself), Drama (Kevin Dillon) is trying to get another acting job, and E (Kevin Connelly) is juggling a pregnant ex and two absurdly hot women. While that might seem like loose writing on the surface, the various plotlines all work because this movie is ultimately about the five dudes’ friendship and how they help each other through their issues.

Besides the characters and their plots, there are a couple of other things that make the film work well. The first are the countless cameos of actors, athletes, and models scattered throughout the film. For as many as there were, a surprisingly low number of them felt forced (Tom Brady and Gary Busey for example) and even those worked as quick comedic gags. Of the ones that were exceptional, Richard Schiff’s stands out the most, reminding us why he was such a vital piece of The West Wing. The second was the comedy, which starts out a little slow and obvious, but settles into a really good groove once the characters are established into their plotlines. As the film wore on, the audience and I were laughing harder and more frequently and none of it relied on lazy toilet humor or the fat jokes all but certain to be found in Spy. Also, a shout out to Haley Joel Osment appearing as an adult and reminding us that he is more than just that kid who sees dead people. Of all the things I didn’t expect in this movie, that one was the biggest surprise.

If there was one weakness in this film, it’s the way in which it treats Vince’s movie. For all of the comedy and cameos, the film tries to take itself semi-seriously in terms of the characters and portrayal of the movie industry and does a very good job, except with the reception of Vince’s film (Hyde). We only see a quick snippet of Hyde (a Zack Snyder-esque action shot) and we are told that Drama has a role, though he only appears in four scenes. (SPOILER ALERT) Yet, at the tail-end our movie, Hyde is up for five Golden Globes, including best picture, and Drama wins best supporting actor. Given what we know, this seems counter to the rest of the film and feels very much over-the-top – essentially, tacked on for no logical reason. The only thing that felt right was hearing that Hyde was raking in money like a Marvel film and they easily could have just left it at that since the entire movie was centered on money.

Make no mistake – this movie is for guys. With the exception of a couple of wives and Rousey, the women are treated as set pieces – appearing either in bikinis, topless, or topless and having sex with E – to be ogled by the dudes who are this movie’s main audience (and don’t think I’m complaining, because those women are gorgeous – yes, I’m a dude). The closest thing to male nudity is a blurry-handed picture of Drama jerking off and Russell Wilson playing beach volleyball. They even manage to fit in some gay jokes while winking at you that it’s okay because Ari is going to give away his gay assistant at said assistant’s wedding. I don’t believe this was meant to be offensive, but was meant to reassure the bros in the audience of their manhood. For the record, I have no problem with gays or male nudity, but I think gay men would agree with me that nobody wants to see Kevin Dillon naked.

The bottom line is that this movie is a very, very good movie for both dedicated fans and Entourage-virgins like me. In fact, I liked the movie so much that now I’m forced to skip a couple of movies in order to watch Entourage the show. But at least you won’t gasp now when you asked if I’ve seen it.

Rating: Worth more than you paid for it if you are a dude, but women will probably want a buck or two back since they didn’t even get a decent ass-shot of Russell Wilson.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

“San Andreas” – Good. Fuck ‘em.

California has been living on borrowed time. As San Andreas’s seismologist (Paul Giamatti) puts it – “the San Andreas Fault goes off every 150 years and we are 100 years overdue, so it’s only a matter of when.” Californians have built up a staggering debt (north of $132 billion dollars as of 2013) and had the audacity to ask the rest of the country to give them another $50 billion (at least) to build a train from Los Angeles to San Francisco that you will most likely never use because the Wright Brothers invented airplanes more than 100 years ago. They waste an amazing amount of water growing grapes in the desert so they can one-up each other on wine-tasting knowledge. They are the birth place of the anti-vaccine movement, helping to bring back once eradicated diseases – including whooping cough (pertussis) and measles – insisting it is their right to endanger other people because Jenny McCarthy said so. They’ve tried to ban Happy Meals, prevented a completed nuclear reactor from ever being turned on, and tried to break their state into six states because fuck poor people and farmers. I mean, have you seen their “Come to California” commercials, in which a bunch of famous, rich people tell you how awesome it is to be them? What they neglect to tell you is you should come if you don’t mind multiple annual wildfires, six of the top ten smoggiest cities in the country, the worst drought since the state starting keeping records, earthquakes, an unemployment rate consistently higher than the national average, and Raiders fans. On the plus side, at least they’re not Texas.

Remember when we were kids and we believed that a big enough earthquake would cause California to break off and sink into the ocean? San Andreas debunks that myth by showing us a bunch of shit that is even less likely to happen when the big one finally strikes. Either way, we get to see those people mentioned above die in a movie that can only be described as pure disaster porn. Yes – porn. Think about it for a moment. Traditional porn is watched purely for the visual pleasure with zero expectation of including anything that could be described as plot or worthwhile dialogue. Trade sex for cities being destroyed and Bang Andrea becomes San Andreas. Now, you might be asking why I would bother reviewing San Andreas when I have explicitly stated in the past that I would not review porn. The answer is because this particular porn cost $100 million and is being released in thousands of theaters across the country. If Bang Andrea were doing the same, I’d review it too.

(This movie was moronic, so of course I’m going to provide ample SPOILERS.)

Two minutes into the movie, I knew it was going to be worse than my expectations of SyFy flick, with better special effects. The film starts with a girl trapped in her car while dangling from the side of a crack in the Earth after a rockslide pushed her there. The special effects in this scene were so poorly rendered that I did the first of many forehead slaps throughout the film (the special effects in this film were inconsistent at best, with bad scenes like this contrasted with great scenes of buildings collapsing). Imagine a car flipping down a mountainside and the mountain is a giant magnet, so the car never breaks contact with the mountain. And that was one of the better portrayals of science/physics during the film (I’ll get to those in a moment). The scene gets even more ridiculous when our hero, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), shows up in his helicopter to save her, says “I’m going to flip the hat” – whatever the fuck that means – then maneuvers the helicopter into the crack, endangering his crew and the reporter and cameraman also present in the chopper. I realize that this is fairly standard fare for this type of movie, but can someone please explain to me why he doesn’t just lower one of his crew on a rope, since that’s what he ends up doing anyway? That’s how this brain-damaged movie started.

Following that scene, we are introduced to the rest of the cast, as well as treated to the standard disaster movie faux-science scene. You know what I’m talking about – these movies always start with some scientist saying something that only the scientifically-challenged would believe. Armageddon gave us the firecracker-in-the-closed-hand idea, 2012 gave us the underground neutron detection well, and in San Andreas, Lawrence (Giamatti) and colleagues go to the Hoover Dam to test their earthquake predictor that measures magnetic pulses. I actually don’t have a problem with these scenes, but they deserve to be ridiculed and called out because there are people out there that actually believe this shit (hell, some of them are in Congress).

The movie continues by establishing where people are going to be when the shit hits the fan. Ray and his future ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), are in Los Angeles and their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), is in San Francisco with Emma’s boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). The entire rest of the plot is Ray trying to rescue Emma and Blake so let’s talk about these characters.

Ray is easily the worst character in the movie, despite what we are supposed to believe. That opening scene establishes him as the commander of the L.A. Fire Department’s rescue team and that he was responsible for saving hundreds of lives as a rescue soldier in Afghanistan. So, when he is called in to help with rescue efforts after the quakes start, what does he do? He ditches his job to rescue his wife, then abandons the city to rescue his daughter, even though his daughter will call him to tell him that a couple of British boys saved her already. But, that doesn’t stop him from continuing on. And, because the writers were incredibly lazy (or just really bad), the rest of his rescue team is inexplicably missing for the duration of the film because it would have been hard for him to convince them this was the right thing to do.

Next, we have Emma. Her entire purpose is to instigate conversations that only ex-wives in disaster movies ever start. Conversations like “why did our marriage break up” or “why won’t you open up with me?” Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a role reversal there and when Ray tries to talk about their marriage she tells him to shut up and focus because the world is literally cracking apart?

Then, we have Daniel, who is supposed to be a villain, but kind of pales in comparison to the Earthquakes that are killing everybody. We’re supposed to hate this guy because he’s rich and dating Emma, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy that just wants to build buildings. When the initial San Francisco quake occurs, he and Blake crash in a parking garage and Blake is stuck in the car. He runs to get help and is almost crushed by chunks of falling concrete. As he lies on the floor staring at his crushed shoe, it’s obvious that he goes into shock. He gets up and leaves, forgetting all about Blake. Again, we’re supposed to hate the guy simply because he goes into shock and leaves Blake, but we’re supposed to like Ray even though he abandoned his job and millions of potential rescue victims. Um, no. Of course, Daniel is going to die, but it’s really hard to cheer for that for two reasons – (1) because of what I just said and (2) he’s standing on the Golden Gate bridge surrounded by hundreds of people when a container ship crashes down on top of them. Only a sadist would be happy he died and not worry about everyone around him.

Finally, we have Blake, the standard damsel in distress. Her character is confusing, as one moment she needs rescuing, and the next moment she is doling out survival advice. Of course, you’ll forget all that when the movie decides to act more like a porn by having her strip off her jacket and outer tank top, dump water on her, then have her swim around so you can see as much cleavage as possible. And since Daddario is 29 years old, it’s not gross that I ended up staring at her spectacular breasts for the last ten minutes of the film (though it might be gross that I used the word spectacular).

Because disaster movies are always trying to one-up the last disaster movie, this movie had to destroy two cities instead of just one and include a tsunami in addition to the multiple earthquakes. Much like a porn, at a certain point during the movie you start to get bored. Raise your hand if you’ve ever watched a porn flick all the way through? Unless you are the horniest male teenager on the planet, you’re good after two sex scenes at most. That boredom led me to think the following things during the latter half of San Andreas:

• How did a tsunami destroy San Francisco, or even form at all, if the quake’s epicenter was twenty miles east of L.A.?
• I bet they aren’t concerned about the drought any more.
• How long will it take Ray to travel the 300+ miles by helicopter from L.A. to S.F. in an old Huey?
o (As it turns out, the answer is never. It’s 337 miles by air and the Huey he’s flying has a range of 285 miles. Good job writers.)
• Unless the Earth splits in half, there is no way that people on the East Coast are going to feel an earthquake on the West Coast, regardless of strength.
• Why is nobody in this movie bleeding?
• Man, those are some nice boobies.

After all of that, I was still mildly enjoying myself because I knew going in the movie was porn. It has plenty of disaster and even manages to squeeze in a porny joke (it’s literally the only joke in the entire film) in which Ray parachutes Emma and himself into AT&T Park (the Giants ballpark – don’t ask) and says “It’s been awhile since I got you to second base.” Again, that’s why I was there. But the end of this movie did something so bad that the forehead slap nearly knocked me unconscious. As Ray and family stood on a hill overlooking the carnage, Emma asked “what do we do now?” Ray (and the entire audience) responded with “We rebuild” and a giant American flag unfurled from the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge. Seriously, fuck ‘em.

(P.S. – Despite how it sounds, I don’t actually hate all Californians. I know and love several of them. Hi, Cheryl!)

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back unless you’ve ever returned a porno to the adult movie shop. Again, you know what you are getting and you deserve it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

“Tomorrowland” – Full steam ahead.

If there’s one thing we can agree on about Disney movies it’s that subtlety is not one of their strong suits. After watching Tomorrowland, it’s safe to say that tradition continues as the message is delivered with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. Incidentally, this movie is also calling the vast majority of humans blockheads with its Hugh Laurie-delivered message – “we’ve warned you about the iceberg, but instead of avoiding it, you steer right into it.” What is he talking about, you ask? Climate change, among other things, but let’s start at the beginning.

If there’s one thing we can agree on about Disney, it’s the overarching idea of hope embedded in every Disney story and property. The concept of never losing hope isn’t unique to Disney, but not even the United States has been able to brand and market it as well as Disney (though twelve million immigrants might disagree with me on that). In case you are one of the six people who have never visited Disneyland, Tomorrowland is an area of Disneyland in which young children are scared shitless by riding Space Mountain. It’s also the area decrying that the future can be whatever you can imagine it to be (Disneyland literally refers to its designers as Imagineers); all you have to do is try. As great a message as that is for young people, life beat it out of their now-cynical parents long ago as those same parents simply wonder “how long is this line, anyway?”

(Some SPOILERS ahead and remember to keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.)

Tomorrowland attempts to bring meaning back to that message by applying it to a real problem – that the human race is actively trying to murder itself in many different ways. The film begins with Frank Walker (George Clooney) and a steampunk, digital countdown clock telling the camera a story while being interrupted by an eager, female voice arguing with him about how to tell the story. Frank starts over and we are taken back to the 1964 World’s Fair, where a very young Frank is showing his invention – a jetpack – to a judge (Hugh Laurie) at an invention competition. A young, freckled girl with eyes the size dinner plates who looks like she popped out of an animated Disney flick, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), takes an interest in Frank and in defiance of the judge, sneaks a special button to Frank and tells him to get on the boat leading to It’s a Small World. You read that correctly – the It’s a Small World ride ridiculed by every human since 1965.

(Note: my movie buddy swore that It’s a Small World was not at that particular fair, but a little research confirmed that it was indeed there and moved to Disneyland following the Fair. What I love about the inclusion of this factoid is that it highlights what people found fun in 1964, as it was one of the most heavily visited exhibits at the Fair.)

While inside the ride, a laser scans the button and Frank is whisked off to Tomorrowland, where a robot fixes his jetpack, Frank briefly experiences what being a cartoon in freefall feels like (while falling, he performs a bunch of silly actions and sightseeing), and comes to rest in front of that same British judge who turns out to be the governor of Tomorrowland, Governor Nix. Rather than letting us explore Tomorrowland with Frank, the film skips ahead fifty years and back to Earth, where we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), our main character (surprise! You thought it was Clooney, didn’t you?). Like Frank, Casey has a brilliant mind, and, like Frank, receives a special button from Athena. Except, Casey doesn’t know she has the button until after she is arrested for sabotaging equipment used to deconstruct a rocket launching pad at Cape Canaveral. You see, Casey has dreams of outer space and believes that if she stops the deconstruction, the government will magically fire Ted Cruz as head of the Congressional Science Committee (and from life in general) and NASA will start launching rockets with actual people on them again to places beyond low Earth orbit. For the record, I’d have those same beliefs if I wasn’t still stuck in line for the Dumbo ride.

When Casey touches the pin, she gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland and decides she simply has to get there. The entire middle of this film is Casey being chased by killer androids (another fun homage to Disney’s vaunted animatronics), Disney marketing its merchandising – including an entire store filled with Star Wars junk that, curiously, is missing a poster promoting Episode VII, to be released December, 2015 – and Athena hiyah-ing some of the killer androids. During that chase, we get a short reprieve when Casey winds up at Frank’s house and Frank tells her that he was kicked out of Tomorrowland for inventing a way to see the future. When Disney says “anything you can imagine” they aren’t effing kidding.

Before revealing what’s at stake, the androids interrupt and we learn that Frank’s house was booby-trapped better than McCauley Caulkin’s house in Home Alone. By this time, you might have noticed that we have spent very little time actually in Tomorrowland and when they actually get to Tomorrowland, it’s falling apart. As it turns out, Frank’s crystal ball revealed there was a 100% chance that humans were going to annihilate themselves sometime in the year 2015, by one of any number of methods – nuclear war, mass flooding, earthquakes, drought, disease, global warming, etc. In a classic villain monologue, Nix explains that they thought they could change the future by beaming images of the apocalypse directly into people’s brains so they would change their ways and save themselves, but, well, I already gave you his Titanic analogy. Thus, we arrive at the not-so-subtle message this movie is trying to deliver – “HEY!! All you numbskull climate-change deniers, war-hawks, anti-vaxxers, and eco-terrorists. Quit being part of the fucking problem! Just sit over there, shut up, and let the rational people work and maybe we can undo this huge mess you’ve made!” Or something like that.

Setting aside the politics for a moment, I found the ten year-old boy in me enjoying the movie and the actors. The film is light-hearted and upbeat and the kind of adventure I loved watching when I was young. Clooney nails the crotchety old man and his comedic timing is as good as ever. Laurie makes for a perfect cartoon villain; channeling a little Dr. House into the role. Robertson attacks her role with the enthusiasm of an entire troop of Mouseketeers and proves she’s much better than her less-than-stellarly-written Under the Dome character. Cassidy steals the spotlight, somehow pulling off her role without it coming across as overly absurd. If this movie has one flaw, it’s that it spends so little time in Tomorrowland that you wonder if the Imagineers were daydreaming a little too much when they wrote the script.

Like I said, the message in this movie is really one of eternal hope. Disney is all but begging us not to give up hope that we can overcome the people who refuse to believe (or don’t care) we’re heading for that iceberg. They even stoop to making sure that the audience knows it’s not just the scientific geniuses, but the ballet dancers and construction workers, among others, that are just as able to imagine solutions as the engineers and physicists, among others (keeping my mouth shut). And you know what? I’m okay with this. As the movie itself points out, we need wild optimism to combat a situation that gets more hopeless by the day so we can make it through a line that never seems to move.

Rating: Staunch, climate change-denying, right-wing conservatives will want their money back, but rational people will know their money was well spent.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

“Mad Max: Fury Road” – Chase me. Just chase me.

In the time since The Avengers: Age of Ultron released in theaters, I’ve seen more and more reviews criticizing it for not having enough character development or being a standalone movie, despite it being the tenth movie (not counting Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in a franchise that started just seven years ago; a franchise that has spent entire movies developing the main characters. For the life of me, I do not understand what their real complaint about the movie is (you can read why in my own review here), but it makes for a great “first-world problems” joke. Going into Mad Max: Fury Road, I wondered if it would be hypocritical to bash Fury Road if it also ignored character building. After all, it’s the fourth movie in a franchise, so we should already know who Max is and what motivates him, right? One small problem – Fury Road is releasing a full thirty years after the last Mad Max flick (Beyond Thunderdome), so expecting viewers under the age of forty to remember anything about Max is the height of arrogance.

I’m sure you’re now wondering if I remember anything about Max and I can tell you with a straight face – Max is that guy who was in Braveheart. For the record, I do know that guy’s name is Mel Gibson and I do know that Tina Turner was in Thunderdome, but that’s all I remember. I’m pretty sure I’ve never even seen Mad Max or The Road Warrior (and if I have, I’ve completely forgotten them), but I have been to the Australian dunes where they filmed parts of those movies – does that count? So, Fury Road probably should have some sort of reintroduction to Max and maybe a quick explanation as to why he’s so mad. I’m not going to keep you in suspense – it doesn’t. Not even a little bit.

The movie opens with stock footage of nuclear blasts and Max narrating the Cliff’s notes version of why the world is a giant wasteland. Actually, what we get are the Cliff’s notes version of the Cliff’s notes which mentions nuclear skirmishes and energy shortages. How this leads to a desert planet, two-headed lizards, and mutated albinos is anyone’s guess since nuclear skirmishes doesn’t sound any worse than the nuclear testing that went on for decades. The tests didn’t cause two-headed amphibians or the planet Tatooine, so why use the word “skirmishes”? Yes, I’m already thinking too hard about this movie, so let me start over (also, major SPOILERS coming).

The film opens with Max (Tom Hardy) looking out over a cliff and eating one of the afore-mentioned lizards. Suddenly, he jumps into his car, is chased for a moment, blown up, and captured by the afore-mentioned albinos. The screen goes dark and opens again with Max having his blood type tattooed on his back, escaping, and being chased some more until he is recaptured. If you are counting, that’s two chase scenes in five minutes and no character development and is simply the prologue foreshadowing the chas-iest movie since, well, The Chase. The next scene introduces us to the actual hero of the movie – yes, you read that right – Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and the villain, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In fact, I don’t know why Max is in this movie at all other than for marketing purposes. Like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (as was pointed out on The Big Bang Theory), Max does not matter to the plot at all. If he were removed from the film, everything would still happen the same way. Of course, people might notice if Max isn’t a movie titled Mad Max, so we have to live with a movie whose titular character is literally only along for the ride.

Anyway, Furiosa is the driver of a fuel truck and Joe has commanded that she go fill up the truck with gas. While en route, Furiosa turns off the road, much to the confusion of everyone else with her. We quickly find out, as does Joe, that Furiosa has made off with five of Joe’s breeding wives in an attempt to free them and escape to Furiosa’s home land, referred to as the green land. The entire remaining running time (110 of 120 minutes) is devoted to one, big, long, loud, explosive car chase. That is not an exaggeration – with the exception of maybe two minutes of exposition scattered throughout, the rest of the movie is Joe’s army chasing Furiosa through the wasteland. Yes, that means the entire rest of the movie takes place on a moving semi-truck and the three acts are: 35-minute chase scene with lots of explosions and yelling, 40-minute chase scene with fewer explosions and actual dialogue between characters, 35-minute chase with lots of explosions and yelling. If car chases and explosions are your thing, you will orgasm more during this film than a teenage boy who cracked the parental control password on his parents’ laptop.

Given that the story is as thin as outhouse toilet paper, it’s not surprising that the characters are so shallow they’re practically transparent. While Furiosa is at least given a motivation (however weak it may be) for her actions, the only thing we ever learn about her is that she was born in the green place and stolen as a child. There is no explanation whatsoever as to her position in Joe’s hierarchy or why she is the only female not pumping out babies, being milked like a cow (one of the more disturbing scenes in the film, but also genius on the part of Joe, given the situation), or starving to death in the sand. And she’s by far the most developed character in the film.

Joe is supposed to be this terrible, horrible warlord, yet all we know about him is he wears plastic armor, breathes through a scary mask, drilled wells to acquire water which he shares with the people, grows food in a cavern, milks women, and leads the town. Considering the people in this town seemingly do nothing but sleep under sand, it’s really difficult to consider this guy evil rather than just pragmatic. Okay, so maybe he spends a little too much time outfitting his nightmare cars, but that just means he spends less time defiling his wives. Though, by all appearances, those five wives are treated immaculately outside of whatever has to happen for Joe to mount them. You know what – don’t think about that.

Of the secondary characters – besides Max and the five wives – only Nux (Nicholas Holt) is more than just a future flying/decapitated/shredded/crushed body. Nux is one of Joe’s soldiers, is connected to Max via a blood transfusion tube, and lives only to die for Joe and go to Valhalla (none of that is made up). After spending the first half of the movie trying to catch Furiosa, Nux has a change of heart when the red-headed wife looks at him and spends the latter half of the movie helping Furiosa. That’s as far as his development goes and his change is confusing given how fanatical he was to please Joe. If you only learn one thing from this movie it’s that a man will forsake heaven for a piece of ass.

I’d like to tell you that the wives are interesting, but we don’t even know their names and we know they have names because they are listed in the credits (and they are far more absurd than every other name in this movie). The only thing you will want to know about them is why they are so ridiculously hot when every other female in the town is either three hundred pounds, a shriveling husk of bones, or a one-armed Furiosa. One of the old women in Furiosa’s home actually asks how they can be so perfect, but director/writer George Miller was only interested in playing with cars rather than fleshing out characters, so we’re left caring about them simply because they are women and are hot.

Finally, we come back to Max, who exists in this film solely as a blood bag. As I said, thirty years is far too much time to expect people to remember details about a character from a movie that is more cult classic than main stream, so a little character development is a necessity. After his recapture, Max spends the entire first act of the film dangling from the ceiling, then strapped to the front of Nux’s car. In the second and third acts, he is driving the war rig and occasionally shooting at or blowing up people. I’m not sure he has more than ten lines in the entire film – half of which are just grunts – and the closest thing we get to a back story is random hallucinations of a woman and child every now and then. If you haven’t seen the previous films or read up on the material, you wouldn’t know they are his dead family. And, even if you did know, the hallucinations still don’t make sense to anything happening in Fury Road.

I want to make it clear that I understand that this movie is not a thinker (regardless as to what many reviewers would have you believe) and exists solely to justify its set pieces. I could accept the incredibly simple plot if it weren’t for one glaringly obvious plot hole – if the five wives were so valuable, how was Furiosa able to get them out in the first place? And we know they’re valuable because (1) Joe sends his entire army after them and (2) his brother/accountant will verbally list off all of the assets they’ve lost (during the second act) and will remark “all this over a family squabble.” Incidentally, the bad guy expending all of his resources for a MacGuffin is my least favorite trope, but this movie calls itself out on it and not in an ironic, wink-wink kind of way (like how Hawkeye does in Age of Ultron when he says how crazy it is that he fights with a bow and arrow).

One last thing – several reviewers are chalking up Fury Road as a win for feminism, which makes me sad for the feminists who are fighting for real things like income equality or paid maternity leave. Anyone who believes Fury Road is a forward step for feminism simply because it has a strong female central character is either delusional or so desperate for progress that they’d overlook the overt masculinity of Fury Road in order to feel like they aren’t wasting their time. In addition to what I’ve already pointed out about Furiosa and the wives (not to mention the milking), Furiosa gives control of the rig to Max after the first act, her mission is saved by a self-sacrificing Nux, her life is saved by Max giving her a blood transfusion, Furiosa’s entire family/clan (all female) are killed during the climax, the pregnant wife of the five wives and her son are killed, and there are enough phallic symbols throughout the movie to raise Sigmund Freud from the dead. Hell, Furiosa’s war rig is shaped like a giant penis complete with testicles (a trailing fuel pod, so I guess that’s testicle singular) that she rides through the entire movie to safety. Nothing says feminism like being protected by two men and a giant rolling dick while being chased by a bunch of men driving cars bristling with dicks.

Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back. A two-hour long, bombastic, relentless chase scene is the kind of thing you rent from Redbox, not buy at a theater.

Friday, May 8, 2015

“Hot Pursuit” – Funny, but forgettable.

Now that The Avengers: Age of Ultron is in the past, I can get back to reviewing smaller movies and, more importantly, movies that don’t explode every five minutes. HAHA! I didn’t buy that either. This week is really just a breather – or bye week for you football fans – to catch our breath as we prepare for next week’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Chances are good that if you’re going to a movie this weekend it’s because you didn’t see Age of Ultron last week and your friends won’t leave you alone about it. But, as funny as it would be to write another review of Age of Ultron and post that, I went with a new release that is sure to be ignored or forgotten in favor of snarky androids – Hot Pursuit.

If you’ve heard of Hot Pursuit at all, it’s because you are a movie junky like me or are addicted to trailers. This is a movie that should have been released at least three years ago, when its actresses were at a higher comedic value. If you asked me to name Reese Witherspoon’s last comedy without using IMDB, I’d guess Sweet Home Alabama – and her latest movie, Wild, wasn’t exactly a tummy tickler. Conversely, Sofia Vergara is still a current comedy name due to Modern Family, but that show’s peak has long since passed. However, I did have hopes of actually laughing during this movie for a couple of reasons – (1) there’s a funny bit in the trailer where Vergara refers to Witherspoon’s underwear as a diaper, and (2) nobody in the cast was named Wiig or McCarthy.

In Hot Pursuit, Witherspoon plays Texas police officer Cooper – a second generation cop in whose traits include reciting police radio codes, speaking in a lousy Texas accent, playing everything strictly by the book, and setting people on fire with her Taser. In case you are counting, only one of those things is actually funny and is the reason Cooper’s coworkers refer to bonehead mistakes as “pulling a cooper.” Incidentally, the writers forgot to use this little nugget for any comedy, save one extremely predictable instance in the climax. Due to the eponymous “Cooper,” Cooper is relegated to station equipment custodian and joke punchline, but is given a chance at redemption when she is assigned as partner to a US Marshal to escort a witness to Dallas to testify at a drug lord’s trial. Daniella Riva (Vergara) is married to that witness and while they are waiting for Daniella to finish packing, two gunmen break into the house to kill her and her husband. During the firefight, two more gunmen break in and nothing funny happens. At this point, I had no idea if this movie was supposed to be a comedy (as promised) or just a straight action romp with a couple of jokes sprinkled in. The one thing I did know for sure was that Witherspoon’s accent was terrible.

After the Marshal and the witness are killed, Cooper escapes with Daniella and the main plot of the movie kicks in – get your ass to Mars. Oops, wrong movie. I meant get the witness to Dallas. The rest of the film is standard chase movie, which I won’t bore you with, but it was also the point in the movie where the comedy starts to kick in.

Even though the writers missed golden opportunities early, they capitalized on a few things, none more so than Vergara’s Guatemala-ness. Damn, did it again. I mean Colombian-ness. Vergara’s timing is spot-on, and the writing uses her accent to set up and punctuate many of the best jokes in the film. Witherspoon, while seeming a bit rusty at times, pulls off a couple of good scenes, most notably the old accidentally-snorted-cocaine gag. On that note, anyone who claims this movie is fresh is someone who has seen exactly no comedies in their life. You’ll recognize several recycled gags, including the shooting-off-a-body-part gag, the bathroom-window-escape gag, and the hand-cuffed-to-each-other gag, among many others. But that’s okay, because the gags are executed well enough to elicit laughter in lieu of eye-rolling.

That’s not to say all of the jokes in the film are recycled. There are two bits in particular that made me laugh harder than I dared hope (and, no, this isn’t a SPOILER because both of them are showed in the previews):
1. Another escape gag, this time using a deer decoy and made funny by the two women arguing about what sound a deer makes and making those sounds.
2. A gag in which every subsequent newscast throughout the film, in which the two women are being described, gave Cooper a shorter height and Daniella an older age. I’ve always liked goofy, subtle humor like that because it takes actual thought, while toilet humor (which also occurs in this movie) does not.

As decent as the comedy was, the story itself left plenty to be desired, as it was also very much recycled. All of the reveals were far too predictable and the one during the climax was also unnecessary. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was bad, but reveals only work if they are unexpected and used as plot turning points. What’s more is that the movie fairly openly hates men by portraying all of the male characters as slimy or dumb or skittish around “strong women.” They even sink to gags with lesbianism and menstruation to trick some of the men. For the record, I have no idea if the writer(s) or director is a woman (I’m writing this review while sitting on airplane), so I can assure that this isn’t me (a man) just claiming reverse sexism. This is me (a man) claiming that it torpedoes the movie by reminding the viewer that the two leads have vaginas.

So, while we all wait for the next highly anticipated movie to release in Mad Max, I can tell you that Hot Pursuit is in fact “a movie” released “in theaters” and not just something I made up to pass the time until Mad Max. You could definitely do worse than Hot Pursuit and I think Cooper said it best when she said “we show you the funny.” No, wait – that’s Super Troopers. I told you Hot Pursuit was forgettable.

Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back because I know you actually watched Age of Ultron again (ask for three dollars back if you really did sit through Hot Pursuit).