Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” – Oh, dear god.

Imagine if Jupiter Ascending and John Carter had a baby. Then, imagine if they used that baby as the ball in a game of kickball. Finally, imagine the two star players of the game had all the chemistry, charisma, and playing skills of the goose poop scattered on the field. That is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Rating: Ask for extra money back on top of the money you spent for this film. I continue to underestimate Luc Besson’s ability to deliver worse crap than his previous crap.

Special Ruthless Ratings:

Number of times you thought how terrible was the title: 12
Number of minutes into the movie before Cara Delevingne puts on shirt: 50
Number of times you realized her breasts were her only redeeming quality in this film: 49
How many times did Delevingne’s facial expression change? Negative-8
How old do you think Dane DeHaan is? 17
How old is he really? 31
How believable was the romantic relationship between the leads? Wait, that was supposed to be romance?
How many times did you wish they would shut the hell up about their relationship? 29
How sexist was it that DeHaan’s character’s rank was major and Delevingne’s was just a sergeant? Very
Number of minutes of screen time for Rihanna: 5
Number of minutes Rihanna spends pole dancing: 4
Number of times Rihanna acts a scene out like she thinks she’s getting an Oscar nod: 1
Number of times you caught yourself falling asleep: 9

“Dunkirk” – The war-iest of war movies.

We’ve all seen what Christopher Nolan is capable of and it’s almost always been fantastic. We’re at a point now where “Directed by Christopher Nolan” is all that needs to be said to peak interest in a new movie. In other words, the opposite of “Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.” We’ve also come to expect a certain type of movie; one with a well-written and intriguing story featuring rich characters, dazzling visuals, and sounds/music that are almost a character unto themselves. When Dunkirk was announced and the first trailers dropped, our immediate reaction was “YAAAAAASSSSSS.” The thing is we haven’t seen a Nolan movie like this before.

For those of you who don’t have the slightest idea what Dunkirk refers to, stop reading now. You are the only people who will be surprised by the events depicted in this film. For the rest of you, Nolan dispenses with the rich characters and intriguing plot to focus on the final day (apparently) of the evacuation of the British Army at Dunkirk, France in June, 1940 during World War II. Don’t get me wrong, there are characters in this film, but none of them are developed to the point where you might care whether they live or die. And, the plot is just a telling of the event through the lens of a few anecdotes featuring some of those characters. But, like I said, that isn’t the point of this movie.

Here's the point of this movie.

The point of this movie was to put the audience on the beach with the hundreds of thousands of soldiers desperate to escape the oncoming German army, air force, and artillery (with Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, and Kenneth Branagh). The point of this movie was to put the audience into the seat of a British Spitfire fighter plane (with Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden), dogfighting with German Luftwaffe. The point of this movie was to put the audience on a civilian boat (with Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Cillian Murphy, and Barry Keoghan) making its way to Dunkirk to help rescue the soldiers. And that is exactly where you, the audience, feel like you are.

If you intend on seeing this film, see it in IMAX or you will miss out on the full experience. The movie was filmed with IMAX cameras in order to take full advantage of the technology and make you suspend your disbelief that you are sitting in a theater in 2017 and not a French beach in 1940. Nolan and his visual team also filmed as many practical effects as possible, to the point in which (according to Nolan), there is no scene in the movie that is pure CGI. Yes, that includes flying actual Spitfires (or replicas) and, in some cases, crashing them.

You should also sit in the back row near the speakers (which is where I was sat for the screening). The sound and music (by Hans Zimmer) were amazing and our place in the theater was literally vibrating in tune with the movie. It might very well be that everyone in the theater felt that as well, but I’ve seen a lot of IMAX movies and it’s the first time I felt like the music was literally moving me. There’s also a ticking clock underscoring the music throughout nearly the entire film, which heightens the tension in the film. The genius of the ticking is that there are stretches where you can’t hear it, but you know it’s still there. And when it finally stops, it’s almost deafening in its silence. Yeah, I’m totally geeking out over it.

I don't remember his name, but he's a hell of a pilot.

Speaking of tension, book a massage for after the film. Even if you are familiar with the event, you can’t help but clench every muscle during the film. Even though you won’t be emotionally connected to the characters, you are expecting them to eat it at any moment, which makes the film that much more tense. Do not buy food or drink because you will forget you have those things.

The bottom line is Dunkirk is an excellent film from an extraordinary filmmaker. Dunkirk shows us the height of technical filmmaking while delivering a harrowing experience for audience members, regardless of how historically literate one might be. You would be forgiven for expecting something closer to Saving Private Ryan or Titanic, but embrace the fact that you are getting an extremely well-funded history lesson that will make you duck and cover in what may be the best, pure war movie you have ever seen.

Rating: Worth triple what you paid for it, especially for the IMAX surcharge.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

“Wish Upon” – Kind of some obvious wishes did not get made.

Sometimes, you have to be in the right mood to enjoy a movie, especially a bad one. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to a podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno and it is arguably the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. I’ve seriously considered not listening to it during my daily drive to work because it’s put me in tears more than once and that makes it hard to see the road. Point being, I was in a very good mood the day of the screening for Wish Upon and it was a very good thing that I was in such a good mood. In other words - it was definitely a Movie for Me.

Another thing that helps a person enjoy a movie is seeing it with a good audience. I’ve sat with some terrible audiences for bad movies and it made me hate the movie that much more when I should have at least been enjoying it for the terrible shit that it was. A year later and I still have dreams about pushing some Ghostbusters audience members off a bridge. Not a tall bridge, but tall enough to make them think long and hard about what they did.

Anyway, the audience for Wish Upon was great for a couple of reasons. First, they reacted appropriately throughout the movie. There were no idiots screaming in fear at a movie that was in no way, shape, or form scary. Instead, everyone was laughing at the copious amounts of humor, both intentional and unintentional (it’s really hard to say how much was intended). Second, people were chatty. Usually, chattiness isn’t a good thing in a theater, but some movies practically demand it. Bad Moms was far funnier if you saw it with a theater full of buzzed moms drinking wine and heckling the movie. Similarly, Wish Upon is much more fun with people murmuring during the death count downs (I’ll explain in a moment) and audibly cringing in anticipation at the novelty death about to occur. I mean, how else are you going to have fun at a horror movie that didn’t even have the decency to be rated-R?

Here comes the novelty death.

(Note: at 10pm Mountain Time on Wednesday, July 12, there are zero reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes for Wish Upon. Not a good sign for a movie that opens on July 14. Also, SPOILER ALERT. I am going to talk about the final wish in this movie.)

The entire premise of Wish Upon is Aladdin’s lamp, but with seven wishes instead of three. Also, the lamp is actually a music box covered in ancient Chinese writing that only opens when it’s time for someone to die and the genie is an ancient demon that you never get to see (unless you count the carving on the inside of the lid). Roughly halfway through the movie, we get the complete rule set when convenient-character-fluent-in-ancient-Chinese shows up to translate. She’s cool though because she accepts payment in the form of wontons (I did not make that up). The rules are that each wish is paid for in blood (translation: someone dies), the wisher pays with their own life after the seventh wish, and if the wisher ignores, neglects or abandons the box, all their previous wishes are undone (though, neglect and ignore are quite the subjective terms. How long before it’s considered either of those things?). Please take note that there are no restrictions on what can be wished for (or wonton girl missed some lines), which is important when it comes to defeating the rules.

Hello, conveniently-skilled girl.

Typically, the arc of a movie such as this would go - person discovers power, person uses power to get what they want, everything is cool for a while, things start to go horribly wrong for person, person tries to undo or destroy power, person lives or dies after a whole lot of carnage, end of movie. Wish Upon tweaks that formula into something kind of fresh - person unknowingly uses power to get she wants, a death occurs, person unknowingly uses power to get what she wants, a death occurs, lather, rinse, repeat. In fact, our wisher, Clare (Joey King) doesn’t seem to know about the power until at least her third wish, if not fourth. I really liked that she didn’t get to spend a bunch time living it up on multiple wishes before the inevitable crash. It’s like if on the Price is Right, the models swung a baseball bat at your prizes thirty seconds after you won them.

I also like that the demon never manifests itself into something tangible. The music box was the one genuinely creepy thing in the film and showing us the actual demon responsible for it would have been a travesty and cheapened the movie (admittedly, it’s a pretty cheap movie to begin with). Most importantly, it would have changed the solution to the problem to defeating the demon instead of the much more satisfying solution we actually got in the form of an idiot teenager trying to wish her way out of being responsible for six deaths.

Where is this high school?

Speaking of which, I’m not sure if the seventh wish was moronic screenwriting or just avoiding writing something clever. Remember, after the seventh wish, the wisher dies (and Clare is well aware of this), but before that, Clare has to face the fact that she’s a murderer. The obvious solution to both problems is “I wish I never made any wishes.” Or “I wish this music box never existed.” Or “I wish that wishes on this box never resulted in dead people or anything bad happening.” Wouldn’t it have been interesting to see how that wish played out? Instead, Clare uses her last wish to go back in time to just before her dad finds the box. Really? It wouldn’t have been so bad if Clare hadn’t verbalized “I know what to wish for now” after watching the sixth person die. No, you don’t, Clare.

Like I said, this was a Movie for Me. The dialogue is mostly bad and the acting is worse than the dialogue. This includes Ryan Phillipe (playing Clare’s dad), who appears to have forgotten how to act even though his character is 90% hobo, and a thirty-year old Ki Hong Lee failing at playing a teenager (Clare’s friend Ryan). Then, there’s the rest of the story, which is riddled with inconsistencies, bad high school clichés (seriously, I want to visit the school where ass holes fling full drinks at people in plain view of everyone), and a muddled rule set that includes killing random people rather than tying them to the wishes somehow (big miss there, writers). But the film makes up for these deficiencies with the things I mentioned above, plus some hilarious novelty deaths and a Jerry O’Connell cameo that is the pinnacle of unintentional comedy. In the end, I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome from watching this movie.

Rating: Ask for five dollars back because no audience will make this movie worth full price.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” – Now we can argue about the best Spider-Man actor.

Do you realize it’s been thirteen years since the last good Spider-Man film? Spider-Man 2 was the last good one and Andrew Garfield was not better than Tobey Maguire. Yeah, I said it. The Amazing Spider-Man was bland and Garfield’s portrayal was mediocre and not sympathetic. Maguire was perfectly cast and performed brilliantly. Just because Spider-Man 3 was the equivalent of a clogged toilet doesn’t mean Maguire was a lesser Spider-Man. Also, the two Garfield movies were directed by a guy named Webb, which just begs whatever movie gods exist to screw with those films (and they did). The good news is that streak won’t continue to fourteen years.

After the debacle of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony worked out an agreement with Marvel Studios to have Marvel produce this film (according to some reports, maybe even a trilogy) and Sony would distribute. This needed to happen, not just because of how far in the gutter the Spidey franchise sank, but also because of the turd sandwich disguised as Fantastic Four and the atrocious insult to humanity that was the Ghostbusters remake. Spider-Man needed rescuing and Kevin Feige was there with the Marvel life preserver.

Tobey was just so good.

(SPOILERS, but I’ll keep it to a very minimum.)

The obvious place to start with the gushing over this film is not the story, but the casting. One of the funniest complaints about Tobey Maguire was that he didn’t look like a high schooler, but that’s not really true. Yeah, he was mid-twenties when they filmed the first Spider-Man, but he still looks like a high schooler now (at age 42). But, I will admit that Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) has Maguire beat and not just because Holland is only 21 now. Holland looks every bit the 15-year old he’s been cast as, if not a tall sixth grader. He also sounds like a mid-pubescent boy sounds, hitting high notes while speaking that my five-year old hits. Oh and he nails the hell out of the role in every aspect. He’s believable as a nerd, superhero, early high schooler, kid with a crush, and teenager who thinks he knows everything but doesn’t actually know jack. Exceptional find, casting people.

Then, there are the usual suspects - Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Ironman), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May), and Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes/Vulture). If ever you wanted to terrify a young actor into giving 110%, throw him on a stage with any of those four, especially Keaton and Downey. Assuming Holland was still in celebrity awe after his turn in Captain America: Civil War, he looked completely comfortable across from those two legends (as well as Favreau and Tomei). More so, it was great seeing an Aunt May who didn’t make you wonder if she was secretly hiding a Life Alert bracelet. No offense to Sally Field or Rosemary Harris, but a lively and energetic Aunt May was a huge breath of fresh air in this movie.

I know. I only hope I can be half the Spider-Man Tobey was.

While we’re breathing fresh air, there are two things noticeably and thankfully missing from this movie. The first is not having to relive Peter getting bit by a spider, then relive him discovering his powers. Instead, there’s a throw-away line during a conversation in which Peter simply tells his friend he was bit by a spider after his friend asks how he got super powers. Second is that we don’t have to watch Uncle Ben die again. Look Marvel nerds, I get it - Peter becomes a good guy to atone for Ben’s death. But we’ve seen it twice in the last fifteen years and, like the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, we don’t need to see it again.

And then there’s Keaton, which leads me to the actual plot of the film. I love that Keaton has reinvented himself as a villain, and I love that this movie grounded that villain into a pissed off salvage business owner. How nice is it that a superhero movie doesn’t feature another swirling cloud-beam of destruction or an intergalactic harbinger of doom? Toomes is just a guy trying to provide for his family after getting screwed out of the cleanup and salvage job he was awarded after the Battle of New York (from the first Avengers flick). Toomes, his gadget guy, and a crew of hard-cases steal pieces of Chitauri debris and turn them into weapons to be sold on the black market. Their paths cross with Spider-Man as Peter is trying to prove to Stark that he is ready to become a full-fledged Avenger and discovers the weapons when he thwarts a robbery. It’s so simple you almost can’t believe it came from Marvel.

(Side note: I’m not saying the plots of MCU movies are insanely complex or hard to follow, but they do have a lot going on. Look no further than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for examples of that.)

Now that's what I call Aunt May.

The other way in which you now this is a Marvel Studios flick is the perfectly blended mix of action, comic relief, and seriousness. You know, the opposite of all DCEU movies not named Wonder Woman (and really only the second act of WW). The script and dialogue nail every beat throughout the film, Ironman/Tony Stark is used sparingly and to perfect affect without overshadowing Spidey, there are not gratuitous slo-mos or stylization for the sake of director self-aggrandizement, and we get to watch Peter struggle the way every teenager struggles, which makes the whole movie more enjoyable and Peter that much more believable. They even manage to throw in some Captain America cameos that are beyond brilliant (including a post-credits scene). Seriously, when is Marvel going to fix the Fantastic Four?

I know a lot of people are praising Logan for its grittiness and anti-popcorn feel and Wonder Woman for somehow being really good despite being directed by a woman and starring a woman (seriously, it’s 2017 and we still have idiots marveling at women being as good at their jobs as men), but Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best superhero movie of the year (so far). Logan was too far on the depressing side, Wonder Woman still exhibited the worst of Zack Snyder, and let’s not forget about how much of a disappointment was Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. Spider-Man: Homecoming is about as perfect a summer blockbuster, superhero movie as is possible.

Rating: Worth more than you paid for it, and we can forever forget the last thirteen years.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

“Baby Driver” – Worst title ever?

In the context of the film, the title makes perfect sense. The main character is named Baby, he’s a getaway driver for heists, and he’s really young. In the context of wanting to sell more movie tickets, it’s maybe the worst title ever. When I first saw it on the advanced screening list, my immediate thought was “so, it’s a cartoon about a baby driving something? No thanks.” I didn’t give this film another thought for weeks until early reviews started to show up praising the film and using adjectives that would never be used for an animated movie for kids. In confusion, I looked up the summary and saw it was a heist movie with Kevin Spacey and thought “Cool. I’m in. Also, wow, is that a bad title.”

Like with Wonder Woman, the composite score from critics is in the nineties and, like with Wonder Woman, that score should not be taken at face value. Is Baby Driver a good movie? Yes, it is. Is it a great movie? No, it is not. The heaping piles of praise created a level of expectations that make it impossible not to be somewhat disappointed by the end of the film. And yes, both my friend and I were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, we liked the movie, but our mutual reaction was simply “huh.”

(If you plan on seeing this film, look away now because SPOILERS. In order for me to explain why this movie isn’t 97% percent awesome, I have to talk about a lot of what happens in the third act.)

Definitely some style points.

Baby Driver is a classic example of a movie whose style-to-substance ratio is way out of whack. It’s not that there was too much style, like you see in every Zack Snyder abomination. In fact, it was just about the right amount of style. The most obvious example is how director/writer Edgar Wright uses music in the film. Baby (Ansel Elgort) suffers from tinnitus (a ringing of the ears), so he listens to music almost the entire film, including during the heist planning sessions and the heists themselves. They are his rhythm and become the audience’s rhythm as well. They even become the rhythm at which guns are fired during shootouts. It’s very cool filmmaking. Wright also uses music in place of conversations, with Baby lip-syncing the lyrics to tell his foster dad, Joe (CJ Jones), about things (Joe is deaf, so lip-reading is a big thing in this flick). Yet, somehow Wright forgot to pick music more relevant to the actual story. Think about how Guardians of the Galaxy picked music that fit the scenes; Baby Driver picked music that just sounded cool or had the same name as one of the characters in it (after Debora literally talked about songs with their names in them). Baby also mixes his own music out of recorded conversations, yet these are never heard during the film aside from when he makes one early in the film and when Kevin Spacey plays one to find out what they are. Big miss in a movie so heavily covered in tunes.

The first act of this movie is nearly perfect. It starts off with a heist and shows us a lot of what we need to know about the characters and premise, most importantly Baby showing off his driving skills during the getaway. It’s only nearly perfect because the cop cars magically appear exactly where they need to be, appear in diamond formation at one point, and two red cars that just happen to look the same from above just happen to be driving right next to each other right as Baby is driving by. Okay, we’ll let those go as typical action movie clichés, but remember the typical part when you think about rating this movie.

Do cops practice this move?

After the heist, we meet Doc (Kevin Spacey), the kingpin of the crime ring. We also learn that Baby is only working for him to pay off a debt and has just one more job. Because it’s always just one more job. Anyway, we meet Joe for the first time, we meet Debora (Lily James) the love interest, and we meet the three members of the first crew - Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s girlfriend/wife Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal). We also learn that Doc never uses the same people for a crew except Baby, which is important to remember because the third job is made up completely of people he’s used before. In fact, the only change is Bats (Jamie Foxx) for Griff. You could explain this inconsistency away as he never uses the same crew (not people) twice, but that’s pretty weak. We’ll come back to Doc and his inconsistencies in a moment, but I do want to mention Griff.

After completing the heist, Griff is pissed off at Baby for reasons that defy any kind of logic and seem to revolve around trust. Baby just performed his job perfectly, they scored a pile of money, and this guy is just short of shooting Baby in the face…why? Even accepting some dudes are just assholes, it makes no sense for this guy to lose his shit after the successful robbery. Then, he finishes his rant up with “someday you’re going to have to get blood on your hands,” which is a weird thing to say because every heist needs a wheelman. I think the whole point of this was to set up the idea (unconfirmed) that Doc has Griff killed shortly thereafter, but the rant came out of nowhere and the timing was absurd. This brings us to Doc and the second act.

I never use the same crew twice, except when I do.

Doc is presented as a meticulous planner who has all of the angles covered and a ruthless boss who you do not cross. He’s also presented as a man of his word who almost immediately goes back on his word. After Baby completes the second heist (in the film), he’s paid off his debt and he walks away. About a week goes by and Doc shows up at Baby and Debora’s date and threatens Baby if he turns down driving in Doc’s next heist. This is literally Doc’s next job after Baby’s last heist. This is one of several missed opportunities in the movie, but again, a typical movie-crime-boss move. It would have been so much better if a couple of months had gone by (thus cementing Baby and Debora’s relationship, which jumps to “I love you” with almost no work to get there) and Doc had come back telling Baby he needed him because his new drivers had cost him jobs and crews, not just because he’s a typical movie crime boss.

There’s also the question of why Doc would hire loose cannons like Bats and Griff other than because the script called for loose cannons. The third (and final) heist involves robbing a post office (they’re stealing blank money orders) and the second act sets it all up. Bats, Buddy, and Darling must go to an arms dealer to purchase clean weapons and Bats ends up shooting the dealers because they are cops. When they return to Doc, he’s pissed and says he knows they were cops because he bought them. Alright, stop for a second. Bats is obviously a lunatic and Doc emphasizes it’s his business to know everything about his crews. Yet, Doc doesn’t know that one of his cops busted Bats years earlier, then fails to mention to any of the crew that the dealers are cops, especially the lunatic who leaves a trail of corpses wherever he goes? For such a details guy, Doc sure left a lot of easy things to chance there.


Finally, we get to the third act, which is almost a complete breakdown in storytelling. To start with, after the arms sale ended in a bloodbath, Doc wants to call off the job, but allows it to go on based on a vote. Really? I mean, really? We saw him casually reposition a body in the trunk of a car so the hatch would shut all the way and we’re supposed to believe he’d let Bats live, let alone greenlight a job based on democracy? No. Plus, here’s Baby’s out without having to betray anyone. Earlier, he slipped Debora a note to meet him at 2:00am that morning and they would drive away from all this. All he has to do is vote no on the heist and he’s golden. But then the movie would be over, so yay-vote it is.

After the heist goes way sideways, Buddy wants to kill Baby. Earlier in the film, there’s a great scene where Bats is harassing Baby and Buddy defends Baby after they swap wheelman stories. Based on that setup, you would expect the climax of the film to be Baby and Buddy in the best chase scene of the decade. However, the two simply end up smashing cars against each other in a parking garage. No, no, no, no. This is not what a 97% rated movie ends with, this is what Die Hard 8 ends with. To top it all off, Doc lets Baby go because Baby is in love. NO, NO, NO, NO. This is not how a heist movie ends, this is how a Disney princess movie ends.

I'm okay with you fucking me if it's for love. Wait, that didn't come out right.

In a nutshell, this movie is a typical, decent action-heist flick brought up a couple of pegs by style points. I haven’t the slightest idea why there is so much praise for this movie other than “not another goddamn Transformers movie.” I guess it makes sense if people really like Edgar Wright movies or Lily James in a sexy diner outfit, but you have to really squint to make that equal 97%. Now, I’m terrified of what I’ll think about Get Out and its 275/277 positive critics reviews.

Rating: Ask for two dollars back and a giant grain of salt.

Friday, June 30, 2017

“Despicable Me 3” – How to entertain children and adults at the same time.

As a kid of the eighties, Despicable Me 3 managed to remind me of how completely stupid was that entire decade. Stupid clothes, stupid trends, stupid catch phrases, and some really, really stupid music. Despicable Me 3 put those things back in the spotlight, simultaneously using them to propel a fun movie while ridiculing them at the same time. It was mah-velous. Get it? Anyone? Is this mic on?

(To be fair, this movie also featured some of the good music from the eighties, including Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson and Money for Nothing by the Dire Straits.)

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the movie; my kid loved it. I know this because, unlike during Cars 3, he didn’t ask if we could go home. He was laughing and eating Skittles and laughing some more. And he got both of us ready to see this film by insisting we watch the other three movies in the franchise over and over and over (and over) and he never got saturated. But don’t take my word for it, take it from him.

How the audience received the movie, regardless of age.

Was Despicable Me 3 better or worse than Cars 3?
It was better.

Was Despicable Me 3 funnier than Cars 3?

Why was it better and funnier?
Because of the minions.

Who is your favorite minion?

Which one is Bob?
A minion.

But what does he look like?
He’s not a really tall one. He can be one with one or eye or really small.

But what about Bob?
That’s what I said. I like Kevin because you’re Kevin.

What was your favorite character that wasn’t a minion?
Gru’s brother. The white guy.

What is Gru’s brother’s name?
It’s Dru. They rhyme because they look the same.

Why does Dru wear white?
Because Gru wanted the black one.

We also cannot believe the old 'twin brother' gag worked.

You also like the bad guy?

What’s the bad guy’s name?
The bubble gum guy? I don’t know what his name is.

Why is he the bubble gum guy?
Because he’s mean and he likes the bubble gum. He likes chewing bubble gum.

Does he use the bubble gum for anything?
He used the bubble gum and the laser in the middle of the city and used the laser in the middle of the city so it could fly away with his bubble gum.

Did you know all the stuff about him was from the 1980s?
*Screws up his face* Is he really the 1980s?

The way he dressed and the toys and the songs were all the 1980s.
I liked when he said “I’ve been a bad boy.” And then he did it over and over. “I’ve been a bad boy.” That’s all I liked about the movie.

Why didn’t anyone just pop the bubbles he used to make things fly away?
Umm. Lucy popped a bubble when she standed on them. She popped a bubble.

The bubble gum guy.

Do you think Gru’s daughters are funny? Do you like his daughters?
I liked when Agnes made Gru soup and it was gross.

What was your favorite song in the movie?
The rock and roll gun.

Was that the Dire Straits song? Money for Nothing?
Yes. The one you played for me that goes BRRRRMRRRRMRRRR. And it rock and rolls all the people’s clothes off.

Would you tell other people that they should go see Despicable Me 3?

Because it will be funny.

How many times do you want to watch the movie?

Rating: They should pay the whole money because the minions made an airplane and the seats out of toilets.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Transformers: The Last Knight” – A run-on sentence, but with explosions.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is Transformers: The Last Knight is the third best (and third worst) movie in the franchise. The bad news is it’s still a Transformers sequel. Yes, you read that right and you are wrong – the first Transformers movie is one of the best popcorn flicks ever. One of these days, I’m going to write a defense of that movie, but for now, I’ll just point out that 57% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes (and 85% of audience members) thought it was more good than bad. Movies two, four, and five all sit in the teens and movie three mustered a semi-respectable 35%.

I’m not going to argue that The Last Knight is even remotely decent, but I’ve read some early reviews written by critics who are calling the fifth installment the worst of the franchise, which is demonstrably wrong. The second movie, Revenge of the Fallen, is the worst of the franchise and it’s not even close. Revenge of the Fallen featured racist caricatures of black people dressed as Autobots, two different scenes with a dog fucking another dog, a tiny Decepticon humping Megan Fox’s leg, John Turturro in a jock strap, wrecking ball testicles on a transformer, John Turturro describing the testicles, Shia Labeouf’s mom running around campus high on pot brownies, and a human transformer with a tentacle probe extending out of her ass while raping Sam in his dorm room. Yes, The Last Knight contains a pile of terrible, but if you are ranking the movies of the franchise from best to worst it goes:

Eight negative orders of magnitude.
Dark of the Moon.
Rock bottom.
The Last Knight.
Age of Extinction.
Five hundred feet of crap.
Revenge of the Fallen.

One of the calmer scenes of the film.

The screening of The Last Knight was fun for me because I took a friend who had never seen a Transformers movie and his reaction after the film was priceless. “That was the most incoherent movie I have ever seen,” he said. “Welcome to Transformers-land,” I replied. And he was right. The Last Knight is a two hour and twenty-nine minute kludge of bad dialogue, explosions, and Anthony Hopkins trading insults with his robot butler. I have to believe the way this movie got written was a bunch of studio executives saying things like:

Exec #1: People love Game of Thrones, what if we had a dragon transformer!?

Exec #2: Dude, what if it had three heads?!

Exec #2: (to despondent writer): Come on, write it down!

Exec #1: People love Downton Abbey, too.

Exec #2: Two words - transformer butler.

Exec #1: Two more words – hot English chick.

Despondent writer: That’s three words.

Exec #1: That’s why you’re the writer and we’re the idea men.

Despondent writer: *kills self with pen*

I hope the despondent writer killed whichever exec thought up baby dinosaurs before turning the pen on himself.

(SPOILER ALERT. Does it really count as a spoiler if the movie is complete nonsense?)

The main plot of the movie is one we’ve seen before - reconstituting Cybertron (the Transformers’ home planet). A flying medusa transformer named Quintessa (Gemma Chan) captures Optimus Prime (Peter Cullenn) and forces him to become evil (Nemesis Prime, please tell me you are laughing now) by stroking his face and turning his eyes purple. Don’t worry. He’ll snap out of it when he hears Bumblebee’s true voice (I am not making this up). Quintessa’s plan is to fly the shell of Cybertron to Earth (which she says is inhabited by a planet-sized transformer named Unicron), reclaim her magic staff that created all the Transformers and which was stolen 1,600 years earlier by twelve knights (wait for it), and suck all the energy out of Earth to make Cybertron whole again. In order to buy into this plot you have to forget about the All Spark being the creator of the transformers (movie one) and that Megatron had to open a portal to bring Cybertron to Earth (movie three) because he forgot Quintessa existed. Like I said in my review of Age of Extinction, they’ve had plenty of time to write a coherent narrative for the franchise, but the studio and Michael Bay can’t see past the new toys they want to sell and the sets they want to blow up.

This movie might have been okay had it just stuck with the main plot of Quintessa/Cybertron vs Unicron, but, like I said, kludge. The movie kicks off with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table fighting a battle against some barbarians. Merlin (Stanley Tucci, who apparently loved being in the fourth movie so much he decided to slum it again as a completely different character) drunkenly stumbles to a cave where the twelve transformer knights are hanging out and he begs them for help in the battle. They give him Quintessa’s staff, transform and combine into a three-headed dragon, and kill all the barbarians. Sooo, why did they give him the staff? Also, King Arthur? Really?

(Side note: hilariously, The Last Knight isn’t the worst movie featuring King Arthur this year.)

Yes, that's really King Arthur.

Fast forward to present day and a new military outfit is hunting transformers down and killing them. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, and a couple other Autobots are fighting them and hiding in a junk yard, but this doesn’t matter to the plot. There’s also a teenage girl (Isabela Moner) who is friends with an R2-D2 rip-off who seems like she will be a main character, but ends up being worthless, annoying, and doesn’t matter to the plot. Anthony Hopkins plays Sir Edmund Burton, the keeper of the secret history of transformers on Earth, who has been waiting his whole life for the transformer apocalypse, but ends up serving as matchmaker to Cade and the hot English chick, Vivian (Laura Haddock). Sir Edmund doesn’t matter to the plot at all, but he is important because he provides 99% of the exposition in this film. Vivian only matters in that her DNA (she’s related to Merlin) makes her the only thing that can activate the staff…except for every transformer. There are also dinobots that don’t fight in the climactic battle for some reason, baby dinobots for no reason, a bunch of giant horns popping out of the ground that get talked about a lot then forgotten halfway through the movie, a talisman that is supposed to be the key to the staff but that spends most of the movie molesting Cade except for the one time it becomes a sword for ten seconds, Josh Duhamel yelling military jargon, John Turturro yelling about scrotum books, and a sassy robot butler that won’t even make a decent toy. Yeah, I know that was a run-on sentence and if I lost you during that paragraph, that’s the joke of this movie.

Continuing the absurdity, do you know what a deus ex machina is? It’s when something appears in the movie for no reason other than to be a convenient plot device to solve a problem. Exhibit number one - since Bumblebee has been with this franchise since the beginning and killing him would hurt toy sales, he is suddenly able to rebuild himself after being torn to shreds. Picture the T1000 rebuilding itself after being frozen and shot into a million pieces. Exhibit number two - another transformer can create time bubbles around things in order to freeze them. Like with Bumblebee, this allows any good guy to be saved at any time and any bad guy stopped just in time to prevent them from doing something bad. This may be the deus of all machinas. Picture that poor despondent writer killing himself.

Robot butler.

The amazing thing about this film is that it makes two and a half hours feel like a week. Since the movie doesn’t give a shit about any of the characters (human or robot) enough to even begin to develop them or make you care about them, nearly all of the screen time is devoted to explosions, CGI pixels fighting with each other, Anthony Hopkins explaining something (to be fair, Hopkins appears to be having the time of his life in this film), and the overly used and familiar stock footage of military hardware that Michael Bay almost certainly jerks off to.

As you finish reading, there are two things I want you to keep in mind. One, the marketing for this film is lying to you. Every trailer is yelling about The Last Knight being the last chapter, but that is complete bullshit. The film has a mid-credits scene that guarantees more Transformers films. Two, this film is not the worst movie of the year, but it’s in the running. If you just want to see transformers transforming, sweet cars, Mark Wahlberg shirtless, Laura Haddock melting your eyes in her stripper dress (to quote Cade Yeager), or two-plus hours of fireballs, have at it. But at least you can rest assured that nothing in this movie is openly trying to fuck something else in this movie. Well, unless you count the French transformer sexually harassing Vivian, but still - only third-worst.

Rating: You should ask for all of your money back, but you won’t listen. If you’ve seen any of the Transformers sequels, you’ve seen them all, and I know that because the last two films grossed $1.1 billion EACH.