Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Our country has faced its fair share of divisive issues in the past few weeks and they have all led to some pretty heated arguments both online and in person. Some strong stances have cost some people their long term friendships and in a few rare cases some people have even lost their jobs, and what’s worse is that things don’t seem to be getting any better any time soon. It all started when Paul Feig decided to manufacture this whole women empowerment movement after he realized people thought his reboot of the classic Ghostbusters franchise was the worst thing they’ve seen since Two Girls and a Cup.

I mean there’s no way in hell that a movie he made actually turned out to be humorless trash; so it has to be someone else’s fault right? So why not just label everyone who disliked his latest effort misogynistic beasts? That works! Heck I even had a close bartender friend of mine walk away and almost refuse to serve me after I told her I hated the movie; as if women needed yet another reason to hate me!

Well the dust from that storm was just starting to settle when the studios thought it would be a great idea to release Star Trek Beyond the following week! Really? We already have nerds getting into random Pokémon Go fights in our local parks, now we’re going to get the Trekkies and Star Wars dorks going at it again? This has to be the start of Armageddon! I swear if Hollywood decides to come out with a white version of Superfly starring Marky Mark, I’m throwing myself off the UT Tower that day because Black people will lose their collective minds and start tearing up every major city they’re in! But who knows, maybe Hollywood actually knows what it’s doing. They did give J.J. Abrams the keys to both the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises; this could be their way of getting the two nations to finally come together like the Bloods and Crypts did when the LAPD nearly beat Rodney King to death. I guess we’ll see.

Since J.J. took over the Star Trek world he has produced two highly entertaining yet fairly forgettable films. I loved both of them when I walked out of the theater but I honestly can’t tell you anything that happened in either one outside of little Kirk riding motorcycles in the initial reboot and Khan’s cape flowing in the space wind like Beyonce’s hair in the second one. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to seeing them again as they certainly had some thrilling action set pieces in them.

Well with Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) co-writing and Justin Lin (Fast and Furious) directing this latest trip into the final frontier, you had to expect more of the same; a funny action packed thriller that for the most part would be a forgettable popcorn flick. But I’m happy to say that in this case that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In Star Trek Beyond, things don’t appear to be quite as hunky dory as you would expect them to be after their latest dash with death, love, and aliens in the great beyond. Instead the crew is stuck in year three of a five year mission and Captain Kirk seems to be losing his way as the days begin to run together and all of his missions appear to be focused on useless diplomatic expeditions for unruly and ungrateful extra-terrestrials. Even Spock has something that’s troubling him which has apparently led to his and Lt. Uhura’s breakup.

So their latest mission couldn’t have come at a better time as this looks to be the end of the Starship Enterprise as we know it. Well while on a brief and well deserved respite with their family and friends at a remote space station, the Federation gets a surprise visit from a desperate traveler whose ship and crew were attacked while on a scientific voyage. This ambush wasn’t your normal garden variety attack however as the perpetrators used a complex biological weapon to take them out, one that was so advanced that the Federation decides to send its best unit (Kirk and co) out to investigate. Well as luck would have it, their ship also gets attacked upon arrival and is basically blown to bits. The entire crew is required to abandon ship and take refuge on this uncharted planet. And now it’s up to Kirk to figure out what these rogue aliens really want before his entire crew is murdered and the universe is possibly destroyed.

As I mentioned earlier, since Lin is directing this latest entry into the space logs of time, you should know going in that 80% of the movie is all action. And if you’re a fan of 360 degree shaky cam action shots, then you will love this film. Heck even if you’re not you’ll still walk out thoroughly entertained. The interactions between the random pockets of stranded enterprisers are probably the second best part of the film as they add depth to the characters and explain a lot about their relationships and backgrounds. Thankfully though, the writers don’t bog the story down with long boring stares into space or each other’s eyes, they instead sandwich these brief interactions around explosions and gun fights.

The one character that almost stole the show was another stranded traveler, Jaylah. She introduces some cool technology that allows multiple holograms of herself to engage in battle while keeping her real self safe from harm. Well her and of course the head villain Krall who is played by the always steady Idris Elba. Dammit, why wasn’t I born with a British accent?

Now since it is written by Pegg, this film can be a little silly at times, like when Kirk gets the upper hand on the enemy by playing the Beastie Boys, but it’s all in good fun and it actually had me cheering from my seat. And any movie that gets me to do that has to get a rating of pretty FRESH! I suggest you check this film out before the end of the world is upon us.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Jamal Wallace: You mean women will sleep with you if you write a book?

William Forrester: Women will sleep with you if you write a bad book (in thick Scottish accent)

Well William, I’m still waiting for women to sleep with me over the screenplay I recently finished. I mean if trash like Anchorman 2 and Swiss Army Man can get people laid, then I am certainly next in line to get a Jessica Alba spread out on my couch with the hopes of getting cast as my next leading lady. With my luck however I’ll probably get a 71 year old Goldie Hawn showing up at my doorstep with a bottle of lube trying to relive her Banger Sisters days. And sadly at this point, I might take her up on it! "Oh Maaaarcus!!!" (That’s a Boomerang reference btw)

Anyway, I say all of that to say this; Paul Feig has apparently made a deal with the devil as he has somehow found an inside line to every woman’s heart in America. I mean how else do you explain movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy making billions of dollars collectively? Even a close friend of mine nearly bit my head off this week when I started talking disparagingly about his latest effort in Ghostbusters. Has Feig really reached Beyoncé level with women? And what I mean by that is, no matter what he says or does, any conflicting view or negative comment made towards his work is met with calls for your balls being cut off and you being burned at the stake.

But what I truly can’t understand is how he gets critics to like his humorless nonsense. One reviewer, whose takes I actually respected before this past week, went completely overboard with his review of Ghostbusters by claiming it was nearly as good as the first one and that anyone who didn’t like it was a misogynistic jerk! Wow. Do you remember that Entourage episode where Vince and the gang sent three incredibly hot hookers to the hotel room of some influential movie critic geek at Comic Con just to ensure that his film Aquaman would get a good review? Well clearly Columbia Pictures and Dan Aykroyd sent an army of women to this clown’s apartment to get him to do an about face when it comes to his usual takes on 80’s reboots. If you don’t like this film you don’t like women? Really?

Now I am sensitive to the fact that women and minorities typically have to be twice as good as their white male counterparts are in Hollywood to get afforded the same opportunities as they do. And this is why I was secretly hoping it would be good in spite of the fact I initially wasn’t a fan of them remaking one of my all-time favorites from the 80’s. The original Ghostbusters spoke to me in a way that most comedies can’t because it somehow got my off the wall humor. So any attempt to modernize that is clearly facing an uphill battle with me. But I’m a fan of Kristin Wiig (even though only 10% of her SNL skits were actually funny) and I also like Melissa McCarthy (even though only about 25% of what she does is actually funny). Both of them can be funny in spots, however their shticks can get pretty old if they are put in a featured role.

Now I won’t waste your time explaining the plot as it’s basically the same story from the original with a few exceptions of course. The writers do an ok job of trying to match up the personalities of the female leads with the old school characters we grew up on while at the same time giving them some flexibility to add their own flavor and unique style to their characters. The problem with that is they try way too hard to be funny. They literally attempted to spit out a hundred jokes per minute while missing on nearly every single one of them. What made Peter Venkman such a cultural icon was the fact that he was naturally cool and funny with everything he said or did, and he didn’t have to resort to terrible dancing or Chris Farley esque physical humor to get laughs. And I love Kate McKinnon but yikes! Chewing gum really hard and putting your feet up on the desk while saying things like "Booyah! Emphasis on the boo!" doesn’t come close to making you cool. They tried so hard to make her the new Bill Murray that it felt like I was watching LeBron James give his best Michael Jordan impression, either you have it or you don’t! And when you don’t it’s obvious and people ridicule and hate you for it.

The special effects looked like they were still using the same technology that Ivan Reitman had available to him in the 80’s, so the ghosts looked pretty lame. And the only truly funny spots came from the moronic receptionist of theirs, Chris Hemsworth and the over the top yet in your face funny Leslie Jones. Well that and the awful excuse for a metal band they had in one scene. Even the cameos by the old stars were lame. Dan Aykroyd stopped being funny the second he signed up for Driving Miss Daisy and sadly Bill Murray hasn’t been himself ever since he was shot gunned to death in Zombieland.

This movie was a disaster in every way imaginable and I hope that this will finally open the eyes of those women who are under the spell of Feig’s evil love potion. At some point they have to realize that all he is doing is shoveling shit in their faces while making them pay him money to do it. And to be honest, I was going to come up with a new low rating for films called Absolute Shit just for this particular movie but I figured that was a little too harsh; so I’ll just stick with the current system that’s in place and give it a rating of unbelievably WACK!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

After a weekend of partying that included me being called a narc and nearly killing myself on my bike after riding and texting while trying to find a late night party that had Jell-O shots, I felt the need to find two losers who were far worse than me when it came to actually growing up. As one of my ex-girlfriends told me this past weekend after I was shocked to find out that there was more to dating than just going to shows and having sex afterwards "Oh Kelly, you’re forever going to be stuck in your 20’s."

Is that true? Is it really that bad that I somehow found myself in a bar where people were openly doing green and white drugs on the patio while discussing their latest findings on Pokémon Go? And should I have been worried when one of them noticed that I choose neither the green nor the white substance to partake in and they proceeded to call me Five-O like the beginning of that Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg song Deep Cover? Perhaps it is time for me to put out my own Craigslist ad so that I can find me a nice girl to take me out of the streets.

Well this is exactly what transpires in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. In their minds Mike (Workaholics’ Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are the life of every party they attend as they’ve effectively created a world where every girl they meet immediately loves them and the party is instantly turned up a notch the second they arrive. But thanks to an intervention that’s setup by their parents, they soon come to the sad realization that every family celebration or gathering is ruined in spectacular fashion by their goofy antics; some of which include their accidental head butting of bridesmaids while jumping on trampolines or setting an entire beach on fire with their own homemade fireworks display.

The reason why they have set up this intervention is so these two clowns won’t do what they normally do and ruin their baby sister Jeanie’s upcoming wedding. So their father has come up with a find two nice wedding dates or else you can’t go ultimatum with the hopes that it will finally help them grow up and move on to the next phase of their lives.

Mike and Dave reluctantly agree and decide to put out an ad on Craigslist for an all-inclusive trip to a destination wedding in Hawaii. Well as you can imagine, the ad goes viral and the amount of weirdos they encounter is overwhelming. Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) hear about their ad via the Wendy Williams show and come up with a clever way to grab their attention without seeming too desperate. The plan works and they fool Mike and Dave into believing that they are the "girls next door" that they have been looking for, when in reality they are the female equivalent of their counterparts.

Mike and Dave Needs Our Hard Earned Money doesn’t really take off until the four of them reach Hawaii. Up until to that point, it’s a bunch of yelling and rehashed party jokes. But once they reach the islands, their characters start to develop a bit and you get to see the comedic talents come out of each of the actors, especially that of Devine and Plaza. Neither of them really stray from what you’ve seen them do in their previous efforts but what they’re known for is a perfect fit for the clueless and self-absorbed leeches they’ve been cast to portray in this film. The chemistry these two have feels as though they’ve been working together for years as they have quite a few memorable moments together, one of which leads to a Dangerous Minds and Coolio reference for you old folks out there.

But the films longest and funniest joke belongs to a massage therapy session between Jeanie and the ever present Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). I won’t ruin it for you but this scene had literally had me laughing for five minutes straight. Efron and Kendrick certainly have their moments too but they are the couple that’s closest to being normal in this picture so they were toned down a bit for the most part.

This film is far from being perfect and there are quite a few jokes that miss, especially early on, but for the most part I found myself entertained. With everything that’s out right now, I’d probably wait until it hits Netflix but it’s certainly worth a watch. I give it a rating of barely FRESH!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Swiss Army Man

Normally I try and entertain you with a funny little anecdote before jumping right into my review of a film but I had such a visceral reaction to this lauded piece of trash that I couldn’t think of anything good to attach to it. Now I know those are some pretty strong words and typically I try and refrain from being that harsh when talking about someone else’s art but all I heard for months was how this latest effort from The Daniels was supposed to be the return to brilliant filmmaking.

I ignored the fact that this looked like the modern day version of Weekend at Bernie’s and also chose to overlook the fact that the directors were douchey enough to refer to themselves as The Daniels simply for the fact that I love weird, oddball, and off the cuff humor. I mean my two favorite films this year by far happen to be The Neon Demon and The Lobster, so if this film would have even been halfway decent I probably would have walk out of theater loving it. But no, what I got instead was a bill from the Alamo Drafthouse that simply said "Sucka!" on it when it came time for me to pay for my giant tub of butter drenched popcorn. It’s no wonder I weigh 455 lbs.

Witnessing this disaster on film literally felt like I was watching what happens when two 13 year olds, who are smart enough to be in an advanced expository writing class, have fathers who are rich enough to turn their hobbies into a money making machine. Who knows, if my dad was rich you might have been exposed to my sequel to the movie Powder called Chocolat: The Reckoning. But alas, this world will never see such greatness.

Anyway, Swiss Army Man turned out to be nothing more than a 90 minute long fart joke. I really wish I was kidding. I mean they attempted to dress it up by showing you a man (Paul Dano) who has given up on life and decided to kill himself just before he is rescued by the dead corpse of Daniel Radcliffe which one day randomly floated up to the shore’s surface. But ultimately when it all came down to it, every scene they wrote was nothing more than yet another random set up to another senseless fart joke. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above a good fart joke here and there; I mean I still do find myself laughing at Rodney Dangerfield’s "Hey, did somebody step on a duck" joke in Caddyshack, but at some point you have to move on to another mechanism to entertain me. Well unfortunately the Daniels obviously didn’t agree with me.

After a series of misadventures on this remote island, the still clearly dead Radcliffe somehow gains the power to speak and in essence, through a series of random bodily functions, helps lead Dano back home. And it’s at this point of the film where you think there’s finally going to be a big reveal at the story’s climax and everything will all come together. Ha! Silly me. The only thing that happens at the end is, yup, you guessed it, another fart joke.

Now some reviewers out there will try and tell you that there are some hidden themes in this story and for the most part I would agree with that. But let’s be real about what these so called themes are. The Daniels basically want to live in a world where it’s socially acceptable to fart in public and to masturbate as many times as you want to without having to feel ashamed about it. Well I hate to break it to them but we will never get to the point in our society where other people will feel comfortable smelling the release of excess gaseous elements from your body. There are just some things that should be done in private, like farting and masturbating. And please, you can yank one out as many times as you want to per day but it’s probably better for your psyche and your dating life if you cut one to two sessions out of your schedule and actually socialize with other people.

This movie was a complete waste of time and energy and I give it a rating of unbelievably WACK! Avoid it all costs.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

When it all comes down to it, if you really pressed most men out there to tell the truth, they’d eventually break down and admit that they miss the days when you could simply go outside, club a woman over the head, throw her over your shoulder as you take her back to your cave, and instantly make her your wife. Things were so much simpler then; you didn’t have to worry about paying bills because lights (fire) and water (the river) were free, you could have all the pets you wanted because you lived and camped amongst the wild, and if any dude ever tried to step to your woman, you’d fight him to the death and that would be the end of it.

But no, nowadays you have to put up all these cool photos of yourself online and hope like crazy that some disease free woman swipes right on your profile. And then after that you still have to do a song and dance to try and convince them to ignore the 20,000 other muscle-bound douchebags who are out there hiding around the corner wearing black and white striped shirts and Zorro masks just waiting for you to go to the restroom so they can swoop in and steal your girl! That was a Hamburglar reference by the way and that last sentence was intentionally a run on because I wanted it to sound like a Dennis Miller rant. But moving on…

So needless to say that in spite of all the awful reviews The Legend of Tarzan received on its opening weekend, a ton of people still went to out of their way to see it simply so they could reminisce about the good ol’ glory days. Sadly I too happened to be one of these people and I must say that I wish someone was there to club ME over the head when I made the decision to waste my money and my time on this listless attempt to revive a classic childhood story.

The Legend of Tarzan is about Tarzan’s (Alexander Skarsgard) unnecessary return to the wild after he had been discovered and "rescued" from his familiar surroundings by the ever curious and spunky Jane (Margot Robbie). Tarzan, due to the desperate request of Belgium’s King Leopold, is ostensibly returning to the Congo to be the face of the king’s tireless rebuilding efforts down there. However U.S. representative George Washington Williams (Sam Jackson) isn’t buying the king’s story so he convinces Tarzan to let him tag along to make sure that Leopold isn’t in fact exploiting the natives for his own slave labor. The Congo, as you can imagine, is full of valuable natural resources such as ivory and diamonds and unscrupulous men like Leopold and his main henchman Leon Rom (Chritoph Waltz) will do anything they can to get their hands on it.

Well once they get to Tarzan and Jane’s old stomping grounds, George’s fears are not only confirmed but they also discover that something far more sinister is in the works. So now it’s up to Tarzan to get reacclimated with his roots as quickly as possible so that he can save the lives of his Congolese brethren and his wife Jane, who has been kidnapped by Rom.

Now I give the writers props for being the first in recent memory to tackle just how awful of a person King Leopold was in real life but that’s about where my praises will end. They would’ve been much better served focusing on the upbringing of Tarzan and allowing us to see just how he became the legend of the jungle as opposed to the mess we ended up with today. They did attempt to do so in a few flashback scenes but these clear highlights of the film were few and far between. Instead we got a story that became so convoluted that it ultimately fell under itself by the time the third act arrived and Tarzan had wildebeests blindly throwing themselves into the ocean for no apparent reason.

This disaster was poor filmmaking at every level. There were so many scenes that had poor lighting and terrible angles that even in non-action set pieces you couldn’t really tell what was going on. And I swear that by the time the film’s climatic fight scene came along, the editor got drunk like Hugh Jackman did when he was hacking computers in Swordfish and chopped up nearly half of the footage he had available to him. You seriously had no clue what was going on or why.

But I guess I should thank Hollywood for giving me a taste of what to expect when the awful Ghostbusters comes out in a few weeks. If you’re going to completely ruin my childhood, you may as well give me an appetizer to chew on first. I rate this movie as unbelievably WEAK!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Purge: Election Year

I love it when horror movie franchises actually get better with each sequel. The first Purge with Ethan Hawke was watchable but for the most part was also completely forgettable. The only things I really remember from it are a few black and white shots from the camera of a remote control car and the Reaganite frat boys who showed up to Hawke’s doorstep rocking H&M sweaters and casual shoes normally reserved for yachting. But thankfully with the second one they realized what a cool concept they had at their disposal and actually decided to take us outside of the house so that we could see the mayhem that was taking place on the streets.

And after seeing previews for The Purge: Election Year, it looked as though the writers were going to take it up yet another notch by having Frank Grillo protect the life of the future President of the United States. As I saw this I thought to myself "What a wonderful idea! Can you imagine how many people would go after Trump if this was something that was actually legal and available to them?" But then I started to wonder how many crazy redhead exes of mine would come after me on purge night for not brushing their hair while they watched Curly Sue in the mornings (just one of those weird things redheads do). Or how many former customers of mine would shoot at me for making them buy warranties on printer cartridges? Or how many former students would knife me for making them do the Pythagorean Theorem simply because I was bored and I wanted to watch their heads explode in frustration? Heck, maybe I need to board my place up now!

Well that’s basically what the Purge is, you save up all of your hatred for this one night to get revenge on someone you feel has wronged you throughout the year; or at least that’s what the government has sold the people on. The reality of it is, is that they use this night to rid society of its lower class; the homeless, the poor, the sick, etc., so they no longer have to spend money to help support them. But apparently the lower class wasn’t killing itself off fast enough for their liking so the government started sending out their own murder squads to the projects and lower income areas to help expedite the process.

Well President hopeful, Senator Charlie Roan, is determined to put a stop to all of this, especially after she had to see her entire family murdered before her very eyes as a child. And as rumors confirming this conspiracy theory starts to spread throughout the nation, thanks to the help of radical leader Dante Bishop, she finds herself getting closer and closer to victory. Well as you can imagine, the people in charge (the New Founding Fathers) are desperate to put an end to this, so they lift the ban on killing government officials on purge night, essentially making it open season on Roan. And now it is up to the head of her security team Grillo to help her make it through the night alive.

The writers do an excellent job of actually providing you a decent story to go along with all of the bloody action that takes place in this film and they do so without ever taking themselves too seriously. They provide you with a ton of funny jokes that mainly come from the mouth of the seen it all and done it all convenience store owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), who is forced to stay out and protect his store on purge night from the cartoonishly evil school girls who are in desperate need of chocolate bars. Yes you read that last part correctly. This film, like its predecessors, is still over the top at times but that makes it all the more fun when these same crazy characters die in horrific ways. There are also countless one liners in this film that will have you laughing all throughout and there are enough shots of the older hottiie president hopeful that will have you dreaming (if you know what I mean) afterwards.

When it comes down to it, The Purge has everything you want in a horror film and it’s because of this that I give it a rating of very FRESH!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Neon Demon

If you’ve never experienced a Nicolas Winding Refn film before you should just know that most of his productions are basically beautiful shots of performance art caught on camera. You would never know it by simply looking at the surface because his films are so abstract at times but he does present quite a few cautionary and almost morally tinged themes in his artwork. Now it’s a bit odd to say that you can possibly get something good from a neurotic submissive film director, especially one who puts his initials in the opening frames of his films, but in the case of The Neon Demon it’s actually true.

In his latest effort to take us through a journey into his twisted mind, Refn introduces us to the dark world of beauty and fashion. And through his eyes, we meet the sweet, wholesome, and innocent Jesse (Elle Fanning), an aspiring model who has just arrived on the scene of LA. She was discovered by an amateur photographer through social media who convinced her to come out to California to chase her dreams. And in the process of trying to get her big start she’s introduced to a world of models, fashion designers, and agencies who are all conceited, vain, and overly ambitious to a deadly fault. This doesn’t even include the photographers and the shady people who take advantage of the desperate youth they encounter on a daily basis.

Point and case being Keanu Reeves’s character who runs the hotel that Jesse is staying in. He deliberately rents his rooms out to underage girls so that he can take advantage of them financially, and as the film goes on, you assume in other ways too. And as funny as his approach can be at times, he’s really just a despicable cretin who clearly belongs behind bars. But sadly he’s just one of the many awful aspects Refn decides to put his focus on in this particular story.

In this seemingly parallel universe you discover that beauty isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing; and that people will do just about anything to hold on to it and their place in the hierarchy of the fashion world. Things get so out of hand at one point that you openly start to wonder if this underworld, so to speak, is really just a clever scheme to lure beautiful women into a secret society of vampires! And no I’m not kidding.

In the meantime, while Jesse tries her best to wrap her head around the ins and outs of the industry, she also finds herself trying desperately hard to hold on to her morals. But as she gets deeper and deeper into it, the allure of the Neon Demon starts to suck her in. Will she succumb to the ways of her peers or will she rise above it all and attain the life that she thought was possible when she first started her journey?

Refn once again delivers as he provides you with some of the most breathtaking and memorable scenes you’ll ever see in cinema. But you should just know going in that his style isn’t for everyone. There was a couple behind me that almost got up and left during quite a few of the film’s final scenes. But they were also old and had no clue what they were getting themselves into so you should just ignore their reaction.

Refn’s ideas and approach will never be described as prosaic and it’s mainly because of this that I choose to give Neon Demon a rating of pretty FRESH! I freaking loved this film!