Deadpool 2: Deadpoolier

Deadpool-2-Cable-banner
Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Finger Bang Bang

Hey guys,

Looks like I’m back on superhero movies.  We recently saw both Deadpool 2 and  Avengers: Infinity War, but Deadpool 2, I think, is a bit easier to write about, so I’m doing that one first.

Let me warn you now, there be spoilers in this review.  If you haven’t seen it, then here’s your one sentence spoiler-free review:  If you liked Deadpool 1, you’ll like how Deadpool 2 is even more Deadpoolier than Deadpool 1.  To clarify, everything Deadpool 1 did right, Deadpool 2 does right, again, and better.  But it also gets some similar bits wrong.  Look, if you liked Deadpool and felt like it was money well-spent, then you’ll enjoy Deadpool 2 and it will, again be money well-spent.  It’s hilarious and it’s fun.  There.

Now, buckle up, this train is entering Spoilerville.

Deadpool 2 is a hell of a lot of fun and I laughed a lot… probably as much as I laughed in Thor: Ragnorak, which as my 2017 Movie Roundup post mentioned, was the funniest movie of 2017.  There are also some excellent action sequences and a vehicle convoy set-piece that kicked all kinds of ass.  This should come as a surprise to nobody who has seen John Wick, since the two films share a director in David Leitch (who also directed the largely overlooked, Atomic Blonde).  Ok, some clarification, David Leitch was an uncredited co-director on John Wick, but still generally accepted as one of the two directors of John Wick.  Interesting side note, he was also Brad Pitt’s stunt double on several films, which explains a lightning fast Vanisher cameo in a particularly amusing sequence in which most of Deadpool’s X-Force team meet untimely ends.

I will say that the climactic showdown at the end, in my mind did not qualify as an ass-kicking set-piece mostly because it takes place outside a rather pedestrian looking boys home.  Nothing as visually interesting and impressive as Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and certainly nothing as dynamic as a broken-down and abandoned Helacarrier the climax of the first film took place on.  It looked almost like a post office.  Yay, a post office.  Woo!  Of course, eagle-eyed easter egg gathering viewers will have taken note that that boys home was called The Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation, most certainly a reference to Nathaniel Essex, aka, Mister Sinister.  But whether that was a one off reference for fans, or a genuine allusion of Deadpool plots to come remains to be seen.

Okay, now let’s talk about Cable.  Cable is a pretty interesting character in the comics with a complicated backstory and mercurial motivations that has made him a fan favorite over the years.  Unfortunately, Deadpool 2 chose to streamline that all into an extraordinarily bland, villain murder’s dude’s family, dude goes back in time to save them by killing bad dude when he’s a kid story trope.  We’ve seen this before, of course.  He’s a tough-as-nails, no nonsense, stoic anti-hero played perfectly by Josh Brolin, and is a perfect foil for Deadpool’s buffoonery.  They have great chemistry, whether they’re fighting/annoying each other, or working together/annoying each other.  But that transition from one to the other felt a bit cheap.  And part of the problem is that the movie doesn’t really have a clear cut villain.  There’s a villain in the future Cable has traveled back in time to stop, but in the present he’s just a mixed up kid that we the audience feel genuine sympathy for.  He’s had it bad and sometimes a bad situation creates a bad person.  Deadpool thinks he can prevent him from going full-bore supervillain and Cable doesn’t.  It’s kinda boring.  For a superhero movie, even one that takes pride in subverting expectations, it’s bland stuff.  Compared to Magneto, The Winter Soldier, Killmonger, and Thanos, Russell fucking Collins is kinda a letdownHell, he calls himself Firefist and that’s not much better than Russell.  Towards the end they pair him up with Juggernaut, but by then its too little too late.  It feels shoehorned in and the stakes don’t feel raised in the slightest.  Which is yet another problem.  Cable’s backstory is only briefly touched upon so we don’t really understand what it is that’s at stake.  We know his wife and child were killed, but we don’t really know why.  We know Cable is a soldier from the future but we don’t know any more than that.  A soldier in what army?  Why does he have a time travel device?  How does that even work?  Is he the only one that has one and if so, why?  Has he traveled in time before?  If so, when?  Why?  And again, who the fuck is Russell fucking Collins in the future?  We don’t really know.  It’s frustrating.  On a character level, it’s frustrating, but on a larger scale its representative of Deadpool 2’s (and the first film to a certain extent) biggest problem.  That problem is thin, clunky plotting.  What’s the point of satirizing comic book movies if you don’t have a solid movie to satirize with? At one point, Deadpool quips about lazy writing, but that joke ultimately doesn’t work because it’s all lazy writing.  If just that scene had a been a loosie-goosie hack-written moment within a razor-sharp script, it would have carried far more weight.  But as it stands Deadpool 2’s lazy and simplistic plot isn’t capable of sustaining the subversion of comicbook movie standards they’re going for.  His jokes are funny, but they’re surface level.  Ultimately, they end up being slapstick instead of satire.  The filmmakers have substituted gags for wit.  And it’s a pitiable near-miss.  Imagine if they took all the Deadpool sensibilities and applied it to the tightly-plotted 70’s style political thriller we got in Captain America: The Winter Soldier?  That’s a Deadpool movie I’m dying to see.

Deadpool is funny.  Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a lot.  And the action, for the most part is top-notch. I just wish they spent a little more time orchestrating a storyline worthy of lampooning, if that makes any sense.

I’d like to make one last observation, a missed opportunity, if you will.  Wade Wilson’s girlfriend, again is relegated to a mere damsel in distress in this one, much as she was in Deadpool 1.  Only in part 2, they kill her off in the opening scene.  At least in part 1 we understand why Wade falls in love with her.  She’s developed as a character rather than as a lazy catalyst for an even lazier story.  What I would have loved to have seen was a subverted approach to a damsel in distress.  Why shouldn’t Vanessa be able to handle herself in a fight?  She’s not a superhero, but she’s dating one.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that Wade would have taught his girlfriend to defend herself?  She’s had a hard life, we know that, and she’s come out of relatively unscathed.  She’s a person with life experience, courage in the face of adversity.  I would have loved to have seen her kick a little ass in that opening seen.  Let’s see Vanessa fight for what she loves.  Let the expected damsel in distress turn out to be the hero, if only in one scene.  Then kill her off.  At least then, it defies some expectation, even if just a little bit.

I enjoyed Deadpool 2.  I just wish it was as smart as it thinks it is.

– cohan

p.s. I didn’t touch upon Domino, the one surviving member of Deadpool’s team he assembles to take down Cable early in the film.  Her superpower is that she’s lucky.  Deadpool himself says it doesn’t sound like a superpower and that it’s not very cinematic, but the filmmakers have a lot of fun with her.  I look forward to more Domino in the upcoming X-Force movie, which I think has been pretty plainly setup by Deadpool 2.

p.p.s.  Peter W., I don’t have superpowers I just thought the ad sounded fun, is an extended gag that really works.  Part of me hopes we see Peter in X-Force, part of me hopes he stays perfectly executed as he was in Deadpool 2, never to be seen again.  Until Deadpool 5 or 6.

p.p.p.s  Last thought… I’m already tired of the X-Men tie-ins to Deadpool.  They had a very clever group cameo in Deadpool 2 and I hope they leave it at that.  Let X-Men be X-Men, let Deadpool be Deadpool.  They don’t have to constantly intersect and hopefully an X-Force movie is a step in that direction.

p.p.p.p.s.  Okay, last post-script.  The mid-credits scene at the end of Deadpool 2 is fucking great.  If you’ve read this far, then you know what I mean.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet and have read this far, what the hell is wrong with you?

 

 

 

A Quiet Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey guys,

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, how could a man of such juvenile sensibilities refrain from headlining this review, Silent But Deadly.  Well guys, let me tell you, it was a struggle.  But alas, maybe leading with a fart joke is (finally) a thing of the past.

A Quiet Place is not the directorial debut of John (Is That The Guy From The Office) Krasinksi, but it is his directorial debut of a film anybody has seen.  Krasinski also stars alongside real life wife, Emily Blunt.  A Quiet Place is an excellent little horror film focused entirely on a family living in silence on a farm in upstate New York.  The basic premise is that humanity has been all but wiped out by sightless monsters who hunt based on sound.  The Abbott family has survived in large part because one of their children is deaf and they all speak sign language.

The film opens with one of the most effective horror movie hooks I’ve seen in a very long time.  It reminded me of a quieter (ha ha), smaller version of the Final Destination film openers.  After that opening scene, we jump ahead one year as we’re introduced to the nuts and bolts of how this family has survived.  Sand paths, clever lighting, surveillance, lines of defense, basic daily protocols, all the details that really sell a small scope story like this whose effectiveness relies almost entirely on the audience accepting the basic premise.

At this point I’d like to point out that eating popcorn while watching this movie is like standing on stage in your underwear.  It seems like all the attention is on you. So you chew long and slow, as quiet as you possibly can.  It’s pretty futile.  Thankfully, I got half the bowl down before the movie even started.

Anyway…

I would be remiss if I did not point out that there are some things about the middle of the film that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The A-number 1 thing being, where are they getting power from?  It’s a big one.  They can’t use generators, which are loud as hell and would quickly serve as a dinner bell.  They make no mention of solar panels or wind turbines.  It’s a serious detail that requires addressing, but yet is ignored.

Otherwise, the 2nd act may prove a little slow for some, but it’s filled with nice character work by all the actors, including the young actress who plays their deaf daughter who is also deaf in real life.  Her story is fairly central to the film.  She feels responsible for a tragic turn of events early on and thinks her father doesn’t love her anymore as a result.  It’s handled subtly, believably and with confidence, a testament to her performance and Krasinski’s directorial skills.  There’s another parallel familial storyline going on concurrently that I am hesitant to specify.  It definitely brings this review into spoiler territory and I’d rather not ruin anything for you.  I’m going to skip over it… you’ll either buy it or you won’t.  I bought it, but wanted it to be fleshed out a bit more.  That’s all I’ll say.

As the second act winds down, the third act kicks off with a character accidentally injuring themselves in a way we can all relate to, which would serve as more of a nuisance than anything in the real world.  And from then on, A Quiet Place is a quiet freight train, moving forward with thrilling intensity.  There are some effective jump scares, but it’s the slow burn tension and restrained filmmaking techniques in the 3rd act that elevates the film beyond b-movie shlock.  It’s as exciting a game of cat and mouse as I’ve seen in recent memory, whose climax is as terrifying as it is moving.

There are several hints to a larger cinematic world within the running time of the film.  The most interesting of which is the innuendo that the Abbott family members are not the only survivors in the area.  Seems like fodder for a sequel to me.  A sequel I’d happily pay to see.  Quiet, confident and cerebral horror movies seem to be on the rise again after many years of found footage, torture porn and jump scares.  It’s a welcome re-evolution of the genre.

– cohan

p.s. If you have a movie theater in your area known for loud, chatty audiences, don’t see A Quiet Place there.  Inconsiderate theater douches are a tough obstacle to enjoying any movie, but for this one, they’re deadly.  Deadly Douches.  Sounds like a movie I’d also pay to see.  Actually, it sounds like a movie I’d make.  Ha, there’s hope for me yet.

A Belated 2017 Movie Roundup

Hey guys,

I haven’t posted in quite some time, over a year.  What can I say?  Life.  So, I’m going to take this opportunity to first post my 2017 movie roundup list and commentary, a couple months late of course… then proceed with my first non-movie related postings.  But first:

  1. Thor: Ragnarok
  2. Wonder Woman
  3. Brawl in Cell Block 99
  4. Logan
  5. Get Out
  6. Spider-man: Homecoming
  7. War for the Planet of the Apes
  8. It
  9. Split
  10. John Wick 2
  11. Kong: Skull Island
  12. Logan Lucky
  13. Baby Driver
  14. The Fate of the Furious
  15. Justice League
  16. The Hitman’s Bodyguard
  17. The Vault
  18. Happy Death Day
  19. Blade Runner 2049
  20. Atomic Blonde
  21. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
  22. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  23. The Mummy
  24. Rough Night
  25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  26. A Cure for Wellness
  27. Beauty and the Beast
  28. Life
  29. Okja
  30. The House
  31. Whatever Happened to Monday?
  32. Bright
  33. Gerald’s Game
  34. 1922
  35. Alien: Covenant
  36. Baywatch
  37. CHiPs
  38. Geostorm
  39. Transformers The Last Knight
  40. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  41. Underworld: Blood Wars
  42. Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets
  43. Bedeviled
  44. Daddy’s Home 2/The Dark Tower
     Okay, people… this year’s list is dominated by mediocrity and downright shit.  Very few in my top ten would have cracked any other top ten of past years.  But of course I have not seen any of the award winners other than Get Out.  Some observations:
     There are a few Netflix originals on the list and none of them are terribly noteworthy.  So far, I’ve enjoyed their original series far more than their original films.  Bright was fine.  Happy Death Day was amusing.  Okja was… definitely not a comedy.  If I could, I’d go back in time and not watch Okja.  Not because it was a bad film, but because it’s depressing.   Gerald’s Game has some interesting ideas, but ultimately fell flat for me.  I fell asleep half way through 1922, another King adaptation for Netflix, and Whatever Happened to Monday has an interesting premise, what appears to be a damn fine budget, but then operated strictly by the numbers straight through to the end.
     We are in the middle of a superhero glut.  Some people mind, I don’t.  on that note:
     Thor: Ragnarok was the funniest movie of 2017.  Shame on you, The House, Rough Night, Baywatch, CHiPs, and goddamn Daddy’s Home 2.  A Thor movie was funnier than all of you.
     Wonder Woman was shockingly good.  Particularly after the 1, 2 turd punch of Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad.  Justice League wasn’t a total failure… and the fact that that is how I review it says something about the state of the DC cinematic universe.  I was skeptical of Gal Gadot when they first announced her casting way back when, but damn if she isn’t endlessly watchable in the role.  I look forward to the inevitable sequels.  Hopefully Warner Brothers doesn’t lose their goddamn minds and replace Patty Jenkins as the director.  Clearly she’s miles above Zack Stupid-face Snyder.
     Logan was a damn fine movie.  No need to undercut that statement by adding “comic book” before movie.  Surprisingly touching, but with a fair amount of edge to it.  Ha ha, see what I did there?  Like saying it was razor-sharp blah blah blah.  Whatever, i liked it.  My only gripe, and it’s some serious booger-earing nerdery, is that the comic that inspired it, Old Man Logan was batshit crazy is all the best ways.  Maybe some day someone will try and tackle that mad bastard.
     Spider-man.  Tom Holland is perfect.  I could have done with less Tony Stark, but i get it.  Michael Keaton’s McCaughnassaince is most deserved and welcome.
     Not based on a comic but certainly feels like it, John Wick 2.  the plot and motivations were actually a bit more subdued that the utterly insane, “you kill my dog, I kill you all” premise of the first one, but the weird comics inspired universe they’ve created fascinates me.  The ending is ridiculous.  I eagerly await part 3.
     Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  not as good as the first, but entertaining as hell regardless.  Matthew Vaughn has a real eye for surreal action.
     Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.  Didn’t like it much at all.  And it has Kurt Russell in it.  You dumb shits, how could you fuck that up?
     I believe that’s it for comic book movies… so segueing into movies with Kurt Russell… the Fate of the Furious was fine.  part 5 was the high point of the series, which is certainly saying something, but it’s been diminishing returns since.  i like that Jason Statham and the Rock have great chemistry and are possibly doing some sort of spinoff together, but within the context of this film world, Statham is responsible for killing one of the fast and furious folks at the end of Tokyo Drift.  DOES NOBODY REMEMBER HAN!!!!!!????? that poor bastard.
     I would like to go on record clearly stating that since Swingers, I have grown more and more irritated by Vince Vaughn.  I find his schtick tiresome, to say the least.  And great googily-moogily was he terrible in season two of True Detective.  but i guess in his defense, everything about that season was terrible.  And then Brawl in Cell Block 99 happens and he makes me do a total 180.  it’s a simple, violent film.  the less you know the better.
     So Get Out just won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Hmmm, I suppose.  Maybe.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked it quite a lot.  Mostly because it somehow managed to subvert my expectations.  it wasn’t quite as black and white as I expected.  WHEW, MAN AM I ON A ROLL!  but best screenplay?  I think the circumstances surrounding the film and Jordan Peele are more important than the film itself.  so i say, well done sir.  enjoy your oscar.  you earned it.
     It is with a heavy heart that I deliver this one line review:  I found Star Wars the Last Jedi to be a totally underwhelming misfire whose creative decisions, almost entirely, felt wrong.  Boo.
     War for the Planet of the Apes… so odd.  This entire series, Dawn, Rise and now War are far better than they have any right to be.  They deserve credit, if for no other reason, than making people forget that Tim Burton/Mark Wahlberg shitfest ever happened.
     Speaking of Wahlberg, did I mention Daddy’s Home 2 is awful?  It is.  But it’s actually tied for last place.  With The Dark Tower.  WOW.  I mean, just, wow.  Kudos to the jerkwads who somehow managed to surpass The Lawnmower Man as the stupidest king adaptation to date.  I mean really, have you seen The Lawnmower Man?  It makes more sense than The Dark Tower.  That’s right, telling an audience that rudimentary virtual reality can somehow turn a moron into a digital genius super-villain is less of a head scratcher than every second of the dark tower.  aka, the dark turd, aka, the shit tower, aka, the shart shower.
     Are all y’all aware that The Mummy was supposed to usher in Universal’s shared universe of monster movies?  Yeah, maybe not so much.
     Alien: Covenant is basically a remake of Prometheus, while somehow making even less sense.  Ridley Scott is a masterful filmmaker.  His movies are utterly seamless.  But still, who cares?
     Related:  Bladerunner 2049.  didn’t like it.  didn’t like the way it looked.  didn’t like the story choices.  didn’t like the characterizations.  lazy writing.  that is all.
     gonna circle back around to CHiPs for a minute.  I really like Dax Shepherd.  He can be incredibly funny given the right material.  This is not the right material.  Which is too bad since he wrote and directed it.  Michael Pena is an excellent actor in every other film he’s ever made except CHiPs.
     Did i actually see Transformers: The Last Knight?  you know, i don’t seem to recall.  i think i watched it on a plane.  but these friggin’ movies are so dull, i can’t even recall if I actually saw it.  Just stop already.  Shame on you, Anthony Hopkins.
     Same goes for Resident Evil and Underworld.  What can I say, airplane movies.
     Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a comic book movie.  My bad.  But their bad for making this turd.  I’m pretty sure in the history of clandestine organizations whose mission is to protect and serve, nobody under the age of 20 has ever been a real deal secret agent.  Except for Spy Kids.  but alas, this is no Spy Kids.  and I didn’t even like Spy Kids.  No movie this bad should have a title this long.  Every time you say or write it you feel like your life is ever-so-slightly, and needlessly shorter.
     It was pretty scary.  I had some issues, but after The Dark Tower, this seemed positively masterful by comparison.  I’m curious who they cast as the adults.
     I don’t mean Valerian was scary.  I mean the movie whose title is, “It.”
     Kong: Skull Island was entertaining in all the ways a movie about a giant gorilla fighting other giant monsters should be.  Supposedly the beginning of an extended universe involving the gojira classics:  Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, etc.  I’m curious.  Take note, The Mummy.
     Logan Lucky wasn’t as witty as I was expecting, as the writing was a little flat, but excellent performances made it extremely watchable.  When Channing Tatum’s daughter sings his favorite song quite terribly at her recital, I must admit I was moved.  Also, Daniel Craig is a better actor than the Bond movies would have you believe.
     I dig Split because young professor X was pretty great.  I look forward to Glass, the movie that will bridge Unbreakable and Split.  Who would have thought I’d look forward to an M. Night movie ever again?
     there are a few rando flicks from my list I didn’t mention, but that’s okay.
c
p.s.  I’d just like to say that Thor: Ragnarok was not the best film of 2017.  I’m not even sure it was the best film I saw in 2017.  It’s not even the best Marvel film.  but it was the best trailer of 2017 and it made me laugh.  so fuck it, number one it is.  I will say my top 5 are pretty interchangeable.  hell, maybe even top 10.

 

2016 Year End Roundup

Hey guys,

It’s that time of year. The Oscars are upon us, thus officially ending the 2016 film season. And with it, my list of all the new films I saw in 2016, ranked best to worst. Followed by some specific thoughts – standouts, let downs, etc. So here goes:

1. Arrival 2. Hell or High Water 3. Captain America: Civil War 4. Green Room 5. Train to Busan 6. Deadpool 7. The Nice Guys 8. In a Valley of Violence 9. The Invitation 10.Rogue One 11.Sausage Party 12.10 Cloverfield Lane 13.Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates 14.Don’t Breath 15.Doctor Strange 16.Hush 17.Zootopia 18.Bad Moms 19.Midnight Special 20.Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 21.American Fable 22.The Autopsy of Jane Doe 23.The Good Neighbor (aka, The Waiting) 24.Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made 25.The Bandit 26.War on Everyone 27.Ghostbusters 28.Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising 29.Lights Out 30.Star Trek Beyond 31.Spectral 32.The Magnificent Seven 33.Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 34.X-Men Apocalypse 35.Phantasm: Ravager 36.Central Intelligence 37.Passengers 38.The Monster 39.Cell 40.The Conjuring 2 41.The Forest 42.The Witch 43.Zoolander 2 44.Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 45.The 5th Wave 46.Jason Bourne 47.The Divergent Series: Allegiant 48.Independence Day: Resurgence 49.Kickboxer: Vengeance 50.London Has Fallen 51.Suicide Squad 52.Masterminds 53.Hardcore Henry

Continuing my trend of seeing less and less new movies every year as I get older, 2016 was a historic low at 53. But, alas, Hardcore Henry was so fucking bad it could have easily been 10 shitty movies, there was that much to hate about it. Some other random thoughts…

Masterminds was terrible. I don’t think I smiled once during its running time. It’s almost admirable how well the director kept all humor out of a film starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Ken Marino. With that cast there should have been at least one chuckle, even by mistake. I can assure you, there wasn’t.

While we’re on the topic of terrible movies, Suicide Squad wins the Most Bafflingly Bad Filmmaking Award. When your threadbare plot becomes increasingly hard to follow as your film progresses, you’ve got problems.

I liked Olympus Has Fallen. It was the best Die Hard movie since the third Die Hard movie. So I was all like, cool, when I heard there was a sequel. The dipshits responsible for London Has Fallen should be flogged. Thematically bankrupt and shockingly stupid. The dialogue, I suspect, was written by a disturbed 12-year-old who still hasn’t made it past the 3rd grade.

Independence Day: Resurgence, like London Has Fallen, could win awards for stupidity. Dumbest third act in the history of film. All the main baddie had to do was NOT MOVE. Remain safely anonymous until the soldier aliens have won, because there was a non-sensical deadline I won’t bore you with the humans had to win by and most certainly could not if they couldn’t find the queen alien, who reveals herself for no reason minutes before said deadline. If it sounds confusing and dumb… I can assure you, it is. But hey, as least we get to see the lesser Hemsworth “ahhhhhhhh”-ing every few minutes as he performs some manner of maverick-ian heroics he’s not supposed to because he’s a rebel, or some such nonsense.

I know what you’re all thinking… why would anybody sit through Kickboxer: Vengeance? A terrible remake of a mediocre film whose only scene of note was removed in favor of a completely standard fight scene in a similar location, which is a pitiable state of affairs to be sure. Anyway, I sat through it because I’m an idiot.

Jason Bourne. Why?

Here are some of my biggest let downs, films that made it in the bottom half I was greatly looking forward to:

The Witch – I’ll never stop being bewildered by the warm reception for this movie.

The Conjuring 2 – obvious jump scares and some kid teleporting around a haunted house? what the deuce?

The Monster – A24 has been kicking ass for awhile now and as such, I was very much looking forward to this creature feature. Let me save you all from the concussion you would have received watching The Monster, as the director hammered you over the head with his heavy-handed POV: the mom is The Monster!!!! Not really, not physically, but metaphorically and thematically, you know, she’s a terrible mom. Spoiler Alert: she redeems herself at the end. Kinda.

Passengers – were it not for the chemistry of the leads, I’m sure I’d have no memory of the film’s plot by now. as it stands, I can still remember vividly what a turkey it was. well done Pratt and Lawrence. More here.

Central Intelligence – I like Dwayne Johnson. I like Kevin Hart. I did not like Central Intelligence.

X-Men: Apocalypse – a $200 million experiment to determine what happens when you remove Wolverine from an X-Men movie. I could have saved them some time, money and effort… he guys, you get a shitty movie. You’re welcome. Oh wait, he was in it, for like a minute. For no reason.

Okay, that about does it for the crap.

Best film for me was easily Arrival. I loved everything about it. I’ve spoken to a couple people who hated it. I think I can see why, but it resonated for me through and through.

Hell or High Water was a fantastic little crime film with rich and relevant themes that I suspect will hold up for years to come. Finally Chris Pine seems like an adult male human instead of a high school kid pretending to be an adult. This and Arrival are the only two Best Picture nominations I’ve actually seen. And other than Hacksaw Ridge, the only ones I’m likely to see. I’m okay with this.

I was surprised how much i liked Captain America: Civil War. If you’d like to read more on that, have a gander. Zack Snyder and the DC dipshits should take some notes… a comic book movie is supposed to be fun, you knobs.

Green Room is brutal and utterly compelling. Patrick Stewart is mesmerizing as a murderous white supremacist.

Train to Busan is one of the best zombie films I’ve seen pretty much ever. It’s definitely top five of the genre. And its emotional core packs a punch.

Deadpool, aka Ryan Reynolds stops making shitty movies and reminds us why he’s a movie star.

Shane Black brings his razor wit to The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling aren’t quite Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr., but they are pretty great together.

In The Valley of Violence was a nice surprise. Didn’t know anything about it going in other than it was a western directed by Ti West, a dude who’s been making excellent small budget horror movies for quite a few years now. ITVOV is a tense little western with a surprising amount of humor. John Travolta. Such an odd actor. Every once in a while, he kills it. Other times you get Hairspray, Old Dogs, and Battlefield Earth.

The Invitation was one of those movies I overheard someone, somewhere say it was excellent and then decided to check it out on Netflix based solely on that. Because I do that sometimes. Remember Kickboxer: Vengeance. This time, it paid off. Best if you know as little as possible going in.

And rounding out my top ten, Rogue One. Everyone’s seen it, no need to rehash.

A few more thoughts…

My favorite line in Sausage Party still makes me laugh just thinking about it: “Fuck you, weiners.” Don’t Breathe starts to fall apart right around the beginning of the third act, but until then its tension is palpable – edge of your seat type shit. Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates made me laugh. A lot. Who knew? The Zootopia scene in which the sloth at the DMV laughs at a joke he’s told is worth the price of admission right there. Midnight Special is a fascinating representation of how removing all exposition from a film will render it virtually inert. But Michael Shannon elevates pretty much everything he’s in. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is almost a masterpiece, were it only a bit more fleshed out and a little more clever. Looking back at my list, it probably should have been higher. The Bandit is a terribly made documentary, but it doesn’t matter. The subject matter is so dang entertaining.

And that’s all, folks. For the first time in my adult life, I won’t be making Oscar picks. This year, I really don’t care. Dear me, am I maturing a bit, finally? Probably not. After all, “Fuck you, weiners.”

-cohan

The unfortunate meh of Passengers

Hi guys,

I have a pet peeve.  Well, I have several pet peeves, but one of those peeves has to do with deceptive film trailers.  I don’t like it when you see shots in a trailer that aren’t in the released film.  The latest Fantastic Four rebooted turd was a huge offender in that regard. I realize that in a rush to entice viewers marketers often release trailers before a film is finished, oftentimes resulting in cut shots appearing in trailers that don’t make it into the finished film.  I find it somewhat annoying, but understandable. But way worse, is when a trailer essentially lies to you. It doesn’t happen all that often, but there are a few key offenders. A few spring to mind…

I’m sure you’ve all seen, and most likely liked or loved, Pan’s Labyrinth.  But if you recall their marketing campaign before the film’s release, they conveniently ignored the fact that the film was in Spanish, not English.  But judging by this early trailer, you’d never know. The supers are all in English, as is the decidedly American-accented voiceover.

Another offender on the more egregious side would be Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Nowhere in that trailer do they even allude to the fact that the film is a musical.

There are lots of more minor offenses.  Kangaroo Jack is not a film about a talking kangaroo. Bryan Cranston is not the star of Godzilla. Drive is not a film in the mold of The Fast & The Furious, Alien 3 is not set on earth, Bridge to Tarabithia is not a kid-friendly adventure fantasy film….

And Passengers is not a mystery.

Do you recall the trailer for Passengers?  Pay close attention to Chris Pratt’s voiceover at 2:21.  It’s hard to miss.  There put extra focus on the line by having it occur under a black screen, giving it extra weight:

“There’s a reason we woke up early.”

This line isn’t in the finished film. And in the trailer, it was preceded by Pratt onscreen saying, “There’s something I have to tell you.” They set up a mystery in the trailer that does not exist in the film.  He knows immediately why he woke up early. It is, in fact, an overly simplistic explanation. There’s no ambiguity, subterfuge, or conspiracy going on.

Nowhere in the trailer do they even hint at what Passengers is really about. Keeping the core plot secret is great.  These days trailers give away too much, but such an obvious bait and switch is just plain shitty.

So… if it’s not a mystery set on a space ship bound for a distant world, what is it? At its core, Passengers is a character drama centered around an amoral decision made by one of the leads. It’s an interesting moral dilemma treated with patience and thought right up until that decision is made.  After that, the moral quandary and interesting character study is tossed out the window (or air lock, as it were, ha ha ha) in favor of an obvious, by the numbers space thriller pitting man vs. technology in a way that makes very little sense and leans far two heavily on the chemistry and charisma of the two leads. Throw in Lawrence “Stop Trying To Hit Me And Hit Me” Fishburne because the plot requires a character to explain some stuff and a bizarre non-speaking cameo by Andy Garcia in a single throwaway shot at the end, and you have a fairly lazy, standardized “space movie” with extremely watchable leads doing stuff nobody really cares about.  Passengers is a missed opportunity.  The questionable action taken at the end of the first act could have lead down a darker and more interesting path.  There’s a psychological thriller hiding in Passengers somewhere, an honest portrayal of man succumbing to his/her baser instincts in a moment of weakness and the aftermath that comes with such a decision.  Instead they chose to have a couple of beautiful hollywood A-listers run around a space ship putting out fires with little regard for the fascinating character study they jettisoned along with a sensical plot and believable motivations.

The most maddening part is that the director made a film in his native Norway a few years ago called, Headhunters.  It stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game of Thrones fame.   Headhunters is a grisly and violent little dark comedy whose twists and turns keep you guessing throughout.  Passengers needed those oddball thriller sensibilities to elevate it beyond a dull yarn we’ve all seen before.  The effects are great, and Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt are an endlessly watchable duo, but ultimately Passengers fails at presenting itself as anything more than proficiently made.  Another middle of the road science fiction bore we see far too many of these days.

The most concise thing I can say about Passengers is this: what if 2001: A Space Odyssey was just about a malfunctioning computer aboard a space ship?

-cohan

p.s. I neglected to mention that Michael Sheen as the robotic bartender was great. I would love to see a better movie starring him and Chris Pratt.  They have great chemistry and play off each other well.

 

 

ARRIVAL. All caps. (Not to be confused with Charlie Sheen’s, The Arrival which, to be honest, isn’t a bad little alien invasion film from the guy who directed the fantastic Pitch Black and the not-so-fantastic The Chronicles of Riddick, before Charlie Sheen suffered a Freaky Friday-like mind switch with a brain damaged hedgehog)

Hey guys,

It would seem we fans of Smart Science Fiction only get about one worthy entry in the sub-genre a year (I count Smart Science Fiction as a category all its own).  Sometimes every few years.  Films like The Martian, Ex Machina, Moon, Contact, Solaris (both versions, although the original Russian film is superior), Primer, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and dare I say it… Interstellar (I didn’t particularly like Interstellar, but I never considered it a stupid science fiction film – it just wasn’t my cup of tea) come out in theaters all-too-rarely.  Instead we get stupid shit like endless Transformers, Resident Evil, and Alien vs. Predator franchise films.  For every one fantastic and cerebral film like Timecrimes we get a dozen Battlefield Earths, the Rollerball remake, Wing Commander, Lost in Space, the Lawnmower “Virtual Reality Will Turn You into a Superhuman Digital Monster” Man, that totally fucked first Planet of the Apes reboot starring Mark Walberg directed by, holy creeping Jesus, Tim Burton?!?  I mean, seriously, I could spend the next several days amassing a master list of all the worst Science Fiction films ever made.  It would take me an hour to make the same list for the greatest Sci Fi films.  There’s that many bad Sci Fi films out there and that few good.  It’s like film studios are clown cars and stupid sci fi movies are the clowns.  Stupid, ugly clowns sitting around drooling into a pile of their own shit wondering how in the world anybody can possibly sort out gross grammatical pickles like the proper usage of there, their and they’re.  You see, because they’re morons.

And then there’s ARRIVAL. That’s right, all caps [sic].  I put it in all caps because, HOLY SHIT IT’S GOOD.

Arrival is one of those rare films where your movie-going experience is 100% enhanced by knowing exactly dick going into it.  If you’ve seen a trailer then you know the basic premise, but what the trailers do not show you is what makes Arrival such a fantastic, not only Science Fiction film, but film, period. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote a very pointed and concise description of how Science Fiction is unfairly viewed in critical circles. Arrival is one of those films brimming with heart, brains and confidence, the same qualities that allowed ________ to win a Best Picture Oscar in _______. You’ll notice the Best Picture winner and year are left blank.  That’s because no Science Fiction film has ever won a Best Picture Academy Award.  This is a trophy that has gone to dreck like Crash, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind, Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient, and the king mother of films wrapped in unwarranted, unearned, and totally unbelievable praise… Forrest Fucking Gump.  Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture last year, along with nominations in 9 other categories.  It did not win Best Picture, but it did win 6 Oscars in other categories.  So there is hope.  Maybe this year Arrival will make history by actually winning Best Picture.  It won’t.  Not when critics are creaming themselves over ‘serious drama’ like Manchester by the Sea and Fences.  But one can dream.

I’m not going to run the risk of negatively impacting your movie-going experience in any way if you have not seen Arrival.  I won’t get into the super smart plot or wonderful performances.  Just go see it.  Nooooooo, don’t get sucked in by La La Land’s pandering horse shit, Assassin’s Creed’s hazy rooftop antics, or Passengers lead actors’ chemistry.  Buy a ticket and go see Arrival. If you come out of it with a negative opinion, then ask yourself this… is Forrest Gump a better film than Pulp Fiction (or The Shawshank Redemption for that matter)? If your answer is yes, then please, for the good of humanity, lay down and stop breathing.  You’re poisoning the gene pool.

I really hate Forrest Gump.

-cohan

p.s. I am aware that Lord of the Rings: The Return of the The King won Best Picture in 2003.  It’s not Science Fiction.  It’s Fantasy.

 

 

Doctor Strange entertains

Hi guys,

I gotta be honest here… i’m getting a little burned out on Marvel movies.  Not so much comic book movies in general (despite my less than glowing reviews of BvS & Suicide Squad), but the Marvel Cinematic Universe specifically.  They’ve done a damn fine job so far creating inter-connecting, but independent stories featuring rich characters, storylines and histories from the extensive Marvel Comics universe, BUT…

It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore, as the movie-going audience, the big old gaping hole in that continuity.  Which is this:  how is every MCU film not an Avengers movie?  They’re trying here and there.  Thor and the Hulk were not in Captain America: Civil War for pretty good reasons, but where was the gang during the Winter Soldier? Where was Captain America when killer elves were wreaking havoc in London in Thor: Dark World? You could go on and on.  Even the trailer for the new Spider-man looks like it has been marketed as Spider-man: Ironman’s Protege.  Not necessarily a bad thing, again, up until now, but totally unsustainable.  By the time Infinity Wars rolls around, everyone but Howard the Duck, Dazzler & Squirrel Girl are going to be out there jockeying for screen time.  It’ll be too much.

I could be wrong about Howard the Duck.  He might show up too, to kick Thanos in the shins or something. Maybe accost him with harsh language.

Anyway, I’m gonna let that thread go… I already discussed it at some length in my Captain America: Civil War review.  No need to flog that dead horse here.

That being said, Doctor Strange does a pretty good job of side-stepping this continuity quagmire by keeping the primary action beats in parallel universes.  And in that endeavor brings to the MCU the most impressive visuals we’ve seen to date.  DS falls into the same basic tropes most, if not all, the Marvel films do… unworthy protagonist becomes superhero and then earns it after-the-fact.  Ironman, Spider-man, Ant-man, Guardians of the Galaxy, even Captain America and Thor to a certain extent.  Doctor Strange is no different, but it looks so goddamn cool, you forgive it.  The introduction of magic into the MCU is a major step is de-grounding the films from reality.  Which I would argue is a good thing.  Grounding X-Men is what kept X-Men from being truly great films.  There was nothing grounded about Donner’s Superman and that still continues to hold a special place in all comic book film-loving nerds’ hearts.  Because they said, fuck it.  And made a comic book movie starring Superman.  It wasn’t gritty and the costume remained silly and ridiculous.  And it worked.

Doctor Strange’s visual storytelling is definitely its strongpoint.  You probably saw in the trailers, the Inception-like cityscapes folding in on themselves, only now with characters running across them, interacting, fighting.  I saw it in 3D and it looks nothing short of stunning.  Add to that several triumphs of less-awesome visual storytelling, like a magical cape with a mind of its own, magical spells that manifest themselves as CG visual treats, and one of the highlights of the film – a scene where doctor Jonathan Strange must assist a colleague performing surgery on an injured and dying Doctor Strange, from the astral plane.  It’s a visually inventive scene and entertaining as hell.  I almost forgot Jonathan Strange’s introduction to the multiverse near the beginning of the film.  A visual feast most would compare to the end of 2001: a Space Odyssey… and yet comparing these two scenes in DS and 2001 is like comparing Jurassic Park to the Dinosaurs TV show.  Sorry, Mr. Kubrick, I love your films but FX have come along way since 1968.  And before any purists get all on my nuts about it, yes the end of 2001 looks great.  But it looks like the greatest Mac OS screensaver ever put to film, okay?

A note about Benedict Cumberbatch… I think there was maybe one film in 2016 he wasn’t in, but I cannot for the life of me think of what that may have been.  He’s basically in everything.  And for good reason.  His range and watchability are pretty damn unparalleled.  For someone with such an odd and distinctive face, he really disappears into his roles.

Doctor Strange toes some storytelling and character cliches, but the visual storytelling and shear scope of the film help elevator it from 3rd rate dreck like Suicide Squad, but also ticks off the standard comic book film boxes enough to keep it from being exceptional in any way except visually.  I smiled through the whole thing.  In a couple years I probably won’t remember much at all.  It reminded me more of Ant-man than any other Marvel film actually.  I enjoyed the hell out of it in the moment, but it’s lasting impact is minimal at best.

Yes, there is a mid-credits sequence where Doctor Strange has a chat with Thor, during which they basically say, “let’s become Goose and Maverick, but like… without either of us dying is a fiery crash.” We’ll see how that goes, or even if it goes.  So far, advance word on Thor: Ragnorak has not mentioned Doctor Strange at all.

If you’re a diehard Marvel fan who eagerly awaits each film at every Phase, continuity issues be damned, Doctor Strange should satisfy and excite on a level somewhere between Iron Man 3 and Ant-man.  Everyone else, I would say see it in 3D at the nearest state-of-the-art theater and you probably won’t leave feeling ripped off.  I wish the same could be said for Passengers.   Holy shit, foreshadow much?

-cohan

p.s. I almost forgot the mention the end of Doctor Strange.  It’s a clever bit of plotting.  How does the hero, even a magic-wielding wizard of a hero defeat a character who is, essentially, an incorporeal god?  The answer to that is simple within the context of the film and makes for a great visual gag to cap off the film.  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t hold up under further scrutiny.  I don’t want to give it away, but I will use a metaphor to describe it.  The ending is like the hero took the villain in a headlock and made him promise to stop being a dick before he’ll let him go.  But you know, on a much grander scale.

p.p.s.  Yes, i know… that was a simile, not a metaphor.  Shut up before I put you in a headlock.