Monday, 19 March 2018
I've had some conversations lately about the state of gay representation in popular culture. My roommate (who I swear exists) is sick of how most movies or TV shows about gay people are either completely kitschy and campy or super dire. And it's true, even a movie like Call Me By Your Name, which is a fantastic, thoughtful, and important movie, is about a torrid, underage love affair. There is a complete nadir or normal love stories involving gay people. Which, in 2018, is pretty much ridiculous. There's still this stigma about it and pop culture, while massively useful, still isn't representing this humongous group of people the way it should. Which is part of the reason Love, Simon works so fucking well. 20 years ago this could have been a completely serviceable hetero normative She's All That-esque high school romance flick, but in today it finally serves to show that gay people can have a normal love story too, and I really loved it.
One of the best things about this movie is that it doesn't have to be a "gay" movie to function well. The main character could easily be a girl (or the mystery blogger a girl) and the movie wouldn't really change much at all. Of course it shouldn't do that, the fact that its about a kid trying to come to terms with himself is one of the crutches of the whole movie, I just want to point out that a love story can still just be a love story, the idea that it's between two males doesn't need to be shocking or different. Our expectations of seeing homosexual relationships on screen is what has been different, so I'm glad the movie doesn't let itself veer off path too much from being just a romantic teenage movie as well as a really strong story about accepting yourself.
There's one story line in the movie involving an annoying classmate and blackmail that honestly, in my opinion, goes on way too long. They try to make it a normal part of the story, but honestly the fact that a high-schooler is blackmailing a gay student into helping him or threatening to out him is so morally reprehensible, and there's so little consequence for all of it, that it just becomes kind of angering. And it causes Simon to act like a total dick, lying all around town and whatnot. It's understandable, and Simon eventually does have to face the music, but the kid who actually outed someone doesn't? It's narratively frustrating, especially because this is mostly a movie about nice kids being nice. It doesn't quite fit, but it doesn't ruin it or anything either.
7 out of 10 Different Times I Cried During This Movie
Friday, 16 March 2018
Did you guys ever play video games? Some PS? PS2? Some Game Cube maybe, I dunno, let's get crazy! Well, not to be a dickwad, but I've never played Tomb Raider the video game, and I've also never seen either of those Angelina Jolie Tom Raider movies from the early 2000's. I know she goes to Cambodia in one of them (Oh shit, I just put that together with the fact that she adopted like 600 Cambodian children. Now I'm imagining them on the Tomb Raider 2 set, going to town on the craft services and just making a general mess, because children), and I have also been to Cambodia! That's the closest I've gotten to experiencing a Raiding of the Tomb by Lara Croft. So I went into the new Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander and directed by Roar Uthaug (Hooooow is that a name?) with very little expectations. And in that respect I was...mostly satisfied! Low expectations yield mildly pleasant results (also something every girl I've ever slept with has said)!
So I'm not sure about before, where Angelina Jolie looked like she was practically Superwoman but in caves, but in this version of Tomb Raider Lara Croft is just a regular girl. A regular, MMA-fighting, parkour biking, genius girl. Her dad died (disappeared?) seven years ago, and instead of dealing with her emotions and taking her place among the Croft business (they're super rich, of course), she's been slumming it, working as a bike courier and having trouble paying her gym fees. That is until she finally decides to admit her father's death, and is given a crypto-puzzle type thing that leads her to discover her dad's (Dominic Cooper, or as he will always be truly known: McNutty from The Wire. Yes I know it's actually McNulty, but Bubbles always calls him McNutty, so McNutty it is!) big secret: He's actually an Indiana Jones-like artifact seeker who's discovered an Ancient Japanese Evil! She's a witch or something? It's not important! Lara decides to follow in her father's footsteps and hopefully discover what happened to him all those years ago.
And one of the best parts of the movie, luckily, is Alicia Vikander. Hot off her Academy Award win (I've seriously spent the last 14 hours thinking about it, and I truly cannot remember if I ever saw The Danish Girl. It's like it's movie-shaped air. Like, I'm sure I saw it because it won an acting Oscar and I really like Vikander in general because of Ex Machina, but for the goddamn life of me I cannot remember a single thing about that movie. Eddie Redmayne is probably a douchebag in real life) her casting as Lara Croft had to be what finally got this reboot off the ground, and she's pretty great even though there's really not much for her on the page to work with. She's basically a stubborn, heroic, genius, but she imbues the almost-superhuman like Lara with relatability and compassion. And she's legit ripped in it. Her six-pack has a six-pack. But she has such a small frame you almost don't expect her to (even in a fake-ass movie world) be able to hold her own as Lara Croft, but she absolutely does. She's fun and she kicks ass.
Grade: 2.8 out of 5 Japanese AIDS Witches
Sunday, 11 March 2018
Gringo was advertised as a lot of different things, I'm guessing in a hope to give everybody SOMETHING to say, "oh hey!" It's a comedy with boob jokes and swearing, so that's a start. But also it's a dark comedy about kidnapping! So there's gonna be some, ya know, pretty crazy stuff a-happening. It's about weed, too, right? It's got those weed pills? And action! Because god forbid we make a comedy movie these days without at least three jarring head shots and multiple car chases. But it also has one hell of an ensemble cast! Charlize Theron? David Oyelowo? Thandie Newton, Joel Edgerton, and Amanda Seyfried? Well sonofabitch, I'm interested now. I went into Gringo with low expectations, the premise seemed simple enough, and I really do like that entire cast (even Sharlto Copely is fun when someone isn't encouraging him to just be as weird as possible *cough cough* Oldboy), and I hoped that the movie would pick one or two of those ideas mentioned above and be able to explore one of them into a halfway decent comedy, one that, ya know, hopefully made me laugh. Welp, director Nash Edgerton and writers Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone heard those notes, considered them, and decided to say, "Nah! Let's not do that at all!"
Well, they all go down to Mexico to buy a new weed pill (other than the mention of a weed pill, no comedy or humor or plot importance about drugs follows, which I guess is a relief, because this movie would not have done drug comedy well either, but it still seems weird to make it such an integral part of the marketing), or to sell a new weed pill, I have no idea to be honest. Soyinka realizes that his bosses are screwing him over and decides to stay in Mexico and try and get his. Of course, hijinks ensue. The cartel gets involved, doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried shows up in Mexico with her boyfriend on a separate but overlapping mule trip, there are several different kidnapping plots, his boss calls his ex-mercenary brother to go to Mexico and find, oh and also there's a subplot about...ugh, god, who cares?
My least favorite thing about this movie, however, is that the comedy that is in the movie is mostly cruel and stupid. Theron and Edgerton are terrible people. Selfish, oblivious to others, and just generally awful. And that's...funny? They don't actually say or do funny things, they're just there to be awful. Theron swears, flirts, and makes sexual innuendos to sell pills, and I guess we're just supposed to think it's funny because it's Charlize Theron doing it? Because she's a serious actress? Welp, just because it's her being constantly racist to Mexican people and also calling people "retards," doesn't make it funny. It just makes it more mind-boggling it's her in such a hodge-podge of a movie.
|Amanda Seyfried trying to remember what the fuck she is doing in this movie. She can't.|
Friday, 9 March 2018
When you're growing up, in high school in particular, every problem seems monumental. Your parents are awful and no understands you. Now, the moment you get old enough to not be a total idiot, we know this isn't true. Our problems in high school were adorable little pre-life problems, and sometimes movies suffer from trying to make these little non-issues so dramatic. It goes doubly for movies about rich people, whose "problems" usually make me so irritated I wanna flip the laserdisc player over. For teenagers in movies, and in real life, every small struggle or issue is basically life or death. Well Thoroughbreds, the new thriller/dark comedy from writer/director Corey Finley takes that idea quite literally. What if instead of crashing our mom's Tesla, getting a wrist tattoo, or crying for hours while browsing memes on Instagram when something bad happened, we hired drug dealers and plotted murder? It's certainly not a bad idea, just one that requires a deft hand to keep it from being too twee. Luckily, Thoroughbreds is a fun, exciting movie that mostly justifies its character's choices to be insipid, pecunious teenagers.
The movie has a hell of an ending, but I question how it got there. The finale is sort of surprising, but at the same time sort of isn't. Overall it really does work, and it's because of the unsuspecting humanity of our horse-killing (kind-of) protagonist. The movie has some flaws, but I can't express how much I appreciate movies like this: Ambitious, original, and has a definite point of view. All of the details might not be quite there, but I very much look forward to seeing what Finley has to say next, because with some work, I think he could a really successful successful and blackly funny auteur.
Grade: 7 out of 10 Dead Beloved Family Horses
Wednesday, 7 March 2018
We live in a pretty terrifying time, where the violence in real life is starting to seem scarier than the things we are seeing in movies. Is it life imitating art turned up to 11? Or is the job of filmmakers to make critiques of the violence we all witness, to try and comment on the craziness surrounding us as they (hopefully) entertain us as well? Or is it all just a crapshoot, totally random and basically, at its heart, just an excuse to squeeze a dollar out of every last consumer in America? Well don't worry, because the remake of Death Wish (1974, which spawned four sequels, four!) starring Bruce Willis and directed by splatter-house horror director Eli Roth is absolutely, unequivocally uninterested in answering any of those questions! They're also not at all interested in justifying the need for a tired remake that champions vigilante justice and gun violence! Cool!
Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a nice guy! And a surgeon! He's great to his wife (a plastic faced Elizabeth Shue, who should seriously just star in this show because it'd be better) and daughter (Camilla Morrone) and even his deadbeat brother (Vincent D'Oonfrio, who seems to have lost most of his Daredevil weight, which bothers me)! He's so nice and good and calm, you'd ALMOST think he's barely acting (hint: It's true, because Bruce Willis). Until one night, something absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking happens to him. His house is robbed, and when things go wrong both his wife and daughter are shot, leaving his daughter in a coma and Detective Shue (Shoe Police!) dead. What is a grieving father with a daughter in critical condition to do? Well, go out and shoot a bunch of people, become a viral sensation, and gosh darn it have a little bit of fun while he's doing it! It's like how John McClane got his groove back!
- Do people still actually listen to the radio? How is Mancow still a thing? (P.S. I grew up in Chicago my whole life, and I thought I was fucking done having to listen to Mancow by this point).
- Also, why set it in Chicago at all (if for any other reason than to flip the locations of the original) if you're not going to make some kind of commentary that means something about gun violence? The movie starts with police reports of senseless Chicago violence, and then proceeds to celebrate more senseless Chicago violence.
- The cops (Whatup Dean Norris/ASAC Schraeder) searching for Kersey's family's killers (and Kersey, who DJ jockeys have coined as The Grim Reaper), basically find out it's Bruce Willis who is killing people, then leave him alone for weeks for no reason, and then absolutely let him go. YOU'RE THE WORST COPS EVER.
- At a scene in a pizza place a group of four people have three ALMOST EMPTY deep dish pizza trays in front of them. You're trying to tell me four people ate almost THREE DEEP DISH PIZZAS? Fuuuuck you. I'm a fat Chicago deep dish guzzling WHORE and not even I can eat more two slices of that without dying and exploding from the stomach and butt.
- The violence is so ridiculously over the top that it makes me irritated we had to sit through a scene where a 17-year-old almost gets raped. A fucking bowling ball falls on a dude's head. No joke.
- There's a scene where a copycat vigilante killer tries to replicate Bruce Willis' terrible example and died immediately and then is never mentioned again. Bruce Willis has zero reaction to this.
- Actually, Bruce Willis seems to have zero reaction to almost everything. What I'm saying is: He's a crotchety old man who clearly doesn't give a fuck.
- The attempts at humour (Gluten-free things taste bad!) are sad. I felt sad.
- HE DOESN'T ACTUALLY HAVE A DEATH WISH. His daughter is in a coma! He's not trying to die. This title is stupid. It's a stupid, mistitled title.
This movie's not so much terrible as it is just completely unnecessary. If you want to watch a movie where a man's family is brutally murdered and he decides to take vigilante justice as a coping mechanism, just watch the first one. I truly have no idea why this movie exists in 2018. It's odd that no one else involved in the production process ever stopped to ask themselves, "Um, why?" It's not like this was a big cash cow either, just raking it up at the box office (half a week after its release it's made 14 million dollars on a 30 million dollar budget, so). Just adding memes (which were so painfully and obviously written by a guy who's forty-five) and changing the location to Chicago doesn't justify its existence. If you're gonna make a violent revenge thriller, then do it. If you're gonna make a movie about a desperate man who's family was destroyed, then do that instead (please don't do that).
Saturday, 3 March 2018
The trailers for Red Sparrow were all sleek and sexy, with Jennifer Lawrence's sparkly red dress, her femme fatale Russian accent, and her Charlize-Theron-bleach-blonde-hair a la last year's Atomic Blonde. It was sold as a more psycho-sexual spy thriller, where J-Law uses not only her smarts and strength but also her....sessuality. And while I don't take issues to a movie not quite adhering to its marketing campaign, I do take issue when all the things about the movie that made it look trashy and fun were actually hard to watch and at times basically upsetting. Atomic Blonde had fun, but Red Sparrow seems almost intent to make sure the audience is, while sure, probably engaged, because it is a well-made movie with decent tension and good performances, squirming uncomfortably and wishing to hell an old Russian scientist would give J-Law a necklace that actually shot poison darts or something. This movie's pretty rough.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Ergova (who has a Russian accent but doesn't speak Russian once the entire movie and I know, at thirty years old, and an avid movie watcher, this sort of thing shouldn't bother me, BUT IT DOES. IT ALWAYS BOTHERS ME) a famous ballerina who, because of a terrible injury, is forced into the world of Russian espionage. Yep, pretty much just like that. Her uncle is big into the Russian secret service, and she very quickly gets embroiled in a web of lies, murder, treason, secrets, and Joel Edgerton's sexy abs. Is she playing the Americans? Is she playing the Russians? Will we find out who the mole is?! (Because of course there's a mole. It IS a spy movie).
Yes, Jennifer Lawrence plays a strong female lead, and yes, the movie has some pretty good mood going for it, but overall the feeling is one of a flick that just slogs about, not all that excitingly. Definitely not excitingly enough to justify how unpleasant most of the film is during its (did I mention far too long?) run time? Somewhere in the murky, depressing murk of this movie lies something more fun and engaging, but neither the screenplay or the director had the wherewithal to quite find it.
Grade: Much, much better than the nude photos J-Law were leaked online. Oh, but as a movie? Eh. 5?
Sunday, 25 February 2018
High concept comedies are tough. Hell, regular comedies are tough.For a comedy to really work, follow with me, you don't need prat falls and fart jokes (not that I don't enjoy people getting injured and flatulence, because trust me, I do), you need characters you actually like, who are actually understandable, who you have an investment in, falling down and shitting their pants. Otherwise it's just bland and lazy. "Farts are funny, right? Well here's a THOUSAND OF THEM." Not so, Mr. and Ms. Movie people! I want there to be relatable stakes when someone farts or falls down. I know I sound crazy, but follow along here. The best comedies are based in character, regardless of plot (think Ghostbusters, or Superbad, or Mean Girls). High concept comedies are even tougher, because you have to funnel down all that character development and growth into one main, idea: One simple "concept" that drives the whole movie that is USUALLY outside the realm of reality (think Liar, Liar or Groundhog Day). A lot of normal comedies end up being terrible because they care about the shitty jokes than actual characters, and a lot of high concept movies end up being terrible because they lean too heavily into the one crazy conceit instead of actual characters. Game Night, however, smartly avoids failing on both levels, and actually creates an enjoyable, funny movie that also basically succeeds in its main general conceit as well. Game Night, honestly, surprised the hell out of me, and I quite liked it!
For me, the two standouts in the movie were the Magnussen/Horgan coupling, and Jesse Plemons. Magnussen (who is fantastic in everything I've seen him in, especially Ingrid Goes West) plays stupid without going annoying or too broad. And Sharon Horgan (Pulling, swoon, Catastrophe, SWOON), is reliably fantastic. He's young and gorgeous and she's slightly older (and gorgeous), and even though there's very little screentime dedicated to it, his asking her to the game night even though he wasn't initially attracted to her is endearing and leads to some nice character moments between the two of them. And ugh, Jesse Plemons. He's killing it you, guys. Between Fargo season 2, Black Mirror, and Bridge of Spies, he's one of Hollywood's best character actors today. He plays Gary, the creepy as fuck cop who was outed from game night after he got divorced from his still very beloved wife. Every scene with him is hilarious, creepy, and so slowly paced I bet the movie gained five minutes screen-time from his line reads alone.
Score: Pass Go. Collect 200$. Do Not Go to Jail (GET IT? IT'S A GAME REFERENCE) *Fart noise?*