Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Long before I saw this movie, I was annoyed with its title. The trailer gave the impression of a crime-fighting intergalactic duo, and yet for some reason only the boy seemed to get credit. It’s based on the graphic novel Valerian and Laureline, which means the author himself thought of them as equal partners, it’s only Hollywood that’s decided to downgrade the woman’s presence while also prancing her about in a bikini at every opportunity.

Having seen it, I see there are way bigger problems. The casting, for instance, made no thumbnail_25961sense at all. Supposedly, Valerian and Laureline are capable, dependable galaxy-savers, but nothing about either of these two gives the impression of a even the remotest shred of competency. I wouldn’t trust them to house sit for me; if they were in charge of saving my world, I’d be biting down on my cyanide tooth. But this movie wants me to believe that not only are they upstanding employees, but ready for marriage, even though they look like perhaps they’re only just now discovering the growth of hair over various private body parts.

Cara Delevingne has only ever managed to be convincing as an underwear model, which is what she was before stumbling into “acting.” When a director casts her in a movie, it’s like they are putting a disclaimer on their movie “Yeah that’s right, this is going to suck. Style over substance!” Her acting technique consists of walking into a room eyebrows-first and saying the line, usually in the direction of the camera. She has the emotional range of a robot but none of a robot’s grace or fluidity. Dane DeHaan, on the other hand, looks like he should be bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly. Put these two chuckleheads together and what do you get? Just two dumb rocks in a potato sack. Or, in the case of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, two dumb rocks in a tin can (aka, space ship). If that wasn’t enough to convince me of its utter superficiality, I guess the sight of Rihanna pole dancing would have pushed me over the edge. Though to be fair, I would have gladly watched her dance for a thousand days rather than see Ethan Hawke play a pimp with a nose ring.

The whole thing was so uncharismatic, the movie almost killed me of boredom. I was so numb I could barely follow the “plot” which, like too much sci-fi fare, consisted of: something’s in danger, someone has to save it, fight, fight, fight, special effects, special effects, the end.

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It Had To Be You

It Had To Be You is an interesting gender-role reversal. For once it’s the boyfriend who’s the serious one, ready to make a commitment and put a ring on it, and it’s the girlfriend who is reluctant to do the whole marriage thing. Unfortunately, Sonia (Cristin Milioti) and Chris (Dan Soder) haven’t really talked about their differences, so when he blindsides her with a romantic proposal, he’s pretty hurt when she balks and can’t accept.

She doesn’t exactly say no, but the ‘time to think’ required stretches on into infinity and MV5BNzg0NzE3ODUzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY5OTgyMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1776,1000_AL_pretty soon Chris is fed up with waiting. In the wake of their inevitable breakup, Sonia is inspired by a fellow subway rider’s thong (no I am not making that up, thankyouverymuch) to fly to Italy to find herself, and by herself, I mean some Italian guy’s dick.

I won’t pretend this is a super great movie, but I gave it a try because I really like both Milioti and Soder (any other campers out there?) as comedians, and it turns out, worth the risk. The script is just clever enough to revive a genre that usually stinks like a four day old walleyed fish, and the two leads are un-actory and quirky enough to be likeable, relatable, and not quite predictable.

So there you have it: It Had To Be You is like a nice, refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day. Sangria would have been better, but lemonade will do. ūüėČ

 

Person To Person

the Best Western

the blue collar town where I grew up

guys who want to go dutch

tap water

prison-issued eyewear

hold music

vodka soda

 

You get it, right? What are: things that are completely & utterly devoid of charm or personality. Such as this movie.

Person To Person almost killed me with boredom. How to summarize a film totally bankrupt in plot? Well, see, there’s these people. Some of them know each other, some of MV5BOTVlZGRiN2QtZTJkMi00NjcxLWIzYTItMTY1MzQzMTBhYWVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU2NTMxOTg@._V1_them don’t. And they have these lives. And they spend the day going about them, just generally moping about, doing a lot of whining and talking. The end.

Person to Person is that balding guy in your office who wears khakis and polo shirts like they’re his uniform, who eats the same sandwich and celery every day for lunch, who has nothing to talk about except the weather, and who you once caught reading the phone book. ¬†I see that Rotten Tomatoes got drunk, brought that guy home, and gave him a pity fuck (that’s my way of saying its score of 45%, while still rotten, is also completely unjustified – an overshot of at least 43%, I’d say). This movie was so dull I had to invent an all-new category for it on Assholes Watching Movies: Boring as Hell. But unlike Person to Person, at least hell is warm and peppered with interesting characters.

 

 

 

The Circle

The Circle is THE company you want to be working for. It’s a blatant stand-in for Google; the ‘The Circle’ campus and work space looks identical, comes with all the crazy perks we’ve been jealously-not-quite-believingly hearing about for years: sushi bars, yoga workshops, nap pods, etc, etc. Mae (Emma Watson) is ecstatic when she’s hired for an entry level position – the salary is generous, room and board are included, the health plan is fabulous – it’s more than any millennial has the right to expect these days. The only thing The Circle asks for in return is a complete lack of privacy.

And in fact, The Circle doesn’t just ask that of employees, but of everyone joining their network. The Circle is a platform that would link all of your online accounts. You’d have one account, one username (your own, your real one), one password that links to everything, all your aps, your bank, your email, your work, social media, etc, etc. The m-442_circle_11286fdrv1rdream come true starts to feel a little…invasive to Mae. There’s no turning off, no going off-grid. Everyone participates in everything all the time! Horray! So the dream is turning out to be a bit much, but with her father (Bill Paxton) suffering from MS, it’s extremely hard to turn down.

Most of her The Circle colleagues are drinking the kool-aid but she finds a kindred spirit in skeptical Ty (John Boyega). He’s worried about how every single piece of our lives are being accessed and stored, analyzed and monetized, by The Circle: personal data is being mined to make a few people very, very rich. And if you have any presence on the internet at all, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Circle is a terrific book by Dave Eggers. It’s an urgently fascinating story because our reality is probably only about one and a half paces behind what’s depicted in The Circle, and that’s just what we know about. We’re creeping closer and closer every day. Unfortunately it seems that Eggers’ brilliant books are not that easily adapted into films; A Hologram for the King was also a bit of a flop and that’s too bad because there’s some really thoughtful and thought-provoking material in there that’s getting lost.

The film asks more questions than it answers. In truth, it sort of lets some of the issues it raises fall away without doing them any justice. So that’s unfortunate. I still thought the movie was compelling and watchable, and Tom Hanks is of course irreproachable. I think it’s worth your time. But the book is even more worthy of your time, and if you read it, you’ll see the changes that Hollywood makes to make a story more ‘palatable.’ But I’m pretty confident that you can handle the truth. Right?

 

 

 

This was Bill Paxton’s final film. He died before it was released; a dedication in the closing credits reads ‘For Bill.” Glenne Headley, who plays his wife, died in June. She’s got a couple more movies in post-production.

Snatched

This film was dismally received by critics but is not as terrible as you might think. A lot will depend on how you tolerate Amy Schumer. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I like her quite a bit, which makes me realize that she’s not anyone’s cup of tea, she’s more like a beloved Jaeger bomb. Some people don’t like or expect raunch from a female comedian but Amy Schumer’s proving that anyone can tell a gross-out joke. Score for feminism? Let’s say yes.

Of course Amy Schumer isn’t some new fangled-thing, she’s riding in on the backs of lots of incredibly funny women and Goldie Hawn is one of them. Hawn hasn’t appeared in a maxresdefaultmovie in 15 years and having her back is a blessing. Pairing these two together is great. It should have been better than great, I’ll grant you that. It should have been phenomenal. But Snatched isn’t ambitious. It’s pretty content to be a so-so movie with a bare-bones plot, some badly-drawn characters, and some overly convenient structures. It’s basically a vehicle for some jokes, and for some shining chemistry between Schumer and Hawn. If you can live with that, then you may just find something to chuckle about in Snatched.

As you may have gathered from the trailer, or heck, even just the poster, Emily (Schumer) gets broken up with right before an nonrefundable trip to Ecuador, and persuades her cautions mum Linda (Hawn) to travel with her. Emily meets a guy who’s too good to be true, and he is! He’s part of a kidnapping ring, and before you can say “maitai”, Emily and her Mom are hog-tied in a blood-splattered cell, begging for their lives, or at least their cell phones back.

The worst I’ll say about the movie is that there’s a lot of missed opportunity. It’s unfocused and flimsy. But Goldie Hawn is still magic. She sparkles up there on the big screen, and it’s kind of cool to see her taking her place as one of the matriarchs of comedy.

Girls Trip

Ugh. This kind of movie is just demeaning.

There’s a good idea in there somewhere: four friends reconnecting. That’s the dream, right? That for one weekend you can all make your schedules obey your will, find sitters for the kids, money for the trip, time off from work. And everything converges on one magical weekend during which you can let your hair down and party like you did when you first met your crew, back when you were single and carefree.

The four friends in Girls Trip haven’t gotten together in 5 years. ¬†Ryan (Regina Hall) is an aspiring self-help guru\daytime TV star and she and her husband are about to get their big break – too bad she can’t stand his cheating ass. Sasha (Queen Latifah) is on the verge girlstrip0004.jpgof bankruptcy and the only thing that might save her is a whole bunch of hits to her celebrity gossip site…and it’s awfully tempting when your best friend is poised to become the next Oprah just as her marriage is imploding. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a less important friend so we don’t know much about her except she’s a caring single mother who wears scrubs at work and is pretty high strung. And Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is hardly a character at all, she’s just there to provide the kind of lewd laughs the other ladies are too famous for, contractually. It’s hard to believe they were ever friends, or that a weekend away together wouldn’t result in murder since in the film’s exceedingly long but comparatively short running time (2 hours), I had the panicky urge to start stuffing people in dumpsters.

Anyway. The script is atrocious. It’s Hallmark-grade MAYBE, heavy-handed as hell. It wants to be a females in New Orleans version of The Hangover, and it even steals a lot of their jokes (substitute roofies for absinthe, for example), but it’s weak. Very, very weak. But there are a few things that Girls Trip provides that you are unlikely to find elsewhere: 1. A “grapefruiting” demo (it’s a sex thing, duh – basically a grapefruit turtleneck for excessively large penises to aid in the blow-jobbing of). 2. You’re not seriously going to insist on a second item after that first one, are you? 3. Okay, fine: Kate Walsh as the token white lady who can’t stop talking in Ebonics. 4. As the movie is set at the Essence Festival, the film bloats itself with clips from performing artists such as Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, Maxwell, Babyface, and Mariah Carey. And about two dozen more. 5. Someone urinates like they’re legit trying to put out a forest fire with it, only instead of trees they drench people. And this happens twice.

But wait! There’s more: the power of female friendships, never leaving your unfaithful husband until you’ve got another prospect lined up, drugging the people you love, sexually harassing people like there’s no tomorrow, and white people using words they have no earthy business thinking let alone saying. So much fun. Girls Trip is a low-budget movie that looks low budget and feels even worse. But it put up some big numbers at the box office because there’s a dearth of actually funny movies these days – too bad this one’s no exception.

Detroit

Detroit, 1967: a veritable race riot is boiling over the streets of the inner city. Buildings are on fire, stores are looted. Cops are on edge and are arresting any black person they see. The force is¬†93% white;¬†45% of those working in black neighbourhoods were considered to be “extremely anti-Negro” and an additional 34% were “prejudiced.” Charges of police brutality are abundant. Precincts overflow with black bodies.

On the night of July 25, police converge on the Algiers motel, allegedly because a sniper might be in or around the building. The motel’s 12 occupants are rounded up, interrogated, badly beaten, and humiliated by Detroit PD, Michigan State police, and the National Guard. At the end of the night, three black teenagers are left dead, killed by police.

Why? How?

Director Kathryn Bigelow presents a harrowing, claustrophobic rendition of these events, so tense and brutal that people walked out of the screening we attended. Other than Detroit being extremely difficult to watch, there are some problems with the film: 636345219515288776-detroit-3-rgb-2-Bigelow’s treatment of the subject is at a pretty cold remove, for example. And I for one felt it was just too long. The film could have ended when the last person leaves the motel, but instead it follows the white police officers who were charged with¬†felonious assault, conspiracy, murder, and conspiracy to commit civil rights abuse. The courtroom scenes are a long, drawn-out denouement that don’t quite jibe with the first two thirds of the film. That said, I still feel like Detroit is an extremely effective film.

First, because it’s so timely. Watching those cops get off scot-free despite confessions, and then be congratulated for beating murder charges that were well-deserved, is infuriating, and familiar. This is not “history,” not when there are unarmed black children being gunned down by the people paid to protect them to this very day. It’s an uncomfortable reminder that in the past 50 years, we’ve done nothing to address the problem. Second, and maybe more importantly, is the way the movie made me feel. I’ve already said it was maybe a little void of emotion and that’s true; what I mean is how it made me evaluate my own filters. As sympathetic to the cause as I am, I’m still a white lady, and I experienced the film and the events depicted within it as a white person with all the privilege inherent in those words. The motel scenes are grueling and I had visceral reactions to them. Occasionally I caught myself frustrated with how the characters were responding to the cops, and I’d have to check myself. This is the fundamental takeaway of the film: my experience with police officers is essentially just very, very different. I wasn’t born with a historical fear of cops. My parents and grandparents didn’t raise me to be afraid of them. The colour of my skin protects me from the worst. My entitlement trusts in my human rights. My privilege demands that people in positions of authority will respect my unalienable civil liberties. The last interaction with a police officer I had was the guy directing pedestrians leaving a Cirque du Soleil show. The last time we were pulled over for speeding, there wasn’t so much as an apology uttered for being caught red-handed. These things don’t feel like privilege because they’re things we believe we’re owed, but it is privilege because not everyone gets to feel the same way.

Maybe it’s not perfect, but Detroit asks some difficult questions, which makes it an important film. It’s excruciating because it needs to be, and you need to watch it.

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls lived a turbulent childhood: her parents bustled her and her 3 siblings from town to town, evading bill collectors, never quite having enough money for both food and her father’s insatiable thirst. Poverty and addictions pock her youth, but for all their struggles, her mother would never leave her father, and the kids soon realized they’d need to fend for themselves, each disappearing to the big city as soon as it was feasible (a real challenge when someone is constantly drinking up all the money).

Walls went on to write a memoir detailing the hardships she lived through, and that tgc_d02_00156_00157_comp_r2.jpgbook became this movie, though something was lost getting from A to B. The book pulls no punches. Her parents are complex characters, and their children have conflicted feelings toward them. The movie’s a little more pat, the trajectory a little more Hollywood. Someone decided to apply some spit shine to this story, a story that’s naturally very dark and brooding now has themes of hope and redemption that maybe don’t belong.

I can’t say what exactly is wrong with the film except it’s just too easy. The grit is gone. Sure Jeannette’s father Rex is charming but he’s also kind of a monster. He’s a negligent parent who abuses his wife and kids and helps keep family molestation on the down low. And of course he wants deathbed forgiveness. Meanwhile his wife is a “free spirit” who chooses homelessness over independence from the man threatening her family’s well being. Neither parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, or of meeting those needs even if they ever did. Which they don’t.

But The Glass Castle is worth a watch for the performances alone. As Jeannette, Brie Larson lives up to her previous Oscar win, but it’s Woody Harrelson as Rex who you’ll remember. He’s tortured and endearing and inspiring and hateful. Is this the film he’ll win his Oscar for? I wouldn’t be disappointed if he did. But shame on Hollywood for trying to put gloss and a positive spin on childhood poverty. These kids were failed not just by their parents but by the system. And now their brave story is being watered down to make it more palatable for film audiences. Shame.

Naked

Naked is Groundhog Day for people who hate themselves.

Rob ¬†(Marlon Wayans) is about to get married to a woman (Regina Hall) who’s maybe a little out of his league and maybe he’s a little nervous about it. Her dad (Dennis Haysbert, aka, the Allstate Guy) is a vocal skeptic and would rather see his baby girl marry someone a little more worthy – like her ex-boyfriend Cody (Scott Foley) who is inexplicably invited to this wedding.

One small wrinkle: he keeps waking up naked in an elevator and he’s got an hour to make it to the wedding. But he keeps not quite getting there, so when the church bells MV5BOTIyYjBhYjMtYzgzYy00NWQ4LWI3ZDUtOTU1M2NmMGQ2ZmQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQ0MTYzMDA@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_ring without him exchanging vows, the day resets and he has to do it all over again. It’s the premise of Groundhog Day, only without self-respect or any laughter whatsoever. Bill Murray had to learn to be a better person, and while the script eventually decides that Rob’s goal is be a worthy husband, his real daily achievement is just covering up his nudity in a series of wacky outfits. Oh, and sometimes chilling with Brian McKnight – because that’s totally how I’d prioritize my time if I had an hour to escape a horrifying time loop: 90s slow jams.

This is a Netflix original movie that will make you question whether movies should be made at all. If you’ve seen it, I’m sorry. Take some time. Pet a dog. Drink some tea out of an inordinately cute cup. Maybe make a dent in your reading stack. But do come back. For every bad movie on Netflix, there’s a good one. One day I will crack the exact ratio, but until I do, know this: on our site, the category ‘Netflix and chill’ simply means the movie is found on Netflix, it is not an endorsement; good movies are categorized as ‘what to watch on Netflix.’ Netflix is a black hole of movies and finding something watchable takes some mining, but don’t despair, they do exist.

Naked tries to be Groundhog’s twin and winds up its antithesis. Hard pass.

 

Land of the Lost

Sean came across this on Netflix and was kind of astounded that it existed. What was Sean up to in 2009 that this one passed him by? Well, he made a giant move to a new city in search of a new job, and was dating new and exciting women, unaware that he’d meet his future wife in just a few days. But even if life was a little calmer for you in June 2009, this film may still have avoided your radar because basically it didn’t make anyone’s. It was a huge flop, and even the president of Universal (Ronald Meyer) disavowed the movie, calling it “crap.”

I’ve never seen the TV show upon which it is loosely-and-not-really based and now I MV5BODU5MGZlYTAtZmM3OS00MjFlLWEzNzAtZmY3YjU4ZjY1NzhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjgzNDQyMjE@._V1_hope I never do, its legacy forever tarnished by this steaming piece of dung. Land of the Lost is intentionally camp. The effects are deliberately horrible. This doesn’t make it okay. I guess “camp” implies that you’ll be having fun, and I most decidedly was not. I was just sitting there with a pout on my face and a game of phone-Boggle in hand, just to stave off complete boredom.

The script was lazy, the characters confounding. Will Ferrell, who stars as paleontologist Dr. Rick Marshall, does little to endear us. For me, Ferrell’s pretty hit or miss, and in this movie he can’t land a damn thing. Paired with Danny McBride, it’s suicide city. It’s just inexcusable and I’m glad it was an embarrassment to the studio because they deserve to sit on the throne of shame wearing the hat of dunces while enduring finger pointing and aggressive sniggering for this sin. I can’t imagine who the target audience was – it’s too crude for a family movie but too tame for anyone else, and too unfunny to even become passable fare on late-night cable. This movie feels like Will Ferrell’s caution flag: his career has only slumped since this vulgarity was released. Has he been funny at all since? Frankly, he was only sporadically funny before. This is where his career jumps the shark. May it rest in peace.