Category Archives: Sucks ass

Jay says; seriously, don’t even bother.

The Life of David Gale

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is an anti-death-penalty activist and professor in Texas (in Austin, Texas, actually, which happens to be where we’re headed this week for SXSW, but that’s just a weird coincidence). He’s quite politically active until he winds up on death row himself, accused and convicted of the murder of another activist (Laura Linney), and sentenced to capital punishment.

The_Life_of_David_Gale,_2003Journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) is brought in to do one last interview with him before he’s put to death, but what he tells her isn’t a straight forward of guilt or innocence, but rather challenges her notions of justice and the legal system. But can she trust what she’s being told, or is David Gale just a smarter-than-average killer?

The thing about this movie…[this is me trying to decide whether I’m going to be polite about it]…is it’s not very good. I mean, it’s trying to be mysterious with a message. But if you can imagine that the message is a big salami, then imagine getting hit in the teeth with this salami, well, that’s The Life of David Gale.

Obviously it’s not for capital punishment. Or is that obvious? Or even true? Because I think tumblr_nijqy0nx9o1t0t91ao7_1280unintentionally, somewhere in the convoluted mess, it might actually manage to do the complete opposite. The Life of David Gale certainly traps some very worthy actors in a mess they can’t act their way out of. Kate Winslet is pretty Winsletty, although she does a fair bit of running just to show how urgent, how life-and-deathy this whole thing is, but Spacey: man. That guy did not get the good end of the salami here. He’s particularly bad acting opposite the kid playing his young son. It’s just uncomfortable to watch.

The film, Alan Parker’s last, wants to be thought-provoking but leaves neither room nor nuance for any thought at all. Although it lures you in with the promise of high concept, it’s more manipulative and frankly, more mundane than you’ll think possible. It ends up feeling fairly generic despite a stellar cast with 13 Oscar nominations between them. In the end, I was just hoping they’d be put out of their misery, which is probably the last message an anti-death-penalty movie wants to send. Then again, nothing about The Life of David Gale suggests that anyone put even that much thought into it.

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Fist Fight

The first mistake Fist Fight makes, and it makes it before it even starts, is assuming everyone in the audience is high. Not just assuming, but requiring. Requiring it, necessitating it with its very premise, yet rudely NOT passing out joints before the opening credits roll. There is nothing about this movie that will make sense unless you are largely mentally incapacitated. Let me be clear: there is no amount of marijuana that will help this movie to make any sense in the strictest definition of the word. There may, however, be a sweet spot where you just don’t care, and if you find it, let me know.

Charlie Day is a mild-mannered English teacher and Ice Cube is an intimidating history teacher at the same “rough” high school where it’s the last day of school, students are fistfight0003wild, and everyone’s job is on the chopping block. Before first period is even over, Ice Cube takes the chopping a little too literally, taking an actual fire ax to a student’s desk. Mean principal Tyler (Dean Norris) insists on firing one of them on the spot, and since Charlie Day’s got a baby due any minute (and is in fact NOT the one to threaten students with an ax), he lets Tyler know that Ice Cube is perhaps the obvious choice. This enrages Ice Cube, and instead of taking his anger out on the student who pissed him off, or the principal who just fired him, or the superintendent who made him interview for his own job, he for no apparent reason zeroes in on the innocent and oblivious Charlie Day, who we’ve already established as a “coward” for no particular reason, but he’s wearing khakis and a nubby sports coat, so let’s go with it.

Charlie Day spends the rest of his day in a total panic, trying to avoid this #teacherfight. Will he stoop to black mailing students? Planting drugs on fellow teachers? Lying to his pregnant wife and disappointing his young daughter? Of course he will. And most egregiously, he will go to Tracy Morgan for advice. I mean, I can suspend my disbelief enough to allow for a horse amped up on homemade meth. Sure. But someone seeking out Tracy Morgan for advice? Come on.

I have an enormous crush on Ice Cube, and he’s very Ice Cube-y in this. And Charlie Day is fistfightquite Charlie Day. It’s too bad nobody wrote for them. Or really wrote at all, period. The run up to the #teacherfight is so standard you’ll wonder where you’ve seen it before and realize the answer is: everywhere. This movie borrows heavily from all kinds of mediocre movies and doesn’t even bother to steal the best stuff. It’s lazy. And absurd. And when the fight occurs, it’ll require exceptions to the rules of time and space that your brain won’t even be able to handle, nor will it want to because this movie just doesn’t deserve that kind of effort.

Fist Fight has all the makings of a mid-February comedy. It’s like it didn’t even try to be anything more.

Gold

If you’re going to cast Matthew McConaughey and pay his hefty salary, why then take away everything about Matthew McConaughey that is good and right in the world?

In Gold, McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a prospector who is pot-bellied, bald, and has a giant snaggle tooth that I CONSTANTLY mistook for a wayward piece of chewing gum for the entire length of the movie. He has a gray pallor, he sweats, he is often scene in soggy, saggy tightie whities: it’s unforgivable. There’s no reason that a prospector named Kenny Wells couldn’t have gold2been played by the handsome version of McConaughey, and it might have half-explained why a beauty like Bryce Dallas Howard would go out with such a loser, which is otherwise downright mind-boggling.  Gold is very, very loosely based on things that might have sort of happened, but Kenny Wells was never a real person. McConaughey’s weight gain, however, is all too real: a testament to cheeseburgers and milk shakes, apparently. He also legitimately shaved his head. But if director Stephen Gaghan really REALLY needed a bloated, past-his-prime dude for the lead role, I’m confident that he could have got one much cheaper, and at less cost to McConaughey’s health. In fact, I propose this guy.

Superficial complaints aside, the movie just plain sucked. Feel free to stop reading now. The rest will just be me riffing on this theme. McConaughey gives a pretty committed performance, whistling around that big ugly tooth, but he should have known better. I can only assume that Matty’s got some weird fixation with gold; this is, in fact, his third movie about the pursuit of gold, after Sahara and Fool’s Gold (and to be fair, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 42%, Gold is his best one yet – but please god, stop trying!).

My main complaint, and maybe the only one that really matters, is that this movie is plain old boring. Billed as a “crime adventure,” the real crime is not stolen gold but stolen time and money from the audience, and possibly also the extra plaque in McConaughey’s arteries.

Take The 10

Chester is having quite a day. He’s finally found a buyer for his “vintage” 1997 Toyota Corolla which means he can take off for greener pastures in Brazil, leave behind his lame Whole(some) Foods job, and all that learning Portuguese won’t have been for nothing. His drug dealing best friend Chris is a little less excited about Brazil. He just wants to go to some concert, to which he can’t stop scalping tickets. But wait, you know there’s going to be a hitch: the Corolla buyer turns out to be in the market for a free drive-by and that puts Chester (Tony Revolori) in a very awkward position. Chris (Josh Peck) keeps making things worse, of course, and things were already pretty bad.

I have such positive feelings for Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel that I want to like this take-the-10-770x353movie immediately, and for a while, I do. But this Chris guy just keeps getting into such dumb situations and I suppose his character is less sympathetic so I’m just annoyed. My tolerance for dumb shit is not as high as is required to enjoy this movie. I may have laughed a couple of times but mostly I just thought things like: I wonder if any aps on my phone need updating? and Is this the perfect time to finally hook up all my single socks? and Holy mother of pearl, why are there still 20 agonizing minutes left?

So I guess that means I don’t recommend it. You know, unless you’re feeling super mellow and time-wastey and prone to generous laughter. Writer-director Chester Tam believes he is creating some unconventional characters, but he’s really only got caricatures with no depth or development. It’s a buddy-hijinks comedy that reminded me a bit of Go but only suffered from that comparison. It’s new on Netflix, but it’s barely worth the energy it takes to scroll past.

 

The Good Guy

Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. Bad bad. Bad bad bad. Bad very bad bad bad. Bad bad bad. Bad bad BAD. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad badbad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad.

Alexis Bledel plays a protagonist you can’t help but hate because she has it all but still whines and complains and makes terrible decisions she’s too old to excuse away. She has a sexy Wallstreet boyfriend who’s willing to defer sex until she’s ready so of course she falls for his co-worker. And then to defend her actions we villainize the boyfriend so we can send him away without a wrinkle in our consciences. The whole thing is cheesy, badly acted, and an insult to bipedals everywhere. Honestly, folks, we’re better than this.

Christmas Trade

“You stand a better chance of winning the lottery and getting hit by lightning on the same day than you do of getting a new puppy” – said dad, to his motherless son, days before Christmas.

Anyone want to take a bet on this kid getting a puppy before this movie’s over?

Billy Baldwin plays the “hot widow guy” (not MY words, believe me) that all the other school moms covet. He’s a big fancy lawyer who works too hard, spends too little time with his son, and keeps his secret new girlfriend (Denise imagesRichards) at a distance. A weird teddy bear mysteriously shows up on his doorstep and is activated during a fight with this son. Before you can change the channel, the bear Freaky-Fridays them. Just a few short days before Christmas, “dad” has to go to school and confront the bullies and his nerves about starring in the big pageant and “son” has to take a witness’s deposition, throw the office Christmas party, and get tongued by more than one woman.

I haven’t even gotten to the best part: Tom Arnold plays the teddy bear’s “repair man,” the guy who orders the “sprocket” from Amazon in order to save Christmas or what have you (I may not have been paying the best attention).

I likely don’t have to tell you that this movie offers very little in the way of entertainment of even diversion. It milks the one joke it thinks it has until the joke’s teats are raw and bleeding. But it is kind of comforting to know how far the man who once gave me quite a thrill (Backdraft had my favourite sex scene for quite a long while running) can fall. Tom Arnold, however, has had a career that has operated AT BEST right in this very comfort zone. And Denise Richards may be trading up. Maybe that’s the only Christmas miracle we’re getting here folks. Hope it’s enough to keep you warm.

Uncle Nick

Are you in the mood for a creepy Christmas movie? Not murderous abortion creepy, worse: lecherous\incestuous\underage creepy.

Nick’s brother has recently become a trophy husband. His rich wife is hosting Christmas dinner for her 2 kids, her new and improved (and needless to say younger, and useless) husband and Nick the alcoholic brother (Brian Posehn) is invited, against everyone’s better instincts, as well as Nick’s sister and her podcasting husband: a real blended-family Christmas. Nick’s sole goal, besides soaking in gin, is to fuck his new niece. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Set in the dumpster fire that is Cleveland Ohio (sorry Cleveland, it’s only sort of personal: mv5bmtu3mza4ntuymv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjy0otaznze-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_the last time I visited it was for massive surgery, which naturally didn’t leave me with a fond impression), the Christmas festivities are twinned with a retelling of 10-cent beer night at an Indians game back in 1974. That’s a real baseball game where the drunken fans rioted and mayhem and nudity and violence broke out and the game had to be forfeited and abandoned: not a “traditional” Christmas pairing. It can’t have looked right even on paper but in practice it’s downright untenable.

I suppose this was meant to be a raunchy comedy, only someone left out all the comedy. We never truly know any of the quirky characters either, or how any of them consented to spending the holiday in such an insufferable way.

I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about this movie, so instead I’ll dig deep and say something nice about Cleveland: while you’re there, you can visit the house used in exterior shots of a monumentally better holiday movie called A Christmas Story. Watch it. Watch it again. Even if it’s the 20th time you’ve seen it (even if it’s the 20th time this year!) it’ll still be a better experience than even 5 minutes with slimy Uncle Nick.

 

Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7th 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.

It’s been 75 years since that fateful attack on US soil, and 15 years since Michael Bay made a movie about it, and people are still arguing about which one was worse.

Oof, okay, sorry. No more joking about it. Sean and I are actually in Honolulu right now, visiting the Pearl Harbor site, and that’s a super-somber thing for uss_arizona_memorial_4sure. But beautiful too, in its way. There’s a floating memorial right over top where the USS Arizona lays beneath the ocean. You take a small shuttle boat over to it, and you can walk around on the very spot where it happened. It’s a lovely memorial, sobering as it is built right over the battleship, where 1102 of the 1177 crewmen killed still rest. In aerial shots, you can make out the outline of the ship. Lots of quiet moments to think about this loss of life.

Does Micheal Bay’s movie afford the same opportunity? Not so much. The spectacularly bad dialogue makes it hard to take seriously. And critics derided the love story, though lots of Pearl Harbor-era veterans thought it pretty accurate. It’s maybe not the kind of love story we’re used to today, but if you compare it to a romance from the actual 1940s, it’s not so far off the mark. pearl-harbourPlus, war and love make us do crazy things. Michael Bay, however, is just the worst choice to convey those things. The 40 minute action sequence: superb. Very Michael Bay. Very explody. It’s even in the Guinness book of records for movie with most explosives used. There’s one shot of 6 explosions in “Battleship Row”, which was staged on real Navy ships. 6 ships, 600 feet each, rigged with 500 bombs on each boat, using 700 sticks of dynamite, 2000 feet of cord and 4000 gallons of gasoline. It took 7 months of coordination, a month and a half to rig them, permission from the government of Hawaii, the EPA, and the Navy, plus 100 extras on hand and 6 planes flying overhead, and 14 cameras to film it and in the end, it was a 7 second explosion that was stretched to 12 seconds on screen. That’s how Michael Bay do.

Otherwise it’s bloated and clichéd and weak in both plot and character. Bay has a special kind of super power where he routinely takes 3 hours to say very little, and almost never authentically. But there’s a lot of flag-waving. 1503b4f462b99050922864481f727176Wouldn’t you like to see Michael Bay and Clint Eastwood in a flag-off? Who would drop first? Pearl Harbor manages to make a spectacle out of a profound moment in history, where blood was shed by real people embroiled in their own acts of love, intimacy, bravery, fear, courage, and duty. But those stories never get told. Instead, Michael Bay offended the Japanese by upping the “barbarism” of the whole thing, which also insults American vets, who would be right in thinking the real event was bad enough. A better tribute to those who died, and those who survived, is found at the memorial, where a 23 minute documentary is shown, and manages in those 23 minutes to be more honest and more informative than Bay’s 183.

 

 

 

 

Bad Santa

A mall Santa and his “elf” rob department stores after a long day of hearing children’s Christmas lists. After a particularly good score, Billy Bob Thornton vows to stop his Bad Santa ways and head on down to retire in Miami like the good drunk he is. And he does. It’s just that he’s still a miserable SOB whose only skill is taking things that aren’t his.

Bad Santa is a proud raunchy comedy, sparking an alarming trend in holiday films. At the time (2003) it held the record for most profanities in a Christmas film: 300, over half which are fucks.

bad-santa-3-1000Weirdly, both Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson hoped for the role before committing to other projects. Billy Bob stepped into the title role (which was translated as “Santa is a Pervert” in the Czech Republic) and to this day he lists the filming as one of only 3 time periods he’d care to revisit (the other two being the Alamo, and 1979, when he worked for the Arkansas Highway Department. He’s a weird guy.).

Anyway, Bad Santa and his conman elf get back into business in Arizona, where the fly in their ointment is a bullied chubby kid whose family would make a great mark if only he wasn’t so endearing. Cloris Leachman, who plays the kid’s uncredited Grandma, is the only high point of the film. I watched this when it was new and didn’t care for it so colour me surprised to learn that there’s a sequel out in theatres, because apparently someone wanted that.

What I didn’t want was to see John Ritter sweating away in this last embarrassing role, or Bernie Mac constipated and not much else, but what I REALLY didn’t want to see was a Gilmore Girl awkwardly folded into the front seat of a shitbox car screaming “Fuck me, Santa!” I have recently spent time with the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix but I have no urge to find out how much badder this Santa can get. It should be noted that Lauren Graham is NOT back for Bad Santa 2 but Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is, and she’s joined by Oscar winner Kathy Bates. Mysteries abound.

 

A Christmas Melody

This movie is achingly bad from the very first. Lacey Chabert, aka, the littlest Party of Fiver, aka one of the mean girls, aka hasn’t worked since “stars” as a single mom who has to give up her dream of being a fashion designer in L.A. to move back home to Ohio for Christmas, with her young daughter in tow.

Things look up very briefly when Kathy Najimi makes a brief appearance as her bubbly aunt, but it’s fleeting and as soon as Najimi’s offscreen, things go downhill rather fast.

So fast in fact that before I know it Mariah Carey is now making my day much worse, downloadappearing as the PTA mom who’s about to make Lacey Chabert’s life even more unbearable, as if being exiled to Ohio wasn’t bad enough. Now she has to put up with some old rival from high school one-upping her and flaunting the lifestyle that dentistry bought her. Some very talented directors have occasionally elicited some not-terrible performances from Carey (I’m thinking of Precious here, and I’m not sure what else) but whoever directed this monstrosity is clearly cowed by her. She’s more wooden than a nutcracker and she’s making hand gestures like she’s Celine Dion, live in concert.

The movie unfolds exactly as a Christmas movie must: little girl finds acceptance by singing in the school pageant, mom falls in love with the music teacher, a major department store wants to buy her designs but she’s already so happy in Ohio she doesn’t need to pursue her other dreams anymore. Oh, and the school janitor may or may not be Santa Claus.

Questions?