Category Archives: Half-assed

Wrath of Man

Jason Statham.

Need I say more? I know for many of you, that’s enough. If so, proceed. This movie is pretty darn Jason Stathamy. If not, read on.

The Premise: H (Jason Statham) is the new guy at a cash truck company, but suspiciously, his skills don’t exactly match his resume. H, as you may have guessed, has an ulterior motive.

The Verdict: Since Guy Ritchie directs, so you know what you’re in for. Violence and revenge, basically. Lots of both. Nothing surprising from Ritchie’s corner, nor anything too outside of his wheelhouse for Statham – but then again, isn’t that why you’re watching? To see Statham, still in peak tough guy shape, do what he does best: coldly and methodically avenge fictional deaths by creating yet more havoc and death. He tears through action scenes like a man on a mission. A certain type of man, a type-cast kind of man, but Statham knows his niche and he fills it with such precision and panache that we aren’t tired of watching yet. Wrath of Man is too long; the conclusion takes forever to actually conclude. The pay-off is small, and predictable; you won’t have to look too hard to find flaws in this film. But if you’re looking for some action and you don’t mind taking some stylistic detours to get there, Statham and Ritchie are a pretty effective pairing.

Jolt

The Premise: Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) suffers from Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which causes her anger, and indeed even mild annoyance, to turn into deadly violence. When provoked, she snaps, and good luck surviving her wrath as the extra cortisol makes her stronger and faster than any mere human. After a childhood spent as a lab rat, Lindy strives to live as normally as possible, experimenting with extreme shock therapy to keep her anger from detonating. But when the only man she’s ever cared for is taken from her, she’s going to embrace her inner demons in the pursuit of vengeance.

The Verdict: Jolt isn’t exactly a gem, but as an action-comedy, it’s surprisingly watchable. It depends a lot on Kate Beckinsale’s charms, but as they are indeed considerable, I didn’t mind this. The writing is sloppy but occasionally satisfactorily sardonic, and Beckinsale proves she can land a punch as well as a punchline. Yeah, it’s a little sexist (why are the shock pads stuck to her boobs?), and sure it pats itself a little too smugly on the back for being gender-bending, but the action’s there, if a little uninspired, and the character’s a lot of fun, and it’s sitting on Amazon Prime just waiting for you to give it a watch when there’s literally nothing else.

Gunpowder Milkshake

Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure the milkshake’s actually just vanilla.

Public safety notice: Don’t eat gunpowder. It’s not delicious and it also might set your toots on fire.

Friendly piece of advice: Chocolate beats vanilla. Peanut-butter-brownie’s even better. Salted-caramel-pretzel is the best.

Movie premise: Sam (Karen Gillan) is abandoned as a child by her assassin mom after a bloody diner gun-battle. Sam grows up to be a hitman herself, working for The Firm, led by a greasy guy named Nathan (Paul Giamatti). Sam’s last hit has gotten her into some hot oil: despite merely doing her job, she happens to have killed the son of a very important, and very vindictive man, who has sworn revenge. Even The Firm is upset with her, sending her on a mea culpa mission to recover stolen money, which she learned belatedly (ie after shooting the guy) is intended for ransom to save the dude’s young daughter. Sam takes it upon herself to rush the guy to the hitman hospital, and herself to the rendez vous point to try to save the kid, but at every turn Sam’s only making more enemies, and it’s increasingly unlikely she’ll get out of this thing alive.

My verdict: Derivative. The best parts of the movie are copied directly from other movies. Parts not directly plagiarized flag a bit. Director Navot Papushado is not a needle drop savant; I’ve seen some directors brilliantly and subversively pair an unexpected song with an action sequence, but Papushado is never going to be one of them. The action sequences are actually pretty fun (especially when “librarians” Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett get in on the action), but the terrible music trips them up and tempers our enjoyment. Not really worth the watch unless you’re desperate for some action – or unless you’re trying to convince a producer that a librarian spinoff would be a much more intriguing idea.

Godzilla vs. Kong

If nothing else, Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures have been surprisingly persistent in trying to make their MonsterVerse into a successful franchise. This is the fourth film they’ve released since 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and as the title boldly announces, this is the one where the new version of Godzilla meets the new version of King Kong. Of course, by “meets”, I mean “fights to the death in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers”.

Like the previous films in the MonsterVerse, Godzilla vs. Kong is exactly as advertised. It is essentially plot-free, because that would get mean less time for the monsters to try to murder each other. And monster fights are why this film exists. In between fights there is a small amount of filler in the form of serious science-talk about the origins of these monsters and the “hollow earth”, but feel free to ignore it as I did. Because all the science-talk in the world won’t explain why these giant monsters are saving the environment through killing each other, or why the hollow earth is as bright as day when it is literally the centre of the earth. And the next monster fight is just around the corner anyway.

No one will ever mistake Godzilla vs. Kong for a good movie, but it is a movie that you have to respect if only for its self-confidence. This movie is just so damn sure of itself. So damn sure that you have paid to see monster fights and so damn sure that you do not care about plot or character development or anything else that a normal movie contains. And at least in my case, it was right. I did not miss that other stuff one bit. If you have read this far and still want to see this movie, it will not disappoint. Just pick your favourite monster, sit back, and enjoy the show!

Thunder Force

Okay, I’ll say it: I liked it.

I don’t typically think Melissa McCarthy is at her best when her husband Ben Falcone writes for and directs her and this movie hasn’t exactly changed my mind about that, but it was just good enough to make me smile.

McCarthy’s charm is her saving grace; even when she’s not exercising the full spectrum of her talent, she’s still extremely watchable. Joined in Thunder Force by Octavia Spencer, these two ladies have fun chemistry and an even funner premise. A mutation has rendered a handful of lucky sociopaths into supervillains, but unfortunately for the world, no heroic counterparts exist. Thankfully Emily (Spencer) is a real brain, and she’s developed a special treatment that would grant the kind of powers so people could really fight back. It’s possibly that Emily and her childhood friend Lydia (McCarthy) are not the best choices to receive this treatment, but let’s not dwell. It’s happening. Lydia’s getting super strong and Emily’s going invisible and you better believe Lydia’s pretty pissed that Emily’s training is so much easier than hers. Of course, the training’s going to pale in comparison to fighting Chicago’s worst villain lineup, including The Crab (Jason Bateman), The King (Bobby Canavale), and Laser (Pom Klementieff).

Thunder Force is 100% stupid of course, but also like 55% funny. My laughter was often out of sheer confusion, but the kind of confusion that’s curious and maybe even a little awed. It’s still not a great equation but I’ll take it. I may even watch it twice.

SXSW 2021: Sound of Violence

Alexis is a helpful, happy little girl at the age of 10, and although she’s lost her hearing in an accident, she still loves to listen to music. But when she not only witnesses the brutal murder of her mother, but intervenes, managing to kill the assailant with a meat tenderizer, something very strange happens. The experience awakens synesthetic abilities; spontaneously recovering her hearing, Alexis also discovers that she can “see” sound – the sound of violence in particular.

Cut to: Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is now a young woman, pursuing her passion through academia. Everything seems to be going well for her, despite having been orphaned and survived a tragedy at such a young age. But not even Alexis’ closest friend and roommate Marie (Lili Simmons) knows that Alexis’ hearing is once again in flux, and before she loses it again, she’s determined to complete her masterpiece. Of course, the addictive synesthesia that haunts and inspires her requires some increasingly gruesome sound design. The music she creates is accompanied by orgasmic cinematography, fueling her obsession with bloody, graphic violence and its beautiful sounds.

Sound of Violence is indeed a horror film; Alexis may be a composer, but the pursuit of her music sends her on a killing spree that will rank this film quite high in terms of gore. You’ll come to distinguish the sounds of hearts being perforated, skin being peeled from bone, bloody stumps still plucking at stringed instruments, blood pouring out of orifices from too much song. It’s a symphony unlike any other. It pushes past conventional boundaries, and I’ll admit, the movie lost me on more than one occasion, having asked of me just a little too much. But those inclined to horror will appreciate the marriage of savagery and sound – not music to my ears, perhaps, not exactly a pop tune meant for radio, but a rare orchestral piece whose movements will surely awaken something in you.

The Marksman

Jim is an aging rancher and recent widower who still patrols his land along the Arizona border to protect his few remaining cattle even though he’s about to lose everything to the bank. Once in a while he spots IAs (illegal aliens) sneaking across his land, and he dutifully reports them to his stepdaughter Sarah, who works for border patrol. But one day Jim (Liam Neeson) comes across a young Mexican boy and his mother, who aren’t just smuggling themselves across the border, they’re fleeing the cartel. And the cartel is SUPER motivated to eliminate them! Which is how cowboy saviour Jim becomes the unlikely defender of a kid named Miguel (Jacob Perez) against the assassins whom will pursue them both across the United States.

The Marksman feels more like a Clint Eastwood movie than a Liam Neeson movie; a mildly racist old man, patriotic through and through, becomes marginally less racist through an unlikely friendship/ white saviour relationship with a person of colour.

Jim and Miguel, in an epic, odd couple road trip, are pursued by both border patrol, including Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), and a Mexican drug cartel led by the evil Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), who are super invested in murdering a ten year old kid who probably knows less than nothing. But this is the premise, and while you don’t have to believe in it whole-heartedly, you do have to at least accept it in order to enjoy this action-thriller spanning from Arizona to Chicago, which is quite a commitment.

There isn’t anything new or terribly exciting about this movie. You’ve seen it, you’ve been mildly amused by it. Liam Neeson is of course watchable as ever, though he’s getting pretty grizzled, and not a super believable southern cowboy. Director Robert Lorenz puts in the bare minimum effort. He’s not making a masterpiece here, he’s making a fairly disposable movie about an old, implausible guy taking the law into his own hands, with his own guns. Do you need The Marksman in your life? Absolutely not. But if you love old white dudes realizing that illegal aliens are people too, you could do worse than Liam Neeson.

Seaspiracy

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch this documentary; how smart could it be, I wondered, if it went with Seaspiracy over the rather obvious and clearly superior Conspirasea.

Film maker Ali Tabrizi is clearly passionate about the subject matter but let me tell you a little secret about documentarians: they’re not necessarily experts in the subjects they’re covering. Of course, some documentarians are well educated, and some are journalists, but some just want to make movies, or get famous. Their films’ content isn’t always deep, or thorough, or correct.

Seaspiracy is so general that I don’t doubt it’s fairly accurate. Its main thesis is: oceans are dying, and the commercial fishing industry is largely to blame. Tabrizi seems genuinely surprised by most of the facts he “uncovers” in his film and not particularly well-versed in basic ecology despite a self-proclaimed love for oceans and marine life. He’s also got a remarkable love for himself, and a good portion of his film is overshadowed by his own presence. Are the oceans being saved by shots of him shaking his despondent head as he scrolls the Internet? Or of him wiping away definitely not manufactured tears? Not likely. But he’s sad, guys, very sad, and worse, he’s disappointed. But he’s also very heroic! Don’t take my word for it – he’ll provide multiple statements to that effect, lauding him for risking his life to “report” on this important subject. Never mind that his courage is a little late to the party; his attempt to surreptitiously film a dolphin hunt at “a cove,” as he calls it, is actually The Cove, you know, the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary?

I don’t have a lot of respect for Seaspiracy but I suppose it’s an able enough introduction to the subject matter, perfect for children raised by wolves, people living under rocks, and mole women rescued from underground bunkers. If, however, you’re a normal human person, this particular doc might only be of interest for Tabrizi’s overzealous use of the word ‘equivalent.’ He loves when things are equivalent to other things! And while Seaspiracy exposes corruption and even slavery, its white saviour complex is as troubling as its integrity is suspect. Even if I agree with it in large part, I believe that almost anyone else would have done a better job.

Bad Trip

Chris (Eric Andre) doesn’t have much going for him – no nice house, or good job, or even a car, but when his childhood crush walks through the door, he feels like the luckiest man in the world. Unfortunately, Maria (Michaela Conlin) is just passing through Florida – though she does suggest he look her up in Manhattan if he’s ever in town. It sounds like a polite kiss-off to me and you, but Chris is desperate to take her up on the offer, so he enlists best friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery) to hit the road with him.

Neither has a car, so they borrow Bud’s sister’s car. And by borrow I mean they take it without her knowledge or permission, which she would never give. But Trina’s in prison, so what can she do? Break out of prison, for one, and pursue them all the way to New York City for another. Trina (Tiffany Haddish) doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Anyway, this flimsy plot is really just the framework to allow Eric Andre to pull a series of pranks on unsuspecting rubes up and down the east coast.

Not as political as Borat nor as foolish as Jackass, Bad Trip is thankfully not mean-spirited, but it does get to some pretty outlandish heights (or lows, really), including but certainly not limited to gorilla sodomy and projectile vomiting. I’m not really into pranks but most of their victims weren’t just good sports but good people (discounting one while guy on a golf course), which is sort of heartening to see. And the trio are clearly having so much fun getting away with their tricks it’s kind of irresistible. With a few genuine laughs, this isn’t a terrible option if you don’t mind rude, juvenile (yet still R-rated) humour, but no one’s mistaking this for great. Maybe just a bit of harmless escapism to get you through another weekend in the Red Zone.

SXSW 2021: Fucking With Nobody

After losing a directing gig to her nemesis Kristian, Hanna teams up with her sister and counterculture friends to create a phony Instagram romance between herself and young actor Ekku. Hanna and her friends have lofty ambitions for their Instagram account; self-described ‘social anarchists,’ this “art project” will challenge the traditional, heteronormative power structures of romantic love. Everyone’s super on board, even Hanna’s and Ekku’s current boyfriends, who are both witnesses and participants.

Of course, what starts as a commentary on how easily intimacy can be faked on social media quickly snowballs into something else entirely as Hanna and Ekku begin to rack up views. With a real following, they have a platform to really say something, but instead seem to lose the thread of their original intent.

In a complicated and complicating meta twist, film director Hanna is played by Fucking With Nobody writer-director Hannaleena Hauru. The part of her boyfriend is played by real life boyfriend (and co-writer, and co-cinematographer) Lasse Poser. Fiction and reality blur and the narrative lines become difficult to parse and perhaps more trouble than they’re worth.

This movie about making a movie (about making a movie?) bites off more than it can chew, and though I normally admire hunger, this kind of gluttony was hard to watch and ultimately unsatisfying.