Category Archives: Half-assed

Five Feet Apart

Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Poe (Moises Arias) are friends, roommates and teenagers who’ve known each other since they were kids. They’ve been through a lot together and their bond is undeniable. When a third wheel, Will (Cole Sprouse), moves into the building, things begin to change.

Also worth noting: Stella, Poe, and Will are all CF patients, and the building in which they live is of course a hospital. They’re all living in the same ward but because of their disease, they aren’t allowed to come any closer to each other than 6 feet. Which puts a real damper on the budding romance between Stella and Will. Of course , the looming specter of their mortality is also boner-softening, I’d imagine.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a fatal genetic disease for which there is no cure. It affects mostly the digestive system and the lungs. It’s the progressive lung damage from chronic infection that usually gets them in the end. Average life expectancy is almost but not quite middle age.

So here is another entry in the dead or dying teenager trope, which is weirdly having a moment. Or maybe it’s always having a moment. Teenagers like to really heighten the stakes. These teenagers know their limits and why they exist, not that it makes it any easier to follow them. They’re not trying to endanger their lives, but they are trying to live them. A warrior nurse named Barb (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) will do everything she can to keep them going, and sometimes that pits her against them. I thought constantly about how hard that must be for her. She’s the one caring for them day in and day out, likely for years, and definitely for weeks and months at a time. She has more contact with them than any friends or family. But it’s not her job to match-make, or to chaperone dates. It’s to keep them alive another day.

CF patients may find it hard to fall in love. Their time outside hospitals is limited. Their time on earth is limited. But love between CF patients can’t happen at all because they must never, ever touch. Teenagers may find forbidden love irresistible, but this is a whole other level.

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Hot Summer Nights

When his father died, Daniel was so messed up he quit his paper route without notice. His cries for help added up until his mother sent him away for the summer – to his aunt’s house, in Cap Cod.

1991 was the hottest summer that Massachussetts had seen in many, many years, although for Daniel (Timothee Chalamet), it wasn’t necessarily about temperature. He meets the local bad boy, Hunter (Alex Roe), and starts flipping weed with him. Daniel’s business savvy combined with Hunter’s hustle means they’re running some major product and stockpiling significant cash. Hunter only has one rule: don’t touch my sister.

Hunter’s sister McKayla (Maika Monroe) is of course some brand of irresistible. Daniel falls for both: the girl and the money. It’s going to be a wild summer. It IS a wild summer: new cars, stolen kisses, steamy nights at the drive-in. Daniel sees more money than a teenager ever should, and the summer is heady, happier than he would have imagined at its start. But things quickly and inevitably get unmanageable because teenagers lack impulse control.

A storm hits. Literal and figurative. It’s The Perfect Storm, but it’s also a guy with a gun hunting down the dudes who fucked him over.

Director Elijah Bynum engages relentlessly is some very heavy 80s worship, and a lot of his style seems borrowed, matching the story, which is lacking in originality. But to his credit, he did cast Timothee Chalamet before he was THAT guy, the IT guy, and the cast does a lot to keep this thing from getting stuck in the mud. Like its hero, this movie stumbles around until it gets in over its head. The charm of the pretty cast, and indeed the pretty corpses, doesn’t quite make up for the leaden script and too-familiar story. Hot Summer Nights is nice to look at, but it never makes you sweat.

Then Came You

It cost me some dignity to even click on this film. That’s the first thing you need to know. The dying teen trope is practically my nemesis and it’s truly difficult to picture a universe in which I don’t resent it just for existing. So, not exactly a neutral space for writing impartial film reviews. But Netflix doesn’t pay me to write impartial reviews. Netflix doesn’t pay me at all.

Calvin (Asa Butterfield) and Skye (Maisie Williams) meet at a cancer support group where they’re both working on bucket lists, only they don’t call them that because that movie’s already been done. Their impending deaths lend an air of urgency to these lists – Skye wants to do loads of very general sounding things, like learn a trade and leave a mark, but she imposes only one item on his list: asking out a girl.

He works as a baggage handler at an airport where he’s seriously crushing on a flight attendant named Izzy. Which doesn’t stop Sky for going full manic pixie dead girl on him. That might be a nice farewell gift to a dying teen, only Calvin’s hanging on to a secret. He’s not dying. He’s just a hypochondriac.

Does this mean I only hate this movie half as much, or twice as much, on principle?

Then Came You has some nice moments, mostly because Butterfield and Williams are more watchable than a bag of dicks. Stop with the effusive praise, you say. No shade to Butterfield or Williams – they really are a sweet pair, she not quite convincing as a free-spirited punk, he all too convincing as an awkward, gangly spazz.

The problem is with the words coming out of their mouths. Whoever writes these things clearly thinks dialogue should double as a pancake topping: pure syrup. Skye had cancer, but she died of an overdose of cheese. Which actually sounds like my new top favourite way to die. Too much cheese! But not movie cheese. Cheese cheese. Goat cheese. Old cheese. Soft cheese. All the cheese. But Sky’s fatal dose of cheese came from doing all the tragic dying girl things that tragic dying girls always do in movies. Just once I’d like to see them go kicking and screaming. I mean, how many 17 year olds can possibly be so stoic in the face of the big sleep? I guess anger and fear and bargaining aren’t as photogenic. We like our tragedy porn to be youthful, docile, and composed. Tears are fine, but no ugly crying, it goes without saying.

Then Came You is ten cents out of $1.20 (a dime a dozen – is that how that works?). If you’re adding to your weepies fix, I suppose this one deserves a spot on the list. Otherwise it’s not a super great use of your Netflix account.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Do you remember there was a Godzilla movie released in 2014? Neither did I, but maybe that’s because we saw it at the drive-in. Apparently Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a sequel to the 2014 film, and apparently in 2014 Godzilla stomped through San Francisco at some point. Well, during the mayhem, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler’s movie son died, and it really put a strain on their marriage. So they split up, and now their movie daughter Millie Bobby Brown lives with Vera in a Chinese rainforest, researching classic movie monster Mothra. Things go sideways, though, when ecoterrorist Charles Dance kills everyone else at the research lab and takes Vera and Millie hostage along with Vera’s monster-controlling sound machine, in order to wake up lots of other monsters and let them run wild.

Obviously, the plot is really dumb. And the characters have some of the dumbest dialogue of the year. Mostly espository nonsense in between assorted lame quips (and very occasionally a good quip from O’Shea Jackson Jr., probably ad-libbed). Just terrible writing. So much terrible, terrible writing. But who cares, really? Godzilla should be about the monsters, and the monsters come to play.

Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah feature prominently, with King Kong and a bunch of other monsters making cameos (I don’t know who the other ones are but I bet someone does!). Monsters fight in Antarctica, monsters fight in Mexico, monsters fight in Boston, and I think they fought in one or two other places as well, but who can keep track? The important thing is, when the monsters fight, the movie works. And they fight enough that all the stupid writing can just be ignored, because you know another fight will come before too long.

Maybe next time they can fill the inter-fight lulls with halfway decent writing, plotting and character development. But if I have to choose between good human-vs-human scenes and good monster-vs-monster ones, I’m picking monster fights every time. After all, the monster fights are why I went to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in the first place!

Good Sam

Kate Bradley (Tiya Sircar) is a TV reporter who takes too many risks getting exclusive footage of fires and daring rescue attempts. Dedicated to the bummer beat, her boss can’t get her to stop, so he gives her a different kind of story, soft news that insults her, but the story turns out to be quite the gold nugget.

An anonymous donor has left a literal bag of cash on someone’s door step. She’s thrilled to have $100 000 but has no idea who could be so generous. That first recipient wants to call it a miracle, but Kate’s story doesn’t stop there. There are other door steps, other bags of money, and pretty soon the whole city’s abuzz with the good news.

MV5BNzcxMDM0NWItMTVmYS00ODFkLWFlZTctYjZhMGM4ZTg3ODJiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODIyOTEyMzY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_Kate, who started off reluctant to report on something so negligible, now has quite a story on her hands. And it’s not just that it’s something positive making the news for once. It’s the mystery of the thing. Who is this guy, who becomes known in the media as Good Sam, short for good samaritan, and why is he changing lives without taking credit? Kate is obsessed with but skeptical of the notion that someone might be doing good without expecting anything in return – is this naiveté, or wishful thinking, or a new kind of philanthropy set to inspire a whole city?

Good Sam is a feel-good story, and perhaps a bit of a fantasy. In the day and age of Trump, it’s hard to imagine such a positive news cycle dominating the headlines. The plot’s a little flimsy and the characters aren’t shadowed by motivation or even much personality, but Tiya Sircar leads the cast with such good cheer, she’s hard to resist. Which is a good thing, because though Good Sam reaches for themes on the top shelf (journalism’s role in public perception, generosity without expectation), it all too often scrapes along the very bottom (mired in Kate’s relationship status). But with tempered expectations, Good Sam is not a bad way to spend time thinking about how ratings drive a news cycle, and heck, it’s easily accessible on Netflix right now.

 

What Men Want

Ali is a hard-working sports agent at her firm, where she is overdue to make partner but keeps getting passed over in favour of more bro-ey types. It’s a real boy’s club in there, but she’s motivated to join their ranks.

So that accounts for why she’s a bit down in the dumps at her best friend’s bachelorette party. A fortune teller come to entertain the women “sees” that she’s having trouble connecting with men, and has just the tea for that. And wouldn’t you know it, the next day Ali (Taraji P. Henson) wakes up with the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts, plus or minus a head injury.

Yes, this is a remake of the Mel Gibson vehicle What Women Want, though no one seems to have noted that neither men nor women wanted either of these films. And to be honest, Taraji P. Henson is eminently more watchable than Gibson and Helen Hunt combined (great Darwin’s ghost, what was 2001 thinking?), so the 2019 edition has a MV5BMTIxODZhYmEtYzM4MC00YzE5LWJhMDQtMmQyOTE4MDcwMDU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzEwODIxNzE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_slight edge. However, women really are a mystery and Mel Gibson really is an idiot, so at least that version made sense. Taraji P. Henson clearly knows how to handle men. Ali is a confidant, competent, sexy woman. So let’s not sit around pretending that she’s the problem in search of a mind-reading solution. What this movie should have been is How Not To Be A Misogynistic Asshole At Work (Or Ever!). And also: How Not To Group All Men Into One Disgusting Category. What’s that you say? Men like sports and cars and not talking about their feelings? How very 1958 of you.I mean, sure, those things describe Sean rather perfectly. But he also farts and eats a lot! I mean, that’s not ALL he’s good for. He also carries heavy bags and holds my credit card and orders for me in restaurants. Wait. What? The onslaught of unadulterated sexism in this movie has jumbled my brain. If only a man was around to write this review for me!

You know what women want? Better roles for Taraji P. Henson. And I bet men want that too.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

It’s hard out there for a single woman. And there is perhaps nothing more illustrative of that fact than the woman who stayed with Ted Bundy, infamous serial killer.

Liz (Lily Collins) is the dumb bitch and Ted (Zac Efron) is the charming son of a gun who gets away with it.

Liz wants to believe him. Or she wants to want to believe him. Sure it’s increasingly hard when the convictions start rolling in and other states start throwing in their charges as well. The country is littered with the bodies of dead young women. It’s getting tricky to be in love with Ted Bundy. But no matter how much evidence piles up against him, no MV5BMTk5NzEyNTY0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA4MTU4NjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,893_AL_matter how much sense it makes to her rational self, the heart is a stubborn muscle, and it often betrays common sense. There’s an early scene wherein Liz and Ted go dog shopping at a local shelter. She walks by some real cuties, including the unicorn of dog shelters, a real life golden retriever puppy, but she sets her eyes on a dog even I thought looked suspicious. “It’s going to tear her throat out,” I said, half joking. And then it turned aggressive a split second later. Liz is as good at choosing dogs as she is at choosing men.

Liz isn’t the only one who doesn’t take him seriously enough. The cops often have him behind bars only to let him slip away. One mustache later and he’s picking up women again. And, you know, brutally murdering them. But the movie completely glosses over those parts. Rather it focuses on Bundy’s manipulation of the women in his life, of the truth and what it means, of the judicial system itself, of the media and its perception of him. Bundy is the ring master of a certified media circus, and a continued magnet for a certain brand of chick who insist they find him “dreamy.”

Strangely, the film seems more in contempt of the women who love and help and care for him than it is of the man convicted of so many vile and wicked crimes. It’s an odd take I’m not sure the world needed it. The only thing that saves this movie from itself is Zac Efron’s performance, and I bet you never thought you’d hear anyone say that in your life. As Bundy, Efron is a man of misplaced convictions, a man who believes his own lies – and his own hype. He’s a shark, but he’s also a master of charm and good manners when he’s not ripping into your flesh. And while it’s a compelling performance, it’s also part of the problem. The movie with the long, annoying title shows all the facets of Bundy’s personality that a woman might fall for, and very little of the terrible violence he perpetrated on dozens of innocent victims.