Category Archives: Half-assed

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.

Advertisements

Dumbo (2019)

Since the original Dumbo is only 60 minutes long, it was inevitable that Tim Burton’s 2019 update would veer from the scant story line of the first.

Max Medici (Danny De Vito) is the owner of a rinky dink circus where little Dumbo is born and immediately considered a monstrosity, despite the fact that our eyes tell us that between his big, sad, blue eyes and his soft, floppy ears, CGI Dumbo is perhaps even cuter than his hand-drawn cousin. A couple of kids, Millie and Joe Farrier, befriend Dumbo and together they discover he can fly. Their father Holt (Colin Farrell), a former trick pony rider and current one-armed vet, cares for the elephants but isn’t particularly warm to them, or to his own motherless children. When Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is in the middle of an incident, she is labelled ‘mad’ and sold away. This is the straw that broke the circus’s back. It gets eaten up by a new amusement park called Dreamland, owned by Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and featuring the beautiful Colette (Eva Green).

As you can tell by cast alone, all the trappings of a Tim Burton movie are there, but sadly, almost none of the magic.

MV5BMTk3YzY3NmEtODExNy00ZGY5LTk3ZGYtMGUxOTlmN2Q2MTcxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzk5MTY4MTU@._V1_The first thing working against it, at least in my mind, is a circus scene in the movie Big Fish. It’s only a small part of the movie but it’s completely wonderful. Shouldn’t the wonder just multiply when set entirely at the circus? But no. Things start off relatively well at DeVito’s flea circus, but once it gets swallowed up by the soulless Dreamland, things go off the rails.

Second, I despised seeing Dumbo ridden. Dumbo is a flying baby elephant. Isn’t that enough? But no: 2019 needs to subjugate his whimsy by physically climbing aboard. It also doesn’t help that the sight of Eva Green on Dumbo’s back is some of the worst CGI work in the movie.

Mostly though, the movie just doesn’t feel coherent. Dumbo isn’t really even the star. Burton decided against the whole talking animal schtick, and while that makes sense for a live-action remake, it means a lot of improvised human characters and actor egoes who need screen time and dialogue and character arcs.

But when Dumbo himself is on the screen, the movie puffs its little chest and feels bigger for just a moment. Dumbo is irresistible, particularly in his clown makeup. My heart practically grows arms that yearn to embrace the poor little guy. Unfortunately, this little heart of mine just can’t quite make its way to liking this movie. It has everything going for it but the sum isn’t more than the parts. The sum is messy, and a little cold. Burton’s Dumbo is BYOH – bring your own heart.

Bumblebee

Let’s get this out there first: Jay would never have a favourite Transformer, because they are all beneath her and far too nerdy. But if, IF, she liked Transformers then Bumblebee would definitely be her favourite, because he’s a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. Jay has owned three Beetles, blue, white and red, and she would have owned more if only Volkswagen hadn’t stopped production. So last time we got her a car we picked a yellow Mustang which probably would have been a yellow Beetle instead if Volkswagen was better at business.

Just like Jay had to start fresh with a Mustang, Bumblebee is a fresh start for the Transformers franchise after a good start turned into a string of horrible sequels. We are taken back to the 1980s as the Autobots flee their home planet of Cybertron, which has been taken over by the evil Decepticons. Bumblebee is one of the fleeing Autobots and he ends up on Earth with instructions to scout out the place and wait for his friends to arrive. But of course, the Decepticons track him down first and the little yellow Transformer needs the help of his new human friends to save the world.

I was expecting Bumblebee to be as terrible as the last Transformers movies, or possibly worse. It’s not. It’s smaller, more focused, and succeeds in getting the franchise back to its roots by telling a story about humans working together with good robots to stop bad robots. I feel certain that in doing so, Bumblebee also sets an unbreakable record for most 80s references crammed into a single film, by including ALL OF THEM except Hands Across America which Jordan Peele must have reserved in advance for Us.

Despite its efforts, Bumblebee is still not actually a good movie, and I’m sure Jay hated every last minute (except possibly the parts where the Beetle was driving along the California coast). But it’s a fun diversion, it’s by far the best Transformers movie since the first one, and maybe there’s hope for the future of this franchise as long as Michael Bay can keep away from the director’s chair.

Nobody’s Fool

Danica (Tika Sumpter) has a great job, a gorgeous apartment, and a nice boyfriend named Charlie. Her perfect, pretty life is about to be disrupted when her sister Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) crashes with her post-prison. Tanya is impressed by Danica’s lifestyle but dismissive of the hard work it takes to achieve and maintain it. And she’s immediately suspicious of Charlie, a year-long relationship that’s taken place solely over the internet. She’s about to blow shit up.

Meanwhile, Danica innocently starts her days at her favourite coffee shop where owner Frank (Omari Hardwick) pines for her and plies her with free caffeine. Danica is faithful MV5BMTYxNTE2NjgzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTU2NTM3NTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_to Charlie but Tanya sees potential, and enlists Danica’s friend and coworker Kalli (Amber Riley) to help shake things up. So now Danica has a tough choice to make: the perfect on paper Charlie who she’s never even met, or the rough around the edges Frank who is kind to her but doesn’t meet all her requirements.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m reminded again what a fine premise this is. It’s just too bad that Tiffany Haddish ruins things by being off-leash one too many times. The movie and its story get totally derailed by her constant mid-scene stand-up specials. We get it, Haddish: you’re funny. I don’t even disagree. But there’s a time and a place and director Tyler Perry is too cowed to tell her that. So off she goes, improvising her little heart out, destroying any momentum the film’s earned, and any interest the audience has. I was so put off by Tanya’s constant threats against her sister’s life that for me, the only real comedy came from Whoopi Goldberg, who plays their pothead mother.

Nobody’s Fool failed to win me over, and I refuse to be made a fool by it. There are good ingredients but Tyler Perry doesn’t quite mix it right, or in the right proportions, so the resulting cake is undercooked with uneven flavour.

Glass

Glass tries to be a different type of superhero movie, it really does. M. Night Shyamalan’s concept of real-world heroes is a solid one. Unbreakable proves that. As far as I’m concerned, Unbreakable is Shyamalan’s best, one of only two very good (i.e., not quite great) movies he’s made. By making Glass an explicit sequel to Unbreakable, Shyamalan invites me to compare the two, and Glass doesn’t measure up. Call it a Glass that’s about a quarter empty. Of course, that’s still three-quarters full.

32ef47e0-1afb-11e9-b6e9-9c4bb39de67fMuch of Glass is an extended superhero therapy session for Unbreakable’s David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) along with Split’s Horde (James McAvoy), after the three are apprehended and institutionalized at the start of the film. These therapy scenes, led Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), are very slow. We know something is going to eventually happen, but the pace seemed wasteful because every minute in therapy is a minute less for the showdown between Dunn and the Horde that I’ve been waiting for since the last minute of Split. Even with their slow pace, the therapy scenes are still enjoyable, though, in large part because of McAvoy’s amazing performance as he gives us 24 distinct personalities without falling into ridiculousness.

When the showdown between Dunn and the Horde finally comes, it feels like an afterthought. I wish that Shamalan’s previous movies had been better, not only so less of my time had been wasted watching that trash, but also because it seemed a lot of the missing flash in the showdown was due to Glass’s limited budget. Since realism is an essential part of the film, I didn’t expect fireballs or eye lasers, but I did expect to see something special, even before Price expressed a desire to have the fight televised to show the world that superheroes were real. The YouTube footage of Spider-Man from Captain America: Civil War made me feel like I was watching something amazing. Glass’s footage just wasn’t up to that level and it needed to be for this movie to have a satisfying payoff.

The lack of a satisfying payoff is particularly disappointing once we see how the story plays out. Without getting too spoiler-y, I think it’s safe to say that Shyamalan’s ending pisses away any goodwill left over from Unbreakable. Which is a shame because Shyamalan clearly intended to leave room for more sequels, but in getting there he shattered my desire to see any of them.

 

Uncle Drew

If anyone was going to love Uncle Drew, it would have been me. After all, in the early 90s my bedroom walls were covered with posters of Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller, among others (Michael Jordan’s posters covered the most real estate, of course). Also in the early 90s, I watched Chris Webber call a timeout he didn’t have (after travelling first) and cost his team a championship (which would have been lost either way since that team has been erased from the NCAA record books).

Many years later, I got to watch Kyrie Irving take on Russell Westbrook live in Oklahoma City, as Kyrie made everyone besides Russ look like they were standing still.

And like most basketball fans, I never sought out Nate Robertson or had any of his posters, though I am sure I saw him win a few dunk contests (somehow he won more of those than Jordan).

Kyrie Irving plays Uncle Drew, an old guy who’s still got game, and who gets recruited onto a streetball team by Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery in order to beat a team coached by Howery’s childhood nemesis, Nick Kroll. Uncle Drew has one condition: Howery has to help reunite Uncle Drew’s old team. Reluctant but out of options, Howery agrees and heads out on a road trip to search for a bunch of old guys made up to look slightly older (the three all-time greats I mentioned above, along with Robinson).

From L to R: Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller and Kyrie Irving on the set of UNCLE DREW. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Seeing Shaq, Reggie, and C-Webb team up with one of the most exciting players in today’s NBA should have been enough for me to somewhat enjoy this movie (with superdunker Aaron Gordon and WNBA/Team U.S.A. legend Lisa Leslie as added bonuses). But it wasn’t. The basketball scenes really weren’t exceptional, and with such a skilled roster, they should have been. They NEEDED to be, because as hard as Howery, Kroll and Tiffany Haddish try, the attempts at comedy in this movie fall flat. So all that’s left is the basketball, which is not even Blue Chips quality (at least Blue Chips features prime Shaq instead of Uncle Drew’s heart attack Shaq).

The Uncle Drew concept made for an entertaining Pepsi ad because Kyrie Irving made highlight-reel plays wearing several coats of old man makeup. Not surprisingly, that concept wears very, very thin when stretched to feature length. The old man gimmick and a bit of nostalgia are really all that Uncle Drew (the movie) has to offer, so it’s simply not strong enough for me to recommend, as much as I wish I could.

Venom

I did not want to expect too much of Venom, not after the debacle that was Spider-Man 3.  Thankfully, Tom Hardy is not Topher Grace, and because of him, Venom is not Spider-Man 3.  But Hardy can only do so much, so Venom is also no Spider-Man: Homecoming.  It falls somewhere in the middle, which is far more than I could have expected given Sony’s dismal Spider-Man output since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 (worth noting: the only credit I give Sony for Homecoming’s goodness is that they wisely let Marvel drive that bus).venom-4-700x350

Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a disgraced reporter who gets infected with an alien parasite (a “symbiote”) while investigating Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and his evil Life Foundation.  As Brock learns how to use his new powers while linked to the symbiote, he has to work with his ex-fiancée (Michelle Williams) to save the human race from both the symbiote and Drake’s evil plan for world domination.

This film depicts the origin of Venom in a very peculiar way.  That is, Venom’s creation does not involve Peter Parker or Spider-Man in any way, which is completely opposite to the cVenom_0omic book roots of the character as a human and alien united by their hate of Spidey.

Do  I really care?  Only in that I missed the Spider-Man logo on Venom’s comic-book costume.  Otherwise, movie Venom, and especially movie Eddie Brock is far more interesting than his comic book counterpart (at least in his original form as I’m not going to get into discussing the other comic book versions of Venom, such as space-faring Flash Thompson who ended up a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy).  It’s a credit to Hardy and movie Venom’s clear inner conflict that this Venom can stand on his own as San Francisco’s vigilante protector rather than being a one-note Spider-Man wanna-be. He’s an interesting character trapped in a fairly generic comic-book movie.  Venom is a fun adventure because of the interplay between Hardy and the symbiote, and that elevates this film above Sony’s other recent Spider-Man efforts.

The problem Sony faces (again) is that they’ve planned a whole shared universe around a film before it came out (as they did with Amazing Spider-Man 2), and just like with ASM2, Venom isn’t a strong enough movie to support its own cinematic universe.  The silver lining this time is that since Tom Holland’s Spider-Man wasn’t involved in Venom, there’s no need to reboot his Spidey if Sony modifies their reported plans for a five-film series that (spoiler alert for a disappointing mid-credit scene) will include Woody Harrelson as Venom-offshoot Carnage.  All of which might be just as okay as Venom but shouldn’t I be more excited than just “okay” coming out of movie number one?

By the way, (another spoiler) even though the Carnage cameo is disappointing, it’s still worth sticking around to the very end as there’s a teaser for the upcoming animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and it looks fantastic.  Between that and 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spider-Man fans are still doing quite well, even if Venom isn’t the franchise-starter Sony was hoping for.