Category Archives: Sucks ass

Berlinale 2021: The Scary of Sixty-First

Worst movie EVER. Not to brag, but there are 2485 reviews on this site, and this one is the worst by a LARGE margin.

Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) are best friends, supposedly, who have just moved into a shared apartment in Manhattan. Not only do they move in immediately, they use the furnishings left behind by a previous unknown tenant. I’m developing sympathy scabies just thinking about the used bedding situation, which is reason enough to have given them nightmares on their first night, but this is a horror movie, not a hygiene movie.

The next day a young woman (Dasha Nekrasova) wrestles her way into the apartment, revealing to Noelle that it used to belong to Jeffrey Epstein. Together they deep dive into the conspiracies surrounding his pedophilia, arrest, and “suicide.” Noelle, clearly an impressionable young woman, is immediately 100% on board. They imagine that the apartment was used for orgies, rapes, human trafficking, the whole lot. Addie, meanwhile, seems to have been possessed by the spirit of a small child. She sucks her thumb while masturbating to images of Prince Andrew (who is alleged to a close friend of Epstein’s, and/or a pedophile himself), and by ‘masturbating to,’ I of course mean rubbing magazine images of his face against her crotch and inserting commemorative items from his marriage to Fergie into her various orifices, while squishing oranges between her toes. None of this seems pleasurable, in case you were wondering.

The acting in this movie is very, very, exceptionally, terribly bad. I realize no one with an actual career or future in the movie business would ever, in their right minds, consent to be in such a film, but even considering that it’s total amateur hour, it’s still unbelievably bad, across the board. In fact, the only thing worse than the acting is the “writing” which I’m confident was simply copied and pasted from the dregs of Reddit. Dekrasova and Quinn share writing credit and it’s mystifying that anyone would put their names on this thing. Even the sweaty Reddit trolls hide behind anonymity.

Dekrasova is also the director responsible for this mess, and it’s impossible to tell if she’s got any talent because she hasn’t got any taste. I’m mostly afraid to ask how this thing got financed because I have a feeling I know exactly how, and I’m deeply uncomfortable in having been involved in this even tangentially. Did these girls pick this topic because it was the only way they’d ever get significant screen time and they were willing to sell their souls for it…or worse, do they actually believe this stuff and are willing to serve as mouthpieces?

Whatever the answer, I’m not sure how this was chosen to screen at the Berlin Film Festival. Film Festivals absolutely have a duty to push the boundaries of the art form and challenge us to step outside of our cinematic comfort zones, but this movie isn’t that. It’s just a piece of trash that’s in very poor taste. After all, Epstein was a real man, a real pedophile, with real victims, and this film only serves to trivialize it in the most disturbing and disappointing way.

Tom and Jerry

Did you ever wonder how Tom met Jerry, and why it was hate at first sight? Well too bad, this movie’s going to tell you anyway.

Jerry is a mouse, newly arrived in Manhattan, and while apartment hunting he comes across a blind, keyboard-playing cat busking in Central Park. Only the cat isn’t really blind, and of course Jerry finds time in his busy schedule to provoke him just before disappearing into his new digs, the fabulous Royal Gate Hotel. Between its floorboards he sets up a little rodent bachelor pad, and he sets out to sample all of the hotel’s fine amenities. The hotel’s manager is none too pleased to have vermin in his prestigious hotel, particularly before the year’s grandest event – the wedding of Preeta and Ben, set to take place in his hotel ballroom in just a few days. Event planner Terence (Michael Pena) needs help, and Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) needs a job, so she fudges her qualifications and through the magic of live action-animated children’s movies, Kayla has herself a job.

Kayla’s first task is of course ridding the hotel of its mouse infestation, and what better way to get rid of a mouse than to hire a cat to do the job. Enter Tom, who we know already has a beef with Jerry due to their earlier altercation in the park. True to their heritage, Tom and Jerry will get up to their same old antics, the same old back and forth, cat and mouse, push and pull of destruction that they’ve been getting up to since the dawn of time (well, since 1940, which is pretty much the same thing). Director Tim Story doesn’t have much of a modern twist to add to the proceedings, nor does he have much respect for his young audience.

Inserting Tom and Jerry into an uninspired live action scenario is not the best use of these vintage television characters. It won’t please older fans, nostalgic for the cat and mouse of their childhood, nor is it likely to impress young audiences meeting Tom and Jerry for the first time. Terence and Kayla are helping to plan the wedding of the century. Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost) are getting married in the most over the top, larger than life way you can imagine; obviously this leaves lots of room for hijinks and lots of opportunity for trouble. The problem is, the hijinks are kind of played out, like, last century. I can’t really guess who this movie is made for, but I do know it wasn’t me and it definitely wasn’t Sean. Will it be you? Probably not. But if you’re willing to find out, wait until the movie doesn’t cost $25 to rent anymore. Even if you don’t hate it, there’s definitely not 25 bucks worth of movie in here and you’ll end up hating yourself, and possibly an age-old rivalry between a cat and a mouse.

Bigfoot Family

New on Netflix this weekend, Bigfoot Family is the sequel to 2017’s Son of Bigfoot (but don’t worry, if you missed the first one, I’m confident you’ll still be able to navigate the plot of the second).

In the first film, teenage Adam went on a quest to find his long-lost father and found him hiding out in the woods. After a science experiment gone wrong mutated his DNA and turned him into Bigfoot, a pharmaceutical company got wind of things and Adam’s dad felt the only way to protect himself and his family was to go into hiding.

In the sequel, Adam’s father is technically back home but rarely there because his Bigfoot status has accorded him some fame. Adam has learned that he, too, is a Bigfoot – aside from the really big feet, he can heal himself and talk to animals, which is a good thing because several of his father’s four-legged forest friends have since moved in with them, including Wilbur the bear and Trapper the raccoon. Adam’s dad has decided to use his fame in a positive way, lending his celebrity to a village in Alaska concerned that a power company claiming to be 100% clean is actually damaging their ecosystem in secret. But when Adam’s dad goes out there to help out, he quickly disappears. Adam, his mom, plus Wilbur and Trapper, pile into a camper and drive up to Alaska to save their dad, and hopefully also stop the Big Bad Oil Company from doing their thing.

While there’s nothing really wrong about this movie, there’s also nothing very right, or very memorable. There are no big names lending their voices, there are no energetic pop songs, and the plot’s details are going to be a little frustrating to anyone above the age of 5. If you have kids under the age of 5, this might be an okay watch for them, as long as you don’t have to be in the same room. Otherwise this is an unfortunate skip, even knowing how much we need family-friendly fare right now.

Bachelorette

You know when you’re on a deep dive into Netflix’s back catalogue and you come across a movie that’s packed full of A-listers that you’ve somehow never heard of before? There’s always a reason.

Bachelorette is a deeply offensive and rarely funny movie that probably meant to be Deep Impact to Bridesmaids’ Armageddon, but wasn’t. It stars Rebel Wilson as bride-to-be Becky and Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher as her horrible best friends. This trio are quite cruel to Becky, to her face and behind her back. They discuss amongst themselves how impossible it is that their fat friend is the first to be married, and to a good catch at that – rich, handsome, and totally in love with her. They’re jealous, they’re mean, and they’re determined to fuck up her wedding.

On the eve of the wedding, Becky heads to bed while her “friends” get drunk and do coke and fail to find a single ounce of happiness for the bride. In a fit of particular cruelty, Regan (Dunst) and Katie (Fisher) decide to try on Becky’s dress, without permission, and at the same time. The dress does as most would do when taxed with two wearers: it rips down the middle. The rest of the evening is spent in a “hilarious” race to somehow fix the dress before the morning wedding. They’ll get more drunk and do more drugs, and cross paths with the bachelor party on more than one occasion. The dress will be dragged along the sidewalk, get tossed in the trash, and be besmirched by several bodily fluids. And through it all, none of these women ever feels bad or learns a lesson. They’re disgusting human beings but they never face a consequence and they never get called out. I’m half afraid the script doesn’t even realize that they’re pathetic, ugly people.

Bridesmaids was crude and edgy, serving up women behaving badly with style though not always class. It got away with it because underpinning the gross gags and lewd humour was an essential sweetness and an elemental bond that made its hot mess relatable, and grounded. This movie is anarchic but tonally confused, and its characters hideously irredeemable. Even ringing its theme for all it was worth, the film failed to squeeze out even a drop of entertainment. There’s a reason I’d never heard of this movie – I just wish that had stayed the case.

Music

You may already know about this movie even if you haven’t seen it. Sia, the popular singer-songwriter with the oversized wigs, is its director and co-writer, but more importantly, is the woman who made a movie about a young woman on the autism spectrum without casting or seemingly consulting anyone on the spectrum. And when she was called out about it, she got kind of defensive. Understandable, maybe, but not a great look. She has since half-apologized, the very definition of too little, too late.

While I definitely believe that inclusion is good and right, and representation important, I decided to see if I could set the controversy aside and enjoy the movie anyway. The short answer is NO. The long answer is:

Music is not about a young woman on the spectrum named Music. Music (Maddie Ziegler) lives with grandma Millie (Mary Kay Place), who has carefully constructed a safe space in which Music can exist. Music is barely verbal, but she likes to go for walks and visit the library, and she’s never without her headphones. But then Millie suffers a deadly stroke and Music’s sister Zu (Kate Hudson) has to step up and take custody, which is a real head scratcher since Zu is an addict and a drug dealer recently released from prison and currently on parole. How she gets custody is beyond me. She can barely care for herself, she’s 40 but hardly an adult. Caring for a special needs sister seems wildly beyond her, which is probably why things get so wildly out of control. Anyway, this movie is not about Music, it’s about Zu. Music is merely used as a prop to help Zu achieve her goals. She’s a plot device on Zu’s road to redemption.

While this is hardly Hollywood’s first ‘marginalized person as a plot device’ narrative, it is a particularly offensive portrayal by Maddie Ziegler, who, by her own admission only prepared for the role by watching Youtube videos of kids on the spectrum having meltdowns. Ziegler’s performance is without depth or nuance. It’s one-dimensional, insensitive, and doesn’t begin to describe a person as a whole. But director Sia doesn’t understand this, and the script, co-written by Sia and children’s author Dallas Clayton, isn’t interested in fully-realized characters anyway. Music remains opaque and unknowable, Zu is hardly treated to anything resembling an arc or development, and other characters aren’t just basic but sometimes downright offensively stereotypical. It’s surprising that Sia was able to get the likes of Hector Elizondo, Mary Kay Place, Ben Schwartz, and Leslie Odom Jr. to sign on, but then again, none of them would have seen Ziegler’s patronizing performance until everyone was already on set and the ink on contracts was good and dry. But the whole notion that Zu can achieve some sort of absolution merely by learning to love her “challenging” sister is gross. Music doesn’t exist to make Zu look good. She shouldn’t be used as a way to illustrate someone else’s good vibes and positive intentions. She’s not an instrument or a stop along her big sister’s victory tour; her depiction as such is cruel and irresponsible. Why does a movie named after her fail to see Music as a person?

This patronizing and poorly judged filmed is frequently interrupted by an entire album’s worth of Sia songs – performed by Ziegler, Hudson, and Odom Jr. – and their accompanying music videos, which masquerade as insight into Music’s interior life but are really just an excuse to trade on the director’s only real talent. If only she had merely put out 10 videos instead. The musical interludes are of course pastel pieces of choreography heaven, but they not only have little if anything to do with the film itself, they also get really old really fast. Sia lacks the skill to connect these interjections to the larger story and the videos feel shoe-horned into a film that doesn’t want them. And though Maddie Ziegler’s other Sia collaborations (on her videos for Chandelier, Elastic Heart, and Big Girls Cry) are borderline genius, these are of course tainted by Ziegler’s self-evidently problematic aping of disability.

The film’s ignorant and infantilizing portrayal of autism is disastrous, so it might be a good time to yet again point out that actually involving people on the spectrum in this film’s conception, casting, development, and shooting would have resulted in something more authentic and representative. I know it’s tempting, in today’s cancel-prone culture, to dismiss or boycott this film, but I think that we can still learn valuable lessons from bad art. And Music is very, very bad. It’s so bad that it should serve as a new benchmark for productions going forward. It’ll be harder for mistakes like this to be made in the future. That’s not so much a silver lining as a tin foil lining, paltry perhaps, meager consolation, but it’s important to remember that a movie like this doesn’t just do a disservice to a marginalized community, it sets us all back, our understanding and our empathy and our ability to build a more inclusive society. Music isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom, and the only way we can be part of the cure is to talk about the way forward.

Bliss

Greg (Owen Wilson) is having a very bad day: he’s getting divorced, estranged from his kids, living in a motel, and now he’s getting fired. And now he’s accidentally killing his boss while getting fired! And how he’s hiding the body and fleeing the building! A very bad day indeed. In the bar across the street (note: not the wisest place to hide out), he meets Isabel (Salma Hayek), who tells him not to sweat it. Why? Good question. Because this whole world is fake, she tells him, a mere simulation of her own creation. She and Greg are real (in fact they’re “together”) but nearly everyone else is essentially an NPC, just a simulated person able to walk around and interact, but nothing more than a character in a very sleek video game. And there’s proof: Greg and Isabel have powers! They can make the fake characters do things with their minds. How about that?

Greg and Isabel go on a bit of a bender, Greg intoxicated by his newfound powers, happy to forget the woes of his other life and to reap the benefits of a new partner in crime. But there’s more. This world, remember, is a mere simulation. In the real world, Greg and Isabel are scientists, and this is Isabel’s research, and her creation. When they exit the simulation, Greg finds himself in a utopia, a world made perfect by science and technology. A little too perfect, actually; because you need bad in order to appreciate good, the utopia has become less and less satisfying, hence Isabel’s creation – a world in which you can live a rough life in order to better appreciate the perfection back home. Except Greg and Isabel have exited the simulation too abruptly and now both worlds are starting to bleed into each other and they’ll need to risk going back and getting stuck in order to correct it.

Or.

Or there’s another way to watch and interpret this movie. Perhaps Greg’s addiction to painkillers takes a turn for the worse when he loses his job and his home. Maybe Isabel is just a schizophrenic addict and they’re sharing a common hallucination in order to escape their life on the streets.

Bliss is purposely ambiguous and this movie is going to be very divisive because of it. Sean hated it because he made up his mind very early on and felt the whole exercise was pointless once he’d “figured it out.” I felt differently, having embraced the dichotomous possibilities. Writer-director Mike Cahill is careful to scrub the film of any telling language. No one says drugs. No one says addict. Yet there remains evidence for both sides of the coin. Greg has a grown daughter who never gives up looking for him. Isabel is adamant that Emily (Nesta Cooper) is just another fake character, but if that’s the case, why does the story sometimes get told from Emily’s point of view? That would seem to indicate that she’s real. Which goes double for Isabel, who might be just a figment of Greg’s imagination (or a side effect of his high), but she, too, is seen working independently in the movie. Sean insists that Greg is an addict, case closed, but this easy interpretation doesn’t account for the fact that we glitches in the matrix very early on. His wallet, for example, suffers a glitch, unobserved by Greg, seen only by us. Why would Cahill go out of his way to show us this if he wasn’t planting seeds of doubt? Of course there’s a third possibility here, that neither of these worlds is the “real” world and we haven’t seen the end of the simulations. Of course, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out where on the spectrum your belief lays. Some will see this in black and white and others will rejoice in the grays. But I believe there’s some hidden pink, and a very careful watch may uncover it still.

If you’re interested in taking on this puzzle, you can find it on Amazon Prime – but do promise to come back and let us know what you think, because Bliss is only 90% a movie. The other 10% depends on what you bring to the table.

The Little Things

Deke (Denzel Washington) is in L.A. from up north on some menial task, evidence transport or some such. He used to be on the force here, but no longer; his former colleagues don’t have great things to say about him, and they’re not shy about filling in the new guy, Baxter (Rami Malek) on all the ways Deke was found wanting. Mainly that he worked a case too hard, was so obsessed that he jeopardized his career, failed his marriage, and risked his health. Baxter, however, has some sympathy for Deke. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a lot like him. He’s about to get a case that will haunt him in a very familiar way, and as Deke says – these are the ones that stay with you.

Deke has the opportunity to say this to Baxter because for some reason Deke sticks around to work the case with him. Totally unsanctioned of course – the dude has to sneakily take vacation from his real job to pursue this one totally against the rules. And Baxter lets him. Together they pursue an elusive serial killer, which leads them straight to Jared Leto. I mean, to Sparma, played by Jared Leto. And Jared Leto’s long greasy hair, distinguished gut, and totally unnecessary hitch in his giddyup – he literally walks around like he just got off an 8 hour horse ride over very rough terrain, only this is L.A. and even creeps like Sparma have a car. Anyway, Deke and Baxter agree that this guy is a Super Creep and that he’s guilty by virtue of just being so obviously a Super Creep. And honestly, Jared Leto so devotedly gives this guy every serial killer accessory he can think of that we openly despise him too, and don’t care much whether or not he’s actually guilty.

Anyway, as Deke likes to say, it’s the little things that add up, which is ironic because director John Lee Hancock, who also wrote those words, can’t even get the big things right. Hancock started writing this movie 30 years ago and it feels like any number of movies that have come out since, many of them much better, and all of them more original by default. But even if it wasn’t overly familiar, it would still lack suspense, or indeed any momentum. It’s a lot of moping around. You’ve perhaps come to see a trio of ostensibly talented Oscar-winning actors doing their thing but what you get is a solid performance by Denzel trapped in a shitty movie that has one of the most disappointing, anticlimactic third acts in cinematic history. The Little Things is available to stream, but why would you? This movie fails to satisfy in any way. You’ve got no places to go, no people to see, but you still have your dignity, and even during lockdown, time is precious.

Sundance 2021: Land

Bereft from some ambiguous tragedy, some half-crazy white lady drops everything to go live on a mountain, totally alone, without being adequately prepared. No phone, no car, nor running water even, this scenario spells disaster to absolutely everyone except her, who persists against all common sense.

Edee (Robin Wright) seems not to have thought of pretty obvious things, like cold, and like bears, which are both pretty big threats to isolated cabins in the woods. This is shaping up to be a pretty short movie. Lucky for Edee a hunter (Demi├ín Bichir) happens by and thoughtfully notes the absence of smoke from her chimney (Edee having lacked the skill to chop wood and the sense to stack it inside). He saves her from the brink of death, and when she’s finally healthy enough to speak, she tells him to get the heck out. She’s come up here to be alone, you know. Grudgingly she consents to semi-regular visits as long as he brings no news of the outside world. He teaches her all the survival skills that she had no business living up here without, and in exchange she’s barely grateful. Because she’s sad! And because she doesn’t consider that others might be sad too.

Land isn’t a bad movie – how could it be? It’s been made so many times there’s a tried and tested blueprint to follow, and as a first time director directing herself, Robin Wright follows it pretty closely. There’s some very pretty scenery and a quietly commanding performance from Wright, but nothing we haven’t seen before, no new insights, no new tricks. It’s hard enough having empathy for a woman who’s so cavalier and careless, but truth be told, neither character is well-developed and we need more to get a true connection.

Wright is a competent director but Land is a retread of places we’ve seen, people we’ve known, emotions we’ve explored. It’s safe and it’s familiar and it probably didn’t need to get made.

The White Tiger

I didn’t like the book and I didn’t like the movie.

I am so, so tempted to leave this review at just that one sentence but I know that would be a bit disingenuous since I am very much in the minority on this. So I’ll give you a slightly fuller picture and you will be your own judge. If you’d like to watch this movie, you have my blessing, and you’ll find it on Netflix.

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) is a servant in India; his caste is his destiny. He works for people he admires – Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra) – which doesn’t mean they’re nice, only that they’re wealthy, and upwardly mobile . Balram would like to be those things one day too, but for him there is no opportunity and no path toward a better life. Society itself is built around oppressing his kind and making sure they never, ever get their own ideas. So he must beat down his own path, with whatever meagre tools and talents he has. It’s going to be brutal, and it’s going to be bloody, but for Balram, entrepreneurship is the ultimate goal and the holy grail in one. It is worth any price.

The movie kept my attention better than the book, which I found tedious; the film benefits from brisk editing and a Jay-Z remix. I still didn’t enjoy it though, and I’m realizing it’s partially because the protagonist is so dislikable. Balram is hardly the first anti-hero though, and somehow I usually manage to cope. I suppose it’s that when I encounter other characters I dislike – Batman, for example – there’s usually something else I can root for, like good vs. evil. The White Tiger doesn’t give you that; it’s bad vs. worse and you can never be sure which of these slippery sides our protagonist is leaning toward. I guess I needed something to hold onto, and Balram’s underdog status just wasn’t cutting it. Balram’s story is given to us via a letter he’s writing to some successful Chinese businessman, who ultimately brushes him off, unimpressed by the story and the man, and I suppose I, too, was left cold by Balram’s plight. Perhaps you will feel more sympathetic.

Rapture-Palooza

The “Rapture,” if you believe in such things, is an end-time fairy tale made up by evangelicals that basically says God is going to pull a Thanos, do a snap, and with that, all the good little boys and girls (and men and women) will vanish from earth, having ascended to heaven, and the rest of us will be left behind, shrugging at each other like “Ooops!”

The rapture has happened and young lovers Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) have indeed been left behind. The rapture is followed by several plagues, like locusts and blood rain, and the anti-christ’s reign. The anti-christ, who prefers to be called The Beast (Craig Robinson), nukes Chicago and Orlando and threatens to do more, and worse. Whatever he asks, you say yes. That’s just how it is now. Unemployment is high and what little you have can be taken at any moment by the flaming rocks falling from the sky, so to get by you’d better do as you’re asked. And just in case Jesus gets any big ideas about coming back to save humanity (again), The Beast has a really big laser for that.

Anyway, when Lindsey and Ben’s dreams of owning a sandwich cart are crushed, literally, by one of those big flaming rocks, so they have to go to work with Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry), who works for The Beast. Which is how The Beast lays eyes on Lindsey, and decides to take her for himself. This situation suits neither Lindsey nor Ben, so they hatch a plan to rid the Earth of The Beast. One little catch: you can’t kill The Beast, or he comes back as Satan. So the plan involves trapping him, subduing him, and caging him…for one thousand years. It’s a great plan. What could go wrong?

Is this a good movie? It is not. If you like any of the talent involved, you might eke out a few laughs, but you won’t be proud of yourself for it. You have to be smart to pull of satire, and this movie is very, very dumb. It’s crass where it should be incisive, crass where it should be biting, crass where it should be crafty. You get the idea. It’s stoner r-rated raunch and I’m pretty sure the world could live without it.