Category Archives: Sucks ass

Space Jam

It’s fitting that LeBron James is taking the Space Jam reins from Michael Jordan, since last week James passed Jordan in career points scored and the two have always been compared since James was in high school.  Jordan would have scored many more points if only he hadn’t taken two years off in his prime to try his hand at baseball.  Rumour has always held that Jordan went to play baseball in order to avoid a gambling suspension, mainly because it made no sense at all for the notoriously competitive Jordan to have “retired” at age 30 (Jordan would retire twice more before his basketball career was over).

Jordan’s baseball career features prominently in Space Jam’s loose plot, as if he had been playing basketball at the time, the evil aliens from the Moron Mountain amusement park would have taken Jordan’s skills and he never would have been able to help the Looney Tunes gang.  But because Jordan was retired, the aliens had to steal other NBA players’ talent, space-jam-bill-murrayincluding Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley.  Jordan is then recruited by Bugs Bunny to play with a bunch of other cartoon characters, with some help from Bill Murray and no help at all from Wayne Knight, as the cartoons take on the aliens in a basketball game to determine whether the aliens will enslave those loony ‘toons as an amusement park attraction.

This movie was probably never any good but it has been made worse with age.  The animation is dated, the green screen work is horrible, and worst of all, the “stars” involved in this movie, other than the great Charles Barkley, have been forgotten by all but the most attentive New York Knicks fans (who would punch me in the face for saying anything bad about Ewing and who will never forget LJ hitting a clutch four-point play against the Pacers in 1999’s Eastern Conference Finals).  Space Jam also really highlights how much the Looney Tunes feel like variations of one another (cat/duck and man/pig in particular) and pale imitations of their Disney counterparts.

Even with only a 90 minute run-time, a significant part of the movie feels like filler, including an opening scene with a 1- year old Jordan, about 5 minutes of Jordan highlights during the opening credits, and a subplot of sorts that features some really terrible acting by the three kids playing Jordan’s family (like so bad that you figure they have to be Jordan’s real kids, but they’re totally not – I checked).

lebron-vs-mjIf LeBron’s career arc is any indication, the next Space Jam is destined to be technically superior to Jordan’s original but lacking the same emotional core.  That doesn’t bode well for the reboot when there was no substance or emotion to the first Space Jam at all.  Watching it again only makes one wonder why anyone bothered to make it in the first place, as well as why James would want to invite any more comparisons to Jordan’s six for six NBA Finals record against LeBron’s three wins and six losses in his attempts (which I don’t begrudge but I’m in the minority on that point).  On the other hand, since the original Space Jam has nothing to offer, the reboot can’t possibly be worse!

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Robin Hood

If you needed money on an urgent basis, would you steal from the rich or the poor? The rich, right? It’s a no brainer. It’s Robin Hood’s calling card for good reason, because it works. And yet, when forced to make that decision in the latest big screen version of the legend of Robin Hood, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) chooses to rob the poor instead. I took it that was intended to show us that the Sheriff is truly evil. But what it really shows us is that he is an idiot.

This Sheriff of Nottingham is so dumb that he has no chance to best Robin Hood or any of his merry men. He is so dumb that he was written out of this wannabe franchise before it even crashed and burned at the box office. Still, Mendelsohn doesn’t let this miserable movie or its bad script constrain him. He gleefully chews enough scenery to let us know that even as this movie is bursting into flames around him, he relishes this chance to play an idiot. He absolutely nails it. Which doesn’t make Robin Hood any more enjoyable, but I have to give Mendelsohn an “A” for effort.

No one else in Robin Hood has even an eighth of Mendelsohn’s desire. Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson and Jamie Dornan must also know that they are part of a dismal film. Nothing about this project could ever have seemed promising. Cliches and plot holes abound. The story makes no sense. The voiceovers are unbearably banal. The whole endeavour was so flat that I had time to wonder what Michael Bay might have made of this, and I concluded he could only have made it better, because at least Bay would have joined Mendelsohn in having some fun with the wretched source material.

Aside from Mendelsohn, everyone else in this film is making an obvious effort to be forgettable. It mostly works. In a year from now, I probably won’t remember anything about Robin Hood. It’s destined to be a footnote at best, remembered only in passing the next time a Robin Hood movie is made (maybe with Robin being female, which is one in a long list of Jay’s good ideas). Until then, try the Disney cartoon if you need a Robin Hood fix, or fall back on the Kevin Costner one if you’re desperate. Because the 2018 Robin Hood is not worth any of your time, or even any of the time of your most idiotic nemesis.

Disney Movies Based on Rides

I am no fan of Johnny Depp, or Orlando Bloom, or stupid movies, so when Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I didn’t need another reason not to see it. But a movie based on a ride? What does that even mean? Of course, at the time, I’d never been to Disney World, so I didn’t understand to what lengths Disney goes to actually tell a story with its rides. This was not such a stretch. Nor was it the first of its kind. In fact, unknown to me, there were several movies based on rides coming out at the same time.

The Haunted Mansion is a much-loved ride at Disney. Sean remembers it from anigif_enhanced-5175-1444687916-5childhood, but the ride is even older than he is – it opened in 1969 in Disneyland, and 1971 in Disney World, and both are still operating today. You ride in a doom-buggy through a dark, spook-filled mansion. To this day, Sean is disappointed that his little sister ruined the ride for him – her little body occupying the space between Sean and his dad meant that they didn’t see the ghost in their cart, but two-person carts are treated to a spectral sight between them, among many other spooky tricks.

The movie The Haunted Mansion (2003) managed to come out to so little fanfare that I never knew it existed. Its story doesn’t really draw much inspiration from the ghosts that are known and loved for the WDW ride, but anyone who’s ridden it in Paris might find something more familiar. Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a real estate agent who works alongside his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason). He’s a mv5bnzc4nwyzzjctytm5os00odqylwfiyjetmdkyzgezndexnmrhl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzq2odyxodq@._v1_workaholic and they’re supposed to be at the lake with their kids this weekend, but instead he can’t resist a detour to check out a potential listing – a cobwebbed, derelict mansion. Its “master” Gracey (Nathanial Parker) is reclusive and his butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), is…protective. Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, and Dina Waters round out the the mansion’s creepy staff.

While the ride manages to mix horror with humour, the movie doesn’t quite manage either. In fact, I was constantly distracted by the memory of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routine wherein he avowed that no black person would ever star in a haunted house horror movie because they would have sense enough to just leave the minute they saw anything supernatural. The Evers family does not leave. The audience feels very much like they have overstayed their welcome. Guillermo Del Toro was rumoured to be remaking this film, and I cannot overstate how very welcome that would be, but he has since parted ways with Disney so the film seems increasingly unlikely. Boo.

Country Bear Jamboree is a bunch of ursine animatronics who put on a country the-country-bear-bear-band-bears-now-in-high-definitionmusic spectacle, and have done so in Walt Disney World since 1971 – and they do to this day, in a slightly revamped version. I find it fascinating that park-goers in 2019 continue to be entertained satisfactorily by “technology” that was obsolete before most of them were born (if the popularity of the Millennial Pink Minnie mouse ears are any indicator of the park’s demographics). And yet the bears can still be found strumming banjos and talking to taxidermied heads in Frontierland.

The Country Bears  (2002) is beary disappointing. The bears are basically just people wearing dopey bear costumes, and the movie is live-action, with bears and humans mixing unreservedly. However, little Beary Barrington (voice: Haley Joel Osment) knows that he is different from his human brother and human parents. He’s detail.9e4f2ff3adopted. The only kinship he feels is toward The Country Bears, a defunct country-rock band made up of bears, who have since broken up. When Beary runs away from home to The Country Bears’ favourite venue, he finds it derelict, and about to be torn down. In a bid to save it, he tries to reunite the band for a fundraiser reunion concert. It’s a bafflingly bad film with zero laughs. I don’t know how it got made, I don’t know which 17 people went to a theatre to see it, and I don’t know how The Muppets got away with stealing this exact plot line 9 years later. And yes that’s Christopher Walken in the photo.

Burlesque

Some bad movies you watch because some self-sabotaging part of your brain wonders, how bad could it really be? Some bad movies you watch because you’re too damn lazy to seek out a better one. Some bad movies you watch out of curiosity, or you’re in the mood to hate-watch something, or you don’t think the night deserves anything better. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes you’re just smart enough to avoid it. I’ve been actively choosing to not watch Burlesque since 2010, so much so that I never even realized how many of my favourite performers – Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming – are in it. How did I come to finally watch this stinker?

This is going to sound like a stretch, but it basically comes down to our traveling to Mexico over Christmas. If you’ve ever been to an all-inclusive resort, then you know there’s a prescribed set of nightly entertainment. Five years ago, every resort had some crappy version of Broadway’s The Lion King, but I think Disney put the kibosh on that. We had a Jersey Boys night, a Pirates show, and the obligatory Michael Jackson tribute. And the resort also offered a burlesque show. We’ve seen some of the best burlesque in Las Vegas (and some of the worst). We’ve seen burlesque at Crazy Horse and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. We’ve seen some good shit, but having seen what passes for “Jersey” and “Boys” in Mexico, our expectations were appropriately tempered. We thought. What we weren’t expecting was a poor imitation of a reviled movie, but with Santa hats, and even Santa Claus. Merry Christmas eve to us!

In the movie, Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town waitress who moves to L.A. to become a performer. Not a big dreamer, she seems content when she settles at Tess’s (Cher’s) burlesque bar, first as a waitress who has to prove her mettle, then as a performer that everyone else (Kristen Bell in particular) is jealous of.

The script is beyond bad. Like, there’s bad, and then if you keep going beyond bad, past terrible, past horrible even, orbiting somewhere around dreadful, you’ll find the script to Burlesque. Also, in my experience, burlesque involves some form of artsy striptease. In Burlesque, it means lip-syncing in your underwear. Possibly Xtina just can’t do two things at once. And good lord, we wouldn’t want her to.

So we’ve confirmed what we always suspected but never cared enough to validate. Burlesque is bad. Not even campy bad, not even so bad it’s good. It’s surprisingly boring for a movie that features so many beautiful women in lingerie. But you could watch a Victoria’s Secret commercial with the sound off and feel more satisfied than you will at the end of this movie. So thanks, Mexico, for piquing our interest and giving us a reason to seek out a stinker. Couldn’t have (wouldn’t have) done it without you!

Aquaman

How do I even deal with the atrocity that is Aquaman? You probably know already that Aquaman is about a plot by the Atlanteans to attack the people who live on land, and so Aquaman has to become their king to save the world. But what you may not know is that this film is racist.

The only two black people in the movie are criminals (and also father and son). The black dad blows himself up when Aquaman (Jason Momoa) seemingly foils their attempt to steal a submarine from a bunch of white guys (Russians, as it happens).

Then that same submarine reappears to fool some of the Atlanteans into thinking that MV5BMzZjZTU2NjEtZTEzMC00YmRkLWIzZjUtMDczMWI4MDU4ODAxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_the surface world is attacking them to obtain enough votes to attack the surface world. Turns out, one of the Atlantean human-shaped leaders had hired the black guys to steal the sub and fool another Atlantean human-shaped leader. Except then it also turns out that the leader who seemed to be fooled by the sub attack was actually aware it was fake news the whole time and went along with it anyway (and in case it is not clear, all the human shaped Atlanteans we see are white men, every last one, other than Aquaman’s love interest and Aquaman’s mom who are white women).

Then the surviving black guy is hired again by the Atlanteans to kill Aquaman and his love interest in Sicily, and the black guy is willing to go along with it because he blames Aquaman for his dad’s death. That plan fails, with the black guy apparently being killed by Aquaman, and also two non human CGI underwater leaders are either killed or maimed by the white underwater leaders who do not attempt any type of stolen submarine trickery on them at all.

So, to summarize the repeated, overt, MAGA-level racism (on the level of “Look at my African American over here!”):

1. The black son is called “Black Manta” so even when he wears a full suit of armor you can be sure that he’s not white.

2. No effort at all was put into fooling the two CGI leaders who weren’t on board with the plan to kill all humans. Again, those disposable leaders are the two that aren’t white men (and blond, blue eyed white men at that) – one is a merman voiced by a black guy and the other is a big brown CGI crab-man. So you might say the CGI leaders were less worthy of respect than the white ones or perhaps you’d say they came from “shithole” countries, if you were a racist.

3. The Atlanteans are really concerned with following certain rules, namely ones that prohibit going to war against us without four votes, while those same Atlanteans have no problem doing awful things to get those four votes, like killing the CGI underwater leaders who won’t vote the way you want in order to install a new leader who will. Which suggests a set of niceties for white guys that don’t apply to non-whites. Or that the nonwhites were asking for it by looking scary and not giving into what the white guys wanted. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

4. If the Atlanteans hadn’t bothered to steal the sub for fooling reasons, we wouldn’t have needed the black humans to steal anything. But then we’d have missed an opportunity to perpetuate the stereotype that black men are criminals.

Does it matter at all that the racist Atlanteans are the bad guys and they lose in the end? I don’t think it does. This movie is so dumb generally that it is not capable of coherent social commentary, and incoherent social commentary is worse than not saying anything. Further, if the film had wanted to make a point about the dangers of a racist political leader, it needed to make the racism a rallying point for Aquaman and those opposing that leader. In other words, for this movie to be on the right side of prejudice (i.e., against it), the racist Atlanteans needed to lose because of their racism. The non-racists needed to object to the racists’ offensive conduct and resist for that reason, but that never happens in Aquaman.  Instead, Jason Momoa’s character seems to buy into the same stereotypes as the Atlanteans when he leaves the black dad to die because the black guys killed some of the all-white sub crew.

Admittedly, Aquaman later says he learned a lesson from that experience but his application of that lesson is to provide mercy to the all-white Atlanteans. Which means Aquaman does not actually learn the RIGHT lesson, so neither does the audience.  As a result, the harmful stereotypes in Aquaman are perpetuated and normalized, and that’s very, very bad anytime but particularly bad in a film that is targeted at white males.

There’s so many other problems here but I won’t get into them because trafficking in stereotypes is the real issue here. Aquaman is intolerant and intolerable and you should avoid giving DC one more dime for this hugely problematic film.

TIFF18: Peterloo

2018 doesn’t need this movie. Arguably, the whole world at large doesn’t need another movie about angry white men emancipating themselves from tyranny while – without a trace of irony – refusing to bring anyone else along with them.

Director Mike Leigh, himself an old white man, clearly believes every florid word uttered by his forefathers is precious. Why else allow for so many agonizing extended speeches, spit-shoutingly reproduced at full length? Peterloo feels less like a movie and more like a scrap book that speechifying white men made as an ode to themselves. Not that there aren’t any women at all – someone needs to pour the water when all that edifying leaves the men cotton-mouthed.peterloo_0HERO

Peterloo is about that time in England’s history, after Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo, when nothing seems to have improved for its people. In fact, the poor are getting poorer, thanks to bread taxes, crop shortages, and insufficient wages. And not content to merely get richer, the rich oppress their countrymen, sentencing an old woman to whipping for being “loose and idle”, a man exiled to Australia for being too good at gambling, and another to the gallows for stealing a coat when he had none.

Though the people are starving and can hardly stand upright after a day’s back-breaking labour, the Reformers organize their best orators to rally the people toward rights and representation. Parliament is not only afraid to lose even an iota of power, they’re downright enraged that anyone should feel so entitled. So they make lengthy, impassioned speeches too. Mike Leigh throws in a scene of the women getting in on the action too, clearly meant to reassure us that the egregious sexism isn’t nearly so bad as we’re thinking, but in fact accomplishes just the opposite. The women’s meeting is full of illiterates and in-fighting. That can’t have been an exclusively female problem but that’s the way Mike remembers it.

I suppose Peterloo is technically well-made (though the opening Waterloo battle scene looks especially unconvincing – old wagon wheels and bugles just weren’t meant to be captured in such crisp detail). I have to believe this is why TIFF has invited so many more female and minority critics this year: so we can call crap when we see it. Of course, I’m going to keep it classy, unlike a male critic in Venice this year who called the festival’s only female director a whore when he didn’t like her movie.

Standing in line to pick up my press credentials, the guy in front of me told the guy behind me (both were bearded middle-aged white men, it probably goes without saying) that last year’s must-see film for him was the Louis C.K. one, with no embarrassment or chagrin. This is why diversity in criticism is important. While plenty of white male critics also manage to be human beings, many do not. And the obsolescent opinions are always the loudest, as this movie admirably (and unintentionally) proves. Loud and wrong, on the shitty side of history.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is one of those movies that has half a hundred characters and fourteen dozen plot lines and they all “intersect”, the story like a patchwork quilt, but a really ugly quilt where the squares don’t match and some of them aren’t even square.

A random sampling:

Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) has just quit her job, and hires bike messenger Paul (Zac Efron) to help her check off as many of her old resolutions as possible before the clock strikes midnight.

Laura (Katherine Heigl) is catering a huge New Year’s Eve party and is under a lot of stress when her ex, a rock star named Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), who disappeared on New Year’s last year, shows up wanting a commitment.

Claire (Hilary Swank) is producing the Times Square ball drop.

Randy (Ashton Kutcher) and Elise (Lea Michele) are trapped in an elevator together.

MV5BMTc3MzgyMzg3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTM1MzAxNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_Hailey (Abigail Breslin) desperately wants to go downtown with a boy, but her mother Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) insists that she stay home with her.

Tess (Jessica Biel) is really hoping to induce labour so she can give birth to the first new year’s baby and claim the 25K in prize money – but Grace (Sarah Paulson) is also in the running.

Stan (Robert De Niro) is dying, though he’d like to delay until midnight if possible, and his nurse  Aimee (Halle Berry) is prepared to stick it out with him.

Sam (Josh Duhamel) is trying desperately to get back into the city after pulling best man duty at a wedding. He’s hitching a ride with with a family in an RV, hoping to meet up with the mysterious women he met and fell for last year.

In a movie so overstuffed, of course some of the segments are undercooked. Nay, they’re all undercooked. Some of them are downright raw. But lots of them are not even interesting enough that I wished I knew more.

The best, and saddest part, is when Penny Marshall briefly plays herself. But 3 seconds out of 113 long minutes is an agonizing success rate. New Year’s Eve is overly sentimental and oh so shallow. If you don’t have any auld acquaintances to forget this New Year’s Eve, I know where you can make over 100 new acquaintances, and they’re all perfectly forgettable – guaranteed. Random acquaitances may include New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, voice of Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith, Cary Elwes,  Common, Hector Elizando, Russell Peters, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Broderick, and more flash-in-the-pan stunt casting than you can shake shake one of those New Year’s Eve noisemakers that you blow in and the little ribbon inflates and unrolls at.

Having just returned from Mexico, Sean and I might be housebound (and by housebound I inevitably mean hot-tub-bound) tonight, and I’m not a bit sad about it. What are your plans? Do they include this movie and its exhausting cast of characters?