Category Archives: Sucks ass

Summer Night

Mere hours ago I wondered to myself what “the kid” from Boyhood was up to. I vaguely remembered seeing him in one other thing, maybe, and then all of a sudden this movie pops up on my Netflix recommendations, and there he is. Ellar Coltrane. So yes, he has continued to have a career after that one seminal experience. By the looks of him he’s had more movie roles than he’s had hot showers, but who knows, I guess “unkempt” is a look, more or less, and “shampoo” could be an allergy. I suppose.

Anyway, he’s just one of many 20-somethings in this film. Others are played by Lana Condor, Analeigh Tipton, and Victoria Justice. In a 24 hour period, they mostly mope about, wondering what they’ll do with themselves, bemoaning the state of their relationships while also avoiding their relationships, and just generally succumbing to small town ennui. Until night beckons, and they all turn up at a bar which may actually be the bar. As in: one and only, but not particularly happening. The bar’s about one third full, and not only does everyone there know each other, most of them are playing in one of several bands featured on this night, and yes, we’ll hear quite extensively from all of them. Not to worry, this still leaves plenty of room for exes to side-eye each other, and future exes to eye-fuck each other.

This is Generation Z, so they are named Harmony and Corin and Jameson, and nobody ever shortens it or gives him a nickname, it’s just Jameson every time because if his mama went to all that trouble to give him a name that’s as special as he is, his buds are all going to respect it.

They’re young and they think they’re the first people to ever have these problems, and they seem so important when nothing has really ever happened to you yet. I don’t think all young people are vapid and clueless, but they are in this movie, and it was nearly unbearable.

I haven’t been this bored by a movie in a long time. First, there were entirely too many characters, and it’s impossible to keep track of who is who. Don’t even bother trying because their problems are interchangeable and their identities are non-existent. It’s impossible to care for people you know nothing about and it is far too easy to be annoyed by people who wear “don’t care” as a badge of honour.

Between director Joseph Cross and writer Jordan Jolliff, there’s a lot of Richard Linklater wannabe-ism going on but you can’t really call this a coming of age when it’s mostly just a lot of treading water while having remarkable unprofound conversation. This movie has no spark, no joy, no life. Forgettable characters go about their banal little lives and no one gives us a reason to take notice.

The Occupant

Javier is a middle-aged job who has lost his job, and his dignity. He interviews for jobs that are well beneath him and is turned away for being too qualified. Next Javier (Javier Gutiérrez) loses his luxury apartment, and his car. Well he should have lost his car, he certainly told his wife he sold it, and yet he drives it still, unable to let go of this last tangible trace of his former life, his former self, his very identity.

And yet Javier is not a sympathetic man. He bullies his son. He belittles his wife when she takes a job cleaning to support the family. And through it all he feels very, very entitled. He’s certain he’s better than everyone else, and he’s filled with rage when his lifestyle cannot reflect his ego. So Javier does what any fragile white male’s ego would: he begins to stalk the family living in his old home.

Yeah, it’s not a great trajectory and yet it gets so much worse. It gets so much worse in an inexplicable way. One day he’s a bristling interviewee and the next he’s a complete psychopath. He makes terrible choice after terrible choice and we never really understand why. This is not mere anger, not disappointment or even resentment. Javier’s soul turns completely inside out, his actions cross the line into evil, and the film never bothers to justify or explain it. So while Javier is never a man you root for, he quickly becomes a man you despise, and no fate imaginable seems harsh enough.

Javier Gutiérrez must be a very good actor because his character turns on a dime. You don’t see it coming but nor do you doubt it. The rest of the cast, including Mario Casas, Bruna Cusi, and Ruth Diaz, are equally adept, but unfortunately this film just doesn’t live up to its premise or its promise. The concept is good but the execution is bad. Written and directed by David Pastor and Àlex Pastor, you can’t help but wish the film were more grounded, less concerned with shock value. It plays like a psychological thriller but we’re deprived of the psychology. And because Javier is so despicable and without any apparent or sufficient motivation, the thriller aspect is hard to buy into. There’s definitely tension but it never pays off. The film leaves you with an ending that won’t satisfy even the most lenient critic among us. Netflix hasn’t yet stepped up to help us fight the boredom of self-isolation and instead has stuck to its schedule of dumping really heavy, really gloomy titles on us. But even in the best of times, this movie would still rank among the worst.

Killer Elite

As Killer Elite begins, assassin Danny Brice (Jason Statham) decides to hang up his gun. But clearly, it’s not so easy for an assassin to retire, because before long Danny’s best friend Hunter (Robert DeNiro) has been kidnapped by a sheik, held hostage until Danny takes revenge for a murder committed by British secret agents. Danny doesn’t a1140135_killer_elite_3rgue much and sets out to joylessly kill the four British agents on the revenge list.  As the agents start dying, retired superagent Spike (Clive Owen) catches on to Danny’s mission and inserts himself in the middle of the action.

The main problem with Killer Elite is that it’s a showdown between anti-heroes who are either trying to kill or save other anti-heroes. I simply had no idea who to root for. It’s not Jason Statham, who so easily falls into this revenge plot imposed on him by the sheik, who brings no personality at all to this role, and whose dead eyes confirm regret in ever getting involved with this movie. It’s not Clive Owen, who somehow is even less charismatic than dead-eyed Statham. It’s not Robert DeNiro, who is totally forgotten during all but the opening and closing scenes. There’s a huge empty void at the centre of this movie that no one even attempts to fill.

The void is all the more glaring because the action scenes are almost as flat as the characters. They’re not terribly executed but since Killer Elite has nothing else to offer, the fights needed to be great to compensate for everything else that’s lacking. And they’re not. At best they’re a slight change of pace from a mundane story that you’ll be too bored to care about, and at worst they increase the viewer’s boredom by being as lifeless as Statham’s dead eyes.

 

Spencer Confidential

Some directors just have their muses: Scorsese has DeNiro, David O. Russell has Jennifer Lawrence, Tim Burton has Johnny Depp, Wes Anderson has Bill Murray, and Peter Berg has…Mark Wahlberg. Spencer Confidential is another Peter Berg – Mark Wahlberg collaboration, the fifth in a lineup of increasingly forgettable films: Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day, Deepwater Horizon and Mile 22 and it feels like it was cobbled together by an AI that’s been programmed to write screenplays based solely on other Berg-Wahlberg collabs. It has thrown together all the B(b)erg cliches: Wahlberg inexplicably shirtless, Wahlberg sporting a sexy black eye, Wahlberg sticking up for the working man, Wahlberg just wailing on a guy, driving cars, crashing cars, and just generally acting macho.

He plays Spenser, a Boston cop who’s so dumb he spells his name wrong. He suspects his superior officer is a dirty Boston cop so he shows up at his house and beats him silly. You know, not exactly a rule follower. So he goes to prison to cool his heels, as you do when you assault a police officer. And when he gets out he lies low, drives transport trucks for a living, takes vacations in the desert.

Haha, just kidding. Spenser is out of prison for less than 24 hours when the cop he assaulted winds up murdered, and guess who’s the prime suspect. And even though he’s very much not a cop anymore, he still works the case. Out of the goodness of his heart?

Anyway, he’s got two buddies backing him up: an old man named Henry (Alan Arkin) and a complete stranger who’s also his new roommate, Hawk (Winston Duke). Conveniently, Hawk is a tank of a man who’s an amateur MMA fighter and knows a little computer, so he actually comes in handy when he’s paying attention. But believe me, you don’t want to be Mark Wahlberg’s friend. I mean Spenser’s friend. Okay, I mean both. Spenser has a knack for finding trouble. He’s never even heard of minding his own damn business.

Anyway, Spenser Confidential is a new kind of forgettable that’s actually forgettable even whilst viewing. Luckily there’s no real plot to keep track of and there’s no character development because no characters were drawn in the first place. Which is super convenient if you mostly watch Netflix for the white noise.

Playmobil: The Movie

For a minute I wonder if I rented the wrong movie. These are real, human actors: Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) just finished high school and instead of going off to college she confides in her brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) that she’s destined for a life of adventure. But that all ends when a knock on the door reveals a police officer come to tell them their parents are dead. Cut to: a couple of years later, Marla, having put her dreams on hold, is struggling to keep a household going while brother Charlie is disappointed in the distinct lack of adventure in their lives. He runs away one dark and stormy evening and just as Marla tracks him down at some sort of toy convention with a large Playmobil village, they get sucked into it and pop up an animated Lego form.

Marla reanimates as a girl in a sweater set but Charlie is more fortunate, taking the Viking shape he always carried on his bookbag. Landing in the middle of a viking battle, Charlie immediately makes friends but then gets accidentally trebucheted into another land. Marla scoops up some viking gold and chases after him, not realizing her loot makes her a target as well. She hooks up with Del (Jim Gaffigan), purveyor of magical hay, and he agrees to help if she’ll recompense him.

If you walk down the aisles of the Toys R Us Lego section, you’ll find dozens of Playmobil sets, Lego for the younger set. You will find pirates and police officers, dinosaurs and dragons, mermaids and magic yetis. In the film’s universe, all of these disparate sets are connected by a highway. Turns out, a lot of citizens have been going missing lately, so a debonair secret agent named Rex (Daniel Radcliffe) joins them on their quest.

Confused yet? That may be up to 20% my fault but definitely at least 80% the movie’s. Playmobil is appealing directly to small children, dispensing the shackles of story and logic and just hitting them with a spray of a thing and a thing and a thing and a thing. Are they connected? Vaguely, I think. But mostly they show off a wide variety of toy sets available in a toy store near you while keeping up a colourful and frenetic pace.

Playing With Fire

Directors think John Cena is a bargain The Rock, but what they’re really getting is an overpriced tree stump. He has the personality of dry, slightly burnt toast.

It’s not entirely Cena’s fault. Director Andy Fickman clearly has no vision and no funny bone. He’s not sure whether he’s making a satire or a slapstick comedy. I mean, he’s not making a satire. Satire implies a basic level of intellect. Parody might be closer to what I mean but he’s not even doing that because parody implies you’re being bad on purpose. And the purpose is generally comedy. But nothing here is funny. The attempts at humour are such dismal misfires they suck the oxygen out of the room so fast it’ll flip your eyelids inside out. True story.

The slapstick, such as it is, is an even bigger problem. Physical comedy is the lowest form of humour. There’s such a high risk of failure it should only be attempted by a master. There are no masters in Playing With Fire. They aren’t even comedy interns. Not even comedy fetuses (feti?). They’re just monkeys flinging shit.

John Cena has the range of a rock. I can’t really blame him for eagerly shoveling up Dwayne Johnson’s leftovers. Hell, he’s probably pretty grateful for Dave Bautista’s scraps. But Keegan-Michael Key, I’m disappointed in you. Jordan Peele’s out here making the world a better/scarier place with his incisive social commentary and you’re…tasting farts. While playing second fiddle to JOHN FUCKING CENA.

The script is should have been flushed, and not because it’s a dead goldfish. It’s probably the worst offender in this huge steaming pile of donkey excrement. The script is to subtlety what Donald Trump is to modesty. Yeah, this review ain’t subtle either.

John Cena plays a fire fighter who prefers to be called a smoke jumper. He’s got a dweeb haircut and a complete absence of personality. He and his colleagues-in-flames (Key, and John Leguizamo) save a trio of runaways and end up pulling babysitting duty in their firehouse while the kids do more damage than a pack of wild dingos.

We have 3 categories here at Assholes Watching Movies – Kick Ass, Half-Assed, and Sucks Ass – and until now, that’s been enough. But I’m petitioning to add a fourth one because Playing With Fire EATS ass.

Can’t stop won’t stop ranting.

The Island

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) lives in a futuristic community where life is prescribed for him: meals, wardrobe, job, friend, all are decided for him and none are negotiable. It’s to keep them safe. There’s been an extinction-level event “outside” in the world, and the survivors survive only because of the safety provided by the colony, and by following the rules. There are two bright spots in Lincoln’s life. The first is Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), a woman who seems to breeze through life unscathed and unoppressed by the sterility and rigidity of her surroundings. Unfortunately, proximity rules keep them apart both literally and figuratively. The second bright spot is the lottery, wherein random colonists are selected to go to The Island, a tropical oasis of peace and tranquility, a sun-drenched retirement highly anticipated by all in the last uncontaminated paradise on earth.

Except lately Lincoln is plagued by nightmares. He has memories of life before the colony. He’s starting to question things.

Unfortunately, what might have been an interesting piece of science fiction turns to shit in the hands of director Michael Bay, who prioritizes explody things over plot and character at literally every turn. Every time there’s a plot hole, he fills it with flames or a car crash or both, like hanging a poster over all the cracks in the wall. Unfortunately, the posters do very little when the whole house comes crashing down, and Michael Bay hasn’t laid a foundation in years. If all you’re after is mindless action (and it’s okay if you are, there’s a time and a place for everything), this is a pretty flashy poster, probably the equivalent of a chick in a bikini straddling a motorcycle. It’s just too bad that he ruined a pretty good concept when he could have left this in someone else’s more capable hands and just filmed another Big Dumb Man Drives Recklessly While Shouting Slogans And Grabbing His Crotch And Saluting The American Flag script instead.