Category Archives: Sucks ass

Blue Iguana

If you’re going to make a movie about seedy undergrounds, small-time criminals, and scary mob bosses, you need to pick the right tone. Make it funny like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Make it clever like Pulp Fiction. Make it suspenseful like The Town. But don’t you dare try to make your movie all of those things, because odds are you’ll end up with a mess like Blue Iguana.

Two ex-cons, Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz), are working in a diner trying to turn their lives around when Katherine (Phoebe Fox) offers them a job too tempting to turn down. Of course, it’s not a legal task, and of course, it goes sideways immediately as the target of their snatch and grab operation falls off a balcony face-first. Do they try to disappear after mucking things up? Of course not. They double down and go after the Blue Iguana, a giant diamond that they’re going to steal from mob boss Arkady (Peter Polycarpou), after he steals it first.

0818-stills-bi-day16-010816There’s just no one to root for in this film, which is surprising considering Sam Rockwell has made a nice career for himself playing various charming idiots (winning an Oscar as an amazingly bad cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).  And when someone like Rockwell can’t make us care about his loutish dirtbag, no one else has a chance. These characters just have nothing to offer.

No matter how many quick cuts were taken, no matter how many slow motion shootouts were paired with carefully selected songs, no matter how many montages contained colourful disguises, Blue Iguana never felt comfortable in its own skin. In trying to be lots of other things that writer/director Hadi Hajaig clearly admires and aspires to match, it just tries way, way too hard, to a painful degree.

At no point does Blue Iguana ever get close to being great, and worst of all, in trying so damn hard to emulate greatness, the result ends up being less than mediocre.

The 15:17 to Paris

I’ve been off Clint Eastwood, and it didn’t exactly take a lot of sleuthing to know enough to stay away from this one regardless. But now that it’s available on Netflix Sean wondered: well, how bad could it be, really?

If you ever find yourself asking that question, give yourself a quick and stinging slap in the face. Better yet, have a trusted friend administer the dose for you if you can. How bad can it be? How bad? You don’t want to know how bad. But if you do, you glutton for punishment, a quick guide to its faults:

  1. Perhaps you know that this movie is based on the true events of a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris. This is the story of the people who fought the terrorist and the 300 rounds of ammunition on him, and took him down, saving untold lives. That’s an enormously good thing that took place in a matter of seconds. Movies aren’t allowed to be mere seconds long, so Clintwood makes a series of choices to pad the piece. Things like: someone tried to medicate one of the heroes for ADD as a kid! How dare they? And one of them was denied his dream job because he lacked depth perception: scandalous!
  2. Overstuffing the movie with these pathetic attempts to cast its heroes in gold only serves to dilute the actual events of the movie, the very thing that almost everyone would agree were heroic acts just reading a newspaper account of them.
  3. Eastwood seems determined to shoe-horn religious references into the film wherever he can. Toward the end, when the heroes are tending to a gunshot victim, one True American Hero asks him if he’d like to pray and the victim shouts “No!” and his wife, clearly offended, adds “He’s not ready to go!” and their reaction to the proposed religion exactly mirrors my own internal reaction each and every time there’s an awkward attempt.
  4. Worst of all, and it’s bad enough to be the only point on this list, is that Eastwood casts the real-life heroes to play themselves. It’s a terrible, misguided direction. I can’t imagine what Eastwood was thinking. These men deserve credit for their bravery but no one has ever accused them of being capable actors. And since Eastwood brings in Jenna Fisher and Judy Greer in the relatively minor roles of their mothers, he’s clearly not opposed to paying professionals, professionals who only make the amateurs look worse in comparison.

Guys, straight up: it’s painful to watch. I don’t want to dump on the actual guys because honestly, it’s not their fault. No one would blame them for trying to make a few bucks on their claim to fame. This is all Eastwood. He should damn well know better. And the fact that he has continued to receive funded projects post-15:17 to Paris is all the proof that white male privilege is alive and well that we need.

The Throw Aways

A notorious hacker is captured by the CIA and forced to work for them. They were dumb enough to let the key to a very important cyber program get away and now they’re vulnerable to attack. It was pretty fucking stupid. So now they’ve threatened this hacker with prison unless he agrees to fix the problem for them and he agrees, at least outwardly. Secretly, he assembles his team using the lousiest CIA agents his algorithm can find. They’re a pretty lousy bunch. Boy is this going to be fun!

Last week we were happily lying on a beach in Mexico, reading between trips to the bar. My beach reads tend to be non-traditional at best – the first couple graphic novels in a series, the follow-up to The Paris Wife which is not called but could be called The Kenyan On-Again-Off-Again Wife, and a piece of nonfiction about cyber attacks perpetrated by and anticipated by the American government. It was good enough that I passed it to Sean as soon as I was done, even though I’d already recounted most of the exciting bits to him while bobbing up and down in various bodies of water.

Anyway, that’ s the problem with books. They get you all riled up about a subject suddenly you’re watching crappy movies just to keep the high going (inspired by the same book we also watched The Interview – you may remember that the movie’s very existence got North Korea so mad that they hacked Sony and released a bunch of embarrassing emails, including one in which Angelina Jolie is called “a minimally talented spoiled brat,” one where Kevin Hart is called a “whore,”  and one in which Leonardo DiCaprio (or LDC, as Brad Pitt called him at the Golden Globes on Sunday) is called “despicable.” It is still a very bad movie.)

Don’t watch this movie. Do read The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age by David E. Sanger if you have a modicum of interest. Bathing suit optional.

Arctic Dogs

Swifty is an arctic fox. His cautious parents liked to dress him all in white to make sure that he always blended in with the arctic snow. Blending in is safe. Standing out is dangerous. But Swifty dreams of being seen. He’s tired of being invisible.

Unfortunately, the movie bigwigs have conspired against poor Swifty, hiring the blandest of the Avengers to voice him. That’s right: Jeremy Renner, who does not have a distinctive voice (some, meaning me, would argue he does not have a distinctive bone in his body). Not all actors can or should be reduced to just their voice: Christopher Walken for sure. Definitely Tiffany Haddish. Patton Oswalt. Sam Elliott. Maria Bamford. Not everyone can do it. If you’re hiring Jeremy Renner, you may as well hire Joe Blow, who’s a heck of a lot cheaper. Well, he’s somewhat cheaper. I can’t imagine Renner commands all that impressive of a salary. You might hire a well-known actor with a boring voice because you need a big name up on the marquis. Again, Renner isn’t exactly fitting the bill. If anyone, ANYONE, goes to the theatre especially for Renner, it’s not a kid who likes mediocre animated dog movies. But the people who made Arctic Dogs don’t cast movies based on “good reasons” or “talent” because Heidi Klum is also voicing a fox named Jade. I suppose it makes as much sense for an arctic fox to have a German accent as an American one, but nobody in the whole history of the world has accused Klum of having a face for radio. Or a voice. She has other assets, and they’re better appreciated in still photographs, or, I imagine, live in person, preferably rolling around on a white sand beach but let’s not be greedy.

Anyway, back to our pal Swifty who wants to be noticed and isn’t. He works in the arctic mail room, sorting packages but he dreams of being on the front lines where the Top Dogs, a team of husky couriers so well-known and respected they’re practically celebrities, are the ones making the deliveries. One day Swifty decides to make his big move, and he highjacks a sled to deliver a package to a secret location, perhaps persuading his curmudgeonly boss Magda (Anjelica Huston) that he’s up for the job.

Anyway, Renner turns out to be the perfect guy for the job because the movie turns out to be just as bland as the man. Had they hired, say, Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Hemsworth, we might have expected something good. Best to temper our expectations with a second (or third) tier celebrity and call it a day. The story and animation are just good enough to satisfy most little ones, but it has little else to recommend it and won’t be memorable for anyone. Is that a plus? Your kid won’t get obsessed with this movie and demand you rewatch it 14 dozen times: GUARANTEED.

Cats

I knew Cats was bad. It was unanimous and what on this big blue planet is ever unanimous? People love or they hate Rise of Skywalker. They love or they hate The Witcher. They love or they hate Henry Cavill. They love or they hate Popeye’s spicy chicken sandwich. But Cats has united us, just in time for the holidays: everybody hates Cats.

I’ve never seen Cats the musical because in my house growing up, cats (little c) were verboten. My mother was viciously attacked by one as a child and held a deep-seated fear. Although I’m not afraid of them, I’m extremely cautious and skeptical of them. Being very firmly a dog person, I’ve never seen the appeal of a cat: they’re not friendly or loving. It’s not just that they don’t return your affections, they spurn them. Sean, however, grew up in a cat house. And a Cats house as his entire family took in the show when he was a boy, although I dare say they missed the point as they named one of their cats Macavity even though he’s the villain (and all this time I thought they were being clever because Sean’s dad was a dentist. nope) and another Mistoffelees even though their cat was female whereas the Cats cat goes by Mister.

Anyway, we both knew Cats was going to be bad but I thought it might be funny-bad or entertainingly bad or even meme-able bad. Instead I just prayed for a sudden and nasty plague of feline AIDS and tried not to audibly gasp when the movie was once again not over but churning into yet another song about the exact same thing.

The movie (and very likely the show, but I haven’t seen it) is about a “group” of cats called the Jellicles. I don’t know why they’re a group or why they needed to name their group. Are they a gang? A mafia family? Do they commit hate crimes together?

One night a year they all get together to participate in a Suicide Pageant. They each sing a song, and judge Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) decides which one will die. Naturally I assumed Old Deuteronomy was the villain of the film, but not so. Apparently it’s a real honour to be chosen for cat-on-cat euthanasia; all the cats talk about ascending over to the Heaviside Layer like it’s the greatest thing. Which I suppose confirms what I’ve always believed about cats: they’re a miserable bunch, angry at life itself, waiting impatiently for it all to end. Which also describes a Cats audience.

Victoria, the lead cat, newly abandoned and adopted by the Jellicles, undergoes some pretty ambitious white-washing considering its actors are covered in fur. Francesca Hayward, the ballerina who plays her, is Kenyan-born and black, but you wouldn’t know it or even guess it to look at her cat. Although I suppose that’s a fairly minor insult compared to how dirty they did Jennifer Hudson, who plays Grizabella. Grizabella is a down-on-her-luck cat roundly rejected by the asshole Jellicles and by Cats director Tom Hooper who knows she’s a star but decides to bury her in a mound of garbage. Grizabella looks inexplicably terrible, which is particularly sad because when Hudson sings that one Cats song everyone knows (Memory, and damn right she sings it twice), it’s the only time the audience willingly faces the screen. But Hudson is so moved by the lyrics, she’s constantly got lines of snot running from her nose to her mouth, glistening in the movie lights, making sure we gag to the fullest extent of the law. Considering how much money was spent to digitally alter away any trace of male “bulge” you’d think a CGI swipe or two under her nose would have been wise, but no.

Cats is 7 hours long, so maybe think about bringing some knitting or a crossword or a roast beef with you to the theatre. Technically the run time is just under two hours and that’s all that will have passed outside the theatre. But inside it’s a marathon shit show. As I said before, the Cats story takes place over one fateful evening, a time conceit which usually gives a film a nice sense of urgency but in this case it feels like the movie never goes anywhere. We just stand in one spot singing about the same thing over and over until somebody dies. Literally! And there’s a slideshow of celebrity cameos – Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Ian McKellan – who show up for a song and then disappear again into the night, perhaps to form their own real-life career suicide club for having appeared in 2019’s biggest flop.

And Cats had that distinction before it was even in theatres; even the trailer creeped people out. The cats are weird human-cat hybrid. Human faces and human hands poke out of fur and CGI ears and tails twitch as though they have a life of their own. Everything in the movie is scaled up so the cats appear…well, not quite cat-sized but definitely weird. Everything about this movie is off, never mind the fact that they walk on two feet, except when they don’t. And they’re all naked and barefoot except when they’re not. A couple of them wear sneakers, one wears pants, another a sparkly jacket. Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots unzips her fur to reveal another fur pelt wearing a jazzy ensemble…that she’s kept hidden under her skin this whole time? Doesn’t that get hot?

Cats’ greatest sin is of course that it’s boring. It’s got one memorable song and a bunch of filler. The numbers are repetitive. The dancing is a big yawn. Cats, making its London debut in 1981, needed some updating. Perhaps the kindest thing would have been to lose the ballet in favour of something a little more modern. Nobody wants a musical overstuffed with songs that drag without moving the plot forward coupled with dance that struggles to connect with anything current or relevant.

People have hated this movie so universally that director Tom Hooper re-edited it furiously, and a new cut, with yet more CGI effects, is being rushed to theatres as we speak. But unless Star Wars is sold out, you won’t be seeing it, right? Because you value your time and money? And because Cats sits in your belly like a hairball you can’t wait to go home and hack up.

p.s. Since the only good thing about the movie is Jennifer Hudson’s 4 minutes, here she is for free on Youtube singing Memory:

The Operative

Rachel (Diane Kruger) calls Thomas (Martin Freeman) and says “My father died. Again.” It’s code for: get me the hell out of here. She is the operative, he is her handler, and she worked undercover in Tehran for the Mossad where things got…sticky. Her subject, Farhad (Cas Anvar) becomes her entanglement and if things were complicated before, well, they only get more so. Is she working both sides? Have her allegiances shifted? Dude it’s hard to trust a spy. Now, years later, she’s bringing Thomas back in. But why?

And also: who cares? The truth about spy work is that it’s probably boring like 99% of the time. Lots of sitting and waiting. Reading. Researching. Waiting some more. Blending in. Not getting up to much. Waiting for the phone to ring. Movies cut that shit right out. To be fair, The Operative edits out those same things as well, gets right to the getting-the-hands-dirty in the field bits. And yet it still, amazingly, manages to be incredibly boring. Incredibly.

Neither the story nor the characters were compelling. I love Martin Freeman but despite him being as animated as this movie got, I still couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Diane Kruger was as remarkable as a boiled potato. More than once I asked Sean how much longer this movie had left, and more than once that Netflix progress bar seemed barely to have moved.

Yuval Adler’s film is unflashy and unstylish. Calling it forgettable is an insult to films I’ve merely forgotten. This one caused a fair bit of frustration even as I forgot it. I could hardly keep my attention even half on the film, snapping it back only to be disappointed by instant boredom yet again. And then it ended. Well, not so much ended as stopped. It just stopped being a movie exactly when it seemed it might have justified its existence. But no. The thing you’ve hung in there for 2 hours for…it never materializes. And yet you’re only half mad because even if you didn’t get a satisfying ending, at least it’s over.

 

 

 

6 Underground

A billionaire who goes by the name of One (Ryan Reynolds) has assembled a team of ghosts. Six men and women, having faked their deaths and truly gone underground, operate outside of the usual channels to clean up the dirt other people can’t, or won’t.

Two (Melanie Laurent) is a CIA spook; Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is the hitman; Four (Ben Hardy) is a skywalker; Five (Adria Arjona) is the doctor; the new recruit, Seven (Corey Hawkins) is a frustrated, sharp-shooting soldier fresh from Afghanistan. Together they have plans to topple a dictator. Ambitious? You betcha. Especially so early in their mission history. After all, they may be officially dead, but they’re as flawed and vulnerable as the living. The bad guys are pretty angry about their lack of hubris.

6 Underground, a new Netflix original, is directed by Michael Bay and it’s got all his hallmarks: American flags, big explosions, scantily clad women. In fact, there’s sex in this movie where no sex belongs. But it’s the car crashes that are truly nutso bananas. This is Michael Bay, unleashed, unmuzzled, unrepentant. The opening car chase alone threatens nuns, babies, AND puppies. Too much, you say? Bah. Just you wait. Now, Michael Bay didn’t write this one but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t occasionally replace dialogue with taglines. The writing is a notch above Bay’s usual tripe, and Ryan Reynolds goes a lot way toward pulling it off. Still, much of the movie is montage, and that’s normally a relief – less cringey lines uttered – though less so when it starts to feel like a wannabe Baby Driver ripoff.

“No man is more important than the mission,” says One, but some of his team disagree. And that’s kind of a big thing to disagree on, real deal breaker type stuff, and the last thing you want during a coup d’état is your little gang splintering. But that’s One’s problem, not yours. If you’re just here to see teeth splatter and brains splatter and people get multiple knife wounds by multiple knives, then this is your jam.