Category Archives: Sucks ass

Rogue City (Bronx)

Once upon a time there was an almost romance to rogue cops who believed themselves to be above the law. But as the world rallies and protests against such offending officers in real life, the landscape has changed even if writer-director Olivier Marchal hasn’t yet adapted and his film still attempts to glamourize criminal cops.

Discounting Marchal’s tactless inability to read the room, his film is technically well made but deathly boring. It attempts to follow a thread of corruption between cops and criminals but he quickly loses track of characters and plot and if he can’t keep track, how the heck am I supposed to? He doesn’t give me a single reason to care, and I think his only concern is getting to another action sequence. In fact, I’d argue that his opening sequence is misleading, and not even deliberately so. It makes it difficult to determine who the protagonist is, and the heroes are already indistinguishable from the anti-heroes who are indistinguishable from the villains. To Marchal, they’re all just fodder for his next gun-fight, and while it’s clear he’s got a certain panache for shoot outs, anything and everything in between is basically garbage.

There isn’t a machete in the world to help you navigate this slog-fest or cut through all the bullshit. You need only ask yourself one question: do you value the gun violence enough to sit through the rest?

Operation Christmas Drop

Let the barrage of cheesy holiday movies begin!

Netflix comes out of the gate strong with Operation Christmas Drop, a heart-warming instant classic that might just crack your Christmas Top 5 and start a new holiday tradition at your house.

Haha, just kidding. It’s a total cheesefest, oozing Gruyère faster than a leaky fondue pot.

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) gets sent to Guam over the Christmas holidays to find “efficiency” deficits that will allow her boss (Virginia Madsen) to defund a beachside Air Force base. Captain Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig) gets assigned against his will to escort her during her visit, and by “escort” I of course mean distract and/or thwart her at every turn. The base’s worst kept secret, and the main reason behind Erica’s visit, is Operation Christmas Drop, wherein service members volunteer their time and solicit donations to air drop on the more isolated of the neighbouring islands. But despite this being a truly good-hearted endeavour, leave it to government to see wasted resources instead of humanitarian aid.

Will Erica write the report that shuts down the base? Will under-privileged island kids get their medicine and school supplies? Will the evil American government find a new way to ruin Christmas? And will Erica and Andrew ever think up a solution to their mutual holiday solitude?

Kat Graham is luminous while Ludwig is a miscast lunk. The tropical setting of Guam is remarkably beautiful, even if it’s a deviation from the usual snow-covered small town setting of a holiday romance. The real-life inspirational counterpart should lend this thing a whiff of authenticity, but it’s all just so earnest it’s painful. Although I’m not the biggest fan of these Hallmark-esque Christmas movies, I’ll admit Netflix has had a couple of stand-outs that very nearly transcend the genre. This isn’t one of them. Operation Christmas Drop has Graham going for it and nothing else. The beaches are beautiful but the story is boring and the formula so carefully and precisely toed that you’ll wonder if you haven’t seen it before. You haven’t, and if I were you, I’d keep it that way.

Survive The Night

Dr. Rich (Chad Michael Murray) has recently been humbled quite a bit. A mistake at work cost him his job, which cost him his house, which means he’s had to move his wife and daughter into his parents’ home and accept a job at a clinic that he considers beneath him. Living at home is a bitter pill to swallow; his parents dote on their granddaughter and daughter-in-law, but Rich and his father Frank have always had an especially difficult relationship. Frank (Bruce Willis) is everything his son is not: he’s a gun-toting, truck-driving, country-loving man of few words, but he’s about to be very good to have around, because if Rich thought his life couldn’t get any worse, he didn’t count on meeting Jamie and Matt.

Jamie (Shea Buckner) and Matt (Tyler Jon Olson) are brothers and thieves who are on their way to the safety of Mexico but Jamie is a touchy combination of trigger-happy and intelligence-deprived and before they can make it to the freedom of the border, he’s got them into some more hot water, and Matt now has a serious gunshot wound that needs treating. Which is how they come to hold Dr. Rich and his family hostage. They have correctly identified Chad Michael Murray as both feeble and insecure. Unfortunately they hadn’t heard that Frank is a retired cop just itching for an excuse to jump right back into the fray. Jamie and Matt provide quite an excuse.

The movie is better than I expected but still incredibly not good. It suffers fatally from pacing; the first half is slow to set things up, and then the second half is almost comedically over-stuffed with people escaping and getting caught in an improbable and quickly unentertaining cycle of dumb and dumber.

If you’re desperate for an undemanding popcorn flick, I suppose this might do, if you remember that a movie that has Bruce Willis in it makes Chad Michael Murray its star. Lower your expectations, and then lower them again. It may pass the time and fulfill a basic quota, but even if you like it, and that’s a pretty big if, you’re still bound to forget it, and believe me, that’s for the best.

Killer Unicorn

Danny (Alejandro La Rosa) is a bartender and used to be a bit of a party boy. His friends are queer, his best friends are drag queens, and they always stop by to invite him out. For the last year or so, Danny has passed. He’s had some trauma and no longer feels safe going out. However, the community’s epic Brooklyn Annual Enema Party (it’s exactly how it sounds) is just around the corner, and everyone’s trying to pump Danny up for the big day. A new love interest named PuppyPup (José D. Álvarez) makes him want to give the nightlife a second chance. Unfortunately, it becomes an even harder sell when it seems a serial killer is stalking the Brooklyn queer community and making drag queens disappear.

The Killer Unicorn gets his nickname in the least original way ever – he wears a unicorn mask. And not much else besides a pair of sequined booty shorts. The queens must like what’s in those shorts an awful lot because even though there’s a known Killer Unicorn on the loose and murdering their friends, a good many of them still agree to meet in dark, isolated places for a hookup – even when texts contain both unicorn and knife emojis. That’s practically a confession!

Writer José D. Álvarez can’t write. He can’t write dialogue, and none of director Drew Bolton’s cast can deliver it, so at least there’s some equanimity. It makes for a pretty garbage movie, and that’s even before you consider the vicious slander foisted upon the unicorn community. Who would want to desecrate these magical, beauteous creatures? They burp glitter and toot rainbows and yet some cretin has besmirched the good unicorn name. How dare you cast aspersions? HOW DARE YOU?

Apparently the script was written with specific queens in mind; it’s a shame Álvarez has such talentless friends. I don’t want to talk out of turn, but it would seem that RuPaul has turned the NYC drag family upside down and given it a good shake – even Drag Race’s losers go on to have stellar careers, but the leftovers in Brooklyn are clearly the dregs. Still, I don’t wish death upon them, and certainly not the particularly gruesome deaths this sick fuck in a unicorn mask inflicts. But aside from a few inventive kill scenes, there’s not much to recommend this film and plenty to warn you away.

But there a couple of you, just a couple, who are curious enough about the booty shorts and maybe even the enemas, who are going to watch it anyway. I see you. And what the heck, go ahead, enjoy it, you weirdo.

The Binding (Il legame)

Emma (Mia Maestro) and young daughter Sofia (Giulia Patrignani) are visiting her fiancé’s mother in southern Italy, which sounds like a dream scenario, sun kissed summers with wine and pasta, but it turns out this particular corner of southern Italy is less romantic getaway and more death by curse.

Turns out, Emma’s fiancé Francesco (Riccardo Scarmarcio) hasn’t always been a stand up guy. In his youth he got a girl pregnant and instead of a) doing the right thing or b) breaking up with the woman and sending a monthly cheque or c) becoming a deadbeat dad, he opts for d) use some black magic on her to get rid of the problem.

Obviously her evil spirit has been lingering, waiting for the perfect moment, and its malevolent intentions have targeted young Sofia as its victim. It starts with a tarantula bite and gets oh so much worse. To make matters even worse, it’s unclear to Emma, who isn’t fluent in poultices and incantations, whether her in-laws can be trusted or whether the old women and their evil eye are actually the source of the curse.

Is that the actual plot? Probably not. I was only paying half attention because the movie was so dull and boring. It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but the specifics of the situation are so vague and the relationships between characters so unclear that it’s hard to invest in the story or the consequences. I don’t think Sean was faring much better because his only quibble was with the freshness of the tarantula blood. So….

Maybe something was lost in translation. That seems possible. Maybe. I’m not convinced. In fact, I’m still a little resentful that this movie tried to scare me but didn’t try to entertain me. That’s a terrible equation and I’m not impressed to be involved. If you’re willing to be a variable, you can insert yourself on Netflix. Just don’t blame me if The Binding adds up to a pretty generic horror movie.

Simple Passion

Hélène (Laetitia Dosch) is a French woman, a mother, a professor. The movie’s IMDB synopsis describes her lover’s career as “Russian diplomat” but diplomat must be a French euphemism for thug. Alexandre (Sergei Polunin) is, at best, a Russian diplomat’s shady head of security, maybe. And it wasn’t the prison tattoos that gave it away, it was that damn wispy mustache.

We can assume they have nothing in common because they almost never speak. We know little about her, actually, and even less about him. She’s single, he’s married (to a wife back home in Russia, presumably). He’s not young, but a little younger than Hélène. And he’s got all the control in this relationship, because he calls her, when he’s horny and available, and she drops everything, even her son, to be with him for a few hours in bed. Granted, they’re passionate hours, and the camera spends as much as 90% of the movie roaming up and down the contours of their bodies as they fuck in nearly all the positions there are for fucking, and a few I’m pretty sure they threw in just see if I was paying attention. These two make the jerks in 50 Shades of Whatever look like prudes.

So I may not know much about Hélène, but I do know she loves that sweet D. She’s gotta have it. She gets nothing out of this relationship but frustration, heartache, and on the lucky days, a good dicking. But on the other days, she starts coming apart. She starts making more demands on his time, which only makes him pull away further, but she can’t help it, she’s obsessed. She’s addicted. She even tries to quit him, and finds she can’t. She has no resolve when he’s around. It’s rather undignified. Rather pathetic, really, to watch a smart and polished woman lose her shit over a guy with a wispy mustache.

Writer-director Danielle Arbid adapts Annie Ernaux’s novel for the screen, and there’s no doubt she is a fan of the material, and eager to put real flesh on those bones. However, her keen eye and high tolerance for erotica aren’t enough alone to explain Hélène’s intoxication for this man. The pounding of their bodies is enthusiastic but hardly tender. Without sustained conversation, or an emotional connection, this relationship feels cold and transactional. The only way this movie moved me was when I realized these colleagues had been humping each other raw for weeks if not months. It didn’t shock me, it didn’t turn me on, but most egregiously, it didn’t convince me.

Malibu Rescue: The Next Wave

So apparently Malibu Rescue is a show that people watch and is popular (cheap) enough to have already spawned a “movie.” This is its second, but we’re just jumping in here totally blind, literally never having heard of it before and yet somehow trusting that we’ll “get it.”

We didn’t get it. I mean, we followed the plot, such as it was. It’s basically Cool Runnings meets Baywatch where not only do you wish you were watching Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson instead, you’d even take Doug E. Doug and be grateful for it.

First, we’re going to need to swallow our pride for a minute and realize we’re not getting the Malibu Rescue team but the Junior Malibu Rescue team. The real team is busy competing in an apparently very serious international beach obstacle course that they treat with the reverence of the lifeguard Olympics.

But oh no! Tyler (Ricardo Hurtado) accidentally/on purpose poisons the A team so the Junior squad has to sub in. Luckily Gina (Breanna Yde) has a natural drill sergeant inclination but she’s got just 3 days to whip her team into shape. Dylan (Jackie R. Jacobson) and Lizzie (Abby Donnelly) break poor Eric (Alkoya Brunson) out of summer school (resorting to animal abuse and an uninspired not to mention insultingly bad mannequin ruse to get the job done). Cue up the obligatory training montage featuring a lot of sand eating and nobody’s washboard abs glistening in the sunshine (Zac!).

This is the kind of kid show that has such over-the-top acting that you start to feel bad for the adult actors. It can’t have been anyone’s dream to play a bus driver named Vooch who routinely gets overshadowed by diarrhea pranks. It really makes Pamela Anderson’s slow-mo running look dignified by comparison.

Is this a good movie? Not remotely. But I suspect if you like the show, you’ll like the movie. I mean, not only does the movie play like an extended episode of the show, it’s a barely extended episode at just 68 minutes, which sounds like a light commitment but I assure you it does feel like a hard 5 hours. However, if you’re in the market for some Malibu rescue with very little actual rescue and a side of obnoxious American patriotism and just a smidge of G-rated flirtation, wow, that’s an oddly specific fetish, but you’re in luck! And I’ll be relieved not to be alone on the watch list this movie is obviously bait for. Trust me: nothing can be unintentionally this bad.

Jexi

Phil is a cliche who probably doesn’t exist in real life: he’s obsessed with his phone, he writes listicles for a living, he’s incapable of human interaction and would rather spend the night watching videos online than spending time with (or heck even making) friends.

Do Phils really exist? I suppose there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere: some people are overly attached to their phones, and overly desperate for likes on social media. But most people manage to have phones AND human friends. Our phones give us directions to where we want to go, they tell us who’s celebrating a birthday, and what bill needs to be paid. They help us call a car, and order lunch, and share a recipe. They remind us how to spell ‘accommodate’ and when our period is due, or overdue. They connect us to our adorable nephews who haven’t stopped growing just because they’re in quarantine. They keep us entertained on planes, they keep us up to date on elections, and they provide a near infinite supply of puppy pictures. All on one pocket sized device! So yeah, I’m not down on phones, or on young people for using them. I’m not sure who benefits for perpetuating the myth that only young people are obnoxious about their phones, but it’s patently untrue. Moms were the first to adopt cell phones, so they could stay in constant contact with their children. Moms are basically the only people who still use phones for calling people (ew!). Dads invented the belt holster so you could show off your love of wearable electronics (before they were technically wearable) while also accidentally broadcasting what a huge douche you are. When someone is blocking your view of the Mona Lisa by taking pictures with their iPad, 9 out of 10 times it’s a baby boomer. Elbowed in the eye by someone ineptly using a selfie stick? Boomer. Someone talking on their cell in the public bathroom stall next to yours? Most likely a boomer. Cell phone ringing during a Broadway performance? Definitely a boomer. And yet: Phil. Phil (Adam Devine) just can’t be separated from his phone. So yeah, he’s totally panicked when he literally runs into Cate (Alexandra Shipp) one day, destroying his phone in the process. Without a thought for the woman who may also be injured, he races his broken phone to the nearest ER cell phone store where employee Denice (Wanda Sykes) breaks the bad news: it’s not going to make it. You’d think that by the speed with which he rushed the thing to urgent care he’d be quite upset, but not only are cell phones replaceable, constant upgrades are a way to signal status. Behold the new phone!

This phone is unlike other phones. Its operating system is feisty. Call her Jexi. She sounds suspiciously like Rose Byrne, and she knows everything there is to know about Phil, since he’s documented it obsessively in the cloud. Not only does Jexi know everything, she has opinions about it. And she starts steering his life in the direction she believes is best.

Imagine if HAL from  2001: A Space Odyssey and Sam (Scarlett Johansson) from Her had an AI baby and named her Jexi. Jexi is strangely alluring for someone who doesn’t have a body. She’s no Ava (Alicia Vikander) from Ex Machina. She’s more like your craziest, most jealous, most stalkery ex, only Jexi has access to your dating profiles, your porn collection, your work contacts, and your dick pics.

Even though the 2020 movie season is experiencing extreme drought, I scrolled right by this rental for many months. I’m not much of an Adam Devine fan and though desperate times call for desperate measures, I held out hope that I’d not hit my bottom quite yet. But don’t despair. This viewing wasn’t motivated by desperation so much as it now being able to stream on Amazon Prime (so, free for me, since I have an account). But even free was too high of a cost – what’s worse than an unfunny comedy? An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d just watched Her instead. Or Ex Machina. An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d watched any other AI movie, or even any other unfunny comedy that didn’t get your hopes up just as you resigned yourself to it. Because while it was Adam Devine’s smug pug face keeping me away this whole time, actually clicking on it revealed castmates like Sykes, Byrne, and Michael Pena, all of whom led me to believe this might not have been as bad as I’d feared and then it was WORSE. Arghghghghg.

This movie is for a very, very small demographic: baby boomers lacking in senses of both humour and irony who will suffer through unfunny comedies just to feel superior to young people as they scroll through Facebook, clicking on all the COVID clickbait conspiracies planted by Russia as if they aren’t the ones who used screens as babysitters in the first place. Ahem.

The F**k-It List

Brett Blackmore (Eli Brown) is a high school senior whose academic resume is spotless. Much like the ladies in the much better film Booksmart, Brett has spent his high school career studying and achieving but never really socializing or experimenting. He hasn’t had the time to stop and consider this lack of balance until the senior class prank goes wrong. Very, very wrong. And Brett, who was there but barely involved, falls on his sword and ends up taking the blame. His parents, who threw themselves a party to celebrate his acceptance to 7 out of 8 Ivies (Harvard merely wait-listed him), watch his brilliant future get yanked away as one by one, every one of those 7 Ivies back out of their offers. Brett is despondent, but this bleak turn of events does have him reflecting on whether this was the path he’d want for himself anyway.

Spending time with childhood crush Kayla (Madison Iseman), Brett feels empowered to send his friends a ranting video where he proposes a F**k-It List, a list of all the things he wishes he’d done but never had the courage. Item #1 is of course to kiss Kayla, and having done that, his blood is coursing with teenage hormones and adrenaline, he’s both free-falling and emboldened, and ready for whatever comes next. Except for what actually comes next, which is that his video goes viral, and instead of heading off for Yale, he’s instead become the most Gen Z of all things: an Influencer.

This movie believes that it’s putting the educational-industrial complex on trial. It also believes that it’s about an obedient teenager gone wild. Really, the movie is about Brett’s parents, Jeffrey (Jerry O’Connell) and Kristen (Natalie Zea), or it should have been anyway. They’re the ones who have bought into this machine, they’re the dictator parents who have structured their kid’s whole childhood around building the ultimate college application and then taking all the credit when their son actually succeeds despite this enormous pressure. A better script might have seen that, but then again, a better script may not have constantly confused the F**k-It List, which it both invented and defined, with the Bucket List, which is in fact a whole other thing. And better writers (not to mention better human beings) might have seen that Brett is neither a victim nor a hero – he’s a perfect and rather blatant example of privilege, and the only person who accidentally calls him on it is love interest Kayla who intends to pay for college by modelling her way through Europe (which turns out to be a euphemism for sex trafficking).

This kid’s “problem” is that his parents’ money and his cushy lifestyle have netted him literally every advantage in the world and now he wants to reject it, with no apparent irony or self-awareness, while continuing to spend their money unapologetically, and whining about it every step of the way – which only makes him more rich and more popular. It’s actually a super sad commentary on how toxic youth culture has become, and an even sadder example of how out-of-touch the rich white man (I’m guessing) directing this film is to not even realize it.

Every character in this movie is a bland personification of plain, fat-free yogurt; not one of them the least bit interesting or distinctive, so they’re absolutely painful to watch. Luckily, actual young people have never been half as dumb as Boomers make them out to be, and I bet most will be sharp enough to stay clear of this.

Look Again

Amit is a terrible judge of character, and also a terrible problem solver. But anyway: his girlfriend cheated on him and his business partner stole from him so now he’s going to commit suicide by lying dramatically across train tracks. Which…are not in service. Two guardian angels fly down from heaven to tell him to stop embarrassing himself and they give him a pair of magical miraculous glasses that allow him to see a person’s true aura. Well, frankly, aura’s a little generous. The glasses operate on a strictly binary system: good or bad. Which is obviously not the most ridiculous part of this paragraph, but it’s up there.

I’ll admit there’s something to this premise. Not so much the judgy eye wear as the possibility that we may learn more from failure than from success. Anyway, Amit (Anand Rajaram) isn’t interested in learning from his mistakes, or honing his own instincts, or taking responsibility for his own poor choices. He’s all about using the glasses to fast-track himself to love and money. Which is pretty stupid, because if god went to the trouble of sending you some fabulous frames, you’d better make damn sure you use them for good and not evil.

Writer-director Daniel O’Connor makes some pretty severe misjudgments. Making Amit our protagonist just makes me wish an errant train had put us all out of our misery before the movie even really began. This guy deserves to be naturally de-selected, and instead he gets a leg up from the big man himself? Boo. Amit steadfastly waves away concerns and objections from people who care about his moral fabric, he refuses to learn a lesson, and his button-down shirts are atrocious. O’Connor’s second misstep is casting Rajaram, who is nowhere near as charming as either man thinks. He plays Amit as fairly dodgy, which leaves a funny taste in the mouth considering he’s “the chosen one.” His character never deserves the good things in his life, nor is he grateful for them. And he’s so frickin obvious! He doesn’t wear the glasses, he rather suspiciously slips them on, looks at a person, takes them off, and then either nods or shakes his head. SO FRICKIN OBVIOUS! Have a little respect for the game, dude! God doesn’t want you flaunting your superpower! You may as well erect a sign that says “Isn’t it curious how well I can suddenly predict whether a temp will fit in to our office culture?” Um, yes, yes it is, Amit! It’s a little goddamned suspicious! Might it have anything to do with those hideous white glasses you keep whipping on and off like they can, I don’t know, reveal a person’s true nature somehow in a very black and white way that dangerously categorizes people as either one thing or the other, with no context or nuance or chance at redemption?

Rajaram isn’t the only problem in the cast. In fact, it would be simpler and shorter to list all the not-horrendous actors: Darryl Dinn. He plays one of the guardian angels and he has enough personality and pizzazz to brighten the screen, although with O’Connor’s script, it’s still an uphill battle, if the hill was Mount Everest and the battle was 10 000 murder hornets with a taste for angel blood. It is clearly only with a very high degree of difficulty that someone in this film can unlock the achievement of not adding to the general suckage of this film, and so I award Darryl Dinn with the Didn’t Suck Award, which I’m sure is more meaningful to him than a personalized concierge team from GOD was to Amit. I can’t be too hard on these poor actors. Judging by the film, they were likely working for a slice of soggy pizza at the end of a 16 hour day, and you know what they say: you get what you pay for.