Category Archives: Sucks ass

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.

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Bokeh

A young American couple is on a romantic getaway in Iceland when the impossible happens: everyone in the world disappears, except for them. They wake up alone on the planet. Well, presumably, since they find no other survivors but also have no way to communicate with the world.

Riley (Matt O’Leary) seems to embrace their aloneness as a challenge, and sets about building primitive tools to keep the water running. He enjoys the freedom to shop MV5BNmI3MWU2N2UtNDJmOC00YjdiLTgzYmEtZmI1NzBiYTNmY2ViL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTE0NzEyMzE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_without paying and help himself to cars without stealing but he’s a little reckless in his adventuring, which irks his girlfriend Jenai, who points out that should he get hurt, there’s no more 911 to call. And she’s right. But she’s also contorted with anxiety. Jenai (Maika Monroe) misses her family. She searches obsessively for other survivors. She seeks understanding, not just of what happened, but of its greater, spiritual meaning. Have they been chosen, or left behind? What is their purpose here? She and Riley drift apart over these issues, which is extra tragic since they don’t have many other options.

On paper (or technically, a computer screen) this movie sounds interesting. But oh no it is not. It’s the slowest, most boring, most plotless post-apocalypiptic movie you’ll ever see. There are only two things Bokeh is good for: 1. the terrific Islandic travel porn, and 2. torturing yourself with bleakness and existential defeatism. So yeah, if you’re researching beautiful places to kill yourself, definitely consider Iceland. But I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention in making this movie.

A Dog’s Purpose

This is the movie I promised myself  I would never see. The trailer itself made it crystal clear: this is the story of one dog who keeps coming back to life as different breeds with different owners. And in order for a dog to be reborn – you guessed it – he has to die. A lot. And it’s never, ever not sad. But the film makes no bones about death not being the worst fate for dogs – and THAT was the worst part. The part when he didn’t die, but lived a miserable life.

27-dog-purpose.w710.h473Anyway, as if a dog’s repeated death wasn’t enough to deter me, there was some controversy prior to the film’s release when a video of one of the actor dogs revealed it looking completely terrified during a stunt. Abuse was alleged, which led people to boycott the film. Not that it mattered; A Dog’s Purpose is not terribly good. It was never going to win the box office. It preys on your heartstrings. The director is so shamelessly over-sentimental that I felt like a dog on a leash being yanked along against my will.

If you’ve been paying attention here, you may have noticed that Sean and I are dog lovers, or that I am a dog lover and Sean never really stood a chance. I already had Herbie when I met Sean, and Sean had to win his approval in order to stick around. Then we got Gertie so that Herbie would always have a friend. And then we adopted Fudgie on the day we bought our house. And Bronx was given to me as a post-surgery recovery gift. So that’s 4 – the maximum amount of animals we can have on our property without legally declaring ourselves a farm. They keep my life full and happy. There’s no better way to feel like a million bucks: simply leave home and return 10 minutes later. Tails will wag, joyous barks will sound, big sloppy kisses will greet you at the door.

While watching the movie, Sean had an epiphany: what if the only god that exists is the god of dogs. And this world belongs to the dogs. And we’re just here to act as their humble servants. And OUR purpose is to create better and better domestic situations for them. If that’s the case, dogs are benevolent masters, friendly and forgiving. Me? Not so much. This is one movie that deserved to be put down, but since it wasn’t, I caution you to tell it it’s a bad boy, a very bad boy, now maybe hit it in the nose with a rolled up newspaper and tell it to go lie down in its bed. And go hug a real dog instead.

The Whole Truth

It’s possible that if Keanu doesn’t play a lawyer at least once per decade he’ll die. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain his casting as a lawyer ever, because he’s barely credible as the sandwich guy who delivers lunch to law firms.

hero_TheWholeTruth-2016-1In The Whole Truth, Keanu does indeed play a lawyer who is defending the son of a former colleague and longtime friend. The son is accused of killing his father, that very same former colleague and longtime friend. I’m sure Keanu would like to believe that his client is innocent, but his client isn’t talking. And his client’s mother (Renee Zellweger) is mostly weeping, and begging Keanu to save her son’s life.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is above this material, plays a lawyer assigned to help Keanu, and be less of a dick in the courtroom than he is, which is a role that could have been fulfilled by Andy Dick or Jeremy Piven or goddamned Jim Belushi, who was actually busy playing the murder victim, but you catch my drift. It wasn’t a high bar.

Anyway. It’s derivative. It’s one of those “unravel the plot” movies probably based on a mystery novel only sold in drug stores. When “the whole truth” is finally revealed, you probably won’t be around to hear it, having already changed the channel, and you certainly won’t give a shit. The ending isn’t earned, it doesn’t pack a punch, it’s just a fart in the wind (is that a saying?).

I’m dubious, Keanu.

Hop

Little E.B. is training to be the next Easter Bunny in a Santa’s-workshop-like facility where fluffy little chicks make all the candy.

Meanwhile, in the live-action realm of the film, Fred (James Marsden) is undergoing an intervention at the family dinner table. His parents (Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole) want him to stop dreaming, get a job, and move out of the house.

Back in cartoon land, E.B. (Russell Brand) is about to be crowned Easter Bunny now that hop-movie-image-02he’s a teenager, but he’s more interested in drumming and rock and roll. His dad cracks down hard on his “selfish” son; there are 4000 years of tradition to consider, after all. But E.B. has a mind of his own and he takes off for Hollywood, where dreams come true. Except for Fred’s. His are over, especially now that his parents are kicking him out. But Fred and E.B. are united when Fred hits E.B. with his car, and then takes him in to make up for it.

Back on Easter Island, E.B.’s dad isn’t taking to being openly defied very graciously, and he unleashes the “Pink Berets” on a rescue mission to find and bring back his irresponsible son. Carlos (Hank Azaria), a particularly ambitious chick, is trying to throw his own hat into the ring. I mean, is it absolutely imperative that the Easter Bunny be a bunny?

Turns out, befriending a talking cartoon bunny isn’t great for Fred’s mental stability. To help get E.B. on his way all the quicker, he agrees to get him to the big audition that David Hasselhoff is apparently hosting. Will Hollywood find a place for a cute little bunny with a sick beat? And what will happen to slacker Fred? Find out the riveting answer to these questions and more in the Easter-themed half-animated movie, Hop. It is not remotely good but I bet it’ll be a big hit with kids this time of year.

 

David Brent: Life on the Road

David Brent is the same sad-sack you knew from The Office all those years ago. He works in a different office now, barely, and he’s still possessed of this illusions of grandeur that made him so pathetically lovable. He’s decided to fund a rock star tour to live out his David-Brent-Life-on-the-Road-1wildest fantasy in the hopes that he’ll find his sound, and his audience (and presumably some talent).

Ricky Gervais reprises his beloved The Office character, but David Brent is the only familiar face in this new film, so fans hoping the rekindle the magic will be disappointed. The good news is, so will everyone else. The truth is, it just doesn’t work. David Brent is a tired joke and Gervais doesn’t have anything new for the character, despite the 15 year interval. And without the proper context (and the necessary supporting characters, who humanize him), David Brent feels a lot more annoyingly contemptible rather than the lovable loser we need him to be.

It’s raining right now in Ottawa. It’s just a notch above freezing, which means the rain is 46169fb95db6c57995e32557d972456d.jpgwashing away some of our snow, and the flooded streets are gray and sickly-looking, the disappearing snow uncovering all the gross things hidden over the winter: cigarette butts, McDonald’s wrappers, and a sad collection of lost gloves.

David Brent: Life on the Road is like a lost glove. On its own, it’s useless. It’s sad and forlorn and frankly, it’s only fit for the garbage.

 

Song To Song

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually seen this movie. It was the opening night gala film at SXSW and despite a near 2-hour wait in line, the theatre reached capacity only half a dozen people too early for me to get in. However, I did spend the rest of the festival hearing about the movie from people who were there – 100% of whom regretted it.

songtosong2To be fair, Terrence Malick is practically a hometown boy, and a huge local crowd turned out to see his latest film, which happens to be set in that very same town – Austin, Texas. The film is set against a backdrop of Austin’s vibrant music scene and SXSW is at the forefront of that music scene. Those factors attracted many people who’d never otherwise flock to a Malick film. Sean and I don’t consistently like them either (who does?) but at least we had a better idea of what we were getting into (we saw a Terrence Malick documentary narrated by Brad Pitt at TIFF this year).

What were some of the issues with the movie?

  1. Although Song To Song is a love letter to Austin, it’s mostly a love letter to Austin’s 1%. The McMansions that feature strongly in the film are not exactly the norm for the city. The whole thing has a much more slick and jet-set feel than laid-back Austin does in reality.
  2. SXSW in particular and Austin in general has an impressive music scene and is a real champion of indie acts. Abounding with local talent and featuring really cool guests from all over, Malick instead went with much more main-stream acts, including Patti Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Iggy Pop, and while no one has qualms with these guys, they don’t exactly scream Austin.
  3. Females as objects: that’s kind of a biggie. Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara co-star in this flick about not one but two love triangles, but basically the women exist only to serve the men in the film, one way or another.
  4. It’s insanely white. I didn’t really think of Texas as particularly diverse, but having visited Austin, it is. It’s young and it’s alive but Terrence Malick’s Austin is very monochromatic.