Category Archives: Sucks ass

Sean says: seriously, don’t even bother.

Total Recall (2012)

hero_EB20120801REVIEWS120739999ARIt’s been a while since I’ve watched the 1990 version of Total Recall, and yet it was still obvious to me that the 2012 version was the same in plot but different in setting. The setting change was particularly jarring. It is bizarre to me that Mars does not enter into the 2012 movie at all – Australia stands in, which is not really an even trade.  No offense, Australia, but a destination (/colony) I can reach by airplane is not nearly as futuristic-feeling as a colony on another planet. Also, is the fact they refer to Australia as “the Colony” in Total Recall a little too close to home?

As with all remakes, I waited for the 2012 Total Recall to justify its existence. And like a lot of remakes, it never did. The Total Recall remake is more serious and more down to earth than the original, and both of those are bad things. The original stands above, not just because it did everything first (including the three boobed prostitute) but because it did everything better (including giving a reason why there would be a three boobed prostitute).

The original is campy and dumb and fun. The remake is muted and sterile and dull. The difference between the two is exactly the difference between 80s Arnold (no last name needed) and Colin Farrell (no time period needed since to say he peaked would wrongly imply he was ever much good). No one with any sense would choose Farrell over 80s Arnold as an action hero, and likewise no one should watch 2012 Total Recall when 1990 Total Recall is either in your basement/garage or the basement/garage of a friend, gathering dust with hundreds of other DVDs.

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Roxanne Roxanne

Imagine your surprise when you issue a challenge to (rap) battle the Queensbridge Project’s champ, and she turns out to be a little girl. She has to ask her mom permission in order to curse and stand on a milk crate just to look you in the eye.

In 1982, at the age of 14, Lolita “Roxanne Shanté” Gooden is smart, fierce, and is still the most feared (if not respected) battle MC in Queens. She won’t get out of bed for less than $250, but those winnings are going to support her family. Her mother (Nia Long) is raising a family of sweet young girls all by herself, teaching them hard lessons because her own life is nothing but disappointment.

Watching Shanté (Chanté Adams) navigate the world is tough. She may spit rhymes to MV5BOTM0MzhmMjUtY2UxMy00MTQyLWJhMzItN2EzYWRjYmZjMThhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODY2NTE3MTM@._V1_destroy her competition, but she’s a kid, one who engages the audience’s protective instinct. You may or may not know Roxanne Shanté, but she was well on her way to becoming a hip hop legend before she finished high school (not that she ever went). This film doesn’t feel like a typical musical biopic. Instead it’s more of a character portrait, quite intimate, and quite focused on the day to day details, which is a nice window into her little-known private life, but not much of a door to the bigger picture. Luckily, director Michael Larnell’s emphasis favours the excellence of his cast.

Roxanne Roxanne is a testimony to all the people who wanted to take advantage of a rising star. And to the dark, gritty, violent experiences lived by women of colour, in and outside of the rap game. Some of the shittiest, most shocking things are mentioned so casually that you can hardly believe what you’re seeing. And with every beating and robbery Roxanne Shanté suffers, we know what she really bleeds is her creativity, the real theft is of her talent.

When this film debuted at Sundance, Chanté Adams was its breakout star. Now it’s available on Netflix, for you to relive the golden days of hip hop (which are actually quite black) and to pay tribute to one of its founding but forgotten stars.

 

The Strangers: Prey at Night

Strangers 7-5-17-6620.dngI’ve avoided slasher flicks ever since I was 12 and the idea of Friday the 13th (which I’d never seen but had the plot recited to me on a canoe trip the previous summer) made me run in terror anytime I was alone in the woods at night. Since then, I’ve seen very, very few straight-up slashers (Halloween being a rare exception and a standout) because, honestly, they’re almost always really stupid. The Strangers: Prey at Night is a very good example of “really stupid”, and that is about the nicest thing I can say about it.

Since I really don’t care for this type of movie, I may be dead wrong, but I have always thought the appeal of these films can be distilled down to three basic elements:

  1. Clever kill sequences;
  2. The filmmaker toying with the audience’s expectations, delivering a humourous jolt when we think a scare is coming, or vice versa; and
  3. Seeing idiots get what is coming to them, namely being murdered in some kind of clever kill sequence.

Combine those elements with a memorable mass murderer and you’ve got a franchise on your hands!

The Strangers: Prey at Night has none of those things. Sure, the killers wear weird masks, but doesn’t almost every murderer? Otherwise, these killers just walk around menacingly, more out of obligation than for any particular purpose, and don’t have any discernable motivation, backstory, or personality traits. The only memorable thing is that the killers have a penchant for 80s music. Like, will search the radio presets until they find some, even if there is a potential victim right there for the murdering, so they are pretty big fans.

And there are no clever or humourous sequences, just monotony. The people who die get stabbed. Also, the people who live get stabbed. None of the encounters consists of anything more than that, save for the 80s synth-pop blaring consistently while the fights take place. Worst of all, we are forced to sit through about 25 minutes of family “drama” before the killing even really begins.

So who, exactly, is this movie for? You will have to tell me because it is not for me or for anyone I know.  I also don’t think it would have worried little 12-year-old me in the least, which is the biggest strike of all since back then I was terrified by the very idea of the phantom zone from Superman 2.  Basically, if you are looking for a mix of synth-pop and grisly violence, skip this film and stick with the holy trinity: Halloween, Drive, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

 

The Cloverfield Paradox

GDP-08575.rafSo this is what “straight to video” looks like in the Netflix age. Honestly, I am surprised at the drastic drop off in quality from 10 Cloverfield Lane to The Cloverfield Paradox, if only because I gave 10 Cloverfield Lane a 3 out of 10 and by comparison to Paradox, Cloverfield Lane is a masterpiece.

Basically, the Cloverfield Paradox is a less entertaining, less scary, and less interesting version of Event Horizon, a movie that really let me down 20 years ago, and that I am sure has not improved over time. That The Cloverfield Paradox falls so far short of that (very) (very) (very) low bar is damning indeed.

For a “franchise” that I didn’t much care for in the first place, Cloverfield has managed to sink to new depths of awfulness with each new entry, especially with the two “sequels”, which were clearly written as standalone movies, then got stamped with just enough giant monsterness to justify the Cloverfield name.

At least at this point we can be fairly sure we’ve reached the end of this disappointing series. It is a sad state of affairs that I can’t totally exclude a reboot in five or ten years, but that’s a rant for another day (and one I’ve probably already written out three or four times in other reviews so I’m sure you can find it without too much effort!).

Geostorm

geostorm-1280-1508455954341_1280wGeostorm takes incoherence to a whole new level, one I never thought possible. A guy dies on a space station for reasons that are entirely unclear and it seemed to me I had missed something. I rewound because I thought I missed an important detail, but I didn’t. It is just an unexplained and unexpected event almost 20 minutes into a 109 minute movie. The music cues told me this event was very mysterious, and eventually it ends up being a super important plot point because it brings Gerard Butler into the mix (because he designed the space station in question). Come to think of it, Butler as a space station designer is one of the most believable aspects of this film.  That’s Geostorm in a nutshell.

Geostorm is a ripoff of Armageddon, right down to tragedies in Asia and hail the size of basketballs, and Butler is asked to be both Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. He is not up to the task to even being William Fichter (the guy with the gun in space). But rest assured, there is tons of drama to come, and it is set to the most over-dramatic and generic music imaginable. And the drama keeps on building as the scientists theorize that a Geostorm is on the way, and it turns out that Butler and his brother have quite a complex relationship, and a secret code, and lots of sciency gibberish to share with each other. At least I think these things were an attempt to add depth to these characters, but it all comes off as total garbage, and a pale imitation of other disaster movies that weren’t all that great in the first place. The worst part is, there’s not even a Geostorm for, like, ever, as we are forced to wait and wait for the disaster to actually occur while the scientists overhype it (by a lot).

I am quick to make fun of Michael Bay, because he makes lots of big, dumb movies that make little to no sense. Well, Geostorm made me feel kind of bad about having done that, repeatedly.  Mr. Bay, I am truly sorry for ever calling you a talentless hack because  Geostorm makes Armageddon look like 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In short, as a film, Geostorm is a disaster on a global scale. Fortunately, this is one disaster you can avoid all by yourself, without needing to prove that climate change is real.

Assassin’s Creed

assassins-creed-movie-FassbenderThis is probably the most super serious movie that a video game franchise has ever birthed. We are quickly briefed on the thousand-year old struggle between Templars and Assassins, with the two sides warring for control over a magic apple, the Apple of Eden that contains the seeds of mankind’s deceit, yadda yadda, genetic code, yadda yadda, free will, yadda yadda, fate of the world at stake. So Michael Fassbender has to travel back in time, sort of, and find out where that apple is hiding.

Except those stakes are then lowered for no apparent reason because right from the outset Fassbender and the audience are told that nothing can be changed in the past – he’s just observing what’s already happened to one of his ancestors. Which is a bizarre choice for a movie based on a video game that put the player in control of an assassin’s kung fu fighting ancestor, as it leaves the movie’s audience passively watching Fassbender experience a “memory” from the distant past and kind of act it out with the help of a big mechanical harness.

Or, when Fassbender’s recovering from doing his mechanical harness work, we get to watch him fight ghosts (not real, we are assured, just glitches in the Matrix) and also guards (real but gentle because they need Fassbender alive since he’s the last ancestor of some guy, yadda yadda, never mind that this group also is holding Fassbender’s father at the same location [Edit: I just remembered that the ancestry was on his mom’s side but that opens up a whole other set of criticisms]). Admittedly, there are hints of danger, like Fassbender suffering a seizure caused by the harness and then being confined to a wheelchair, but 30 seconds later he is practicing karate moves again so it seems like it’s no worse than a little VR motion sickness.

There is some kind of 1%/mind control through consumerism/uprising by noble freemen underlying all this but don’t even try to find a worthwhile message because the premise of the film’s logic is that violence and free will are tied together, so only murderers and assassins can stand between the 1% and total domination.

That should have been the most insulting part of Assassin’s Creed, but it’s not. The most insulting part is that a decent cast (including Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling) is totally wasted in a blockbuster that lacks any semblance of blockbusting.  My ancestors would be ashamed I ever watched this trash, and I’m right there with them.

Bright

bright_unit_06597_r_wide-67b1f15cb792c81ccc1359a7e8a2e6c0bce7b718-s900-c85What’s worse than being flat, derivative and uninspired? Being all those things, showing a tiny bit of promise in spite of them, and then throwing the interesting parts away in search of a flashy climax and tidy resolution. That’s Bright.

The concept is sound – what if there were Elves and Orcs and magic in our world? It’s not a new idea and that’s fine. The hodgepodge of fantasy elements forming the basis of this world are standard fare as well, straight out of Tolkien or World of Warcraft. Orcs are brutes with sharp teeth, Elves are beautiful and rich, magic wands are super powerful but not everyone can use them. The script, complete with minority and 1% allegories, practically writes itself.

The problem is, it feels like no extra effort was put in to creating Bright. Like, at all.  Like, I’m pretty sure Will Smith was quoting himself from Men in Black every time he let a sarcastic quip fly. Not incidentally, well over 90% of his lines in Bright are sarcastic quips. Either stop phoning it in or stop being in movies, please.

Joel Edgerton doesn’t phone it in like Smith but he is totally unrecognizable and totally wasted here as the sensitive Orc sidekick. He had no chance of saving this mess. Full disclosure: this is a recurring exchange between Jay and me:

Jay: We should go see [small indie movie]. Joel Edgerton is in it.

Me: Who’s Joel Edgerton again?

Jay: The guy from [slightly older small indie movie that we saw a few months prior].

Me: That was Joel Edgerton?

Jay: We literally just had this conversation when you made me watch the Star Wars prequels.

Me: JOEL EDGERTON IS IN STAR WARS?

Jay: I hate you.

It happened again in Bright only I swear, this time it was not my fault. It was David Ayer’s, and Bright is proof that we should have cut Ayer off long before Suicide Squad. Thanks for writing Training Day, really, but that goodwill was used up long ago.  A glimmer of promise and then an avalanche of mediocrity and disappointment – just like Bright.

El Camino Christmas

El-Camino-Christmas-featureI count Die Hards 1 and 2 as two of my favourite Christmas movies, so I’ve seen a hostage situation or two play out on-screen during the holiday season. But El Camino Christmas proves that not all hostage situations are created equal, mainly because not all cops are Bruce Willis. Some cops are Dax Shepard or worse, drunken Vincent D’Onofrio (who is either a very good actor or has a serious alcohol problem, or maybe both). El Camino Christmas is the opposite of a how-to hostage negotiation video, as things start bad and somehow get worse.

With Dax Shepard involved with the film, I expected some dumb comedy but El Camino Christmas seems to not even be trying to be funny. And if it was trying, well, it failed miserably.

On the “plus” side, if you have been suffering from Tim Allen or Jessica Alba withdrawal, El Camino Christmas will give you a shot of both. Neither needed to be here but they both showed up anyway for a little Christmas green. Really, why not say yes, when Netflix is throwing money at everyone else?

Some of those other Netflix originals have been pretty good but El Camino Christmas is not even middling.  It’s a totally predictable, cliched, and boring film.  It’s not the least bit entertaining, not even unintentionally. There is really nothing to recommend about El Camino Christmas. It is bleaker than a stocking full of coal, so just watch those Die Hards again instead. Especially if you can catch the dubbed for TV versions for the true holiday experience. Yippie-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!

The Square

The-Square-movie-posterSometimes, I walk out of a movie and wonder why a director decided to insert a scene that didn’t seem to add anything to the film.  With The Square, I walked out wondering why the majority of the scenes had been included.  Even the film’s poster gets in on the act, blatantly photoshopping Elisabeth Moss into a scene in which she doesn’t appear.  That is a fitting allegory for her role in the film as well as for a lot of the movie’s scenes.  Moss didn’t need to be there in the poster picture but someone went to the effort of adding her anyway, for no obvious reason.  The same thing seems to have happened with many scenes in this film, the latest from Ruben Ostlund, who previously directed Force Majeure.

The Square centres around an obnoxious, entitled museum curator (Christian, played by Claes Bang) who makes more than a few mistakes in promoting his museum’s new exhibition and, on the side, searching for his stolen phone, wallet, and cufflinks.  The fact he sees himself as a pretty good guy only makes things worse for him and everyone he comes into contact with.  In between his missteps, we are treated to some truly bizarre scenes involving a human pretending to be an ape at a dinner party, a real ape acting as a third wheel at Moss’ character’s apartment, and a cheerleading performance by one of Christian’s kids, none of which advance the plot in any way, despite a lot of effort being put into staging and filming these scenes.  But to what end?  The Square repeatedly left me feeling like I had missed the point, but it happened so many times I had to conclude there was no point.

That is The Square: an overlong mess of ideas patched together into a two and a half hour long feature.  The movie starts well enough but doesn’t know where to go once it gets started, and certainly doesn’t know how to wrap up what it’s laid out.

The frustrating part is that many of the ideas in the film have the potential to make for good satire, but the movie can’t figure out how to unlock their potential or say anything meaningful, aside from pointing out how much idiocy and chaos can be created by a self-entitled boor, which we are all way too familiar with in our real lives right now.

All in all, The Square never amounts to much.  Just like its protagonist, it is aimless, clueless, and we’d be better off if it went away quietly.

Transformers: The Last Knight

why-critics-say-transformers-the-last-knight-is-2017s-most-toxic-movie (1)I wrote a whole other review of this horrible, awful, infuriating movie and then accidentally deleted it.  Honestly, my review was unremarkable for the most part so it’s not a huge loss.  This movie makes no sense, it’s the fifth movie in a tired franchise that was only ever enjoyable if you, like me, liked seeing robots decapitate other robots in slow motion (and which stopped being awesome four movies ago), and it’s got Mark Wahlberg doing his usual “acting” by which I mean that he talks really fast in a whiny voice when he is under pressure and otherwise just stands around flexing his biceps and looking confused.  In short, it is the worst Transformers movie yet, and the next one will probably be even worse.

But there was one part of my review worth saving, and it’s this: Mark Wahlberg was clearly born to be in Michael Bay movies.  It is the perfect match of all perfect matches.  These two eventually found each other, but there are so many Wahlberg-less Michael Bay movies, and isn’t that a shame?

So…what if Michael Bay made special editions of his back catalogue, George Lucas style, and digitally inserted Wahlberg into all his “classics” as a way to link all his movies together?

Think about it!  It would be the greatest shared universe of all time.  We could have Bad Boys fighting bad robots under the supervision of Wahlberg and his good friend Joe Pantoliano, the space shuttle in Armageddon could be a robot who owes a favour to Wahlberg and who figures out a way to save Bruce Willis as payback, and Wahlberg could help bring Sean Connery and his estranged daughter Claire Forlani together while at the same time helping Nicholas Cage foil Ed Harris’ plot to steal that face-meltingly-deadly VX gas, this time without losing Michael Biehn’s whole SEAL team.  And then Wahlberg could assemble a team of one million Ewan MacGregor clones along with the time travelling pilot duo of Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett to destroy the Transformers once and for all, saving us all from ever having to see Transformers 6: Shia’s Revenge.

This needs to happen.