Tag Archives: gratuitous violence


This is shaping up to be a rough movie season for Jay.  First, she got dragged to SPECTRE (which by all accounts is a spectacular movie).   Second, she’s been dreading Star Wars: The Force Awakens since it was a twinkle in J.J. Abrams’ eye.  And third, a whole other Sean-approved franchise makes a return and potentially gets rebooted into a whole new series of movies.  Dun Na NAAAAAA, Dun Na NAAAAAA!

That’s right, Rocky is back again, for the seventh time.  It seemed over after IV, V, and VI, but some studio exec decided we could handle more!  And it was clearly the right decision because I think MGM/Warner Brothers now has a whole new franchise on its hands, featuring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (Apollo Creed’s son).

I have always loved this franchise.  From the moment I saw Rocky III, I was hooked (yes, I started with III and have never regretted it – as recently discussed in my defence of SPECTRE, plot and character are pretty much unnecessary in franchises and here’s more proof that’s a good thing).  Based on my love for the franchise, I had high hopes for this movie but I was also nervous at how this would all turn out.  After seeing Creed, I am happy to report that this franchise’s record is still unblemished as long as we agree that Rocky V never happened.

One of my favourite things about Rocky VI (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa) was how much love it showed to the franchise as a whole.  Creed takes the same approach.  There are a number of nods to the past and they’re great to see.  The best part is that Rocky, as trainer, takes all that history and imbues Adonis with the style of boxing we’ve grown to love in these movies, namely trading head shots until both boxers’ faces look like ground beef.  Head trauma be damned, these boxers just have so much heart that they have to leave it all in the ring.  And do they ever!

As for the cast, Michael B. Jordan is great as Creed and Stallone is better than ever as Rocky.  The two characters come together naturally and it’s a great relationship to see play out, as uncle and nephew take on the world together and give us some classic Rocky moments along the way.  Especially Stallone, who really plays the old man well the whole way through (although at this point he’s almost 70 so it may not even be acting).  Either way there are some very funny moments to be found as the two leads interact with each other.

Overall, the only way this movie could have been any better is if they had worked in some Carl Weathers flashbacks where he got his stew on. I can see how that was tricky to work in to Creed since Apollo died before Adonis was born, but still, it would have been a nice touch.


Want to know who won this fight?  Creed has the answer!

Other than that one shortcoming, Creed is perfect.  It delivers a great story, feels like a natural extension of the Rocky franchise, gives us a ton of nice call-backs to past events, and even answers some burning questions (including who wins the fight at the end of Rocky III).  Those fan-service moments were definitely my favourite aspect of the movie and they added so much to it.  They’re not just winks and nods, they are tools used successfully to remind us of Rocky’s mindset as he tries to pass on his winning ways to a new contender.

As the credits rolled, I reminisced about all the other great Rocky moments (see my list HERE but be warned, it contains tons of spoilers) and at the same time was excited for Creed II.  And mark it down, there will be a Creed II.  The seeds are sown here for at least two more movies and I hope they come to pass, because Creed is not just a great addition to the Rocky franchise, it is an excellent movie in its own right.

Creed scores a knockout: ten triumphant underdogs out of ten.


TIFF 2015: Hardcore


Midnight Madness coordinator Colin Geddes is a sick son of a bitch and I love him for it. If it weren’t for him, I never would have discovered The Raid or God Bless America, two of my favourites from TIFF 2011. His love both of cinema and ultra-violence has made Midnight Madness a regular stop on my TIFF tour.

To be fair, I only managed to sit through half of Saturday night’s premiere of Hardcore.  From director Ilya Naishuller, who apparently used a similar style in a popular online short, takes an entirely POV approach to his tale of a supersoldier’s quest to rescue his wife from a psychotic psychic paramilitary leader feels like a failed experiment. Designed to put us right in the middle of the action, Naishuller’s style has the opposite effect. Seeing everything through the eyes of our badass hero, it can be impossible to tell exactly what’s going on, with most of the action movie money shots happening offscreen . The main problem, I think, is that we can never tell what the character is feeling. We see our hero run through his eyes but we never sense the hero’s feet hitting the pavement. When he jumps out of a plane, I never felt like I was jumping with him.

Of course,again- I left halfway through. Did anyone stay until the end? What did you think of Hardcore?

American Ultra

We got to check out the Ottawa screening of American Ultra last night.  I wasn’t excited to see it but hey, it’s a free movie!   Why wasn’t I excited?  Two reasons:

I haven’t cared for Jesse Eisenberg since Zombieland.  I have never been able to get over his one whiny character he always plays (at least I hope it’s a character).   And now he’s going to undoubtedly be whiny Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman which worries me a lot.  Even worse, I’m not sure I’ve ever liked a movie starring Kristen Stewart, because she seems to be exclusively in bad tween movies and also she never smiles or changes expressions as far as I can tell.

So those were two big strikes against American Ultra.  And I have to say, my worries in that regard were largely unwarranted.  Which is not to say either of these actors surprised me with their performances.  They were really the same as they ever are.  It just worked in this movie for some reason, maybe because Topher Grace was more annoying than the two of them put together, so I had to cheer for the good guys as the lesser of two evils.

It also helped that American Ultra was surprisingly decent as a popcorn movie.  Looking back, there are some parallels between this and Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Kingsman is hands-down better, don’t get me wrong, but American Ultra has the same kind of feel and, like Kingsman did with Colin Firth, American Ultra made me believe that Jesse Eisenberg could take down a whole army of government-sponsored assassins (or “assets” because apparently the government owns them).  Which was essential when the plot of American Ultra consists of Jesse Eisenberg killing lots and lots of people with whatever items are close at hand.

The difference between this and Kingsman is the subtext (or lack thereof).  Kingsman knows exactly what it wants to be and the message it wants to convey.  American Ultra, not so much.  If there is a message here, I totally didn’t get it, as the message I thought was being delivered for most of the movie disappeared and then was completely contradicted by the ending as American Ultra tried to wrap itself up.   And without a message, this movie is just violence.  Well-done, over-the-top, spectacular violence, but still just violence.  And that means American Ultra will be quickly forgotten by me and probably everyone else who sees it.  It is a time waster, a missed opportunity, and nothing more.

Apollo Ape and Chip the Brick, on the other hand?  Now there’s a team!  I would much rather have seen that movie.


American Ultra gets a rating of five gruesome Kwik-E-Mart kills out of ten.


Killer Joe

I’m so shell-shocked from this movie I’m having trouble writing about it.

When Chris, a not so great guy from a not so great family ( Emile Hirsch) has a stash of drugs stolen from him by his mom, he has to come up with cash quick, or he’s dead. He and his father, Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church) hatch a plan to kill the mom and collect on her life insurance policy. texasAnd Chris knows just the guy to do the job – Killer Joe, a Dallas detective who happens to be a hit-man on the side.  Too bad they can’t afford to pay his retainer…until Joe spots Chris’s sweet little sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and decides that sexual collateral will do just the trick.

This film is trash. Trash trash, not trailer trash. Don’t be fooled by the actual trailer park. These people aren’t just hicks, they’re actual filthy, morally bankrupt people. This fact is established very very quickly – it’s immediately vulgar, over-the-top vulgar, and that’s before the beaver gets flashed in your face. Chris’s stepmom (Gina Gershon) has no boundaries and apparently no pants. Letts, the playwright, is adept with fucked up families (think August: Osage County) but this one takes the cake.

So I was repulsed by this movie, and this from the girl who didn’t blink once while watching Sin City a few weeks ago. My revulsion was knee-jerk and I went straight for the “bad movie” label – bad, bad movie. But I didn’t turn it off. And as I watched more, I realized that the badness is on purpose. It’s the point. You’re not supposed to like these people. This film is showing us a very dirty, seedy class of people. The badness is actually pretty expertly done, which doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch.

Enter Matthew McConaughey, a southern gentleman and a breath of fresh air. His demeanor is calm, his drawl is polite. He injects the movie with a much-need hit of stillness that lets us catch our breath after all the frenetic coarseness. The audience wants to eat him up which is a very effective device because it turns out he’s just as morally reprehensible and probably the most soulless character yet. He just has a more polished facade.

There’s so much tension in this movie that occasionally a giggle will bubble up, guiltily, without relieving even an ounce of the tension. This movie will make your jaw ache. It’s brutal. It’s sadistic. There so much fetishistic sexual cruelty that you won’t know where to look. If you’re comfortable exploring dark, nasty, demented sides of people without every really scratching the surface, then by all means, you won’t do better than this movie. I sort of hesitate to call it exploitation cinema, but isn’t that what it means? To be a voyeur in this condemnable underworld and enjoy watching the bloody violence and perversion vicariously? But Killer Joe has the capacity to really catch people off guard, and not in a good way. (You won’t ever eat fried chicken again.) It’s provocative but doesn’t really attempt to teach us anything. The characters are not remotely redeemable, but neither is the movie. Galling, outrageous, and ultimately superficial. And as polarizing as the movie is, just wait til you get to the end.



(And if by chance you’ve landed on this site just needing to talk about what you’ve seen, then please take the chance to do so in the comments. Assholes Watching Movies is providing a public service: vent, ask questions. Others be forewarned that there may be spoilers.)