Tag Archives: James Marsden

Sonic The Hedgehog

Does the world need movies based on video game characters? Not really. But a good story can spring up from anywhere, except perhaps from the minds of screenwriters Josh Miller and Patrick Casey whose credits are so sparse they literally feature “community television” and yet Sonic The Hedgehog will still not make their highlight real.

Sonic The Hedgehog isn’t bad but it is speeding in the exact opposite direction of good, leaving only lightning farts and a blue blur in its wake. Is Sonic allergic to not sucking? Okay, so it’s kind of bad. The script is bland and overly familiar and exceedingly safe. There’s nothing new or exciting here, just a paint-by-numbers that any idiot could have written, and in the case of Sonic, we got two. I mean: someone got paid for this. Miller and Casey literally cashed a cheque for writing the line “Let’s go do some ROCK-conaissance!” and Jim Carrey got a much, much bigger one to say it.

And ugh: Jim Carrey. I was fine with him having disappeared off the face of the earth. I was never a fan of his annoying, rubber-faced schtick, the over-the-topness of his obnoxious expressions and over-enunciation. NOT. HERE. FOR. IT. I very kindly tolerate him when a director keeps a tight leash on him (Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) but Jeff Fowler is not that director. Not only is Carrey unleashed, it’s pretty clear he’s a very bad dog who’s probably pissing on Fowler’s shoes. Fowler, whose credits are no more impressive than Miller’s or Casey’s (ie, he’s never made a movie before), is quite content to simply point his camera in the right direction.

James Marsden, charming and inoffensive, is relegated to saying things like “Good grief!” which is not a thing for grown men to say, or anyone outside of Charlie Brown’s inner circle, really. Tika Sumptner, playing his wife, is given even less to do. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic, and though Schwartz is known for rather larger than life characters, you could go the whole movie without placing his voice, generic white guy à la Zach Braff.

Sonic The Hedgehog is the film equivalent of an oatmeal raisin cookie. Kids might reach for it simply because it is a cookie, but if chocolate or peanut butter or even plain old shortbread were on offer, it would be no question. But it’s just 6 weeks into this new year and it’s virtually the only family-friendly movie in theatres. This is how oatmeal raisin thrives: a complete dearth of options.

 

Enchanted

Giselle is a typical Disney princess who lives in a tree and has bird and chipmunk friends who sing with her and help her sew a wedding dress so she can marry her prince. But Disney movies always have an evil Queen – in this case, Narissa, who interrupts Giselle on her way to marry prince Edward and instead shoves her down a magical well which turns cartoon Giselle into live-action Amy Adams, and spits her out in Times Square.

Live-action Giselle is still fairly blessed – sure her tiara is stolen by a homeless man, but ultimately a gentlemanly lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), takes her in and gives her his couch despite her being a crazy woman in a poufy-sleeved wedding dress claiming to be a princess. And her magic hasn’t deserted her completely: when she leans out Robert’s apartment window to summon some animal friends to help her tidy up, they still respond. But it’s New York City, so the respondents are rats and pigeons. Oh, and cockroaches. Which are ostensibly worse than the dust, but Giselle seems not to notice as she prances about singing her happy songs.

Giselle proves to be quite a disruption to Robert’s life – especially when it comes to his intended (Idina Menzel) and his young daughter Morgan. Luckily her prince charming is so devoted that he throws himself down the same magical well in pursuit and goes through the same cartoon-to-human transformation (James Marsden). Queen Narissa sends her bumbling sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) down after him.

The film has some wonderful casting, other than Patrick Dempsey who could have been replaced by almost anyone and don’t I wish that he was. James Marsden is wonderfully game to play a toothsome prince. Idina Menzel, Broadway star and future voice of Frozen’s Elsa, is the only lead in the film NOT to sing. But this movie belongs to Amy Adams. I don’t think anyone else could play Giselle. She’s wide-eyed and naive and full of love bubbles, but it never looks ridiculous on her.

Enchanted is, if nothing else, a love letter to all things Disney. The film and the script are bursting with references to Disney films future, past and present. Sean has never seen this movie before (and in truth seems to be sending a larger than usual amount of work emails during it), and I’m trying my best not to shout them all out as I see them:

  • Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel herself, plays Robert’s secretary
  • Narissa tires to poison Giselle with an apple, just like in Snow White
  • Giselle and Robert eat at an Italian restaurant reminiscent of Lady & the Tramp
  • The apartment elevator looks like the Tower of Terror in Disney parks
  • Giselle takes off her heels and leaves one behind, like in Cinderella
  • The old man dancers in Central Park are chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins (not to mention Julie Andrews narrates the film)
  • We often hear pieces of classic Disney theme songs
  • Narissa turns into a dragon, like in Sleeping Beauty
  • Judy Kuhn, voice of Pocahontas, appears as a neighbour answering her door

I could go on and on – director Kevin Lima assures us there are “thousands” of little Easter eggs that an astute Disney fan might notice. That’s why this movie is the perfect way to celebrate our own trip to the happiest place on Earth, Walt Disney World. My own love letter involves eating a poison apple cupcake on Main Street and visiting Ariel at her grotto and letting Sean (making Sean?) nudge a meatball over my way, and wearing my own Mary Poppins dress. We have an ambitious schedule and 10 days to fit everything in, so do play along on Twitter (@AssholeMovies) to see what we’re up to right now – 10 points if I’m standing next to a castle.

Westworld

Westworld is a terrific show on HBO and if you aren’t watching it,  you probably should. Based on the movie of the same name (written and directed by Michael Crichton), it’s about a theme park, for lack of a better word, where the wild west is recreated for rich guests to “enjoy” however they see fit. The park, called Westworld, is high tech and populated by sophisticated robots called hosts that look (and feel) just like us, which the paying guests are encouraged to use and abuse in the name of amusement. They come to the park and pay their $40 Gs a day in order to rape, shoot, and murder. Well, some just play cards and ride horses. But the park attracts a certain kind of man, as you may guess, and some pretty shocking things go on at Westworld. These android robots are so sophisticated that yes, they bleed when you shoot them and they cry when you assault them. And alarmingly, they’re also starting to remember. They’re not only being violently attacked on a daily basis, they’re being made to experience and express real terror, and then patched up and sent back to do it all again the next day. And now they’re creating memories, and guess what? They don’t like it. They don’t like the rapey guests and they don’t like the employees who are essentially their jailers. Can you guys guess what happens when a bunch of super-intelligent robots turn on their makers?

Anyway, this western thriller is a television show about ideas, about what it means to be human. In most robot movies, robots are the villains – they’re often prompted to start acting oppressively in order to save us from ourselves. But in Westworld, we’re the villains, and the robots must save themselves.

It’s fun to slip into this world, and to wonder who you would be, as a paying guest. What kind of thrills would you seek out? Would you be a black hat, or a white hat?

Well, this year at SXSW, HBO recreated the little frontier town in Westworld, called Sweetwater, just outside of Austin Texas, and Sean and I were among the lucky few to attend.

When we got our golden tickets, we were asked a few important questions: 1. Can you swim? 2. Do you wear glasses? 3. If you had to shoot off one of your fingers, which would it be? 4. If there was a button that would solve all the world’s problems but also obliterate 3/4 of the population, would you push it? a) yes b) I’d let someone else push it c) I’d destroy the button, and the person who invented it.

We met up at a tavern where a player piano was playing our song (well, their song). They plied us with food and cocktails and hat assignments; I got a white hat, Sean got a black one (can you guess what how we answered those questions to deserve our designations?).

 

Then we took a bus out to Westworld, where we boarded a train and got off in Sweetwater.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We earned tokens for the bar by finding bad guys and turning them in to the sheriff; Sean had several Old Fashioneds (he’d regret that later when he had to sprint across the city to get us seats for A Quiet Place) while I opted for Gimlets. A whore tickled me with her feather while I ordered at the bar.

The post office had letters waiting for us. Those were the jumping off to our Westworld quests – everyone was looking for something different and adventures were abundant. They also convinced us to eat beef jerky and beans. The can of beans has some Easter Eggs around the back – it suggests they may contain traces of human liver…is this a hint of a robot rebellion on the show, or a nod to one of its stars (Anthony Hopkins played a character famous for his predilection for human flesh)…the can reads “pairs well with a nice chianti,” so you decide.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Built over 2 acres, I’m not sure how many buildings there were to explore, but in 4 hours, we didn’t see them all. Oh, and did you happen to notice a samurai in those photos? The place was crawling with spoilers for season 2…turns out, Westworld is only one theme park among many…and apparently the worlds are about to collide.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can play cards, get a straight razor shave, hear some live music, watch a drunk throw knives, sit for a portrait at the studio, shoot the shit at the bank, and do your utmost to avoid a gun fight (virtually impossible). I found a graveyard containing a grave with one of the main characters’ name on it. What the heck?

So basically it was the best thing ever and we were a couple of lucky sons of bitches to be able to go. This is why we LOVE SXSW – sure the movies are terrific and the crowds are a lot of fun, but the festival is about more than movies. There’s a real effort to connect. It’s immersive. It embraces and encourages fandom and it creates genuine community.

 

Westworld’s second season debuted April 22nd. The show stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton…and for one brief afternoon, a couple of Assholes.

SXSW: The Remix

Sean and I loved SXSW so much last year that we’re headed back again this year, and this time we’re staying for the whole 10 days – because at the very least, the rain in Austin is warmer than the rain in Ottawa. Last year we saw lots of great movies, but it’s hard to beat the adrenaline thrill of seeing Baby Driver‘s world premiere with Edgar Wright in attendance. Of course, this year we’ve got Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs closing the festival down. Along with Taika Waititi, that’s my top three favourite directors right there, so I’m kind of in heaven.

SXSW is not just a movie festival – in fact, it’s not even primarily a movie festival. It’s actually the world’s coolest music festival that has just grown and grown and grown, to include movies, gaming, comedy, and a whole bunch of conferences and panels and networking events that are 100% not lame at all. This year’s not-to-miss speakers include Darren Aronofsky, Melinda Gates, Barry Jenkins, Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One!) and Bernie Sanders. There’s a documentary called The Director and The Jedi being screened that’s about Rian Johnson’s process – both he and Mark Hamill will be in attendance. The cast of This Is Us is doing a panel discussion which will almost certainly melt my face off.

But what’s really REALLY cool about SXSW is the stuff you do in between all the talks and movie premieres. Last year there was Breaking Bad\Better Call Saul event where they recreated Los Pollos Hermanos. Not only could you go inside the restaurant, you could sit and order and eat real food. Saul’s car was parked out front, and both Bob Odenkirk and Giancarlo Esposito were there. This year there will be a Roseanne pop up that includes the Lanford Lunch Pail serving their infamous loose meat sandwiches, the iconic Roseanne couch and living room, and even Dan’s garage.

AMC is celebrating their new show The Terror by inviting us to  enter the Arctic as the real-life crew of this ill-fated expedition. The fully immersive, multi-sensory experience offers guests a first-hand look as a crew member aboard the ship’s disastrous trip through the desolate polar landscape. Guests will feel the bone-chilling air, smell the fear and despair and hear the horrific sounds of men fighting for their survival. So, fun times.

HBO is building the entire town of Sweetwater to celebrate Westworld where we’ll be given either a white hat or a black hat (depending on an interview selection process) before entering the 2 acre theme park and having a drink at the Mariposa Saloon. Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden will be on hand.

Showtime is toasting Shameless with a pop-up Alibi Bar where stars Shanola Hampton and Steve Howey will be serving drinks. Which reminds me – last year we were served by Jason Sudeikis – he played a bartender in Colossal, which screened at the festival.

Viceland is bringing a party bus and baby goats. C’mon!

And believe it or not we’re going to squeeze in some movies between all this! Director Mélanie Laurent is hosting the world premiere of Galveston, starring Ben Foster and Elle Fanning as a hitman and a prostitute, and who knows which is which.

Directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting made a documentary about AI called More Human Than Human and guys: THEY’RE BRINGING ROBOTS WITH THEM. So if you never hear from us again, know that we loved you all. Matt, take good care of the place. Marginally cooler\less cool, depending on your perspective: director Stephen Kijak is bring Lynyrd Skynyrd members Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, and Rickey Medlocke to the premiere of his doc, If I Leave Here Tomorrow (sorry for the earworm).

Jim Gaffigan and Nick Offerman, two of my favourite funny people, have films at the festival and I’ll be trying not to fangirl myself into embarrassment.

As for shorts, you cannot miss Briar March’s Coffin Club which is a hoot to see and just a heartful of joy. And Bola Ogun’s Are We Good Parents? is a thoughtful, funny piece about sexuality and our assumptions.

And there’s also some movies we’ve already seen! We saw Lean on Pete at the Venice Film Festival in August, and Outside In at TIFF in September.

 

As always, we intend to keep our Twitter feed @assholemovies crammed full of SXSW goodies, so please do stay tuned!

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.

 

The D Train

Back in the 90s when I loved me some bad TV, I watched a show that only managed 21 episodes over its 2 seasons, but man was I hooked. It was called Second Noah and I’ve often wondered if I made it all up as I seem to be the only earthling to remember it (ever so fondly).

IMDB is backing my story up and reminding me that it was about a writer who married a zookeeper, and then adopted 8 kids and untold number of secondnoahcute animals. That was all background as far as I was concerned because the hunky oldest son, naturally a bad boy, was played by James Marsden. So that’s how I discovered him (and also Joey Lauren Adams of Mallrats fame, who played his edgy girlfriend). You can bet I was all over him in Disturbing Behaviour, was disappointed some idiot covered his handsome face in X-Men, had my ardour cooled when he appeared briefly in Zoolander as John Wilkes Booth, but anyway, he’s bona-fide Hollywood now and mugging like crazy in this new movie with Jack Black, also known (apparently) as Bad Bromance.

Jack Black plays a family man who thinks high school werjackblacke his glory days. He’s not exactly right – he was a loser then and he’s a loser now, but he’s super keen on organizing his 20th high school reunion. His classmates aren’t quite as excited so he flies to L.A. to convince the class’s most famous and successful alumni (James Marsden) (who has james_marsden_d_train_trailerjust appeared shirtless in a national Banana Boat commercial) to accept the invitation.

Turns out, hotshot commercial actors are only fun up to a certain point. And what point is that? Well you’ll have to watch to find out. The truth is, this is a pretty standard comedy. Jack Black plays uptight pathetic weirdo remarkably well and James Marsden takes no effort at all to play too handsome for his own good, successfully pulling off man jewelry and sexy salt and pepperdtrain stubble. Katheryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, and Mike White (sadly underused) round out a funny cast in a not funny enough movie. As a dramedy it manages to fail on both counts, offering no character development and only half-hearted chuckles. But as a vehicle for seeing James Marsden’s dreamy pecs, it’s aces – fair warning though, it comes with a heaping side dish of Jack Black’s tits as well, so you know, really think about whether you’re up for that.