Tag Archives: John Goodman

The Princess and the Frog

As a young girl, Tiana loved making gumbo with her father, and the two dreamed of opening up a restaurant together. Even after he passes away, she keeps the dream alive, though she doesn’t have the means to make it come true. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen is in town, setting all young hearts aflutter. Unbeknownst to them, the prince is actually broke and needs to marry a wealthy socialite to keep up his lifestyle. Both of our leads are in desperate situations that cause them to act rashly. Naveen strikes a deal with a voodoo doctor, who transforms him into a frog, and thinking that her magical kiss will transform him back, Tiana does so – only it turns her into a frog as well!

Then the adventure really begins, and they traverse New Orleans, befriending MV5BMjE2OTg0NDk2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTUwMjIyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1723,1000_AL_a trumpet-playing alligator and a Cajun firefly along the way. You may have heard that Sean and I are in New Orleans at the moment and time will tell what sort of friends we’ll make – but you can keep in touch on Twitter – @assholemovies.

The Mama Odie character was inspired and by the famed New Orleans storyteller Coleen Salley, even down to her voice. Coleen consulted with the director several times, but never lived to see the completed movie. Her name is mentioned in the credits. Dr. Facilier, the bad voodoo doctor, also takes sinpiration from New Orleans trandition: he looks just like the voodoo god of magic, ancestor-worship, and death, Baron Samedi. The trumpet blowing alligator is named Louis in honour of – you guessed it – Louis Armstrong. Another alligator, a hungry one who tries to eat our heroes, is named Marlon, after Brando star of A Streetcar Named Desire. Marlon is voiced by New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and even uses his signature catchphrase “Bam!”

Alicia Keys and Tyra Banks both lobbied personally for the part of Tiana. Beyonce was considered but refused to audition (I mean, really). Instead it went to Anika Noni Rose who was relatively unknown to those outside Broadway audiences. She was 41 when she gave voice a 19 year old.

Tiana was of course the first black Disney princess, and though it was about damn time, it wasn’t without controversy. First, Disney had to change the film’s title. Originally called The Frog Princess, the Internet informed them how terribly this sounded, and The Princess and The Frog was born. And Tiana too was renamed – originally she went by Maddy, which the peoples thought sounded too much like Mammy. Because of Disney’s history of being 99% white and 1% ugly stereotype, it’s only natural that this film was experienced under a microscope. And it’s kind of too bad that our first African-American princess spends most of the film as a frog instead of, you know, a black princess.

But it does get to splash the fun, colourful New Orleans as a background, from city scenes to the bayou. And directors Rom Clements and John Musker did some good while they were in town, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

If we’re in the neighbourhood, we may just pop into Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Leah Chase is the inspiration for Tiana. Known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, she’s cooked for the likes of Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Ray Charles, and Barack Obama. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was one of the only public places where mixed race 28-leah-chase-obama.w710.h473.2xgroups could meet, so it became home Civil Rights meetings, even though it was illegal.  Leah is also a patron of the arts, and her restaurant was once considered New Orleans’ best collection of African American art. Dooky”s reopened after Katrina but now operates under limited hours, a decision Leah’s family has made since the 94 year old woman still works as the head chef during its opening hours. Yes, you read that right. Forget Disney princesses: Leah is a formidable woman, and Tiana should be so lucky.

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Once Upon A Time In Venice

You may have noticed by now that before I travel, I like to watch movies set in the city I’m about to visit. It gets me going. I’ve written about Paris, Hawaii, and California, to name just a few, but since Sean and I are in Venice, you can be sure I’m in heaven soaking up Italy on film before I see it in person.

Of course, and let me say this up front: Once Upon A Time In Venice is the wrong Venice. This is Venice beach, California, whereas where in the cool one with the gondolas and the gelato. Nevertheless, and in the name of all that is good and Bruce Willis, I persisted.

Willis plays Steve Ford, a licensed private detective who can’t be all that good at his job hero_Once-Upon-Venice-2017or he’d have more than $84 in his bank account. He has a young protege  responsible for some very cheesy narration but mostly it’s just about him, getting into deeper and deeper trouble, then trying to dig his way out. His First and Biggest Problem are the gangsters who stole his beloved dog Buddy. Sure it’s a retaliatory act, but Buddy is Steve’s best friend (excepting John Goodman, who plays his human best friend), so apparently there’s no end to demeaning situations that Steve is willing to get into in order to recover his furry pal. There’s no excusing the most egregious stuff (ie, naked skateboarding, and using his asscheeks as a gun holster) which is not necessity but rather just establishes the kind of guy Steve is (ie, exceedingly immature).  Anyway, things only get more madcap from there.

We’ve seen Bruce Willis play this character before. Not literally, but almost. He’s smirky and sarcastic as ever, but the script in no way lives up to even the most minimal requirements for this kind of action-comedy (ie, little action, and no comedy).

In conclusion: only a woman vibrating with anticipation for her next trip could sit through this movie, and I only did it with the help of Diet Pepsi before noon, and sudoku. The good news is, I’m presently in the real Venice, and my twitter (@assholemovies) is bound to be full of Venicey good things. Ciao!

 

The Gambler

Have you ever found yourself wondering: can Mark Wahlberg play a professor? Wonder no more: of course he can’t. Even if he’s got a blazer and a slightly overgrown haircut? Not even then, I’m afraid. The part where he’s a total degenerate gambler, that I believed. He has said that this was the hardest role of his career, and you’d better believe it. The fact that it’s a terrible stretch for him is evident all over this thing.

As a cereal-loving, self-loathing professor of literature and a crazed gambler who has the-gambler-4.pngliterally gambled his whole life away, Jim is in a tough spot. He has enormous debts and borrows from one low-life money lender to pay another – although he then pays neither, and loses that money at the casino too. His bottoming out is made even more embarrassing because his most promising student (Brie Larson) happens to witness it.

But the truth is, it’s exceedingly hard to care about this guy. Even if you cut him some slack in light of his compulsive disease, we also see that he’s not terribly good at his job, or at being a son, or at being a person. He’s a self-destructive guy who just stopped caring a long time ago and there are no redeeming qualities to be discovered, even if a young blonde somehow finds him alluring.

[Sidebar: young women always think they can save the bad guys they’re attracted to. They can’t. Give her 6 years and she’ll be throwing houseplants at his head while she furiously packs her bags, accusing him of stealing her youth.]

This film is watchable but it’s derivative and never justifies its own existence. The original is still king. This one flubbed the minute Wahlberg came on board and just flopped about like a balloon with a slow leak.

 

Kong: (Bored Out of My) Skull Island

There are so many interesting components to this film that I find it unnatural and surprising how much it still sucked.

Basically: John Goodman convinces some government types that there’s this mysterious, vaguely-skull shaped island and the USA needs to LOCK THAT SHIT DOWN, like, be the first to “conquer” it and claim it as their own. So he hires crack photographer Brie Larson (for some reason), and master tracker Tom Hiddleston (for some reason) to accompany MV5BYzU4Y2VjN2ItZDA4Yy00MTBkLWI0ZGMtODcwZWY5ZDJlYTg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_him and the army led by Sam Jackson to the island that everyone knows is a no good, horrible, very bad idea. You may have noticed that the only thing more useless on this trip than the photographer is the tracker, except the little surprise that John Goodman has been keeping under his hat is: fuck surveying the island, he’s there to bring down the GIANT FUCKING BEAST, Y’ALL! Daaaaamn.

Except fuck you, John Goodman. King Kong is the least of your worries if you’re playing tourist on Skull Island. There’s much MUCH worse. But even though there’s a bevy of monsters and a bunch of a-list actors, none of them are remotely interesting. So that’s too bad. The movie is over-cast, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever said that before. But it’s just too crowded with famous faces and not one of them has a damn thing to do. And if any of them got any ideas about doing some acting or even just reciting a line that wasn’t entirely forgettable\unnecessary, Samuel L. Jackson was there to be a vacuum of talent, where his overacting is wildly disproportionate to the entire tone of the movie, thus hogging 110% of our energy, attention, and frankly, consternation, sucking up literally any sparks that anyone else was throwing off.

The only thing that I even wanted to like was Kong himself, but the movie couldn’t keep his size straight and that made me dizzy with rage (as did Brie Larson’s amazing, never ending roll of film). Kong is supposed to be big, and he is, but how big? Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts hopes you never ask that question, because he certain hasn’t. The answer is that it varies greatly from scene to scene and if you’re the kind of person who’s okay with glaring errors of continuity that don’t even take you seriously as a human being who can appreciate the difference between a station wagon, a sky-scraper, and a mid-range mountain.

Kong: Skull Island has an A-movie budget but a B-movie feel.

 

SXSW: Atomic Blonde

I was sitting on the floor of the Austin Convention Center, waiting to get into the SXSW conversation between Nick Offerman and Nick Kroll when I got the news: Stella was gone. Out for a walk in the mountains near her Zurich home with her husband and her beloved Boxer, Odin, she slipped in some snow and fell 40m to her death. Just like that, one of the most vibrant women I’ve ever known, gone forever. Unfortunately I’ve had some experience with losing people unexpectedly, but that doesn’t make it easier. It’s unreal, incomprehensible. Sean held me tight as I fell apart in the middle of hundreds or thousands of happy festival-goers. I think Sean’s first thought was to get my soppy self back to the hotel room where I could grieve less publicly, but instead I found myself being filtered into the Nick Offerman thing, and then following my rigorous SXSW schedule, one thing after another: Bob Odenkirk and Fred Armisen, followed by Lemon, followed by Atomic Blonde. But it just so happens that the screening for Atomic Blonde ran late, and as I sat in an increasingly crowded theatre listening to a DJ spin some danceable 80s music, I had too much time to think, and my thoughts were filled with Stella, my own Atomic Blonde. This review is inadequately dedicated to her memory.

Atomic Blonde is a cross between James Bond and John Wick, except its protagonist, Lorraine (Charlize Theron), could kick both their asses without smudging her lipstick. Charlize made a splash as a kick-ass hero in Mad Max: Fury Road but this movie is pure Id, all sex and violence, with some 80s fashion and music thrown in for your hedonistic pleasure. Lorraine is an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin in the days before the Wall comes down to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a important list containing the names of double agents.

James McAvoy plays David, a fellow agent who’s been in Berlin a little too long. Berlin is, of course, in a state of chaos. Everything is changing, everything is moving fast. Lorraine has basically been sent into an impossible situation, and she’s going to have to fight like hell just to survive, let alone fulfill her mission.

The fight choreography on this film is amazing. Full stop incredible. Director David Leitch co-directed the first John Wick (uncredited) and will direct the second Deadpool, but he got his start in stunt work in films like Blade, Fight Club, Daredevil, and The Matrix films. His action sequences, which are perhaps 80% of Atomic Blonde, are faultless but relentless. The actors are BRUTALIZED.  Charlize Theron had 8 trainers to prepare her for the role, and she trained alongside Keanu Reeves as he got ready for John Wick 2. Theron is fearless and dauntless. The violence is graphic and unending. The story, however, isn’t quite equal to it.

The story is retold during an investigation conducted by an MI6 officer (Toby Jones) and a CIA executive (John Goodman). They’re an odd couple good for a couple well-needed laughs, but it drags you out of the action and out of Lorraine’s flashy world where her slick 80s ensembles (big props to Cindy Evans for creating so many memorable looks) are an interesting juxtaposition to Berlin’s crumbling dumpster fire of a city. And the thing is, with a premise that’s almost silly in its duplicity, the action is really the justification for this movie’s existence. With long cuts and mind-numbing body counts, the fight design won’t disappoint action purists. But anyone requiring a satisfying story should maybe look elsewhere.

Ratchet And Clank

I was just saying that animated movies were very strong in 2016 – I loved The Little Prince, Zootopia, Kubo And The Two Strings…and likely many more. What I did not love, or even like, was Ratchet And Clank.

ratchet-and-clank-screen-06-ps4-eu-02jun15A cute nearly-puppy looking protagonist named Ratchet is “trying out” to join a team of alien super heroes, the Galactic Rangers. He’s not strong or fast, but he has “heart” and lots of failed inventions and a robot sidekick named Clank. Sounds promising on paper but it just wasn’t interesting in practice. Small children may make it through but even they’ll know there’s just better stuff out there. It does nothing to distinguish itself. It has an admirable message lost somewhere amid the chaos about the surprisingly thin line between heroes and villains, but it’s so obviously just going through the motions that it fails to inspire. Even my idle curiosity and need to kill an hour and a half weren’t fulfilled by this in any way. If it’s mediocre animation you’re after, try Kung Fu Panda #Whatever, or The Secret Life of Pets.

This movie is based on a video game I know nothing about, nor do I want to after this exposure. Ratchet and Clank, as far as I’m concerned, can go back to living underneath the rock I accidentally unearthed. Bye, Felicia.

The Princess And The Frog

I want to like this movie. I do love the New Orleans vibe, the beautiful bayou, and DISNEY’S FIRST BLACK PRINCESS. But in addition to this movie just not feeling up to Disney’s standards (or, I suppose, mine), it’s not even what it promises.

Disney’s first black princess is in fact a frog for most of the movie. So kudos to whoever came up with that little workaround: how to have a black princess without actually committing to it, kind of like how they just had their first gay character without actually doing that either. Person of colour, yes, but did that colour really have to be green? Classic movie, Disney. Also, how many of the characters feel like stereotypes? There’s a pimp, and a Mamie, and one with a fat ass and missing teeth. Erm. Tug on the ole collar. The voices alone feel deeply racist. And let’s not forget the bit fat white saviour, even if he is cleverly voiced by John Goodman.

And the truth is, the setting isn’t quite as spectacular as I wish it was either: put through Disney’s rock polisher, it’s scrubbed clean of any true colour. The score is kind of cool, kind of jazzy, but the songs are unforgivable generic, totally unmemorable, un-sing-alongable.

There’s no real flair here, and even worse for Disney, no magic.