Tag Archives: movies

True Memoirs of an International Assassin

truememoirsinternationalassassin-kevinjames-gunContinuing the “proud” tradition of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a movie that is so uninspired, it will make you search for other ways to pass the time.  After about five minutes, Jay started cleaning out our closet and is now showing me shirts I had forgotten I owned.  It turns out I have a lot of nice clothes!

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is not exactly a terrible movie.  It’s just a totally predictable and generic one to the point that it will drive you to housecleaning.  I think there was an attempt at a plot but it just felt like a blend of twenty other better movies, and even those “better” movies weren’t all that great.  This is another tale of South American dictators and guerrillas and druglords and corrupt CIA agents and one man standing up to them for the greater good.  When that one man is Kevin James, it is for some reason harder to swallow than when a fifty-something Harrison Ford did basically the same thing in Clear and Present Danger.  All the imaginary fight sequences in the world couldn’t make me believe that Kevin James could take anyone in a fight.

This movie might have been tolerable if Kevin James had delivered some comedy, of any kind.  Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.  This is not a comedy or a spoof.  It is an action movie starring a comedian which delivers mediocre and forgettable action from start to finish.  There is punching and shooting and jumping out of helicopters and it all feels flat and staged, but since there’s no satire to be found my only option was to try and enjoy the action for what it was.  I didn’t.  Again, it’s just stuff that we’ve all seen in a bunch of other movies, only not as good.

We are now back to rewatching Gilmore Girls in preparation for the reunion shows.  And even though by now I find all the Gilmores completely unbearable (we’re well into season six), at least they are making me laugh.  That’s all I expected from True Memoirs of an International Assassin and I was left wanting.  Don’t bother with this one.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life


This movie needed to be written by someone who got past the first lecture at the M. Night Shyamalan school of plot twists.   Or better yet, someone who didn’t make 12-year-olds talk like pretentious idiots and make their principal respond to the kids using flower child slang.

Actually, the principal was mildly entertaining, if I’m being honest, even though his character was just one in a long line of tired cliches this movie threw at me.  Clueless mother and her secretly kid-hating boyfriend, a school bully who’s a dick for no reason but will come around by the end, and a bunch of random poppy songs that the kids probably stopped listening to six months ago, with the Strumbellas’ contribution agonizingly censored to sing about “dreams” and “hearts” instead of “guns”.

This movie has absolutely nothing to offer to adults and even the hordes of tween terrors in attendance seemed restless during my screening.  The first few fart jokes got a reaction, but after a while the kids stopped giggling at the rude sounds that everything seemed to make, including school bells as well as a cartoon gorilla landing on a zombie driving a motorcycle.  As well, the big twist confused the kids both in front of and behind me, probably because it was contrived, unnecessary and rendered the movie even more nonsensical, and I would not have thought that to be possible until it happened.

Visually, there are interesting animated bits and some creative and colourful pranks that function as diversions, as long as you don’t think about any of it too much.  Not only are the pranks impossibly large to have been pulled off overnight, how do these students gain entry into their school after hours, spend entire nights inside undetected, and pull these all-nighters for weeks on end without dozing off in class once?

It would be generous to call Middle School a lazy and half-baked adaption of a popular book series.  Incidentally, I had to drop in the “half-baked” reference because the film painstakingly identifies Lauren Graham, the clueless mom, as a sous-chef, and then I swear she was making beef-a-roni in a food processor at 6 a.m., which must qualify as professional misconduct.   And that’s not a one-off thing.  The Middle School experience is 90 minutes of incomplete thoughts and unanswered questions.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life gets an F and a month’s worth of detention, and even that is too lenient.


Deepwater Horizon

07Disoriented. I walked out of the theatre disoriented. Was it the strobe light effect while the power failed? Was it the glass shards being pulled by Kurt Russell out of his own foot? Was it the bone sticking out of a redshirt’s leg? Was it that 11 people died and I wondered how the other 115 on the rig survived?


Deepwater Horizon is a war movie where the good guys don’t have a chance in hell, the bad guys are greedy bastards who were supposed to be on the good guys’ side, and the real enemy is an almost unstoppable 130 million gallons of oil spewing from the sea floor. Deepwater Horizon makes it perfectly clear where the blame for the worst oil spill in history rests: with the money-grubbing assholes who tried to cut corners and lost their gamble. The film is not subtle. It finds ten different ways to show us the choices that led to the disaster. It works.

image1-3Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) gets bloody. Jimmy Harrell (Russell) gets bloodier. The stand-in for greedy BP, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovitch), does not get as bloody as you’d hope. They are some of the lucky ones. Deepwater Horizon takes us into the heart of the mess. Tons of mud, oil, fire, explosions, and rag dolls flying all over the screen. It is hard to watch but not too hard to follow. We are provided with title cards and a grade school explanation of the Deepwater Horizon’s mission. They help the exposition fly by so we can get to the destruction faster.

By the end you will have been appropriately beaten down by the disaster. It is a suitably somber end. The survivors are consumed with grief. The restraint shown, especially in the closing minutes, elevates this movie above the Michael-Bay-esque fire show I thought we would see.

Deepwater Horizon is not a great movie but it’s far better than expected. By the time the credits roll your head may be spinning like mine was, especially if you remember that beyond the immediate devastation depicted in the film lies the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, one that ended up costing BP $54 billion in cleanup costs and penalties. Deepwater Horizon makes clear that BP in general and Vidrine in particular got off too easy, but it puts itself in an awkward position by barely mentioning the environmental effects of the disaster, which left me feeling that the movie entirely missed the point.




Mechanic: Resurrection

mechanicRemember in Spy when Jason Statham played a clueless tough guy to hilarious results?  Mechanic: Resurrection has him playing essentially the same role EXCEPT HE’S DEADLY SERIOUS.  If you’re like me, you will be waiting for this stupidity to turn out to be a farce. But by the end of the movie you will have no choice but to conclude that this film was an honest attempt at a straightforward action movie.

The dialogue is horrible, even by action movie standards.  The worst example is an exchange between Statham and the impossibly pristine Jessica Alba, who works for a super-duper bad guy because he has threatened to harm the children at the third world orphanage where she teaches (thus proving he’s a super-duper bad guy).  Statham’s monotone response to Alba’s revelation?  “I’m an orphan too.”  Naturally, Statham’s orphan status drives him to save Alba and the threatened orphans, and naturally the way to save them is to kill almost everyone he comes across.

[SPOILER ALERT] Besides Alba and the orphans, the only survivor of Statham’s murder spree is a bad guy played by Tommy Lee Jones.  Jones’ resurrected Two-Face routine (i.e., “I’m crazy and happy about it”) from Batman Forever must have been appealing enough to Statham that he lets Jones live.  Between the shitty dialogue and Jones’ appearance, it’s safe to say that if you liked Batman Forever then this movie is going to be right up your alley.  Maybe not even then.  If there’s anyone out there who is a Batman Forever fan, let us know in the comments if this movie worked for you, but then rest assured that Jay will immediately Bat-BAN Forever your IP address from our site for somehow having worse taste in movies than me. [END SPOILERS]

Multiple boats blow up.  Sky-high glass pools are shattered.  People get shot and kicked and punched.  Statham fakes his own death multiple times.  None of it is remotely entertaining.  It’s all unbearably stupid and boring.  This movie truly sucks ass.

Assassination Classroom: Graduation

001As you may remember, I had a great time last weekend watching a thoroughly ridiculous manga adaptation. Assassination Classroom: Graduation starts off from an even sillier place, as it features a superpowered yellow smiley faced squid who teaches assassination techniques to middle schoolers so they can kill him. I was 100% ready to love this movie, but instead suffered a big letdown.

sfsWhich is not to say Assassination Classroom: Graduation is a bad movie. I mean, it’s not really a GOOD movie by any measure, but my post-screening research shows that it adheres quite closely to the source material (incidentally, this is a sequel to last year’s Assassination Classroom with each movie covering about half of the original manga’s story) and was a big box office hit in Japan. But this movie had no intention at any time of embracing the complete ridiculousness of its concept or the yellow squidlike teacher. Instead, Assassination Classroom: Graduation plays it almost completely straight, delivering life lesson after life lesson as the middle school class grows up and learns the ways of the assassin from a big yellow squid. How you can play that concept straight at all, I don’t even know.

The film’s straightforward approach seemed to satisfy the two white girls ahead of us who were eating a bagful of Japanese candy including green-wrapper Kit-Kats (green tea flavour?!?), but I wasn’t there to see an earnest coming of age story. And I certainly wasn’t there to see half an hour of the movie devoted to a love story between the squid and a lab technician. I was there to see an off-the-wall action movie and Assassination Classroom: Graduation is not that. Colour me disappointed.

bxzX8w6So back to those green tea Kit Kats. Apparently Kit Kats are a huge deal in Japan because the name sounds like “kitto katsu”, which means “you will surely win”. That nice sentiment has given rise to a whole host of ridiculous Kit Kat varieties being eaten up by the Japanese (and also at least two white Canadians), including Shinshu Apple, Edamame Soybean, Purple Sweet Potato, Hot Japanese Chili, and Wasabi, among others. Lots and lots of others.

That Kit Kat madness is a perfect example of what I was expecting from Assassination Classroom: Graduation, but did not get. Learning about this Kit Kat craze is a decent consolation though, and it only happened because I went to see this movie. Obviously, the lesson is that Japan never fails to provide wackiness but you can’t always predict just where that wackiness will come from at any given time. And maybe that’s part of the fun!

Tribeca: High-Rise

High-Rise is the cinematic equivalent of a raisin muffin: it’s okay as long as you weren’t expecting chocolate chip.  But why not have chocolate chip to begin with?

High-Rise-1-Glamour-16Mar16-pr_bThe film’s biggest problem is that it took 40 years to convert J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name into a movie.  In the meantime, Snowpiercer happened and was a way more awesome movie than High-Rise, or really anything else ever.

It’s not just that Snowpiercer had better acting, writing or directing than High-Rise (though it did).  High-Rise looks good but has a structural problem.  Call me an optimist but I couldn’t accept High-Rise’s premise of an isolated lawless world developing inside a skyscraper, not when the outside world remained completely accessible to the building’s inhabitants.  There’s no apocalypse event in High-Rise.  The building’s main doors aren’t ever blocked.  Mid-movie, a cop even pokes his head in to check whether things in the building are okay.  But for reasons that aren’t at all clear, instead of calling 911 to report any of the murders, suicides or sanitation issues inside the building, the residents all choose to stay inside, ignore the dead bodies 2016_11_high_riseand garbage bags that line the halls, and scavenge for dog meat rather than drive to the nearest supermarket for hot dogs.  That’s something that was impossible for me to swallow.

It’s too bad that conceptual problem is baked into High-Rise.  I wanted to like the movie but I just couldn’t.  Am I naive in thinking that people would take a bit of time between drunken orgies to leave the building and restock their snacks?   I hope not, though the numerous food references in this review tell me I’m very hungry, yet instead of going upstairs to our kitchen I’m still here typing…

High-Rise is not a bad movie, but if you’ve seen Snowpiercer then High-Rise feels like a pale imitation.  And if you haven’t seen Snowpiercer, what are you waiting for?

Strange Days

What do you get when you cross Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett with Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron?  A Blade Runner wanna-be that doesn’t get over the hump but is not even close to the worst thing you can find on Netflix, as long as you can get past how dated the movie feels.

Given that Strange Days was co-written by James Cameron, it’s very odd that the
technology central to the movie feels so old-fashioned.  Even if the effects don’t hold up, Cameron’s near-future technology usually does, from Terminator to Aliens to the Abyss.  Not here.  I shuddered every time a character waved around a mini-CD containing a clip of someone’s memories (literally a first-person-view replay of whatever the person experienced).  Because I’m so over CDs; I’m a vinyl guy.  That means I shuddered a lot while watching Strange Days, because the plot of the movie revolves around those little plastic relics – they’re everywhere!

While it may be silly to criticize a movie set in the year 2000 for using CDs, that sort of logic is not going to stop me even for a second.  Any world that has the technology to record and replay memories in the year 2000 must also have invented storage technology that is far better than CDs, right?  Who’s with me?

The acting is dated as well – it’s from the silent era.  Watching these characters experience other people’s memories is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.  The facial expressions, the moaning, the anguish, it’s all way, way, WAY too much.  I didn’t need to see those reactions even once but just like the omnipresent CDs, we get at least one shot of each main character overacting when they plug into a SQUID (which, unfortunately, is what the memory recorder and player is called).

In particular, Ralph Fiennes’ off-the-charts overacting and general greasiness in the film makes it surprising that he ever found work again.  I think in order to enjoy Fiennes’ catalog from now on, I will have to pretend that the star of Strange Days was actually Bradley Cooper.  Which probably won’t be that hard since they may be the same person.

So if you’re a fan of the English Patient, you should probably skip this one.  On the other hand, if you are a more a fan of cheeseball 90s sci-fi than cheeseball 90s romances, then Strange Days will be right up your alley.

Strange Days gets a score of five unrealistic Y2K parties out of ten.

10 Cloverfield Lane

I have been trying to make sense of 10 Cloverfield Lane for months, from the moment I saw the title of this movie at the end of its trailer. And after seeing the movie I’m still searching for answers.2834c660-9db5-0133-6e17-0efce411145f

Hinting at a connection between this movie and Cloverfield was probably not the best idea that J.J. Abrams has had. Cloverfield massively disappointed me. It seemed like a great concept, putting the camera in the middle of monster-created chaos, but Cloverfield ended up being your typical found footage crapfest from start to finish. So to suggest this is a sequel or prequel or some other form of spinoff was a weird choice, especially because the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane contained no hint of a connection between it and Cloverfield other than the similar name (and thankfully also contained NO FOUND FOOTAGE).


The common name is not a coincidence but it was a terrible idea. It ruined what might otherwise have been a nice twist two-thirds of the way through 10 Cloverfield Lane.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, this same movie by a different name would have been just as mediocre, but at least the title wouldn’t have tipped off the audience that there was more outside the bunker to be afraid of than a lady with a melted face.

So if you’re making this movie, why tip your hand in the title? Does the Cloverfield brand really have that much value? Am I the only one who disliked that movie? I mean, I totally hated The Visit and others apparently thought it was good. So I’m open to the possibility that a similar thing happened with Cloverfield, but I would be surprised. Tell me whether or not you’re with me in the comments but know that I’m judging you based on your response.


It felt good to get that out of my system and now I think I can focus on 10 Cloverfield Lane as its own movie. In two words: don’t bother. The group of 13 year old girls sitting behind us couldn’t take it seriously and neither could I. There are way too many disparate elements at work and as a result the movie is disjointed from beginning to end. There’s nothing remotely redeeming or original here.

If end-of-the-world movies were drinks, 10 Cloverfield Lane would be a glass of three random types of bar-rail liquor, served to guests without a taste test. So it’s only fitting that 10 Cloverfield Lane gets a score of three bottles of cheap scotch out of ten.


Zoolander 2

Zoolander 2 is really, really, ridiculously dull. There was so little going on all I could really do was wonder why this movie got made and why so many recognizable faces pop up.  The only answer I came up with was that no one involved had anything better to do. Well, I had better things to do – I could have been watching Deadpool!

There really isn’t a good reason to watch Zoolander 2. The “good” moments are rehashes of the original, and the rest seems like stuff they cut from the original (and rightly so). We get it, the fashion industry is vapid and empty, but you can’t satirize it with a movie that’s even more vapid and empty, because then the joke is on the movie. And the joke is definitely on the movie here. Even Justin Bieber should have known better than to be involved with this mess.

I honestly can’t think of one moment in the movie that I liked, and this is coming from a guy who laughed from start to finish during both Daddy’s Home and Dirty Grandpa. The original Zoolander was another movie that consistently made me laugh, but the sequel comes up woefully short. It’s old and tired, and made me feel the same way. Zoolander 2 gets a score of two glasses of prune juice out of ten.

Netflix Double Feature: Slow Learners and People Places Things

If you’re recovering from surgery like Jay is, it’s nice to have Netflix available to pass some of the time.  The trick is finding something worthwhile among all those options.

Last night we tried twice to find a hidden gem, with mixed results.

The first movie we tried was Slow Learners. Starring Adam Pally and Sarah Burns, Slow Learners tells the story of two geeky teachers who make a pact to change themselves over their summer vacation in order to improve their dating lives.  Naturally, it gets super awkward, super fast, to the point where Jay couldn’t bear to watch Burns attempt a southern accent to make herself more interesting.  We eventually fast-forwarded through that part, after initially stopping the movie.

The fact we came back to this movie after stopping it is something positive, but that’s really the best that I can say about Slow Learners.   It’s not terrible and there are a few good bits, but overall it’s really shallow, really predictable, and only moderately watchable.   I give Slow Learners a score of four random literary quotes out of ten.

While we were on a break from Slow Learners, we took a look for something less awkward and settled on People Places Things, starring Jemaine Clement (Netflix recommended the movie because we watched Slow Learners, oddly enough).  Jemaine does his usual quirky Kiwi thing in People Places Things, and I for one find him hilarious almost no matter what else is going on.

In People Places Things, Jemaine plays a semi-starving artist who understandably has a hard time coping after discovering his spouse is cheating on him (which happens in the middle of their twin girls’ fifth birthday party, no less).  We catch up with him one year after that party as he tries to move on or make up or…really, he’s not at all sure what he wants and I liked that.  People Places Things is clearly more about Jemaine’s journey than his ultimate destination.

I’m happy to report that the journey is entertaining, fairly cliche-free, and full of interesting characters.  I really liked watching the discovery process play out for Jemaine’s character, and I enjoyed this movie all the way through.  I give People Places Things a score of seven trips to Astoria out of ten.