Tag Archives: Netflix and chill

Stealth

The other day, Sean rolled his eyes at a bumper sticker on the car in front of us. “9-11 was an inside job” it loudly proclaimed. And I get why Sean’s annoyed, but I love this particular bumper sticker, and many like it. I like when stupid people label themselves. I wish more would think to do it.

Stealth puts Jessica Biel in the middle of its marquee, and like the above bumper sticker, it’s as good as a warning not to take anything about it seriously. Biel is joined by Josh Lucas and Jamie Foxx, and the trio make up a team of fighter pilots running some top-secret missions for the military. The newest project is a fourth wingman, MV5BMTY3ODg0NTQxOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjE4MjMyMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1534,1000_AL_named Eddie, who the stealth pilots would roundly reject just for being the fourth wheel on a tight little tricycle, even if he wasn’t purely artificial intelligence. Eddie represents a future in which war won’t cost human lives, but also where human jobs  (not to mention human judgement) will be replaced.

Now, we all know that we have invented robots so that they may kill us. I mean, I don’t believe that’s the outcome we’re hoping for, but it is inevitable. And we all know that super-smart computers quickly outsmart us, and things go horribly wrong. ‘Predicable’ doesn’t begin to describe the direction in which Eddie takes us. He’s the poster boy for everything the U.S. Navy should not do, and yet he’s also kind of the poster boy for delegating script-writing to robots, who surely could not intentionally produce something half as robotic as this.

First of all, I’m mad at any movie that makes me feel bad for Jessica Biel. Come on man, don’t do that to me. I want to be able to luxuriate in classic lines like “Pardon my C-cup” with all the bluster I can muster, then rage-eat Cheetos until my heart gives out and I die with a poof of orange dust.

Speaking of which…when Jessica Biel ends up in North Korea, it’s kind of a big deal. “Enemy lines” and all. Except I suppose now North Korea is less problematic, because for some reason the American President gets along better with dictators and despots than with respected, democratic world leaders who believe in gender equality and wear snazzy socks. But back in 2005, before the world was turned upside down, Jessica Biel was in big, ginormous trouble, and Stealth had no problem turning a badass fighter pilot into a damsel in distress – how else can her love interest go to her so that she can say to him “You came for me” in a needlessly breathless way?

And while I’m halfway on the topic, I suspect that Hollywood has commissioned some secret experiment to learn the exact right way to apply wounds for maximum sex appeal. I mean, the woman fell like 50 000 feet but only suffered a couple of scrapes – one ever so tantalizingly placed across her cheekbone, where the makeup artist might otherwise apply highlighter to better contour the beautiful angles of her face. With men, I believe sexy cut placement is above the eye. I bet there’s a lab in a Hollywood basement, where some poor gal in a white coat is remembering how when she grew up, she wanted to cure cancer.

 

I digress. In fact, this review has been nothing but digressions. But I don’t think you deserve much better when you attempt to cross Top Gun with 2001 and wind up with a hideous monster. Stealth is nothing but nosedive.

Advertisements

Alex Strangelove

Virginity.

I know none of you whores actually remembers those early days when your genitals were dusty in the corners from disuse, but if you’re aching for a refresher, Alex Strangelove (actual name: Alex Truelove, which is worse) is a teenage boy who can’t wait to lose his to his high school girlfriend, Claire. Except it keeps not happening, and not because Claire is shutting things down. In fact, it’s Claire that reveals to their friends that she’s been attempting to de-virginize him for a year, and Alex keeps shying away. Alex is no alpha male; he’s smart and sensitive and vaguely neurotic. But he’s also 100% sure he wants to fuck Claire.

Except not. And especially not after he meets a very cute boy at a party that he can’t get out of his head.

Alex Strangelove is about a boy coming to grips with his sexuality, which may or may not involve actual sex. The love triangle between Alex (Daniel Doheny) and Claire (Madeline Weinstein, no relation to the monster) and Elliott (Antonio Marziale) feels very simplealex-strangelove-e1523976102143 and pure and wholesome and innocent. It’s funny how when you’re a teenager yourself, everything feels like drama, but watching it as a grown-ass woman, I realize how exceedingly easy it all is, and I just want to make them all grilled cheeses and tell them to just enjoy this. Finding yourself is a magical time, if not always an easy one. But Alex’s coming out isn’t going to be traumatic. His friends want nothing more than for him to be happy. I hope that is increasingly the case in 2018 but I know it’s still far from universal. It sucks that for some people, a certain amount of bravery is still required in simply claiming your truth and identity.

Which is why this movie feels particularly important to share right now, in June, the month of Pride. Gay, or straight, or anything in between, owning who you are is a twisty path. And even if you’ll be met with nothing but acceptance and open arms, it can be scary to slap a minority label on yourself and show it to the world. This movie is not a particularly good movie, to be honest, but it’s the kind that feels true to the time. It’s no John Hughes – but if you’ve recently rewatched almost any John Hughes, you’ll agree that those movies haven’t aged very well: racist, homophobic, sexist…we can’t really excuse that shit anymore. Those movies are dinosaurs. And if this isn’t quite a replacement for the classics, it’s a step in a gayer direction.

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.

Anon

anon-trailer-clive-owen-amanda-seyfried-0“Done before and done better.” I could probably leave that as my comprehensive review of Anon, last week’s Netflix original movie, but what fun would that be?

Anon’s premise is simple. In the future, the police can rewind and review anyone’s point-of-view, so can instantly solve any crime. Except lately, there is a glitch in the Matrix, because killings are carried out without the police being able to see the murderer. It’s up to grumpy cop Clive Owen (whose child died young) to solve these cases before the killer does him in and figure out how Amanda Seyfried’s mysterious hacker fits into the puzzle.

In case it’s not obvious by now, Anon is Minority Report’s fraternal twin, somehow born 16 years after its much more atractive sister. Incidentally, Minority Report is currently available on Netflix, at least in Canada, which seems cruel.  But you’ve seen that one before, right?

If you liked Minority Report (and you would if you have any sense at all) then Anon is exactly mediocre enough to watch before you watch Minority Report again – good enough that you won’t feel like you totally wasted your screen time, and bad enough that it will make you appreciate Minority Report even more.

That’s the unexpected virtue of “done before and done better”, that’s the niche that Anon has found, and that sums up nearly all of Netflix’s “original” content.  There’s  simply no need to waste time coming up with your own original idea when it’s way cheaper and easier to tweak someone else’s, and to be safe Netflix covers its bet by having the original on standby, either as a replacement or a superior second feature. Well played, Netflix. Well played.

The Clapper

Have you ever watched an infomercial? You can’t help but notice the overtanned, overenthusiastic, overcoked host who can’t wait to repeatedly demonstrate the practically-miraculous assets of their product, available for a limited time only for 3 easy payments of just $29.99. But have you ever noticed the audience? The host is always playing to a crowd, a crowd that’s just a little too into it. They’re hooting and hollering and applauding every third word. They ask deliciously leading questions like “Are you telling ME that for NO MONEY DOWN I could take that chamois home with me TODAY?” Those people are called clappers, and they’re paid to be there.

Eddie Krumble is a clapper; in fact he’s the clapper of this film, and if there’s anyone better in the whole wide world than Ed Helms to play him, I don’t know it and I can’t even imagine it. Eddie’s been through a bit of a rough time recently so he figured a move to Hollywood would provide the shake up he needs. But clapping doesn’t pay super well, and his only relationship outside of fellow clappers is with a gas station attendant, Judy (Amanda Seyfried), to whom he only speaks through a bullet-proof glass partition. Eddie’s mother calls him regularly after seeing one of this “shows” to critique his performance, and perhaps his product, but she’s the only one really paying attention MV5BMTEwNjQ3NjQyMDheQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDcwNzk1MDIy._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_until he catches the eye of a shameless late night talk show host who creates a nation-wide manhunt to find The Clapper. This little bit of notoriety embarrasses Eddie until it downright starts to ruin his life. When Judy suddenly disappears from the gas station, he agrees to ride his 15 minutes of fame, but only in order to find her. But he’s going to discover that late night television doesn’t exist to make love connections: this is going to be a shit show.

I loved Ed Helms in this. Eddie is a quirky character, a guy that would be easy to make fun of and yet director Dito Montiel stops short. I’m not sure Montiel knows exactly what to do with him aside from that, but casting Helms sort of lets him off the hook. And I love that the film is set in the dark, dirty corners of Hollywood, it’s seedy and scruffy and not remotely glamorous. And the film quietly exposes television, even the “reality” stuff, to be blatant manipulation. This is not the side of Hollywood we’re used to being presented, but this one is far more interesting, and actually kind of refreshing.

In all honesty, this is not a great film by any stretch, but I was tickled by Helms’ honest performance (and even by Tracy Morgan as his devoted clapper sidekick) and if Montiel didn’t always hit the target with jokes or satire, he landed closely enough to entertain me for 89 minutes. I like offbeat stuff, and this movie had a scuzziness to it that I found oddly attractive.

Candy Jar

Lona and Bennett have been rivals their entire high school careers. In their senior year, with Lona (Sami Gayle) applying to Harvard and Bennett (Jacob Latimore) gunning for Yale, the pressure on them to do well is enormous, and they are dismayed to learn that as debate co-champions and debate co-presidents, debate isn’t going to give either of them the edge over the other. And while their ambitions drive them on, their respective mothers may hold them back. His (Uzo Adubo) is an affluent, accomplished state senator, and hers (Christina Hendricks) is a single mother with three jobs and a chip on her shoulder. And of course they too were once high school rivals.

I wondered if Candy Jar was going to do for debate what Pitch Perfect did for glee club: it’s not. First of all, debate club sucks. Clearly things have changed since I was in high Candy-Jarschool. Apparently debate is now mostly loud, fast shouting. Like auctioneer fast. The arguments are spit out in such a high-speed string that they are not even distinguishable. So it’s really not all that fun to watch. As in, not remotely fun, so I wonder if the director just invented the fast pace in order to basically fast forward the most boring parts of his movie. Which is not exactly a vote of confidence, is it?

Meanwhile, their guidance counselor (Helen Hunt) is more concerned about them getting dates and going to school dances and other borderline creepy things than about their academic futures. Basically, these two are co-champions on paper but co-losers in life.

The cast is pretty solid and I’m particularly happy to see Uzo Adubo go from Crazy Eyes to State Senator. Girl is versatile! And while the kids have important lessons to learn about disappointment and loss and perspective (and perhaps their parents even more so), it feels like director Ben Shelton lacks a specific vision. If you’re going to contribute to the vast oeuvre of high school movies, maybe try not to suck so much. Well, suck is a harsh word. Bland is probably more accurate, but nearly as damning, I think.

Also, for the record, Sean suffered a personal disappointment when he discovered the movie to be titled Candy Jar and not Cookie Jar. So we’re holding that against it too.

The Week Of

Have you ever been 23 and so deeply in love that getting married is the only answer? The only answer even if your family thinks you’re a little young, and a little crazy? And doesn’t love always make you a little crazy, no matter how old you are?

Sarah and Tyler are indeed getting married, and if they’re a little crazy, their family is a LOT crazy. His father is a wealthy heart surgeon (Chris Rock) who spent more time in the operating room than in the family room, and her father is a humble contractor (Adam Sandler) willing to spend money he doesn’t have to give his baby girl her special day.

Sandler is quickly surrounded by all manner of family, and you know how family is. And if you’ve ever been married, you know how weddings are. You spend a huge chunk of MV5BMjMyNjU4NDIzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUyMzE3NDM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_money in order to assemble the biggest nuts in your family just to see which ones will crack under the pressure. And oh  my god they crack in such spectacular fashion. I bet your own wedding was not without disaster: tell us about it in the comments! But every wedding has its own brand of chaos, and with Sandler co-penning the script, you know you’re in for some moans and groans, if perhaps not of particularly imaginative variety.

Sandler and Rock are not at their best here, and it seems they’ve decided they don’t really have to be. There’s an extensive cast on hand, including Rachel Dratch and Steve Buscemi, everyone contributing some nonsense on a sliding scale. The bits I liked best are when the whole family is assembled, everyone talking over one another, the old biddies with their insistent ignorance and the younguns there against their will. It felt like a real family, like my family almost, except we’d have fewer deli sandwiches and a lot more beer nuts (not to mention beer). Both Sandler and Rock get drowned out in those scenes, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are the ones that work best.

Anyway, The Week Of has a few forced laughs but it’s in no way a good movie – just a tolerable one if you’re flipping through Netflix in the need of something light and brainless.

 

Return to Zero

Maggie and Aaron are happily anticipating the birth of their first child, right up until the moment his heart beat can no longer be detected on the ultrasound and she’ll have to deliver her dead, full-term son.

Losing a child is possibly the worst thing you can survive, and surviving is the tough part. It’s hard to go on without the baby you expected to take home, and without any living memories to cling to, all you have is the loss. And while the mother and father will MV5BNzk5MjgwMTQtYTFiZi00MzMzLWIxY2QtNjRmZGU3ODk1NmU0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNDMwNzI@._V1_survive, often their couplehood does not. Up to 90% will have extreme marital difficulty during a bereavement, and how could they not? No two people grieve in the exact same way, even while grieving the same loss. And this kind of grief can’t help but change you.

So what’s in store for Maggie (Minnie Driver) and Aaron (Paul Adelstein)? Well, it’s going to be a very long and hard road for them, and a part of me wants to say: you’ll have to watch and see for yourself. Except you’re not really going to watch this, are you? I mean, who in their right mind would? That’s what I was asking myself when, halfway through this movie, I had a tension headache from crying so much. My face hurt.

It must be hard to let go of your grief when grief is all you have left. But life moves on whether you want it to or not.

This movie is dedicated to one stillborn baby in particular, and many more besides. I hope the making of this was cathartic to someone who needed it. I think grieving parents themselves will have a better handle on whether or not this is movie may be a comfort, or a trigger. What the film makers do recommend is that it’s watched by health care professionals as an education tool. You can find out more here.

 

I Am Not An Easy Man

Damien is a chauvinist and a womanizer. He’s developed an app to enable his douchiness, and that of others: it tracks how much sex you’ve had, and an ever-growing penis marks the progress. It will not surprise you to know that Damien is disgusting to all the women in his life – personal and profession. He’s such an irrepressibly flirty bitch that one day he walks straight into a pole, incurring a head injury that’s going to send this film straight into Freaky Friday territory.

When Damien wakes up, it’s in an alternate universe – one in which women have always been the dominant sex. Suddenly women are treating him the way he treated them – and he doesn’t like it! Not one bit. Everything is backwards – his colleagues are mostly female, and it’s not even fun because they talk openly about periods and don’t shave and are condescending, and the men have to eat quinoa and watch their figures.

At times I could hardly tell whether this film was subversive or offensive, and I suppose i-am-not-an-easy-man-2018they were toeing a very thin line. Still, it was hard for me not to be offended by some of the stereotypes, and I’m sure that men would feel the same. But it’s not until you’re fully submersed in this alternate world that you start to appreciate how ridiculous it all feels, and how the inverse, which is the world in which we live every day, must be equally ridiculous. Except we accept it because it’s what we know. It’s not just about income equality, or splitting household chores – it’s both bigger and smaller and more all-encompassing than that.

The movie is occasionally quite funny, the satire intelligent and well-aimed. But it’s not always so successful. And the truth is, neither protagonist is likeable or even sympathetic. Damien has woken up in a different world but it doesn’t change him, and he doesn’t seem to learn from it. He’s appalled to be treated like the weaker sex but has no sense of irony regarding his previous (and frankly, current) behaviour. In fact, he has the gall to reminisce about being the oppressor. Of course he does.

Je ne suis pas un homme facile is a French film streaming on Netflix right now, and besides the laughs it’s got a pretty blatant message – let it hit you like a penis slap to the face. As if you needed one.

 

The Titan

30 years from now, the earth and its population are collapsing because we’ve used up all the resources and the habitable areas are diminishing because of the effects of global warming. As humans so often do in science fiction, and in true life non fiction, instead of fixing it, we’ve left it too late and aim to abandon it, looking to the stars for relief.

In this case, we’ve got our sights set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Only instead of terraforming it, we’re terraforming ourselves. Or rather: an ambitious doctor is leading a military experiment to genetically enhance humans to make them more suitable for Titan’s harsh living.

Joel (Sam Worthington) is one of the chosen few, so he and his family, including wife Abi MV5BYmZlMGExOTgtNDg0Yy00ZjY0LThiY2YtZjhjM2Y3NzMyZGE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_(Taylor Schilling) and son Lucas (Noah Jupe), move to the military base where he and his fellow soon-to-be-super-humans will undergo the medical procedures and training necessary to get them into Titan shape. Professor Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) fearlessly leads them into battle, but you can probably guess that this review doesn’t end with “and then they all lived happily ever after…on Saturn.”

Of course not. Because messing around with the human genome, with evolution itself, is always, always, ALWAYS a cautionary tale. What normally takes millions of years should never be rushed through in a couple of days. It’s weird that scientists, the very people who patiently explained evolution to us, seem not to have internalized that lesson. So poor Joel is subjected to way more than he bargained for, and yeah it has some pretty scary repercussions for his family, but if you think about it, also for the whole of humanity.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem as though anyone in the film has really thought about it. There’s a really interesting premise but the film fails in its identity. It doesn’t take enough risks, or ask the brave questions. And Sam Worthington is the blandest, most unremarkable actor ever – so much so that Sean wondered if he was possibly watching Joel Edgerton, who is the guy Sean is specifically blind to. But neither Worthington nor Schilling (dyed brunette, so she’s more believable as a doctor) are charming enough make us give a damn. Just about the only worthy thing in the whole movie is its location – beautiful Gran Canaria, Spain, which will make for a lovely holiday destination, and deserves to host nervier speculation on its picturesque island.