Tag Archives: Samuel L. Jackson

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.

 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Despite never having read the book(s?) upon which this movie is based, it still felt all too familiar to me while watching Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Could it be that we’ve finally seen the bottom of Tim Burton’s bag of tricks, and now we’re just watching the shadow of his talent?

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) keeps the wards in her charge safe by keeping them in a 24 hour time loop, the 24 hours before their beautiful home is to be bombed by the Nazis, circa 1943. Neither she nor her peculiar children age while in the time loop, but to step peregrins-gallery10outside of it would have time catching up to them in a hurry. Inside their cozy little loop, they can be as peculiar as they like without repercussion. Or they could until a peculiar gone rogue (Samuel L. Jackson) invents monsters to hunt them. That’s why Abe (Terence Stamp) chooses to live outside the loop – true he has to leave behind his love, but he keeps her and everyone else safe by hunting the monsters in turn. But in his old age, Abe meets an ugly demise and his eyeless body is discovered by his teenaged grandson, Jake (Asa Butterfield ), the only one suspicious enough (or peculiar enough?) to avenge his grandfather’s death.

Once Jake discovers the time loop and the peculiars, Tim Burton is in his element. He’s excellent at creating worlds, giving them texture and meaning and magic, and populating them with loads and loads of white people. Oh, haven’t you heard? Tim Burton’s a racist now. Well, not so much “now” as always, it’s just that only now are we really paying attention. Tim Burton is visionary; he can conjure ghosts in cheap suits, demon barbers and talking caterpillars – but cast a person of colour as one of his peculiars? That would just be weird. That is too much of a stretch of Burton’s imagination.

If it was just the Peculiar Children who suffer from his pale proclivities, we might forgive him, but a cursory glance over his IMDB list has me horrified. Samuel L. Jackson is the firstperegrins-gallery9 black man he’s cast in a leading role EVER, and you know he’s playing a villain. Jackson aside, Tim Burton’s casting takes on a very pale shade of white. His sets may be designed in technicolour but Tim Burton himself only dreams in caucasian. And it’s not really Tim Burton’s fault. We’re the dummies who have accepted this unthinkingly for years. He’s had huge ensemble casts with not even a tan among them and I for one haven’t even thought to question it.

We’re awake now, though, and the cat’s not getting back into the bag, no matter how many claw marks Tim Burton accrues trying to stuff the fucker back in. His words, you see, have proven even more damning than his pasty casting choices. “Things either call for things, or they don’t” he’s said, meaning, if a script says “African American”, he’ll cast an African American. But if a script says “person”, Burton reads it as “white person.” And that’s exactly the kind of inherent bias we most especially have to watch for. White tends to be the default far too often in Hollywood (and in life). But audiences are not. Audiences are made up of real people, a whole rainbow’s worth. And in 2016, we demand to see that reflected on the screen.

Tim Burton is just another old white dude defending the old guard. He wants things to stay the same. Dude with scissors for hands? Sure. Obsessive candy man? Why not. Orphan in a rubber suit playing god? As long as he’s not black, have at it!

“I remember back when I was a child watching “The Brady Bunch”and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

-Tim Burton, ladies and gentelmen

Of course his ignorant comments have done nothing but confirm the need for the very thing he’s eschewing. The truth is, for as long as this white default exists, we need to fight it consciously by countering it at every turn. If a script doesn’t demand it, society should. There is no room for lazy racism like Burton’s in 2016; it’s time to stop casting movies like they’re segregated.

Never mind that Blaxploitation movies were born in response to systemic racism and preached empowerment. Let’s just take his statement for what it is: white privilege, white ignorance, and an embarrassing amount of #alllivesmatter racist thinking. Tim Burton needs to pull his white head out of his white ass, and we all need to hold him accountable. And maybe while he’s at it he might also make a movie not so nakedly derivative of his old work. 😉

The Legend of Tarzan

Say what?

I’ve seen dozens of Tarzan iterations over the years, but I was still confused trying to follow this one. What I think happens is that we start out meeting Tarzan as a gentleman in England, living as Lord Greystoke, the jungle far behind him. But then his government asks him to go back to the Congo to act as some sort of diplomat, and his beloved wife Jane follows him. Then we start with the flashbacks – to his infancy when his parents are lost and he becomes an adopted beast of the jungle, and also to his first wild meetings with Jane.

Things go badly for Lord Greystoke during his comeback tour. Evil Christoph Waltz is embroiled in slavery and blood diamonds, determined to make his 01-tarzan_w529_h352monarch extremely wealthy. To get to Tarzan, he of course kidnaps Jane. Christoph Waltz has played versions of the same character over and over since he won the Oscar for it in Inglorious Basterds. It doesn’t work here and hasn’t worked in a while, but he’ll keep getting typecast, and we’ll keep suffering. But there’s a trade-off: Samuel L. Jackson is our comic relief, and he’s almost too good at it, stealing scenes from Tarzan himself.

It seems like this Tarzan movie wants to modernize somewhat, with a social conscience, which is good, or at least would have been had Tarzan not been inevitably cast as the great white saviour, swinging from the trees.

It also wants to be a superhero movie with proper villains and ultimate fight sequences – but with Tarzan’s superpower and only weapon being his amazing 8-pack abs. People love to talk about those abs. Poor Alexander Skarsgard worked out 6-7 days a week for months while consuming 7000 calories a day, and then UPPED the workouts to  fourteen times a week while drastically cutting his caloric intake. Sounds brutal. I would be having veritable taco tarzan_1.jpghallucinations. But that’s 6 months or more perfecting his physique (and what was wrong with it to begin with, I wonder? He wasn’t exactly known for being a slouch), and maybe 10 days of memorizing his lines, and that’s “acting.” To be fair, Skarsgard isn’t really the problem here, but he’s also not much of a help. He’s surrounded by 2 Oscar winners and 2 more nominees. If Tarzan is the weak link in your Tarzan movie, your Tarzan movie’s got a problem. And as pretty as he looks, I did wonder how it was that Lord Greystoke, so long removed from the jungle, still had that amazing King of the Jungle body. Jane’s cooking must really suck. Were there even gyms in 1880s England?

I never stopped being frustrated by the hazy flashbacks – why does this feel like a sequel to a movie that was never made? And Skarsgard never found his footing. And Robbie remains a damsel, even though script writers covered their asses by pretending she was a little more feminist, the reality is that she spends most of the movie tied up. It’s too bad it’s not a better movie, but there’s never been a really good Tarzan movie, so why start now?

 

The Hateful Eight!!!!!!!!

Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a date with a hangman’s noose and bounty hunter hateful eight 3John Ruth, “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), isn’t letting anyone stand in the way of his ten thousand dollar reward. Just to be safe, he’s got her chained to his wrist at all times and, to show her who’s boss, decks her any time she gives him any sass. Making their way through a blizzard, their stagecoach happens on a stranger stranded on the road: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). “Got room for one more?” asks Marquis.

So begins The Hateful Eight, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. As the storm intensifies, Marquis and The Hangman are forced to wait it out in a tiny lodge with six other strangers. (It’s unclear to me which of these 9 Tarantino is excluding from being “Hateful”). I won’t attempt to describe the story that Tarantino weaves any further. No one in Hollywood tells a story quite like Quentin and for me to try to summarize the chain of events that follows in Minnie’s Haberdashery just wouldn’t be right. It’s best just to watch and let it unfold.

If you’ve been following the drama surrounding the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino, you may know that Daisy, Marquis, and The Hangman almost didn’t get to meet in snowy Wyoming. After a draft of the Hateful Eight script leaked online in early 2014, Tarantino felt so wounded that he vowed not to continue with the project. He got over it quick though. His enthusiasm was renewed three months later after a live read with the cast in Los Angeles.

His enthusiasm is contagious. I was almost giddy with excitement through the opening chapters of The Hateful Eight. It’s hard to tell quite where any Tarantino film is heading and the early scenes- with such wit, tension, and restraint- were full of promise. With each new character that he introduced, the more exciting and suspenseful the movie gets. Set in a confined space filled with people who can’t fully trust each other, The Hateful Eight is a welcome reminder of what it was like to see Resevoir Dogs for the first time. The first half is so deliberately paced that it’s tempting to think of it as the director’s most grown up film yet, tricking me into a false sense of security that left me completely unprepared for the second half.

Once the blood finally begins to spill, The Hateful Eight shows its true colours. By the end of its three-hour running time, Tarantino’s eighth film has revealed itself as his darkest, blood-thirstiest, meanest, nastiest and most pessimistic since Resevoir Dogs, a drastic shift from the tone of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I still count The Hateful Eight among the best of both Quentin’s filmography and of 2015. But the enthusiasm that I felt for the first half of the film was mostly gone by the time I left the theater. I left feeling a little disheartened and even a little guilty for the briliant bit of sadism that I participated in by watching it.

Have you seen The Hateful Eight yet? Does it rank among Tarantino’s harshest or am I just getting soft?

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is great! Not Oscar-great but blockbuster-great. No need to think or feel creeped out about A.I. like in Ex Machina, just enjoy the ride with moody Ultron as he carries out his plan to kill all humans. But fear not!  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are on the case.

One of the things Age of Ultron does best is give us lots of new characters. That fits well with the revolving door that is the Avengers comic book roster. So we are introduced/reintroduced to many characters we know are, or will become, Avengers, like War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and in unfortunate licencing loophole, Quicksilver. Jay found that super confusing having already seen a different Quicksilver, without an accent, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and I agree. It shouldn’t have happened and it takes away from the movie. Still better to have him here, I think, because Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are great together (this movie captured their relationship well) but it’s time for a deal with Fox. At least Marvel got Spider-Man back from Sony, but let’s get the rest of these movies working together too.

Seeing Vision pop up was an unexpected surprise for me. I liked that he made an appearance and thought he was used well, both as a source of conflict between the Avengers and then as a contrast to Ultron, though they share the same view on humanity’s likely future (i.e., not promising). Really, all the new characters were handled well and I feel like we are well on our way to the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

The disappointing thing is there are now four or five other Marvel movies on the way between now and Avengers 3. I’m excited for Captain America 3, especially with Spidey on board, but beyond that, it’s way too much. Especially when I use Vision’s introduction as a comparison; Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange could all be brought in as part of an Avengers movie, and I wish that’s what was being done. But since there’s money on the table we get separate movies for each. Let’s be honest, I will probably see all those, so you can expect to hear this same complaint every few months between now and the next Avengers movie.

I can’t hold that against this movie though. Avengers: Age of Ultron itself does things exactly right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t have changed a thing so it gets ten Infinity Gems out of ten.

Our Favourite Super Hero Movies

TMPIt’s superhero week, the most super of all the weeks! For some, like Sean, the answers were obvious, and for others, namely Jay, the least Marvelicious of all the Assholes, there was a struggle. Thank you, as always, to Wandering Through The Shelves, for putting forth this challenge.

 

Sean

The Dark Knight –  I went to the midnight showing for this one and loved every minute of it. Joker-Yelling-Hit-Me-The-Dark-KnightHeath Ledger is phenomenal. Hands down, his Joker is the best villain in any superhero movie. It’s not even close; he is perfect and he carries this movie. Full marks to the writers as well for capturing so much of what I love about the Batman-Joker rivalry. The choice the Joker gives to Batman is genius, and this is what a superhero movie should strive for: to be true to these characters and give us a fresh story (not just another rehash of the hero’s origin)!

Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel has these movies down to a science by now. I have lost track of how many movies their cinematic universe contains but it’s a lot. Guardians of the Galaxy is Guardians-of-the-galaxy-GIFthe standout for me. It feels different and it is full of memorable moments. Groot, Starlord, baby Groot, Rocket, and the rest do dysfunctional the right way. With the Avengers the internal turmoil felt forced and unnecessary, but these five feel like true misfits who end up being more than the sum of their parts, and who somehow pull it together when it matters. And isn’t coming through in the clutch the definition of heroism?

SpiderMan 2 – Tobey Maguire made a good Spider-Man because he was a good Peter Parker. spidermanThis movie is very Peter Parker from start to finish. Peter doesn’t always get it right and he rarely gets ahead. But he’s a good guy because he wants to be a better guy than he is. He really wants to be a hero and he’s the last guy you would expect to find under Spider-Man’s mask, but when you see he’s the one who saved your subway car from Doc Ock, you make sure you have his back.  Spider-Man tries so hard to be a good guy that it is contagious. This movie captures the character perfectly and that’s why it made it on my list (it was very hard narrowing this list down to three). It’s such a shame they couldn’t get Venom right in #3, but the main reason #3 was such a letdown is because #2 sets the bar so high.

Jay

Sean is the superhero guy, the one who was thrown out of school for drawing an underground comic book back when he was young and had a sharp pencil. Me? I have super hero fatigue. Too many reboots and reiterations of stories I’ve already heard and teams we’ve already assembled and battles we’ve already fought.

Unbreakable – This movie’s not just about superheroes, it worships them. It prays at the altar of comic books. There was a day, not so very long ago, when “directed by M. Night Shyamalan” were not dirty words. This movie, for me, surpassed The Sixth Sense. It felt quietly important. unbreakableRevelatory. I loved how a seemingly ordinary man might one day awaken to the fact that he is a superhero. Has been all along and never really noticed. Bruce Willis is “unbreakable”, never injured, never sick, but never paid any attention until Sam Jackson finds him. Very breakable “Mr. Glass” he has some sort of brittle bone disease, always breaking bones and living in pain. He figures if he can exist, on his end of the spectrum, so must someone else on the other end. Having found him, he ingeniously starts training him up to put to put the hero in superhero. Quentin Tarantino is also a big fan of the movie, calling it a “brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology”, and lamenting that it had not been properly hyped with the simple tagline “what if Superman was here on earth, and didn’t know he was Superman?”

The Incredibles – If the last movie asked what if the hero didn’t know he was a hero, this one asks, what if we asked the heroes to stop being heroic? Superheroes, including Mr. Incredible and his dishy girlfriend Elastigirl were doing a pretty bang up job of clearing the streets of scum incredibleswhen suddenly the litigious society in which they lived caught up with them. Leave it to Americans to ruin a good thing. Overwhelmed with lawsuits for collateral damage, the supers are sent into retirement, their secret identities now their only identities. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are now a family of five in the suburbs. Mr. Incredible hates his desk job but knows his family’s happiness depends on his remaining inconspicuous: hard to do when even his young children are displaying super powers. No one is surprised when he gets back in the saddle, or that it’s Mrs. Incredible who has to save him, but what I love about this film is the satire – the masks that totally obscure identity by merely concealing the eyebrows, dear costumer Edna’s strictest rule: DAHHHHLINGS, NO CAPES!

Big Hero 6 – I know this one has a special place in Sean’s heart as well, so I’d better do it justice! bigheroWhy do I like it? Probably because these heroes have my favourite super power of all time – just being smart. Nerds have their day in Big Hero 6 – a group of young scientists and the robot they built use their own clever inventions to turn a close-knit group of grieving friends into crime-fighting prodigies.

Special Mention: Confessions of a Superhero – A super cool documentary that follows 4 people who patrol the Hollywood Walk of Fame dressed as superheroes in order to make money from confessionstourists. They make for easy targets but the film is pretty sympathetic. They’ve each come a long way to “become stars” and are at varying points between following their dreams, and watching them crumble. The movie does an interesting job of showing the disparity between the larger-than-life personas they inhabit (Super Man, Batman, The Hulk, and Wonder Woman) and the ordinariness of their actual lives. They may strive to live up to their heroic identities but anger, addiction, and homelessness are the realities that threaten. Their costumes remind us of the best that Hollywood has to offer – the elusive superhero franchise – while at the same time highlighting their humbled situations. Very watchable and worthwhile.

Matt

The Crow (1994)-  As Jonah Hill correctly pointed out in Superbad, Home Ec is a joke. I watched The Crow in Home Ec when I was in the eighth grade and it both fascinated and terrified me. I crowthought super heroes were supposed to be nice. The Crow is less about Truth, Justice, and the American Way than he is about good old-fashioned payback so his restless soul can finally rest in peace. When I rewatched it this weekend, the tone wasn’t quite as sinister as I remember but this rare R-rated comic book movie is still a refreshing change from the PG-13 watered-down adaptations I’m  used to. The Crow may be bulletproof but even he isn’t safe from a 2016 reboot. Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston is playing him next year. I can’t argue with the casting but I wish they would leave this one alone.

Batman Begins (2005)- Batman has been my favourite since I was six. He’s a little nuts which Batman-Begins-GIF-10makes him much more interesting to watch than other heroes. Plus, his rogues gallery kicks fucking ass. There are many schools of thought on how the Caped Crusader should be portrayed and many interesting directors have brought their unique vision to it but none more effective than Christopher Nolan. He combined all the best elements of so many classic Batman stories and made an origin story that was uniquely his own. Christian Bale is a dick but I got chills when we first see him in cape and cowl. For the first time, when an actor growled “I’m Batman”, I actually believed him.

The Dark Knight (2008)- If this genre had a Citizen Kane it would be The Dark Knight and if it had a Martin Scorsese it would be Christopher Nolan. I anxiously awaited this sequel to Batman darkknightBegins for three whole years but never dreamed it would be like this. Nolan took everything that worked about Begins and took it to the next level. He explores even darker themes while embracing the Dark Knight’s comic book roots even more. Even without the presence of the late great Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight still would have raised the bar to the point that I can’t believe they can still get away with making movies like The Avengers.

Mother and Child

Karen (Annette Bening) rehabs the elderly and infirm at work, and takes care of her failing mother at home. She’s angry, and bitter, and fails to connect with others.

Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is a career-driven lawyer who prefers no-strings liaisons to real relationships and even her boss (Samuel L Jackson) know she’s no good for him but sleeps with movie-mother_and_child-stills-1910658435her anyway.

Karen gave birth to Elizabeth when she was 14 and was forced by her mother into giving her up for adoption. They don’t know each other, but Karen has spent her life wondering where her daughter is, and Elizabeth has spent hers leaving people before they can leave her.

Add to the mix: Lucy (Kerry Washington), a young woman who wants badly to be a mother but can’t have children. She’d like to adopt, but the young pregnant woman considering her has an awful lot of hoops for her candidates to jump through. Is it worth it?

This movie makes you wonder about motherhood. What is natural? What bond exists? Writer and director Rodrigo Garcia does a pretty adept job at picking at the scabs and plumbing brokenhero_EB20100519REVIEWS100519964AR hearts, but he’s a little too determined with wrapping things up neatly, a little too generous with personal growth. Producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has his finger prints all over the darn thing too – provocative, with an emotional breadth and the courage to ask uncomfortable questions. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t have the answers, or not the kind of answers that all women will respond to. What it does have are some pretty stellar performances by the trio of leading ladies. I have never been less annoyed with Watts, or more annoyed with Bening. It was pretty great, but truth be told, I’d rather be watching Philomena.