Tag Archives: stinker alert

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel has robots, cyborgs, martians, floating cities, subterranean caves, hyperviolent arena sports, space battles, and an all-seeing immortal dictator pulling the strings behind the scenes.  And somehow, it manages to make all that stuff boring.  Like a three-handed guitar player (and make no mistake, Alita includes a three handed guitar player), Alita: Battle Angel is far less than the sum of its parts.

MV5BODMzMjlmZTYtOGU2NS00NGM2LWI4ZDItNzQzYTYwNDA2ZmU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXRzdGFzaWVr._V1_CR21,0,939,528_AL_UY268_CR10,0,477,268_AL_The titular Alita (the Battle Angel, as it were) is found by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) in an Iron City garbage heap. Well, Alita’s head and shoulders are, but the rest of her body is missing. Turns out, Alita is a 300 year old cyborg from before the “Fall” and Dr. Ido really easily brings her back to “life”. Like, it’s no trouble whatsoever for him to reboot her, and you might wonder why no one else has tried for the last 300 years.  But don’t, because if you start asking questions like that about this movie, you will never be able to stop.  Trust me.

We come to learn that in Alita the “Fall”  was a war between martians and Earth’s floating cities, rather than a name for the second worst season (anyone who thinks fall is worse than winter has never lived through a real winter), or an elevator between Australia and post-Brexit London (doesn’t it seem like Boris Johnson’s plan for Brexit might be to build that stupid elevator from the worse Total Recall? But I guess that makes sense when Donald Trump seems to have already ripped off the Mars colony part from the also-not-great original).

The only floating city that didn’t fall happens to be the one directly over Iron City, and oh yeah, Alita was found in the garbage falling from that floating city, and oh yeah, somehow after 300 years she still is in great condition without her body even though if any other cyborgs in this movie lose a finger they instantly die (except where screaming would add dramatic effect). Also, the only way to get to the floating city, obviously the home of the immortal dictator guy (Edward Norton!?! I had no idea he was even in this but of course Jay spotted him right away), is to win the Motorball championship (like a White House visit, I guess), but there is infinitely more political commentary in the previous two paragraphs of this review than in the whole of Alita. That’s probably for the better, considering how brainless this James Cameron script is. This was the best he could do after working on it for TWO DECADES?

There’s more back story and then some Matrix-lite fight scenes with a lot of cyborg spines and blue goo, but at this point I hope you are realizing that it doesn’t matter because it is all really stupid and you should avoid this movie at all costs. Some of the cyborgs might be kind of cool I guess but when Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Edward Norton clearly can’t be bothered with this movie, why should you?

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Swiped

You should swipe left HARD on this movie. HARD.

James (Kendall Ryan Sanders) is a nerd at college where he is immediately bullied by his roommate Lance (Noah Centineo) and his mean boy cronies. They force him to code a new hookup app called Jungle that will allow them to sleep with women, no strings attached. Jungle has a whole bunch of stipulations: girls must post photos of themselves in underwear; no names are to be exchanged; no date or activity or expenditure of money is necessary; one night stands only. And for some reason, every single man in the entire world feels entitled to these conditions, and for fear of being alone, all the women go along with it.

This movie is an anti-feminist pukefest. I could barely stand to hate-watch this. The writing is bad, and with the exception of Noah, the delivery is terrible. If you cast this from a sign-up sheet in any high school, you could not do worse that this assemblage of blatant first-timers. But let’s focus on the writing, because it is truly among the worst and the most offensive I’ve ever come across. Imagine in 2019 green-lighting a movie that has an 18 year old virgin mansplaining romance to a roomful of women. Clearly the only reason this movie got made is because it was lucky enough (or early enough) to attach teen heartthrob Noah Centineo in a lead role. Sure he plays a douchebag, but then again, 100% of the males in this film are complete and utter pigs. He just gets the most screen time.

I’m disgusted on behalf of all women of their portrayal in this film as weak, meek, and totally clueless. But I’m also disgusted on behalf of a good 40-60% of men who in fact would not be so shallow, short-sighted and slimy. If this movie is supposed to be satire, and believe me, that’s a big IF, it has completely missed the mark. It doesn’t have any of the insight or intelligence required to pull of satire. Instead it just reads as a reckless endorsement of a dating app gone wrong. It makes the folks at Ashley Madison look like angels. In fact, Ashley Madison, morals aside, is a site that offers people a choice. IF you’re married and you’d still like a side piece, sign up. But Jungle’s mission statement acknowledges that women won’t consent to this under normal conditions, so the goal is to make it so they don’t have a choice. Which is a much higher level of sleaze than anyone really wants to admit.

But the good news is: no one can force you to watch. This movie is a dumpster fire and a black hole of entertainment. Keep swiping. Netflix is the purest embodiment of ‘there are plenty of fish in the sea’ – they’re not all winners, but there are occasional gems, and frankly, it would be nearly impossible to do worse than Swiped.

Men in Black: International

When did aliens become so boring? In Men in Black: International, everyone is trying to out-deadpan Tommy Lee Jones, and succeeding. There is no excitement, no awe, just a bunch of bored white men joined by a bored diversity hire, all bumbling around England, Paris, and Morocco trying to save the world from an unseen alien menace after an alien prince is killed but not before delivering a MacGuffin to MiB’s newest agent (Tessa Thompson).

As the first three MiB films showed, it can be fun to have one disinterested agent in our lead duo. But those films worked because Will Smith’s junior agent brought enough energy and wonder for the two of them. They worked because Smith’s Agent J was the audience’s stand in, who marvelled and freaked out at the marvelous and freaky stuff onscreen. And also, they worked because for all his surface gruffness, Agent K was actually quite an interesting character, and Jones let us see that just enough to make us invest in him. Unfortunately, MiB:I’s H (Chris Hemsworth) and M (Thompson) both have seen it all before, and even worse, so has the audience. So everyone ends up being disinterested, including the viewer.

The aliens and events in MiB:I simply don’t measure up to what the franchise has previously offered us. The aliens are bland and the stakes are surprisingly low consindering our heroes keep telling us their job is to save the world. Basically, it’s the opposite of what is expected from a summer blockbuster. The only joy in the film comes from Kumail Nanjiani’s pint-sized sidekick, who has all the best lines and whose hilarity highlights the disappointing blandness of everything else.

MiB:I simply has nothing to offer and no reason to be. That’s a particularly damning critique when this franchise’s defining trait has been ridiculousness. MiB:I didn’t need to be a good movie, but it did need to be silly, loud, and campy. Instead, it’s forgettable and unoriginal to the point that I’d have been better off rewatching any of its predecessors. I’m sure they’d have offered more surprises on a rewatch than MiB:I did on my first (and undoubtedly only) viewing.

Robin Hood

If you needed money on an urgent basis, would you steal from the rich or the poor? The rich, right? It’s a no brainer. It’s Robin Hood’s calling card for good reason, because it works. And yet, when forced to make that decision in the latest big screen version of the legend of Robin Hood, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) chooses to rob the poor instead. I took it that was intended to show us that the Sheriff is truly evil. But what it really shows us is that he is an idiot.

This Sheriff of Nottingham is so dumb that he has no chance to best Robin Hood or any of his merry men. He is so dumb that he was written out of this wannabe franchise before it even crashed and burned at the box office. Still, Mendelsohn doesn’t let this miserable movie or its bad script constrain him. He gleefully chews enough scenery to let us know that even as this movie is bursting into flames around him, he relishes this chance to play an idiot. He absolutely nails it. Which doesn’t make Robin Hood any more enjoyable, but I have to give Mendelsohn an “A” for effort.

No one else in Robin Hood has even an eighth of Mendelsohn’s desire. Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson and Jamie Dornan must also know that they are part of a dismal film. Nothing about this project could ever have seemed promising. Cliches and plot holes abound. The story makes no sense. The voiceovers are unbearably banal. The whole endeavour was so flat that I had time to wonder what Michael Bay might have made of this, and I concluded he could only have made it better, because at least Bay would have joined Mendelsohn in having some fun with the wretched source material.

Aside from Mendelsohn, everyone else in this film is making an obvious effort to be forgettable. It mostly works. In a year from now, I probably won’t remember anything about Robin Hood. It’s destined to be a footnote at best, remembered only in passing the next time a Robin Hood movie is made (maybe with Robin being female, which is one in a long list of Jay’s good ideas). Until then, try the Disney cartoon if you need a Robin Hood fix, or fall back on the Kevin Costner one if you’re desperate. Because the 2018 Robin Hood is not worth any of your time, or even any of the time of your most idiotic nemesis.

Burlesque

Some bad movies you watch because some self-sabotaging part of your brain wonders, how bad could it really be? Some bad movies you watch because you’re too damn lazy to seek out a better one. Some bad movies you watch out of curiosity, or you’re in the mood to hate-watch something, or you don’t think the night deserves anything better. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes you’re just smart enough to avoid it. I’ve been actively choosing to not watch Burlesque since 2010, so much so that I never even realized how many of my favourite performers – Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming – are in it. How did I come to finally watch this stinker?

This is going to sound like a stretch, but it basically comes down to our traveling to Mexico over Christmas. If you’ve ever been to an all-inclusive resort, then you know there’s a prescribed set of nightly entertainment. Five years ago, every resort had some crappy version of Broadway’s The Lion King, but I think Disney put the kibosh on that. We had a Jersey Boys night, a Pirates show, and the obligatory Michael Jackson tribute. And the resort also offered a burlesque show. We’ve seen some of the best burlesque in Las Vegas (and some of the worst). We’ve seen burlesque at Crazy Horse and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. We’ve seen some good shit, but having seen what passes for “Jersey” and “Boys” in Mexico, our expectations were appropriately tempered. We thought. What we weren’t expecting was a poor imitation of a reviled movie, but with Santa hats, and even Santa Claus. Merry Christmas eve to us!

In the movie, Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town waitress who moves to L.A. to become a performer. Not a big dreamer, she seems content when she settles at Tess’s (Cher’s) burlesque bar, first as a waitress who has to prove her mettle, then as a performer that everyone else (Kristen Bell in particular) is jealous of.

The script is beyond bad. Like, there’s bad, and then if you keep going beyond bad, past terrible, past horrible even, orbiting somewhere around dreadful, you’ll find the script to Burlesque. Also, in my experience, burlesque involves some form of artsy striptease. In Burlesque, it means lip-syncing in your underwear. Possibly Xtina just can’t do two things at once. And good lord, we wouldn’t want her to.

So we’ve confirmed what we always suspected but never cared enough to validate. Burlesque is bad. Not even campy bad, not even so bad it’s good. It’s surprisingly boring for a movie that features so many beautiful women in lingerie. But you could watch a Victoria’s Secret commercial with the sound off and feel more satisfied than you will at the end of this movie. So thanks, Mexico, for piquing our interest and giving us a reason to seek out a stinker. Couldn’t have (wouldn’t have) done it without you!

Super Troopers 2

In the 17 years between the first Super Troopers and its sequel, you’d think one of the guys from Broken Lizard would have written one half-decent joke. Even plagiarized one accidentally. And you’d definitely think that if, between the 5 of them, they hadn’t written any new material WHATSOEVER in 17 frickin years, they would agree that they did NOT have enough to make a movie and thus would not have made a movie – ha. You give them too much credit.

It is incomprehensible that any of these buffoons would be gainfully employed in any capacity, but it is no surprise that after being inexplicably handed back the very jobs they were so very deservedly fired from in the first movie, they would spend the whole of the sequel abusing their power in childish, unoriginal, and unamusing MV5BN2Y1YzM2YTMtNGViMy00NzYzLWJkYWUtZmZmNDkyYWEyNmEzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,948_AL_ways. I’m normally pretty hard on sequels that are content to ride on the laurels of their predecessors, but in this case, Super Troopers 2 only wishes it could attain the very attainable, very modest heights of the first movie, a movie that could only dream of laurels in the first place.

In this iteration, the boys are back in beige because the Vermont border is moving north, into territory that used to be Canadian. So this movie exists for the sole purpose of making fun of Canadian stereotypes made up by, and existing only in the minds of, stupid Americans. This movie feels so out of touch with 2018 that I almost felt sorry for it – in the way that you almost feel sorry for Roseanne, who was fired from the show that bears her name, for just being her on-brand, normal, ignorant, racist self, in a world that has evolved to no longer reward such puerile, unenlightened behaviour.

We saw this movie as the third in a triple feature at the drive-in two weeks ago and I’m still not over how offensively bad it was. Of course, I didn’t really like the first one either. Too juvenile for me, but I said that, Sean was quick to jump on me: “But you own it!” he said, sure he was catching me in some sort of lie. And he’s right in that it does reside in the DVD collection in my garage. Which is why, on the quiet 3am drive home from the triple feature at Port Elmsley, I had to have The Conversation with Sean. You know, the one in which I confess that he isn’t the first boy to force me to watch movies against my will. He is shook. Not that we needed another reason to vehemently dislike Super Troopers 2, but boy did we get one.

The Strangers: Prey at Night

I’ve avoided slasher flicks ever since I was 12 and the idea of Friday the 13th (which I’d never seen but had the plot recited to me on a canoe trip the previous summer) made me run in terror anytime I was alone in the woods at night. Since then, I’ve seen very, very few straight-up slashers (Halloween being a rare exceptiStrangers 7-5-17-6620.dngon and a standout) because, honestly, they’re almost always really stupid. The Strangers: Prey at Night is a very good example of “really stupid”, and that is about the nicest thing I can say about it.

Since I really don’t care for this type of movie, I may be dead wrong, but I have always thought the appeal of these films can be distilled down to three basic elements:

  1. Clever kill sequences;
  2. The filmmaker toying with the audience’s expectations, delivering a humourous jolt when we think a scare is coming, or vice versa; and
  3. Seeing idiots get what is coming to them, namely being murdered in some kind of clever kill sequence.

Combine those elements with a memorable mass murderer and you’ve got a franchise on your hands!

The Strangers: Prey at Night has none of those things. Sure, the killers wear weird masks, but doesn’t almost every murderer? Otherwise, these killers just walk around menacingly, more out of obligation than for any particular purpose, and don’t have any discernable motivation, backstory, or personality traits. The only memorable thing is that the killers have a penchant for 80s music. Like, will search the radio presets until they find some, even if there is a potential victim right there for the murdering, so they are pretty big fans.

And there are no clever or humourous sequences, just monotony. The people who die get stabbed. Also, the people who live get stabbed. None of the encounters consists of anything more than that, save for the 80s synth-pop blaring consistently while the fights take place. Worst of all, we are forced to sit through about 25 minutes of family “drama” before the killing even really begins.

So who, exactly, is this movie for? You will have to tell me because it is not for me or for anyone I know.  I also don’t think it would have worried little 12-year-old me in the least, which is the biggest strike of all since back then I was terrified by the very idea of the phantom zone from Superman 2.  Basically, if you are looking for a mix of synth-pop and grisly violence, skip this film and stick with the holy trinity: Halloween, Drive, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.