Tag Archives: Sucks ass

These movies are to be avoided at all costs. The only good thing about them is probably our review.

TIFF18: White Boy Rick

The trailers for White Boy Rick deceived me. I expected a frenetic, over-the-top throwback full of 80s excess, rollerskating, and outlandish behaviour as fifteen year old Ricky (Richie Merritt) breaks into the Detroit crime scene in 1984, assisted by his gunrunning dad (played by the madcap Matthew McConaughey). I expected a dark comedy. I hoped for Scarface, the teenage years, with lots of action and quotable dialogue. I would have settled for half-assed ripoff of Boogie Nights, with a naive rising star breaking into a criminal enterprise.

But instead, I got a melancholy family drama about a group of deadbeats with whom I had no interest in spending any time at all. Not as friends, not as neighbours, and certainly not as the subjects of a two hour feature. Ricky’s story is not a story that deserves to be told on screen, and that’s fatal. I never could bring myself to care about him or his family, not even a little bit. That is in no way the fault of Merritt or McConaughey. It is also not an issue arising from the screenplay or the direction. It’s more basic than that: there was no saving these characters. They were simply irredeemable.whiteboyrick_01

It’s unfortunate because there is a story underlying White Boy Rick that does deserve our attention: the fact that the 80s “War on Drugs” was primarily a scheme to keep America’s prisons stocked with young black men. And, as a bonus in many states, strip them of their right to vote once convicted of a felony, which many might even plead to if they were locked up and mistreated for long enough prior to trial.

That is a story that has been much better told by Ava DuVernay’s 13th (which is definitely worth your time). That is also a story that should probably not be told from a white family’s perspective, as doing so suggests that mandatorylife sentences without the possibility of parole for crack dealers are only a problem when white people start getting locked away too.

Yet, here we are. Ricky’s life is onscreen for you to shake your head at, if you so choose. But you have much better options available to you in the coming weeks (such as The Predator and Life Itself, to name two I saw this past weekend at TIFF). Then again, if you are about bad choices, like choosing White Boy Rick over either of those, then maybe you will find the movie more enjoyable due to having something in common with little Ricky and his family, who never met a bad choice they didn’t like. Yes, I just went there, but it’s for your own good.

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The Vow

Oh The Vow. I see that you want to crawl up inside my vagina, manipulate my lady hormones, and convince me to buy movie tickets and packets of kleenex and ample ice cream, and quite possibly those handbags that the camera keeps inexplicably dwelling on. You’re a cheap ploy in romance clothing, but I’ve got your number.

The Vow thinks having two attractive leads is enough for you to believe in their love. He looks good, she looks good, what more could they want? The movie sets the bar low for itself but still  manages to tumble far, far beneath it.

Item #1: When she is sick, he leaves her a box of ‘get well’ goodies, containing, and I can hardly believe I’m about to write this: lingerie. Which is a subtle way of saying: I think you’re gross right now, but I look forward to fucking you again in the future when you’re useful to me again. He does not hand her this box, merely leaves her to discover it while he waits a plate-glass away. Not only is that unromantic, it’s completely misguided and for me, would be an automatic break-up. You know what’s romantic? Risking her germs to actually be present when she’s sick. Letting her know that you love her whether you currently find her fuckable or not. Loving her whether she’s currently well enough to blow you or not. Loving her enough to be in the same room as her in sickness and in health. THAT’S romantic. Or, you know, basic human decency.

Item #2: When he farts in the car, she rolls up the window. Okay, I’m gagging right MV5BMjI4NTQ4MDIxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTAzNDUzNw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_now because yes, that’s played as romantic in this twisted little shit of a movie, when in fact that’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen on film, and I’ve seen Matthew McConaughey receive some poultry-related fellatio, so keep that in mind. Hot boxing farts is romantic? No. Holding it in until you’re in a bathroom is romantic. Sticking to turkey at Thanksgiving to avoid ham farts on the car ride home later (sorry for outing you, Sean) is romantic. Or, you know, basic human decency.

The Vow, because if you don’t already know it, it’s probably not apparent, is about a couple, Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum), who fall in love because every thing they do is just so damned romantic. Except for the car crash that nearly kills them, and leaves her without a memory. Or, at least, without a memory of him, their entire relationship just wiped out. The doctors seem to agree that this is a thing that can happen even though I suspect she’s just tired of his constant need to come up with new ways to plausibly be shirtless. But anyway. He’s still deeply in love with his wife, but his wife thinks he’s no better than a stranger. So she elects to go home with her parents instead since she doesn’t remember they’re estranged, and they’re pretty eager to pretend they’re not (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill are the sole touch of class to this movie and are completely, egregiously wasted – the movie would be vastly improved by writing out Tatum and McAdams completely and focusing on the talented, veteran actors instead. Alas.).

So: does he try to win her back, or does he do the kind thing and let her go? His friends are of two minds: a) she doesn’t remember all the stupid shit he’s done, like the car farts b) can he really get her to fall in love with him again? Paige has reverted to some juvenile or naive former version of herself and doesn’t seem willing to give him the time of day (in fact, has her eye on an old boyfriend, the smug Bradley Cooper type who is apparently played by Scott Speedman when production runs out of money). And stupid Leo’s ONE movie consists of an expensive box of chocolates that I don’t know how they afford because she’s an artist and he owns a recording studio which means they’re basically unemployed and broke AF, and a guessing game that even Forrest Gump would have found immature.

What happens in the movie doesn’t matter because it’s boring and predictable and full of shit. Even the real life people upon whom the story is based don’t like it because the film erases their Christianity, and Rachel McAdams says fuck. And I don’t like it because it preys upon the lonely, romantic saps who just want to believe in true love, and then feed them a barrel full of horse manure and label it truffles. Baloney.

However, I have enjoyed taunting Sean about whether or not he could win me over in the case of amnesia. I mean, what if I woke up with standards? Hopefully we’ll never know. And hopefully it doesn’t take head trauma for you to realize that flatulence should never be part of courtship. Hopefully we’re all living better lives than the doomed couple in this movie – this is the kind of “romantic” movie that causes single people to gloat and everyone else hang their heads real low.

 

Overboard (2018)

When it’s over, Sean turns to me and says ‘I know you recently crowned SPF-18 the worst movie ever, but what do you think, could this usurp it?’ And the thing is yeah – he’s not wrong, though I must uncomfortably remind him that while we watched SPF-18 for “free” (Netflix), we paid to watch this shit. Which makes its awfulness that much harder to swallow.

Sure the 1987 version was horribly sexist, but it was also soaked in charm. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell had major chemistry, and Garry Marshall knew how to wring a scene for laughs. In the 2018 remake, it’s hard not to compare Anna Faris to Goldie Hawn, and it’s impossible for her not to lose, and by quite a large margin. Hawn has big presence and effortless likeability. Faris has her wide mouth and not much else.

In 2018, the roles are reversed. Kate (Faris) is the hard-working widow, and Leo (Eugenio Derbez) the pompous, spoiled brat. She meets him one day vacuuming up a glitter bomb on his beautiful yacht, and failing to meet his impossible standards, is MV5BZjNkOTNjMjktZGI5Yi00ODJjLWFhMzQtZWQ2YTU3NDBiNzRmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1502,1000_AL_thrown overboard, unpaid. He later suffers an accident and ends up unidentified in a hospital with amnesia (his evil sister refusing to claim him so she can inherit the family business) so Kate, egged on by her best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria),decides to claim him as her husband and force him into a life of servitude in order to extort retribution. Nothing about this new life feels familiar to Leo, and he’s not immediately great at working a back-breaking job, doing all the housework, caring for 3 kids, and getting nothing in return.

Eugenio Derbez is a curious choice to play the leading man here. He’s a big star in Mexico but virtually unknown to the rest of North America. He’s also too old for Anna Faris, and not handsome enough, and doesn’t seem at home in either end of his role’s spectrum – the rich playboy, or the blue-collar dad. Either Overboard got some major Mexican money and had to meet certain conditions, or they were courting the Mexican box office (indeed, that’s where it made half its money) hard. Either way, Derbez just doesn’t fit. And Anna Faris, while never my favourite, has something to offer, though that something was left on the table. She’s more adept at physical comedy, screwball stuff, and the script did not play to her strengths at all. The chemistry between them is non-existent. How did this thing even get off the ground?

Never mind the fact that the premise just hasn’t aged very well. I mean, she’s basically kidnapping a mentally disabled person and forcing him into slavery. And when she delivers a laundry list of chores for him to complete on top of his two jobs and caregiving responsibilities, it just comes off as mean. Which isn’t nearly as bad as how she comes off as a mother. First, the gall to complain that her mother (Swoozie Kurtz, whom I have never not loved) is not prepared to derail her whole life in order to care for Kate’s kids full-time. Um, they’re your kids Kate. I get that it’s tough to be a single parent, but it’s nobody’s responsibility but yours. Second, she constant reminds us how icky it is to leave her three young daughters alone with a strange man (the only thing she knows about him is that he’s a horndog douchebag, ie, not great babysitting material) and yet it happens over and over. Kate is a widow, apparently, though that’s mentioned once and forgotten. There is no mourning being done in her household – no mentions, no memories, no pictures even. So I get why she might “fall” for a provider type, someone to lessen her burden. But why would Leo fall for her? She’s so much worse than just your standard liar: she’s amoral and selfish and exploitative. This is not a love story you can root for and not a comedy you can laugh at. So what the heck’s the point?

On Chesil Beach

Two young people are trying to have sex, apparently on their wedding night, which is important to note because they’re old-timey virgins who are nervous and awkward and don’t really know where things go or for how long or how hard.

Somewhere between toes and tits, Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) reminisce about their entire relationship, through flashbacks. Spoiler alert: MV5BMmFlOTkyYjQtYWQyYS00ZDY3LWE3ZjktZDE4Y2Y5M2EyMzQwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_they have a history! Their courtship was often influenced (often negatively) by their pasts, by their families, by what they know and what they don’t. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it’s true of absolutely every human who has ever lived. So how did this movie get made?

Well, Ian McEwan wrote a wonderfully descriptive book, as he does. The kind of book that languishes and meanders around in a poetic bath of language. On film, oh gosh, it’s beautiful, and Saoirse Ronan is luminous and wonderful, but there’s not a whole lot of action. Haha, even saying the word action in this context feels bizarre. I mean, on their hottest date, Edward chastises Flo for her lukewarm bird watching.

Anyway, if you find it hard to imagine what sex was even like in 1962, before the sexual revolution had really…revolved…well, consider yourself lucky. On Chesil Beach gives you an eyeful in all its pasty glory, which doesn’t actually involve any nudity because this is the generation that has never seen their partners naked. Anyway, the fumbling is real. Activities are prematurely aborted, or, well, not quite. Things are said. Things like: that’s revolting, which is hard to recover from. It begs the question: does sex just sometimes…not happen? ‘Frigid’ is another word you don’t recover from.

Anyway, the whole thing feels rather minor, and that’s not a comment on poor Eddie’s manhood. It’s just very introspective, and perhaps a visual medium is not quite the best path for this story. And the movie just stretches on and on, beyond what feels right or makes sense. Certainly beyond my patience, and beyond the tether of my empathy for these people. The film fails its characters and fails the audience by not having much of a bigger picture. At least with a book you can hurl it across the room – hell, I’m sure I’ve even broken a window or two launching a stupid book right through it, but a movie? Those faces loom so large and yet I cannot reach out and slap them, and that is the greatest travesty of all.

SPF-18

The first half of SPF-18 is about virginity, or the loss thereof. Penny (Carson Meyer) needs a prom do-over, and when her boyfriend Johnny (Noah Centineo) house sits for Keanu, she brings her cousin Camilla (Bianca Santos) and a pack of condoms and and the deflowering is on.

The second half of SPF-18 is about surfing, and using it to somehow honour one’s dead father.

MV5BZjVhMmFmYTQtYTMwNC00Y2JiLTg1MDAtOGM3ZGM3Y2I0YWMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ3MjE4NTU@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_There’s a very thin line between these two halves where SPF-18 could have crossed over with The Meg, and had these vapid teenagers been devoured by a megalodon, I might have hated this a little less. As it was, just thinking of them as shark poop helped get me through.

In reality, a Christian country artist wannabe named Ash (Jackson White) baptizes himself in the nude in front of the girls, thus cementing himself in their hearts. And even though her virginity is still freshly smeared all over Keanu’s sheets, Penny’s heart goes the way of her hymen – torn.

And then Johnny’s dead dad’s surfing protegee resurfaces, guilt-ridden about his drug usage which may or may not have contributed to his mentor’s untimely death. This story really doesn’t need to be here, but the film is already a scant 75 minutes, so I guess it added some flesh to the bare bones. The rest is just redistributing the lovers. Ash has a soulful voice but Johnny has abs worth praying about.

You should be able to deduce that the script is bad but that really doesn’t do it justice. IT’S HORRENDOUS. The dialogue is embarrassing and cringe-worthy, but it’s not the worst part. The worst part are the disparate ideas strung together to make a movie. They’re so random I don’t even know how they decided which order to put them in (Evil studio executives! The benefits of pilates! Illegal doping scandals! Greek mythology! Animated meditation! High school superlatives! Unnecessary narrators! Intellectual property law! Unexplained lip lesions!). Can you hodge podge these together to make a film? No you can’t, you definitely can’t, but that’s not stopping anyone.

I don’t know anything about director Alex Israel, but I can guess that he’s an 80s kid. He certainly reveres the decade. Why else would you give a millennial rom-com a power ballad-filled soundtrack? And how else to explain small roles for Pamela Anderson, Goldie Hawn, and Molly Ringwald? This movie was painful for me, and not just because SPF-18 may as well be bacon grease (I like a nice hard 50 myself) for all the good it does. It feels like this may have been made and edited in the drunk tank by people with double vision and shaky hands and very, very poor judgment. I literally cannot believe this is a movie and I definitely cannot warn you away vehemently enough.

The After Party

Owen (Kyle Harvey) is known as Oh! when he’s rapping, and he’s hoping that as his high school career wraps up, his rap career will take off. For now, he’s working at his dad’s burrito shop. His best friend Jeff (Harrison Holzer) is acting as his “manager”, getting whatever amateur\talent show gigs for his bud that he can. But then something amazing happens: Wiz Khalifa turns up at one of his shows, and brings party favours. Which seems like the best thing ever until Oh! projectile-vomits on Wiz during the show, and collapses into a seizure on stage. It’s 2018 so that shit goes viral, and pretty soon Oh! is still a nobody but “Seizure Boy” becomes a laughing stock, even sparking a (very insensitive) dance craze.

MV5BNDgxMjE5Mzk0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQxNzYwNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Discouraged, Owen decides to join the Marines, and Jeff has one last night, a French Montana concert and its after party, to get Oh! in front of the right executive and secure him the deal that will save him from his broken dreams.

I have a feeling The After Party is supposed to be a fun ride but oh my god I hated it. Possibly because of Jeff, who was often in the driver’s seat. What a terrible human being. Casual narcissism and misogyny aren’t much fun to watch, especially when no one acknowledges his flaws. His $800 jeans are allowed to stand in lieu of personality. But Jeff isn’t my only beef, he’s just the beefiest.

There’s also a cheesy, contrived plot that relies on this friendship when the script makes it awfully hard to believe in. And makes it hard to root for these two knuckleheads. And I often found myself wondering who this movie is for – there are eye-rolling and probably already out-dated references to dubstep and Venmo meant to establish some youth cred, but alongside  cameos from Rakim and DMX, it feels like maybe the film makers aren’t sure which demographic they’re trying to appeal to. Frankly, when we have Donald Glover’s rapper-manager dynamic in Atlanta for comparison, The After Party just doesn’t stack up. It feels forced, superficial, and not particularly grounded in reality. Despite some recognizable rap faces, The After Party is just another annoying, uninspired, raunchy teen comedy in a  hip-hop costume. If this was on a mix tape, you’d have a free pass to fast forward through it every time. Hard skip.

Risk

Julian Assange, as you may know, is the founder of WikiLeaks, a website that publishes secret information contributed by anonymous sources in the name of truth. Laura Poitras is the Oscar-winning director of Citizenfour, the documentary about another famous leaker, Edward Snowden. Filmed over a period of 6 years, Risk is Poitras’ documentary about Julian Assange.

Early on in the documentary, WikiLeaks is attempting to contact Hillary Clinton regarding some secret documents that are about to get leaked – not intentionally by them, but because their password got “exposed.” This is the least of their trouble. As MV5BMzIzNzYzMDM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA1OTgwMjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,687,1000_AL_you may know, they go on to publish a document dump leaked by Chelsea Manning, which earns them a criminal investigation by the American government. Shortly afterward, Sweden issues an arrest warrant for Assange over allegations of sexual assault and rape. He denies guilt but is more concerned that he’ll be extradited to the U.S. So, he breaches bail and flees to Ecuador where he’s been living at the embassy ever since

I didn’t really love Citizenfour and I think I like Risk even less. Laura Poitras has a knack for inserting herself into documentaries, and going easy on her subjects. I feel like I didn’t learn much about Julian Assange, though this documentary isn’t much more than a character portrait. He does say some crazy stuff about women that reminds us that though he’s got high and mighty principles when it comes to freedom of information, his morals to do extend to people, or their freedom to say no.

My takeaway from Risk is that if we’re looking to Assange for a saviour, we’re fucked. Dude is not a good guy. His ego and self-righteousness are astounding. Poitras comes off as being cowed in his presence, and fails to temper his own unreliable narration with any counterbalance. It’s uneven, and frustrating in that it lacks any meaningful commentary on more contemporary events. After all, WikiLeaks worked hand in hand with Russia to release the info they hacked which shaped the U.S. presidential election. And Assange has admitted that a Trump win was his preference. So while WikiLeaks pretend to be about ‘freedom of information’ it’s actually about curating that information in false and misleading and one-sided ways, for their own benefit or for others. And while Edward Snowden did what he did at least in part because he believes that every individual’s privacy is something to hold dear, WikiLeaks has destroyed personal privacy, releasing social security numbers, medical history, and credit card numbers of private citizens.

I wish this documentary had the balls to paint this dubious hero as the true villain that he is, but Poitras doesn’t quite commit. The finished work feels compromised. And as usual, I find her work to be without point of view. Risk feels like a bunch of footage, some of it revealing, some of it interesting, some of it randomly and inexplicably featuring Lady Gaga, but it never really comes together. Is there a movie in there somewhere, I wonder? But mostly I don’t care.