Tag Archives: unnecessary sequels

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-wallpaperI have avoided writing this review since Thursday.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 left me entirely uninspired. Was it the mediocre 70s music? The laughable indestructibility of the heroes and villains that only disappeared when convenient to a plot point? That we have seen this movie before, a thousand times? Or that these heroes, who seemed so fresh the first time around, had nothing new to offer?  Whatever the reason, this movie was missing the spark that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much fun.

“More of the same” is generally something that necessarily is tied to a sequel; after all, the reason the sequel exists is because we liked the first one and asked for more. But the sequels I most enjoy are those that could stand alone if the first one was somehow wiped from memory. I don’t think Guardians Vol. 2 passes that test. It starts strongly (as Jay said to me afterward, she would have preferred it if Groot had danced his way through the whole movie) but loses its way, sacrificing action scenes and momentum to rehash the first movie’s tale of outcasts forced together to save the galaxy.

Strangely, for a movie that I don’t think could stand on its own, Guardians Vol. 2 also does not really do anything to advance things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. If it had, I might have felt better about the movie as then it would have had a purpose. Without that, and without any real progress from the first film, Guardians Vol. 2 felt like a throwaway franchise episode, another The Fate of the Furious, another blockbuster that will have been forgotten in six months. In other words, the polar opposite of how I felt after seeing Guardians Vol. 1.

As always, my hopes were definitely too high for this sequel but I think the main reason I was so underwhelmed by this movie is because what I liked so much about the first film was its originality, and this is a carbon copy of #1 in practically every way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a score of five dancing Groots out of ten.

 

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The Fate of the Furious

1488423016_80f557346e9c57a769fa41a2b284345aAs a movie franchise adds new instalments, we expect (and even demand) that the stakes get higher, that the setpieces get bigger, and that the payoff be greater when our heroes win in the end. Normally, the need to maintain some level of realism constrains the film in some way. Not so with the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Fate of the Furious is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish. There is only one law of physics in this world, and it is this: our heroes must succeed.  So if for Vin Diesel to win a race, a car needs to go faster in reverse than in drive after doing a 180, then that’s what is going to happen. That is always part of the pact that action movies (and action sequels in particular) make with their audience: accept the rules being bent now and again and in exchange, receive that elevated payoff I mentioned earlier. By and large, we are willing to accept that sort of thing in service of those higher stakes I mentioned. What sets the Fate of the Furious apart from most movies is that it doesn’t bend the rules at the climax; rather, it breaks them in the opening sequence. Right from the start, we know that absolutely anything goes, and it just gets more ridiculous from there.

If, like me, you can accept that in the service of entertainment  then you will enjoy this movie. On the other hand if, like Jay, you have no tolerance for big, loud, dumb action movies then you will want to choose some other form of entertainment. Because Fate of the Furious is among the biggest, loudest and dumbest movies ever made. It is also among the most gleeful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every over-the-top set piece, each of which is spectacular in its idiocy.

The Fate of the Furious is exactly what it aims to be, no more and no less. It was never going to reach the emotional heights of Furious 7, and it was never going to bring something fresh to the genre. It is a fun experience (especially in 4DX, which made this movie even more of a rollercoaster ride) but ultimately it’s a flashy, forgettable movie. Which may otherwise have been enough if I had not just seen Baby Driver at SXSW and been reminded how great an action movie can be when it is truly innovative instead of a formulaic eighth entry in a franchise that was all style, no substance right from the start.

The Fate of the Furious gets a score of six Lamborghinis on ice out of ten, with the caveat that if you have a time machine then jump to June 28 and see Baby Driver instead.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2

wickbarI lagged way behind and only saw the first John Wick a few weeks ago when it popped up on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, and like action movies, it’s a good one (definitely good enough to warrant a sequel). And that sequel is now upon us.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is faithful to the first chapter’s formula, almost to a fault. That fault is repetitiveness, in a somewhat strange way. You see, one of the things I liked about John Wick (both the first movie and the character) is that he bleeds. He makes mistakes and the bad guys capitalize. He wins in the end through sheer force of will.

The same basic formula plays out in John Wick: Chapter 2 but since it’s a sequel, everything has to be tougher for our protagonist Jonathan (note to Ian McShane: emphasizing that this hit man’s full name is “Jonathan” is weird; please stop).  The problem is the way the difficulty is ratched up. Wick is not given tougher bad guys to face. He’s just given more of them, which makes the extended fight scenes a tedious series of guys running at Wick and Wick then shooting them twice in the body and one in the head.john-wick-chapter-2-keanu-reeves-419484-jpg-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

Or, if two guys (or more) run at him at once (a SERIOUS violation of movie bad guy etiquette) he puts one in an MMA- style hold, shoots the other(s) in the body then head, then gives a head shot to the guy he wrestled down and has probably been using as a human shield while dealing with the other(s). Keanu Reeves obviously practiced this move particularly hard and good on him for still being credible as an action hero, but a little variety would have been nice in order to continue the first movie’s realistic feel.

(Don’t even get me started on the part where Wick is specifically given a gun with limited ammo and then immediately gets a magic movie gun from the first bad guy he kills that shoots about 30 times before he has to cock it again. Or the fact that in this film every second person in Central Park is an assassin.)

There’s more good and bad, and more good than bad in John Wick: Chapter 2. But when this movie’s ending set us up for the third instalment, I immediately thought of Jason Bourne, which I seriously considered turning off on a plane. That is a bad road for John Wick to be headed down.

John Wick: Chapter 2 gets a score of six smashed-up classic Mustangs out of ten. Essentially, the opening car-smashing sequence was a metaphor, in which Wick was this movie and my goodwill toward the first movie was the car. That it was such a nice car to begin with is the most disappointing part.

 

The Vegas Chronicles: Think Like A Man Too

This is not The Black Hangover.

The boys are back from the first and they’ve brought their ladies to Vegas where one of the couples is getting married and the rest are there to debauch themselves at the bachelor\bachelorette parties. Steve Harvey’s self-help book played a pivotal role in the first movie but now the couples are stronger although not immune to misadventure.

First of all, can I just ask: who the hell has their bachelor party the night before the wedding anymore? Haven’t we universally acknowledged that to be a terrible idea?

And have you noticed that all the movies are filmed at Caesar’s Palace? Ceasar’s Palace is a super slutty film location. It puts out for EVERYONE. But I 1200290 - THINK LIKE A MAN TOOlove that they filmed in real locations. Locations that I’ve partied at myself and may be luxuriating at as we speak (you may have noticed the Assholes are in Vegas). In fact, I know one young man by the name of Sean who is hoping that Think Like A Man Too is factually correct in at least one thing: that beautiful, topless women ask random, possibly attached men for help with sunscreen at the pool. Fingers crossed!

This movie made no sense and clearly had a lot of filler (there’s an extra long scene of Kevin Hart dancing around in his under pants – not that I’m complaining) and at one point the movie actually devolves into a music video 1200290 - THINK LIKE A MAN TOOfor Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison. Weird.

The script has funny bits and achingly bad bits, just like the first one. It isn’t as smart either, but the highjinks are appropriately amped up. The truth is, I wouldn’t have watched this without the Vegas angle and it’s not really worth it without some kind of outside motivation. I wanted badly to turn it off half way through, but I was 2 legit. 2 legit 2 quit.

 

 

Only slightly related tangent: The last time we were in Vegas, Sean and I renewed our vows at the Graceland wedding chapel, where Jon Bon Jovi got married. Elvis walked me down the aisle and everything. This time we’re doing it in his pink caddy at the Little White Wedding Chapel (the one Jordan put on the map). No word yet on whether Matt is planning an epic bachelor(ette)  party for us the night before, but be prepared to throw rice when we get back and we’ll tell you all about or check out Twitter @AssholeMovies for photos and our podcast if you missed us just a little too much.

 

 

 

 

Kung Fu Panda 3

In Xmen: Apocalypse, Cyclops convinces Nightcrawler to have a regular teenaged afternoon-about-town. They stop in at the mall, cruise downtown, and go to the movies, where they happen to catch Return of the Jedi and note that the third one in any trilogy is “always the worst.” Ahem.

Kung Fu Panda is Kung Fu-cked up. Well, maybe it’s not terrible, but it IS boring and useless. The animation is kind of beautiful at times, and it takes stabs at being heart-warming, but by the third installment, this franchise just feels washed out, and I was never its biggest fan to begin with. The plot is a barely-there mishmash of eastern and western tropes and while it says the right things, it fails to engage.

You may know from previous films that Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) is kung-fu-panda-3raised by a restaurateur goose in a village with no other pandas. There is, however, a Kung-Fu master (Dustin Hoffman) and his protégés (Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Lui) which soon includes Po, as improbable as it seems. In this movie, Po’s biological father (Bryan Cranston) shows up in the noodle shop looking for his long-lost son and is thrilled to find that his son is now a dragon warrior because that’s just what his village needs to be saved from the evil villain Kai (J.K. Simmons). But Kai is a super villain and only a master of chi can possibly stand a chance. And rather than mastering chi, Po’s fucked off to magical Panda village where’s fluffing around with the other pandas, stuffing his gourd and rolling about like a big dumb animal.

Don’t worry, it’s a kids’ movie, so everything goes exactly as it should: learn lessons, make fart jokes, yadda yadda yadda. Nobody gets beheaded. Nobody’s femur snaps like a twig. Nobody’s silky soft fur gets worn by a callous victor like a cape. It’s all very, well, PG. Nothing unexpected happens. The plot feels very derivative of the first film’s, and come to think of it, the second’s. No kung-fu-panda-3_640x480_71452230774matter how much kung-fu we learn there’s always another threat to vanquish – both the physical ones, and the ones inside our head (cue soft pan-pipe music). God I hate cartoons with morals.

This one just felt strained to me. Strained like trying to take a giant panda poop on a steady diet of white rice and cheese. Strained like the look on your adopted father’s face when your “real” dad shows up for #3. Strained like that feeling in your groin when you execute a kung fu thrust kick without first stretching your hammies. Strained like a fourth simile would be. This one’s just not working for me.

X-Men: Apocalypse

When I first saw X-Men: First Class in the theater, I was frustrated by Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine. “That’s so stupid,” I told my friends. “How can he show up in the 60s and look the same  as he does in the present?”.

Okay, so clearly I don’t know much about the X-Men universe. But I have since seen all the movies and tend to enjoy them. After Days of Future Past, which I thought was the strongest entry in the series by far, I had pretty high hopes for Apocalypse.

Nine films in a series can start to blend into one so I can’t always remember what happened in which but I am pretty sure that Apocalypse is my submission for the worst- certainly most boring- X-Men movie so far. What could have gone wrong since Bryan Singer’s triumphant return to the franchise two summers ago?

I can’t help feeling that Wolverine is the most important element of Future Past that is missing from Apocalypse. Sure, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is one of the best performances that I can think of in any comic book character ever but that’s not even what I’m missing. Future Past was told mostly from the perspective of Wolverine so we were introduced (or, in many cases, reintroduced) to most characters as they became relevant to Wolverine’s mission.

Like Days of Future Past, Apocalypse has A LOT of characters. Even by superhero movie standards. But without picking a single character’s perspective to focus on, it jumps around a lot. In fact, it probably spends a good half hour on each character’s separate introduction. Like Batman v. Superman, Apocalypse has a habit of cutting away to an unrelated scene just when it’s feeling like it’s starting to get good.

X-Men: Apocalypse is disappointing but does manage to benefit from both the past and future films in the series. Professor X and Magneto, both in their respective story arcs and in their relationship with each other, coast on their strong starts in their last two films and continue to captivate thanks to strong performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Everyone else is fine- even good- but these two are clear standouts in a crowded cast where you need to be great to even be noticed.

Having so many new characters necessitate a lot of scenes that feel more like obligatory preamble than part of the story. But just as the returning characters benefit from the smart choices made in previous installments, the new characters (Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Gray) benefit from the promise of better movies in the future. They’re well-cast and likeable, giving hope that they’ll be better utilized next time.

In Defense of SPECTRE: A Review For the BEST of Us.

You may have read Matt’s review of SPECTRE.  He seemed to like it but still called it the “dullest, most phoned-in Bond movie” since Casino Royale.  That’s a bit ambiguous but I think he liked SPECTRE and Casino Royale and just hated everything that came between Sir Sean Connery and Dr. Daniel Craig.

Sir Sean Connery

Real knight.

Daniel Craig

Not a real doctor. As far as I know.

You may also have read Jay’s review of SPECTRE.  You probably should read it just for context.

Jay and I have been together for over six years now.  She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met and that’s one of the things I love about her.  But it also drives me crazy because I have never been able to prove her wrong.  Until now.

Jay is right that she was never going to like this movie.  She hates everything I like on principle.  But that doesn’t make it bad.  Obviously I have fantastic taste in movies.  Exhibit A: The Rock.  Exhibit B: Transformers.  Exhibit C: Bad Boys.  Not coincidentally, those are all Michael Bay movies and two of them turned into franchises precisely becnicolas cage the rockause they were so good (the Rock probably would have been a franchise as well if not for the curse of Nicholas Cage).  Because people loved them.  You don’t get a franchise any other way, and everyone knows that sequels always live up to the original movie.  That’s just a fact.

Score: SEAN 1, JAY 0

Jay also hates franchises on principle.  But franchises make action movies better!  With franchises, we don’t have to worry about plot, or character development, or other boring things like that.   We can get straight to the action!  So when we open with the awesome Day of the Dead sequence, we don’t have to have title cards or anything to let us know that the guy who pulls off the mask is the world’s best spy, because the preceding five decades of Bond movies have already set that up.  Thank you, franchises, for simplifying our lives.

Score: SEAN 2, JAY 0

And okay, the helicopter sequence in SPECTRE is terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  But to say it’s worse than a bucket of army guys?   That’s just hyperbole.  And that’s a logical fallacy. So therefore Jay’s dislike of the helicopter sequence(s) is invalid.

  

Score:   SEAN 3, JAY 0

Jay also hated the train sequence.  Because it got destroyed.  But that’s actually entirely realistic when you consider who was doing the destruction.  Dave Bautista a.k.a. Drax the Destroyer.  Just look at how strong he is in the WWE (six time champion) or in Guardians of the Galaxy (where he singlehandedly fought a guy who later survived a spaceship crash).  That train was not only real, it was probably very well built, maybe even German.  It just didn’t matter because of how hard Bautista can punch.  If you want some sort of arthouse surrealism that’s fine, Jay, we can go to the Bytowne this weekend and watch a movie where two people can’t get out of a shed.  But don’t blame SPECTRE for your weird preferences.

Score: SEAN 4, JAY 0

Another criticism Jay made was that James Bond had different jackets all the time.  Well, that’s the whole point!  He’s not just a spy, he’s a fashionable guy with a watch that blows up and a car with an ejector seat.  Obviously he also has some sort of flying or floating wardrobe machine as well.  They probably covered that in one of the earlier Bond movies, so there was just no need to explain it this time.  Again, thank you franchises!

Score: SEAN 5, JAY 0

I think I’ve proven my point.  I’ll even give Jay the sockless loafers, Christoph Waltz in general, and the weirdness/creepiness/wasted potential of the whole Monica Bellucci thing, since I’m feeling generous.

Score: SEAN 5, JAY 3

And as for Michael Bay, you already have all the proof you need (The Rock, Transformers, Bad Boys) to rest assured that he’s Hollywood’s greatest living director.

Case closed.

Winner:  SEAN

 

HOLD THE FREAKIN PHONE, MISTER!!!

It seems our math doesn’t quite agree. Over at MY post, there’s a lot more nodding going on. I think we can count Mark, Joel, the other J, and Hammy as all #TeamJay.

Terminator: Genisys

There were already a lot of strikes against this movie and then to add insult to injury, I had to double check the “correct” spelling of Genisys.  The agony this movie is inflicting on me seems endless.  And with that, I have tipped my hand as to how this review is going to end.

Terminator: Genisys is a complete mess, which sadly has been a recurring theme for this franchise over the last 20 years.  So in that regard, I can understand why rebooting it makes sense, particularly since the original Judgment Day was in 1997, so when that came and went it made the franchise feel a little dated.

But the way they handled the reboot just trampled all over the first two films, which I still consider to be two of the best sci-fi movies of all time (with the second one being one of my all-time favourite movies period, having seen it at least 25 times because when 14-year-old me was in a hotel for a swim meet one weekend, I figured out how to watch pay-per-view for free, so had this movie on repeat every minute I was in the room).  I’m not even sure if I need to be careful with the big twist, since James Cameron spoiled it for me repeatedly in Cineplex’s pre-show.

Without even referring specifically to it I may still give it away.  My complaint is simple: somehow someone decided that a good plot twist would be to do something to one of the franchise’s main characters that renders every movie to date, including this one, totally irrelevant.  I have no idea why that ever seemed like a good plan.  Sure, it makes it easy to put a new timeline in place going forward, but even if that was the plan, the movie fails as a reboot because the ending leaves us with no momentum whatsoever and no reason to anticipate the next movie in the series (if there even is one after this debacle).

I often complain about reboots and, in particular, rehashes of origin stories as a reboot mechanism.  Well, this reboot mechanism is worse.  And that has me really shaking my head in disbelief, that somehow they found a way to be worse than the lazy reboots, because it seems they did really try with this one.  Unfortunately, it’s just so misguided and so unfaithful to what has come before that it offends me.  It brings me almost to the level of hatred I had for the Star Wars prequels.  Terminator and Terminator 2 were movies I absolutely loved as a teenager and basically, this movie is the equivalent of Skynet sending a robot back to 1991 to repeatedly punch me in the groin while I was watching T2 for the first time, thereby changing the course of history and preventing me from ever liking it.  And this time, the robots won.

I’m not even giving this a rating.  I’m too angry.

Paul Blarts: Mall Cops 1 & 2

 It should be wonderful when a sequel tops its predecessor. Think Godfather 2 or Empire Strikes Back. It’s a very rare occurrence, and you would think anytime it happens the sequel would be memorable, since if a sequel got greenlit the original movie must have been decent at least, right? If you felt safe making that assumption, like i did, now is the time to reconsider. Because Kevin James and Adam Sandler have gone out of their way to prove us all wrong.

I did not see Paul Blart 1 until Friday. I didn’t try to avoid it at the time but did not expect it to be much good. And I was okay with it being mediocre and also with seeing it at some point. So that point was two days ago. It was surprisingly not funny. Like I was just supposed to sort of cheer for Paul because he was the main guy. I think? It was more confusing than anything, really, as to why this mediocre idea didn’t even get to the mediocre level.

And if they had stopped at one there would have been nothing more to say. It wrapped up, Paul Blart won, he foiled all the bad guys and got the girl. So he could stop being sad and start being a more respected mall cop. Or something, I mean, it didn’t seem like he had more story to tell. But then, six years after that, for some reason a sequel got made.

There can’t have been anyone asking for a sequel. I don’t know how anyone could have thought this was a good idea. But here we are, with Paul Blart 2 playing this week at the drive in. We hadn’t been in a while because we’ve been busy, and we were semi-free, and it was a nice night, so really, it didn’t matter what was playing.

Paul Blart 2 is pretty much Paul Blart 1. I think if anything everyone was a little more practiced, like the first was a dress rehearsal for the second, so the second turned out a bit more polished. The second one is a slightly better movie, just comparing them straight up. But it is still mediocre at best. If it’s at your local drive in then go. Or you could consider it as an option on a plane, I mean, I’d probably rewatch Jurassic World instead but maybe it can be your 3rd or 4th option if your flight is crossing the Pacific Ocean. That’s about the best thing I can say about Paul Blart 2: it’s slightly better than the first one but it is probably not as good as rewatching something you already saw and liked.

I will give this franchise a combined rating of half a segway out of two. Because there’s probably a supercut of these twomovies that might be entertaining but even then I think I would be better off rewatching Jurassic World and Mad Max and Inside Out and Furious 7 on my next plane ride (and since it’s to San Francisco that’s more than enough to fill my flight).

Mark Wahlberg, Hollywood Pinup

Sure he’s got a slew of forgettable films, interchangeable even (do you know the difference between 2 Guns and Shooter?) but you have to admit, he’s also got some interesting blips.

Ted 2 is not an interesting blip, by the way. It’s pointlessly unamusing with all the same inane cameos as Entourage.

Palette cleanser!

markymark

Mark Wahlberg is a pretty straight-forward guy. He’s often not so much acting as working. You know, just showing up, gettin er done, home in time for spaghetti. He doesn’t always pick his projects with much judiciousness, he gets as many wrong as he gets right, but the stuff he gets right is actually pretty great. Like, two Oscar nominations great. Who would have guessed?

calvins
boogieBlip: Boogie Nights – He was pretty good in Basketball Diaries and I suppose even in Renaissance Man, but Paul Thomas Anderson put Marky Mark on the map with this ode to the porn industry. Wahlberg’s portrayal is fearless and unassuming and no one saw it coming. The entire cast is stunning but few could have anticipated how well Wahlberg would hold his own against heavyweights like Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Blip: I Heart Huckabees – I heart this movie right to death. David O. Russell gave Wahlberg a  huckabeesjuicy part in Three Kings but this movie really hits it out of the park for me. His character is such an interestingly layered mix of macho and whimsical, fevered and confused. He’s a man on the cusp but manages to play his existential crisis with sincerity and commitment.

departedBlip: The Departed – Mark Wahlberg nearly steals the whole show for me in this one. The ensemble is crazy packed with exceedingly good performances, but his angry, explosive detective really takes the cake. He stole scenes not easily stolen. He clearly relished the role of Sgt. Dignam and you’ll find yourself not able, or willing, to take your eyes off him.

Blip: The Fighter – Christian Bale is probably the acting antithesis of Mark Wahlberg, being all fightermethod and shit. Bale took home an Oscar for his part but Wahlberg gave a captivating performance as well, throwing himself into the role and taking a pay cut just to get the thing made.

Is it weird that the guy who did the worst Transformers and talks to a vulgar teddy bear is neck in neck with Damon and DiCaprio for best actor of his generation? Of course it is. But his grosses are consistent and these flares that he keeps sending up, these blips of excellent roles, well, they’re coming regularly enough that you have to wonder if they’re not just blips. What if Marky Mark is the real deal?