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Scoob!

To be honest, neither of us was exactly looking forward to the new Scooby Doo movie. I’ve got nothing against it but I also have no nostalgia for it or interest in it. But these pages don’t fill themselves so we shelled out our 30 bucks(still cheaper than going to the movies) and prepared to be whelmed. But you know what? We were pleasantly surprised.

Or certainly Sean was. We were just minutes into the origin story/meet cute of a young Shaggy and puppy Scoob when Sean was commenting on the interesting animation. He chuckled over many of the references. And he seemed to know some of the characters from outside the Scooby Dooby Doo universe.

Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world! Which apparently would be quite bad. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined. You’ll recognize Shaggy (Will Forte), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Fred (Zac Efron) as Mystery Inc. mainstays, even their inexplicably psychedelic van, but this time they’re teaming up with super hero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his super dog, Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) against the obviously evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). This movie is intended as the first in a rebooted, shared Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe, which nobody asked for, but I suppose explains the randos. Unfortunately, they distract a bit from what makes Mystery Incorporated so fun in the first place: exciting but wholesome teenage detectivery. And despite some of the callbacks to the original series, Scoob! doesn’t quite justify itself.

While it may not win over discerning adults, Scoob! is probably perfect for kids and Seans alike. It’s got a string of pop songs, some childishly crude humour, and a talented voice cast. Will Forte may not “sound like Shaggy” to some diehard fans, but as a casual viewer, I enjoyed him very much. I even though Mark Wahlberg fit in well, and to my knowledge he doesn’t do much animation. I felt a little sad for the other 3 non-Shaggy members of Mystery Inc who got the short shrift. I missed the chemistry between them, and with the addition of both super heroes and super villains (not to mention super dogs, villain dogs, and ghost dogs), we really got away from the winning formula that fans have come to expect.

The Lorax

Once upon a time, a lovely young woman named Jay flew first class. Yup, all those travels, and it was just the one time. I don’t even remember where we were going. What I do remember: 1. it was an early morning flight 2. the breakfast was good 3. I had a mimosa 4.The Lorax was playing 5. I almost immediately fell asleep and missed the whole thing. I think we got a pretty good deal on the upgrade but still, it was disappointing to have slept through all the luxury. Of course, it was probably only because of the luxury (read: space) that I could sleep. Still. I kicked myself. I kicked Sean too; he also slept, though it’s a less a rarity for him.

But all this time, I’ve wondered: is The Lorax boring, or did I just fall asleep because it was a 6am flight and I was incredibly tired?

The Lorax is based on a Dr. Seuss story in which a 12 year old boy, Ted (Zac Efron), decides to impress a girl, Audrey (Taylor Swift), by bringing her a tree. A real, live tree. Which no longer exist. They live in a place where the trees were replaced long ago by sculptures of plastic lit up by dozens of C batteries. Their whole town is utterly devoid of nature. They’ve been denuded. But Ted has a pretty big crush on this chick Audrey so he treks out to an isolated home where he meets the elderly Once-ler (Ed Helms), the one responsible for the world’s current problems. As a young man he was so determined to have his company succeed that he thought nothing of cutting down all the trees. He butted heads with the guardian of the forest, The Lorax (Danny DeVito), but he wouldn’t change his mind until it was too late. And the thing about too late is that it’s true to its name: too late.

Sean asked me how heavy-handed the environmentalism theme was, but I actually consider it to be more anti-capitalist than anything. The Onceler’s greed costs them everything. And yet this kid-friendly, animated family film is basically one long commercial, replete with product placement, basically neutering its message.

The animation is lovely. Illumination has done several Dr. Seuss adaptations at this point and they’re pretty adept at the translation. Their trees look like swirls of cotton candy. The town is fairly bursting with brilliant details. And yet once again this film has failed to truly grab me.

The Beach Bum

so, interesting story: a couple of weeks ago, Sean and I were at a wedding that got hit by a tornado. Don’t worry, everyone was fine. The same cannot be said for tents and glassware and flowers and cake, but those are but details with hefty deposits. They were already legally wed, and that’s the main thing. Anyway, Sean and I cleared out before we even got fed, but Sean had certainly been watered. With lots and lots of beer. Which means I was driving. I always volunteer to be the DD, though I don’t usually count on having to navigate roads blocked by fallen trees. Anyway, it was a long-ish drive back home, during which time Sean’s jobs were to keep Spotify thumping, and to read my sisters’ Snapchat updates aloud. Even with hindsight, it’s impossible to say how we got on to the topic of 90s music, but we eventually landed on Creed (believe it or not), which I’d forgotten was a thing. And even with the reminder, I couldn’t quite name a song, though I knew that knowledge must be buried deep. So Sean took it upon himself to sing (remember all the beers). Anyway, you do not need to remember that Creed exists because this movie is here to remind you, if briefly. And that’s about all I have to say about the movie The Beach Bum.

Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) has a very rich and very beautiful wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), with whom he does not live, and a newlywed daughter whose life he flits in and out of. Moondog lives by no rules. He barely lives in this world. “He’s from another dimension,” explains his indulgent wife, who finds his spotty record very convenient for doing what she wants with whom she wants – mostly, a man named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg).

With straggly, unwashed hair, and volcano-orange thongs, Moondog isn’t just a beach bum, he looks and lives like a bum, period. Except for some reason fake-titted women still line up to be with him. It makes no sense and is exactly the kind of nonsense that completely derails a movie for me. Not that this movie was ever on the rails. Or even has rails.

Anyway, Moondog is apparently a talented poet, which is also completely unbelievable, and his wife figures out how to give him a little motivation to do some writing.

In some ways this is the role Matthew McConaughey was born to play: a merry, aimless stoner. It’s not that hard to imagine that this might have been his fate had he not caught some lucky breaks in Hollywood. Jonah Hill, however, turns in a performance I find nonredeemable; it’s not that hard to imagine that to be MY fate were I being punished in hell for some hella unforgivable sin. Still, it’s mostly writer-director Harmony Karine with whom I take issue. While it may not be unusual to be forgiving of one’s anti-hero, Moondog is undeniably reckless and Karine is infuriatingly nonjudgmental. There’s an outside chance that the message he’s intending is that the pursuit of happiness is attained through pure and selfish hedonism. At the end of the day, its worst crime is that it is boring. Had I not paid to rent it, I would have turned it off. Spare yourself Zac Efron’s douchy beard.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

It’s hard out there for a single woman. And there is perhaps nothing more illustrative of that fact than the woman who stayed with Ted Bundy, infamous serial killer.

Liz (Lily Collins) is the dumb bitch and Ted (Zac Efron) is the charming son of a gun who gets away with it.

Liz wants to believe him. Or she wants to want to believe him. Sure it’s increasingly hard when the convictions start rolling in and other states start throwing in their charges as well. The country is littered with the bodies of dead young women. It’s getting tricky to be in love with Ted Bundy. But no matter how much evidence piles up against him, no MV5BMTk5NzEyNTY0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA4MTU4NjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,893_AL_matter how much sense it makes to her rational self, the heart is a stubborn muscle, and it often betrays common sense. There’s an early scene wherein Liz and Ted go dog shopping at a local shelter. She walks by some real cuties, including the unicorn of dog shelters, a real life golden retriever puppy, but she sets her eyes on a dog even I thought looked suspicious. “It’s going to tear her throat out,” I said, half joking. And then it turned aggressive a split second later. Liz is as good at choosing dogs as she is at choosing men.

Liz isn’t the only one who doesn’t take him seriously enough. The cops often have him behind bars only to let him slip away. One mustache later and he’s picking up women again. And, you know, brutally murdering them. But the movie completely glosses over those parts. Rather it focuses on Bundy’s manipulation of the women in his life, of the truth and what it means, of the judicial system itself, of the media and its perception of him. Bundy is the ring master of a certified media circus, and a continued magnet for a certain brand of chick who insist they find him “dreamy.”

Strangely, the film seems more in contempt of the women who love and help and care for him than it is of the man convicted of so many vile and wicked crimes. It’s an odd take I’m not sure the world needed it. The only thing that saves this movie from itself is Zac Efron’s performance, and I bet you never thought you’d hear anyone say that in your life. As Bundy, Efron is a man of misplaced convictions, a man who believes his own lies – and his own hype. He’s a shark, but he’s also a master of charm and good manners when he’s not ripping into your flesh. And while it’s a compelling performance, it’s also part of the problem. The movie with the long, annoying title shows all the facets of Bundy’s personality that a woman might fall for, and very little of the terrible violence he perpetrated on dozens of innocent victims.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is one of those movies that has half a hundred characters and fourteen dozen plot lines and they all “intersect”, the story like a patchwork quilt, but a really ugly quilt where the squares don’t match and some of them aren’t even square.

A random sampling:

Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) has just quit her job, and hires bike messenger Paul (Zac Efron) to help her check off as many of her old resolutions as possible before the clock strikes midnight.

Laura (Katherine Heigl) is catering a huge New Year’s Eve party and is under a lot of stress when her ex, a rock star named Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), who disappeared on New Year’s last year, shows up wanting a commitment.

Claire (Hilary Swank) is producing the Times Square ball drop.

Randy (Ashton Kutcher) and Elise (Lea Michele) are trapped in an elevator together.

MV5BMTc3MzgyMzg3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTM1MzAxNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_Hailey (Abigail Breslin) desperately wants to go downtown with a boy, but her mother Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) insists that she stay home with her.

Tess (Jessica Biel) is really hoping to induce labour so she can give birth to the first new year’s baby and claim the 25K in prize money – but Grace (Sarah Paulson) is also in the running.

Stan (Robert De Niro) is dying, though he’d like to delay until midnight if possible, and his nurse  Aimee (Halle Berry) is prepared to stick it out with him.

Sam (Josh Duhamel) is trying desperately to get back into the city after pulling best man duty at a wedding. He’s hitching a ride with with a family in an RV, hoping to meet up with the mysterious women he met and fell for last year.

In a movie so overstuffed, of course some of the segments are undercooked. Nay, they’re all undercooked. Some of them are downright raw. But lots of them are not even interesting enough that I wished I knew more.

The best, and saddest part, is when Penny Marshall briefly plays herself. But 3 seconds out of 113 long minutes is an agonizing success rate. New Year’s Eve is overly sentimental and oh so shallow. If you don’t have any auld acquaintances to forget this New Year’s Eve, I know where you can make over 100 new acquaintances, and they’re all perfectly forgettable – guaranteed. Random acquaitances may include New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, voice of Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith, Cary Elwes,  Common, Hector Elizando, Russell Peters, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Broderick, and more flash-in-the-pan stunt casting than you can shake shake one of those New Year’s Eve noisemakers that you blow in and the little ribbon inflates and unrolls at.

Having just returned from Mexico, Sean and I might be housebound (and by housebound I inevitably mean hot-tub-bound) tonight, and I’m not a bit sad about it. What are your plans? Do they include this movie and its exhausting cast of characters?

The Greatest Showman

Phineas Taylor Barnum was a showman first and foremost. His legacy includes a best-selling memoir, museums, philanthropy, and a circus who just closed its doors earlier this year, after something in the neighbourhood of 175 years of success. The Greatest Showman is the story of his life, only not: it’s the fictionalized, glamourized, told-in-an-entertaining-and-succinct-105-minutes version that somewhat resembles his life, or at least a rags-to-riches edition of it. It’s not historically or personally accurate but it IS beautiful and breath taking and fun. In fact, it’s the most excited I’ve felt at the movies all year.

Hugh Jackman has already established himself as a versatile actor: he makes Logan, a veritable man of steel, seem both tough and vulnerable. Here he straddles Barnum’s pursuit of fame, money, and success with his more modest but fulfilling tumblr_os9fxwinjy1qd4rf5o2_500.gifgoals of happiness and family. Ultimately we see Barnum find both fame and family in the circus. He collects ‘freaks’ and ‘sideshows’ and gives them purpose and a platform. People pay the price of admission to look on in sensational horror.

The film is glossy, a glory to look at, and a wonder to hear. It’s a musical, with lyrics by Tony-winning (Dear Evan Hansen) and Oscar-winning (La La Land) duo, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. A mashup of modern-sounding, toe-tapping, pop and hip hop, the music reflects an aesthetic that isn’t so much true to the time period, but more a tribute to Barnum’s constantly being ahead of his time. With dazzling, daring cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (Life, Nocturnal Animals, Atonement) and buoyant, irrepressible, vibrant production design by Nathan Crowley (Dunkirk, Interstellar, The Dark Knight trilogy), The Greatest Showman is a work of art by veteran professionals – except for its director. Michael Gracey had in fact never directed any movie at all before – why, then, did 20th Century Fox trust him with 80 million dollars and a promising script, co-written by Bill Condon, Oscar nominee for best adapted screenplay for Chicago, and winner for Gods and Monsters?

Hugh Jackman met Michael Gracey 8 years ago when Gracey directed him in a TV commercial in Rio de Janiero. The two hit it off creatively, and within months Jackman was suggesting him as the director a passion project of his, and with Jackman on board as star and producer, it only took about a hundred pitches or so before someone finally said yes. Yes! And true to the Barnum name, the movie wouldn’t just be a musical, it would be over the top, larger than life, bursting at the seems with spectacle.

In addition to Jackman, the cast boasts the likes of Michelle Williams as his long-tumblr_os9no4BmGt1qk2b83o5_r1_540.gifsuffering wife, Charity, Zac Efron as his business partner, Zendaya as a talented trapeze artist, and Rebecca Ferguson as the songstress who legitimizes his success (though credit for her amazing voice goes to Loren Allred, who dubs her in the film).

The Greatest Showman is like the best parts of Big Fish and Moulin Rouge smooshed together. It lit my heart aglow. If you’re looking for a true account of PT Barnum’s life, read a book. What The Greatest Showman offers is a damn good time at the movies, so see it in theatres, on the big screen, the way it was meant to be seen. Hugh Jackman will thank you for it.

Baywatch

So bad.

Baywatch the movie doesn’t know what to do with itself. Based on a TV show that mysteriously combined crime-fighting lifeguards with slow-motion running, the movie struggles to find a leg to stand on. 21 Jump Street was able to successfully satirize the show it was based on while also paying it homage. It was funny. Baywatch just flounders about in shallow water.

I don’t think any of the actors knew if they were in a drama or a comedy either. They would sometimes recite lines that sounded self-aware, only in a deadpan way that made baywatch-cast-shot.jpgme certain they weren’t aware at all. The thing is, lifeguards save people who are struggling in the water. They have no business fighting crime. They shouldn’t touch dead bodies in a crime scene let alone attempt to solve the murders themselves. These lifeguards, however, take it upon themselves to impersonate doctors, take down drug lords, go undercover, break into morgues, confiscate evidence, and they do it all while on the clock, abandoning their actual jobs on the beach in order to do the jobs of police officers who don’t take the intrusion too kindly – although, in actuality, not unkindly enough. Because, you know, the lifeguards, instead of guarding lives, are actually putting them at risk, constantly, by doing this work.

But that’s the LEAST of Baywatch’s problems. I remember thinking how strange it was in the commercials that The Rock was playing Mitch Buchannon, which is the character David Hasselhoff played in the original series. It seemed to me easy enough to update it by just having a new set of lifeguards in the Baywatch tradition, but no. Old Mitch is still pounding the waves, looking a little more tan (though not a lot more – David Hasselhoff was always pretty wizened) and a lot more buff. But then David Hasselhoff pops up in the movie and he’s playing his character Mitch Buchannon too. So there are two Mitches, which no calls bullshit on, and two CJs now that you mention it, and a lot more problems besides.

Sean and I gave it the old college try, we really did, but there is genuinely no way in which to enjoy the movie. It’s never intentionally funny, and the mistakes aren’t even laughable they just make you want to tear your hair out. But it’s also way, way too ridiculous to be taken seriously, but none of the campiness that made the television series a guilty pleasure. The jiggly boob factor is alive and well, but there’s also a lot more penis in the movie than is strictly advisable.