21
Jul
18

Le Samourai, The Commuter

Le Samourai
Jean-Pierre Melville’s landmark film is just as mesmerizing today as it was when it was released in 1967. On first watch it appears to be a straight-forward gangster story, a tale about a hitman scrambling for his life after a botched assassination. However, upon reflection, it is a film about much more than its mere script. It is a study in duality. We see hitman Alain Delon’s meager apartment juxtaposed against his impeccable attire. His methodical planning butting against forces he cannot anticipate. Control vs. chaos. Police vs. criminals. Refinement vs. brutality. There is so much bubbling beneath the surface that this is a film that demands to be rewatched again and again. Upon my first viewing, I was underwhelmed by the ending. But while examining it, it becomes clear that the ending was just as carefully planned by Delon’s character as any event in the rest of the film. He intended things to end the way they did, it wasn’t just a case of the good guys catching up to the bad guy. The movie is the antithesis of over-explaining things to the audience. We are never told who ordered the original hit, why the jazz club witness to the crime won’t identify Delon to the police, or why Delon unloads his gun at the end. It is up to the audience to put the pieces together. And 50 years later there are no clear answers, only general ideas about what Delon might have been thinking, or who might have been behind the double-crosses. The other thing that sets Le Samourai apart from almost every other movie is its effortless sense of “cool.” Delon’s icy, well-dressed hitman is frequently shot in profile. He never seems to break a sweat. He speaks seldom, and always knows exactly what to say when the time is right. He has everything planned out in advance. Yet it’s never contrived or cheesy. Everything that happens is practically the definition of cool. It’s hard to describe, but oozes down the screen in every single frame. Le Samourai has become a highly influential movie, inspiring John Woo’s The Killer, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and countless others. This is a movie I cannot recommended enough. It is a definite must watch.
Verdict: Awesome
The Commuter
Jaume Collet-Serra is a director who keeps making big-budget, high-profile films despite none of them ever being any good. And he somehow manages to keep snagging Liam Neeson to star in his trash, with this film marking their fourth collaboration. The Commuter takes Neesons’ cachet as an action star, and nudges it in a slightly different direction. Instead of being Taken On A Train, The Commuter acts as more of a thriller. Neeson plays a former cop turned businessman who loses his job, and can’t afford to pay his bills. On his final train commute back home, he is approached by a mysterious woman who asks him to use his “special set of skills” to find someone on the train (with only a pseudonym, and not a face) in exchange for $100,000. Given his unfortunate circumstances, he can’t say no. The bulk of the film takes place on the train, with Neeson stalking back and forth, trying various angles to find out who the mystery person is. He grows more frantic as the film goes on, because once the train reaches the end of the line, the mystery person will escape. Some of the methods of investigation were fairly clever, but, sadly, at the start of the third act, the film throws it all to the wind and devolves into a messy actioner. At this point, the train literally and figuratively goes off the rails in a laughably bad CGI-a-thon. We suddenly get a plethora of double-crosses, and badly directed fight scenes. Neeson hobbles around, shouts angrily, and tries his best not to lose his dignity. By the end, it turns out to be a fairly generic affair, and it ends exactly how you expect it will. A more competent director, with a sense of restraint, could have actually made this a great film, Hitchcockian, even. However, Collet-Serra is no Hitchcock, and he cannot say no to bad CGI and bad action sequences. The first two-thirds of the film get a score of Average, and the final third a score of Shitty, so the movie ends up with a final score of Bad.
Verdict: Bad
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15
Jul
18

Happy (Shitty) Ten Year Anniversary

In keeping with the crappiness of this blog, I decided to find a generic looking image. Ten years is a long time. Most film review blogs don’t last half as long. While it seems that this site has been on life support lately, the updates have still trickled in. I had no idea I’d keep my curmudgeonly reviews going for an entire decade, but hey, here we are. I appreciate my faithful readers, and my regular commenters for staying loyal all this time. I also appreciate the fact you keep coming back despite my hating just about everything I watch. I know I have trashed movies and TV shows some of you absolutely love, so thanks for sticking around. Most of all, I’d like to thank the people with no sense of humor, who comment angrily on one of my many satire posts; you’re the true spice of life.

So, for the tenth anniversary, I thought I would share my top ten favorite posts in the history of the blog. Fitting for a tenth anniversary, right?

20 Shittiest Anime of the Decade published January 22, 2010

Avatard Me Up (AKA Everyone is an Idiot) published February 20, 2010

Fake Indie Movies (AKA Fuck You, Hipsters) published July 17, 2010

4 Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse: Part 4 – M. Night Shyamalan published December 3, 2010

Your Wedding Sucked published June 25, 2011

Reasons Why Predator Is Better Than The King’s Speech published July 29, 2011

Conan the Barbarian – Probably the Greatest Movie Ever Made published January 7, 2012

Classically Shitty: Breakfast at Tiffany’s published January 28, 2012

Michael F. Assbender Is In Everything published February 17, 2012

Lessons Learned From The Wicker Man (AKA Oh No, Not the Bees!) published October 26, 2012

I had trouble narrowing it down from a top 20 to a top ten, so there have been some decent posts over the years. And looking at my output, my best stuff came between 2010 and 2012. In TV terms that would be seasons 3-5. After that, I guess the blog jumped the shark. If you have a favorite post I didn’t list, let me know what it is in the comments.

Ten years are in the book, and here’s to a few more.

17
Jun
18

Solo: A Star Wars Schlock

The latest Star Wars movie, directed by Ron Howard, is the most Ron Howardiest movie Ron Howard has ever Ron Howarded. That is to say, it’s pretty average. It’s not offensive, it takes no risks, and it offers nothing interesting or unique to the Star Wars canon. From the outset, the entire movie was a mistake. Nobody cared about Han Solo’s origin story. The first film, A New Hope, was Han Solo’s origin story. He was a smuggler who only cared about himself, and who ultimately came around to helping others. It was a perfect, if somewhat shallow, character arc. We didn’t need to see what he was up to when he was younger. This only removes the character’s mysteries, and makes his backstory more complicated, and not in a good way.
The movie begins with Han on his home planet of Corellia, where he scrapes by dealing with shady gangsters. He tries to escape the planet with his girlfriend, Emilia Clarke, but she is unable to get out. Han enlists in the Empire to become a pilot with the goal of one day returning to Corellia to save Clarke. The movie then skips over what would probably have been the most interesting part of his past: seeing Han as an Imperial pilot who washes out of the academy due to bad behavior. We could have had a Star Wars version of Top Gun, which would have been a totally unique spin on the franchise. Instead, we follow Han who is now in the Imperial infantry (although why is he not a Storm Trooper?), where he meets up with Woody Harrelson, and joins his criminal organization. They botch a train robbery, and the second half of the film follows their efforts to pay back the main bad guy who was expecting a big payday from said robbery. Along the way we are introduced to Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, and learn the origins of Han’s greatest exploits. Yawn.

Continue reading ‘Solo: A Star Wars Schlock’

08
Jun
18

Deadpool 2 AKA Skull Poop L 2

Ryan Reynolds read my review of Logan, and agreed with me 100% that killing Wolverine was a mistake. After all, it’s referenced in the opening scene of Deadpool 2. How could Fox kill their most profitable superhero? What a bunch of morons! Anyway, it’s nice to know that Reynolds has good taste in blogs. Oh, and by the way Ryan, you still owe me $500; you can send it to me via Paypal.
Deadpool 2 is a classic superhero sequel movie. Classic, though, isn’t always a good thing. It excels and stumbles in all the usual ways a superhero sequel does. However, with Deadpool being a unique character, breaking the fourth wall and satirizing the idiocies of the genre, the film manages to keep itself afloat, and entertains throughout.

Continue reading ‘Deadpool 2 AKA Skull Poop L 2’

18
May
18

The Other Side of the Door, Doctor Strange

The Other Side of the Door
This 2016 horror movie tries to be the Indian version of The Grudge, but is too inept to be scary, and too stupid to be entertaining. Some white people living in India get in a car accident, and the mom’s son dies. A mystical Indian woman (this movie assumes all Indian people are mystical) tells the mom if she spreads the son’s ashes on a temple’s steps at night, she can speak to him one more time. The catch is that they have to talk from opposite sides of a door, and she can’t open the door no matter what. This being a horror movie, and the characters all being idiots, she obviously opens the door and lets her son’s evil spirit back to the land of the living. The son’s spirit terrorizes the family, but it’s mostly just stuff to startle the audience. The film’s low body count prevents the audience from feeling that there is any real threat to be found. The acting is dreadful, and there is a lot of scenery chewing and screaming over ridiculous things. The mystical Indian woman dies, but other mystical Indian men ultimately save the day. In a “twist” ending that is completely hilarious and eye-rolling at the same time, the mom dies, and her husband brings her back from the dead and opens the temple’s door, starting the whole thing over again. If the movie wasn’t so badly acted and directed it could have been decent, but it languished. Setting it in India could have given us an insight into a culture we rarely see in Western cinema, with a unique twist on the horror genre, but it’s all couched in generic mysticism, and the entire point of being set in India is lost. This movie is only good if you need to laugh.
Verdict: Shitty
Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch dropped his Sherlock Holmes role and donned a doctor’s white coat and a bad American accent for this 2016 film. As far as Marvel movies go, Doctor Strange wasn’t too bad. It is removed from the super-self serious tripe we got with Captain America, and the herky-jerky “everything and the kitchen sink” stuff from The Avengers. Unfortunately, it plays out like every Marvel origin story. Cumberbatch is an egotistical neurogsurgeon (has there ever been a movie doctor that wasn’t egotistical?) who loses the use of his fine motor skills, but replaces them with the ability to conjure magic. Yeah, sure, okay. The villain has the same powers as him, which is something we always see in Marvel origin stories. It’s completely predictable with nary a story-telling stray alley or twist to be found. On the positive side, the visual style is rather unique. The psychedelic magic made it rather a pleasure to watch. There were enough moments of levity sprinkled throughout to keep the movie bouncing forward without becoming a self-parody. Basically, it’s a generic Marvel movie wrapped up in a fresh visual style, and a lead actor who is fun enough, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I didn’t find myself getting bored with this one, which is more than I can say for most of this studio’s output.
Verdict: Average
30
Apr
18

Mom and Dad, The Witch

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad is a weird film, and since it stars Nicolas Cage, that’s saying something. It tries to be a hybrid of genres, combining zombie and home-invasion styles to create something new and utterly terrifying. Except it isn’t terrifying in the least. And it isn’t interesting, funny, exciting, or well-acted. It’s a giant turd of a film, and when you watch it you can’t help but wonder how something like this ever got financed. The premise is a mind-control signal is broadcast on TV, and any parent who sees it wants to kill their children. They don’t want to kill other children, just their own. The parents act like fast-running zombies while they try to kill their children. However, the bulk of the film takes place in a house, with the kids trying to escape being killed by their parents. The movie is peppered with flashbacks which don’t work, and go on for far too long. The music is mostly heavy metal, which clashes with the 70s vibe they go for visually. The acting is atrocious, although Cage gives his usual 110% so he can’t really be faulted. It doesn’t offer any explanation for why this happened, any cure for the parents, or even an ending. It just stops mid-sentence, in fact. It’s a slog to get through as it offers little to grab onto, and no characters to identify with. I have read that this is a “black comedy” but there’s no fucking way that was the original intent. The film is utterly bereft of humor. I think the marketers slapped the “black comedy” label on it after it failed at being any other genre. Fuck this movie, what a waste of time.

Verdict: Shitty

The Witch

The Witch has been heralded as a modern horror masterpiece. Horror is a bit of a stretch, and masterpiece isn’t even a part of the equation. It’s a boring, turgid film that will test the patience of any seasoned film-goer. It takes place in colonial America, and an ultra-religious family is kicked out of town to go live in the countryside. While there, strange things begin to happen. Unfortunately, strange does not equate with interesting. Nothing interesting happens at all. The family just goes from scene to scene, fucking around, being boring, praying, and farming. A few times, when it seems like something interesting might happen, the film cuts away so you don’t see it. The filmmakers are so obsessed with building atmosphere, that they do it at the expense of things happening. It become excessively aggravating as you desperately want something, anything to happen, but the film refuses to attempt anything noteworthy. The culmination, with everyone dying, happens in the last five minutes or so. And then, the main actress goes off into the woods to become a bride of Satan. Apparently, the goat was supposed to be Satan or something, but whatever, who gives a shit? A movie this boring cannot be considered scary in the slightest. But as cure for insomnia? Certainly.

Verdict: Shitty

20
Mar
18

Mute, Radius

Mute

When you decide to make a movie about how the Amish are affected by a dystopian future, you have officially reached the bottom of the idea barrel. “But wait, there’s more!” writer-director Duncan Jones cried out. “What if the Amish main character was also mute?!” What follows is a pathetically uninspired fart of a film. The gist is that Alexander Skarsgard plays a mute Amish guy in the neon-lit big city of the future. His girlfriend vanishes, and he tries to find her. In theory, I could get behind a noir film about a mute person trying to perform an investigation. It has obvious roadblocks, and the idea is kind of intriguing. But the movie overreaches in trying to smash that idea together with a dystopian future that ultimately serves no purpose in the story. Nothing much really happens, it meanders slowly, and we quickly stop giving a shit about Skarsgard or his girlfriend. The acting is atrocious with everyone phoning it in (Skarsgard) or turning in caricatures (Paul Rudd). Rudd seems to actively hate his role as he does everything possible to make his acting as cringe-worthy as possible.  The movie strokes Duncan Jones’ ego as it wastes millions of dollars on glossy special effects that serve a poorly-plotted story. Who is this movie for, anyway? Who did Netflix think would like this? Were people clamoring for yet another dystopian movie? Are the Amish subscribing to Netflix now? What the fuck? This movie offers nothing of value to anyone.

Verdict: Shitty

Radius

Radius is a 2017 Canadian film that has a killer premise, the kind of premise you wish you had thought of first: an amnesiac discovers that any living creature that comes within 50 feet of him dies instantly. It’s a neat little sci-fi thriller film which banks too much on the thriller side, and goes too light on the sci-fi angle. It has solid performances, and an excellent mystery. There are problems, though. The biggest problem is the story isn’t robust enough to justify a feature length. It could have been better as an episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror or something. There are several parts where the pacing drags, and nothing happens while minutes just tick away. The other major problem is that everything the characters do, every plot point, is in service of unraveling the mystery (why Liam and Rose have amnesia), and the sci-fi angle gets short shrift. The mystery’s solution is cool once it is revealed, but it is completely disparate from why Liam can’t get within 50 feet of anyone else lest they die. Finally, the conclusion was what happens when you write yourself into a box. There were several better possible endings, but they picked the most obvious and dumbest way to end things. And how did Liam know his solution would work? It’s not like how he ends up would suddenly stop his body from being radioactive, so he solved nothing. Poetic justice could have been served when Rose had him walk into the lake, but the writers were too obtuse to realize that, even though the solution was screaming in their faces. Anyway, Radius is an interesting movie with good acting, but its writing isn’t smart enough to properly service the premise, and it’s light on content.

Verdict: Average




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