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Reviews of Movies I Haven't Seen


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Fantastic Four:

 

 

 

Quentin Tarantino's most ambitious film to date, and also his first parody, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of this film.

 

The retirement of the boomer generation has led to the horrified realization that their entire lives were wasted, and a corresponding market in entertainment that assures them that no, their lives were worthwhile and they definitely made the world a better place.  Expect to see a rash of period films set in the 1960s that attempt to shoehorn in the Civil Rights movement no matter how nonsensical it is, and maybe a heartfelt drama or two on how Jimmy Carter was really a nice guy.

 

Fantastic Four is a kaleidoscope pseudo-biopic on the Beatles.  It follows a fictional band called The Earwigs who hail from... you never find out.  In keeping with Tarantino's preference for archetypes over specifics, we never find out if The Earwigs are a clean-cut British invasion band or an American rockabilly outfit before they discover drugs.

 

Tarantino's increasingly self-referential material is a weakness; on-screen drug use simply isn't shocking the way it was with 1992's Pulp Fiction, and just adding more drugs, more sex and more violence will never, ever bring back the innocence that made his first masterpiece so bold.  This is, of course, an apt metaphor for the entire clapped-out boomer nostalgia genre in general, and it seems that Tarantino is, somehow, perfectly aware of this fact.

 

Forrest Gump meets Reservoir Dogs, or The Rutles meets exploitation film, it somehow works.  John Travolta turns in a good performance; possibly his best (proving that Tarantino is the only director who can make him look good).  In a notable departure, the entire faux-60's soundtrack is new, composed by LA group Bitter:Sweet, is at least passable as forgotten Nancy Sinatra material.  The Earwig's songs themselves are impressive too; only time will tell if the rumor that Eric Clapton helped compose them for some outrageous bribe is true.

 

Five stars.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Babadook

The Babadook follows young widow Amelia and her troubled tot Sam as they discover a disturbing book during a nightly bedtime reading and unwittingly unleash its sinister central figure on their quiet lives. As it turns out, the key to the creature’s undoing is merely to recognize it and rebuke it—something that Amelia eventually discovers. But this revelation comes after a slow-burning, suspenseful battle of wills, prolonged by a centrally important fact about Amelia that critics have largely overlooked: she is working class.

Clues to Amelia’s class status are scattered throughout the film, but they’re most clearly manifested in conspicuous articles of fashion. Minutes into the film, Amelia sits across from the administrators of her son’s private school, who are all neatly outfitted in crisp suits and slick buns. She is sporting an unraveling ponytail and the uniform she wears to work as an orderly in a nursing home: a papery pink shift with a peter-pan collar and opaque white stockings that taper into a pair of scuffed Keds. Amelia’s clothing is conspicuously gendered—the powerful actors in this horror story don’t wear pink collars and Keds. But more than that, her attire functions as a permanent reminder of the fact of her work, a kind of stigmata of the service sector.

All the dramatic action among the film’s adult humans proceeds to flow from this core disjuncture of class. The school administrators condescend to her in icy-precise professional language, telling her, in so many words, that she has failed to correctly parent her son. And in the next scene, Amelia sits next to her sister, a smooth-haired woman in black nylons and a blazer, and barely listens as her upwardly mobile sibling natters on about installation art pieces. Miffed by this indifference to her class ascent, Amelia’s sister abruptly calls off the joint birthday party they had planned for their children. This leads to a round of pointedly class-based recriminations, all upbraiding Amelia for not “properly” celebrating her son’s birthday.

Mom-shaming is powerfully distilled in the unraveling nightmare of

The Babadook.

Hounded as she is by these disciplinary markers of privilege, Amelia takes momentary refuge in fantasies of material bliss. In a brief dreamy interlude just before her niece’s birthday party, Amelia eats ice cream in a glassy, modern shopping mall, sitting alone on a sofa positioned in front of windows full of fashion spreads and mannequins draped in haute couture. Unable to shop or buy, she contents herself with food—alone.

Back in real life, however, Amelia continues to face more quiet but powerful crucibles of class division. When the birthday party arrives, five sleekly outfitted moms congregate in Amelia’s sister’s Crate & Barrel dining room and gaze accusingly at Amelia through their chicly underdone makeup. Pearls and gems dot their lobes and throats; our Amelia positively wilts in their presence, looking dazed and bedraggled as she listens to patronizing talk of their volunteer work with “disadvantaged women” and to humblebragging about their husbands’ careers. The pinched scowls only intensify when Amelia’s son throws a tantrum and she sternly orders him out of the room.

Amelia is overwhelmed: it is, in part, her exhaustion that allows the dreadful Babadook to pass into her life. A string of visual cues reminds viewers of her inability to keep up: her clothes, her hair, the puttering station wagon she drives, the blandly functional flat-soled shoes on her feet. As the movie slides into the gothic terror at its heart, it’s just as plain that the totems of her everyday working-class life are what feed her primal, and potentially lethal, state of social isolation. They differentiate her from her peers, their pastimes, and most crucially, their enlightened parenting practices.

Here is where The Babadook is most painfully realistic. So many parenting techniques earn their cachet from the glamorous elites who evangelize for them: think The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik hawking the wonders of co-sleeping for The Today Show, or supermodel Gisele Bündchen asserting that international law should require all mothers to breastfeed for at least six months in a luscious Harper’s Bazaar spread. Mothers who can’t pay to play are not only reviled as bad parents, but also marginalized as gauche.

There’s an overlooked irony at the heart of all the mom-shaming so powerfully distilled in the unraveling nightmare of The Babadook. Amelia and her imperiled son are ultimately helped onto the right path out of their lonely ordeal not by all the well-appointed power moms hovering around them, but rather by the Australian welfare state. As the film closes, a pair of dogged social workers checks in with the traumatized pair, and the realization sets in that these have been the only characters to evince real concern for the well-being of this single working mom and her deprived child.

Beyond the claustral terrors of a classic horror-fantasy, The Babadook leaves us with a surprisingly far-reaching epilogue: the film leads us to imagine the kind of programs that could make life as a working-class parent more leisurely and secure, like child allowances, paid maternity leave, and all the sundry baby benefits that are commonplace in European social democracies. Ladies who lunch seem capable of providing only bitter censure, and good politics, with concrete material assistance, will have to be in place before the rest of us can gather the few pearls of wisdom their parenting fashions offer. This is the real horror story of The Babadook: our culture is at a loss to make the hopeful epilogue to Amelia’s story match up with the kind of social isolation that spurred on her brief descent into madness and terror.

Note: this is not a work of satire on my part, but an actual published review. I haven't seen the movie though.

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Pan:

 

 

 

Apparently someone at Dune Entertainment thought that the best thing they could be doing with their wad of money was handing it to Tim Burton so he could... well, do what Tim Burton does.  I think we've all got it figured out by now.  They got far more than they bargained for.

 

Pan stars Johhny Depp as the Greek goat-legged god of shepherds, mountains, meadows, rustic music and revelry.  Modern archaeology and the classics thus far transmitted have failed to record any mythic cycles concerning the god, except for a curious excerpt from Plutarch declaring that Pan the god died at some point during the reign of the emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD).  Surprisingly, after a fairly vacuous thirty minute romp of Depp hamming it up as a pipes-playing, wine-drinking companion of the nymphs (Dakota Fanning, Alicia Vikander and Eve Hewson; introduced with the appropriate musical score from Danny Elfman), the film dives right into a surprisingly sophisticated, and yet baffling and disturbing, treatment of the death of Pan.

 

Specifically, the film is a meditation on G.K. Chesterton's notion that the death of Pan was caused by the birth of Christ.  It is an open secret, though not a polite one to mention aloud, that the Mormons run Hollywood, so it comes as no surprise perhaps that the Christ figure in the film (played by the trinity of Christopher Walken, Sir Ian McKellen and Jeremy Irons) is a composite with the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, kowtowing to the loony LDS theory that the Aztec myth of the corn god was a corrupted retelling of the story of Christ's visit to the New World.

 

The Mormons may run Hollywood, but they don't run Tim Burton.  Somehow, gloriously, the director was given free rein to develop his vision of the story.  Perhaps they thought he'd gone soft and become predictable.  Instead, the audience is treated to a spectacular visual assault of the pastoral god fighting a losing battle against Burton's insane vision of Mesoamerican Jesuit missionaries.  Burton completely pulled out the stops; his villains are austere and yet flamboyant.  Borrowing de-saturated colors (and fight choreography) from Zack Snyder's 300, he somehow manages to make the ceremonial macaw-feather capes worn by McKellen to look matte and dull; the only real color coming from the copious amounts of blood splattered across the screen as Irons' character pulls the still-beating heart from the chests of one of his victims and messily devours it on top of a gigantic black spiral.

 

In a shocking display of self-awareness, the film actually quotes sections of Justin Martyr's account of the accusations of sexual immorality and cannibalism among early Christians, albeit in Latin while an instrumental version of Bathory's Necromansy on bagpipes, harpsichord and theremin plays over a montage of infant-slaughtering and other atrocities that deliberately calls back to Eisenstein's scenes of the Teutonic Knights in Alexander Nevsky.

 

As the film closed with the obligatory crucifixion scene, with Walken wearing a distressingly convincing replica of Depp's flayed, goat-legged skin, I could only conclude that Tim Burton has lost his mind, and decided to go out in a blaze of glory and infamy.  Nothing in this film is bland, safe or interchangeable.  This is his Citizen Kane.

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In a world gone mad, where two super powers sit on the brink of destruction, the fate of the world rests in one man's hands.

 

Forrest Gump: Bridge of Spies.

 

 

From the collaborative duo that brought you Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Pacific and Joe Vs. The Volcano, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg mail in another historical drama vaguely based on real events. Instead of making movies about war heroes and epic World War 2, Korean and Vietnam era battles, Hollywood has decided to make movies instead about art collectors and some gay mathematician like Monuments Men and The Imitation Game. And then add in gratuitous shoot outs that make absolutely no God damn sense. 

 

Watch as Forrest Gump, playing a slow-witted but amiable insurance lawyer, bumbles his way through every defining moment of the Cold War.

 

Spy, Forrest. Spy! 

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  • 1 month later...
 

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Eccentric local chef Guy Fury is being pushed into paying protection money to the mob for his restaurant. He refuses to do so and the mob eventually destroys his restaurant after harassing him several times. Little did they know, his wife (Sandra Bullock) was inside tidying up. Enraged at the death of his wife, Guy Fury vows to take revenge against the mob; by infiltrating their ranks as a chef.

 

 

Guy Fieri stars as Guy Fury in

Well Done.

 

 

Coming Spring 2016

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Joy:

 

A young woman, ironically named for the emotion she expresses the least, decides to abandon her family's early-taught ideas on a tidy, domestic life and join the government of a burgeoning Soviet state. Her first assignment is to assassinate the leader of an American media outlet. She immediately falls into a faux relationship with the man, only to execute him in a one-woman firing squad with a shotgun. 

 

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Joy:

 

A young woman, ironically named for the emotion she expresses the least, decides to abandon her family's early-taught ideas on a tidy, domestic life and join the government of a burgeoning Soviet state. Her first assignment is to assassinate the leader of an American media outlet. She immediately falls into a faux relationship with the man, only to execute him in a one-woman firing squad with a shotgun. 

 

 

That shotgun scence bothers me alot

 

proclaiming her name at the end as some type of method of pride, while oviously struggling with the firearm

 

 

Its like not realising the Sherman had slopped armor or what case volumn means and going around calling yourself the Jap tank expert or something

 

 

and nice first post, welcome to the jungle 

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Creed:

What bizarre Hollywood machinations conspired to produce a biopic film about late nineties crap-rock band Creed, we shall perhaps never know.  Fortunately, the need to provide a compelling and satisfying story, as usual, triumphed over the need to accurately recall history.  The film is OK; a 3.5/5, decent way to spend an evening.  The scene where zombie Tupac devours the entire cast is certainly memorable.

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Batman V Superman:

 

 

This goofy but melancholy musical rom-com is the pinnacle of Hollywood narcissism, but in a good way.  Ben Affleck stars as Bill Isner, a lawyer-friendly stand-in for Bob Igler, current CEO of Disney.  Affleck is perfect as a soulless, robotic, love-to-hate him machine that the Hollywood intelligentsia always finds itself chained to, probably because they got creative writing and other useless degrees instead of MBAs.

 

In a scene that will in coming years doubtless compete with Michael Douglas' 1987 declaration in Wall Street that "Greed is good," the film begins with Isner giving a five-minute speech on the new direction he's taking the company.

 

"Geeks are gold," he declares.  This would be Oscar-bait if it weren't so cutting and painfully self-aware.  Seriously, I haven't been this moved by an on-screen pep-talk since Alec Baldwin's scene-stealing performance in Glengarry Ross.  Isner explains that his long-term plan for the company is to have it buy up the IP rights to high-profile geek franchises and turn out mediocre, effects-driven, big-budget screen releases like clockwork.  The best part of this scene is that the idea isn't presented as some outlandish evil conspiracy, just a calculated risk to cash in on geeks' endless enthusiasm and lack of discernment.  Joss Whedon's hilarious cameo as a boot-licking yes-man in this scene makes the corporate sociopathy of the whole scene that much funnier.  The boardroom meeting ends with a snappy song and dance number called "Manchildren (squeeze 'em hard)" which, while not the strongest in the film, is a great introduction to the experience.
 

The rest of the pieces are quickly put into place.  Two competing writers (Jeremy Irons and Jason Momoa) pitch their movie concepts to Isner, while at the same time competing for the attention and affection of mousy editor Diana Prince (Gal Gadot).  Which film concept will Isner choose, Irons' campy, live-action Superman film or Momoa's high-concept, animated Batman feature?  A whimsical musical face-off with score by John Cameron Mitchell ensues to resolve the love triangle and which film will be made.

 

I foresee that a great many boyfriends and husbands will be grudgingly dragged to this film, only to be enchanted by it.  This film is great fun, charming as the devil and smiles all around.  Four and a half thumbs out of five.

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Bridget Jones's Baby:

 

 

This film, though no more sophisticated than it has to be, will be remembered warts and all as a cultural icon of our time.  Presciently, the film captures the zeitgeist of 2016 that spurred for the popular referendum that released the UK from the European Union, and the later election of President-for-Life Donald Trump of our Republic of Gilead.

 

The beginning of the film will doubtless be the prototype for an army of uninspired clones of similar anti-feminist films.  Act One borrows its sense of subtlety from Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, and a fair number of its shots as well.  The depiction of early twenty-first century pro-life activists actually throwing babies into fire is a shot-for-shot recreation of the scene of the Teutonic Knights doing the same thing in the Soviet classic.  It is unclear what the objective of this callback is.  Is it a self-aware admission that public art is as stymied, politicized and dangerous in the Republic of Gilead as it was in the Stalinist era?  Is it a demonstration of the strength of President-for-Life Donald Trump's Eternal Order cultural program that it can shamelessly appropriate Communist art without itself being polluted?  Or is it completely unintentional, just one of a thousand echoes of classic Soviet cinema that reverberate through contemporary art?  Like President-for-Life Donald Trump himself, it is impossible to tell what is understated self-parody, outrageous bluster, or just plain fucking carelessness.

 

Bridget Jones, formerly a professional woman prior to her mandatory expulsion from a post unsuitable to the fair sex, has realized that she has wasted her fertile years in the pursuit of a career.  She belatedly realizes that feminism was a poisonous lie that robbed her of her innermost desire to produce racially pure offspring for the Fatherland.  Again, the (state-mandated) allegory is carefully massaged in like a jackbooted kick the groin of a homosexual, tumblerite, Ted Cruz supporter or other deviants censured by the Republic.  But the pathos is real, and the old Hollywood pros tapped for this film have worked their magic.  The prospect of a one-way ticket to an Alaskan gulag concentrates the mind wonderfully, it would seem.

 

But soon, poor Ms. Jones gets her respite from a state-funded initiative for post-menopausal women to receive IVF of genetically-engineered embryo.  These embryos, the first prototypes of the transhuman master race, are vital to state security.  The message is nothing if not unambiguous; natality is every bit a part of the security of the Republic as keeping wreckers from infiltrating north past the Anti-Canadian Defensive Perimeter.  In service to the state, Ms. Jones brings glory to the race.  It should be the crowning glory of every female of breeding age to bolster the numbers of the Republic; and those that neglect their duty may not be so lucky as Ms. Jones to be chosen for a second chance.  But everything has worked out, and we are treated to a happy ending with a bouncing baby boy with carrot-colored skin and a shock of rigid blonde hair.

 

If you can get permission to take time off from state-mandated labor, definitely see Bridget Jones's Baby.  It's the patriotic critic's choice!

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Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets

 

 

In a glorious pan-galactic, hyper-industrialized Communist utopia where all work is done by robots and all humans are required to serve in the military to serve the purpose of bringing more territory into wondrous Socialism, all species are equal, except for one alien species who attempts to become a little more equal.

 

This race, led by Jabba the Hutt a totally original and unique character have been tricked by the dark time-travveling wizard Adam Smith's evil magic into believing that Capitalism will bring them good things, (when in reality the evil Scot plans to feed them into his giant soul-to-haggis converter and take over the nation as the great Merchant-Khan, perish the thought). They begin smuggling vast quantities of Adamantium-Krypton, to destabilize the economy and become wealthy.

 

Returning after completing a long mission to extinguish the last traces of Capitalism known to exist in the galaxy, two individuals of the few pure Russian bloodlines remaining after The Great Trump War of 2017, receive visions from the Force Ghosts of Stalin, Lenin, and Marx-Yoda. These heralds of class equality tell them of the impending doom to their great system, and our heroes decide to take action.

 

This movie is an action-packed masterpiece great for young children and/or re-education programs.

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Star Wars: Rogue One

 

This latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise attempts to shake up the existing formula by telling a side-story to the main series. Specifically, Rogue One tells the story of a seemingly generic Star Wars prequel/sequel/midquel (the movie coyly declines to state which) only to reveal that the unfolding plot is actually the product of the imagination of a young George Lucas as he grows up in Modesto. Soon the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred and the seemingly poorly-written characters revealed to be projected images of people in George's life, rendered into archetypes by his struggling adolescent brain. This culminates in a fantastically realised denouement which plays out during the presentation of the year-end project for George's physics class, in which his attempts to explain his half-digested knowledge of astrophysics to his bored classmates degenerates into a nervous breakdown.

 

What, the movie asks us, is the point at which escapism becomes harmful? What, indeed, is the price of creativity? And will young George (played artfully by a CGI-enhanced Alan Tudyk) ever find a way to express his longing for his fellow chess-club member Jayne (Felicity Jones)?

 

This is all rather rote stuff, of course, and familiar to anyone who has watched a coming-of-age/escapist childhood fantasy as tragedy movie or two before. But the actors turn in credible performances (Forest Whitaker, especially, shines in the few scenes he is allowed to dominate), the visuals are lovingly-shot and the score (written by an unusually restrained Michael Giacchino) lifts things enough to be enjoyable throughout.

 

3 out of 7.62 stars, recommended for late-night crying sessions and the self-hating masturbation that follows.

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​Assassin's Creed

 

 

Assassin's Creed is a sequel to 2015's Creed, and is a fanciful what-if film about late nineties crap-rock band Creed.  This film asks the question of what would have happened to their career if they had all converted to an esoteric sect of Nizari Shia Islam.

 

This film project took a dramatic turn when Sylvester Stallone lost the rights to make this into the eighth movie in the beloved Rocky franchise. 

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