Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi’ Category

Change is in the air, my friends. The oxygen slows in its vibration, caught amidst the rushing meteorological shifts of this midwestern metropolis. There is gunk in my throat. My clothing has shifted from hues of happiness to those of hipsterian disdain for all things uncool. Yes, my friends, it is FALL. And, as this season was so named to follow Lucifer’s plummet from Providence of summer exponentialism, through the purgatory of mid-September and October bullshit horror second-hand mediocrity and finally into the pit of despair known only to the brave as ‘January’, so have we tumbled from the majesty that was this summer movie season. Did I say majesty? I mean Meh-ity. That’s right, this summer was filled with more duds than a post-Steve Jobs iPhone release (POSTHUMOUS BURN!). However, it is my job, nay my DUTY (tee hee, doody) to rip, roll, tar and feather every release of this thermodynamically diverse cinematic season. So, yes, kiddies, this is the one you have ALL been waiting for (and by all I mean probably like three of you…if that), get ready for Andrew’s:

SUMMER MOVIE AWARDS 2013!

Oh thank you, please, please, don’t get out of your computer chair…oh…please! Stop with all the adulation! I…well…alright…

Now come on guys, I have an article to write! Please, oh, you are too kind. This is all…just…too overwhelming…

WHAT? FUCK YOU AFFLECK! GET OUT OF MY GIFS, YOU NOT-BATMAN SON OF A BITCH! THIS IS MY AWARDS SHOW AND YOU’RE NOT WINNING ANYTHING! I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN LIKE THE NOT-BATMAN YOU ARE AND HIT YOU WITH A MUTHERFUCKING BATARANG! (Spoilers, he totally wins an award. ;). (Okay, second parenthetical…those winks really make me uncomfortable. It’s like my computer is flirting with me. And my computer has seen WAY too much of me to make that appropriate.) Without any further Ado (heh, heh, SPOILERS) let’s get this underway…

MOST MEDIOCRE MOVIE I’M GLAD I MISSED

Winner: The Internship; Runner-Up: Now You See Me

"What should be on the poster? Fuck it. I need to get baked. Let's just have them stand there." Genius designer.

“What should be on the poster? Fuck it. I need to get baked. Let’s just have them stand there.” Genius designer.

Alright, so in every summer, in between the bombast, the explosions, and the RDJ shenanigans, studios attempt to unload middling materials that have already cost so much damn money that they can’t help but attempt to make even a bum’s fortune on. Now, these movies sneak into theaters every year, sometimes disguised as remakes of massive blockbusters (AHEM The Amazing Spiderman AHEM) or four-quels to trilogies that don’t need another movie (AHEM PIRATES 4 and BOURNE 4 AHEM). However, this year, the cake is taken with aplomb and idiocy by the duo that brought us the misogynistic stupid-a-palooza that was The Wedding Crashers, all packaged into a delightful shit-twinkie coated with Google advertising. That’s right, The Internship looked like a rancid pile of boring. Like, if this was once a fanciful bouquet of ‘Interesting’ then some idiot left it in the sun for two weeks, forgetting that DAIRY DOESN’T DO WELL IN THE SUMMER HEAT and it gradually transforms into a mutated hunk of sludge less appetizing than that restaurant that was started by a gastroenterologist (My mother was extremely perturbed when she discovered Colonic Cuisine was not an establishment specializing in colonial delicacies). Now, I didn’t see it, but from everything we could see in the ads it was ‘cool kids help the nerds to be less nerdy and LET LOOSE and FIND THE REAL THEM so they can BE BETTER AT THEIR JOBS’ or something. Bullshit. This is what would have really happened: “They don’t get hired by Google. They die in a gutter. Maybe in a hobo fire. End of Movie.” The hobo fire is the twist. So, no, I will not be watching you, The Internship. I don’t want your miserable excuses for PG-13 dick-filled (not the appendage) comedy and your super-liminal advertising for media monstrosity Google. (Don’t hate me Google. I love you. Make my site famous! I’ll sacrifice anything the God of the Internet needs! Virgins? Annoying roommates? Pizza? Doing your laundry? Microsoft Bing? I’ll do anything you want!)

Also, Now You See Me looked like David Blaine’s wet dream where he was in Ocean’s Eleven and Woody Harrelson showed up. *Shudder*

MOVIE I WISH I HAD BEEN DRUNKER FOR

Winner: The Great Gatsby 3DRunner Up: White House Down; Man of Steel

The Fitzgerald is watching you...

Leo DiCaprio will ejaculate the American Dream on your face.

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh

Sorry, I’m not done. UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH. There is nothing worse than sitting in a movie and reaching for a drink you’ve already finished. It’s agony. It’s as though the doctor is amputating a gangrenous limb and there’s no time for anesthesia. You reach for the whiskey…but the fucking orderly already downed it. That’s what it was like watching The Great Gatsby. It’s a movie like this that helps me understand why Oedipus claws out his eyes. And that was just because he fucked his mom. HE DIDN’T EVEN SEE THE GREAT GATSBY. It was a measure of impossible restraint to stop myself from impaling my pupils with snow caps to save myself from the turd-icaine of a literary adapt-a-Leo-tion. Seriously, at the halfway point, I reached for the champagne Amelia and I had snuck in and I almost screamed in horror when I discovered it empty. The rest of that thing was sobering in the same way that waking up with your head in the dog’s food bowl and the distinct taste of Pedigree Chum on your tongue can be (that totally never happened. It’s just an example. That definitely did not happen last August and my roommates did not force me to pay for another bag of food and therapy for the dog…totally didn’t happen). So, while Man of Steel was a teetotaled experience of agonized proportions and there isn’t enough alcohol in the world to make White House Down the cinematic equivalent of not-food poisoning, The Great Gatsby is offered this dubious award for reminding me that I would rather remove my own eyeballs with a spoon than watch another Baz Luhrmann film. Or eat dog food.

MOVIE I ALMOST GOT INTO A FIST-FIGHT ABOUT

Winner: Star Trek Into DarknessRunner-Up: Despicable Me 2

"Who put a goddamn banana in the exhaust? It's not funny guys!" ~ The final log of Captain Jim T. Kirk.

Most. Destructive. Fart. Ever.

Alrighty, this is the award that will probably piss off a few people. I know…because I almost got into a fist-fight about it. So…I didn’t like Star Trek Into Darkness (*cower and cover face*…wait…are they gone? Good). It’s true. The first Star Trek reboot movie was a hoot and/or a holler. We had sexy new this and sexy new that and OMG MY EYES – LENS FLARE! There were tight new costumes, explosive new weapons, and smoldering chemistry so hot it would make a thermite reaction jealous (MISINFORMED CHEMISTRY JOKE!). Granted, the plot was flimsier than an OJ alibi, but that didn’t matter. It was about characters. It was about man-on-vulcan growl-action. It was about Simon Pegg with a Scottish accent. But then…the sequel. Like a ruined sauce, the burner was too high and the elements that interacted so pleasantly before were reduced to a simple and unappetizing sludge. All the women became yapping shrews with D-cups while the plot, driven by evil Admiral Robocop, had somehow become more complex but even flimsier…like a Moebius Strip made out of blue Fruit Roll Up. It looks delicious…but there’s no such fucking thing as ‘Blue Raspberry’. Unfortunately, expressing disdain for anything that has included the newly anointed god of all Sexy Nerdom, Bendydick Cumberbund, is a crime worthy of death. Thusly, I had a multitude of Sherlock-ian friends accost me on my negative feelings. Granted, it never came to blows because, in all honesty, our asthma would have acted up two minutes into it…but it was the closest I came to a brawl in years. Other than that time I almost punched a teenager in line for The Dark Knight Rises (true story).

The runner up receives honorable mention due to a moment of pure vitriol I experienced in my own home. If you want a piece of advice…never, ever, ever say that you don’t like Despicable Me around my girlfriend. Deal? Deal.

MOST OBAMA

Winner: Idris Elba in Pacific RimRunner-Up: Jamie Foxx in White House Down

Okay, okay, yes, Jamie Foxx played the first black president in White House Down. Yes, his wife looked like Michelle Obama. And yes, his character was named Shcmarack Schmo-Schmama. But there is no fucking way he gets this award. If one can sum up Barack Obama in essence, he is a positive role-model and figure of power for the African American community. He is a leader who doesn’t always make the best decision, but he sticks to his beliefs while not being afraid to compromise.  So, by those considerations, Idris Elba is the most badass of fucking badasses ever to roam the Earth. I’m not kidding. I don’t care how silly his character’s name, be it Stringer Bell or Stacker Pentecost or Selection Easter or Serendipity Yom Kippur, Elba is like a deity dropped from the heavens to show humanity how to eat glass and spit out diamonds. Honestly, this man can play any role with power. James Bond? Fuck yes. Doctor Who? Do it. Queen Elizabeth II? It would be an interesting adjustment, but fuck it, let’s do this. The moment in Pacific Rim where Elba turns to one of the indeterminate white boys and says “One, don’t ever touch me again. And two, don’t EVER touch me again. Is that clear?” and then he walks off screen, a colossus of permeating confidence and charisma was the most sexually awakening experience in my life since Reese Witherspoon had pointy boobs in Pleasantville (also, shamefully, a true story). I mean…look at this exemplary specimen of humanity:

Yeah…not just women (*cross legs*)

So, yes, Jamie Foxx. You can wear your silly glasses and shoot bazookas and tell people to get their hands off your Jordans. You might have even chewed more gravel than a special edition Tommy Lee Jones gravel pit when you were in Django Unchained. But you will never reach levels of unbreakable badassery achieved by a man named after the fucking island where Napoleon was exiled.

That’s right. Fucking Napoleon.

BEST MOVIE I MISSED LAST SUMMER AND FINALLY GOT AROUND TO SEEING AND LOVED

Winner: Beasts of the Southern Wild; Runner-Up: Let’s be real, I made up this category to have an excuse to talk about Beasts of the Southern Wild…so let’s just say The Conjuring

220px-Beats-of-the-southern-wild-movie-poster

Alternate Title: How Not to Use Fireworks – The New Orleans Story

This was perhaps my greatest regret of the previous summer. Also, a number of tequila shots. Those were regretful. I think. I don’t remember what happened after, but I know the night ended and I had split my pants in two…so…probably not well. Of all the raucous insanity of the last summer, what with the capstone to Nolan’s Batrilogy and the resounding success and not-at-all-the-bloated-corpse-floating-in-the-East-River-we-thought-it-would-be that was The Avengers, I barely had enough time to explore the finer dining options on offer. Granted, for a city with as many damn hipsters as Chicago, we have the same number of art-house movie theaters as we have insane midget mayors (meaning: one). Thus, it is difficult to consume the delicacies offered by the independent cinema scene. Well, I eventually got my hands on this little ditty and I gobbled it up like Augustus Gloop after finding a Fruit Roll Up Moebius Strip. And, might I say, it was delectable. Beasts is an almost Grecian epic limited only by its impossible imagination. The performances are impeccable. The direction is manic. The script is borderline nonsensical. But the package is so much more than simply the sum of its parts. You might not understand why massive pig-boar-elephant things came out of Gulf of Mexico, and you might not get why Hushpuppy hangs out with a stripper she calls ‘mom’, or why she was named after a harshly unfashionable shoe. But it doesn’t matter. The film is a sliver of perfection, a vein of platinum surrounded by igneous rock. One can smash the precious mineral free and purify it to mold it into any shape you please…but why do that? The impurities only make the product more beautiful.

Oh yes, and I included The Conjuring because I didn’t really want to make a category for “Movie Most Likely to Make You Need Another Pair of Underwear”. Wait…why didn’t I do that? What the fuck, brain? Get your shit together. Oh well. Maybe next year.

MOST PISSED OFF NO ONE WOULD GET DRUNK AND SEE IT WITH ME

Winner: R.I.P.D.; Runner-Up: After Earth

I bet those two were fucking blazed every second of that production.

I’m coming for you, mutherfucker. Drunkenly.

Well, this category is slightly different than last year. Last year, the winner of this category eventually came out from behind and won Movie of the Year. That’s right, fucking BATTLESHIP. It didn’t matter how much I whined and cried and showed up to people’s work unannounced with a fifth of Jack stamping my feet until security had to escort me out, nobody would see Battleship with me in theaters. And it was AMAZE-BALLS. This year, the honor is slightly murkier. The stage was set for the perfect outing. Huntsy, Erin and I were going to sneak in a few metric tons of alcohol and watch R.I.P.D. the ironically titled finishing touch the tombstone for Ryan Reynolds’ acting career. This movie, parading Jeff Bridges as a verbally deficient post-mortem law man and Reynolds trying desperately to hang onto his lasting relevance, was apparently so fucking bad that they pulled it from theaters AFTER TWO WEEKS. The three of us were going to do a special episode of Whine and Cheese where we snuck into the bathroom to review sections on our phones. However, lo and behold, the movie was R.I.P.peD. from under us, like a tablecloth at a magic show. And so, we were lost, floundering, searching for answers, for hope, for Jeff Bridges sounding like Mr. Ed…thus, eventually, we watched Possession and almost, literally, committed ritualistic suicide due to over-doses of G-Palt. So, I promise you, when that steaming pile of Reynolds excrement becomes available on the Red-Box or the Flix of Net or the fabled land of ‘Illegal Movies’ we shall, oh, we shall get trashed and review it.

Also, After Earth sounded agonizing. I love agonizing. Just like I love M. Night Shamalamadingdong. Did I say love? I mean poop on.

MOVIE SERIES THAT MOST MADE ME SEE THE LIGHT OF GOD

Winner: The Fast and the FuriousRunner-Up: The Cornetto Trilogy

 Do you see how unrealistic this movie is? It's only mildly cloudy in London. Bullshit.

It’s like a model call for douchebags!

Now, this was a shockingly difficult category. I see god a lot. I saw him in the finale of The Avengers; I saw the jolly fellow at the conclusion of Children of Men; I caught a glimpse of him when R. Kelly reveals the midget in Trapped in the Closet; and I’m definitely sure I see the altruistic old man every year at the mall with children on his knee. The guy in the red suit, that’s God, right? Anyway, this summer, perhaps more than any other, opened my eyes to true cinematic brilliance. No it wasn’t Citizen Kane or Metropolis. Nor was it The Godfather or Black Swan. It was, in fact, that metallic ballet of flying meatheads and automobiles that is The Fast and the Furious. After missing the lion’s share of the series (chapters 2 through 5, to be exact), I thought I would sit in the theater and be bored with countless tired inside jokes and character choices esoteric to the outside non-Fast non-Furious fans (The Slow and the Impenetrably Calm? The Stupid and the Rational? The Eat-Whenever-You-Want and the Not-Realted-to-Samuel-L-Jackson-in-The-Avengers?). What I witnessed instead was a panoply of genius; a nonsensically coherent parade of bombast and excess; a poem of such pointlessness and beauty that the Dada movement would fall down and weep at its feet. Yes, The Fast and the Furious changed my life. Now, will I go back and watch all of them in a row? Most likely. Will I film my reactions? That is also very likely. Will I be a haggard inebriated mess? Most definitely. But, most importantly, I will be first in line for the next installment if only to see Kurt Russell…but it won’t be for Kurt Russell, it will be for EVERYTHING.

The Cornetto Trilogy, on the other hand, brought me to enlightenment in a subtler manner. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s trilogy of British comedies, beginning with Shaun of the Dead and ending with the appropriately titled The World’s End, not only strive for the upper-reaches of hilarity, but have such a quiet underlying brilliance that the average movie watcher might not notice at all. From a literary stand point, The World’s End is practically genius. Like, Stoppard-levels of clever. It wasn’t something I noticed when first watching the film, but just read this article (spoilers within) to see how intricate the thought process was behind the film’s themes and references. Edgar Wright has always been a savant of referential humor, but this might be the first time that he trumps Joyce for his complexity of allusions. Check it out. So, yes, dumb summer movies CAN be intelligent. And I don’t mean faux-Inception smart where people spend an hour and a half explaining a plot mechanic that everyone conveniently ignores for the remainder of the runtime. (Don’t get me started on Inception. It will turn into a rant within a rant within a rant within a…OH GOD. IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!). I mean, like actually sensibly coherent. Well done, boys. Well done.

MOST BATMAN

Winner: Iron Man 3; Runner-Up: The Spectacular Now

In Marvel-land, RDJ holds the orgasms for the ladies.

RDJ was mad they didn’t cast him in Pacific Rim.

I understand the IRON-y of my choice with this category (see what I did there? Do you see? DO YOU SEE? I’m fucking hilarious). In fact, Mr. Downey Jr. was precisely the reason why The Avengers won the award for the most rancid of my negative awards, ‘Least Batman’, last year. His fast-talking, consequence-avoiding, playboy Tony Stark couldn’t have been further from the Dark Knight in all ways. Granted, he doesn’t have superpowers of any kind…and he’s a philanthropic billionaire who turns himself vigilante with his considerable finances…and he has to fight both competitors and mad geniuses…well, anyway, that’s where the comparison stops. However, in Iron Man 3, after The Avengers proved that there is an upper limit to ridiculous third-act finale battles, Shane Black took Stark back to his roots. With a few far-fetched plot points in hand, he forces Stark to use his considerable smarts to rebuild his weaponry using nothing more than house-hold appliances. The effect is brilliant. Finally, we feel as though RDJ might be in actual danger, seeing as he doesn’t have his super-invulnerability-do-everything-swiss-army-knife suit at all times. He even begins feeling remorse and darkness for things that happened in previous movies. AND HE FIGHTS TERRORISTS. If this ain’t Batman, I don’t know what is. Unless it’s actually Batman. Because that’s pretty Batman. You know what else is completely Batman? This tie-clip:

My girlfriend is better than your girlfriend. Because she makes my tie Batman.

The runner up in this category doesn’t have an article attached for various reasons that will be discussed soon…but The Spectacular Now is the tale of a kid who barely has parents, spends his time wooing a girl and trying to figure out his life. Parentless kids? What’s more Batman than that? OTHER THAN MY FUCKING TIE CLIP. So, yes, you want to be Batman? Kill your parents. Become a billionaire. Or…more simply, GET MY TIE CLIP.

LEAST BATMAN

Winner: Ben Affleck; Runner-Up: The Great Gatsby 3D

Yep. The Drunk Knight himself returns.

Yep. The Drunk Knight himself returns.

Sigh.

I dreamed a dream of a world with JGL. When hope was high and movies worth making. I dreamed a dream Batman would never die. I dreamed that Zack Snyder would be forgiving. When I was young and unafraid, and Batmen were made and used and wasted. There was no bat-price to be paid. No Clooney unsung, no Kilmer untasted. But then the Snyder comes at night, with his dick as loud as thunder. As he tears your hope apart. And he turns your dream to Affleck…

I want to go on record here. I have no problem with Ben Affleck. His work behind the camera is nothing short of excellent. Each of his movies, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and last year’s Best Picture winner Argo deserve every ounce of praise they have received. However, I don’t know what it is…whenever he gets in front of the camera everything just…well…goes wrong. What was a funny and smart indictment of modern Catholicism in Dogma turns to shit monster way too fast. What was Pearl Harbor…well, continued to be Pearl Harbor. At least in Argo all he had to do was grumble and pretend that he’s hispanic (Tony Mendoza? Really?). Even in the trailers for his new movie opposite that juggernaut of thespian training that is Justin Timberlake, he looks about as charismatic as a forgotten, carved pumpkin on November 10th. Just…deflated. So, I don’t have too much beef with the Affleck. Worse Batmen have been cast (AHEM Clooney AHEH-HEH-HEH-AGH-I’M-COUGHING-UP-BLOOD-HEM). Worse directors have been hired (Fucking Schumacher!). But, I thought we were past this, guys. I thought we had reached the new age of the Bat. Nolan resurrected the franchise and turned it into something relevant. Passing off a franchise like this to Zack Snyder is akin to Robert Oppenheimer going up to Gomer Pyle and saying “Hey, I’m mostly done with the atom bomb. Why don’t you finish up?” All we’ll be left with is a smoking crater, and scorched earth. I have made my opinions on Snyder as a director on many occasion…but he has quite successfully earned his nickname “Dick in the Ear” each and every time. He is the fucking worst on every level. Man of Steel was rotting pile of penis. The concept of a sequel makes me nauseous. Like I just saw a rotting pile of penis.

The runner up is well earned in this, the worst of my awards. The Great Gatsby is perhaps the least Batman of all millionaires. He earns all of his money illegally…he does nothing but throw parties…and he dies by being shot. Yep. Nothing Batman about that. Asshole.

BEST MOVIE OF THE SUMMER I WROTE ABOUT

Winner: The World’s EndRunner-Up: World War Z

Has a beer every been so strong that it burns a hole in a fucking sign?

This is some epic poetry shit right here.

Clarification is required. These are not the two best movies of the summer. In fact, especially the runner up, the quality best known as ‘goodness’ has barely a tenuous relationship with this duo. However, these were the two movies of the summer that I enjoyed the most (that I wrote about). Since we as a society have had the surgical addition of our new iAppendages, the concept of not glancing at one’s phone every three seconds is akin to self-castration. Why would you do it? Therefore, we have become guilty of addiction. At least Google is doing half the work for us with its new G-glasses or whatever. We don’t even have to look away! Just through! Man, imagine what that world would be like if we saw the world only through the lens of Google. I mean, every time we tried looking for any information, we’d go through Google…or trying to find our way back home…Google might even invade our movies! Oh…wait…

Anyway, as I was saying, these two films succeeded in delivering the impossible. I didn’t look at my phone once. For World War Z it was purely due to early-onset rigor mortis, my knuckles white with tension as they practically ripped the theater chair armrests from their sockets. The World’s End, however, earns the top place on this, the second most coveted Mooney Award (after Most Batman of course) because the film kept me locked into its content at every moment. If I were to glance away from the screen for even a millisecond, I might miss a micro-joke tossed into the mis en scene, a line of such palpable hilarity that I might vomit at its very suggestion. Therefore, I held onto every ounce of that film. And, to be fleetingly sincere for one moment in my life, to let the real world melt away into a memory for a meager two hour span was more than I can ever wish for. There is no way to hit the off button on my near-schizophrenic obsession with movie construction, forcing my enjoyment of a movie to devolve into a clinical dissection of its moving parts. I could disappear into The World’s End. I only drooled over its detailed genius after the fact. For those two hours, I was in another land. A land of Smashy Smashy Egg People, pubs and big lamps fucking off. Bravo, The World’s End for charging where the trilogy had never had the impetus to before. Also, good job World War Z for not being the bucket of old elephant-taint we all thought you would be. Way to hustle.

Actually Best Movie of the Summer I Couldn’t Write About Because My Girlfriend Fell Asleep and We Never Got Around to Seeing it Again

Winner: Much Ado About Nothing; Runner-Up: The Spectacular Now

I don't know about you, but I ONLY go scuba diving with a full martini glass.

I don’t know about you, but I ONLY go scuba diving with a full martini glass.

So…Amelia and I have this chronic issue. We sleep. Hard. I’m not kidding. I’m talking as hard as John MacClane dies, we sleep. Maybe double that amount. When I sleep, it is more akin to rehearsals for decomposition than replenishing rest. I become an immovable lump of flesh. Seriously, and this is true, my apartment once began to burn down and my friends were unable to wake me to drag me outside. And then I burned to death. Well, not really. But you get my point. Over my travels through the universe, searching for a better (or, at least, pretty much equal) other half, I seem to have discovered the only human on planet Earth more likely to sleep through her own demise. When we went to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, both of us giggling with our virginal Shakespeare boners tucked discretely into our belts, Amelia lasted about twenty minutes into the 10pm showing before setting sail for the Land of Nod on the SS PTFO. I, however, engorged myself on the glittering and near-perfect micro-budgeted adaptation from the man who personally murdered cinematic subtlety with a sextet of muscled heroes. When we left, Amelia was furious. And I mean seven-levels-of-Inferno-pissed that she had missed it. As the dutiful boyfriend, and ignorant of the pains of immolation, I tossed some gasoline on that fire by exclaiming, “OMG IT WAS SO GOOD”. I was refused a chance to post an article until she had finally seen it. Well…time came and time went and that trek to the Century Landmark became a thing of wilted dreams. The stunted beginnings of my deftly crafted opinions were left gathering dust in my ‘drafts’ section, begging to see the light of the Internet day. So, here it is, what I have of that article:

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) – Joss Whedon (Dir.), Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Tom Lenk

Oh the Century Landmark theatre. What a delightful place. This little gem, held aloft above the questionable antics of the AVEDA beauty school, a hidden sparkle in lodged in the bleached anus of Clark and Diversey, is the only ‘Art House’ cinema in the non-terrible sections of Chicago (aka, not downtown). This is the place where I have delighted in numerous filmic morsels, from the haunting and grotesque White Ribbon from Haneke to Aronofsky’s white-bitch-be-cray epic Black Swan to the endlessly charming Moonrise Kingdom, this place is the antidote to the poison that is the increasingly cyanic business of 3D/RPX/FUBAR BS subsuming all things of even tepid quality. As summer film puffs its chest and shrinks its testes, we are offered a cavalcade of mediocre bombast, a tidal wave of unnecessary spectacle with a rotten core. Scripts have devolved into a sort of See Spot Run anthology of idiocy, riddled with more stage direction than dialogue to the point that they might as well be adapted from a Beckett Play Without Words. Therefore, there couldn’t be a greater breath of fresh air than a minimalist comedy using words provided by one of the most beloved writers of all time. That’s right, Joss Whedon. I mean Shakespeare. Sorry. Shakespeare.

Much Ado About Nothing tells the tale of two barbed single friends who, whenever they meet, spend pretty much the entirety of the time raking each other through witty verbal brutality while their friends and family look on with more eye rolls than an optometrists bakery. Recently returned from a war where nobody died (yes, this kind of absurdity exists in the plays of Shakespeare), Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro have decided to put away their swords and unsheathe their most sacred weapons during a month-long frolic at the house of Leonato in Messina. If you haven’t read the play or, at least, looked up the Cliff Notes during high school because you undoubtedly had to read this ‘problem comedy’ at some point, none of this will make any sense. Claudio wants to hump Hero’s brains out…by way of marriage and, while the wedding is in its preparatory form, decides to hook up the two insufferable wits, Benedick (Alexis “Husband of Alison Hannigan” Denisof) and Leonato’s cousin Beatrice (an excellent Amy Acker). It’s the original ‘Will They? Won’t They?’ Tensions run high as the booze flows fast. Will Don Pedro’s inexplicably evil bastard brother Don John break up the wedding? Will Benedick fall for Beatrice? Will Nathon Fillion show up at some point?

SPOILER ALERT: Read the fucking play, you illiterate swine.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand that’s as far as I got. But, believe me, I laughed harder at this film than I did during anything else this summer season. There is one line in the final scene that almost made me, a grown man, request an adult diaper. Honestly, you should rent this shard of literary excellence and cinematic nonchalance immediately. It doesn’t tone down, dumb down or Whedon down any of the play. Amy Acker offers perhaps the best female lead performance of the season because, well, it’s the summer, so women are more likely to be seen and not humanized.

The other pick is the enigmatic indie, The Spectacular Now. It was a good movie, viewed on a quiet evening in the throw-back splendor of the Logan Movie Theater. It’s a problematic drama, exploring teen alcoholism, abusive relationships, and the dangers of codependent young love. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to writing an article on the film, though it struck some fairly vulnerable nerves relating to the ghosts of high school past… I will say, throughout the length of this quiet and thoughtful treatise on dependency and addiction, Pacific Rim was playing at full tilt in the next theater. Every crash of metal, every riff of the guitar, every flash of pubescent and puerile vicarious obliteration seeped through the paper-thin walls and derailed the somber tension. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of the reality of teenager inner life versus the escapism that generally ensues. It was weird, unsettling, and helpfully distracting from this composition of misery that was The Spectacular Now. See it. Or don’t. But it’s the sort of movie that has a right place and a right time. Right now…it feels like a blade in the gut. But that’s what candy is for. There is no coincidence that I ended up seeing Pacific Rim a week later in that same theater. Escapism is a drug whose addiction is only society acceptable due to its epidemical prevalence. I’ll take another hit. Always.

Most Hateful Towards Women

Winner: Pretty Much Everything…; Runner Up: Did You Read the Winner?

That’s right. Once more the heightened temperature brought us the cavalcade of overblown masculinity harshly present every summer. Granted, we didn’t have a Michael Bay movie to smack us with the hard end of a dick, but we certainly had Man of Steel. It seems that, day after day, we are offered more movies that, if not outrightly despise women, carefully ignore their existence as though the entire gender is simply a Forest Whittaker-esque servant lining the rooms of our bombastic and adolescent power fantasies. They waltz into the spotlight only when needed, their entire presence only determined by the male characters who ‘need a romantic counterpart’. In fact, almost every film on this list failed the exceedingly simple Bechdel Test (a movie passes if two or more named female characters have a scene without men and are not talking about men). Why don’t we go down the roster of movies I reviewed and grade them accordingly for how many women A) were in the movie; B) had conversations with people lacking penises C) worked on a movie. SPOILERS: the results are depressing.

This is how this award makes me feel.

The Great Gatsby: Okay, firstly, it’s a love story. It’s got Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker. Almost half of the five main characters are female. Not too bad. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Nope. If so, then barely. Jordan and Daisy might have a scene together but seeing as it’s Tobey “Dopey” Maguire narrative, he’s always there, like your overbearing mother at a sleepover. Also, granted it was written in the 20s-30s, the main woman is merely an object of affection, unburdened by the onerous heft of things like a ‘personality’ or ‘dramatic agency’. Director? Male. Writers? All male (duh). Grade: C-

Iron Man 3: Eh. This one has a couple of female characters, one of them being the only time G-Palt is not nauseating to watch. Yes, there is a scene between her and another female doctor that technically knocks this into the ‘pass’ category for Bechdel. However, in terms of pure screen time, ladies barely have a second to themselves. This is about RDJ. This is ALL about RDJ. I appreciated the prevalence of female soldiers on the opposing team. That was nice. But, all in all, too little too late. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: B-

Star Trek Into Darkness: Where the first movie made sure that Uhura was well-respected for her language abilities and her sassy attitude, here her essence is reduced to nothing more than a clinging-shrewish pain in the ass. She also only gets ONE chance to do the thing that she has been hired to do, you know, speak Klingon…and she fucks it up. It was probably because the blood rushed to her uterus too quickly saving her thinking organ from having to do too much work. Also, Alice Eve’s breasts are dropped into the movie. Why? So she can be in her underwear for no reason whatsoever. How many male leads? 9. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writers? All male. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Fuck no! Grade: D-

I wish I could have done this without a skull fracture.

Fast & Furious 6: Okay, this one is a shocker. Yes, this franchise is famed for knocking the testosterone levels up to 11 on all counts…but that goes for the ladies as well. We don’t have any weeping damsels in distress or floundering flaps of feminine flesh flaunted for their floopy bits. We have Gina fucking Carano punching Michelle Rodriguez in the fucking face. Does that mean it passes the Bechdel Test? HELL YES. A fist fight is a conversation, of sorts. And there ain’t no penis involved. Granted, the only adonis here who doesn’t manage to miraculously walk away from every auto accident unscathed is a woman…but that’s required for the ret-conned franchise reach-around that occurs in the final scene. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 4. Director? Male. Writers? Male. Still, it’s astonishing that the Fast and the Furious has set a higher bar for gender roles than Star Trek. Grade: B+

This Is the End: Um…do I need to say anything? Emma Watson shows up for like five minutes and the rest of the characters spend the film talking about dicks, semen, gay people, and pussies. Also, Watson is there for two seconds before someone mentions rape. Shudder. How many male leads? All of them. How many female leads? Do the math. Director? Guess. Writers? Really? Are we going to do this, guys? Grade: F

Man of Steel: Okay, this one, especially coming from the porn-addled mind of Zack “The Masturbator” Snyder, actually holds up okay. We have Amy Adams as an excellent version of Lois Lane, both confident and driven without anyone brandishing the dreaded ‘B’ word (and it ain’t ‘bunions’, people). Diane Lane is still as foxy as ever…though she doesn’t really get to do anything but be in trouble occasionally. Also…there’s that one bad guy Kryptonian Israeli lady. So…there’s some variety. While the rest of the meatheaded movie was about as intelligent as a passing of gas, the gender politics are not as abysmal as you’d assume. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Perhaps. If so, then barely. There are no memorable scenes between female leads with Henry “I Want to Lick Him” Cavill being around. How many male leads? 6. How many female leads? 4. Director? So male I want to put him in a post host. Writers? Maler than Norman. Grade: B-

World War Z: Granted, the entire film is about Brad Pitt globetrotting, so any characters he meets are around for about five minutes before becoming zombie chow. However, his wife and daughters are essential characters as is his Israeli bodyguard. Now, if you want to say a two second conversation between mother and young daughter passes the Bechdel Test, go ahead. Otherwise, Pitt takes up too much film to allow any room for anyone else, gender aside. How many male leads? Well, like 2 or 10, depending on how you classify lead. If they survive longer than ten minutes, then it’s 2. How many female leads? 2-4 if you count children as humans. I don’t. Director? Male. Writers? All of them male. All 3000 of them. Grade: C+

Despicable Me 2: This is an odd one. We have the three little girls that Gru cares for, though, in this movie, they are about as essential to the plot as my little toe is essential to my sex life (not very, just to be clear). The only other female presences are Kristin Schaal’s bemusing and whorish crazy date lady and Kristen Wiig’s almost schizophrenic, incompetently ultra-competent spy. Yes, this is a cartoon so reality isn’t really under fire here…but come on. Do all the women have to be cardboard cutouts of humans? How many male leads? Between 5 and 2,000,000 (if you count the minions who are the real stars of the show). How many female leads? 5. It mildly passes the Bechdel Test when the girls converse after Gru has put them to bed. Directors? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: B

Pacific Rim: Oh lordy. After Mr. Del Toro’s excellent and lady-filled Pan’s Labyrinth, you’d think he would keep the trend going. Apparently not. Pacific Rim has as much vagina as a bachelor party: one, and it belongs to a lady who really doesn’t seem to want to be there. Yes, we get glimpses of that one russian lady…but Rinku Kinkuchi is the only lady in this massive expolathon. So, yeah, no Bechdel pass here, guys. Sorry. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 1. Director? Male. Writer? Same guy. So, yeah, male. Grade: D

My impression of me after Man of Steel.

The Conjuring: Finally! Something with some ladies! Yes, due to the frustration of being based on a true story, this little ditty had to fill its ranks almost exclusively with the woman folk. From Vera Farmiga to the eternally abused Lily Taylor, this is all-lady. Granted, those ladies get beaten, possessed, assaulted, scared and puked on…but this is a free country. Every woman has the right to be possessed by a homicidal demon witch from Rhode Island. It’s Susan B. Anthony’s dream! How many male leads? 4. How many female leads? 7. Director? Male. Writers? Male as well. Sigh. Grade: A-

The World’s End: Another poor showing. Yes, this tale of the journey through the darkness of male adulthood doesn’t have much room for the ladies. While intelligence throbs through the main artery of this piece, gender politics do not. We have c-words and b-words and p-words tossed out all over the place with impunity. Hopefully, soon, they’ll have the courage to include a few more X chromosomes in the proceedings. How many male leads? 8. How many female leads? 1. Technically, it passes the Bechdel Test…but a woman talking to lady robots doesn’t really count, does it? Director? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: D+

Elysium: Here is the oddest of the bunch. While there are only a few ladies in the mix, the lead enemy of the film was originally written for a man but then adapted to be female by none other than Ms. Filmic Gender Equality herself, Jodie Foster. Without her presence, this clattering, flashing, jumble of epilepsy-inducing trash would have been sucked up its own masculine asshole. It, again, barely passes the Bechdel Test when Jodie Foster tells the nurse lady to stop attempting to save her. Yes, one word. That’s all these ladies get these days. How many male leads? 5. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writer? Male. Grade: C+

This is how this makes me feel always.

Isn’t it sad? Granted, those are only the movies I wrote about, but as a purely anecdotal cross section of modern blockbuster theater, statistically, this is a bad situation. Of course it’s fine to have a movie all about guys. That’s whatever. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross is a thing. It doesn’t mean that those movies are diminished in value. The issue is the clear and painful trend that has subsumed all Hollywood filmmaking. Women are supporters. They interact with male characters. They help. The reason so many films fail the Bechdel test is solely because the main characters are almost exclusively male. World War Z is a classic case. No matter how many strong female characters he runs into, they are almost the ‘guest star’ of the act, never crossing paths with anyone in the past. The systemic issue is one that truly needs to change. It seems as though when a movie has a female lead character, it’s labeled a women’s movie and so dies the death of inanity at the hands of focus groups who assume they know what women like. What greater indicator of this plague than the fact that Snow White was adapted to make THE HUNTSMAN the main character? Seriously, guys? The only movie this summer that arrived with a plethora of X-chromosomes that was not considered a chick-flick was The Heat…which is fine…though the movie looked like nothing more than a by-the-numbers screwball comedy. Maybe ladies have to start with the shitty genres before working their way up the budget food chain. Oh well. Maybe next year I’ll make this list and the average grade won’t be so abysmal. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll end up stabbing my eyes out during Batman vs. Superman. One can only hope.

Elysium (2013) – Neill Blomkamp (Dir.), Matt “The Hippo” Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Sharlto Copely, Alice Braga, Diego Luna

Short Circuit 3: Good Will Hunting

Short Circuit 3: Good Will Hunting

Guys. It’s my fucking birthday. As the earth completes yet another cycle about our solar celestial drain hole, constantly spinning and spinning like a piece of spinach that simply refuses to leave the damn sink, I step forth, or, rather, I step twenty-sixth into the future. Yes, the celebration of my not being dumb or unlucky enough to die in some sort of freak or genetic accident raged this weekend, claiming innocent livers like cirrhosis-ed trophies drowned in whiskey. After epic bouts of pizza, downing every fried delicacy I could force into my digestive tract without it hitting the emergency eject button, and passing out on my bathroom floor during a showing of Starship Troopers, my stalwart comrades of schlock film-going attended and enabled my every whim by joining me in a screening of Neill Blomkamp’s newest feature: Elysium.

And then I had a seizure.

Not really. But it actually felt as though I did. There was more flash and smash on screen than a mirror-wrestling match in the center of the fucking sun. Yes, Elysium, the newest and, if the box office receipts tell us anything, failing feature from a director smart and unlucky enough to earn necrotic labels such as ‘visionary’ and ‘genius’, thusly damning his works to a self-inflated death of recycled egotistical bullshit. I mean…that sounds harsh. But it’s true.

Elysium tells the tale of Matt “The Hippopotamus” Damon, an ex-con who’s just trying to keep his head on straight and, well, attached to his neck. Even if that head is shaved and makes the man look more like a hard-boiled egg than the prettier half of Matt-fleck (sounds better than Affmon or Matten or Bemon Maffdack – note to self: save name for terrible sic-fi epic). Unfortunately, due to the fact that everyone is poor, hungry and healthcare is distributed by creepy half-man-half-caterpiller nightmare-robots, his plan to not-die is doomed to failure. Thusly, after getting trapped in an irradiated room and told he’s going to die, “Cueball” Damon decides to storm the gates of the titular Elysium, a rich white-people paradise orbiting Earth. See, on Elysium they have these medical devices called “Magical Cure-all Get-Up-For-Fun In No-time” Machines or “MCGUFFIN” for short where, if you’re a citizen, all you have to do is lie down for about ten seconds and the thing etch-a-sketches you back to health. In order to break through the impenetrable missile defenses (which are, as inexplicably proved later in the movie, totally penetrable…kind of like licorice underpants) they must hijack the brain of a sleazy weapons manufacturer (William “I Was a Blind Guy in Contact, So the Title of That Movie Was Ironically Hilarious to Me” Fichtner).

"If you ask me about my shiny polyester suit one more time, I will stab you in the uterus."

“If you ask me about my shiny pant suit one more time, I will stab you in the uterus.”

In a spark of mind-bending coincidence, it turns out Fichtner has been planning with Jodie “The Pantsuit” Foster to create a program that will reboot Elysium’s systems and allow them to take control. Well, Damon inadvertently gets his hands on such sensitive material and decides that he’s going to make Elysium for EVERYBODY because, well, you know, there’s no such thing as limited resources. Oh yes, and to combat the cripplingly lethal dosage of radiation poisoning that is eating him from the inside out, Damon straps on a “Paraplegic Limitation Override Time-Helping Orthopedic Logistical Exoskeleton” or “PLOTHOLE” for short. What happens after that is a lot of punchy-punchy, blow-y uppy, smashy smashy, ow-my-eyeballs-hurt action along with perhaps the most bemusing performance of all time by Blomkamp regular and Teddy-Bear-cum-awkwardly-named-office-clerk Sharlto Copely.

Alright. This movie was enjoyable, to an extent. It wasn’t, however, nearly as deep nor as intelligent as it purported itself to be. Blomkamp gained fame after his aborted attempt to bring the utterly pointless film adaptation of Teenage-Boy-Power-Fantasy Halo to the silver screen and instead took about 30 million dollars of Peter Jackson’s money and made the exceedingly excellent District 9. His experience growing up in Johannesburg during Apartheid has drastically and rightly skewed his perspective of haves and have nots. He sees the world in dichotomy, one very much linked to the color of your skin. For Blomkamp, he was used to white people having and black people not. Now, this is not a unique experience, particularly in a city like Chicago or New York, though the social exclusionism of South Africa reached a fever pitch of detestable extent during that period of time. Throughout District 9 we are convinced that the bug-like grotesqueries that were the aliens had little more intelligence than your average coyote, all of them rabid, violent solipsists. However, as the hilariously monikered Wikkus Van Der Meer (Copely) transforms into one of their kind, the beings grow into a sympathetic and discriminated people. Granted, the end battle reduces the tale to little more than an ultra-violent Boss sequence in a video game, the build up excuses the digression. Eventually, we are given a surprising tale about repugnant creatures coming into a human and noble light. If you can handle swearing (I assume you can since you read this mutherfucking blog) and brutal violence, watch it. It’s fantastic. Even my mother, who said Pulp Fiction was little more than an extended smut video, thinks District 9 is one of her favorite movies.

"Hey man, even though your insides are rotting, this bad boy will make your spine incredibly overweighted. But deal with it, it's a plot point."

“Hey man, even though your insides are rotting, this bad boy will make your spine incredibly overweighted and would most likely cripple you. But deal with it, it’s a plot point.”

Regrettably, where District 9 succeeded, Elysium fails. Once again, Blomkamp has taken the honorable task of exploring a modern day political conflict and examined it in the light of historicization (or futurism or reverse-something-or-other). This time? The one percenters. Fuck those guys. Oh yes, and healthcare. Well, race is definitely still there, but certainly resting in the back seat like the quiet middle kid who knows it’s probably best to let the newborn cry and the eldest pitch a fit about not getting to spend the summer with her boyfriend and if only she would shut up the drive to Phoenix won’t be quite so goddamn agonizing. I’m not sure what just happened. Let’s move on. Anyhoo… Once again Blomkamp brings his infinitely precise eye for detail to the environment and artistic direction. The clothing design is simple and poor. The technology is, when not concerned with weaponry, believably basic. The future for him is not a pristine place. It’s dirty. It has graffiti. On EVERYTHING. He also focuses on making sure that the future is multi-national, his characters sporting more accents than the Swiss Linguistics and Polo Team (that’s totes a real thing (no it isn’t (how many parentheses can I put in before it gets annoying? (like, at the end there are going to be so many parentheses stacked up in one place (did you know we call them brackets in the UK? (true story (what if I ended this whole thing with a colon, like this :))))))). That’s absurd. Anyway, we’ve got Jodie Foster masticating some form of Quebecois ridiculousness, every possible Cholo accent they could dig up from LA, and Sharlto Copely barking tones that make him sound like a mentally deficient pirate (it’s heavily backwoods South Africa and it’s unintelligible). Also, for fucking once, the majority of side characters in this film are non-white. Granted, they’re also gangsters, car thieves, violent potty-mouthed brutes. But at least they’re not caucasian. Even an Indian fellow manages to work his way onto Elysium as the President. He’s the only one though. Fucking white people.

Unfortunately, such specificity of universe doesn’t necessarily extend to the script, where almost every plot decision is a facile as a fax machine (get it? Facsimile? SAT joke? No? You plebs) and the dialogue carries about as much gravitas as a toddler with a fucking crayon. Due to the plethora of international accents and the seemingly improvised script, every scene devolves into a baffling shouting contest with more curse words than a Wicca Pride Parade. Seriously, these people have mouths so dirty, they might as well open a porno-orthodontist (Pornodontist!). Somehow, throughout it all, Damon demonstrates why he is the lost golden god of cinema. He is infinitely likable at all points, never allowing his charm or charisma interfere with the action, but always buoying him to the top of the ‘watchable’ pile. Most of the performances are passable, with Foster giving a steely show in a role written for a male (something she admirably excels at) and Copely acting nuttier than squirrel turds. Unfortunately, the script is riddled with more throw-away lines than a fucking fly-fishing convention. When you cannot understand a goddamn word coming from a character’s mouth and yet you still know exactly what’s going on, you have to reevaluate your writing style, Mr. Blomkamp. Seriously.

"Excuse me, have you seen Ben Affleck? He has my Oscar."

“Excuse me, have you seen Ben Affleck? He has my Oscar.”

While District 9 did such a beautiful job of altering its audience before the 90 minute mark, this does little more than laud utopian and unrealistic ideals. What’s worse is that it crumbles into the same vicious mess as its predecessor…this time without the effective preamble. Honestly, though, I’m impressed with much of Blomkamp’s violence. Much like most of the artistic design and the gorgeously nasty CGI, it fits the world. He doesn’t give the gore a front seat like that guy voted Most Likely to Have a Woman Tied and Gagged in His Trunk, Eli Roth, but he makes it real and organic. Yes, a man is brutally dismembered by a railgun…but it’s more of an afterthought. It’s shocking, yet not titillating, as though it was filmed by a documentarian who had no idea what nastiness is coming. Such subtlety doesn’t follow with his camerawork. The child of the age of technology, Blomkamp employs every shaky-cam visual blending technique he can possibly think up to make the action more visceral. Well, it really only serves to make your viscera hurt. If only he could refrain from video-game-izing his climaxes, he could avoid the fist-to-the-face bluntness of the overall package.

Blomkamp’s eventual thesis is simple. Overly so. There should be redistribution of wealth and resources. Healthcare should be for everyone. The rich should give back everything. Okay…how…? Isn’t the fact that earth is an urbanized hellhole in the future due to overpopulation and lack of resources? By opening the doors of Elysium at the end (SPOILERS, but, come on, you saw it coming) they only serve to create yet another rock floating in space fully depleted of its production ability. No matter how many MCGUFFIN health devices they have…where does its power come from? Its cure-all magic fluid? Surely it isn’t infinite. These are the questions that, unanswered, nullify the impact of the message. They aren’t thought through. While District 9 is that clever asshole sitting in back, probably wearing a beret and carrying Nietzsche, who quietly argues with you until, by the end, he’s tricked you into arguing in favor of Nazism, Elysium is that airheaded freshman who yells at the class “EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE FREE THINGS ALL THE TIME. POSSESSIONS ARE MEANINGLESS!” Sure. That would be awesome. But healthcare isn’t infinite. We don’t have magical cure-all cancer-killing machines. We have grueling six-month courses of chemo-therapy, along with surgery, and oncologists, and surgeons, and MRIs and CTs and X-Rays and…(seriously, I watch a LOT of House). The dream of free shit for everyone is nice. It’s cute. It’s simply impractical. The difference between the two boils down to emotional vs. political. District 9 convinces the audience that, if they can change their mind about these cockroach creatures after 90 minutes, they can shift their preconceived notions about people of other races. Elysium says: we should have health care and the rich shouldn’t hide from us. Sure. I agree…but that’s the problem. Everyone watching will either brush it aside as idiotic or laud it as “exactly what I was thinking”. It’s nature as a self-aggrandizing power fantasy reduces its effectiveness to zilch.

"Yer fern oplem per facker." ~ Actual line of dialogue spoken by Copely.

“Yer fern oplem per facker.” ~ Actual line of dialogue spoken by Copely.

Blomkamp is a talented director. He needs a screenwriter. And he needs to avoid blowing things up for a little bit. You know…just for one movie. Just to see how it feels. Maybe then his fascinating ideas will actually break through rather than get stuck in the muck of explosive over-compensation and ultra-simplification.

Happy Birthday to me.

The World’s End (2013) – Edgar Wright (Dir.), Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, and everybody else ever

Has a beer every been so strong that it burns a hole in a fucking sign?

Has a beer every been so strong that it burns a hole in a fucking sign?

There are those people in high school. You know the guys. Their acne runs rampant and untamed across their goof-toothed faces, their dentures held tight with more metal than a steel mill, their hair perhaps yanked back into a slick oily ponytail, emphasizing each and every pore oozing shiny fluid in a constant stream of social awkwardness. They spend their days logging out the AV room to watch entire marathons of Tarantino films; they quote both Monty Python and Star Wars in their entireties; they own each and every one of the 151 Pokemon trading cards (NO, I REFUSE TO ACCEPT THAT THERE ARE ANY MORE THAN THAT, YOU WENCHES!). Their soporific disdain for general humanity reaches a level of sociopathy known only to the uni-bomber, thereby seemingly indicating intelligence where it might not perennially reside. They are the few. They are the brave. They are the nerds.

And I was one of them.

Now, usually, these fascinating creatures of obsessive delights and questionable hygiene tend to cultivate quality middle-management and the hellishly titled ‘IT Technician’ positions, their fetishes and dorkish fancies relegated to every other Friday night when crowded about a dimly lit Dungeon Master. But, once in a while, when the stars align just so, that bubbling and roiling pot of pop-culture primodial ooze creates something different…something genius. It was from this pit of eternal virginity and ridiculously bad Sci-Fi fan fiction that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did crawl, two gentlemen of specific and boundless expertise. Along with their hilarious lady friend Jessica Hynes-Stevenson, they crafted perhaps the greatest and most referential sitcom of all time, Spaced. Oh 1999, a simpler time. A time of a Spice Girls movie. A time before The Phantom Menace. This trio of comedic brilliance introduced us to friends, nay, televised soulmates of all humans lucky enough to watch it, Daisy, Tim, Mike (Nick Frost), an artist who paints with his penis (Brian, oh how I love thee), a drunk land lady (Julia Deakin), a woman named ‘Twist’ and the most perfect dog ever to grace God’s green earth. (Awww, Colin). This mania of a serial nonsense, spanning references to Resident Evil, Damien Hurst, Trainspotting and an impressively long homage to Empire Strikes Back, allowed both our writer (Pegg) and our director (Wright) to cut their teeth better than a fucking orthodontic surgeon with a penchant for vampires. Eventually, once both seasons of the criminally short show (twelve episodes in all) passed the world by, their ball-blazing brilliance lost to the universe, Pegg, Frost and Wright teamed up to create the world’s first feature comedy about zombies, Shaun of the Dead.

He looks like the magician you book you your kid's birthday party and arrives with his own heroin and enough STDs to share.

He looks like the magician you book you your kid’s birthday party and arrives with his own heroin and enough STDs to share.

Since then, the Cornetto Trilogy, as it is named for their barely-edible eponymous treats omnipresent throughout all three films, has exploded into an international phenomenon. While Shaun of the Dead was a goofy musing on how the British would deal with an onslaught from the living dead (Bill Nighy says after being bitten, “Oh don’t worry, Barbara, I’ve run it under a cold tap!”), it flirted with intelligence by way of it’s exploration of adult male arrested development. Shaun is a man who must grow to fit the adult universe and leave behind his dead weight pal, the noxious and obnoxious Ed, in order to get the girl and a freaking job. Of course, as the film melts into its referential source, devolving into a mostly by-the-numbers zombie chomp fest, all of the supporting characters becoming nothing more than a human stand-ins for an oinky pal in a Luau, the comedy subsides in favor of drama and message. It’s good; it’s funny; but the men are children and the girls are women. The thesis is simple and exhaustive, rarely providing any fascinating realization. You come for the zombies; you stay for the comedy; you suffer the point.

After that, we were treated with the gut-bustingly gigglicious Hot Fuzz. Once again, it was a titter-filled juxtaposition of British mentality and quaintness against the explosive bombast and brutal violence of Michael Bay movies. Unlike Dead, which gets to the funny without delay, Hot Fuzz simmers and matures, warming its subject to a metaphorically and literally incendiary climax, fully equipped with old women getting kicked in the face, a homicidal goose, and Timothy Dalton impaling his chin on a model church steeple. Once again, you came for the laughs, you stayed for the old men pulling uzis from their bicycle baskets, you waited to get through the ‘message’. Unfortunately, Fuzz lost itself. While the buddy cop dynamic of Pegg’s impossibly competent Nick Angel and Frost’s obsessive and regressive Danny Butterman holds the focus for a majority of the runtime, its interest in adult male bonding does little to progress their already stated premise from Dead, this time the roles reversed.

"What happens in the Gents, stays in the Gents, alright?" ~ Boys, experimenting.

“What happens in the Gents, stays in the Gents, alright?” ~ Boys, experimenting.

Ah, yes, so now we come to The World’s End. It’s pretty much safe to say, this is my favorite fucking movie of the summer. There is no way I’ll accept any bullshit involving flying zombies, half-baked Men of Very Hard Things or the steaming pile of smegma that was Star Trek Into Darkness. This doesn’t just take the cake, it walks into the fucking bakery and shoves its face into every fucking cake it can find declaring, “NA NA NA NA NAH, MY CAKES, ASSHOLES“. Dear Jesus. To say I laughed would be an understatement of such absurd proportions that it is only rivaled by “This Black Death thingy. It’s bad, isn’t it?” (Don’t worry, I would have been fine. I watch House). There are lines forever more ingrained into my sorry fanboy skull (“Fuck off, you big lamp!” and “Smashy, Smashy Egg People” are going on my goddamn gravestone). It’s good. No…maybe it’s great. Now, there are people who might charge into the theater expecting some sort of comedic holy grail. You know, the perfect comedy. And those people are just as stupid as that one Nazi at the end of Last Crusade who chose poorly and turned into what we all know Sharon Stone would become once you turn off her Youth Sucking Device. You know the guy (Side note: I once had an acting class with that man, Julian Glover. He’s fucking old. He prodded me. Not in a sexual way. At least…not that I was aware. Oh god…wait…OH GOD). Now, it probably isn’t quite as testicle-tickling as the previous two installments, but what it lacks in giggle, it makes up for in messageTHAT’S RIGHT. YOU DIDN’T EXPECT THAT, YOU BASTARDS. Yes, it seems that the boys have finally grown up, put on their big-boy pants and discovered that they don’t fit anymore. The World’s End is one of the more depressing treatises on bromance I’ve witnessed in the last few years. While Judd Apatow continues to perpetuate his infinite comedic circle jerk, constantly sucking brighter stars into his celestial festival of cyclic self-abuse, Wright and Pegg use this film to ask the question: what does it mean to get stuck in the past? And how do we survive a parasitic friendship?

We have Gary King (Pegg with a dye job worse than a that old woman at the supermarket with a head of purple), the once and future, well, you get it, of his high school cronies. After an innocent inquiry from a gentleman in his support group, King decides he needs to finish a pub crawl he failed to complete back in the nubile days of yore (meaning 1992). To do so, he gathers his court of middle-aged jesters. What seems like an exercise in mild lampooning in order to up the offerings on the ‘sacrificial lamb’ menu, ultimately encourages you to actually care about these sad-sacks. Of course, there’s King, whose indefatigable abstruseness is the cause of almost everybody’s woe, as well as Frost’s recovering alcoholic, Andy. Those two are a given. Who knew that Paddy Considine (Detective Andy from Fuzz, and that guy that gets shot in the face in the third Bourne movie) would turn into the romantic lead? Also, Eddie Marsan is perhaps the most adorable dollop of corporeal pathos ever to open an account at Barclays. Even John Watson joins the fun, on break from foiling cases while Khan blows up Starfleet, to sell real estate and talk on a bluetooth.

All were shocked whenhHis 'Stop in the Name of Love' routine suddenly took a dark and homicidal turn...

All were shocked whenhHis ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ routine suddenly took a dark and homicidal turn…

Yes, we’ve all seen the trailers. The crawl quickly devolves into a eery ode to Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a peculiarly LEGO twist. While logic would dictate that those idiots should get the fuck out of the infectious town, filled with siren-spouting, hand mangling, easily-offended, unkillable blue-raspberry robots, the boys don’t. King lives up to his name, charging the gauntlet one pint at a time, his entourage doing whatever they can to drag him back to safety. It’s been six years since the Wright/Pegg/Frost band played their last gig, all of them going their own way, from duets (Pegg and Frost’s Paul) to solo pieces (Wright’s hilariously misogynistic and delightful Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), they have finally reached their acme. Pegg is on fire as King, igniting every scene like a dad covered in silly string; Frost successfully navigates the descent from depressed family man to hulking brawler; and Wright couldn’t be more on top of his game. As I once heard in a Community DVD commentary (yes, I am that fucking nerdy, alright? And yes, losing my virginity was exceedingly difficult. DEAL WITH IT), a director making a joke is like “a llama spinning a web. It’s really cool when it happens but no one expects it”. If that’s true, then Edgar Wright is the fucking Spider-Llama. Every edit is a gag. Even his mis en scene is precise and perfect enough to make Trouffaut weep with inadequacy. Together, this trio isn’t just dynamite, they’re a nuclear core of pure hilarity.

It’s a shame Ms. Hynes-Stevenson didn’t join them after her cameo in Shaun of the Dead. All of their movies suffer a distinct lack of vaginal population. It’s pretty much the boyiest clubs of boys since Boy George opened a buoy shop on Boy Bay. (They are fabulous nautical directional devices. Also terrifying and completely useless). In fact, I’m fairly sure precisely none of their movies pass the Bechdel Test. It’s a shame that boys can only talk about boys in an absence of non-penises. Le sigh.

Oh, yes, and Rosamund Pike is in this. And she kicks  a lot of Robo-booty.

Oh, yes, and Rosamund Pike is in this. And she kicks a lot of Robo-booty.

Well, while the climax, compared to Hot Fuzz, is little more than a wordy discourse basically stolen from The Day the Earth Stood Still…just with more ‘cunts’ thrown in, the magic of The World’s End is truly in the characters. It gets dark. Like really dark. Nostalgia isn’t simply a way of life for those of us too emotionally screwed up to take a leap out of the shallow end of the pool, it can be lethal. King is perhaps the most pathetic protagonist of the Wright/Pegg universe. In fact, by all definitions, he is both protagonist and antagonist, never really able to earn the title of anti-hero because there is literally nothing heroic about the man. Every choice is an extension of his brutal self-pity and solipsism, each decision dragging his friends further into the liquor-lined rings of Tartarus. Over and over we are reminded he is the King, the pointman, the Jesus to their Apostles. But King of what? His court has diminished to a band of tired middle aged John’s, none of them interested in reliving the former glory. In aging and losing the spark of youth, they’re all invited into the Collective, a world where mediocrity and homogeny aren’t simply encouraged, but essential. Wright and Pegg fear the mass of middle-aged zombism that so easily subsumes the middle class, each of their Trilogy attacking collectivism on opposing fronts. Here the assault has been perfected. The World’s End’s eventual postulation is that imperfection is human and any eradication of those mild maladies would be to fundamentally change what we are. But those errs come at a cost. And that cost is a man such as Gary King.

Finally, we have a tale of male immaturity that doesn’t simply spout, “Women are terrible and we should be able to act like a stoned bags of dicks. Just flopping about. Like a bag of dicks” (full disclosure: this is the second time I’ve incorporated the image of a bag of dicks into my work. I don’t know why. That image is just so tickling. Like…a bag of dildos…that are actually penises. I wonder if there’s a psychological meaning behind that. Huh). This is about growing up. Granted, it ensures that we know immaturity and acting like drunken louts is a cornerstone of human society, but at its core, The World’s End is a goofy cautionary tale. Growing up is terrifying. To be young is to be labeled a courier of potential, a seed shot out into the dusty earth, assumed to blossom into the grand arbor we all expect. But what if we don’t? What if that potential becomes the scars of our personal failure? What then? The pressures of adulthood aren’t simply great, they’re intoxicatingly horrifying. Gary King is the grandest example of what failure looks, tastes, sounds and smells like.

"I wonder if I'm part toaster, part Cylon? Does that make me a Toaster Toaster?" ~Existential Murder Robot is Existential.

“I wonder if I’m part toaster, part Cylon? Does that make me a Toaster Toaster?” ~Existential Murder Robot is Existential.

Finally, someone understands that childishness isn’t simply a choice. It’s a shelter. And it’s one that will always, always collapse. The question is, will you get out and make your way in time?

How could something so beautiful end so horribly?

How could something so beautiful end so horribly?

Bats, it’s been a good run. We really need to look back over the years and understand where we started and where we have arrived. Back then…we were young, you only 50 and me only 2. I mean, I knew there was an age difference. People said we couldn’t be together, that I was ‘too young for you’. But that didn’t stop me stealing your VHS-card and spending a heavenly two hours cuddled up next to you in my basement. My love for you scared me. You also scared me. Literally scared me. No joke, that part where Jack Nicholson falls in the big vat of green stuff made me terrified of pea soup forever more. Fucking terrifying.

Now, I will admit, we’ve had our ups and downs. You had that weird period in the 90s where you experimented way too much. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to forget the atrocities of Bane and Poison Ivy. But…I forgave you. There was nothing you could do. I mean, with a man like Joel Schumacher forcing you to do things…unspeakable things. I’m sorry. At least…at least we had the Animated Series. That was a constant. A perfect, unending stream of adoration to which I could cling, my anchor in the storm, my kiss from a rose on the gray. We went through so much, you and I. I could never leave behind Batman Returns…how could I not love you for that? Clowns? Danny Devito? Michelle Pfiffer in a skin-tight suit? You gave me Christopher Walken in a bow-tie. What more could a girl wish for?

But then you were gone. I should have left you. They told me there was no way to return from George Clooney…no way to escape the gravitational force of Chris O’Donnell’s and Alicia Silverstone’s tanking careers. I let you go. I removed you from my life. Yes, I will admit, on stormy nights I’d curl up with the box sets of the Animated Series and cry for the days of yore. The days when we were happy. BEFORE Jim Carrey in a green lycra suit.

Then, one day, you came back, from outer space and you found me here with this sad look upon my face. Out of all the movieplex’s in all the world, you had to stroll into mine. You were different; you were new. You had a new man. Chris Nolan and Chris Bale were at your side and you had changed for the better. You seemed happy, in between the horrendously depressing storytelling. You showed me wonders…the Scarecrow, Heath Ledger, Bane’s stupid fucking voice. It was a beautiful dream from which I never wished to wake. And, with the ending of the trilogy, I knew it was over once more. It never could last. No matter how much I begged. So I cried. I let you go. I went through every stage of Bat-grief, from Bat-Denial (“they’ll make another!”) to Bat-Anger (“Fuck you! You can’t leave me!”) to Bat-Bargaining (“I’ll give you anything you want. I’ll even let JGL be Robin! Please!”) to Bat-pression (liquor bottles everywhere, “remember Batman and Robin? I want to die”) to finally Bat-ceptance (“At least Zack Snyder never made a Batman movie!”).

And now this. This. You come to me with this? Talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back. And by straw, I mean Ben Affleck (“Don’t put me on that camel, you quee-ah!”). You came back into my life, after I accepted you were gone…WITH THIS? Who the fuck do you think you are? Come on. I could handle Burton. I liked Nolan. I even forgave you for Joel “Phantom of My Anus-Opera” Schumacher. But ZACK SNYDER? Do you know how he’ll treat you? Did you even see Man of Steel? You don’t need me to tell you this is mistake. You think you’re happy with your $200 million dollar budget and your Frank Miller based script. But you’re not. Snyder will change you. He’ll make you a monster. Affleck is only the beginning. Sure, you think, “Argo was great!”. DID YOU EVER WATCH REINDEER GAMES?

This is your new man? What is wrong with you, Bats? Why do you hate yourself?

This is your new man? What is wrong with you, Bats? Why do you hate yourself?

So, my love, this is the end. It’s over. I can never expect to get you back. I’ll see your Batman vs. Superman: Big Swinging Dongs Edition. And I’ll hate myself for it. But, I suppose, I’ve let you go. It’s over. It’s time for you to move on and make your own choices. Who am I to accuse your new boyfriend of suffering from acute dick-in-the-ear? Who am I to say that Affleck is a flabby has-been who is only truly talented when behind the camera. People said the same thing about Keaton. Sort of.

I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Snyder. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that franchise leaves the ground and you’re not with him to make The Justice League, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

We’ll always have The Animated Series. We didn’t have it, we’d lost it, until you came back to Batman Begins. We got it back last Dark Knight.

Batman, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of kryptonite in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

Here’s looking at you, Bats.

It's over. For real this time.

It’s over. For reals this time.

[He takes off into the night, his iconic bat joining with Superman’s S, a symbol of hope and future. I watch him go in silence, knowing what I’ve lost. I turn to Joss Whedon and The Avengers at my side.]

Avengers, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Pacific Rim (2013) – Guillermo Del Toro (Dir.), Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Idris “Charlie” Elba, Rinko “Chuck” Kikuchi, Burn “That is His ACTUAL Name; Also Charles” Gorman, Ron “Chaz, Chuckles, Charmeleon” Perlman

Jaegers vs. Kaiju. German vs. Japanese. It's like the opposite of World War II!

Jaegers vs. Kaiju. German vs. Japanese. It’s like the opposite of World War II!

I have a very tenuous and strange relationship with Guillermo Del Toro’s almost-pornographically eponymous epic of robots-battling-ocean-aliens, Pacific Rim. It has been years since the genius Mexican director (literally. IQ is off the charts) has been offered a chance to actually make a movie. Ever since Hellboy: The Golden Army, he has been flush with enough cinematic deals to make even Spielberg balk and, like Clint Eastwood’s erectile ability, his career has steadily deflated over the last five years. First it was Halo, the video-game adaptation that only the masculine-minded adolescent high-of-hormones and the verbally-flatulent begged for. That fell apart. Then there was The Hobbit. But, like some kind of Gollum, Peter Jackson kicked the hefty hispanic auteur from the project screaming “MY PRECIOUS!” and, like the Ring to Rule them All, it perverted something beautiful and delightful into a 3 hour tonally inconsistent J.R. Tolkcle-Jerk. Finally, Del Toro’s last attempt at salvaging what was once an Oscar nominated run in the Hollywood whore-dome, he was greenlit to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness with a $200 million budget, an R-rating and Tom Cruise. Guess which aspect of that fell apart? Oh, right, all of it. And so, the endlessly talented Mr. Del Toro has been wandering from studio to studio begging for work, a latter day Nikola Tesla, once a pioneer genius and now dying alone penniless in a New York hotel.

And now! Finally! He has returned! Pacific Rim uses up all of those pesky Cthulu drawings he did for the Lovecraft movie and transforms them into immense beasts labeled, according to the opening credits (sponsored by Merriam-Webnerd’s Dictionary), Kaiju. These things have come out of a dimensional rift in, you guessed it, the Pacific Ocean, and are gradually laying waste to the terrified citizenry of earth. To combat them, all of the nations of the world  came together (HA. Like that would ever happen) to build Jaegers, skyscraper-esque fully-loaded androids piloted by two people (I’ll get to that in a second). And that’s about it. I mean, there is a plot that extends past that…technically. But, in essence, it boils down to ROBOT SMASH. We have the deflated and utterly uncharismatic lead character, [INSERT WHITE MALE HERE] who is looking for a new co-pilot after his brother played by [INSERT ANOTHER WHITE MALE HERE] was killed in again, all the while butting heads with [INSERT YET ANOTHER WHITE MALE HERE]. Overseeing it all is Idris “If Morgan Freeman Ate Cigarettes” Elba, as the passionate and grumbly General (and this is not a joke, this is his actual name) Stacker Pentecost. Bang Bang from The Brothers Bloom (Rinko Kikuchi) shows up as the only character with even the most minute amount of depth and takes over as the emotionally questionable co-pilot for Charlie Hunnam, who you might recognize from shooting Julianne Moore in the throat during Children of Men (SPOILERS). Also, they find a feral Philly boy (Charlie Day), give him a medical degree and then link his brain into a Kaiju’s. Aaaaaaand no Del Toro movie is complete without Ron Perlman strutting in like some kind of heavenly pimp and shooting off the best lines in the fucking movie: “I’m Hannibal Chau. I took my first name from my favorite enemy of Rome and my last name from my second favorite Chinese restaurant.” People die, things explode, Charlie Day yells about things and the day is saved.

These are three of the leads. From left: Bland, Blander and Vanilla Ice

These are three of the male leads. From left: Bland, Blander and Vanilla Ice

How did this film come into being? The intrinsically cynical side of my movie adoration assumes that the studio meeting went a little like this: Mr. Del Toro, after months without work and eating nothing but stale popcorn and pasta with cheese, sat in the waiting room with the blueprint for a fantasy epic. It would be a tour de force, spanning both medieval and modern European history, pulling in mythology and thematic resonance from every possible culture, all coalescing into a beautiful whole before building to a thought-provoking and cathartic end. However, when he stepped into the room and, in moderately broken English, described what could be a latter day Jason and the Argonauts or perhaps a cinematic Ulysses, the executive, who, in my brain, is smoking a cocaine-laced cigar and his feet resting on an unpaid sex-tern (indeterminate gender) stops him mid-word and says, “That’s gay. Gimme something else.”

So, Del Toro, terrified he might have to return to his job of playing Michael Moore’s doppelganger at Bar Mitzvahs, looks around the room and says, “Um…how about…uh…robots…?”

Executive (chewing hemlock), “I LOVE IT. It’s like Transformers! Or Real Steel! Or Barbara Streisand’s face! Go on.

Del Toro, “And, uh, monsters…big ones…from outer…”

Executive (autoerotically asphyxiating), “Space? Boring. You’re losing me, SEÑOR.”

Del Toro, “From the ocean! And they fight! And the robots could be controlled by two pilots so that their dreams and memories are combined allowing us to explore…”

Executive, neck pulsing from an overdose of amphetamines, “IT’S LIKE POWER RANGERS THE MUTHERFUCKING MOVIE! WHY HASN’T ANYONE MADE THAT YET? TAKE ALL THE MONEY YOU NEED!”

Thus, Pacific Rim was born. Now, this may seem like I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did. Thoroughly.  It is, in essence, the culmination of a young child sitting in a toy box and smashing his plastic figurines about, a pint-sized wanton and ruthless god, torturing his minute Mattel minions. I was once that child. I was once the arbiter of imaginary obliteration for my army of defenseless Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes, and Barbies…I mean, not Barbies. I didn’t play with Barbies. And they totally didn’t have weddings to the G.I. Joes with 21-gun salutes. And military soirees. And they totally didn’t role-play the “Your Husband Died in Action Fighting Teddy Ruxpin”, which would have totally won the Andrew’s Imaginary Playground Oscars if My Little Pony hadn’t developed ovarian cancer while dealing with a fucking divorce from the Care Bears. NONE OF THAT EVER HAPPENED.

I wish I had more friends growing up.

"WHY WASN'T I IN A LOVECRAFT MOVIE? DAMN YOU STUDIO POLITICS!" ~ rough translation.

“WHY WASN’T I IN A LOVECRAFT MOVIE? DAMN YOU STUDIO POLITICS!” ~ rough Kaiju translation.

Anyhoo. The robots are big. The monsters are bigger. The explosions are eruptive and might jostle your bowels. And yes, that little boy that lives inside of us all (not literally…unless you’re pregnant) gets to rollick and roil in the theater seats as big things go boom. Even though, in some misguided attempt at thematic meteorological metaphor or pathetic fallacy (literary term. Ask my mom) or just because it’s cheaper, every fucking battle happens at night and in the rain. Am I to expect it’s ALWAYS monsoon season in Hong Kong? I’m pretty sure they have daylight at least 14 hours a day, but that’s just me. This movie, in the hands of a novice or an idiot, could have been essentially Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla 2: Hong Kong Boogaloo. Del Toro ain’t slow. In almost every aspect of this thing, his quality and creativity seeps through, whether he wants it to or not. While the characters are about as interesting as the climax of Drying Paint: The Motion Picture and the script was most likely, at one point, scribbled on the inside of a bathroom stall during a particularly strenuous coke-hooker-and-ass triumvirate, Del Toro holds this thing together, delivering an exciting and compelling piece of schlock. It’s dumb. But goddamn is it pretty. As always, the art direction is impeccable and the creature design is fancy enough to make Ray “Harry” Harryhausen suffer incontinence (but then again, everything does. Because he’s old. Or dead. One of the two).

Perhaps the most bemusing and delightful aspect of the movie is its utterly incongruous comedic subplot following the man simultaneously voted Least Likely to Get a PhD and Most Likely to Electrocute Himself, Charlie Day, as he sprints through Hong Kong hunting down an intact Kaiju brain in order to discover the ins and outs of their hive-mind-based species. While blandy Mc-Vanilla-face (Charlie Hunnam) beats the shit out of Cloverfield with a fucking freighter, Day’s antics both provide a respite from the visual over-stimulation and illuminates the intelligence subtly humming under this movie’s surface. Del Toro, like most boys with proclivities of the comic-book variety, are no strangers to sci-fi world building. In fact, I would guess that his favorite part of any new project isn’t necessarily Spielbergian emotional manipulation, but the world-crafting essentials. I’m willing to bet that he has notebooks filled with the history of the Kaiju, the details of their societal structure, the basics of their biology as well as the history of the Kaiju war in its totality. I mean, come on, the guy defines words in the first frame. He makes up dumb terms like “Neuro-Drifting” and “Shatterdome”. No great sci-fi can ever be without nonsense word-copulation and this does not disappoint. This feels like a fully-realized conflict, rather than the ho-hum idiocy of the Transformer movies.

Charlie: "Awww man, I wish I got to wear a crazy costume like you." Ron: "What costume?"

Charlie: “Awww man, I wish I got to wear a crazy costume like you.”
Ron: “Costume?”

It is a shame, however, that Del Toro is reduced to the Hollywood sidelines. He is quickly becoming analogous to the scarily phonetically-similar Terry Gilliam. Del Toro demonstrated with The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth that he is capable of brilliant historic and magically realistic storytelling that resonates on a pure, human level. It’s no secret that some of that emotional subtlety was lost on Pacific Rim. There are flashes, however. Perhaps the most compelling concept hiding under the smash and boom antics is the concept of ‘Drifting’, where two pilots, incapable of controlling a Jaeger by themselves, need to link neurally to share the load. All dreams and memories are melded and, if the link isn’t stable, the two can be caught in a maelstrom of mental disarray. In these moments, Del Toro’s narrative abilities shine through, tiny rays breaking out of the overwhelming clouds of AWESOME. If there was anyone who could bring pathos to a tale such as this, it is that man. He doesn’t quite overcome the limits of the passable script, but he makes the thing, for the most part, coherent (Some of the fight scenes were more confusing than a badger on acid…but, full disclosure, I watched this after seeing Despicable Me 2 and brought enough booze for myself, my girlfriend and another friend but, after my GF fell asleep and my friend bailed, I drank all of it myself. So…that might have contributed to the bemusement).

I beg the Hollywood Idiocracy to grant Del Toro the chance to flourish as the great filmmaker he’s meant to be. He could make something great, something new, something timeless. He could offer children the next Star Wars or Indiana Jones. J.J. Abrams is proving himself to be the Zooey Deschanel of directors, pretty and intriguing, but you kind of get sick of the shallowness after a while. GIVE DEL TORO A CHANCE, HOLLYWOOD!

Unless they hate Mexicans for some reason. I mean, they let Robert Rodriguez stick his thumb up his ass, why can’t they let Del Toro do something good?

Man of Steel (2013) – Zack Snyder (Dir.), Henry “The Howitzer Show” Cavill, Amy “More Pantsuit Than a Hilary Clinton Cosplay Convention” Adams, Michael “I’M NOT YELLING, THIS IS THE WAY I TALK” Shannon, Russell “Fuck That Guy” Crowe, Diane “Silver Fox” Lane, Kevin “The Silverier Foxier, Well More of a Possum” Kostner and Laurence Fishburne.

It seems as though Snyder signed up for JJ Abrams's master class, "Lens Flare and You: How to Give Your Audience Epilepsy"

It seems as though Snyder signed up for JJ Abrams’s master class, “Lens Flare and You: How to Give Your Audience Epilepsy”

Here we are. Finally Chicago has figured out it’s insufferable mood swings and delivered us some weather worthy of the word ‘Summer’. And, as every Chicagoan is like to do, I have begun complaining about the heat and the sweat-where-sweat-shouldn’t-be almost immediately. So, instead of delving into my fickle meteorological tastes, let’s complain about something else. As the perturbed (and probably pretty drunk) carnie says, “Oh look, another fucking tentpole”. Yes! Tis the season for a metaphorical filmic circus. What kind of tentpole is Man of Steel? Is it the big ring? The freak hut? Where they store the elephant dung? Keep reading, because the answer might surprise you!

Or the answer might not! It probably won’t. Let’s get that out of the way. This movie was quite safely on the “Movies I will See and Hate Myself” list for good reason. For every excellent sign of its quality, there was an equal and opposite red flag. This thing is the Newton’s Third Law of films. Every point counting in its favor has an exact opposite measure pulling it inexorably into the harsh no man’s land of bland BS. It becomes the worst possible thing a summer blockbuster can be: boring.

Alright, the basics. Our director treats us to an absurdly overlong prologue in which we learn far more about Kryptonian politics than anyone has ever wanted. Jor-El (Russell “The Muscle” Crowe) and his wife Lara give birth to the only naturally born Kryptonian in hundreds of years (well, the wife gives birth, he just creepily watches. Because, you know, Russell Crowe). Oh, and the world is falling apart due to energy harvesting. Oh, and it’s also apparently Pandora after the humans win in Avatar 2 and strip it of all its resources. Oh, and there’s a council with more funny hats than a Tarsem hat-a-thon. Then, Michael Shannon enters, without any insane yelling or creepy laughs, as the curiously monikered ‘Zod’. He, in the essence of some kind of space Hitler, wants to eradicate the weaker Kryptonian bloodlines by way of a thing called a Codex…a knock off of the Crystal Skull that can be read by a computer with…um… And there’s a fight… And he’s arrested or…uh…well…

I imagine this is the contraption Dick Cheney uses to suck the youth out of virgins.

I imagine this is the contraption Dick Cheney uses to suck the youth out of virgins.

Bored yet? That’s only the first twenty fucking minutes. In all seriousness, there seems to have been a great effort to realize Krypton to the fullest degree, from the organic Dune-esque costume design to a Game of Thrones-ian definition of the Krypton Houses. I have no doubt that one day a Krypton Wiki will find its way into existence and we’ll be able to examine every inch and frame of the homeworld in the way that only single people who are more connected to their ISP than to any other hum-on beings can do so. Here’s the problem: everything gets fucking destroyed. All of that detail is adorable and all…but we are fine with it in the background and not chewing up precious screen time. The kicker is that the entire prologue is retold by Russell Crowe in a later scene. It was reminiscent of the infamous “Underwears” story from Tommy Wiseau’s shitter-piece The Room. But I’ll return to that gripe later.

The rest of this 2.5 hour behemoth follows the more-ripped-than-my-curtains-after-pissing-off-my-cat Henry Cavill as the titular Man of Really Difficult to Kill Stuff. He wanders through this feature a removed observer, keeping his cool better than a bored jedi. By way of increasingly redundant flashbacks, we get to see the man find his way through these powers that, at first, scare the ever loving shit out of him. Finally, he finds an old ship haunted by the electronic ghost of Russell Crowe (who found the wrong end of a sword when Michael Shannon fulfilled the dream of everyone who saw Les Miserables). From there, he gets his shiny mesh suit and begins just kinda flying around and not giving a fuck about anything. I appreciated that. Seriously, if I could fly, that’s all I would do. Ever. It would never get boring. Ever. But then, Zod comes looking for the Gentleman of a Hardened Exterior and then the movie begins the grandest exercise in tedium since I downed too much pinot noir and decided to organize a ten-year collection of random change.

Is it weird that I find this actress incredibly attractive in a Joan of Arc of Satan kind of way?

Is it weird that I find this actress incredibly attractive in a Joan of Arc of Satan kind of way?

Firstly, let’s be clear, I had a number of overwhelming prejudices when waltzing into this particular multiplex. Zack Snyder is at the helm, a man who, like Achilles as a child, was dipped into a steaming vat of liquid testosterone to the point that his brain is more testicular than neurological. He is a walking, breathing example of why you can’t leave AndroGel around your children. He gave us the delightful, yet hollow Dawn of the Dead, the my-homophobia-radar-is-going-haywire-yet-my-eyes-are-bleeding 300, the horrific letdown of a comic ‘masterpiece’ Watchmen and, the pies de resistance, the spine-tinglingly, mind-numbingly, jaw-droppingly horrendous excuse for a waste of megabytes that was Sucker Punch. However, here Mr. Snyder has an unseen hand guiding his work. Mr. Christopher “Buzzkill” Nolan watches over this movie like some kind of dark knight, making sure that dick-for-brains Snyder doesn’t hurt his loose plans for the Justice League and topple his attempt to show Joss Whedon that there can be two versions of The Avengers, except in his, nobody will have any fun whatsoever. We have a darker Superman. One with ‘feelings’. This movie is dotted with some incredibly tender moments, all carried by that muscly machine of stoicism Henry “Dreamboat” Cavill. His relationships to his earth ‘parents’ and his budding love with the heavily pantsuited and thankfully likable Amy Adams are legitimately compelling. They lay a groundwork from which some true character development can occur. Much like X2 and The Dark Knight considered the ramifications of these superheroes in the real world, a dose of needed humanity is offered to this alien immigrant.

But then…Zod arrives.

It was as though, during this process, Nolan was the Miyagi to Snyder’s Ralph Maccio. The wizened filmmaker is constantly correcting form and style, helping the arrogant young student through the pitfalls of blockbuster storytelling…until he looks away for one fucking second and turns back to see Snyder punching himself in the face. The pair get so much of the movie right and yet Snyder ruins it with his constant “More is Awesome” mentality. From the get go, we are offered too much. From the extended prologue to the gratuitous shots of Cavill’s finger-lickingly good ab muscles to the why-is-this-here demonstrations of the hefty CGI budget. Nothing compares, however, to the drawn-out and exhausting fight scenes that make up the last hour of the film. The second Cavill punches Shannon in his inexplicable goatee (it wasn’t there at the beginning of the film, where the fuck did it come from?) I knew I was in trouble. And here we arrive at the problem with Superman. Our heroes in this, I think we’re at the Bronze Age of comic books, are a darker sort. They are vulnerable. They have weaknesses. You know who doesn’t have any weaknesses? The Man of Invincibility. While Bryan Singer tried (and failed miserably) to craft a Superman with some level of killability, Snyder, in his style, decides to amp up the competition. We won’t have Lex Luther and his intelligence; we’ll just have another Superman. Thusly, the end result is a game of human ping pong, just with buildings in the way. People punch and punch and punch and yet do no damage. And it goes on forever.

Like, seriously, did he look in the mirror and think, 'Mustaches are silly. But half-bleached chin pubes are seriously thug'?

I believe he looked in the mirror and said to himself, ‘Mustaches are silly. But half-bleached chin pubes are totes thug’.

I think I finally realized what bugs me so deeply about Snyder’s excess-ad-extremum style. Watching his fight scenes is like watching porn. At the beginning, everyone is having fun. But then, it keeps going. You get the same shots of the same body parts. You finish, but it keeps going. You sit there, on your couch/desk chair/bed/bouncy castle with your tissues filled. You’re done. You got what you wanted…but it keeps going. Suddenly that initial excitement transforms into shameful fatigue and moral introspection. How many times do I need to see someone fly through a building before they finally decide to end the movie? How many trains can be thrown at one person? We all know what’s going to happen. There are no twists or turns. The novelty wears off and we, the audience, are left waiting for Snyder to stop punching himself in the face and finish off that asshole from Cobra Kai.

Even his actors, save for Cavill, seem ready for the film to be over. While Shannon, who is so delightfully bat-shit in every movie in which he appears (everyone needs to see Premium Rush or “JGL Rides a Bike” RIGHT NOW), looks bored. It’s as though he’s been directed to death. Every inevitable insane impulse he had during rehearsal was evidently left on the cutting room floor and all we have as a signifier of his mental instability is that ridiculously stupid goatee. Also, there needs to be a shout-out to Mr. Laurence Fishburne who I don’t think finished reading the script before signing up. He starts as his no-BS, strong CEO character he honed in Mission: Impossible 3 and ends as some poor human guinea pig caught in a sadistic Roland Emmerich wet dream. Every scene with him, the guy from House of Cards and the crying lady caught amongst the rubble as Metropolis is transformed into urban mulch made me want to personally apologize on behalf of their agents.

Lawrence: "Hey Amy, I didn't finish reading the script. What happens to my character?" Amy: "Um, oh, nothing much. Just some mild, you know, pulverizing."

Lawrence: “Hey Amy, I didn’t finish reading the script. What happens to my character?”
Amy: “Um, oh, nothing much. Just some mild, you know, pulverizing.”

Perhaps, one day, they will figure out a way to make Superman vulnerable. Perhaps one day we will see a sequel. Perhaps the “Man of It’s Like Iron, But Less Rusty” is destined for relegation to the back of the Justice League along with Wonder Woman (you know, because she’s a woman and absolutely NO GIRLS watch comic book movies). I give Snyder and Nolan credit for honestly trying, but all good will they build in the first half is utterly obliterated in the second. That is, in essence, what made this movie so painful. It gave the promise of potential and then shot itself in the foot. It seemed, if momentarily, like this could have been Snyder’s redemption and reprieve from the dark side of misogynistic inanity. But then things go boom and the AndroGel claims its victim once more. *Le sigh*. There might be talent hiding deep down in that shell of a creepster and its waiting to break out and bloom. This is a marked and great improvement over his recent forays. Let’s hope Snyder continues down the road of Nolan and stops the self-inflicted facial malefaction.

Also, I’m suffering from a severe lack of Michael Shann-sanity. I need my fix. I think I’m going to watch Premium Rush again. AND NOBODY CAN STOP ME.

Star Trek into Darkness (2013) – J.J. Abrams (Dir.), Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, basically fucking everybody.

"Who put a goddamn banana in the exhaust? It's not funny guys!" ~ The final log of Captain Jim T. Kirk.

“Whose idea was it to put the aquatic sex dungeon next to the engine room!” ~ The final log of Captain Jim T. Kirk.

Finally. It has arrived and so have I. After the trials and tribulations of having a real job have thwarted any attempt I made at viewing this monstrosity of a summer blockbuster, I at last charged the fort, stormed the breaches, surmounted the odds, trounced the, um, trout and barreled the roll and… What I’m trying to say is, I saw the movie. Congrat-u-fucking-well-done. And, as is my style these days, I did so fairly blitzed on a bottle of fair-to-pretty-decent Tempranillo stuff rather cunningly into that same water bottle of Gatsby fame. What did I discover? Was it the tour de force its trailers and the rest of Facebook had led me to believe? Was it the answer to the greatest question: can Star Trek be a bankable action franchise? Was the script cobbled together by two illiterate mongrels most likely illegally acquired during a famed Jerry Bruckheimer wine-and-battery-acid drinking contest?

Um…

There was no doubt that there was a great deal of grandiosity surrounding this film. What with J.J. Abrams’ first outing being a success of Herculean proportions, it was clear that the Star Trek franchise was resting on the edge of the universe set to jump into hyperdrive and beat the Kessell run in… Wait. Wrong franchise. Anyhoo. Back in 2009 we were treated to seeing where young Captain Han Solo, sorry, I mean pre-I-Ate-Everything-At-the-All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet-And-I’m-Still-Starving-William-Shatner Captain Kirk, came from and how he came to be the unlikely and, let’s be real, utterly impossible captain of the USS Enterprise. It was Trek unlike any we had seen before! It had glitz! It had pizazzle! It had lens flare! OH THE LENS FLARE! It had so many damn people running down spaceship hallways it was like 2001: A Space Odyssey had a one night stand with Chariots of Fire and had forgotten protection. There was nary a calm moment as Spock growled at Kirk and Kirk hit on Uhura and some other people were wacky and…well…it was exciting.

"Dammit man! What have I told you about interrupting my time with Bones in the aquatic sex dungeon!" ~ The second to last log of Captain Kirk.

“Dammit man! What have I told you about interrupting my time with Bones in the aquatic sex dungeon!” ~ The second to last log of Captain Kirk.

Thus, Trek was poised to become the greatest Sci-Fi franchise of the new millennium. Much like Nolan with Batman Begins, Abrams redefined something that had been central to many generations’ childhoods. It is a fragile thing, fanboy-hood. On the one hand it offers infinite adoration and monetary income…on the other hand, they are a mass of rabid turncoats ready to rip your bleeding corpse asunder. And so, with Into Darkness, Abrams and his team of logic-disabled writers had to take this foundation of strong characters, but rather weak plot, and turn it into a The Dark Knight-ian epic. What did they do? Well, while the writers all decided to fart loudly in each others’ faces for the whole ‘writing’ process, Abrams did whatever he could to make something at least somewhat sensicle.

Alright. Plot and all that jazz. After becoming captain of the Enterprise, Kirk begins his career by BREAKING EVERY RULE EVER. You know, because he’s a ‘rebel’. This pisses off Spock who, on the other hand, is BREAKING ALMOST EVER RULE EVER. Every character gets to deliver their already time-worn catchphrases as soon as they appear on screen while Spock tries to stop a volcano with a cold-fusion bomb. Now, while I was admittedly suckling on Chilean red gold at that point, I wasn’t so drunk as to notice that Cold fusion is a process of creating heat. It, and I repeat, it makes NOTHING cold. Anyhoo, Kirk’s rank gets stripped but, seriously, it’s like ten minutes before he gets it back because, honestly, the ranking system of the Starfleet is about as well defined as the laws in a little girl’s schoolyard game of ‘Pony Princess Congress’. Then: reveal on Mr. Bendydick Cumberbund, who smolders every fucking frame of this movie as if to say, “Guess what if Sherlock Holmes was a bad guy.” To which every fangirl wet their pants on command. He sets off a bomb in an underground installation causing a chain of events where all of high command is assassinated and Kirk has to take the Enterprise to the Klingon home world to exact revenge. Wait, did I say ‘has to’? I meant, he ‘does’. In fact, everything anyone does in this film would be, as Spock so frequently fucking says, ‘illogical’. Yes, we know Kirk is a hothead. But, why let him fucking start a war with the Klingons so he can get his rocks off?

"Dammit, woman, you're supposed to put the aquatic sex gear ON." ~ The third to last log entry of Captain Kirk

“Dammit, woman, you’re supposed to put the aquatic sex gear ON.” ~ The third to last log entry of Captain Kirk

Thusly, we fall into the never-ending whirlpool at center of this film. Namely: the script. Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman are two men blessed with a career I would murder for (no, officer, it wasn’t me). They have been paid obscene amounts of cash to recreate some of the most beloved sci-fi franchises for a new generation. Transformers? Yep. That was them. Also Mission: Impossible IIIFringe, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, their characters wander about their tales like hypothetical meat puppets, tossed in the direction of yet another pointless grinder for the sake of ‘action’ or, as I put it, eye-bleedingly incessant pointlessness. I understand that Abrams wanted to take the characters of old and ‘sexify’ them for the modern audience and, well, he does. The problem is, once the new car smell of the first movie peters off, we are forced to realize a deadly issue. These aren’t characters. Save for Spock, every role is simply the summation of their catchphrases and cartoonish presence. Not to mention, the only fucking female character in the entire universe, apparently, becomes nothing more than a yapping shrew. Oh, and of course we get the lovely Alice Eve to provide the completely unwarranted boob scene. What the fuck guys? Did you watch the first movie and say, “I like it. But those boobs with mouths attached, can we give the mouths less to say?” On the other hand, I love Bones. His only job in these movies is to literally get in the way when someone walks in his direction on the bridge. It’s nice to see Karl Urban get to do something other than growl at the other cast members (see: his entire career). How about Sulu? No sword fighting this time? Nope. He gets to be…the Asian guy! In the background! Only Scotty is given anything of substance to do and, please don’t get me wrong, I mean in no way ’emotional’ substance. No. He does things. Dumb things. Nonsensical things. But he’s charming!

I could get into every little plot hole in this beast, but I’m sure there are already a million youtube videos on the matter. Commander Robocop was utterly ridiculous. Cumberbatch is giving the performance of a lifetime while spewing the literary equivalent of See Spot Run. They even get to throw in some ridiculous fan service with, as it seems, very little understanding of this franchise’s fans. Oh yes, and they reverse a plot point. I won’t tell you how, but it involves magic blood. That’s right. Fucking magic. *FACEPALM*

"Hey, Cumberbatch knows a really good aquatic sex dungeon. I think we're all going to take a dip." ~ the fourth to last log entry of Captain Kirk.

“Hey, Cumberbatch knows a really good aquatic sex dungeon in the engine room. I think we’re all going to take a dip.” ~ How it all began…

This movie succeeds at entertaining. It really does. It’s pretty as fuck. You can’t blink without the rampant excess of light trying to scratch your cornea. The pace sprints along hoping you won’t think about what you’re watching in case the entire thing just unravels before your eyes. J.J. Abrams is a great director. Not great in the sense of he always makes good things, rather that he constructs films extremely well. . It almost seems as though he has about as much faith in the script as the audience as almost every lapse in logical, physical, emotional, sociological or simply basic, is downplayed and almost lost. His first acts are almost flawless while the second and third tend to peter off a bit. For a man who knows how to kick your ass in the first half of the movie, he certainly hasn’t bucked the trend for this one. It’s like Abrams likes reading the first 30 pages of a book and then tosses it out thinking, “Eh. Whatever. No point. Where can it go from here?” Perhaps he gets distracted by the next, shinier thing and heads straight for that, like the child he assumes his audience is, leaving his unfinished project on the playroom floor? I mean, this is Star Trek. What in the world could ever distract someone from Star Trek? I mean…it’s the second biggest sci-fi franchise in all of history. What could possibly trump that?

Oh. Right.

Well, bring it on Abrams. We all know Star Wars is going to happen. We are all going to declaim to the heavens that it will suck but, let’s be honest, in our heart of hearts, we are begging that it will be good. Please, please, please dump Orci and Kurtzman. You know, the two guys who when left alone for two long begin eating their own poop. Find someone good. Someone who cares oh so deeply about everything Star Wars. Someone who has, not only gorged himself on the extended universe books, but the video games as well to the point that his lack of friends in middle school was technically classified as a social disorder.

Who me? You mean me? I can send my resume as a PDF.

STAR WARS PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE.