Posts Tagged ‘review’

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Francis Lawrence (Dir.), Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone, Amanda Plummer, Elizabeth “Mutherfucking” Banks, Stanley “Boss-Ass Mutherfuckin’ President of the Universe” Tucci and Toby “Meh” Jones

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

DISCLAIMER: There will be frequent, flagrant and flamboyant usage of nonsensical name-contractions throughout this article including, but not limited to: J-Law, J-Hutch, Lemsworth, D-Suths, Woody H, Len Krav, J-Wright, Jenna Malone (she was in Sucker Punch, that poor, poor girl), E-Banks and Stancci. Deal with it.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: There may or may not be serious spoilers abound in this article. But guess what? These books have been out for multiple years now. Your illiteracy isn’t my problem…and I realize the irony of that statement seeing as you have to read it in order to get offended. Whatever. 

ONE MORE DISCLAIMER, I PROMISE: I have a horrifying obsession with these books. I don’t know what it is. I read each one of the fuckers in a single sitting and, not only am I not ashamed by this fact, I take pride in it. Yes, they are the literary equivalent of Hodor from GoT wrapped in a infanticide blanket; and Susan Collins approaches sentences like I approach Gummy Bears (I’m coming for you, you delicious mutherfuckers), in that she forces them into her gaping maw of a mouth while slobbering manically over each and every one of her digits soaking in that sweet Haribo goodness (seriously, that stuff is like food porn to me). So, know that going into this review of both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) that I will not spend the length of it shitting on the darkest set of pseudo-children’s books since Philip Pullman decided to take on the Catholic Church. My love and devotion to these tales is like a Ron Jeremy ass-spelunking expedition: long and deep. Also, they’re the reason why whenever I hear the Suburbs by Arcade Fire come on the radio, I can’t help but think about children getting stabbed in the face. And that’s awesome.

OKAY, I LIED ABOUT THE LAST DISCLAIMER THING, BUT SEEING AS I, AND THE REST OF THE LIVING, BREATHING WORLD IS IN LOVE WITH J-LAW, I SHOULD PROBABLY GET IT OUT OF THE WAY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: Boobs. Tee hee.

Here we are my friends, the biggest movie of the not-quite-summer-not-yet-Christmas no-man’s-land that is the pre-Thanksgiving insanity consuming America. That’s right, as parents rush from supermarket to supermarket ready to shank the bitch with the last jar of Ground Cinnamon (I did not do that, I promise…I have to say that for legal purposes) and as department stores decide to forget that Thanksgiving is a Federal Holiday and, like Nazi Germany, have decided to annex it as part of the ever-growing and murderous Black Friday, we need a distraction from our self-imposed, food-fueled torment. What better way than to sit down with the fam and delight in a dystopian future where children are slaughtered in order to tamp down revolution? For food! (I knew there was a connection somewhere). Yes, ladies and gents, we have the second movie from The Hunger Games coming to dinner tonight. And it’s packing heat, bitches.

Of course, after gorging myself on the books in a fury of loneliness that can only be crafted by internet dating, my roommates and I stormed the first Hunger Games castle at midnight on a Thursday in the fateful year of Anno Domini MMXII. And, shit, there were so many teenage girls in the audience I would have thought people were stocking up for a Duck-face shortage. The Hunger Games was perhaps the most cynical grab for the post-Twilight sparkly-dick insanity in the last few years (other than The City of Mortal Instruments or Something Like That, I Really Can’t Remember the Title Because it’s Stupid). Directed by Gary Ross of Pleasantville fame, the first movie was about as serviceable as a movie adaptation can be without failing miserably. For the last year I have been afraid to make my true feelings on the first movie apparent, seeing as I might be murdered by hoards of teenage girls newly trained in the Zen of Archery, but I really didn’t care for it. When I strapped myself into the first book, it was a tense, brutal experience. I remember hyperventilating when the games began and that half-book of lead up exploded into sheer terror as twelve-year-old children were unceremoniously impaled for the sake of good TV. Told entirely in the first person from Katniss’s, at best, terse point of view, you fly through the book feeling like a rat trapped in a labyrinth. Rarely does Collins, a seasoned TV writer, pull on the reins to allow you to catch your breath. You never know what’s coming next. And the pages fly so fast, you don’t have time to think about it or the fact that you haven’t seen a worthwhile adjective or multi-claused sentence in three chapters or so.

"What is that thing around your neck, Jen? Is it a turtleneck? A scarf?" "It's whatever I fucking want it to be, Thor-lite."

Have you ever been so mad that you’re turtleneck and scarf had a baby and you didn’t care that half your body was cold?

And then there was the movie… Already, in pre-production, people were making a stink about this no-name Jennifer Lawrence whose last movie, X-Men: First Class was campy mess that encased her in unbreathable and unbearable latex for the entirety of its run time. Yes, she had an Oscar nomination, but what teenage girl gives a fuck about that? But Mr. Ross did his best to create a lived-in world for his tale, from the bonkers costume and hair design of the residents of the Capitol to the grungy Billy-Elliot-Inspired coal miners of District 12. Here’s the problem, for a district filled with believably starved residents, when Liam “Brother of Thor” Hemsworth shows up with a face torn from a cover of GQ and abs practically sponsored by LA Fitness, it sort of destroys the ambiance. Whenever we have shots of District 12 during the games, we are offered a blight of a community, all of the residents looking more at home in a concentration camp than in the US of A…and there, in the center, is Hemsworth looking like a Almost Famous-esque golden god, radiating balanced nutrition and a never-ending membership to Tan-Yo-Ass LLC with impunity.

This was only one example of the grand systemic issue of Ross’s direction and conception of the first movie. It was painfully obvious to see that Lionsgate had attempted in every way, shape, and form to twist this story of rebellion and political defiance into nothing more than a lovey-dovey tri-tipped love-turd. Not only that, but Ross is obviously not a man with a fantasy background. For every inspired design choice, there were five bland ones to discount it. While, we have both Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks offering performances worthy of legend, Mr. Harrelson phones in the majority of his performance, no doubt from his whiskey drowning cellar. Seriously, I don’t know if the guy decided to go method with this movie, but he certainly doesn’t look like he wants to be there. And then, finally, the true piss in the bonnet, is the construction of the games itself. While the book excels in its claustrophobic tension, keeping the reader guessing as to what unnamed horror will be assaulting you on the next page, the movie telegraphs everything in an almost clinical fashion. We are given numerous cutaways to Wes “The Plastic Bag” Bentley, who’s facial hair does its best to emulate a black shark’s butt decoration at all times,  as the Head Gamesmaker. It’s nice to see a few scenes between Crane and President Snow, Sutherland’s mustache-twirling uber-villain, but other than that it does nothing but destroy any tension. On almost every front, from lack of gore to lazy design to a minuscule CGI budget, the whole movie feels like a bald eagle with its talons clipped. You know there’s something majestic and ready-to-steal-a-freaking-baby buried underneath it all, but it seems muffled and diluted.

And that Bald Eagle is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence. If it weren’t for her spot-on performance, with steely eyes ready to gouge themselves out rather than express any sort of weakness, and a voice more monotone than a tone-deaf kazoo, the movie would have unraveled into nothing more than a forgettable farce. She is the flashpoint, the eye of the storm, the focal point of all things. Poor Josh Hutcherson. The kid does his best to hold onto the lady’s fleeting, talented tail feathers, but the charisma just isn’t there. J-Law sells every moment like she’s going for that Oscar once more. And she earns it.

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

So…all of that being said about the disappointment that was the first movie…what about the second? Well, if I could sum up my reaction to it in the form of a religious set of genitalia:

HOLY BALLS.

The second movie, along with the two upcoming sequels, is directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation). You might remember him from such fucking gems of the Walmart budget bin as Constantine, I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. As far as literary adaptations go, this guy is 0 for 3. He also has the dubious honor of ruining one of my favorite book-endings of all time with that bullshit during the finale of I Am Legend. UGH. I was readying my steak knife, because I already wanted to eat this bastard alive if he ruined the superior sequel to The Hunger Games… and then I promptly put those knives away and lost myself in the giddy euphoric glee of a squealing fangirl. He doesn’t just do a good job, or even a serviceable job…he exonerates every ounce of the franchise. It seems that, along the way, Lionsgate was like, “Guys, we made WAY more money than we expected with that first movie. Who knew? And we’re going to make a shit load more with the next one. It’s a done deal! What should we do? Fart in people’s faces for two hours? Just give all the fans the finger? I’m just so excited!” To which, Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence (again, no relation), responded, “What if we made it…good?”

Lionsgate: “Woah. You just blew my mind.” So they did. And it’s good…like really, really excellent.

Catching Fire picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss (Ms. Lawrence) and Peeta (J-Hutch) pretending to be in love to try to stop the welling rebellion in the districts surrounding the Capitol. President Beardy Voldemort (Sutherland) pays her a visit and, in a scene that is the acting equivalent of Clash of the Titans, tells J-Law that she had better fall in love with this adorable puppy of a boy that she basically dragged through the first homicidal games or else he will murder her family. No jokes. No comic relief. Just sheer political brutality. After unsuccessfully touring the districts to quell the residents, the President Evil-Mc-Evilson announces that the next Games will include the victors from the previous games sending Ms. Everdeen and Mr. Whatever-Peeta’s-Last-Name-Is back into the ring. And oh, what a ring it is.

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

It seems as though, due to the fact that the games are now populated exclusively with adults who previously won, the moral ambiguity of seeing children murdered is gleefully removed and Mr. Lawrence can up the gore factor to ‘passable’. While the games are just a bounteous tropical house of horrors, the true tension of the film is in the build up to the explosive second half. The first movie was too busy trying to convince us that the audience was watching The Hunger Games that it forgot to actually let people act. It’s the nervous new kid throwing his first high school birthday party, running around with hors d’oeuvres constantly asking his friends if they’re having a good time and if they’re still his friends. Catching Fire on the other hand oozes the kind of confidence that can only be generated by a $100 million volt up the ass. It’s the kid at the party who’s like, “I’m going to go throw bottles at a wall. You can come if you want.” And OF COURSE you go because that sounds so much better than doing the Electric Slide for another hour. Every returning actor has relaxed into their roles (except Hemsworth, but let’s be real; he’s the human equivalent of a Firefighter Calendar…pretty to look at, but the only information you’ll ever get from him is how many days there are in a month). It seems that every dollar of profit made on the first outing has been returned to the artistic design, offering grander locales, CGI that ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and an incredible Hawaii set for the second games.

Lastly, of course, there are the new additions to the cast. Firstly, we have the psychotic Joanna (Jenna Malone) who manages to redeem herself in the face of Sucker Punch once and for all. Then there’s Jeffrey “Black Felix Leiter” Wright as Beady and Tarantino veteran Amanda Plummer furiously muttering he only line over and over. Perhaps the only actor willing to bask in the light of J-Law and survive the fame-tan is Mr. Sam Clafin as the beautiful and impish Finnick Odair. The man gives a career-making performance that will only get better with the next two films. Even Mr. Harrelson seems to have sobered up and decided to flex those pseudo-hick acting chops. Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Philip Seymour Hoffman waltzes (let’s be real, there’s a bit of a waddle) into the film looking as though he just woke up from a nap…proving that the guy that act well in his fucking sleep. Seriously, the scenes between Hoffman and Sutherland make the Bentley/Sutherland tet a tets of the first film look like community theater. How often do you get to see acting of this quality in the adaptation of a Tweenie-bopper book? It’s insane.

There is something mildly revolutionary about The Hunger Games. It’s a sad thing to see that, still, every major motion picture of the last few years include only male protagonists with some lady-candy on the side. I don’t care how much the production companies attempt to force The Hunger Games into the Twilight mold, what with their bullshit ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale’ t-shirts and obsession with Katniss’s choice as to who wins the coveted position of ‘baby-daddy’, The Hunger Games will not be contained. She will shove an arrow in your face and kick her way out to freedom. The love story in this film and in the books is about as central to the tale as Han and Leia in Star Wars. Sure, it’s there. Sure, it affects the story. Is it the point? NO. It’s part of a damn story. There are no ‘teams’. There are characters and there are themes. If Katniss Everdeen and Twilight’s Bella Bitch-face were stuck in a room together, while Bella was too busy chewing on her lip and crying about boys, Katniss would have already disemboweled her and started cooking her lower intestine for food. That’s right, because Katniss eats food, unlike the Barbie dolls trotted out for public consumption. When I eventually have daughters, I will lock them in their rooms until they finish The Hunger Games, no doubt banging on the doors begging to be free from this depressing mass of political cynicism. And then I’ll hand them 1984, lock the door and say, “Time to be a big girl.” Yep. I’m going to be a kickass dad.

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

If these books had been written ten years ago, no doubt they would have been forced to target male audiences and the protagonists’ genders would have been swapped because “girls don’t like violence.” Collins, after escaping the toxic wasteland of television production, has done a great thing. She didn’t set out to craft a harlequin romance or even chick-lit. She wanted to bear the world a mythos, a legend. There is no question that she knew of the grander scale involved in this tale, what with the future-historicization of the world as well as the basis in Greek Mythology (Katniss is decently veiled analog to the Labyrinth’s Theseus). Her gambit has paid off, offering a series that is almost as widely read as Harry Potter (as I’m writing this review, there is a 20-something hipster with a hardback copy of Mockingjay” sitting next to me in my extremely hipster coffee shop). Collins knew what she wanted to say, she invested to her characters and, like George Lucas before her, she stuck to the Hero’s Journey closer than a fly sticks to treacle. And what serendipity it was to cast Jennifer Lawrence. The woman is the new generation’s feminist idol. She’s equal parts demigod beauty, cornbread gentility, candor-escewing badass, sweeter-than-an-apple-pie-that-she-probably-made-and-then-will-eat-all-by-herself angel and sex symbol without removing any of her clothes. She is the female Harrison Ford. But, you know, with talent. It is to Mr. Lawrence’s credit (DEAR GOD, CAN’T THAT MAN CHANGE HIS NAME, I’M TRYING TO WRITE A REVIEW HERE) he never overtly sexualizes Katniss outside of her absurd array of evening gowns. We have no underwear scenes, no butt-shots and the costume for the second half of the movie, while skin-tight, is purely functional. In another person’s hands, we would have seen kevlar bikinis and cleavage up the wazoo because, let’s be honest, J-Law is not lacking in the chest department. But this movie, and the director, respect her and Katniss too much for such base intentions. Thank the lord.

If Catching Fire is any indication, The Hunger Games is well on its way to establish a non-gendered nerd legend for this decade. While the third book, trying desperately to stick to the formula of the previous two, falls flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, the next two movies will afford the characters what they didn’t get on the page: time to breathe. Collins tried to squeeze a national revolution into the book-equivalent of a nutshell while refusing to let us see the hugeness of the event. I hope and believe that these next two filmic chapters will push the books where they weren’t confident enough to go. Shit, they have the money for it. And, unless Ms. Lawrence is caught with dead underage hookers in her bed, the lady’s effervescence is nigh-impenetrable.

ONWARD AND UPWARD, FRIENDS.

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by Andrew Mooney

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Alan Taylor (Dir.), Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth’s Abs, Chris Hemsworth’s Chiseled Jaw, Chris Hemsworth’s Back, Chris Hemsworth’s Baby Blues into which the Souls of Mortal Hetero Women Have Cascaded into a Furious Epidemic of Blue Tubes, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jaime Alexander, Rene Russo, Chris O’Dowd, Ray Stevenson, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins’ Body Double So He Can Spend the Day in His Trailer Sucking on a Teat Filled with a fine Chilean Chianti

Natalie: "Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?" Thor: "YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?"

Natalie: “Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?”
Thor: “YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?”

Ah yes, the Kingdom of Marvel has trotted out one of its lesser champions once more. This time: the eminently lickable and not-in-any-way-turning-me-gay dreamboat that is Chris Hemsworth’s utterly uncharismatic titular Thor. Now, about two years ago, before I had this blog, I charged from the movie theater frothing at the mouth after witnessing Kenneth Branagh’s ham-and-cheese scenery-chewing feast that was the original Norse-hero flagship. It was clear that the poor nerds over at the Marvel juggernaut had zero ideas on how to approach the most absurd chapter in The Avenger’s almost Sisyphean build-up. For some reason, in between coming up with men turning into angry big green monsters and mouthy teenagers getting bitten Jeff-Daniels-in-Arachnophobia-style by inexplicably radioactive spiders, Stan Lee said to himself, “I don’t have any more ideas right now. I mean, I think I’ve run through every animal and DC rip-off I can do…why don’t I just fucking steal an entire mythology?” Luckily aliens with infinitely dense hammers and really gay rainbow bridges beat out his other possibilities such as: Osiris with magical embalming skillz! Or perhaps even Shiva: The Bitch With Too Many Hands (note to self: awesome comic book idea). But no, we were offered a bemusing retelling of Henry IV, just with Frost Giants, indestructible robots, and a bad guy who wears a helmet that looks like a mountain goat after a visit to Bling Night in Boy’s Town.

"I'm confused...so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I'm going to make him king of golden dildos." Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

“I’m confused…so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I’m going to make him king of golden dildos.” Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

No. I did not enjoy Thor. Marvel had no idea how to marry a flamboyant romp through various realms of the universe with Iron Man’s pseudo-realistic character study. How do you solve this? That’s right, hire the fucker responsible for the slow motion CGI spear at the end of Hamlet…you know, the uncut 4-hour shitshow where Jack Lemon does to the Bard what I do to the French language (let’s just say ex-President Sarkozy won’t be inviting me round for a croissant anytime soon); the guy who not only directed and produced it, but also starred in it. I half expected the goateed British bastard to show up as EVERY CHARACTER. Also, Kate Winslet’s boobs. But that’s because she is legally obligated to show them in every movie ever. So, what does the Branagh do with Thor? Well, his job. He made it more glittery and Hopkins-ish than a Ke$ha/Silence of the Lambs themed rave. It was confusing. Tonally, it wasn’t just all over the map, it WAS the fucking map. We have ironic, flat hipster humor from Kat “I Have Boobs” Dennings, flashes of greatness of a man who’s diet is composed of nothing more than set dressing, Tom Hiddleston, as well as the best “I’m Getting a Fucking Paycheck” performance from Natalie “I Really, Really Don’t Have Boobs. Have You Seen Black Swan? Yes, the Groping Scene Confused Me Too. Is it Groping if There’s Nothing to Grope?” Portman since Anthony Hopkins was in Thor 2: Into Darkness.

"FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN'T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!" ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

“FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN’T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!” ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

But, guys, time passes. The Avengers happened. It seems that Mr. Hemsworth, a man whose very presence in this movie could be considered lewd and provocative (no joke, the theater applauded during his first shirtless scene. Notice how I said ‘first’?), has had time to settle into the duality of his character. It helps when you have Joss “Bitch, Please” Whedon helming you at some point. Unfortunately, Alan Taylor, of Game of Thrones fame, isn’t up to quite the same standard as Mr. Whedon. On countless occasions he forgets that this is an action movie and not a story enamored with the intricacies of mythological politics. Also, he must have had the job of having to prod Sir Hopkins whenever he was meant to speak, seeing as the guy somnambulates his way through every freaking frame of film. To combat the utterly incredulous battshitery of the first film’s almost Gilbert and Sullivan-esque bombast, he has cured the scenery chewing by simply adding so much goddamned scenery that Mr. Hiddleston would die of asphyxiation before he can gobble the thing down. Throughout the film’s lagging and nearly nonsensical first half, we are offered an expansive and intriguing look into the sure-to-be-a-Disney-ride fantasy of Asgard. Seeing as these days Marvel only needs to waggle its penis in the general director of a movie theater and they make a gajillion dollars, they can afford to throw some cash at the screen. And throw they did. Every second of this film, when not constrained to London, is gorgeous, offering a more vibrant and believable universe than Branagh’s towering columns and Hopkins-bellowing.

So, what is this one about? Well, there’s a lot of shit in it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. There simply is a lot of pointless refuse tossed into the script-crafting process that both muddles and stretches the run-time to excessive lengths. Much like its predecessor, Thor: Darkness Falls opens with a prologue almost literally torn from Peter Jackson’s excessive LOTR footage explaining more than you would ever need or care to know about the blandest blandies since Blondie bonded with Bono during a Battle of the Blahs. Otherwise known as ‘Dark Elves’. Why elves? Who knows! We have an evil Doctor Who (Eccleston) who seems to have gone full white-face Drow and, like a redneck teenager, grown his rattail to a length that makes everyone uncomfortable. He is Malekith…who we can tell is evil because 1) he’s white and 2) well…his name is Malekith. Also, did I mention he’s white? Anyway, this fella wants to destroy existence. Why? Why not? Sounds legit. He has this thing called the Aether, a catch-all uber-destruction device-cum-evil-infection cum-let’s-give-a-reason-for-Natalie-Portman-to-be-in-this-movie. Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s about it. Thor has to stop him. Now there is far more stuff concerning Rene Russo turning into a CGI bladed whirling dervish and the African guy from LOST turning into a lava rhino…but the entire movie is simply waiting, like a child slobbering over an empty plate, until Mr. Hiddleston shows up.

"So...do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?" ~ Eccleston: a pro.

“So…do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?” ~ Eccleston: a pro.

Seriously, thank god for Loki. Up until the second act, this movie has about as much humorous glee as a clown at a funeral. Once they finally manage to contrive the character actions and plot twists to the point that Loki can finally escape from prison and leap into a delightful will-he-won’t-he tet-a-tet/knife-in-the-abs with his Goldie Locks of a brother, the movie remembers that it is meant to entertain. And entertain it does. Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston play off of each other like a young Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart…if one of those two were basically Michaelangelo’s David come to life in a bizarrely classy retelling of the seminal Kim Cattrall classic Mannequin. Also, Natalie Portman is there, and this is true, ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS IN HER CONTRACT. I’m not saying that the Oscar winner phoned it in, but let’s just say her relationship with her character is as long-distance as that time my ex-girlfriend moved to China. I’m surprised she didn’t have her assistant carry around an iPad with her skyping into every scene. At least, if they had done that, Hemsworth and Hiddleston could have just started playing Words With Friends whenever the Port-meister got boring.

Luckily, however, the second Hiddleston joins the party, the movie takes off. Even Hemsworth is instantly revitalized, tossing about quips that legitimately made me giggle. It takes a long while to get there, but the director finally realizes that you can frowny face your way through a comic book movie, a la C-Noles, and come away with a pretentious cautionary tale with harshly mediocre fight scenes…or you can have Chris “If He Were an Ice Cream Flavor He’d Be The Opposite of Chubby Hubby” Hemsworth beat the shit out of Doctor Who. Luckily, once Mr. Hopkins was convinced to stop randomly yelling in a Merlot-filled rage at anyone with a beard, the movie leaps into action. I will say this, the final fight is possibly the most inventive the MCU has seen in a long while. It seems as though Marvel, after painting themselves repeatedly into a corner by making every movie in their brutally successful anthology about “THE WORLD IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED. MUST SAVE IT WITH BOOM-BOOMS”, instead of retreading the obvious ground, they’ve simply kicked in the fucking wall and decided they need more square footage. The final fight between Thor and Malekith is not only exciting but freaking hilarious, a flash of genius that, like Pope-Bubbles, the catholic body wash, almost totally washes its sins away.

"Oh...I'm sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man."

“Oh…I’m sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man.”

In the end, Thor: The Dark Side of the Moon: Transformers: Revenge of the Sith succeeds despite itself. Much like Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, it only truly feels fun when its characters get to banter. The explosions go boom and we get to see more of the same antics we know and love. Also, Tom Hiddleston should be required to be in every movie ever. Right next to Kate Winslet’s boobs. Shockingly, the Marvel gurus have managed to create an action-based universe where the action is the least interesting component. In a way, it’s genius. To see a Marvel movie from, say, Michael Bay or John McTiernan would be horrifying. This is no metallic ballet of mediocre misogyny. No, no! Mr. Kevin Feige, the supposed god of all that is this MCU juggernaut, has harvested a healthy crop of intelligent and unique directors who will hopefully supply us with another slew of quality character studies that just happen to go BANG BOOM. We’ve got Captain America: The Winter Solider: Why the Fuck Are There So Many Colons?: The Andrew Mooney Story coming up next directed by the boys responsible for NBCs insane and brilliant Community, as well as Edgar Wright’s sure-to-be-rikonkulous Antman. Most perplexing of all is the red-headed step-movie/money trap that is James “Slither/Super” Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which gets a teaser in the final credits of this film. With its nonsensical mis en scene and cheaply shot digital framing, to say the footage is out of place is to say the black man who accidentally walked into a KKK rally has a small case of egg-on-face. Let’s just say Benecio Del Toro shows up as his character from The Usual Suspects but if he went through a Liberace cloning device. Poor Jaime Alexander and Ray Stevenson, the two actors look utterly lost on the cobbled together set stolen from a lost episode of Doctor Who, their expressions captured by the most uncomfortable close-ups since my brother snuck into my room with a camera while I was dreaming about that time with the emu and the peanut butter sandwich.

Don’t ask. That story is only meant for my therapist.

Also, I’m really glad that the Marvel Comics Universe has finally incorporated Chris O’Dowd into its cast. I can dream that one day we’ll see him and Richard Ayoade offering S.H.I.E.L.D. IT help. That would be the tits.

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, the infinite abyss of deep space, Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice in the back of my head going “Na-uh, not how it works”

Either that's Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

Either that’s Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

There is a place in Chicago. It is a dark place, its covert shadow hidden behind the facade of infinite twinkling lights and signs for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. A world, a candyland, if you will, of actual candy and misappropriated dreams. It is, at once, a monument to a crowning achievement of civic engineering and, at second, a cesspool of fantastical nonsense. Yes, I talk of course about Chicago’s Navy Pier. It’s neither navy, and it barely gets under the rope of the definition of ‘pier’ but, this hellscape of a tourist trap is the location of the city’s only IMAX theater. The pilgrimage to this end of the universe, this Harry Carray-infested ring of the Inferno, is an ordeal both annoying and existentially testing for any who are willing to endure it. How much do you really need to see Gravity in IMAX 3D BS OMFG HPV ASAP? As much as you needed to see those three scenes from Iron Man 3 that are actually appropriate for a massive fucking screen? Hmmm?

Well, the lady Coleman and I braved the thronging masses of cheapened Chicagoan touchstones as we traipsed into the massive undulating snake tail that is the line into the IMAX theater. To call it insanity is doing a disservice to the mentally ill. It is putrid humanity at worst. And, because this place is run by the version of Schrodinger’s cat that was poisoned in that box and then clawed its way out by way of sheer will and a heart of throbbing evil, one cannot get both snacks AND a movie, seeing as the lines for both are a MILLION MILES LONG. So choose! Would you like sustenance but miss the first fifteen minutes of film? Or do you want a movie while sustaining a mouth drier than the Sahara in a drought? Choose ye and despair!

Erin and I chose the second option. And we were not disappointed. A little parched, but not disappointed.

For all my bellyaching, the concept of this IMAX in 3-Dimensions nonsense has probably saved the theatrical experience from itself. Too often, as technology makes a product more easily accessible, the industry that this practice hurts usually stamps its feet, gnashes its teeth, and holds its breath. However, eventually, people innovate or die. It’s a simple law of the universe. IMAX is an experience one cannot see anywhere other than those monstrosity orbs latched onto museums and theme parks like benign civic tumors. But, lordy, are they incredible. Assigned seating. No bathroom breaks. It’s like going back to school. However, the magic of IMAX is, if done correctly, you can truly be transported. Until this point in my life, I’ve never fully understood what this means, what with the meager offerings of The Dark Knight’s specially filmed scenes or the five minutes of Iron Man 3 that weren’t shot in extreme close-up on RDJ’s beard (don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine beard, but it’s not going to win the mantel of PORE-COUNTING: THE MOVIE aka Les Miserables)…that was, until I saw Gravity.

"Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother." ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

“Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother.” ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

Mr. Alfonso “One Take” Cuaron, otherwise known as Mr. Children of Men, perhaps my favorite film of all fucking time, or as Mr. “The Guy that Destroyed Harry Potter 3”, as that one girl furiously stated on Facebook when Prisoner of Azkaban was released  is one of those bastards audacious enough to have taste and to encourage artistic merit even in his movies about fictitious wizards. What a piece of smegma. Well, after taking a break from, well, the universe, Mr. Cuaron has returned to the screen with his development-hell tale hanging in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Gravity is pretty simple. Sandra Bullock is a medical doctor inexplicably working on the Hubble Telescope, cracking jokes with George “He’s Never Not George Clooney” Clooney as a veteran NASA space-man. During a routine upgrade, the Russians blow up a satellite which then causes a barrage of 20,000 mile an hour debris to shred them like one ply toilet paper. From there, the script takes the hero’s journey in its elemental form: get from A to B to C. I’m talking physically. The script is basically a set of celestial GPS directions. And that’s just fine.

There are few things that have to be acknowledged with Mr. Cuaron’s achievement here, because it is an achievement of almost every kind. First and foremost: technical. I don’t know the name of his cinematographer, but the man must have been touched by god in the womb. This guy is the Jesus of the long-take. Cuaron approaches him being like, “Yo, I have like four shots…” and this guy shakes his head and, like water into wine, is like, “Nah, son. ONE shot.” I think you can count the number of shot breaks in Gravity on one hand. And, while in Children of Men this was more a gimmick, a penis-showing contest, if you will, in Gravity it is nothing but seamless. I completely forgot that the camera hadn’t broken from its subject after a while. Granted, with this thing showing more CGI than a George Lucas Weight Loss Convention, it might be considered a dubious honor. There is no question that Cuaron has crafted something harrowing, intense and all-consuming. In the few moments of breath Ms. Bullock takes before leaping into yet another Zero-G Shit Fest (note to self: open club called Zero-G Shit Fest), we too are forced to come up for air if only momentarily before being dragged into the emotional maelstrom on display. For the length of the film’s 90 minutes I never once tore my eyes from the screen. Such an act would be one of sacrilege, an affront of the gods of cinematography. You might miss a panoramic view of the Earth’s surface at sunrise, or Ms. Bullock sucking down the last of her oxygen while escaping the current of her suffocating panic attack. If seen in the right way, you won’t be able to look away. In this day and age, that demands an award of the highest order.

"Hey George, George, hey George...wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? ...George?" ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

“Hey George, George, hey George…wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? …George?” ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

Though, with any experiment in technicality (because, let’s be real, that’s what this is) there are some drawbacks. Through Cuaron’s constant employment of POV and the excessive prevalence of CGI the action looks more of a video game than anything else. This is a meager complaint because that comment usually means that the movie is about as exciting as watching your 12 year old cousin play Call of Duty for about 10 hours straight. Here, the opposite is true. In fact, it seems as though Cuaron has finally realized the mecca of video-game cut scene excitement that all Call of Duty games reach for. Unfortunately, those network-connected plebs (read: most males between 18 and 30) are too locked into a video game to come and see this exercise in zero-G storytelling. The other drawbacks are that of character and literary theme. When most of the movie is people screaming and begging for lives versus nature, there’s little room for nuance. Granted we get snippets of backstory for both Clooney and Bullock…but who gives a shit? Other than one fascinating comment from Bullock about her daughter, their characterization is a futile experiment. Most of the dialogue is directional and plainly objective. Any subtext is fairly useless when the ISS is exploding behind you.

Between the eruptions and the tension, there are some clever strings being pulled. Cuaron is a smart man, smart enough to make a movie about a lack of child birth into something about hope for a dying future. This movie plays with a few themes in a subtle manner. Firstly: nature vs. humanity. It’s clear from the opening credits that space is uninhabitable. It seems as though Cuaron intends to encourage humanity to keep its feet firmly on the ground. Though it is called “Gravity“, that character never makes an appearance. It is the Godot to Bullock and Clooney’s Didi and Gogo. They beg for it to be there and yet it isn’t. Cuaron is careful that very little of this movie, in space terms, is extraordinary. The events of the catastrophe come from nothing more than routine work. Even when the missile strike is discussed over the radio, Housten is barely worried. The entire movie is an example of how deadly the universe is when humans are stripped of their basic assumptions namely: gravity, oxygen and heat. I mean, it seems obvious, but with movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek purveying absurd inaccuracies about the very nature of space travel, it’s refreshing to see a genre dragged back to its roots. Unfortunately, for the most part it’s a one trick pony, unlike its brilliantly bizarre and superior predecessor 2001: A Space Odyssey (SPOILERS: George Clooney is the massive space baby). It’s interesting to note that it’s a sad day for NASA when movie makers need to historicize a fictitious event that had to happen in the PAST when concerning SPACE TRAVEL. That’s right, since the shutdown of the space shuttle program, this movie is impossible. What the Carl Sagan fuck, guys?

In space, it's all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed my a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she's the strongest member of the 'SPEED' cast the world' ever known.

In space, it’s all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed by a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she’s the strongest member of the ‘SPEED’ cast the world’s ever known.

Cuaron carefully plays with both space and time (no joke intended – okay, fine, there was a joke but I was too lazy to make it. DEAL WITH IT). Firstly, though space is infinite, I’ve never felt so claustrophobic. Both he and his cinematographer are obsessed with examining the beauty of the cosmos…but that beauty is a distant creature. All they have in the meantime is the vacuum of nothingness. Every vessel they visit is the size of a boarding school bathroom stall, barely enough room to fit two children, even if one of them has their head in a toilet, and that kid is totally not me, I’m just using a hypothetical situation to prove a point and I certainly don’t still have a debilitating fear of clockwise rotating water. All things taken for granted on earth (100 meters, fire, momentum, etc.) are a mess in space. Seeing Bullock and Clooney handle each challenge moment to moment is thrilling and, somehow, never hits the point of diminishing returns. Even that video-game-esque excitement of the POV shots adds to the crushing sense of closeness, our protagonists’ faces always reflected on the meager barrier between them and the obliterative death of deep space. Likewise, time takes on a new meaning out in the black. You are constantly aware of the debris barrage coming every 90 minutes, though each second seems an eternity. There is a moment when Bullock reaches safety for the first time and removes her suit, she lies, floating in the airlock, like a baby in the womb, curled tightly into a fetal position. The seconds tick away and she doesn’t move an inch. It is not only a powerful moment of relief, it’s also a transformation where, for the first time, we see her as a fully-fledged and vulnerable human being.

From here on…there be SPOILERS. Beware…

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don't like it, you're an IDIOT.

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don’t like it, you’re an IDIOT.

This, as with Children of Men, is a story about hope. It’s the tale of a person facing insurmountable and deadly odds, one that will not only kill but utterly dehumanize before the end. It’s about people seeing the end of their fate and deciding to press on into the darkness. In CoM, because, yes that movie is so essential to society that it requires an abbreviation, we see Clive Owen beaten, slammed, shot, tortured, chased, and generally emotionally mutilated, all in service of saving the first child born in 20 something years. Gravity plays with similar themes though reduced like a fine sauce to a simmering and simple delicacy. The is no need to save earth, it’s just a tale of survival. For the length of the movie I expected Bullock to bite the proverbial space dust. However, she persists, hallucinating her way into action and doing the impossible to find her way back to Earth. Every inch of the way, your heart is hurting for this poor woman as she has to go through catastrophe after catastrophe all of it caused by a routine satellite SNAFU. Cuaron makes an interesting point of highlighting the deadliness of the mundane especially in Bullock’s story about her daughters death (hackneyed choice, b-tee-dubs, guys, but I’ll let it slide. The script isn’t exactly the work of a master. “GRAB ONTO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!” is just a teensy bit short of Shakespeare. But whatevs) she discusses that her kid tripped while playing, hit her head and died. Nothing more to it. It’s that spark of the minor devastations that drives this tale to its optimistic end. But while my heart yearned for her to survive, my mind begged this movie to be slightly more complex. It’s not. There was something chilly to the ending of Liam Neeson tour-de-wolf-punching-force The Grey (both literally and figuratively), where it becomes apparent that the film following the survivors of a plane crash in Alaska slowly succumb to the elements until they’re left as frozen meat-cicles. I hoped for a similar end to Gravity. Perhaps something mildly ambiguous…not Sandra Bullock standing in red mud while the orchestra climaxes (both literally and figuratively).

The only actual complaint I could have about Children of Men is the ending. The same is mostly true of Gravity. You beg them to survive, you pray and hope and clench and hold your breath and then…when they do, you find yourself lacking. We, the audience, are children screaming for a big-kid meal…but when we get it, we’re disappointed, unaware that we didn’t actually want a positive ending at all. It’s beautiful to think there is an intelligent artist doing good work in the horrifically existentially disemboweling creature that is Hollywood, pumping out tales of unfettered hope. I guess…I don’t want that. I wanted Sandra Bullock to die. And this is the first time in like two years that I wanted it to happen for a reason other than because she won the Oscar for The Blind Side. I wanted this to be about man’s folly in confronting nature, just like I did with Sunshine. But then people win against nature and, once more, it transforms a harrowing tale into one of a power fantasy. Where’s the ‘cautionary’ in the cautionary tale? Le sigh.

*SPOILERS OVER*

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I've ever seen.

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I’ve ever seen.

In the end, sci-fi is a limping, damaged filmic genre. These days people are more content to settle for nonsense like Star Trek Into Darkness and everything to come out of the penis that spawned Transformers and Battleship. It’s refreshing to see something different, something challenging. Should it win Oscars? Maybe for technical achievements. Anything else? Not in my humble (read: not humble in the slightest) opinion. Remember Avatar? No? Good. This is a piece of technical brilliance with a thematically cogent tale laid over the top, like flesh over the metal innards of the Terminator. In a few years, these tricks and techniques will be old. Watch Avatar again and yawn. Why? Because it’s fucking stupid. The magic of newness died long ago. It’s amusing to read Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comments about the factual inaccuracies of this movie. A fire extinguisher will not propel you in a direction while in a vacuum. Why? Because science. Maybe, hopefully, one day this movie will simply be an artifact of past ignorance. Future children (new band name!) will view this on a zero-G hologram computer and laugh, much like I giggle my ass off at Bullock’s absurd indictment of the Internet in 1995’s The NetUntil that point, well done, Cuaron. You are still one of the most talented and interesting directors out there. And I love you.

Wait. Ignore that last part. I don’t want it to be creepy.

Chocolat (2000) – Lasse Hallstrom (Dir.), Juliet Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judy Dench, Lena Olin, Johnny Depp, Peter Stormare, Carrie-Anne Moss

What is with that patch of hair on Depp's face? What is that? A sideburn? Beard? PICK A SIDE; WE'RE AT WAR.

What is with that patch of hair on Depp’s face? What is that? A sideburn? Beard? PICK A SIDE; WE’RE AT WAR.

Alright guys, here’e the fucking deal. I’m in a bad mood. I’m not going to tell you why, but I am. I’m really frustrated and angry and I can’t remember a fucking password for a tumblr blog and this dude sitting across from me KEEPS HITTING MY FOOT AND NEVER APOLOGIZES.

*Deep Breath*

If I could write this article in all caps, I would. But that wouldn’t allow for nuance and I FUCKING LOVE NUANCE. Now, before we get into this, people, I need you to know a few things. I write books. I’m working on a book. At least I have been for the last year…and it’s THIS CLOSE to being done. Can I work on it? Well, every time I sit down, with even a modest modicum of time at my hands, perhaps enough to get my fickle and distracted mind into the creative flow required to put something at least mildly cogent on the electronic page, I ask the universe, “Please, sir, can I write some more?” And the universe looks at me and says, “NO, YOU LITTLE TURD.” And this makes me mad. Like furious. More furious than Fast 9 Furiouserserserser 9. Like, I want to burn this city to the ground and dance on its corpse in the fashion of a demented Betty the Cow or Bessy or WHATEVER I’M TOO ANGRY TO GOOGLE RIGHT NOW.

What am I going to do? I’m going to write about fucking chocolate. That’s right! The brown stuff. That sugary sliver of heaven we dump into our slack jaws with fistfulls of cocoa. I fucking love the stuff. When I’m in a bad mood, just pull out the goddamn Snow Cap AR15 and semi-automatic that sweet shit right through my stomach lining. It doesn’t even need to pass my mouth. Just hook me up to an IV of Cadbury’s and this murderous rage will transform me into tranquilized kitten. GIMME GIMME GIMME CHOCOLATE!

*Six bars of Dark Chocolate later…*

Phew. Let’s all take a step back. Now, I know some things were said. Let’s not point fingers with ‘you said this’ and ‘you swore about this’ and ‘you threatened to burn down a major metropolitan area’. That’s all in the past. Let’s talk about the future. Better yet, let’s talk about chocolate. Oh that glorious divine barrage of calories and seratonin. I would look up whether or not eating chocolate even encourages the body to release seratonin…or whether or not that’s the correct way to spell the word ‘seratonin’. But I’m really tired. Because of chocolate. Did you know, in France, chocolate is called ‘Chocolat’? It’s true. Because they’re too good for silent e’s and hard t’s. They don’t have any issues with slews of silent consonants like, you know, s’s added for pluralization. But, I mean, they are French, so whadda ya gonna do? The correct answer is: get into a 100 year war with them, lose to a prepubescent crazy girl, let her get burned at the stake, then bide your time until a dude called Napoleon comes along, and then have the Duke of Rainboots spank him into submission at a London Underground station. That sounds about right.

"HE'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!" ~ Catholics didn't appreciate my introduction of pantomime call-backs during communion.

“HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!” ~ Catholics didn’t appreciate my introduction of pantomime call-backs during communion.

Well, this movie, Chocolate without the E, has been sitting on my DVD rack since my ladyfriend moved in about a year ago. Ever since then, it has been a battle of attrition, a siege of epic emotional stakes, a Stalingrad of stubbornness, if you will, to get me to watch this movie. Every time I say, “Let’s watch a movie!” she would say, “Chocolat!” and I would say, “No!” Why? Did I not think I would enjoy this, a multiple Oscar-nominee, this sweet-filled modern French fairy tale, this Judi Dench curmudgeon-a-thon? No. I’m just stubborn. I am the grandest pain in the ass ever since King Edward II succumbed to the awkward end of a hot poker (true story). I don’t care if it’s the holy grail of holy grails (the mythical Holy “Holy Grail” Grail that makes an awkward debut in Indiana Jones 5). If you suggest it excitedly and willingly, my British genes flare, like a pair of 1970s hip huggers, and I am consumed by antagonistic malaise. Well, finally, I don’t know how…but Amelia managed to convince me to finally watch this movie. And I tell ya…it was pretty darn good. So…I’m an asshole. Moving on!

Chocolat tells the tale of the lovely and delicious Juliet Binoche traveling to a tiny French town in the mid 1950s…though it’s difficult to discern any chronological definition in the span from 1750 to 1950 when a movie is filmed in Europe because, well, everything is old. She and her adorably insane daughter (she has an imaginary pet kangaroo) set up shop (literally) in the center of town. Here’s the twist: it’s a chocolate shop in, wait for it…LENT! (Ladies swoon. Gentlemen vomit. Children defecate – though, I’m pretty sure that’s because children just do that). Alfred “Mole” Molina, the mayor and close-minded patriarch of the town, enjoys keeping the plebs under his religiously inclined thumb, though he has obvious issues at home and doesn’t quite have a handle on the Anton Yelchin look-alike new priest. Binoche goes about doing business, handing out candies to all the townsfolk, predicting their favorite taste by way of a mystical pseudo-psychological device. The people are almost instantly entranced, including the secretly diabetic and seriously badass Judi Dench (before the Dame, bitches). Binoche hands out candy like it’s, well, candy, some of her earliest disciples a couple who manage to rekindle their sex lives by way of cacao beans. Because that’s what the French need. More sex.

I don't know how to photoshop! YAY!

I don’t know how to photoshop! YAY!

The movie sets itself up as a fairy tale, the mystical interloper finding her way into a small town community and then upending it from the inside out. There is little newness to the premise, its plot reminiscent of Edward ScissorhandsOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pleasantville etc. etc. It opens with ‘Once Upon a Time…’ and relies heavily on some insanely under-budgeted CGI wind effects before Binoche arrives on the scene and starts her sexualized treat revolution during the dog days of the Catholic period of “Remember that Jesus walked through a fucking desert, so lets lay off very specific items of food…because obviously Jesus wants us to suffer like he did. But not EXACTLY like he did. Just a little bit.” Anyhoo, Binoche will have none of it and turns her chocolaterie into the ground zero of the War on Lent, handing out hot chocolate to anyone lucky enough to stop by. Throughout the film, she helps Judi “Breakfast of Nails” Dench reconnect with her morbidly-inclined yet intensely talented grandson; she saves a battered kleptomaniac from that one dude who murders everyone in every Coen Brother’s movie ever (he will cut off your yon-son); and she helps two old Frenchies bang like a screen door in a hurricane.

Thematically, everything about the tale is fairly by-the-numbers. It even employs a cleverly adapted ‘magical negro’ trope, though masks it so well you might not even notice. Quick background: “Magical Negro” is not me being horrifically racist, but rather it’s a termed coined by maddeningly inconsistent director Spike Lee to describe every role Morgan Freeman has ever played. You know, the black guy who is outside all this crazy white people crap and somehow can explain the essence of all existence to those protagonists who need to know. Here, instead of being black or Native American, as most ‘Magical Negroes’ tend to be, the lovely Miss Binoche is apparently, if her story is true, descended from a French gentleman and a woman ‘from Central America’ or, as we call them over here, ‘Mexicans’. It is by way of this tribal link, and the chocolate recipes derived from her lineage, that she is able to mystically entrance the god-fearing townies. It’s funny because, if this were in the US, she’d have to be from Peru, or Chile, or even Asia. I suppose a half-Mexican woman is a wonder in Europe. If she’d waltzed into Birmingham, AL with a Fist-Full of Non-Pareils (the least well-known of the Clint Eastwood westerns) instead of patronage, they would have handed her a shovel and told her to start landscaping. The tale Binoche tells is that of a wandering woman who must go with the northern wind, never remaining in one place for long. She brings with her treats in order to spread the wealth, but she is doomed to a life of a nomad. I spent a good deal of the first half of this movie dreading that it would be nothing more than a sappy “Sexual Awakening in a Sleepy Town” tale, perhaps sprinting down the delightful, yet sometimes bemusing path of Pleasantville a few years before. Binoche seems like nothing more than a manic pixie dream girl, impervious to the drama she swirls into a torrent, always offering a treat to calm the nerves and managing to save everyone from themselves. It makes a healthy change that a good deal of her gambits aim to save women from an overbearing patriarchy, all symbolized by a very not-Spiderman Alfred Molina, but the structure is hackneyed, to say the least.

I didn't know Irish Gypsies knew how to highlight their own hair. Nice guy-lights, Depp.

I didn’t know Irish Gypsies knew how to highlight their own hair. Nice guy-lights, Depp.

The movie, however, takes a random and refreshing turn. Out of fucking nowhere, Captain Jack Sparrow’s great great great grandson (Johnny “I Bet He Smells Terrible But I Don’t Care I Still Wanna Lick Him” Depp) materializes on a boat of Irish gypsies. This is the sort of side plot that emerges from the aether and returns with little impact whatsoever. Usually this is the shoe-horned love story, forced in there because, fuck it, can’t call it a love story if Binoche don’t get no action. But something subtler occurs. With Depp’s arrival and shockingly convincing Irish accent (he sounds drunk…but that isn’t unrealistic), the emotional life of the tale moves from Binoche fixing the lives of others to finally buckling under the pressure of not taking care of her own. We get to see the vulnerability coursing under the magical veneer she has constructed for herself. And so, piece by piece, as the movie rolls to its sad and fulfilling conclusion, the layers of mysticism are pulled back for what they actually are. There is no magic to her chocolate. It’s just really fucking good. She is offering these people a sense of pleasure, something they are meant to despise on all fronts, though they beg for it with every primal need. She doesn’t ‘follow the Northern Wind’ because of any ancient curse. She does it because she’s scared of making and fortifying emotional connections. What began as a fairy tale matures and blossoms into the truly enjoyable story of a woman coming to terms with her age, emotional life, love, needs and her own stability. Forcing a crew of gypsies to steamroll through the story is the deftest choice possible, juxtaposing her illusions against the grander mysticism of a traveling band of charming drunken layabouts. Suddenly, the magician is entranced herself, allowing us to see her for what it is. Allowing us to see the magic for what it really is.

It’s loneliness. These people look for the magic because perhaps there’s some undulating hidden energy simmering below the Earth’s crust simply awaiting its turn to sprout and pluck them from their emotional desolation. Ms. Binoche gets caught in throes of impressing the charming Depp, never able to satiate him with her impossible treats, always deterred when he always says, “these are good, but not my favorite”. She eventually sees the magic for what it is after a fire charges through her ecstasy and almost strips her of what she values most. After that, she settles, not into the life of the scared nomad sprinting in the opposite direction of anything resembling commitment, but into a community of love, which, in turn, accepts her. The capstone on this cautionary tale is, after Depp is chased out of town, he eventually returns and joins Ms. Binoche for a simple hot chocolate. No magic. No entrapment. Nothing. Just two people who have realized that all you get from running away is tired. She’s even rewarded when he says, “Hot chocolate, that’s my favorite”. It isn’t some divine truffle or perfect praline, just the basic of all basics. Sometimes, stripping away the magic reveals the best part of the illusion: the truth you’re trying to hide.

Wow. I feel a lot better. I don’t at all want to burn anything down. Well, maybe something French.

Goddamnit. Now I really want s’mores.

That’s my s’mores face

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.

Possession (2002) – Neil LaBute (Dir.), Aaron Eckhart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hollander, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Queen Cersei, and some other British People.

Join us for the harrowing tale of poets and British and...(he collapses into sleep)

Join us for the harrowing tale of poets and British and…(he collapses into sleep)

Well, sometimes we decide on a movie to watch. Sometimes that movie is a turd so incapable of polishing that you soil yourself at the thought. And sometimes that movie is In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. It was my choice this time around and, after much arguing and whining, we decided that Uwe Boll’s tour de flatulence was simply too terrible for human viewing. Thusly, we were caught with a dilemma. We had the pizza. We had the people. We had the wine…well, we had way too much wine. The evening proceeded down the terrible, unending road of Flix-surfing. Every choice was an agony. Eventually, we discovered this little gem waiting at the bottom of the “Why the hell would anyone watch this movie?” pile. And, boys and girls, we were not disappointed…in that we were completely fucking disappointed. This was one of the most boring movies of all time. Starring Aaron “The Chin” Eckhart and Gwyneth “The Reason For All Evil in the Universe” Paltrow, this picture by Neil LaBute is so fucking boring that we decided to talk about something else entirely. Namely: bees. So, enjoy us being drunk and shitting on G-Palt. Because, seriously, she deserves it.

Dredd (2012) – Pete Travis (Dir.), Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

“Judgement is Coming” – Coincidentally also the title of my new courtroom-based porno

There come moments in a boy’s life. Moments when he, no matter how pretentious, high-brow, self-important or, like a throat, ‘deep’ he thinks he is, there comes a calling. We know not from whence it comes, perhaps carried on the breeze of omnipresent testosterone flowing downwind of Chuck Norris, perhaps the mental eddies of a pyroclastic id finally breaking free of societal constraints and spreading through the nexus of the human imagination and reducing members of the male gender to barbarous, penile primates. Perhaps it’s simply ‘that time of the month’. Well, on a Thursday night, with all of my inaptly titled ‘bros’ previously engaged, I had a hunger. It is the hunger of the child who used to sit on the stairs and watch my parents watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It is the ephemeral calling of a deeply-seeded genetic warrior-culture long since dampened and whittled down to domestic complacency. And so, lost and energized by Ares, I smuggled a bottle of Maker’s Mark into the theater and joined four other random-ass strangers/brave compatriots in a viewing of Dredd. Within ten minutes, I realized something incredible, earth-shattering, world-spearing, Britney-Spears-in-2006-ing.

Being a boy is really, really, really dumb.

I’m not sure if any of you remember, but Mr. Sly Stallone inflicted a movie upon the world that was Judge Dredd back in the mid-nineties. Now, of course, at the time it had seemed like a sure buck. We had a star, no matter the extent of his genetic facial malefaction, a hot girl, the knight from The Seventh Seal, a villain played by an actor with an absurdly foreign name (seriously, who calls their kid Armand? Fraiser fucking Crane?), a well-known comic book series and, of course the most bankable element of all, Rob “Oh God I Just Remembered He Existed” Schneider. It was a delicious, hot, whorish mess of future-y stuff and explosions and plot twists and growling and Sylvester Stallone attempting English again after miserably failing in the Rocky series. And it was PG-13. This anti-hero of the comic-verse that was famous for ripping out enough criminal entrails to construct an entire strings section of a philharmonic (nobody ever really went for my 100% human flesh orchestra. Don’t know why… Racism, probably). Stallone’s version was a naughty as a 3rd grader’s joke book and about as compelling as one too. Still, seeing Max Von Sydow continuing to act in horrible sic-fi movies is a dish of schadenfraude that I can never pass up. It’s depressing, yet oddly delicious. Like Ben & Jerry’s entire business model!

Let’s return to the present. We have Mr. Travis and his new rendition of the Dredd legend. I’m not entirely sure what occurred during the signing of the deal, but when he pitched his concept of a Dredd grittier and meatier than an Arkansas breakfast, the executives seemed to have said “PERFECT! Let’s do it! Except…you get no budget and it has to be in 3D”. Thus, Dredd 3D was born. I was lucky enough to wait until all of the 3D screens were occupied by Adam Sandler’s recent cinematic equivalent of a creampie so that I didn’t have to endure 90 minutes of bullets careening towards my Maker’s Marked face. This thing is lean, mean and…well, it’s cheap. Really, really cheap. Once again, we are treated to a distant future that looks oddly similar to Detroit where clothing is pretty much the same, skateboards are the same, cars are the same and…well…everything except a few monstrous structures is completely unchanged. Is this because Travis is commenting on how we, as a society, are slowing our progress to a Godot-esque crawl with our dependence on technology and our lack of true innovation…or that he didn’t have enough money to hire a real art director? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

This is one of dem ‘classy’ joints.

What’s the story? Okay, so there’s this Judge. His name is Dredd. He murders people. Like…a LOT of people for the law. He has to take a rookie out on her final evaluation, the hauntingly, obsessively elfish Olivia Thirlby (who, for some reason, has psychic powers. Whatever). Well, they take in the wrong black dude and suddenly Cersei from HBO’s award-winning adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (bow down, you weaklings, under the might of the MARTIN) decides that she wants ‘all y’all mutherfuckers dead’. What ensues is shooting, murdering, more shooting, some explosions, slow motion and even more shooting. That’s it. It’s 90 minutes of killing. And that’s it. No wit. No charm. No pathos. No pace variation. Nothing but the truest form of expression: death. I haven’t witnessed a film with shallower intentions since Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. There is no pretense of character, arc, theme or challenge. Cersei wants them dead. They don’t want to be dead. LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

Here I come to a crossroads. There is an Andrew, smart, witty, generally engaging and a dawg with the ladies, a veritable James Bond of such suavity, he could convince Queen Elizabeth to play a game of ‘Catch the Sausage’, who would view such primal and basal material as entirely lacking in point and time-worthiness. And then there’s the Andrew who plays video games, lives in his mother’s basement, giggles with glee as Ash replaces his hand with a chainsaw and watched the entirety of Sucker Punch without vomiting or grievous bodily harm (it took more willpower than you could ever imagine). Sometimes the id loves to play. Sometimes it’s delightful to see drug-chuffing perps gunned down with absurdly over-compensating artillery. I thought this was the Andrew in attendance of that film last night. I was sorely mistaken.

Thug: “What shampoo do you use?” Olivia: “It’s called L’Oreal-I’m-Going-To-Rip-Your-Nuts-Off. It’s for damaged hair.”

Karl Urban is fine. It sounded as though his dialect coach had made a morning blended vat of concrete, Cuban cigars, the worst whiskey in the world, burning rubber tires and Phyllis Diller to drop his vocal cords into a spectrum of such gravel-ness that even my driveway is telling him to ‘dial it back a notch’. He never gets to take off his helmet so when he gets into a fight with another masked Judge (Spoilers…I guess) the pair of so indiscernible you just have to wait until the end and assume the dead one skewered on his own windpipe probably isn’t the hero. Also, we have the lovely Lena Headey looking as though she went tet-a-tet with a weedwacker and lost. She made Drew Barrymore’s teenage years look like Orphan Annie’s. Either Ms. Headey, after spending her finer moments in Westeros all year, was simply too tired to offer a performance of any perceivable worth or her acting is simply too subtle for this bull-ball-testosterone-injected mess of a movie. Finally, we have the exquisitely attractive miss Thirlby who, somehow in a future where everyone apparently applies a thick layer of biological waste to their skin every morning (‘This is Obama’s America!’), is as pristine as decorative knob on polishing day (tee hee. Double entendre!). The effect is so unnerving in this grime-tastic universe Travis has constructed that it’s almost as though someone stole a prop head from the Lord of the Rings and affixed it to some Judge armor. She floats from scene to scene, a removed beacon of beauty and brilliance, never once integrating into the grander aesthetic. She is barely even objectified! We get a total of .3 seconds of some thug’s fantasy and a whole lot of unflattering kevlar. It’s as though someone cast the fucking Keebler elf in The Expendables. A really, really pretty Keebler elf that was in Juno. It’s that jarring.

I tried. Guys, I really did. I waited to see what entertainingly brutal ends Dredd would dole out like popsicles from an ice cream truck (note to self: sitcom spin-off idea). I witnessed the dude’s head ignite, the bodies exploding into a shower of crimson carnage after falling 200 stories and an adam’s apple crushed into a man’s spine. I watched and I ‘meh-ed’. Am I so desensitized that when the guy’s hand exploded all I could muster was a, ‘yep, saw that coming’. This film, objectively, was one of the most violent movies I’ve seen in…well, months. Yet there was no creativity, nothing I hadn’t seen before. Granted, the scenes of narcotic-induced slow motion was anatomically fascinating, seeing exit wounds blossom in flowers of gore and Mama’s vertical end had a kind of violent poetry to it…but that was it. Otherwise, it was simply scene after scene after scene of Dredd murdering people. Not cleverly. He just shoots them. He kills so many goddamn people it’s absurd. Legions upon legions. AND I WAS BORED. What the fuck happened to me? Is this the new colosseum? I mean, it made sense for him to murder all those druggies within the context of the film and, to his credit, he does it extremely efficiently. Am I not entertained? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Have the Saw films gone to my head? Now, does a character’s death have to be more elaborate than a fucking Rude Goldberg machine? Will I suddenly march over to Mufasa in The Lion King and say “Sorry dude, a stampede of wildebeests won’t cut it. What happens if they’re carnivorous and begin eating you and THEN they drag you five miles in a victory lap, all the while peeing on your corpse? I think that would be much more affecting. STOP CRYING SIMBA, I’M TALKING TO YOUR CORPSE OF A FATHER.”

“Have you see my brother? He’s about yay high, ugly and played by Peter Dinklage? Tell him his sister has something to shove up his ass.” ~ Cersei 2.0

It would seem as I have ‘aged’ and ‘matured’ and become ‘less of a shit-head’, my love of raucous and explosive bouts of boyish id has waned. Now, as I’m confronted with video games where disembowelment, dismemberment and debasement of functional organs are not only commonplace but greatly encouraged as well as innards-soaked epics of glorious gore, I open that cookie jar of my youth and reach in, ready to enjoy myself that sweet sugary nectar that is indulgence incarnate. But it doesn’t taste so great. I find myself asking, “But…but why? Where is the character? The point?” I mean, I still love the shit out of Die Hard, Indiana Jones and Inglorious Basterds. They’re dumb action right? WRONG. They have likable protagonists, grander themes, plots snakier than Madeusa’s beautician. Dredd has none of that. Its final attempt at holding a place in my memory is to eviscerate victims in increasingly hilarious fashions over its thankfully truncated runtime. Otherwise…what’s the point? Why are we watching in the first place? Is it even worth it anymore? Oh no…Have I been infected by ennui? Has my film-watching self become French?  What has become of my snarky British heritage? Has it been inevitably tinged with peppered sauce of sarcasm? The soft cheese of pretension? The Chateau Lafite of wearing turtlenecks? NO! It cannot be! I can feel my awesomeness melting away and replaced by the croissants of international judgement! Nooooooooooo! Please! Somebody save me!

Merde.