Haus

Blockers [Review by Haus]

Blockers sets out to update the classic prom night sex-pact teen comedy for a post-Weinstein Hollywood. While it largely succeeds in that perhaps noble goal — and includes perhaps the best climactic kiss of the year — with its B-grade jokes and excessive focus on the parents, it falls short just about everywhere else.

John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz play the respective parents of three friends on prom night — Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon. Instead of teen boys pledging to lose their virginities, you see, it’s girls — hip, woke, tolerant, empowered young women. That itself could have made for a funny premise, if the girls weren’t largely back-benched to make way for unending omg-we-are-so-not-with-it nosy-parent antics.

Hyphens are my cardio.

Setting aside the fundamental un-woke-ness of the core premise — namely, that the aforementioned young women are utterly unable to make sexual decisions for themselves, so their chastity must be sternly enforced by beefy dads and nutter moms in some wild anachronistic fever-dream — Blockers tries to strike an uneasy balance between dick jokes and butt humor on the one hand, and gee-whiz sentiment on the other. This is a balance that can be struck — see, e.g., pretty much any successful teen comedy — but nonetheless hovers frustratingly beyond the clutches of first-time director Kay Cannon. The raunch isn’t that raunchy, progressive triggers rain down at random like an off-target aid drop, and despite More >

Rampage [Review by Haus]

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Let us please, at the outset, be clear: Rampage is based on an 1986 arcade game in which colossal mutant animals tear up cities while little army men try to stop them. The film adaptation of this (but, but…) is a full-octane spectacle; it is at once crushingly stupid and supremely entertaining.

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rampage is so vapid, so senseless, so go-for-broke extreme, so legitimately and purposefully funny, so surprisingly well paced, and so utterly dedicated to its strange craft that I have laid down my weapons and deemed it, actually, beyond my reproach.

Rampage is a treasure. A very foolish treasure. You will hate it, at times, yes. But you must love it in the end.

I shall now review this movie. The Rock is good here. Product placement, including the allegedly-forthcoming Ford Bronco, is thick here. Supporting actors (including Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman) are good here. The CGI is, I must confess, good here. Beyond the foregoing endorsements I steadfastly refuse to engage in traditional criticism on what is essentially either a lunatic smearing feces on his padded wall OR a blinding ray of pure inspiration.

Okay, some more dispatches from the trenches: The gorilla, George, is surprisingly sympathetic and at times legitimately funny. The plot is something this same gorilla would concoct if lobotomized and left to fiddle with fridge magnets. Joe Manganiello is in this movie. That prototype Bronco has a mighty throaty exhaust More >

Beirut [Review by Haus]

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Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike are downright serviceable in Beirut, an old-fashioned, workaday little spy picture set in the war-torn Lebanese capital in the early eighties. It checks the boxes and keeps things moving, but it lacks sufficient depth, historical context, gee-whiz tricks, or flat-out thrills to really move the needle.

Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a onetime academic, agency initiate, and Beirut station chief. But when a 1972 shoot-em-up upends his life and drives him to drink, he washes up in a drizzly, glum American northeast seasoned with land yachts, smoldering cigarettes, and carpeted bars. He’s yanked from this limbo in ’82 by a mysterious request summoning him back to Beirut. Gone is the pretty city he knew — in its place, a dusty, bombed-out husk. An American has been kidnapped, you see, and our flawed antihero has been asked for by name. (Even though he’s not exactly a spy, and seems to have few actionable skills aside from drinking while sweaty.)

Pike plays Sandy Crowder (ahem – reusing your names, Tony Gilroy? Remember Karen Crowder?), an agency “skirt” assigned to keep Hamm on the straight and narrow. Together (or at least somewhat together), they navigate their contacts in the various warring factions, trying to broker a deal to get the purloined American back home.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this setup, and it plays well, if a little old-fashioned. And that’s the issue: Beirut just doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Beirut feels a lot More >

Ready Player One [Review by Haus]

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Ernest Cline’s 2011 debut novel Ready Player One was terrific, both an obsessed fanboy love letter to early 80s pop culture, and a futuristic, VR-based, be-anyone-you-want-to-be techno-thriller. A bidding war broke out for the movie rights before the novel even hit the press, and now — the better part of a decade later — comes Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited film adaptation.

It’s a curious beast. Sure, it’s predictably solid, upbeat, and an entertaining ride, but fans of Cline’s novel will scratch our heads as Spielberg strips away many of the book’s most memorable moments.

Looking only at the 2 hour 20 minute runtime, I initially wondered if Spielberg tried to capture and cram in every twist of the book’s plot. I needn’t have worried: In actuality, Zak Penn’s adaptation is anchored only sparingly to the original arc, elsewhere flapping and billowing into parts unwritten (and sometimes unneeded, though not altogether unpleasant).

This much is the same: Ready Player One takes place in 2045 (though the novel’s Oklahoma City has mysteriously been swapped for Columbus), in a glum world of depleted resources, pollution, and stacked mobile homes. Reality bites here, so citizens spend most waking moments inside the OASIS, a colossal VR universe. (Aside: Cline’s novel stressed that kids go to school in the OASIS, business is transacted, and so on; but in the film it feels more like Second Life — a game-slash-chat room, catnip for binge-watchers but an ultimately trivial diversion. I More >

Pacific Rim: Uprising [Review by Haus]

There’s a scene in Pacific Rim: Uprising where star John Boyega inexplicably builds himself a sundae, dousing it mercilessly with spray-can whipped cream and fistfuls of colored sprinkles. But there’s no ice cream. Sure, he ate some off the scoop while trading weary-bros-with-unstated-backstory quips with prettyman Scott Eastwood — but I never saw any actually go into the cup. So Boyega just stood there, piling multicolored, machine-processed and fakey-sweet toppings onto nothing at all.

How apt.

The first Pacific Rim was lightning in a bottle — a wholeheartedly ridiculous and over-the-top Guillermo del Toro showpiece that took itself so very, deliciously seriously. (“Today, we are canceling the apocalypse!”) Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba leant that exercise a set-jawed gravitas that played well against the technicolor CGI of Ron Perlman rummaging around in Kaiju guts. It was basically Sons of Anarchy in a tripped-out Tokyo arcade: A strange trip, but one worth taking at least once.

This sequel is not. Neither Hunnam nor Elba signed on for this outing, and this is essentially a directing debut for Steven S. DeKnight — whose only prior credits are a couple hours of television. And although Del Toro retains a producing credit, it’s clear he sat well clear of the splash zone on this one, focusing his efforts instead on other projects. Perhaps as a result, the second Pacific Rim piles on those toppings but never quite threads the needle. Instead it makes a giant mess of digital More >

Game Night [Review by Haus]

Sometimes it’s refreshing to drive your head into the sand and march into a film with pretty much no idea what’s coming. It’s admittedly tough to do these days, what with trailers autoplaying willy-nilly in our social media feeds and clickbait sizzle preceding just about every steak — but every now and then the stars align and along comes a film that, sure as cold beads form on my ICEE cup, stays swaddled in a cloak of utter mystery. (Thanks for permitting that particular pause-4-florid — I had to earn my “overwrought prose” badge for the week.) Anyway, that all did happen, and I am pleased to report, Game Night was a fun surprise.

Game Night is pretty much The Game meets Date Night (I could write titles) with just a dusting of Get Out-style woke comedy and a legitimate barrel-o-monkeys of surprisingly decent laughs. This is a really entertaining movie.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams lead as Max and Annie, a super-competitive game-obsessed suburban married couple who host game nights at their house with pals Ryan (the always-enjoyable Billy Magnussen), Kevin (Lamorne Morris, who trots out a mean Denzel impression), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and Sarah (Sharon Horgan). When Max’s older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to town, old rivalries flare up and the group is plunged into a kidnap-mystery participant-theatre adventure that blurs the line between reality and THE GAME. (I could write synopses.)

The plot is what it is, but a film like this sinks or floats on pacing, More >

Thoroughbreds [Review by Haus]

Thoroughbreds is special little thriller. Right from go, it’s unpredictable — it plays every scene just a little differently than you expect. If you take your teen-angst pictures dark, cold, and set in the idyll of Connecticut’s WASPiest surrounds, you’ll love this one.

Thoroughbreds was shot in under a month, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival (under the name “Thoroughbred,” although I didn’t manage to see it there), and has since picked up distribution through Focus Features. The film is notable both as director Cory Finley’s first feature film, and, unfortunately, as Anton Yelchin’s last (he died two weeks after wrap, crushed by his own Jeep in his driveway).

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Lily Reynolds, a rich high schooler who boards at Andover, lives in a grand old manse, and whose stepfather (Paul Sparks) is a humorless and petulant douche (think financier-cum-rowing machine, fancy road bike, and juice cleanse). Lily is sensitive, demure, and privileged, but with a mean little peach-pit of a soul; Taylor-Joy tacks smoothly between lovable ingenue and steely-eyed schemer like a seasoned professional, and is a delight to watch.

But it’s Olivia Cooke who really slices the screen in two as Amanda, Lily’s near-emotionless childhood friend who’s utterly laconic and immune to any slight; she’s a Vulcan minus the ears and morals, and will pitch a murder like it’s a choice of creamer. I’m amazed that Cooke is able to render so sympathetic a character so necessarily flat and More >

The Star [Review by Haus]

The Star cannot possibly be as interesting as the pitch that preceded it:

“Hey, the birth of Christ is great and all, but you know what’s missing?”

“What’s that?”

“How about – a talking, praying donkey leading the way.”

Oh, Sony Pictures. Of all the pitch meetings in all the world, I wish I could’ve seen that one.

And in the end, in a twist worthy of Shyamalan — as the money-men sat, enraptured on Aerons, spiced lattes forgotten — behold, it was greenlit! Abandon belief, ye hordes. Whatever rational world you think you live in, you’re wrong. The world is this. It is only this.

And I’ll dial it back now, partly because that last bit was a shade too much but mostly because The Star is a pretty dialed-back movie.

The Star tells the story of Jesus Christ’s birth (loosely retold in the most gentle, Sunday-school way), as witnessed by a donkey named Bo (voiced by Stephen Yeun).

Bo dreams of something more than his life in a mill, and sets off on a grand adventure with Dave (a dove, Keegan-Michael Key), and Ruth (a sheep, Aidy Bryant), ultimately crossing paths with a trio of camels (Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey) and other animals (Kelly Clarkson, Kristin Chenoweth, Patricia Heaton, and others) as they follow the titular star. We see King Herod (Christopher Plummer) dispatch a couple of mean Roman dogs (Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias) to chase them down and ferret out the prophesied King. Meanwhile, Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi) make their way to More >

Haus Guest Interview on Phil Hulett & Friends

Check out our interview! Our very own Haus filled in for Manny The Movie Guy (KMIR, NBC Palm Springs affiliate) today on the Nov. 17, 2017 broadcast of Phil Hulett and Friends, doling out the Haus Verdict on THREE films opening today: Justice LeagueThe Star, and Wonder.

In case you’re not familiar with the program, Phil is a veteran LA radio guy and voice-over announcer, as well as the PA announcer for the Anaheim Ducks for the past 21 years. He and his gang of Friends run a great and very professional show — this was their 340th weekly episode. Many thanks to Phil & the gang!

If you missed the live broadcast, click the link below to jump right to 38:08 (where we start), or check out the full episode in podcast form on your favorite platform.

Haus’s full Justice League review is up today; The Star and Wonder are coming soon.

Justice League [Review by Haus]

Kids these days are so darned ungrateful, and I’m about to be one of them: Sure, DC’s Justice League assembles popular actors to play well-loved childhood heroes; sure, it’s full of slow-mo fights and splashy, big-dollar effects; and sure, it’s directed mostly by Duke-of-Nerds Zack Snyder (tag-teaming with Nerd-Prince Joss Whedon). But sigh and yawn and whip out the iPhone, because it’s just not enough to entertain me. Or, probably, you.

Which will come as a big blow, because Justice League was meant to be DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers: Namely, a grand cinematic vehicle uniting everyone’s favorite heroes in a colossal fight to save the planet. And while it ostensibly is this, Marvel can rest easy: Justice League is a thematic muddle, an also-ran with an irrelevant and ho-hum villain, no clear character arcs, a hodge-podge of action scenes, and a mad tangle of secret backstory weighing it down.

Problem the first: To understand what’s going on in Justice League, you really need to have seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — which, to be clear, is something no one should have to do. (For DC even to suggest that anyone ingest that gloomy, overlong Nutraloaf of a film falls one step shy of a war crime.) Too long; didn’t watch: Superman died in that one.

Moving on, Justice League assembles a team of heroes, including Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Three of these characters haven’t had their own movies yet. This is a bit awkward, since this will be many More >

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