(1) My former girlfriend’s terrier once ate a giant marzipan bar of mine, nearly her same damn size. We came back from the ski hill and this little dog was slouching around with a rock-hard belly, packed thick with almond paste. A man of science, I was truly shocked she fit it all in. Another friend’s dog got into a massive birthday cake and ate the entire thing in minutes.
(2) I love Luxardo cherries. They’re the best. If a bartender puts one in a drink, I’ll petition for more and more. One time, a particularly hospitable barkeep thought she’d catch me crying wolf, and put about thirty in my drink. I ate every single one, feeling justifiably like Homer in the Ironic Punishment Division.
Why do I say these things? Well, some folks prefer balance. They like a little taste of something sweet after a wholesome meal. They don’t want an entire marzipan bar the size of their whole body and nothing else. They don’t want to eat just cake. They don’t want thirty liquor-steeped cherries in a Collins glass.
They won’t like this movie.
This movie is a sugar rush. It’s like someone sucked the marrow and substance out of every good action movie, then distilled whatever was left into a sticky sweet syrup of hero cars and CGI and nuclear threats and explosions and punchlines. It’s a thick quilt of shiny bits swaddling the most infantile and preposterous scaffold of story. There’s nothing to it but flash.
I liked it.
Sure, any old joe could sit down in my special Haus chair and More >
Before we talk about what T2 Trainspotting is, let’s be clear on what it’s not: namely, the Trainspotting for a new generation. It couldn’t be, anyway, with its heavy dependence on backstory, with most of its protagonists now pushing 50, and with what once shocked our innocent pre-Google moviegoing minds no longer even moving the needle.
No, T2 is a nostalgia film, through and through. If you saw the first one in the theater, and have since orbited the sun twenty damn times and want very much to have your nose rubbed in that fact, then you’re pretty much the target audience and you’ll find this a sharp and welcome vein-shot from memory lane. If you’ve never seen the first, this installment will probably make no sense at all.
That doesn’t mean, mind you, that you need to have seen it lately. I confess I felt unprepared walking into this movie. While I did see Trainspotting in the theater in ’96, and have seen it at least a couple times since, it’s been well over a decade and the story wasn’t exactly fresh in my mind. But director Danny Boyle must’ve seen this coming, because he sprinkles helpful refreshers throughout. He also liberally injects clips from the first film, typically using old locations as a trigger to overlay some original footage. Reminiscent of CHiPs ’99? Sure, but that’s a reference for a level-fourteen battlemage of B-rate movies (or a reader of my last review).
“Never meet your heroes,” they say, and to this I would add, “be careful with movies you liked as a kid.” Sure, some do age well (Ghostbusters, Robocop, Top Gun), but you’ll find others strangely peppered with stop-and-blink slurs (The Breakfast Club) or just plain hilariously bad today (Rambo: First Blood Part II, or Stallone’s Cobra come to mind). I say that to say this: There’s a reason why classic cop-dramas remade as movies tend so heavily toward comedy. (Think 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, Dragnet, Starsky and Hutch; Miami Vice and S.W.A.T. are about the only two I can think of that played it straight — I blame Colin Farrell.) It’s because redoing an old favorite how it actually was might not play too well today.
So I get why Dax Shepard (who wrote, directed, and stars in CHiPs) tried to turn this early-80s treasure into something R-rated and racy. I get why he cast Michael Pena as Ponch and himself as Jon. I even get why he aimed for a semi-self-aware, kinda-woke-but-also-raunchy angle.
What I don’t get is why what should have been the milk run of remakes fails so hard.
First and most troubling, CHiPs isn’t very funny. While paced as though it’s skipping from punchline to punchline, so many of these fall flat that it plays more like a weird, reverso drama. And for an R-rated comedy, a surprising majority of the would-be funny stuff is cognitively available to a middle schooler (though I’d wager his dick jokes are better).
Judging by its trailer, Life could be one of two things: either a moody, semi-intellectual think piece involving a space-station-bound, flight-suited crew wrestling with some tough decisions; or a dim-witted, sophomoric gremlin-o-rama with an EVIL ALIEN stalking a half-dozen astro-nots like so many slasher-film victims. Thanks to the liberal application of JFK voiceover, my bet was on the former.
Wrong. Life is a one-note B-movie with not much useful to say.
If you’re surprised, get in line. This film had a lot going for it. There’s a remarkable amount of talent here: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds star. Hiroyuki Sanada is aboard (splendid in Sunshine), and Olga Dihovichnaya and Ariyon Bakare round out the crew. Sure, Reynolds seems a tad too hotheaded and quippy for an astronaut –a little Deadpool-lite — and Gyllenhaal is a bit sullen, but everyone’s watchable. The special effects team did great work: the requisite floating fluids and weightless humans and space vistas all are beyond reproach. And Daniel Espinosa’s direction is serviceable, at least once you figure out Life is piling all its eggs in the jump-scare basket. So what’s the problem?
It’s dumb. And worse, so are the characters in it.
A brief aside: I once attended a workshop at the American Film Institute whose sole stated purpose was to teach screenwriting to scientists. (It was sponsored by the Air Force. Your tax dollars paid for this. I am not making this up.) For a week, about a More >
My mother once told me that in real life, no one would like Murphy Brown. In reality, you see, there’s no laugh track — and to actually share office space with Candice Bergen’s quick-mouthed TV journalist (and brave her unending caustic jabs) would, she thought, get pretty old pretty fast. Seen in situ with the goofy and upbeat cast of FYI, Murphy is gloriously entertaining. Strip away her foils, though, and … hmm, maybe not.
Similar deal with Logan. Notwithstanding X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the adamantium hero typically sings backup as a scowling, gruff-stuff agitator to the X-Men. He pops up now and then in those ensemble pictures, brooding under a thunderhead of Bad Mood, dishes out some snarky quip and it’s on to the next thing. (The McAvoy/Fassbender recruiting scene in X-Men: First Class springs to mind.) He’s the emotional California: Fun to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.
But what if the King of Sullen actually told his own story? And I don’t mean a cookie-cutter hero picture with yellow leotards and gleaming blades and blinking screens of doom, but a hard look at the world this misanthrope actually would occupy. What does a real Wolverine movie look like?
It looks like this. Logan is the movie Wolverine always deserved, but not necessarily the one you wanted to see.
For starters, it’s dark, harsh, loud, and bloody. (No complaint on the latter: It’s amazing that a hero whose main ability is slicing people with knuckle-swords has steered clear of true gore More >
You know the drill. Another year, another trip around the sun, and it’s all for THIS. We here at The Parsing Haus are doing it again, shined and primed for a long and robust jaw-aching feed at the swollen teat of decadent celebrity culture.
Join us on Sunday, February 26 for live coverage of the 2017 Academy Awards; bury your hungry snout in our trough of cinephiliac num-nums and popcorn and snark-dumplings and perfect little starfucker sundaes topped with delicious bon mots. It’s a feast. You’re welcome.
- Our live red carpet coverage starts ~2:30 pacific / ~5:30 eastern (TBA) (watch: ABC)
- Our live Oscar coverage starts 4:00 pacific / 7:00 eastern (TBA) (watch: ABC)
So tune in right here. It’s going to be choice.*
* – and don’t forget to refresh the page. On some browsers, the live blog software we use doesn’t auto-update. We’ll fix this someday, probably.
Horror is normally SpecialK’s realm and she has an excellent review of Get Out that you should read. A combination of an overactive imagination and my father watching surgery programming on PBS, makes me a little reticent to watch all horror films. The trend toward torture porn and body horror seems to usher an unending war of one-upmanship that is both gruesome and repetitive. My favorite horror films tend to be political/social and funny.
Horror was once a genre akin to morality plays. Many horror films and books contain salient critiques of culture. Frankenstein tackles the moral dimensions of scientific development. The Mummy warns against desecrating ancient cultures, particularly their burial tombs. Alien movies highlight the fear of difference and how our perception of humanity and its differences is altered in the presence of aliens. Horror is a tool to teach a lesson or present an insight.
Horror comedy or Hor-Com lives in the intersection of two of our most vulnerable moments: laughter and fear. I love Hor-Com when it is intentional – see Cabin in the Woods. I love Hor-Com when it is accidental and awesomely bad – see Troll 2. I even love when it is not entirely clear and lives betwixt and between the two – see Bad Taste. Again, laughter and fear provide a moment of shared humanity.
Like most horror fans, I had no idea what to make of Get Out when I saw the trailer last year. Clips of stereotypical horror flashed across the screen, but with an underlying premise so over-the-top it seemed laughable. And then I saw comedian Jordan Peele’s name and I think ok, this must be a comedy, right? A spoof? Nope. Sure, it has its laugh-out-loud moments, but Get Out proves to be a genre-rending, racial-assumption-suspending, star-packed backbend of a film that takes some major risks and reaps some major rewards. Simply put, it’s brilliant.
Get Out opens as Chris and Rose are preparing for a trip from the big city to forested white suburbia to meet Rose’s family. Chris is trying to tease out how Rose thinks her parents will manage the fact that he is black and she is white, but she brushes off his concerns and they begin their drive. After hitting a deer and having a run-in with the cops, it becomes clear even before the protagonists reach their destination that this film will tackle complex issues of race with nimble ease, subtle genius, and pointed humor. This is gonna be good.
When they arrive, Rose’s parents seem normal enough, if not a little awkward about the whole skin color “thang,” but Chris manages the discomfort with polite tact. However, a deep sense of unease is brewing. The black groundskeeper and maid don’t seem quite right, Rose’s mom weirdly offers to hypnotize Chris, and Rose’s brother is downright hostile.
It isn’t until the family throws a giant More >
Ladies, gather ’round. That’s right, circle up. Vanessa and Susie, put down the feather pillows, let’s not fight. Becky, those frilly PJs are adorable! Stacy, cap that nail polish, and Jessica, pause just a sec, you can finish braiding Amanda’s hair later. I’ve got a secret to share: girls can make pretty pictures on the big screen, too!
Look, I really, truly wanted to like XX. I’d been awaiting its release for months. Finally, I thought, a suite of horror films showcasing the power of women filmmakers. I pictured creativity, dynamism, and a new take on my favorite genre. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I knew each film would be singular, bold, and even scarier than my worst nightmares. Surely, a compilation dedicated to brilliant terroristas would offer no less.
Would you believe I even had a whole theme planned for my review? I’d present each film like a waiter describing a chef’s award-winning tasting menu at a fine restaurant. Apéritif, first course, main dish, and dessert—just the perfect little meal. So you can imagine my shock when the first offering was chicken nuggets. Decent ones, but still, chicken nuggets. Next course? Chicken nuggets. Main dish? Sure, we can spice it up. Fried chicken. And dessert? More nugs. Girls, I know we can do better than this.
The Box. In our first glimpse of frighteningly feminine fiction, a stereotypically successful suburban family is torn apart when a young son refuses to eat after being shown something in a gift box by a More >
INT. LEGENDARY ENTERTAINMENT’S BURBANK OFFICES – 2014.
ZHANG YIMOU: Matt, thanks so much for coming by to talk about the new picture. You got the script, right?
MATT DAMON: Absolutely, Mr. Yimou, but I only had a chance to skim it. I recently finished shooting a movie called “The Martian.” It was a trip. My character grows poop potatoes and staves off insanity by cracking wise. I can only assume I’ll be fielding questions about whether the film is a comedy or drama for years to come.
YIMOU: Sounds confusing. Well, the head honchos at the studio thought you would be the perfect choice for a legend about the Great Wall of China. Mind you, this saga has no basis in local lore.
YIMOU POINTS TO THE MEN SEATED OFF TO THE SIDE, WHO WE NOW REALIZE ARE THE SCRIPT TEAM.
These three screenwriters and three additional storytellers get full credit!
DAMON: About the script. I have A LOT of questions . . . .
YIMOU: I’ll cut you off right there, Matt, ‘cause I already know where you’re heading. Ok, first, you are the star. Many Chinese actors will be cast, but they will be little more than necessary set pieces. That said, you won’t have to work very hard on this movie. Most of the lines that our narrative brain trust put to paper are three-word sentences. Maximum. What about your character William’s More >