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Month: April 2017

The Young Pope #6

The Number Of The Beast

Opening on a startling death in the Curia refectory, witnessed by indifferent fellow cardinals, this episode, once has been established Pope Pius’ plan on destroying the Church (the What), lays the groundwork for his modus operandi (the How) and starts shedding some conflicting lights on his motivation to do so (the Why). “What did he die of?” asks a cardinal, still masticating his lunch. “Of old age, like our Church.” comes the answer.

Sorrentino then alternates between three highly symbolic scenes, so complementary in their purpose that you can positively hear him giggle on the back of the soundrack: the elevation of faithfull Bishop Guttierez to the rank of cardinal; Esther giving birth to her baby boy; and a crude glimpse on what Cardinal Dussolier is up to in Honduras, namely having a parting threesome with his two favorite members on his flock, the wife of the richest man in town and a muscular young man. The fact that Dussolier is the meat of this particular sandwich doesn’t augure well to his future in Roma, where he has been ordered to come back.

In starck contrast with the assembled Curia, the pope wears green for Guttierez ordination, but he’s back to Holy white when he visits Esther at the hospital. She has decided to name the boy after him, so the Pope blesses “Pius the Fourteen” before dropping him on the bed when he’s reminded that the Italian Prime Minister is waiting for him at the Vatican. It’s not directorial giggles you hear then, it’s the sound of your laughter: enjoy it while it last because what follows is all but funny.

The meeting with the young, handsome Prime Minister is more of a pissing contest than a courtesy visit. In full golden regalia, the Pope presents a list of request to the Head of Government, every one more outrageusement then the other. Pius XIII wants to put a term to abortion, to homosexual marriage, to sexual depravity within the Church, and as a cherry on the Holy Cake he wants the Vatican territory to be renegociated. The Prime Minister laughs at this delirious laundry list, only to be reminded that if he has been elected by men, the Pope has been elected by God. The Holy Father then threatens not only to reactivate an obsolete “Non Expedit” disposition, forbidding Catholics to vote at election time, but to appear for the first time on St Peter square to enforce its application, a media event like no other in modern history.

The How has become clear at this point: the Pope considers himself the second advent of Christ and he won’t compromise in any way. Franciscan monks alluding to a schism of their order become the object of his fury. Voiello laments about the drooling revenues of the Papal State, to no avail, but has a more urgent fish to fry when a police officer asks about a missing shepherd who happened to be in open conflict with the Vatican. Last but not least, Cardinal Dussolier definitely has a thing for both middle-aged women with expensive cosmetic surgery and altar boys; if the formers’ fate are left to the imagination – or the next episode – the latters are definitely in peril, since one throws himself from the roof of the basilica after his apllication for priesthood has been rejected on the grounds or his homosexuality. The Beast is unleashed, and his number is XIII…

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The Great Wall (2017)

The Great WTF

It feels weird, following our last week 2016 wrap up, that our first 2017 movie has such a solid chance to also be this year’s worst. The Great Wall is truly dumbfounding, and the only thing it shares with its titular wonder of the world is a monumental scale – of stupidity and ugliness. Some movies truly are beyond any word or philosophy: they just happen for undecipherable reasons, like an earthquake, the killing spree of a mass murderer or a flood. Call it an act of God if you must, something He would send His followers to test their faith. Yes, it’s that bad. And oh, it’s actually worse.

Matt Damon plays (if what he does here still qualifies as such) a mercenary on the quest for black powder. His crew has no map, no medicine, no food. They do not have a script, either, so they basically walk forth until they bump on the Great Wall. That’s when you remember that Yang Zimou directed the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony before this, for Chinese troops are colour-coordinated and all too eager to give a Cirque du Soleil performance under Power Rangers management. But first, Matt Damon has to clean up and shave, otherwise he wouldn’t look like a good actor with questionable choices.

As soon as he makes a grand entrance in the banquet hall, everyone raises and applaudes his fresh looks, as was the custom in ancient China. The head warrior, who also is the general’s daughter, looks suspiciously like good CGI and she tells him “Meet me on the Wall”, which considering the length of said wall sounds a bit like “Meet me in Chile”. There, the High Concept is exposed: Mars has been attacking China for the last 20 centuries, and the purpose of the Wall is to contain the green herds, looking suspiciously like bad CGI. What’s implied is that only Matt Damon will be able to successfully stops the invasion, first because he’s white, but also because he knows that killing the alien queen will result in her spawn dying in a second. Does that sound familiar to you? I don”t know what you’re talking about. Did one mention it happens in CHINA?

Chinese people, if they were stupid enough not to implement the very basic plan Matt Damon comes up with, have not remained idle during these twenty centuries. On top of black powder they have invented trust-building exercices, moderately successful hot air balloons and rotor blades, even though most of their creativity seems to have been spent on military fashion. At some point the Emperor even discovers the fridge magnet: both hilarity and mayhem ensue.

Add to this William Dafoe, convinced he stars in a Beijing Circus version of The Count of Monte Cristo, a sadly underused Andy Lau, any available cliché including the slow clapping traitor and the bravoury suicide, and if you are not bored stiff you will be rewarded at the end by a couple of scenes, one in the Forbidden City sewers, one in a tower entirely made of typical ancient Chinese rainbow stained glass. Already in Yang Zimou’s The Forbidden City, interior decoration was bordering on garish; here, we enter Las Vegas LSD Disco Inferno territory. Once again, to say that it’s stupid and ugly would be missing the point: The Great Wall is far, far beyond both. Have your optometrist at hand if you dare watching that thing. Just saying.

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The Crown S1E8: Pride & Joy

Duty Queen

Spoiler Alert: the title of the episode refers to Papa’s nicknames for his two daughters. Elizabeth was his pride and Margaret his joy; both resented the other for being only one side of the royal coin; Pride & Joy highlights the moment when the two incarnations of Windsorness, the head of the Empire and her volubile deputy, clash on what is expected from the Crown. The episode manages to pack together the span of 23 weeks while distorting time in such a manner that no time passes in what feels like so many years of stately boredom.

Reviewing her modest wardrobe for her first Commonwealth Tour as a monarch, Elizabeth Regina feels 100 dresses and 50 pairs of shoes a little wee bit too many, but it’s Sir Winston’s orders that she compensates with questionable fashion every inch of influence the Empire has lost since the previous edition of such a courtesy to British colonies. India, see, is in unrest. She goes through the ordeal of protocol with her royal chin up, to the point of having the 50’s equivalent of Botox injections to soothe her inflamated zygomatic muscles. The burden of the Crown has to remain invisible to the masses when the Queen appears to her adoring subjects. Elizabeth is indeed a trooper.

Meanwhile, Prince Philip is being his usual rainmaker on his wife’s parade, calling the whole enterprise a “pantomime” and “a coat of paint”. Vested by the power of the writer, he’s once again gifted with an uncanny foresight which seems even more far-fatched after we were hit by the news that the second season will further develop his character. It’s becoming pretty obvious by now that Prince Philip is far more interesting to Peter Morgan than the Queen. The Crown slowly asserts itself as an elaborate – and pretty expensive – fan fiction on the most unlikely of subject: His Royal Highness the Duke of Edimburgh.

Sir Winston scoffs at Princess Margaret being quite the show girl. She enjoys a bit too much sporting tiaras in order to have good ol’fun at the Ambassador diner, or being politically incorrect on TV during a comical bout of coal mining. It’s still the 50s though, and the Press a national lapdog, so the order of things is restored when the Queen comes back from the Antipods and sternly reprimands her sister. She then resumes her duties in lonely Buckingham Palace after a mere glimpse of The Royal Rejects.

Wearing an hideous Barbour, Queen Mum galumphs at the end of the known world, namely a Scottish beach, more in chagrin of having lost the Crown than from any mourning of her dead husband. Some delicious quiproquo with a Scottish gentleman ensues. The ludicrousness of this segment alone is worth watching the episode. It gives an unexpected insight on the fact that if the Queen of England is so wealthy, it’s also because the Windsors are ruthless real estate negociators. Spoken, of course, like a real Scottswoman!

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Monster Bill: Worst of 2016

Worst Movie: Suicide Squad
One knows, this is no big suprise to have this dumpster of gargantuan proportions topping our list, but in a year which also inflicted Batman v Superman, Gods of Egypt, Inferno and The Accountant to a masochistic audience, this is quite an accomplishment. The draft of the caricature of a cardboard cartoon, the only suicide that thing should have caused is his writer’s.
Read the full review

 

Worst Series: Stranger Things
What do Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams have in common? Well, obnoxious children of course! Evil representatives of the military-industrial complex, too! Oh, wait, and monsters in the closet! This laundry list of a series checks all cliché boxes, but the most frightening item of all is Winona Ryder’s eight episode long hysteric rampage. Ouch, that “Will, is that you?” asked to a lightbulb will stick.
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Worst Disapointment: The Neon Demon
There was a lot to anticipate about Nicolas Winding Refn’s “fashion project” but the final Product is some hand-me-down from Guy Bourdin, not couture. His lofty ideas on beauty as a curse are dramatically hampered by his utter lack of comprehension of his own choice of subject matter. Having the movie done in LA instead of Tokyo was just a poor choice among others, but it was that straw, you know, and that poor camel all over again.
Read the full review

 

Memorable lines
“Who are you in this vast multiverse, Mister Strange?” Doctor Strange
“A hooker with hidden depths is every man’s dream.” Westworld
“Let’s rouge each other’s nipples.” American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare
“Show me your chickens, Max!” Allied
“Ah, you are not so good, Goddess of Love!” Gods of Egypt
“Don’t panic. It’s organic. It’s a va**na” Dirty Grandpa

Most dreaded movie in 2017: Blade Runner 2049

There is no way that one passes mustard, considering the ability for automutilation Ridley Scott has betrayed with his own Prometheus. After messing up his first masterpiece, it was only a matter of time he desacrated the second anyway. In spite of his mediocre Arrival, Denis Villeneuve has showed humbleness and pragmatism during the interviews he gave discussing his mission impossible: seducing a younger audience without date-raping their elders. If the movie is good, good. But could the movie possibly be good enough?

The comments section is your friend, use it to let us know if we have missed something dreadful that you would like to be reviewed here!

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Monster Ball: Best of 2016

Best Movie: Busanhaeng (Train to Busan)
Sang-ho Yeon’s first live action movie is nearly perfect, packing together social commentary, compassionate character studies, suberb action scenes and visceral gore. In a year of Brexit and Trump, with a crucial French presidential election ahead, it delivers a powerful political message to the masses: eat the rich!
Read the full review

 

Best Series: The Young Pope
Not only Paolo Sorrentino has released masterpieces like Il Divo or La Grande Belleza, but he wrote and directed this astonishingly smart, cruel and funny frescoe about power and faith’s inherent madness. Visually somptuous and Fellinian in its voluptuous irreverence, The Young Pope would by itself demonstrate that nowadays cable TV does a better job at cinema than cinema itself.
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Best Discovery: I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
Oz Perkins’ second feature after his riveting The Blackcoat’s Daughter creeps on you like mold, like rust, like rot, resulting in the best horror movie of the year and proving that there is no need of gore when a phone cord or the corner of a carpet can be shown as so deeply disturbing. This movie redefines creepy with virtually nothing but a unique eye for framing and a fine ear for soundscaping; it is absolutely brilliant.
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Most liked Movies post: Assassin’s Creed (1,3K)
Apparently you like us best when we really, really don’t like the movie we review, since close contenders were Allied and The Girl On The Train. There is so much more where these things come from, it’s only the beginning…

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Most liked Series post: American Horror Story S6E5 (1,3K)
… But fortunately you also appreciate when we have positive things to say about good stuff. This is a pretty impressive score for a single episode review, the whole 10 episode season reaching a grand total of more than 5000 likes. Can you wait for Season 7? We can’t.

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Memorable lines
“Nobody hurts Kevin!” Ghostbusters
“It’s a terrible thing to look at oneself and all the while see nothing.” I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
“Are you sleeping Holy Father? No I’m praying. For you.” The Young Pope
“He falls in love and his mind goes to submarine life?” Genius
“Croissant was raped by a stray dog called Mohammed.” Wiener Dog
“There is no after after this.” American Horror Story, My Roanoke Nightmare

 

Most expected movie in 2017: Suspiria

For 40 years the simple suggestion that Dario Argento’s Suspiria could be remade was sure to be met by a fit of laughter or rage. Yet, it’s happening, courtesy of Luca Guadagnino, which credentials include Amore and A Bigger Splash, both great, and a casting which includes at least one real witch: the one and only SWINTON! We have faith: good or bad, it’s gonna be epic.

Movies we didn’t review but would do if asked nicely:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)
I Am Not A Serial Killer (Billy O’Brien)
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (David Yates)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

The comments section is your friend, use it to let us know what you regret we missed!

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Happy Monster Day To All!

We are one, folks, thank you for having made that possible!

We’ll kickstart 2017 tomorrow with the year’s best/worst of and rest assured that the show will go on.

We hope we’ll be many more to celebrate our next anniversary.

Be well!

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