Month: August 2016
Another example of a movie delivering the exact opposite that what its hype and teasers promised, Suicide Squad is the big 2016 summer letdown, a tentpole crashing under its own weight and an absolute bore. It’s like watching a train wreck, only it’s a toy train carrying action figures instead of characters, like watching the paint dry only it’s pale beige, like watching an hourglass measuring the sad fashion you have elected to waste away two hours of your life. Two hours later you will have gained absolutely nothing and you will wish for ten minutes of quality time with the makers of this beached whale, carrying Harley Quinn’s baseball bat. But you won’t get them.
This thing gives the term “mindless entertainment” a whole new meaning, considering it’s neither one nor the other. It’s far from mindless, as you can hear throughout the wheels of a declining industry churning to please an audience already saturated by superheroes antics (genius idea: bring in Will Smith!), and not entertaining in the slightest because should have they conceive a torture device for Guantanamo, it would look, sound and feel more or less exactly like this one, in a loop.
What does it say about Hollywood when a movie high concept, “bunch of villains sent against an even worst foe” is treated so cowardly that the result plays like the loosely connected cinematic sequences of a PC game? With most of its avatars on pause, most of them provided with the bare schematics of a character which make eunuchs and no-lifers of them all, with no antagonist to speak of but a fashion model and no threat whatsoever to their little, desperate, insectile life, you bet you understand what it says: here’s you garbage flick of the week, morons; see it in the theater because downloading is evil.
Viola Davies, unable to be bad even she tried real hard (what she does here with her mouth full) carries around a thick top secret portfolio of coloured-by-numbers villains her dream is to assemble in an anti Justice League, because she didn’t have the opportunity to come up with the Justice League idea in the first place. Fortunately for her, a scientist from the Tara Reid school of Like, Serious Archeology mistakes an ancient clay bottle for a can of pop and frees The Enchantress, a goth chick with severe hygiene issues whose brother trapped in the next bottle have like, a mean God complex. Together they wanna build a McGuffin to rule the world and enslave the human race, so it’s time to kick them in the butt real good. Superman is gone, Batman is having a sabbatical, so the next best thing is to flank Willsmith with a quartet of mildy deranged goons, controlled by an explosive device implanted in… oh whatever.
Willsmith was arrested (not branded, natch) by Batman, as was the case for Margotrobbie, so movie can enter the Batman canon as a “Whatever happened to them?” memorial programme. Willsmith is on board with the dual objective to long for his adorable daughter (fortunately not played by his own) and utter the title at some point. Yes, they also did that. Even Batman v. Superman didn’t have Bruce Wayne say “I’ll be damned, is this the dawn of justice?”, right? Right? He’s also a sniper who can’t miss. Nobody does is better, makes me feel sad for the rest. And they are quite a sad bunch.
So, from memory: a mutant Cindy Lauper who only wanna have fun, a latino pyrokinetic, a crocodile man providing infra-bass, an Aussie with a boomerang (too bad he didn’t bring a didgeridoo), a Japanese with a katana (same remark about a koto) team up with Willsmith in order to defeat the Enchantress’ budding reign of terror, under the mild maintenance of a war veteran called Flag. Yep, how’s that for super heroism? Oh, and there is also this guy who almost misses the chopper, crosses the screen and dies. Really scrapping the bottom of the barrel with this one, Viola. One wonders how many such losers were in your thick portfolio of Evil.
Anyway, helicopters are repeatedly taken down, not unlike frappucinos are gulped at your nearest Starbuck’s, the super ordinary dreams of super heroes are revealed by the Enchantress, whose heart is not in it (there, see what just one did? Lol). She nevertheless has the best scene when she accomplishes her transformation and instantly revert to Fashion Week catwalking, Cara Delavinge’s background.
Is one missing something? What? The Joker? One doesn’t know what you are talking about. The Joker is not in this movie.
The Rythm Of The Night
Titled as such for some reason, considering we see the monster much less than previously, this episode is crammed with incidentals. First, for you faint of heart, Nancy was not a guest but a tourist at best in the Upside Down and is rescued by Jonathan as the hollow tree miscarriages her. At that point, it is both refreshing and unbelievably stupid that said monster, alleged top predator of the parallel dimension, is as lousy as the Evil Lab who submoned it or the righteous people chasing it. It is, after all, Stranger Things we are commenting here and no stroke of genius is expected.
After being rescued, Nancy has PTS under the shower, to the point she invites Jonathan in her bed, in a chaste and pure fashion of course, because she might have be willing to be deflowered three episodes ago but it didn’t make her a slut, thank you very much. She proves this point by not sleeping but getting a crash course in zoology, from which she infers that the monster is a mix of shark and hyena. You may giggle, but this is in the printed form in a book she read from, so she most likely will have the last laugh.
Our beloved trifecta of teen boy hormone has a fleeting gay episode, Lucas being jealous of Mike to be Eleven’s toy boy with What’s-His-Name trying to reconcile them via a handshake that goes awry. The fact that Eleven looks like a boy with her shaved head is not helping much. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Nancy go bear-trap shopping, from which some minor high school drama ensues as Nancy is nevertheless a slut and shit. No but seriously, kids, behave. What about Barb? Even her mother has forgotten her, for godsake!
Hopper and Joyce visit Terry, the alleged Eleven’s mother who sued the ass off the Evil Lab / The Government, but poor dear is a vegetable whose sister says she miscarriaged and never got her child. Denial of a woman’s most sacred function, Evil Lab, you are pure and simple EVIL! Weaponised babies are mentioned. One has to underline Terry has the most responsive locked-in syndrom ever, even though she’s conveniently deprived of speech.
And as for a cliffhanger: a piss contest takes place in the quarry where Will (didn’t) die, Eleven allowing the trifecta to psychologically hurt their bullies for ever; Dr Brenner is as much convincing as the Head of Evil as a malfuntioning toaster; and, SURPRISE!, it was Eleven who opened the portal to the Diana Ross realm of death and decay, which only takes us one more Under The Skin rip off to demonstrate. We, folks, are going nowhere slow. Same strange time next strange week!
This summer’s best superhero movie this side of Deadpool, The Legend of Tarzan (hereafter: Tarzan) carries on the torch of a legend in the first of the only two ways possible: dead-on seriousness or camp revisiting. Not that camp doesn’t work, mind you, but the writers of the movie have a collective brain severely missing from our other movie of the week, Suicide Squad, and are therefore able to choose their side instead of desperatly aiming at the middle of the road. Yes, Tarzan aspires to tragedy, an ambition somehow undermined by the fact that its villain is King Leopold II of Belgium, an unlikely foe if there was ever one, but it takes these aspirations seriously and delivers the goods in a dreamy, campy, obsolete way. It’s a superhero movie with a conscience, albeit an easy one, it being Mother Nature herself. But she takes a dire toll on who’s going against Her.
So. starting like King Kong with Congolese ninjas making a fool of the Belgian army, Tarzan establishes Djimon Honsoon as the Leopard King who holds a grudge again Tarzan, and that way an unholy alliance is forged with evil Christopher Waltz (when will he stop to cash it in as a Raider of the Lost Ark evil nazi?), since King Leopold II’s coffers are empty and he needs the Opar diamonds the Leopard tribe happens to detain. The fact that the tribe is readily letting go of a immense treasure to allow the tribe chief to revenge his son before most certainly being either massacred or enslaved is glossed over with the help of some noble words and the fact that Djimon Honsoun looks fantastic in leopard skin and a loin cloth.
Tarzan is bored in England, desultorily visiting the Prime Minister in the company of his black sidekick (Samuel L. Jackson, who else?). Better get used to Tarzan getting bored, or looking mildly annoyed: those are the two expressions Alexander Skarsgård allows his character to sport, letting his spectacular eight-pack do the acting. One would be forgiven to muse on the fact that Lord Greystoke being some kind of a UN ambassador and a diplomatic/black ops weapon of sorts, his stomach muscles shouldn’t be his only set of skills, but the movie, in the best tradition of the action genre, recognise that with great abs come great responsabilities, so Tarzan is back to the jungle to fight the Belgian colonial Empire, slavery and the cowardly assassination of African fauna. And he brings Jane along, since she’s pregnant and a strong spirit.
The jungle, see, “consumes everything but never the strong”, or, in that particular instance, the well connected. Tarzan and Jane are on their best William & Kate behaviour when back to Congo, copious flashbacks exposing their back story, sniffing meet-cute included, and his dysfunctional relationship with his Mangani brother (“Mangani” being the 21st politically correct for “ape” or “gorilla”). It becomes pretty obvious on the course of the movie than Tarzan is quite lousy at fighting, since he loses against lost tribes, gorillas, and even Belgians. But the thing with Tarzan is he has powerful friends, as demonstrated in the final showdown which is all that one wanna see is such an adventure flick: a tea party interrupted by herds of gnous, an elephant stampede and some African finest including lions and crocodiles. For the effectiveness and the elegance of this scene alone, the movie is worth seeing: man is hopeless and not to be trusted, it’s Nature who saves the day rebelling, a lesson learned through hardship and repeated abuse.
Tarzan, as the title indicates, is a legend, an abstraction, an article of faith. Far from defeating the evil Belgian regime he acts as a catalyst from a rejection deep rooted in abuse, crime and callousness. The movie manages not to trip on itself denouncing the exploitation of the Mother Continent by greedy foreign powers, and he does so using the traditional elements of this kind of epic quest: there is a boat and a train that have to be stopped along highlights of the Gabonese rain forest (standing for Congo). There is a “civilised” diner scene establishing the power dynamics between the bad guy and the kind woman, each standing for conflicting ideals. There is a Houdini number, group jumps into the abyss, and a bondage party turned genocide. All that and more. One suspects that should one have seen this movie at 10 years old, it would have become an instant favourite; quite some years down the line, it nevertheless looks great and feels decent, two crucial qualities that most recent super hero train wrecks would be unable to reclaim for themselves. Viewing advised.
Lo and Behold © Werner Herzog
Boy You Turned Me
Neither the church of God or the church of Freud can help Joyce, or so her letdown of a husband thinks. Not that she tried any of both, but anyway, the visit he pays her for Fake Will’s funeral proves perfunctory as she throws him out as soon as he implies that talking to her son inside the living room wall or communicating with him through Christmas lights is all in her head. The jerk even takes those down, because it’s not Christmas. What kind of a shitty excuse is THAT? In a perfect, Democrat-ruled world, Christmas would be EVERYDAY, moron! But Dad is definitely a Republican, he’s only there for money as he sniffed an opportunity to sue for negligence the owners of the quarry where Fake Will was found. Well, good luck with the autopsy, buddy.
Even Winona couldn’t possibly have it all wrong, so her eldest son Jonathan believes her, and so does Sheriff Hopper. Now they are onboard the Joyce loony train, they follow their own strategic path. Jonathan recruits Nancy for a monster hunt (read: a SEARCH PARTY), prepared by a shooting training. Miracles of miracles, Nancy proves herself a sharp shooter. Well, that’s convenient. Hopper explores the Evil Lab, demonstrating that the secret government facility is even worse at security than at opening doors on the unknown, and finds the portal before he’s finally captured by hazmat goons. And returned into his couch in the privacy of his own home. Yep, that’s the way it goes in Monsterville, fake corpses and pretend alcohol-fueled naps. We learn in the proceedings that Sheriff Hopper might be “off his meds”. People, what’s wrong with ya’all?!
When he wakes up, Hopper re-enact Coppola’s The Conversation, destroying most of his home in order to find the one mike hidden in a lamp, then proceeds to ravage what’s left of Joyce’s house after her axe rampage, in order to find nothing. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Nancy find the time for bickering at each other in the best romcom tradition, until the point he conveniently vanishes, which allows Nancy to crawl inside a tree trunk in hot pursuit of a dead deer, and boom, here she is in Silent Hill, while Echo & The Bunnymen lugubriously sing “Nocturnal Me”. Fortunately the Monster’s territory is limited, because everybody seems keen on paying him a visit.
But a visit to where exactly? Well, we have a name at last for Silent Hill, folks, and it is… The Upside Down! After one entertained the mad prospect that the Monster was Donald Trump, would it be revealed as the second coming of Diana Ross? If that’s the case, they did a poor job at make-up, because the brief view we have of him doesn’t look at all like a disco queen. They kinda got the mouth right, though. Anyway, the Upside Down, much like Studio 54 around the early eighties, is a place of decay and death, which we see Eleven visiting courtesy of an isolation tank flashback scene lifted off Altered States, the Ken Russell joint featuring William Hurt on hallucinating drugs. And she doesn’t enjoy it AT ALL. Oh, and while she’s there the place looks a lot like the alien abduction place brilliantly depicted in Under The Skin, which one reviewed last month. Just saying.
Some conflict occurs between Eleven and the boys when she messes up with their (moral?) compasses. Boys being boys, they resent her for being a bleeder. Also, this week’s film poster is Evil Dead’s and is declared “in poor taste”. Where is Bruce Campbell when he’s needed so dearly?
They Are In The Walls!
Given its DNA test reveals Stephen King’s paternity, it is not abusive to read some political subtext in Stranger Things, especially not in this King-titled episode. A bunch of small town Democrats, led by a borderline, low-in-polls female candidate (Joyce/Clinton) fight against the second coming of Ronald Reagan, a faceless, demonic Republican (Monster/Trump). They fight for tolerance, decency, family values, the works, and he stands for power, dominance, greed. Will one interpret the whole season as an elaborate variation on the ongoing 2016 presidential campaign? No, one won’t. But it is sure tempting.
So much is “inspired by” King in this episode that it is indeed difficult not to sum it up as a series of vignettes lifted out of his novels. There is the ax from The Shining. There are school bullies punished by ESP from Carrie and so many others. There is a Firestarter evil lab. Speaking of de Palma, there is a whole photo sequence inspired by Blow Up via Blow Out. There would be an interesting moment about dressing up a girl as a girl because she doesn’t look enough like a girl if it wasn’t played for kid giggles, as it speak volumes about how this series try things before hastily retreating into safer territory. Eleven is a monster, in all logic. Yes she’s an unwilling one, and she suffers from being so, but she’s more radar/parable/listening device than little girl. Her humanisation by way of a blonde wig, a pastel dress and cute socks is more than silly: it’s convenient. It’s good versus evil, with no in-between. That gigantic gaping grey area that is Eleven is terraformed with the cheapest of tricks.
Sheriff Hopper’s soothing voice keeps on being in contrast with Joyce’s shrills. He witnesses lie after lie and suspects the evil lab enough to break in at the end of the episode. The lab seems to be far up its head more than anytime before, as they send some goon into the viscous portal, at the end of a life line which gets predictably cut off. “There’s something else in there!” are his last words. Tell us something we don’t know, buddy. Or was it Barb wandering amongst falling ashes? She must be hungry after so much time…
Oh yes, Barb. In what must be one of the slowest reactions to a missing person ever, Nancy starts worrying about her vanished best friend, whose mother seems to also have disappeared into thin air. As did her car. Is the plot thickening or what? One is not sure what they have in store for this whole “having an internship in Silent Hill while no one cares” subplot, but it’s about time they came up with something.
Last but not least, Joyce. We learn she had “some anxiety problems in the past”, which counts as mild revelation. She axes through her front room wall because Will was in there, talking to her. She keeps foaming at the mouth but she has a dignified moment when she storms outside of the morgue, fuming “That thing is not my son!”. Did you believed that was Will’s body in the quarry water? Did you, really? Awww, that’s cute!