Month: October 2015

Guest Review – GOON

[Editor’s Note: To the delight of all, my good buddy Matt of Sardonic Shadow Designs (and fellow bad movie buff) hops into the reviewer’s chair to dissect Netflix’s latest offering.]

2011 – A thug finds the meaning of life battling his way through minor league hockey trash (and a horrible script).

Flavorful. Colorful. Meaty, and unforgettable. These are all words that describe the vomit induced by watching this horrible movie.

Shall we begin?

The movie starts focused on pro hockey goon Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) being suspended for taking his hockey stick to the head of an opposing player (an act that would be pretty shocking, had it not been directly copied from real life several years earlier. This results in a lengthy suspension, and his demotion back down to the minor leagues.

Watching from the bar where he works is Doug, an apologetic bouncer with a heart of gold who wants a little more meaning out of life (apparently roughing up drunks isn’t as spiritually rewarding as Roadhouse would have us believe). Played by Sean-William Scott (you may know him from his Oscar-nominated role as Stifler from American Pie), Doug comes from a family of doctors who don’t approve of his line of work. Because of his type of work, Doug is viewed as the black sheep of the family… at least he would be, if not for his brother’s lascivious behavior. What could possibly make this Jewish father embarrassed of his son and his successful career as a surgeon?

Somewhere, Kim Davis is grinding her teeth in rage and she doesn't know why...

Somewhere, Kim Davis is grinding her teeth in rage and she doesn’t know why…

It turns out that the successful surgeon brother is also gay, which we know is apparently a shortcoming due to the fact that the father states to a nearby friend, “For the record, they’re both adopted.” What year was this movie made? The 1980s? No, it was made in 2011, which seems a bit late to be making homophobic jokes, in my heterosexual opinion.

After some bitching and moaning about how his life has no meaning to a close friend, we find Doug watching a hockey game from the stands… and by hockey game, I mean a scene from Braveheart set on ice. After one of the opposing players is sent to the penalty box, he immediately singles out Doug’s obnoxious friend whose insults must’ve cut through the rest of the din of the home crowd. Once he is struck with a cup of beer, he climbs over the penalty box wall to “give him a piece, you fagot.”

Not appreciating the homophobic slurs (did I mention Doug’s brother is gay? Because he brings up about 13 times throughout the movie), Doug immediately springs into action and grabs the attacking player. After punching him 18 times in the face (I counted), Doug finishes him off with a vicious headbutt that shatters the player’s helmet and knocks him unconscious while the surrounding fans cheer. Even the one coach is impressed, which is remarkable considering his team is never seen playing hockey in lieu of fighting.

"What a fighter! ...Shame he'll be going to jail."

“What a fighter! …Shame he’ll be going to jail.”

As you may have guessed, the brutal assault of a professional league player did not result in jail time, but instead in an invitation by the head coach to try out for his team. Not having actually played (or skated) any hockey before, Doug had a rough time adjusting to the new surface, and each fall was met by some thunderous laughter from his new teammates.

Now here’s where the hockey fan in me gets disturbed – besides the obvious fact that Doug has NEVER played hockey before – his inclusion into the team makes ZERO sense from a coaching standpoint. Here’s why:

*Doug falls and teammates cackle*
Coach: “I don’t know what you sweethearts are laughing at! 1-9 last time I checked, so shut the fuck up and let the guy have his shot.”

Hey Coach, maybe if your team is 1-9, you shouldn’t be adding guys who have NEVER PLAYED THE GAME. Maybe you should think about… Oh, I don’t know, maybe drafting at least ONE skill player to your kill-squad. Just sayin’.

A short Rocky montage later, and Doug is an adequate skater, Tyson-like boxer, and the crowd favorite. Seeing that his skills have been polished, Doug’s coach trades him to another team who is in desperate need of a goon to protect their star goalscorer, LaFlamme. After suffering a brutal hit from Ross Rhea, LaFlamme (Marc-André Grondin) has become gun-shy, and is failing to produce the scintillating goals that he once had. Clearly the only fix for this ailing superstar is to partner him with a monster who skates like a 2 year old.

After Doug arrives at the team’s locker room, we soon realize that the whole team has terrible chemistry and are toxic to each other. From the moment he steps foot in there, it becomes clear that Doug will become the glue that brings this team together.

That is perhaps what bothers me the most about this movie – it’s such a clear cut template on how to make a movie that it leaves no surprises. “That’s not true, Matt,” you say. “You haven’t once mentioned a love interest during your review of this incredible story, so put down your torch and pitchfork, and have another beer, you sloppy drunk.”

Well, hold on just a second, Voice In My Head, because I was just getting to that part. Perhaps the most egregious mistake of all was trying to shoehorn some romance into this shithole film. It’s like they tried to inject a little “heart” into a movie that already has no soul. The chemistry between Doug and Eva (played by WHO THE HELL CARES?) is awkward right from the beginning. Eva sits down randomly at Doug’s bar table where she is immediately harassed by some drunk, Doug punches said drunk in the face, and Eva’s undies start sliding to the floor.

"He solves his problems through violence... perfect husband material!"

“He solves his problems through violence… perfect husband material!”

We’re also treated to such charming dialogue as this:

Doug: “Man, I’m wasted. Eva, I really like your name…?” (Yes, delivered as if it was a question.)
Eva: “Yes sir, it’s a great name. Like the Bible, just with a bit more mustard on it.” (…What the fuck?)
Doug: “I think it’s a pretty name… like your face. You have a pretty name, and a pretty face.”

Incredible.

If that doesn’t completely sell you on how shitty this side-plot is, there’s always the kissing. The kissing scenes look as if Doug has a cold and is trying to use Eva’s face as a tissue. It’s a kiss, dude. You just press your lips against hers. You don’t have to exfoliate her cheek with your nose hair.

Eva’s character does become a bit more realistic later in the film, as the more times she sees Doug, the more she becomes perplexed how he can even tie his own shoes. Or maybe she is beginning to realize that his stunted vocabulary and senseless violence may be more indicative of a serial killer than a potential boyfriend.

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE A BAD MOVIE!

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE A BAD MOVIE!

By the way, can we go into the fact that Doug may or may not be retarded? I don’t mean that to sound derogatory, I’m saying that I literally can’t tell if Scott’s performance as Doug is just that horrible, or if Doug is supposed to be some hard ass version of Forrest Gump. Half of his lines are a mumbled mass of words, and the other half sound like something my 3-year-old would say when “pwaying with his toys.”

I mean, Jesus, I kept waiting for the plot twist that reveals that he was mentally handicapped the whole time, but it never came. The closest thing we got was him emphatically stating to his parents that “I’m stupid” when defending his professional hockey career. Eventually, I just assumed that he had some sort of learning disability, and I actually enjoyed the film a lot more because of it.

The whole movie builds towards a “climatic” fight between Doug and old veteran Ross Rhea, the results of which you couldn’t care less about. By the time the fight rolls around, you just can’t wait for it to be over so you can be done watching this horrible movie. The REAL fight was resisting turning this off during the entire 91 minutes.

[Editor’s Note: Why wasn’t the movie about Liev Schreiber’s goon character? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to tell the tale of a once-great man on his way out, trying to pass the torch on to the new generation of face-punchers and jersey-grabber? Oh well.]

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AGE OF DINOSAURS

2013 – Think Jurassic Park, but with… um… Well, no. It’s basically Jurassic Park.

A blatant rip-off of a movie from 1993, and featuring a cast that would make 1983 green with envy, Age of Dinosaurs is a perfect way to kill a lazy Saturday afternoon. This, my friends, is a must-see bad movie. I wanted to do a scene-by-scene breakdown, but you really need to enjoy it for yourself. I’ll just hit the highlights.

CAST

Our hero is firefighter Gabe Jacobs, played by a haggard-AF-looking Treat Williams:

Damn.

Damn.

Gabe is a firefighter. In the universe of this movie, that means flashing his ID and declaring, “I’m LAFD” grants him instant access to the highest levels of city government. At the start of the day nobody has a clue who he is; by the afternoon, he’s on a first-name basis with the Chief of Police and cops are randomly tossing him shotguns. His daughter is Jade Jacobs (Jillian Rose Reed), who is of college age but doesn’t know what “Jurassic” means (she thinks it’s the name of a vegan restaurant). She’s the “always on her cell phone” type. Gabe and Jade do a lot of awkward father-daughter heckling: “Mom would have wanted you to go to college.” “Mom’s dead.”

Ronny Cox of RoboCop and Total Recall fame plays the head of the Geneti-Sharp company, Justin Juarisco. His wheelchair has weird “construction zone” stickers all over it and looks like a complete heap of shit:

Age of Dinosaurs Juarisco

I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that Juarisco doesn’t survive the catastrophe of his dinosaurs escaping to run amok in Los Angeles. Can you guess whether or not he is killed by the very monsters he created? You’ve got at least a 50/50 shot at this. Juarisco’s chief lieutenant is the cowardly Doug Donovan (Jose Rosete). We know Donovan is evil because he talks about “schedules” and “budgets” and bears a striking resemblance to ex-Phillies General Manager Reuben Amaro, Jr:

Age of Dinosaurs Donovan

Donovan and his do-gooder assistant Dr. Craig Carson (Joshua Michael Allen) form a very effective cliche-exchanging duo. Carson provides warnings; Donovan ignores them. “The levels aren’t stabilized!” “I’m asking you one last time: don’t do this!” “We have to stop!” So just to review, we’ve got Gabe and Jade Jacobs, Justin Juarisco, Doug Donovan, and Craig Carson. Somebody got real creative on these names, obviously.

“Uncle” Leo, a Geneti-Sharp security guard and friend of Gabe, has “dead meat” written all over him. Police Chief Dawson is my personal favorite character, tossing out lines like, “How long ’til we can get a SWAT team in here?” “About ten minutes.” “MAKE IT FIVE.” And finally there’s the helicopter pilot, who rises from obscurity to become one of cinemas’ most bad-ass tertiary characters.

PLOT

Our story begins in Japan, where Donovan’s frequent flaunting of common sense leads to a dinosaur slaughtering his entire medical staff. To contain the beast, he orders the operating room locked down. One of the doors that “locks,” accompanied by a high-tech schwoosh sound effect, is this one:

TECHNOLOGY!

TECHNOLOGY!

In the good ol’ USA, Gabe takes Jade to a presentation at Geneti-Sharp headquarters. Juarisco reveals his genetically engineered dinosaurs to the underwhelmed audience, and outlines his plans to market them to sporting events, parades, and “children’s parties.” This seems like the world’s worst business model. He also remarks that they created meat-eaters first because they’re “the cool stuff.” When he pulls a Wonka and reveals he can walk, the audience stands and cheers (which they didn’t do for the dinosaurs).

The dinosaurs are controlled by a “sonic pulse,” but in about two seconds the system fails and we’re told that “the pulse is irritating the other dinosaurs.” Seems like they should have planned this out a little better. The creatures break out and run amok and Donovan locks the building down so no one can escape. Jade gets locked in a glass-front cabinet in the basement; Gabe finds Juarisco, Donovan, and Carson, who tell him that the cabinet can be unlocked with a key kept “one floor below.” Then they find a panic room with people trapped inside; this room, of course, can only be unlocked via a control in the basement. What the hell kind of building is this?

Eventually the dinosaurs escape from the building and begin a rampage through downtown Los Angeles – and by downtown Los Angeles, I mean a shopping mall located right next to a number of abandoned warehouses. People get massacred as the authorities exchange lines like, “One hell of a mess, sir,” and “Damn shame.” Conveniently, all of the dinosaurs converge on the warehouse where Gabe and Jade have holed up. The military bombards the place, almost all of the minor characters are killed, and Gabe has to rescue his daughter from a surprise Pteranodon attack. Safe at last (I guess), they share a nice family moment as they gaze out over the burning city. THE END.

SCRIPT

The dialogue in Age of Dinosaurs is always just a step to the left of coherent, and that’s what makes the movie such a joy. Jade greets Gabe with a casual “Hey,” and he responds with “JESUS!” like he’s shocked and horrified to find her in his own living room. In the midst of the crisis, Juarisco asks, “Dr. Carson, you’re a vet – can dinosaurs climb?” During one sequence, our heroes try to escape from a dinosaur in their car. “FASTER!” Gabe screams. “They didn’t teach me this in driving school!” Jade replies. “This IS driving school!” says Gabe. Huh?

In the end, the somewhat-crazy-somewhat-noble Juarisco sacrifices himself so our heroes can escape. As a dinosaur approaches he mutters, “And his final words were… final words… Heh… Of course. Rock and roll.” It doesn’t really make sense, but I guess it’s better than nothing. Then we cut upstairs to hear him pathetically wail, “Oh no, NOOOOO!” which is far less cool than what he said a second ago.

Juarisco’s helicopter pilot, who picks Gabe up from the warehouse roof, becomes a key hero out of nowhere and vanishes again just as quickly. “Your boss is dead! Follow that Pterosaur!” Gabe tells him, which may be the best line in movie history. “You’re good,” Gabe tells the pilot at one point. “I KNOW,” he replies. Then his chopper crashes and he presumably dies, so he couldn’t have been that good.

Characters love locking things down. Donovan locks down the operating room and, later, the Geneti-Sharp building. Jade gets locked in a cabinet. People are locked in a safe room. Chief Dawson locks down the entire city.

SPFX

Jurassic Park, made 20 years earlier, featured better computer animation than this.

REALISM.

REALISM.

90% of the time the dinosaurs are completely animated, but in a few scenes they use a dinosaur head puppet that looks like it was thrown away as being too fake-looking for Gremlins II: The New Batch. They apparently blew their entire budget on these effects, because they blatantly skimp on others. When characters fire their guns, for instance, they just wiggle them around with the barrels off-camera. It looks like a bunch of kids having a fake gunfight.

PRODUCTION

Age of Dinosaurs is way too ambitious for its obviously shoestring budget. The scenes in the Geneti-Sharp building look like they were filmed in a vacant office over the course of a single day. Ladders and old propane tanks litter the hallways. If you look at the exterior, you can see where it looks like they painted over the street number or unit name:

Age of Dinosaurs building

When the movie ups the chaos ante and the dinos start to overrun the city, there’s a brief montage of the chaos. In one shot, a dinosaur has somehow scaled a huge skyscraper and is roaring at a helicopter. It’s a particularly ludicrous moment – how’d it get up there? WHY would it go up there?

I find this somewhat unrealistic.

I find this somewhat unrealistic.

The only way that Age of Dinosaurs fails is that there is no post-credits shot of an egg hatching, a dinosaur emerging from the rubble, or anything that suggests a welcome sequel might be on the way. Because the world needs more of this. Much, much more.