Jennifer Lawrence

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Hey, fans! Focus on these younger, sexier cast members!

Hey, fans! Focus on these younger, sexier cast members!

2014 – With the mutants and their human allies being exterminated by evil Sentinel robots, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels back in time to disrupt continuity as much as possible.

What would the Mad Magazine parody of this be called? Days of Future AssedDays of Future Passed Gas?

This is a time travel movie.

Strike one.

All time travel movies since Back to the Future are exactly the same. As soon as you realize something is a time travel movie, you’re locked into the same stale tropes that Marty and Doc struggled with (before Parkinson’s and senility set in, of course). Oh no, something we did in the past had unexpected repercussions. Oh good, something else we did resulted in a future identical to the one we had before, but happier. The end.

The good thing about Days of Future Past is that nobody cares what they might change. You see, back in the 1970s, shape-shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) –

This movie has Jennifer Lawrence in it.

Strike two.

– killed a scientist named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) because he was building an army of anti-mutant robots. This backfired, though, and only allowed Trask’s minions to make the robots more powerful. Now, in the “present day,” the last X-Men come up with a crazy idea. Stick with me, because this is complicated:

Mutant Kitty Pryde (the boyishly handsome Ellen Page) has the power to pass through solid objects. Turns out, she can also send people back in time. Pretty useful, right? Seems like something they might have wanted to look into way before they’re about to be killed. Unfortunately, nobody can go back in time because it really hurts. Guess they’re out of luck, right?

WAIT A SECOND HERE – don’t we have a mutant who can almost instantly heal all damage he sustains? Oh yeah! Wolverine! Wow, pretty crazy nobody thought of this before. Professor X (the always dignified but increasingly pitiable Patrick Stewart) tells Wolverine that he’ll have to convince the young and troubled Professor X (James McAvoy) that he’s from the future, and then prevent the assassination. That way everything will turn out great.

Along the way, they’ll have to recruit a young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) because… um… I forget. In order to get him out of prison, they recruit a mutant who is so fast he can beat up a room full of guys and pluck bullets out of the air. Fortunately for the plot, this mutant disappears immediately afterward and is never heard from again. Seemed like he would have come in handy, but hey. You know. It’s in the script.

This movie doesn’t care about anything, which I have to respect. Why does the Wolverine of the past look exactly like the Wolverine of the future? WHO CARES! Why does James McAvoy look and sound nothing like Patrick Stewart? SO WHAT? How does the attempted assassination of the President and the literal uprooting of an entire football stadium somehow result in a future identical to our own, but with only some of the bad parts removed? IT DOESN’T MATTER!

It must all be thanks to that scrappy Wolverine guy. After all, he tells Professor X to start his mutant school and find all the same mutants to help – so he does. He tells the Professor that he and Magneto will eventually become friends again – so they presumably do. It’s that easy!

This may be obvious to X-Men fans, but Days of Future Past seems to be a complete reboot of the series. Thanks to this time travel jawn, all the continuity is reset and everyone is played by a new, younger actor. Except for Wolverine. He’s sort of the Judi Dench of this series – the much-loved holdover from the old continuity who stays on to make the fans happy.

Plot aside, I can’t say that this is a bad movie. It’s certainly a cut above the other X-Men I’ve seen, and it’s always fun to watch the likes of Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen (who, by the way, somehow looks OLDER without that Gandalf beard to cover his appalling turkey neck). Even the acting is good… well, with one noteworthy exception. Jennifer Lawrence. She is HORRIBLE in this movie. Watch that scene where she’s wearing the floppy black hat and unnecessary midriff-baring shirt and tell me she’s giving a good performance. I know she’s in this movie strictly so she can prance around in a latex bodysuit, but come ON. This is an Academy Award winner? What a joke.

The other familiar flaws of Marvel movies rear their oft-seen heads, of course… awkward, pretentious dialogue, the lack of a strong central villain… but why even point these things out? Nobody cares.

Days of Future Past holds a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Strike three.

Advertisements

THE INTERN

The Intern header2015 – Elderly widower Ben Whitaker (Bobby De Niro) takes a position as a “senior intern” at an online fashion company run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) and helps all the mentally stunted hipster young folk with their lives. Sort of like a non-retarded Forrest Gump.

As you may or may not be aware, I hated Silver Linings Playbook with a passion. One of my many gripes was the way the characters shouted and swore at each other constantly, and that the movie seemed to mistake “being loud” with “good acting.”

It’s much harder to play a subdued scene where your character sits in his bathrobe watching Singin’ In The Rain and cries, but the way De Niro pulled it off in The Intern made me want to cry. Because you can tell, without having it screamed at you for two hours, that he’s thinking about his deceased wife. Heck, maybe this was their favorite movie; maybe they saw it on their first date. We can’t be sure, but it’s a wonderful moment because whatever he’s feeling, he makes us feel it too. It’s quiet. It’s underplayed. It’s good.

Ben Whitaker doesn’t have a trendy mental illness or an absurdly dysfunctional family – he’s just an old guy who’s worked all his life and suddenly finds himself with nothing to do. His friends have started to die off, so he’s looking for companionship and a way to stay relevant. Similarly, Jules Ostin isn’t a nymphomaniac whose husband tragically died – she’s a 20-something struggling to keep both her family and her business intact amid all the pressures and confusion of modern life. It’s these simple “time-of-life” dramas that the movie tackles so well and make it a very relevant film.

The movie hammers home how the concepts of gender and “work” have changed with the generations. Ben arrives in a suit and tie, carefully groomed, and moves around the office shaking hands, talking to his colleagues face-to-face. That’s the kind of professionalism you just don’t see anymore, and it’s no wonder he quickly overcomes the initial skepticism of the younger folk. Contrast him with every other male character and they immediately seem emasculated. Their voices have that high-pitched, whiny quality that you hear more and more in men and women these days; they dress like slobs; they have no idea how to talk to people.

De Niro can't believe how bad these guys look either.

Stupid glasses, gross beards, bad cardigan, dumb haircuts. De Niro can’t believe it.

Jules faces challenges of her own. The bitchy stay-at-home moms at the playground rather ham-handedly condescend to her about her career, and she complains that her male counterparts underestimate her abilities. Writer/director Nancy Meyers doesn’t limit herself to one point of view, however. After blurting out how neutered men are nowadays compared to icons like Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford (and Robert De Niro), Jules observes that this generation’s boys were raised in a “you go, girl” culture and simply weren’t given anything to latch onto or be proud of. “That’s a problem,” she admits. It’s smart, unexpected character moments like this that give the movie a unique feel.

The Intern certainly isn’t perfect. Rene Russo is wasted as Ben’s romantic interest. The supporting cast is mostly forgettable, although special mention goes to Davis (Zack Pearlman), a husky goof who provides some of the film’s best comedic moments. Speaking of that, the movie is a little short on comedy; the audience at the showing I attended wasn’t laughing much, even at the parts I chuckled at. Some of the dialogue for the youngsters is clunky and awkward – someone uses “cajzh” (short for “casual”), and I’d like to think that even today’s dipshit youth would know better.

More polishing was definitely called for; the scene where one of the characters confesses their fear of being “buried alone” is good, but could have been great with a little more attention. We never really do find out why Jules’s business is so successful – it seems identical to every other online fashion site – and the scenes meant to show how hip it is (they talk about “clicks” and “heroes,” she rides around the office on her bicycle) come off like they were written after a casual glance at Wikipedia.

The Intern stars

While not a masterpiece, The Intern has a lot more meat to it than many heavily-hyped Oscar-bait flicks. It’s a quiet, contemplative, heartwarming look at what it’s like to be old (and young) in a text message society… something we all need to tackle sooner or later. Recommended.  

AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN

2013 – Young adults at a first-time offenders’ boot camp discover the legend of the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan is real, but is much more horrifying than they could have imagined.

Rejoice, my twos and threes of readers! After a lengthy starting-a-new-job-and-having-it-drain-all-my-creative-passion exodus, I have returned to help you answer life’s pressing movie-related questions. Foremost among these today is: how can a movie entitled Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (or AGTWOPB) not be the greatest movie ever made?

Here’s the thing: bad movies are only good when they’re not supposed to be bad. It’s like watching someone pretend to trip vs. seeing a legitimate tumble – or, for instance, watching Sharknado as opposed to The Room. The key ingredient is the knowledge that the filmmakers were trying to make something good and failing gloriously in the attempt.

The makers of AGTWOPB consciously set out to make a cheap, bad horror movie. Tragically, they shouldn’t have even had to try. Paul Bunyan is really a gigantic, near-immortal mutant who goes on a bloody killing spree because some kid steals the horn of Babe, the long-dead blue ox? How can that turn into such a dull, lifeless, forgettable affair? In the interest of time (we’ve got a lot of ground to cover) I’ll run through my main complaints:

  1. There are too many characters with too little screen time. Who is the hero? We should know who to root for within 3 minutes of the opening credits.
  2. The deaths were not creative enough. Decapitations get old after three or four.
  3. There’s a pathetic shoehorned-in sympathetic backstory for Bunyan. I don’t care. This isn’t King Kong.

The only glimmer of hope I have is that the ending leaves things wide open for a Friday the 13th style sequel where Bunyan’s corpse could re-animate at the bottom of a lake. With that in mind, I’m proposing a big-budget, star-studded remake to turn this cinematic dump into the cash cow franchise it deserves to be.

Joe Estevez as Meeks
Axe Giant Joe Estevez The legendary bad movie actor plays a standard “crazy old coot” who warns the kids about Bunyan but then turns out to be sort of in league with him (I guess). Let’s upgrade to the most respected Estevez, Martin Sheen, who can re-capture some of his Spawn-era glory with a hammy turn here.

Axe Giant Martin Sheen

Dan Haggerty as Foreman Bill

Axe Giant Dan Haggerty

Foreman Bill is the guy who goes off to take a dump at the beginning of the movie after killing Babe the blue ox. We need a big, imposing brute for this role, and there’s nobody bigger or more brutish sans makeup than Ron Perlman. He’s down for anything.

Ron Perlman Axe Giant

Thomas Downy as Sgt. Hoke

Axe Giant Thomas Downey

He’s “the jerk.” The movie blew a real opportunity with this character, a guy who’s such a bastard that he makes up a song about what a bastard he is and forces everyone else to sing it. Unfortunately, Hoke just isn’t given time to blossom. This role is an opportunity for a badass actor to really ham it up and chuckle at himself, meaning it’s perfect for my long-dreamed-of Steven Seagal career revival.

Axe Giant Steven Seagal

Amber Connor as CB

Axe Giant Amber Connor

She’s “the good girl” among the no-good kids at the boot camp. This is the perfect role for a young up-and-comer who needs all the exposure she can get – think Jennifer Lawrence in Last House on the Left. As a matter of fact, hell, let’s just go with Jennifer Lawrence. It’ll give her a chance to prove that her “golly gee I’m so excited to be meeting all the big movie stars because I’m just a regular ol’ gal” routine is as genuine as we all know it isn’t.

Axe Giant Jennifer Lawrence

Tim Lovelace as Tanner

Axe Giant Tim Lovelace

He’s “the sheriff” and CB’s dad. Another of the movie’s many maybe-heroes. We need a washed-up older guy who still has convincing tough guy credentials. Call in Gary Busey before he succumbs to that stroke he’s been working on the past 20 years.

Axe Giant Gary Busey

Jesse Kove as Zack

Axe Giant Jesse Kove

He’s “the other jerk,” the sullen kid everyone hates who turns out to maybe have a bit of a heart before the end. When you think “jerk everyone hates,” you think Shia LaBoeuf, right? Yeah, I did, too. Just look at him. Jerk.

Axe Giant Shia LaBeouf

Kristina Kopf as Ms. K

Axe Giant Kristina Kopf

The goodhearted counselor who is the yang to Sgt. Hoke’s yin, Ms. K is the third member of the movie’s confusing “too many heroes” triumvirate. What we need here is an older, halfway-respectable actress who just doesn’t care anymore. Clearly, as evidenced by her role as Young Hillary Clinton in those awful-looking Divergent movies, Kate Winslet fits the bill.

Axe Giant Kate Winslet

Jill Evyn as Trish

Axe Giant Jill Evyn

She’s “the red-haired slut” and fulfills (barely) the movie’s requisite topless scene. Since she has red hair I was going to suggest replacing her with Bryce Dallas Howard

Axe Giant Bryce Dallas Howard

…but since she also shows her boobs, I’m going to go with Kat Dennings. Just… because.

Axe Giant Kat Dennings

Clifton Williams as Marty

Axe Giant Clifton Williams

We’ve come to “the black guy.” This character doesn’t do much, save for one scene where he screams and cries mournfully. Therefore, the actor most perfectly equipped to portray Marty is Will Smith’s Son. I’m not going to bother to look up his name.

Axe Giant Will Smith Son

Victoria Ramos as Rosa

Axe Giant Victoria Ramos

Again, as the cast’s requisite “non-white woman,” poor Rosa is rather neglected in the screenplay. She is Hispanic, however, and therefore we have no choice but to cast Michelle Rodriguez in the part.

Axe Giant Michelle Rodriguez

Chris Hahn as Bunyan

Axe Giant Chris Hahn

Nothing against Mr. Hahn, but we’re going to need to power up and cast Kane Hodder, a.k.a. Jason, as the monstrous mountain man.

Axe Giant Kane Hodder

I would also accept Andrew Bryniarski.

Axe Giant Andrew Bryniarski

For now, though, if you want an entertainingly bad movie with almost the exact same plot, check out Grizzly Park.