overrated

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

captain-america-civil-war

2016 – Half of the Avengers vote for Trump; the other half votes for Clinton. 

In my review of The Green Hornet, I took issue with the fact that one of the biggest fights was the two good guys beating each other up. Why not have your biggest fights be against the bad guys?

Well, Captain America: Civil War is basically a two-and-a-half-hour conflict (I won’t say “fight” because they fight for maybe a combined 10 minutes) between the good guys, and there is no bad guy. What a dumb concept that is, from a dramatic perspective: do we really think that Captain America will kill Iron Man? Or that Spider-Man will kill Ant-Man? Or that Falcon will kill Black Panther?

By the way, who the fuck are “Falcon” and “Black Panther”?!? And why is the guy’s name “Black Panther”? Panthers are black. That’s like calling someone “White Dove” or “Silver-Backed Silverback Gorilla.” Or is it because the guy is black?

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the plot.

Remember how Star Wars fans criticized the original trilogy because there wasn’t enough politics, and applauded the prequel trilogy for including a lot more politics? Well, the brains at Marvel were paying attention, because this movie is like The American President meets All the President’s Men. We don’t want plots like “supervillain threatens the world,” we want a plot like “the United Nations writes up an enormous treaty limiting superhero activity and the superheroes disagree over whether to sign it or not.”

That’s the actual storyline of this movie. The storyline is shit.

Oh, and there is a bad guy, but he’s the 14th-billed person in the cast. When you have a superhero movie with at least 13 superheroes and ONE villain (who is in no way super), you’ve got a problem. Carrying on the tradition of Marvel making its very few well-known cool villains as lame as possible, we get Zemo.

Not Baron Zemo:

Bad-ass

Bad-ass

No, just Zemo:

Suck-ass

Suck-ass

I mean, come ON. This guy is more of a nerd than the guy they got to play Spider-Man, who is supposed to be a nerd! He looks like The Miz’s gay younger brother. And the costumes… there’s no comparison. Super-cool Baron Zemo has a sick mask and nice fur highlights. Ultra-lame movie Zemo looks like he’s relaxing backstage at the Strawbridge and Clothier catalog shoot. He sucks, doesn’t do anything, and (not a spoiler, since it’s a Marvel movie) doesn’t die at the end.

The bad guy is shit.

Skipping about two-thirds of the way through the movie (because, honestly, NOTHING happens for the first two-thirds), we finally get what I presume everyone wanted: the big fight, Team Iron Man vs. Team Captain America, the world’s most well-known heroic characters all in one scene!

civil-war-lame-lineup

That’s obviously… uh… Swoop Man there on the left, and… um… Metal Arm on the right, and I think the other guy is Green Arrow, and… alright, I honestly only know Captain America and Ant-Man, who looks exactly like the Cobra Strato Viper with a silver helmet:

civil-war-strato-viper

But okay, maybe Team Iron Man will have all the well-known guys.

captain-america-team-iron-man

Since the one on the left is Black Panther, is the guy on the right Black Iron Man (he’s also actually a black guy)? Also, you have to note how ridiculously unbalanced these teams are. The fact that this is even a fight really strains credibility.

The hero vs. hero battle is decent, for a battle in which you KNOW nobody is going to die. But keep in mind that the rest of the movie is this:

"I make a motion for more long talking scenes." "APPROVED!"

“I make a motion for more long talking scenes.” “I second that.” “APPROVED!”

It’s like 12 Angry Men, with superheroes! Please note that the character who is a ROBOT is wearing a button-up blouse with a sweater. And nothing says “excitement!” like multiple carafes of water!

Everybody talks about how Spider-Man is in this movie and how awesome he is, but honestly, my cup runneth over with Spider-Man at this point. Tom Holland does a decent job, but he’s no Tobey Maguire. And Aunt May… let’s talk about Aunt May for a moment. This is Aunt May:

civil-war-aunt-may-1

In the movies, THESE are Aunt May:

civil-war-aunt-may-2 civil-war-aunt-may-3

And in Captain America: Civil War, this is Aunt May:

civil-war-aunt-may-4

Aunt May… is shit. They had one – ONE – character who is universally accepted as an elderly woman, and they get Marisa Tomei (of hot The Wrestler sex scene fame) to portray her. Simply abominable.

Some readers think that I’m faking my dislike for these movies. I’m not. I genuinely did not like Captain America: Civil War in almost any way. I thought it was logistically ponderous, visually uninteresting, and dramatically flat – all the hallmarks of the increasingly bloated Marvel “cinematic universe.”

The movie I saw just before this one: John Wick: Chapter 2. It was like having the best sex of my life, then cutting my own balls off and vomiting into the wound.

AMADEUS

amadeus

1984 – Some unpleasant old man really doesn’t care much for Mozart.

When this movie first came out, it was rated PG and ran for two hours and 41 minutes. That, I would say, is plenty of time for a Mozart story. The version I saw on Netflix, which is a dreaded “director’s cut,” runs over three hours and is rated R.

Far, far too long. The director, Milos Forman, notes what was cut for the (shorter) theatrical version: “Whatever was not directly connected to the plot.”

I’m sorry… isn’t that what’s SUPPOSED to be cut during the editing process? Was it not Antoine de Saint-Exupery who observed, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away”? Sorry, Milos Forman, but I doubt any audience felt cheated that several interminable scenes of Mozart sweatily conducting music got left out.

This is one of the movies that everyone knows the plot of already: Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is the court composer for Emperor Joseph II (noted sex offender Jeffrey Jones). When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) arrives in Vienna, Salieri is driven mad by the realization that, in comparison to Mozart, he’s a talentless hack. He contrives a circuitous and convoluted scheme to ruin Mozart’s career and drive him to eventual illness and death, involving dressing up as the ghost of Mozart’s father (Roy Dotrice).

It’s hard to believe, but this ridiculous plot sounds better as a concept that it does in actual execution. Amadeus won EIGHT OSCARS and was nominated for eleven, but I’m afraid I just don’t see it. There is a critical flaw at the heart of Amadeus, a flaw so glaring that the movie’s few merits are completely obliterated.

Simply put, nobody likes classical music. It is boring and no one listens to it. However, in this movie, all everyone does is listen to classical music and talk about how great it is. This is just not very realistic.

There are a lot of movies where people listen to classical music or go to an opera, but something important is usually happening. When the Emperor goes to the opera in Revenge of the Sith, for instance, he is intent on seducing Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. In Amadeus, the Emperor also attends the opera… but then he just talks about how much he liked the opera! Can you imagine if that’s what happened in Revenge of the Sith? “Hey, Palpatine, can you tell me more about the powah of the Dahk Syde?” “Not today, Anakin. I’d rather you focus on this weird musical that they’re performing in a language we can’t understand.”

Way back in my first review here, I made note of the distinct lack of fart scenes in The King’s Speech. I hate to say it, but here there are almost too many fart scenes. I’m sorry, but in a movie about jealousy, obsession, insanity, attempted suicide, and murder, what is the point of having Mozart farting? It’s hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a time and a place for fart scenes.

As an example: the scene where Salieri has Mozart’s wife (Elizabeth Berridge) come to his apartment and strip naked. There were several moments during this scene when a fart would have been like the grace note at the end of a fantastic symphony (perhaps even a Mozart symphony! BOOM!). Instead, we just had to endure a fartless boob scene – in my opinion, the worst kind of boob scene.

If you have an overpowering need to watch a movie where the people all wear ridiculous costumes and wigs, try Marie Antoinette (but only the parts with Rip Torn in it).

POKEMON GO

* Not at all what the game looks like

* Not at all what the game looks like

Sometimes I feel completely disconnected from the modern world and all of its horrific accouterments. This can be awkward; earlier today someone told me that Taylor Swift was dating Loki, and I thought she was still with that mongoloid werewolf kid. The vast majority of times, though, I’m grateful to not be so plugged in.

Case in point: when I saw a guy wandering around the lake by my office building, phone in hand, swiveling this way and that and snarling, “Where is it? Where is it?” The guy was wearing transition lenses, too, which told me that whatever he was doing, it wasn’t cool.

He was playing Pokemon Go, of course. I realized this when a girl about my age came bursting outside, saw the guy, and exclaimed, “Where’s the Pikachu?!? Did you find him?”

Yes, it’s the game that brings everyone together by forcing them to walk around, stare at their phones, and try to imprison imaginary cartoon animals! Six days ago, I’d never heard of this thing. Now, I can’t go to the bathroom at work without running into someone on a quest for a rare Kookaburra (or whatever).

The Pokemon cartoon came out in America in 1998. I was 15 and a devoted fan of Batman: The Animated Series; I just wasn’t interested in a comparatively slipshod “Japanimation” show. However, the franchise appears to have the longevity of Power Rangers – we see a new iteration every few years, and the original, catch-em-all-able stock of little monsters has ballooned over time.

Enter some magnificent corporate bastard, who realized that the kids who spent their hard-earned allowance back in 1998 will be willing and able to dump a lot of their much larger adult income into basically the same thing. Ergo Pokemon Go, which encapsulates everything wrong with modern games and the modern world.

Starting The Game

Your first option is to log into the game using your Google account. Yes, it’s Google, the company that cheats on its taxes, suppresses dissenting viewpoints, and happily aids oppressive Communist dictators in censorship programs that Hitler could only have dreamed of. For all its “genius,” it also has the most unintuitive email service in the world. I used one of my many phony accounts to move along.

Then you have to select a username, even the most obscure of which (including “SeagalFan1” and “PrendergastOil”) seem to be taken already. Next, you design your game avatar. Very limited choices here – you can’t change the face at all, and there are only three different shirts. An essential – essential – element of modern games is the ability to custom-design your character down to pubic hair style, so expect the brains at Pokemon Go to expand these selections. Also, expect them not to be free.

Crazed Pokemon fans will gladly provide truckloads of cash in order to purchase a “unique” hat or funny boots. This is basically how Team Fortress 2 has stayed alive so long – once the actual game objectives have been completed, players will endlessly obsess over cosmetics.

Finally, I was ready to start the actual “game.” If modern games have told us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as a well-designed, intuitive experience that you naturally pick up as you play. Oh no! We need an endless tutorial section where some guy explains what the hell you’re doing. Don’t take “what the hell you’re doing” to mean “the game’s plot,” however; this game has no plot. There are no levels, no bosses to defeat, no princess to rescue. “Story” and “characters” are for lame people.

Before beginning, I was treated to this important safety warning:

Pokemon Go warning

Yeah, STAY AWARE when you’re walking across a fairy tale bridge that has tripwires instead of a safety rail, or you might miss the huge exclamation point and the giant monster. This looks like four random pieces of clip art slapped together. Who designed this?

Playing The Game

Simply standing at my desk at work (FACT: 90% of Pokemon Go activity is done in the workplace*), I immediately caught three creatures and leveled up. WOW! Quite an adventure. And it only cost me 10% of my battery life.

* May not be an actual fact

The thing takes forever to load. I managed to open it once and it froze; I opened it again, and it froze again. Just trying (and failing) to re-enter the game cost me another 3% of my battery life. That’s a huge drain for less than 5 minutes of actual playing time. At this rate, you’d be able to play for maybe a half hour before your phone is completely dead.

IT'S SO FUN HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Get ready for server failure ACTION!

After finally managing to re-enter the game, it froze and crashed in the middle of catching some kind of plant monster. Then it wouldn’t load back in. When it finally worked, I discovered I had reached Level 3 and I was down to 70% battery life. Still standing at my desk, I captured three new Pokemon, bringing my level up to 4 and my battery down to 60%. In total, I caught 12 Pokemon without taking a single step. What a great game.

Now, what’s the point of all this, you ask? Basically, if you “collect” enough Pokemon of the same type, you can evolve them into more powerful forms. For instance, your Kookaburra may evolve into a Kumbabumbra! Why? So that you can go to a “gym” – which, keep in mind, is in a real-world location – and fight other Pokemon. Ask why you’d ever want to do this and we’re into real existential territory.

The game’s interface is basically a Google map on which your avatar and various Pokemon will appear. When you attempt to capture one, the game uses your camera to show the creature hopping/flying/crawling right in front of you! WOW! It’s just like real life!!! You then swipe your finger on the screen until you catch it. That’s it.

Work can wait, I've got a thing to throw balls at!

Work can wait, I’ve got a thing to throw balls at!

Hey, but here’s some fun: the game tracks exactly where you catch each and every one of your Pokemon. That’s right, parents: some heartless corporate entity can now see every move your Pokemon Go-playing children make – where they live, where they go to school, where their friends live… Sweet dreams!

Allowing The Game To Consume Your Very Soul

To catch Pokemon, you need Pokeballs. These eventually run out, which brings us to an important decision: do we physically go to a “Pokestop” to get additional supplies for free… OR, do we simply BUY more stuff with an in-app purchase?

Yep. That’s how they get you, folks. Why take the time to actually play the game when you can simply buy your way to success? Making it free, but structuring it so that there is a direct correlation between money spent on the game and in-game success, is the equivalent of a heroin dealer telling a junkie that the first fix is free. People can and do get addicted to these things; I’ve rarely seen such a blatant, cynical money-making scheme.

In the game “Store,” all your purchases are made with Pokecoins. You can buy 100 Pokecoins with a mere $0.99. That’s an entire song on iTunes – a tangible thing you could listen to and enjoy for eternity. Or, you know, you could buy a make-believe egg that hatches after you walk two kilometers. Yeah, not miles, KILOMETERS. What is this, socialist Europe???

Even worse, a lot of these Pokestops are located at churches. Don’t worry, kids: you don’t actually have to go into the church, so God won’t be quite as depressed while you’re wasting the beautiful, miraculous life He provided you with. I was also told about a stop located on a country club golf course – where only the children of THE RICH can get to it.

We’re being told that this game will get kids out of the house. With the game being out less than a week, they’re assuring us that it’ll create this wonderful sense of community (with zero evidence to support that claim). Meanwhile, there are actual verifiable stories about criminals using this game to mug people, players breaking into buildings, people falling off cliffs, etc. Shockingly, the evidence here seems to point more toward “people aren’t good.”

It's a FUN game!

How shocking.

What will actually happen – when the inevitable in-game chat features are enabled – is that kids will be sitting inside as they always are, staring at their phones as they always do, and spending money that isn’t theirs on a shitty game that has no objective beyond “acquire more imaginary stuff.”

Is there any more eloquent summation – and condemnation – of 2016?

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: The Force Awakens

2016: [See the plot of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope]

Setting: JJ Abrams’ throne room. Nubile young women carry sparkling wines, gourmet cheeses, and exotic fruits on golden trays. One man, Writer 1, kneels reverently at Abrams’ sandal-clad feet. Another man, Writer 2, stands further back and seems perplexed by the entire scene. 

Writer 1: Oh great JJ Abrams, creator of Alias and LOST, we come before you to hear what new creations you prepare to reveal!

Writer 2: …Yeah, hi JJ. You did say to be here at 1:30, right?

Abrams: Arise, my servants. Just as Felicity unleashed my greatness upon the Universe, so shall I now unleash a new cinematic vision upon the unsuspecting populace!

Writer 1: Glory be!

Writer 2: …We’re here for the specs on the new Star Wars movie. You know, fans have waited a long time for a good Star Wars – since 1983, in fact. We’re hoping you can deliver.

Abrams: Can I deliver! You’re speaking to the mastermind of Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness! Does that answer your question?

Writer 2: It actually raises more questions, for me.

Writer 1: Don’t pay him any attention, JJ. Just blast a hot load of Star Wars plot on us and we can die happy men.

Abrams: And so it shall be, my friends, and so it shall be. Envision, if you will, a strange alien galaxy full of adventure and magic, full of heroism and villainy, full of wonder and whimsy and romance and daring-do!

Writer 1: My God! It’s beautiful!

Abrams: But all is not well with this galaxy.

Writer 1: (gasps)

Abrams: Yes. The Empire has fallen, but a virtually identical force has replaced it, and the only things standing in its way are the New Republic and the Resistance!

Writer 2: Wait, hold on… the New Republic and the Resistance? What’s the difference between these two groups? What happened to the Rebellion?

Abrams: SILENCE! You’ll miss the best part… the Resistance obtains valuable plans that will help defeat the forces of evil. These plans are concealed in an adorable, spunky little droid, who ends up on a desert planet in the hands of a most unlikely hero.

Writer 1: It’s a triumph of the imagination!

Writer 2: I’m sorry… are we discussing the new movie? Because this sounds an awful lot like –

Abrams: SILENCE I SAY! Clench your buttocks, because you might lose control of your bowels when you hear this next innovative twist! Our heroes will be stalked by a black-clad masked menace who is skilled in the Force!

Writer 2: So, like, a Darth Vader-type character?

Abrams: Oh, God, no. Who wants to see that? This character will be a wispy young thing portrayed by some big-nosed long-haired emo-looking douche, and instead of choking people he’ll get all pissy and smash stuff when he gets upset.

Writer 1: My spine is tingling with fear!

Writer 2: I have to say, this villain doesn’t seem like he’s in the same class as Vader or even Darth Maul… will we have some really strong heroes to oppose him?

Abrams: Your hopes have been realized, for I have devised heroes destined to be just as legendary as Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi!

Writer 1: Oh my…

Abrams: BEHOLD! I give you… a girl and a black guy! KAZAAAAAAAM!

Writer 1: Holy SHIT.

Writer 2: This sounds kinda pandering, to me. I mean, what next, this random girl will turn out to be so incredibly bad-ass that Han Solo will say something like, “Kid, you’re a damn fine pilot, why don’t you join me on my ship even though it’s always just been me and Chewy…”

Abrams: Excuse me, “this random girl”? I put a scene in there where she fixes something on the ship! It’s like, “Oh, I re-routed the capacity through the auxiliary drive matrix” or some shit. Boom, instant street cred.

Writer 1: Oh, you’re the king, JJ, you’re the best there is, best there was, best there ever will be!

Writer 2: (Sighs) Alright, so the unlikely heroes are on the desert planet with the robot, what next?

Abrams: Well, you’ll never see this coming, but it turns out the evil militaristic space organization –

Writer 2: – like the Empire –

Abrams: – NOT AT ALL like the Empire – is commanded by a sinister, robe-wearing figure whose mind is as twisted and corrupt as his body!

Writer 2: …like the Emperor.

Abrams: NOT AT ALL like the Emperor! In fact, this evil mastermind’s name… IS

Writer 1: Here it comes.

Abrams: Supreme Leader SNOKE.

Writer 2: You’re kidding.

Abrams: SNOKE. Doesn’t that name just inspire fear and awe? Say it with me. Say, “SNOKE.”

Writer 1: I can’t! I’m that afraid of this guy!

Writer 2: It sounds like a sock puppet from a kids’ TV show.

Abrams: Perhaps your impudent tongue will be silenced when I tell you that Snoke will be an entirely CGI character! Oooh, aaah, the magic of film-making!

Writer 2: Who’s going to play him?

Abrams: Well, he’s an all CGI character created after 2003, so…

Writer 1: Andy Serkis?

Abrams: Bingo.

Writer 2: Oh, come on. You know, JJ, the Star Wars franchise used to be a bastion of unrestrained imagination and creativity. This sounds like a tired old re-hash of every trope that we’ve seen a thousand times before. I’ve read Star Wars fan-fic more creative than this.

Abrams: Oh ye of little faith! Was it not I who rescued the Star Trek franchise via the never-before-explored avenue of TIME TRAVEL? Wait until you hear my finest plot innovation yet!

Writer 1: I don’t know if I’m worthy to hear this.

Abrams: It turns out that the non-Empire has… a gigantic space station capable of destroying entire planets!

Writer 2: …So, the Death Star.

Abrams: No, bigger than the Death Star. Like, colossally bigger. And, therefore, different and better.

Writer 1: That’s a fact.

Abrams: In a thrilling race against time, our heroes will have to infiltrate this massive space station, disable its shield, and attack its weak point for massive damage!

Writer 2: Wait, wait, wait… wait. This is literally the plot of both Episode IV AND Episode VI. You can’t be serious.

Abrams: Oh, can’t I?

Writer 1: JJ, I’m not blowing smoke up your ass when I say this… but you are literally the Jesus of franchise resurrection.

Abrams: And the best part is, all of this is set 30 years in the future, so we get to see the stars of these magical films of our childhood as haggard, wrinkled old sacks who can barely run for two seconds on screen! Remember hot Princess Leia in the slave costume? Well now you get to see her visage wracked by age, and hear her old lady denture voice!

Writer 1: It’s like all my dreams have come true at once!

Writer 2: In what world would anyone want to see the exact same story played out with vastly inferior new characters and old, sad versions of the original characters?

Abrams: You’re so short-sighted. You’re forgetting how legendary these original characters will be. They’re like mythical heroes now. Some people don’t even believe they exist. They’ll be like living legends, something out of a fairy tale.

Writer 2: 30 years in the future people don’t even believe they’re real? 1986 was 30 years ago. That’s like saying people today think Jack Nicholson and Ronald Reagan are just legends or fairy tales. How short are people’s memories in this universe?

Writer 1: Man, don’t you have anything positive to say?

Writer 2: Well… maybe it’s just growing pains. I’m sure the second installment will be better.

Abrams: I’ve already got an idea! It begins in this frozen wasteland…

Writer 2: I quit.

DEADPOOL

2016 – A cliche superhero origin story is told via an endless succession of Family Guy cutaway gags.

Quick question: why is Ryan Reynolds famous? I know his name, but why? Is it because he starred in Big Monster on Campus and Van Wilder: Party Liaison? Is it because he was married to Scarlett Johansson and has a baby with Blake Lively? Is it because of his “trademarks,” according to IMDB?

Has appeared in several superhero/comic book adaptations

Often plays likable regular guys

Sarcastic sharp edged wit

Is “has appeared in movies” really a trademark? I know, this is a lot of questions. But one of the purported “jokes” in Deadpool is that the titular hero is a character played by Ryan Reynolds. Personally, I did not find this as shocking or amusing as I think I was supposed to. It wasn’t like when Henry Fonda played the villain in Once Upon A Time In The West. This was just… I don’t know, Ryan Reynolds was in R.I.P.D. What shit WOULDN’T he appear in?

Don’t believe the hype: Deadpool is a shit movie, the latest Z-grade “superhero” that Marvel is shoving down our throats. The protagonist, Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool), makes a living as a “mercenary.” From what we see, being a mercenary involves hanging out at a cool mercenary bar (you know the kind) and threatening a teenage pizza delivery boy because he’s “stalking” a pretty girl at school. After completing this incredible mission, Wilson appears in person to the teenage girl, who presumably hired him herself, to tell her that all is well. This begs a critical question: even in a comic book movie, can I believe that such a scenario could actually happen?

Wilson meets Vanessa (Firefly‘s Morena Baccarin) and they fall in love, but WHAM! He has terminal cancer. The only possible cure is some shady operation run by the obviously evil Ajax (Ed Skrein) that tortures people until they become super-powered mutant slaves. Seriously, that’s the concept. Wilson gains vague invincibility powers, but at the cost of looking more like Michael Chiklis than Ryan Reynolds. The rest of the movie is Wilson seeking revenge on the people who disfigured him. And that’s it.

Since the story has no twists and zero suspense (when your hero cuts his own hand off to escape and re-grows it overnight, what danger is he ever really in?), they resort to the ol’ Tarantino show-scenes-out-of-order act. Even worse, this is still a Marvel movie, so somebody propped up the desiccated corpse of Stan Lee for a cameo. Enough, already. Does he even realize what movies he’s appearing in anymore?

I’ve rarely sat through a film more unfocused and meandering. The “scenes” are more like a collection of five-second clips, interspersed with Deadpool looking at the camera and addressing the audience. Apparently this concept, created specifically for this movie, is known as “breaking the 4th wall.” It’s something that has never, ever been done before in the history of television or film or drama or literature, ever. And boy, does it generate the laughs. You see, this is a superhero movie that makes fun of the conventions of superhero movies! This concept is known as “parody.” You can read all about it on Wikipedia.

Confusingly, while Deadpool seems to be aware of many of the the artificial trappings of his superhero world, he is blind to others. For instance, he’s aware that he’s a bad-ass, “different” kind of superhero, but he’s not aware that the movie features a hilarious timid Indian cab driver character. So fresh and original! There’s also a few things that just don’t make sense, like the scene when Deadpool reveals he discovered Ajax’s real name… despite the fact that he’s been strapped to a hospital gurney by the arms, legs, and neck. How did he do this background check in such a situation?

This is a watch-it-and-forget movie. After seeing it, and forgetting most of it, there is no reason to ever watch Deadpool again. So cut out the middleman and just don’t see it at all.

Oh, and there’s nudity, but no more than your average episode of The Sopranos. I’m guessing this won’t stop hipster parents from taking their young children to see it.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – 9/30/14

2012 -Mentally unstable people scream at each other for two hours.

Nobody smiles in the actual movie.

Nobody smiles in the actual movie.

Having a psychological illness is trendy. Did you know that? Well, it’s trendy if you have one of the “good” illnesses, like depression or bipolar disorder. Those are the ones that attractive, stylish people have. In this movie, being bipolar just means you’re adorably awkward and speak your mind (unlike the repressed, PHONY non-mentally-ill people) and maybe punch your dad in the face now and again, but who doesn’t?

Silver Linings Playbook Bradley CooperEEEEEH, OOOOOH, I’M PAT! SUNDAYS USED TO BE GREAT, HUH? MOM WOULD MAKE BRACIOLE BECAUSE EEEH, OOOH, WE’RE AN ITAAAAAAALIAN FAMILY, HUH? BUT NOW LIFE SUCKS ‘CUZ MY WIFE WAS CHEATIN’ ON ME AND I WAS IN THE NUTHOUSE FOR EIGHT MONTHS AND I’M BIPOLAR AND DON’T TAKE MY MEDICAAAAATIOOOOON!

Silver Linings Playbook De NiroEEEEEH, OOOOOH, CALM DOWN SON! I’M BOBBY DE NIRO, HUH? I MEAN, UH, I’M PAT SR.! OOOOOH, I’M AN ITALIAN DAD, SO OF COURSE I HAVE AN ILLEGAL BOOKMAKING BUSINESS! MY SON’S A NUT AND I LOVE THE EAGLES AND HAVE A TON OF CRAZY SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT THE GAME! EEEEEH, WATCH THE BIRDS WITH ME, SON! C’MOOOOON!

Silver Linings Playbook Sopranos guyEEEEEH, OOOOOH, COOL IT THERE BOBBY! I’M RANDY, BUT YOU MAY REMEMBER ME FROM HBO’S THE SOPRANOS! I’M ALSO ITAAAAALIAN, AND I’M ALSO A BOOKMAKER! PAT SR. WANTS TO USE HIS CRIME MONEY TO OPEN A RESTAURANT, BUT HE’S GOTTA WIN A FEW BETS WITH ME FIRST!

Silver Linings Playbook Jennifer LawrenceFUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUU, REST OF THE CAST! I’M TIFFANY, AND I’M JUST AS CRAZY IF NOT CRAZIER THAN PAT! MY HUSBAND’S DEAD AND I SLEEP AROUND AND PAT’S AN ASSHOLE FOR WANTING TO GET BACK WITH HIS WIFE! I WANT HIM TO BE MY PARTNER IN A DANCE CONTEST! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

Silver Linings Playbook Chris TuckerWHAT DUH FUUUUUU – I’M CHRIS TUCKER, Y’ALL! HOW IN DA HELL DID I GET IN THIS MOVIE? WHY DA HELL IS MY CHARACTER EVEN IN IT? DO I DO ANYTHING? NO? OKAY! SHIT!

If you’re into movies where people yell and scream at each other while loud music plays, this is the one for you! It was evidently the first since 1981 to be nominated for the four acting Oscar categories and the first since 2004 to be nominated for the “big five.” I’d give it a “C.”

The plot involves Pat’s quest to get back with his wife after catching her cheating on him and nearly beating her lover to death. He moves back in with his parents and strikes up an extremely unlikely friendship/flirt-ship with Tiffany, his friend’s wife’s widowed sister. In exchange for smuggling letters to his wife, who has a restraining order against him, Tiffany convinces Pat to enter a dance competition with her. After some close-up shots of her jiggling breasts and butt, it’s clear that Pat’s starting to fall for her.

During Oscar season, the real “money” clips from this movie were of the shouting scenes, and there certainly are a lot to select from. Jennifer Lawrence screaming at Bradley Cooper on the street, Bradley Cooper yelling at his parents in the attic. Pat goes to visit Jennifer and meets her parents. Shouting. Pat goes to an Eagles game. Shouting. Pat comes home from the Eagles game. Additional shouting. The family relationships are more absurdly dysfunctional than an episode of Dr. Phil.

My big problem with this movie started about 88 minutes in, when the most contrived scenario imaginable gets in gear. Pat Sr. bets ALL of his bookmaking money on the outcome of an Eagles game, convinced that Pat’s “good luck” presence at the stadium will guarantee a win. Unfortunately Pat gets into a scrap with some racist Eagles fans (you know the type), not just “causing” the Birds to lose but also missing his dance practice with Jennifer. He returns home and all hell breaks loose – Pat Sr. screaming “IT’S ALL FUCKIN’ RUINED! YOU’RE A FUCKIN’ LOSER!” at his son, everyone else in the room screaming over each other, and then Tiffany busting in to scream at Pat for missing their date.

Suddenly the whole “crisis” of the movie hinges on the fact that Pat Sr. thinks Tiffany is a “jinx” on the Eagles. So Tiffany, who hates football, rattles off the score of every single game in order to prove that she’s actually good luck. Everyone stands around with the most obvious “Wow… impressive” looks on their faces. The scene is going for a “girl power beat-down” vibe so obviously that it hurts.

Silver Linings Playbook NiceBut we don’t stop there! Rival bookmaker Randy agrees to give Pat Sr. a shot at getting his money back – staking it all on the outcome of another Eagles game as well as Pat and Tiffany’s dance contest. Come on. Just… come on. All things considered, I’d rank Silver Linings Playbook as the second best high-stakes-dance-contest-dependent plot I’ve seen (behind 1966’s Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster).

I’m a sucker for cute love stories. This one could have been solid, but it needed to be 40 minutes shorter, 30 decibels lower, and one Chris Tucker less. In the plus column, if you enjoy hearing 60-something guys argue about football and can’t listen to talk radio, this movie will more than satisfy your cravings.

CAPTAIN AMERICA THE FIRST AVENGER – 5/27/14

2011

This awkwardly titled yawner was directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer (1991). I’d rather watch that one.

One thing I’ve noticed about these Marvel movies – people are always finding things. This time around, it starts with some generic government guys very obviously finding Captain America. Then we flash back to 1942. THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM. When I saw that the first scene of the movie is in the present day, I was thunderstruck. This is just awful, awful storytelling. I’ll explain later.

Right off the bat, the creativity blows me away. The bad guy is played by Agent Smith from The Matrix. Can you believe it? What daring casting! Wow, and Toby Jones is a creepy bug-eyed Nazi scientist. Really playing against type. Tommy Lee Jones as a gruff leather-faced old army guy? You can tell they wanted to go in completely new and unexpected directions with this one.

The dialog is equally inspiring. “Boy,” some guy says, reading a newspaper about the war, “a lotta guys gettin’ killed over there!”  “Faster ladies. My grandma has more life in her,” says a drill instructor. I bet Full Metal Jacket wishes it had lines as original as that!  “The son of a bitch did it,” says the skeptical old military guy after the successful outcome of an experiment. Wow, did Dashiell Hammett write this? “You told me I was meant for more than this. Did you mean that?” Captain America asks his girlfriend. “Every word,” she replies. She meant all seven words?

Agent Smith is the bland, uninteresting Johann Schmidt a.k.a. Red Skull (although that’s how everyone knows the character, only one person in the movie calls him that). He gets his hands on the Tesseract, the unnamed MacGuffin of the film that becomes the MacGuffin of The Avengers, too. More creativity! Just like how the villain in Thor is also the villain in The Avengers and re-appears in Thor: The Dark World. Or how we get to see Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man. Why do we need these constant dumb cross-over appearances? It’s almost as though Marvel knows that none of its lame-ass heroes (other than Spiderman) can actually stand on their own.

One might ask, “What does Red Skull want with the Tesseract?” Well, Red Skull was a Nazi agent in the comics, so I assume he’s going to use it to make those ubiquitous Nazi super-weapons (like the jet packs in The Rocketeer). But it turns out that he wants it for himself, so that he can… uh… your guess is as good as mine.

That’s another major flaw for this movie. You have no idea what the bad guy is up to or why he wants to do anything. The “climax” of the film feels like anything but – we’re just told that Red Skull wants to “destroy half the world.” Why? How? With what? The flamethrowers and laser tanks we saw earlier? Red Skull is making all these weapons, but the good guys just blow them up right away – we never get any scenes of Tommy Lee muttering, “Damn, these laser tanks are kicking our asses. We might lose the war.” That would have helped lend some urgency.

Instead of creating, you know, a plot, the movie piles on the redundant characters and meaningless scenes. For instance, Red Skull is introduced as “a brilliant scientist.” Then why does he need Toby Jones to be his scientist? Oh, right – so he can get captured and conveniently reveal the villain’s (vague) plan at the end. He serves no other purpose in the film.

But thank goodness we get all the trappings of a generic Marvel superhero movie! We get a generic “failing at Basic Training” montage that would put Paul Blart: Mall Cop to shame, complete with the bully who needlessly sabotages the efforts of our hero! We get a generic “hero on roof of villain’s car while villain shoots up at him” sequence! We get the “hero chases an aircraft as it takes off” scene!

Here’s something else that bugged me: what’s with the stupid two-fisted salute and the “Hail Hydra” instead of “Heil Hitler”? Why wasn’t Red Skull a Nazi agent working for Hitler, like he was in the comics? Here’s the answer – Marvel is greedy. For all their preening about how faithful they are to the original characters and stories, they wanted to make as much cash as possible with this movie. Look for a swastika – you won’t find one. In a World War II movie where the villain is a Nazi and the hero is famous for fighting the Nazis. This is unacceptable, cheesy, and awkward.

Captain America is far too long. I got to 33:48 and realized there hadn’t been a single action scene yet – 25% of the way through the movie! At 50 minutes in, we still weren’t shown Red Skull’s actual face. After 81 minutes, the only action we got was a car chase and the “base rescue” sequence. It just dragged. Just because you can afford to make a movie 123 minutes long doesn’t mean you have to.

I wanted to spend some more time on how impossibly diverse Captain America’s team is (a black guy AND an Asian guy? How integrated was the Army in the 1940s?) and how lame the villain’s “death” is (he picks up the MacGuffin and gets zapped into space… come on, Marvel, kill a bad guy for once!). What I really want to address is the ending.

We see Captain America open his eyes at 1:50:40… and since we already know they dug him out of the ice at the very beginning of the movie, we know he’s waking up in the present day.

At 1:52 he realizes there’s something fishy about the radio broadcast. Yeah, because it’s not the 1940s. It’s the present day. We know. You told us two hours ago.

At 1:52:43, he runs into Times Square and realizes that it’s the present day… which we all already know, since they gave it away at the beginning of the movie.

Cars suddenly pull up all around him and we hear, “At ease, soldier.” We see Nicholas L. Fury, and he’s already standing in the middle of the street while his agents are still opening their car doors behind him. HOW DID HE GET THERE SO FAST?

At 1:53:20, Fury tells Cap that he’s been asleep for nearly 70 years. But we already know that, because it was revealed at the beginning of the movie. Then the movie ends with him realizing that the girl he loved is either super old, or super dead.

Damn. What a downer. The end! Sleep well, kids!

This whole sequence was completely unnecessary. That scene could have been powerful. We could have shared Cap’s shock as he realized the world he knew was long gone. We could have been overwhelmed by the lights and sounds of Times Square right along with him. We could have felt a moment of genuine shared emotion with this character.

But no. We couldn’t. Because we knew exactly what was going on the whole time. BECAUSE THE MOVIE GAVE IT AWAY IN THE VERY FIRST SCENE. This is pathetic. This is a storytelling disaster.

This is Captain America: The First Avenger.

Oh, and the one girl they take to the “world of the future” expo looked a lot like the chinchilla girl from SNL. It wasn’t her. But I got really excited for a second.

THE AVENGERS – 4/14/14

2012

Alright, so… where do we go from here?

This movie is 143 minutes long (counting the 6-minute end credits). That’s almost as long as There Will Be Blood. Does the story of The Avengers really need that long to be told? Exactly four things happen in this movie: the bad guy shows up and steals a doomsday device, the good guys assemble their team, they capture the bad guy but he escapes, he turns on the device and the aliens from Halo attack New York City.

Mixed in there we’ve got an aircraft carrier that both flies and turns invisible, we’ve got Iron Man fighting Thor, we’ve got Thor fighting the Incredible Hulk, we’ve got giant flying alien monsters, and we’ve got long, LONG talking scenes that “develop” characters who have all already had at least one movie completely to themselves.

My eyes hurt and my brain feels like it’s ready to ooze down into my jaw. These superhero movies have become so big, so bloated, so overblown in scope and self-reverence, that they literally numb the senses. By the end, the sight of a gigantic space monster’s fin gouging a big hole in a building was actually dull. That sight – a wonder, a marvel produced by movie-making technology it took over half a century to develop – was boring. Seeing said monster crash into Grand Central Station and die was routine. I kept checking the time – “Still 45 minutes left?” – and wondering why I had to see yet another scene where a guy punches another guy through a wall.

The plot sloughs from one city-crushing CGI battle to another with tedious inevitability. Will Tony Stark get hit in the balls and utter a wry quip that belies his physical pain? Will the Hulk do something incongruously zany to lighten the mood? Will we get slow-motion shots of stuff exploding and people running away? We sure will! And I hope you liked them, because you’ll be seeing them again. And again.

There is no unifying style, no “look.” Everything is slick and shiny and cold. Colors that should be bright – Captain America’s shield, Iron Man’s armor, Hulk’s skin – are dulled and grimy-looking. When you turn on one of the Tim Burton Batman movies, you know it’s a Batman movie. You see the urban decay, the almost liquid shadows, the flashy, twisted outfits of the villains. Watching these modern superhero movies, they could be anything. Loki and Thor might have wandered out of Lord of the Rings; Black Widow looks like a Bourne escapee.

When Superman came out in 1978, its tag line was “You’ll believe a man can fly.”  There was a genuine wide-eyed sense of awe at seeing a comic book superhero brought to life on the big screen. Now we can see a man not only fly, but intercept a nuclear missile in mid-flight, take it through a space portal, use it to blow up an alien mother ship, and fall back to Earth without batting an eye.

What happened to us?

8 Movie Cliches I’m Really Tired Of That Appeared In The Avengers

  1. Samuel L. Jackson. Can he not be in every movie playing the cool, intense guy who shouts a lot? Thanks.
  2. People saying “With me,” and having other people fall into line behind them as they stride purposefully down a hallway.
  3. People saying “Talk to me,” when they need information in a tense moment. What next, will someone say, “In English, please,” when they don’t “get” technical jargon? (Someone does)
  4. Asian scientists. Come on.
  5. English-sounding bad guy. Loki is a Norse god. Why does he speak with an English accent?
  6. Bad guy intentionally letting himself get captured as part of a ludicrously complex scheme. Unfortunately it seems like every bad guy is going to do this after The Dark Knight. See also: Skyfall.
  7. Bad guy in a cell playing mind games with the people who come to visit him. Haven’t we seen enough of this one? I kept expecting Loki to ask the Black Widow about the lambs she had as a child.
  8. The speech at the end where people talk about how the heroes will always be there for them.