SMALL SOLDIERS is an effects-driven, Spielberg-produced, released-on-July-10th sci-fi movie. But it’s about killer toys (or at least potentially killer toys?) and the hero is a kid and it’s not a CHILD’S PLAY movie (it’s rated PG-13) so I’m not sure it was really seen as a movie for adults. To me and surely many others who saw it the exciting thing was that it was directed by Joe Dante, who hadn’t had a film since MATINEE five years earlier. And with him and Spielberg doing a movie about a young man fighting out of control small things raising a ruckus in a small town, obviously everybody had visions of Gremlins chomping on their heads.
Alan (Gregory Smith, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) is a maybe 14 year old kid who works at his dad (Kevin Dunn, MARKED FOR DEATH, also in GODZILLA, ALMOST HEROES and SNAKE EYES that summer)’s toy store, one of those ones that only sells wooden blocks and airplanes and shit, nothing based on cartoons or movies (so there’s not an anti-GODZILLA in-joke here). His dad actually has a specific “no war toys” policy. But one day his friend the delivery driver (Dick Miller, of course) has another store’s shipment of new high tech talking action figures called the Commando Elite. Alan thinks they would sell better than Lincoln Logs or whatever and convinces him to let him take a set. (read the rest of this shit…)
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is an absurd, inventive new comedy that’s so playful and funny that its acidic satire of soul-crushing capitalism comes across a little more like an inspirational rallying cry than blind fury at a seemingly insurmountable wall of corporate greed and dehumanization. Though it’s that too.
If I was required by law to describe it in terms of movies that already exist, I’d say “low-wage OFFICE SPACE by way of Michel Gondry.” But fuck the law, because it feels like something very new, distinctive and of the moment, from the cast headed by Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson to the soundtrack to even the cool fonts and logos by children’s book illustrator J. Otto Seibold. Stanfield plays Cassius Green (yes, it’s a pun), who lives in his uncle (Terry Crews, STREET KINGS)’s garage until he finds his calling (oh shit, another pun) at a new telemarketing job. I mean, the place is a hellhole on the verge of a strike led by Squeeze (Steven Yeun, formerly of The Walking Dead), but he turns out to be really good at it after co-worker Langston (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) teaches him the secret of the “white voice.” It’s not mere code-switching, but a near supernatural channeling of a voice with no worries that he manifests by being dubbed by David Cross (ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS). It’s a broad and hacky joke made almost profound by its layers of subtext and power to creep out his friends and loved ones. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE POST is Spielberg’s newspaper movie. Specifically it’s about the Washington Post in 1971 struggling for relevance, banned from a first daughter wedding, in the process of taking an inherited family business public, when suddenly their more exalted rivals the New York Times get a court injunction for breaking the story of the Pentagon Papers (a secret study proving that the government had known for years that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable and stayed in just to put off the humiliation of a loss). Can The Post’s reporters get ahold of these Papers for themselves, will they have the balls to print a story about them, and will they get away with it? I think you know the answers, but tune in to find out how it goes down.
Like LINCOLN or MUNICH, this is one of Spielberg’s very good grown up movies that doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire, seems destined to be buried in his catalog of iconic classics, but gets some nice reviews and an “it’s an honor just to be nominated” slot in the best picture category at the Oscars. Another movie like that was BRIDGE OF SPIES, the year SPOTLIGHT won best picture. SPOTLIGHT was a good movie with a big cast doing great work in a story about the importance of journalists uncovering dangerous secrets and standing up to powerful institutions that have covered up their own complicity in atrocities. THE POST is all those things with the added bonus of being thrilling and cinematic. Spielberg might be doing a smart-people-talking-and-figuring-things-out movie, but he’s gonna do that with an eye for imagery, period detail, and visual explanations of processes: stealing and reproducing a massive document, puzzling together the order of said document when the pages get mixed up, delivering a message across town, creating the plates to actually print a newspaper, running the printing press, the list goes on.
BATTLE FOR TERRA is a computer animated sci-fi fantasy that opened wide with almost no advertising or awareness. I thought it was the big expensive one that was an infamous flop, but it turns out I was confusing it with DELGO, which was released the year before, but not in the summer, so I don’t have to watch it. This one was actually a low budget independent production, but it did open wide and did not seem to capture the public consciousness, so I’ll go ahead and call it a Summer Fling in the tradition of TITAN A.E.
In the opening scene I was unsure I’d be able to make it through this one, because the alien race at the center of the story, the Terrians, look like this:
I pictured people working hard on this movie for months or years and then being crushed when they realized what it was gonna look like, but maybe I’m just picky about alien designs. Boxofficeflops.com says they spent just below $20 million on this (less than a third of the first SHREK’s budget), but Wikipedia says $4 million. If it’s the latter that’s insane because PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 cost $5 million and it’s a fuckin found footage video that doesn’t have an all star cast like this does! However much they had, it’s obviously not gonna have Pixar-level textures, but it doesn’t take more money to have better designs. For my money the worst decision made in this production was “Yes, I am okay with this being what the main character looks like.”
So thank God the story is pretty good. It starts in this world of Terra, a peaceful society of floating pea-pod E.T.s who fly around in wind-powered vehicles in harmony with flying whales. With better visual craftsmanship I think this would feel kinda like THE DARK CRYSTAL, though some things seem a little too close to modern human life (they have school and the teacher takes attendance and they have dinner at the dinner table and if they get in trouble they get sent to their room). (read the rest of this shit…)
Stage 1: The miracle of birth. Somewhere in the United States, young African Americans decide to start using “holla” (as in “holler”) to describe talking to each other. “If you need anything, holla at me.”
Stage 2: The use of “holla” spreads and evolves. At some point, a rapper decides to yell it to a crowd, a call for a response. “HOLLA!” It becomes a trademark catchphrase for the Rocafella label. Other rappers like it, want to get in on the action.
Stage 3: Holla becames available for home use. People full of hot air who are in jobs where it’s important to maintain an image of with-it-ness (mostly commercial radio DJs and BET hosts) overuse the term.
Stage 4: White people find out and start using it. They sort of have a sense of what it might mean, but it doesn’t matter because it’s divorced of all context. It’s supposed to automatically denote insider status or “being down.” The meaning of the word “Holla!” is now “I have heard this word, ‘Holla!’ and I can prove it by saying it out loud!”
Final stage: A cartoon animal or elderly person says it in a movie, and that’s supposed to be funny.
Let’s say you are an adult male, single. You’re unhappy with your advertising job, but you are a home owner, and you also own a whole bunch of instruments and recording equipment for pursuing your true passion of songwriting. You even have a very good connection – a college friend who runs a huge record label and who’s willing to listen to your demos. Only problem is your music is corny and old-fashioned, and he’s looking for terrible and new-fashioned. Also, you’re lonely because you were Afraid Of Commitment so your model-looking girlfriend left you. Then one day you steal an entire basket of muffins for no reason, and your hearing, eyesight and powers of observation are so off-the-charts terrible that you do not notice three large, talking anthropomorphized chipmunks loudly hanging from and climbing into your basket while you’re carrying it. So they hide in your house and eat a bunch of your food and for some reason you keep not hearing them even though they’re talking at normal volume in the same room as you. But you finally notice them so one of them farts in your face, they break a jar over your head and think they killed you so they discuss disposing of your body.
But when you wake up you throw them out of your house and then you hear them singing. You thought they could only talk but it turns out they can also sing. So what do you do? (read the rest of this shit…)
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