Over my [redacted] years of writing about movies, my relationship with the works of Michael Bay has evolved. It’s fair to say I once held hatred in my heart for them. I think I thought BAD BOYS was so-so when it first came to video (have not revisited – should I?) but THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON and TRANSFORMERS 1 and 2 were some of the top offenders that sent me on a crusade against incomprehensible action back in the day. BAD BOYS 2 at least impressed me with its unprecedented levels of excess and aggression toward humanity, but I was young and full of hot air and worried that all movies were gonna start being hard to look at like that. Although that doesn’t stress me anymore, those movies still don’t appeal to me.
But since then I’ve watched each of Bay’s movies with more of a sense of humor about how unhinged they are, and thankfully his action has become less of a smear. The TRANSFORMERSes kinda blur together in my mind (as on screen), but checking my reviews I see it was the fourth one where he first showed he could do them with clean action. I gave it a rare 4.5 out of 5 ACR (Action Comprehensability Rating)! And I noted in my PAIN & GAIN review that having a mid-sized budget where he had to plan what shots he needed instead of shooting a giant pile of footage and chopping it into salad was a blessing. I would say the same of 13 HOURS. Finally, 6 UNDERGROUND is maybe his most entertaining mix of outlandish stupidity and incredible action spectacle. So I’ve been feeling positive about him. (read the rest of this shit…)
June 7, 1991. Despite the notable release of another odd Spike Lee movie, this week was won by more middle-of-the-road culture. It was the week that the original run of Twin Peaks ended. The #1 and #2 songs on the Billboard charts were “More Than Words” by Extreme and “I Wanna Sex U Up” by Color Me Badd. And the #1 movie was a nice normal comedy about wisecracking Billy Crystal birthing a cow to cope with the boredom of middle aged, middle class existence.
Like JUNGLE FEVER, CITY SLICKERS is about some lives upended and rearranged after a married man has an affair with a subordinate at his workplace. In this case the dude is Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern, C.H.U.D., FRANKENWEENIE), a wet blanket grocery store manager who is very unhappily married to a mean bully (Karla Tamburrelli, “Stewardess [Northeast Plane],” DIE HARD 2) until panicked young clerk Nancy (Yeardley Smith, then in her third season as the voice of Lisa Simpson) finds him outside of work to tell him she thinks she’s pregnant.
“Why is she telling you this?”
The scene goes down at the 39th birthday party of Mitch Robbins (43 year old Billy Crystal, ANIMALYMPICS) and inspires Phil to unleash twelve years of suppressed fury at his wife in front of the Robbins family and all their friends. If this was reality he’d for sure be the bad guy here, but we’ve already been primed to hate how this horrible wife talks to him and feel victory in him telling her off. (read the rest of this shit…)
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME continues the charming “teen comedy, but in the Marvel Universe” vibe of 2017’s SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, but instead of situating it on the outskirts of the MCU it’s more in the middle this time. It’s pretty much an epilogue to the whole story that culminated in AVENGERS: ENDGAME, or a bridge to the next one. It starts by making light of the fictional tragedies of that movie (a hilariously awful teen-made video tribute to fallen heroes) and pretty much addressing everything I wondered about after ENDGAME (AVENGERS that is, not HIGHLANDER) pertaining to a world where half of all teens are five years younger than their ID says.
And then it’s kind of like it should be called SPIDER-MAN IS… IRON MAN 4. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE) is on a school trip to Europe, and his mind is on a plan to tell M.J. (Zendaya, SUPER BUDDIES) he has a crush on her, though she seems to be spending her time with Brad (Remy Hii, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), who is somebody’s little brother who grew big and handsome while the rest of them were dusted. (read the rest of this shit…)
This year THE HOST and SNOWPIERCER director Bong Joon-ho made a truly one-of-a-kind movie. OKJA is a sweet girl-and-her-creature tale like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO after it has been swallowed by a vicious satire of corporate greed and man’s treatment of animals. It’s produced by Netflix with an international cast, many of them speaking English, but its wild shifts in tone make it feel safely within the tradition of South Korean cinema.
It already seems bug-nuts from the opening, when aggressively-faux-enlightened Mirando Corporation CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, CONSTANTINE) gives her colorful presentation about the “discovery” of the allegedly miraculously eco-friendly “superpig” species and their plan to give them to farmers in 26 cities around the world to raise for ten years using their local traditions and then to crown one as the best.
The decade passes, and young Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyun, the daughter in THE YELLOW SEA) lives an idyllic life in some mountains in Korea helping her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong, MEMORIES OF MURDER) take care of their superpig Okja. She’s bigger than a hippo – looks like a giant Eeyore – but limber enough to leap around like Ang Lee’s Hulk. Mija plays with her and rolls around on top of her belly and climbs inside her mouth to brush her teeth for her. (read the rest of this shit…)
“Have you ever been to a military-media moonbase event before?”
I don’t know if you guys remember this, but a long time ago David O. Russell was supposed to be doing a new comedy called NAILED, about Jessica Biel getting a nail stuck in her head. This was about seven years ago actually, so at the time Russell was coming off of I HEART HUCKABEES, which I really liked, but it didn’t seem like he was on the verge of becoming one of the big directors. I’m talking five years before he directed Jennifer Lawrence in an Oscar winning performance, when she was still playing the daughter on The Bill Engvall Show. That’s how long ago this was.
He was filming and everything but he kept having disasters with the financiers going bankrupt, not having enough money to pay the cast and crew, who repeatedly walked off. Eventually it got so bad Russell decided he had no choice but to close up shop with a day or two of filming left. He just gave up and took his first for-hire directing gig, subbing for Darren Aranofsky as a favor to Mark Wahlberg… but then that was THE FIGHTER, and all the sudden he had an Oscar nomination for best director, and then he did SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and AMERICAN HUSTLE so he had three of those nominations and all the sudden he’s more known as that guy with the glasses at the Oscars than that mean guy who yelled at Lily Tomlin. Things are so good for him now he probly sometimes forgets that he wasted years of his life almost making NAILED.
But now all the sudden there’s this movie called ACCIDENTAL LOVE that’s on V.O.D. and will be on actual video soon. It’s written and directed by one Stephen Greene and it happens to have the exact same cast and premise as NAILED. You may be thinking “Stephen Greene, you hustlin sonofabitch, how the fuck did you achieve what three time Academy Award nominee for best director David O. Russell could not?” Actually my immediate assumption was that some guy named Stephen Greene did that last bit of shooting, slapped the thing together and credited himself as the director. But it turns out there is no Stephen Greene, he’s like Keyser Soze. They let Russell use a pseudonym for this release, which from what I hear takes some doing.
I watched NIGHTCRAWLER back-to-back with FOXCATCHER. So far I’ve been able to keep the titles straight in my head though, haven’t mixed them up like I still do with RISE OF THE/LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS. But it’s not just the titles that are vaguely similar. This is another story about a bizarre, unfeeling weirdo pretending to be a human. The biggest differences from John Du Pont are 1) no fake nose 2) this guy comes from a working class perspective; he’s introduced sneaking around stealing copper to sell for scrap, like a junkie 3) he’s the protagonist.
It takes place in L.A and mostly at night, so it’s kind of like a noir. Jake Gyllenhaal (HIGHWAY, PRINCE OF PERSIA) plays Lou Bloom, the weirdo in question. I liked him so much in PRISONERS that I’ll see a movie just for him now, so I was excited for this even before the acclaim. Lou is the kind of weirdo who (correctly) thinks he can just walk wherever he wants to if he acts like he belongs there. When he’s driving home one night and sees a flaming car wreck on the side of the freeway he just pulls over, gets out and walks up to watch firemen trying to pull the driver out of the wreckage. You know, just curious. Wanted to see what all the fuss was.
When he learns he can make a living listening to a police scanner, chasing down these tragedies and shoving a camera in there, it quickly becomes clear that he has a natural talent for it. He’s not only completely willing to get in the way of cops and paramedics in life and death situations, he’ll also walk into a house where a shooting has taken place, film the bodies, move things around to make the shots more compelling. Here, get this happy photo of the victim next to this bullet hole. Perfect. (read the rest of this shit…)
ENEMY is a weird, spooky thriller that director Denis Villeneuve and star Jake Gyllenhaal did right before PRISONERS. The arthouse freakout before the expensive studio drama that Lee Daniels got fired from. PRISONERS made me pay attention to the former and gain new respect for the latter, so here I am watching ENEMY.
Gyllenhaal plays a depressed college history professor who rents a movie one day and notices that the part of Bellhop #3 is played by a guy who looks exactly like him. Creepy. He does some detective work and tracks down the actor, who also has his same voice and an identical scar. He’s not sure what the fuck is going on, and he’s fascinated, but he’s weird about it. He calls and confuses the guy’s poor wife. (read the rest of this shit…)
This is another one I never would’ve watched without painting myself into a corner with this review series. It falls into the small percentage of big summer movies that I just had no interest in seeing at all. Alot of the ones I miss, like, say, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4, I didn’t get around to seeing them, and I heard they were bad, but yeah, sure, I’d watch ’em. Probly will some day. But not this one. I wouldn’t have.
SOURCE CODE is a fun thriller with a clever sci-fi premise: what if for some reason they remade GROUNDHOG’S DAY as a DE JA VU type thriller, and instead of Bill Murray it’s the guy who looks like the guy who used to play Spider-man and instead of having one day to cover the weather he has 8 minutes to figure out who planted a bomb on a train? That would be kinda cool, right? (read the rest of this shit…)
For God’s sake man, when I go to see a western there are certain things I expect to see, and certain things I don’t expect to see, and one of the things I don’t expect to see–
Nah, I’m just fuckin with you. Everybody knows that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is “the gay cowboy movie.” Or that’s the hype anyway. So first thing’s first, I gotta tell you that the “gay cowboy” description is utter bullshit and if that’s what you wanna see you’re gonna be just as disappointed as I woulda been if I went in expecting THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. Because this is not about gay cowboys. It’s about gay sheperds. They herd sheep. They shepherd. They are gay shepherds. Get it straight, America. Cowboys are dealing with cows and cattle and whatnot. If they herd sheep, they are shepherds. In this case, gay shepherds. (read the rest of this shit…)
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