Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Wolverine

But first, I have one question: What is the first name that comes to mind when you think of X-Men? 9 times out of 10 you would probably answer that question with Wolverine and for good reason too. He is the most popular X-Man on the team, not to mention one of the most badass comic book heroes of all time.

Complete with an adamantium skeleton which include knife-like claws, a berserker rage, and accelerated healing powers that render him unable to die. In fact, he is the Clint Eastwood of the Marvel Universe. Which is probably not fair considering Clint Eastwood is represented twice in the Marvel Universe with the other character being the Punisher. And if the Punisher is Dirty Harry then Wolverine is the Man with No Name because he’s got the attitude and he’s so mysterious. For one thing, no one knows how old he is because of his inability to die even though we sort of got a pretty good idea in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I mean he fought in the Civil War for Christ’s sake.

And the reason that I bring up the Punisher in a review about Wolverine is that both characters were created around the same time as villains for more established Marvel heroes. While the Punisher was conceived as a villain for Spider-Man, Wolverine was conceived as a villain for the Hulk. In fact, his first appearance was in a 1973 Hulk comic. Then a year later, Marvel decided to make him a good guy and made him part of the X-Men (despite his reputation as a loner) where he has been on and off ever since. And his popularity started to grow, but it wasn’t until his landmark 1982 limited series featuring a story about Wolverine going to Japan that his popularity really started to soar. And the basis of that limited series has become the movie we’re reviewing today, especially since this ties in with the fact that this ties in with the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman Logan being released to theaters this weekend.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is The Wolverine.

The movie takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand (which I have not seen but I’ll take your word for it that it sucks) but it actually begins in a Nagasaki POW camp during World War II (Yes, Wolvie fought in World War II. Again, X-Men Origins) where a captive Wolverine (once again played by Hugh Jackman) saves the life of a guard who will be known as Yashida throughout the rest of the movie just seconds before we nuked Nagasaki to end the war. Either that or Nagasaki had a shitload of bad movies they wanted to see destroyed.

But now on to the current story. Since X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine has been in hiding in the Canadian wilderness still haunted by the fact that at the end of that movie, he was forced to kill the love of his life, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). That's what happens when you let Brett Ratner direct while the franchise's original director Bryan Singer goes off to direct a subpar Superman movie. Throughout this movie, Jean appears frequently and acts as sort of his conscience. And her appearance is getting a lot of buzz primarily because of the fact that every scene she’s in, she’s wearing lingerie for no obvious reason other than as fan service to attract the male geeks in the audience. Now that you mention it, there was another scene like that in another movie that came out in the summer of 2013 but I can’t think of it at the top of my head. Oh, yeah. Now I got it. It's that pointless scene with Carol Marcus stripping down to her underwear in front of Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness. So I'm guessing the summer of 2013 went down in history as the summer of pointless lingerie scenes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But anyway, our pal Logan (Wolverine’s real name by the way) is soon spotted by a badass Japanese chick named Yukio who works for Yashida who wants to repay our hero for saving him from the big bad nuke by offering him a chance to be human by transferring his healing powers to Yashida, who is dying of cancer. He also wants Logan to protect his granddaughter Mariko, a character who was also a love interest for Wolvie in the comics, for reasons that I will not disclose because it could be a major spoiler. And just like in the comics, Logan and Mariko fall in love even though at first they can't stand each other. Sounds like a plot for a typical romantic comedy.

So anyway, what ensues is a nonstop montage of really great action sequences which includes Wolverine actually killing people (this movie almost got an R rating by the way, partly because we see blood on Wolverine’s claws at one point) and even a breathtaking action sequence on top of a bullet train that makes this feel less like a comic book movie and more like a cross between the Nolan Batman films and the Bourne movies.

Wolvie's adversary this time around is a mutant called Viper who is basically Marvel's answer to Batman villain Poison Ivy. She is played by a hot Russian actress named Svetlana Kochinkova, who kind of looks like all those hot girls I usually get on ads for Russian dating sites. She's after Logan all right but not for marriage. She needs him for her secret weapon: an adamantium-plated cyborg known as the Silver Samurai that basically looks like a cross between the ED-209 in Robocop and the Iron Monger in the first Iron Man. Like Poison Ivy, Viper has the ability to kill anyone with a kiss. However, when she first encounters our hero, she makes out with him while he is having another hallucination about hooking up with Jean Grey. What results is Wolverine's healing ability gets inhibited and that makes him vulnerable, a position that our hero rarely finds himself in.

Another fun fact: The role of Viper was originally offered to Jessica Biel but she turned it down because she and Fox couldn't come to a deal quick enough.

As of now I will have to say that after playing the iconic character in
several movies, Hugh Jackman owns the role of Wolverine in pretty much the same way that Christopher Reeve was Superman and Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man. I think someone should actually make Hugh sign a contract where he has to show off the claws in every movie he's in. Hell, he could have used those claws in Les Miserables. He could have used them when he hosted the Oscars that one year. That's how good he is in the role. In fact, getting back to the fact that the movie is based on the 1982 limited series comic book, Hugh said that the mini-series was his favorite Wolverine story.

Since about 60 percent of the cast is Japanese (well duh, the movie's set in Japan) I can't really name names but most of the Japanese actors did pretty good. Mariko on the other hand was kind of meh. I would've rather seen Wolvie hook up with Yukio because his chemistry with her was really good. Famke Janssen was pretty good for spending the entirety of her scenes in lingerie which again was kind of pointless. The hot Russian chick did okay as Viper, and since Viper is Marvel's answer to Poison Ivy, she is a big improvement over Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin.

Director James Mangold, who helmed some really good movies like the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and who is also directing the upcoming Logan which is Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolvie, actually gives us a decent Wolverine movie. He gives us some really awesome action sequences and when there are quiet scenes (such as the Jean Grey scenes and the Nagasaki flashbacks) he makes them count. This movie is a true Wolverine solo movie and this is the movie X-Men Origins should have been.

In short, The Wolverine is a lot of fun and it is a pretty decent action movie. And trust me, this is probably the best X-Men related movie I have seen to date and it's the best X-Men movie since 2003's X2: X-Men United (which ironically was the last X-Men movie I saw in theaters before this one.) If you have a chance, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

And one more helpful hint: You may want to stay past the credits. There is a coda at the end that sets up X-Men: Days of Future Past in which Wolverine will be a major player in and look for two surprise cameos at the end. However, at least unlike the latter film, The Wolverine did not leave me bored.

So all I can say about this movie is SNIKT!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Moment by Moment

Boy, have I just seen a real winner today. This movie clearly belongs in the Hall of Fame of Bad Movies right along with the Twilight movies, Norbit, and Garbage Pail Kids among others. However, the only difference between those movies and the movie I’m reviewing today is that this movie is not presently out on DVD. Hell, it never even got a video release, probably because Universal, the studio that distributed this thing even though it shouldn’t have been greenlit in the first place, was so ashamed by it that they wanted to just banish it from existence. That’s how bad it was. However not quite as bad as what Universal churns out in theaters these days.

In fact, the only way to see this movie is on cable (if you’re lucky that is) where it is viewed every so often or if someone uploaded it to YouTube, which someone did but I won’t name names.  

And to think that this movie was released on the heels of two iconic John Travolta movies: Saturday Night Fever and Grease. He was a big star on top of the world and could have any movie he wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t know if he was convinced to do this by producer Robert Stigwood (who produced both of Travolta’s big blockbusters) or as part of an expressed desire to do a movie with comedian Lily Tomlin, who at the time was also on a career high thanks to her Oscar win for the movie Nashville. I’m guessing that Lily decided to do this movie because her real-life lesbian lover/manager Jane Wagner directed and wrote this movie. And according to IMDB, this was the only movie she directed.

And another thing of note about this movie is that the hit show Mystery Science Theater 3000 tried to obtain the rights to this movie so they can riff on it and were denied. That was a big blunder on Hollywood’s part because this movie clearly deserves to be riffed on. However, the Cinema Snob recently reviewed this movie and I think that it’s about as close to a riff as you’re going to get.

Even though this movie is not available on video, you can’t deny that this movie exists. And since I’m reviewing it today, neither can I. So ladies and gentlemen, here is the infamous John Travolta romantic movie that Hollywood does not want you to see: Moment by Moment.

The movie opens with Trisha (played by Lily Tomlin), a bored 40-something woman who is going through a messy divorce, walking through Beverly Hills looking to refill her sleeping pill medication. So that pretty much explains why she looks so doped up and in a daze throughout the movie. I mean, her character is about as personality-challenged as Kristen Stewart. While out and about, she meets John Travolta’s character who is named Strip. Really? REALLY?! Strip who is in his twenties (Travolta was 24 at the time of this movie) is a drifter who has a bit of a shady lonely past and even shadier friends to boot. When we first meet him, Strip has the makings of a perfectly good stalker: Not leaving Trisha alone, talking endlessly even though Trisha’s looking at you as though she’s ready to call the cops at the drop of a hat. And Strip is like that for the first 30 minutes. In fact, his shtick is so annoying that a nice guy who can’t get a woman will somehow find this movie and watch what Strip is doing and then think to himself, “Oh, wow. Am I really like that? No wonder I can’t get laid.”

However, after at least 30 minutes of Strip’s annoying friendliness, Trisha finally starts warming up to him despite the fact that she’s still got the issues, most notably trust issues which is understandable because her husband cheated on her, not to mention personality issues. However despite all that, she becomes sexually attracted to the much younger Strip and before you know it, they start doing it. And for the record, I just have to say that Lily Tomlin should not be allowed to do movies that require her to do love scenes. Ever. And she and Travolta have absolutely no chemistry at all, both in and out of the sack. Not to mention that they actually look too much alike, but that’s kind of a moot point.

And shortly after they hook up, all the drama bullshit happens. Strip becomes like a puppy dog acting all needy and looking for validation because he never got that from his family and when she doesn’t say the three magic words, he departs in a huff. In fact he does that frequently for most of the remainder of this movie. He leaves when Trisha won’t reveal to her upper-class friends that she and Strip are in a relationship. And of course, there’s also the whole May-December relationship thing that threatens to tear them apart. And there is a mob subplot thrown in (Strip sees a mob boss at an art show he goes to with Trisha and he’s upset that the mob boss is one of her big society friends.) But like everything else in this movie, it doesn’t go anywhere.

So you would think that with all this thrown at our couple that they would just break up. But you know this is a love story which more often than not tend to have happy endings. Although they may just as well have been better off breaking up because there’s no chemistry.

As far as performances go, the supporting cast aren’t really familiar names and they’re not really in the movie long enough for us to care about them too much. So the only performances I can judge are Travolta and Tomlin. Like I said before, Tomlin has absolutely no business being in a romantic movie. She isn’t romantic enough. Plus it doesn’t look like she was even trying to give a good performance. It was like she was just going through the motions.

As far as John Travolta goes, at least he put in an honest effort. He comes off as playing a character who is a beta male trapped in an alpha male body. He starts out annoying and creepy before veering off into needy and desperate territory, displaying the type of attitude that would normally get a person dumped into the friend zone. At least for his credit he did look good. He’s frequently shirtless throughout the movie and back then he could easily pull it off. Now, well… not so much. Back then a man could have hair on his chest whereas now women expect their men to look like they do on Jersey Shore (no hair on your body at all.)

But personally, I think this whole movie should be thrown in the friend zone. At least with a movie like The Room (directed by Tommy Wiseau) it may have sucked, but at least it was funny because it reveled in its badness. This movie is just boring as hell with dialogue that will make you facepalm. I mean using pick-up lines like “Are you part of the Auto Club?” Really? That’s the best that you can come up with? THIS MOVIE SUCKS! But since this movie does not have a video release and it is very rarely seen, I’m not going to nuke it into Bad Movie Hell. Instead of letting this movie fade into oblivion, this movie should be studied and held up as an example of how not to make a romantic movie.

In fact, I’m gonna go as far as to offer Universal a challenge and I do suggest they accept it. Next year, instead of releasing Fifty Shades Freed (just say you’re going to release Fifty Shades Freed) you re-release this movie to theaters instead so that way, this movie can finally get a DVD release and we can finally learn how this movie came to be. In all fairness, I would think this movie would be better received if it were released now than it was back in ’78.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Last American Virgin

Well, folks. For this review, it’s time to take a little trip to the magical world of the 80’s. And as you know, the 80’s were the best time for movies, TV shows and especially music. 80’s FTW! The movie I’m reviewing today came out at a time when the teen sex comedy genre was booming thanks to the success of the 1981 film Porky’s, which I do vaguely remember seeing as a kid and came out the same year as the iconic teen sex comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I have the DVD of Fast Times but I haven’t watched it yet. In fact, the only time I’ve seen Fast Times was on TV and it was edited. And you pretty much know how people feel about R-rated movies that are edited down for television. In fact, I have a story about that but that’s for another episode.
Getting back on track here, even though this film came out a mere two weeks before Fast Times in the summer of 1982, it is the latter film that is most remembered while this film sort of disappeared into obscurity because of the fact that this movie offered a very controversial and very realistic ending compared to the usual stereotypical Hollywood ending where the nice guy is the hero and he gets the girl at the end. If you came to this review looking for that type of movie then you came to the wrong place because this movie starts out as a stereotypical teen sex comedy and halfway through it throws you a curve and gets really serious (with an abortion subplot not that Fast Times didn’t have one) and then there’s that ending but it’s not a happy ending. So without further ado, here is my review of the classic 1982 film The Last American Virgin.
The Last American Virgin is the Americanized version of a 1978 Israeli film called Lemon Popsicle and it is about a trio of friends, one of whom is a male virgin who embark on a series of misadventures while trying to get laid. That while Lemon Popsicle and the seven sequels that followed it were set in the 50’s, the Americanized version was set in L.A. in more contemporary times, meaning the early 80’s. And another thing that The Last American Virgin shares with its Israeli predecessor is that both films have the same production team: Golan and Globus as producers (meaning that the schlock factory known as the Cannon Group was behind this movie) and it also has the same director, Boaz Davidson. And since male virginity is a pretty serious issue these days with this crazy screwed-up dating culture we are in right now, now is probably as good a time as any to dust off this classic movie and give it a review. So without further ado, here we go.
The movie opens sort of like A Christmas Story (even though this came out a little over a year before Christmas Story) where just like in that movie, the protagonist sees the object of his desire. However instead of a BB gun, our protagonist Gary (played by Lawrence Monoson), pines for a really hot transfer student named Karen (played by Diane Franklin, best known as one of the princesses from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.) And just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, Gary is standing there with his mouth hanging open to the point where he is practically drooling whereas the girl just gives him the once-over and walks away. Then he goes and order the same exact ice cream that the girl does and immediately he sets about trying to find out who she is so he can get with her. Uh, creepy?
Here’s a little tidbit about Gary. He’s not the stereotypical geek like in most romantic comedies where the nice guy gets the girl at the end, nor is he bad looking. He dresses like a typical 80’s kid, collar flipped up, hair in a pompadour (though I don’t know why the boys in this movie all have pompadours in a teen sex comedy that is set in the early 80’s even though it is an Americanized version of a movie that is set in the 50’s), and a sharp dresser. He has a job as a pizza delivery boy at a pizza place called Pink Pizza and he is frequently seen driving around in a pink station wagon which is the company car. Uh… gay?
He is frequently seen palling around with ladies’ man Rick (played by Steve Antin) and David (played by Joe Rubbo), the token fat guy who unlike Gary has considerable success with women. Unlike his peers, Gary is still a virgin who despite his many trips to get laid, he usually goes home without getting any. In fact, the whole first half of the movie consists of the boys’ never-ending quest for tail.
The movie really begins with the boys picking up three girls (one extremely hot chick, one moderately attractive chick, and a fat chick.) They invite the girls over to Gary’s house where they promise them drugs and sex. They have the girls snorting Sweet ‘N Low because they’re trying to pass it off as cocaine and then the sexcapades begin. Since he’s the token douchebag in the movie, Rick gets the really hot chick, fat boy David gets the moderately attractive chick who is sort of reluctant to put out and makes David wait outside while she is getting naked. And guess who ends up with the fat chick? That’s right, our hero Gary and of course he was having difficulty getting her in the mood because clearly she’s more interested in eating rather than getting laid. At one point he even tries to take off her bra using a pair of scissors. But their party is interrupted when Gary's parents return home and pandemonium ensues, nearly forcing Gary’s mom to have a nervous breakdown especially when David mistakes her for his girl. That scene was hilarious.

While Gary attempts to find out about Karen, he even gives her a lift to school after intentionally deflating the tires on her bicycle (creepy) where he learns that she doesn’t have a boyfriend which would seem to indicate that she was a virgin. However he blows his chance with her yet again (friend-zoned) and soon he is shocked to find out that her woman senses were tingling for bad boy Rick the Dick, hence our love triangle which at least is not as bloated and overhyped as the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle in that franchise that will not be named.
And to make matters worse, the new couple tries to set Gary up with her geeky best friend Rose who is kind of weird with glasses and pigtails (after all, it was the 80’s) and Rose is immediately smitten with Gary but Gary is obviously oblivious to her. He wants the hot girl after all. Geeky attire aside, Rose is not that bad-looking. All she needed to do was lose the pigtails and Gary would probably forget about Karen. Of course that can’t really happen otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.
The next sexual misadventure comes when Gary delivers pizza to a sexy Latina cougar whose sailor boyfriend is always out of town and she tells him she wants to hook up with him. And of course being too wimpy to follow up on it, he runs back and gets his friends. Are you really that much of a loser? If an obviously hot woman says she wants to bang you, you don’t run off and get your friends. You bang her!
So anyway, sissy boy Gary brings Rick and David back with him and pretend that they were on a pizza delivery run and decided to bring extra pizzas so that they had an excuse to go to her house. Then she proceeds to do a striptease dance for the boys which makes them as Beavis would say go Boooooiiiiiiinnnnng!  And as usual Rick the Dick gets to bang her first and then David goes next. And as far as that goes, well let’s just say that I’ll never look at the KC and the Sunshine Band song “That’s the Way I Like It" without seeing the image of naked David on top of a hot woman. But guess who decides to show up just as Gary is getting ready to get it in? That’s right it’s the missing sailor boyfriend who promptly chases them off.
And what’s the moral of the story, kids? Next time a cougar wants to sleep with you, don’t bring your friends!
And it is about this point where Rick begins to plan to take Karen’s virginity so he goes to Gary and tries to ask him for the keys to his grandmother’s house where he plans to get her alone. Gary responds by saying that he couldn’t find it and instead forces Rick to break his date with Karen and accompany him and David to a prostitute named Ruby, who obviously looks like she is past her sell-by date. This time, Gary goes first, but because of nerves, it’s unknown whether or not he finished or if he actually got inside her or not but apparently it does not go well. And sure enough the next day, all three boys end up going to school with itchy balls. Heh-heh. Got crabs?
And by the way, the scene where the boys go to a pharmacist and have to explain what is wrong with them is actually hilarious. And what would have made it even more hilarious was that the pharmacist was originally supposed to be a woman.
However the boys get over the crabs long enough for Rick to finally take Karen out to the football field (to Gary’s horror) to finally get her laid. Gary tries to stop them but he could not find him and it is the first time that we hear the Commodores’ single “Oh, No” in the movie (we’ll hear it again at various points during the latter half of the movie along with the movie’s theme song, “Just Once” by Quincy Jones with James Ingram.) Then after Rick and Karen finally do it, they go back to the local hangout where Gary is all alone, obviously depressed and Rick rubs some salt in Gary’s wound by bragging about hooking up with Karen and Gary leaves in a huff.
A few days later, Gary observes an argument between Rick and Karen in the library where he tells her to get lost and here’s where Gary sees his big chance to get with Karen. Now, there is a term for that type of behavior that I can’t think of it right off the top of my head right now…
Anyway, Gary learns that Rick got her pregnant and now wants nothing to do with her and since he obviously still has feelings for her decides to help Karen pay for an abortion. At the same time, he confronts Rick in the library where the two pretty much comes to blows and it’s curtains for their friendship.
Later on, while everyone goes away on a ski trip during winter break, Gary moves Karen into his grandmother’s house. He takes her to an abortion clinic while he runs off to pawn off his stereo and borrow money from his boss to pay for the abortion. After the abortion, Gary takes her back to his grandmother’s house where he behaves like a perfect gentleman even though I have to admit that his watching over her while she sleeps is kinda creepy.
And then the moment of truth arrives when Gary finally reveals his true feelings for Karen and she finally does kiss him as though she seems to be returning his feelings and then invites him to her 18th birthday party the following week. Next thing you know Gary is able to scrape up eighty bucks (thank god Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen was nowhere in sight and if you’ve seen Back to the Future Part III, you’ll get the joke), Gary goes to a jewelry store and buys Karen a gold locket with an inscription on it that says “To Karen, with love.”
And sure enough, the day of the party arrives and Gary arrives in the pink station wagon with Karen’s present, happy as can be because he’s finally gonna get the girl. And just when you think that this movie will end up with the traditional romantic movie happy ending that the nice guy is finally gonna get the girl and live happily ever after, he opens the door to the kitchen and sees his beloved Karen… making out with Rick the Dick! All I gotta say to that is... WHAT THE FUCK, MOVIE?!
If this isn’t the biggest bag-over-the-head blow to your balls! To think that after all that Rick did to her and after all that Gary has done for her, she still decides to take the douchebag back! Sound familiar? Sounds like today’s dating scene to me! And she has the nerve to smirk at him! (Bitch.)
And with that move, we see Karen's status elevate from the object of Gary’s desire to the damsel in distress to finally the movie’s real villain. Just like real life!
And so Gary leaves the party, taking Karen’s gift with him and the credits roll as he drives home crying. Now the way I see it, I came up with a couple of possible scenarios as to how this movie might actually end. First up, after he is done crying, Gary could go back to the party and beat the shit out of Rick and hope that convinces Karen that he is a real man and not a pushover. Second scenario: Gary goes back to the party and settles for Rose. I mean she’s not that bad looking for a total geek. Just lose the pigtails and switch to contacts and she’ll be good to go. Third scenario: He’ll go his own way, go to college and hopes he runs into another girl named Karen who will actually date him. That is, if he doesn’t return the locket and get a refund.
Hey, chin up, Gary. At least you can take comfort knowing that you’ll be killed by Jason Voorhees two years later in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. And no, you don’t get any there either.
The performances are actually pretty good in this movie. It is pretty well written for a movie that starts of as a generic teen sex comedy and then throws you a curve halfway through to make the film into an Afterschool special with the abortion subplot and of course that ending. And the music is wall-to-wall 80’s music. In short, this is American Graffiti rewritten as an 80’s teen sex comedy. It contains some of the most recognizable 80’s tunes, such as the Cars’ “Shake it Up;” Devo’s “Whip It,” which plays during the dick-measuring contest (I’m serious, there is one early in the movie in which the token nerd who’s not even a main character in the movie wins); REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You;” and Journey’s “Open Arms” to name a few.
I have to admit that Golan and Globus had guts to put out a movie with a very realistic ending that a lot of guys (especially in today’s screwed-up dating society) can relate to and for that they should be commended. On the other hand, if they think this lets them off the hook for Superman IV, they are sorely mistaken.
And there has been some talk about remaking this movie as far back as 2011 where Brett Ratner said that he wanted to direct a remake of this movie and I will post a link to that article in the description box below but I wouldn’t trust this movie to a director who’s only had two good movies his whole career: The first Rush Hour movie and Red Dragon. If anyone was to do a remake, give it to Judd Apatow. After all, he’s no stranger to movies about male virgins.
So in short, The Last American Virgin is a pretty good movie that clearly has to be seen especially since people can relate to this film primarily because it describes today’s dating culture. In fact, I think this movie predicted today’s dating culture. If you like 80’s nostalgia or if you do want to see a movie that does not have the stereotypical Hollywood ending, then this movie is for you. If you can find it on DVD or on Netflix, you’ve got to see it. It is clearly not to be missed.
Link to Brett Ratner on remaking Last American Virgin:

Friday, February 3, 2017


Let’s get on with this movie review and as you may have guessed by now, it will be a review of the comic book movie that has taken the world by storm and no it’s not Batman vs. Superman nor is it Captain America: Civil War. In a word, it’s Deadpool.
As you all know Deadpool, who also has the nickname “Merc with a Mouth” is a mercenary character who not only kills people but he also employs his bizarre sense of humor and he is perhaps one of the most self-aware characters in the history of fictional characters because he breaks the fourth wall a lot. So basically he’s either an R-rated version of Spider-Man or the Eminem of superheroes. I haven’t read Deadpool comic books but I knew of Deadpool prior to this movie. Hell I knew of him prior to his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and I agree with you that X-Men Origins is actually unwatchable save for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and of course they got Deadpool completely wrong by turning him into this monster who has his mouth sewn shut which is not how Deadpool is supposed to be. And ironically Deadpool was played by Ryan Reynolds in that movie.
However, since Ryan Reynolds is a fan of Deadpool and like everyone else he was not happy with how Deadpool turned out in Origins and for years (not to mention doing another bad comic book movie) he set out to do a Deadpool solo movie and hopefully do the character right. Well, thanks in part to a phenomenal marketing campaign that involved social media, he succeeded.
And not only is it a win for Reynolds, it’s also a win for Fox Studios who own the rights to the X-Men franchise as well as the Fantastic Four but after the last Fantastic Four movie you might as well call them the “Shittastic Four” and you might as well just give up on Fantastic Four because the Fantastic Four are not interesting enough characters to carry a movie franchise. I highly doubt that even Marvel can do anything with them. And as far as the X-Men franchise goes it’s been hit or miss. Sure they’ve been commercially successful but box office success does not always equal quality. Prior to Deadpool I have seen only three X-Men movies in theaters: The first two X-Men movies and The Wolverine, which was far superior to X-Men Origins.
So without further ado, here is the review for Deadpool.
Most of what happens in the movie you already saw in the trailers such as Deadpool riding in the cab playing with the window and climbing through the cabbie’s window to chat with the cab driver. Then of course there’s the classic scene on the freeway where Deadpool is sitting on an overpass drawing a picture of him killing someone while listening to Salt-n-Pepa’s Shoop before jumping down into the passing vehicles where we get the freeway fight scenes which you also saw in the trailers so again it’s hardly a spoiler.
However, the movie pulls a Chris Nolan as Deadpool narrates how he came to be Deadpool such as how he (by the way his real name is Wade Wilson and he’s an ex-Special Forces operative who moonlights as a mercenary) met the love of his life, a stripper named Vanessa (played by Morena Baccharin who is no stranger to comic book entertainment because she appears on the Batman prequel series Gotham.) And during the course of the relationship, Wade finds out he has cancer and he ends up taking a deal from a guy who looks like Agent Smith from the Matrix movies (in fact Wade even calls the guy Agent Smith in the movie) and he ends up in a secret laboratory where he undergoes a treatment program that is supposed to not only make him cancer-free but gives him superhuman abilities, including accelerated healing. However, the doctor that experiments on him is a guy named Ajax (real name: Francis) who looks like Tom Hardy’s character from Star Trek: Nemesis who delights in torturing Wade and finally putting him in a machine that ends up horribly disfiguring him.
What ensues is the lab being destroyed but Wade survives and he sets out to get revenge on everyone involved with the lab. In turn he starts calling himself Deadpool and he starts killing everyone (one of the funniest sequences involves Deadpool trying to mow down a wounded guy with a Zamboni.) During the movie, Deadpool is aided by Colossus from the X-Men and a teenage girl called Negasonic Teenage Warhead who has the ability to turn into a powerful raging fireball (as Gina Carano finds out the hard way.) “Boy, I’d hate to be guy that pressures her into prom sex.”
Without going any further (since the movie’s still in theaters) as far as performances go, it’s safe to say that Ryan Reynolds is officially vindicated from X-Men Origins and he completely nails it. Everyone else is pretty solid and as far as Gina Carano goes, she’s still behaving like she’s pissed that she lost the part of Wonder Woman in Batman vs. Superman. I also like the opening credits at the beginning where it’s basically a freeze-frame during an action sequence and they have such credits as “Some douchebag’s film”, “Starring this guy” (it also shows Ryan Reynolds’ Sexiest Man Alive issue of People magazine which also pops up again frequently throughout the movie), “a hot chick”, “a moody teen”, “a CGI character” and “Directed by a complete tool” among many others.
And before you ask viewers, yes Deadpool does poke fun at X-Men Origins as well as Green Lantern and like I said before, he even pokes fun at Ryan Reynolds himself by again having the Sexiest Man Alive magazine floating about. I also love the way that they have Ryan Reynolds emoting while wearing the Deadpool mask. And the music was chosen really well, with the predominant ones being Shoop, Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton (a song that has long been associated with Deadpool), Calendar Girl which plays during the sex scenes, Careless Whisper by Wham which plays during the end credits that includes an animated Deadpool playing a saxophone and so on.
And before you ask, yes there is a post-credits sequence so you have to stay past the end credits. I won’t give away too much but Ferris Bueller fans will definitely not want to miss it and there’ s a subliminal reference to the sequel.
So in short, Deadpool is hilarious. As far as I’m concerned. It’s the best X-Men related movie I’ve seen. There’s a lot to like about this movie and it’s a comic book movie for grown-ups. Don’t bring the kids even though little Jimmy will very likely find a way to sneak into the movie.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Top 5 Best Movies of 2016

It's that time of year already. The year where I get to count down the best movies I've seen in theaters in 2016 and that includes free movies up at Herkimer College. Unfortunately, since I only saw six movies in theaters this year, this is going to be a Top 5 Best Movies of the year list and this year there were two movies that could compete for both the worst movie of the year and number 5 on my Top 5 best movies of 2016 list.

And since my number five movie had more redeemable qualities than the movie I’ve chosen as my worst movie of the year, my pick for worst movie of the year is the remake of Ghostbusters. And it’s not because they’re all women. It’s more like the fact that this movie and the people behind this movie went out of their way to insult the fan base that grew up with the first two movies and The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, meaning that if you don’t like the movie, you’re a misogynist and if you did like it, you were paid off by Sony to say that you liked the movie, not to mention the horrible way that men are portrayed in the movie which range from incredibly stupid to (and this is also ironic in real life) antisocial losers who live in their mom’s basement and there is also the infamous scene of them shooting a ghost in the balls.

And initially, I was originally not planning to see this movie especially after finding out that they cast Melissa McCarthy as one of the Ghostbusters because I am obviously not a Melissa McCarthy fan. But then again, the only reason she was in the movie was because the movie was directed by Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy is usually a common denominator in his movies and that is why I don’t see Paul Feig movies. But then the whole backlash happened after the first trailer dropped and it became one of the most disliked trailers in YouTube history and especially after they went after Angry Video Game Nerd James Rolfe for going on YouTube and saying that he wasn’t going to review the movie and called him a misogynist for not wanting to see the movie. And his reasons for not wanting to see the movie were perfectly legitimate. For example, he said that the movie was an obvious cash grab (which it was) and that the effects are horrible (which they were.) Although I am more of a Nostalgia Critic guy, I started watching the Angry Video Game Nerd after that video and I gained a lot of respect for James Rolfe because he’s a guy who actually knows movies and he genuinely loves the Ghostbusters franchise.

But anyway, the movie came out and while it was a hit with mainstream critics, the backlash against the fans by everyone involved with the movie came back to bite them in the ass at the box office. The result was that Sony lost about 70 million dollars as a result of Ghostbusters bombing at the box office and it pretty much destroyed any chance of there being any sequels and they were talking about doing a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, but that’s not happening now.

I didn’t go to see it during its theatrical run and I was content with that until September when I found out that Herkimer College was getting it as part of its free movie program for the fall semester so I was like yeah, I get another shot at the movie and I don’t have to give Paul Feig or Sony my money either. So, it’s a fair deal.

So, I did see it and I hated it. Again, not because they’re all women but because it was a genuinely bad movie with bad writing, bad Scooby-Doo-style visual effects for the ghosts, and again their whole horrible depiction of the male characters. It certainly didn’t deserve the 72 percent it got on Rotten Tomatoes.

And on a more personal note, when I very briefly reviewed the movie for my Halloween vlog back in October I said that I would be more content with never seeing the movie again because I would not recommend getting this movie on DVD or even renting it. But then my nephews had to go and buy it and I remember many a sleepless night listening to it. But anyway, I got my older nephew Ghostbusters II on DVD and even Ghostbusters II, imperfect as it is, is still true Ghostbusters. But as far as I go, if I want to see Ghostbusters, I will stick with the first two.

And PS: We didn’t get no Ecto-Cooler in Herkimer, although we did get Crystal Pepsi.

So now that brings me to my top 5 movies of the year and like I said my number five movie is a movie I was genuinely let down by, especially since it was a movie I was looking forward to going into this year but the only reason this movie isn’t the worst movie of the year is because it had redeemable qualities. 

So anyway, my number five movie is Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. And you may recall in my debut podcast that I, along with many others who have been waiting for this movie for decades, was in fact very disappointed in this movie when I saw it in theaters almost ten months ago. 

For one thing, it’s a very slow movie especially for a comic book movie that’s supposed to have a lot of action in it. And some of the points I brought up in my review in the first podcast I’ll just sum up for you here. What I didn’t like about the movie was Superman’s story arc; the first hour or so being nothing more than political bullshit; Jesse Eisenberg’s girly man Lex Luthor; the supporting cast of Man of Steel being virtually useless to the story; and the fact that Zack Snyder shoehorned Doomsday and the whole Death of Superman storyline into an already crowded movie. However, what was good about it was of course Batfleck’s whole arc and how Batman is actually an older and darker character who straight up murders and tortures criminals which doesn’t sit well with Supes. However, when the two finally go at it, it only takes up about ten minutes of screen time and it’s a bit underwhelming, especially for a match-up that’s been in development hell for over two decades. And of course, the other good thing about the movie was Wonder Woman mainly because this movie marks her first-ever live action appearance on the big screen. Up until now the only live-action incarnations of Wonder Woman had only been on television, most notably the Lynda Carter series from the 70’s. And of all the times I’ve been going to movies, I have heard audiences cheer two different times: The first time was when Hulk smashed Loki around like a rag doll in the first Avengers movie in 2012 and the other time was when Wonder Woman appears during the battle with Doomsday.

However, unlike Ghostbusters, the negative reception actually worked for Batman vs. Superman rather than against it. Same rules apply for Suicide Squad even though I still haven’t seen it. Of course, like I said in the review, DC still has a long way to go if they even want to be on the same level as the Marvel movies. Who knows, maybe Wonder Woman will change that when her solo movie finally comes out in June. But if you don’t want to wait until Ben Affleck releases his solo Batman movie (and it has been confirmed that it is happening) there’s The LEGO Batman Movie coming out next month and that looks pretty good, especially since LEGO Batman was the best part of The LEGO Movie. Who knows? Maybe Justice League will be good, but since that’s also being directed by Zack Snyder, I hope you will forgive me if I’m not jumping for joy.

My number four movie of the year is Rogue One. Now I know what you’re thinking: Why is a Star Wars movie number three? Well, granted that Force Awakens was number one last year (mainly because it was the only movie I saw in theaters last year) it would seem biased of me to put it up there solely because it’s a Star Wars movie. But seriously, it’s not that I don’t like the movie. I do. In fact, it’s the one true prequel to the original trilogy. But it’s not without its flaws which unlike the prequels are minor. But probably the deciding factor for me was the fact that I wasn’t really all that invested in the lead actors. But for all its flaws, Rogue One more than makes up for it with a very strong supporting cast, the very long-awaited return of Darth Vader being a badass, the really gorgeous locations, the more realistic tone of the movie and probably the best space battle since Return of the Jedi. I won’t really get into this too much since it’s still in theaters but if you want to hear more, I recommend listening to my podcast review of it. Otherwise, I do recommend seeing this in theaters. Check it out while you can.

Now moving on to number 3 which is Star Trek Beyond and this was actually a good movie. I am a bit bummed out that it didn’t do well, especially since Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov died in a freak accident a month before the movie hit theaters. But like I said, a lot of why this movie didn’t do well was probably because of the ongoing legal battle between CBS and the fan-based Internet productions, most notably Axanar even after both JJ Abrams and Fast and Furious director Justin Lin (who directed this movie) stepped in to settle the dispute. Legal problems aside, this movie actually brought the feel of the original series back to Star Trek, especially after the last one felt like a rip-off of Wrath of Khan and a lot of that is attributed to Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty in these movies and is a die-hard fan of the original series.) Sure, we see the Enterprise destroyed for the umpteenth gagillionith time, but we get to see more character development, most notably between Spock and Bones which was actually a staple of the original series and movies that was missing in the first two reboot films. It was also great that they decided to honor Leonard Nimoy after his death in 2015. And as far as the Chekov thing goes, it was pretty smart of JJ Abrams to say that he is not planning to recast Chekov for future movies which is the way to go. And I do hope they make another one of these movies.

My number 2 is Captain America: Civil War. Like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes through once again with this action-packed epic battle between Captain America and Iron Man. In short, this movie is Batman vs. Superman done right. In fact, one of the things I said about this movie was “Give Batman and Superman back to Marvel,” mainly because Marvel knows what the hell they’re doing with their characters and their movies. They know how to combine action and humor into their movies not to mention that their characters are fleshed out better. In a way, this felt more like Avengers 3 than Captain America 3 because it has two groups of Avengers fighting each other with some of the newer characters fighting on Team Iron Man including Black Panther and finally introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time, Spider-Man now played by Tom Holland. And he was easily the best character in the movie. Again the Winter Soldier takes center stage just like in the previous film The Winter Soldier which is basically Marvel’s version of The Dark Knight in terms of tone and style. But there’s still enough humor in it to keep it from getting totally dark.

And I am looking forward to more from the Marvel Universe, especially Spider-Man: Homecoming which comes out Fourth of July weekend and also Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which comes out in May. You see, DC. This is how you make a superhero movie franchise.

And now we’re up to the big moment. We know it’s not a Star Wars movie that’s number one and it’s not a Marvel movie (even though it is based on a Marvel character) that’s number one. And I guess you pretty much knew that this was coming that I would announce this as my number one, especially since it’s on a lot of people’s number one lists this year and while there was buzz that it could get major Oscar buzz but unfortunately it was shut out. But all is not lost because it's the best movie on this list. So without further ado, my number one movie is … Deadpool.

What can I say? This is definitely one of the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen and it’s also one of the most well put-together movies I’ve ever seen. This film not only did the character justice after the horrible travesty of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it also manages to poke fun at not only the X-Men Origins Deadpool, but also pokes fun at Green Lantern which was Ryan Reynolds’ other failed attempt at a superhero movie and even pokes fun at Ryan Reynolds himself. And of course, that’s all in character for this movie because Deadpool is famous for breaking the fourth wall. And the movie had probably the best marketing campaign of any movie I’ve ever seen. It also proved that an R-rated comic book movie can be successful for better or worse. Then again, the R-rating didn’t seem to help the animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke. But then again, I shouldn’t really count that because it was originally supposed to be released to DVD. But we’ll see how Logan does when that gets released with an R-rating in March. 

In fact, there was a campaign going around to get Deadpool an Oscar nomination for Best Picture which means that if it happened it could finally be the first comic book movie to win the award for Best Picture since the Academy expanded their choices from five to ten in 2010 in the wake of The Dark Knight being snubbed for the award in 2009 despite getting a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the late Heath Ledger for his portrayal of the Joker. Unfortunately, like I said Deadpool got shut out nomination-wise. But I still hope Ryan Reynolds goes to the Oscars dressed up as Deadpool. That costume they made for the movie is awesome! I like how they managed to get the mask to emote which I’m guessing helped Marvel out when they were designing their Spider-Man costume for Civil War.

And more Deadpool is on the horizon with Deadpool 2 being directed by the same man who directed John Wick and to that I say “Whoa.” In Keanu Reeves' voice, of course. And just think if that movie is well-received both critically and commercially and it too wins an Oscar for Best Picture it will definitely match the first two Godfather movies. But then again, it’s wishful thinking to even mention Deadpool in the same breath as The Godfather. But either way, Deadpool is here to stay.

And that wraps up my Top 5 Movies of 2016. I guess I better stock up on movie passes because 2017 will be a pretty busy year. We got LEGO Batman. We got Logan. We got The Fate of the Furious (aka Fast and Furious 8.) We got Guardians 2. We got Wonder Woman. We got Power Rangers. We got Spider-Man: Homecoming. We got Thor: Ragnarok. We got Justice League. And the icing on the cake, Star Wars: Episode 8, now officially known as The Last Jedi. And with all those movies, I know one movie I won’t be watching: Fifty Shades Darker!  But at the same time, I will also be showing some things already on DVD. So this should be a good year. And next year, hopefully I will be able to expand this into a Top 10 list.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Falling Down

Nowadays to all moviegoers the name Joel Schumacher is not thought of in the highest regard because of one movie. Come on, I know you all know it. The name Joel Schumacher is notorious for the fact that he directed one of the worst films of all time: Batman and Robin. As a result he screwed up the Batman franchise and nearly killed the comic book movie genre in general until it was resuscitated by the phenomenal success of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie in 2002. And also if not for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie Chris Nolan would not have been able to bring Batman back into theaters with three really awesome movies. So if you want reason to thank Chris Nolan for rescuing Batman from Schumacher, this is it.

So I know a lot of you are asking this question: Can Joel Schumacher direct a good movie? Yes. His movie adaptations of John Grisham novels have been pretty good. The Client was pretty good even though I thought A Time to Kill was better, especially with Samuel L. Jackson. “Yes, they deserved to die! I hope they burn in hell!” And there is the movie we’re reviewing today which could easily be considered the best movie he ever directed. Let that sink in for a minute: The same man who gave us the Bat Credit Card directed one of the best revenge movies of all time. And the fact that Joel Schumacher directed Batman and Robin pretty much negates all the good things he did which is why this film is sort of obscure. But here is a lesson for all of you, if you give Joel Schumacher a comic book movie, he sucks. If you give him a musical, he sucks. But to be fair, if not for Phantom of the Opera we wouldn’t have the hotness that is Emmy Rossum. But if you give him a movie that is grounded in reality like this movie and his Grisham adaptations, he can really direct a good movie.

So here is a review of a movie that may very well be his best movie to date: The 1993 revenge thriller Falling Down.

This movie was released at a time when America was coming out of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. With communism on its way out, America felt like they didn’t have the need for defense contract workers so they laid them off. At the same time America had become sort of decadent in its ways with a new set of rules and a more blended culture. Racial tensions were high at the time. In fact this was filmed during the L.A. Riots. You know the whole Rodney King thing. “Can’t we all just get along?” Well, if you thought America in the early 90’s was bad, wait till you see it in Obama-occupied America. In fact this movie could play very well in Obama America. If this movie were released today it would probably be a bigger hit now that it was when it was released in 1993.

So without further ado, let’s get started with the review of Falling Down.

The movie begins with Bill Foster (played by Michael Douglas in what he considers to be his best role since Gordon Gekko in Wall Street) as a defense contract worker who was recently fired because again the Cold War’s over and his services were no longer required. On top of that, his wife Beth (played by Barbara Hershey) filed for divorce and has a restraining order against him because he’s kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. So anyway, he starts the movie stuck in traffic on the hottest day of the year in L.A. His air conditioner breaks down and he is seeing all these subliminal images that are sort of setting him off, such as the vicious-looking plush Garfield car decoration, bumper stickers that remind us that Jesus died for our sins (even though it really should say Optimus Prime died for our sins) as well as the popular “How am I driving? Call 1-800-EAT SHIT” and so on. You can tell that he is already at the breaking point at the beginning of the movie and it is sort of interesting that the movie decided to start here instead of showing the events that lead to this moment where Foster loses it. In fact the title of this movie is a motif of the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down” and it is a reference to Foster’s mental state. As a result of this, Foster abandons his car complete with the license plate D-FENS and proceeds to walk across L.A. to get home to his daughter’s birthday despite the wife’s restraining order against him.

Ironically also stuck in that same traffic jam is Police Sergeant Prendergast (played by Robert Duvall) who is on his way to work for his last day before he retires. Like Foster, Prendergast has also been screwed over by life. His daughter died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and his wife is kinda batshit insane, not to mention extremely needy. In fact, she is forcing him to retire from the force. At the same time, Prendergast is belittled by his co-workers and his superiors for being pussy-whipped. The only one that actually sticks up for him is his partner Sandra (played by the chick from the Ahnuld version of Total Recall.) But from that moment he becomes obsessed with Foster and throughout the movie he follows the leads whenever Foster commits a violent act.

In the meantime, Foster (or D-FENS as I probably should call him as Michael Douglas is credited as D-FENS in the movie) stops off at a store run by a Korean-American who won’t give him change for the phone unless he buys something. He picks up a can of soda and hoping that it would be 50 cents which he needs to use the pay phone, he becomes outraged when he finds out the Korean store owner charges 85 cents which won’t give him enough for the phone. A struggle ensues where D-FENS takes the guy’s baseball bat and goes to town on his merchandise while accusing the Korean store owner of being a thief because his prices are so damn high. He continues to trash the place until the Korean store owner gives him the soda for 50 cents.

Next up, D-FENS decides to rest on a hill when two Latino street gang members decide to harass him insisting that he is on their turf and demand that he give them his briefcase at knifepoint. D-FENS responds by beating the shit out of them with the bat and running them off while picking up the knife. At this point, this is almost like a video game where the character acquires new weapons every time he defeats a villain.

Later the street gang finds D-FENS at a pay phone where he is continuing to stalk his ex-wife and tell her that he is coming home for his daughter’s birthday party and then the gang tries to off him in a drive-by shooting and they hit everyone but him and then they crash their car in a nearby alley. D-FENS is back in video game mode and walks over to the car where he obtains the gang’s gym bag full of guns. When he picks up the Uzi, I think Schumacher was going for an homage to Dirty Harry’s iconic “Do you feel lucky, punk” speech that he gives to a robber. Here he shoots at the surviving thug and misses to tease him and then shoots him in the leg. I’m pretty sure the audience agreed with him when he leaves the wounded thug with a piece of advice: “Take some shooting lessons, asshole” before walking away with the gang’s automatic weapons.

D-FENS’ next stop is a fast food restaurant where he tries to order breakfast but finds out that he is two minutes late. Demanding that the restaurant honor the age-old motto that “The customer is always right,” D-FENS pulls out the Uzi and accidentally fires into the ceiling (another humorous scene.) Then he changes his mind and orders lunch where he then proceeds to bitch about the burger not looking like the burger portrayed on the poster.  

Oh and by the way, the fast food worker that D-FENS first talks to while trying to put his order in for breakfast? Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister.

And then he decides to stop off at an army surplus store that is run by a closet Nazi skinhead who is first seen berating a gay couple who is frequenting his store at a time when people being gay was slowly starting to become accepted in society.  The Nazi army store owner is in awe of D-FENS because he has been listening in on D-FENS’ “vigilante” exploits on the police scanner to the point where he hides D-FENS when a cop comes into the store looking for him.

Once the cop leaves the Nazi guy gives D-FENS a rocket launcher as a gift and shows him his private collection of Nazi paraphernalia. However, D-FENS is disgusted by all of this, most notably by the surplus store owner’s blatant racism and the Nazi guy tries to arrest him before D-FENS kills him, first by stabbing him with the switchblade that he took from the street gang and then by shooting him which marks the first time in the movie that D-FENS kills someone directly because of his actions and is now as he says in another harassing phone call to Beth “past the point of no return.”

Then D-FENS, who has by now exchanged his white shirt and tie for combat fatigues, comes across a road work crew who are supposedly working on a highway but are apparently blocking traffic for no reason. D-FENS accuses them of doing unnecessary repairs to the road in order to justify their budget. Then when the road work foreman finally admits that there’s nothing wrong with the street (partly because he saw D-FENS’ gun poking out from his crotch) D-FENS responds by pulling out his rocket launcher and says “I’ll give you something to fix.” This is easily my favorite sequence in the movie where a black kid, assuming that D-FENS is an actor and that he is filming an action movie) teaches him how to use the rocket launcher claiming that he learned how to use a rocket launcher from watching it in a movie. I’m not sure where I read this but when the kid says that he learned how to use the rocket launcher from watching a movie it is implied that he learned it by watching Beverly Hills Cop II. Once again I have no idea where I learned this from whether it is from the movie’s IMDB page or what. But anyway, this is my favorite sequence in the movie. He manage to fire the launcher by accident, the projectile going under the street and then blowing up the construction site on the other side.

Another funny action scene comes shortly after that when D-FENS walks across an old man’s golf course and after the old man tries to hit the golf ball at D-FENS, he responds by pulling out a 12-gauge and shoots his golf cart, forcing it to go into the lake and gives the old man a heart attack because his heart medication happened to be in the cart. It’s unknown whether or not the old man dies but D-FENS makes the remark “Now you’re gonna die wearing that silly little hat. How does it feel?”

As D-FENS gets closer to Beth’s house, Prendergast finally has a man-up moment when he finally stands up to his batshit insane wife and even manages to punch out his co-worker who berated his wife to explain why Prendergast wasn’t showing interest in the stripper that the squad got for him. However before all that, he learned more about D-FENS’ real identity after talking with his mother and that after D-FENS got divorced he was forced to move back in with his mother (whom he blames for his divorce) and finds out that D-FENS is on his way to his ex-wife’s house in the L.A. suburb of Venice presumably to kill both her and her daughter before killing himself. Now I’m not sure if that was really what he intended to do. The movie kind of left that vague but from what I saw, sure D-FENS is kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but I think that he actually intended to patch things up with his ex-wife so that they could be a family again. In short he is chasing the illusion of home.

By the time D-FENS reaches Beth's house, she has already fled with Adele. He realizes that they may have gone to nearby Venice Pier, but Prendergast arrives to arrest him. D-FENS manages to escape by shooting Prendergast’s partner and runs to Venice Pier with Prendergast in pursuit.

At the end of the pier, D-FENS finally reunites with his ex-wife and daughter. His daughter is happy to see him, but his ex-wife is frightened. Prendergast arrives and acknowledges that D-FENS has been ill-treated by society, but does not accept that as an excuse for his rampage. Like I said before the movie is not only about D-FENS but it is also about Prendergast: Two men who have played by the rules their entire lives and have been fucked over by society and marginalized who handle their situations in different ways. While D-FENS’ way to react to the situation is with violence, Prendergast’s way is to just get by the best you can.

While Prendergast is distracting D-FENS, Beth manages to steal D-FENS’ gun and toss it in the ocean as Prendergast draws his revolver, insisting that D-FENS give himself up. D-FENS is flabbergasted by this and finally asks the question that has been on a lot of people’s minds in regards to his actions throughout the movie: “I’m the bad guy?” Theoretically, he does not see himself as the villain. He’s just a regular guy trying to get things back the way they used to be and not only does that apply to his family but to America as well. In fact when Michael’s father, legendary actor Kirk Douglas defended the movie against critics who accuse the movie as glorifying lawbreaking: "Michael's character is not the 'hero' or 'newest urban icon'. He is the villain and the victim. Of course, we see many elements of our society that contributed to his madness. We even pity him. But the movie never condones his actions."

Knowing full well that he cannot handle watching his daughter grow up while he’s in jail, D-FENS tells Prendergast that he has another gun and challenges him to a showdown. By doing this, he has actually allowed this cop who is just as marginalized as he is to be his reluctant executioner so that his daughter can collect his life insurance money. Then when he goes to pull out his gun, Prendergast shoots him dead. That while I was hoping that this would have gone to a sequel, this was probably the only way this could end, with him dead. But one question remains: Did D-FENS’ actions make the world a better place? I would have to say no because like I said before, the world is much worse now than it was in 1993.

As far as performances go, there’s really not much I can say as far as performances go. Everything is pretty much solid across the board, especially when it comes to Michael Douglas. And I agree that this was his best role since Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. This is a role where he dared to take risks and put a human face on the age-old stereotype of the “angry white male” who wants to get back at society for ignoring him, for marginalizing him and taking everything he’s worked for and everything he is away. Plus it is very refreshing to see Douglas do what many of us wish we could do sometimes, such as randomly punching out a road rager, blowing up a construction site, shooting up a phone booth with an Uzi, and even demanding that an establishment honors the age-old motto that “the customer is always right.” Coming from a guy who works in retail, I can relate to that.

Falling Down ended up being a modest box office hit, grossing over 40 million dollars against a 25 million dollar budget and like I said before the movie would probably play better today than it did in 1993. But the movie was not without controversy. For one thing, the Korean American Coalition protested the film because of the treatment of the Korean store owner and Warner Brothers’ Korean division cancelled the release of the film in South Korea in the face of boycott threats. The unemployed defense workers who were laid off also protested their portrayal through the character of D-FENS in the film and the film has been described as the definitive exploration of the concept of the angry white male stereotype.

In spite of the controversy, Falling Down received generally positive reviews from critics. To this day, the movie holds a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes the film Schumacher’s second highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes as a director (behind The Client which holds an 80 percent approval rating.) 

Among some of the reviews the movie got, Roger Ebert, who gave the film a positive review at the time of its release, remarked about D-FENS: “What is fascinating about the Douglas character, as written and played, is the core of sadness in his soul. Yes, by the time we meet him, he has gone over the edge. But there is no exhilaration in his rampage, no release. He seems weary and confused, and in his actions he unconsciously follows scripts that he may have learned from the movies, or on the news, where other frustrated misfits vent their rage on innocent bystanders.”

However, Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club has been critical of the film: "It’s seemingly meant as a sort of dark comedy about the petty annoyances of life, and how they can accumulate and become so maddening that over-the-top cathartic violence seems like the only satisfying option. But Douglas’ violent reaction to his surroundings, and the way the film treats virtually everyone around him as worthless, and presents his violence as the comedic payoff, turns it into a tone-deaf, self-pitying lament about the terrible persecution facing the oppressed majority in an era of political correctness and increasing multiculturalism. In its ugly, skewed world, almost everyone but this madman is dumb, incompetent, and offensive, and his only possible solution is to wipe a few of these losers off the face of the earth, then die. It’s a profoundly hateful film disguised alternately (and erratically) as either tragedy or humor."

 The Washington Post writer Hal Hinson observed "This guy is you, the movie suggests, and if not you exactly, then maybe the guy you're one or two bad breaks from becoming. At one time or another, we've all thought these thoughts, and so when this downtrodden, laid-off, teed-off L.A. defense worker gets out of his car on a sweltering day in the middle of rush hour and decides he's not going to take any more, it comes as no surprise." To some extent, I agree with that statement. This is one of those movies where anyone could be this character. Hell, even I could be this character. And I’ve seen this a lot, most notably when it comes to a movie like Taxi Driver (one of my all-time favorite movies) where I’ve seen YouTube comments that pertain to Taxi Driver where the commenter said, “I am Travis Bickle.” In some ways, Falling Down is actually Schumacher’s version of Taxi Driver.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars out of five, writing "Douglas neither demonizes nor canonizes this flawed character. Marching across a violent urban landscape toward an illusory home, this shattered Everyman is never less than real..."I'm the bad guy?" he asks in disbelief. Douglas speaks the line with a searing poignancy that illuminates uncomfortable truths without excusing the character. Schumacher could have exploited those tabloid headlines about solid citizens going berserk. Instead, the timely, gripping Falling Down puts a human face on a cold statistic and then dares us to look away."

So what does this guy here think about this movie? I think that not only is this movie one of the best revenge movies ever made, it may very well be the best movie Schumacher has ever directed. Screw The Client. I’ll say it again Falling Down is the best movie Schumacher ever directed. It is a movie clearly not to be missed. And as far as I’m concerned, the real reason Falling Down doesn’t get anywhere near as much play as it used to is because of the fact that Joel Schumacher directed Batman and Robin.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Old Fashioned

As far as Christian movies go, this one is probably one of the more interesting ones especially in terms of reactions to this movie as well as the movie’s competition when it was released to theaters on Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015. When it was released, the movie was billed as the “anti-Fifty Shades of Grey.” And ironically, it was released against Fifty Shades of Grey. And in terms of rocket science, guess which romantic chick movie won out in the end? You guessed it. They preferred the romantic movie that involves a girl getting whipped and beaten by a good-looking billionaire sociopath over a well-meaning ex-bad boy sociopath trying to reintroduce outdated  dating values in the creepiest of ways. 

And as usual, critics trashed this movie like they do all Christian movies. And right now, this movie has a 20 percent critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes in contrast to 25 percent for Fifty Shades. But here’s where I found something interesting. In terms of the audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Fifty Shades has a 41 percent audience approval rating while this movie has a whopping 86 percent audience approval rating which as far as I know is probably the highest audience approval rating for a Christian movie. In fact, people who have seen the movie have gone after the critics whenever they saw a negative review of the movie. 

But perhaps the most outspoken critic against this movie is of course Brad Jones, the Cinema Snob. In his initial hour-long rant on the movie on Midnight Screenings, he famously said that the movie was “insufferable to sit through.” And I liked the quote so much that I put it on my thumbnail. I mean it doesn’t always have to be positive reviews on the movie poster. It’s about time someone posted a negative review.

So anyway, it’s time to get on with the review of the movie which can only be known as… Old Fashioned.
Anyway, we’re introduced to the “hero” of this movie, Clay Walsh (played by the film’s writer/producer/director Rik Swartzwelder) who is a former frat boy who spent his college years sleeping around with random women and as an added bonus filmed the Pure Flix version of Girls Gone Wild. Of course, I don’t envision Joe Francis, the real creator of Girls Gone Wild becoming a born-again Christian. However, to get a little ahead of myself and the movie, he was also in a relationship with a girl whom he cheated on with her best friend to which the girl responds by cheating on him with another guy which results in her getting pregnant and marrying the other guy. And that drives Clay to the Bible and thus, he gives up the whole Girls Gone Wild thing and decides instead to work in an antique store where he spends his time restoring antique furniture and peddling his theories on dating and relationships. In fact, the whole point of this movie is to reintroduce old-fashioned dating rituals that are about a hundred years out of date into a dating culture that practically revolves around sex. Hence the movie’s tagline: “Chivalry makes a comeback.” Sadly, this movie is fiction. Sorry, folks. Chivalry’s still dead.

At the same time, we are also introduced to Amber (played by Elizabeth Ann Roberts) a free-spirited woman who’s running from a string of abusive relationships (not to mention one failed marriage) in which her last ex broke her hand because he didn’t like her nail polish (she still has a cast on her arm from that incident when we meet her). She eventually ends up in Clay’s hometown of Palookaville, Ohio and decides to move into the upstairs apartment above Clay’s antique shop which is called (appropriately) Old Fashioned.

And here’s where the movie starts getting weird. When Clay gives Amber the key to the upstairs apartment, he refuses to go in the apartment with her to show her around. And wait till you hear the reason why he won’t go in the apartment with her. He refuses to go in because he made a little vow not to be alone in a room with a woman he is not married to which I do admit is something I’ve never heard of before. And somehow, I don’t think that his actions here are connected to the old Victorian courtship rituals. To be honest, it sounds like something a serial killer would probably say. And get used to Clay’s mentality by the way, because he’s like this for a majority of the movie.

Clay also has two friends: One is David, who is the token black guy who is living in sin with his white girlfriend and they have a kid together; and the other one is Brad (not Brad Jones) who is an old friend from Clay’s Girls Gone Wild days and is a well-known nationally syndicated radio shock jock named “Lucky Chucky.” And you know what else he is? He’s easily my favorite character in the movie. It’s like I said in the God’s Not Dead 2 review, the “villains” in these movies are usually the best cast characters. But you can tell that Brad is not too thrilled that Clay is now a Christian and spouts his beliefs every chance he gets. In the meantime, they’re both two sides of the same coin whereas Lucky Chucky and Past Clay represent today’s dating culture and Current Clay is basically the old-school Christian prude.

And at various points throughout the movie you get to hear the shock jock’s show which of course contain the usual messages like “Man, women are stupid” (actual movie quote by the way) and so on and so forth which indicates to me that Rik did not even listen to a shock jock show before doing this movie. Granted it’s a religious movie so they probably had to keep the shock jock stuff toned down but still. Of course, the phone call between Amber and Lucky Chucky is hilarious. “Men like you...” “Yes, men like me! Raar! Raar! Raar! How much do you weigh, sweetheart? How much?” Taking a dig at a woman’s weight? Keep it classy, Pure Flix. 

Amber eventually calls Clay up because her stove won’t light up or something like that. But here’s the thing: Clay makes Amber wait outside the apartment and he gives her a blanket because it’s kind of chilly out and she’s wearing a sexy tank top and overalls. And as he’s fixing the stove, he lets Amber in on his theories about today’s dating culture where he says that dating is basically little more than for superficial reasons that usually leads to sex before the “getting to know you” phase. And in some ways, he’s right. 

And when Clay is not busy trying to resist Amber, he spends time with his elderly aunt who is played by a woman who looks like she should be playing Aunt May in a Spider-Man movie. And about that, I know, Hot MILF Aunt May will take some getting used to. Nothing against Marisa Tomei but she’s way too young to be playing Aunt May. And of course, they talk about religious stuff and she even pretends to play dead at various points on the movie. And like Peter Parker in Spider-Man, Clay’s aunt acts like Clay’s moral compass.

After perhaps the most awkward and creepiest shopping scene I've ever seen which is buoyed by Clay shooting hoops with David the black guy and talking about chicks, he invites Clay and Amber to go to a birthday party for both him and his girlfriend as an attempt to get them together. Instead the birthday party turns out to be an engagement party as David gives his girlfriend an engagement ring saying that he’s gonna make an honest woman out of her. Again, awkward. 

Clay is still reluctant to date Amber so basically the only way that she can talk to Clay is to start deliberately breaking all her shit so she can continue talking to Clay, and all with a creepy psychotic smile on her face. She starts with her garbage disposal and then she drills holes into her fridge which is how Clay learns about her past which is symbolized by a jar that she keeps on top of her fridge which she fills with money (for fuel for her car) so whenever the jar is full and something bad happens (like another abusive boyfriend she has to run from) she can just up and leave as far as the money will take her.

Here’s something that I should probably address. Throughout the course of the movie, most notably during the conversations between Clay and Amber, there is a whole lot of b-roll footage of the rural Ohio landscape that Rik basically relies on far too much and it is more likely used as padding to get the movie to a 115-minute running time. I mean without it, the movie could easily be a 90-minute movie. Again, one of the biggest problems that can hurt a movie easily is when a director uses B-roll in place of telling a story. But don’t feel too bad, Rik. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had that same problem and that was a big-budget movie directed by a legendary Oscar-winning director.

So finally, it takes Amber taking her door off the hinges that Clay finally breaks down and asks her out. And they wind up going to church where they get this book called Red, Yellow, Green and it is a book that gives couples questions to ask each other to test their compatibility. And their first date, Clay asks Amber about whether she has experience with children and when she can’t answer that, he does what any sane man would do: He takes her to David’s house and has her cut up pears to feed to David’s kid. Dead serious! Now this was the scene that Brad had the most issues with. And I do admit that it is a pretty creepy scene especially since I’ve never heard about training people to cut up baby food as a valid courtship ritual. However, the scene is creepy in a comedic horror sort of way.

So their courtship continues with a trip to the hardware store to pick up axes as though they’re planning to do the Pure Flix version of Natural Born Killers; review Sleepless in Seattle (a movie that I could probably care less about and it’s another movie where the nice guy loses in the end) and they even go to a church sermon together. How romantic. Also, while they are having dinner with Clay’s aunt, Clay tells Amber why he is the way he is and since I’ve already mentioned that earlier in the review no need to repeat it here but I will mention Clay’s cheesy explanation as to why he turned to the Bible. “I read it so much that I realized I couldn’t make fun of it anymore. Other people could. I couldn’t.” Including us Internet reviewers, Clay? God, I do hope they keep making more of these movies because these movies are a comedy gold mine. There’s gold in them thar Pure Flix movies. 

So anyway, Clay is invited to David’s bachelor party and of course it’s another weird scene of Clay being a self-righteous asshole because where there’s a bachelor party there’s always a stripper (Rated PG-13!) And of course, this was orchestrated by Brad the shock jock. But Clay, being the party pooper that he is, screws the stripper out of about 200 dollars’ worth of potential tips and again spouts his beliefs in which one line could easily sum up this movie’s attitude toward society and of course that line is “When did treating women with respect become the joke?” To which the shock jock, who pretty much represents the world responds with “You want to know who the joke is?” 

Shortly after that, Clay is confronted by the stripper and her bodyguard to which the stripper says “You think you’re better than me, don’t you?” And that is followed by a montage of Amber clearing off her bulletin board because she is convinced that Clay is the one while at the same time, Clay is playing Angry Basketball where he’s slamming the ball down on the ground repeatedly because he can’t take the fact that his moral values are repeatedly shamed and humiliated.

And on their next date, they drive out to the middle of nowhere and here is where the third act breakup begins where Clay asks Amber how many sex partners she’s had. And of course, Amber is like, “Can’t you just be normal? Why can’t we have a normal date?” To which Clay replies “You mean a normal date like when two people jump into bed and then try to get to know each other afterward?” Yes, Clay. She means exactly that. She does answer that she’s been with five guys and like I mentioned before all of them ended badly and included a failed marriage right out of high school. Not to mention the fact that she started her career in a movie called Black Knight, one of Martin Lawrence's shitty movies.

As far as that goes, I have mentioned that a woman’s history is important, but only to a man that has had fewer partners than she has. However, Clay is a reformed womanizer that has very likely slept with dozens of women (most of which was likely alcohol-fueled) so therefore Clay has no excuse to reject Amber on her history alone. Now if Clay were written as a 40-year-old virgin that would be one thing but then again if Clay were written as a 40-year-old virgin, there wouldn’t be a movie because it would’ve ended the same way Last American Virgin did with him not getting the girl in the end. And as far as the whole 40-year-old virgin thing goes, I’m glad they didn’t go that route because I’ve seen it done so much better ten years ago.
So they break up and Amber ends up watching Clay’s Girls Gone Wild DVD where she starts crying. Throughout the movie, they reference the Girls Gone Wild thing a lot where it kind of looks more dark and ominous that what you saw in the advertisements for the real Girls Gone Wild which is further proof that Rik did not even see a commercial for Girls Gone Wild. Instead, you see the girls look like they’re crying while they’re flashing their boobage. 

But then Amber gets over it and then she hits the bar where she loads up on alcohol and her woman senses start tingling for Brad the shock jock. While at the same time, Clay apparently steals a page from Fifty Shades of Grey as he storms across town looking for Amber who is on her way to Brad’s hotel room for an obvious drunken one night stand or as this movie calls it, a normal date.

At the same time, Clay’s ex-girlfriend (who’s in town for David’s wedding and is also on the outs with her husband) arrives at Clay’s house and it looks as though they’re going to hook up because at this point we see him more intimate with this woman more than we’ve seen him intimate with Amber. In short, this is the “temptation scene.”

However, Amber’s Christian programming kicks in and she doesn’t go through with sleeping with Brad and we find out that Clay allowed his ex to stay in the house while he slept in the truck. And of course, there’s still some tension between Clay and Amber (who sees the ex leave as she is going to see Clay) where she finally agrees to stay in town and uses her gas money jar to enroll in college. Meanwhile, Clay is lectured by Aunt May that he needs to lighten up and stop using his faith like a wall to keep people out (probably because Mexico won’t pay for it) and to pursue Amber. 

And the movie ends with Amber receiving a romantic card from Clay and gets driven around by a chauffeur (another one of Clay’s friends) where she goes to get a nice dress, get her nails done, get her hair done and get dropped off at the grocery store where they had their awkward interaction earlier in the film. She enters the grocery store which is lit up by a lot of candles. Usually a room full of lighted candles can mean two things: It’s either gonna lead to a clich├ęd 90’s-style sex scene or she’s entering the Temple of Doom. And speaking of Indiana Jones, she finds Clay in the baby food aisle wearing a fedora as though he’s trying to be Bogie which makes sense because there’s a poster of Casablanca in the movie. Why does the baby food aisle have any significance? Remember on their first date he made her cut up baby food? So doesn’t it make sense that he proposes to her in the baby food aisle? If not, that’s okay. This movie’s completely unrealistic anyways, especially since it ends with a kiss on the cheek instead of a full-on makeout scene.

And here endth one of the weirdest, strangest, creepiest yet strangely enjoyable movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Performance-wise, Rik Swartzwelder as Clay was probably the weakest link in the movie for me. His character is not really all that likable; he didn’t have a lot of chemistry with the main girl and the fact that he looks like a 45-year-old Justin Bieber is no… no, no, no, no! You don’t model your character after the man who single-handedly destroyed the music genre! The rest of the acting was solid. Once again, the shock jock was my favorite character in the movie because he’s the most realistic character in the movie. Elizabeth Ann Roberts is really good (even in the scenes where she is being creepy where she’s breaking all her shit just to get Clay to go out with her) and she’s very pretty in a type of “bring her home to mom” kind of way and in a normal romantic comedy she would be fine. She just feels out of place here.
As far as the movie goes, the movie can by no means be compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s way better than that movie. Hell, it’s even better than any Nick Sparks movie. If there’s any movie I can compare it to, I would probably compare it to a movie I saw a while ago called Where the Heart Is which is about Natalie Portman as a pregnant teen who lives in Wal-Mart. That one really isn’t that bad of a movie in terms of melodramatic movies go. Overall, is the movie as bad as Brad makes it out to be? Not really. In fact, I found the movie to be harmless in contrast to say, God’s Not Dead. Given time, this could wind up being a “so bad, it’s good” movie. I definitely would recommend this for a bad movie night. So, in hindsight to other critics, I’m actually being fair to this movie, probably more than it deserves. 

Also, I so can’t wait for Jesus, Bro! next year where Brad plays a spoof of Clay Walsh. If you like reviews of Christian movies, you need to check that out when it comes out next year. 

And I know I’m probably gonna get some hate for reviewing this movie. Knock yourselves out.