Friday, February 28, 2020

Film Review: Rambo - Last Blood

Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

Movies are primarily visual.  And that is why Rambo: Last Blood commits the biggest sin in the Rambo series:  They cut off John Rambo's mullet!

This may seem like a small thing to you.  And to be sure, even at his age Sylvester Stallone still infuses his dark anti-hero with all the intensity he can muster.  But without at that iconic mullet, Rambo felt like he was just a more violent Rocky Balboa.

The movie itself feels like a made-for-DVD, ultra-violent version of Taken.  John Rambo is living on a farm near the Mexican border.  His last blood relative is his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), a teenager who is about to graduate high school with her whole future ahead of her.  However, she desperately wants to talk to her deadbeat father who lives across the border.  While there she gets kidnapped by human traffickers, necessitating uncle John to come and exact bloody vengeance.

The first Rambo was a taught action/thriller/satire.  The second two were straight up action extravaganzas.  The fourth tried to make up for Stallone's age with some of the most intense violence I have ever seen in a movie and Last Blood double downs on that.  Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick's screenplay makes sure to establish how utterly inhuman the human traffickers are, so that there is catharsis in their suffering.  This works early on, even when he reaches into someone's chest and cracks their clavicle to torture them.  And the villains continue to pile on more narrative dept so that Rambo's attacks on them continue to be justified.  In culminates in an attack on Rambo's ranch that feels like an installment of Home Alone if it was written by the makers of Saw.  Even though I cheered at each bad guy taken down, I began to feel kind of disgusted as the credits rolled.  As much as all the deaths were earned, all of that bloodshed left a bitter after-taste.  The movie revels in increasingly torturous barbarity towards these evil men.  But there comes a point where when battling with monsters you become a monster.

Stallone is still strong and believable in the role, but this movie doesn't really flow with the kind of style as previous films.  And while simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing in movies (see John Wick), the story feels a bit thin.  We barely get a chance to feel the relationship between John and his niece before the chaos ensues.

And I can guarantee that this movie was not produced with funds from the Mexican Tourism Board.

Rambo: Last Blood, feels like the destructive final act to a series that deserved a better ending.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday Worst: 50 Worst Movies of the Decade (Popular) - #25-#11

25.  The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)

Wasted potential.

That is the main thought that went through my head as I watched this movie.


Nearly all of the jokes fall flat and they suffer from what I call "Paul Feig Syndrome" where the filmmakers take a joke and draw it out hoping that by doing so they will increase the humor.  But this is a difficult comedic nut to crack and The Hitman's Bodyguard does not do it well.

The action scenes are fine but unremarkable.  Again, every potential amazing thing is done with mediocre effect.  This is especially true in the case of Gary Oldman.  If you are going to employ the greatest living actor, give him something more to do.  Even when he goes cartoonishly over-the-top he is at least entertaining.  And pitting him against Jackson and Reynolds should be a fantastic arrangement, but nothing comes of it.

This is one of those movies that is neither lives up to its premise's potential nor is it aggressively bad enough to be enjoyed as trash.  Instead it is a piece of forgettable cinema that leaves you as soon as you leave the theater.

24.  The Lovely Bones (2010)
Lovely bones ver2.jpg

I had such a unique experience with this film.  Being a big fan of Peter Jackson, when the credits rolled I said to my friends and my that I like it.  And then on the way home, I began mentioning to my wife all of the little things I didn't like
-the movie was too long.
-nothing really happened.
-the ending didn't make any sense.
-the character choices were non-sensical.
-all of the characters were flat

By the time I got home I had talked myself into hating it.  This is a movie with great potential, but it jettisons an actual plot in order to revel in directorial flourishes.

23.  The Theory of Everything (2014)
The Theory of Everything (2014).jpg

I think the filmmakers of The Theory of Everything looked at Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind and said to themselves: "How can we make a movie that can be marketed just like this one but be the exact opposite?"

When Stephen contracts ALS, Jane decides to marry him so that they can have some time together before he dies, an estimated 2 years at best.  But instead Stephen lives and the two have 3 children all the while Jane does her best to take care of her children and ailing husband.

Again, this should seem very close to A Beautiful Mind plot-wise.  And like the Jennifer Connelly character in that film, Jane gets frustrated and overwhelmed by these circumstances.  She joins a choir and befriends the choir director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) who agrees to help out with Stephen around the house.  However the two give in to temptation and sleep together just as Stephen goes into the hospital and has to have breathing tube put, which removes his ability to speak.  Jane breaks it off with Jonathan and returns to Stephen.

They then hire a specialist named Elaine (Maxine Peake) who develops an attraction with Stephen.  Eventually, Stephen decides to run off with Elaine and Jane goes back to Jonathan.

So the theme of the movie is: when things are difficult, love dies.

Look, I'm not someone who needs a happy ending to acknowledge a movie is good (though I freely admit that is my preference).  But the movie is built on their love.  You are invested in their struggles because of their love.  And in the end, they throw it all away.

The filmmakers could have easily avoided this problem by focusing on other aspects of Stephen's life.  Focus on his work, his struggles, his unique way of looking at the world… whatever.  Just make the love story an ornament to your film, not it's foundation.
Avoid this movie.  It's themes are noxious and it's soul is poison.

The Theory of Everything is a story of nothing.

22.  The Last Airbender (2010)
Official poster

This movie has been pilloried as a big budget disaster.  And I would agree with that completely.  As a non-fan of the anime upon which it is based, the film did nothing to draw me into this world.  And from what I understand, the fans hated this movie too.  The acting is terrible and the plot is incredibly difficult to follow.  World building should not be done at the expense of an engaging story. 

This movie is a slog to get through and a chore to watch.

21.  The Campaign (2012)
Two men facing off, nose to nose.

Basically, this is where they let Will Ferrel and Zack Galifinakas make funny faces and speak in funny voices at the screen.  And that is it.  There is nothing here that resembles an actual movie.  This feels like the director just handed over the film to the actors and let them go.  The problem is that they aren't as funny as they think.  A good director can get really funny performances from them, but sitting in the theater watching this film felt like watching paint dry. 

20.   The Hangover Part II (2011)

This movie has a special place on this list because I can remember the exact moment everything turned.  I thought the first movie was very funny so I was looking forward to another romp.  While the second outing wasn't as funny, it was about at the half-way point that I was horrified.  The film makers pushed the envelope to the point of breaking.  There comes a point where something outrageously funny becomes outrageously disgusting.  When it is revealed what happened to Stu the night before, all the humor drained from me and I just counted down until the film was over.

19.   The Hateful 8 (2015)
The Hateful Eight.jpg

There are worse things than going into a movie with high expectations only to be disappointed.

You can go into a movie with high expectations, start having those expectations exceeded... and then the movie decides to crap all over you.

That was my experience with The Hateful Eight.

As great as any first act is, it only is effective if there is a satisfying payoff in the rest of story.  Stories usually set up plot points, or "story debts" if you will, that must be paid off by the end or you will feel cheated.   And Tarantino eschews this completely.  He thinks he is being horribly clever by playing with your expectations and then totally subverting them.  Some film critics praise this as fresh storytelling.  In the case of The Hateful Eight, I say that it is bad storytelling.  If you are going to pull the rug out from under an audience, you must give them something new to hold on to.  In Reservoir Dogs, when the twist occurs, Tarantino pulls you into a new and fascinating storyline.  In The Hateful Eight he gives you nothing.  By the time you get to this part of the story, the appeal of the characters has worn off and you are left with complete ugliness.

And that was when I realized that this was only the half-way point.  The rest of the movie would be a long slog to its end, slouching towards the end credits with increasing awfulness.

When things derail, it gets ugly.  Things begin to make less and less sense.

The story begins to meander and linger needlessly.  My wife observed that Tarantino is in love with his own writing and thinks we should all bask in its glory...

I've mentioned before that I usually have no problem with violence.  But I was left disturbed by the level of blood and carnage that Tarantino showed on screen.  I don't often use the phrase "pornographic violence," but I think that it applies to this movie.  He takes a sadistic glee in pushing his disgusting, bloody violence.  Whereas Kill Bill had a cartoonish, over-the-top nature, Tarantino wants to revolt you with this movie and he thinks that he can get away with it because of the cache he has earned from critics.  And even the dialogue takes an ugly turn.  Right before things go off the rails, Jackson's Warren gives a monologue that is so revolting that it wonder what mind of malice could come up with it.

18.  Kick Ass (2010)
The foreground features the superhero Kick-Ass in his green and yellow costume. Against a black background the words KICK-ASS are written in yellow block capitals.

I know some people who love this movie, but this was a repulsive experience.  The over-the-top violence wasn't nearly as entertaining as it is in other films.  The acting wasn't very good.  But for me, it was the character of Hit-Girl that made me feel disgusted.  To take a child and put such sexually charged dialogue in her words felt like an incredibly disgusting thing to do.  One of the worst things going on in our society is the increasing sexualization of children.  Making her a mature killer who uses sexually charged language felt like an attempt to push the envelope in that direction.

17.  Terminator Genisys (2015)
Film poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke, both dressed in black leather as their characters T-800 Terminator and Sarah Connor, respectively. Its background is San Francisco Bay Area.

The Terminator franchise, like that of Highlander, has endured a slow, agonizing death spiral.  They have so twisted and mashed up their own continuity that it is unrecognizable.  One of the great things about the original Terminator is that even though there were some plot holes, the ideas sounded so well-thought out that you overlooked them.  But in Terminator Genisys, nothing makes a lick of sense.  Not a single action from any of the characters moves close to something that could be considered rational thought.  It lacks the raw terror of the first movie and it lacks all of the spectacle and innovation of T2.  It feels too sanitized and soulless.  The kicker for me was when Kyle and Sarah time travel to the present and get hit back a car on the highway.  The car slams into their naked bodies, which sends them flying through the air and then they roll and skid on the hard asphalt at 35 MPH, and they sit up with barely a scratch.  At that point I mentally threw up my hands and said, "I guess nothing is supposed to make sense.  Okay."  Not to mention that this movie has some of the worst performances of the year.  The more I think about this terrible film, the more I mourn the missed opportunity to do something good, or at least not awful.

16.  You Again (2010)
Five women, four of them are holding pictures of the other women that have been torn in half.

The movie is on this list because it felt utterly and completely pointless.  I sat through this story about women rivals and could not think of a reason for this movie to exist.  It brought no joy, no enjoyment.  It aimed for mediocrity and it couldn't even achieve that.  It would be more forgettable if it wasn't so terrible.

15.  Lawless (2012)
Lawless film poster.jpg

There was a good story buried in here somewhere.  The movie focuses on three bootlegging brothers.  But instead of focusing on Tom Hardy's character, who is so tough that after he gets his throat slit he holds his own neck together long enough for help to eventually come, the movie focuses on Shia LeBeouf's character, who is winey, petulant, and annoying.  The main character should have been the side character that gets killed in the first act.  Unfortunately, the movie decided that it would focus on the least interesting aspects of this story.  The ending is so completely stupid and pointless you would wonder why you bothered watching.

14.  Battleship (2012)
Battleship Poster.jpg

Even if this wasn't a a terrible intellectual property to try and adapt, the movie awful.  It is dumb and full of empty spectacle.  I don't mind a good popcorn film, but the movie is such a joke that you can't even invest the mildest interest in it.  All you can do is sit and wait for it to be over.

13.  Boyhood (2014)
Boyhood (2014).png

I caught this movie years after it had come out.

This was another case of critics heaping praise on a piece of excrement hoping that we wouldn't notice that it is terrible.

Boyhood got a lot of attention because the director spent 10 years with the actors telling the story.  But he never bothered to stop and realize that this story wasn't worth telling.

The main character has nothing compelling about him.  There as no deep insight into life or childhood that made the experiment worth it.

The parents are the absolute worst.  Patricia Arquette won an Oscar and I'm not sure why.  Her performance wasn't anything special and her character was so unpleasant that I couldn't understand why anyone would take a second look at her.  The film doesn't end, it just stops.  There is no story to resolve.  It just quits on you.

Ten years of life wasted.

12.  Life Itself (2018)
Life Itself.png

This movie is an awful mess.

Okay, I can see how someone who came up with this plot could see in it something profound, maybe even Dickensian in how all of our human lives are intertwined.  But the execution of this narrative fails miserable and the reason is in the structure of the story.

Besides the structure, the dialogue needed a severe revision.  Early in the Javier storyline, he and Saccione sit down and Saccione tells him the story of his life.  This is a loooongg story that only serves to bore the audience.  The movie keeps putting profound statements and monologues into its characters mouths, but they never quite ring true.  They feel like mouthpieces for a philosophy major who is taking a crack and screenwriting.

11.  Super (2010)
Super Poster.jpg

This movie was the reason I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be terrible.  This is a sick, twisted black comedy that deconstructs super heroes.  So many people in the online geek community sang the praises of this film.  But it is putrid.  It is ugly in the way it is written and filmed.  It looks raw in the way that a first-time terrible director tries too hard.  The humor is so disdurbing that instead of laughing, you are sitting there in uncomfortable disgust.  Rainn Wilson plays a superhero who is really just a psychopath.  When someone cuts in front of him at the theater, he cracks his skull bloody with a wrench.  I know you are supposed to laugh, but something told me that if I did, then it would prove there was something wrong in my mind.  And there is something deeply wrong with this movie. 

Stay tuned for the 10 worst films of the decade!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Film Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

I know I am late with this review, so this may be a bit on the brief side.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is the story of the title character Brittany (Jillian Bell).  She is overweight and parties too much.  She is constantly in the shadow of her more attractive roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee).  Brittany tries to drown her sadness in lowliness in drinking, drugs, and degrading sexual encounters in bathrooms.  She covers all of this with a sharp and dry wit that cracks wise at her situation.  However, a visit with a doctor (Patch Darragh) makes her feel terrible about her weight.  She decides to take up running, mainly because it is an exercise that does not cost money.  Along the way, she becomes friends with Seth, a gay man who wants to prove to his adopted child that he is not out of shape.  She also becomes friends with her judgmental neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) as all three of them join the running group.  Together with her, Brittany starts to train to run the New York Marathon and prove her own self-worth.

One of the things that writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo captures so well is that first moment of decision.  Before her first run, Brittany pauses by the door.  Will she go through or not?  That choice is pivotal, but Colaizzo is able to capture visually that this choice has to be remade over and over again.  It is the same choice to go through that door for the first time as if you have never done it before.  Without the courage to try, no change will occur.

Bell gives a fantastic performance.  She is charismatic and funny.  Her physical transformation is only effective because we can see how it changes her as a character.  She gains confidence to the point of arrogance and obsession.  Brittany is a person of intense self-hatred who puts walls up just as people are getting closer.  Bell makes us believe her resistance to friendship and love while rooting for her to overcome them.  All the while she makes us laugh.

The script is a bit too vulgar and sometimes verges into nasty.  While the chemistry between the leads is good, it always feels like it just misses real human connection.  The movie suffers from the same problem that a movie like Don Jon does: it acknowledges that the characters need to grow, but it doesn't bring them to full enough maturity before the end.  For example, Brittany enters into an awkward friendship/romance with Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar).  Part of her arc is for her to grow into an adult relationship, but even by the end, she refuses to see how marriage is the ultimate goal of human romantic life.

This movie has some interesting things to say.  But eventually Brittany Runs a Marathon runs out of steam.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Worst: 50 Worst Movies of the Decade (Popular) - #50-#26

50.  The Meg (2018)
The Meg 2018 film cover.png
"When you go to the theater to see The Meg, you get what you pay for: dumb characters being chased by a giant shark."

49.  The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).png

The movie is an exercise in overindulgence that feels like you are trapped in a bad drug trip.

48.  Pain and Gain (2013)
Three musclebound men standing in front of a large American Flag

Well-directed, but the story is so ugly that it is difficult to sit through this story without feeling icky.

47.  Marriage Story (2019)

"Shocking! Two self-centered people who don’t understand love/marriage end up destroying their family"
This movie made me hate every character for their utter innability to be decent.

46.  Joy (2015)
"Have you ever seen a Lifetime Original Movie where the put-upon heroine is surrounded by characters who one-dimensional antagonists who are simply there to belittle her and make her life hell?

Then you don't need to see Joy."

45.  The Grey (2011)
The Grey Poster.jpg

"Liam Neeson fights wolves" should be an awesome concept.  Instead we get a ponderous, existential meditation on the bleakness and pointlessness of life.

44.  Atomic Blonde (2017)
Atomic Blonde poster.jpg
"Atomic Blonde is a movie that should be all kinds of awesome.

But when all is said and done, the whole movie feels like a waste.

On a side note, Boutella's Delphine may be the stupidest spy ever on film.  When she realizes that her life is in mortal danger does she flee Berlin?  No.  She CALLS UP the person who is her biggest threat and yells at him for NO REASON.  After that, does she run away?  Set a trap?  No.  She puts on a pair of noise cancelling head phones and wanders around her unsecure apartment in her underwear.  The sequence is so pointless that it defied comprehension.

... the movie has a terrible title.  There is nothing "atomic" related to the story and the focus on her being "blonde" also has nothing to do with the story.  I know that its supposed to be a clever play on the phrase "atomic bomb" but it really isn't clever.  In a movie that tries to insist on the strength and independence of its main heroine, the title is strangely objectifying.  I couldn't imagine that one of the potential titles for John Wick was Nuclear Brunette."

43.  Valentine's Day (2010)
Valentines day poster 10.jpg

This movie tries so hard to be an American Love, Actually.  But it fails on every single level.  None of the stories are interesting enough to sustain even a part of the movie.  The worst part involves an older couple when the man finds out his wife cheated on him decades earlier and is hurt by this.  At the end she comes to him and says, "When you love someone you love everything about them, the good and the bad."  This statement is monumentally stupid that it breaks through the vapidity of the rest of the movie.  When she said this, I turned to my wife and said, "I love your crack addiction." 

When you love someone, you hate the bad because the bad is bad for them. 

42.  Snowpiercer (2013)
The main protagonist appearing with other supporting characters.

This movie is the reason I did not want to see Parasite, which is from the same director.  Not only is the theme of class warfare oversimplified and tedious, not only is the story structure completely messed up so that the biggest emotional impact is lost, but there is so much over-the-top stupidity in the character designs that you can't take any of the movie seriously, even though Chris Evans gives one of his best performances.

41.  The Heat (2013)
The Heat poster.jpg
"My friend Blimpy once said that a mark of a funny comedy is that you find yourself quoting it right after.

After my wife and I left The Heat, I couldn't remember a single joke.

...There are 3 big mistakes in this film.

1.  The movie substitutes jokes with vulgarity...

2.  The jokes went on to long...

3.  I could not believe Bullock as an FBI agent...

When you leave a comedy, you want to feel good when you leave the theater.  I left The Heat, feeling like I wasted hours of my life that I couldn't get back.

40.  MacGruber (2010)
Macgruber poster.jpg

This is a classic case of removing the restraints of censorship and devolving into a horrid, vulgar mess.  This movie could have been something if they hadn't simply replaced wit with vulgarity.

39.  Holmes and Watson (2018)
Holmes & Watson.png

"And the movie's success hinges on how much you are willing to follow Ferrel and Reilly down their rabbit hole of humor.  It is an unfortunate mark of modern comedy that jokes don't land like jabs.  It used to be the humor was fast and furious and it would come at you from various styles and angles.  In movies like this, the jokes are one-note and they tend to play a scenario out much further than the humor would allow so that you can a continuing diminishing return on laughs.  One sequence in which Holmes and Watson think they have accidentally killed the queen is painful to watch and makes you wish that it would just end."

38.  The Hangover Part III (2013)
Three men wearing suits and sunglasses, one carrying a sledgehammer over his shoulder while the second near him is holding a crowbar
"The jokes fall flat for the most part because most of the characters have lost their flavor.  This is a movie about Alan.  Stu and Phil are there only because you couldn't have a Hangover movie without them.  But the two saner wolves in the pack have little else to do in the story than react to Alan's insanity.  And this would also be more forgivable if Alan was more redeemable.  But rather than enjoying his wacky free spirit, I found myself wanting to wring his neck."

37.  Long Shot (2019)
Long Shot (2019 poster).png
"But the movie ultimately does not work.

The primary reason is that it isn't funny.  Humor is very subjective, so perhaps other people will find more laughs than I did.  Particularly, I am not a fan of drug humor.  Flarsky gets picked up by Secret Service and brought to a federal building, there is a scene where he has to empty his drug paraphernalia before he enters.  I heard some people laughing in the theater, but the moment passed by me without a giggle.  And that is the way most of the jokes went for me.  The jokes were also directed primarily against those at the political right.  Flarsky releases a lot of venom on his political opponents, but this could alienate anyone whose politics are not aligned that way.  It is possible to do a political comedy that makes fun of all sides, but this movie fails.  This is despite the fact that the movie calls itself out for its own political bias.  By the time that scene comes around, it is too little, too late.

On top of that, the movie is simply gross.  And while there is a place for gross-out humor, it doesn't really fit into a romantic comedy.  At one point, Flarsky does something (a thing I will not repeat on this blog), that causes him to say "Yucky!"  And that was the feeling I had about the entire film.  The movie wants to say something insightful about media, politics, and feminism.  It keeps dropping lines like little truth bombs for us to digest.  But the movie fails in maturity so it cannot be taken in any way seriously."

36.  Split (2016)
Split (2017 film).jpg

Much has been said about McAvoy performance, but the movie is rambling, tedious, and boring.  Not only that, but the abuse sub-plot, even though it is not graphic, is so disgusting that it took me completely out of the film and made me a little nauseous.

35.  Grown Ups 2 (2013)
Grown Ups 2 Poster.jpg

Let's cut to the chase.

 Grown Ups 2 is not a good movie.  It is lazy, indulgent, and often poorly acted. 

The worst is the addition of Nick Swarsdon.  I don't know why he is constantly being elevated.  I find him incredibly off-putting, more so that anyone else on the cast (and that includes a movie with David Spade).  

The movie coasts on the charm of its actors.  If you have great affection for them (a trait Sandler has cultivated with his audience) then you will enjoy this movie, but not as much as his other movies.

34.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows poster.jpg

I won this Blu-ray as a prize at a convention and it still felt like a paid a price in watching it.  It was empty and joyless, with none of the wonder of any of the previous TMNT movies.

33.  The World's End (2013)
The World's End poster.jpg
"But my biggest problem with the movie is the ending.  MILD SPOILERS AHEAD.

I will not get into much detail, but after the big final confrontation there is an epilogue.  What happens after is dark and dour, but that isn't the problem.  There is a huge disconnect between the events and actions of the movie and how the characters behave afterwards.  It isn't simply that they are changed by what has occurred; that is something that should happen.  But the movie has our heroes ripping apart these robots with their bare hands and then at the end the movie condemns people who hate the robots.  It is such a strange thematic disconnect that I left the movie horribly puzzled rather than delighted."

32.  Dallas Buyer's Club (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club poster

McConaughey got a well-deserved Oscar for this movie, but it so incredibly boring, which it shouldn't be because the subject is fascinating.  Yet somehow the director found the least interesting way to tell the story.

31.  Welcome to Marwen (2018)
WTM HeroPoster.jpg
I wanted to like this movie so much...

But this is a movie that is let down by a horrible script...

Mark is not someone we really want to spend time with.  He is off-putting to the point of creepy.  You can find a rewarding story in characters who are initially unlikable, like Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets.  But Mark doesn't start horrible and then move slowly into likability.  Instead he starts at slightly sympathetic but only becomes less so as the film unfolds.  We see him watch pornography and become obsessed with the neighbor.  He blurs the lines of fantasy and reality in a way that would make him feel like an actual threat in real life, not a zany protagonist.

To make matters worse, the movie wants us to invest in Mark's romantic feelings for Nicol both inside of Marwen and in the real world.  But it is clear from early in the movie that Roberta is the one Mark should be with.  Roberta understands him, doesn't patronize him, challenges him, and she cares for him.  I could not help feel a strong sense of annoyance at the fact that Roberta was cut out of most of the movie.  All of the time spent on Nicol felt like an absolute waste.

 The women of Marwen are strong, but they have no depth.  Their dialogue reveals so little sophistication.  But the movie thinks it is making some strong social statement by their mere presence, but this makes them even more incomprehensible.  At one point Hoagie cries out "Women are the saviors of the world."  And no, context does not help this line.

Movies like this make me sad because they have all the ingredients of a wonderful film, but the chef screwed up the recipe.

30.  Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Jojo Rabbit (2019) poster.jpg
Jojo Rabbit is a movie that continuously congratulates itself on being so very clever.  And if it was half as clever as it thinks it is, then this movie would actually be great.  Instead we get a boring story, whose emotional core is buried under a dozen layers of irony...

The movie is filmed in the style of quirky Wes Anderson coming of age film.  We are supposed to be be impressed and shocked by the setting.  Hitler says horrid things that Jojo repeats and we are meant to guffaw at the casual awfulness.  But once you strip away the window dressing, there isn't much there.  The script feels like it was written by a teenager.  It is filled with shallow shocks that are meant to be unfathomable depths.

29.  Ad Astra (2019)
Ad Astra - film poster.jpg
I've always said that if you want to sound smart to people, either quote them Latin or Shakespeare.  The makers of this movie desperately want to sound smart.  To the Stars didn't sound pretentious enough, so they Latinized the title: Ad Astra...

I don't know what it is about space movies that brings out the pretension in directors.  This movie desperately wants to be 2001: A Space Odyssey.  To be sure, writer/director James Gray does some fine visual work.  But the space opera feels like it is trying too hard to be lofty.  Even the great Christopher Nolan fumbled a little with his finale to Interstellar.  Gray wants to make a movie with big themes, sweeping emotions and potent visuals.  But he forgets that first and foremost he is telling a story.  And none of those other things matter if you do not have characters that you want to follow. 

There is absolutely nothing interesting about Roy.  He is a block of wood in a space suit.  That is not an insult to Pitt's performance.  I am sure he was told to play the part of someone with the emotional depth of a thimble.  I suppose this was meant to show how Roy's abandonment as a child has stunted his full emotional growth.  Donald Sutherland has an extended cameo as a friend of Clifford, but he exits the movie too soon to have any impact.  The movie builds to our potential reunion between Roy and his father, but everything about it is hollow...

One of the things that the film tries to capture is the tedium of space travel and the long loneliness that it engenders.  While this is interesting on paper, it was unenjoyable in execution.  You begin to feel like a child in a long car ride, waiting for it to end. 

This movie was a mistake.  It is a spectacle devoid of character, emotion, and catharsis.  Instead of this one going "To the Stars" it is going "To the Dollar Bin" at Walmart.

28.  Bad Teacher (2012)
A blonde woman slumped behind a desk, her boots on the desk. On the desk is a red apple with the label "Eat Me!"

The only way a film like this works is if the "bad teacher" turns out to be a good teacher.  But now, she is a horrible, terrible teacher from start to finish.  She does not teach her children anything useful except that they should cheat to get ahead.  In fact, she ruins the life of an actually good teacher. 


27.  Daddy's Home 2 (2017)
Daddy's Home 2.png

The first Daddy's Home was a mediocre film with a likable cast.

Daddy's Home 2 isn't even half as good as that...

I didn't laugh once.

This shouldn't have happened.  Wahlberg and Gibson are incredibly talented and Ferrel and Lithgow can also be funny.  But none of the jokes are able to produce a single genuine laugh.  The most they may elicit is a polite smile.  You can understand a joke without laughing and that is what you get from this hollow movie.

The script has no intelligence and doesn't bother to find humor from any deeper themes.  Cardellini is a talented actress, but she is given nothing to do in this movie of any humor or significance.  She is often paired with Ambrosio who sucks all of the joy out of the screen with her empty performance.  Her character is meant to be vacuous, but I was constantly annoyed by her mere presence on the screen.  And that is saying a lot when you have a character as cloying as Lithgow's Don.

26.  Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird poster.jpeg
I hated this movie.

And my hate for this movie is compounded by the fact that there were a number of Catholics who reviewed the film and said that it was largely pro-Catholic.

I am not sure what movie they were watching, but the casual sacrilege of this film precludes it from being anything close pro-Catholic.

I would try describing the plot but it virtually non-existent.  The movie feels like we are reading entries in a pretentious teenagers diary.  There is very little to connect the narrative.  All we get a little vignettes about Lady Bird's odd life.  Interesting characters and storylines are abandoned just when they get interesting, probably because they do not revolve around the main character.  In that sense, Gerwig has captured a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism that many young people feel.  For example we have a priest who suffers from depression and a gay Catholic who is terrified about coming out to his parents.  Can we get any follow up on any of the interesting developments?  Nope because they don't involve Lady Bird.

But beyond that, there is nothing special about this movie.  There is certainly nothing Oscar-worthy about it (apart from those two performances).  And it is without a doubt not a positive portrayl of Catholic education.

Lady Bird wants to be a film that soars, but instead it feels like it never hatched and is now a bad egg.

Stay tuned for the 25 worst films of the decade.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Oscar Results 2020 Thoughts and Winners

First of all, thank you to everyone who played this year's Oscar game!

If you were keeping score at home and scored my sheet that I posted, you would see that I earned a 10.8, but it was not enough to win.

This time, however, we had much lower scores.  For example, no one chose nor predicted the best picture winner.

In 3rd place is a tie between my wife, CatholicLoisLane, and a newcomer to the game who we will name "The Dancer." who earned a respectable 7.8.

I came in second place with my 10.8

And in 1st place this year is repeat champion Nicole Koubek with an 18.8.  Congratulations, Nicole!

I hope everyone had fun this year playing the game.

Anyway, back to the Oscars themselves and my assorted musings.


Last year, I predicted that there would be a ratings bump if they nominated the biggest hit of the year: Black Panther.

They would have had another ratings boost if they had nominated Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing film of all time!

But instead, Hollywood went another way.  Only one movie in the top 10 was nominated (Joker) and only one other one in the top 20 (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood).  Parasite is number 98.  To give you an idea how low that is... More people saw Birds of Prey in its first two days than in Parasite's entire run.

Again, I haven't seen the movie and box office is not always a measure of quality.  But there were limited options for what you could root for.

The fact that it did not have a host once again did not hurt the show in the slightest.  What hurt it was the its biggest problem...


The show is already painfully long.  I couldn't believe that half way through the show they had Utkarsh Ambudkar do a rap recapping the first half of the show THAT WE WERE CURRENTLY WATCHING!!!!

If most things between the awards feel like filler, then then nothing really stand out.


I was pleasantly surprised when The Green Book won last year.  It wasn't the best movie I had seen, but it was nice and uplifting with a decent message. 

This year, the only movie nominated for Best Picture I had not seen was Parasite.  It has now become the first foreign language film to win Best Picture.

I cannot comment on the quality of the film.  There are critics who swear by and some people I know who are avid film goers also think it was very well-made.  My problem is simply this: NOBODY SAW IT.

The people who participated in the Oscar game tend be people who love going to the movies.  Not a single person put it on their choice or prediction. 

To give you an idea how few people saw Parasite... More people saw currently flopping Birds of Prey this past Friday and Saturday than in the entire run of the Best Picture. 

Again, the movie may be awesome, but so few people saw it and were rooting for it, that it's win feels like a disappointment, especially to people loved Joker, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, and 1917.

And I have always agreed with John Nolte that the Best Picture that is chosen should be one that people will still watch 30 years from now.

30 years ago Dances with Wolves won.

20 years ago Gladiator won.

What about the winners from the last 10 years?
Green Book
The Shape of Water
12 Years a Slave
The Artist
The King's Speech
The Hurt Locker

How many of those are still considered the Best Movies by the general movie-going public?  Does anyone still care about The Artist?  Did they ever care in the first place?

4.  The Other Results.
- I was shocked that 1917 won Special Effects against Avengers and Star Wars
-There were no surprises this year in the acting categories. 
-Boon Joon Ho is tied with Walt Disney for the most Oscars won by a person in a single night.
-most of the Best Song presentations were boring.
-Why was Eminem there?
-The Joker doesn't want us to drink milk...I guess?
-Politics at awards are bbooooorrrriiiiinnnngggg.
-Did the winner of Best Documentary really quote The Communist Manifesto?
-Black Panther is still the super hero film with the most Oscars.