Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Norm Of The North - Review

Norm, a polar bear who has the power to speak "human", despite the fact that all his fellow animals can too as well, heads off to New York City in order to secretly sabotage a campaign to build condos in the Arctic. NORM OF THE NORTH is a clear contender for worst film of the year, maniacally flailing about with its sheer stupidity, dubious animation, and overall lack of coherence. It needs to be repeated and underlined that the entire conflict of this film rests on the fact that a real estate magnate believes that rich people will want to buy Frank Gehry-styled condos in the Arctic, amid dangerous wildlife and an unstable environment that is closed off from the rest of the world. Even a 2 year old can see that this is a pathetic villainous plot that makes no sense whatsoever. Further story decisions that erode intelligence with ease include having Norm becoming famous due to an attempted office shooting, by his antagonistic boss no less, introducing several female characters only to then throw them to sidelines and offer no real assistance, having everyone constantly say "save the Arctic, not sell the Arctic", and having the normal public wholeheartedly believe a stilted, clearly edited sound clip is a winning endorsement for environmental destruction. All of that plus a near minute long scene where Norm's companions, three little lemmings that are always hopped up on goofballs, continuously pissing into a public fish tank. Why bother caring about characterization or logical behavior when you can just sit through another dance number or see furry creatures make poop jokes? The cast is wasted, the direction is an abomination, and the 3D imagery is completely erratic when it is not copied and pasted. Nothing works at all! In an otherwise fantastic year in cinematic animation, this stillborn is sure to live in infamy.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Zoolander 2 - Review

Several pop stars are dying all over the world, each sporting the "Blue Steel" look and sharing their death face online before dying. The fashion division of Interpol, led by Penélope Cruz's Valentina Valencia, seeks the guidance of its originator, Derek Zoolander, who just happens to be rustled out of his self-exile by best bud Billy Zane and heading off to Rome. ZOOLANDER 2 is pathetically shallow in its convictions as a long gestated comedy sequel to the 2001 cult hit, severely lacking any chances for laughs and overflowing with pointless cameos and atrocious writing. Director/Actor/Producer/Co-Writer Ben Stiller greatly fails in each of his areas of film production, delivering a near copy of the original film yet muddling it up thoroughly by its main creative decision to largely be a straight-face adventure flick in the vein of THE DA VINCI CODE. He even falters with simple acts like continuity, as in the case when Ariana Grande, decked out in some sexy S&M gear, keeps appearing and disappearing in a notably unfunny group scene. While the rest of the cast is wasted beyond belief, which goes double for Kristen Wiig's unnecessary femme fatale, Stiller keeps the focus squarely on his woeful acting routines as the superficial super model. All of the humor is completely flat, out of date, and/or riddled with anachronisms; in the case of the latter, when a certain someone talks about how he created a NYC disaster back in 2001 (um...), he did it in time before 2 Broke Girls aired, a full decade before it premiered on television. Following the film's plot is an unbearable experience, as you get to witness subplots that are swiftly dropped, questions that are never answered (was Billy Zane evil?), a villainous scheme be developed only to then try and collapse upon itself for no explainable reason, and the lofty expectation for a high profile character to just enter into the damn picture already and deliver his "Vince McMahon is The Higher Power" promo already so we can all move on. No wonder America didn't give this a look, as there were and still are more flashy fare being presented throughout 2016 in the cinema.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sausage Party - Review

All of the food products at a supermarket, who are secretly sentient and mysteriously have clothed appendages, live in private bliss until they can be "chosen" by a human being and be brought to "The Great Beyond". One day before they can celebrate "Red, White, and Blue Day" together, a hot dog (Seth Rogen) and his bun girlfriend (Kristen Wiig) get entangled in a shopping cart with a returned jar of honey mustard, who seeks to change everyone's perspective about what lies past the motorized doors. SAUSAGE PARTY is an absolutely hilarious adult animated film that expertly combines crude blue humor with theology of all things. Characters will engage in dirty talk one minute only to then spin the discussion into what they think and believe will happen in the afterlife. The fact that this heavy and filthy dialogue is coming from groceries is just one thing that makes this a humorous romp. From its brilliant Disney-esque opening tune, with music by Alan Menken no less, to the great improv-friendly voice cast, to the cartoonishly harsh violence, to its jaw-dropping climax (wink wink), the movie is a double-barrel blast of bawdiness. Many will likely be turned off by the rampant juvenile ribbing, however, as it can be a bit too much to ingest and swallow easily. For myself, I was not a huge fan by the inclusion of Douche, who's literally a douche and whose Jersey Shore voice is supplied by Nick Kroll. Despite some great gags with him, including a running joke involving puns, Douche really didn't need to be in the story, as his antagonistic ways take the focus off of the main debate between the food people and their "gods". Additionally, the film does have a weird handle with incorporating pop songs into the action and its true ending, though clever, frankly spoils the grand finale. Nevertheless, if you want a comedy with a brain, see some shade thrown at Christian cinema, animation that breaks the "kids only" mentality that still plagues our American society, and/or want something to snug itself perfectly between Patton Oswalt's "Sky Cake" routine and a DVD copy of FOODFIGHT!, this is for you.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lights Out - Review

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), a young woman who blatantly has no life or career of her own, tries to rescue her step-brother (Gabriel Bateman) from their mentally unstable mother (Maria Bello) and her vicious, ghostly friend who can only live, breathe, and attack in the shadows. LIGHTS OUT is an obnoxiously simple horror film that fails to be scary at any point and aggressively displays how little money and thought was put into it by its creators. Where did the $5 million dollar budget go? It didn't go to the set designers, because this has only four controlled locations (Rebecca's apartment, Mom's house, a school, and a warehouse) that all shockingly have less detail and pizzazz than an average found footage horror flick. It didn't go to first-time director David F. Sandberg, who delivers boring jump scares and visuals beyond a "shooting in fake 8mm means this is really creepy" flashback. It didn't go to the script, which has several dropped subplots, clearly cribs from J-horror tropes, never explains why no one can easily tackle a 90 lbs. spirit woman and how said woman, who has no muscles before or after her death, can lift up or drag heavy individuals. The movie even dares to to do the usual conservative postulation that women can't be fit mothers and also like things like heavy metal, which is so insulting to have in horror nowadays. I can only guess the money just all went to actor Billy Burke, who has a lame cameo in very bland opening segment. Speaking of the cast: Palmer, who is often a coin-flip when it comes to her acting, is terribly monotone and sucks all of the energy away in every scene she's in. The young twerp Bateman isn't any better, often trying to be cute only to end up being cloyingly annoying. The only person to come out of this film with dignity intact is Bello, who's amazingly unsettling as a woman caught between the people that she "loves". Sadly, she can't be like Atlas and carry this heavy burden, especially once she takes part in the absolutely trash-filled ending that just render the conflict and this entire film completely pointless. Performing a quick boo on unsuspected parties in real life is far more pleasing than siting through this amateurish junk.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad - Review

A colorfully violent group of super villains are forcibly brought together to work as a black ops team for the U.S. government, all under the thumb of ball-busting official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Their first mission: enter an evacuated city to retrieve and extract an important target and if they have some extra time, maybe deal with that weird glowy thing bursting into the sky. SUICIDE SQUAD is frankly a miracle, as it is the first decent movie of the bungled up calamity that is the DC Extended Universe. Make no mistake, this film is flush with some really noticeable problems, the least of them being it clearly was trimmed down from a R rating. Many of the characters are just blank baddies and are completely pointless to the entire plot, with the king of them all clearly being Jared Leto's Joker, who is nothing more than a snore. The Queen naturally has to be Katana (Karen Fukuhara), who's just there as the government's secondary watchdog. The main threat is absolutely laughable for a big superhero movie, having the same danger level as a monster of the week in an episode of Super Friends and making the lame one-and-down Marvel Cinematic villains excellent by comparison. The editing is badly handled, often repeating things we already know or inserting random pop songs that don't always fit the mood at all. I mean, Eminem's "Without Me" during a suit-up montage? Really? Plus, the movie is made more egregious to the senses once a darkly lit action sequence happens or when you reach the pathetically thought-out climax. Despite these big setbacks, I still had a fun time with David Ayer's demented vision of THE DIRTY DOZEN. The playfully dark interactions may not be on the same level as John Ostrander or Gail Simone's take on these characters but you do warm up to them and their crazy antics, even when killing a few innocents. The movie clearly basks all of the attention of its two movie stars, Will Smith and Margot Robbie as Deadshot and Harley Quinn respectively, who respond by being true delights and quite fitting as their famed felons. The action may be obscured at times but then Ayer presents a scene of badassery that will have you cheering. And there are many artfully great shots that help liven up the proceedings, from the recreations of artwork by Daniel LuVisi and Alex Ross to a cameoing hero receiving an underwater surprise. Overall, SUICIDE SQUAD is an enjoyable mess and what you would want from a summer blockbuster. It's like attending a punk concert: you're at first dismayed by the lack of complete polish and the out-of-tune instruments but you just dig the violent energy and unconventional merriment.