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Cinema Dispatch: Daddy’s Home 2

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Daddy’s Home 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Sean Anders

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the only thing I was wondering when I first heard about this movie was why they didn’t cast John Lithgow as the TOUGH dad.  Seriously, the dude’s got Cliffhanger, Ricochet, and even Dexter under his belt to show us all how despicably evil he can when the role calls for it, and it’d certainly be much better casting for Marky Mark’s mean deadbeat dad than the guy they got; though I’m pretty sure ANYONE in Hollywood who’s not currently being ostracized for inexcusable behavior would have been a much more palatable choice than Raging Mel.  I don’t know about this one.  I certainly didn’t expect much out of the first film and it managed to be a bit better than I was expecting, but what are the chances that we’ll get a half-way decent sequel out of that; especially as it’s a Holiday film which are almost always a bad idea for sequels.  Wait, didn’t I just say that like a week ago about A Bad Mom’s Christmas?  Now that I think about it… two unexpectedly solid comedies about parenting that made a HUGE amount of money at the box office get Holiday sequels about the parents of the characters in the first film… that are released within a week of each other.  Huh.  Well that’s… coincidental.  Anyway, does THIS Holiday sequel manage to AT LEAST be as good as the OTHER Holiday sequel we just got, or am I in for one HELL of a crappy movie going experience?  Well… Let’s find out…

The movie begins about a year after the events of the first film where Brad and Dusty (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) have put aside their differences and are the best co-dads of all time; sharing responsibilities with the kids and working together as a cohesive family unit!  Well… ALMOST perfect.  Dusty’s biological daughter Megan (Scarlett Estevez) reveals during the school’s Christmas Recital that she’s not happy about having the holidays split between two households, so the two families band together and decide to have just one Christmas together which seems like a great idea… until Dusty gets a call from his dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) who’s decided to come down for the holidays.  This is bad because Dusty’s dad is just like he was in the first film and will surely be nagging on him the entire time for not being MANLY enough whatever the hell toxic dinosaurs like him are always on about.  In addition to that, we’ve got Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) coming to town who is ACTUALLY a really nice grandpa but seems to be hiding something from Brad, an increasingly tense standoff between Brad’s wife Sara and Dusty’s wife Karen (Linda Cardellini and Alessandra Ambrosio) about how to raise the kids they share (Dusty’s biological kids and Karen’s daughter from another marriage), and to top it all off, Dusty’s biological son Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) is about at the age where he needs to have THE TALK which throws EVERYTHING into chaos as the four dads on hand have their own idea of how it should go and who should give it.  Will any of these plot threads come together into something resembling a cohesive whole?  Is there a single point in this movie where it’s NOT uncomfortable watching Mel Gibson on screen?  Can someone explain to me what I POSSIBLY could have done to deserve this!?

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What the heck did ANY of us do to deserve this?

I expected this movie to be BAD, what we’ve got here is something else ENTIRELY.  Don’t get me wrong!  It’s still BAD, but its’ also a confusing mess that WANTS to have big ideas and some depth to its characters, but in doing so ends up being an uncomfortable and morally questionable disaster.  Everything that made the first movie marginally passible is pretty much absent in here and just about everything they’ve added to make up for it is categorically worse in ways that I didn’t think a film like this would have the ambition to fail so spectacularly at which is almost a marvel in and of itself, and all you’ll be left with as you leave the theater is a sense of deep sadness as well as a mild case of nausea if you aren’t tonally oblivious.  What I’m saying is that Daddy’s Home 2 is basically the Batman v Superman of mediocre Holiday comedies, and that is NOT a statement I was expecting to write today!

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“LOIS LANE IS THE KEY!!”

Where to even begin with this monstrosity that somehow found its way into theaters?  Well let’s start with the basic nuts and bolts problems before we get into the stuff that’s outright offensive; though I’m sure anyone with the slightest appreciation for filmmaking will find something to be outraged over in this part of the film’s autopsy.  The movie basically has no plot; in that there’s a SETTING and a few specific circumstances, but things like character arcs and story progression are left to the wayside or outright sacrificed in order to jump to the next stupid set piece.  Remember how levelheaded Linda Cardellini was in the first film and how great of a parent she was to her kids even when the men of the house were acting like spoiled brats?  Well forget about all that because they wanted to have a comedy skit where a little girl is carrying around a shotgun which dear old mom has to APPROVE OF in order for us to get to that scene!  How about all that mutual respect built up between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell that we spent an entire movie building towards?  Well it was funny in the first film when they were fighting, so let’s throw in a bunch of contrived misunderstandings in order to get them mad at each other!  YOU KNOW!  EVERYONE’S FAVORITE TROPE IN THESE KINDS OF MOVIES!!  It just goes on and ON with this shit and you’re never given a reason to care about anyone because they’re no longer characters in a story.  It would have at least been TOLERABLE if the jokes had been funny, and while I do admit that humor is very subjective, the majority in this film falls completely flat; either because they’re just not particularly well written or they’re blatant repeats of jokes from the last film.  It’s an absolute chore to sit through this mess, and that’s BEFORE we get to the big sexist, racist, Anti-Semitic (and I’m sure a few other things), elephant in the room!

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I’m pretty sure that’s not how snow blowers (or Christmas lights) actually work.

Look, whether or not you believe Mel Gibson “deserves a second chance” or that we should “separate the art from the artist”, it’s hard to argue that he’s not doing himself ANY favors by being in THIS movie playing THIS role.  Speaking STRICTLY in terms of the movie itself, the character is just annoying as he’s constantly talking shit to everyone around him and his few moments of genuine kindness are outweighed by just how hard he’s trying to manipulate his son into being a retrograde ass hat like himself.  Since the movie care so little about its own plot, there’s never really any “redemption arc” for the guy either which could potentially have given his earlier douchebaggery a sense of purpose or thematic resonance (you know; like they did with Marky Mark in the first film), but I guess NOT glorifying his actions was too much of a hassle for whatever hack was writing this.  And on top of that… yeah, there’s no denying that this character being played by Mel “Smile And Blow Me” Gibson makes things THAT much more uncomfortable.  The movie trades too much on Mel’s “reputation” as a super sexy and uber macho god among men; but he hasn’t been THAT Mel Gibson (at least as far as the general public was aware) for about a decade now; so having the whole movie as well as Mel’s performance lean into a public perception that was rightfully stripped away from him feels like a really shitty attempt at papering over his past behavior which in doing so erases (or at least mitigates) the trauma he’s inflicted on his victims.  Not helping things is that the movie’s resistance to his form of toxic masculinity is paper thin at best, and they even go that tactless extra mile to give him a disposable love interest as he picks up a woman at a bar who never gets a name and has MAYBE one line.  The scene is meant to show him as somewhat callous to his son (the pick-up is happening during a scene where they were bonding), but it’s ALSO something else that the film uses to assure us how COOL he is, which… no.  This dude is not cool.  He’s a monstrous creep throughout the movie who never really gets his comeuppance or learns much of a lesson; much like the REAL Mel who’s still making movies and starring in stuff like this.  Hoo-ray…

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Can’t we just get Tom Hardy to replace ALL his roles?

All this venomous negativity I’ve been spewing at the film does beg the question though, is there ANYTHING I liked in this?  Sigh… look, I just love John Lithgow, alright?  The dude is such a great actor that he manages to carry this film whenever he’s on screen which is THANKFULLY more than what the trailers are letting on; though he’s still stuck with such a crappy script that barely has much use for him (or anyone else) so there are moments where his shtick falls flat and he’s left flailing for a decent bit of direction just like everyone else.  Still, the guy knows how to make the most of what he has no matter how little it is, and he manages to have a solid emotional moment in this film in circumstances that would have utterly ruined the emotional weight of the scene had it been in a lesser actors hands.  Still, even if John Lithgow proves once again that he’s a phenomenal comedian and even if I can point to a few jokes that got a chuckle out of me (I thought the thermostat joke was delightfully absurd if a bit worn by this point), there’s simply not enough here to save such a poorly made and horrendously paced movie.  John Lithgow gets credit for trying, but not even Atlas could have carried this freaking burden by himself.  When your in movie has children handling guns poorly for “comedic effect”, an unironic use of the word “snowflake” and an INCEST JOKE thrown in right as the fucking movie’s about to end, what the heck can you even do with that?  I mean other than say NO to the fucking thing which Lithgow REALLY should have done.  I know the last one made over TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS, but you were on 3rd Rock from the Sun, damn it!

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I swear I’m gonna write that Cliffhanger 2 script at some point!  THE RETURN OF ERIC QUALEN!!

If it wasn’t clear already, this is CLEARLY a worse film than A Bad Moms Christmas which I tentatively recommended if you were a fan of the first one.  This film gets no such leeway as it is… well probably the movie we SHOULD have gotten the first time around, but that’s always how it goes, isn’t it?  Whenever we get a surprisingly good movie, there’s always like an eighty percent chance that SOMEONE will have the bright idea to make a sequel and it’ll end up missing the point of whatever made the first work.  Don’t got see this movie.  Don’t even bother when it gets a home release.  The only way I would recommend you ever getting your hands on this film is if you find it for a nickel at the flea market and are looking for a new coaster; though even then you can probably find a better one for about the same price at the next table.

Cinema Dispatch: Justice League

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Justice League and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Zack Snyder

So… it’s not like anyone is looking forward to this movie and is willing to yell at critics over it, right!?  Sigh… now my opinions on Batman v Superman have been made quite clear on multiple occasions, but you know… with Wonder Woman and to a very VERY lesser extent Suicide Squad, I don’t think these films aren’t worth seeing.  Heck, even Batman v Superman is worth seeing in the sense that there’s so much to learn about NOT making a good movie from it!  I am absolutely not looking forward to this movie and I don’t expect it to be all that good, but I’m going to sit in my seat, watch all the crappy local car commercials, and then hope that I’m not just completely wasting my time and money being there.  I The fact that I’m expecting this to be bad is not the same as WANTING it to be bad or HOPING for it to be bad just to get some “outrage clickbait” out of it, because I don’t need any MORE things in my life to piss me off even if I get a hilarious and insightful review out of it.  I’d rather write hilarious and insightful review of GOOD movies!  So then… does Warner Bros and DC have what it takes to keep this franchise afloat after Wonder Woman became an critical and box office smash, or are we stuck with more of the same crap until these DCCU films stop making money for them?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins sometime after the events of Batman v Superman where (SPOILER ALERT!) the world is still reeling over the DEATH OF SUPERMAN!  Everyone’s moody, crime is on the rise, and to top things off, aliens have started invading Earth!  Yeah, that whole dream sequence with the Parademons in the last movie?  Well it’s not a full scale invasion just yet, but Batman’s swinging around Gotham City finding these space bugs all over the place and needs to figure out what the heck is going on!  Well it doesn’t take long for the TRUE threat to reveal himself as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who, now that Superman is deader than disco, feels confident enough to stage an all-out attack on Earth… for some reason.  I mean I GUESS he tried to take over the planet back when it was Middle Earth and Amazons, Green Lanterns, and I THINK Shazzam were able to stop him, so maybe he’s after this planet for revenge or something.  IT DOESN’T MATTER THOUGH!  What matters is that he’s gonna tear shit up and the world needs its most powerful champions to fight against him which includes the aforementioned Batman, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jasson Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).  Will the Justice League be able to put aside their differences and come together (right now!) in order to stop the greatest threat humanity has ever faced?  Just what is Steppenwolf’s master plan, and what other forces are in play that these mere mortals are only seeing the briefest glimpse of?  How much more leeway will we have to give WB just to make sure we keep getting Wonder Woman movies!?

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“For Justice!  For the Greater Good!  FOR BOX OFFICE VIABILITY!!”     “MY MAN!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: A Bad Moms Christmas

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A Bad Moms Christmas and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment

Directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas

As glad as I was that the first film didn’t end up being an unbearable slog to sit through, I can’t say that the prospect of seeing another one fills me with much joy as I have serious doubts that STX can squeeze out another competent movie from this premise; especially when their go to idea for a sequel is to make it a freaking Christmas movie.  Seriously, aside from Christmas Vacation and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, has there been a holiday themed sequel that WASN’T an absolute waste of time?  Well I guess we’re about to put that theory to the test as we get ready to spend some more time with everyone’s favorite quote-unquote BAD MOMS who are actually not so bad moms.  Does this manage to rise above the low expectations set for it being both a sequel and a Christmas film in one unfortunate package?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Amy (Mila Kunis) beginning her Christmas rituals of working way too hard and being utterly miserable in the process; not that anyone is REALLY asking her to do it as her two kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) as well as her boyfriend Jesse (Jay Hernandez) and his daughter (Ariana Greenblatt) seem perfectly cool with a less intensive holiday experience.  Now Amy would like nothing more than to just sit back and actually enjoy the season, but her plans to let go of the pointless and time consuming rituals that encompass the month of December are utterly destroyed once her mother Ruth comes to visit (Christine Baranski) who’s super judgmental, extremely demanding, and wants this to be the PERFECT Christmas for everyone!  Sounds like a nightmare, right?  Well it’s not much better with Kiki and Carla (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) who ALSO have their mothers coming into town (Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) and all the baggage that comes with them; the former being overbearing and invasive and the latter being… well just like her daughter.  Will the titular Bad MomsTM find a way to fight back against these unwelcome invaders and make this the best holiday ever?  Is there more to the rather sudden appearance of their mothers than what they’re claiming to be a merely innocent interest in spending time with their family?  Just how raunchy are they willing to get to stand out in the surprisingly crowded market of naughty Christmas movies!?

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Santa and his ho ho hos!     …     WHAT!?  You can’t just set me up like that and expect me NOT to go there!

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Cinema Dispatch: Murder on the Orient Express

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Murder on the Orient Express and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

I’m hardly what you’d call “well read” as most of my cultural education comes from television and movies followed by people TALKING about television and movies, so while I’m aware that there’s a book out there called Murder on the Orient Express written by someone whose work I should really get around to reading, I don’t actually know what the story is about nor who the killer is which I GUESS would make me the target audience for a slick Hollywood retelling of the story starring some of the most beloved character actors out there… and Johnny Depp.  I’m certainly excited to see this as I do love me a good mystery, and seeing a movie is ALMOST as good as reading a book… right?  Anyway, does Kenneth Branagh manage to successfully bring the Agatha Christie classic to the silver screen once again, or does the brilliance of her work get lost in the midst of his vision for the material?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with the famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solving yet another world class mystery in the heart of Jerusalem and is now ready to take a much deserved vacation to recharge his mystery solving batteries!  As luck would have it, he runs into an old friend named Bouc (Tom Bateman) who gets him a ticket on the one and only Orient Express which Bouc is the director of.  Sadly for Poirot’s plans of leisure, not only does the train get stuck in an avalanche but one of the passengers (Johnny Depp) comes down with a bad case of MURDER!  With only some minor cajoling from Bouc, Poirot begins to investigate The Case of the Stabbed Dude by looking into the pasts of all the other passengers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, and Miranda Raison) to see if there’s anything to connect one of them to the guy sleeping in a pool of his own blood.  Will Poirot uncover the criminal mastermind who was unfortunately enough to be sharing a train ride with the world’s greatest detective?  Just who was the man who got viciously murdered, and what could have motivated someone to commit such an act?  Wait… isn’t it a bit TOO convenient that the train JUST SO HAPPENED to get stuck after a murder is committed!?

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LOOK OUT, POIROT!  IT WAS THE TRAIN ALL ALONG!!

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Cinema Dispatch: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Taika Waititi

After the rather disappointing Thor: The Dark World (HOW DO YOU WASTE THE BEST DOCTOR WHO IN SUCH A BLAND VILLAIN ROLE!?) I wasn’t really looking forward to what they’d do with this character in his solo films and was more interested to see if he’d show up in a bunch of the other movies instead.  Once those initial trailers hit with the heavy emphasis on fantastical Jack Kirby inspired designs and the rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, there seemed to be hope in this franchise digging itself out of the pit the sequel left it in.  At the very least, it LOOKED a lot pretty with much more vibrant colors, and it even manages to drag Jeff Goldblum into the MCU which in and of itself would make this movie worthy of existing even if everything else ends up being awful.  Does Thor’s third chance at the plate end up being one of the best films in the entire MCU, or did they just throw a lot of flash and money at a franchise that is just unable to find its place after telling the origin story?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to find out what the heck Ragnarok is which was hinted at ALL the way back in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Remember when he left the team to take a bath and saw some visions?  Yeah, apparently it was all foreshadowing of the destruction of Asgard in a calamity known as Ragnarok, so Thor is basically trying to find a way to stop it… whatever it may be.  In the meantime though, he manages to find out that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken the place of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is actually alright as Loki basically stuck his ass in a retirement home on Earth, but when Thor goes down there to bring him back to the throne it turns out that he’s all out of time and disappears in a cloud of energy or something.  If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that one of the things he was doing when he was alive was keeping a hereto unknown daughter of his named Hela (Cate Blanchett) in some sort of magic prison which breaks as soon as he’s dead and so she’s come back for revenge against her family and all of Asgard.  Both Loki and Thor are dealt with rather quickly with the latter losing his famed hammer Mjolnir and landing on some mystery planet where he is captured by a mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) and dragged to the planet’s ruler known as THE GRANDMASTER (Jeff Goldblum).  The once mighty God of Thunder and son of Odin is now put in chains and is forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in order to somehow earn his freedom and eventually find his way back home before Hela puts it inextricably under her vengeful thumb.  Can Thor find a way to escape the barbaric society run by the most fabulous of dictators?  What familiar faces will he find on this planet that can hopefully help him on his journey home?  How the heck is Thor gonna get around now that he doesn’t have his magic propeller hammer!?

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“THE GOD OF THUNDER DOESN’T NEED A HAMMER!  I JUST NEED TO FLAP MY ARMS REALLY FAST!!”     “Okay… well good luck with that!”

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Cinema Dispatch: See Saw – A Franchise Retrospective

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The Saw films and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Lionsgate Films

As mentioned in my Jigsaw review, I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with Saw franchise as I’m sure is the case with a lot of fans who somehow stuck with this series to the bloody end despite it inarguably getting worse and worse as it went along.  Now this is hardly new for horror franchises (just look at the startling sharp drop the Halloween movies took) but to me Saw wasn’t just a series that got BAD or CHEESY as it went along; it got actively toxic.  What do I mean by that?  Well if you read the review I’ve now referenced twice already (SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!) you probably already know what that is, but let’s go ahead and take a look at this series from the beginning to see just how it managed to change and pervert its core concepts over time.  Oh, and we’re going into TOTAL SPOILERS on these films, so only read if you’ve already binged watched them on Netflix or cannot be bothered to ever do so.  Let’s get started!!

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Saw (2004)

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Two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) find themselves locked in a room and chained to opposite sides of it with a dead guy right in the middle; presumably having shot his brains out given the blood on the floor and the gun in his hand.  Eventually they find a few tapes left for them by the serial killer who locked them up there in the first place known only as Jigsaw.  They only have so much time to get out of this trap before the killer starts looking towards their loved ones, and this means they may have to make some really tough decisions; ones that involve the titular saw of the movie.

I haven’t watched this movie in about a decade so going back to where it all started, ESPECIALLY after seeing what the series would ultimately turn into, was quite a shock as the original film has much more in common with Se7en than any of the other movies.  To a certain extent it’s a bit unfair to compare this initial entry to the rest of the series as it ends up feeling like an outlier (similar to how the first Friday the 13th doesn’t even have Jason as the killer) but there are qualities to this that are sorely missed in the sequels.  For one, Jigsaw isn’t the overwhelming and unstoppable force that he would become in later films and is also a downright sadistic mother fucker with no redeeming qualities.  Later films went all in on the cult of Jigsaw which is one of the biggest failings of the entire series; not only because it puts forth a reprehensible world view, but it takes so much menace and danger away from Jigsaw as a character.  The Jigsaw in this film (working through a character named Zep) isn’t given a platform to spout his faux-populist agenda and the film takes time to show just how horrific and unjustifiable his actions are; mostly through the extended sequences of Zep having to terrorize a mother and child while the game is going on.  Compare this to the later films where even the INNOCENT victims barely get a semblance of humanity before becoming props in a giant shit show of moving parts and sharp metal, and you can see why things got so monotonous and smug as the series went along.  Now I’m not about to tell you that this is a perfect movie by any stretch as the editing is rather poor and the performance by Danny Glover is surprisingly awful, but you can see why this first film managed to garner the reputation it did and why Lionsgate was so eager to turn it into a franchise.  The only question is, now that we know who the killer is (the guy on the floor played by Tobin Bell was playing dead the whole time) where else could they really go?

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The Cartoon Physicist’s Noughtie List: Toolbox Murders

Physicist returns from wherever the hell she’s been to do a (late) Halloween review in honour of the late Tobe Hooper.

(It was very much intended to be released on Halloween when it was filmed, sorry that it’s late.)