The Hunt and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Craig Zobel
Boy does this movie want us to think it has a chip on its shoulder! I haven’t seen negative review quotes used this liberally since Freddy Got Fingered, which… okay, that might actually be a good sign because I do like that movie purely on its utter absurdity (THIS IS A FANCY RESTAURANT!!), but is not the usual calling card of studio confident in a film on its own merits. Then again I can’t imagine Universal having any other bright ideas after the thing got pulled from theaters and certain segments of the media decided that THIS was the thing that’s going to destroy the fabric of our society. Personally, I think we already got that film with London Has Fallen, but whatever it is that hyped this movie up so much, is there any way that it can live up to those expectations? Let’s find out!!
A bunch of people wake up in the middle of a field with no idea where they are or how they go there. They start to slowly move towards the center of this big field with a giant crate right in the middle that contains a whole lot of weapons and a pig for some reasons; the implications of which they don’t have long to ponder because they are immediately beset by gunfire, booby traps, and all manner of lethal armaments! Some of them seem to carry themselves well enough (Betty Gilpin) while others are showing themselves to be MASSIVE jerks (Ike Barinholtz) who may or may not have it coming for various reasons; the least of which being that they’re in a horror movie and that’s usually the way things go. Eventually though, it’s revealed that their attackers are a bunch of liberal yuppie yahoos (including but not limited to Glenn Howerton and Hillary Swank) who seem to be taking their 2016 frustrations out on a bunch of red necks and scumbags through a game facilitated by their massive wealth. Is this all just one big excuse for that whole class warfare thing I’ve been hearing about to become literal, or is there more going on than what we’re initially led to believe? Is this like Saw where the main villain has justifiable reasons for taking these people prisoner, or is it like Saw 4 where things just get ridiculous and asinine for no good reason? Seriously, is it POSSIBLE for Ike Barinholtz to not be a scumbag in everything he plays? I’d give fifty-fifty odds on some rich fool actually BELIEVING this guy to be monster and throw him in one these death games for real!
Ugly Dolls and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment
Directed by Kelly Asbury
So are Ugly Dolls even a thing? I feel like it HAS to be a thing for this movie to even exist, but I’ve never heard of them and frankly the first thing that annoyed me about the trailers is how decidedly UN-ugly all the dolls were supposed to be. What, are big eyes fuzzy skin on a doll all of a sudden outside of societal norms? There’s no room in the world of the beautiful for dolls of non-humanoid proportions!? See, this is the kind of thinking that gave Sonic straight human teeth, the portions of an Olympic runner, and the eyes of a soulless monster! Say what you will about that Garbage Pail Kids movie, at least they knew what ugly meant! Okay, that’s PROBABLY not the best grounds to dismiss an entire movie on, but with only the occasional trailer and buzz leading up to its release, it certainly doesn’t seem like this is gonna be the sleeper hit of the year. Does it manage to defy expectations and be a really great movie despite how lacking the marketing has been, or are we doomed for yet another animated disaster in a year that already gave us Wonder Park? Let’s find out!!
In the happy town of Uglyville, everyone is happy and always partying which is easy to do when so many of them are inexplicably great singers and love to narrate their lives through song! One such resident is Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) who enjoys her simple life in this unassuming town of ugly dolls, but dreams of something more! She wants to be part of OUR world, by which I mean she wants to be a doll for a kid and… I guess she’s just waiting around for it to happen? Every morning she sings that THAT day will be THE day that she’ll get her own kid, but then just hangs out in Uglyville where no kids every come by. Eventually Moxy realizes that this is probably not the BEST strategy, so she convinces a few of the other residents of Uglyville, Ugly Dog, Wage, Lucky Bat, and Babo (Pitbull, Wanda Sykes, Wang Leehorn, and Gabriel Iglesias) to accompany her on a journey to outside of town. The only way out is also the only way in as there’s a giant tube in the side of a mountain that shoots out an ugly doll every once in a while to join the town, so she figures that they’ll climb up it and see where it goes. It turns out that it goes to a town called Perfection which is full of Barbie knockoffs that have to go through rigorous training before being allowed to go through the pearly gates which… I guess is where they’ll be packed into plastic boxes and sold on store shelves to hopefully wind up in a kid’s hands. The mechanics are a bit unclear, but the point is crystal! Moxy and her friends will face these challenges that all the other dolls have to go through in order to PROVE THEIR WORTH and pass through the gates themselves! However, the leader of Perfection named Lou (Nick Jonas) isn’t happy about these UGLY creatures fouling up his perfect little community and will do whatever it takes to stop them from achieving their dreams! Can Moxy and her friends find a way to not only pass the ridiculous tests set before them but perhaps make a positive change in Perfection in the process? Who is this doll named Mandy (Janelle Monáe) that keeps trying to help them, and what is her reason for doing so? Is it just me, or is this an overly complicated version of college frat comedy?
I knew that while I was writing my review of this movie that there was no way I could fully express my utter bewilderment at what happens in the final twenty or so minutes without having a damn near incomprehensible rant right in the middle and without giving away HUGE spoilers. Well now that the review is finished and you can find out my thoughts (essentially spoiler free) there, I think now is the time to get all this built up frustration out in a constructive and hopefully coherent manner. Needless to say that this will contain ALL OF THE SPOILERS for the movie as so much of my problems with the logic of this (both from my understanding of technology and from the rules the movie sets for itself) is what is ultimately revealed by the end, so don’t read this before going to see the movie which I still recommend you do despite how much I HATED the ending. Before we begin though, there’s still one very important question to answer.
Why Do I Care So Much!?
Honestly? I don’t really know. I mean, one of my favorite movies of the year is The Purge Election Year, and can I honestly say that THAT movie makes any more sense than this one? Probably not, but I think it ultimately comes down to what each movie is trying to accomplish. The Purge: Election Year is upfront with what it wants to be and infuses every moment of screen time with that sense of purpose. There’s no bait and switch or a drastic shifts in tone that make you questions whether or not the filmmakers want you to believe in what is going on (beyond as a scathing and blunt metaphor for the current state of US politics), so it manages to stay consistent all the way through. This movie feels disingenuous when it eventually gets around to turning Nerve from a plot device into the main dramatic thrust of the final act as it turns out to be SUPER EVIL. To be fair, it’s not like they aren’t dropping hints throughout the movie (and Nerve at no point doesn’t come off like the worst kind of hacktivist bro-centric garbage) but the movie doesn’t want us to focus on that until the end and when it does I don’t feel the movie earned the right to use this sloppy and barely defined entity in the way that it does. The Purge has a backstory and mechanics. Nerve has neither and so its constantly pulling stuff out of its ass to make it more threatening than it has any right to be in this grounded (if SLIGHTY exaggerated) world that the movie takes place in. When shit started to hit the fan, it just didn’t feel necessary to me, and they were biting off way more than they had any hopes of chewing. Well then, let’s get to it! Spoilers form here on out! Oh, and FYI, I’m not an expert (or even all that smart) in ANYTHING I’m about to discuss, so if someone out there wants to point out how stupid I am and how any of this makes sense, then go right ahead.
Nerve and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Well if they were gonna make a teenaged version of a David Fincher film, The Game is probably a good place to start. You don’t want to go with Se7en or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right off the bat! Then again, he already made his own teen movie with The Social Network. Anyway, this new movie starring the less famous (though probably not for long) Franco brother as well as the star of Hotel for Dogs and Nancy Drew (Okay, she was also in American Horror Story and Scream Queens) seems to be trying to tell us something about social media and… I guess dumb asses on YouTube? Whatever this movie is about, it at least has an interesting (if super spoilerific) trailer, so is it possible there’s something actually here to chew on? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Vee (Emma Roberts) who’s on the cusp of graduating high school but isn’t sure what college she wants to go to. In fact, indecision seems to be her biggest defining feature; possibly brought on by the untimely (and unexplained) death of her brother only two years earlier. Now she’s about to leave the comfort of compulsory education while still never living that true HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCETM. Luckily for her, social media and… probably a bunch of libertarian basement dwellers, have JUST the thing for her; an online service called Nerve. Her friend Sydney (Emily Meade) turns her onto it, and it’s basically a webcam site only instead of whipping her boobs out for money, she’s given dares to complete instead. I’m pretty sure whipping her boobs out would have been at least half the dares if this was in the REAL world, but in this movie she’s basically given Jackass style stunts instead. Her “Just Friends” friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is being a super wet blanket about all this which gives handsome as fuck Ian (Dave Franco) a chance to swoop in as another Nerve Player (you’re either a Player or a Watcher on Nerve) ready to take her on a city wide adventure with riskier and riskier dares for them to complete! Will these two make it through the night of dares with their internal organs intact? What is the true motivation of Ian who JUST SO HAPPENED to be in the same area as Vee? Just what are the evil puppet masters of Nerve planning!? Is it a pizza party!?