Downsizing and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Alexander Payne
Every year, there’s usually one movie that starts off getting quite a bit of Awards buzz (mostly due to its cast and filmmakers) that eventually pivots all the way back to being an absolute train wreck once the critics get a chance to see it, and it’s usually not due to a genuine lack of talent on anyone’s part. More often than not, it’s misguided or something happened in the production that forced corners to be cut, so the badness of these kind of movies tend to be UNIQUE compared to the drivel that usually comes out during the rest of the year. Last year the winner of this prize was Collateral Beauty that tried SO hard to be a heartfelt and charming tale despite ostensibly being about people acting like total monsters towards someone with emotional issues, and word has been circulating that this is gonna be that film for 2017. I thought the trailers looked good as does its interesting premise, but I’ve been burned by good trailers before (*cough* Mother *cough*), so I’m hoping for the best but will keep my guard up just in case. Are the critics right about this film being wholly unable to live up to its lofty ambitions, or is this one of those few instances where the popular consensus will shift once it gets screened for the masses? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the adventures of Paul (Matt Damon) who’s a simple man with a ho-hum job living a ho-hum life with his ho-hum wife (Kristen Wiig) in his ho-hum town of Nowhere-ville. He’s looking for something to spice up his life and to give him a renewed sense of meaning (by which I mean he wants to buy more stuff), so he starts to entertain the idea of him and his wife Downsizing. What is Downsizing you may ask? Well it’s a process by which a human can be permanently shrunken down to a fraction of their normal height and then move to a community of similarly shrunken people. Since things cost less when they are smaller, that means that Paul’s meager life savings can let them live as kings for the rest of their lives in one of these communities, so he eventually makes the leap. However, his wife doesn’t go with him (balking at the last second) and he’s basically back where he was before; miserable and looking for ways to be happy. Through his ongoing life in Tiny Town (also known as Leisureland) he meets with a goods trader Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) as well as a Vietnamese protestor who was Downsized against her will named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) that seem to be much happier than him and might just hold the secrets to helping Paul find what he’s been looking for. Can Paul find a shred of happiness in his sad pathetic life? What doors with Dusan and even Ngoc open for Paul that will help him on his journey? Wait, so we have this HUGE premise about people being shrunk down and living in corporate run micro-communities… and we’re focusing on some sad white dude the whole time!?
So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh? It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla. Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand. I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling. Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate. This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t. Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did. So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?
Mother! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter. I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness. Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process. Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all. Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything. Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence. Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film. Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers? What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have? No seriously, Aronfosky. What the fuck did you do here?
Masterminds and all the images you see in this review are owned by Relativity Media
Directed by Jared Hess
Oh hey, I remember this guy! Didn’t he do Napoleon Dynamite like a hundred years ago? Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT long ago, but you can hardly say that he’s had a sterling career since then with Nacho Libre and Gentleman Broncos being poor follow ups to his breakout hit. Still, this one seems to be outside of his comfort zone, what with how many A-list comedians are on hand and the general tone of the film from the trailers, so maybe stretching himself as an artist will do him some good and he can wow us all once again with his immense talent! Hey, it’s POSSIBLE… right? Is this movie one of the standout comedies of the year that will remind us why we liked Jared Hess in the first place, or is this yet more proof that the dude peaked with his first film? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows lovable David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) who’s living the pathetic loser life in his shitty little town where no one respects him or even likes him all that much; even his fiancée (Kate McKinnon), but then she’s so cartoonishly off-putting that it’s hard to tell if she’s feeling anything at all. The dude seems perfectly fine to let things go this way and live out his life as a security guard for Loomis Fargo and have zero impact on the rest of the world. That is… until SHE came through the door. Kelly (Kristen Wigg) becomes a coworker of David’s and the two hit it off immediately, by which I mean he develops a massive crush on her and she gets her ass fired before she has a chance to really capitalize on it. Eventually though, she does come back into his life, only now she has someone with her. Steven Chambers (Owen Wilson) wants to use David to rob Loomis Fargo and plans on using his clear obsession with Kelly to get him to do it. Needless to say that David promptly agrees for that exact reason, and surprisingly the heist seems to work at first! They walk away with SEVENTEEN MILLION DOLLARS, David goes to Mexico while the heat dies down, and everyone else (including Kelly) for some reason stay in their shitty little town and try to lay low there. As with most crime movies though, things start to unravel, especially when FBI agents (Leslie Jones and Jon Daly) start to investigate those involved and a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) winds up in the mix. Will David get away with his crime and have all the money he could ever want? Will Kelly be able to save David from Steven who’s hell bent on keeping him out of their way permanently? How the hell did this stupid mother fucker get through airport security!?
“Is he brown?” “No, but he’s got lizard eyes and a wig.” “Hi there!” “Go on ahead sir.”
Sausage Party and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing this movie for at least five years and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been trying to get this made for even longer than that. I’m not sure how it took so much work to get this movie made as both of them are bankable stars and this movie ended up costing next to nothing (ten million is nothing in terms of Hollywood features), but regardless of whatever strife they had to work through, the day has finally come for us to see a movie about dicks, vaginas, and assholes being played by hotdogs, buns, and bagels. Does this movie end up being a classy as fuck masterpiece for the ages, or was all that effort for naught and this is just a giant steaming load of lameness? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the misadventures of several food items in this one grocery store known as Shopwell’s, but for the most part our focus is on Frank the Sausage (Seth Rogen). He’s living the perfect sausage life; namely staying fresh inside his package and praising the Gods every day in the hopes that he will be chosen to leave the store and enter the great beyond! Well he’s also praying that he can nail that hot little number in the bun package, Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig), but he’s got to keep those urges in check. After all, the Gods only want FRESH food that isn’t tainted with sin! Now all the food in this store (and presumably all the other stores in the world) seem to all follow this belief system where the humans are Gods taking them to a promised land, but as we all know humans tend to be to total assholes and will end up eating them instead which is SUPER fucked up! The day finally comes for Frank, his other sausage buddies (Carl and Barry played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), and Brenda as one of the Gods chooses them and they’re put in its holy shopping cart. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned as the shopping cart runs into another one; splattering a lot of the food in a very gruesome manner and knocking both Frank and Brenda (along with a few other items) out of the cart and into the store… OUT OF THEIR PACKAGES!! Now you may have assumed that the shopping carts collided due to bad luck. Not quite so, as a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) had seen some shit and jumped out of the cart after telling the rest of the food how fucked they are, and that was the cause of the crash. Why is this important? Well there was one person listening the entire time, and that was Frank! So on top of getting back inside a sausage package (along with Brenda who needs to find a bun package) Frank is on a journey to find out the truth and if what Honey Mustard was saying had any merit to it! Can Frank discover the dark secrets that the world outside the grocery store holds? Will this inevitably create a schism between him and Brenda, the latter of which still has faith in the Gods and their divine plan? And what about Carl and Barry!? WHAT THE FUCK IS GONNA HAPPEN TO THEM!?
Ghostbusters (2016) and Ghostbusters (1984) are both owned by Columbia Pictures
The new movie has finally come out we can all confirm that the world has not plunged into forty years of darkness, but while there have yet to be any reports of rivers and seas boiling or dogs and cats living together, there’s denying that we indeed saw some mass hysteria . Hopefully all that will subside soon enough, but those people have already gotten more attention than they deserve and it’s been difficult to keep everything in perspective as some people decided that the success or failure of this movie was going to be the crescendo in some childhood ruining man hating agenda, so trying to have a measured conversation about the strengths of both this new film and the original it’s based off of has not been an easy task. Thankfully we can hopefully start taking a measured look at both films’ individual merits and how one movie might have done somethings better than the other without having the more obnoxious among us either use it as proof that we are biased or evidence that the new movie is horrible. To kick that discussion off, here’s my own examination of both films and how one stacks up to the other based on important aspects that are in both films!
Who Ya Gonna Call? (The Crew)
This new movie made two fantastic decisions right off the bat. It was a reboot instead of a sequel, and they didn’t try to make these new characters analogues for the original crew. No one in this movie is a recreation of someone from the last film which means that we don’t have to play the WHO DID IT BETTER game on individual actors (a decision also wisely made by the Evil Dead reboot), and similarly I’m so glad that this new Ghostbusters team is not the trainees, or even worse THE DAUGHTERS, of the original crew which would have completely ruined what makes these new characters so interesting. Look, I’m well aware that this is a movie starring women that FIRST had to be done by men, but the fact that it’s not the case in the movie itself is an inspiring message to young girls to be proactive and forge their own paths. A lot of people who are upset about this movie seem to think it would have been better if this was a passing of the torch story which is a concept that worked pretty well for Star Wars, but there’s no way it would have worked here. At least in that movie there’s a whole universe to explore and the new people wouldn’t necessarily be in the shadows of the original cast allows them to do their own thing; something that would be infinitely harder here if the new Ghostbusters were still using the same logos, firehouse, equipment, jumpsuits, what have you that the original cast were wearing twenty years ago and everyone in the movie knew that. It wouldn’t be able to be its own thing as it would constantly be in the shadows of the original members who are still hanging around the background and would take attention away from the brilliant actors that are the real stars here.
Ghostbusters and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures
Directed by Paul Feig
No other movie this year, save MAYBE Batman v Superman, had as much drama and passion as this reboot of a classic eighties comedy. A very vocal minority of people were deadest on hating this from the word go with nothing more to go on than the idea that it would star women instead of men, and they haven’t shut the hell up about it since then; effectively drowning out any legitimate criticism that was levied against the movie. It’s true that this is a reboot and that Ghostbusters was a very much a movie of its time (not only in concept but also the fact that comedies just don’t have the same clout and reverence they did back in the eighties), but I was still genuinely interested in seeing this based on who they ended up casting and some of the better moments in the trailer. Does this manage to live up to the hype as a patriarch smashing masterpiece, or will it live up to the OTHER hype of being the worst possible thing to ever happen to anyone at any time in history? Probably neither, but is it at least good? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Columbia Physics professor Dr Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) being forced to confront an old colleague of hers, namely Dr Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) over a book they wrote years ago on the paranormal which she has since disowned but has recently resurfaced and may pose a threat to her bid for tenure at the university. Abbey never stopped her research and is angry at Erin for abandoning her those many years ago so she’s not too keen to help her out and has even gotten a new partner in crime in the form of super engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and they’re both trying to get evidence that ghosts really do exist. Opportunity comes a-knocking for all three of them however as Abby and Holtzmann (with Erin along for the ride trying to get Abby to take her name off the book) actually do run into a ghost and get footage of it on camera. Unfortunately, the video goes viral, Erin gets fired from the University, and all three of them can’t get anyone to believe the story. Still, this is some groundbreaking stuff they’ve uncovered, so they pool all their money together to begin a start-up company and relocate to the attic of a Chinese restaurant (a firehouse looked promising, but was WAY too expensive). As they perfect their craft and Holtzmann works on the weapons, they eventually meet Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who saw a ghost at the subway station she works at and enlists the Ghostbusters to bust it before eventually joining the team, as does Kevin Beckman (chris Hemsworth) who becomes their secretary because no one else bothered to apply for the job. While all this is going on by the way, there’s some creepy dude named Rowan (Neil Casey) who seems to be setting up devices that amply the strength of ghosts that are already haunting various places in NYC and is clearly planning something much bigger. Can the Ghostbusters find out Rowan’s evil plan before it’s too late? Will the world even accept them as anything more than frauds and Ghost Hunter knock offs? Is there ANY chance that those determined to hate this movie will feel any different by actually watching it? I’m gonna guess no on that last one.
“Is THAT what people have been saying about us!?” “Yup.” “Wow…”