Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Jason Bourne

August 22, 2016



Jason Bourne is the worst entry in the series to feature Matt Damon. I haven’t watched the Damonless The Bourne Legacy but Tony Gilroy wrote it so it probably has some moments. Gilroy also wrote the original trilogy but did not return for this run around the globe. It shows. Director Paul Greengrass attempts to make Bourne current by having a subplot about internet privacy but it just lays there on the screen, everyone tapping their toes wondering when Bourne is going to throw a guy off a roof. Don’t worry, that eventually happens.

I remain confounded by the popularity of the Bourne franchise. Sturdy, sure, but so damn dull. The original trilogy managed to deliver the same film three times, each one more efficiently than the last, with little sense of play or fun. Jason Bourne is a nothing character and he demands so little emotionally from Matt Damon. Yet, that wouldn’t matter if the films were better. But they are largely shots of screens and suits and people on cell phones barking the names of cities. The action is always shaky and blurry, the hint of movement with zero clarity. Why anyone would prefer this over even the worst James Bond or Mission Impossible film is the great mystery of our time. I have seen the argument that these films are “smart” but I think people just mean “serious” and “humorless”. Jason Bourne doesn’t joke, the people chasing after him don’t either. This is spy craft and espionage at it’s most dry. I will give the original trilogy credit: right when you start to glaze at the pointlessness of the plot, something crashes, someone is shot, Bourne kills someone with a magazine.

Jason Bourne picks up with Jason living off the grid and earning money as some kind of underground fighter. He is reintroduced taking out a guy with one punch(!) and then walking off, all bad ass. But then he starts feeling sad, because Jason Bourne has never felt cool ever, because he’s too busy either being confused or depressed. He gets contacted by good ol’ Julia Stiles to find out more about Operation Treadstone and Daddy Bourne’s involvement with it. This leads to the first action sequence of the movie, where Bourne and Julia ride around on a motorcycle, weaving around incredibly docile rioters. No one ever really gets in their way, but in typical Paul Greengrass style, at one point someone puts their leg right in front of the camera, because it isn’t an action shot if Greengrass can’t obscure the action with either a head or a limb or just shaking the camera until the image is a rusty blur. Eventually all this riding around comes to an end with the death of Stiles by a sniper’s bullet. This is a direct echo of Franka Potente’s death in The Bourne Supremacy, so if you’ve been looking for another woman to die for a man, Jason Bourne has you covered.

The action throughout Jason Bourne is consistent with this style, blink and you’ll miss it fights and impacts, and strangely blocked scenes that only work to frustrate a viewer trying to just see what the fuck is going on. The big finale in Las Vegas is just oh so very slightly clearer, but still an edit fest requiring you to basically guess where these cars are in relation to one another. It helps that they get stacked on top of each other a few times.

Jason Bourne is one of the more blatant money grab IP extenders of the summer, with no one in front or behind the camera caring about much besides hitting their marks and cashing a check. Tommy Lee Jones might be the most bored and evil character of all time. My man is fucking yawning at one point.

Watchin’ those Oscar pics

February 27, 2016

Last year at the Oscars was unfortunate. You know why. It looks like my dog Iñárritu is looking to pull a twofer, which is about right. Some people fail up in different ways. But enough about Al for a moment. Let’s look at all the competition. It was tough to see everything nominated for best picture but I managed to rally this week. I wanted to watch all the acting nominated films but then I looked at what the films were and I thought “There is no reason to ever watch Trumbo.”


Wooo, Room. This could have gone so wrong but instead goes so very right. Brie Larsen is the favorite to win best actress and she has some showy moments and I see why she’s the favorite but I can’t call it a transcendent performance. It’s good, good work. It isn’t a transformation, which a lot of best actor and actress awards generally go towards (shouts to Charlize Theron), but it isn’t schmaltzy or cloying. Also important for Room, the kid is a good actor. He’s no kid-from-The Babadook but he’s good. Bad child actors will sink your whole operation. No shit, I thought the big twist of this movie would be a reveal that Jack is actually a girl but no, he just never cut his hair while in captivity. So no twist. Sorry twistheads. But why is William H. Macy in this thing? He shows up for a couple scenes, I’m betting on a juicy Bill Macy sequence and then he just never shows up again. Did they cut him for time? Maybe I’ve just been Macy deprived. Props to Sean Bridgers, who with Room and The Woman is one away from a kidnapper/creeper movie character hat trick. You’re a natural, Sean!


Spotlight is drab to look at, but it’s not boring but also maybe it tells the wrong story? Like, I believe that what the Spotlight team did was great and important work, but the dramatization of their quest for the truth is kinda bland. They run into roadblocks and conflicts sure, but nothing cinematic. Any sense of exciting drama is culled from Mark Ruffalo going method tic crazy with his notepads and slouching style, as well as his decision to hold a telephone just like the real guy(so I assume, it isn’t a normal way I would hold a phone)! At one point Ruffalo’s character discovers some particularly damning evidence and he takes a taxi while calling his editor to give him the juicy deets. The filmmakers decide to just show us a what looks to be stock footage of a taxi ambling along through traffic, while Ruffalo’s voice over drops the knowledge. All this did was let me know they didn’t want to strap a camera to the side of a taxi and film Mark inside. Nitpicking, I know! But when the whole thing was over and Rachel McAdams watches her grandma sigh and read and sigh and read the whole messy expose I thought “Isn’t the story what happened to these people that were abused?” And it is! The story that Spotlight wrote is the actual interesting story! But seeming them write it is like, well, seeing someone write something. Like, literally watching them write.


The Martian is a whole lot of fun. It’s like someone watched Gravity and thought, “Needs more jokes!” and that idea actually worked out. For the record, disco is great and this movie knows it. Later period Ridley Scott is kinda unpredictable, eh you guys? This, The Counselor, Exodus, Prometheus, guy seems like he’s just pointing at random, “That seems like a jolly good whatever.”  I hope Matt Damon wins best actor, leans over to shake Leo’s hand and whispers “I never actually went to Mars.”


Brooklynnnnnnnnnnnn, stand up! Nah, it’s not really that interesting. A couple years ago James Gray made The Immigrant, starring Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner and nominee), Joaquin Phoenix (multiple nominee) and Jeremy Renner (he was nominated for The Fucking Town, son!) The Immigrant is a great film, but for a long time I could only be told this, because it’s release had been buried and/or pushed back. When it finally got released it played one theater in town for a week, and it was the shitty Birmingham 8 where old people talk through the whole thing and drop entire pockets of change on the ground during the quiet parts. After I saw it, I thought it’s quality was pretty undeniable and that the Academy Awards would latch onto it’s sad but honest story and performances and give it, if not a win, at least a nomination. But it was ignored there as well, and maybe the fix was in, because Brooklyn is basically the Sesame Street version of The Immigrant. Where in The Immigrant countless horrors and setbacks plague Cotillard’s character as she attempts to enter the country and then make a life for herself, being forced into a burlesque show and prostitution, Saoirse Ronan’s Eilis in Brooklyn faces the minor inconveniences of bitchy roommates and being in love with someone who adores baseball. What little conflict this movie presents is so quickly brushed away that the whole thing seems like an overlong trifle. Maybe I shouldn’t even bring up The Immigrant but that movie felt like a true expression by an artist. Brooklyn might as well be a painting in a dentist’s office.


The Big Short is bleak. Incredibly bleak. Popping along like a comedy with fourth wall breaking and zippy dialogue it might even be misconstrued as a comedy but the second half is so dire and hopeless that I’m surprised they didn’t just suck all of the color out of the images. But I liked it! It’s great! This is the kind of Steve Carell dramatic performance that I can get behind, just all screaming and pissy. When Gosling describes his angry face as “the bad guy in Dune” I wanted to applaud. Christian Bale is doing his weirdo ugly thing here: glass eye, weird teeth, bad hair, no social skills. In typical Bale fashion it’s pretty lived in, but by it’s nature he wasn’t my favorite character(I did like when he cranked Mastodon, that was great). The Big Short also works as a corrective to all my problems with Spotlight. Here is an event I am familiar with, presented from an interesting angle, well acted, but with cinematic style and flavor. We’re making movies, baby! Live it up!


Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. This is just a fact. Bridge of Spies is one of the late career films that people instantly underrate because it isn’t a big special effects picture and because it has a wonderful script. At least, these are the only reasons I can figure that people would say Bridge of Spies is a “minor work”. So yeah, minor work Spielberg gets a best picture nomination but no director because Tom Hanks didn’t actually freeze in Berlin. This is top level Hanks here. The plane crash sequence! And this script! It’s so great! Of course it’s co-written by the Coen Brothers! I really loved this movie, and it deserves to be seen by everyone forever.


What is left to say about The Revenant? Obviously it stinks and sucks, but why is it also the favorite to win all the Oscars? I think the reasons it stinks and sucks are also the reasons it will win. There is a solid premise here. A man left for dead comes back for vengeance? Great premise! Fight against the elements? Getting hotter! But it is how the movie is about these things that sinks it. Iñárritu can’t let a single image pass without reminding you that he was there too. So the grit and grime that this kind of picture needs is removed for admittedly beautiful pans and technically impressive one takes that are smooth when they should be the complete opposite. The script is abysmal, with no effort done to make anyone a real, three dimensional character. Tom Hardy comes closest, but that’s because he’s the only actor performing. Leonardo Dicaprio is a really good actor who I have loved in many many films and who I loathed for every second of screen time. Who is his Hugh Glass really? We never spend enough time with him to get a sense of what type of guy he really is, and the flashbacks are pseudo artful backstory filler that signify nothing. Tom Hardy’s character is right about him too! Hugh Glass definitely lead to the slaughter at the opening, his going off provoked the bear, and he was definitely slowing them down. I listened to a podcast where a couple guys enthused at length about The Revenant, with one guy exclaiming “This actually happened!” over and over again. Having read up on the story this is based on, they actually took a might be bullshit survival story and made it worse. There is no dead son, he doesn’t kill the guys when he finds them, and there is no rape scene. They added all that! They sat down and said “This story of survival needs only female characters that are either dead or a raped. Ok, print it out. Lets get some sandwiches.”  Still, Birdman is worse.

mad max

Mad Max Fury Road is too good for the Oscars. Straight up. It either wins everything it is nominated for or it shouldn’t have been nominated at all. I’ve watched it twice, and both times it felt like a miracle. Furiousa’s “Remember me” is an all time, bad ass hall of fame ownage moment. Hope they include that in the clip package.



Favorite Movies of 2015

February 15, 2016

I didn’t see everything that came out in 2015, so it is entirely possible that in a year’s time when I eventually get caught up this list would be completely changed. But that’s my problem, not yours.

The Best


1) Mad Max Fury Road:  Fury Road tells a story with glances and actions. It might be the best film in the genre, maybe even the best of all time. I’ve seen it twice and both times I felt like I was watching some kind of miracle. Charlize Theron says it all with her eyes, Tom Hardy says it with “It’s not my blood.”


2) Magic Mike XXL: A tale of a bunch of friends going on a road trip and having the best time as they meet people, have parties, and try to be their best selves. Channing Tatum is in his natural element, being charming and dancing. The workshop dance to “Pony” is an obvious tip of the hat to Fred Astaire, and the final sequence at the convention is one of the great finales, with an incredible build and payoff. Magic Mike XXL is more fun than we deserve.


3) Furious 7: 

It could have all gone wrong but it all went so right. Despite all the setbacks and tragedy, Furious 7 is a wonder to behold, incredible action cinema, and it has Jason Statham fighting The Rock AND Vin Diesel. The franchise peak, at least until the next one.


4) The Hateful Eight: I liked how everyone is actually, truly, totally hateful in a real awful, genuine way. I had a friend message me just disgusted by the Sam Jackson sequence involving the son of the old Confederate soldier and he was kinda right, it is a little homophobic and cruel. But that is the point! Up to that moment in the film, we have no reason to dislike Jackson’s character, but then there we are, confronted with the terrible ugliness. And it only gets worse.


5) Creed: Rocky Balboa’s Philadelphia is a vivid and real place, established over 6 films spanning over 30 years. Creed inserts itself effortlessly into this world, knows the rhythms and the people and just exists, like a stunning slice of life piece as well as a boxing movie. This one plays in such a way that I could be convinced that these characters are actually out there, living their lives and having this human adventures right now. The training montage ending with the street bikes is an all timer.


6) It Follows: The creepiness of this film is unmatched. Arguments about whether it follows it’s own rules seems like it is beside the point, since I am all in on the mood. The panning shots of nothing that might not be nothing but maybe they’re nothing and I’m just paranoid, that is the type of thing you can’t fake.


7) The Martian: No, it’s true, this movie is hilarious.


8) Knock Knock: McCarty and I love Keanu Reeves more than most people, maybe all people, besides his parents and close friends. But this one looked like an MRA fantasy come to life. And it kinda is! But it’s also Eli Roth’s best movie, with actual tension from frame one, through the “chess match” sequence, culminating in probably the best single scene of Keanu Reeves’ career. If you’re a Keanuhead, this is a must see.


9) Blackhat: I recently showed Blackhat to my wife, and she kept saying “This is so Michael Mann.” And it is. Michael Mann has reached a point, probably since Miami Vice in 06, where he isn’t interested in anything except gleaming surfaces, serious men, and his take on “realism”. The behind the scenes feature on the Blu ray has actors talking about reams of backstory and multiple takes on neck stabs to make sure they’re done right. Mann is so concerned about the details because somebody better be.


10) Unfriended: This movie is stunning. Creating tension from being unable to delete a .avi file? The unease of a blinking cursor? This movie does it. I go to the movies to see things I’ve never seen before, and I had never seen anything like this. We’ll be talking about Unfriended for a long time.


11) Chi-raq: I think Spike Lee doesn’t have filter and he just goes for broke and it can be particularly polarizing. But this worked for me, as allegory and as a simple tone poem.


12) The Diary of a Teenage Girl: This level of honesty and truth in film isn’t normally allowed so for most of this film it felt like a miracle. Obviously, everyone should see it.


13) Bone Tomahawk: Kill of the year.


14) Wild Card: Jason Statham plays a compulsive gambler and tough guy investigator that people know can be trusted to help them out in a jam. He can also kill a group of people with just a spoon. The big spoon kill finale is of course superb but the gambling breakdown sequence shows that Statham has more range than people give him credit for.


15) Ex Machina: Oscar Isaac is a gift to cinema and he’s never been bad in anything. He literally elevates this whole movie to essential viewing.


16) Mission Impossible Rogue Nation: LOOK AT THAT SCREEN SHOT!


17) Kingsman: The Secret Service: Church sequence obviously, but Colin Firth needs extra notice for not slumming it up and actually giving a shit in this wacky comic book movie. But yeah, that church sequence fucked the game up.


18) The Gift: The ending is so cruel and awful. Who knew you could still drop something like this in the summertime? Jason Bateman finally achieves his scumbag calling.


19) What We Do In The Shadows: Werewolves not swearwolves, the hypnotized police officers finding safety violations, the lovable Stu. And other funny parts that are better just being experienced.


20) Clouds of Sils Maria: Kristen Stewart is great in this, because she actually holds her own against Juliette Binoche. The Primal Scream “Vanishing Point” sequence is very visceral and true.

The Worst


Jupiter Ascending: A folly on a scale rarely seen. Miscast and overwrought to the point of tedium. Gets pretty much everything wrong. Eddie Redmayne is one of the worst to ever do it. Of course he has an Oscar.


Jurassic WorldPandering horseshit. Dull and derivative, probably the most pointless sequel ever made…


Terminator Genisys: Except for this one. Tries to not only ripoff the original films but also retcon them out of of existence. Just another in the long list of crimes committed by Jai Courtney.


The RevenantFor all of it’s flaws as an adventure tale: too boring, too clean looking, the overshadowing Leo torture narrative, the final shot of this film is what truly sinks it for me. Only a director like Iñárritu would indulge an actor’s ego like that. It’ll probably pay off too. A shame.

Future Film that Time Forgot


We Are Your Friends: Zac Efron’s instantly dated and woe-begotten EDM film doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be, jumping from bro-down farce to romantic drama back around to message movie on Life Right Now, with a music making montage that doesn’t tell us much about how electronic music is really made. Somewhere there is an interminable 3 hour cut where Efron’s bro posse gets the full subplot they demand(but don’t need) and Wes Bentley’s alcoholic guru either gets help or a proper comeuppance. At least it has the decency to end with the characters basically back where they started, as failed actors, wanna be door men, and in Emily Ratajkowski’s case, late for school on the first day of class. Girl, you’re never gonna get that degree.

Jurassic World

June 22, 2015

Jurassic World

Jurassic World is another mediocre addition to a franchise that is mostly mediocre additions. The worst film in the franchise, Jurassic World doesn’t have any of the original cast, the action is serviceable at best, the sexual politics are abhorrent and retrograde, and the whole thing falls apart if you think about it at all. You literally cannot think about the simple events and actions that occur in Jurassic World without remarking that it is so stupid that it might actually be insulting. Should we be insulted? For all of the riffs and references that pack it’s running time, the filmmakers did not take any of the lessons on tension and release that the first Jurassic Park contained in spades. That is because Jurassic World is busy busy busy. So busy that it doesn’t have time to even be scary. Or have awe for dinosaurs. Characters and dinosaurs know how to do what they do and appear where they appear on the whim of the script, storytelling be damned. At one point someone says to the annoying little kid in the film, “Aren’t you supposed to be a genius?” Who called this kid a genius? His behavior indicates he’s a fucking moron, so I guess his genius moment was cut for time. Raptors are proven to be dangerous and untrainable, but then trainable, but also untrustworthy, but then loyal to the very end. So I guess raptors contain multitudes. Vincent D’Onofrio is a bad guy because he gets in arguments with Chris Pratt, who we know is a good guy because he treats raptors with respect. D’Onofrio’s bad guy plan doesn’t really make sense and at one point he stands on a ledge and looks at everyone being attacked by pterodactyls and smiles. Why does he smile? Nothing he has done indicates that he wants people to die. Does he smile because they needed cinematic shorthand to say “This guy is bad” and couldn’t actually write it into his actions or dialogue? That seems more likely. You may have heard that a minor character is viciously killed during the third act of the film. You guys, this is the most incredible overkill I have seen in a long time. This is the Jurassic Park version of Steven Seagal breaking a guy’s back, gouging out his eyes and throwing him down an elevator shaft. It is disgusting and vile and easily the best part of the movie.

There is one interesting aspect to Jurassic World and that is the strange behavior of the teenage lead character Zach. Zach is your typical dejected and angst filled teen who is being forced to leave his snowy home at Christmas and go to Jurassic World with his dumb brother. We meet him as his girlfriend says goodbye to him out in front of his house. It starts like a tender moment in the first wide shot but when the camera closes in on the actor’s faces you can see that the actress playing the girlfriend is smiling and happy while Zach looks bored and over it. Is he planning to break up with his girlfriend? Is he just a bad actor and unsure how to play the scene? Perhaps they shot the scene a couple of ways and then just fit together the “best” takes? The dad in the scene plays his line like he is breaking up two lovey dovey teens but Zach clearly gives no fucks and is ready to go. Later, Zach is shown briefly starring at a photo his girlfriend has sent of herself holding a sign that says “I Miss U!” Zach’s face doesn’t convey anything in regards to whether he misses her back. But! While waiting in line for the gyroscope ride, Zach makes eye contact with a group of teen girls. They look at Zach and smile and he regards them with confusion. Zach’s face isn’t its usual sullen sag but he seems like he is regarding these girls with a strange detached curiosity, not arousal or lust but something closer to analytical. It is at this moment that his little brother remarks, “You need to actually talk to them, not just stare.” Now, we have firmly established that Zach has a girlfriend back home. It could be he acted dejected around his girlfriend because she is the alpha in the relationship and essentially instigated their union and Zach isn’t sure how to break it off. Or, Zach is aware of his parent’s crumbling relationship and impending divorce (the divorce subplot is there to get the kids to Jurassic World and then it is dropped and never resolved) and he is wondering if only heartbreak awaits him as well. OR, my third theory, Zach is gay. Hear me out.

I have heard firsthand from many gay men that their first relationships in high school were with girls and that even in some cases they had sex with girls before realizing or fully facing their sexual preference for men. Zach has taken on a girlfriend in his cold, snowy midwestern town because that is what you do as a straight teenager. But he doesn’t have any particular feelings toward this girl and he is not sure he even wants to have any feelings for her. When she sends him photos saying how much she misses him, Zach can only reflect that the feeling isn’t mutual. When he sees the girls in line at the park, Zach looks at them hard, trying to will any sort of attraction or feeling for these girls and finds nothing. Yet, the first time Zach breaks from his mopey vibe (besides when his trying not to die while being pursued by dinosaurs) is when he meets Owen, played by Chris Pratt. Zach calls Owen “awesome”, and says he will follow this big, sweaty alpha anywhere he says to go. Of course, like all other subplots in Jurassic World, it is underwritten and never fully explained. I’m pretty sure he’s gay.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 2, 2015


We are stuck in a perpetual middle. Never moving forward, always taking glimpses of what will be, and never savoring what simply is. Avengers: Age of Ultron follows up last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier by providing incident without resolution because something else has to happen. Still. The end is the beginning. Again and again.

We can argue that the comic book films of the past failed to accurately capture the looks and names and powers of their comic book counterparts, but they managed to be complete works. There is something endearing about just making one movie with all the gusto of “This might be our only shot!” Now that the Marvel films are a self perpetuating success, they can function as an infinite string of incidents, forever building, teasing at a climax that might come someday. Yet, for all of their clues and easter eggs, these films are all made with little need for backstory. Age of Ultron gives little reference to past films beyond an Iron Man hissy fit and some mumbled asides between The Falcon and Captain America, but you’d never know that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by a secret Nazi sub group and it doesn’t even really matter. The end of The Winter Soldier had all of the Helicarriers destroyed or decommissioned and Nick Fury going into hiding. Yet here is Nick Fury, in a helicarrier, saying something about “it was in storage”.

Age of Ultron is in such a hurry to cram incident and character and charm and hints of what is to come that it never catches it’s breath, which is incredible since it’s a two and a half hour movie. The action never settles enough to give much beyond a brief “whoa” before we’re cutting to something else, because there is always something else. In the first five minutes the movie is already hinting at movies three or four years out. Movies that haven’t even been made. I don’t know if we’ve hit the nadir of special effects but everything here looked great yet fake at the same time. There isn’t a single “how did they do that?” moment because the answer is obviously “computers”. Furious 7 isn’t a paragon of reality either but it has it’s toe just slightly dipped in reality so when characters drive their cars off cliffs and out of planes and through buildings it still has an awe to it. Everything moves so fast in AoU that you can’t focus on anything anyway so there isn’t much to want to analyze. Sure, some of it was neat. I’m not a monster.

Moments that are placed for “charm” and “character” deserve the quotation marks because they feel like window dressing at this point. Tony Stark’s charm and smarm, Thor’s god mixing with mortals vibe, Captain America’s man out of time, these are all given their expected lip service but it is perfunctory and stale. Director Joss Whedon has mentioned numerous times in the press that he couldn’t do another one of these movies because he is exhausted, and I can feel that exhaustion. Every quip is labored, like Whedon is screaming “Who cares anymore?” When the characters take time away from conflict to have some conversations and regroup, the film comes to an abrupt halt so everyone can have over-before-they-started debates about what to do next. We know the Avengers aren’t going to give up and it’s frankly boring as shit to have everyone hem and haw around someone’s house. This movie didn’t need to be any longer and yet here we are watching Iron Man and Captain America chop fucking wood! Then Nick Fury appears from behind a pile of haystacks and I thought “Oh good, something might happen.” but Fury just has more speechifying to add to the pile. These scenes all play better than they should because this cast is stacked with A-List top notch talent, but seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo together on screen just reminds you that you could just watch Zodiac again.

One of the big complaints that will forever plague Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is that it doesn’t have enough scenes(or perhaps any) of Superman rescuing people. Much ink and hand wringing was dealt out lamenting this fact, even though no one actually died because it’s a movie. Sure you could take it as a betrayal of the character, that Superman should be shown saving people. Marvel Studios is in no danger of this kind of backlash because Avengers: Age of Ultron has many many many scenes of people being evacuated. Onto flying evacuation pods, every fake life is spared. While these scenes are there to make the film feel “real” they are repetitive and frankly un-cinematic. It’s a pretty good bet that Snyder probably had some evacuation scenes in the Man of Steel script and he said, “That is some boring shit, cut it and let’s have more collapsing buildings.” No one told him no because Warner Brothers is out of their fucking minds.The first Iron Man felt audacious even if it’s audacity was an accident and has since been subsumed by the franchise, like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.  Iron Man 3 came closest to recapturing that spirit, and in the process made some comic fans very angry. Which is good! A film that gets the blood up! Age of Ultron is perfected to offend no one. But I digress. If you want to see people being loaded into vehicles to be flown to safety, Age of Ultron is your bag.

Avengers: Age of Ultron ends with a shrug, with characters leaving nonchalantly and new characters walking in immediately to take their place. The adventures continue but so what? Back to the perpetual middle.

The Academy Awards didn’t nominate The Raid 2

February 22, 2015


Last year I found myself in the surprising position of having viewed most of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards through my own free will, lured only by their marketing campaigns and my general interest. This year when the Academy dropped their nominations I hadn’t even seen half of their choices because the Academy is always fucking up. But I rallied and I watched every damn one of these movies. None is better than The Raid 2. Even the worst of these wasn’t as bad as Jupiter Ascending.

"I just took the most incredible nap."

“I just took the most incredible nap.”

Is Clint Eastwood lazy or incompetent? I ask this since I don’t know myself, and maybe someone who has worked on his films in the last ten years can educate me. American Sniper neither enraged me nor challenged me to think, and instead joined the long list of late era Clint Eastwood directing jobs where the camera just gets propped up in the corner and the acting is wooden and indifferent. Bradley Cooper is actually pretty good but he’s surrounded by a bunch of nothing. The action scenes have no rhythm or intensity and feel half speed. The supporting cast is Gran Torino level skilled, so you have scenes where a soldier learns one of his buddies was killed and he bellows “Fuck!” the same way you or I would when you forgot to buy pretzel bread at the store and have to use regular bread for your sandwiches for lunch all week. I’ve made some noise online about the fake baby in this movie and it fits with the laziness of everything else. There is a baby whine placed over every scene with the infant but it’s so haphazardly applied to the soundtrack that it only draws attention to this fake fake baby. Most importantly, Eastwood doesn’t even make the disgusting, rah rah America “God I love the military” movie that so many places have made this movie out to be. Cooper’s Chris Kyle is clearly tormented by the horrors of war and has some PTSD but he doesn’t at all seem excited to be killing anyone. Instead it just becomes a rotation of Kyle going war, coming back, going back to war, again and again. It’s like the second half of The Hurt Locker, which is the part that no one likes of The Hurt Locker. The best part of the whole movie is when we see that the enemy sniper who has been gunning down American soldiers spends his free time SPINNING BULLETS ON HIS KITCHEN TABLE. This movie couldn have used more of that bullshit.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN'T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN’T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

I have been more than forthcoming with my thoughts on Birdman. It’s pretentious and masturbatory, it attacks low hanging fruit and strawmen, and it isn’t even funny. People have told me that it isn’t supposed to be funny but tell that to all the marketing that says it’s comedy. I will admit that after sitting through some of these other stinkers, at least Birdman is attempting to be visually compelling, even if that very attempt is another misfire.


Boyhood is wonderful film. Beyond not feeling like a stunt it nails the way that our parents can mold us and influence us and try to make us good people but we still become who we are all on our own. I know my dad didn’t intend for me to write snarky shit about movies online but here we are.


The Grand Budapest Hotel is another fine Wes Anderson production and his first best picture nomination because it references World War 2. It also has the saddest ending of an Anderson film, unless you count the sadness you feel after sitting through Darjeeling Limited and thinking “They literally threw the metaphor off the back of the train? Fuckkkkkk thissssss.”

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That's what this means. Heavy.

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That’s what this means. Heavy.

Listen, actors got tricks and skills and some guys can do a lot and some guys can do a couple things. But after sitting through The Imitation Game I dunno if Benedict Cumberbatch has that much to offer us as an actor. I’d love to see this guy not play an introverted genius with bad social skills. Imagine him playing a party planner who gets along with everyone? I’m gonna say it, BC needs to do a romantic comedy where him and Jennifer Garner don’t get along but keep meeting on transatlantic flights and arguing over who gets the aisle seat. The rest of The Imitation Game is standard biopic business, and considering it comes from the guy who did Headhunters, it is a total disappointment. It’s the kind of movie that social studies teachers will make the class watch on half days.


I was genuinely moved by Selma. By focusing on one particular moment in history instead of trying to summarize a historical figure’s entire life, Selma manages to create nuance and suspense around a well known event in the cause of civil rights and make Martin Luther King Jr. a real guy and not some awards beacon. David Oyelowo’s performance is perfectly level, playing a man instead of icon. He felt like a real guy who was trying to figure all this shit out and genuinely worrying about failing. Also, despite having Common in a prominent role, this movie is great. First time for everything!

"Swing me while you can, Stephen!"

“Swing me while you can, Stephen!”

I’m going to repeat a joke I made about The Theory of Everything right after I watched it the other day: “We all know that Stephen Hawking is more than his disease. What this movie presupposes is, what if he isn’t?” Theory is as Oscarbaity as they come. Even more than The Imitation GameThe Theory of Everything will become a threat amongst tenth grade English teachers and their students. “If this class doesn’t behave I’ll make you sit through that Stephen Hawking movie.” “No, teacher! We promise to behave. Please give us a test!” Theory of Everything has two(!) scenes where we watch someone stock a bookstore window with copies of Stephen Hawking’s new book. What is the book about? Who cares? Stephen Hawking still has a working dick! That is the lesson of this movie as Hawking’s wife says “Look what we did” as their three children run around a fountain. I’ve never even heard of Stephen Hawking’s kids! I do know that he’s been on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation which this movie never mentions because it is too busy being lame as fuck. Also Eddie Redmayne should be in movie jail for Jupiter Ascending, not up for awards. Get your head out of your ass, Academy.


Whiplash is fire, is flames, is greatness. J.K. Simmons is a monster and his monstrousness consumes Miles Teller to the point where instead of being repulsed by the monster he wants to be him. Still the greatest finale of any of the nominees and the best delivery of “Fuck you.” in cinema for the year 2014.

It doesn’t matter who wins this year, just like it didn’t matter last year. SPRING BREAK FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.


January 19, 2015


Michael Mann is an old legend who has come to the point in his career where he is just making reiterations of the same themes that run through most of his prime work, with varying degrees of success.With Blackhat Michael Mann indulges and takes his love and fascination for criminals who are excellent at their work while showing due diligence to chip away at things like plot and exposition to the point where the movie starts to resemble abstract art pieces intercut with violence, rides on expensive private planes, and vast open spaces for characters to find their thoughts.

The choice to cast Chris Hemsworth as computer hacker Nick Hathaway has already been widely mocked but who else would Michael Mann cast as his avatar this time around? Hathaway is a genius hacker, lethal at hand to hand combat, good with a gun, a giving lover, and a loyal friend. I guess I’m just used to Michael Mann movies at this point that I didn’t even flinch when Hathaway started hiding bladed weapons on his person in preparation for what looks like a suicide mission. Hathaway is such a good guy that even though he went to jail for cybercrime and has a least a pretty healthy disdain for authority, when he’s told later that he has to go back to jail his first reaction is “Sure. Do the crime do the time.” His friends have to actually convince him to be a fugitive. Whattaguy. Hathaway is also the type of guy who has the top two or three buttons on his shirt undone. Always.


Like Miami Vice, Blackhat treats much of it’s dialogue as literal afterthoughts. The sound mix runs in and out, fading up and down. Hathaway starts talking about his father and the sound just trails out. “You get the idea”, says Mann. When the plot sorta kicks in during the second half of the film and the characters start facing real danger it takes you by surprise since so much time has been spent hanging out, flying around, and wandering into nuclear hot zones like it ain’t no thang. Mann actually starts the first big action sequence with everyone being woken up early, wandering around their hideout all bleary eyed like it’s the first day of school and everyone missed the bus. Later Hathaway and his girlfriend spend their time waiting for the bad guy to call them back by spooning in bed and flipping through pictures on their phones. This scene was very real and true.

As with any other Mann film the violence is exquisite, brutal and final. Wall mines fillet unsuspecting police, Hathaway destroys a group of attackers with a bar table and beer bottle, machine gun bullets literally lift people off their feet. Is this the first Michael Mann film to utilize a missile launcher? Please don’t let it be the last. The blade work at the finale is monstrous and efficient, lest we forget that Hathaway is a guy who has done some time.

You have to love that despite a track record of never delivering what people expect (a straight ahead biopic, a television show adaptation), Michael Mann still gets to make the movie he wants to make. Blackhat is a thoroughly un-compromised Michael Mann film and I love it to pieces.


Best of Movies of 2014

December 23, 2014


This was not a hard list to make. In the past I have agonized over these things, moving them around for days and days, fretting over placement. What a waste of time! But this list came easy because I followed my heart.

The Best

1. The Raid 2

Best action, best violence, best payoff, best everything. How can you hype something in your head and it still exceeds your wildest dreams? The answer is The Raid 2. I think I’ve covered everything I love about this movie in various other places or if you’ve ever met me in person but let me just reiterate that nothing is beating this bad boy for a long time. The bar has been raised. Never forget that at the U.S. premiere someone had a seizure and they had to stop the movie. The Raid 2 is so good it might kill you.

2. The Guest


I loved how they kept showing you that David is a bad guy but then have him do something cool as hell, like intimidate a high school principal or casually smash a guy’s head into the wall and then fuck that dude’s girlfriend. “This guy is bad, right? So why does he rule?” The grenade toss is highlight reel hall of fame shit and put it in the Smithsonian.

3. Whiplash


There is a moment about 3/4’s the way through that a few people say is too over the top and throws the movie into some crazy realm. And definitely when that scene happens the first thought is “Whoa movie! You are getting crazy! Settle down, baby.” But then Miles Teller tries to play the drums while covered in blood and I got it, it worked. The movie is all about playing till you bleed and about playing so well while mouthing “Fuck you” to your archenemy. The best archenemies are the ones who might be your friend but then turn on you but you could almost be each other. Dr Doom and Reed Richards, Wolverine and Sabretooth, heck DeNiro and Pacino in HeatWhiplash even has it’s own version of the restaurant scene!

4. John Wick


Keanu Reeves is a national treasure and a legend. The Matrix, Point Break, Speed, classic status. His legend is secure, he directed The Man of Tai Chi and fucking crushed it, and still he made head shot masterpiece John Wick because he wants you to know that he is still a legend who will barrel roll and pop you in your right eye.

5. Blue Ruin


Everything goes wrong in Blue Ruin and just keeps going wrong for a while and never really goes right. It’s sad but also hilarious, like when a character gets shot with an arrow and tries to remove it like DeNiro in Ronin and then realizes fuck it and goes to the hospital.

6. Nightcrawler


Jake Gyllenhaal is a fucking creeeeeeeep in this movie. Also I believe that the person he plays is very real and true.

7. Edge of Tomorrow

edge of tomorrow tom cruise

Tom Cruise in a mech suit fighting aliens. NO CONTEST CLASSIC STATUS.

8. Snowpiercer


I like how people watched this movie and said things like “That train didn’t make sense, where did the rich people sleep?” What is it like to be dead inside? Bong Joon-Ho has about 5 classic set pieces here, the classroom being the most obvious but that ax fight is goddamn poetic. This is also the film I get the most texts about, after The Raid 2. “Did you see Snowpiercer, Lorin? Seems like your thing.” You are correct, everyone. Awesome movies are indeed my thing.

9. Only Lovers Left Alive


Literally two vampires spooning and playing shoegaze. Masterpiece.

10. Under The Skin


Scarlett Johansson lures men into her van and then rips their guts out and leaves just the skin. This was really good.

Honorable mentions

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Wasn’t that ending like the saddest fucking thing?





USA Today keeping readers informed about Arnold shooting people in the spine.

USA Today keeping readers informed about Arnold shooting people in the spine.

Goriest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ever made. At one point they’re just stapling people to the ceiling and shoving main characters into fridges. INSANE.


300: Rise of an Empire, Hercules, Pompeii


These movies had no obligation to be any good and yet they were all wonderful romps. Pompeii is a John Snow and Mr. Echo team up movie against Jack Bauer! 300 Part 2 is a prequel, sequel and sidequal all at the exact same time. Eva Green shoots a flaming arrow into a monster which causes a domino effect explosion and she just turns and walks away like, “This is what I do.” And Hercules had The Rock casually murdering dudes as one does.

Worst Movies



I’ve gone on the record.

They Came Together


I think I hate David Wain movies.



Every defense of this movie is verbal gymnastics trying to say boring is not boring.

Need For Speed


Everyone is embarrassed and sad about being involved. Also people keep getting out of their cars and not racing! Get back in your car!


November 12, 2014


Why is it that any piece of media that attempts to exult art just ends up a total garbage heap? Never trust a movie that gives itself a standing ovation. Birdman might be the worst film of the year. It’s pretentious, overlong, and witless. It contains merely character sketches portrayed by numerous humans with mouths that spit words. Words, such meaningless things. I say that not because I devalue the dialogue or the written word, but for what Birdman tells me. Characters talk and walk and the soundtrack booms an incessant drum beat, never building to a groove, just hanging there as noise. Characters are angry and dejected and betrayed and surprised and saddened and bewildered but who are they? Who are these people? Why should I care about them? The camera moves with confidence and it all looks great I guess but why do I care? Sure I like Michael Keaton, but I like him in movies where he has something to do. Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu is merely using Keaton as a vehicle for his own pity parade. Iñárritu is an artist! He’s working over here! You wouldn’t understand, critic!

Birdman loves low hanging fruit. Superhero movies take some obvious hits because superheroes are so stupid, right you guys? Not like this movie that uses superheroes as the hook to get you to see it and even has a superhero sequence with tanks and monsters and the main character flying around the city. But yeah, fuck superhero movies.

I’m going to share a tidbit from the IMDB trivia page:

“According to Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Inarritu told Nichols of his plan for how he was going to shoot the movie as one long take. Nichols predicted it would be a disaster because not having the ability to use cuts in editing would inhibit the opportunities for comedy. Inarritu said the meeting didn’t deter him, but was instead helpful in raising his awareness level of the difficulty of what he was about to do.”

Mike Nichols told you, Alejandro! Iñárritu’s style meshes with comedy like oil and water. Or critics and artists!(amirite Al?) I can only figure that Iñárritu shot it that way because otherwise what would there to be to talk about? I read a guy on Letterboxd calling Birdman brilliant and then just typing “Camerawork!” in all caps. Dude, I know. They used a camera. So did every other movie ever made. Ask around, I’m a sucker for a good long take, but generally they serve a purpose. Iñárritu did it for no apparent reason except that it made his movie really hard to make for all involved. Nothing makes great comedy like stringent rules!

If I have to say something nice about the movie it’s that Edward Norton is pretty great. I’ve read that he is playing a parody of himself but how do we really know? I’m no Hollywood insider! He also gets some really bad lines in a scene with Emma Stone that Stone’s character calls out as bad writing but as my dude Justin Muschong would say, “Just because you point out the shitty thing you did doesn’t mean it still isn’t shitty.” Paraphrasing.

Bless your heart, Naomi Watts. Even after the forced nude scene in 21 Grams you still show up to work for this guy. Watts joins Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough as one of the women in Keaton’s life who is there to love him and deride him. He’s a shitty father, a terrible husband, and a bad boyfriend. But you know what, even though he doesn’t really change, they still give em a little smile at the end. Riseborough even has a miscarriage and then turns into a lesbian with Naomi Watts. This has no precedent, except maybe Iñárritu yelling off camera “Why don’t you ladies kiss now? That’s what women do when they’re alone together, right?” Amy Ryan is one of our finest actresses but she is reduced to sighing (ex)wife here. Emma Stone has a monologue where she yells at Keaton about how old and irrelevant he is and then she just walks out of the room, leaving Keaton to fiddle with a joint for an extremely long period of time, probably because they couldn’t cut to a new scene because our boy Iñárritu is already married to this continuous one take style. Stone later warms to her dad because he’s the star of viral video that gets 300,000 views. (Birdman is the kind of movie that talks about things like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter from the point of view of someone who has heard of them but never used them. 300,000 views is not that impressive. Too Many Cooks has over a million!)

Any jokes are either obvious or dead on arrival. There is a scene where Norton and Keaton are wrestling on the ground and Norton is wearing nothing but briefs. So wild! Scenes like this always remind me that a director told them to do this stupid shit and they said yes without hesitation. Keaton later gets stuck walking through Times Square in just his underwear and I guess I should be impressed that it is a long take? The whole movie is a long take! This isn’t impressive anymore. The bloom is off the rose. Also, they film movies everywhere. You can’t just film in Times Square and expect me to stand and applaud. You know who else filmed in Times Square? Total Request Live. And they did that shit every day for years!

Birdman isn’t funny ultimately because Iñárritu came with an axe to grind. If he was simply telling a tale of wild times behind the scenes, well, he might have carried it off. But instead wants to tell us he is An Artist and that critics are Lazy. Michael Keaton’s critic rant is easily the most embarrassing moment in film in 2014. Critics don’t have any power, Al! Just ask Michael Bay and his pile of money! Having the critic say she is going to pan Keaton’s show without even seeing it is the stuff of dreams. Lots of laughs over here.

Has anyone talked about the fact that the play within the movie is not very good? The costumes are shabby, the characters never block towards the audience so someone always has their back to the crowd. “We didn’t pay good money to look at your ass, sweetheart!”

I really wish someone could make a really great film about the behind the scenes of show business. OH WAIT someone did it was Robert Altman it’s called The Player it’s a masterpiece. It even has a long take at the beginning if you want to watch it and need to type out “Camera work!” in your Letterboxd review.

Anything is Possible: Thoughts on The Raid 2

July 19, 2014


It has taken me a moment to write down the thoughts, emotions, the sense of truth and purpose that comes from The Raid 2. Since it’s release on March 28th I have felt great elation as words of joy and excitement filled my social media timelines, text messages, and phone calls. The Raid 2 is love.

The Raid 2 fucked the game up for everybody. I don’t just mean in the way that Gareth Evans made a sprawling 2 hour plus crime/action movie hybrid for four million dollars that looks and sounds better than every big budget action blockbuster this year. The moment that fucked the game up, that fucked my mind up, is when Kenichi Endo’s character Goto says, “Anything is possible.” Sure, he is referring to criminal machinations being unfurled around him, but Evans holds the shot on Endo and lets the line linger in the air. This is a mission statement, a call to arms. The Raid 2 is proof that you can do anything. Every action sequence has a breathless chant of “This is happening this is happening this is really happening” running underneath it. Long take battles in a nightclub that spill out into snow covered alleys. The camera floating above the jail yard as prisoners fight to the death covered in mud. A woman who kills a whole subway car full of thugs with two claw hammers. The camera traveling effortlessly through a vehicle during a car chase. But on top of what “Anything is possible” means to The Raid 2 I keep thinking what it means to me as a human being, a person trying to exist as a creative person. I perform improv, which has it’s champions and critics, much like any other art form, and “Anything is possible” is true for any improvised scene. There are no limits, no settings, no rules. You decide your destiny. When Goto said it, I felt a kinship and a bond with the film and with true creative people everywhere. We can do whatever we want!

Going back to The Raid 2 as a film, all of it would be for naught if I didn’t care about the characters. And I do! Obviously Rama is the guy I care about over everything, he’s just a good guy in a bad situation who happens to be just better at fighting than anyone on planet Earth. Still, there’s only one of him and a shit-ton of bad guys. I care about Bangun, the world’s most sensible crime lord. He knows when to kill a guy and when to take the high road and not leave a mountain of bodies. It still doesn’t work out great for him but his sensibility rang true. A character like Uco is inherently unsympathetic but Arifin Putra’s performance is such that his sadness and ultimate betrayal are given time to well and grow so that when he decides to gun down his father, the scene has weight and it means something. Even when the characters are only small sketches, like Hammer Girl and the Bat Guy and the guy who just looks tough and leaves your body in a field, their characters are illustrated with small wordless details that say more than a ream of exposition. On a very base level, my feelings on The Raid 2 are purely “Holy fucking hell that guy just had his face blown OFF!” But I also cherish moments when Bangun realizes his son’s treachery or when Uco faces himself in the mirror after murdering his father. That show of emotion and betrayal wouldn’t mean shit if Evans hadn’t laid the groundwork. Also the car chase. And the kitchen fight. And the porn den battle. And on and on. The Raid 2 is everything.