Tag Archives: film review

Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It’s received wisdom that people don’t go to the movies en masse over Labor Day weekend, especially not the way they flock to theaters over Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it’s true that back-to-school concerns eclipse interest in going out to movie theaters (although looming classroom time doesn’t seem like it has much effect on any other weekend), but it’s more true that studios and distributors lean right in to the notion that no one wants to see anything but last month’s leftovers, sometimes opting not to properly release movies even when they have movies to release. This year sees the release of two modest but satisfying genre-based pleasures that their respective studios aren’t just keeping audiences from seeing (through limited releases); they’re also keeping them from hearing much about them through press embargos that don’t lift until the movies are practically in theaters.
Continue reading Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud

The Happytime Murders: Kid Stuff for Adults

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

An early pilot for The Muppet Show was subtitled Sex & Violence. This title was not included when Jim Henson’s puppet variety show became a star-studded five-season sensation in international syndication, and in general The Muppet Show proceeded as something families could watch together. A toddler could comfortably watch most of the show’s segments; many have, and will. But the reason toddlers might still watch The Muppet Show is because it has long appealed to adults, both now (when those adults may have nostalgic memories of watching it as children) and when it aired (when a show would need more than just some children’s eyeballs to become a five-season international-syndication sensation).

At the risk of sounding like that guy, the notion of affable and adorable puppets doing comedy for adults is not counter to the Muppets; in a large part, it is the Muppets. Granted, the Muppets never indulged in salty language or explicit sex scenes. But if the supposed incongruity of those actions constitute a cheap laugh, what kind of laugh is a puppet pig karate-chopping a puppet frog? Isn’t funny in part because the pig puppet is acting like an angry human? And isn’t there an enormous cult of appreciation around Team America: World Police in part because it does feature puppets doing things we don’t expect puppets to do?
Continue reading The Happytime Murders: Kid Stuff for Adults

Crazy Rich Asians would have been a hell of a musical

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

A major reason that Crazy Rich Asians is a landmark is right up there on screen – it’s a big studio production made almost entirely with Asian and Asian-American performers, and before you even get to the many individual charms of those actors, there’s real distinction in watching an American movie without any white people in it, something that hopefully can become less rare in the coming years. But the movie is a big deal for representation behind the camera, too: It’s a dip into the romantic comedy and family drama genres from the talented and versatile Jon M. Chu, an Asian-American director whose career has so far included an unusual number of sequel jobs, as he was sent in to continue Step Up (with parts 2 and 3), G.I. Joe (part 2), and Now You See Me (part 2, and he’s attached to part 3). More often than not, he leaves a franchise in better shape than he found it; here he has the chance to start his own.
Continue reading Crazy Rich Asians would have been a hell of a musical

The Odyssey: Damsel and Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

About halfway through Damsel, maybe a little earlier, maybe much earlier if you’re looking for it, Robert Pattinson, who has been playing the lead role, turns out to be less heroic than you might have assumed, and certainly less heroic than his character has made himself out to be so far. This might constitute a spoiler if I was more specific, or if Robert Pattinson had played any actual heroic roles since his work as the ultimate Hero Who’s Not, Really as the lead in the Twilight series. This isn’t a criticism so much as a fact: Robert Pattinson has played creeps, fuck-ups, and/or blunderers so many times that it’s his moments seeming like a sweet naïf that subvert expectations, not any undermining of his matinee-idol image (besides, five Twilight movies arguably did that already, albeit unintentionally).

That’s about right for Damsel, which makes a sharp point much later and more frequently than is, perhaps, necessary. The cue is right there in the title; obviously when Samuel (Pattinson) recruits a supposed parson (co-writer/co-director David Zellner) to help rescue his beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) in a movie called Damsel, there’s probably going to be more going on than, you know, rescuing the damsel and going home. The movie’s twist, of sorts, is less notable for its ribbing of Old West tropes than its commitment to the bit: Once Wasikowska’s character gains some dimension in the back half of the movie, it doesn’t let up its pokes at very male complexes.
Continue reading The Odyssey: Damsel and Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town

Ocean’s 8, like all Ocean’s movies, is about acting

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

“I’d like to play a more central role this time,” says Linus (Matt Damon) in Ocean’s 12. He’s nominally talking about his participation in a coordinated group heist, but the language is unmistakable and the self-referential tone unavoidable: Linus, played by a very famous actor who is nonetheless slightly less famous than his biggest co-stars, sounds very much like an actor, asking for a bigger role in the ensemble for the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11. Like a lot of actors, Linus—a pickpocket, a bit younger than Danny Ocean (George Clooney) or his right-hand man Rusty (Brad Pitt), and certainly less experienced—takes his job very seriously. In Ocean’s 13, Linus goes into full con-man mode, not just planning or thieving, but playing a character in order to deceive a casino boss’s right-hand lady (Ellen Barkin). He insists on wearing an exaggerated false nose to complete the illusion, as his colleagues look on with indifference. “The nose plays!” is his forceful refrain.

Ocean’s 13 doesn’t go as far through the looking glass as Ocean’s 12, but taken together, Soderbergh’s trilogy does resemble a hall of mirrors, both for its illusive tricks and its funhouse consideration of star vanity. To this hall, the new female-driven Ocean’s 8 adds a few more mirrors, though mostly not engineered by Soderbergh himself. He’s on hand as producer, but has handed the directorial reins to his friend Gary Ross. In the run-up to his sort-of retirement, Soderbergh did some second-unit directing on The Hunger Games; here, Ross returns the favor by directing all of Ocean’s 8 as if on second-unit. This probably isn’t a fair criticism—few directors have the command of the heist-movie form that consummate problem-solver Soderbergh seems to summon with the snap of his fingers—but the over-the-top quasi-professionalism of an Ocean gang has the unfortunate side effect of exposing journeymen. In Soderbergh’s trilogy, he keeps all of the intricate, ridiculous prep-work moving at a clip, punctuating the most amusing moments with sharp cuts. Ross directs scenes that appear to be wandering around in search of their punchline before hustling away empty-handed.

Yet Ocean’s 8 can’t help but follow in the tradition of its predecessors, even when Ross seems unable of keeping up, nevermind setting a pace. Some of it is that all-lady ensemble. Instead of George Clooney leading a mixture of Hollywood royalty and game character actors, Sandra Bullock heads up a starry crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and YouTube star Awkafina. Anne Hathaway is there too, although her character Daphne Kluger isn’t recruited as part of the gang; rather, she’s a vain yet needy actress who Debbie Ocean (Bullock) and company must manipulate into wearing an extremely valuable necklace at the Met Ball, so they can switch it with a fake and rob its owners blind (and maybe frame someone else for the job).
Continue reading Ocean’s 8, like all Ocean’s movies, is about acting

The Athletic Grand-Nephew of Kong: MR. GO (2013)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

NATHANIEL:
Finally, after like four years of percolating interest, I managed to see Mr. Go, the Korean/Chinese gorilla-playing-baseball movie! And I roped you into watching it too! Now we’re gonna talk a little about how that went for us. Continue reading The Athletic Grand-Nephew of Kong: MR. GO (2013)

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

First things first: Shin Godzilla is here! There’s a new Japanese Godzilla film currently playing theaters in the United States and it is pretty spectacular. With a franchise that has lasted over six decades and twenty nine films, audience members will obviously approach it with a wide variety of expectations, so it’s best to know going in that it is a film much more in the vein of the original Godzilla (or 1984’s The Return of Godzilla) than the sillier alien invasion epics that characterized the 60s & 70s. It’s a film with seriousness of purpose, with the most frightening depiction of the title monster in the entire franchise (with the possible exception of the original). But it’s also a deeply eccentric film, with a strain of satire running throughout, and extremely propulsive and idiosyncratic filmmaking choices that render a talky, procedural story breathlessly involving (it’s the Contagion or Apollo 13 of Godzilla movies, or The Martian if Matt Damon was roughly 35 stories high and oozing radioactivity). The story is certainly familiar to fans of the genre, but the presentation can be dizzyingly unfamiliar. Presented in this country with subtitles, it’s an incredibly dense film, with whip fast dialogue (sure to be too talky to some) sometimes fighting for room with other onscreen text (including a running gag where every character with a line is identified by name and title/rank/governmental position, including some characters who get multiple titles as their position changes during the story). It’s a very political film, with some material that will be easily grasped by western audiences and some material that will (and, no doubt in my case, did) fly over their heads. Oh, and the monster sequences are beautiful, thrilling, and full of images that left this Godzilla fan’s jaw on the floor. So, that’s the short of it. Go see the movie! But there’s a lot more to talk about. So, if you want to go deeper, let’s get to it.

(NOTE: I’m going to talk about the story of the film in some detail below. But I’m only going to put another big spoiler warning before I discuss some details about the film’s depiction of Godzilla himself because there was some stuff there that genuinely surprised me!) Continue reading Shin Godzilla (2016)

East Coast vs. West Coast: On Straight Outta Compton and Fort Tilden

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Straight Outta Compton doesn’t exactly qualify as a nontraditional biopic; in terms of structure, it mostly adheres to the rise/fall narrative with the option for an additional rise. Earlier this summer, the Brian Wilson movie Love and Mercy toyed with those boundaries with far more innovation. But even set half in the ’80s, Love and Mercy, like so many movies about popular music, was rooted in baby boomer music of the ’60s; Straight Outta Compton, in telling the mostly sanctioned story of N.W.A., actually starts in the 1986, which still counts as a novelty. True to its title, the movie roots itself in the streets of Los Angeles and surrounding environs; an early scene catching Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) in a drug raid looks positively apocalyptic. But the imagery doesn’t just come from gang violence; it’s the police battering ram tearing apart a house that makes the scene look so untenable.

As the movie skips from Eazy to a young Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., playing his dad), police harassment is a common theme, along with the recurring image of black men being slammed against car hoods for no reason. Cube and Dre are more interested in lyric-writing and DJing, respectively, than the drug trade, and E wants out, too. But even when they’ve signed up with a manager (Paul Giamatti) who looks shadier as the movie progresses but downright friendly in the context of Compton, the cops won’t leave them alone: putting them on the ground, asking what they’re doing outside a recording studio, daring them to fight back. Some of this is broad (“rap is not an art!” one cop – a middle-aged black man – spits contemptuously); it’s also feels undeniably and depressingly relevant. Pop biopics often traffic in simplistic song origins, but when Straight Outta Compton cuts hard from N.W.A. getting harassed on the streets into them performing “Fuck Tha Police,” it’s not just a pat explanation of a famous and controversial song. It makes audiences (some of whom will not have experienced racism firsthand) feel the song’s righteous frustration. To put it in my dorky white terms: it feels fucking punk rock.
Continue reading East Coast vs. West Coast: On Straight Outta Compton and Fort Tilden

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Here is my take on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts — pros, cons, yays, nays, new series rankings, whatever — in the comments section. In other words: have at it, nerds.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rupert Wyatt’s smart and involving revival of the long-dormant Planet of the Apes franchise, ended on such a note of triumph that it was easy for both casual and committed fans the series to forget how uncharacteristic this was for an Apes movie. Rise had its moments of sadness and loss, of course, both human and animal, and its end-credit map of how simian flu spread across the globe offered foreboding for the next chapter. But its climactic sequences of Apes running wild approximated a bigger, more fun version of the violent outbreak that closed Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, its closest relative in the previous series. The apes weren’t out to kill all humans; they just caused some beautifully shot mayhem in the name of ape freedom. Their endgame was a forest settlement to call their own; the destruction (mostly non-lethal) was just collateral damage.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes keeps the collateral damage, loses the triumph — which makes it a clear successor to the original films.

Continue reading Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)