Author Archives: BabyRuth
We’re officially well into 2013’s summer blockbuster season and this weekend gives us the most anticipated superhero movie since the last most anticipated superhero movie!
Thirty-five years after Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie sizzled and seven years after Bryan Singer’s aborted reboot attempt Superman Returns fizzled, comes the latest incarnation of the red and blue spandex-clad alien hero. Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), and produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel has been buzzed about for some time now and everyone, well except probably Brandon Routh, will flock to theaters to see if it lives up to the hype.
Man of Steel opens with the birth of Kal-El (that would be Clark Kent/Superman) on his home planet of Krypton, a magical place where its residents ride flying dragons and Russell Crowe doesn’t sing. But Krypton is doomed and knowing this, Kal-El’s parents Jor El (the non-singing Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) decide to save their son by launching him off in a pod to an inhabitable planet us humans call Earth. Moments before, a group led by Kryptonian Army General Zod (Michael Shannon) are captured while attempting a coup and are also shipped off into space, sentenced to float around for infinity. Or until they too, land on that blue planet that just may be a perfect location to rebuild Krypton.
Once on Earth Kal-El is found and raised in a small town by loving and humble farmers, the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who rename him Clark. Clark’s Ma and Pa teach him to have high morals and to control his otherworldly powers so as not to attract attention to himself. That is, until the right moment comes along when he must use his powers for good. Clark (Henry Cavill) finds this difficult to do and once an adult, must move from place to place in order to keep his identity a secret.
One of these places is located in the Arctic where Clark stumbles on information about his past and who he is. But he isn’t alone. Right behind him is ace reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who knows a good story when she sees one; she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist after all (as she reminds her boss and the audience at one point). Lois is determined to find out more about the mysterious stranger. At the same time, guess who’s back to seize control of Planet Earth?
Snyder (along with Dark Knight franchise writers David Goyer and Christopher Nolan) succeeds at laying the groundwork for a successful franchise. Man of Steel is completely different than previous Superman movies in its tone and approach, to the point of almost being an anti-Donner/Singer version. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the viewer. Regardless of my own opinion on that, I predict it will be enough for this reboot to stick.
The film takes its time, a good two-thirds, focusing on the origin story of Kal-El, both on Krypton, then Earth. The narrative bounces back and forth between adult Clark taking odd jobs and moving on to the next place before anyone suspects he’s anything more than a really, really buff Good Samaritan and flashbacks of his childhood. The latter scenes were especially well done and for me, the most effective parts of the movie. We see young Clark struggle to not only deal with all the normal trials of childhood like fitting in and bullies but also to learn how to control his many powers at the same time. Sometimes this is shown from his own point of view, and it showcases just how frightening and confusing such a thing would be for a young child. It’s in these intimate scenes where Costner and Lane shine as his parents.
“Son, I bet you’d be really good at baseball.”
Man of Steel is more sci-fi than any previous cinematic telling, but then it makes sense given that Superman is an alien. At times it feels more like a science fiction movie than a superhero one but it worked for me because it added some layers to the back-story.
Henry Cavill does a fine job filling the tights (but not the shorts- which are presumably underneath this time around) of his predecessors. Though he never reaches the level of the late Christopher Reeve on the charisma scale, Cavill is certainly the beefiest Superman to date (sorry Dean Cain), which from comments I’ve seen on social media in the last few days is definitely helping to fill theater seats.
Eye-bugging and teeth grinding Michael Shannon makes a good foil in his General Zod, and is believable as an equal match for our hero. Of course Amy Adams is always a welcome addition to any film. She’s a good choice for Lois Lane as the character’s combination of spunkiness and vulnerability is effortless for her. As mentioned, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are wonderful in their scenes and give the film much-needed heart. Russell Crowe does that stoic thing he does and becomes even more stoic as he makes appearances throughout the film as a virtual version of Jor-El. The movie is also jam-packed with familiar faces in supporting roles, Laurence Fishbourne, Richard Schiff and Christopher Meloni to name a few.
There was no doubt this was going to be a much darker and more reality-based take on the Superman story than ever depicted before (just the attachment of Christopher Nolan’s name pretty much solidifies that) and it was a smart move since we are living in a different world now than even only seven years ago, let alone thirty-five. It makes sense that the government would initially view Superman more as a threat than an ally. It makes sense that Superman would be a little more conflicted about his abilities and his place in world that he now lives.
But in making a grittier and more serious Superman movie, Snyder sacrifices a lot of the fun and charm of what makes the character and the world of the character so endearing. Save for a wink-wink-nudge at the end, we never get to see the goofy, bumbling Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent we’ve come to know and love. While this spares us from the age old question: Hey ‘ace reporter,’ Lois Lane, what’s up with that?- it’s still a huge element of the original story that is drastically changed here and the chemistry between Clark and Lois feels forced without it.
“I’m hot. You’re hot. Let’s make out.”
Likewise we also don’t get many scenes of cape-clad Superman popping in at just the right moment to prevent an everyday disaster or save a random life. (The most effective rescue scene in the movie takes place during Kent’s childhood.)
“Eh, screw it. The cat will figure out how to get down from the tree on its own eventually. Ooh, Slurpees!”
There’s very little comic relief and few attempts at humor feel tacked-on and fall flat, particularly a facepalmer at the end (you’ll know it when you hear it). I’m not saying they needed to add CGI Richard Pryor, but a little more of a balance would have added a bit of momentary lightheartedness to the overly serious and cold feeling CGI spectacle.
(There is one very hilarious line, but it’s unintentional and you have to have the mentality of a 14 year old boy to catch it. Again, you’ll know it when you hear it.)
Speaking of CGI, pop quiz time kids!
One of the below photos is from Man of Steel and one is from Independence Day. Quick, which is which?
General Zod and his cohorts’ grand entrance and the destruction that follows is so reminiscent of the alien invasion in the 1996 blockbuster I was half-expecting Bill Pullman to show up and make an inspirational speech.
Let’s talk about that destruction. Look, mass demolition of big cities is nothing new to these kind of movies. It’s an easy way to display the stakes our hero is up against and show the audience just how bad the bad guys are. It’s been done so many times that we’ve become desensitized to it. Even after something very similar happened in real-life twelve years ago.
Or have we?
Try this one. Which of these photos is a still from Man of Steel and which is a real photo taken in New York City on September 11, 2001?
It’s hard to deny that many of the images during the leveling of the fictional Metropolis are a little too eerily similar to the very real events of that tragic day and for me (and I’m sure many others) it felt exploitative. Especially one extended scene of a supporting character (which doesn’t hold much emotional weight since we never get to know much about them) trapped under the ash and rubble of a fallen building. There is no way this was a coincidence. While imagery like this may have been escapism (“That would never happen!”) in a pre-9/11 world, they just feel like a cheap attempt to evoke emotion now. Just cut it out already Hollywood.
Okay, so what I’m being overly-sensitive here? Fine, let’s say I am. Let’s suspend disbelief and accept everything shown as a necessary part of the story and fast forward to the big showdown between Superman and Zod flying high atop the city and beating the hell out of each other while smashing one another’s bodies into buildings with such super-strength that the buildings crumble upon impact. Though we don’t ever see them, surely there are people inside all of those buildings, right? Now Zod couldn’t give two shits about collateral damage, he wants to wipe out the entire human race after all – but wait a minute- shouldn’t Superman care about the hundred of thousands of innocent victims? Isn’t keeping people out of harm’s way, I don’t know, what he does?
It seems Snyder is more concerned with the BIG BOOM SPECIAL EFFECTS to notice or care, so Superman apparently doesn’t either. There is appropriate gravity once the fight comes to a climax, but it’s hard to switch gears and feel Superman’s empathy after just witnessing the complete disregard for human life in the prior scene. (And earlier in the film, when Smallville is destroyed in a similar fashion.)
The action is filmed in that new-school extreme close-up/fast cuts/shaky cam that I still can’t understand becoming the popular go-to. It’s difficult to follow in 2D and I can’t imagine what it looks like in 3D. As mentioned, much of the 225 million dollar budget went into the CGI-assisted action sequences. Every amped-up battle scene feels climactic. That’s not a compliment though, because there are so many that after awhile they become repetitive and tiring to watch, especially with all that shakiness compounded by the relentless crescendo-ing score. (Speaking of, the original theme is nowhere to be found—unless it’s one of those tricky Hans Zimmer things where he slows it down beyond recognition.)
While many of the flashbacks work very well, the non-linear storytelling and jumping around between locations is hard to follow at times. Cuts from one exotic location to another are so erratic they feel jarring and take the viewer out of the story to play catch-up. Add in convoluted scientific mumbo jumbo, out of the blue plot contrivances, uneven pacing, instant solutions (at one point Lois suddenly announces something to the effect of “We’ve figured out a solution!”), and like the action sequences, it’s all just too much at once.
While effective at building the foundation for a successful franchise and featuring solid performances by an exceptionally capable cast, Man of Steel just isn’t as much fun as it should be. The dour tone doesn’t work as well for Superman as it did for Batman, a much darker character.
Some will love it, some will hate it. Those too young to have been brought up on the Christopher Reeve films of the 70’s and 80’s will likely receive it better. Still, it has some good moments and many of the effects are no doubt impressive (when the camera manages to stay still for more than two seconds). I’m interested to see where the series goes next.
Take a Drink: whenever you check your watch.
Take a drink: every time you are reminded of Independence Day, The Matrix, Avatar, or any other movie. (For me that includes Troll 2, because Russell Crowe popping up to help Lois in one scene reminded me very much of Grandpa Seth—I realize I am probably the only person in the world to make this correlation.)
Take a Drink: at every “subtle” religious metaphor. Take Two: when they don’t even try to make it a metaphor.
Take a Drink: every time pop-up Russell Crowe appears.
Take a Drink: every time Michael Shannon bugs his eyes out.
Take a Drink: at every obvious product placement.
Take a Drink: when Superman does. (Yes, Superman drinks a beer in this movie. I don’t so much have a problem with the fact that he does, but Budweiser? Really Superman?)
Take a Drink: every time someone says “codex.”
Take a Drink: when you hear a song from the Singles soundtrack.
Do a Shot: if you catch the one nod to Lex Luthor. (Whom I predict we’ll be seeing more of in the next film.)
Last call: Stick around after the credits end for a hilarious blooper reel set to “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down!
I kid, I kid.
Hollywood seems to be on a magic kick as of somewhat late with films such as The Illusionist, The Prestige, and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. The latest entry in Abracadabracinema, Now You See Me, revolves around a quartet of Robin Hood-esque magicians who use their skills to pull off spectacular real-life heists in front of large audiences.
The film opens with an introduction to the group who soon become known as The Four Horsemen. There’s J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), a sharp-tongued street magician who prides himself on always being the smartest guy in the room, Henley Reeves, a former magician’s assistant turned main attraction escape artist, hypnotist con-man Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and pick-pocket hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Each magician receives a cryptic invite from an unknown mastermind to meet at a secret location.
Cut to one year later. The Four Horsemen are now headlining their own show at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand financed by multimillionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). During their performance they declare they are going to rob a bank by teleporting a random audience member to Paris. And apparently, they do! Upon inspection, the bank vault is empty and millions of euros fall from the sky onto the audience in the theater.
This leads to an investigation headed by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and aided by a French Interpol detective (Mélanie Laurent). But the Horsemen always manage to stay one step ahead and soon they are on to their next grand routine.
Also trailing the four is renowned magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), dead-set on revealing their secrets to the public for his own profit.
Throughout the twists, turns, and misdirections, it soon becomes evident that there is a Fifth Horseman.
The cast is superb and perfectly assembled. Harrelson, Eisenberg, Fisher, and Franco are wonderfully believable as the magical gang. Each actor studied their character’s specialty and it shows.
I was most impressed with Jesse Eisenberg, who undoubtedly put in hours of slight-of-hand practice. His performance recalls some of that nerdy cockiness displayed in The Social Network to give his character the perfect amount of David Blaine smartassiness without going into full-on Criss Angel douchebag territory.
Now you See Me is a well-shot and a good-looking movie. The action moves along at a quick pace, thoroughly keeping the audience entertained and guessing along the way.
I also want to raise a glass to the movie for, along with the aforementioned titles, bringing magic into the mainstream and making it look cool. Unlike its predecessor, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, this movie takes the craft more seriously and I could see it inspiring viewers to want to learn more and maybe even pick up a magic kit themselves.
Just please, not this one.
I have a little reveal of my own. I was looking forward to this movie because it hits home for me. I grew up around magic. My father is a mentalist/hypnotist and a member of the mysterious secret society, “The Eye,” mentioned in this movie.
I’m kidding about that. There’s no such thing as “The Eye.” (There is an organization called The International Brotherhood of Magicians, but it’s much easier to get into than the fictional Eye.)
This is the only real-life Magic Eye. “Cool, a sailboat!”
But the part about my dad being a mentalist is true. Though not a magician myself (my magic career came to an abrupt end when a Cups and Balls routine went terribly wrong during show-and-tell in the fourth grade), I was obsessed with magic growing up, pestering my father to tell me all the secrets. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of re-watching the David Copperfield specials in slow-motion with him explaining step-by-step the magic behind the magic to me. He taught me how to think like a magician which turned out to be a skill I can actually use in everyday life. As a result I’m definitely more critical than most people when watching magic being performed. I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, it’s just that the wonder of it is a different kind of wonder for me.
With that, on to the prestidigitation in Now You See Me. The smaller-scale effects involved, for instance the opening card trick which cleverly turns the audience into the subjects (Yes, I know how it’s done. No, I’m not telling you), are far more impressive than the grand stage illusions. The reason? Most of the big illusions use camera tricks and/or CGI, and are impossible to do “in real life.” This really bugged me because there were actual magic consultants involved in the making of this film. So I am confused by director Louis Leterrier’s decision to take the easy way out and fake it with cuts and computers.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for special effects. In a sci-fi or fantasy film we expect to be wowed by fancy CGI, but a movie such as this one that’s based in reality in which we are asked to believe the amazing feats are being performed by regular human beings, it feels out of place. I’ll give you an example: During one of the Four Horsemen’s acts, Isla Fisher’s character is encased in a large bubble that floats high above the audience. The bubble pops and she falls straight down, perfectly positioned to be caught. Now, it’s possible this effect could be accomplished on a live stage with the help of hidden wires, but the way it’s portrayed on-screen it looks as though she is literally suspended inside the thin film of a soapy bubble. Couldn’t they have just called someone from Cirque Du Soleil and done something similar that looked remotely plausible?
Again, this kind of thing works in some movies, not others.
Likewise, the use of hypnosis also got on my nerves because it perpetuates common (false) myths. Similar to the use of camera tricks in fantasy movies vs. reality-based movies, there’s a double standard here as well. Many films use hypnotism as a plot contrivance and can get away with inaccuracies for the sake of the story when the story is not about it specifically (Office Space is a good example of this), however, in one about magic/hypnotism to do so is just being lazy.
I’m going to lay out the facts for you: A person can NOT be hypnotized against their will. While under hypnosis, a person can NOT be made to do or reveal anything they would not normally do or reveal. A person does NOT “stay” hypnotized (even if they are not taken out of a hypnotic state, they will come out of it after sleeping). It’s pretty much impossible to be hypnotized over the phone. Finally, the idea that random suggestions not even given under hypnosis can stay in a person’s mind for months and lead them to make major choices is flat-out ridiculous. All of these things are in Now You See Me, and while they make for some amusing scenes, it conflicts with the intended goal of the film to present magic (for the most part) realistically.
I realize I’m being nit-picky here and many theatergoers would be likely to overlook a lot of these things, but suck it, this is my review.
Though they have decent chemistry, the romance between Ruffalo and Laurent’s characters feels forced and is unnecessary. (The time spent on building their relationship would have been better used on getting to know the Four Horsemen, whom we never get to learn much about.) Besides adding nothing to the story, it messes with the pacing of the movie. Every time the action builds, it’s dragged down by a follow-up scene of cutesy flirt-bickering between the two. There would have been one very good payoff to the inclusion of this subplot, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Which leads me to my final beer…
Earlier this year, I reviewed The Call, a fun and fast-paced thrill ride of a movie—until the ending that nearly ruined the entire thing. I had the same frustration with Now You See Me. The final big reveal is indeed a shocker that even David Copperfield probably didn’t see coming (well okay, maybe he did since he was a consultant on the movie but you know what I mean). It’s good for a cheap “Oh my God!” moment, but soon after that “Oh my God!” turns to “Oh my God, are you friggin’ SERIOUS?” The more and more you think about it, the more implausible and preposterous it becomes. I can’t go into more detail about it because to do so would give it away. Trust me though, it will piss you off.
Feel free to cut this out and wear it on your way out of the theater.
Now You See Me is mixed bag of tricks that fails to live up to its excitingly original concept. As a cat-and-mouse caper, it can be a lot of fun, due in large part to its stellar ensemble. It’s visually appealing, all the more entertaining if you can overlook the CGI-aided illusions. However, as more and more of the plot is uncovered and the story gets increasingly convoluted, it falls apart like an ill-conceived and poorly executed magic trick. Think of it as a magician attempting to misdirect the audience with a flashy explosion, but all the audience can see are the wires, controls, and rabbits falling out of his coat.
Take a Drink: whenever Daniel Atlas has a smart-ass comeback.
Take a Drink: every time Henley strips down to a sparkly bodysuit.
Take a Drink: every time Dylan makes a negative comment about magic.
Take a Drink: every time Merrit hits on Henley.
Take a Drink: every time there’s smoke.
Take a Drink: whenever anyone mentions “The Eye.”
Do a Shot: every time you spot a camera trick.
Chug: until you stop rehashing the entire movie trying to make sense of everything after the twist is revealed. It’s pointless.
No need to wait, take a shot right now if you groaned at the title of this review. Yup, for my superhero selection this month, I chose the mother of them all: that one, the franchise killer, the Batman and Robin of sequels.
I am a self-admitted movie masochist with a high tolerance for pain so I felt it was my duty to take the whipping of this one for the good of humanity because, come on, how can we possibly have a website featuring movie drinking games without Joel Schumacher’s magnum opus? A steaming turd so magnificent in length and girth that it refuses to be flushed, folding in half against the circling water and clogging up the pipes so bad that no plumber could stop the overflowing. So powerful a stench, that the entire house is so horribly contaminated that it’s declared a bio-hazard, condemned, demolished, and not spoken of again, well at least for eight years when a new building developer comes to town , purchases the land, and rebuilds a new, better house and everyone forgets the shit-flood of that tragic day in 1997.
But we never really forgot, did we? We filed it in the bottom drawer of our minds marked “DO NOT OPEN EVER EVER AGAIN” but every now and then we are reminded of it, usually when discussing the biggest cinematic travesties of all time.
I remember seeing Batman and Robin once, all those years ago, but I didn’t retain much more than the nipple-adorned suits. In fact, that seems to be the one–err two, things most people remember about it. I couldn’t recall much else, which led me to wonder if we were all being unfair, our memories fuzzy due to time and Christopher Nolan’s masterful reworking of the franchise. Maybe it wasn’t that bad? Maybe it was just a harmless, intentionally campy ode to the 60’s television series (a debate that its five fans like to use in its defense). So, armed with an objective outlook, a six-pack, and my trusty gimp-suit (which looks suspiciously like a costume from this movie) I settled in to view Hollywood’s $125,000,000 attempt to make Alicia Silverstone an action star.
This is the part of the review where I am required to provide a brief plot-synopsis. I am going to try my best because this is one convoluted mess of a story.
So, there’s a new villain in town named Mr. Freeze (a pre-governor of Caleeforneyah Arnold Schwarzenegger, right around the time he knocked up his housekeeper). Mr. Freeze’s grand plan is to literally freeze over Gotham City and then the world to hold it ransom for BILLIONS of dollars to fund his research to cure his cryogenically frozen wife’s incurable disease called McGregor Syndrome.
McGregor Syndrome makes you spontaneously break out into song.
Despite his origin of being a renowned scientist, Mr. Freeze’s master plan has two major flaws: 1) If everyone is frozen solid, who will be left to give him all this money and help him carry out his research? and 2) Know what Mr. Freeze uses to fuel his freezing machines? Diamonds. Big, huge, expensive diamonds worth lots and lots of money.
Who wants to tell him?
Meanwhile, another scientist and plant-lover Dr. Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) is turned into the venomous Poison Ivy. Shockingly, Poison Ivy also wants to take over the world to save all the plants and uses her magic love spell and deadly kiss to achieve it, one horny sucker at a time.
Freeze and Ivy team up (I know, I know, freezing everything would kill all the plants, just go with it) so Batman (George Clooney taking over the role from Val Kilmer who took over for Michael Keaton, aka The Best Batman ever) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell at his whiniest) are called away from their PR appearances (really) to save Gotham and the world from the (least ever) evil villains’ evil plan. Alfred (Michael Gough) is still around to butle and order pizza but he comes down with a nasty case of some incurable disease, I can’t remember the name, it’s like Ewan or something.
Because there weren’t enough characters, Alfred’s niece Barbara (post-Aerosmith video era Alicia Silverstone) shows up at the door one day on break from studying computers at the prestigious Oxbridge University.
Computer genius. As if!
Robin instantly has a crush on Barbara and they have some weird sort of incestuous flirtation (though nowhere near as much as Robin and Batman have) that’s alluded to every once in a while in the movie.
Barbara and Robin did end up together. And they had a half-bird baby.
Barbara’s true passion is racing motorcycles though. She also studied some martial arts at Oxbridge. If only she could use these skills someday. Like to fight a female villain so our male heroes won’t look like women beaters.
Will Batman and Robin be able to resist the chlorophyll pheromones of Poison Ivy ? Will Mr. Freeze succeed in freezing over the world after Nicole Kidman’s attempt failed in Batman Forever? Will everything be in neon?
There is one really good thing about Batman and Robin. It was so bad and such a critical and commercial failure that plans for future installments were called off soon after its release. Had it not been as mind-numbingly awful, there would have been more and who knows if Christopher Nolan’s reboot would have ever even happened. So we actually have Batman and Robin to thank for the Dark Knight trilogy.
I wasn’t planning to toast anything else about this movie, however, last night while stumbling around my On Demand free movies, I came across a little flick from 1969 called Hercules in New York starring someone named Arnold Strong. Turns out Arnold Strong was the stage name Arnold Schwarzenegger used to go by and Hercules was his film debut. Young Arnold’s English was so unintelligible that it had to be dubbed over by a different actor in the theatrical release. So here’s to you Arnold Schwarzenegger, for getting somewhat of a grip on the English language by Batman and Robin!
Seriously, check out this movie- the undubbed version- if you want to see something truly special.
Here is the opening suiting-up sequence of Batman and Robin, looped for your viewing pleasure:
This should pretty much tell you everything you need to know about this movie.
In his defense, Schumacher’s campy approach in the previous Batman Forever turned out to be successful so it makes sense in theory that turning it up to 11 in the follow-up would yield similar results.
The entire movie plays out like some kind of porn parody (and if you’re curious, yes, an actual porn parody does exist. I’ll leave that between you and Google). Besides all the gratuitous close-ups of asses, chests, and crotches, there are lines such as “My garden needs tending,” “Is your thumb the only part of you that’s green?” “Some lucky boy’s about to hit the honey pot.” Most of these gems are delivered by Uma Thurman, doing some weird kind of Mae West thing that’s completely over-the-top, but, hey, at least she’s having fun.
And the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race is…………
Let’s pop open another beer and continue discussing this wondrously terrible dialogue. Which leads me to Mr. Freeze and his ice puns. ALL OF THE PUNS. Sometimes they make sense: “Let’s kick some ICE!” “The Iceman cometh!” Tonight, hell freezes over!” Sometimes they don’t: “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” “In this universe, there’s only one absolute… everything freezes!” Pretty much all of Arnold’s lines are like this and delivered in predictable MUHAHAAHA villain-voiced fashion. Somewhere around the twentieth one, I-screamed.
Get it? ICE CREAM!!
Have I mentioned yet that Poison Ivy has a helper? His name is Bane.
No, not that Bane…this one:
Yup, Bane, arguably Batman’s strongest and most intelligent rival is reduced to Poison Ivy’s dumb-as-rocks henchman created by being literally inflated like a balloon in some kind of WWE Build-a-Wrestler factory.
I don’t know which is more groan-worthy and/or comical. Barbara’s transformation into Batgirl via discovering the Batcave, “hacking” into the computer, and talking to a Max Headroom-esque Alfred who already has a batsuit waiting for her, OR, her big secret identity revel to Batman and Robin of “Bruce it’s me…Barbara! I found the Batcave!”
It’s a damn good thing Barbara didn’t wear glasses in non-superhero form because I don’t know if Batman and Robin would have ever recovered from the shock.
Again that was: “Bruce, it’s me… Barbara! I found the Batcave!”
It’s so hard to get to beer six in reviews such as this one because there is always so much more left to discuss. So I’m going to cheat a little and list everything else that I can think of off the top of my head: The opening line: “I want a car, chicks dig the car,” the mention of Superman (so where was he during all of this?), Batman and Robin’s inexplicably built-in ice skates, air-surfing complete with Robin unironically yelling “COWABUNGA!” The Mr. White Christmas sing-along, the Bat credit card, Poison Ivy’s furry pink gorilla disguise, COOLIO,
Turkish baths, the fight-scene sound effects that were just begging for “BAM!” and “POW!” graphics, did I already say the Bat credit card?, the whole satellite thing that made no sense, and EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS MOVIE!
Batman and Robin is so far removed from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman that it’s difficult to believe it is part of the same franchise. It is meant to be campy and corny but I’m pretty sure it was also meant to be funny; however, there are more groans than laughs here, and the laughs are unintentional. It says something that nearly everyone involved in the movie has issued apologies and in Clooney’s case, refunds. Still, it’s wonderful riffing material to enjoy with friends and booze.
Take a Drink: every time Robin whines about something.
Take a Drink: every time Mr. Freeze makes an ice/cold/freeze-related pun.
Take a Drink: at every butt close-up.
Take a Drink: every time a character changes into a different costume. (Collect all the action figures!)
Take a Drink: at every Poison Ivy sexual innuendo.
Take a Drink: every time a new vehicle or gadget is featured in the movie for no other reason than to sell the toy version.
Take a Drink: whenever Batman calls Robin, “Dick” in a way that suggests he’s actually calling him a dick, and not by his name which is also Dick.
Take a Drink: at every mention of “McGregor Syndrome.”
Take a Drink: Oh hai, Elle Macpherson! (Most of her scenes were cut out of the movie)
Take a Drink: at every cheesy sound effect.
Do a Shot: when Batman pulls out his Bat credit card.
Do Another Shot: Coolio!
Fun Challenge:George Clooney reportedly urinated in the Batsuit several times during filming due to the difficulty of removing it. Try to guess the scenes!
“Damn George, lay off the asparagus.”
Flames, flames, on the side of my face. Breathing-breathl- heaving breaths. Heaving breaths…
If you are not familiar with the above quote and consider yourself a fan of comedy, well then, shame on you.
Set in 1954, Clue brings the popular board game it’s based on to life as six guests are invited to a dinner party in a large creepy mansion. None of the guests know why they’ve received an invitation or who the host, Mr. Boddy, is. They all have one thing in common though, they are all being blackmailed for their shady pasts.
Each guest is given a pseudonym to protect their real identity. They’re also each given a weapon to use on the person that has blackmailed them, revealed to be in attendance. Things don’t exactly go as planned and soon the body count begins to add up as secrets come out, suspicions arise, and the guests must attempt to figure out who the murderer is while trying to avoid being killed themselves.
Clue has, quite possibly, the greatest ensemble of comedic actors in a film ever.
That’s a bold statement, but I can’t personally think of a better example of a talented and funny cast. Tim Curry (Wadsworth), Madeline Kahn (Miss White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), and Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard) are all at the top of their game and embody their roles delectably with perfect comic timing. Their over-the-top exaggerations of the board game’s characters fit in well with the stage play-esque rhythm of the script.
Colleen Camp’s breasts deserve a mention as well.
Tim Curry camps it up as only he can as Wadsworth, the butler. As much as I love Dr. Frank-N-Furter, this is my favorite performance of his. A scene late in the film in which he recaps the entire night’s events is nothing short of a tour de force. And he says the word “no” better than any human being has ever said the word “no.”
As fabulous as Curry and the rest of the cast are (and every one is a standout) the late, great Madeline Kahn as Miss White manages to steal the film with her master improvisational skills. Besides the “Flames” scene (which was completely ad-libbed by the way) just watch her in the background every time she is on camera, particularly during the “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” sing-a-long. She was a goddamn genius and taken from us far too soon.
We miss you.
Director John Lynn, along with writer John Landis, constructed a pitch-perfect screenplay chock full of fast-paced, pun-filled, witty dialogue. There are countless great quotable lines–to this day I can’t stop myself from adding “Too late!” whenever anyone says “To make a long story short…” At the same time, the story also works as a pretty suspenseful whodunit. It’s fun trying to figure out who the murderer is and all three possible endings make sense both within the plot of the film and also as a nod to the board game since every game has a different killer. (During its theatrical run, depending on the screening, a different ending was shown. I’m surprised this marketing idea never caught on after Clue, it’s a pretty clever way of getting audiences to see the same movie more than once.)
Let’s start with this one. How about an alternate ending where THEY BOTH FIT ON THE DAMN DOOR?!
The feel of the film is just right thanks to the set design which flawlessly replicates the mansion from the board game and to the brilliant score by John Morris which ties everything together.
Clue is a delightful romp that stands up to repeat viewings nearly 30 years after its release. Its longevity as a beloved cult classic makes it hard to believe it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office all those years ago. I guess it’s one of those love-it or hate-it movies. Personally I adore it. Every time I watch it, which is in the dozens by now, I manage to notice something new: a joke I never caught, a great reaction shot by one of the actors, a detail in the set. If you’ve somehow managed to miss out on this gem, correct that right away. It’s a masterpiece in screwball comedy and the sole example of a film based on a board game that was done right.
Insert joke here.
(Suggestion: have a Clue party where everyone dresses as their favorite character and drink cognac out of fancy glasses.)
Take a Drink: every time someone smells dogshit.
Take a Drink: every time “monkey brains” is mentioned.
Take a Drink: every time the doorbell rings.
Take a Drink: at every gunshot.
Take a Drink: every time Mrs. Peacock screams.
Take a Drink: whenever a character is slapped.
Take a Drink: every time you see Yvette’s panties
Take a Drink: whenever anyone goes through a secret passageway.
Take a Drink: every time Mr. Green says “I didn’t do it!”
Do a Shot: whenever the lights go off.
Do a Shot: “Dah-it-dah-dah-dah-dah, I, am, your singing telegram.” BANG! (Fun Fact: the singing telegram girl is Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s)
Do a Shot: when the chandelier crashes.
Back in 2009, a little independent film called Birdemic: Shock and Terror hit the Sundance Film Festival. Well, not exactly. It didn’t make it in to the festival itself, but that didn’t stop writer/director/sole-financier James Nguyen from driving into Park City, Utah in a van covered in fake bloody birds and renting out a theater himself. Audiences were shocked, terrorized, and couldn’t believe what they saw. Soon after that, word of mouth spread and the film was embraced as a cult classic, shown throughout the country in midnight screenings.
Where to go from there?
A sequel, of course!
Birdemic 2: The Resurrection began its worldwide tour at select screenings this April, complete with appearances by the cast, producer, and Nguyen himself. I was lucky enough to attend the screening in New York City and even share a couple drinks with and get some insight into the “Master of Romantic Thrillers™.” I am here to report my findings on the follow-up to the little romantic-thriller-with-an-environmental-message movie that could.
Birdemic 2 picks up not too long after we last left our heroes: sudden-software-millionaire/solar-panel enthusiast Rod (Alan Bagh) and his Victoria Secret cover model girlfriend Nathalie (Whitney Moore). They’ve since moved from the standing on the beach watching the murderous eagles and vultures fly away after the doves convinced the birds to give humans another chance at living a greener and more peaceful existence.
I think that’s what happened anyway.
The action shifts to Hollywood this time around where we meet some new pretty people. Bill (Thomas Favaloro) is a director trying to make his big comeback with a film called Sunset Dreams. Since Rod is now a successful entrepreneur with money to spare, he agrees to finance Bill’s film. But wherever will Bill find his female lead?
As luck would have it, there’s a young, struggling actress just waiting for her big break named Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo) working at the same diner where he’s meeting with Rod! Bill and Gloria hit it off right away and everything seems to going perfectly. What could possibly disrupt all this happiness?
Oh, those pesky birds again. Man’s disregard for nature has upset them yet again and they’re even angrier this time.
The first question/concern I’m sure most fans of the first movie had when this sequel was announced was “is it self-aware or sincere?” My best answer to that would be: both.
Look, there’s no way, given the success and notoriety of the first movie, that that the follow-up could replicate that level of earnestness. This is due to more hands being involved in the making of this one as opposed to the 100% singular imagining and follow-through of Birdemic: Shock and Terror. All the elements present in the first—the camerawork, the editing, the sound-“mixing”, the special effects—are here once again, though maybe not-so-much by accident this time given the producers and larger budget involved. But this was a good call, as it would have been a mistake to turn Birdemic 2 into a glossy,
Hollywood-ized Sy-Fy channelized re-do of the original. It would have lost its charm and heart.
Its heart, of course, is James Nguyen, and after meeting and speaking with him myself, I can assure you, this is another honest vision without a hint of irony on his end. The producers smartly let him run with it and it shows. (Producer Jeff Gross said “I didn’t want to produce any more movies that I didn’t want to see, but I had to see Birdemic 2.”)
So as I stated above, it’s both meta and earnest at the same time, as contradictory as that sounds. It’s really the only possible way this movie could have worked.
The cast definitely falls into the “meta” side of the equation, with everyone having fun and playing into the spectacle that is Birdemic. I have to single out Whitney Moore here as she was, for me, the best part of this movie. Keep your eyes on her (it’s not hard to, she’s gorgeous); her ad-libbed reactions are priceless and perfectly timed. You’ll see what I mean early in the movie when Rod jokes about how wasted he recently got at one of Bill’s premiere parties. Or when she starts cheesing as they run from the birds. It’s fantastic. I could totally see her breaking out into mainstream comedies.
Likewise Alan Bagh gives us more of that Rod we all love, and this time he’s got some sweet karate moves that would make Mr. Miyagi proud.
Franchise (oh, yes, I said franchise, stay tuned) newcomers Thomas Favaloro and Chelsea Turnbo fit in to the mix nicely. Favaloro delivers a walking scene that simultaneously rivals both the opening driving scene of the first Birdemic and Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
Nearly all the characters that didn’t die in the first movie make cameos in the second. At the screening I attended, each was met with sitcom-style applause from the audience. I suggest doing this whether you watch the movie in a theater or at home with friends. Or at home by yourself.
But with a group of friends is the best.
The sequel follows the tried and true formula of the original. The first half is devoted to the “character development” and romance of the two leads and then the latter spirals into squawking madness once the birds show up (again post-coitus, which I’m beginning to think is the cause of the attacks.) There’s also a whole lot of driving, this time in an RV, as the characters aimlessly travel the streets of Los Angeles fleeing from the birds while everyone in the background, now with blurred-out faces and license plates, goes about unaffected. There’s also more clapping.
Birdemic 2 is subtitled The Resurrection for a reason. In addition to those dastardly eagles and vultures, this time there are also zombies. The reason for this is why the hell not? And also, global warming.
Also new, gratuitous nudity!! And caveman flashbacks! It’s all very bizarre, but somehow fits in.
Three words: Giant. Jumbo. Jellyfish. That’s all I’m gonna say. Oh wait, one more word: ambulance. I…I…you really just need to see it to understand.
One of the highlights of the first movie was the “Hanging Out With My Family” dance sequence. Who could forget the vocal stylings of Damien Carter and Rod and Nathalie’s sick robot moves? Good news! Damien’s back to perform his latest hit, “Gonna Be a Star.” The. Entire. Thing. The song isn’t as catchy/awesome as “Hanging Out”, but the dancing more than makes up for it. Everybody hits the dance floor, including Nathalie’s mom, and the choreography is a thing of beauty (again, watch Whitney). My only complaint is that Rod and Bill didn’t bust out the Kid N’ Play dance or the Milli Vanilli chest bump.
For you kids that don’t know what I’m referring to.
The song fades out at the end even though it’s supposed to be a live performance, which is usually a pet peeve of mine in movies, but in this case it’s appropriate, because Birdemic.
The ending is similar to the first movie in that, you don’t realize it’s the ending at first. And then, two minutes later, you’re still wondering. And then the credits roll.
But this leaves things open for Birdemic 3: Sea Eagles set in New York City. Uh huh, there will be a third.
Also in the works, and this is straight from James Nguyen’s mouth, a Birdemic MUSICAL! He described for me, in great detail, the idea for the “Hanging Out” number and all I can say is, get ready Broadway and get ready Tony Awards.
For fans of the first movie, I highly recommend Birdemic 2: The Resurrection. It manages to both self-knowingly reference everything we loved about the original, while still maintaining a sense of genuineness. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. And if you can’t make it to a screening, you can get it right here, right now: https://chill.com/james_nguyen/birdemic2. What the hell are you waiting for?
Take a Drink: every time a person’s face or license plate is blurred out
Take a Drink: every time Bill smirks.
Take a Drink: every time someone examines a victim and declares “s/he’s Dead.”
Take a Drink and Applaud: every time a character from the first movie makes an appearance.
Take a Drink: every time there is a close up of a victim and you can see the actor breathing.
Take a Drink: BOOBS!
Take a Drink: every time the sky turns red.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “global warming”
Pour one out and take a moment of silence: for when we learn why little Susan from the first movie is absent from this one.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “giant jumbo jellyfish.”
Do a Shot: at the ambulance.
Take a Drink: every time a character does during the soda machine scene.
Take a Drink: if you catch the Sunset Boulevard reference.
By: BabyRuth -
In case you’ve been living in a bark beetle-threatened redwood tree and haven’t heard, there’s now a sequel to visionary director James Nguyen’s cult sensation Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
It’s called Birdemic 2: The Resurrection and this time, they’re taking it on the road complete with appearances by the cast AND Nguyen himself! So far, audience reports are that B2 is just as, if not more, fun than the original and demands to be seen in a packed theater. So if you’re a fan of the first movie, grab your clothes hangers and check the upcoming premiere dates below to see if it’s coming to your town!
4/10 – New York, NY – Sunshine Cinema – 8:00PM
4/11 – Long Island, NY – Elwood Cinema (East Northport) – 8:00PM
4/13 – Phoenix, AZ – FilmBar Phoenix- 10:00PM
4/16 – Boston, MA – Kendall Square Cinema (Cambridge) – 9:30PM
4/25 – Chicago, IL – Patio Theater – 9:00PM
4/27 – Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA – 10:00PM
4/30 – London, UK – indigO2 – 7:00PM
To purchase tickets, go to: www.brownpapertickets.com/
More dates to be announced soon so be sure to keep checking the official Facebook page:
Don’t miss it! You can always hang out with your family the day after…if you survive.
Every now and then, a film comes along.
A Talking Cat!?! is one of those films.
A Talking Cat!?! tells the story of Duffy (played by Squeaky, a completely different cat than the one featured on the movie poster) a self-proclaimed “human whisperer” that wanders into the lives of two families to give them guidance because, as he states, “humans need all the help they can get.”
The first family to meet Duffy is newly retired software tycoon Phil (former-as in a REALLY long time ago- child star Johnny Whitaker) and his son Chris (Justin Cone, he was on Glee once). The father and son don’t have much in common but they do both like pizza and talk about ordering it often. Chris has a crush on an illiterate girl he is tutoring named Frannie (Alison Sieke), though all she ever wants to do is go swimming in his pool. This is a problem because Chris can’t swim. And also because Chris is gay.
Across the forest or beach (depending on the establishing shot used) lives single mom Susan played by Kristine DeBell (Meatballs, Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy, which sounds amazing) and her twin teens Tina (Janice Peebles) and Trent (Daniel Dannas). Tina is obsessed with going to the prestigious Business College but money is tight due to Susan’s one-woman catering company only carrying a single item: cheese puffs. Not being able to go to Business College makes Tina very bitter and let’s just say it, a cu—oh, I can’t say it. She takes it out on poor, lovably dumb Trent, belittling him every chance she gets. Trent tries to fight back, but usually can’t think of much besides repeating his sister’s insults back at her.
Here’s an example of an exchange between Tina and Trent:
Trent: “Quit bugging mom about business college.”
Tina: “Why don’t you shut it?”
Trent: “Why don’t you shut it? You’re the annoying one.”
Tina: “No, you’re the one who doesn’t even know what he’s going to do with his life. At least I have direction and purpose.”
Trent: “And if only you had a personality, you might have a future.”
Tina: “I hate you Trent.”
Pretty sure Tina’s gigantic duct-taped computer is doubling as a teleprompter.
So yeah, Duffy has his work cut out for him.
Oh, have I mentioned who provides the voice of Duffy? Eric Roberts, that’s who.
Also not the cat in this movie, but I thought this was fitting.
Most of the time we hear Duffy in the form of voice-overs rather than him actually speaking to people. The reason for this? A miniscule special effects budget (more on that later) and because Duffy can only speak to each person once. This rule is never explained, unless you count Duffy saying “I don’t make the rules.” So Duffy must choose his advice wisely. The nuggets of wisdom dispensed by Duffy include “Take a walk in the woods,” and “Look at the beeping machine.” (A computer, which I don’t recall ever beeping once and which Duffy can apparently operate.)
Will Duffy’s minor assistance bring single parents Phil and Susan together? Will Tina ever get to profit off all her computer knowledge without attending Business College? Will Chris overcome his shyness and find his one true love? Oh my god, what if Duffy gets hit by a car? WHAT ABOUT THE CHEESE PUFFS? Don’t fret! All of these questions are answered in the magical world of A Talking Cat!?!
This film has a wonderful title that grabs you right away. If it were just called A Talking Cat, A Talking Cat!, A Talking Cat?, or A Talking Cat?! it just wouldn’t have the same punch as the winning exclamation point/question mark/exclamation point combination.
That is how you do a title, budding filmmakers. Maybe if John Carter had been titled John Carter!?!, audiences would have been intrigued and perhaps it wouldn’t have been the colossal failure it was.
See how much better that is?
The casting deserves a toast as well, as this is one of the most randomly bizarre assembled group of thespians ever to star in a family film; a former child star, a former porn star, some random pretty boys who most likely had to remove their shirts during the casting process, a deaf feral cat (I’m guessing), and of course, Eric Roberts, whose dialogue sounds as if it was recorded over a speakerphone while he was sitting in the bathroom on day five of a five day bender. I’d be willing to bet that everyone in this movie is the result of a Craigslist posting.
A Talking Cat!?! contains all the elements of bad movie gold: a ridiculous plot that hardly makes sense, laughable acting, poor production values, and most importantly, sincerity. It never feels bad-on-purpose, instead it comes across as an earnest, good-intentioned G-rated family movie filmed in one take on a porno set.
While watching A Talking Cat!?! for the first time, the viewer may wonder when the cat is actually going to talk since more than twenty minutes go by before this actually happens. But when he finally does, well, it is at this point you realize just how special this movie is.
You know those horribly-produced local car dealership commercials where they superimpose a human’s mouth over the family dog’s to make it look like he’s telling you how you can get a great deal on a car with no money down and bad credit?
It’s much worse than that.
It’s so unbelievably, ridiculously, preposterously, hilariously awful that it makes Birdemic director James Nguyen look like Ang Lee by comparison.
It must be seen to be believed.
A large portion of A Talking Cat!?! consists of establishing shots that are clearly only there as filler. It soon becomes apparent that they are the same four or five establishing shots repeated over and over. And over. Sometimes one after the other. The shots are: a beach, a forest, the side of one house, the side of the other house, and the pool. Sometimes they are actually used for the purpose of establishing where the next scene will take place. Most of the time, they’re just thrown in to pad the run-time which is an already short 82 minutes, though it sure feels like a lot more.
Over and over and over.
Then there’s the music. Jesus Christ, this movie and the music! Every scene is accompanied by a wacky!?! tune that sounds like the music that autoplays when you get an E-card. And, unlike E-cards, the background music (which is often so loud I don’t know if it can be called background music) usually doesn’t fit the emotion of the scene. There are two actual recognizable songs: “La Cucaracha” which serves as the soundtrack for the not-so-cute-meet-cute between Phil and Susan and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” which plays over the endless ending credits because of course it does. I’ll give you one guess as to why and how these songs made it into the movie.
If you said “public domain,” give yourself a cheese puff!
While watching A Talking Cat!?! you may think that the terrible acting, multiple repeating establishing shots, crazy music, etc, etc, etc, is the result of a first-time, most likely foreign, director.
You’d be wrong.
It’s quite the opposite actually. The director is a guy named David DeCoteau and according to IMDB he has directed 105(!?!) films. These range from Z-grade horror (Sorority Babes in the Slimball Bowl-O-Rama, Frankenstein Reborn!) to gay softcore (Leather Jacket Love Story, The1313 series) to family flicks (A Halloween Puppy, An Easter Bunny Puppy, and the upcoming, wait-for-it, A Talking Pony!?!) Do yourself a favor right now and scroll though the photos of the covers of these movies. Then watch a few of the trailers on YouTube. I need to set aside a weekend and have a David DeCoteau movie marathon. You are all welcome to join me. Bring alcohol.
DeCoteau often directs under a pseudonym as is the case of A Talking Cat!?! in which the director is listed as “Mary Crawford” in the credits. I’m not sure why DeCoteau goes through all the trouble to use a different name since nearly of his movies are filmed on the same set which, after some research, I learned is his own mansion. He doesn’t even attempt to rearrange the furniture…oh my god, can we talk about the furniture?
In one of the first scenes Phil looks at a large tree branch wearing one red stiletto boot (you read that correctly) and remarks “This thing is hideous!” I’m guessing this line was either ad-libbed or intentionally added to the script along with a later line about a hired interior decorator to explain away a piece of furniture that may sort of make sense in a gay softcore film but not in a family movie about a talking cat(!?!)
Aside from that saucy tree branch, there’s also a car couch (“VRROOM!”) that I think DeCoteau may have purchased from the set of My Two Dads (not positive on that one, it’s been a few decades since that show, but I remember they had a car couch too). It’s just one of the many, many bizarre things that makes this movie what it is.
At one point in the movie Duffy explains that his powers come from
MS Paint a magic collar. You might think it’s the collar he wears throughout the entire movie since he has the ability to talk to people.
Once again, you’d be wrong.
No, it’s a different collar which he keeps in the woods somewhere, just laying atop a random rock for anyone to grab, or for the wind to blow away, or for one of those waterfalls to wash away. If that is Duffy’s magic collar, then what is the other one for? Why wouldn’t he just wear the magic one all the time, especially since it has the power to heal (SPOILER ALERT). I know if I had a magic necklace that would save me from certain death, I’d wear that necklace all the time. And on the rare occasion that I wasn’t wearing it, I’d make damn sure to keep it somewhere safe and wouldn’t just leave it on some rock.
The “finding the magic collar” scene is meant to bring the two families together to save Duffy so I get why there needs to be a suspenseful (lol) race to try to find it. But it would have made a hell of a lot more sense if Duffy had only a magic collar and accidentally lost it in the woods. That would have accomplished the same thing a lot better than having one supposedly unmagic collar that somehow still gives him the power to speak and one really magic collar that gives him the ability to heal himself. And then to further complicate things Duffy mentions his nine lives. What? How do they play into this? This is all as confusing as reading…books, as Frannie would say.
Dammit! I ran out of beers before I got a chance to talk about Tina’s ingenious app where you scan in all your clothes and it puts together an outfit. Oh well, you’ll have to discover that on your own. Good luck trying to figure out how that would actually work seeing that 1) clothing tags don’t have bar codes. 2) They’re using a BOOKLIGHT to scan the non-existent bar codes.
While it never quite reaches the level of masterpieces such as The Room, Troll 2, or Birdemic, A Talking Cat!?! is not to be missed by fans of delightfully-gone-horribly-wrong cinema. It’s currently streaming on Netflix so listen to Duffy and go turn on that beeping machine.
Take a Drink: every time an establishing shot is repeated. Take Two: when it’s the pool and you spot the statue of the little boy peeing.
Take a Drink: every time Chris runs up or down the stairs.
Take a Drink: whenever Frannie mentions swimming/the pool.
Take a Drink: every time Duffy announces that he is a talking cat(!?!)
Take a Drink: every time Tina is terrible to her brother.
Take a Drink: “cheese puffs.”
Take a Drink: every time the laser pointer or the cat treats used to make the cat “act” are visible. (A laser pointer is much cheaper than hiring one of those fancy trained cats)
Take a Drink: every time Tina says “I know” during her phone conversation.
Take a Drink: every time someone uses any of the following big technical words: “algorithm”, “variable”, “recognition software”, and “thumb drive.”
Take a Drink: at the blue-filtered “night” scene.
Take a Drink: whenever a male character is shirtless.
Take a Drink: at the unbridled sexual tension between Chris and Trent.
Chug: While Tina reads the website.
Chug again: During the scene of the white car driven by..?…going…somewhere.
Take a Shot: whenever the hideous tree branch wearing the red shoe is in a scene.
Last Call: Just like at the end of the Twilight Saga, each character gets a curtain call as their most memorable scenes, or rather, just any scenes they were in play while the actors’ names appear during the credits.
Last Call Part 2: Oh, that charismatic Duffy!! Let’s watch some outtakes of him walking, looking off-screen, rolling, and sitting. If you somehow missed the laser pointer during the movie, here’s another chance to spot it!
Note: Even at 2,285 words, I’ve barely scratched the surface of A Talking Cat!?! If you’re jonesing for more Duffy-related fun (and you will be), be sure to check out this amazing in-depth Tumblr.
WWE Studios produces two types of movies: 1) Straight-to-DVD movies featuring wrestlers in starring roles that only people that watch WWE programming hear about and 2) Movies starring big name actors with wrestlers in smaller supporting roles that get theatrical releases and marketing campaigns. The Call is the most recent entry to fall into the latter category.
Halle Berry (who I’m starting to think has a hard time saying no to roles) plays 911 operator Jordan Turner, a seasoned veteran who is always cool under the pressure of the high-stress job. That is, until one day when she takes a call from a teenage girl with an intruder in her home. One misstep by Jordan results in a horrible outcome and she is so shaken and devastated that she can no longer do her job.
Jordan takes a position as a trainer instead, teaching new operators what and what not to do (for instance, not to do what she did that one time). While showing the rookies around the “Hive,” that would be the call center, a recent hire (who probably should have received a bit more training, so I guess Jordan’s not so good at that job either) receives a call from another teenage girl in a similar situation. Panicked, the operator looks to Jordan to take over and try to save the young girl, who happens to be locked in a trunk of car with a non-traceable prepaid cell phone (the reason she has one of these phones is explained through a somewhat clunky plot contrivance, but I appreciated that the effort was made since every teenage girl in America has an iPhone). Jordan vows not to let the same thing happen twice.
I have to say, once that second call came in and the hunt began, I was literally on the edge of my seat with an elevated heart rate for the entire duration of the call itself. Aside from a few weird and showy choices in cinematography (freeze frames, sped-up shots), director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Boardwalk Empire) creates almost unbearable tension and nail-biting suspense, inter-cutting between scenes of the kidnapped girl (Abigail Breslin), quick-thinking Jordan, and the vicious psychopath kidnapper (Michael Eklund). It’s brutally relentless in the best possible way with a few genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It delivers on the thrills, which is everything you can ask for in a thriller.
“HELP, this is not one of those gag arms!”
I also enjoyed watching the scenes of the 911 call center. Though I’ve never been inside one, it seemed realistic enough to believe the filmmakers did their research and the snippets of all the day-to-day calls coming in were fun to witness.
Apparently this kind of thing is very common.
Halle Berry, timelessly gorgeous even with a *Chia Pet on her head (*credit to fellow Movieboozer Kingsley Crabtree), turns in a performance that’s enough to redeem herself from her last on-screen appearance in the disastrously horrid Movie 43. She carries the bulk of the film with a believable combination of toughness and vulnerability.
“I am a non-glamorous everyday woman, just look at my hair!”
It’s always nice to see a strong female protagonist and here we are treated to two. Abigail Breslin is in the process of making a smooth transition from child star to future leading lady and does a great job as the victim Casey. Michael Eklund as the creepy bad guy almost successfully achieves what Matthew Fox was going for in Alex Cross. The supporting cast features the dependable Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s cop boyfriend and David Otunga (the obligatory WWE wrestler cameo, showing promise as actor despite not given much to do) as his partner. Michael “Christofah” Imperioli picks up a quick check as a good Samaritan in one of the film’s most tense scenes.
Unfortunately, once “the call” ends and the movie shifts to its final act, all the good that has been established thus far goes down the shitter fast. Real fast. It deviates so much from the strong first two-thirds that it feels as if The Call is actually two different movies spliced together, with the second being one of those 90’s straight-to-video Silence of the Lambs copycats. It is so ridiculous and formulaic that I had to stop myself from yelling “Oh come on!” at the screen several times. Every cliché is there: Secret serial killer bunker? Check. Conveniently left out in plain view photos which clue us in to the killer’s past? Yup. One of those jewelry boxes with the ballerina that plays the creepy music? Of. Fucking. Course.
Can I take a break here for a minute and rant a little bit about the use of ballerina jewelry boxes in movies? Why is this still a thing? How many hundreds of times has this been done in horror movies and psychological thrillers? I am so goddamn sick of ballerina jewelry boxes. Every time cops are searching a sadistic murderer’s secret killing room, there’s that damn little box. And they always feel the need to open it. Like, what do they think they’re going to find inside? Besides a stupid spinning plastic ballerina? And it’s always wound up. Like the murderer knows they’re going to find his secret killing room and open the jewelry box so he winds it up beforehand so the music will play when the box is opened but only enough so that it will start playing slower, slower, and slower at just the right point when the crackerjack cop has a revelation and realizes just how sick and twisted the murderer is. Sometimes the ballerina jewelry box will already be open and playing the music when the cops walk in—how is this possible? You can only wind those things up so much. It can’t possibly play for that long. Maybe it’s booby trapped and there’s a string on the door that opens the box when the cops walk in so it will start dramatically playing? I don’t want to think about this anymore, but every time I see this lazy-ass prop prominently displayed in a scene such as the one in this movie, I can’t help it. GET A NEW DAMN IDEA AND STOP WITH THE BALLERINA JEWELRY BOXES ALREADY!
While Jordan up until this point has been established as flawed and sometimes reckless, letting her emotions get the best of her, she still seems to have actual working brain cells. However by the end she does a total 180 and loses her damn mind doing stupid thing after stupid thing. It’s completely out of character considering she spent the majority of the film making smart decisions (for the most part) and it’s beyond frustrating to watch.
Also during this time is when the plot holes become very obvious, while earlier in the film, it seemed that great care was taken to answer any question that may pop into a viewer’s head. In contrast, during the final half-hour all I could wonder is why the police would just leave a house owned by the suspected killer unattended and unlocked for anyone, especially a suddenly batshit vigilante 911 operator, to go Nancy Drewing around in.
This all leads to the inevitable final showdown, which, without going into spoilers, is comical at best and irritatingly ludicrous at worst, but then…
…just when you think it’s over, it manages to get even more asinine with an unnecessary groaner and I mean a GROANER of an ending.
I’m assigning a final beer for the uneasiness I felt at the gratuitous and lingering shots of Abigail Breslin’s (bra-clad) breasts. I get that the killer is a creepo and all, but I’m just not ready to see Little Miss Sunshine’s boobies.
I’m so conflicted on this one. I would wholeheartedly (well, unless you have a heart condition), recommend the thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling first half of the movie and I’d even recommend seeing it in a packed theater for the collective audience reactions, but on the other hand it gets so stupid at the end that I can’t in good faith tell you to part with your hard-earned money.
Maybe if you have one of those discount coupons and then leave and sneak into another movie after the call hangs up…
Yeah that’s it. Do that.
Take a Drink: every time a pop song from the 80’s plays.
Take a Drink: every time there is a freeze-frame.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “911, what’s your emergency?”
Take a Drink: whenever David Otunga gets a line of dialogue.
Take a Drink: every time Jordan does something stupid.
Do a Shot: STUPID BALLERINA JEWELRY BOX!
Do Another Shot and Make It a Double: at the ending. Trust me, you’ll need it.
The fourth sequel in the Die Hard series finds our hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) jetting off to Russia to find his long-estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has apparently gotten into some trouble over there.
Or has he? Turns out Jack is no hooligan, he’s a CIA operative on a mission. John didn’t know this, despite being a police officer and having been involved in all kinds of high-level operations himself which would result in him surely having connections to find this kind of information out but anyway… Other people that didn’t know Jack was in the CIA: his sister and his mother. I guess Jack’s estranged from the whole family.
Jack’s mission involves protecting a government whistleblower (Sebastian Koch) and his sensitive information regarding Chernobyl from Russian terrorists planning to lift a whole bunch of weapons-grade uranium. Because it’s 2013.
Of course John shows up at precisely the wrong moment and Jack isn’t very happy to see his ol’ dad.
We learn this when he sticks a gun in Pop’s face.
But the two must join forces and work together to take down the Russian baddies and hopefully mend their tarnished relationship in the process.
Now in his late 50s, Bruce Willis eases back into the role of John McClane with the same smirky badassery we fell in love with a quarter century ago. Though the character is hardened and a bit more arrogant than in previous installments, Willis still has that quality that makes people root for him no matter what.
It’s Bruno, bitch!
Much has been said about John McClane morphing from an everyman into Superman over the course of the 25-year franchise, and losing a lot of the relatable charm that made the character so endearing in the first film, but it can be argued that with everything the guy’s been through over all this time, it would seem natural that by this point, his fightin’ skills have improved and he’s become more of a confident and less reluctant hero, albeit comically indestructible (hilariously, groan-inducingly comically indestructible). My feeling is that the viewer has no choice but to go into the sequels with this standpoint in order to attempt to enjoy them.
Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) does a passable enough job as the junior McClane to secure him future starring roles in action films, possibly even a Die Hard spinoff franchise, which appears to be what they have in mind pending the box office results.
The plot, penned by screenwriter Skip Woods (The A Team, X-Men Orgins: Wolverine —which should tell you something right there), manages to be unnecessarily convoluted and predictable at the same time. Instead of one villain, we are “treated” to several, all evil Russians because again: 2013. None of them are at all frightening, unless your idea of frightening involves someone simultaneously munching a carrot and tap-dancing. Really. Hans Gruber had more delicious wickedness in his pinky toenail clippings than all the bad guys in this movie put together.
So does Bugs Bunny.
There are several twists that are meant to be SHOCKING!, but they’re pretty easy for anyone that’s ever seen an action movie to figure out. And when they happen, it doesn’t really add anything anyway because the whole plot is so bland and dated and stupid, nobody cares.
But who needs a coherent plot when there are cars, buildings, and helicopters being blown to shreds every five minutes, right? And director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen—which again should tell you something right there) doesn’t skimp on that at all. But it’s all quantity over quality and the action sequences rely far too heavily on unrealistic-looking CGI effects. It’s all so superficial that there’s never a feeling of danger or suspense. The quick edits and shaky cam not only make the action hard to follow but also boring. There’s an overlong and ridiculous car chase at the beginning that goes on and on and just seems like something we’ve seen a million times in a million other movies before.
It wouldn’t have seemed strange if Optimus Prime suddenly showed up.
And if you’ll allow me to mention the asinine plot again, amidst all this chaos and destruction, the Russian law enforcement is nowhere to be seen. Not one police car is ever shown. You’d think they’d be all over the place with the courthouse being blown up, armored cars being stolen and crashed, and hundreds of innocent civilians being maimed and possibly killed in the process.
But I guess they were too busy with that whole Pussy Riot thing.
The film attempts to create heart under all the blowing stuff up real good with John and Jack reconnecting after being on bad terms for many years. The problem is, we never learn anything about what led to the rift between them. Despite a decent chemistry between Willis and Courtney, without the weight of a back-story, the audience is never emotionally invested enough to feel anything when the father and son finally do reconcile. (Oops, SPOILER ALERT!)
Also on the family front, Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a second franchise appearance as John’s daughter Lucy, though her screen time is reduced to being Dad’s airport transportation. Disappointingly absent is Bonnie Bedelia as John’s wife Holly, a character I think many fans were hoping to see again. She is mentioned once, so it’s nice to know she’s still alive and didn’t get the mysterious unspecified cancer that so many wives and moms fall victim to in sequels.
John McClane, known for his wisecracking catchphrases, gets a new one in this installment: “I’m on vacation,” which he repeats approximately 452 times throughout the film. Now this would have been a decent addition if McClane were say, being held hostage at a resort in the Caribbean, or maybe inside a locked-down Louvre while on a tour in Paris, or even just drinking a beer in his backyard on his week off when Hans Gruber’s revenge-seeking son shows up, because all three of these scenarios, besides being ideas for better Die Hard movies involve him actually being on vacation. But in the movie, he is not on vacation, he’s there to find and help his son, so constantly saying “I’m on vacation” makes absolutely no sense at all. I would imagine there are plans to make a sixth Die Hard because “I’m retired” seems like the only natural follow-up. Then McClane can also remind everyone that he’s too old for that shit.
Despite all the early negative buzz, I tried my best to go into A Good Day to Die Hard with an open mind just looking for some fun action, but came out disappointed on pretty much every level. John Moore and Skip Woods stray so far away from the other films in the series that you wonder if they’ve even ever seen any of them. It never feels like a true chapter, only like a generic Michael Bay BIGSTUFFGOBOOM-fest. It’s a better day to stay home and watch the original Die Hard than to waste money and time going to see this movie.
Take a Drink: whenever John McClane says “I’m on vacation.” (even though he’s NOT ON VACATION!)
Take a Drink: whenever Jack refers to his father as “John.”
Take a Drink: whenever there appears to be an innocent civilian casualty.
Take a Drink: at every double-(and triple)-cross.
Take a Drink: every time something happens that would probably kill John or Jack but they walk away with barely a scratch.
Do a Shot: if you spot the reference to the first movie (Hint: It’s when someone dies and it’s one of the few good things in the movie)
Do Another Shot: at the “Yippee-ki-yay” line and then say it with more enthusiasm than John does in the movie.
One More Shot: for the cheesy freeze-frame closing shot that looks like the end of a Family Ties episode.
Up until its release, Movie 43 has pretty much been a mystery. From its vague title to the bizarre trailers to its official website actually being called whatismovie43.com, a large part of the marketing campaign or rather, all, of the marketing campaign of this film has been built around the fact that no one had any idea what the hell it’s about. One of only two things that were certain was that it somehow had one of the largest casts of big name stars, many of them Oscar-nominated, ever assembled.