BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE review

Before anyone asks, no, I’ve not read the comic book. I’m not a comic reader. Having said that, I love my superhero TV shows and movies. Say what you will about DC’s cinematic universes, it’s hard to deny that their animated films are top-notch that even Marvel doesn’t have down. I am aware of the comic book this is based on, of course, and I have a general idea of what the actual story is about, but what really sucked me in is that this will not only be the first R-rated DC animated film, but it’s featuring the returning voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as Joker, the same men who’ve been voicing these characters for twenty damn mother fucking glorious years. Some added sprinkles in the flavors of Tara Strong, John DiMaggio, Nolan North, and Fred Tatasciore make this outing to be a delicious epic sundae.

Early reviews though seem to have this movie fairly mixed. As I understand it, the movie actually expands on the comic by giving, if I remember correctly, Batgirl an origin story as well. I haven’t read too much into the early reactions as I don’t want my review to be influenced by other opinions that would probably have me going in with a preconception that wouldn’t be natural to my mind. I’m still excited regardless. But where do I stand with the flick? Is it yet another fantastic addition to animated DC library, or is it a disappointment?

This is my honest opinion of: BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE

(SUMMARY)

Based on the celebrated and controversial comic book of the same name. Barbara Gordon (voiced by Tara Strong), aka Batgirl, fails at capturing a criminal name Paris Franz (voiced by Maury Sterling), who develops a sexual fascination with Batgirl. Batman believes that she can’t handle the case after both telling her to stay out of it and failing to subdue him a second time. Matters only get worse later on. One night, Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) has escaped from Arkham Asylum and Batman is desperate to find him. He manages to take control of an old carnival, some lackeys with physical deformations, and tracks down Barbara at her home while her father Commissioner Jim Gordon (voiced by Ray Wise) visits. Joker shoots Barbara in the stomach which tears through her back and captures Jim, with the intention of proving Jim and everyone else in the world, is just one bad day away from being as crazy as himself.

(REVIEW)

This is probably the most fascinating and deeply complex Batman story I have ever seen. It’s also probably the most heavily flawed of DC’s animated films.

You’re reading that right. The first third, maybe half of the movie, isn’t about the Joker or even feature him in appearance or reference. In this ninety minute movie, at least thirty to forty-five minutes worth of it is about Batgirl. Yup, in a Batman/Joker-centric flick, we dedicate a good chunk of that time to Batgirl. I have a couple theories as to why this is.

Theory one: I wonder if the makers had cut out too much content from the comic and inadvertently made the intended story too short, so they needed a giant-ass filler. Having not read the comic, was it overloaded with too much exposition or whatever? Or was the story itself very short? Seems like they got all the important stuff down. But what do I know?

Theory two: they clearly wanted Batgirl to be properly established before the story got underway and to give Batman a deeper reason to hunt down the Joker for some reason. Er, well, I guess shooting Batgirl and paralyzing her is good enough motivation, but… alright, let me dive into my thoughts as to why this storyline was attached to this movie.

A lot of the recent DC animated movies, specifically the Batman ones, are all sequels to one another. SON OF BATMAN is directly followed by BATMAN VS. ROBIN, then BAD BLOOD, and so on and so forth. At the very end of BAD BLOOD, nearly all of the “Bat” characters make an appearance with one notable exception: Batgirl. She just has one cameo, right before the credits roll. What followed was JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS. Wasn’t exactly going to dive into a story featuring the fan-favorite. Fans could easily feel a tad jipped to be forced to go without a Batgirl movie. Twice now at first glance since TITANS and KILLING JOKER were next and at some point, a solo Batgirl animated film was cancelled (WONDER WOMAN sales were slow, yet it’s considered to be one of the higher grossing animated movies… you interpret that as you will). I feel like since KILLING JOKE is about Joker doing horrible things to Batgirl, the story took advantage of her lack of solo films and opted to include that story so the audience would get attached and invested in her character so we would hate or fear Joker that much more. I do want to fully acknowledge that it is very likely KILLING JOKE is just an independent story separate from the other animated Batman films and all this is just a coincidence, but the timing of it does seem to be a little odd, wouldn’t you say? Especially since they just announced that the next DC animated movie would be JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. Again, no Batgirl solo film.

In some ways, this works. In other ways, it’s an incredibly distracting detour. Yes, Batgirl is pretty bad-ass. She’s a fun character that seems to be like a classic Robin who’s in it for the adventure and thrill, but still has that serious edge to her. And it can’t be denied that Strong is fabulous lending her voice to this character that has so far been overlooked in the New 52 animated movies. However, I do complain that there is inconsistency in her fighting. Here’s what I mean, Batgirl has her first encounter with Paris. He escapes, she wants a second go at him. They meet again and now it’s a real hand-to-hand fight. She… gets her ass kicked. Er… okay, does Batman suck at training? Batman… who was trained by the greatest ninjas on the planet, the League of Assassins… who trained Dick Greyson who would become Nightwing… Tim Drake who would become Red Robin (Yummm – sorry, had to make that restaurant pun)… Jason Todd who would become the second Red Hood… I seriously doubt that Batgirl would so effectively get her ass handed to her BY A THUG! Even if you could argue that that she simply didn’t take to Batman’s training, explain how in another scene, she’d fight Batman himself and kick his ass?! Grr to the umpteenth power!

***SPOILERS***

 

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And… seriously, was Batman and Batgirl really a thing? Like, did they really have sex in the comics? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if they did, but… was this something fans needed to see? Was this necessary? Was this movie going to fall apart if Bruce and Barbara didn’t fuck? It doesn’t add anything to the story, so no, it wasn’t necessary! Batman doesn’t ever show that he’s more invested in finding Joker after what he did to her. And at the end of the movie, he’s still offering to help him change and having a laugh at Joker’s joke. Shyeah, really convinced you’re there to bring him to justice for what he did to Barbara and Jim. Someone record that shit on a phone and show the Gordons. Yeah, I’ll bet they’d appreciate that scene a lot!

But I do have to say that it’s interesting to see her walk away from being Batgirl after nearly beating Paris to death. She realizes that this life isn’t for her if it means losing her humanity like that. That’s something you don’t see in many superhero movies, to be that honest with themselves that the lifestyle is too demanding.

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***END SPOILERS***

But now moving on to the actual movie we paid to see: Batman and Joker. This stuff is bar-none, the best the film offers. You see how Joker was once a fail stand-up comedian trying to support his pregnant wife. As it turns out, he’s actually not a poorly written character. He’s very sympathetic and Hamill does a good job making him feel like an every-man.

All of his origin stuff is told in flashback while Joker is off doing his thing. What I really thought was interesting and unique is that this story takes different angles with the characters presented. We usually just get that Batman is trying to stop the Joker from doing horrible things because… well, that’s what they do. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen Batman actually contemplate making an solid effort into helping Joker recover, acknowledging that, in some ways, he’s not wrong. Anyone can become crazy if they had that kind of bad day, and he wants to help rehabilitate him.

***SPOILERS***

 

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Joker on the other hand is making his own psychoanalysis of Batman. That’s different too. I mean, one could argue that’s exactly what he does in THE DARK KNIGHT, but he’s more or less assuming, not questioning. Joker goes through his confrontation with Batman like he’s irritated, frustrated, even hints of jealousy. He can tell that Batman just had to have had a day that ruined his life to make him dress up like a bat. But clearly, whatever insanity he has, he still operates like a sane person and that seems to drive Joker crazy. He doesn’t understand why Batman is so different from him and he wants Batman to embrace his inner insanity. I just love how this story treats this side of the character. Even at the very end when Joker loses his fight to Batman, he doesn’t continue to resist. He doesn’t keep on fighting, he just gets it. He lost. He’s not overpowering Batman any time soon, so he just accepts that he’s done. But bar-none, my favorite moment in this scene is when Batman offers to rehabilitate Joker, extends his hand out to him… Joker hesitates. He’s sitting there looking at Batman’s hand and looks like he’s seriously contemplating his help. Obviously, Joker ignores the hand and quietly declines, declaring himself beyond that sort of thing now. But he does it in a way that makes it look like he wishes he could accept help. There’s so much that can be said about this scene alone, especially if you know the history behind these characters and how complicated it’s always been and I don’t think we’ve ever seen Batman and Joker like this before and it left an interesting impact on me.

***

 

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***END SPOILERS***

All in all, I think this movie is worth seeing, just know that the first half is all build-up to the real story and that build-up almost has nothing to do with the KILLING JOKE. But it’s certainly thought-provoking, unique, gritty, and despite its flaws, I really like it.

My honest rating for BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE: a strong 3/5

PS: Joker’s joke at the end… yeah, that was pretty funny.

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That’s all for this week, guys, but the next set of films start tomorrow and there’s a bunch of ’em (6 total). Keep an eye out for my reviews for them.

  • JASON BOURNE
  • BAD MOMS
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKCw-kqo3cs
  • EQUITY
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg2TSp5tJy4
  • INDIGNATION
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKsrUssyQE
  • TALLULAH
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WSz2s-Gemc
  • NERVE
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX1BTiHzq-I
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THE BFG review

Ahhh, good ole Steven Spielberg. A household name for decades as one of the most inspirational filmmakers of our generation. So much of his work is a childhood staple, it’s hard not to be interested in anything with his name stamped on it. That’s not to say that he hasn’t had a few misfires. KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL anyone? But even his worst movies have always offered something by way of whimsy or visual spectacles. BFG looked like it’d be just that and early reviews for this family friendly movie made it seem very promising (you know, like every Spielberg film). I wasn’t sure if this was an original idea or if it was based on a previously published idea, but either way, I was very interested. Was this a giant friendly movie, or did Jack need to be here for some slaying? This is my honest opinion of THE BFG.

(SUMMARY)

Ten year old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan girl. She tries to be good in the orphanage she lives in, her curiosity gets the better of her one fateful night. Looking out her bedroom window, she happens upon a skulking giant (Mark Rylance). Her presence catches his attention and out of fear of her telling the world of his existence, he kidnaps her and takes her away to a faraway land called Giant Country where he intends to keep her forever. But the two eventually strike up a friendship and Sophie becomes privy to the dangers of the land, primarily that although the big friend giant, or BFG as Sophie will end up calling him, is not a fan of eating humans, his brethren that are twice his size are more than happy eating people, placing Sophie in particular danger. But BFG wants to protect her and she wants him to stand up for himself and not live in fear of his own people.

(REVIEW)

UPDATE: Yeah, it’s based on a book. DISCLAIMER (obviously): I never read it.

You know what, I kinda liked this movie. I may not think it’s the best Spielberg movie ever made, but if you’re looking for a flick that showcases what Spielberg is primarily known for, you’ll find it here.

Somehow, nearly every Spielberg movie manages to cast great child actors. This is no exception. Young Barnhill is absolutely wonderful as Sophie. She’s a brash young lady, but has a heart as big as her giant friend. Barnhill interacts with her CG environment very well, and that can be difficult even for seasoned actors, but Spielberg definitely knew how to give her the right direction. I hope we see more of this young girl and look forward to her next big picture.

Moving on to the growing popularity that is Rylance. Most of you will remember him as the Russian spy that befriends Tom Hanks in BRIDGE OF SPIES. Hell, you should remember him because he won an Oscar for his performance. Personally, while I didn’t think he was bad, Rylance’s character just felt a little too boring for my taste and wasn’t very memorable by comparison to his competition. But if you wanted to see what Rylance was capable of, this movie will do it for you. Rylance as the BFG was so charming and so enjoyable that he feels so real at times. Yes, the character itself is computer generated, but the way they capture his expressions, his voice, it’s a brilliant and engaging performance that I don’t think another actor could have pulled off in the same way.

Speaking of computer generated, yeah, it’s phenomenal. The subtleties of the lip movements, the wrinkles around the cheeks and eyes and…. oh my god, the eyes! I think the animation and the realism of the eyes blew me away the most. In anybody else’s hands, I feel like the primary focus would have been to make the eyes enormous and simply showcase size. But Spielberg was smart enough to make sure that the emotion was the centerfold of the close-ups. Honestly, it’s breath-taking. Maybe the brethren giants are easier to spot, but when it was done right, it’s hard not to be impressed.

I think there are some clunky choices to justify how a giant has evaded public sight this whole time. Throwing over his over-sized black blanket to make an entire street seem like a dark alley or whatever, or hopping on the back of a pickup truck with big ole feet sticking out, it gets pretty ridiculous.

The movie does start to show some serious problems toward the last half hour.

***SPOILERS***

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So by this point, BFG has stood up for himself against his kin. In order to make life more peaceful for BFG, Sophie decides to conjure up a dream from all the remaining dreams that were collected to enlist the help of the Queen back home and utilize her military to attack the giants. Somehow, simply revealing a giant to the Queen and her forces wouldn’t be enough to convince them that giants exist and eat humans. Nope, they have to make the plan more complicated because… special effects and run times!

And, while I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this series of events, the story detours horribly when BFG enters the palace for food and drink. This scene lasts a good ten minutes, so if you’re not enjoying yourself like your five year olds probably are, then this would be the scene to get up and take a bathroom break because it has no real point. The easiest joke to make is, “Yeah, possible impending doom upon the people of England via getting eaten alive by ruthless, bloodthirsty giants. No one cares about that, we need tea and biscuits, stat!” Priorities? What’s that?

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***END SPOILERS***

And I can’t believe that in one night, I saw two movies that showcased farting on multiple occasions and it’s the one with the crazy island-stranded dude talking to a corpse that gets it right and not a Spielberg film. Seriously, there was no point in that. And why did Spielberg insert that stuff in his movies anyway? Why is he making such weird additions to his movies? Has that always been a thing and I just never noticed?

Honestly, there’s a lot to enjoy in this film. The two leads share incredible chemistry, despite probably having very little real interaction with each other. The CG is extraordinary and, most importantly in a Spielberg film, it’s got just enough fun and whimsy to be a good time. It makes a few lame choices that don’t make a whole lot of sense that prevent it from being very good, but it’s hard not to recommend it. If you’re a Spielberg fan and want to take the kids to see a wonderfully put together story, I say this is right up your alley.

My honest rating: a strong 3/5

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Upcoming reviews:

  • CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
  • THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
  • MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 review

Sorry for the delay of these upcoming reviews. Been hit by some financial troubles and been behind on current movies. But that’s about to change in the very near future and I should be back on track with updated reviews. Just a brief adjustment period is all I need. But no one cares about that, let’s get to the real reason we read my stuff!

Believe it or not, by the time this movie was announced, I hadn’t yet seen the first NOW YOU SEE ME. It was something of regret of mine as I am a huge fan of magic in general and magic-themed movies (THE PRESTIGE and THE ILLUSIONIST). Plus, huge fan of the cast. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Isla Fisher… jeez, it probably would have been easier to say who wasn’t in the movie. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t see it right then.

But, as any smart person would say, I wasn’t about to see a sequel without seeing the original. So here’s my quick review of NOW YOU SEE ME. It was fantastic. It was so much fun, so visually incredible and mesmerizing that it made me wish I was in Vegas to see a real mind-blowing magic show. Performances all around were great with some solid twists and turns, as any magic-themed movie worth its balls would have. I was officially geared up and excited for the sequel.

Quickly I noticed that Fisher wasn’t in the movie, replaced by Lizzy Caplan (a more talented actress, if you ask me), and further addition of Daniel Radcliff, this was shaping up to be a pretty interesting flick and looked just as visually exciting as the last. With high hopes, I got my ticket and sat on down. Did it blow me away, or did this end up being amateur at best? This is my honest opinion of NOW YOU SEE ME 2.

(SUMMARY)

One year after The Four Horsemen robbed Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) of his money and giving to the many people who were affected by his rotten business decisions, the Horsemen are in hiding, awaiting orders from their new organization, The Eye. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is revealed to be impatient with The Eye’s decisions and Dylan Rhodes’ (Mark Ruffalo) leadership and wants to be in charge. But before long, Rhodes brings the Horsemen together for a show, along with new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan), to bring down corrupt businessman, Owen Case (Ben Lamb). However, their show is hijacked by an unknown assailant that exposes them to the FBI, as well as Rhodes being the fifth Horsemen. Escaping the FBI’s clutches, they escape via a tube on a rooftop, they somehow end up in Macau, China. They’re met with a middle man, Merritt McKinney’s (Woody Harrelson) twin brother Chase (Woody Harrelson) that robbed him of everything he had a long time ago, who takes the Horsemen to his employer. A young but ingenious tech expert thought to be dead named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), whom knows the Horsemen stole money from him. Willing to wipe their slate clean, he tells them to steal a piece of tech from his former business partner, Owen Case. Atlas takes charge and agrees to the heist, even though no one else really wants to do it. Meanwhile, Rhodes is on the lamb and desperately wants to know who is behind the Horsemen’s exposure. In order to do this, he has to break out Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) from prison, whom Rhodes blames for his escape-artist father’s death. So begins a game of reuniting the Horsemen, magic-themed espionage, and taking down the man who is behind the Horsemen’s current turmoils.

(SUMMARY)

Not nearly as good as the first one, but I’m going to start with the stuff I really liked.

First and foremost, the cast is phenomenal as always, but let’s address probably my favorite actor/character in the film. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for miss Caplan. Big, big fan of hers. Always knew she could act the crap out of anything she’s given (even if the material is stale, she makes it good) and finally, she’s given something great to work with. I absolutely loved Lula. And before anyone tries to tap into the immature man in me saying that I only like her because Caplan is gorgeous… yes, she is… but no, in a male-dominated core cast of actors who are known best for their comedy, it’s Lula that feels like the greatest comedy relief in the movie. How often does that happen?? Usually in a male-dominated case, the funny women are all raunchy and perverted, whereas the men are given the best and most memorable lines. Here, while everyone has a funny line or two, Lula is the heavy-hitter in terms of comedy. Caplan brings an unmatched energy to the role that no one else measures up to. I think my favorite moment with her is a self-aware joke. The Horsemen are laying down a plan to steal the tech that Walter wants them to steal and a part of that plan is stealing the identity of a client who is frequently accompanied by a woman who is, shall we say… very clearly expensive arm-candy. Lula chimes in with the a sarcastically drenched, “Gee, I wonder who’s going to be the bimbo!” Never mind the fact that I’m just chuckling my head off at her not-so-subtle bluntness, but there’s a hilarious follow-up to this moment. I ain’t giving that away, kids. Caplan, thank you for having the most stand-out performance in the movie. Many heartz for you. See? I spelled it with a “Z.” That’s how you know how cereal I am.

Also, I kind of liked how there’s a lot more interaction between the Horsemen themselves and how they really work off of each other. You get to see Jack (Dave Franco) and McKinney try to teach each other their respective crafts, like McKinney trying to throw cards, only be hilariously terrible at it, as well as Jack trying to learn how to hypnotize, only to get embarrassed by his target for failing. You get to also see them kind of challenge each other. Like when Lula breaks into Atlas’ apartment and he’s trying to tie her up to a chair while he tries to figure out how she found him and she keeps escaping from his knots.

And of course, when the magic kicks into high gear, it’s a crap-load of fun. Even from the basic and humble “follow the respective card” trick to the straight-up marvel and down-right impressive stopping of rain where it falls and making it dance in the air, it gets me grinning from ear to ear. God, I never think about magic in my average day to day life, but the moment you put a talented magician in front of me, I’m a kid again.

But the good times do come to a halt in a few areas.

While I do love the magic that’s presented in the movie, there is an insultingly small amount of it in the movie. In the previous movie, there were quite a few major scenes featuring magic tricks, making the audience in the movie as well as in the chairs in the auditorium. Special effects or not, the shows are spectacular. In this movie, they have one… and even that is debatable. The show that Walter hijacks doesn’t kick get a chance to get underway. Sure, toward the climax of the movie, there are a bunch of little acts by individual Horsemen, and again, while enjoyable by themselves, you can’t call them “the Four Horsemen” if it’s just one Horseman performing separate from the group. They shine when they perform together.

***SPOILERS***

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And the climax being debatable: yeah, it’s technically being performed by the Horsemen and they have a crowd of people watching it unfold. Thing is, for me anyway, it’s not a real show. I know the point of it is that it’s not meant to be known, otherwise the gripping reveal would lose its luster, but the first film didn’t shy away from having multiple performances from the Horsemen. I can’t deny that the ending is pretty damn well executed and I genuinely didn’t see it coming, but let’s face it, that’s the only show you see in the movie.

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***END SPOILERS***

I have no issues with Radcliffe as an actor. Even from his humble beginnings on HARRY POTTER, he was always a solid performer. But I can’t help but feel like his performance here is basically Eisenberg’s. I mean, his mannerisms aren’t much different. He’s fast talking, always ready to answer a question with another question before snarkily answering it. It’s so repetitive and distracting. More annoying than threatening. He’s done better work than this, but I doubt this will hurt his career much.

Speaking of awkward performances, I do confess to not liking Harrelson. Now before you lean back in frustration at me, some clarification: Harrelson as the twin brother. Oh yeah, as Merritt, he’s absolutely fine. But as Chase? Dear god was that beyond obnoxious. He plays the part like a psychotic cartoon character who surgically cemented his face into a smile that would frustrate Batman’s Joker into a homicidal frenzy. Harrelson, I love you man, but… no more Chase. Write this character out of the third film and never reference him again. Just a thousand no’s.

The movie as a whole does hold up, despite the weird setbacks in annoying characters and lack of showcasing magic acts. I know I gushed like a crazy person when talking about Caplan’s performance, but that shouldn’t imply that the rest of the cast was flat-lined. Everyone, with the exception of Radcliffe and Harrelson as Chase, was amazing. Had it not been for such a great cast, this movie would have been a complete blunder. But I can’t look past the stumbles here. I say, “viewer beware.” The first movie is superior, but if you’re a fan of the cast like I am, you’ll be fine for the most part. If you didn’t like the first movie, I doubt this one will be worth your time. I absolutely didn’t hate it, but nor do I love it as much as the previous installment.

My honest rating: 3/5

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Upcoming review:

  • WARCRAFT

BEGIN AGAIN (Netflix) review

So why did I pick to watch this one? Well, being an avid fan of writer/director John Carney’s work on SING STREET, it came to my attention that he also wrote and directed this one too. As I usually appreciate an artist’s work more when they do both the writing and directing, it just feels like more passion and/or care goes into them. At least… that’s what I imagine. George Lucas’ prequel Star Wars films aren’t considered very good, but you can tell he at least likes them, and as a fellow artist, I can respect that. But I’m getting sidetracked. I wanted to see if this movie would have the same passion put into it as it clearly was in SING STREET. So without further adieu, this is my honest opinion of BEGIN AGAIN.

(SUMMARY)

Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a record producer who was recently let go from his job. He’s not viewed in the kindest ways to his ex-wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and his teenage daughter, Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). Gretta (Keira Knightley) is songwriter who dated Dave (Adam Levine), a rising musician whom used to work very closely with Gretta on songwriting. Unfortunately, he cheated on her and now she wants to go back home. But not before her very good friend Steve (James Corden) drags her to an open mic bar where she winds up on stage to sing a song. As it happens, Dan is there too and thinks that Gretta has some serious talent. He strikes up a conversation with her and wants to sign her on for a record deal. Although she’s hesitant at first, she agrees. But Dan’s record company doesn’t. In order to get them to agree, Dan and Gretta decide to make an outdoor record and hire the rest of the bandmates from elsewhere to create amazing music.

(REVIEW)

Man, I gotta say, it didn’t really blow me away. I mean, it’s in no way bad, it’s good, but… ehhh, let’s get into it.

Let me start with the set-up, no comparing or contrasting here. The opening scene is Gretta performing in the bar and Dan looking on when she’s done. But then we cut to a flashback on how Dan got to that bar, and listened to Gretta’s song. Then we cut to yet another flashback of Gretta’s life prior to the bar and how she got to singing on stage. Typically, I don’t have a problem with flashback scenes. I mean, look at me, I love TV shows like LOST and ONCE UPON A TIME, and those shows have a fetish for flashbacks. But those flashbacks have a purpose, to reveal a part of the character’s personality and give a more in depth look into who they are. You couldn’t just play the events chronologically. I feel like both character’s flashbacks would have benefited by simply playing their stories in order, or simply do away with those events all together. There’s no other flashbacks in the movie and anything that has to be reminisced is simply talked about by the characters. So the flashbacks in the beginning feel… unnecessary.

Now we get into the “compare and contrast,” which I really hate to do when movies aren’t remakes of any kind to each other, but… SING STREET and BEGIN AGAIN are remarkably similar to each other. Guy wants to start a band for/with a girl, guy comes from a broken family, girl was in a broken relationship, they perform their first song in a rundown alleyway, the guy goes all Commander Shepard and recruits a squad of random bandmates, perform their music almost exclusively outside, the list kind of goes on. So… yeah, compare and contrast.

The main reason why this movie didn’t work as well for me: the music. Clarification, the purpose of the music. SING STREET’s music had a function. Every song that’s made in the movie, you know the why and how of it. Conor likes Raphina, he starts a band, makes a song about her, and she likes it. As their relationship grows, his music gets better, and the more powerful his music becomes. Each song radiates with Conor’s emotions and thoughts, almost like a proper musical. In that respect, the music in the movie is a character in itself. That’s where BEGIN AGAIN fell a little short for me. Like SING STREET, the music is great to listen to, but it feels… disconnected from the characters. Yes, Dan and Gretta both have musical backgrounds, but the nitty gritty details about their problems are: Dan is trying to make his family whole again, and Gretta’s trying to move on from her cheating ex-boyfriend. Dan and Gretta meet and make music to get their lives back on track. As far as I was able to tell, with the exception of Gretta singing into her ex’s voicemail, the music isn’t meant to express how the characters feel, it’s just a plot device. I feel like the music here is cosmetic at best, whereas the music in SING STREET was integral.

But I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t like this movie.

Ruffalo and Knightley are unbelievable. They have incredible chemistry, as does much of the cast. I read on IMDb that a lot of the film is improv. It’s pretty obvious to spot, but those are the scenes that feel like the most endearing. There’s a real connection with the actors, a comradery that feels authentic and is really engaging. To be able to capture that and make it feel organic to the story never ceases to amaze me. Like I said, the music is great. I have a leaning toward the 80’s music of SING STREET, but this stuff is very nice to listen to, a very relaxing kind of movie. Not as many heartstrings being tugged on, but it’s hard to deny the grasp the story has on your emotions.

I would say if you liked SING STREET, you’ll like this movie fine. But in my opinion, watch BEGIN AGAIN first as SING STREET is basically a superior and more enjoyable version. Expect a ton of parallels in story elements, but both are very much worth the time.

My honest rating: 4/5

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY review

Oh dear god was I not looking forward to this movie. Alright, so let’s get this out of the way, as I’ve had a little too many people curse me out and tell me I’m scum: I AM NOT A SACHA BARON COHEN FAN!!! I have only seen so much of BORAT, BRÜNO, and THE DICTATOR before having to switch away out of lack of funny. So no, I’ve never seen any of these movies all the way through. I’ve seen enough.

I will say, however, his supporting roles have been good. MADAGASCAR, for example. He was King Julien. Who doesn’t love King Julien? Or SWEENY TODD. He was great in these movies, and he’s not the star. That’s about the only capacity that I can tolerate him. If he’s the star, nope… just nope. Running away from that shit like a gamer told to play SUPERMAN 64. Not happening.

Except it did happen, and I have no excuse other than… I need an opinion for it when I go to work and guests ask me what I think of it. So this will be the first Cohen movie that I will have sat all the way through for. This is my honest opinion of THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), who is an Englishman from the small town of Grimsby. He has a wife, several children, and spends most of his days drinking beer with the townsfolk and watching soccer. Despite his poor status, he’s a happy camper… except he thinks about his baby brother Sebastian everyday. When he was a kid, Nobby and Sebastian’s parents died and they ended up separated. While Nobby grew up as he did, Sebastian on the other hand became MI6’s top agent. Well, an assignment of his takes Sebastian back to Grimsby: prevent an assassination of an important person. However, Nobby gets word that Sebastian will be at this important event and finds him… messing up Sebastian’s attempt to do his job, accidentally kills the person he was supposed to protect, and now MI6 thinks that Sebastian has gone rogue. Barely able to tolerate Nobby’s interference, the two embark on a journey of survival and the attempt to clear Sebastian’s name.

(REVIEW)

Dear JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS… I am so sorry… I labeled you as my #1 worst movie of 2015. You were definitely a rotten movie, but… by comparison to the violation I suffered through, the unrelenting mind rape that I was forced to endure for an hour and twenty-three minutes… you might as well have been CITIZEN KANE. Yup, this is it folks. I am officially declaring THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY the absolute WORST movie I have personally ever seen.

I don’t even really want to talk about it because it’s so painful to think about, but no reviewer or critic worth their mettle would ever just spout “IT SUCKS!!!” without going into why. I don’t intend this to be a very long review, so I will just describe one scene and you can decide for yourself if this movie is for you or not and figure out my absolute loathing of this… piece of shit masquerading as a movie.

Nobby and Sebastian are on the run from assassins and find themselves in a savanna with a herd of elephants. With little time to think, Nobby tells Sebastian to trust him. The assassins arrive, but only see the elephants and decide to search for the brothers elsewhere. Turns out, the brothers were hiding in an elephant’s vagina. This is about as graphic as it sounds. (If you stop reading here, you’ve come far enough and are a valiant soldier.) In an attempt to see if the coast is clear, Nobby wiggles toward the exit and pokes his head out. He says the assassins are indeed gone, but as if on cue, the female elephant has caught the eye of a male elephant with an erect penis, making a beeline for it. Unable to leave in time, Nobby goes back to Sebastian and the male begins to fuck the female, its penis repeatedly striking Sebastian in the face. In order for this to end quicker, Nobby suggests that Sebastian stroke the elephant’s penis as Nobby works the testicles. The male elephant soon jizzes all over Sebastian. The male leaves the female and the brothers try to leave. However, another male elephant enters the picture and the same thing happens. Then it’s revealed elephants are standing in line to fuck this one female and one of the elephants ends up fucking Nobby’s ass, all the while drenched in elephant semen.

If you managed to read all of that, I salute you. While that may be the worst offending scene in the entire movie, don’t think for a minute that the rest of the humor is that much better. It’s chalk full of wide-angle lens shots of human testicles in another man’s mouth, being sucked, the thumbs up of giving children loaded guns and vaping… it’s a colossal contamination of the brain that I can’t believe I sat all the way through of. I have never walked out of a movie before. I didn’t do it here, but guys… I really wanted to. I really fucking wanted to. I didn’t spend money on this (thank God almighty), but I still wanted my money back. I wanted my hour and twenty-three minutes back. The day this movie leaves the cinema, I swear, I’m going to celebrate with cake and presents and declaring it a personal holiday.

My honest rating: 0/5

That’s right, a ZERO out of 5. I don’t give those out. That’s not on my 1 to 5 out of 5 scale. That’s how bad this fucking thing is.

DADDY’S HOME review

***DISCLAIMER***

Hey guys! I’m new to WordPress, so to get a feel for the site and how it suits my hobbies of reviewing movies, my first reviews/posts will be ones that I’ve already written. In the spirit of the new year, I will be posting only my “Top 10” and “Bottom 5” movies of 2015 (or at least for the ones I wrote reviews for). Enjoy and let me know what everyone thinks. 🙂

***END DISCLAIMER***

I wonder how hated I am for my taste in actors and films. Well, bracing for another round of judgment: I HATE WILL FERRELL!!! The actor, not the man. He is just not funny to me. Seriously, there has been only one movie that he was the star of that I liked: STRANGER THAN FICTION. That’s it. And it was funny. It had smart humor. Ferrell plays the character straight. He’s not a doofus, or a moron, he’s a regular guy with an irregular problem and deals with it in a real way. That has never been a role that he’s replicated. I suppose the other exception was the last team up that Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg had: THE OTHER GUYS, which I didn’t hate. As usual, I didn’t like Ferrell, but Wahlberg was funny and the jokes were smart enough to get more than a few giggles out of me. So I had hopes that this second mash up would have some steam in it. Did it? Y’all know how this works.

(SUMMARY)

Brad (Will Ferrell) is a proud step-father to Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), and happily married to their loving mother, Sara (Linda Cardellini). However, Brad’s having a hard time being accepted as the kids’ step-dad. But just as soon as he and the family is making progress, a phone call comes in. Lo and behold, it’s their biological deadbeat dad, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), whom the kids adore. Offering to pick Dusty up to stay with the family for awhile, much to the dismay of Sara, Brad is met at the airport with hostility. Turns out, he doesn’t like Brad that much and seems like he wants to muscle him out (figuratively and metaphorically) and now it’s a battle for the kids’ love, to which high jinks ensues.

(REVIEW)

Ferrell is ONCE AGAIN playing a fucking moron who is supposed to be awkwardly charming but just comes off as retarded. No punchline he utters is in any way funny. Every joke he blabs is a miss. A bad miss. Every joke has to have a set-up. These jokes have no set-up. Think of it like this, someone comes up to you and just shouts: “TO GET TO THE OTHER SIDE!!!” You’d probably react with, at the very least, confusion. Little do you know that it was the punchline to a joke. Well… I bet you’re not laughing. Why? Because punchlines need a set-up. That’s how you make a joke. This movie is ALL punchlines with no set-up. I can’t laugh if I don’t know why I should.

If any credit can be given, its that I know the two actors are trying. Well…Ferrell will take any piece of shit thrown his way, but Wahlberg, man… Wahlberg is usually diverse in his acting. He can be a bad ass AND a funny son-of-a-bitch, but he wasn’t. He was boring. He’s trying, I see that, but it isn’t working out.

Why do these kids not accept Brad as their step-dad? Never explained. The movie constantly tries to hammer in that “kids know who their REAL dad is,” but they don’t show that with these kids. They just hate Brad for no reason. They just love Dusty for no reason. There’s this dog that looks decrepit and ready to die. The joke here is: the dog, which is blind, hates Brad for some reason. Not even all the way through the entire scene either. That dog ain’t growling when it enters the kitchen. It ain’t growling after that first growl. What the fuck is up here? Why am I supposed to be laughing at this?

To boot, Brad isn’t likable. He’s a spineless piece of shit who frustrates me with how he can’t stand up for himself. Sure, he explains this in one sentence that he was bullied, but dear god, how has he not overcome that as an adult? Rusty’s an asshole for no reason either, but he HAS to have a scene that makes him more sympathetic, even though it isn’t earned by a long-shot. Sara’s a fucking joke as she just LET’S Dusty make a fool of her husband, not taking ANY control of her life and family, but there’s always that scene that has to remind us that SHE’S the victim here as much as Brad is, which is horse shit. She had a great deal of control, but the convenience of writing prevents her from doing fuck-all other than be the conquest of both men in this movie.

Not lying, I found myself begging my legs to walk me out of the auditorium. But I guess if I can sit through JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, I can muscle my way through this pile of shit too. But guys… I really wanted to leave.

We can probably guess what kind of rating I’m going to give it, but I do want to point out the only good jokes that came out of the movie: the ending.

***SPOILERS***

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The entire movie, Dylan tells his parents that he’s being bullied by some fourth graders. He’s tired of being bullied and is shown how to fight back. Finally, at the Daddy-Daughter dance, the bullies are revealed to the audience and, won’t lie, I laughed my ass off here, turns out to be fourth grade girls. Dylan is taught to trash-talk the biggest one, punch that bully in the nose, kick that bully in the balls, and call that bully a bitch. Well, that’s exactly what Dylan does and that had me howling with laughter. See, folks? Set-up. We assume Dylan is being bullied by boys, not girls. And Vaccaro’s passionate delivery of his lines are incredibly hilarious.

And let’s talk about arguably the BEST joke in the entire movie, the last two minutes. Dusty was always the tough guy between him and Brad. This running gag is nothing new and barely funny. BUT, who remembers the movie TRAINWRECK with Amy Schumer? Remember that scene in the movie theater where John Cena’s character is called Mark Wahlberg and that line, “I look like Mark Wahlberg ATE Mark Wahlberg”? Put that scene in a safe place in your mind. We’re going to come back to that. So back to DADDY’S HOME, Dusty and Brad become friends and Dusty’s a better dad than he was before. Happy ending with him getting married to a new woman and Dusty is step-dad to his wife’s daughter. Well, a hardcore motorcycle drives up and it’s a heavily-muscled bad-ass, obviously the wife’s baby-daddy. Dude removes his helmet and guess who it fucking is: John mother fucking Cena who treats Dusty like shit. I was pissing my pants I was laughing to damn much. I won’t lie though, this joke would still be funny in its own right, but I am convinced that TRAINWRECK was the prequel to this movie and these movies’ sole purpose was to execute that one glorious punchline.

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***END SPOILERS***

This movie is horrible. It’s an insult to comedy and I don’t even like comedies all that much for this very reason. It’s my phoned-in formula all over again: A bunch of idiots, doing idiotic things, getting themselves into trouble. It’s a shitty movie that left me in mental pain. Sure, the last five, ten minutes are hilarious, but out of a ninety minute movie, that’s not a good chunk of time spent with humorous dialog.

1/5

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