Magic Mike XXL – Review

“Magic Mike XXL” is in many ways a pretty enjoyable movie. Channing Tatum, despite seeming to be physically imposing, moves in a manner that belies his size and makes him seem really personable–more so than I am accustomed to seeing him–and the whole cast seemed to be having a good time, which shows.

And for some that’s all they want from a movie, so it works on that level.

That being said, it’s almost surreal how unreal the movie feels. I’m accustomed to movies revolving around strippers (or any other field so pornography-adjacent) to have some sort of an edge, and not to feel like it’s suffering from a serious case of Disneyfication.

What I would have liked to have seen would have been somewhat evocative of Times Square before all the peepshows and porno theaters were gentrified out of existence; a portrayal of slightly damaged people, overcoming the odds.

But that’s not what we get here, mainly because one of the things Magic Mike XXL lacks is any sense of threat, of danger, which typically goes hand-in-hand with sexiness. Here it’s all about the tease, which is nothing if not frustrating (though it didn’t appear to bother the woman sitting next to me, who was REALLY into it).

In Mike’s world all the men are either strong, confident, witty, capable, agile, philosophical or really good singers (sometimes embodying all of those characteristics in one individual, if Ken (Matt Bomer) or Mike (Tatum) are any indication.

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Spring – Review

Spring movie poster

“Be careful who you love, because Spring is coming and it’s a monster.”

Some critics has described Spring as ‘Lovecraftian,’–which is what drew me to it in the first place–and while a very good movie, Lovecraftian it’s not.  For it to be so would imply that it was based on, or somehow similar or related to, the work of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos.

And it’s not, not in the least.  Sure there are monsters, some even of the aquatic variety, and lots of water; but if that made a movie Lovecraftian, then Steven Spielberg’s Jaws could be as well (which it most definitely isn’t).

Because for a movie to be called so would mean that it not only involves monsters, but embody some of the underlying ideas of Lovecraft’s Mythos, which typically revolves around sinister forces aligned against humankind, whether on a larger or  smaller scale.

Now what Spring is is an awesomely taut, interesting love story.  It’s also best watched twice because you can see the care with which Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson craft their story.  There’s virtually no wasted frames in the entire movie, with everything you see either helping to contribute to a feeling of dread or sell the underlying premise.

Though it’s not perfect, with its weakest scene being the one where Louise (Nadia Pilker) looks into supernatural means to cure her…condition.  The problem isn’t the scene in and of itself, more so than if a person had lived as long as she had, she’d probably have tried it already (though in the movie’s defense she might have done so because she found herself growing closer to Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) and wasn’t thinking straight.

It’s no accident that that title of the movie is Spring, because the themes of death and rebirth run through the entire movie, most often in a very clever fashion.

The season of Spring has begun on iTunes, though be careful because while love may be eternal, you’re not.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – Review

“What Kind Of Cars Are Those?  They’re  So Scary.”

I didn’t make up that quote, by the way, it’s an actual line from the movie, which is problematic because NO ONE talks like that, particularly when there’re being chased by a bunch of assassins.   Though the thing is, the actor who uttered the line, T.J. Miller, is always interesting, so I was able to let it go (though clearly not forget).

Though one of the many the problems is that what happens when really stupid events occur and the actors aren’t particularly interesting?  Or even worse, when stupid things happen when the actors aren’t even human?

Well, that’s pretty much the story of the Transformers films:  Lots of clearly expensive CGI spending way too much time in an attempt to justify its very existence.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t decent flesh and blood actors in the movie.  Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Mark Wahlberg all have some pretty impressive performances–in much better movies–under their belts, though there’s so little asked of them here–other than to show up and go through the motions–that you can’t take anything seriously.

Which is a problem when you’re dealing with a bunch of films that are fantastical by design; there’s nothing to ground them.

Joshua Joyce

In case you forgot that Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) was inspired by Steve Jobs…

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Sense8 – Review

Sense8

I have to admit that based on the first episode of Netflix’s Sense8 that things weren’t going to go to well.  Reason being, while it managed to avoid the problem endemic to the Wachowskis’s Matrix sequels–which because of their tendency to ‘tell, not show’ came off a bit pretentious–it also came off a bit scattershot.

Then again, it should have been expected when you take into account the underlying premise of the series, which revolves around eight individuals from all over the world, linked by a mysterious woman (Daryl Hannah) that are somehow able to share experiences and abilities, that it would feel a bit jumpy, telling so many stories almost at once.

So, it’s initially a bit disorientating to have things start at one point, then at the next you’re in another country, with entirely different people.

Though things work themselves quickly, and once I came to learn who the characters were, everything became a lot more interesting.  In fact, structurally it reminds me quite a bit of NBC’s Heroes, except that its scale is bigger.  For instance, while  while Heroes made use of a lot of green screen and backlots in California, Sense8 was filmed on location all over the world, and it shows.

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Love In The Time Of Monsters – Review

Love in the Time of Monsters poster

“So this is where the American Dream died.”

  —Marla

Matt Jackson’s Love in the Time of Monsters–a play on Gabriel Garcia’s Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera?–is interesting for a lot of reasons, the first being that it’s so thematically similar to Zombeavers that it almost plays like a sequel.

Luckily, Love in the Time of Monsters is a better movie, though neither will be winning any awards, Saturn or otherwise, any time soon.

My biggest issue with it is that it takes two interesting leads–Marla (Gena Shaw) and Carla (Marissa Skell), both who’s views on family vacations were marred by the death of their father, who died when Paul Bunyan’s ax fell on him during a trip to Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California–and does relatively little with them.

Paul Bunyan and Babe Paul Bunyan and Babe

The movie covers their first vacation together in 15 years.

And while neither sister was unscathed by the experience, Marla seems worse off, becoming cynical and unable to maintain a relationship for any length of time.

Hoping that this family outing goes better than that last one–it doesn’t–they decide to visit Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge, where Carla’s fiancee works as a Bigfoot performer.

Yes.  I did just type ‘Bigfoot performer.’

Where the movie succeeds most is in the backgrounds of its quirky supporting cast, such as Uncle Slavko (Michael McShane), who, despite running an “All-American Family Lodge” isn’t American or Dr. Lincoln/Doug (Doug Jones) a chemist that just happens to be working at that lodge because of the economy.

And sure, they’re less individuals than vehicles designed to get the story from one point to the next, but everyone looks like they’re having enough fun that it’s easy to overlook.

Another similarity to Zombeavers is a panoply of zombified animals, which would have been much more welcome if they had come a bit earlier in the movie–they first make an appearance in the latter third–with the zombified trout being particularly effective (though the vultures (?) were pretty memorable as well).

When all is said and done, Love in the Time of Monsters is fun, and pretty well-acted, considering the genre, though it’s not quite Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Love in the Time of Monsters is prowling the fringes of iTunes, VOD and Amazon.

Zombeavers – Review

Zombeavers movie poster

“Watch If Just So You Can Say You Do Did (Or You Really Like Bill Burr).  Other Than That, I’ve Got Nothin.'”

Bill Burr!  Bill Burr is one of the first people you see when Zombeavers starts, and maybe it’s just that he’s not too discriminating about the roles he chooses, but I was genuinely happy to see him.  That being said, I’m not too sure why because it’s not like he’s some sort of motion picture arbiter of quality (though he was in Breaking Bad, which was all sorts of awesome).

Though in this instance it’s his screw-up that sets events in motion (by not breaking for a deer).

By the way, under most conditions when deer are hit by vehicles they don’t explode like they’d swallowed a hand grenade or something.

Another surprise is that Chris Bender and JC Spink are listed as producers.  They’ve done some pretty interesting work, such as The Butterfly EffectFinal Destination and The Ruins, among many others).

Which still doesn’t mean that Zombeavers isn’t going to suck, though at least there’s a (admittedly slim) chance it won’t (And apropos of nothing, the origin of the zombified beavers is remarkably similar to that of Marvel’s Daredevil, also on Netflix. Coincidence?  Probably).

About midway the movie turns to ‘The Raft,’ from Creepshow 2, except dumber, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that earlier, when three sunbathing women encounter a bear–the one who happened to be topless covered her breasts, as if the bear somehow cared how small they were.

It’s worth mentioning that the beavers were brought to life–so to speak–via animatronics and hand puppetry, which I appreciate.

There’s also little in the way to CGI to be found, which is good because it would have made the movie look cheaper than it probably was.

Zombeavers plays like a parody of horror movies in which a bunch of–in this instance sort-of-young–young people find themselves in a horrific  situation, which would be fine if it were as funny as the situation is absurd.

So when all is said and done, not even Bill Burr can save Zombeavers, though the theme song at the end comes awfully close.

Zombeavers aren’t resting easy on Netflix.

Carrie (2013) – Review

“Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, As Far As Remaks Goes, Isn’t Terribly Necessary, Though It’s Worth Seeing Anyway.”

For the longest time I’ve avoided watching Kimberly Peirce‘s remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie because I just didn’t see the point, especially since from what I had seen from the trailers it wasn’t saying anything that the original didn’t.

And for the most part, I was right–and also wrong.

I’ll explain what I mean.  Pierce’s remake modernizes the material in a way that you’ll never get from DePalma’s movie–for instance characters use cell phones as well as the Internet–but there’s a very good reason for that:  Cell phones didn’t exist and I suspect that Internet didn’t either, at least not in the form that we know it today.

It’s also worth mentioning that the original movie might feel almost quaint (and to be honest, a bit dated) to a contemporary audience that’s grown up in the age of touch screen phones and the wireless interlinking of devices.

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