Marvel’s War Machine

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an ever expanding many tentacled media goliath. It has spawned dozens of theatrical films and TV shows and at this point it’s getting hard to keep track of it all. So stay with me as I try to explain the backstory of Marvel’s War Machine, a direct-to-Netflix feature film released earlier this month.

War Machine is Iron Man’s (aka Tony Stark’s) sidekick. He has appeared in Iron Man (2008) and its sequels. His real name is James “Rhodey” Rhodes and he’s a decorated military officer who works for Iron Man and eventually wears a similar intelligent super suit of armor except decorated with darker colors.

War Machine was portrayed by Terrence Howard in Iron Man and Don Cheadle in the two sequels. For this film, Marvel obviously had to recast War Machine with a bigger movie star. They chose Brad Pitt, a puzzling choice given that the character is traditionally portrayed as African-American. Though Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, he is not traditionally considered to be African-American, and I found the “jive” accent he spoke in throughout the movie to be in poor taste.

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Brad Pitt as James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine.

Other than that, Marvel’s War Machine is a pretty solid movie. The plot follows James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine as he tries to win the prolonged war in Afghanistan, featured prominently in Iron Man (2008). The movie hews closer to reality than any other Marvel production to date, with the movie turning from tragedy to farce as the war seems to consume James “Rhodey” Rhodes entirely, turning him into a conspiracy-addled whackjob by the end.

Marvel’s War Machine portrays the conflict in Afghanistan as a hopeless morass of inconclusive skirmishes and surprise guerrilla attacks. Given that all of the recent Marvel movies have been for dumb kiddies, this maturity and political sophistication surprised me.

I suppose I should have expected something more adult from War Machine given that Marvel has produced TV shows for Netflix that are much grittier and darker than its dumbo kiddie films, and this movie was released exclusively to Netflix as well. As children aren’t allowed on Netflix, Marvel has been forced to adapt and evolve in order to succeed in the Netflix ecosystem. That’s all for the best in my book.

TL;DR – This portrayal of the conflict in Afghanistan stars Brad Pitt as James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine, the former sidekick to Iron Man trying to win back America’s honor by defeating the Taliban once and for all.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“A film that veers wildly from war movie to character drama to comic book caper to satire to a blended gray of nothing.” – Nur Faizah, PopMatters

“Brad Pitt is back, baby, and he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“An assured, nervy black satire on America’s involvement in Afghanistan and on one particular soldier, commander of U.S. forces James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Really I expected more from Mr. Brad Pitts after all these years. Color me disappointed. Marvel’s War Machine is a real turkey, I’ll have you know.” – Topik Hidayet, Hindustan Times

“It appears to focus on a massive subject, only to reveal a much more understated approach; James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes may think he’s fixated on the glories of the battlefield, but he’s actually War Machine, a comic book sidekick trying to break out on his own.” – Vaughn Babigan, indieWIRE

“A muddled satire about the war in Afghanistan awkwardly forced to camouflage its lead character behind an alter ego and an offensive accent.” – Brian Lowry, CNN

Melonmeter® Score:

74% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight is the first film in the venerable franchise based on Hasbro toy line to fill every single one of its human roles with Chinese actors speaking Mandarin. However, it’s also the first Transformers movie in which humans only appear for about twenty minutes of the running time.

I’ve read that Michael Bay outsourced to his second unit in Quingdao all of these obligatory scenes featuring meatbags talking (subtitled) to each other. This allowed him to focus his energies exclusively on crafting computer generated vista after computer generated vista of Autobots battling Decepticons for control of the universe.

The result is a nearly two and a half hour mostly uninterrupted color show of sensuous visual delights. Bots explode, tumble and flip this way and that in beautifully balletic action sequences marred by not a single fleshy face.

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Simply breathtaking.

Metallic muscles and cords ripple and twitch in tension and ecstasy. Thus they reflect the lurid pleasure experienced by those of us blessed enough to be in the audience witnessing the Transformers’ unbridled dynamism.

Michael Bay has finally transcended the false illusions of narrative and cohesive structure altogether. By entering the realm of pure cinema with enormous wrangling steel chassis as both icon and subject, he’s an invented an entirely new filmic grammar. Giant flying robots have been a staple of the cinema since the Lumière Brothers, but you have never seen them like this before.

Chaos and discord in the heavens rendered with such kinetic style puts Bay in a singular tier of filmmakers from whom he’s clearly drawn inspiration. Now we shall whisper Michael Bay in the same breath as Dziga Vertov, Rene Clair, Slavko Vorkapich, Norman McClaren, Arthur Lipsett, and – dare I say it? – Man Ray himself. Alongside Bay, they all drink creative nectar of the movie gods from the same horn-shaped vessel.

TL;DR – An exhilarating venture into pure cinema for the Transformers franchise leaves us breathless with the rush of seeing such vibrant whirling images only occasionally interrupted by obligatory scenes of narrative featuring Fan Bingbing, Wang Xueqi, Vincent Zhao, and Ge You.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Michael Bay is some kind of genius.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Transformers: The Last Knight offers more to see and more to startle than do many films by auteurs of overt artistic ambition and accomplishment.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“All the best moments in the movie—pure images, devoid of symbol and, for that matter, nearly empty of sense—go by too fast, are held too briefly…” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Michael Bay knocks it out of the park once again!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“When this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. “ – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Bay’s highest inspirations are those of a virtually experimental filmmaker of pure sensation.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“[T]he enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Melonmeter® Score:

98% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Cars 3

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), Shooter McGavin (Larry the Cable Guy) and Dipthong O’Gurk (Anthony Michael Hall) are back as your favorite living, breathing automobiles in Cars 3. That’s right, it’s another animated adventure from the hit-making wizards at Pixar, the most creative and successful company since Motown Records. Incidentally, Motown also happens to have inspired all of Pixar’s movies from the Cars franchise to Please Mr. Postman and its sequel, Twistin’ Postman.

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After winning the tiebreaker race of the Piston Cup championship in Cars and foiling a secret plot by lemon cars to corner the oil market at the World Grand Prix race in Tokyo in Cars 2, Lightning McQueen, Shooter McGavin and Dipthong O’Gurk have nothing left to prove and are on top of the world as far as they’re concerned. It’s one long ride into the sunset for these old buddies – and what could be a better fate for anthropomorphized vehicles such as these ones.

All respect them for their good spirits that may rule in these perilous times! But it is, unfortunately, certain that the good spirits themselves are lacking, that precisely all the good spirits of automotive technology have left them in the lurch!

As is the hallowed custom with these movies, the plot moves forth by a most comical nature; there is no doubt about that. The way Shooter McGavin and Dipthong O’Gurk have bungled things up this time comes to light at the very beginning, where the task is to investigate the origin of their very souls as living, breathing automobiles.

Soon we are to discover it’s only Lightning McQueen who can board a container ship to Rio de Janeiro to rescue them with enough time to make it to that last and most important race. And we in the audience doff our tricorn hats at the screen, as our parents stare at their phones, faces illuminated by merest gleams.

TL;DR – The signpost to the right road is for Cars 3 the question: what is the real significance of the designations for “good” as spoken by the various anthropomorphic automobiles?

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“There must be some word today from my car so far away, please Mister McQueen look and see if there’s a car, a car for me.” – Gladys Horton, Vanity Fair

“Deliver dee letter, dee sooner dee better!” – Cowart Motley, Variety

“These cars sure can talk!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Who has not stared into the headlights of a gassed up automobile and not seen a pair of unblinking human eyes?” – Umair Mamsa, Philadelphia Inquirer

“To this rule that a concept denoting automotive superiority always resolves itself into a concept denoting superiority of the internal combustion engine.” – Millicent Weems, The Guardian

Melonmeter® Score:

68% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Rough Night

Whenever a beloved movie like Date Night goes gangbusters at the box office, Hollywood takes notice and immediately begins developing a sequel. But sometimes, something along the way goes wrong and the sequel actually turns out to be a lot worse than the original. That seems to be what happened with Rough Night, the long awaited sequel to the Date Night franchise.

The first warning you’ll get that Rough Night isn’t going to be nearly as good as Date Night is the casting. The studio was apparently too cheap to cough up the money to pay the original stars (Tina Fey and Steve Carrell) their quote, and so they recast the leads with two much less funny actors: Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon. And while it’s daring to cast Kate McKinnon as a male, no amount of makeup or digital effects can make me believe she’s the same character that Steve Carrell played in the original.

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Kate McKinnon and Scarlett Johansson reprise the roles Steve Carrell and Tina Fey played in the original Date Night.

Another problem with the movie is the plot, which is much less down to earth than the original. Date Night had a premise that everyone could understand: a couple goes out for a fancy dinner but end up being chased by mobsters in a case of mistaken identity. Rough Night goes for something more along the lines of The Hangover but much more confusing.

Phil and Claire Foster (Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon) fight over Phil’s invitation to a raunchy bachelor party in Miami. Phil eventually goes anyway despite Claire’s concerns and ends up on a wild ride with his sex-crazed buddies Buck (Ilana Glazer), Evans (Jillian Bell), Turrance (Leslie Jones), and Reinhold (Zoë Kravitz). Buck hits his head on a bong, Evans finds a dead stripper (Zach Galifianakis) in a closet, Turrance accidentally gets a crazy tattoo and Reinhold hits his head on a windshield and breaks through it ending up on the side of the road but gets up because he still feels okay from being on so many painkillers.

Meanwhile Claire has tracked down Phil and his goofy companions and she’s ready to Shut. This. Shit. Down. I wouldn’t spoil the ending if there was anything to spoil, but none of it makes any sense anyway. It’s just a series of bizarre set pieces involving a loose pig, a trampoline, and an unfortunate accident with a cement truck.

TL;DR: While Date Night was one of the top six comedies of all time, this sequel is a scattered mishmash that suffers from too many missed opportunities.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The bizarre choice to cast female actors in a number of different male roles (and vice versa), using a heavy amount of makeup to make it believable turns out to be the only interesting thing about this by the numbers sequel to Date Night.” – Biffanie Quane, Slant Magazine

“The amount of head trauma in this movie is staggering.” – Vang Anh Trung Nguyên, New York Daily News

“Tina Fey and Steve Carrell aren’t back, baby, and Rough Night suffers for it, big time!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“I’ve never seen a comedy this joyless and sullen.” – Nikita Urevich, Film Freak Central

“The circus freaks at the very end were my favorite part.” – Thế Lực Ngoc Thi, Toronto Sun

“The loss of Shawn Levy in the director’s chair is deeply felt in this dithering sequel to Date Night.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AVClub

Melonmeter® Score:

19% liquid & seed retention – watermelon-512  THOROUGHLY LACKING IN JUICE AND SEEDS AND RATHER CANTALOUPE-LIKE TO BE HONEST™

Wonder Woman

Unlike the cartoonish dumb kiddie Marvel movies, Warner Brothers’ DC Cinematic Universe movies have always maintained a more serious tone and deeper sense of purpose. Wonder Woman follows this proud tradition, telling a story of honor and duty in a chaotic world.

Allow me to offer a brief summary of the plot before proceeding to the discuss the film’s many virtuous qualities. In Act One, Wonder Woman meets the man of her dreams. They fall in love and Wonder Woman gets pregnant.

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That sword is a bit too close for comfort to her very pregnant belly.

In Act Two, Wonder Woman and her boyfriend struggle through a period of uncertainty. Wonder Woman also has to temporarily stop fighting crime for the sake the unborn child living inside of her. This act concludes with Wonder Woman and her boyfriend agreeing to do the right thing and get married.

In Act Three, Wonder Woman has the baby and almost immediately gets pregnant again. She realizes that her true calling is to be a loving wife and mother, and chooses to hang up her golden lasso and shield for good. Wonder Woman and her husband and two kids settle into a nice house out in the suburbs, and then the movie ends.

Wonder Woman is a celebration of everything we find noble about humanity. Wonder Woman and her spouse struggle through periods of doubt and indecision like we all do. We are thrilled to watch them overcome devilish thoughts of straying from the righteous path.

While missing the cool-ass cinematography and production design of Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman makes up for it with a heartwarmingly funny script by Judd Apatow, mainly known up til now for his ‘stoner’ comedies. Wonder Woman reaffirms faith, family, and traditional morality, which is as it should be.

TL;DR – Feel-good, earnest, and buoyed by Gal Gadot’s charming performance, Wonder Woman succeeds as a modest family drama.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“More of a family dramedy in the style of James L. Brooks than the action adventures we’ve come to expect from superhero movies.” – Wilda Wulandari, Christian Science Monitor

“In the end we learn that moms are the real superheros.” – Hixson Grabill, Chicago Tribune

“Judd Apatow keeps things light with his clever dialogue, allowing us to feel good about the very dramatic situations all families have to go through.” – Gulluzar Baboudjian, Boston Herald

“Even if you believe in choice, you have to confront the possibility that a choice can be made in favor of life.” – Ike Brizuela, Decent Films Guide

“Proves the old adage: once a mom, always a mom.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“Seriously, abortion wasn’t even mentioned!?! What a goddamned fuckass cop out!” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“Judd Apatow knocks it out of the park once again!!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Melonmeter® Score:

87% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Baywatch (2017)

The decision to produce an all-male remake of Baywatch was a daring one, and I salute for Paramount Pictures for snubbing the PC police and going with their gut on this one. The remake of the iconic 90s TV series is a thrilling, gut-busting, and downright sexy action-adventure-comedy-bromance. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Barley Fantomum (The Rock) and Eric Leonard Holch (Zac Efron) lead a team of elite lifeguards known as Baywatch. They protect the beaches and the bay and they have fun doing it, and fuck you if you have a problem with that.

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These are men who know how to fuck a butt

The movie opens with a thrilling boat chase sequence in which Barley and Holch save a young sailor from the clutches of an evil businessman. After saving the young sailor and blowing up the businessman’s boat, Barley and Holch celebrate with a buttfuck. The young sailor asks if he can join in, and Barley says “Why sure you can, don’t be shy now!”

Of course, this is just the first of many buttfucking scenes in the movie. In fact, Baywatch (2017) is best described as wall to wall buttfucking interrupted only by a few boat chases, a scuba diving sequence, and an almost infinite variety of explosions.

The main storyline of the movie involves the Baywatch lifeguards tracking down a lunatic arsonist (played with agreeable campiness by Alan Cumming). But you don’t go to Baywatch for the story, you go for the beach, the babes, and the buttfucking and Baywatch (2017) delivers on all three.

The post-credits scene did throw me off a bit (SPOILER ALERT) as it resolves one subplot by revealing Eric Leonard Holch was secretly a rapist and serial killer the whole time. The Rock – I mean Barley Fantomum has to tearfully kill his partner in lifeguarding but not before one last buttfuck for old time’s sake.

TL;DRBaywatch (2017) brings the latent homoeroticism of the original series to the surface with an all-male cast sodomizing each other repeatedly with effervescent gusto.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The Rock is back, baby, and he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“I have always dreamed of seeing The Rock fuck Zac Efron in his cute little ass and Baywatch (2017) finally gave me what I deserved.” – Gopé Guest, San Francisco Examiner

“These men are having fun just being together and getting to don matching swimsuits and whale on each other’s cocks, and their evident joy makes us happy to hop in the boat for a ride-along.” – Hasman Amron, Newsday

“It’s a lot of fun, and allows each of the men to showcase their dongs whilst going up against the waves.” Buzanne Witherford Weathers, Salon.com

“The movie courageously parades full frontal male nudity throughout what felt like a majority of its run time.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“Angry nerds, take note: The mens are the best thing about this franchise reboot. Zac Efron spontaneously erupts in the mouths of all kinds of the people.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“As enjoyable as this movie is, sometimes it feels like it’s holding back…where was the buttfucking train we were promised?” – Dian Maulana Rizki II, Austin Chronicle

Melonmeter® Score:

80% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Ever since Johnny Depp began serving his prison sentence after being convicted of domestic violence against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, the top question on everyone’s minds has been what’s going to happen to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Well this weekend we finally find out with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Sir Paul McCartney stars in the first ever Depp-free Pirates of the Caribbean, and the results are a curiously mixed bag.

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Sir Paul McCartney as Captain Albert Halsey in the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean

Depp’s offscreen woes notwithstanding, Pirates of the Caribbean has been working up to having a 60s rockstar play a lead role in the franchise for several films now. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End featured an extended cameo for Keith Richards and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gave Mick Jagger a prominent supporting role. So in a way it’s only natural for Sir Paul McCartney, often considered the “seventh Rolling Stone” (as well as a key member of The Beatles), to play the lead in the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, the septuagenarian musician delivers a drowsy, drizzly performance as Captain Albert Halsey. Halsey is an absent-minded British privateer and captain of the Silver Hammer. Tempted into unprotected piracy by Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Halsey soon finds himself in over his head when he falls into the crosshairs of the undead pirate hunter Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Though the film has a talented supporting cast including Rush, Bardem, Kaya Scodelerio, Sting, Orlando Bloom, Linda Hamilton, and Harry Connick Jr., McCartney seems indifferent and vacant in every scene he’s in that doesn’t involve singing, dancing, or playing a musical instrument. By the time Halsey saves the life Carina Smyth (Scodelerio), the feisty, altruistic astronomer-inventor convicted of witchcraft (who is also Barbarossa daughter), it only elicits yawns from the audience. Personally, I found it very creepy that Smyth falls in love with Halsey, who is almost 50 years her senior.

Luckily, there are many fine musical sequences to break up the stilted monotony of the rest of the movie. The best numbers feature classic nautically-themed Beatles tunes such as “Octopus’ Garden” (featuring an extended cameo by Ringo Starr in a duet with McCartney, his former bandmate) and “Yellow Submarine.” Sure, “Yellow Submarine” is anachronistic given that the film takes place in the early 18th century, but they cleverly explain this by making it a fantastic vision shared by the Da Vinci-like visionary Carina Smyth and the head-in-the-clouds Halsey.

The seventeen new songs written for the movie (mainly by McCartney, but there’s also a few by Sting, and one by Connick Jr.) feel comparatively slick and bland. They contribute mightily to the film’s bloated three-plus hour running time, but are still a relief from the nearly lifeless scenes that move the “plot” forward.

If Disney decides to produce further sequels to this aging franchise, I hope they wait until Johnny Depp gets out of jail, or else find a leading man (or woman!) with a lot more dedication to playing a pirate than McCartney.

TL;DR – Transforming Pirates of the Caribbean into a musical starring an ex-Beatle is a daring move, but the effort is ultimately doomed by Sir Paul McCartney’s tedious, charisma-free performance as Captain Albert Halsey.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Utterly devoid of energy, excitement, momentum, or any element that might possibly interest anyone.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“A half-hearted shrug of a movie.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“Sir Paul McCartney is back, baby, and he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Seemingly designed to test the affections and patience of Beatles fans more than anything else.” – H. Andy Pregerson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a punishingly somnolent endeavor.” – Biffanie Quane, Slant Magazine

“A film of raging meaninglessness and staggering, almost inconceivable tedium.” – Nathan Rabin, NPR

“There there isn’t a song in the movie that doesn’t make a compelling argument for McCartney continuing to perform for years to come, or a single moment of the narrative that doesn’t scream for McCartney to never act ever again.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AVClub

“‘Sea Dogs,’ ‘Crocodile Tears,’ and ‘Queenie Eye’ are legitimately great songs but ‘Let’s Go A-Piratin’ and ‘Merry Sailors’ are among the most treacly and annoying tunes I’ve ever heard.” – Miles Raymer, Pitchfork

“A featherweight concoction made somehow even more insultingly inconsequential by the presence of Harry Connick Jr., who plays the least convincing pirate in cinematic history.” – Bowell Sandcap, Newsweek

Melonmeter® Score:

36% liquid & seed retention – watermelon-512  THOROUGHLY LACKING IN JUICE AND SEEDS AND RATHER CANTALOUPE-LIKE TO BE HONEST™

Balderdash

Movies based on board games have a pretty great track record lately, from the action-packed Battleship to the spine-tingling Ouija. So it’s no surprise to see a big screen adaptation of Balderdash, and I’m happy to write it’s just as funny as you would hope.

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Of course, Balderdash is not quite as well known as Battleship and Ouija. The studio behind Balderdash knows this perfectly well, and the movie’s budget reflects this brand awareness deficit. There are no special effects, and the entire movie takes place on a single interior set dressed to look like a fancy dining room.

I imagine the bulk of the film’s funding was used to pay its exceptional ensemble cast: Ian McKellan, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, Hugo Weaving, Emma Thompson, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Northam, Tom Hollander, David Thewlis, Richard Griffiths. Helena Bonham Carter, and Emily Mortimer. It’s money well spent in my book, as this cast knows how to talk, and talk fast!

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The whole entire movie takes place in this dining room.

Now before I say anything further about Balderdash, I must confess I have a hard time understanding British accents, especially when spoken at a very fast pace using highly sophisticated language. In other words, I have no idea what anyone was saying in this movie, but boy were they funny saying it.

It’s just fun to hear all these clever British folk trading quips and interrupting each other with dear old chap this and what a load of bollocks that. Even if you have to make up your own meanings for half the words they say like I did, you’ll still have a blast. England is cool.

TL;DRBalderdash is a rousing British farce, with enough nonsense talk to keep your head spinning for days.

 

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“I found the ribald, saucy jests and japes in this motion picture to be most risible!” – Cecil Dawswell, The Independent

“Weighing in at a brisk 75 minutes, Balderdash does have the advantage of brevity, and on screen no less than off, there’s much to be said for an incessant series of quick quips and drive by barbs.” – P.C. Bentley Blair, The Times

“I couldn’t follow the ultra fast paced dialogue hardly at all but the rest of the audience was laughing so I did too!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Is there anyone but Mike Leigh who could have pulled off such an effervescent mix of wordplay, absurdism, and devastating rebuke? And attracted such an ensemble? And let everyone work at this high level?” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“A superbly timed mashup of Altman’s Gosford Park and Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel.” – Bertram Hopkinson, London Evening Standard

“I laughed so hard at the drollery on display that I have half a mind to go see the chemist and get my gasket checked!” – Neville Chubb, The Daily Telegraph

“Leigh juggles about fifteen different characters, moving them around the dining room table so uproariously and naturally that he doesn’t lose the audience for a minute.” – Eustachius Wallingford, The Guardian

“A succulent and devious dining room farce that, in its hyperverbal way, takes a puckish pleasure in scrambling and reshuffling the words of the English language.” Francis Kennard Colbeck, BBC

Melonmeter® Score:

85% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Alien: Covenant

Dare we let any of the 99 names of Alien cross our lips?

Shall we risk vanquishment to scream the praises of the one true Xenomorph, the Queen, the Chestburster?

We must raise our arms in praise of Alien, the lightbringer, who leads us through the darkness in a conquest of our fears and forgives us mercifully for our transgressions. We have formed a covenant with her holiness, the Queen, and we so we did PRAY, SCREAM, RUN, and HIDE in our devotion to her.

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I have seen in the face of the Xenomorph a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere, a whirling demon who moves north, south, east and west at once, Alien who is reflected in all beings and things of this universe. I stumble about in search of words to describe Alien, which my feeble mind can barely contemplate.

Praise be to the Chestburster!

All hail the Queen!

Wherefore remember, the Engineers, so giant and pasty-pale and found at the heart of Prometheus‘ mysteries, did spawn human life on Earth and they, according to the eternal purpose, left clues scattered across time and space.

And so did Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), David (Michael Fassbender), and the Weyland crew make haste to the planet LV-223 where they bore witness to great weapons of terrible weapons, and so did the Queen’s wrath strike down mightily, killing pretty much everybody, except for Shaw.

Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto herself, but unto us was born from her loins a tentacled Alien hybrid. The Trilobite, being born of a most corruptive seed, face-hugged an Engineer from whence came the Deacon who did sliceth his way out of the Engineer’s chest by the word of the Queen, which liveth and abideth for ever and now awaits the blessed gaze of Billy Crudup.

But the films of Alien shall endureth for ever. And these are the films which by the gospel is preached unto you, upholding a long-lived and well-regarded brand forevermore.

TL;DR – Alien: Covenant delivers another chapter of sacred verses which we chant with loving terror into deep space.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Fans are going to freak out.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“Ridley Scott knocks it out the park again!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Covenant does succeed in continuing Prometheus’ ambition to deepen the Alien mythology with a meaning-of-life bent.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“Bridging the gap between Prometheus and the original Alien movie, Covenant marries its prequel’s ontological questions with visceral gore and gripping tension.” – Granderson Winfield, AV Club

Alien: Covenant is the best we can hope for.” – Biffanie Quane, Slant Magazine

Covenant advances the mythology established by Prometheus.” – Mark Keizer, Alt Film Guide

Melonmeter® Score:

94% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

The Best of Matthew Broderick

I’ve just watched the eye-opening new documentary from Room 237 director Rodney Ascher. The Best of Matthew Broderick takes as its subject the career of actor Matthew Broderick, but don’t expect an exhaustive survey of theories describing hidden meanings of Broderick’s films. This documentary is far less explicit than Room 237, and also far more alluring.

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Matthew Broderick in WarGames (1983).

Ascher wisely eschews voiceover narration and ‘talking head’ interviews in favor of a montage of primary sources presented without commentary. The first half of the movie is a series of clips of Matthew Broderick movies from the early 80s through the mid 90s, including WarGames (1983), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Family Business (1989), Glory (1989), The Freshman (1990), The Lion King (1994), and The Road to Wellville (1994). There’s even some rare footage of young Broderick on Broadway starring in the coming-of-age Neil Simon play Brighton Beach Memoirs.

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Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

The middle of the movie is where things get really interesting. Ascher cuts from a short clip from The Road to Wellville to the opening sequence of The Pest (1997). By then, I’d be so accustomed to watching Matthew Broderick that for a moment I thought I was still watching Broderick but it turns out I was actually watching John Leguziamo, who stars in The Pest. Leguziamo lacks every bit of Broderick’s effortless charm and grace, and performs some offensive ethnic stereotypes that Broderick would never touch.

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Not Matthew Broderick in The Pest (1997)

The appearance of footage from The Pest – which doesn’t feature Matthew Broderick at all – in a movie ostensibly about Matthew Broderick really threw me for a loop. But I was still totally unprepared for what came next: the “Cuban Pete” musical number from The Mask (1994). Cuban Pete is one of the all time classic comedy scenes, but much like The Pest it has nothing to do with Matthew Broderick, or at least Matthew Broderick as he is conventionally understood. However, the jarring unBroderickness of John Leguziamo is such a stark contrast from the infectiously joyous yet menacing character of The Mask’s Cuban Pete, you might almost think Matthew Broderick played the latter.

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May or may not be Matthew Broderick in The Mask (1994).

The Cuban Pete sequence is interrupted briefly for a very short clip from The Cable Guy (1996) consisting only of Matthew Broderick saying the word “Hairplugs.” This clip is repeated at least eighteen times before the Cuban Pete sequence resumes.

Following “Cuban Pete,” The Best of Mattew Broderick turns its attention to the scene in Election (1999) where Jim McCallister (Matthew Broderick) secretly disposes of two ballots, depriving Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) of the school presidency. Then there’s a series of short clips from Inspector Gadget (1999) presented with a superimposed flashing red ‘X’ and a siren in lieu of the original soundtrack.

The movie ends with one scene from each of the last two Kenneth Lonergan films: Margaret (2011) and Manchester by the Sea (2016). In the first, an exasperated Matthew Broderick tells Anna Paquin to stop smoking marijuana in Central Park. In the second, a repressed Matthew Broderick shares an awkward meal with Gretchen Mol and Casey Affleck.

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Most likely Matthew Broderick in Manchester by the Sea (2016).

In contrast to Room 237, Ascher doesn’t force a cavalcade of conspiracies down the audience’s throat. Instead, we must draw our own conclusions from what we’ve just seen. Personally, I think Matthew Broderick’s soul transferred out of his own body and into Jim Carrey’s body sometime in the mid 1990s. It’s possible it returned a decade or so later, but I can’t say for certain.

TL;DR – Mysterious and provocative, Room 237 is a fascinating journey into the many identities of Matthew Broderick.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Excuse me. I really must be going now.” – Cassiano dal Pozzo, London Evening Standard

“We are on a journey that risks the dark.” – Calderon de la Barca, Tablet

“It’s simply not possible. And I don’t find this funny anymore.” – Fabio Chigi, Film School Rejects

“Matthew Broderick is back, baby! And he’s better than ever.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Man is asleep; this movie wakes him from his slumber.” – Celidonio Arbizio, Shared Darkness

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I really have to be on my way.” – Olympia Pamphili, Paste Magazine

“I don’t really like movies.” – Virgilio Malvezzi, Ozus’ World Movie Reviews

Melonmeter® Score:

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