If These Memes Could Talk (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

With the Awards season in full swing, FMR is announcing the best fake movies of 2018. Between now and the Oscar ceremony on February 24th, we’ll be unveiling the Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018 one by one. We’re preempting the Oscars so you know we’re not influenced by what the Academy ultimately decides. Any overlap between the eventual winners and the movies listed here is PURELY COINCIDENTAL. However, the FMR Top Ten list should not be interpreted as a prediction of which movies will win Oscars either. The movies in this Top Ten List just reflect the opinions of FMR and NOTHING ELSE. And so without further adieu, the ninth best fake movie of 2018 is…

9. IF THESE MEMES COULD TALK (dir. Richard Linklater)

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If These Memes Could Talk is the latest slice-of-life dramedy from indie director Richard Linklater depicting how we live now. It follows seven struggling twentysomethings as they look down at their phones, check out the latest memes, smile slightly, and then repost those memes after adding in their own commentary. In some scenes of the movie, the characters edit the memes with new text or additional images in order to create an original spin on whatever happens to be going viral.

In the past, Linklater’s signature style as an auteur frequently eschewed traditional narrative in order to focus on precisely observed characters, relationships, and conversations. He takes his cinematic innovations even further in If These Memes Could Talk: there is little to no dialogue in the movie, as the characters mostly just look at their phones instead of talking to one another.

As in his earlier films like Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Linklater cast mostly unknown actors to achieve a more authentic portrait of generation than if he had hired more familiar movie stars. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of actors featured in If These Memes Could Talk eventually become stars in their own right based on how charismatically they stare at and tap the glowing screens they hold in their hands throughout the entire movie.

Taking a cue from his recent hit Boyhood, Linklater also shows the passage of time effectively as the characters migrate from using Facebook to share memes in the beginning of the movie, switching to Snapchat for a brief period in the middle of the movie, before finally settling on Instagram by the end of the movie. (The nerdier characters also use Reddit and Twitter during certain key scenes.) The change in social media platforms accompanies a subtle change in the characters’ worldview as they become increasingly cynical about the future of the planet, the survival of humanity, and the possibility of anything in life being truly meaningful.

TL;DRIf These Memes Could Talk finds Richard Linklater once again pushing the art of cinema to invigorating new frontiers by showing a talented ensemble cast staring at their phones for about two hours.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The rare period piece  that depicts our current period, If These Memes Could Talk feels beautifully and painfully present: beautifully because some of these memes are gorgeous, painfully because it’s just two hours of watching people scrolling on their phones.” – Duke Bickham, The Verge

“If These Memes Could Talk is at once a tribute to being online and a cry for help for all those addicted to their phones.” – Ashley Feinberg, Huffington Post

“In cutting against the grain of what we expect in big screen entertainment, Richard Linklater forces us to confront the smallness of our feelings that derive from relating via small screens.” – Anselm Lautaro, The New Inquiry

“These memes are back, baby, and I bet you ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Melonmeter® Score:

92% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

The Mule (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

With the Oscar nominations announced today, it’s time to reflect on the best fake movies of 2018. Between now and the Oscar ceremony on February 24th, I’ll be revealing my list of the Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018. Because I’m doing this before the Oscars, you know I’m not influenced by what the Academy ultimately decides. Any agreement between our picks is PURELY COINCIDENTAL. However, the FMR Top Ten list should not be interpreted as a prediction of which movies will win Oscars either. I have NO IDEA what’s going to walk away with Best Picture, Best Actress, etc. The movies in this Top Ten List just reflect the opinions of FMR and NOTHING ELSE. And so without further adieu, the tenth best fake movie of 2018 is…

10. THE MULE (dir. Clint Eastwood)

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Say what you will about Clint Eastwood, few men continue to evolve and grow as artists for as long as he has. At 90 years old, the onetime star of action movies like Dirty Harry who later become a director of prestige Oscar fare such as Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby has become increasingly obsessed with cartoons in recent years. This was already evident in his previous film, but it’s impossible to ignore in The Mule, a full-blown animated feature about an irascible mule and his friends way out west where the buffalo roam.

The Mule contains way more belly laughs and wild hijinx than is typical anywhere else in Clint’s wide-ranging filmography. Set in the Old West, the picaresque narrative follows the misadventures of Stub Hunkins (Clint Eastwood), an aging, broken down mule who refuses to give up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his way by the wily Mexican ranchero Pedrito Guadalupe González (Luis Guzmán).

The Mule follows in the grand tradition of the Cartoon Western, a subgenre with roots in such classics as Yosemite Sam (1945) that has been revived by recent hits such as Rango (2011) and Goshdarned Cactus (2017). For Clint Eastwood, it’s only natural to apply his new passion for cartoons to the genre that first made him a star on TV’s Rawhide and in such films as A Fistful of Dollars.

Most importantly, this movie is F-U-N-N-Y. Due to his relative inexperience in comedy, Eastwood was smart to have The Mule’s script punched up by consummate gag men Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Sausage Party). Their fingerprints are all over a recurring bit where Stub bumps into a chair (or in some cases, a stool) and then screams to high heavens at the chair for ‘takin away hiss freedoms.’ This is of course a reference to Eastwood’s famed 2012 speech at the Republican National Convention during which he yelled at a chair for twenty minutes for unknown reasons.

Of course, this being a Clint Eastwood film, there is a lot more going on than just gags and goofs. Though it went completely over my head while I was watching the movie, I realized later after it was explained to me during the car ride home that the plot of The Mule is actually an elaborate justification for the US role in the Mexican-American War. Apparently this was a popular subject of debate back when Clint Eastwood was a young boy. That Eastwood was willing to put his career on the line to bring this important yet forgotten part of our history back into the national conversation and make us all laugh too is an act of bravery that itself deserves some kind of special award.

Before closing, I want to address anyone who would suggest this movie is not worthy of serious attention simply because it is a cartoon. Cartoons can be great art, as Walt Disney proved almost a century ago. Prejudices against certain styles of filmmaking do not amount to a true critical insight. And so out of defiance against ignorant biases against both cartoons and movies about talking animals, both of which have been underrepresented at the Oscars for decades, place The Mule as my tenth favorite movie of the year.

TL;DR – Clint Eastwood turns his considerable talents to make his mark in the Cartoon Western subgenre, offering up ample laughs and historical allegories fit for the whole family.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Hands down the silliest movie in Clint Eastwood’s prodigious oeurve, it might be dismissed as a mere trifle if not for the deep political allegory found within this Cartoon Western’s deceptively simply narrative.” – Nathaneal However, New York Review of Books

“We often return to the comforts of youth as we reach old age. Clint Eastwood will surely die soon, so it’s no surprise he’s made this tribute to both his early career starring in spaghetti westerns as well as Looney Tunes shorts that appeared in theaters when he was a young man.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“Clint Eastwood’s cinematic ambitions never cease to amaze me, and the choice to team with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who proved their animation bonafides with the delightfully ribald Sausage Party) is inspired.” – Fern Avery, TIME Magazine

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

Melonmeter® Score:

91% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

First Man

First Man is finally out in theaters just in time for Election season. The long anticipated “sort-of sequel” to the 1998 Mike Nichols feature Primary Colors stars John Travolta as Jack Stanton, a thinly disguised fictionalization of former US President Bill Clinton. Primary Colors, which was also released shortly before the midterms, told the story of how Jack Stanton became president in no small part due to the steadfast support of his ballbuster wife Susan Stanton (Emma Thompson).

First Man fast forwards twenty years later to the inauguration of Susan Stanton as the first female president of the United States. Having defeated the outlandish game show host Archie Mayweather (Jack Nicholson) in a no holds barred election for the ages, Susan has cemented her family’s political legacy but also set up her philandering husband Jack in the historic position of being the first First Man in history.

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Jack Stanton looking older and thirstier than ever.

Given Jack Stanton’s larger-than-life personality and extremely bent penis, the main conflicts of First Man’s picaresque plot revolve around Jack’s outsize appetites and Susan and her staff’s comic attempts to contain and conceal these appetites. The hijinx that ensue are uproariously entertaining, believe me. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or independent, you will laugh out loud at Jack Stanton’s septuagenarian sexual misadventures with a plethora of halfwit floozies of every nation, color, and creed.

Ultimately, the movie careers toward a climax involving Archie Mayweather who must have his revenge against the Stantons for defeating him at the ballot box. Archie schemes to draw Jack back into the illicit ‘Alice Underground’ a network of private jets, luxury yachts, and palatial pads used for exclusive sex parties established in the U.S. during the carefree 1990s by disgraced New York financier Joshua Gopnick (Bruce Altman).

Archie and Jack had both severed their ties to the Alice Underground years before after the billionaire Gopnick served 13 months in prison for soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14. But can Jack really turn down Archie’s invitation to join him on a cruise out to Gopnick’s private isle in the Virgin  Islands, especially when Archie guarantees him everything will be kept on the ‘down low’? I won’t spoil it – you have to watch the movie to find out.

While it may seem like a stretch to be able to emphasize with a character as devoid of morals and ethics and as ready to rape and deceive women as Jack Stanton, John Travolta achieves the impossible once again with his winning performance that channels the real life Bill Clinton’s phenomenal charisma with verve and wit.

Mike Nichols died in 2014, leaving it up to Elaine May (who wrote the original Primary Colors’ Oscar-nominated screenplay) to helm First Man. It is often forgotten that Elaine May was once a  director of acclaimed films such as The Heartbreak Kid and Mikey and Nicky. It seems only fitting that she returns to the director’s chair to tell a story about the dynamics of a couple where the man overshadows the woman at every turn, even when the woman becomes the most powerful person on the planet. She understands this all too common pattern better than most.

TL; DR – John Travolta knocks it out of the park as the Clintonesque rapist-pedophile Jack Stanton in this dark but hilarious follow up to the critically acclaimed Primary Colors.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

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

“John Travolta has always been the ‘Bill Clinton of Hollywood’ in a way making this movie an apt homecoming.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“This is a movie that – Bill or no Bill – doesn’t need to take a political stance to make a political statement.” – Alison Wilmore, Buzzfeed News

“John Travolta oozes all the charm of a man who has been convincing people to do things against their best interest for his entire life.” – Lester Carpet, The Point Magazine

“A deceptive hatchet job against Clinton family and a true insult to mother. Zero stars. Negative three and a half verrits.”- Peter Daou, Verrit.blogspot.com

“A pox on John Travolta and the entire House of Scientology for this travesty that dares tarnish the Clintons’ good name” – Adam Parkhomenko, VoteHillary.org

“A merciless portrait of the most venal and unscrupulous political operators of our time, the Stantons are an indictment not just of the Clintons but also the Bushes, the Trumps and myriad other stupendously wealthy and deeply immoral business-political dynasties that have done so much to destroy our republic.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“A hagiographic portrayal of Bill Clinton that only includes his documented history as a rapist, without nary a mention of his murdering and coke addiction and drug dealing.” – Adam Yoshida, Washington Times

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Netflix Presents Tom Clancy’s John Krasinki

John Krasinki is big strong man, big strong muscles with big strong brain as well. He smile at ladies, he feed a dog, he know which way is up and aren’t afraid of no dragons neither!

Netflix make a lot of real movies and not just on little computer screen, on big big movie screen too. That’s where I watch a big big movie Netflix Presents Tom Clancy’s John Kransinki!

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John Krasinki hero go on his computer just like Tom Clancy say to do and he find Arab Man Muslim Man Middle Eastern Man Bad Bad Bad got Big Bad Plan to blow up U.S. America the sky and the trees!

John Krasinki say no no can’t have this no more we gotta stop we gotta break we already go to the moon and back and everything.

John Krasinki he go on plane he bring his jetpack and his parachute along just in case. John Krasinki think of everything.

John Krasinki Plane land in hot sand desert very very hot and bad. Lots of stranger everywhere, and all the pretty ladies gotta wear special hat that make them real real ugly and John Krasinki sad sad sad.

“Why you do it pretty lady?” John Krasinki ask and a snake bit him and that make John Krasinki so mad!! “That last straw – it go time,” he say with piece of floss.

Now it butt kick time you heard the man let’s go!! Bang bang bang all the guns go hot and loud and John Krasinki fight every strong man and win! Except for big strong Travolta in evil eye makeup and special face coloring that make him look like One Of Those.

Big strong Travolta is Big Bad Guy of Netflix Presents Tom Clancy’s John Krasinki you will know him when you see you see. He final boss and last serpent John Krasinki must kill. And boy he go down strong it take a long time. Many scenes and sequences.

Krasinki wake up in the morning clock say “Travolta not dead.” Krasinki say “What? I’m gone back to bed.” Clock say “Time to get up, the day has begun,” and Krasinki toss and turn and clock say “It’s now eight! You’ll be late!” Krasinki sit up and give clock a good tap and then say to special wife who come for sex “We should fix that clock. Maybe then it won’t speak.”

Krasinki track undead Travolta down to special serious complex out in deep dark sea. Krasinki go on boat with little sailor hat and he as cute as can be! He showin off and dancin and cheesin just like big strong man always do.

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Mind to you, Travolta got best of lines, some one that make me smile real big like:

“If I want your sleazy opinion I’ll beat it out of you!”

“If you keep looking at me, you’re going to see me kill you!”

“It’s nice to see you again Krasinki. I take great gratification introducing your entrails to your outsides.”

“What is it? Did you step on a slug? Swallow a fly?”

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Dying time’s here! You hear that KRASINKI? You’re going down!”

And so and so and well and well big explosion loud loud ending come on secret water base in sea of black where Travolta hang out with henchmen stupid idiots. John Krasinki got the bazook, got the blast, take ‘em all down and look cool with sunglasses blastin those baddies hoo hoo.

Travolta plan to blow a few planes is over and done after Krasinki blast ‘em all away and kill of Travolta with a cigarette bad for you and dead.

But hear the big twist and secret: Krasinki find out he have amnesia. Travolta’s dying words are these: “He’ll be remembering his previous identity by lunchtime.” Krasinki find out he not really Krasinki at all, he actually even bigger stronger man name Jack Ryan! Wow wow wow!

Jack Ryan feel pretty cool and great, no nosebleed ever before, and ready to come back with sequel every day of the year.

TL;DR – Wow John Krasinki boom boom yeah! Big gun, big strong muscles, big strong man!

What the rest of the critics are saying:

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

“Netflix Presents Tom Clancy’s John Krasinki succeeds by spinning a suspenseful, big budget adventure around terrorism around the blandness hero in the business.” – Bugger Cruz, LRM

“Krasinski lends an ineffective charisma to the character of Krasinki through sheer presence alone.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“This movie is extremely racist and very bad.” – Najwa Aryani, The Intercept

“The Tom Clancy name will cut through the clutter and polished production values and the solid Krasinski should help viewers choose this Oreo, even if it’s only sometimes appreciably better than the store-brand sandwich cookie.” – Tom Dixey, Vulture

“This review contains spoilers, click expand to view.” – Mervyn Shang, Ain’t It Cool News

“Another solid installment of a classic action franchise.” – Padme Mutia, Colorado Springs Gazette

“Netflix has perfectly reimagined Clancy for modern audiences. They certainly couldn’t have found a better actor to play him.” – Giddie Gertie Arbogast, MTV

“Tom Clancy better take it into space next time, I swear!” – Clark Peeper, Inverse

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Skato Webbert (Chris Pratt) returns to fight dinos once again in this sequel to 2015’s reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise. But this time, Skato isn’t just fighting dinos, he’s using dinos to fight other dinos. And the results couldn’t be more awesome.

Jurassic World ended with the revelation that present-day dinos are actually extremely advanced organic machines built by madman industrialist Yuri Bosco (Udo Kier). Skato ended up saving the day in Jurassic World by feeding Bosco to one of his own creations, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom pretty much picks up where the prior movie left off.

The technology to build fearsome and destructive dinos has been revealed to the world, and the Ford Motor Company is determined to make sure they’re Built Ford Tough. Due to his firsthand experience dealing with dinos in the first movie, Ford hires Skato Webbert to deal with an accident that occurs when one of their prototypes goes haywire.

I think Ford may have paid some hefty product placement fees to Comcast Universal for this movie because Skato delivers the new catchphrase “Damn, these dinos are Built Ford Tough!” early in the movie and then repeats the line every five minutes or so throughout the running time. Other characters also shout variants of the same catchphrase. Luckily, other than the catchphrase and the Ford logos branded prominently on the skin of each dino, the Ford product placement is not too distracting overall.

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Of course no dino movie would be complete without a meddling villain, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has quite the doozy in Stacy Jaret (Jim Parsons), the Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Nosy, needle-necked Stacy uses his bureaucratic prerogatives as OSHA director to stick his needle nose into Ford Motor Company’s dino division where it doesn’t belong.

Ironically, its OSHA’s onerous regulations as enforced by Stacy Jaret that causes the dinos to escape warehouse captivity and slip into the streets where they wreak all kinds of havoc. But Skato Webbert is on the case, and you better believe he chases down those dinos with the 2018 Ford EcoSport. The 2018 Ford EcoSport is specifically designed to outrun dinos, a fact that is explained at length by Claire Daring (Bryce Dallas Howard) in her only line in the movie. But Skato doesn’t even listen, he just makes out with her and then gets back to doing what he does best: defeating dinos.

Soon, Skato launches an audacious plan to use the most well-trained dinos left in Ford’s warehouse to battle the disobedient dinos who escaped captivity. That’s right, it’s dino-on-dino action for the rest of the movie, and trust me when I tell you these dinos know how to fight.

When the bad dinos are defeated, the survivors discover that they were built using technology developed by evil aliens known as the taijyu. The virtuous dinos who stayed loyal to Ford descend from a different technology invented by a fallen race of aliens known as the yeujars. Skato Webbert finds out the taijyu and the yeujars are about to come to earth for a showdown, so he better get to work training the dinos for another great big fight. Jurassic World 3 is just around the corner.

TL;DR Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is dino movie magic at its very best, with some valuable lessons for the audience about the dangers of government regulation and the necessity of buying a 2018 Ford EcoSport.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The dinos are back, baby! And they are Built Ford Tough!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“This is the dino movie to beat all dino movies.” – Najwa Arwani, What the Flick?!

“Whether he’s wrangling good dinos or driving an SUV to outrun bad dinos, Chris Pratt does it all with humor and charm.” – Joan Bang, ArtsHub

“I was scared those dinos were going to eat me!!” – Pete Hammond, Deadline

“The 2018 Ford EcoSport seems like the type of car I want to buy. I think I will buy it right now.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“Director Baye J. Rowena skillfully introduces two new alien races (the taijyu and the yeujars) into the Jurassic World franchise mythos.” – Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader

“The post-credits scene featuring Ford CEO James Hackett must be seen to be believed!” – Dian Maulana Rizki II, Austin Chronicle

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Tomb Raider (2018)

2018 is shaping up to be the most progressive year in the history of movies, with black filmmakers helming major blockbusters like Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time and now for the first time ever, a female actor starring in a Tomb Raider film. It used to be that women were never considered when it came time to cast the leads in big budget action adventures. Well, I’m happy to report that with Tomb Raider (2018), that time has now passed. It’s 2018, and that means a woman can be a Tomb Raider too.

Tomb Raider has been remade and rebooted so many times it can be difficult to keep track of the character’s rich history. Though it originated in the late nineteenth century as a popular series of adventure novels by the British author H. Rider Haggard, it has become best known due to Hollywood’s many adaptations starting with The Tomb Raider (1937) starring Errol Flynn.

After appearing in two sequels, Flynn hung up the pistols for good and the franchise passed into the hands of the Producers Releasing Corporation who turned it into a “B” movie serial of 14 chapters starring Buster Crabbe. A decade later, Burt Lancaster revived the character in the well-received Legend of the Tomb Raider (1954).

The Tomb Raider franchise then entered a period of decline defined by a series of ill-fated misfires including Tomb Raider Returns (1969) starring an aging Robert Mitchum, Tomb Raider: Curse of the Tiger (1987) which famously features Sean Connery wrestling a tiger, and the notoriously expensive box office bomb Tomb Raider’s Revenge (1998) with Billy Zane delivering a typically woeful performance.

Tomb Raider had become a joke by the time Tomb Raider (2004) was released. No one believed in Luc Besson would be able to pull off the impossible and make Tomb Raider a hit once again, but the French maestro of lighthearted action lucked out when he cast Ewan McGregor. The Tomb Raider films with Ewan McGregor (he also starred in 2007’s Tomb Raider: Jewel of the Phoenix) are perhaps the best since Flynn inaugurated the character onscreen.

Given all of this history, it amazes me that the producers of Tomb Raider (2018) felt comfortable tampering with the franchise lore by casting a woman in the title role. Fortunately, they came up with the ingenious solution that is sure to satisfy fans and newcomers alike.

Oscar winner Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft, the daughter of the original Tomb Raider Lord Richard Croft. Lara receives news that her father was mauled to death by a tiger in the jungles of India (a subtle nod to Connery’s unintentionally hilarious turn as the character), and decides to honor his memory by taking over the family business of raiding tombs.

 

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Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, daughter of Tomb Raider, lookin like she about to raid a tomb

As Lara Croft, Alicia Vikander finally proves once and for all that women know how to kick ass and raid tombs just as well as men do. This ain’t your father’s Tomb Raider, believe me. Because this Tomb Raider is a woman, and she’s swinging across chasms and exploring crazy underground labyrinths just as if she had a penis and two testicles.

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Alicia Vikander shows women know how to raid tombs.

Yeah, this Tomb Raider knows how eat a scarab and drink a bunch of foreign goons under the table with the best of them. Even though she’s a woman, she’s still shooting off pistols and riding around on elephants and stuff. You may have loved past Tomb Raider films just like your daddy and granddaddy, but trust me when I tell you Tomb Raider (2018) don’t skip a beat.

TL;DR For the first time ever it’s a woman raiding tombs as the daughter of the original Tomb Raider, picking up the pistols and scaling down the side of the temple just like a man do. Good for Alicia Vikander, and good for the progress of womankind.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The action is fast-paced, the gags are good to go, and it’s a woman this time. That’s right, Tomb Raider is finally back.” – Fertrude Zelzah, Cinemablend

“True to its B-movie roots, Tomb Raider follows a silly, sensational formula but with an added twist: a woman is playing the main character.” – Jamal-Dean Grootboom, Independent Online

“Tomb Raider is back, baby, and it’s more of a woman than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“It’s long past time that a woman finally got to raid a tomb for once.” – Robert Denerstein, Denerstein Unleashed

“I heard they’ve already signed Alicia Vikander to star in back-to-back sequels and I can’t wait to see her be the Tomb Raider again and again and again.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

“I had no idea you could train a woman to fire a gun. Boy was I wrong!” –  Pete Hammond, Deadline

“She’s no Ewan McGregor, but I’ll say this for Alicia Vikander: she sure know how to raid a tomb.” – Santi Nurhayati, Entertainment Weekly

“Next thing you’re going to be telling me there’s a black Tomb Raider!”  – Hugo Schlumberger, Iron Triangle

Melonmeter® Score:

82% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Death Wish (2018)

Bruce Willis wants to die. Or at least, the actor playing Bruce Willis wants to die. But that actor just so happens to be Bruce Willis.

Thus begins the latest metafictive tragicomedy from Charlie Kaufman, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his era. Death Wish may be the bleakest and most absurd film he’s yet made, which is really saying something if you’re familiar with his oeuvre.

(The screenplay is credited to both Kaufman and Willis, though Kaufman has been known to play tricks in this area before, having fabricated a cowriter named ‘Donald Kaufman’ for Adaptation and a codirector named ‘Duke Johnson’ for his last feature Anomalisa.)

On the surface, the story of Death Wish is deceptively simple. Multimillionaire movie star Bruce Willis has accomplished everything he’s ever dreamed of doing, and now finds everything about his life irredeemably boring.

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Bruce Willis trying his best not to appear bored.

Willis is crippled by an indolent sense of meaninglessness, unable to give the laughably minimal effort necessary to make it seem like he gives a shit about the movies built around his persona. He’s become so lazy that he actually refuses to use the bathroom to relieve himself, preferring instead to use technologically advanced adult diapers (easter egg-type ads for the diapers abound in the background throughout the movie).

So when a screenplay entitled Death Wish crosses his lap (Willis spends much of the movie in various states of repose across his most treasured divan), the exhausting amount of concentration it takes him to even read the title page provides him with his first inspiration in decades. Bruce Willis decides it’s finally pack it in.

But wishing for your own death turns out to be a lot easier than actually killing yourself. After a series of gruesome suicide attempts gone haywire, Willis realizes it would be quicker to just hire a professional to take him out of the game.

The Hollywood legend first hires a doctor who specializes in assisted suicide (Catherine Keener) to help him end his misery. But when she tries to seduce him for his money, he’s forced to hire a wild-eyed hitman (Nicolas Cage) to get the job done.

The hitman ends up conspiring with Willis’ lawyer (a career-best Chris Cooper) to take control of the movie star’s estate in the event of his death by assassination. Soon, a court battle erupts between the doctor, the hitman, the lawyer, and Willis’ heirs. None of them particularly care about whether and how The Sixth Sense star dies, as long as they get their share of his sizable inheritance.

It’s at this point that the movies grows increasingly surreal and Kafkaesque. Willis deteriorates markedly and seems to age at a nonlinear rate. A probate judge (Jennifer Jason Leigh) considers the doctor’s petition claiming her famous patient/lover is now unable to reliably communicate and unaware of his surroundings. The judge appoints The Inspector (Tom Noonan) to investigate Willis’ living conditions with excruciating attention to detail.

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Tom Noonan as The Inspector

The Inspector finds Willis incontinent, with a team of nurses on call to suction phlegm out of him up to 20 times a day. The Inspector also notices the fading action hero is obsessed with eating steak despite being on a feeding tube. Willis also demands, to the extent he can be understood, to engage in sexual activity every single day with the doctor or one of the female nurses.

The Inspector imposes order on Willis’ estate, eliminating all unnecessary staff and hangers-on. He speaks to Willis in haunted tones about resisting sudden prurient urges and fixations. He whispers to him descriptions of the remains of his life, which will be endlessly and painfully prolonged by a special machine of the Inspector’s own design. Hours and years bleed into an inescapable living nightmare. The Inspector’s soliloquy is interrupted only by Willis making grunting noises and crying uncontrollably.

The film concludes when Bruce Willis finally dies. And trust me, he dies hard.

TL;DR – Charlie Kaufman once again blends reality and fiction in the brutally depressing assisted suicide drama Death Wish (2018).

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“No movie will ever make you want to die more than this one.” – Clark Peeper, Inverse

“I thought Kaufman could descend into depressive solipsism no further. I was wrong.” – Fertrude Zelzah, Cinemablend

“I don’t think Bruce Willis is ever coming back, baby. And that’s better for him.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Finally someone has figured out how to properly utilize the total inertia of late period Bruce Willis.” – Millicent Weems, The Daily Gazette

“Everyone in this movie speaks with a lazy disenchantment, as if the effort to move one’s jaw was just too great to be endured.” – Boedaksang Penakluklautan, Vox

“Who could have anticipated the pairing of the overly cerebral Charlie Kaufman and overly physical Bruce Willis would be a match made in hell? Each seems to inspire in the other an almost pathological self-regard.” – Habish Gufry, Plugged In

Melonmeter® Score:

75% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Honey, I Shrunk My Penis

The new sci-fi satire Honey, I Shrunk My Penis starring Matt Damon is laugh out loud funny and offers an incisive critique of the way we live now. More importantly, the movie’s got heart. Though largely shut out from awards season, don’t make the mistake of missing it while it’s still in theaters. The ‘size gags’ have to be seen on the big screen.

Matt Damon plays Blake Humpsie, a mild-mannered insurance executive who always plays it safe. His only problem in life is his grotesquely oversized penis. His disgusting organ is so enormous, he has to have his pants custom-made by a tailor. Even worse, it’s ruining his marriage and embarrassing his children at every turn.

Fortunately, Humpsie finds hope when his doctor tells him about a new experimental procedure that involves a high tech shrinking ray. Without telling his wife, Humpsie signs up to get the treatment.

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The sequence depicting Humpsie’s appointment at the shrinking ray is the funniest part of the movie. George Clooney demonstrates what an able director he has become by wringing every laugh he can out of all the dysfunctions of new technology. First of all, Humpsie has to shave his body hairless because the ray causes rash to develop around any active follicles. Then the ray malfunctions anyway and shrinks Humpsie’s penis well below normal size. When Humpsie wakes up from the procedure and checks under the covers to see what he’s working with will you will howl so hard with laughter that tears will drip down to your private parts if you’re naked while watching the movie which is what I recommend.

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Humpsie’s hubris in thinking he can have it all leads him down a dark path. Now equipped with only a micropenis, and small knob-like tumors begin growing all over his groin and pelvic area. His wife divorces him and he turns to drink. The movie ends with Humpsie in a support group for alcoholics with micropenises.

While this movie wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, I’m sure Clooney and Damon are happy to have made the movie of their dreams about the dangers of not being happy with what you have. They’ve already won plenty of Oscars, and they didn’t compromise their vision to make something bland and inoffensive for the Academy’s consumption.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“In Honey I Shrunk My Penis, at first Matt Damon has a very large penis. And then he ends up with a much too small penis!” – Gustina Saroeh, Christian Science Monitor

“The only sci-fi movie this year to match the wit and imagination of Black Mirror.” – Danz Chi’ot, Wall Street Journal

“This feels like the most personal movie George Clooney has ever made.” – Dolores Tatro, Toronto Star

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

“I was thrilled to see George Clooney return to his roots playing the smarmy doctor at the shrink ray facility. ” – Santi Nurhayati, Entertainment Weekly

“Blake Humpsie is one of the great leading man characters in cinema history, and Matt Damon brings him to life with panache and verve.” –  Rayyon Shinta, indieWire

“A great sci-fi parable for the Trump era.” – Boedaksang Penakluklautan, Vox

Melonmeter® Score:

100% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Black Panther

Ryan Coogler has delivered a very early contender for the 2018 Academy Awards (that is to say the ceremony a year from now, not the one coming up in a week) in the form of Black Panther. A lavishly constructed big budget biopic of revolutionary political activist Huey P. Newton starring Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther depicts the founding of the eponymous socialist organization. The Black Panther Party was the most influential black social movement of the late 1960s and Black Panther (2018) is the most ambitious film of its kind since Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992). It speaks well of Hollywood that they are willing to produce such an important work of cinematic history.

The movie tells the story of Huey P. Newton’s eventful life with faithful attention to detail, from his childhood in Jim Crow-era Louisiana, to his family’s migration to Oakland at the end of the Second World War, to his organizing of the Black Panther Party out of Merritt College in 1966. The most exciting sections of the movie depict Newton’s rise to lead a powerful movement for black liberation, capturing the energy of how quickly the Black Panther Party grew to become a nationally and even internationally significant part of revolutionary tumult of the 1960s. But the most emotionally wrenching sequences come in the final part of the film, as the party is violently suppressed by the FBI and other agencies of the U.S. police state. If you haven’t been awakened yet to the oppressive, white supremacist nature of the U.S. government, this movie will be the one to open your eyes.

Black Panther owes much of its success to its incredibly talented cast: in addition to Boseman, it also features Michael B. Jordan as Stokely Carmichael, Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, Danai Gurira as Angela Davis, Winston Duke as Eldridge Cleaver, Lupita Nyong’o as Kathleen Cleaver, Sterling K. Brown as Bobby Seale, and Andy Serkis as J. Edgar Hoover. This is a vibrant ensemble that enriches history with a true sense of life and humanity.

Coogler directs with a sure hand and a visionary sense of possibility for a revolutionary new film vocabulary. He captures the late 1960s with an obsessive eye for period detail, from the costumes and the language to the music and most especially setting. An Oakland native, Coogler knows the Bay Area in his bones, and it’s thrilling that he used the clout he earned from his first two films to bring this defining element of Oakland history to the nation’s eyes.

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The movie also seamlessly integrates documentary footage and techniques that recall the free indirect subjective style of third world cinema to create a startling forceful, rousing call to action. It reminded me of nothing so much as the films of 1960s Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha, though somehow far more accessible to mainstream audiences.

An intimate portrait of such a profoundly important historical figure as Huey P. Newton was long overdue. The massive success of Black Panther with both audiences and critics makes me hopeful about the future of racial justice.

TL;DR –  Fueled by a gripping performance from Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life of Huey P. Newton — but doesn’t ignore how far we remain from the ideals embodied by the Black Panther Party.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“This is what Black Panther dares to do so well: show us the small, private moments in Huey P. Newton’s life, the intimacies, the humanity.” – Lonesy Windrows, Washington Post

“Like Huey did in history, Black Panther captures your mind and your guts as it entertains, the way great movies often do.” – Elvis Mitchell, KCRW

“The Black Panther Party is back baby, and it’s more socialist and revolutionary and anti-imperialist than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The identity politics provide a fresh spin to the biopic genre’s increasingly tedious narrative formula.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club

“This is a movie whose political theory matches its stunning special effects.”  – Youtan Poluo, New England Movies Weekly

“Black Panther is a story we haven’t seen told before in popular cinema – a story about radical black activism nearly succeeding in the overthrow of entrenched systems of colonialism and oppression.” – Jwaundace Landis, The Point Magazine

“An ugly celebration of a traitor to the U.S. of A. Avoid at all costs.” – Adam Yoshida, Unqualified Reservations

Melonmeter® Score:

97% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Mrs. Doubtfire (2017)

2017’s cinema has felt like a wholesale reboot of the 1990s. In fact, this isn’t even the first 90s reboot starring The Rock I’ve reviewed. Fortunately, I can report The Rock’s reimagining of the classic family comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) really honors the memory of the late Robin Williams. I think it’s safe to say that if Robin were alive today, he would gladly perform a cameo role in Mrs. Doubtfire (2017).

If you’re familiar with the original Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), you’ll recognize the plot of Mrs. Doubtfire but with a few tweaks to suit The Rock’s unique talents. Daniel Hillard (The Rock) is a freelance bodybuilder in Phoenix, Arizona. Though a devoted father to his children Lydia, Chris, and Natalie, his wife considers him unreliable. One day, while having mo-cap sensors attached to his body for use in a video game, Daniel learns that the video game encourages kids to play football for recreation. Realizing that his body is being used to introduce kids to a dangerous sport that causes head trauma, Daniel quits in a fit of rage.

Daniel drives home to throw a lavish birthday party for his large son Chris (Rico Rodriguez) despite his wife’s objections. The neighbors complain about all the noise from the party. Daniel responds by throwing his body through their living room window and tackling the neighbors to the ground, creating a situation with the police. Daniel’s wife files for divorce, and the judge gives sole custody of the children to her due to Daniel’s pending charges for assault, but tells Daniel if he can reform his ways joint custody may be a possibility in the future.

Daniel hires a great lawyer to get his neighbors’ assault charges dismissed, and learns that his ex-wife is seeking a nanny to watch over the children. Daniel gets help from his bodybuilding buddies to create the Mrs. Doubtfire persona, injecting him with hormones to make him more feminine. Daniel also has his brother use his hacker skills to see who else is applying for the job, and then physically intimidates all the other applicants to prevent them from showing up for the interview.

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Mrs. Doubtfire is the only applicant to show up for the nanny interview, and though Daniel’s ex-wife is uncomfortable, she pipes down when Mrs. Doubtfire threatens to sue her for discriminating against intersex people. Once he becomes the nanny for his own kids, all kinds of hijinx ensue, culminating in a crazy scene at a restaurant where his ex-wife is out on a date with Daniel Craig.

I loved Mrs. Doubtfire (2017) for the laughs and the humor and the heart. While the movie isn’t perfect, I admired The Rock for daring to take on a role that’s more complicated than his usual he-man action hero wheelhouse. In a way, it’s a throwback to earlier The Rock classics like Tooth Fairy (2010) but with more complex emotionality. As they inject themselves with more and more hormones, Mrs. Doubtfire’s gender and sexuality becomes increasingly ambiguous and mercurial. For a movie star of The Rock’s stature to tackle such strange and controversial subject matter in 2017 means he deserves an Oscar nomination in my opinion.


TL;DR Mrs. Doubtfire (2017) uses its energetic lead and a bizarre twist to offer an emotionally demanding yet highly entertaining update on its classic source material.

 

What the rest of the critics are saying:

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

“The first, but hopefully not the last time The Rock will star in a cinematic grotesque.” – Mother Waddles, Daily Mirror

“Why?” – Muhammad Rizky Chaniago, Film Racket

“Todd Solondz does what he can to turn The Rock’s usual charms into something disturbing and corrupt while transforming an appealing family entertainment into a much darker story.” – Nutdanai Nilchai, ScreenAnarchy

“The Rock’s soft – but not comically squeaky – voice gives Mrs. Doubtfire the soul she lacked in hot girl form, back when all the screenwriters could think of to have her do was take selfies.” – Amy Nicholson, Uproxx

Melonmeter® Score:

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