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™