Justice League

Justice League (2017) could have been a great film. Alas, the winds of fate have conspired against the latest entry in the DC Cinematic Univese (DCCU). Instead of another Zack Snyder masterpiece, we are forced to sit through a movie that is very strange and nearly incomprehensible.

The winds of fate that snatched Justice League from the teeth of excellence were ignited by the recent plague of misconduct claims against an astonishing plethora Hollywood stars. The epidemic of misconduct claims last month snared Kevin Spacey who was supposed to star as the Martian Manhunter in Justice League.

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(Martian Manhunter happens to be my all-time favorite character in the entire DC Extended Universe [DCEU] so forgive me if I’m take this all very personally.)

In the olden days, if misconduct claims marred the career of a distinguished award-winner like Kevin Spacey, he would definitely have to check into rehab and disappear from the limelight for a few years. But any movies he already completed would still be released as planned, with audiences agreeing to “separate the art from the artist,” as the old saying goes.

Nowadays, the terrain in which morality bears fruit has shifted. No longer can we watch a Kevin Spacey movie without thinking to ourselves, “I wonder if he went and placed his heavy body atop a twelve-year-old boy right after shooting this scene?” Thus, Kevin Spacey’s performance as the Martian Manhunter had to be edited out of Justice League altogether.

With the advanced digital technology available to filmmakers in this day and age, a simple change to the film’s content along these lines should have been no sweat. With computer generated imagery, it’s possible to swap in an entirely different actor into a scene that’s already been shot whenever necessary.

And it happens all the time – James Franco was digitally inserted over the performance originally delivered by Johnny Depp in Oz: The Great and Powerful, Bradley Cooper was the motion-capture replacement for Christian Bale in American Sniper, and most famously Emma Stone won an Oscar for her performance in La La Land, which was shot entirely after principal photography wrapped and re-edited to replace Kristen Stewart who originally played Mia Dolan.

Unfortunately, when the Kevin Spacey scandal broke, the producers of Justice League chose actor-comedian Louis CK to digitally replace Spacey as the Martian Manhunter. Little did they know that Louis CK would face his own storm of misconduct claims shortly after removing the mo-cap sensors from his face. CK’s substitute portrayal of Martian Manhunter was instantly ruined by real life allegations that he forced women to watch him masturbate.

Digital compositors immediately starting clicking CTRL+Z and DELETE on their work to insert Louis CK’s Martian Manhunter over the top of Kevin Spacey’s Martian Manhunter. But the film had to be sent to theaters in time for its heavily promoted November 17th release date. Producers intervened and told the digital compositors to stand down. The clearly unfinished film would have to do.

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If Martian Manhunter played only a minor role in Justice League, maybe no one would have noticed. But Martian Manhunter is one of the seven main characters in Justice League, alongside Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborgia and the Two-Headed Dog. Removing Martian Manhunter from Justice League is like tearing off the leg of a spider – it will survive, sure, but it won’t be much fun to play with anymore.

Though many of his scenes were cut altogether, many sequences remain in which Batman or Wonder Woman will speak to the void, a black absence where Martian Manhunter should have been standing. These moments are unsettling and disorienting to say the least.

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To make matters worse, Martian Manhunter plays an essential role in Justice League’s quest to recover the Mother Boxes before they fall into the hands of the evil Steppenwolf and his nasty squad of Parademons. Without Martian Manhunter, the recovery of the Mother Boxes just doesn’t make any sense to an adult with the intellectual capacity to understand a logical plot.

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The DC comic book movies always had an advantage over the Marvel movies in that they appealed to rational grown-ups rather than a bunch of dumb kiddies. Unfortunately, Hollywood misconduct has claimed another victim. That victim is Justice League.

TL;DR Justice League is the first major blockbuster to be disfigured beyond recognition by the toxic horrors of Hollywood Misconduct.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“The post-production fixes were so rushed that there’s actually a scene near the end of the movie where Martian Manhunter appears momentarily, looking at first like Kevin Spacey and then briefly like Louis CK. In the next moment, he’s gone. It’s a haunting effect, and probably the only thing in the movie worth seeing.” – Nathaneal However, NYRB

“Making a Justice League movie without Martian Manhunter is like making a James Bond movie without Miss Moneypenny. Why would you even do that? There’s just no point to it.” – George “Ramble” Bortz, Arizona Republic

“Kevin Spacey would have made a great Martian Manhunter. Louis CK may have been a decent alternative. Instead, we get no Martian Manhunter at all, and everyone’s unhappy.” – Pepper Schwartz, E! Online

“In the comic books, the Two-Headed Dog barks in response to Martian Manhunter’s superintelligent quips. But in Justice League (2017), the Two-Headed Dog barks at nothing, alone.” – Jonathan Lethem, The Believer

“The New York Times ruined more than the careers of two universally respected geniuses. It ruined the first movie in the DCEU with a chance to knock out Marvel’s monopoly on superhero cinematic greatness.” – Ernie van Schledorn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Martian Manhunter’s great flaw is his chronic, compulsive masturbation. Louis CK would have perfectly captured the soul of the character, in much the same way Robert Downey Jr. once did with Iron Man. It’s too bad we’re not allowed to have anything fun in this Age of SJWs.” – Romyn Araxie, Breitbart.com

“Hollywood Misconduct has claimed more than Justice League (2017). It’s also claimed the solo Martian Manhunter movie that was planned to follow. Which is the greater crime? I don’t know.” – Jubal Swinglehurst, Ain’t It Cool News

“Kevin Spacey’s not back, baby! And he might not ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Melonmeter Score:

23% liquid & seed retention – watermelon-512  THOROUGHLY LACKING IN JUICE AND SEEDS AND RATHER CANTALOUPE-LIKE TO BE HONEST™

Lowercase Larry

Luckless loser ‘Lowercase’ Larry Lexington learns to love and loot one last lonely time in this loony laughfest from acclaimed independent filmmakers Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum. I loved looking at this movie’s lavish likenesses, listening to its lyrical soundtrack, learning life lessons from ‘Lowercase’ Larry, and lying down in bed afterwards to literally lull myself to sleep while lusting after Channing Tatum’s luscious larynx.

Wait, hold on, sorry…

Okay, I was feeling kind of dizzy there so I went to go splash some water on my face. Now I am feeling much better and will proceed to finish reviewing Lowercase Larry, the innovative new film from acclaimed independent filmmakers Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum.

Lowercase Larry is not just a roller coaster ride that combines action, romance, comedy, and dance. It’s also the first time in movie history that anyone has shot entire movie from first person perspective.

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Channing Tatum’s hands are badass.

This gives the movie an intensity not seen since video games. It really puts you in the middle of the action, and this movie has a ton of it – hand-to-hand combat, shooting guns, and even a cooking scene that made me feel like I was truly making tacos along with Lowercase Larry himself.

On the other hand, you don’t get to see Lowercase Larry’s face except when he looks in a mirror or a reflective pool (which happens more times you’d think during the movie’s 79 minute runtime). You also occasionally get to see his arms reaching out, or his legs or body when he looks down.

Now you may be thinking, wait a minute, aren’t those things Channing Tatum’s best assets as a movie star actor man? Turns out, he don’t need ‘em as much as you think. Turns out Channing Tatum’s husky voice is a movie star in its own right. And that’s when we need a genius like Steven Soderbergh to discover that knowledge and share it with the world by making the movie Lowercase Larry.

TL;DR – High-octane fun that’s smartly assembled without putting on airs, Lowercase Larry reminds us of the devastation wrought by Steven Soderbergh’s recently announced retirement — who will continue to innovate, educate, and entertain now that’s he’s quitting movies for good?

What the rest of critics are saying:

Lowercase Larry doesn’t just get under your skin, it gets behind your eyeballs and uses your head as its own cockpit.” – Clark Peeper, Inverse

Lowercase Larry is sensational, and the fact that it stole my heart away with seemingly so little effort whatsoever is the greatest heist of them all.” – Sara Michelle Fetters, MovieFreak.com

“A clever, goofy and a thoroughly entertaining ride.” – Marija Djurovic, Cairo360

“Such is the merriment of the movie, and so spirited is its pace, that you barely notice it is all presented from a first person perspective.” – Bastien Sauvage, Premiere

“Soderbergh raises clumsy and absurd moments to keep the mood wrapped in country-style musical atmospheres.” – Zark Henckel, The Culture Trip

“Channing Tatum is back, baby! And you can’t see his face or body throughout most of the movie!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“For lowercase lessons, Larry is your guy.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“Lowercase Larry is like watching the world’s best FPS video game directed by Steven Soderbergh while on acid in the midst of an earthquake.” – Jacqueline Coley, Black Girl Nerds

“Tatum’s husky voice is so alluring that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.” – Belkina Mazona, IndieWire

“Lowercase Larry is both the past and future of filmmaking, but it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.” – Brad Miska, Bloody Disgusting

Melonmeter® Score:

89% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

 

 

Home Again

The new romantic comedy Home Again features Reese Witherspoon returning to her most iconic role as saucy southern belle Melanie Smooter in this sequel to 2002 smash hit Sweet Home Alabama. But Home Again isn’t just a retread – the movie has a streak of darkness and maturity just beneath its familiarly perky surface.

For those who’ve forgotten the plot of the original Sweet Home Alabama (all two of you!), it was the tale of a hotshot New York fashion designer’s (Witherspoon) journey home to obtain a long delayed divorce from her ne’er do well childhood sweetheart of a husband (Josh Lucas) so that she can marry the next president of the United States (Patrick Dempsey aka network television’s Dr. McDreamy). But Melanie discovers she still loves her husband (Josh Lucas), who is actually an accomplished glass sculptor with ambitions of making it in New York just like Melanie.

Home Again flashes forward fifteen years later to see Melanie and her husband (Josh Lucas) happily married, financially successful, but losing a long battle against the fickle goddess of fertility. Though they desperately want children, every method they’ve attempted to initiate a successful pregnancy has failed.

But Melanie is a go-getter and won’t give up. Though her womb cannot support life, she is determined to find a surrogate to carry her pregnancy to term. But not just any surrogate – Melanie believes the woman who gives birth to her child must be a southern belle just like herself.

The desire to maintain a sense of heritage takes Melanie and her husband (Josh Lucas) back to Alabama once again in search of a host body for their unborn baby. They soon find more than they bargained for when they meet Charlotte Beauchamp (Elle Fanning) in a chance encounter at the local bowling alley slash gun club.

Melanie and Charlotte initially butt heads over everything. Charlotte’s saucy attitude drives Melanie up the wall. And she can’t stand Charlotte’s vivacious flirting with her man (Josh Lucas). But after a night of drinking and singing country songs at the local honky tonky bar, Melanie and Charlotte strike up an unlikely friendship.

Melanie sees more of herself in Charlotte than she was willing to admit at first, and decides Charlotte could be the perfect surrogate. And Charlotte enthusiastically agrees to bear Melanie’s child after hearing she’ll be paid enough money to get the hell out of small town Alabama for good.

The scenes dealing with the process of artificial insemination are funny, poignant and educational. I personally knew nothing about the procedure and now after seeing the film I know more than I ever could have imagined about the science of creating life.

Once the the baby’s in the oven (as the old Alabama expression goes), Melanie and her husband (Josh Lucas) try a million madcap tricks to get Charlotte to quit drinking and smoking. (Charlotte protests: “What else is there to do in Alabama? Tell me that Mr. and Mrs. New York Big Shot!”)

It’s all fun and games until Melanie receives an ominous letter. The letter is from an old doctor Melanie once knew growing up who has since retired to a ranch outside of town. The reclusive Dr. Rountree (Sam Elliott) requests Melanie pay him a visit. Melanie goes to meet the quirky hermit, who prefers riding horses on his ranch to any human interaction.

Along with a generous helping of homespun wisdom, Dr. Rountree reveals a dark secret that rocks Melanie’s world. Back when he was still a practicing obstetrician, Rountree delivered the baby Melanie had when she was fifteen years old. Then he performed hypnosis on her to rid her of trauma of giving the baby up for adoption.

Dr. Rountree felt he had done the right thing up until he heard about the artificial insemination of Charlotte. But now, reluctantly, he feels compelled to tell Melanie that Charlotte is her long lost daughter that she put up for adoption all those years ago.

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Melanie Smooter (Reese Witherspoon) realized that her unborn granddaughter is growing inside of the womb of her long lost daughter.

This is undeniably the most dramatic and emotional moment in the movie, and Reese Witherspoon and Sam Elliott leave it all on the mat. They are both heavy hitter actors and you can tell by how much laughter and tears they are able to generate when put to the test.

Melanie and her husband (Josh Lucas) have to come to terms with their parenthood, but they can’t fathom having to raise a child who is both their daughter and granddaughter at the same time. The movie deftly switches back into comedy mode as they realize the fetus inside of their daughter has to be aborted.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to get an abortion in Alabama, as the soon-to-be-grandparents quickly realize. But in one dazzling scene, Melanie’s husband (Josh Lucas) is struck by lightning as he plants metal rods in the beach to create more of his famous glass sculptures. That’s when it hits him: they should bring their daughter back to New York City to get the abortion.

The movie concludes with a scene that’s heartfelt and funny in equal measure. At a fancy clinic in Brooklyn, Melanie and her husband (Josh Lucas) hold Charlotte’s hand and crack jokes as the procedure is performed just in the nick of time. And though we see her phone vibrating, Melanie never lets on that the zealously pro-life Dr. Rountree is calling over and over again to try to stop them from going through with the abortion.

As the credits roll, we hear Dr. Rountree’s angry lunatic ravings left on Melanie’s voicemail over the familiar riffs of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” I say they are familiar because the song is played at least seventeen times throughout the movie. I lost count at a certain point, and honestly that’s one of my biggest complaints about the movie.

TL;DR – Home Again gathers a talented crowd of rom-com veterans on both sides of the camera for a charming yet surprisingly weighty follow up to one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Watch this film for some turn-off-your-brain prettiness. Be prepared, however, to rethink all your reproductive choices afterward.” – Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

“A bubbly brunch mimosa you drink up before the fizz is gone, then chase it with a Bloody Mary, followed by a few Moscow Mules and Long Island Iced Tea and by that point you should be ready to pass out.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Reese Witherspoon is back, baby! And she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The story is told cleanly, the characters are engaging and a few sequences (the meeting with Dr. Rountree, the pregnancy termination scene) are cut together brightly. However, I didn’t care for the glib way in which the filmmakers chose to depict abortion. ” – “Deaf” Smith Zuzax, Amarillo Globe News

“Home Again is a film with its heart in the right place. It also has the guts to take a unabashedly pro-abortion stance, which is refreshing in otherwise lighthearted rom-com.” – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

“It’s a flighty screwball scenario told with thrift-shop economy. But the abortion twist threw me for a loop.” – Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Toronto

“A situational comedy that is transgressive yet sweetly predictable.” – Vang Anh Trung Nguyên, New York Daily News

“Shame on Abortion-loving murderers in Hollywood for producing this insipid trash.” – Adam Yoshida, Unqualified Reservations

Melonmeter® Score:

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

 

Space Explorer Man

Seth MacFarlane IS Space Explorer Man in the risky new space adventure from 20th Century Fox out now in theaters everywhere. Having already conquered genres as diverse and varied as raunchy cartoons, naughty bromances, and dirty westerns, it was only natural for MacFarlane to test his effervescent wit and visionary talent on a space movie next.

In addition to writing and directing, MacFarlane also stars as Captain Orville Galois. But everyone just calls him ‘Space’ for short (short for Space Explorer Man, that is). As his name implies, Space is an intrepid explorer man of deep space.

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MacFarlane uses his very white face and body to develop a complex characterization of Captain Space. This characterization draws on many traits of famous explorers of the past: Neil Armstrong’s pioneer spirit, James Cameron’s keen intelligence, and Buzz Lightyear’s bravura, take-no-prisoners attitude.

Space also has a passion for late twentieth century pop culture that all of the other characters find deeply perplexing, as the movie is set four centuries in the future. “Is Milli Vanilli the name of the next alien species we are to encounter?” they wonder before realizing Space is once again referencing something none of them have heard of for no reason at all. This quirk is later revealed to be the result of serious brain injury Space suffered as a child on the planet Dorgon.

In addition to obsessing over forgotten ephemera from centuries past, the childhood brain injury occasionally causes Space’s mental faculties to fail him altogether, such as in the scene he is assigned a new ship by his commanding officer. The alarmed commanding officer watches as Space begins to shove marbles in his mouth, thinking they are candies. When informed of their true nature by his superior (since in his submental state his mouth is unable to discern the flavor and texture of marble), he spits them out like an untamed beast.

The brain injury is also blamed when Space commits hideous acts of savagery against alien species, or whenever he reveals his shockingly retrograde attitude towards women.

Of course, MacFarlane knows a lot about marriage and long term commitment and is eager to explore that subject as he is deep space. To accomplish this, Space’s ex-wife and his current girlfriend are both members of his crew. As you can imagine, this drives a lot of the movie’s conflict, at least when the character’s aren’t busy discovering new planets and stars.

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Space Explorer Man on a space exploration adventure.

I’m grateful to report, Space Explorer Man boldly goes where no space movie (or television series for that matter) has gone before. Unfortunately MacFarlane’s comic sensibility doesn’t mesh all that well with the optimistic, pioneering sci-fi adventure with cerebral themes that he tries to create. If only someone was to make the same movie but without all the pop culture references and bizarre attempts at postmodern humor. Or maybe a TV show, who knows?

TL;DR – Enormously imaginative and original, Space Explorer Man is an exciting and wondrous space movie only marred by an awkward yet piquant sense of humor MacFarlane seems unable or unwilling to shed.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“I was especially taken with the costumes: how did MacFarlane imagine such a stylish yet plausible outfits for his space ship crew to wear.” – Brayton Exira, Collider

“The social commentary struck me as a little tone deaf, especially the debate between Captain Space and his ex-wife over whether an alien baby should have received gender reassignment surgery.” – F. Debnie Amberson, NPR

“Sort of like if A Million Ways to Die in the West was set in space.” – Trim Richulds, Entertainment Weekly

Space Explorer Man finally transcends Family Guy and MacFarlane’s other work by being something more than a copy of an iconic television series or movie filtered through his irreverent sensibility.” – Gulluzar Baboudjian, Boston Herald

“I couldn’t help but stare deeply into Captain Space’s beady black eyes.” – Mother Waddles, Daily Mirror

“I felt like I was hallucinating as I watched this garbage fire of a movie. I just couldn’t believe it was authorized, funded, or (God help us) released.” – Nikita Urevich, Film Freak Central

“A deeply offensive waste of everyone’s time.” – Mameh Immanuel Sisma, The Guardian

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

Melonmeter® Score:

50% liquid & seed retention – galia melonA SORT OF GALIA MELON, OR THE EAST ASIAN SARDA, CLAIMED TO CAUSE ANXIETY AND EVEN BIOLOGICAL REVULSION IN SOME PEOPLE

 

It (2017)

If you’ve been missing the Addams Family, you will absolutely love It (2017), the new franchise spin-off that also doubles as the kick-off entry to the rebooted Addams Cinematic Universe (ACU). It (2017) is an entertaining melange of macabre comedy and gothic horror that depicts the origin story of Cousin It.

For newcomers to the Addams Family franchise, Cousin It is a short being whose entire body is surrounded by a thick draping of beautiful golden hair. Over the front of this draping, It wears a pair of dark sunglasses. On top of the draping, It often dons a brown bowler derby hat or a dark velvet beret.

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Cousin It has long been considered the most enigmatic member of the Addams Family, so it’s no surprise that Guillermo del Toro chose to tackle the character first as part of his long term commitment to shepherd the ACU from now until his death several decades in the future.

Del Toro’s obsession with the eery and unfamiliar has been well-documented, and Cousin It is a perfect vehicle for his Lovecraftian impulses as a storyteller. The movie opens in a world of subterranean tunnels where Cousin It was born to the branch of the Addams Family that is entirely felted with hair.

The hairy burrowing vole beings have strange customs and beliefs, but before long they notice young It’s distinguishing sense of fashion and unusual taste for sunlight. It’s unclear whether they want to banish or reward It for being so different, but in any case the vole beings send It off to live with Professor Doctor Fester.

Professor Doctor Fester is of course Uncle Fester before an unfortunate lawn bowling accident left him bereft of his wits and ambition. (I’m sure we’ll find out more about what happened in Fester’s Follies, due out this Christmas.) Fester takes Cousin It under his wing, and they set off on all kinds of wacky adventures together.

I would describe the rest of the movie as just a straight up buddy comedy, except Fester and It encounter such creepy and unsettling creatures along their merry way. That’s unlike any other buddy comedy I’ve ever seen. Except for Men in Black. So it’s sort of like Men in Black, I guess.

TL;DR – Another Guillermo del Toro classic featuring more creepies and crawlies than you can shake a stick at, It (2017) is also a promising restart to the venerable Addams Family franchise.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Once the creepy hairy vole beings make their exit, it’s bedtime for bonzo!” – Bethpage Ballpark, Salon.com

“It (2017) is like the Iron Man (2008) of gothic comedies.” – Benedict Seal, Bloody Disgusting

“Guillermo del Toro’s unerring sense of the macabre serves the material well.” – Troni Uwchlan, New Orleans Times-Picayune

“It’s awful nice that they gave MC Hammer a cameo.” – Epock Tines, The Baffler

“Cousin It is back, baby! And he’s better than ever. Or she’s better than ever? They’re better than ever? I’m really not sure about the gender of this one.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Here’s hoping Fester’s Follies will offer us something a little more substantial.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

Melonmeter® Score:

84% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Assassins vs. Killers

Late summer is the time of year when the studios dump their mistakes and boo boo movies that didn’t quite work out the way they planned. That seems to be the case for the new action thriller Assassins vs. Killers. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the movie is actually much better than I expected given that it’s been dumped in the late August junkyard.

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Emily Blunt stars in Assassins vs. Killers as a sexy yet lethal killer

Emily Blunt stars as a sexy yet lethal killer opposite costar James McAvoy who plays a charming but deadly assassin. When they are both assigned to execute the same high-placed UN diplomat, they end up in a pulse-pounding cat and mouse game that is as erotic as it is fatal.

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James McAvoy costars in Assassins vs. Killers as a charming but deadly assassin

The action scenes are the reason to go to a movie like this, and they don’t disappoint for even a minute. While it’s nothing you haven’t seen in Hard Boiled, The Killer, The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2, Ip Man, Ip Man 2, Ong-Bak, Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, or Ong-Bak 3, each fight and chase is expertly choreographed, not to mention sexy and stylish and full of smooth moves and cool guns.

But what elevates this movie above the usual late summer action doldrums is the two main villains. Jason Statham oozes frightening intensity as the Chief of the League of Killers. Part-reptilian, the Chief is descended from long dead lizard overlords.

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Jason Statham as the part-reptilian Chief of the League of Killers

Even better is Lucy Liu as the Grand Imperatrix of the Assassin’s Guild. It’s great to see Liu back in action after all these years, and she plays the part-insectoid Imperatrix with an alluring joie de vivre. The Grand Imperatrix is born of fearsome insects but hides it under her elegant white robes. She’s also just a straight badass who combines wizardly eastern wisdom with karate chopping kicks.

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Lucy Liu as the insectoid Grand Imperatrix of the Assassin’s Guild

I also enjoyed Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare as the top henchmen to the Chief and the Grand Imperatrix respectively. Their performances were over the top, and they each made the most of their lengthy and grotesque death scenes.

The movie’s plot is mostly predictable, but embedded within it is more compelling allegory than you usually get with this type of brainless action fare. It turns out the leaders of the Assassin’s Guild and the League of Killers are working together to dominate the globe in secret along the lines described by sociologist C. Wright Mills in his landmark 1956 book The Power Elite.

By the end, McAvoy and Blunt must join forces to overthrow the evil alliance of insect-people and reptilians who deprive us all of our liberty and freedom. And they also have sex with one another, and it’s hot.

TL;DR – Assassins vs. Killers is a pretty damn good movie with violence, sex and a meaningful message you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Lucy Liu is back in action and she’s better than ever, baby!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Assassins vs. Killers contains not a single recognizable human character or moment throughout its hundred or so arid minutes.” – George “Ramble” Bortz, Arizona Republic

“Sort of like if every other character in The Raid: Redemption was secretly an evil reptilian or insectoid monster.” – Brayton Exira, Collider

“With Assassins vs. Killers, director Paul Greengrass delivers the most effortless fusion yet of the political themes of his early films and the action conspiracy thriller tropes of his later movies.” – Kokia Cookei, Empire Magazine

“The mythology describing an alliance between insects and reptiles to rule over humanity was somehow both entirely nonsensical and deeply unsettling all at once.” – Lonesy Windrows, Washington Post

“Am I only one lamenting the total absence of Jeremy Renner’s crooked smirk in this one?” – Ernie van Schledorn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Deadening to the senses and corrosive to the soul.” – Book Denison, Associated Press

Melonmeter® Score:

71% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

 

 

Atomic Blonde

You absolutely have to go see Atomic Blonde, the new film about the pioneering female pilot who flew the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic warhead on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The film is more than just an exhilarating action adventure story, it’s also a powerfully moving historical drama about the resiliency of the human spirit.

Charlize Theron stars as Elsinore Perth (aka the “Atomic Blonde”), an audacious woman with a passion for flight who perseveres in the face of the rampant misogyny dominating the military at that time in our history. Theron plays Perth as feisty yet dashing, with a take-no-prisoners attitude that wins over any man dumb enough to step in her way.

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Oscar-winner Charlize Theron as Elsinore Perth, aka the “Atomic Blonde”

After becoming the most accomplished and daring civilian aviator in the world by the early 1940s, Perth became maniacally obsessed with circumventing the regulations that prevented women from entering combat divisions of the United States Armed Forces at the time. Perth determines that the only way to use her ample skills to serve her country effectively is to disguise herself as an 18-year-old boy named Billy Bishop so that she can be admitted to fly combat missions. This leads to some wonderful comic set pieces that recall classic films such as Some Like It Hot.

As Bishop, a preternaturally talented pilot and all around wiseass, Perth rises quickly up the ranks of the U.S. Army Air Forces until she’s flying some of the most dangerous missions of the war. She soon holds the record for bombing runs dropping incendiaries and other payload on dozens of Japanese cities.

Theron deserves another Oscar for deftly switching between Perth’s boyish persona as Billy the flying wunderkind, and Perth herself, a more feminine but equally irascible character. By the time she flies the fateful mission to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima, killing 126,000 Japanese and winning the war for the United States, I was moved to tears by Elsinore Perth’s derring do.

As the credits rolled, I had a lot to think about but was pleased to see real photos and even some newsreel footage of the real life “Atomic Blonde.” Even better, this historical footage was followed by some brief talking head interviews with powerful women of today including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Theresa May, Sheryl Sandberg and Condoleezza Rice. Each describes how she was personally inspired by Elsinore Perth’s pioneering work as an indomitable female trailblazer in a traditionally male profession.

My only quibble is that Theron’s hair color appeared more auburn to me than blonde. I don’t know the color of the real Elsinore Perth’s hair, but if Atomic Ginger didn’t work as a title, they should have just taken cinematic liberty and allowed Theron her classic blonde look.

TL;DR – Based on true historical events, few films can match Atomic Blonde’s potent combination of awards-worthy dramatic acting, pulse-pounding action and suspense, and gorgeously lensed flight sequences.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Charlize Theron is back, baby, and she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The movie seems to sweep U.S. complicity in war crimes under the rug a bit too casually for my tastes.” – Epock Tines, The Baffler

“It has beautiful cinematography, a star performance that is shocking in its authenticity, a careful eye for nuance and detail and an irresistible blend of action, drama and even comedy that should spell automatic success.” – Dian Rizki II, Austin Chronicle

“When it takes to the skies Atomic Blonde really soars with thrilling recreations of Perth’s bombing runs.” – Kokia Cookei, Empire Magazine

“If you’re the kind of person who deplores the modern vogue for debunking historical figures, and who welcomes the opportunity to indulge in heroic feats and exotic locales, then this is the film for you.” – Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph

“As Perth sees the flash of the atomic explosion, her eyes light up in shock and then she erupts with monstrous peals of laughter. I felt chills shoot up my spine.” – Mameh Immanuel Sisma, The Guardian

“The film discreetly tiptoes around Perth’s responsibility for the incineration of tens of thousands of Japanese in favor of swashbuckling adventure and rip-snorting spectacle.” – Youtan Poluo, New England Movies Weekly

“The hair color kerfuffle really threw off the whole experience for me.” – Ginger Thorch, NewsBlaze

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

The Emoji Movie

The Emoji Movie is the first silent film to receive a major release in North America since the The Artist (2011). But even The Artist had a rich and varied musical score to accompany its images, and the silent films from the Classical Hollywood era often included live musical accompaniment by a pianist, organist, or even an entire orchestra.

Not so with The Emoji Movie, which is entirely 100% silent for every frame of its ninety-one minutes. The images of living, breathing emojis going about their highly eventful lives is truly captivating in the absence of  any sound. The movie truly is an “adventure beyond words.”

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An adventure beyond words that’s also in B&W.

I found it an eery experience, sitting in a dark theater with an audience of other emoji fans, stricken with silence until cascades of baleful laughter or scattered gasps would shudder across our bodies in response to the antics of Smiley, Winky, Poop, Ice Cream, Meh, Devil and the other characters who people this animated opus by the director of Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters.

Soon it seemed as if the faces of the audience around me were just as much a part of the film as the emojis themselves. Next to me, a lady cried, and I thought to myself: “This person represents how I’m feeling perfectly, if only her skin were yellow and her features more generic, I might use her appearance to represent my emotional state on the SMS messaging format.”

When I looked behind me I saw a boy whose face colored with embarrassment as Poop shrieked up on the big screen, and in that moment that I was that boy, feeling uncomfortable and unsettled, and that boy was me, and the faces encircled us so that the boundaries between screen and reality disappeared.

We became a series of circles, ideograms – shapes of all sorts. Upon seeing ourselves as shapes, we shuddered, felt our skin crawl, experienced panic attacks, sweated, palpitated, and felt nauseated or itchy. The shapes appeared to be full of holes, and some said the holes seemed “disgusting and gross” or that “something might be living inside those holes.”

As the holes secreted fluids which solidified into crusts, the silence became infinite and total. New layers of rot appeared, but the quiet cleansed away the filth until we could breathe once again, each of us an icon upturned to the sun.

TL;DR – Artificial intelligence will soon replace us all with emojis and other ideograms. You best prepare yourself, fool.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Hear that? It’s the end of the world.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

“I don’t think I can say anything funny about this movie, because it makes me want to die.” – Lizzie Plaugic, The Verge

“I had no intention of seeing The Emoji Movie — we all have our limits — but David insisted we attend the screening.” – Buzanne Witherford Weathers, Salon.com

“Lacks humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view or any other distinguishing characteristic that would make it anything but a complete waste of your time.” – Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

“A demonstration of artistic abdication at its most venal.” – Shigit Naffelow, Hollywood Reporter

“It is one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen.” – Emily Yoshida, Vulture

The Emoji Movie is almost as bad and brutally depressing as everything else in 2017.” – David Ehrlich, indieWIRE

“Disregard that PG rating and keep your children far away from director Tony Leondis’ vile animated faux-comedy. Beneath its trippy surface lurks an insidious philosophy hazardous to impressionable minds.” – Tomris Laffly, Time Out

“It’s hideous!” – Jeremy Lucido, Starfucker Magazine

The Emoji Movie is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in this rambling, incoherent disaster do the filmmakers even come close to expressing anything that could be considered artful or worthwhile. Everyone on this planet is now dumber just by virtue of this movie existing. I award it zero stars, and may God have mercy on us all.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“It was worse than The Angry Birds Movie!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Melonmeter® Score:

50% liquid & seed retention – galia melonA SORT OF GALIA MELON, OR THE EAST ASIAN SARDA, CLAIMED TO CAUSE ANXIETY AND EVEN BIOLOGICAL REVULSION IN SOME PEOPLE

Dunkirk!

I’ll be the first to say it: Dunkirk! is the most heartwarming family film of the decade. And if you have a love of animals, or an interest in man’s unique relationship with dogs, you absolutely have to see this film.

Dunkirk! follows the story of old Uncle Shuckburgh (Michael Caine) who has a close relationship with Dunkirk, his golden retriever.

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Dunkirk, the titular pup from the major motion picture Dunkirk!

Shuckburgh’s brother died on the beaches of Dunkirk in World War II, and Uncle Shuckburgh has named every dog he’s owned over the years after that fateful historical event. It’s one of his many English eccentricities.

The movie flashes back to the late 1930s to see Shuckburgh and his brother growing up together in prewar England. Through these scenes I got a sense of the two brothers strong sibling bond as well as their passionate love for dogs and accompanying red hot hatred of cats.

Back in the present day, Uncle Shuckburgh begins to find he’s having more and more trouble remembering things. He’s less up to completing simple tasks, like picking up his dog’s doo doo with a plastic bag on their afternoon excursions. He tries to play off these little incidents like it’s nothing, but his kids (Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale) can’t help but notice, and insist that he see a doctor.

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Uncle Shuckburgh (Michael Caine) completely at a loss as he tries to remember where he is.

In the moments preceding Uncle Shuckburgh’s appointment with the doctor, we get a few brief glimpses of what happened to the old man’s brother in the war. The trailers for the movie are entirely composed of these momentary flashbacks, leading some to mistakenly believe Dunkirk! is a war film. But as I watched this sequence, I realized Uncle Shuckburgh had fantasized visions of what he was told happened to his brother.

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Flashback scene showing Shuckburgh’s older brother. (He’s the one whose entire face is visible.)

After the examination, the good-humored Dr. Robinson (Cillian Murphy) delivers the family some bad news. Uncle Shuckburgh has a rapidly advancing case of dementia. The rest of the film deals with the fallout of this diagnosis, focused mainly on Uncle Shuckburgh’s struggle to keep custody of Dunkirk against the gentle reprimands of his family and eventually the legal demands of animal services.

In the end, Uncle Shuckburgh befriends a young man (Joseph Gordon Levitt) whose love of dogs and manner of speaking remind Shuckburgh of his long deceased brother. The two begin an intimate relationship, and as Shuckburgh drifts off into the depths of insanity, he finds final comfort in knowing that someone he trusts will be taking care of Dunkirk after he’s gone.

It’s a simple tale, but it’s expertly crafted by the most acclaimed filmmaker of our generation: Christopher Nolan. Having already tried his hand at sci-fi (Interstellar), sci-fi action (Inception), superhero action (The Dark Knight trilogy), period piece (The Prestige), mystery (Memento), and mindbending cerebral drama with a strong female lead (Insomnia), it was inevitable that Nolan would next turn his attention to the most timeless genre of all: the animal-driven family film.

Nolan’s signatures are present in nearly every frame of the movie, from the non-linear structure (the film jumps back and forth between multiple timelines) to his use of light and darkness and the contrast between the two to show Uncle Shuckburgh’s decay and Dunkirk’s growth and maturation, sometimes all within one scene.

Plus, Nolan films his lead beautifully. Dunkirk is a gorgeous specimen of a dog, and we get to see him the way he was meant to be viewed: in the enormous 70mm cinema format.

Nolan’s characteristic use of rich colors (such as in the golden Dunkirk’s lustrous yellow brown fur) and deep shadows (cast across the Dunkirk’s fur) are juxtaposed with big, epic landscapes. This is especially true during the sequence when Shuckburgh gets lost with Dunkirk on one of their wanders. Thankfully Dunkirk keeps his composure even as his owner becomes increasingly demented and confused.

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Dunkirk maintaining his composure while out on a wander.

Another Nolan trademark stood out in the many shots in which he places the camera behind Dunkirk. This allows those of us in the audience to “see” from the dog’s perspective.

Thankfully, Nolan does not chicken out and rely on fake computer generated effects to animate Dunkirk or anything else in the movie. I can assure you, having seen it with my own two eyes, Dunkirk! uses strictly practical effects to achieve its undeniable magic.

TL;DR – Dunkirk! is an emotionally satisfying film for the whole family, masterfully delivered by the one-of-a-kind visionary Christopher Nolan in full command of his craft and brought to life by a gifted cast that honors man’s eternal love of dogs.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

Dunkirk!‘s plot is fairly uncomplicated. The thrill is in getting to know the golden retriever and his doddering owner in such sensuous detail.” – Tufayel Ahmed, Newsweek

“Director Christopher Nolan delivers this summer’s most precisely crafted family film in the simultaneously inspiring and devastating Dunkirk!” – George “Ramble” Bortz, Arizona Republic

“It’s a series of riveting tableaux, but the star of the movie is undoubtedly the golden retriever, Dunkirk!” – Rosalthe Sadasga, Entertainment Weekly

“Christopher Nolan’s back, baby, and he’s got a dog movie to show us!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Only Christopher Nolan could make a movie starring a dog so cold and lifeless.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

“As a film, Dunkirk! is a powerful work from one of the great directors of our time. As a dog, Dunkirk is simply cute as hell to watch.” – Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com

“Seldom has a film so eloquently captured the craziness of man’s relationship with his proverbial best friend, nor the terror of dementia, and all at the same time to boot.” – Eustachius Wallingford, The Guardian

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

I, Spiderman

Spider-Man reboots are not as much movies as they are virtual portals into the world of men who have been bitten by radioactive spiders, or otherwise acquired Spidey-like powers and abilities. This has never been more apparent than in James Cameron’s I, Spider-Man. Though Cameron has exclusively referred to the project as a film, I, Spider-Man is really more of an augmented reality experience.

When you enter one of the nearly 4,000 theaters playing I, Spider-Man this weekend, the first thing you will notice is the Lenovo headset placed on your seat. You will be instructed to strap the device onto your face in much the same way Spider-Man himself wears a mask to conceal his secret identity.

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The Lenovo headset uses a single pair of cameras for tracking movement as well as a remote control. You will also need a compatible mobile device (e.g. iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, etc.) which you will insert beneath some reflective lenses in order to see the images properly superimposed on the surrounding environment

Once you’re set up, it’s off to webslinging around midtown Manhattan with Spidey senses a-tingling! You will actually experience haptic tingling sensations via the vibrations of your mobile device.

Even better, when you look in the mirror sans Spider-Man mask within the seamlessly integrated, Cameron-approved Spidey reality, you will be able to see your face merged with a Tobey-type actor. And I, Spider-Man is the only Spider-Man reboot in which YOU get to choose the villain from among three different choices: Venom (Zoe Saldana), Kraven the Hunter (Giovanni Ribisi), and Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio).

Thankfully, the highly intrusive references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have plagued most of the recent Spider-Man reboots are deftly limited in I, Spider-Man to D’Onofrio’s reprisal of his role as Kingpin. Credit the notoriously exacting Cameron for his most tasteful approach to worldbuilding.

And while we’re on the subject of James Cameron, it looks like we finally know what caused the recent delays of the several Avatar sequels promised by that genius explorer of the deep seas. The secretive filmmaker seems to have taken an extended break from the Pandora Cinematic Universe so he can make a brief visit the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Throughout the film-like experience, Cameron is clearly having fun experimenting with Lenovo’s technology. This is most astonishingly apparent when Gwen Stacy speaks actual words scraped from emails, texts and social media of your IRL lovers, exes, and objects of desire. Innovation is no surprise coming from Cameron, but I was taken aback by his dramatic use of the social possibilities of mobile device integration.

Of course, the ‘film’ also fulfills the wizardly auteur’s long-held ambitions to bring Spider-Man to life in a way only he knows how. Now he can turn his full attention back to the Avatar sequels, which may one day outnumber Spider-Man reboots depending on whether the predictions of climate scientists hold true.

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James Cameron and Spidey, together at last!

The only complaint I will share is that once I, Spider-Man had ended and the credits had rolled, the Lenovo headset proved terribly difficult to remove from my face. Though I pulled with all my might, I found it impossible to break the machine’s force of suction. An usher had to pry the headset off of me and many other patrons suffering the same problem using an imposing set of forceps provided by Lenovo to deal with such incidents.

I don’t mind telling you the operation to remove the I, Spider-Man experience from my face was extremely painful, and I cried for a very long time just as the sensitive Peter Parker would have if he were in my shoes.

TL;DR – Despite the occasional need to remove it from your face using a pair of forceps, I, Spider-Man succeeds by offering audiences a once in a lifetime chance to experience what it’s like to actually be Spider-Man as conceived by the visionary mind of James Cameron.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Get this fucking stupid piece of shit off my goddamned face!!” – Corban Goble, Vanity Fair

“I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of fighting Vincent D’Onofrio, making this one of the best films of the year.” – Bunlak Hergrobe, Flick Filosopher

“I can’t wait to get my hands on the rumored expansion pack, which will unlock Gwen Stacy and all three villains as playable characters.” – Frank Swietek, One Guy’s Opinion

“Spider-Man endures in all of our eyes because he is surgically locked to them via Lenovo headset.” Belvis Bunjamin-Pennebaker, ScreenAnarchy

“You can definitely file this one under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Spider-Man_reboots.” – Dusty Benry, Dark Horizons

“I had to go to the urgent care clinic to get the Lenovo headset removed and I know I’m not the only one. This film is class action lawsuit waiting to happen.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“Spider-Man is back, baby and you are Spider-Man, so you are back, baby, and I love you just as much as I love Spider-Man! Wow!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“If there’s one Spider-Man reboot to rule them all, it’s definitely James Cameron’s I, Spider-Man, which will go down in history as the only film in history to cause me to need repeated medical treatments to restore sight to my left eye.” – Griffin Riddle, Radio Times

“Zoe Saldana delivers a haunting performance as Venom. When I went back to play against Giovanni Ribisi, I found the movie suffered dearly for it.” – MacEagon Voyce, The Playlist

“After I received the news from my doctors that the Lenovo headset would never come off of my face without causing fatal damage to my nervous system, I made a decision to live out the rest of my life as best I can as Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man. And as Peter Parker works in journalism, it’s only fitting that I sign this review with his byline.” – Peter Parker (formerly known as Dominique Vivant), Vulture

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™