Captain Marvel

As much as I love superhero movies, I was skeptical at first about Captain Marvel. A superhero movie starring a woman just seemed “off” to me for some reason. A woman with super-powered strength, endurance, stamina, physical durability, a precognitive “seventh sense” and resistance to most toxins and poisons? Sorry, I’m just not buying it.

But I was pleasantly surprised by Captain Marvel. 20 minutes into the movie, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) dies and the credits roll. Following this, a 90 minute long post-credits sequence features Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) avenging Captain Marvel’s death by taking on her name and persona to defeat the evil shapeshifting alien Skrulls.

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The post-credits sequence has become a Marvel trademark. This kind of thing has annoyed me in the past, because I don’t like to stay for the credits. However, in this case I’m glad I did. It’s certainly one of the best post-credits sequences I have ever seen.

It was also refreshing to see a black male superhero for once. Captain Marvel finally breaks the glass ceiling that has prevented African-Americans from being represented in big budget comic book movies. Though I think they missed an opportunity by not releasing this movie during Black History Month.

For fans of the Nick Fury character, who has appeared in nearly all the Marvel movies since 2008’s Iron Man, there is plenty to love in Captain Marvel. We finally learn how Nick Fury lost his eye, and there’s also plenty of buddy comedy type banter between Fury and Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.

TL; DR – If you were anxious about the idea of having to suspend disbelief and believe that a woman could have superpowers for two hours, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Carol Danvers dies in the first twenty minutes. Be sure to stick around for the post-credits sequence featuring Nick Fury – it’s worth your time!  

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Marvel Studios has finally sloughed off the vestigial carapace of increasingly unnecessary ‘pre-credits’ action in favor of a feature-length post-credits sequence.” – Nathaneal However, Esquire

“The post-credits sequence is what we all go to Marvel movies for anyway, so the filmmakers are smart to focus all their energy on the most essential part of the shared cinematic universe we now inhabit.” – Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

“It used to be only losers and nerds stayed until the end of the credits. Marvel has revolutionized movies by making us all wait for the names of hundreds of digital compositors to scroll down the screen so we can watch the latest adventures of Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – Sergio Sykes, Chicago Sun-Times

“Some of the marketing for this movie suggested Brie Larson would be front and center, but the bulk of Captain Marvel’s story takes place during a post-credits sequence starring Samuel L. Jackson.” – Tigran Byrsaylian, Vanity Fair

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

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

The Oscars are tonight! In my opinion this is the best movie of the year. I have NO IDEA if the Academy will agree – this Top Ten List is reflective of MY OPINION ONLY. That being said, I do think there’s something to be said for a film that helps us overcome the racial divide in this country. That’s why I loved…

1. Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook (dir. Ron Howard)

Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook is the story of a racist chauffeur, Lester Yellen (Viggo Mortensen), who drives an old blues musician Dexter Greenbook (Morgan Freeman) around the Jim Crow South. At first the two are hostile foes, due to Lester Yellen’s unyielding white supremacist beliefs. But over time, the mismatched pair gradually grow to respect and even love one another.

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During the first part of the movie, Lester Yellen spouts off his racist claptrap during the long drives between gigs. While Lester’s screaming about whites being the master race and all that hoobajoo, Mistah Greenbook just rolls his eyes and reads the newspaper.

At meal times, Lester eats fried chicken and watermelon in a mocking way while he speaks in an over-the-top impersonation of a shuck-and-jive Uncle Tom type caricature. When Lester says in a mocking jive accent, “Look at me, I’m a drivin’ Mistah Greenbook, yessuh, it’s like he tha massa and I’m the slave, hee-hee-hee! thass a backasswards,” I immediately thought, that must be where they got the title for the movie.    

Though Ol’ Mistah Greenbook acts as if all of this racism doesn’t bother him, you can tell it kind of does. Eventually Greenbook boils over and goes on a rant of his own in which he definitively destroys with Facts and Logic everything Lester has said and done. By the end of this monologue, it is clear that Greenbook is far more intelligent and clever than Lester had thought.

Just then, an angry mob of southerners tries to lynch Greenbook for being out in public after the town curfew. Even though he doesn’t really want to, Lester saves Greenbook’s life because it’s part of his job as chauffeur and Lester really believes in duty and honor.

Saving Greenbook’s life brings the chauffeur closer to understanding that racism is ultimately bad and wrong. Lester and Mistah Greenbook try to go back to their old hostile ways of yelling at each other, but soon they are just laughing every time they try. This laughter cements their unlikely friendship.

Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook really illustrates the world we could live in if we would just overcome racial animosities through laughter, friendship, and saving each other’s lives when the going gets tough. Morgan Freeman delivers a tour-de-force performance that really deserves an Oscar, and Viggo Mortensen is even better so it’s too bad one of them will have to lose tonight.

Melonmeter® Score:

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

The Predator (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

The big day is finally here! That’s right, it’s the Oscars! It’s a night when the movies that captured our imaginations are celebrated by the people who made them. Though I don’t know what will win, I really hope the Academy does the right thing and honors number two on FMR’s Top Ten List…

2. The Predator (dir. Alex Gibney)

The Predator is a meticulously researched indictment of Harvey Weinstein, the vile movie producer who terrorized young women in Hollywood for decades before his career and reputation were destroyed after his victims began to come forward a year and a half ago.

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In this age of searing documentaries about crime and abuse finding mass popular audiences, it would be truly astounding if a major filmmaker with studio backing hadn’t tackled the Harvey Weinstein saga by now. Luckily Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Taxi to the Dark Side) has crafted The Predator, a documentary that brings the truth about Harvey Weinstein to light.

The man was a monster, but what is almost more frightening is how his monstrous behavior was both encouraged by and helped to influence the shape of the modern film industry. Even the Oscars themselves function largely in the shadow of the aggressive, bullying, take-no-prisoners marketing campaigns Harvey Weinstein pioneered in the 1990s.

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I found myself shuddering with too much familiarity as I listened to his victims speak out about the psychological damage of physical and emotional abuse. Violence and intimidation can have really long-lasting and insidious effects on the victim’s mind. I know this from personal experience.

I usually don’t reveal much about my personal life on FMR, but in order for you to understand why I rate this fake movie so highly, you need to know a little about me. I was in an intimate relationship during which my partner abused me emotionally and physically on a regular basis. I am still just beginning to recover from what I experienced.

Watching The Predator brought back some really bad memories. I once cowrote and coproduced a short film with my abuser that was spoofing a film directed by a famous abuser (his behavior became public knowledge shortly after Weinstein’s) in tribute to another even more famous Oscar-winning abuser. The short film starred my abuser and a famous television producer who admitted to past abusive behavior toward an employee around the same time we made the movie. I bring this up because The Predator should be understood as an illustration of how Hollywood at every level can be a labyrinth of cruelty and predation, and that #metoo has only barely begun to change this dynamic both in the film industry and in the world at large. 

The Predator may be a fake movie, but it’s essential for of all of us to confront the painful truth from which it is drawn.

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Hulu Presents A Foreign-Language B&W Historical Drama (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

The Oscars are coming up tomorrow! I hope Oscars voters take time to celebrate some of the unconventional, foreign-language movies that aren’t available in theaters like this, the third best fake movie of 2018…

3. HULU PRESENTS A FOREIGN-LANGUAGE B&W HISTORICAL DRAMA (dir. Pietro Kopinskin)

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Hulu Presents A Foreign-Language B&W Historical Drama is a gorgeously photographed film that will make you think about love, family and how history often provides a fascinating backdrop to those kind of things.

Shot with distinctive, prestigious monochromatic film,  Hulu Presents A Foreign-Language B&W Historical Drama will awe you with its aspect ratio, provoke you with its use of multiple foreign languages, and ultimately make you cry due to how we our torn apart and brought back together by social forces and historical events beyond our control.

Best of all, I got to watch Hulu Presents A Foreign-Language B&W Historical Drama at home alone in the comfort of the same chair I game in. I don’t even know or care if it was released to theaters, as it’s so easy and convenient to pay just $8.99/month for Hulu to provide you with some of the best movies (and TV!) in the world. And it’s not just mainstream movies from the U.S., as Hulu Presents A Foreign-Language B&W Historical Drama clearly demonstrates. 

Melonmeter® Score:

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

The Favorite (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

The Academy Awards are coming up tomorrow  night, and it’s important to recognize movies that have been working really really hard for it for a really long time. Nothing is a foregone conclusion, but it would be a huge surprise if there was any awards show or Top Ten list that wouldn’t honor the fourth best movie of 2018…

4. THE FAVORITE (dir. Alexander Payne)

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The Favorite stars Glenn Close as former Secretary of State Helen Thomson, a character who is clearly a fictionalized version of Hillary Clinton. After loyally standing by her philandering husband former President Doug Thomson (Jonathan Pryce) and carefully building an esteemed political career in her own right, Helen is finally closing in on her long held dream of becoming President of the United States (having lost her previous bid eight years ago).

By all accounts Helen is the favorite to win, having lined up every endorsement, built an unprecedented political machine, and cleared the field of any serious rivals. The Favorite chronicles all the complications that get in Helen’s way, leaving her ever more chastened and exasperated.

First up is the aging socialist Senator Jerry Goldberg (Elliott Gould), who launches a long shot bid against her in the primaries. He inexplicably becomes more popular than her, especially among the young, and nearly defeats her much larger more established campaign.

Next, Helen faces off against the wild, unpredictable racist game show host Geoffrey Popper (Anthony Hopkins) in the general election. Helen had been looking forward to running against Geoffrey (with her campaign hoping he would be the nominee against her), thinking him manifestly unfit to lead, thus further cementing her status as The Favorite.

But despite being clownish, possibly demented, and likely involved in multiple extramarital affairs and sexual assaults, polls remain close. In the end, Popper wins due to a technicality despite receiving fewer votes.

The final part of The Favorite shows the absolute emotional and psychological breakdown of a character who was certain of her destiny, and did every single thing you’re supposed to do to assure that destiny, only to find it snatched a way by what can only be seen as the most cruel and absurd fate. It’s in this part of the movie that Glenn Close truly shines, and gives a performance that should make her the favorite to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards this year.

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse / Bohemian Spider-man / Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

As we move closer to Oscar Night, it’s important to recognize the best Spider-man movies of the year. Many people do not take Spider-man movies seriously, but this prejudice against Spider-man movies is outdated and discriminatory. Spider-man is just as worthy of being represented in awards shows and top ten lists as any other man.

Though the quantity of Spider-man movies dropped in 2018 (2017 yielded seven Spider-man feature films, last year only five) the quality of Spider-man movies has if anything only increased. Three of the Spider-man movies from 2018 are so good that they truly deserve to be celebrated among the Top Ten movies of the year. They take up the seventh, sixth, and fifth spots on FMR’s annual top ten list:

7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Various)

The seventh best movie of 2018 is Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, a movie that does for Spider-man what The Avengers did for so many other superheroes, which is the most epic crossover of all time.

spiderverse_FMRSpider-Verse follows a new digitally animated Spider-man as he travels through dimensions to discover and team up with all the other Spider-mans from throughout time and space including Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Amazing Spider-man (Andrew Garfield), Avengers Spider-man (Tom Holland), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Baby Spider-man (Seth MacFarlane), Emo Spider-man (also Tobey Maguire), Old Man Parker (digitally aged Tobey Maguire), Spider-woman (live action, Elle Fanning, animated version voiced by Hailee Stanfield), Cartoon Spider-man (Christopher Daniels Moore) and many many more.

Though the dozens of Spider-mans in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse can become overwhelming at times, the movie is such an energetic interdimensional adventure that you can’t get help but be carried away with enthusiasm as if carried by Spider-man as he slings webs across New York City.

The final level of the movie was my favorite, when every Spider-man we’ve met so far falls into a dimension in which the entire universe is simply a single cold room filled with very realistic scary spiders. I had never seen Spider-man take on realistic scary spiders before, so this was amazing for me.

Melonmeter® Score:

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

6. Bohemian Spider-man (dir. Bryan Singer)

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Bohemian Spider-man is not only one the best Spider-man movies of the year, it’s also one of the best movies of the year period. The film explores what would have happened if Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had been bit by a radioactive spider at the height of his fame.

Naturally Freddie Mercury decides to split his time between touring and recording with Queen, and fighting crime and tangling with supervillains Green Goblin and Doc Ock (who are secretly members of the bands Boston and Bad Company in their spare time).

Eventually, Freddie tires of leading a double life and comes out as Spider-man onstage in a dramatic performance for the Live Aid concert. The Live Aid concert is meant to raise money to find a treatment for the terminal illness caused by being bitten by a radioactive spider, but unfortunately Freddie Mercury dies of this mysterious disease before a treatment is developed.

As a work of both counterfactual history and historical allegory, Bohemian Spider-man is profound. It’s also thrilling and dramatic as any action-adventure/biopic has ever been.

Credit must go to the maestro auteur Bryan Singer, who is a proven genius at burying gay liberation stories inside of comic book action movies to make them palatable for a mainstream audiences. I might have chosen a different director given Bryan Singer’s well known history of sexual abusing teenagers, but what do I know I’m just a fake movie critic, not a real movie producer.

Melonmeter® Score:

95% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

5. Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man (dir. Peter Greenaway)

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Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man makes my Top 5 movies of the year!! Long live Spider-man on film in all his glory.

Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man is English arthouse director Peter Greenaway’s austere tribute to the theatre of absurd, especially the work of Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett.

Filmed on bare stages that recall Lars von Trier’s Dogville, Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man Spider-man posits a world in which we are all either Spider-man or Not Spider-man.

In a world divided between incarnations of Spider-man and everyone else, who is fit to rule? Much of the film is difficult to understand, as “Spider-man” is the pretty much only English word that is uttered out loud during the movie, with various incomprehensible grunts and howls making up much of the movie’s dialogue. But it became clear to me eventually that the movie was an elaborate satire of Friedrich Nietzche’s theory of the Übermensch.

After watching this movie, I was about to conclude the the universe is composed of an indefinite, perhaps an infinite, number of Spider-men, with elaborate costumes and the fabulous ability to sling webs and swing from building to building. Then I heard about the announcement of a new Spider-man movie to be released this spring and I became distracted.

Melonmeter® Score:

96% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

VICE (Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018)

FMR continues to celebrate the Best Fake Movies of 2018 Challenge. Each day we unveil another movie that made significant impact last year. Note that we aren’t trying to predict the winners of the Oscars, just having some fun. That being said, the eighth best fake movie of 2018 is…

8. VICE (dir. Adam McKay)

Jonah Hill stars as hipster media mogul turned white nationalist leader Gavin McInnes in the satirical biopic VICE. Undoubtedly one of the most politically-charged movies of the year, VICE explores one man’s evolution from ironically expressing hateful misogyny and bigotry in order to advance his career as a “take no prisoners” journalist-provocateur to sincerely expressing  hateful misogyny and bigotry in order to advance his career as the “no holds barred” messianic guru of a cult-like political sect.

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VICE’s anarchic style and sharp sense of humor despite its extremely dark subject matter are a testament to the talents of director Adam McKay. McKay’s early work as a filmmaker began by spoofing the incompetence and greed of toxic white male blowhards in such hits as Anchorman and Talladega Nights. His growth as an artist has led him to depict how the endless narcissism of his subjects are a real danger to the world around them, first in The Big Short and now in VICE.

But the line connecting the buffoonish Ron Burgundy to the possibly sociopathic Gavin McInnes is clear. In a strange way, McKay’s changing approach to his subjects mirrors McInnes’ own path from winking bad boy to literal Neo-Nazi.

Of course the lion’s share of the credit for VICE making FMR’s best-of-2018 list falls squarely on the shoulders of Jonah Hill. Hill’s performance is a revelation, and he should finally win an Oscar after being twice denied for his tour de force performances in Moneyball and the The Wolf of Wall Street. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the Superbad star as he channels the megalomaniac narcissist that singlehandedly defined beards in the early 21st century.

If you need any more evidence to convince you Jonah Hill deserves to get an Academy Award (at long last), just behold the physical transformation he underwent to truly become Gavin McInnes.

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Hill shed his iconic chubbiness and built up many pounds of muscle at terrible personal cost in order to more accurately portray McInnes. He also appears to have grown several inches taller, though it’s possible this effect was achieved via trick photography.

TL;DR – Jonah Hill gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance as alt right hipster Gavin McInnes in the alternately hilarious and horrifying VICE.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Jonah Hill is back baby, and he’s bigger and stronger than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“I wanted to vomit after seeing this movie and so will you.” – Legs Lavish, Popula

“Jonah Hill is absolutely revolting as the odious Gavin McInnes and for that he deserves many many awards.” – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly

“Adam McKay finds a real life Ron Burgundy in Gavin McInnes.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

Melonmeter® Score:

93% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

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™