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™

Spider-Man: Cataclysm

Spider-Man is a person we all know and love. He appears in every movie we watch, on every T-shirt in we wear, and in the rearview mirror when we’re driving in our car. I had a conversation with Spider-Man over a hot cup of coffee this morning, and he assured to me he will return to us as was outlined in the prophecy. The only question is what form he will take.

In Spider-Man: Cataclysm, we are introduced to an entirely different Spider-Man, a Spider-Man who is far more in tune with the rhythms of the Millenial Age. First introduced in comic books earlier this decade, Miles Morales is the first black Spider-Man, and just the second time a Latino character has taken on the Spider-Man identity.

Miles Morales as Spider-Man is the next generation, is the future, is all of us confused and shambling youth hoping for something better, and driving for Lyft in the meantime. But in Spider-Man: Cataclysm, the role of Miles Morales is played by Elle Fanning wearing a very dark spray-on tan.

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Elle Fanning as Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man.

Some critics have commented that Sony/Marvel got their diversity wires crossed and attempted to “kill two birds with one stone” by casting a woman to play the first black Spider-Man. I think this “hot take” obscures more than illuminates, as “hot takes” are often wont to do.

Because who is Spider-Man anyway? What defines him? Can we even use that ugly term “him” to describe a human bitten by a radioactive spider and thus imbued with the ability to sling webs and crawl about the walls and buildings that make up the urban jungle in which we must live?

Spider-Man is a genderless, raceless, ageless icon. We project our fantasies onto his masked face, and onto the very strange and distracting high-pitched and heavily accented voice Elle Fanning uses in Spider-Man: Cataclysm.

Cataclysm opens with Miles and his father Jefferson (Delroy Lindo) mourning the recent deaths of two close family members. Prior to the events of the movie, Miles’ mother Rio and his uncle Aaron died in a hail of gunfire that led to an accidental explosion during a battle between Spider-Man and Venom.

Miles comes to believe the world is about to end, and his prophecies gain him a cult-like following across storefront churches in the Bronx. His father doesn’t know what to think about his son’s behavior, which alternates between bombastic preaching and silent brooding.

Meanwhile, Galactus, a cosmic entity who eats planets to sustain his life force, emerges from a nearby nebula and prepares to consume Earth. All over the world, astronomers and soothsayers point out the giant in the night sky and gape in wonder.

Fearing the final reckoning is at hand, Miles reveals his double life as Spider-Man to his father. As a result, his father becomes convinced Miles is responsible for the death of Aaron and Rio, and disowns him.

When Galactus descends, Spider-Man mounts a last-ditch effort to save the planet, and must enlist the help of the Avengers to help him. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must all work together with Spider-Man and his legion of dedicated followers to defeat Galactus once and for all.

Just when they think they have subdued Galactus, the massive planet eater bursts into four great beasts. The first beast is a lion with the wings of an eagle, the second is a bear waving giant bones with its fists, the third is a leopard with four wings and four heads, and the fourth is a massive serpent with ten horns. One of the horns speaks very pompously (voice of Nathan Lane).

Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the cultist Servants of the Spider’s Word eventually trap each of the four beasts. They turn the beasts over to the Guardians of the Galaxy who imprison them in an egg made of the rubble of a thousand starships.

Joseph Kosinski’s direction has a spectacular grandeur, but it’s the human moments between Miles and his father that really make the film worth watching. I laughed, I cried, I prayed for humanity, and so will everyone else who watches this movie. And we praise Elle Fanning for her derring do. She is Spider-Man, just as much as you or I.

TL;DR – Visually striking and thematically rich, Spider-Man: Cataclysm draws its bizarre power from its strong production values and a perplexing performance from Elle Fanning.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“If I have to watch any more Spider-Man reboots, I’m going to puke.” – Darla Blaugrana, Newsweek

“I feel like Elle Fanning wasn’t the best choice to play Miles Morales, who is half black and half Latino.” – Brive Hoxhauer, LA Weekly

“More than most films, Spider-Man: Cataclysm is full of soaring ambition. Just try not to think too hard about any of it.” – Thurman O’Herlihy, Seattle Times

“The most interesting scenes feature Miles Morales preaching a prophecy of doom to poor, underprivileged communities of color.” – Uriah Ward, Christian Science Monitor

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

“Elle Fanning, infected with a sickly gleam, plays the leader of new religion, and her penchant for manic sermons is so dynamic will that she keeps the film afloat all on her own.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club

“It would have behooved Marvel to cast a person of color to play Miles Morales.” – B. Conner Yonk, Toronto Sun

“Let’s hope that I, Spiderman recaptures the magic that made many of the other Spider-Man reboots so joyous to watch.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“Is this supposed to be funny?” – Tsinoglou Luther, Detroit News

“What are you even doing?” – Gower Halstatt, ReelViews

Melonmeter® Score:

90% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Life (2017)

When Eddie Murphy became a movie star in the early 80s, he vowed to make a film every fifteen years or so that examined the human condition in a comic yet profoundly truthful manner, each time using a prison as the primary location. (Like Foucault, Murphy finds prison to be an apt metaphor for the world and man’s place within it.) He also announced each film in this series would be called Life so that no one would mistake the larger philosophical intentions that would distinguish these works from his less ambitious projects such as the Beverly Hills Cop and Nutty Professor films.

Many people laughed at Murphy’s grand vision, doubting his commitment to the higher aims of cinema. You won’t hear those people laughing much these days.

In 1985, following the enormous success of Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy produced and starred in Life (1985), the story of Sammy, a streetsmart hustler who attempts the biggest score of his young career by robbing the bag man of a fading drug kingpin. The plan goes awry, and Murphy’s character (described as “Axel Foley before he went legit” by Murphy in interviews at the time) lands in prison with a life sentence. Sammy uses his quick wits and sharp elbows to thrive in the prison economy, eventually leading the other inmates in a full-fledged prison riot that ends tragically.

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Eddie Murphy as Sammy in Life (1985)

Just shy of fifteen years later, following the enormous success of The Nutty Professor, Murphy produced and starred in Life (1999). Life (1999) is a Prohibition-era tragicomedy about the lives of loudmouth Harlem grifter Ray (Eddie Murphy) and no-nonsense Claude (Martin Lawrence). Ray and Claude team up on a bootlegging mission to Mississippi that could bring them big bucks. But they run into trouble when a crooked lawman hits them with a phony murder charge. Faced with life sentences and shipped off to prison, they must think of a way to prove their innocence and avoid the brutal (yet wacky) guards while battling their biggest enemies of all — a pair of totally mismatched personalities.

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Eddie Murphy as Ray and Martin Lawrence as Claude in Life (1999)

Ever since Life (1999), all the haters and naysayers have loudly insisted Murphy would never make another movie called Life. And for a few years there I almost started to believe them. I should have trusted my gut. The funnyman/filmmaker is back at it again with Life (2017), which returns to the time-tested themes from the previous two movies by taking them into space.

Life (2017) is a sci-fi adventure movie starring fast talking astronaut Kimbo Kallison (Eddie Murphy). Murphy’s performance combines the swashbuckling swagger of Lando Calrisson and Indiana Jones with the quixotic ambitions of Brian Fitzcarraldo and Dr. David Bowman. Kallison embarks on a quest to smuggle space refugees through a heretofore unnavigable region of deep space. Betrayed by his crew, Kallison ends up arrested by Intergalactic Customs Patrol and sentenced to a lifetime internment in space jail.

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Eddie Murphy as Kimbo Kallison in Life (2017)

Space jail turns out to be a patch of deep space they chuck you into when all you have left is the space suit on your back. To prevent escapes, space jail is policed around its frontiers by nasty prison guard ships. Kallison must lead the other imprisoned spacemen to forage for food amongst asteroids and space debris. It’s a tale of the perseverance of the human spirit against all odds, just like Life (1999) and Life (1985) before it.

Murphy has now produced and starred in three Life films that could make a near perfect trilogy that will define his legacy as a funnyman/filmmaker. But at this point I wouldn’t bet against that sly fox coming back to Life in his early seventies to make a fourth movie called Life, just like we always dreamed.

TL;DR – With Life (2017), Eddie Murphy finally takes his laughs and philosophical longings into space and the result is a cinematic smash hit rich and varied in its content.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“I’ll be the first to say it: this is the best movie to come out since Life (1999).” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“It’s hard to believe the man behind Norbit has created such a thought-provoking and ultimately redemptive space movie.” – Verity Campbell-Barr, The Atlantic

Life is one the most realistic – and harrowing – space movies to come along in decades.” – Book Denison, Associated Press

“Eddie Murphy’s supporting role as an officious customs patrolman is even funnier than his leading role as Kimbo Kallison.” – Siyaka Camacho, New York Daily News

“We, too, are just collections of cells, and Murphy plays our nervous system like a flamenco guitar in concert with nauseous drums and vomiting trombones.” – Amy Nicholson, MTV

Life has cool effects, big laughs and a sweet twist. It ain’t rocket science, but it does what it does well — even, one might say, with a kind of genius.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Here is a story that knows how to force nihilism and optimism into an uproarious death match in the vast nothingness of space. If you’re into that sort of thing.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

Life struck me as several cuts above ‘meh’ but never made me jump out of my seat.” – Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

“Never reaches greatness, but it’s solidly good, from its earned laughs to a spot-on ending.” – Mercedes Saster, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A waste of talent and money, Life (2017) seems convinced that simply sticking Eddie Murphy in outer space with expensive special effects is enough to make a great space movie. But it truly does take more than that to make a great space movie.” – Goh Gwek Eng, TIME Magazine

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Big Bad Beetleborgs (2017)

This weekend’s box office is dominated by Power Rangers, Lionsgate Entertainment’s reimagining of the popular children’s television series. But don’t miss out on Big Bad Beetleborgs, 20th Century Fox’s attempt to compete with Lionsgate for that much sought after kid and teen audience.

Unlike Power Rangers, the reboot of Big Bad Beetleborgs makes no attempt to reinvent the franchise’s preexisting mythology. If you know the original Big Bad Beetleborgs TV series, you won’t be very surprised by the plot of the movie.

Set in the fictional town of Charterville, three typical average kids— Draw (Finn Wolfhard), Joss (Millie Bobby Brown), and their tubby friend Roland (Rico Rodriguez) enter the supposedly haunted Hillhurst Mansion on a dare from rich snobs Trip and Barn. While exploring, the kids accidentally bump a pipe organ that releases a phantasm named Flabber (Ben Kingsley). Flabber offers to grant the kids one wish because he is friendly and grateful that they liberated him from the hellish maw beneath the mansion.

Draw, Joss and Roland immediately wish to become the heroes of their favorite Saturday morning TV show. Flabber obliges and turns them into the Big Bad Beetleborgs. The Big Bad Beetleborgs wear bio-armor and wield bio-swords infused with the life force of insects, developed by the Earth Academia’s brightest minds.

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Draw, Joss and Roland become the Big Bad Beetleborgs with the help of Flabber

It’s all fun and games until the Big Bad Beetleborgs discover silly Flabber accidently brought their sworn enemy to life: the evil Vexor (Robert DeNiro). Vexor transforms regular humans into his synthetic beast slave monsters (or “Magnavores”) using the Jamahl Melody, a form of occult magic. To battle the Beetleborgs, Vexor summons a veritable “rogues gallery” of Magnavore monsters:

  • Death Mult (Al Pacino) – A bird-faced monster with a pronounced wheeze.
  • Bagma Virus (Casey Affleck) – A hunchbacked gray-furred rat monster.
  • Heavyznake (Luis Guzman) – A reptilian humanoid with a long snake draped over the head area that serves as his arms
  • Bububu (Brian Dennehy) – A pig monster who can breathe a white gas that steals human voices, reducing them to grunts and squeals. He can breathe fire and blast lasers from his tusks
  • Kamaza (Leslie Jones) – A mantis monster whose mission is to spread her eggs all over the planet, injecting them into people using her long, spiked tongue.
  • Gagamoth (Sylvester Stallone) – At first an energy-sucking caterpillar monster, Gagamoth metamorphoses into a red moth monster when it absorbs the Beet Ingram’s power
  • Rasbelga (Wayne Knight) – a monster similar to a carnivorous plant that can move on its own and feeds on small animals
  • Figer (Kirsten Dunst) – A legendary fire-breathing cat monster that is fossilized and unable to move
  • Macho No. 5 (Jeffrey Tambor) – A horned tree-sloth monster who is extremely lazy much to Vexor’s dismay. Eventually Vexor has Macho No. 5 pose as a bus driver and use his tongue to suck the energy out of people to become active while they become lazy.
  • Hammer Kong (Jon Hamm) – a silver and gold robot with giant hammers on his hands and a head in the shape of a hammer head with the striking surface being his face. He can pound his hands on the ground to create Hammer Crush shock waves, or toss them in his Hammer Boomerang attack while firing a “Kong Beam” from his single eye & spit giant nails to pin his enemies to a wall.

The Big Bad Beetleborgs successfully destroy nearly all of the Magnavores in a series of action-packed adventures. However, Hammer Kong proves to be too powerful for the Beetleborgs to battle on their own. They decide to seek out Roland’s grandmother Nano (Jessica Lange) for help.

Nano works at the TV station responsible for broadcasting the Beetleborgs TV show. She introduces the kids to Art Fortunes (Dustin Hoffman), the creator of the show. They beg him to help them defeat the Magnavores. Though he doesn’t think it will work, Fortunes agrees to use the TV station’s satellite dish to beam a strong signal directly into their friends Pokus and Braden. The signal transforms Pokus and Braden into White Blaster Beetleborg and the Mega Blue Beetleborg

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Dustin Hoffman as television producer Art Fortunes

With the help of White Blaster and Mega Blue, the Beetleborgs finally defeat Hammer Kong, turning both him and Vexor into nothing more than a pile of nuclear ash. Meanwhile, Art Fortunes makes evil plans to take advantage of the newfound power of his satellite dish in a clear set up for a sequel.

Obviously, there’s nothing in Big Bad Beetleborgs that’s particularly new or original if you’ve spent any time watching the original TV series. Though a few names have been changed and certain aspects of the plot have been rearranged, it all felt very familiar to me. But with top of the line special effects and production design, a stellar cast, and inspired direction by David Cronenberg, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

TL;DR – While not breaking any new ground, David Cronenberg’s first film for children is a highly polished and professional production that is a worthy successor to the original series.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Big Bad Beetleborgs is a smash hit!” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

“I had never heard of the original TV series, so this was like a brand new normal movie for me, and I loved every minute of it.” Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“David Cronenberg’s lurid imagination is finally at work again in the insectoid and skeletal design of the movie’s many fabulous creatures and machines.” Tirn Moloch, Bloody Disgusting

“Robert DeNiro’s hammy performance as the film’s villain Vexor is yet another embarrassment the once great star will never live down.” – Ward Geith, IGN Movies

“The movie constantly introduces new characters and strange, largely unexplained concepts like the Jamahl Melody. You can try to understand Big Bad Beetleborgs or you can try to enjoy Big Bad Beetleborgs, but you cannot possibly do both.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“An embarrassment for the entire cast, for director David Cronenberg, but mostly for you for spending time and money watching this moronic garbage.” – James Berardelli, ReelViews

“Everyone involved in this movie should be ashamed they accepted payment to fabricate such a nonsensical waste of time.” – Scott Tobias, NPR

“Sit back and let the Big Bad Beetleborgs take you on the ride of your life.” – Murvin Del Toro, Cinegarage

Melonmeter® Score:

72% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™ BUT MAYBE LACKING SOME SEEDS OF ORGINALITY

Power Rangers (2017)

Lionsgate Entertainment and director Dean Israelite have reinvigorated the Power Rangers franchise with an entirely novel approach to the characters and mythology we all know and love. If you strip away all the flashy computer generated special effects and whizzbang action, the new Power Rangers film is actually a compelling, 1970s-style paranoid conspiracy thriller in the mold of The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor.

Power Rangers is elevated by its award-winning ensemble of actors, including Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Naomi Watts, Paula Abdul, Sissy Spacek, Eddie Redmayne and Jon Cryer. Cryer in particular gives a standout performance as the autistic Billy Cranston (aka the Blue Ranger), a computer expert with an inability to understand the most basic social cues.

The first hour and twenty minutes of the movie is a strictly realistic story of an internecine bureaucratic struggle between the corrupt Secretary of Homeland Security Rita Repulsa (Spacek) and a team of spies working in the National Security Agency nicknamed the “Power Rangers.” The Rangers struggle to prove that Secretary Repulsa is betraying America by hollowing out the border security and immigration screening functions of her department. They attempt to steal files and hack into computer systems but are consistently outfoxed by Repulsa’s mastery of the the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States government.

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Michael Fassbender as the Green Ranger (unmorphed)

Toby Olbers (aka the Green Ranger, portrayed by Fassbender) cracks the case wide open when he obtains information from an anonymous leaker in a dimly lit parking garage. The information he receives proves that Secretary Repulsa has been covertly working for the Islamic cleric turned terrorist ringleader known as Lord Zed (Dileep Rao). The Power Rangers must use their secret morphin’ powers to battle the putty patrollers, defeat Goldar and summon the Zords for a final showdown with Lord Zed’s Jamaat Ansar Islamic Liberation Front.

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From left to right: Idris Elba, Paula Abdul, Eddie Redmayne, Naomi Watts and Jon Cryer

The last hour of Power Rangers is a nonstop smash fest between the humanoid robot Zords (piloted by the Power Rangers) and the suicide bombers of Jamaat Ansar Islamic Liberation Front, who have been trained up to an elite level in Africa by Boko Haram fighters. By the end of the movie I was gasping for more, and cannot wait to see the “five or six or seven sequels” already being discussed by Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.

TL;DR – Suspenseful and politically astute, Power Rangers is a superior entry in the franchise’s canon and is sure to thrill audiences of all ages.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“While I appreciated the dense political content of the movie, it seemed to bore the children who made up the vast majority of the audience in the theater. Many of them napped until woken up by the loud and interminable battle of Zords and suicide bombers at the end of the movie.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“I can’t decide which performance I found more mesmerizing: Paula Abdul as the Black Ranger or Idris Elba as the Yellow Ranger.” – Belkina Mazona, IndieWire

“I found the obvious Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment of Power Rangers to be alarming, as it has been marketed primarily to young children and teenagers.” – Bhaskar Sunkara, Jacobin

“The taut, conspiratorial, dialogue-driven scenes of the first half contrast dramatically with the phantasmagorical and entirely nonverbal action of the second half.” – Full Edwards, Village Voice

“Who expected a Power Rangers movie could be so smart and relevant to the world we live in now?” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed the hints dropped indicating Fassbender’s Green Ranger is actually a mole for the Chinese government, setting him up as the villain for the inevitable sequel.” – Jasper Knowles, Den of Geek

Melonmeter® Score:

90% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™ 

CHiPs

I just got back from watching CHiPs (2017), the long awaited adaptation of the classic 70s cop show. Full disclosure: I am long time CHiPsie and appear briefly in the documentary CHiPsies about the CHiPs fan community and our annual convention in Anaheim. I guess you could say when it comes to any media related to CHiPs, I’m a little biased.

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Regardless, I am absolutely thrilled with CHiPs (2017). It’s a laugh out loud roller coaster ride full of unexpected twists and turns that stays true to the lore established by the original series. As difficult as it was for me to forgive the film’s producers for ignoring my spec screenplay which I sent to them several times, and as challenging it was for me to accept that the producers chose not to cast Will Ferrell and Jack Black as I advised to play the film’s leads, and as hard as I found it to believe they completely dismissed the vision that came to me in the night to create a new villain called Savage Influence played by Gary Busey to bring a quasi-surreal menace to the proceedings, in the end I must admit that Dax Shepherd and his team did a phenomenal job bringing CHiPs back to life all things considered.

(For those of you who would suggest it would be wrong for Jack Black to play the hot blooded Latino Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, let me remind you Jack Black proved he could play an ethnic Mexican type in Nacho Libre.)

I’m still absorbing what I saw tonight. Back at the CHiPsie convention in ‘09 we were all convinced an honest-to-God CHiPs movie would never come to fruition. I apologize if I’m still a bit stunned that this movie came true and I actually got to see it in my lifetime.

Let’s start with what I assumed would be nearly impossible to pull off. There were points during the movie when Michael Peña’s portrayal of Ponch actually made me forget Erik Estrada’s generation-defining performance. Can you imagine what it would take for a dedicated CHiPsie to admit another actor could go pound for pound with Estrada?

I’m getting so excited remembering the movie that I think I’m going to go back to watch it again right now. If you’re in the LA area meet me at LA Live for the midnight screening in about ten minutes.

TL;DR – CHiPsies from coast to coast will rejoice and parade through the streets when they see what Dax Shepard has accomplished with CHiPs. CHiPs happens!

What the rest of the critics are saying:

I don’t care what the rest of the critics are saying. This is CHiPs and no one else but a true CHiPsie like me gets a say on the Melonmeter for this one.

Melonmeter® Score:

100% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™ & I PROMISE THE JUICE WILL BE RUNNING DOWN YOUR CHIN AFTER THIS ONE

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away is the best superhero movie since Logan. Finally we get to see a movie with both the gritty realism of Logan and the edgy, playful sense of humor of Deadpool. You heard it here first: TGWGATBPA is a fast-paced, absolutely crazy and action-packed thrill ride. I can’t recommend it highly enough to comic books fans and movie fans in general.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. You say it’s a great superhero movie, but what about the story? Trust me, this one’s got a story: Drick Bravisson (John Krasinski) is a mild-mannered computer systems analyst for the CIA until a Russian spy (Joe Pantoliano) throws toxic chemicals all over his face and body. It turns out the Russians mistook Drick Bravisson for a high-level political target, and now they’re gonna have to pay the price.

The chemicals transform Drick Bravisson into a crazy green monster kind of like the Hulk but with more wisecracks and less rage. At first Drick uses his powers to do crazy tricks like flip over cars and ride the skateboard really fast until it jumps over buildings. But then Drick realizes he has to use his powers to make the world a better place and that’s when he becomes That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away.

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John Krasinski as That Guy Who Gets All the Bad Poison Away

In the second act of TGWGATBPA, our hero uses his powers to stop the bad poison from killing innocent people. Bad poison is everywhere, but luckily because of his accident That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away can be everywhere too. The editing and cinematography the filmmakers use to achieve this effect will blow your mind. Plus, Drick Bravisen has still got plenty of motormouth one-liners to add spice while he’s saving lives.

Eventually, That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away realizes where all the bad poison is coming from: the Russians. That’s right, the same Russian military intelligence agents who sprayed Drick Barviton with toxic chemicals in the first place are discovered to be manufacturing all the bad poison that’s killing so many innocent people. I won’t reveal what happens next because no spolies but trust me when I say That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away definitely gets all the bad poison away in the end.

Paramount has already announced plans for Dark Bavisson to return in TGWGATBPA 2 and 3 plus a tie-in series on Netflix. I personally can’t wait to see what happens next in this franchise that’s got more thrills and laughs than anything in the stupid Marvel Avengers movies which are just for dumb kiddies.

TL;DRThat Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away subverts superhero film formula with wildly entertaining — and decidedly non-family-friendly — results.

What the rest of the critics are saving:

“I couldn’t believe how funny this movie was because superhero movies are usually just about the action.” – Mamat Trikabeon, Birth.Movies.Death

“Luckily for all of us in the audience, the chemical attack on Krasinski’s face and body transforms him into a much funnier and more interesting character.” – Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away boasts some great stylish action, and is probably the funniest movie of the young year.” – Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

“Joaquin Phoenix delivers a feat in his directorial debut (he also plays the villain Vladimir Rodchenko). On the superhero movie rating scale – which we can safely say has certainly had its ups and downs – TGWGATBPA is pretty juicy.” – Tombo Cruz, Collider

“Each time That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away turns into the camera and gives us some oddly phrased commentary on what’s just happened, it sent me into a huge giggle fit.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“A dispiriting mishmash of elements from Deadpool and slightly rewritten lines from Beckett and Ionesco plays taken out of context and inserted into scenes of gratuitous violence and explosions.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“The sex scenes involving That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away and a visibly frightened Kristen Stewart made me so uncomfortable my brain just shut off for the rest of the movie.” – Alison Wilmore, BuzzFeed

“The Movie of the Decade!” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

Melonmeter® Score:

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

Wishing for Quicksand

Released to theaters last weekend to little fanfare, Wishing for Quicksand is yet another one of those Luke Wilson road movies that seem to come along every couple years. Cast once again as a soulful sad sack, even Luke Wilson seems bored playing another a down on his luck hometown hero who has to hit the road on a journey that will lead him to encounter a ensemble of quirky supporting characters and in the end find a measure of redemption (and even happiness).

Luke-Wilson

If you can’t distinguish the plot described above from the last two Luke Wilson road movies, you’re not alone. There’s little in Wishing for Quicksand that couldn’t be traded out for a nearly identical component from Waiting for My Wings (2015) or A Slow Ride on a High Road (2013). Personally, I haven’t enjoyed a Luke Wilson road movie since Lowdown Country Swing (2009), and Wishing for Quicksand is certainly a far cry from my personal favorite Life o’ Crime, Life o’ Mine (2002).  

Facing diminishing returns at the box office and increasingly hostile notices from critics, I’m optimistic this will be one of the last Luke Wilson road movies I’m forced to sit through. If not, then in the words of Wishing for Quicksand‘s Pete Deanston (Luke Wilson): “Might be about time to pack it in after all these years.”

TL;DR – There’s nothing fresh or original about the latest Luke Wilson road movie.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“As far as Luke Wilson road movies go, it’s no All Roads Lead to Arlington, Texas (2000).” – Reggie Becker Dodley,  NPR

“At least it’s better than Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (2007).” – Tara Carker, New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Who keeps going to see these Luke Wilson road movies? Could you please stop for the sake of my sanity?” – Bin Everly, San Jose Mercury News

“There’s something reassuring about Wishing for Quicksand. It may be familiar, but it’s full of the homespun wisdom and salt-of-the-earth sense of humor that I crave around this time of year.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The characters and plot in Wishing for Quicksand are nearly identical to Slippin’ on Down the Highway (2005), which isn’t even the best Luke Wilson road movie.” – Tad Gompers, ScreenAnarchy

“Hat’s off to Luke Wilson – you finally lost me after all these years.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“There’s barely been a change to the formula of these movies since Hat’s Off to Ya (1999). Even James Bond movies evolve faster.” – Tidbis Volurian, IGN Movies

Melonmeter® Score:

21% liquid & seed retention – watermelon-512  THOROUGHLY LACKING IN JUICE AND SEEDS AND RATHER CANTALOUPE-LIKE TO BE HONEST™