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

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