Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Stuff I Watched: May Edition

Here's the stuff I watched in May, sorted again by rating:

5 stars (Awesome!)
I guess I was being a real hard ass this month...

4 stars (Really Good)
Deadpool:  I saw this in the theater in February but I missed most of the opening fight, so now that it's on digital download I watched it again (and again).  Probably my most favorite superhero flick in years.  It's funny, violent, and crass, which is really everything fans (and not-really fans like me) were expecting and yet it still has considerable heart too.  The good thing is Fox thought so little of this they were free to do whatever they wanted without worrying about crossovers or "cinematic universes" or even setting up a sequel, as is noted in the post-credits scene.  That's pretty refreshing after Marvel and DC's recent movies with their relentless positioning for future stories.  And hey they finally got Colossus of the X-Men right! (4/5)

3 stars (Good)
Sex Ed:  The kid from the 6th Sense and AI has grown into a chubby adult who's teaching sex ed to middle schoolers.  It's like Stand and Deliver meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin as he has no actual sexual experience to speak of and yet he's trying to help the kids--and hook up with someone himself.  Overall it's funny, though the end is a bit of a letdown. (3/5)
Special Correspondents:  This Netflix original movie written, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais is similar to Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog, only not quite as convoluted.  Gervais is a sound technician at a news radio station; he and a ne'er do well reporter (Eric Bana of Hulk and The Time Traveler's Wife) are supposed to go to Ecuador to report on a crisis.  When they lose their passports  and such before leaving New York, they decide to stay in the apartment of a Latino couple and fake the news.  Things snowball from there until they have to fake their own kidnapping.  Mostly fun, though it glosses over a couple of weak points in the plot.  At one point they drive from New York to southern California during a montage.  At that point since the whole country has heard about them, wouldn't they be recognized when they have to stop for gas or food or to potty?  At least throw in a close call. (3/5)
Zero Effect:  In this 1997 film, Bill Pullman is a quirky PI who only interacts with the world through various disguises.  For everything else, he employs an attorney (Ben Stiller) to act on his behalf.  Their latest case involves an executive being blackmailed in Portland.  It's not as funny as you might think but it is really good, with some twists and turns.  It does lose a little steam in the final act, but otherwise is worth watching. (3/5)

2.5 stars (OK)
Chuck Norris vs. Communism:  With a provocative title like that, how could I not watch it?  Except it's not really a movie movie; it's a documentary with some reenactments that's almost all in Romanian with English subtitles.  Basically in the 80s Romanian TV was just a bunch of shitty propaganda, so VHS tapes from the West were highly prized on the black market.  There was a woman who secretly dubbed most of the tapes, many of them Cannon movies featuring Chuck Norris and so forth but also classics like Scarface and The Godfather.  For reasons no one really understands the secret police never tried to shut down the smuggling operation despite that it probably helped fuel the eventual fall of communism in Romania.  An actual movie not in Romanian with subtitles would be better.  (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame produced this; is he from Romanian ancestors or something?)
This Magic Moment:  The Orlando Magic joined the NBA in 1990 and had a short window of greatness by first getting Shaquille O'Neal and then Penny Hardaway in successive drafts.  They went all the way to Finals in 1995 but got swept.  After that the wheels came off when O'Neal bolted to LA and Hardaway was wracked with injuries.  A story not really deserving of a nearly 2 hour documentary but it's fun anyway. (2.5/5)
The D-Train:  This is one that sounded vaguely interesting but I never got around to watching it on Redbox or that week it was in theaters.  Finally it was on Showtime.  The premise is that it's the 20-year reunion of Jack Black's high school class and he tries to get the most popular dude (James Marsden) to the reunion.  He flies out to LA where James Marsden is a struggling actor and (spoiler alert) they have sex.  Which makes things awkward.  And making it even more awkward, James Marsden goes back to suburbia with Jack Black and is not the best houseguest.  The sex thing kind of drags the movie down instead of making it funny.  Something really annoying to me is this is supposed to be for the Class of 1994 and yet at the reunion all the music is 80s stuff.  WTF?  You couldn't get any Nirvana, Pearl Jam, REM, Counting Crows, the Cranberries, or anything else that was popular in my day?  Could have just borrowed some CDs from me.  And I'm pretty sure Jack Black and James Marsden are both a bit older than I am too, which is maybe where the music coordinator got mixed up. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  This year is my 20th year reunion.  No one has invited me that I know of.  Or tried to have sex with me to convince me to go....Yet.)
The Last Survivors:  In the near future where Oregon has become a desert, a young woman protects the last well of water.  It's sort of a YA Mad Max or something.  It's pretty bad ass when she starts chopping people up with a sword like Michonne in The Walking Dead. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  The guide on my cable remote listed the description for a 1975 movie about Martin Sheen on a life boat.  Yeah, this is pretty much the same thing, right?)
Black Sea:  I saw a preview of this a while ago and wondered one thing:  How do you collect sunken treasure with a Russian diesel submarine?  It's not like they have robot arms and I didn't think you could just climb out.  But I guess you can--or at least that's what the movie wants you to believe.  I suppose at the bottom of the Black Sea it wouldn't be as hard as the bottom of the Pacific in terms of pressure and such.  Anyway, Jude Law heads a team of treasure hunters who buy the old sub and go to the bottom of the Black Sea to collect some Nazi gold.  Greed and jealousy lead to some deaths along the way and ultimately only a couple of guys make it.  Who?  It's on Showtime if you want to find out. (2.5/5)

2 stars (Meh)
Legend:  It's funny when a true story turns out to be a lot of cliches.  You wouldn't think true stories could be cliches but then it's probably "true" in the Aaron Sorkin biopic-writing sense.  This is a story about two gangsters in London who were twin brothers.  Reggie is the more normal one while Ronnie is crazy and also homosexual.  Both of them are played by Tom Hardy.  Then like I say it's a lot of gangster movie cliches.  There's a girl who marries Reggie but of course realizes the gangster wife life is shit.  He tells her he'll get out of the gangster life but of course he doesn't.  There's a cop on their tail and there's conflict between the two brothers and so on.  Other than the twin brother angle nothing really stands out.  There's certainly nothing legendary about it.  Mic drop! (2/5) (Fun Fact:  To have Tom Hardy play both brothers they would film scenes first as Reggie and then go back and do the parts with Ronnie and splice them together digitally.)
Shades:  A movie about making a movie--in Belgium!  In this 1999 flick, Mickey Rourke is the director of an international production shooting in Belgium about a notorious killer in that country.  There's a conniving producer, his wife the lead actress, and an annoying Method actor who starts getting too friendly with the real-life serial killer.  There were all the pieces for a good story, but it never really comes together.  What I don't understand is why Mickey Rourke is the director and not the prima donna Method actor; I mean isn't that real-life Mickey Rourke? Also they really needed subtitles for dialogue and newspaper headlines in Flemish; not all of us (or even most) are Belgian! (2/5)
Vice:  It's Westworld meets Blade Runner!  In the near future (or whatever) there's a theme park called Vice that promises you can do anything you want--even kill someone!  Except all the "employees" are androids who think they're human.  The androids have their memories wiped every day but when one female android is "killed" she starts remembering things.  The supervisor of the park (Bruce Willis cashing a paycheck) has his minions try to find and eliminate her while a cop (Thomas Jane of The Punisher (2004) and Hung) tries to get her to safety to bring the place down.  It was pretty boring.  When they sneak the android back into the park to take it down, they "disguise" her by having her slick her hair back.  Because this highly-advanced place with all the security doesn't have facial recognition or anything? (2/5)
Mojave:  Some annoying douchebag filmmaker goes into the Mojave desert for...reasons and runs afoul of Poe Dameron, which it's kind of ironic that he's playing a desert scavenger, like an evil version of Rey in Episode VII--or you could say a Tusken Raider in Episode IV since he has a gun and jumps travelers.  After the d-bag accidentally kills a National Parks employee, he runs home and Poe stalks him.  Since the supposed protagonist was such a douchebag, I was rooting for the stalker to win. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  The movie isn't great but if you watched Episode VII and wanted to see Poe Dameron in a thong, here's your chance.)
Dracula Untold:  The Dracula origin story no one wanted.  I think this was another of those where before it came out the studio was optimistically talking "cinematic universe" but then wah wah, it wasn't that great.  Basically to save Transylvania from the Turks, Vlad the Whatever goes to a cave and gets vampire powers from Charles Dance, whose career got a huge boost thanks to his stint on Game of Thrones.  The vampire power lasts only for 3 days--unless he drains a human.  So, yeah, guess what happens?  It never really connects to the book Dracula; in the end they show him in modern day, skipping over the whole 19th Century (and 18th, 17th, and maybe 16th) when the book takes place. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  I think I might have watched this in April but I forgot about it.)
Your Highness:  This is sort of a parody of The Princess Bride, Clash of the Titans, and maybe some other fantasy-type movies.  Danny McBride is a ne'er do well prince with a brave warrior for a brother (James Franco) who always upstages him and is the apple of his father's eye.  Then he rescues a really tired-looking Zooey Deschanel and a wizard comes to take her away.  Danny McBride reluctantly joins the quest to get her back.  Mayhem ensues that isn't as funny as it probably should be.  Ultimately while Danny McBride becomes more courageous, he doesn't even get to strike the final blow, so it seems kind of a ripoff. (2/5)
Slackers:  Three college slackers have been pulling numerous schemes to avoid actually having to study.  But then a stalker blackmails them into helping him try to get the girl of his dreams.  Except of course one of the slackers falls in love with her.  It's more creepy and sad than funny. Definitely not the highlight of the career for Jason Schwartzman or Jason Segel.  (Fun Facts: The girl they're ga-ga for is credited under the name James King, though in later movies she has gone by Jamie, because James was probably confusing when she had to show up at a premiere or something.  Also, a teaching assistant in the movie is played by Jim Rash, who more famously played the dean in NBC's Community.  Another assistant was played by Retta, more famously of NBC's Parks & Recreation.)
Route 666:  It's like Midnight Run--with killer ghosts!  Basically Lou Diamond Phillips and Lori Petty are US Marshals going to take an accountant from Arizona to LA for court.  They decide to take a shortcut known as Route 666 and that's where it all goes wrong.  Because the road is haunted by a work gang of psycho killer ghosts who in 1967 died on that road.  It gets increasingly silly and the lame camera tricks when the ghosts appear and when they're fighting the ghosts are pretty stupid.  Someone probably had the job of shaking the camera during the fight sequences.  Anyway, the original premise of the movie was a serviceable thriller but adding the ghosts was a real wrong turn. Boom! (2/5)

1 star (Shit)
Death Wish:  The classic revenge movie where Charles Bronson is an architect or something whose wife and daughter are stalked and attacked by a young Jeff Goldblum and a couple of other freaks.  After a trip to the Wild West of Tucscon, Bronson is given a gun and decides to start luring in bad guys and killing them.  Most of the criminals (especially the Goldblum gang) were pretty corny.  And those guys who attacked his wife are apparently never found or dealt with, which seems pretty lame.  The daughter goes catatonic after they try to rape her (and spray paint her ass for...reasons) and is put into a sanitarium but her father pretty much gives zero fucks about her and just leaves her behind to escape to Chicago.  It's hard to believe it launched like 4 even crummier sequels. (1/5)  (Fun Poll:  Was this the inspiration for Marvel's The Punisher?  And other revenge stories like Robocop, Darkman, and The Crow that were in turn my inspiration for Chance of a Lifetime?)
Lumberjack Man:  It's almost impossible to make a really good slasher movie anymore.  You've either got to somehow subvert the genre such as Scream breaking the fourth wall back in the day or have some kind of hook no one's seen before.  In this case you have a ridiculous concept told with a straight face.  There's a demon lumberjack who's returned from the grave to kill a bunch of Christian campers because some dude stole his pancake recipe back in 1892.  And somehow they have to stop him before he finishes his killer breakfast or he'll become unstoppable. Um, yeah.  That.  Overall it's boring and ridiculous but at least there are boobs. (1/5)  (Fun Fact:  Remember back in the 90s when Michael Madsen was in actual movies like Reservoir Dogs and Species?)
Compound Fracture:  Speaking of, this is more of a poltergeist story than a slasher movie, though people still end up dead.  It was so boring that I spent most of it reading comics on my Kindle Fire. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  It stars, was produced, and co-written by Tyler Mane, notable for being the first Sabretooth in the X-Men movies.)
House of 1000 Corpses:  Rob Zombie wrote and directed this movie where three college students stumble across a creepy roadside attraction and then are brutally murdered by a really annoying and weird family.  And then the people who investigate their disappearance are also brutally murdered.  It's loud, dumb, and gory if you like that sort of thing. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  This unfortunately convinced someone in Hollywood that Rob Zombie could do a reboot of Halloween.)
Wolves:  It's like a combination of Teen Wolf and The Incredible Hulk TV show.  A teenager finds out he's a werewolf and so goes on the road until he can learn to control the rage within.  Then he finds a town where coincidentally his werewolf daddy lives.  Except his werewolf daddy is evil and he was born from a rape of a female werewolf.  It's all incredibly dumb; the werewolves look even dumber.  It's 2013 but the makeup is pretty 80s style.  The whole thing is pretty lame. (Fun Fact:  Jason Momoa plays the evil werewolf and soon he'll be playing Aquaman, which begs the question of how kickass a werewolf Aquaman would be.)
Trojan War:  This ESPN "documentary" is thinly-veiled propaganda for USC's football team.  In the early 2000s they were the top dog of college football.  After losing the championship game against Texas, they lost most of their good players to the NFL and then recruiting violations put a damper on their program.  Before the full force of the scandal hit, their coach bailed to the NFL, where he won a Super Bowl in 2014--who says cheaters never prosper?  Like the similar Youngstown Boys, they really bury the lead in terms of the scandals.  A more objective approach would be better for these. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  Trojan War starring Jennifer Love-Hewitt and Will Fredell is a lot better than this as it involves a boy's quest to find a condom to use to fuck the girl of his dreams.  Just saying.)


  1. I was thinking of watching Dracula: Untold. Now I'm not so sure.

  2. I agree with your rating of Death Wish. I always hated those, even though they were popular movies at the time. Perhaps people fantasized about being a vigilante. Never understood why people liked Charles Bronson.

  3. Hey Pat,

    First of all, there's an opening in the wall around Windsor, Ontario. Hurry up, eh!

    I haven't heard of anything of this stuff. However, it's interesting on your take on it all.

    "Route 666", if nothing else, is a great title.


  4. I also had a lot of fun with Deadpool. I'd totally watch it again.

    Dracula Untold was so bad. It was boring and no vampire movie should ever be boring.

    I think I saw Slackers years ago, but I can't remember.

    Haven't seen anything else from your list.



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