Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Stuff I Watched: September Edition

The stuff I watched after Labor Day:

Our Brand is Crisis:  This is one of those poorly-marketed dramedies that I had no idea what the fuck it was about prior to watching it.  Apparently Sandra Bullock is a great political consultant who gets hired by a candidate for president of Bolivia but her archenemy Billy Bob Thornton is working for another candidate.  The title comes from Sandra Bullock's strategy to play up a "crisis" in Bolivia that only her candidate is tough enough to handle.  Numerous dirty tricks ensue from both sides.  You start to wonder if either candidate is actually deserving of winning.  That's a question Sandra Bullock asks herself only after her guy wins and immediately starts breaking campaign promises.  It really should have been obvious prior to that. (2.5/5)

Blind Heat:  I assume this mess went straight-to-video back in 2000 from the low production values and equally low rent cast.  The underrated Jeff Fahey is a hostage negotiator who goes to work for a computer company guy in Mexico City.  But it turns out Jeff Fahey sucks because he doesn't really free the hostage, but he does delay things long enough for the hostage to get a huge case of Stockholm Syndrome.  The title comes from her being blindfolded while she and her captor get it on many times.  So the hostage runs away with the captor, the computer guy ends up divorced and alone, and the rest of the kidnapper's gang is left free to carry on.  You're doing a heckuva job Jeff Fahey! (1/5) (Fun Fact:  This was prescient of the kidnapping problem in Mexico City highlighted by the much better Man on Fire about four years later.)

The Adventures of Pluto Nash:  As maligned as this is, it's actually watchable if you assume that the cheesy effects, music, and acting are all meant to satirize corny old sci-fi movies.  Kind of like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.  I mean otherwise it'd just be a steaming pile of shit about a club owner on the moon who's being run out of business by his clone. (2/5)

The Fundamentals of Caring:  In this original Netflix dramedy, Paul Rudd is a sad soon-to-be divorced guy who takes a job being the caregiver to a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy named Trevor.  Trevor watches a show where a hot chick tours kooky landmarks like a two-story outhouse and so Paul Rudd gets the idea to take him to see some of those landmarks, though it soon becomes a quest to see Trevor's father in Salt Lake.  Along the way they pick up Selena Gomez and a pregnant woman whose only function seemed to be to give Paul Rudd a moment of redemption for accidentally killing his son.  Overall it's fun with a serious side.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, and whatever else.  One big moment at the end was kind of spoiled because you could so tell it was done with a green screen background, but then this wasn't Ant-Man so why spring for the great effects?  (3/5)  (Fun Musing:  I probably should have gone to see more of those kooky roadside attractions on my Western tour two years ago.)

Now You See Me 2:  File this under "Unneeded Sequels."  It really has all the hallmarks of a bad sequel, starting with changing directors and writers and replacing the female "Horseman" (Isla Fisher) with an annoying new girl played by Lizzy Caplan.  It just doesn't have the same magic as the first movie (har har) because it's really using a lot of the same tricks.  Really lame too how they tried to redeem Morgan Freeman's magic cynic character too.  Definitely a waste of time. (1/5) (Fun Musing:  For the third movie they should have Will Arnett's Bojack Horseman join the team.  Also, I agree with people who joked they should have called this movie "Now You Don't."  I mean think how funny that would look on the shelf:  Now You See Me and then Now You Don't.  Boom)

Anatomy of a Love Seen:  Some hot lesbian sex is the most redeeming feature of this movie.  It's a very muddled (and very short) plot that involves two actresses who were filming a movie where they were supposed to fall in love (and fuck) and apparently started doing that IRL.  Except the movie picks up when they have to come together again to reshoot a scene and the awkwardness that ensures.   It all ends up rather confusing. (2/5)

Money Monster:  I didn't see this in the theater (though I listened to about 5 minutes of it while waiting for X-Men) so now that it's on Redbox I went out and rented it.  George Clooney is a Jim Cramer-like investment show host/clown with Julia Roberts as his harried producer.  A tech company recently lost over $800 million in value in about a single day and a guy who is extremely pissed at this raids the set and takes Clooney hostage.  As the police (led by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad) try to negotiate a settlement, Clooney and Roberts investigate the tech company to find answers.  It's not a spectacular movie but it isn't boring and it's well-made. (3/5)

Waffle Street:  A guy (some actor who reminded me of Nathan Fillion with black hair) loses his job in the finance sector in 2008 and decides that since he's a pariah in that industry he'll work for Papa's Chicken & Waffles as a server.  And then he finds out that if you work 1000 hours you can qualify to own a franchise.  So he sets out to do that in as little time as possible while selling his house and car and generally making life miserable for his pregnant wife.  There's no real stakes though because he has a father and grandfather who own their own shipping company and can always bail him out if needed.   So it's kind of like watching a trapeze act working with a net--just not as dramatic, is it?  Still it's a decent light dramedy.  Besides Danny Glover as a grill cook there's really no one notable in the cast.  Just saying. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  The title is the actual name of the restaurant where the real-life version of the guy worked because it is apparently Based on a True Story.)

Let's Go to Prison:  Sometimes you just want to watch a dumb comedy.  This would fit the bill nicely.  Dax Shepherd is a career criminal who yearns to get revenge on the judge who keeps sentencing him.  But when the judge dies, he instead sets his sights on the judge's asshole son (Will Arnett) and is aided by the son's legal staff, who all hate him.  He ends up going to prison for 3-5 years and Dax Shepherd soon joins him to make sure he has a really interesting time.  Things take a turn though when the son inadvertently kills the head of the white supremacist gang, Michael Shannon.  Not surprisingly there are a lot of rape jokes and such. It falls down a little in the third act, but otherwise it's some fun, dumb entertainment. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  The movie is directed by and co-stars Bob Odenkirk, better known as Saul Goodman to Breaking Bad fans.  Ironic he did this project right before that show and that he plays a lawyer in both.)

The Virginity Hit:  I should have realized from the description this was a "found footage" movie.  The title comes from these four high school seniors who are trying to lose their virginity.  When they do, they take a hit off a special bong.  The last kid is trying to lose his virginity but things go south with his girlfriend when he finds out she got drunk at a frat party.  Anyway, the found footage thing is so limiting to the point that the kid and his girlfriend are in a room to have sex and instead we're watching a group of his friends listening to them argue through bugs they planted.  That's pretty lame.  So lame I fell asleep. (1/5)

The Wackness:  This coming-of-age story is set in NYC, 1994.  A kid who sells pot in an old Italian ice cart (you know, like a hot dog cart) graduates high school and whiles away a hot summer with the stepdaughter of the shrink he sees--and sells pot to.  It's partially like Good Will Hunting as the kid and shrink (Sir Ben Kingsley) bond, only the bonding is mostly while smoking weed.  It's a good mix of drama and comedy that will give you all the feels.  Though a lot of the slang is pretty goofy.  Yo, it's like mad goofy, homey.  Totally wack.  Word.  Did people really talk like that?  Like, OMG that is so lame!  (3/5) (Fun Fact:  the title comes from the girlfriend telling the kid that he always looks at "the wackness" or the dark side of things.)

The Nice Guys:  Like Money Monster, this was foolishly released in May as "counterprogramming" and wound up being lost in the blockbuster shuffle.  This is about a low-rent PI (Ryan Gosling) and a bruiser for hire (Russell Crowe) who end up working on the same case.  They both end up looking for a girl named Amelia who made a porno movie.  Everyone involved in that movie is ending up dead and she's next. Their bumbling, stumbling attempts to solve the case get them deeper and deeper into a web of conspiracy.  It's a fun buddy cop-type movie.  It's from Shane Black and bears a similarity to his previous Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang which was notable mostly for reminding Hollywood casting directors Robert Downey Jr still existed and probably helped him get the Iron Man gig.  (Later Downey Jr returned the favor by getting Black the Iron Man 3 gig.)  The downside is that it feels a little long.  That and like Carrie Fisher in The Force Awakens I think Kim Basinger was using so much Botox that she couldn't enunciate very well.  Or maybe she was drunk.  Either way, it was not pretty. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  The trailers kind of spoiled the ending by showing the Yellow Pages ad for the titular "Nice Guys Agency" so since they didn't know each other at the start you knew at the end they would be working together.)

The Flash:  Flashpoint:  Just a thought on the Season 3 premiere of CW's The Flash:  they took a big concept like DC's Flashpoint event and made it small.  Really not worth the effort. (2/5)

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