The 5th Wave

We watched The 5th Wave last night.  I recalled being mildly interested in it from the previews, but then when I saw the ratings it had garnered I quickly quashed any sort of optimism.  I was still curious though, and we were also mildly drunk, so it seemed like a good time to see what was up.

Rather than create a formal review of this movie, I think it will be more appropriate to transcribe the intoxicated messages I sent to my friend while watching it.  Enjoy.

[Warning: Spoilers.  But you shouldn’t care because this will be more entertaining than the movie.]

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We are watching the fifth wave which has a whopping 5.2 on IMDb.
So far not bad but she just used her cell phone and typed y o u and it autocorrected to “u”

>:( One star.

Husband asked for a space marine movie before we picked this.
Me: “They’re basically space marines but they’re children is all.”
Him: “Not very good space marines. Also they’re not in space.”
Me: “But they’re fighting aliens!”
Him: “It’s really not the same.”

Female protagonist has been helped/captured by hunky male now. She just did the lip thing that suggests she wants to fuck him. Odds of hunky male being an alien??!?

Husband and I are laying bets on his alienness now

He’s is totes an alien and she’s going to fall in love with him and be horrified by herself and then come around. Book it
(AFTERMATH SPOILERS: I was wrong.  It actually kinda happens the other way around which makes even less goddamn sense)

Husband doesn’t think he’s an alien because he hid her from alien drones. That was the whole point to make her trust him YOU FOOL

Female protagonist shows loving nurturing side while proclaiming “I’m not TOUGH, okay??!?”.  Meanwhile second female character (only other one in movie) is being super badass and beating up all the males and training them to use weapons because she’s a girl but also super badass you see

He is lovingly tending to her wounds. Boning imminent.

Oh man I didn’t even get to hit send before they started shoving tongue down each other’s throats

He’s gonna be an alien he totally is

Husband: “I’m giving this movie a lot more credit than you are. He’s not an alien. They just want you to THINK he’s an alien.”
Me: “There’s a reason this movie has such low ratings.”

“I guess you were right. He’s an alien.”

I WIN.

It was pretty obvious because this is LITERALLY Twilight with aliens now

Female protagonist: “Did you really believe that??!?”
Alien love interest: “I did. But then I saw you.”

*Hurk*

Holy shit this has lost so many stars in like the last 20 seconds

Badass girl is now saving “still badass but deliberately not as badass to still show her feminine side” girl

Yeah.  That was awful.

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Wild Tales

I picked “Wild Tales” out of the Netflix lineup mostly at random, by virtue of being the first thing to scroll past that didn’t look awful.  Predicted 5 stars (not that the Netflix rating prediction system ever seems to have any correlation with reality), Oscar nomination, tales of revenge… sounds pretty good!

Now that I’ve watched it I am reading some internet reviews of it and wondering what I missed.  It was certainly entertaining, but I feel like if that was getting award nominations the competition must have been pretty slim.  I ended up awarding it 3 Netflix stars but the heaps of praise it’s getting are leaving me head-scratching.  Maybe it’s an ‘art’ thing.  I’m terrible at ‘art’.

The movie is a foreign anthology of short stories, each revealing a story of revenge.  It’s labelled a dark comedy, and most reviews seem to label it with words like ‘hilarious’ and ‘uproarious’.  I chuckled a few times, but, uh… ‘uproarious’ seems like a bit of hyperbole.  There were some funnier ones for sure, but there were also several stories that, in my opinion, didn’t even really attempt to be funny.

In fact, I wasn’t really sure what the aim was with most of them… which was sort of the problem.  They were each interesting, and they entertained well enough, but when they got to the end it was more like “Oh.  Is that it?” There were no twists (well, the first one was a little clever I guess, though it pops that early) and most of the time you figured out what was going on twenty seconds into the skit and then it would play out predictably.  Like, not even in a “I bet this is the twist” sort of way – there were no twists.  It was like “This guy here is going to get revenge” and then he does.  The end.  I was entertained and also bewildered at the same time.

The “Is that it” problem was compounded by the lack of transitions between stories.  There isn’t even a really noticeably longer pause between the end of one story and the beginning of the next, it’s just like “REVENGE annnnnd who is this guy now?  Oh ohhh new story.  Got it.”  It’s a good thing the description specifically mentions that it’s multiple tales, or you might be very confused.  A little black screen with a title indicating a new story would be nice.

I’m going to attempt a spoiler free overview of the six stories (titles taken from IMDB):
1) “Pasternak”: Great way to open things, setting you up with expectations for the rest of the movie, which are ultimately not fulfilled.
2) “The Rats”: I’m so confused.  When I said the transitions are rough this is a really good example.  I feel like someone badly edited the ending and forgot to include a few closure scenes somewhere…
3) “The Strongest”: Finally something that lives up to the black comedy label!  I chuckled several times during this sequence, although I wasn’t precisely sure who to root for because jesus christ you’re both assholes, and stupid ones to boot.  It all works in the end, though!
4) “Little Bomb”: So incredibly predictable but somewhat satisfying nonetheless.  Kind of an odd message to send to society, though…
5) “The Proposal”: By this point I was just about ready for the movie to end.  I didn’t get much out of this story, I’m afraid.  And then it was another “Is it over?” victim and it left the story feeling flat and lifeless.  There was only like 5 seconds of revenge in this, punctuated by 15 minutes of whining.
6) “Until Death Do Us Part”: The movie ended on a strong note at least, with more black comedy (if anything even remotely resembles “uproarious” it’s probably this one, but it’s still extreme hyperbole), but damn.  wtf.

 

Sling Blade

I went through IMDB looking for movies rated above 7 which we had not seen before.  There were surprisingly few.

We tend to avoid watching romances, so I ended up with a pile of those. Two bonus reviews!: We watched 500 Days of Summer, which felt incredibly generic to me, but it was somewhat redeemed by the creative structuring – I guess the animated transitions really appealed to me.  Husband hated it.  Then we watched Before Midnight which is apparently the third movie in a trilogy that we have not seen the other two movies in!  We got 45 minutes into that before I burst out with “What the fuck is the point of this movie?!?” and read the synopsis on Wikipedia, only to discover there is no point.  I turned it off.  I haven’t seen the first one so I guess it’s probably better if you’re already invested in the characters and just want to spend more time with them, but it was a colossal waste of 45 minutes as far as I’m concerned.  I want movies to have a god damn plot.

Going through the list went something like this:  “ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ooh not a romance! … ugh, romance…” so when we unburied Sling Blade I recalled that it was one of the non-romance findings, but I didn’t know much else about it.  I assumed that since it had “blade” in the title that it was some kind of action movie.  It turns out it’s actually a drama, which really makes a lot of sense because if it had been an action movie we would have seen it already.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

I really enjoyed Sling Blade.  It had a plot, which was a good start (seriously, what the fuck why is that movie so highly rated), although I was pretty worried when it opened with 15 minutes of some random guy in a mental hospital rambling about almost having sex with a transvestite.  The movie is the story of Karl, who is a mentally challenged man who has spent the majority of his life in a hospital after killing someone with a “Sling Blade” at the age of 12. He is now “cured” of murderous tendencies, but is completely and obviously not prepared to be turned loose on his own.  They pat him on the head and drive off, leaving him on the curb of the town he was a child in.

The plot itself didn’t really hold any surprises.  The foreshadowing is less of a shadow and more of a neon sign, and I turned to my husband at one point and said “Well, now we know how it ends.”  That’s exactly how it ended. (Although when the guy at the shop tells Karl that once the shop is locked you can’t get out and he’ll get him a key, my husband did predict it would end with him burning to death in a sombre lesson about fire safety regulations.  Now you know that it does not, in fact, end that way.  Sorry for the spoilers.)  Despite knowing what’s going to happen, it’s still gripping somehow, probably because the acting is fantastic.  The characters are all very real (sometimes regrettably so) and they all behave exactly like you expect – which is what makes it both predictable and believable.  That’s good writing and acting.  I recommend checking it out.

Turbo

We’ve been taking a lot of sinus decongestants and I kinda wanted to do something completely effortless… so I watched some animated movies!  I haven’t really been keeping up with the animation scene, but today I watched two relatively recent ones: Turbo and Despicable Me 2.

Despicable Me lived up to its predecessor in that it had supervillains hatching ridiculous plots, crazy ray guns and gadgets, and low IQ minions.  All the humour was spot-on, and the plot was dumb, but enjoyable mostly because the timing of the writing was excellent.

Turbo was terrible.

The interesting thing about that is that it follows a very familiar “underdog” formula.  A down on it’s luck [blank] falls on hard times and decides to follow its dream of [blank], making new friends and learning valuable moral lessons along the way.  In this case the [blank]s are “snail” and “win the Indy 500”.

I am going to paste this quote out of Wikipedia (without checking to see if it’s properly sourced or anything first. I’m living dangerously!):
“For me, it was less about trying to make a racing movie and more about finding an underdog that I could really latch onto. I think that a snail is inherently an underdog. It’s smashed, eaten by people, the butt of slow jokes around the world. It just seemed loaded with obstacles. Obviously, the opposite of slow is fast, and that’s where racing came into the picture.”

That’s it.  That’s the extent of the writing in this movie.  “People like underdogs.  Snails are slow, and fast is the opposite of slow – let’s have a snail win the Indy 500!”  Usually the writing in these things is clever enough to hide the formula a little bit, but in this case the movie is like “eh, he gets splashed with nitrous oxide and that lets him move at 230mph.  The kids won’t realize how dumb that is, don’t worry.”  It also installed LED lights that leave a trail behind him, his eyes are headlamps, there are blinkers in his butt, a stereo he turns on by banging his eyes together, and an alarm he can’t figure out how to turn off.

It was really dumb, and this is immediately after I praised a movie which contains yellow minions wielding fart guns. It’s all about suspension of disbelief, man.  Of course a supervillain is going to have yellow minions and they’re going to create fart guns!  It’s a natural step in the progression!  Dumping a snail in nitrous is only going to result in a dead snail.  You could at least say it’s some sort of super experimental thing someone was working on in order to create a super car, but they just couldn’t get it working until whoops, a snail fell in and it looks like the formula only works when combined with living tissue!  See, I’ve already written a better movie, and it’s still really stupid.

This is all completely ignoring the fact that once he gains super magic racing powers and sets a world speed record, he is no longer the god damn underdog.

It wasn’t even just that, though.  All of the characters were terribly written, which is probably tied directly to the fact that no real worldbuilding occurs.  The snail colony at the beginning is full of non-characters who do nothing but belittle Turbo for having a hobby.  The only purpose for any of it seems to be to set up a transparent “never give up on your dreams” morality lesson (and maybe hopefully a “don’t bully people like those dicks are doing” lesson), except that in this case the dream is fulfilled by somehow gaining magic powers, which is maybe not the best lesson for the little ones.  The “working at the plant” joke was something that they clearly thought was pretty clever (evidenced by the long pause and camera pull-out to reveal the plant.  ho ho ho it’s a literal plant, get it?), but it was hollow because they didn’t spend any time doing any worldbuilding in the garden.  You realize why worldbuilding is so threadbare when you realize the movie is split between three different locations, none of which are lingered in long enough for any building to occur.  Just as we start to figure out who these characters in the garden are, everything is whisked off to a new location and we lose track of them.  The “racing snails” are hastily introduced about halfway through the movie, not developed whatsoever, then go with Turbo to the race and proceed to do absolutely nothing important or even interesting (my god how did they get Samuel L. Jackson in on this?).  The only character that has any development at all is probably the driver that Turbo idolizes, and that’s only because he turns into the villain so he’s there throughout all of these locations.  Then we have Turbo’s brother who spends the entire movie being negative as shit and completely unproductive (he witnesses his brother moving at 230mph and still does nothing but whine about what a waste of time it is to try to do anything with it), making you want to punch him in the face. Then he makes a crazy about-face at the very very end, just when everything seems bleakest.  Man oh man I did not see that twist coming.  I still want to punch him in the face.

You know what would have helped immensely?  Just cut the whole garden from the plot.  Start at the mini-mall with the racing snails as a diversion in the back.  Suddenly Turbo has a reason to be into NASCAR, he has a reason to want to be faster, it doesn’t take an amazing amount of serendipity for him to be randomly picked up by some guy who happens to race snails, we have more time to develop the supporting cast…. dunking him in Nitrous is still really stupid but the rest of the movie would at least support it better.

There’s a big difference between a plot that’s written to appeal to children, and a plot that’s dumped out because kids won’t notice the difference.  Your kids might like this movie… in fact they probably will like it.  But there are so many cleverly written movies nowadays that appeal to children, teach them things (without being sappy as shit), AND contain humour that still appeals to adults… that’s the standard that movies should be trying to reach.  Turbo is just an unfortunate cash-in attempt.

After Earth

We saw the previews for this way back when and said “Hey, that looks like it will be good!”.  Then it came out and it was universally mocked, almost immediately.  And we said “Sweet, we can wait for DvD then!”  The only question left in my mind was “Is it ACTUALLY bad, or is it bad because everyone hates Jaden Smith?”

Now I have watched it.  The answer is: This movie is completely irredeemable.

“After Earth” is the story of Gary Stu, and his son, Gary Stu.  It is one of the most remarkable displays of bad writing that I have seen in a while.  Will Smith’s character (fuck if I remember his name [edit] I looked it up.  It’s “Cypher Raige”.  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahahahaha…[/edit]) is a badass soldier (the best soldier of all soldiers, of course) who is so fucking badass that he feels absolutely no fear, which allows him to “ghost” past the fearsome “Ursa” creatures which track humankind solely by the pheremones we release when scared.  He is so badass that he doesn’t even bother to kill them with fancy ray guns or even pedestrian physical bullet weapons, despite this being the future.  No, he kills them with dual bladed swords.  You can pause to vomit now, if you want.

His son has been working super hard to be the most badass of rangers just like dear old dad, but naturally he hasn’t been able to make the cut (this is a smoke-screen, so you don’t suspect that he is also the most Gary Stu of all Gary Stus.  He is, though.  It’s pretty fucking obvious.  He even has the tragic childhood to go with it)  Some touchy feely shit happens where Dad is all cold and unfeeling to his disappointing son (oh but you can see how much he loves him but cannot display it.  You can pause to vomit again now), and then we finally get on with the fucking movie and they get on a spaceship.

Gary Stu (the older one.  The one we aren’t supposed to expect to be worthless) uses his spidey sense to detect space phenomena that almost certainly doesn’t exist, and goes and warns the pilots who disregard his warnings because they didn’t get the memo that this guy is perfect and knows everything.  Oops, he was right, and the ship explodes and summarily crashes (this is what I mean by Gary Stu, man.  It couldn’t just be that shit happens and the ship fucking crashes, oh no, it has to be mr super fucking soldier who notices the danger while all the oblivious plebeians fumble around uselessly.  He doesn’t even do anything useful after noticing it which makes it ENTIRELY EXTRANEOUS that he is the one who notices.  Fuck).
The two Gary Stus are the only survivors.  Because that’s how good they are.

Conveniently, older Gary Stu is injured and cannot go and just do everything himself, so he sends younger Gary Stu off to save their lives.  He’s guiding every step of the way on the intercom though (which also lets him see everything occurring from multiple camera angles that are in no way attached to his son’s suit, because it’s the future I guess.  A future where they use fucking melee weapons.) and also pauses to emotionlessly belittle his son’s every actions because that will make his son better at stuff (then zoom in on his face to show that he’s actually having emotions he just won’t show them because that would be a weakness you see).

Oh my god it was intolerable… made worse by the fact that absolutely nothing unpredictable happens in this movie.  You’ve read this far – take a wild fucking guess at what happens.  Guess what, you’re right!  It’s actually directed by M. Night Shymalan who is known for his (usually terrible) twist endings.  The twist in this movie is that there is no twist!  He got me pretty good with that one.

The movie is also a grand display of telling instead of showing.  There’s a big (and completely fucking pointless ARRRGHH) scene where little Gary Stu realizes he has broken a couple of his inhalers, which are essential for breathing in EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE (no explanation of why Earth has changed that much, or why it’s primordial now despite that being absolutely not the path a planet ages on…) so he lies about it because he is afraid daddy will call off his mission due to his inevitable death.  Big Gary Stu, however, is perfect, so he looks at the biomedical readouts and can tell little Gary Stu is lying.  Then he calls off the mission because of little Gary Stu’s inevitable death.  Which makes no fucking sense because they’re both going to die anyway if the mission fails.  But amazingly enough that’s not even the reason I started typing this.  Big Gary Stu runs a computer simulation of how to reach the tail section of the ship (the goal of the mission) and it pops up and lists off how many inhalers are needed.  Little Gary Stu has 2 left.  The computer pops up and shows a route that will use 4 inhalers, and one that will use just under 2 inhalers.  There is a short pause and then it pops up and points out the shorter route, and blinks “ONLY SURVIVABLE ROUTE” over and over.  I’m so glad it pointed that out because I almost didn’t understand what the scene was trying to convey.

The entire movie is just scene after scene of Gary Stu-ness, telling instead of showing, bad science, and whiny scenes that are probably supposed to be dramatic and emotional but are just fucking annoying, oh my god shut the fuck up.  The 4 it has on IMDB is too generous, and that’s when considering ONLY the movie, not even delving into the rabbit hole of Scientology tie-ins I spotted on Wikipedia (which may or may not be reaching.  It seemed like pretty generic bad movie writing to me)…
God, it’s even generous before considering the awful acting.  I think Jaden out-acted Will in this movie, but we’re talking about a subterranean bar, here.

Ugh.  Ugh.  At least Red Dawn is entertaining to make fun of.  This has too much whining to even make a good drunken movie night movie.

Oblivion

This review comes with a disclaimer: We are heavily biased to enjoy space-oriented sci-fi films.  You can take the shittiest most generic plot and put it in space and we will still enjoy it.  We’ll probably mock it, but we will still enjoy it. It’s probably because we’ve watched every single space movie that exists, and some of them are really fucking bad, so movies like Oblivion still feel like a treat.

Very little of Oblivion actually occurs in space, but we still enjoyed it.  It’s sci-fi, it’s post-apocalyptic, and it has decent acting so there are no ridiculously cheesy lines to make you facepalm.  It’s written on greasy onion-skin paper that is so transparent that you can see every single word of the ending from the moment the opening credits roll (Oh a mandatory “security” memory wipe, you say?  Gosh that won’t be an important plot point!  No-sir-ee I bet that’s completely inconsequential and will not be a plot twist at all), but it’s a tried-and-true plot.  Sometimes cliches are cliches because they are good.  It is a little disappointing to walk into a cliche that attempts to hide behind the couch and then jumps out and yells “BOO!” and then you have to pretend to be surprised, but on some level it’s still a little bit fun… provided you go into it with the right frame of mind.

I’m already running out of things to say.  You do not watch Oblivion expecting something new and unique… you watch Oblivion expecting a sci-fi setting with awesomely constructed post-apocalyptic landscapes and a decent (if obvious) plot that also has giant floating death machines.  Tom Cruise doesn’t suck, and Morgan Freeman is always awesome even if he doesn’t really get a whole lot of screen time.  It’s still worth it.

Found Footage (Comparison)

I keep tripping over these things for some reason so I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a compare/contrast on some of the “found footage” style movies we’ve watched recently.

You’re probably aware of this, but “found footage” refers to a movie which is shot as though it was discovered on someone’s hand-held camera and then adapted for a wider audience.  It’s largely reviled as “shaky cam” because, as anyone who watches youtube videos knows, the average person with a hand-held camera absolutely sucks at keeping things in frame.  It’s a double edged sword because if you make it too shaky, people get nauseous or can’t tell what’s going on and it’s stupid.  If you make it too steady it’s pretty obvious it’s actually a movie camera mounted on special equipment, handled by professionals, which ruins the whole atmosphere of “oh shit they found this footage and the people in it are missing and no one knows what will happen!” which is kind of the point of it.  It’s usually resigned to cheap horror movies because of the premise and the ability to use the shakiness to obscure the scariest bits to good effect (assuming they use it to good effect, and not just “annoying as shit” effect, that is).

I was going to start with the worst movie first, but then I realized I couldn’t decide which one was the worst.  Conundrum.  Read more of this post

Here Comes the Boom

I could probably end this review with one sentence: “Surprisingly not shitty!”

My husband wanted to watch something “stupid” so I said “Hey there’s a new Kevin James movie!”.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t all that stupid and we actually enjoyed it, but it really doesn’t do anything unique or unexpected.  If you read any blurb about the plot you probably know what’s going to happen well enough that you could just skip seeing it, unless this is like, the first movie you have ever seen.

The plot follows a teacher at what might be the worst high school ever (…or… is it average. Sigh.)  There are a lot of thrown away plot points here which I thought was kind of odd.  He’s lazy and slacking off at his job, coming in late, sleeping through class instead of teaching, whining about being penalized for it, constantly reminding people he was teacher of the year once… none of that really matters for the movie and it’s kind of annoying, really.  The movie plot actually begins when they have a staff meeting where it is announced there are a bunch of cutbacks and the music program is being shut down as a result.  After some protesting, they are told it’s going to cost 48,000 to keep the program so it’s not happening unless you pull money out of your ass.

So, naturally, they go pull some money out of their ass.  A series of side jobs leads Kevin James’ character to try MMA fighting, because a loss in the UFC is worth 10k a piece, and who can’t lose a fight, right??

It’s mostly generic, but there are some funny moments.  [Spoiler Alert] The movie goes full out Disney when his class (which he constantly abuses throughout the film, except for like, one class where he bothers to teach them some dubious information about cells in an amusing manner, so it’s somewhat of a mystery why they end up liking him so much all of a sudden) rallies around him and gives him the strength to carry on and all that kind of shit.  Shockingly enough (oh man you’ll never see this twist coming!), he gets a random offer to go fight in the UFC!  And you’ll never guess what happens next!!!
[Seriously – Spoiler Alert] In case you can’t guess, just before the fight he only needs 8k to save the music program, so the loss will do it for him.  Then he finds out that some asshole embezzled all the money he’s raised so far so he needs 48k to save the music program.  Winning gives him 50k.  OH MY GOODNESS WHAT WILL HAPPEN?  Will the power of love and friendship prevail over the years of hardened training and experience that this UFC champion opponent has accrued?!??!  [Spoiler alert – it does.  /hurk]

I’m pretty convinced there’s just a blank template somewhere that a writer can go fill in the blanks and submit as a screenplay.  “[Character] is a down on his/her luck [Profession]____ who needs to raise $____ in order to save his/her beloved ____, so they begin training for ____ and just when you think they’re going to fail and lose everything, _____ inspires them and AGAINST ALL THE ODDS….”

It wasn’t a waste of a couple of hours but don’t expect a whole lot from it.