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Never has a movie been more aptly named than Trainwreck.

Written by first-time screenwriter Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, this movie had everything working against it from the start. Trainwreck deserves to have the Spike Lee-esque treatment of “An Amy Schumer Abortion” tagline in the opening credits. Known for her raunchy style of comedy, Trainwreck delivers heaps of cringe-worthy dialogue and adolescent sexual content intended as shock value. Rest assured, the only shocking part of Trainwreck is the utter lack of humor and absence of wit.

Who actually enjoys this movie?

Even Amy Schumer fans should be ashamed to find this funny. This isn’t coming from a place of malice. I don’t hate Amy Schumer. I like her personality and she blossomed on the Comedy Central Roasts. However, I don’t care for most of her stand-up comedy because her material is heavily reliant on hacky sex jokes about her slutty behavior. Some seemingly find that funny because it’s coming from a woman.

I am not among those people. I find female comedians funny in the same manner as I find male comedians funny—relatable observations/commentary on life with quality writing and comedic timing. Kathleen Madigan is one of the best working stand-up comedians regardless of gender. Amy Schumer is capable of being funny. But the awful writing displayed in Trainwreck is downright unforgivable at most times.

Amy Schumer

My issue with Trainwreck isn’t specifically Amy Schumer. This movie would have been the same pile of garbage regardless of the female lead. But Schumer does bear the biggest burden of responsibility as the writer with an abysmal attempt at humor. Judd Apatow made things worse by getting his greasy mitts involved shoving cameo after cameo down the gullet of the audience. I can only describe this baffling decision as desperately trying to distract the audience. The end-result is a forgettable string of athletes and actual actors popping in for meaningless moments. Just tell me Tony Romo had to pay for his role.

Don’t worry, Trainwreck has plenty more where that came from—you can rely on Apatow to go to the well early and often. I have read and heard from several people praising Amy Schumer’s performance. I must have watched a different movie. Amy Schumer did not exactly stretch her acting wings as Amy, a drunk slut who somehow coasts through life. Amy Schumer wishes this was on the same level of non-acting as Courtney Love playing a strung-out whore. To her credit, Amy surprisingly doesn’t fuck up her one dramatic scene. The rest of the time, she’s a mess failing to deliver the clunky lines she wrote.

No humor shines through this slog of a movie. Getting through it felt like homework.

I’m not going out on a limb saying no one should ever go shooting up innocent people in public. Leave my theater-going experience alone. Unless it involves people talking during the movie, the theater is my last bastion of salvation away from the miserable world. But if there is a silver-lining to be found in being shot after the first 15 minutes of Trainwreck…at least you aren’t subjected to hearing John Cena’s grunting and seeing his bare ass. Seriously, John Cena’s acting ability breaks new ground in dreadfulness.

John Cena

I would do anything to scrub my brain clean from John Cena’s residue.

Why was John Cena cast as Amy Schumer’s on-again, off-again boyfriend?

Did Judd Apatow Amy Schumer’s non-acting necessitate using other non-actors?

I admit, John Cena was so distractingly bad that I wasn’t even paying attention to Amy Schumer. Poor Bill Hader had to carry LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire on his back in addition to playing the straight guy against Schumer’s goofy, aloof character. Colin Quinn’s performance is the only positive result of this mind-numbing casting approach. After so many years of catching grief from fellow comedians on Tough Crowd for mumbling and bumbling through jokes, Colin Quinn delivers the best lines and is endearing in dramatic spurts despite playing a complete asshole. While Quinn was interesting and enjoyable as an old curmudgeon, the novelty of comedian cameos runs thin despite my urge to name faces—Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell, Jim Florentine, Bobby Kelly, Keith Robinson, Nikki Glaser, and Kyle Dunnigan.

Colin Quinn

With very few genuinely funny moments (nothing besides Colin Quinn’s Babe Ruth rant comes to mind), Trainwreck is an unmemorable misfire in a bland movie genre. At least Matthew McConaughey’s romantic comedies were watchable. Somehow, the hype surrounding the movie pre-determined that this would be the breakout summer hit. Amy Schumer might be able to write a good movie. Trainwreck is not that movie. Hopefully she will write and appear in a supporting role rather than star as the lead. Judging by Trainwreck, I’m fairly confident in characterizing Amy Schumer charisma-free as an actress. Room for growth is only possible if Schumer moves past the sophomoric approach to lowest common denominator humor.

This shit wasn’t funny when it was Dane Cook in Good Luck Chuck.

Time will tell if Amy Schumer’s skyrocketing career will similarly plummet like Dane Cook and dovetail into oblivion—at least in terms of mass appeal and critical success. If Schumer intends to stick to the “mostly sex stuff” shtick, then this same annoying approach will wear down the goodwill Amy Schumer has built by seeming to be a real, genuine human being. That’s not enough to get me to like this movie.

Short on comedy and long on pseudo-romance that no one cares about, Trainwreck is the worst non-Adam Sandler movie I’ve had the misfortune of watching this summer. Don’t trust anyone who likes Trainwreck because it’s most likely a sign of shitty taste in movies. Avoid unless you like throwing up in your mouth. If you have managed to ignore this movie, rejoice and celebrate the continued accomplishment.

Celebration

1 out of 5 stars

Immortan Joe

Image  —  Posted: August 5, 2015 in Art
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Mad Max: Fury Road is almost too good to be real.

The confluence of events that finally led to the creation of this movie is unthinkable. Stuck in development hell for 15 years or so, there was legitimate concern that another Mad Max installment would never see the light of day. The Iraq War and Mel Gibson’s various racist incidents nearly signaled the end.

Somehow, George Miller persevered and his vision eventually came into existence. In this age, it is hard to believe a major movie studio would entrust a director with total creative control—especially after so much pre-production chaos and controversy. Thankfully, George Miller was up to the task and potentially daunting responsibility. The end-result surpassed even the loftiest expectations.

At this point, I’m so late to the game that you’ve probably heard the bountiful praise heaped upon this movie by now. It’s not for lack of interest as I was in the seats the first night to watch Mad Max: Fury Road. And then I went back the next night. In terms of rewatchability, you can’t find a better film.

Doof Warrior

Don’t be skeptical. Leave behind your cynical bullshit and be prepared to have your face melted.

Believe the hype. Immerse yourself in the desolate hellscape and revel in the spectacle.

Summer blockbusters don’t deserve to be in the same category as Mad Max: Fury Road. While some people have mischaracterized it as a nonstop chase sequence, the pacing deliberately stops to inhale the dust while delivering more than enough action. Unlike most movies of this ilk, the action works because you care and feel some investment in the characters. The intensity cannot be manufactured. Utilizing practical effects rather than over-reliance on CGI, the audience is allowed to experience the gravity of situations instead of being hurled around in a whirlwind of flying metal like Michael Bay movies.

With top-notch performances from Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne in the supporting cast, there isn’t a weak link anywhere in the chain. The good vs. evil dynamic is only as strong as the villain. Despite a mysterious rise to power, Hugh Keays-Byrne’s run as Immortan Joe is as awesomely badass. While oppressively evil, Immortan Joe’s stranglehold over his domain is tenuous due to his deteriorating physical condition. It has all the makings of an iconic, memorable movie.

Immortan Joe

In short: if you don’t like Mad Max, go fuck yourself.

We don’t need to be friends. It sounds snobby and condescending, but you just don’t get it if you are unable to enjoy this movie. I’m not saying you are an idiot if you don’t like Mad Max: Fury Road. However, you are much more likely to be an idiot if you hate this movie. Surprisingly, this is a rare mass appeal action spectacle that satisfies the senses with ample support from a simple yet interesting story.

Mad Max isn’t flawless, but it doesn’t have to be pristine. This movie embraces and celebrates its warts—quite literally in the case of certain characters. Mad Max: Fury Road is perfectly imperfect.

Tom Hardy

The big swinging balls of George Miller are inescapable. Not only is the titular character turned into a prisoner, but almost all of his face is obscured by a bulky metal mask. While Max is relegated to an object of the plot rather than the driving force, the de facto lead, Charlize Theron—one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous actresses—has her head shaved bald and a mechanical arm replacing her amputated stump.

For the purpose of this story, there’s no reason Mel Gibson couldn’t have returned as Mad Max. As much as I love Tom Hardy, it would have been nice to see people finally forgive and re-embrace Mel Gibson. Mad Max: Fury Road could have launched a new beginning for that lovable old racist kook.

Mel Gibson’s loss is Tom Hardy’s gain. The acting ability of Tom Hardy is unquestioned, but big screen success has eluded him up until this point. Thanks to the overwhelming positive reception of Mad Max: Fury Road, every door in Hollywood should be gaping open in eager anticipation of Tom Hardy. Not only can he carry a small independent film like Locke where he is the only character on-screen, but he also has the charisma to lead a major motion picture. I want and need more Tom Hardy in my life.

Furiosa

The brilliance of George Miller is palpable and abound in this madness. Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you can imagine in a massive, mindless action movie while still managing to bring something new to the table. Likely to be often emulated but never duplicated, Mad Max: Fury Road has already spawned a life of its own and hopefully future installments don’t shit all over this beautiful foundation.

Basically, this movie is the anti-Waterworld.

Bask in its eternal glory—shiny and chrome.

Shiny and Chrome

5 out of 5 stars

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The luster has worn off the lore of a no-hitter. Look at recent history and you’ll find ridiculous names like Bud Smith, Philip Humber, Hideo Nomo (twice! once in Coors Field!) and even Chris Heston from earlier this week. But 45 years ago, the most remarkable athletic achievement in sports happened.

On June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while high on LSD.

I can’t begin to describe the difficulty of that accomplishment. Most people would struggle to stagger in anything that resembles a straight line when dropping acid. Dock Ellis scoffs at those amateurs.

The course of events that led to Dock Ellis’ LSD-driven dominance sounds like something from a rejected Major League sequel: Dock overslept and dropped acid because he thought it was still the previous day instead of his scheduled start against the San Diego Padres. Unbelievable. Is it too good to be true?

“One time I covered first base, and I caught the ball and I tagged the base all in one motion. I said, ‘Ooh, I just made a touchdown!'”

Unfortunately, MLB has apparently suppressed footage of Dock’s special adventure.

As a lifelong baseball fan and pitcher, I’ve been drawn to this astounding feat of freakishness. Imagine my excitement when I learned about No No: A Dockumentary. However, very little actual evidence from the no-hitter makes it into the movie (aside from a shot of the scoreboard) presumably because of MLB’s alleged mandate to blackout every piece of proof from this notorious performance.

Directed by Jeff Radice, this documentary finesses its way through Dock’s recollection of the no-hitter while interspersing augmented snippets of him pitching against various teams over several years. Considering the constraints due to the likely MLB embargo, it is an interesting and artistic way to represent the story.

Damn if I don’t want to see the entire game itself. How did he maintain his balance?

Just look at the box score from June 12, 1970, to get a glimpse into the chaos of that unlikely game. In his very first inning, Dock Ellis walks two batters. He walked two more batters in the 5th inning. And again, he walked two more batters in the 6th inning. In total, Dock Ellis struck out six while walking eight batters.

Effectively wild is an understatement. If one thing is clear, Dock Ellis could handle his fucking high.

Tongue

Instead of focusing exclusively on only one infamous day, No No provides an in-depth examination into Dock Ellis’ life by highlighting his tumultuous struggle with addiction and other noteworthy events in his notorious career. Dock claimed to have never pitched in an MLB game without being under the influence—one variety of drugs or another. But he wasn’t controversial simply for his drug use.

During the 70s on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, black athletes were still not widely embraced. Keeping your head down and going about your business quietly probably seemed like the safest way to survive. Dock Ellis didn’t give a shit. You have to admire the man’s balls and brazen personality.

Even in today’s standards, Dock Ellis would be a breath of fresh air…and hair. Yes, Dock was such a pimp that he once wore hair curlers to produce sweat on his hair so he could throw a modified spitball. A security guard didn’t recognize Dock when he tried to enter the stadium with Big Willie Stargell so the guard decided to mace him. On May 1, 1974, Dock Ellis decided to launch a single-person assault on the Cincinnati Reds by hitting the first three batters of the game and unsuccessfully trying to hit the next two batters.

Why? Because Dock was high and crazy. They also probably looked at him wrong.

Curlers

Dock Ellis was unapologetically black. The man exuded charisma.

No one was going to stop Dock from being himself.

His cadence and storytelling flair elevate No No from a standard sports documentary into something slightly more meaningful. If you didn’t like him, you could go fuck yourself. Forget about Michael Jordan’s ball-less and bullshit stance about Republicans and Democrats both buying sneakers.

Dock Ellis wasn’t afraid to piss anyone off—fans, teammates, coaches, front office management. These flaws were contributing factors to Dock bouncing around from team to team before finding his way back to Pittsburgh for one last hurrah. Though troubled, Dock definitely comes across as a good, genuine person if you can manage to forgive some awful instances of violence against women while high.

The best insight into his true character can be found in a scene where Dock reads a letter he received from Jackie Robinson. Coming from such an important figure in our culture, I cannot envision any higher honor for Dock than that praise and encouragement heaped on him. It is an absolutely endearing moment to see and hear his tough exterior wilt as he starts to literally wail while reading the letter.

Despite turning his life around, Dock will surely be remembered forever as that guy who threw a no-hitter on acid. To the credit of No No: A Dockumentary, this movie shows that the man was much more than the myth of his legendary moment in the sun. Shining yet shameful at the same time.

Dock Ellis still deserves to be celebrated: the man, the myth, the legend.

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

4 out of 5 stars

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Early spring has been a tough time for movies.

After enduring weeks of bland nothingness, It Follows finally gave people something to talk about this year. Critics adore It Follows—hence a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Hyperbole like “must-see horror movie of the year” has been rampant in reviews. And it is totally undeserved.

It Follows is unique in that it’s not a remake or sequel. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell deserves credit for creating an original idea within the horror genre. Although it is still about some type of supernatural entity, this being comes after you have sex with someone it is haunting. You move to the front of the line. If it kills you, then it works its way back down the line to the person who infected you.

Essentially, it is a curse passed through sex. Like an STD, get it?

Close Encounter

While it is an interesting premise, I never felt enthralled by It Follows. It isn’t necessarily a scary movie in terms of jump scares or overwhelmingly gory violence. However, It Follows does indeed follow some of those themes—very effectively in the opening when you see the contortioned body of the film’s first victim. But the “monster” in this movie is mostly a looming threat of impending doom.

The intention seems to be to establish a mood of constant anxiety and fear. The execution does not follow through on this intention. In some aspects, It Follows invokes a sense of nostalgia for John Carpenter’s horror movies of the 80s. Just without the spirit. There’s no fun even though the premise is rife for it. If more camp or any remotely appealing element were mined for enjoyment, then I could potentially champion this movie. It either takes itself too seriously or simply doesn’t know what it is.

It Follows features Maika Monroe as Jay—the girl who unknowingly got pulled into this situation after a consensual sexual encounter. Maika’s performance isn’t superb (as some suggest) but it is adequate. She was suitable for the role. My faults with the movie have nothing to do with her, but I don’t think she can carry a movie. At times, David Robert Mitchell mistakenly puts more on her shoulders than she can handle.

Maika Monroe

I did not enjoy the pouty-lipped, contemplative scenes where Jay is exploring her emotions.

Much like the monster’s gait, the pace of It Follows is slow and steady. Slow enough that it renders the steadiness irrelevant. While there is a pervasive feeling of foreboding, It Follows is not terrifying. There’s nothing wrong with a psychological approach, but this movie is dull and drab.

Ultimately, It Follows cannot escape its own clutches.

Why the widespread critic appeal? I suppose it is the result of an intentionally vague storyline rich with potential for allegories. Everything can be a metaphor for anything. Most critics will seize the opportunity to wax poetic with fabricated implications of hidden meanings. Whether or not this was done by David Robert Mitchell’s design, it appears to be a genuine factor in the film’s success among critics.

Personally, I found It Follows to be a jumbled, bizarre mess.

Peekaboo

Placing the movie in an abstract time is an example of uneven decision-making. Case in point, one of the friends of the main character has a shell-looking makeup compact that’s an e-reader despite the film’s mostly retro 70s era style. What purpose does it serve other than to distract?

It is quirk for the sake of quirk.

If you managed to miss It Follows when it was in theaters during March, then you didn’t miss much. For those who are ardent fans of the horror genre, then you probably already watched the movie and enjoyed it on some level. It Follows is not fantastic but it avoids being a generic regurgitation of common tropes. It might help if you imagine your own ending because the final act is almost unbearably dumb. Keep your expectations down to the bare minimum and you won’t walk away too disappointed.

Remember you can also find It Follows by the alternate title—Close Sexual Encounters of the Third Kind. Warning: do not click on this movie’s porn parody—Shit Follows. It will haunt you.

Haunting

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Giving Tree

Image  —  Posted: May 2, 2015 in Art
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Locke literally consists of Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on the phone for 85 minutes.

Somehow, it is riveting. In a span of a month, I have watched Locke about 5 times. I can’t get this movie out of my mind. You can have your intricately choreographed fight scenes, insanely stupid explosions, and over-indulgent sense of self like the recently reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Locke is unlike any other movie. However, I want to be clear: this is not for most people. I’ve had a difficult time trying to review Locke because I don’t know who else is interested in this type of movie. With a simplistic story and approach, it’s difficult to imagine Locke resonating with a larger audience and achieving widespread appeal. The story is basic and bare, but the dialogue is exceptionally well-written.

Beyond all, it’s a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy. One of our finest actors with incredible range, Hardy’s portrayal of Ivan Locke—a hard-working, blue-collar concrete foreman—is transcendent. If Tom Hardy can put forth a terrific understated performance loaded with nuances, then audiences should be legitimately excited for the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.

There is nothing that Tom Hardy can’t do.

When presented with the same lose-lose situation as Locke, most men would have driven off the road and straight over a cliff. Ivan Locke is not like most men. Despite the potential consequences, Locke makes a decision and drives in one direction towards a destination that will likely alter his life. In many respects, this movie could’ve been easily called Ivan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Tom Hardy

What sets this awful day in motion is the result of one lonely unfaithful night.

At the very beginning, Locke gets a phone call from the woman with whom he’s had an affair. On this fateful evening, a woman who is not his wife is giving birth to his child. With the biggest non-nuclear or military concrete pour scheduled early in the morning, Locke is abandoning his job so he won’t abandon his child. Although everything is crumbling around him, Locke is doing his best to keep it together.

As the movie rolls on, Locke’s sleeves are rolled up progressively higher as he wades through the shitstorm he has caused. Locke is a man on a mission to right his wrongs. Regardless of how bad something may seem, you can always get your hands dirty and make it better.

Even though Locke is clearly physically sick, he doesn’t use that as an excuse. While driving to the mother of his unborn child, Locke is going through his list and checking it twice to make sure he is doing everything he can to keep the morning’s humongous concrete pour on-schedule without complications. No one can see him sweat, but Locke takes great pride and responsibility in being accountable and serving as the rock for everyone else even while he’s crumbling to pieces.

Ivan Locke is a man that is all about practicality.

Once a mistake is made, you can’t go back in time and undo it. But Locke’s hope is that you can make it better. He has to believe it. He must. It is that hope that keeps him going.

Mirror

One of the more beautiful moments in Locke happens when Tom Hardy is describing what will happen if the foreman screws up the mixture of the concrete…

“My building will alter the water table and squeeze granite. It will be visible from 20 miles away. At sunset, it will cast a shadow probably a mile long. Now, if the concrete at the base of my building is not right, if it slips half an inch, cracks appear. Right? If cracks appear, then they will grow and grow, won’t they? And the whole thing will collapse.

You make one mistake—one little fucking mistake—and the whole world comes crashing down around you.”

It’s an allegory for Locke’s life.

While Ivan has taken great pride in his craft, he wasn’t as accountable in his personal life as he was professionally. The only time Locke stepped outside of his marriage has now resulted in a new life being brought into the world. That one (not so little) mistake has caused his life to slip beyond his control and now the rock-steady foundation he has cemented over years is crashing down directly on Locke.

As the Tom Waits of film, Locke is an experimental undertaking that is often uneven yet always captivating. Upon repeated viewings, there’s even more treasure to mine and more connections to make. While this Locke isn’t for everyone, this is my type of movie—cerebral, thought-provoking, and relatable in terms of being the type of man you want to be every day of your life.

A common theme in Locke revolves around what makes a man good.

Can Locke still be a good man despite cheating on his wife and fathering another child?

“The difference between once and never is the whole world.
The difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad.”

Good and bad, we are all a collection of our decisions and their consequences.

Frustration

4.5 out of 5 stars