Wednesday, April 9, 2014

God's Not Dead

I know I said that I would get to reviews on Divergent (and an editorial on the YA boom); The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie, the Robocop remake, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, among other movies I've seen thusfar, and I shall in the coming month.

Tonight, though? I'm angry. Really angry. And yes, it's over a movie I just saw.

I should make this clear, though: I'm agnostic. I don't care much for organized religion because I believe that if you do have faith, there's no need for a middle man. One's relationship with God, or Jesus, or whatever deity you profess to should be between you and him. When I was younger, I mostly saw the negative of what organized religion can do (i.e. the support and defense of an illegal and immoral war in the Middle East; denying gays and lesbians their rights because their sexual orientation is considered an affront to morality and religious teaching; etc) and it painted a negative light on organized religion for me, and it is still a challenge for me at times to realize that not every evangelical Christian is some backwards-thinking moron who hangs onto their outdated beliefs, and that the vast majority of Christians certainly don't subscribe to the Pat Robertson's and the Ken Ham's of the world. This review is me attacking the filmmakers for a truly horrendous job at selling an agenda, and not on the vast majority of people who profess their love for Christ.

To say it bluntly: God's Not Dead joins Movie 43 as one of the worst movies of this decade. Just thinking about everything that transpired in this irredeemable crock of dogshit still has me fuming. Josh Wheaton (Disney Channel alum Shane Harper) is a freshman in college who signs up for an Intro to Philosophy course. He gets paired with Professor Raddison (Kevin Sorbo of TV's Hercules) an atheist teacher who, on the first day of the course, has a class of 80 students sign on a piece of paper that God is dead. Josh refuses, stating that his religious beliefs won't let him, and he is given an ultimatum: either provide the defense of God's existence, or he will fail the course. Let's pause and talk about everything that's wrong with this premise.
First - What credited university in America would allow a professor of Philosophy (or which ever collegiate course for that matter) to make his or her students write a statement that would conflict with that student's religious beliefs in order to get credit for an assignment?! The dean of the university would be under pressure to have him fired by the student body, and the press when a story of this caliber breaks locally, and perhaps nationally!
Second - In the film, there are 80 students in the classroom, and not only did none of them stand up and tell Radisson to bugger off and report him, but apparently, the majority of them, save Wheaton, are either agnostic, atheist, or are of some other religious persuasion. Ridiculous! According to a 2012 report by Pew Research, 73% of Americans identify themselves as Christian, and of that 73 percent, 48 percent say they are Protestant, 22 percent identify as Catholic. The same research organization also reported on the numbers of Christians globally, and the findings were that the number of identified Christians in American were at 246 million. Again: we have a nation of 317 million people, and of that number of people, 246 million of them are self-identified as believers of the Christian faith. In the film, there are 80 students in that Intro to Philosophy course. And the majority of them aren't Christians, except for the main protagonist. Bullshit!
Lastly - The kid's name is Josh Wheaton. Think about that name for a second. Let it seep into your brain. Then recall another man who's name rhymes with the protagonist, who's famous for a short-lived sci-fi TV show, writing several scripts from Speed to Toy Story, and directed the biggest superhero movie ever made, box office wise. Oh, and he's also a self-described atheist as well. Subtle.

Now, a film about the never-ending conversation on faith and skepticism can be an interesting subject to broaden the debate and challenge an audience, but the filmmakers are so busy making straw man arguments from well-known scientific minds and crafting generic one-liners that the debate itself is lessened to the professor making a generic point, and the kid swatting it down with another generic answer of his own. If this centerpiece was about the professor/student verbal exchanges, my opinion would be that it's a earnest film that clumsily trips over its own ambitions of getting a debate going among believers and non-believers for a slant towards the Big Man in the Sky. Sadly, that isn't the case, and it's where the film itself becomes unwatchable. You see, this movie doesn't just try to cater to the base of conservative Christians and go out of their way to reinforce the false notion that Christians are being persecuted for worshiping and practicing their faith in America; the film goes actively out of its way to paint everyone else that isn't a Christian as either a jerk, condescending, combative and morally flawed individuals who just need to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Yes, the Radisson-Wheaton exchange isn't the only thing in God's Not Dead. There are different subplots in the film, but they feel tacked on, as if director Harold Cronk and screenwriter Hunter Dennis had no idea how to extend their simplistic plot and decided to cram in as much filler as possible in order to reach 90 minutes. There is the story of a leftist blogger, Amy (Trisha LaFache), who conducts ambush interviews and insults the people she's interviewing, only to have her world shattered when she learns she has cancer. There is the story of greedy businessman, Mark (Dean Cain), who dumps Amy when he learns of her condition and doesn't even visit her Alzheimer-riddled mother in the nursing home. There is the story of Mina (Cory Oliver) the woman whom Radisson is dating, is sister to Mark and is constantly insulted by him and her boyfriend at almost every turn because of her unwavering faith (you know, just in case you haven't yet caught the agenda message this film is so subtly telling you). There is the story of a Muslim girl, Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu) who secretly listens to Christian pastor Billy Graham on her iPod, which leads her to be thrown out of her home by her overbearing religious Muslim dad, but not before beating her and dragging her out. And there is the story of Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) who tries to go on holiday with his colleague/buddy from Africa, but the car stalls, along with the two rentals that he ordered.

If it sounds like I'm trying to mimic Ricky Jay's narration to the trailer Magnolia, it's because the film is clumsily trying to as well; connecting the main story to the five other subplots thrown in there to highlight each character's struggles with their Christian faith. All it does in reality is to enforce the narrative that upstanding, moral Christians are being savagely persecuted and viciously attacked because of their beliefs by the "others": the atheist professors who force their worldview onto our children and hitch their nose up in the air toward our values and our Bible; and the Muslims other religions that act hostile towards those who have opened their hearts and souls to Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

With it's implausible premise, shocking lapses in logic that would insult most viewers and boor acting from it's leads, God's Not Dead highlights that it wasn't interested in telling a story. Because the script sides heavily on Wheaton's viewpoint and allows no counterpoint to hear from the opposing argument about the non-existence of a supreme being, the filmmakers shows that they weren't interested in a thoughtful debate about its subject. And because of it's shameless stereotyping of liberals, atheists and agnostics, Muslims and anyone else who isn't their definition of a Christian, the film makes no bones about how it isn't intended for those with a differing opinion. Like Last Ounce of Courage before, this was made to enforce their BS narrative that they are under attack from the rest of the world, and that they can, by being steadfast and true to their beliefs, can win over hearts and minds and bring back America for Christ. And if they don't? They're bad people who will receive their just desserts on Judgement Day. Or some rubbish like that. There's eight more months lefts in the calendar year, but I will be surprised if I see a more insulting and infuriating film like God's Not Dead, the clear front-runner for Worst Movie of 2014.

0 stars out of ****

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shakin' Off the Rust.

Three months.

Three months without a single post on movies, reviews, trailers, or personal opinions that I promised last December.

God, I hate procrastination and laziness.

I've gotta make it up somehow, but how?

Well, I've already missed out on the Oscars, and I haven't even posted (read: haven't even finished) my top 10 best list from last year...

I've already seen a handful of movies - a reboot that wasn't as awful as I thought it would, a remake that totally sucked, and three excellent movies, all of them I consider to be some of the best of the year...

And there's that new Young Adult film adaptation that's getting industry buzz...and I do have something to say about the hot new genre, it's origins and why we need more good movies with a strong female protagonist....

I got it! I'll do a big ol' mega review! Yeah - First part with the movies I've seen, then the other part will be my take on the YA-boom!

Glad I got this announcement out of the way. Now, back to playing with my Xbox games...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is a time for looking back on the moments which made the previous year great or challenging, etc, and the promise of a new year being better and more fulfilling than the last. New Year's Eve will make you regret watching this dull and vapid piece of crap, no matter when you saw it during the year.

So many don't care.

From Gary Marshall, the man behind Pretty Woman and A League of Their Own, this already forgotten star-studded turkey from 2011 follows the same formula from 2010's Valentine's Day: a series of vignettes which either serve as comedic set pieces, or dramatic ones, depending on the script. Some characters are looking for love. Some are looking for second chances. Some of these stories connect and collide with one another. Some are just purely stand alones. Here are just a few of the stories from this film: Hillary Swank plays the VP of the Times Square Alliance, a group dedicated to the planning of the big ball drop in the heart of NYC's big event. She's stressed out because she's a workaholic and wants every minute detail of the even to go down without a hitch. Another story, featuring Zac Effron as a bike messenger and Michelle Pfeiffer as a recently unemployed secretary for a record company, is a challenge to knock off everything on her Year-End Bucket List (because everyone has that sort of list of things they want or need to accomplish before New Year's), and, as a reward, she will give him two tickets to the hottest party in the city. Speaking of said party, Bon Jovi playing...well, a rock susperstar, is at said party of the year, in order to win back the woman he dumped last year, Katherine Heigl. No, really. By the power of contrivance, she's also a caterer at the event, hosted by Josh Durhamel, who plays the son of the late founder of the recording company that Pfeiffer's character got fired from, who is sponsoring the party. His dilemma is just getting to the party in time, all whist longing to search for the woman he fell in love with last New Year's Eve, but wasn't smart enough to get her number or address. Hell, he doesn't even remember her name, for crying out loud! At a hospital, Oscar-winner Robert DeNiro (no, really - he's in this mess) is a terminally ill cancer patient, who just wants to watch the Times Square Ball drop one last time before he bites the dust. His nurse is another Oscar-winner - Halle freaking Berry. in the same hospital, a couple expecting their first child is in a competition to have their baby born fist in order to win a cash prize. The couple is Seth Meyers (why????) and Jessica Biel, who go through wacky hijinks just to make sure the baby is born the night of the ball drop. Meanwhile, Sarah Jessica Parker is having trouble with her teenage daughter, played by Abagail Breslin (ugh!), who wants to spend New Year's with her gal pals Samantha, Charolette, and Miranda, along with her BF, Mr. Big. I wish - then this movie would be slightly interesting to watch. SJP is also looking to find the man she fell in love with last New Year's Eve. I bet you can't guess who that is!

There are other subplots and characters in this film looking for sometime to do, or to liven up this bloated and shallow script, but it's not like you're going to remember them, or their maladies after it ends, much less care in the slightest, which is one of the problems I had with New Year's Eve. Another is the predictability and the overload of contrivance this picture has. We already know things are going to go wrong for Swank's character and that it''ll go off without a hitch before the final countdown begins; like we know that DeNiro will see the ball drop before his character dies and the iconic actor from roles like a younger Vito Corelone in The Godfather Part II and Jimmy "the Gent" Conaway in Goodfellas collects his earnings for his appearance in this movie; like we already know that Duharmel and Carrie will find each other again and share a final scene kiss and embrace which, without it, we wouldn't have the pose for the film's poster! There's no surprises in this thing, and what we're left with is a plodding and boring exercise in actors being given bland material to work with and expected to spin pure chick-flick sludge into gold for a paycheck.

1/2 star out of ****

And on a personal note, I want to thank you for reading my reviews, rants and musings from this year, all the way from the beginning back in October of 2012, and that I hope you all have a very safe and happy new year. Next week, I'll have my list of the best films of the past year, any some other things I'm working on. Until then, take care, and I'll see you all in 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Hustle

A film about corruption and searing social commentary about what we'll do to chase the American dream? Made by the guy who made of the best anti-war pictures of the last several years (Three Kings) and one of the best sports dramas since Miracle (The Fighter)? And it combines Christian Bale & Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook? This has to be a sure-fire Oscar heavyweight! Man, director and co-writer David O'Russell is swinging for the fences here! He's going to make this next period piece his Goodfellas, and hell, if you're going to draw inspiration from any crime drama, that's the way to go! I'm going to see this tonight!

2+ hours later.........

Well, two out of three ain't bad.

American Hustle is a good movie. A damn good one. O'Russell nails the period of the 70's perfectly. The lavish clothes, the attitude that this gravy train of decadence will never end, the electric mix of 70's pop/rock tunes - he understands where a generation was after the promise of the 60's was shattered by Vietnam, Watergate and the assassinations of MLK, JFK and his brother, Bobby. From putting a man on the moon and demanding that the races be equal, to escaping into frivolous items and making more money, by any means necessary - people were disillusioned by politics and the status quo, and wanted to escape into their own fantasies to avoid facing the ugly realities that were right in front of them.

One could say that people during this time were conning themselves into this fantasy. No one knows the art of the con better than Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, again always throwing everything he has into a role, even gaining weight for the part) and his partner, Sydney Prosser (the sexy, vulnerable Amy Adams). Hell, they've been conning several people who are desperate for cash or more lavish shit: Irv with forged artwork and a terrible comb-over, Sydney with a terrific British accent and a fake identity as a banker from across the pond. The scam comes to an end when FBI agent Richie DeMasco (Bradley Cooper) busts the pair for fraud and offers them a chance to wipe the slate clean: help the feds nab four other con artists, or face jail time. The target is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the mayor of Camden, New Jersey and a man who's desperate to raise money to bring back his city from hard times by any means. The plan is to catch him in the act of taking bribe money by setting him up with a generous banker from Saudi Arabia. Like any good scam, this one becomes bigger as the mob and other corrupt politios, including a U.S. Senator, are involved taking dirty money, and the entire operation threatens to unravel because of an irate, uncontrollable wife (Jennifer Lawrence).

If it sounds like I'm reciting a fictionalized account of the ABSCAM scandal of the late 70's, that's because that's what this film is loosely based on. Half a dozen public officials were caught taking bribes in the Garden State, and were nabbed by the feds during this time. O'Russell decides to play this like a comedy, in which the scam becomes much bigger and more complicated than any one of the players involved, and it is often hilarious to see these con artists and power-hungry federal agents try and make it out on top, mostly by trying to con the other. With Irv and Sydney trying to con Polito to save their skins and other players in the scandal, Sydney conning Irv by using DeMasco as a way to bet back at him, and Irv's irate, loose-cannon of a wife, Rosalyn (an explosive Jennifer Lawrence) threatening to blow the whole scam apart, this film focus more on process of the scam than the actual scam itself, and you lose track of who's playing who. Fortunately, the payoff is very rewarding on who comes out on top, and it'll require additional viewing just to make sense of how the scam within a scam screwed over key players in the film's nearly 2 1/2 hour run time.

Unfortunately, the problem with the last leg of the film is the payoff itself. Without giving too much away, let me say the following: What made films like The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, Wall Street, Fargo, No Country for Old Men,There Will Be Blood and The Departed classics is that those were films that weren't afraid to make bold statements about how corruption is as much a fabric of the American story as is freedom and whatnot. The Michael Corleone's, Henry Hill's, and Daniel Plainview's all make their wealth by greed, murder and hustling others in order to amass their own riches, but each experience their own downfall in the end: Michael offs his own brother and is wracked with guilt for his sins, eventually having those chickens come to roost with his daughter being killed right in front of him. Hill goes into the drug trade, gets hooked on blow, along with other women, and gets nabbed by the Feds. He eventually breaks the cardinal rule of getting pinched - "Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut," in exchange of avoiding life in prison. In the end, he ends up in the Witness Protection Program and becomes the very thing he fought against for most of his life: being a regular schmuck. Plainview doesn't lose his wealth, or die in the end, but he loses something greater: his soul. His limitless greed alienates him from the rest of society, including his own deaf son. All of these characters show their downfall to illustrate how greed and corruption fester and take root, leaving nothing but a society or an individual decaying from the inside. David O'Russell...well, you can guess what i'm going to say next.

Still, American Hustle is filled with top-notch and Award-worthy performances, particularity from Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, and a funny, intriguing script (also written by O'Russell) that even my own bitching about not quite living up to it's expectations, is still more than enough to say that this is a funny and emotionally-charged picture worth watching.

*** stars out of ****

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Dynasties, Ignorance, and Moving Foreward To the Future.

In the beginning, I wanted Mr. Brown Verses to be a blog about movies, and that's it. Given how there's much more going on, like film analysis and how it relates to issues both here in America and beyond our borders; the annual predictions on the Academy Awards race; the state of the film industry; issues of ethnicity and gender roles in the business; the continued rise of fandom with both sexes; etc - it would be foolish to not talk about it and just sticking with reviewing movies. Most of this has been hesitance on my end because I personally feel that I'm not as well-versed in the film medium to really speak on trends and whatnot. There are other, more eloquent critics and readers of the Award-season tea leaves that express these concepts so damn well, it's almost amazing they haven't been picked up by publishers like Entertainment Weekly or Rolling Stone or The New York Times, but I guess the idea that they stand apart makes their work more fearless, more richer to read. People like Sasha Stone and Ryan Adams of Awards Daily, Krisopher Tapley of HitFlix and In Contention, and Anne Thompson of Thompson Hollywood. Hell, even Jefferey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, a guy who I think comes off as a major asshole at times, even I respect his fearless attitude to speak about movies and the larger lexicon, regardless of people calling him out (many times, quite harshly, as I have done) on it. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't want this blog to be just about movies. It should be about what's going on around them. At the very least, what I, as a fan of film, can speak to as a member of the faceless audience, gazing upon the big screen every weekend, and. I have Ms. Stone for giving me that spark.

As I said, sometimes this blog won't just be about movies. Like tonight's piece, for example. Sometimes, there are stories that happen which, try as I might, cannot be ignored. Enter Phil Robertson, the GQ interview he gave for the magazine, his ignorant comments on gays and blacks, and the outrage by conservatives over his indefinite suspension handed down by A&E. Before I get to any of that, should make something clear about myself, before I go any further.

I am a 23 year-old African-America culinary student, and unashamed, non-religious liberal. I point this out because what I write at times will come from the view of a young person that aligns himself with social causes, such as gay rights and health care for all, as well as demanding that the wealthiest among our society start paying their fair share so that the least among can thrive in our country. That's just who I am. Phew, that was a load off my chest!

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me start by saying that I've never watched Duck Dynasty. Sure, I've heard about it, but I've never bothered to watch an episode for the same reason why I barely watched Jersey Shore or Honey Boo-Boo: It's junkfood television. You don't learn anything important about these people, and it adds to the growing culture of people being famous because studios like E! and MTV are in the business of exploiting ignorant, shallow, or vain people for the benefit of the audience to feel better about themselves. I'm not saying that all reality television is the equivalent of consuming Milky Way bars, because that's just not true. I'm speaking to the Kardashian's and the Teen Mom's of the world; the kind of crap which only serves to talk about who said what to whom during the weekdays.

As I'm writing this, you probably already know the comments one of the stars of the show, Phil Robertson, has made, and if you haven't, here's the link to the interview he gave with GQ, along with Robertson giving out more thoughts about gays and being around blacks during the Jim Crow era. The comments themselves aren't anything I've heard before as a young black man and growing up in Hillcrest, a very pro-gay and lesbian community, for the first 10 years of my life, I've heard much worse come out of the mouths of intolerant people whenever the Gay Pride Parade would roll into town. If anything, the comments only highlight his ignorance and paints the picture that he's a product of an outdated time in American culture who's generation in the South were taught that being gay was immoral and that "separate but equal" is just the way things are. Honestly, few people who either watch the show, grew up in the South, or know people with that kind of mindset, should be that surprised that a family of very religious, backwards-thinking, cultural conservatives from the swamplands of Louisiana hold these options and beliefs, and would eventually voice them in some fashion, especially the folks at A&E Television!

Before they were given a platform, the big-wigs knew full-well what they were getting and still decided to give the Robertson family a green light for their reality show. They knew exactly what they were, and the consequences of giving them said platform, but they still went along anyway because it was going to give the cable company ratings and money. I know this because this isn't even the first time the patriarch of the family opened his mouth and let his ignorance fly!
"They (homosexuals) committed indecent acts with one another," said Robertson, clad in his usual camouflage, in the video posted on the church's YouTube page, which has drawn fresh attention in the wake of Robertson's suspension from one of the most-watched shows on cable television.
"And they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion," he added. "They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."
From his views on gays and lesbians, to his comments regarding Muslims, it shouldn't come as a shock to A&E that this is what they were getting and that he'd one day open his mouth, so in a sense, the fact that now the company has egg on their face and trying to do damage control to save their image is kinda funny.

That is, until the conservative commentators and lawmakers got in on the act. From U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and a candidate for Illionis' congressional seat linking Robertson's comments to that of Rosa Park's act of defiance in 1955, to conservative media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart, right-wingers are crying foul that that liberal media was trying to silence another poor, defenseless, good-natured Christian man for speaking out on his beliefs.

I have a job working as a cashier and grilling meat at McDonald's. If I told my manager that she was a bitch who needed to go back to doing laundry and making meals for her family instead of being a manager for this establishment, then try to defend my comments by quoting my religious beliefs, I would be dropped from McD's so fast, I would have left cracks in the pavement. Sure, they maybe what I believe, but McDonald's also has a zero tolerance policy of sexist and racist attitudes from it's employees. That establishment doesn't want to be labeled as a place where ignorance and intolerance flourish among staff, so while i'm working for the company, i'm expected to promote their good name and put my best foot forward. Even though Robertson was the star of a reality TV program, he was still under the employment of A&E. He may hold his ignorant and misguided beliefs and opinions on gays, but he still represents that network. His actions have painted a negative light upon the television company and they hold the right to fire him because of it. Put simply, Robertson has every right to spout his ignorant bullshit, and A&E hold the right to fire him because of those beliefs.

Is Phil Robertson going to be arrested for his beliefs? No.

Will he be excluded from ever appearing on television because of his beliefs? No. Television is a wide medium, and i'm sure someone will gladly have him on, if for no other reason that the fans will follow, along with big ratings.

Is he going to be ostracized for his ignorant beliefs by many people now? Probably.

And there, as the Bard would say, lies the rub.

This is about an older generation of conservative, white America who see the rapid changes in the movement for marriage equality and gay & lesbian rights, who have realized they have lost the culture war, and are now looking for some sort of compensation, in the form of demanding that their outdated views on morality be acceptable in conversation based on religious grounds.

Let me speak very plainly and clearly to that request.


You don't get that compensation from me, or from the majority of us who don't give a damn about the sexual orientation of an individual.  You don't get to spew your nonsense and claim religious freedom because of it. Not anymore. We've moved on from your hateful rhetoric, and we do not find it acceptable in today's world. You're allowed to feel and believe that being gay earns you a one-way ticked to eternal damnation, but you don't get the right to claim that because it says so in the Bible, that you're allowed to say it and that you're protected from any criticism that will come your way.

You're entitled to your beliefs about gays. That's something I cannot change. But now, in 21st century America, a country that's becoming more accepting of a person's sexual orientation and accepting that love is love, regardless if it's John and Jane, Jane and Lindsay, or John and James - You're right to shout to the high heavens that your very nature is a sin against God almighty and have us accept and tolerate your intolerance is null and void.

The Top 10 Worst Movies of 2013 - Part II (#'s 5-1)

Here we go, boys and girls: the top 5 worst movies I've seen this year. These are the films which drove me crazy; the ones that pissed me off, left me feeling bitter, and/or flat pissed me off.

5. The Lone Ranger - The biggest flop of the summer shares the honor of worst blockbuster of 2013. The Lone Ranger's dilemma is that the filmmakers couldn't decide whether this was an action comedy, or a gritty, dark take on the television series and as a result it ends up being neither compelling or exciting to watch. Note to Disney: just because you brought together the same people who were behind the mega-successful Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise (Gore Verbenski directing, Jerry Bruckheimer producing, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio writing and Johnny Depp starring), that doesn't mean you can try and essentially make the same damn movie again and expect the same result as the last series of movies you've been working on!

4. The Hangover Part III - You remember the first Hangover movie, right? You know, the one that was actually funny? Yeah, director and co-writer Todd Phillips sure can't, because he's tried like hell the last four years to duplicate the same success of the first movie, but to less extent each time. 2011's The Hangover Part II gave us the same jokes as last time that were hit-and-miss but overall a big disappointment, but in 2013, I'll gladly take the recycled gags and wacky hijinks from Part II than whatever the hell this conclusion to the Wolfpack trilogy is supposed to be, because I can tell you, it isn't comedy. Not once did I laugh at the antics onscreen (including Zack Galifinakis accidentally decapitating a giraffe - really), and any of the charm that overgrown frat boys Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Galifinakis) had is long gone by this point. I hesitate to call this a comedy, and I'm not calling it an action-thriller because it's neither exciting, nor thrilling. It's more like a bitter, cynical finale that's given up entirely.

3. Evil Dead - And speaking of mean-spirited and deeply cynical movies, this pointless and unnecessary remake by director/co-writer Fede Alvarez epitomizes everything I've grown to despise about recent horror films: their lack of creativity to set up an interesting scenario - five friends enter a deserted cabin in the scary woods, and bad thing start happening; characters doing incredibly stupid things because the plot says so; and grizzly scenes of torture violence and copious amounts of gore for the sake of shocking an audience, as opposed to scaring them. This sort of thing worked for Saw, but since then, many studios are taking their cues from the Jigsaw school of torture porn, and it's done a great disservice to the genre. Also, allow me call a film like this for what it really is: lazy, uninspired shit.

2. Romeo & Juliet - Yes, you're reading that correctly. This bastardization of the Bard's famous romantic tragedy comes in at second place, after I called it the worst movie of the year. I think the only factor keeping this monstrosity out of the top spot is that Lesly Manville as the Nurse for House Capulet and Paul Giamatti as Friar Lawrence are actually good and are able to convey the spirit of Shakespeare's prominent supporting players, despite the atrocious handling of the source material by Academy-Award winning screenwriter Julian Fellows (who ought to know better), a major miscast in Haliee Steinfeld as Juliet, terrible acting by everyone involved and sludgy pacing.  Besides two redeeming characters, this movie is an insult to Shakespeare himself, dumbing down his beautiful and elegant words to please the Twilight crowd.

My pick for the worst film of 2013 surprised even me. This film came out waaaaaay earlier in the year, but because of the bad word of mouth it received, I wisely avoided it. That is, until I watched the film on Netflix on a late November night. I can honestly say that not only this is the absolute worst movie of the year, not only one of the worst comedies I've ever seen, but this irredeemable crock of shit is the frontrunner for worst film of the decade.

1. Movie 43 - I've watched some truly awful movies while doing this blog: That's My Boy, LOL, Last Ounce of Courage immediately come to mind. This year's Movie 43 ranks right up there as one of the worst movies I've ever had to review. That will be a review coming either Christmas Eve, or early in the new year, but here's the main jist of why this abomination had me fuming more than all the others I've listed: a film like this shouldn't even exist. Someone over at Relativity Media (the same studio which spawned the previously mentioned Romeo & Juliet and the dreadful sci-fi bomb, Skyline) was pitched the idea of various comedy sketches that would be packed with big A-list talent, talented comedic actors and competent comedy writers & directors and would  be brimming with offensive, shock humor and audiences would love it. They were sadly mistaken, as the box office returns and universal contempt by film critics and audiences alike showed. The reason I say this shouldn't exist is because, in a perfect world, this idea of a film filled with mean-spirited, one-note jokes (the "Homeschooled" segment is particularly a nasty piece of work); aggressively tasteless and humiliating scenes involving female characters (I hope jokes about menstrual blood, facial feces and buck naked women being used as iPod joke tickle your fancy!); and gags that have a glimmer of potential wasted with lazy comedy writing (the"Superhero Speed Dating" segment featuring Justin Long, Jason Sudekis, Kristen Bell and Uma Thurman should have been the highlight) would have been laughed out of the building and/or locked away like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Instead, this vile, ugly, revolting, shallow, and stupendously unfunny piece of shite got the green light and anyone who paid to watch this in a theater (or on Netflix, which I did) paid the price. Do yourselves a favor: AVOID WATCHING THIS GARBAGE AT ANY AND ALL COSTS!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mr. Brown and The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is now the shortest of the Middle-Earth series by a whopping 161 minutes (or 2 hours and 41 minutes). Yet, Peter Jackson's second entry into his prequel trilogy feels like a 3-hour opus, filled with rousing action sequences and stunning production value (it's really amazing the filmmakers could still find uncharted places within New Zealand to shoot these films). Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes Design, Visual Effects, Sound Editing and the score, once again composed and conducted by the great Howard Shore - the look and feel of this film rivals Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire for Hollywood decadence at their best. Like James Cameron, Jackson is that rare director who knows what to do with a massive budget, and not a cent is wasted in the final product. They all serve at the altar of Jackson's untamed imagination and he does let it fly (the barrel waterfall sequence alone will get applause for it's off-the-walls creativity in an action sequence) often in this installment of the adventures of Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armentage) company of thirteen Dwarves, still on their quest to reclaim Erebor, the Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain, which has been under occupation by the vile Smaug (a deliciously evil Benedict Cumberbatch), which is a visual marvel unto itself.

Going into The Hobbit 2, you should know, upfront, this movie isn't close to the perilous nature of 2002's The Two Towers, and if you saw last year's An Unexpected Journey, you know that first installment was bloated and you might have felt that it didn't have the same magic as Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. I still feel that, while trying to make this new trilogy as a bridge to connect to the original LOTR trilogy by using Tolkien's Appendix section from The Return of the King, this really should have been what Jackson intended it to originally be: a two movie, 3-hour affair. Still, I really enjoyed this installment and I feel Jackson finally found his grove again in telling a thrilling and exciting story that even when we see stupid shit like Thorin using a metal container to float down a river of liquid molten gold, I can forgive because I'm having too much fun to give a damn. There and Back Again will conclude The Hobbit trilogy on December 17 of next year, and already I wait in anticipation for what PJ has in store for us.
*** stars out of ****