Film Review: Mascots (2016)

Release Date: September 10th, 2016 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Christopher Guest
Written by: Christopher Guest, Jim Piddock
Music by: Jeffrey C.J. Vanston
Cast: Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Zach Woods, Chris O’Dowd, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Jim Piddock, Maria Blasucci, Oscar Nunez, Harry Shearer

Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Well, my name is A.J. Blumquist, and I’m a former mascot, Danny the Donkey, and uh, I’m a judge this year for the Fluffies. For the two people that don’t know, uh, Danny the Donkey, my mascot alter ego, was the first one to have an anatomically correct costume.” – A.J. Blumquist

When you have something really good, you can ruin it by having too much. This can be said about cheesecake, high end whiskey, cocaine, sex with street walkers and well, sadly… Christopher Guest mockumentaries.

One could say that this isn’t Christopher Guest’s fault, he’s just making what he knows and he is a master of the genre. He can’t help that there has been a huge over-saturation of films like this and really, a lot of that could be due to how good his movies have been. But on the flip side of that, this falls flat in just about every way and there are recent mockumentaries that are much funnier than this: What We Do In the Shadows, for instance.

Guest rounds up his typical group of stars minus a few key people, most notably Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. He spends more time using newer actors in main roles and most of his great collaborators take more of a backseat here. John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and Michael Hitchcock were severely underutilized and even Jane Lynch, who got a good amount of screen time, deserved more.

Out of the newcomers, I didn’t really connect to any of them except for Zach Woods. I liked Woods in this. But even Chris O’Dowd, who I usually find funny, didn’t hit the mark here.

It’s not that this picture is unfunny, it has some funny bits, but it doesn’t keep you as amused as Best In ShowWaiting for Guffman or A Mighty Wind. It’s nowhere near as incredibly as This Is Spinal Tap and it falls short of living up to Guest’s previous weakest film, For Your Consideration.

I’m not sure what this means for Guest’s future, as other reviews I’ve seen aren’t too fond of this film and feel the same way that I do. But if he sticks with Netflix he’s probably fine, as they’ll pump out anything with a famous name on it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Christopher Guest’s other mockumentaries but this is the worst one so all the others are better.

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi, Alice Krige, Chris O’Dowd, Benicio del Toro (cameo), Chris Evans (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I will tell Father you died with honor.” – Thor, “I didn’t do it for him.” – Loki

Unlike the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I have revisited lately, Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as good as my memories of it.

I do remember being pretty fond of it when it came out but it just doesn’t seem to fit well within the overall MCU when you take what came after it into context. Sure, it gives us the red Infinity Stone but not much else here is all that important. But I guess seeing Thor and Loki play off of one another is always, at the very least, amusing.

In the end, this is the worst of the three Thor movies. But it is not all that bad. It’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: The Age of Ultron. It’s just a film that wasn’t all that necessary. The relationship between Thor and Jane doesn’t matter after this movie, the secondary characters are sort of forgotten except for Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who at least makes one more appearance.

This was just a movie where no one really seemed to be all that into it except for the actors playing Asgardians. Hemsworth was great as Thor, Hiddleston is perfection as Loki and Odin is a commanding Odin. Natalie Portman obviously didn’t want to be in this and acted as such. Christopher Eccleston, who I was excited about seeing as the villain, just dialed in his performance and is one of the most forgettable MCU villains to date.

The film was dry, mostly boring and even the fantasy worlds that they traveled to weren’t very imaginative or fun. Other than Asgard, all the other realms in this just looked as bland, dry and awful as a sand sandwich.

The Earth stuff was all overcast and rainy. I know that this takes place in London but c’mon… the magical realms were dark desert; Earth was grey industrial wetness. This isn’t an exciting film to look at.

While I guess it was about time for Marvel to introduce the Infinity Stones (or at least more than one), there are better ways this could have been done. Sure, I wanted a second Thor movie and it would have been a good place to bring in a new Stone but the execution here was lackluster. This whole thing should have been rewritten.

For a film about traversing through magical realms, outer space and battling fantastical shit, Thor: The Dark World felt very small and confined.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: ThorThe Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok

Film Review: St. Vincent (2014)

Release Date: September 5th, 2014 (TIFF)
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Theodore Melfi
Music by: Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard

Chernin Entertainment, Crescendo Productions, The Weinstein Company, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You need to defend yourself, or you get mowed down.” – Vincent, “I’m small, if you haven’t noticed.” – Oliver, “Yeah, so was Hitler.” – Vincent, “That’s a horrible comparison.” – Oliver, “Indeed. Making a point, though.” – Vincent

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to catching this film.

I’m a huge Bill Murray fan but then again, who isn’t? I’m not a fan of Melissa McCarthy though, so I found going into this to be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Well, as expected, Murray was pretty damn awesome. This is one of my favorite dramatic roles that he has played and he still brought the comedy where it was needed. His character was also a bit of a departure from what one is used to in a Murray performance.

In modern years, Bill Murray has essentially played Bill Murray. In this film, as Vincent, he was a pretty complex character that was more than just another Bill Murray caricature. He was a hard edged Vietnam veteran with a strong Brooklyn accent and a backstory that was heartbreaking and heartwarming as it unfolded throughout the movie.

Melissa McCarthy also impressed me in this film. I have to give her props on her mostly dramatic performance and I hope to see more acting from her like this. My issue with her in the past, is that she came off as the female Chris Farley. Everything about her career revolved around comedy based off of her weight. I just find that to be a low form of comedy and not that funny. Additionally, where she isn’t a walking fat joke, she fills the void with lewdness and crassness that has become the norm in modern comedy but just goes to show how shitty modern comedy has become.

Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the boy in the film, acted really well for a kid with a pretty small filmography thus far. His character befriends the grumpy and mean Vincent and it is the relationship between these two that propels this film.

Chris O’Dowd plays a teacher/priest that goes on to expand his acting chops and gives us another great and witty character. Vincent’s pregnant Russian hooker girlfriend is played by Naomi Watts and she is pretty hilarious here. I didn’t even realize it was her until about halfway through the film. Terrence Howard plays an asshole bookie but is almost a forgettable and unnecessary character.

This is a really good picture for Theodore Melfi, a first time feature film director. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next, as this was a stellar first effort. Melfi, with the help of this great cast, gave us one of the best films of the year, in my honest opinion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Some of Bill Murray’s other films like The Life AquaticBroken Flowers and Lost In Translation.

Film Review: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Release Date: February 4th, 2018
Directed by: Julius Onah
Written by: Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi, Donal Logue, Simon Pegg (voice), Greg Grunberg (voice)

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, Netflix, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Logic doesn’t apply to any of this.” – Tam

I’m not really sure what this jumbled mess was that I just watched but it’s presumably connected to those two previous films with “Cloverfield” in their title. Additionally, it’s supposed to explain how the stories in those films came to be. Yet, this film didn’t even do an effective job at explaining itself, so putting three films and what’s probably going to be an ongoing franchise on it’s back is one hell of a production misfire.

To be brutally blunt, his is a pretty idiotic and pointless film. It has a pretty amazing cast, in all honesty, but everything feels dull and emotionless and it is mindbogglingly stupid.

From a scientific standpoint, this picture has the acumen of a loaf of Wonder bread. It’s got an alluring crust but has nothing inside but flavorless, soft, weightless, bleached material and empty carbohydrates. It’s the basic white bitch of science movies. Granted, so many “science” films are basic white bitches these days. However, The Cloverfield Paradox is the type of movie that will seem profound to people who just fill their news feed on Facebook and Twitter with science articles featuring clickbait headlines yet when you try to talk to them about the article, it’s immediately apparent that they just read the headline and clicked “share”. It’s also apparent that they think science “isn’t settled”, crystals have magic powers, the Earth is flat and gravity is poison created by demonic energy to spoil avocados.

From start to finish, this film is hard to follow. I was never really clear what the hell they were doing in space in the first place. Some crazy insane experiment with a laser beam that fucks up space and time because the Earth has some sort of energy crisis. All the while, this laser is incredibly un-fucking-stable. But yeah, let’s keep firing this thing up right above Earth. Then you have Donal Logue’s character, an author who is on television warning people that this experiment will rip everything apart and fill every Earth in every dimension with monsters and demons. And then “BOOM!” that’s what actually happens because “science, y’all!!!”

A bunch of other weird shit happens and this becomes a movie of WTFs where each one is more baffling and stupid than the one before it. At one point, Chris O’Dowd’s character loses his arm when it is eaten by the ship’s wall. He’s not in pain, it’s just gone. Then it comes crawling back from around the corner and starts giving the crew clues on what to do. Yes, this is really something that happens in this movie.

This film hurt my head. I mean, I felt like a drunk person that was also tripping but not a cool trip. No, it was one of those trips that isn’t horrible but it’s like your whole body feels fussy and irritated and your brain gets all heavy like cement and and just kind of makes you sit, motionless, accepting your fate until the trip finally passes in what seems like days but was actually less than two hours.

Also, this film’s script felt like it was written as something else and then it was retrofitted to “explain” the Cloverfield universe. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t written as a Cloverfield movie when it started, it reminded me of those later Hellraiser films where the studio just altered failed horror scripts into pointless sequels to make a quick buck. The thing is, the Cloverfield universe doesn’t need to be explained. I don’t need the movies to connect or even exist in the same space. They could have all been separate films that just followed a sort of connected theme or style.

As we’ve seen so far, a Cloverfield movie can’t be complete without a monster. We do get one in this film but it is literally just for the last two seconds of the movie, before the credits role. It’s also not a very creative beast, at least to the standard established by the previous two films, which both had interesting creatures.

Despite this film being a total pile of shit, I’m sure everyone watched it on Netflix this week and it will justify a sequel. But that’s Netflix’s formula, they translate views to quality and that’s why their productions aren’t what they used to be. Netflix movies are this generation’s version of “straight to video”.

In the end, this must be put through the unforgiving but always accurate Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Cloverfield films.