Never Ever, Ever, Ever (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping review)

The first time I watched This Is Spinal Tap, was when I was in my late teens, it was also around that time that experienced Fubar as well. I can thank my friend Nick for those movies, because he loved to watch documentaries and mockumentaries when we were growing up.

And because I already had a love affair with satire in other shapes and forms, it makes sense that I’d give this weeks movie review a thumbs up.

 

 

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Director(s): Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
released on blu-ray September 13, 2016
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Audience Score 68%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg are all members of the popular comedy group The Lonely Island. Known for their involvement with SNL and Samberg in particular for his acting skills, this group generally delivers topical and entertaining satire.

Popstar never deviates from that pattern or presentation, which is a testament to these gents ability. After all, the mockumentary has been done a few times before, some would say done to death. Worse still, musical mockumentaries will always have to compare themselves to This Is Spinal Tap, the quintessential piece of that cinematic format.

Which means that I don’t really need to dig into the story this time around, because we should all know how it goes.

Connor4real (Andy Samberg) is a popstar who is about to release his followup album, but he makes some bad decisions, like investing with an appliance manufacturer that only shares his tracks whenever one of their machines is used. And of course his sophomore album bombs, forcing Connor4real to do everything he can to maintain his solo career, despite major attempts from his DJ Owen (Jorme Taccone), fans, and even talk show hosts to see a reunion tour of his former group Style Boyz. You see, Style Boyz were three friends that included Connor, Owen, and the now missing writer of the group Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). The group originally broke up when Connor and Lawrence got into a fight over a music award that had been attributed to Connor only.

We watch Connor4real spiral out of control, fighting with everything he has, except for that desire to reunite with this childhood friend. Ultimately the movie leads us to it’s inevitable reconciliation, and all is right in the world.

But in all honesty, I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes… not once, but twice. So if that isn’t an indication of a weak ending, I don’t know what is. And when I actually did force myself through it, I was indifferent.

Pros: The jokes are consistent and the material is solid for the most part, but Samberg really does hold all the star power here, and it’s what makes even the weak moments digestable.

Cons: It isn’t a perfect story by any means, but it’s one you recognize, and I think the movie suffers for it. In quite a few places it feels like you’re watching a sketch instead of a feature length movie.

Runtime: 1 hour 27 minutes

Points of Interest: In the movie Seal tells the audience he was scarred by wolves, when in real life it’s from an autoimmune disease called lupus, wolves are classified as “canis lupis.” Justin Timberlake cameos as Connors personal chef.

Maybe it’s a parody of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, maybe it’s a parody of Macklemore, and maybe it’s a parody of the state of popular music in our times, but I don’t think it really matters. We laugh at the jokes because they’re funny and we understand the punchline. After all, I never like to admit that I was wrong.

 

 

 

 

The Lonely Island make comedy music for a viral age, and some might think that this entry in their record is passable for forgettable, I’m inclined to believe that, but who’s to say that this is what we need right now? Never say never, and never stop never stopping.

I’m theoried out for the evening friends. Hit me back tomorrow with something wise and uncharacteristic.

Tim!

Explicit Content (The Nice Guys review)

Pornography isn’t supposed to be intellectually stimulating, it’s supposed to arouse your sexual organs and get your mind on the topic of sexual intercourse. It generally exploits the sexual act, but sometimes there is a story to help the viewer get into a theme and turn them on.

But what if you throw politics into your pornographic video? Doesn’t it lose it’s lustre? Well, this week’s movie review explores exactly that, with some gratuitous results.

 

 

 

The Nice Guys (2016)

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger
Director: Shane Black
released on blu-ray August 23, 2016
********* 9/10

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IMDB: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Audience Score 80%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Shane Black is an American writer, director, producer, and sometimes actor.

With a very interesting history in film, he has written the first two Lethal Weapon movies, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and disaster The Long Kiss Goodnight before venturing into the realm of director a decade later in a great career recovery. As a writer/director he has been responsible for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 (which Chris loves to remind me is basically the same movie as KKBB) and now The Nice Guys. It should also be noted that he has The Predator sequel, The Destroyer, and Doc Savage on his plate to release in the next few years.

Are you get a theme here folks? Black is excellently prepared to create action based movie, especially those which fit inside of noir universes. So where does The Nice Guys fit into this mix, you ask?

Well, it’s kind of an amazing story about two second-rate PIs that initially start out at odds but end up working together to investigate what is supposed to be the suicide of a Los Angeles porn star in the 1970s. One of the men, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired by the victims aunt to find Misty, as the aunt believes Misty is still alive. March is somewhat skeptical, but takes the job. He then finds out that a missing girl named Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley) is involved. Amelia hires enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to keep March off her trail. But after he is jumped by two thugs looking for Amelia, Healy realizes they are part of something larger, and involves March so they can work together to solve the Misty Mountain suicide. March’s teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) tags along as well, as she doesn’t think March will follow through.

The two PIs and Holly eventually unravel a much larger plot that involves an experimental porn/documentary which Misty Mountains starred in, and which Amelia helped create. The video exposes how Detroit automakers are working with the government to prevent a mandatory inclusion of catalytic converters into new vehicles. Amelia’s mother Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger) is an important official in the US Department of Justice, but it turns out she is part of the conspiracy as well, and has been working with the thugs to confuse March and Healy.

Ultimately, March and Healy are able to get a copy of the film to the police after it is shown at an auto show as part of a secret protest by the projectionist Misty and Amelia worked with. Judith goes to jail, but the Detroit automakers are immune from charges. Healy and March decide to continue to work together, and name their agency, The Nice Guys.

It is an excellent story wrapped about a buddy cop comedy, and featuring a healthy amount of self-aware violence and dark humour. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is undeniable, but Angourie Rice is excellent as the bright-eyed, yet sharp, Holly. Her inclusion manages to elevate a form of filmmaking that has seen better years.

Pros: It’s oddly refreshing given that the premise of the story is about clean air and dirty pictures. The contrasting styles of it’s two male leads, and the absurdist situations they get themselves into well keep you engaged. And the conscious efforts of young Holly March provide a ground.

Cons: The story felt a little pressured to follow through in places, it might have been nice (intentional pun) to see some breathability between scenes and set changes.

Runtime1 hour 56 minutes

Points of Interest: As the movies starts, and Holland March is monologuing, a porno theatre is playing a movie called Bang Bang Kiss Kiss. Shane Black films typically feature Christmas in them, this one has a scene towards the ends that takes place at Christmas.

This film features incredibly common action tropes of people being thrown through windows, traditional explosions, and shootouts. But the action is never the centre of the story, rather it reminds you how odd sex and death are, and makes your head shake as work through the plot of the film. The Nice Guys is a buddy cop comedy for this generation, a little more sophisticated, but not completely removed from it’s history.

 

 

 

The Nice Guys doesn’t get too hung up on the pornography itself or even the industry as it’s story progresses along, but it does find an avenue to engage it’s audience in a rather intense way. This has a lot to do with Black’s familiarity with the action and comedy genres, and his ability to use both in interesting ways. The Nice Guys aren’t really that nice, but they get the job done.

Love At First Fright (Love In The Time Of Monsters review)

For someone who claims to not want to watch horror movies, I seem to be reviewing a number of them already this year.

I would complain. but I’ve been rather fortunate to have watched really excellent movies, ones that walk the fine line between fear and folly. Which only adds to my theory that satire is the best way to communicate issues we’d rather ignore.

And so here we are, at this week’s Theatrical Tuesday with a horror movie that just might warm your stone cold heart.

 

 

 

Love In The Time Of Monsters (2014)

Cast: Gena Shaw, Kane Hodder, Marissa Skell, Danny Vasquez, Michael McShane, Hugo Armstrong
Director: Matt Jackson
released on blu-ray February 17, 2015
******** 8/10

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IMDB: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A, Audience Score 74%
The Guardian: N/A

 

Matt Jackson is something of a unicorn as it relates to the movie industry. I scoured the internet and found very little in the way of information about him other than learning he has been involved in entertainment for over a decade now, getting his start in Arizona and developing his skills over a myriad of independent productions. He has directed the action/adventure/comedy Background(ed) and the horror/comedy Love In The Time of Monsters.

He frequently collaborates with producer Andy Gunn, and I hope they are either working on a sequel or something equivalent soon. Did I just give away my thoughts on the movie?

Love In The Time Of Monsters is not, despite the clever title, a parody of Love In the Time Of Cholera, which I am thankful for because that movie was super boring. I know, I know, it’s beautifully shot, but so what? If something is polished and turdlike, that doesn’t make it worthwhile, its just shiny shit.

So what is LITTOFM then, you ask?

It’s a story about two sisters who have lost their father to a family vacation accident many years previous and how they have grown up as a result of said accident. One is a hopeless romantic about to get married, and the other a cynic with no interest in long-term attachment.

We follow them as they take a vacation to Uncle Slavko’s All-American Lodge, where Carla (Marissa Skell) hopes to surprise fiance Johnny who is working at the resort as a Bigfoot impersonator (one of many). Marla (Gena Shaw) wants to have fun and hopefully have a casual encounter or two, though she has no luck with this. While this is happening the entire fleet of Bigfoot impersonators (save one) are exposed to a chemical waste that turns them into mindless zombielike creatures, and some/one of them even gain powers akin to Gremlins 2, which gave me a particular moment of glee.

What is amazing about this movie is that somehow through all of the absurdity, the tongue-in-check horror movie moments, the b-movie practical effects, and the expected Bigfoot cameo, we easily relate to each member in the sizeable cast of characters. The backdrop mainly serves as a plot device, but it truly is a story of love in the time of monsters. And if you’re caught of guard, love will appear.

 

Pros: There are a number of horror actors who represent in the movie and the cliches are played to a T. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Carla and Marla. Also Dr. Abraham Lincoln was comedy gold.

Cons: My major complaint is the introduction to the story – I kept expecting there to be more of a tie-in to the father’s death and the one scene about it felt somewhat forced. This is worrisome because a casual movie viewer might get turned off before the story gets interesting.

Runtime1 hour 37 minutes

Points of InterestThe one gratuitous nudity/death scene was delivered by Heather Rae Young – she happens to be a former Playboy Playmate.

I keep thinking back on the film as I write this review and I can’t help but smile when I think about all of the goofy special effects and the use of CGI in a disarming and fun way. I always wonder if a horror comedy is going to go off the rails and make me want to swear them off altogether, but Love In The Time of Monsters has cemented that love in my heart to keep back at least a dozen bad examples of the genre.

Jackson has done an excellent job adding to the oeuvre of horror comedy and I sincerely hope that another of these flicks gets made, even if it’s on another horror topic. With that said, I highly recommend you take some time out of your day and watch Love In The Time Of Monsters, I have a theory you just might fall in love with it.

Tim!

You’re Gonna Start A Howl (Wolfcop review)

I like to think I’ve seen my share of horror movies. Mainly because I’m a child of the 80’s and horror movies were in their heyday between the 1980s and 1990s, so just as I was growing up I got to know the major successes of the time and watch them in the comfort (read: discomfort) of my parents basement.

But the thing about horror movies is that they come out all the time and haven’t really slowed down by any means since that supposed heyday.

What that means for the novice movie watcher or the aged veteran, is that there are now all kinds of genre benders out there, and there is a good chance that you haven’t seen them all yet. Which is where this week’s entry comes in.

 

 

 

Wolfcop (2014)

Cast: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Jesse Moss
Director: Lowell Dean
released on blu-ray March 10, 2015
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, Audience Score 46%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Lowell Dean is a Canadian film maker – yay for Canadian content! He has directed two feature films to date, 13 Eerie which was released in theatres in 2013 and Wolfcop which was released in theatres in 2014. I scoured the internet, including IMDB, Wikipedia and even his personal website, in the hopes of explaining his directorial style some more but unfortunately that was all I could find. Oh, I also know he was born in 1979 which makes him 37 or 38 years old.

So yeah. There’s not much to go on in the way of an introduction.

But sometimes that’s what happens with indie films, you don’t get a lot in the way of traditional information. And further to that point, the content often strays from your typical fare because, dammit, it can.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

Lou Garou (Leo Fafard), an alcoholic cop in the small community of Woodhaven, spends most of his day either asleep at work or at Jessica’s (Sarah Lind) bar. When his friend Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry) phones in a complaint of occult activity in the area of his gun store, the police chief (Aidan Devine) sends Garou to investigate. After meeting with Higgins, Garou dismisses his concerns as the actions of heavy metal fans. Higgins again reports a disturbance, and the chief forces Garou to investigate. When he arrives at the scene, Garou finds occultists in the middle of a ceremony to sacrifice an upstart politician who was running on a platform of reform and anti-corruption. Garou is knocked out and wakes up the next morning in his bed, not remembering how he got there, though he has a pentagram carved into his stomach.

Garou’s senses become extremely sharp, and his wounds heal near-instantly. As he investigates the case, he surprises Jessica and his coworkers, all of whom had written him off as lazy and incompetent. As he goes over his notes at Jessica’s bar, she encourages him to drink more and invites him to join her privately. Before he can, two criminals part of a local gang sneak into the bar and attack him in the bathroom. Garou, who is in the middle of a transformation into a werewolf, easily kills one and drives off the other. Angry that they did not kidnap Garou, the gang leader stabs out the eye of the escaped gangster when he claims to have seen Garou transform into a monster. Meanwhile, Garou ends up in Higgins’ house, handcuffed to the bed. Higgins explains that he captured Garou and restrained him for his own safety. Higgins later researches his condition, and they learn that occult ceremonies in which a werewolf is sacrificed can strengthen the magic of reptilian shapeshifters.

Garou and his partner, Tina (Amy Matysio), investigate the deaths at the bar and a series of seemingly unrelated armed robberies by a gang who wear pig masks. Higgins convinces Garou that he must be restrained at night, and Garou submits to being locked in the town’s jail. However, when the police station receives a call for help, Garou, who has since transformed into a werewolf but has retained his human intelligence, dons his policeman’s uniform and heads to the local supermarket, where the pig-mask gang have taken hostages. Garou savagely kills all the pig-mask robbers and heads toward a meth lab. Higgins cowers in the car as Garou again savagely kills several gun-wielding gangsters…

This movie is rather short, as most horror and comedy films are, and it takes full advantage of the runtime to slowly draw you in and assimilate your sensibilities. It does this so that all of a sudden that when the final 25 minutes start to creep in, you haven’t realized how casually you’ve invested in the construction.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing, because the movie starts slow and is somewhat confusing, but as you understand Lou, the town of Woodhaven and it’s characters you almost feel robbed of more movie. On top of that Wolfcop walks a fine balance between the nostalgia of practical effects and the impracticality of them in execution. You can tell that the crew had fun making the movie, that’s for sure.

Pros: The spin Wolfcop takes on the werewolf mythology is charming, funny, and something to be appreciated. Of course, it helps that it takes it’s cues from the campiness of the 1980s. That’s the beauty of Postmodernism though, taking dissimilar concepts like a werewolf and a police officer, combining them, and producing interesting results.

Cons: Because this is unexplored territory and the comedy uneven, not all of the jokes come through – They are particularly dry. I wish that more time was spent on developing the humour of the situation.

Runtime: 1 hours 19 minutes

Points of Interest: The film exists in distribution because Dean was awarded the 2013 CineCoup Film Accelerator, worth $1 million in financing. The main character is is named Lou Garou which is a play on words. In French loup garou means werewolf.

So there you have it, a movie about an alcoholic cop turned werewolf and filmed in Canada exists. It’s rare for Canadian film to be part of the horror landscape (think Ginger Snaps), and even stranger still for a movie to do well, but it is in a fine tradition.

The truth is that Wolfcop isn’t doing anything tremendously new or interesting as it relates to horror movies, but what it does do, it has a lot of fun doing. Sure, there are lots of horror comedies out there, but that doesn’t mean that they are Canadian born and breed. As I mentioned earlier, maybe you haven’t watched a horror movie in a while, so If you want to try something “new” Wolfcop will likely surprise you, in a good way.

But that’s just a theory. What do you think? Have you seen Wolfcop? It’s been out for a couple of years now, but it’s not stale by any means. I’m done for now friends, I’ll see you tomorrow with some wisdom.

Tim!

The New Anti-Heroes On The Block (The Big Short review)

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was no laughing matter. A lot of people lost their jobs, homes, and hope because of the short-sided greed of those in much higher positions of wealth.

It threatened the potential collapse of the largest financial banks, which some feared would send us into a new dark ages, and was eventually prevented by monetary aid of national governments.

In brief, it was fucked up.

The aftermath was that we experienced a global recession for four years, and even now businesses are hesitant to share wealth and distribute resources as readily as they were before. This Theatrical Tuesday entry looks at the “heroes” who saw it coming, and how they dealt with it.

 

 

 

The Big Short (2015)

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Director: Adam McKay
released on blu-ray March 15, 2016
********* 9/10

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IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Audience Score 88%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Adam McKay is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. Known for his comedic chops, he has directed both Anchorman movies, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys, which are were all lead by his creative partner, Will Ferrell.

The Big Short is the first film McKay has directed which doesn’t star Will Ferrell, and while it is considered a more dramatic story, it has a lot of his typical satire elements, which fit nicely in the McKay fabric.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

In 2005, eccentric hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) discovers that the U.S. housing market is extremely unstable, being based on subprime loans that are high risk and providing fewer and fewer returns. Predicting that the market will collapse sometime in the second quarter of 2007, he realizes that he can profit from this situation by creating a credit default swapmarket, allowing him to bet against the housing market. He visits several major banks and investment dealers with this idea; these firms, believing that the housing market is secure, accept his proposal. This earns the ire of Burry’s clients who believe that he is wasting their money and demand that he stop his activities, but he refuses. As the predicted time of the collapse approaches, his investors lose their confidence and consider pulling their money out, but Burry places limitations on withdrawals, much to his investors’ anger. However, the market collapses just as he predicted and he produces 489% profits from the plan.

Trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears of Burry’s actions from one of the bankers Burry dealt with, and soon realizes that Burry’s predictions are likely true. He decides to put his own stake in the credit default swap market. A misplaced phone call alerts hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) to his plans, and Baum is convinced to join Vennett. The two discover that the impending market collapse is being further perpetuated by the sale of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), groups of poor loans that are packaged together and given fraudulent AAA ratings due to the conflict of interest and dishonesty of the rating agencies.

When Baum attends the American Securitization Forum in Las Vegas, he interviews CDO manager Mr. Chau (Byron Mann), who has created synthetic CDOs, making what is described as a chain of increasingly large bets on the faulty loans. Baum realizes, much to his horror, that the scale of the fraud will cause a complete collapse of the economy. Baum’s business partners convince him to go through with the credit default swaps, profiting from the situation at the banks’ expense.

Eager young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) accidentally discover a prospect by Vennett and also decide to become involved in the credit default swaps. Since they are below the capital threshold for an ISDA Master Agreement needed to pull off the trades necessary to profit from the situation, they enlist the aid of retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). The three visit the Mortgage Securities Forum in Las Vegas, where they manage to successfully make the deals. Shipley and Geller are initially ecstatic, but Rickert is disgusted by their essentially celebrating an impending economic collapse and soon-to-be-lost lives. The two are horrified, and take a much more emotional stake in the collapse by trying to tip off the press and their families about the upcoming disaster. Ultimately, they profit immensely, but are left with their faith in the system broken.

How this movie manages to be both detail oriented and funny, while approaching a still raw subject, is kind of amazing, and what is more impressive is the fact that it does this while featuring an ensemble cast.

Pros: Steve Carell has a fantastic turn as neurotic and disenfranchised hedge fund manager Mark Baum. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt do okay too. Also the Margot Robbie bit, that kind of pokes fun at The Wolf of Wall Street was hilarious.

Cons: The movie runs a little long, and the slow start featuring fourth-wall breaking pieces feels strange at first, but then the movie tosses that out, speeds up really quick, and crams a lot in towards the end.

Runtime: 130 minutes

Points of Interest: No special effects were used for Michael Burry’s glass eye. That is all Christian Bale, and kinda mesmerizing. The character Mark Baum is based on real-life money manager Steve Eisman. This is the second Michael Lewis book that Brad Pitt has helped produce and acted in. The first was Moneyball.

This is both entertaining and engaging, with the heroes of the story being flawed and real, because they are based on real people and adaptations of real people who were involved in the housing crisis of 2008. The fact that The Other Guys is a McKay movie makes a lot of sense, as that movie features the same types of villains as this one.

The fact that The Big Short depicts it’s leads as heroes is a bit ridiculous if you ask me. It assumes that these men actually did something for the greater good. Yes, they dealt with danger, adversity, and their personal reputations to expose and react to the impending housing crisis, but most of them profited from it.

Michael Burry and Mark Baum “kind of” walked away, but they made a lot of money in the process. And even Brad Pitt’s financial guru pariah got something out of it.

I read a review that said you’ll leave the movie feeling angry, and that is true, but I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think that we get excited about people making money in a situation when so many lost out. Something to chew on.

No more theories today, friends. Come back on Wednesday for some Wisdom.

Tim!