Bad Movie Club: Kill Squad

1982 action shenanigans

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Mark: 3/5; Fred: 2/5; Josh: fell asleep; Johnny: didn't finish)

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Following an assault by people for reasons that I never bothered paying attention to, a guy has to assemble his Vietnam buddies to get revenge. There's a lot of fighting.

Lots and lots and lots of fighting. There's a pattern established early on, and until a twist at the end that doesn't make any sense, it doesn't shift. There's some discussion of a lead, the characters go try to find so-and-so, there's a fight scene, and then there's a new lead. The cycle just repeats, ad nauseum, until you kind of wish somebody would punch you in the head and put you out of your misery.

My favorite parts are when they assemble the squad and after locating the member of the squad who, of course, is engaged in fisticuffs, he's told, "Joseph needs you!" and the part after they're assembled when they take turns showing off their skills with a weapon that none of them use at any other point in the movie. I also enjoyed the plethora of sound effects, and a scene where a character survives a fall from a five-story building onto a car.

I'm sure the script for Kill Squad had to have been about 1 1/2 pages long.

There are definitely better good-bad action movies to see, but if you're in the mood to watch nearly identical fight sequences for an hour and a half, I guess this isn't a bad way to go.


2016 hero story

Rating: 12/20

Plot: In this sequel to Birdemic: Shock and Terror, birds attack Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger's plane, and he and his mustache have to find a way to save all the passengers. The solution turns out to be landing the plane on the Hudson River. Although he's declared a hero immediately afterward, the airline and their insurance people have their doubts.

More heavy-handed hero-making from Clint Eastwood, a man who talks to chairs. There's probably nothing wrong with this movie, but it feels a little half-assed. I can almost picture Eastwood sitting in his chair--something that I assume would lead to a difficult conversation--after giving some vague direction and then Hanks or the cinematographer or somebody else asking him a question and the old man just waving his hand and saying, "I'm too old for this shit. Just do whatever. People will like this because it's about Sully Sullenberger, so stop asking me things."

The structure feels lazy, too. It starts with a nightmarish sequence with sketchy CGI planes crashing into buildings. I was confused because I knew Sully didn't crash into any buildings--just dirty, chilly water. And then we're in the days following the crash landing. Then, there are some flashbacks. And then we get to see the plane land in the Hudson a bunch of times. And then there are simulations. It all got pretty redundant, and I couldn't figure out why I was being subjected to so many flashbacks or scenes of Tom Hanks running.

Hanks seems to be going through the motions, too, almost like he decided to do this movie as a personal favor to Clint Eastwood because he really liked the Dirty Harry movies and then, once he realized it wasn't written well enough or with a dynamic enough character to get him another shot at an Oscar, decided to just be Tom Hanks with white hair and a mustache.

As with most things like this--ripped from the headlines!--you sense certain liberties were taken with the storytelling. From what I've read, the airlines weren't quite as antagonistic as this story made them out to be. However, I can understand why Eastwood and company needed to exaggerate that a bit. If it wasn't for that juicy storyline, this would just be a guy landing his plane in the water over and over again.

Oh, and my pet peeve is also in this movie.

I didn't need to see this movie, but I'm glad that I did. Now, I've done what Gregg Turkington was unable to do which I believe might give me "film buff" status.

Mr. Brooks

2007 crime drama

Rating: 12/20

Plot: The "Thumbprint Killer" tries to break his addiction to shooting people while they're having sex, and it might just be the comedic stylings of Dane Cook that get him there. Pervy Cook has incriminating photos and wants to make himself a third-wheel in the adventures of Mr. Brooks and his imaginary buddy. Meanwhile, a detective works on hunting him down, and his college-aged daughter has disturbing news. But Mr. Brooks, an intelligent guy, might just have a way to get out of a whirlwind of problems.

There's a scene where Costner and William Hurt start laughing, and it lasted for just a little too long, so I started laughing with them. I felt a little like Dane Cook's character, only I could see William Hurt.

The reason to see this is the idea at the center of it. My buddy Josh recommended and loaned this to me, and that was because of the idea rather than the execution of the idea. Having Hurt and Costner share dialogue gave a unique perspective on the inner workings of the intellectual psychopath idea that was probably starting to get a little tired by 2007. Hurt is probably the best thing about the movie, and he really seems to relish playing this type of character. I did a special feature with best cinematic imaginary friends a while back, and Brooks' pal Marshall could have probably ended up on there somewhere. Costner's performance is a little more uneven. It was nice seeing him exploring a different kind of character than normal, but the character was never all that believable and some of the character's quirks didn't make sense. What, for example, was going on after the first murder when Costner starts twirling and gesticulating?

Dane Cook. I just have to know who's idea that was. I don't like the shape of his head. He's not a total distraction here although it's easy to tell he's not exactly an actor. Demi Moore does precisely what she normally does, but the character she portrays is so poorly realized and at the heart of so many unnecessary subplots that it makes her performance seem annoying and unnecessary. I did enjoy the detail about her character being into younger men though.

I did really enjoy seeing cute little Reiko Aylesworth, what's-her-face in 24. Michelle? Was that her character's name? If so, that's probably a piece of information I can let go of.

The superfluous subplots winds up being what keeps this movie from being really good. Demi's character's divorce stuff, a lot of the stuff with Costner's daughter, another killer who growls crap like "We're gonna have some fun with you!" It just all a little too much of a distraction from what should have been the focus of this. This movie needed some serious trimming.

The writing also isn't very good. While there's some great individual pieces of dialogue, there's also this strange exchange between Demi Moore and Dane Cook about a "hunch" the former has:

Demi Moore: What do you have to tell me?
Dane Cook: Nothing.
Demi: Really? Because I was driving around and suddenly got this feeling you had something to tell me about the murder.
Dane: No, nothing.
Demi: Well, that's disappointing.

That conversation, by the way, ended with a "See you later, alligator."

There's also a moment where Mr. Brooks tells Dane Cook, "You look a little like that E.T. guy. You remember that movie where he flies the bike?" because Cook's character was wearing a hoodie. It was such a stupid piece of dialogue that I stopped rooting for the killer like I usually do and instead began to root for the Second Coming.

My favorite Mr. Brooks scene that didn't have a nipple in it involved orange juice. Costner pours himself a glass, attempts to take a sip several times, and ends up with it poised a few inches from his mouth after another character says something that he has to respond to.

I'm not sure why I notice things like this, but it makes me feel like I'm wasting my life away.

Anyway, thank you to Josh for recommending this and getting a copy into my hands.

Silent Saturday: The Parson's Widow

1920 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: After a parson passes away, an ambitious young buck gets the job. But it's on one condition--he has to marry the widow of his predecessor. The problem is that he's already engaged to a woman he actually loves. Oh, snap!

Two Carl Theodor Dreyer silent flicks this year, and both are comedies. This one is a lot more fun than most people would think it would be, but that's because most people don't realize how funny movies from Scandinavia can be.  The humor is also a little more modern than one might expect.

Take an early scene in which we're thrust into the cutthroat world of competitive preaching. Our protagonist is in a three-minister contest against John Lennon and a visibly-ill John Candy. And our hero, instead of Dreyer just making him an impossibly pristine and lovable figure, almost aims for buoyant anti-hero as he wishes the devil on one and attempts to sabotage the other. It's a funny scene, but it also sets up the character well, gives him some shading.

The main character is played by Elnar Rod, and he's got the perfect shape to wind up in a situation like this. He just looks green and has this desperate posture that helps the character work. He also had a bitchin' hat. The titular widow is played by Hildur Carlberg, and all I can really say about her physical appearance is that she looks exactly like how you'd imagine a woman named Hildur to look. She's also perfectly cast, just for her presence. She's a withered but imposing figure, but poisoned herring and Schnapps goggles apparently make her irresistible enough. She gets one stunning moment during an extended good-bye sequence that I thought was very touching. Carlberg only had three credited performances, and this was her last one. The sweetheart (Greta Almroth) is just kind of on the screen, not quite having that silent-movie feminine charm that I usually fall in love with.

Dreyer's direction brings a few magic tricks to help with the storytelling--unfocused camera fuzz, a cool use of split screen, and that move where the screen gradually darkens to focus on one character. I'm sure that last one has a name. And again, the movie is funny. There's a nifty scene with a demon costume, a funny scene featuring rings, and a weird wedding ceremony that made me realize I needed a better hat and more swords at my wedding.

Also--this is likely the first time a "snot rocket" ever made it into a movie. That piece of information is likely to get you the win at your next bar trivia night, so you're welcome.


2016 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A bus driver writes poems when he and his wife and dog aren't busy dreaming. 

"They were just words written on water." 

What a beautiful look into the life of a pair of dreamers, filled with comically poignant lines, fun Jarmuschian dialogue, and even some visual humor. The story is as pointless and mundane as life, and the characters' daily goings-on are about as redundant and uneventful as you'd expect characters' lives to be if you have any experience with a redundant and uneventful life as a human being. You might guess that this is a dreary movie with characters who slouch all the time, oppressed by the weight of humdrummery. But it's the complete opposite as there's almost a quiet effervescence with this couple. Adam Driver's Paterson is completely content as an observer of the world, a guy with seemingly no aspirations and with an appreciation of those colorful everyday things that William Carlos Williams wrote about. Golshifteh Farahani's character--Paterson's wife--is content with creating in various ways, a woman who does have aspirations but doesn't seem like the type of person who would be all that bothered if she never reached any of them. You just get the sense that while some people in the lives these two characters find themselves in would feel sorry for themselves, be bored by the routine of it all, and probably wind up mopey, Paterson and his wife are not people you have to worry about at all. 

That poetry though. Was it supposed to be good? For me, that was the most difficult thing to accept about this movie. Paterson's poems, which appeared as text on the screen as Driver read them slowly, contain good ideas but aren't well written. Maybe that's part of the point? Maybe that was supposed to be part of the humor? 

What Jarmusch gives us for a story is structured in seven (I think) chapters, each detailing a day in the week of these characters. Paterson wakes up without the need of an alarm clock somewhere between 6 A.M. and 6:30, he eats either Cheerios or a Cheerios knock-off, goes to work, talks to a co-worker, drives his bus, observes things or listens to conversations of passengers on the bus, writes poetry during his lunch break, eventually goes home, fixes his mailbox, talks to the wife about their days and their futures, takes the dog for a walk, hits a tavern for a beer and some conversation, and then goes home. The next day, like a jazz improvisational variation, happens about the same. The structure forces you to pay attention to the tiny differences, make connections between motifs, and try to predict what direction--if any--this will go in. Nothing much ever happens until one moment where something that feels very significant happens, but Jarmusch still demands the viewer's attention and draws you in with the minutia. 

I like how steeped in metaphor and symbols this movie is, and that's true even though I didn't really understand all the metaphors and symbols. Threats of dog-jacking, that lopsided mailbox, all the blacks and whites, a pair of shoes on the wrong feet, the character's time spent in the basement, a wall of local celebs (including Iggy Pop, of course), all those circles (including Cheerios or Cheerios knock-offs), a laundry free-style rap, various depths of beer, cupcakes, numerous references to twins, a pie made of Brussels sprouts and cheddar cheese, waterfall allusions, foam bullets. Is a character referencing getting his ass kicked in a chess game and then revealing that he's playing himself important or a quirky Jarmuschian bit of humor? How about Paterson's inability to force the dog to walk in the direction he wants him to? Or the fact that our protagonist is a proud Luddite? What about those conversations he eavesdrops on--about the boxer Hurricane, about a cute girl at a doughnut place, about an anarchist weaver? Or the poets Jarmusch decided to include in the script? Dante, Ginsberg, Emily "Fucking" Dickinson, Petrarch, Frank O'Hara, and, of course, William Carlos Williams are all alluded to. Is there a reason for that? Oh, and as any Jarmusch fan would have likely predicted, language differences play a role, too. 

The movie is busy with ideas--some small and some large--but it never feels like anything but a simple Jim Jarmusch movie. 

Like a lot of his recent films, this one feels a bit like a riddle, but it doesn't feel quite as fartsy or impenetrable to me. And yes, I'm talking about The Limits of Control. I guess that's because I could identify with the character a little more easily, a guy just digging the mundane rhythm of the everyday, knowing that so much depends on red wheelbarrows and white chickens and the deliciousness of the last plums. 

Movies-A-Go-Go: Cool As Ice

1991 white rapper movie

Rating: 5/20

Plot: A guy with stupid hair and ridiculous pants meets a girl and then gets mixed into some dangerous activities involving her family. It's not cool at all.

Stare at the above poster for an hour and a half and you've pretty much seen this movie. That's better than both seeing and hearing the movie, by the way. Nevertheless, I did both and am now sharing my a-Go-Go thoughts.

Let's do this, crackers!

This a-Go-Go may end early as the opening credits might give me a seizure.

I want to make some joke about people stopping, collaborating, and listening as all these names flash by, but those words--in the context of "Ice Ice Baby" or out of that context--don't really make much sense together.

Vanilla Ice forgot to take the price tag off his baseball cap. What an embarrassing faux pas that is.

I can’t follow Vanilla’s (Ice’s?) train of thoughts here in this rap, but he just referenced, like, four of the seven dwarfs.

Oh, my God! This editing is really making me wonder if I’m going to make it through this.

This era--early 1990s--is horrifying for me. High school was not a good time for me, and I’m not sure I want to be reminded that a lot of these color combinations existed. More than likely, I'm going to end up hopelessly depressed by the time this is over, but that's only if I survive the seizures.

I’m confused because the microphone keeps being replaced with one of those metal flashlight things. Continuity error?

In this movie, this is a special effect. 

That is some hair cut, Vanilla. No wonder you got Monique’s phone number!

Holy shit! Vanilla’s pants are stellar!

Vanilla and the Technicolor Pants.


Wow. If this lady he just knocked off a horse is the love interest in this movie, I won’t be able to suspend my disbelief. He scared the lady’s horse by ramping his motorcycle (impossibly, I should add) over a fence and right in front of the animal. That should be enough to ruin any first impression, but adding, “You hit like a girl!” a little later definitely would have sealed the deal.

Yup, yup. My closed captioning has confirmed that Vanilla just said, “Yup, yup.”

“Man, my bike’s trippin’!” I think you can say that to a mechanic when you bring your vehicle to a shop.

Mechanic: What can I do for?
You: Man, my mini-van be trippin'!
Mechanic: Well, we'll go ahead and have a look at it.

Aggravated driver just nailed his extra work. He kind of had an angry Buddy Hackett thing going there.


I love this scene where his motorcycle gang is driving through a neighborhood in the suburbs of wherever-the-hell-they’re-at while Boy Scouts, a guy mowing the grass, and a postman stare at them in disbelief. Have they never seen colorfully-dressed doofuses on motorcycles? Black people?

Ok, this plot is moving a little too fast for me.

They’ve stopped at some random old couple’s home to get that guy’s bike to stop trippin’, and the house is filled with oddities--like giant salt and pepper shakers, a roof that is a world map, quotes on the wall, glowing world globes. I think it's because it's the only place where Vanilla Ice's pants might fit in.

I just heard an “Ahhhhh, yeah” soundbyte for no good reason.

The horse girl has a name now--Kathy.

Kathy’s boyfriend just looked at Vanilla Ice and said, “What is that?” And it made me laugh. You get the sense that his line was supposed to be "Who is that?" or something but he flubbed it and then the director realized that "What is that?" actually made more sense.

“Drop that zero, and get with the hero!” Fuck yeah!

“The chick that drives the horse.”

By the way, I think I might have a horse-riding pants fetish.

Now we’re in Kathy’s house, and they’ve Benny-Hilled scenes of random domesticity. I can’t figure out how anybody thought this would be a good idea.

Apparently, Kathy is a high school student. So this will be a film about Vanilla Ice trying to get away with statutory rape. That's just fantastic.

Great, a child actor. Tommy with a quip!

Any child actor who can’t do a scene where he plays video games realistically probably has no future in acting.

Victor DiMattia, Dennis in Dennis the Menace

Roscoe and his wife Mae (and boy, she can act) apparently live in Pee Wee Herman’s neighborhood. So many colors!

Bad guys (I’ve already lost track of what they want) in the desert. One of them pulls a pistol from the front of his pants and there was a “pop” sound effect.

“Across the street to schling a schlong.” That’s where Vanilla is going.

I want to knock on doors like Vanilla Ice knocks on doors.

Diet Coke product placement! But I’m going to associate them with Vanilla Ice’s outfit and be instantly sick to my stomach.

Oh, holy hell! This lead singer of the band at the Sugar Shack is something else!

He's Louie Bonanno, and I can't tell what the song in this was supposed to be. It was like an inebriated post-punk or something, and there was a lot of Bonanno pelvic thrusting going on. 

Another Diet Coke reference.

Vanilla Ice and Kathy’s eyes met at the Sugar Shack, and he looks like date rape personified.

Wait a second. Kathy's dad is Michael Gross!

Vanilla and his posse just pulled the plug on the band, too bad because I was really enjoying that guy’s sultry hip thrusting. Now, he’s dancing around like a fool, and one patron just said, “What the hell?” That’s the second time a character has expressed my exact thoughts!

“Awww, yeah. I’m gonna drop some funky lyrics.” Show it, don’t tell it, Vanilla.

All it took to win the heart of Kathy was a little dry humping  on the dance floor at the Sugar Shack.

Prelude to dry humping. And yes, I realize this is the second time I've used this picture. 

Umm. These guys!

I paused the movie to take this bad picture because I have nothing else going on in my life. 

Well, Kathy’s boyfriend is showing abusive tendencies.

Whew! Vanilla Ice just swooped in on his motorcycle and saved Kathy from. . .well, it’s not entirely clear what was happening there. She was in the middle of the road, the bad guys were following her slowly in their car. I'm not sure what was going to happen, but it wouldn't have been any more terrifying than Vanilla Ice dry-humping you.

I just can’t see Michael Gross in anything but Family Ties. It’s like he’s cheating on his family or something.

An old couple just witnessed a murder-by-baseball-bat attempt. They also saw some of the worst fight choreography in any white rapper musical ever.

Ok, Kathy just woke up to Vanilla putting a piece of ice in her mouth while lying in her bed. He’s also wearing some sort of hip tool belt.

Wait, is that a fanny pack?

Imagine waking up and Vanilla Ice with a fanny pack is lying next to you, unexpectedly.

This jacket Vanilla’s sporting in this is an impressive feat of fashion. Black pleather with white words (“Ice,” “Down by Law,” “Deep) all over it. It’s pretty fucking sweet and reminds me of how much of an idiot I probably was in 1991.

Tommy is told by Vanilla Ice that he’ll get a ride on his motorcycle soon. His reply: “As soon as you’re done making sex?”

Vanilla Ice escaping from a lawn sprinkler that attacked him while he was putting his hat backwards--acting wizardry.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a male and female have less rapport than these two. Of course, Vanilla’s acting is so bad that I’m not sure he could have rapport with anybody.

“Yup, yup.” And the date should just be over at this point, right?

His jacket also says “Sex me” on it.

Brief montage where the couple chase each other around some partially-constructed houses.

“Lust,” “Dancer.” I think this jacket is custom-made.

I’m trying to figure out if having these horny kids run around this construction site is some sort of metaphor or if they just stumbled upon the site and figured it was as good a place as anywhere else to film a date scene.

“If you ain’t being true to yourself then you ain’t true to nobody.”

Matthew Robert Van Winkle. That's Vanilla Ice's real name, and I just felt like putting it here.

A horse just tried to escape the movie.

Date montage! I’m pretty sure it’s going to end with the two making sex.

I’d like to take this time to remember that in their first meeting, Vanilla Ice ramped his motorcycle over a fence in front of her horse, causing the animal to jump and knock her to the ground.

Old people dancing to hip-hop beats. If that doesn’t sum up the 1990s, I don’t know what does.

This movie has a surprising lack of rap performances actually. I guess it’s not the musical that I thought it was.

Michael Gross is explaining the story’s main conflict, but Vanilla Ice’s wardrobe isn’t on the screen to keep me awake during it. So I still have no idea what the bad guys want.

And now, after an argument filled with a bunch of trite lines, we get a motorcycle montage. It's like they saw Purple Rain and thought, "Maybe Vanilla Ice will look just as cool riding his motorcycle around for half the movie."

No he fucking won't.

Vanilla just disappointed Tommy after he put a lot of product in his hair and ditched little league practice.

What the fuck? This is another montage, this time one with motorcycle assembling, a ride with Tommy, and some random dancing.

The movie’s run out of ideas, so they’re just filling the rest of this with montages, I guess.

Michael Gross is really going to freak out when he sees Tommy getting off Vanilla Ice’s motorcycle.

Tommy’s hair looks ridiculous. That’s not the right look to have when being kidnapped, young fool.

I always feel a little wrong about thinking things like this, but I really hope they kill Tommy and start mailing his body parts to the family.

Vanilla Ice threw the ring he was wearing into a fishbowl with way too many fish in it. They’ll probably be dead from his juices by dawn.

Sadness montage.

Can somebody with this haircut be sad? 

Yes! There’s that knock again!

Vanilla: Yo, I gots to talk to Kathy.
Michael Gross: He’s not here.
Vanilla: She’s standing right behind you.

I’m not sure if that was supposed to be funny or not.

Tommy can’t even act when it’s just his voice on a cassette either.

Poor Vanilla Ice. He’s really in the shit here. Be seen with the kidnapped victim prior to his kidnapping? Check. Handing over the tape from the kidnappers? Check. Proudly wearing the clothes he does? Check.

Look at this dick. 

Oh, great. We got to hear the tape again.

Tommy’s gagged. Now I’m on the side of the kidnappers.

Vanilla Ice took care of four guys with baseball bats but is having trouble with a middle-aged bald guy?

The other characters have changed clothes, but the quirky motorcycle repairman has had the same shirt with apples all over it for several days.

Sydney Lassick and Dody Goodman. Dody is wonderful in this! 

Mom: “Did they do this to your hair?” I laughed at that one, too.

Stocking cap, leather jacket, shorts. It’s not a good luck.

Vanilla Ice just spelled a word! True, it’s only of the two-letter variety, but it was still spelling!

This rappin’ and dancin’ scene at the end featured a dangerous-looking tea-bagging dance move.

If this movie ever ends (looking unlikely at this point), I hope it ends with a hearty “Yup, yup.”


2016 sci-fi romance

Rating: 11/20

Plot: When a sleep chamber on a ship traveling to a distant planet wakes up Chris Pratt 90 years early, he's faced with a difficult decision: 1) Spend the rest of his days, lonely and masturbating while hurtling through space or 2) Waking up the hot chick and hoping she's into guys who look like Chris Pratt. He chooses the latter, but what will happen if she finds out?

Just what the world needs--a glossy sci-fi movie that seems to be a thinly-veiled metaphor glorifying rape. It's entirely possible that I'm reading too much into things.

There are elements that I enjoyed about this movie. Individual pieces were really good. I liked Pratt a lot, mostly in the beginning when he doesn't have much to do. The special effects were really good. Michael Sheen's android bartender was a fun character.

But those pieces don't really add up to anything, and the bads far outweigh the goods. I'm not sure what the message of this movie is; the romance never feels like anything real, just a necessity to appease horny 30-somethings; characters' poor decisions have no repercussions; sequences start feeling redundant; and it's a science-fiction romance movie. By the time Laurence Fishburne pops in to play the exact character you'd expect him to play, I was already pretty bored. That's the exact time the movie shifts and attempts to become something else, and that something else feels malnourished and doesn't work either.

What this attempts to do is combine spaceships and romance with a pair of young stars to be some sort of perfect date movie. Unfortunately for director Morten Tyldum in his follow-up to Imitation Game and writer Jon Spaihts, the guy who also wrote Doctor Strange and Promentheus, it doesn't work as a spaceship movie or a romance. It's just Pratt and Lawrence playing spaceship for a couple hours and winding up with nothing to think about, nothing to learn, and more than likely nothing to remember.

Unless those guys were happy settling for "almost enjoyable." If that's the case, congratulations, guys. You managed to make a movie that was almost enjoyable. An almost enjoyable rape movie.

Collateral Beauty

2016 drama

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A sad guy's "friends" hire a trio of actors to play Love, Time, and Death and engage with him in order to prove that he's crazy and enjoy financial gains. What the fuck?

I'd heard such bad things about this movie that I thought it would be worth watching and making fun of. It's a bad movie, and it's a despicable movie filled with dishonorable characters, but there's definitely no fun to be had. It drips with hyper-sappy melodrama, it attempts to break up the malaise with humor that falls flat, and really doesn't make much sense.

You've certainly got some big names in this. Will Smith isn't awful, but he has trouble playing a real person in movies. Here, he's required to play a really sad real person, and although he's got his moments, the performance isn't really consistent. Mostly, he just mopes around. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena go through the motions, at times seeming like actors who have realized they've made a horrible mistake and hope nobody actually sees the movie. Keira Knightley's easy on the eyes but apparently a poor decision maker. And Helen Mirren should really know better than to get involved with something like this. She's apparently just given up.

I didn't realize this was a Christmas movie or I would have saved it.

The movie has two twists. One of them is as predictable a twist as you'll ever see. The other doesn't make a lick of sense. Both of them made me a little angry.

I don't know the following:

1) How this story was greenlit
2) Why these actors who aren't hurting for work decided to be in it
3) What "collateral beauty" even means
4) Why I'm spending so much time writing about this

Into the Inferno

2016 Herzog documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Werner Herzog and his new friend travel the world to explore various volcanoes.

Lava movement is mesmerizing, and if you watch this to be impressed with the beauty that our world can produce, there's plenty of that sort of thing in here. Of course, this is a Werner Herzog documentary, and he's never been a documentary filmmaker who is interested solely in showing us pretty things. Herzog's nature documentaries are at their best when he's got science intermingling with the mystical. Herzog brings a volcanologist named Clive Oppenheimer along with him for the science part. Oppenheimer, likely only in this movie because he thought it would help him get chicks, seems to have that bit of obsessiveness that Herzog has made a career being attracted to, and he's a natural in front of Herzog's camera. The mystical is taken care of with interviews of people who live near volcanoes. Some of them are natives, having some spiritual connection with the volcanoes. And some have a church in the shape of a chicken because that's the sort of thing that Herzog manages to find and show us. Like a lot of his work, Herzog shows us that sometimes volatile relationship with nature. There's a volcanologist couple who wind up killed by a pyroclastic flow, which seems to be a horrible way to go. And there's the strange tale of a guy who refused to take off when his village was abandoned due to an impending volcanic blast.

And man, that nature footage! Herzog swoops cameras up and over volcanoes and peers deep within the things, giving nature enthusiasts enough lava porn and magma porn to send them beneath their sheets with fistfuls of Kleenex. The opening shot alone was enough to get me going.

My favorite moment had Herzog on the lip of a volcano, calmly observing and saying, "That was a good swoosh" in that accent of his as hot stuff was projected from below.


1978 musical

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A preppy girl and a greaser hit it off during the summer, but when the new school year starts, they find it difficult to be themselves and continue the romance.

I hadn't seen this in a long time and didn't mind being forced to watch it on a bus trip to St. Louis with a bunch of middle school students. Watching movies on a bus with a bunch of middle school students might be the ideal way to watch a film, by the way. I also got to watch The Goonies, the first Harry Potter movie, one of the Shrek movies, and Remember the Titans. For the most part, I just argued about politics on Facebook.

But I tried to pay attention to Grease as much as possible. The songs are memorable, maybe just because they managed to escape the musical in the last 40 years and spread throughout pop culture. And it's always fun to watch noted Scientologist John Travolta move around. Other than that, I can't think of anything enjoyable about the experience of watching Grease. It might be the most unoriginal musical ever made. It's yet another play on Romeo and Juliet themes, something that was already done in a musical about teenagers from different sides of the tracks. The songs aren't all that good, the 1950s feels artificial and plastic, the characters aren't memorable, and the dance choreography is boring. Individual scenes seem endless, and not enough happens in the movie to make any resolution of the conflict feel real.

Most reprehensible, however, is the message this movie develops. It's the idea that a person, in order to get somebody to love you, has to figure out a way to change in order to please that other person. That's a pretty sick message, probably more disturbing since it's the female character who has to change the most. What would a feminist say about that?


2017 Shyamalan movie

Rating: 12/20 (Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: A crazy guy kidnaps some teenagers and introduces them to his various personalities.

To paraphrase Twain, reports of M. Night Shyamalan's resurrection have been greatly exaggerated.

I'll tell you who you can't blame for this one--James McAvoy, an actor whose versatility and dedication to this character (these characters?) nearly makes up for the sub-par material he has to work with. He channels Norman Bates, Travis Bickle, and Fight Club's Edward Norton, and lets all this potpourri of personalities run wild. McAvoy's compelling, the kind of performance where he squeezes every single bit he can from what he's given to work with. With characters like this, there's a fine line between realistically intense and hilariously campy. Here, he's actually somewhat in the middle, closer to realistic, and the movie's better for it because too intense would have made the whole thing unbearable.

Even an average performance would have made the entire movie unbearable. Shyamalan, with this and The Visit, is making movies better than he was a few years ago, but they still suffer from Shyamalanisms--first-drafty dialogue, unnatural character reactions, his own pointless cameos. He's still working hard to be a Hitchcock for the 21st Century, but his half-formed ideas and general silliness sink things.

I'll give Shyamalan credit for one thing though, and I suppose I should throw a [Spoiler Alert] here--he does have an interesting perspective on the superhero genre.


2016 movie-based-on-a-play

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A bitter man in 1950s Pittsburgh deals with stuff.

I read this play in college and had just as much of a rewarding experience with just the text. I love the writing, thick with regionalisms and color, and the themes about fatherhood, being a man, and race are timeless and important.

I didn't really feel this filmed production added much. The period details are nice in what is essentially a one-setting story, and the performances are adequate, but the movie just lacks bite. It's gripping because of August Wilson's writing more than anything. Denzel Washington, who also directed, overdoes things a little bit, really seeming to enjoy spitting out some of these lines a little too much. Viola Davis snots things up again. I enjoyed Stephen Henderson's performance as Denzel's pal. Henderson actually got to be in two Best Picture nominees last year. The problem is that the performances never elevated above performances for me. They didn't really feel like real people, just actors playing these characters. And as a movie based on a play, the characters are very chatty. So for what seems like a lot longer than five acts, you're wading through all of these words delivered by people who are trying to win awards, and although those words are well written, it was still a lot to ask.

I think I would rather see this on stage.

It's not a bad movie at all. It's faithful to Wilson's material with themes still relevant today, but it's probably a little paint-by-numbers.

Bad Movie Club: Kindergarten Ninja

1994 action comedy

Bad Movie Rating: 4/5 (Johnny: 5/5; Fred: 6/5; Josh: 4/5)

Rating: 4/20

Plot: A former football star is inexplicably forced to work as a kindergarten teacher as punishment for drinking while intoxicated. Meanwhile, Bruce Lee is trying to earn his wings or something in heaven and is sent down to help out Blade Steel. Because that's the football player's name--Blade Steel. Bruce connects Blade with a karate guy who trains him in a series of montages so that he can rid the community of crime. And the kids just love him.

1) This starts with a friendly police officer talking about the dangers of drinking and driving.

2) You know the guy who plays the lead, as long as you know anything about football. Dwight Clark is the guy who caught "The Catch" from Joe Montana back in 1982. He was wide-eyed and mostly out of his element here in his only movie role. I almost believed in him as an action star and was impressed that he could show off his kicks and punches in slow motion without the benefit of any effects. He was slow all by himself.

3) You know who else is in this? George Chung, who plays the blind Mr. Miyagi role in this. Who the hell is George Chung? Well, that's the guy who played Alexander "Hawkeye" Hawkamoto in Hawkeye, another movie we enjoyed with Bad Movie Club. He brought a similar comedic charm to this action blockbuster that he brought to that movie. And that means he was neither funny nor charming.

4) This movie has somewhere around 19 montages. It starts with a montage actually, something that caught me off guard. Then, it had a variety of other montages--a date montage, kindergarten teaching montages, several action montages. After a while, I figured Anthony Chan was just messing with us.

5) The scene in heaven is a trip. Aside from Bruce Lee, played by an actor whose face is hidden in all of his scenes for what I believe are supposed to be comedic purposes, you get a guy who sort of looks like Elvis and a guy who sort of looks like a tall Charlie Chaplin. If I'm remembering correctly, I think Charlie and Elvis are about the same height. I can't tell you how pleased I was that Charlie Chaplin was a character in this movie. He's played by Mike Moen, by the way, and it's that guy's only movie, too. Erik Masalin was Elvis, also his only movie role.

6) The main villain--Hector Machete--is played with gusto by Juan Chapa. It's a fantastic performance.

7) I swear there was a scene where there were two George Chungs. He was playing the keyboards in a musical performance (see below) and then it showed his character walking in and being greeted by the hostess in the restaurant. I was perplexed.

8) During that musical number, some thugs come in and mess with Blade Steel's girl. But he's singing, so what can the guy do? Easy--he can simultaneously take care of those thugs and finish his song. It's not something I've seen before.

9) This movie has a little too much fun--breaking the fourth wall, throwing text on the screen for laughs--to get a 5/5 bad movie rating.

10) Lot of head scratching going on with some of the decisions in this movie. It's a lot of fun for bad movie lovers.