PG-13 for mind rape. You know, if you have to use an adjective to justify getting it into the movie, you might just consider it "rape." It's really uncomfortable. This is some really uncomfortable ground that they're walking on, especially considering that this is a Star Trek movie. All of Nemesis feels like it is trying to be edgy. There's violence. A cast member kind of / sort of dies. It's all kind of a mess. Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Stuart Baird
There's one silver lining to watching Star Trek: Nemesis. I've always kind of hated this movie. I think it might be the worst Star Trek film. I don't really know anyone who really likes it. I just watched a Cracked video from back when Cracked made videos and didn't fire most of their staff about how Tom Hardy got back into crack because this movie was so bad. But the positive side is that I've only seen this movie once or twice. In both cases, that was a while ago. I remembered so little about this movie that it was actually like watching a new Star Trek movie set in the original universe. Sure, it was a pretty bad one, but it was kind of watchable. Until the rape stuff. Geez, whoever decided that needs a hard slap.
There are so many bad choices in Nemesis that it is hard to pin exactly where everything goes wrong. There are moments that go right. As a whole, I've seen way worse movies. I didn't hate my evening for watching this movie. It's just one of those things. If you really want to get under my skin, make a movie so bad that I could fix it. I'm not talking about Monday morning quarterbacking. I'm talking about glaring errors that someone should have piped up about. A lot of the problems are the turn around times with these movies. They make so many Star Trek movies that there are going to be quality issues somewhere down the road. The irony of that statement is that I would kill for another classic universe Star Trek movie. I would watch the trailer all day and night. Heck, I'd get excited for another Kelvinverse film because I somewhat like those movies. But I want to get into all the mistakes this movie made and try to find ways to discuss making it better.
From the opening credits, you can tell that the tone was meant to be edgy. I find myself getting really mad at the films of the early 2000s. This was probably filming pre-9/11. We were working so hard to be rebellious then. Everything had to be extreme. Everything had to be a little metal. Geez, when the opening title appeared with Nine Inch Nails style lettering, I already rolled my eyes back. Star Trek is not metal. It can have metal elements to it. But in Insurrection, Picard reminds us that they used to be explorers. The movie even kind of starts off with its kitchy goodness. The people who made this movie knows what Star Trek is supposed to be. I want to say that this is part of the inconsistency in tone. That's what my knee-jerk reaction was at first. I thought that the movie tried doing everything. That's where I made a mistake. The hokey opening, the one I happen to enjoy, is not a misdirection in tone. It is on purpose. For a final film, there's an element to "All bets are off" that the producers were probably shooting for. JUST TO COVER MY BASES, I WILL BE DISCUSSING SOME SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS. Troi and Riker's wedding is something that is teased in Insurrection. They don't do this very often in Star Trek. Continuity is often kept pretty light in the films to welcome new audiences. But considering that this is the close to the Star Trek franchise as we knew it for a long time, it was nice to have these characters have a real send-off. But this happiness is meant to show how high the characters are and how far they will fall from their happiness. That's what the rape scene is about. Troi and Riker, albeit running in the background of much of the show, have had history. But there's the payoff of the two of them getting married. To sully that shows that the producers consider nothing sacred. They're willing to destroy what the fans love to get a response. But, it's not good. It's also minimizing the effect of rape. Since I'm talking about the rape of Deanna Troi, I also want to talk about Captain Picard's response to her. You can tell this entire thing was written by dudes. Picard is so dismissive of her request for leave it's scary. Part of that is that the response was built into Picard's character. In Star Trek: Generations, Data makes the same request. But sexual assault is completely different from Data having a really stressful day. I get the idea behind asking Deanna to keep her post during a crisis, but dismissing her? Come on. We can do better than that in the 24th Century.
The last movie in the franchise is named Star Trek: Nemesis. The book is closing on this one. Whatever threads left open have to be addressed here. I would like to make this very clear: Shinzon is not Captain Picard's nemesis. The majority of Star Trek: The Next Generation did not deal with Picard's self-loathing and implacability. I'm going to get to this in a second, but we know Picard at the Academy. The episode "Tapestry" actually shows what Picard was like at the Academy. It's clear the metaphor that Shinzon represents. Picard is at war with himself. It's a Picard with a different background and we're all supposed to question our senses of selves. Are we who we are because of strong moral fortitude or because of the circumstances of our upbringing? There is something there to explore. Star Trek should be more than A-to-B storytelling. There should be a strong sense of theme. But this theme is terribly explored. Shinzon is a poor attempt to mirror Picard. There is this moment where Shinzon's face is revealed. The film pauses for us to gasp. We're supposed to feel like Picard is looking in a mirror to the past. But not once in the film do I get any connection that Jean-Luc Picard is really meeting his double. Tom Hardy...isn't great in this. I think I had this epiphany in another review. Tom Hardy might not be the great actor that lots of people think that he is because he completely fails as a compelling villain / double for Jean-Luc Picard. We have seen Picard in the show cross the likes of villains that really have gotten under his skin. What about the Cardassian who made him say that there were five lights? That guy really messed with him. That's a nemesis. I love Q and I'd hate to see him as a nemesis. But an insane Q who has lost his sense of playfulness and is unravelling the universe has a sense of coming full circle. There are just so many characters that would make more sense than Shinzon as a final villain and representing the nemesis in the title. On top of that, Shinzon's plan is just...weak. There's almost nothing sympathetic about his plan. He could be sympathetic. His character's origin is tragic. But his origin really doesn't have a direct tie to his plan. Most of the movie is him just teasing Picard. That teasing doesn't really play into his plan for the end. He's trying to save himself, but he just plays with his food the entire time. Why would he assume that Picard is weak? HE IS PICARD! The guy is megalomaniacal and still can't process that his double would be amazing at stuff? It's bad.
Also, that ship? Come on. It's Starkiller One or whatever it was called. It has all of the weapons. It can fire when cloaked. Remember when that was already done in a Star Trek movie and that the show really pushed that it was impossible to do again. There were four Next Gen Star Trek movies. Three of them had the Enterprise-E. This ship was built as a warship to fight the Borg and serve as the Federation flagship. Yet, in each movie, this absolute tank of a ship takes a greater beating than the Enterprise-D ever did. There was an entire episode about the Enterprise-D just breaking and still the Enterprise-E gets wrecked in all of these movies. I kind of wanted to see it hold its own. The ramming scene is just depressing. We never really got to appreciate that ship. I know. I'm talking about a ship. But I think we fell in love with the Kirk's Enterprise and Picard's Enterprise-D. We want to see it let loose and just dominate...and it never really does. Why? Because the Romulans have a ship that could single-handedly win any war because the writers say its cool. That literally happens. It could pass within ten meters of any ship and they still couldn't see it. It also has a weapon that could kill anything. That's so boring. It's so lazy. I don't mind outclassing the Enterprise. I just don't think that making it impossible to destroy using conventional methods is at all within the world of Star Trek. It's...blah.
Is the movie really trying to ignore that we've seen stuff before? I talked about "Tapestry" and what Jean-Luc Picard was like in the Academy. A) He didn't look like Shinzon. But B), using B-4 as a get-out-of-jail-free card is just the worst. Data's story has been told. By giving him the emotion chip in Generations, that put a cap on any kind of character growth that he could have gotten. (Also, does he still have that emotion chip? He doesn't really have any emotion in this movie.) The movie namedrops Dr. Soong. Great, the show did a lot with that plotline. But Data acts like he was alone until this point. Why did the movie go so out of its way to avoid Lore. Also, Lore is all up on the android...lore. (Oh, I get it.) Shouldn't B-4 have been mentioned before this moment? (I did it again.) Also, Shinzon just got his hands on an extremely rare android and used him for bait? That seems like it doesn't make any sense. But the last movie, it decided to kill of the most beloved character on the show. I don't know how Geordi allowed that to happen. It seemed like he knew that Data was flying to his death. I read something that asked why Data didn't pack two transporter tags. That's an excellent question, but I'm going to allow my mind to filter that out. Data's death means nothing if you backed him up into another version of the character. Picard actually leaves this bummer of a movie smiling. He has Data back. Riker and Troi are acting like everything is honkey-dorey. Data died! You have Landfill 2 just appearing in the movie. But that's just sad that the movie had to head in that direction. Honestly, watch the funeral scene in Beerfest. A comedy made the joke that a character can be replaced by his twin brother and Star Trek: Nemesis actually tried that avenue, It's really bad guys.
Yeah, I'm glad that Riker and Troi got married. I'm glad that Riker is now the captain of the Titan. But the rest of this movie is just kind of dumb. It's watchable dumb. You really have to pretend like Tom Hardy is a twin to Patrick Stewart. But it's bad. I don't know how this project wasn't shut down way earlier. The thing is, I wanted to see more adventures on the Enterprise-E. But the Enterprise-E only got one good film. It's so bizarre that it's the end of Star Trek for a really long time because I feel like there was something there that could have been explored. Regardless, the old universe went out on a real stinker. It's a shame, but at least we have Star Trek: Picard to look forward to.
Tim let me talk about Final Fantasy! For almost an hour! And you get to listen to it! This is our final (ha!) episode of the season, and we spend it trying to convince you to get into Final Fantasy games. If you’re curious about JRPGs, or just have a few hundred hours of free time coming up, give us a listen.
See you in August!
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PG-13 for a guy with knife hands knife-handing things. I would say the knife-handing is pretty mild in the first movie. He does swear, Mr. Knife Hands does. But it's adorable swearing. Once, he actually uses the knife hand to swear. It's more of an offensive gesture, but we all got where it was coming from, Mr. Knife Hands. You don't think we know, but we do. People who don't have knife hands can read your secret knife hand code. Also, Mr. Knife Hands hits on taken ladies, luckily without using his knife hands. Also, a guy turns into a puddle of goo. PG-13. Knife Hands.
DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer
What am I trying to do? I want to watch all of the X-Men movies before the last one comes out. That's not happening. Instead, I've accidentally turned this into a Patrick Stewart movie marathon because I also watched Star Trek: Nemesis last night. I'm just kind of dumb. I thought that the site would just love a breakdown of every X-Men movie before the new one came out. But you know what? I realized, like, halfway through X2 that also includes X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, Logan, Deadpool, and Deadpool 2. No thank you. I was just thinking I could knock out six in a week. Not only that, I thought I could knock out those six before I left for vacation. Bee-tee-dubs, I may not be able to write next week. I'll be on vacation. (Watch my clicks PLUMMET!)
The X-Men movies may have the worst continuity of any franchise. Man alive, those movies aren't really planned in advance. I don't want to mess with this movie because this movie made nerds everywhere happen. No, it's not the first superhero movie. There were tons before this. But you know what X-Men is? It's the template for every single superhero movie after this. It's the first one that is actually kind of ambitious. Marvel kind of still exists as a company because of this movie. In 2000, Marvel was on the verge of collapse. I read a book about this. I think we all know the fray of this storyline. We're actually kind of getting the last act of this storyline right now. Marvel was so broke that they started selling off all of their properties to separate film studios. This is pre-MCU, guys. This is pre-Ultimate Comics. To stay afloat, Marvel products were sold to the highest bidder, most of whom didn't really care about the properties they were getting. They thought that they could do SOMETHING with these properties. It's very uncool to praise Bryan Singer. I'm coming around to the fact that he's a turd monster who has probably done some absolutely abominable things. But, I'm playing that whole messy game of separating the art from the artist. Seeming to be an actual fan, he made a movie that not only treated the X-Men with some class and sophistication, but he made a movie that is downright fun. It's a little adorable watching X-Men in light of the fact that Avengers: Endgame has now completely blown most people's minds. (I actually am convinced that people who didn't like Avengers: Endgame weren't into the Marvel properties that much or REALLY enjoy being contrarians.)
The reason it is adorable? X-Men now seems really quaint. While being ahead of its time, there's something very early-2000s about the whole thing. Being light years away from other comic book properties that were being turned into films, X-Men is still a little afraid of being considered hokey. The hilarious part of avoiding hokiness is the fact that the changes that they made make the movie seem really dated. The movie calls out the costumes got not being retro spandex. Do you know what ended up working in X-Men: First Class? Retro spandex. Those black outfits...don't look that good. I just started X-Men: The Last Stand (it's been a while!) and the cover just has Wolverine front and center in his black outfit from this film. It doesn't hold up that well. It doesn't matter. None of this stuff matters. What Singer understood is that the source material worked. I just watched this mini-documentary on Marvel.com about the seminal moments in X-Men mythology. I remember reading X-Men # 1, a reprint of course, and thinking that Stan Lee didn't really introduce the characters with a lot of the key ideas that would make the X-Men interesting to read. A writer I actually don't care for did that. The whole allegory for civil rights probably was more in the camp of Chris Claremont. Bryan Singer did good work with this stuff. I can't help but think that X-Men as a film probably wouldn't exist without the love for the X-Men animated series. It's such a smart move to focus the X-Men storyline not on bad guys trying to take over the world, but rather with attention understandable fear. Listen, I'm always going to be on the side of the X-Men and Charles Xavier. I know that Chuck sucks a lot in the comics from time-to-time, but his message of peace is absolutely rad and I dig the whole allegory. But there is one moment that made the X-Men real and made me realize that there isn't so much good guy and bad guy as opposed to no real good answers. It's actually a scene where you only get one half of the dialogue. Senator Kelly is fighting for the Mutant Registration Act and he says something along the lines of, "You favor gun control. Any one of these kids is more dangerous than ten handguns." I DON'T LIKE GUNS! Man, it's one of those moments where I would honestly need to read up on it.
X-Men holds up more than I thought it was. I've seen this movie way too many times. There was a time where seven superhero movies didn't come out in a single year. There was a slow rollout and you took what you could get. I remember when I was younger that I kind of had to cool it with the X-Men rewatches because the movie actually gets a little bit boring. My biggest problem with the first one, which I swear holds its own, is how silly Magneto's master plan is. I like the result he's going for. If everyone's a mutant, everyone has to get along. While a bit simplistic, I can buy that. But I never really understood some of the logic of how he was going to pull that off with Rogue. SPOILERS: He forces Rogue to take his powers because the machine that only he can power drains his life. It looks like it is going to kill him, so he makes Rogue do it. But Magneto...isn't constantly using his powers. It's not like he walks by someone holding a fork and it just sticks to him. Magneto controls his powers. Why wouldn't Rogue be able to? She has the ability to temper and control powers. Remember, she not only absorbs powers, but also memories and disciplines. Why would just being in the machine cause the machine to operate? She could just say, "No." Also, the danger that Rogue posits constantly fluctuates. Rogue touches Logan and he feels like he almost died because of her. Magneto really goes at it, and not only is he still conscious, but he has a pretty decent grasp on his powers. Yeah, he's not at 100%, but it's enough to stop Logan. The third act is actually just a mess. I might actually really enjoy when the X-Men aren't being X-Men. I like it when it is talking mutant politics. I don't mind some minor action at times. But when it is time to suit up, I kind of just tune out. The fight sequences, and I'm ashamed to be taking this position, seem absolutely absurd in the first movie. It really feels like the wirework is almost distracting. It's so 2000s. I know. I'm very old. Or very young. Either way, it's not at all good compared to what we get later on.
Um...what's with the X-Men movies refusing to fire Chekov's gun? There are moments in the X-Men movies that are never paid off. There's a line in X-Men that has always really bothered me. Senator Kelly turns into a puddle of goo. The X-Men realize that Magneto's machine kills, which doesn't really change the morality of the situation. Okay, it does, but it still pretty evil regardless of results. They tell Magneto that his machine kills and that Senator Kelly is dead and MAGNETO SAYS KNOWINGLY, "Are you sure you saw what you think you saw?" This leads to a weird situation. It implies that Magneto knows that Senator Kelly isn't dead. It really looks like Senator Kelly is still working through his mutation and that he's going to come back in some meaningful way in the future. Note: He doesn't. The other answer is, "Yes, he's dead." By not following through on that moment, Magneto proves himself to be kind of an idiot. Why would you say that unless you KNEW that Senator Kelly wasn't dead. It's such a wink to the camera that something bigger is happening that none of the X-Men are aware of. All of this kind of points to the fact that these movies aren't really planned out as well as we would like them to be. When I write about X2, I want to talk about John. I don't remember X-Men: The Last Stand very much, but there's a moment with Pyro that I don't think is ever resolved.
It's kind of crazy how much X-Men owes Star Trek. I'm watching both at the same time. I would also like to say that Harry Potter owes even more to X-Men. Patrick Stewart really is the perfect Charles Xavier. I know that Singer is a huge Star Trek fan. He's an extra in Nemesis. I'm nearly positive that Singer was probably just really into Star Trek and just said that he wanted Captain Picard to be Charles Xavier. I don't know why Xavier isn't the focus of the film. I do know why and I'm ashamed to write it. The early 2000s were all about Wolverine. Okay, most of the '90s into the 2000s were about Wolverine and Wolverine alone. Baby Hugh Jackman, who really isn't supposed to age much, is the lynch pin of this movie despite the fact that Magneto keeps telling him to stop thinking that. You have Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart, and Hugh Jackman keeps getting the attention. I think people just wanted to see Wolverine as much as humanly possible. For being a tall guy, Jackman really nails Wolverine, especially when he's out of costume. I get why Professor X doesn't really take the focus of the film. He's the Bosley of the movie. The X-Men are his angels, especially in The Last Stand where Angel is literally one of the characters. There's all this good stuff in this movie and I just want...more? I don't know. I'm hopefully going to get around to writing about X2 pretty soon, a movie I thought would define superhero films forever. I honestly thought it would. But the foundations are all here in this first film. Yeah, X-Men nowadays is kind of boring. It would be the worst entry in a lot of lists if all of the movies came out at the same time. But X-Men was mind-blowing at the time. The previous great superhero movie was Batman, maybe Batman Returns if you were a hipster.
X-Men not only presented a think piece, but showed that superhero movies didn't have to be trash. I dare you to look at the list of superhero movies before this. I adore Superman: The Movie. It's one of my all time favorite films. But between that film and X-Men, superhero movies didn't exactly leave a lot of room for love. X-Men did more for superhero movies than any other title and I adore it for that reason alone.
TV-PG, um...for the f-word a bunch of times. Sure, it's all condensed into the last ten-to-fifteen minutes of the movie. The majority of the movie is completely innocuous. But the last fifteen minutes introduces Kevin Pollack and Drew Carey. Where they go, the f-word follows closely, sniffing out rebellion like a bloodhound! It's fine for the most part. But TV-PG...probably not with the f-word being thrown around willy-nilly.
DIRECTOR: C.J. Wallis
[to the tune of "We're Not Going to Take It"] I don't want to write this. No, I don't want to write this. I don't want to write this...anymore? [end lazy song parody.] I don't know why I thought that this was going to be amazing. I saw the preview for it and said, "Yes! This is what I need in my life." Basically, this documentary is about the lowest stakes scandal that ever existed. I don't feel at all smarter for having seen this. If anything, I have crammed my already trivia-addled mind with more useless trivia. I know more about The Price is Right than any person really has a right to know. Why did I think that this was going to be some hard-hitting documentary. I really wanted to watch a movie about how some savant beat the system and destroyed daytime game shows as we know them.
SPOILER ALERT: I am going to tell you everything you need to know to save you 72 minutes. I realize 72 minutes isn't a lot. But I will tell you what it should be. This movie...should be about one minute. If you add opening and closing credits, four minutes. Yes, I'm saying that this movie should be three minutes of credits and one minute of content. Do you know why? Because the only thing you learn from this movie is that if you watch The Price is Right a lot, you will realize that they repeat products. If you want to beat The Price is Right, just watch The Price is Right a lot. Run end credits. Remember to spay and neuter your pets. I have been getting real spoiled when it comes to my documentaries. I was on a hot streak. First, I watched Icarus. To me, that was a documentary about how doping should be illegal. That movie ended up with people escaping Vladimir Putin and a hit squad being put out. Then I watched Three Identical Strangers. That movie was supposed to be about three twins who reunited despite all odds. That movie ended up with a secret eugenics experiment being revealed and me questioning what moral right does science have to anything. I thought, for some reason, that a documentary about a single contestant on The Price is Right was going to expose the Kennedy assassination. But no. This movie is literally just about how a guy watched The Price is Right every day and memorized the prices. Because he knew the prices, he did moderately well on The Price is Right...once. Due to the element of chance with the giant wheel, he didn't even get into a position to win anything all that big. However, he continued visiting The Price is Right and helped another guy win big when he yelled real loud.
I told myself that 72 minutes could handle any topic. Any film that was 72 minutes was watchable. I can't completely retract that statement. I actually ended up watching about 40 minutes with some interest. But in those 40 minutes, I was watching with the glee knowing that the other shoe was going to fall. I was waiting for the bottom to fall out and this guy to wreck The Price is Right. I don't know what it is about my personality that made me want to watch The Price is Right to collapse under its own hubris. It entertained me, as it did everyone else my age, when I was sick on my grandmother's couch instead of being at school. It's the perfect white-noise show. Bob Barker was a talking point. I don't know who would be that interested in making sure that dogs couldn't procreate. I get the logic behind it, but it also seems weird that he made that part of his entire persona. To each his own. But this movie doesn't really have the weight to carry itself. The entire movie kind of feels like a BuzzFeed video. It has just enough information to invite the viewer in, but it has nowhere to really go with it. As such, the movie needed to add some padding. I'm kind of jumping the gun here. Basically, the thing that the movie supposes that we know is that there was a big scandal on The Price is Right when Drew Carey picked up the show. There was this one guy who guessed perfectly on a Showcase Showdown to the dollar. It's this astronomical number that he got. Either that hadn't really happened before or it only happened once before. Regardless, it couldn't have been outside the rules because the art department had something ready for it. I know. The Price is Right is taped. But that art was so retro and vintage that I refuse to believe that a contemporary artist was like, "Here. This is what represents the most insane thing to happen on this show." Anyway, Theodore, the guy this documentary is about, claims that he guessed in the ballpark and shouted it out. The guy massaged that number into something specific and he won. That's really the extent of it. The odd thing is...that's part of the rules. If you guess exactly, you win both prizes. Thy wrote a rule so people aimed for that. Now, I'm not saying that it's weird that Theodore pretty much guessed the number. He didn't even win. But there are a billion episodes of The Price is Right. The odds are that someone would EVENTUALLY do that.
Geez, I really don't want to write this. It's just sluggish and oppressive. But that's what you got to do with writing. Fun fact: I think my first celebrity interaction besides Bill Lambeer sitting in front of me at Jungle 2 Jungle and meeting Nichelle Nichols / George Takei at a book signing was Drew Carey. It was the halcyon days of AOL and I emailed Drew Carey out of the blue. I was a big Drew Carey Show fan and I had secretly been reading Dirty Jokes and Beer. Yeah, I was a cool kid. Anyway, he wrote back and I thought that he was the nicest guy ever. But I don't know what to think about Drew Carey. Drew Carey in this doc does not come off as...charming?! For all of the filler, C.J. Wallis, the director, focused a lot on how both Bob Barker and his producer were the good guys of television. They are apparently as nice as you would think that they would be. They did the show because they loved the show. There's even a line in the movie that Bob was on the side of the contestant. He wanted to see people win. I mean, it makes sense. People tune in when major prizes are being won...I guess. Drew Carey doesn't really have that disposition. He actually kind of seems like a grump about the whole thing. Drew Carey has a weird personality. A vulgar comedian, he's actually remarkably funny. He seems down to Earth. But Drew Carey's fifteen minutes are up. A lot of that generation have had to transition their careers. Again, I don't work in entertainment. It seems like a difficult job to maintain. But the juxtaposition between positive, good-natured Bob Barker and f-bomb grumpus Drew Carey seemed to be more off-putting than I would have cared for. I think a lot of that has to do with the context of the interviews. Bob Barker and everyone else interviewed for this documentary seem to be there to service the show. I think that the Drew Carey interview was a video podcast with Kevin Pollack. One thing about tone is to know your audience. A video podcast might have a more cynical element to the whole thing. Drew Carey made the news in a negative light and seemed to be mad about the whole thing. I can't say that I blame him. There was probably no way that he would have known that the podcast footage would make him look like a jerk in the documentary.
This documentary...is kind of lame? There's nothing in the documentary that is so mind-boggling that makes the boringness of cataloging Prices is Right prizes becomes interesting. There's a line in the sand that the film doesn't cross. I don't mind a boring topic. I've seen films about boring topics. I love films about boring topics. Heck, I still adore Trekkies. But Perfect Bid isn't a film about how one man's love for The Price is Right changed how things are done. I guess it is, but in the lamest way possible. There had to be another level. Right now, Theodore (and I'm sorry to say this) comes off as simply a fan who is really into the show. I needed something next level to save this movie from itself. It really doesn't have that next level.
Rated R for non-stop abuse and vulgar content. Honestly, the movie is a test to see how much increasingly offensive content you can handle. There's a tipping point, but it is still a movie that really pushes the limits of comfort for the audience. How much can these guys go through? Well, that would all contribute to an MPAA rating of R.
DIRECTOR: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
If you want me to watch your movie that I wasn't fully aware of before, show up on a podcast that I listen to. You'll all talk so vaguely about the movie that I simply have to see it to make sense of the world. I almost watched Tusk with the same logic. I thought my ambivalence to Kevin Smith movies had gone away because he's just so darned charismatic. The same thing happened here, with The Stanford Prison Experiment. The writer of the film was on Harmontown and it's wasn't super spoilery considering that it is a docudrama. I knew the loosey-goosey information about what had happened, but I suppose that I wanted the nitty gritty. This also hits a sweet spot about being kind of true crime and also a decently made movie, so I knew what was up in my head. Yeah, it's not REALLY true crime. But it probably presses the same button.
I don't know how to write about this film without probably thinking that this is more of a study of history and a study of human psychology. I can just take information from the film I watched. I'm not an expert on the original experiment, so I have to kind of glean what I can from a film. I know that there are fictional elements to a movie like this. Plot and pacing are dependent on screenwriters and directors taking liberties with the actual events. This isn't my first rodeo. But based on the interview, they actually got the real Zimbardo to consult on this movie. I think that might be the most insane thing about everything that went on with the making of this movie. If I have to look at one thing that I really want to know, I want to know "Who is Zimbardo?" Zimbardo is the villain of the piece. Even though the movie really builds its audience into hating some of the guards, Zimbardo is the one who pulls all of the strings. Apparently, the real Zimbardo only gained clarity in hindsight. After it was all said and done, that's when he realized what he had actually done. He only realized the moral lines that he had crossed after everyone had actually pointed it out to him. Perhaps it is a sense of redemption that he is fighting for, but his consultation on this film is probably what drew it to me more than anything else. Okay, that and being only remotely aware of what actually happened in the real event.
The goal of the film is shock and awe. If you know the story, you know that messed up stuff happens. I mean, I'm ashamed to say that I've seen more messed up stuff than The Stanford Prison Experiment. But the focus of The Stanford Prison Experiment is that it happens...so quickly. The podcast had the same moment that I did. When the tag "Day 2" pops up on screen, you have that realization: "That was ALL DAY ONE?" Yeah, that's where things get a little crazy. Again, I know very little about science. I'm all about English, where I willy-nilly determine if a character would actually follow through on an action that may seem out of character. All of my choices are arbitrary and simply based on my experiences and moral bias. There's something almost astrological about the events that happen in the experiment. The takeaway, besides how quickly things spiral out of control, is that anyone could be an absolute nutbar. The end of the movie, with the recreated interviews (Why not show the real interviews?), are meant to remind us that anyone could go completely over-the-top given the right circumstances. That's what the former "guard" was implying. He didn't think that he had it in him and it haunts him that he did have this moral weakness. They all did. But a lot of this comes from one idea that maybe the movie didn't exactly address. I think a lot of this came from the fact that there was a really strong alpha male and a string of followers who were weak willed. I'm about to teach Lord of the Flies when I get back. I know that The Stanford Prison Experiment is kind of covering some of the same ground. No one really wants to believe that they have the capability to be insane. And I know, I'm doing what everyone else does. I'm convinced that I would abuse prisoners. I know the worst part of me. I know that I clench up with fear when I see the social code being violated. I have a slow reaction time. But I also know that I find no pleasure in the molestation of another human being. Is there something, perhaps, about adolescence that is extremely sensitive to adult influence?
Do you know why I know that I wouldn't go for any of this nonsense? I think a group of adults realizes that other adults are just as fallible as they are. In The Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo is of a different social order. A learned individual of repute, the subjects of the experiment view themselves as children. They act like fools most of the time. They are there because they have a financial desire to survive. A rich person is giving them money to do what he tells them. Now, this is where the sociological and psychological stuff get interesting. The dynamic in the prison system is probably the same thing. I find it really interesting that they had an ex-con kind of overseeing the more problematic elements of the experiment. That character was confusing because I never really understood where he stood. At times, he looked at Zimbardo like he was a monster and there were other times where he thought that Zimbardo wasn't doing enough evil in this experiment. But after seeing 13th, which I find to still be a weak documentary despite being wildly eye-opening, and interviewing Van Jones for the podcast, the prison system is completely a mess. The actual experiment posits that anyone given that power dynamic would become corrupted quickly. I don't completely agree. I think it has to come down to a power dynamic. The warden is a powerful image of power and responsibility. Lots of jobs have a hierarchy. It's kind of how we work as a civilization. But if I compare my power dynamic and one within a prison, there seems to be a dangerous precedent. I respect the principal of the school, but I can talk to her like a human being. She's removed from the classroom, but inserts herself as a peer when needed. I always understand a warden to be almost like the king of a prison. I know that this is a wildly naive idea and it is entirely based on my obsession with movies. But a warden is educated and financially stable. Guards, I understand, make due. Often, there isn't an insane amount of education to a prison guard. The experiment may have actually mimicked something unintentional. Because Zimbardo was an extremely educated person in a place of power working from an educational position of power, the students who were financially strapped and considered lesser, despite the Stanford acceptance, were in a place of forced trust. If a warden allowed for poor behavior in a jail, then there would be poor behavior in a jail. When Zimbardo encouraged violence and inappropriate behavior, that's what was coming out of that. If I look at one of my graduate professors, I assume a level of respect. But as an adult and a teacher myself, when I smell shannigans, I know how the sausage is made. I know that adults are far more fallible. While there is a power dynamic between my professors and myself, I also know that the line between me and them is far thinner. Could you get a group of educated adults to do the same things that the boys in this experiment did? Probably not.
From a structural perspective, I have to appreciate that the movie isn't entirely about delusion. In real life, some people got out. Some ups and downs happened. Nothing is completely raising the stakes constantly. But it does become pretty bleak and a little bit repetitive. It's really when actors have stand out parts that the movie gets interesting. I don't exactly love Ezra Miller. I haven't seen him in anything that knocks my socks off. I mean, he's fine. But he really steals the show in the film. It's because he's got the juiciest role and he milks every second of it. It's so interesting because I would completely clash with his character, regardless of what side I was on. But because of that, he also has the most to play with. He's not a protagonist, but we also see that he is only adding fuel to the fire that he's not really aware of. It's interesting that there are people on both sides of the experiment who allow this situation to get nuts. If Miller's character wasn't there, I'm sure that things still would have gotten out of hand. But it's interesting to see how the events spiraled out of control oh-so-very-quickly and I think that has to do with Miller's obsession with chaos. The movie also played with the notion that not everyone was corrupted by power. There was one guy who just kept trying to defuse the situation from getting worse. The range of morality was fascinating as well. I really woke up when there was one prisoner who wouldn't swear. You have these guards who, for the most part, were morally bankrupt. Say what you will about the testimony at the end ("I was just surprised that no one stopped me. I kept waiting for them to stop me and it never happened."), there had to be a level of enjoyment coming out of them. But there was one prisoner who had a moral code. It didn't matter if he was there to pretend to be devoid of a moral code. He was going to be true to himself and that's cool. He wouldn't swear and he was given that hypothetical conundrum to play out. It was neat...in a really disturbing way.
It's weird to get bored when so much terrible stuff is happening on screen. I suppose that I should be recommending this movie to everyone. Despite being really well made and reminding me, for some reason, of Zodiac, I think I would prefer this as a documentary rather than a docudrama. Because the the cruelty reaches a tipping point, it becomes a bit of a burden to watch the whole thing at times. Regardless, it is well made. It's just if wishes were horses, I'd prefer this in documentary form. I'm sure that it's out there somewhere. A quick Google search...
Rated R for beautiful gore. It's a horror movie, but it looks pretty different than other horror movies. This doesn't mean that it isn't absolutely messed up. It is. There are some pretty intense scenes. The language is probably the least of your troubles. Like, it's really a new way to look at gross stuff. If you are afraid of animals attacking you, then this movie probably isn't for you. R.
DIRECTOR: Alex Garland
I need to take care of some business before I go into the nitty gritty of this analysis. I guess some of you may have noticed the soft reboot of this page. My film class died this year. I was asked to teach AP Literature, so my elective was the first thing to go. vmafilm.weebly.com is now officially Literally Anything: Movies. I'm expanding my brand. Apparently, I have a brand. Since the podcast is Literally Anything (located at literallyanything.net) and I put a lot of work into that, I mind as well make them one thing. For the past three years, I've tried updating from regularly to daily (weekdays. Give me a break). I've invested more in this blog than I thought I ever would, so I'm going to sink some money into it. The old link should still get you here, but you can now update your bookmarks to literallyanythingmovies.com.
Anyway, I'm way behind on my Alex Garland. I think that was also true about Ex Machina. I adored Ex Machina, but I caught it when it was free on Amazon Prime or something. Ex Machina was in that genre of recent additions that really feel like a Black Mirror episode, which I suppose is just 21st Century for a Twilight Zone episode specifically about technology. I know that there was a bunch of chatter about Garland's follow-up with Annihilation. There was some controversy with the casting, I hear. Is Annihilation based on a book? The recesses of my mind and my complete ambivalence towards Googling it right now remind me that there was a racial recasting in this one and it just got awkward. I also know that there was a lot of speculation about what the ending meant. Okay, I can kind of see that. I think literallyanythingmovies is going to be all about SPOILERS, so I slowly might be phasing out the spoiler warning and just sticking it at the top of the page. I can see that. The thing about Annihilation is that it isn't the same kind of movie as Ex Machina. It looks like it was made by the same guy. When I say that, I mean that Alex Garland makes a really pretty-yet-intense film. That's what is going on here. For a guy who teaches writing (please note, the point of this blog is to journal, warts and all), there are a million dots I want to connect right now and I'm having trouble organizing them. It's almost like I should plan topic sentences rather than just ramble. But I have a kid screaming in my ear that he's Ant-Man. Okay, back to one. Ex-Machnia and Annihilation are both gorgeous and upsetting movies. But Ex-Machina is a better movie. Why? It's a tight script that is smart without talking down to its audience. Annihilation really implies that it is a smart film. It's not dumb. I won't claim that. But it isn't as smart as it says that it is. Honestly, Annihilation's real victory is in its visuals. The story...is fine. But it reads more like a '90s horror movie than it does the spiritual successor to Ex-Machina.
Annihilation knows how to make plants scary. I'm sorry, M. Night Shylamalan. Apparently, it can be done well. For this reason alone, Annihilation deserves to exist. The only thing that really makes Annihilation somewhat lacking is whatever expectations you bring in with you. Okay, if you had never known that Alex Garland made this movie, would there be any problem with it? Probably not. I don't think it would be an absolutely outstanding film regardless. But Annihilation comes across like a fancier Mimic. That sounds like an insult, but it kind of treats its conceit the same way. A lot of this film is an excuse to show something cool. Natalie Portman's Lena teaches something very specific in the beginning of the film. It takes this scientifically basic idea and sci-fis the heck out of it. It's on par with that whole "What if you could use your whole brain trope?" It seems like there is something miraculous that is being discussed there. It seems like science is being messed with. But then you think about it for a half second and realize that it's just nonsense. Like, it's gobblety gook, right? I'm an English major and I'm terrible at science. But this movie just feels like it is a long delay for a pseudo-answer. Listen, you can show me mitosis all day. I get how cell division works. I am glad that the movie reminded me that cell division was a thing. But at the end of the day, it was really on the nose to have that be the cause of everything in the shimmer. I know. That's not the most eloquent reaction to everything I have seen on the screen. But what it does do is allow for my mind to get playful with the things I see on screen.
I don't know why we keep trying to make plants scary. I mean, Annihilation is probably the first venture to really make it work. I know you Alan Moore fans will probably start yelling at me about Swamp Thing and all of that hullabaloo. But there's something absolutely gross and mystifying about what you see in Annihilation. I love the idea of blending something made of meat with something that is plant based. Okay, I know that there are some very specific phobias out there. I think the one I hear about closest to his is about the things that are pore related. I'm terribly sorry if I'm triggering readers while discussing this. It doesn't really do anything for me, but I kind of get it. There's something alien about the whole experience. I think Annihilation hits a lot of those buttons. There's something ancient about the old world coming back and merging with us. I think of "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant. "Thanatopsis" offers similar imagery, the ground merging with our corpses. Mind you, in "Thanatopsis", that merging makes us one with kings and one with the planet. There's something noble about it. Annihilation takes kind of an alternate route to some of the same content. If "Thanatopsis" is mostly noble with a shade of creepiness, Annihilation flips the ratio around. Watching vines force their way through veins is troubling to say the least. Again, I know this is probably someone's button. I actually get anxious when weed-whacking giant weeds, the ones that look like cabbages. When they spray all over me, my blood pressure goes up. But Annihilation has more of an element of "cool" about the whole thing. It's watching a science experiment that might play a twist on you. That's the majority of the film.
From a paranoia perspective, I think the movie is functional. It's the Doctor Who moonbase. Yeah, it's an open world moonbase. But for all intents and purposes, there is no out. Garland sticks his characters six days in the shimmer without knowledge of how they got there. They know that there might be a way out if they follow the coast, but returning to the point of origin seems fruitless because they have no idea how they got there. For the sake of storytelling, there are landmarks. But like a moonbase, everything is just Shimmer. It's variation on the same thing. But we have seen this before. As much as I like Annihilation, I think that The Thing by John Carpenter is actually a better version of this. Yeah, The Thing is less pretty, but it is equally impressive. I don't know what it is about the women who are all lumped together, but I feel like people turn on each other...because. I don't really understand the secrecy element of Lena keeping information about her husband from the others. It seems like with movies like this and The Abyss, stressful situations make borderline people very very crazy very very quickly. I like that a lot in storytelling, that wild card. But I also think that a character kind of needs to ramp up to insanity. That's what would benefit from a television version of Annihilation over a film version. Over the course of the movie, everyone kind of loses it. Even the protagonist isn't in the most healthy place by the end of the film. From a viewing perspective, it makes it kind of hard to intellectually attach to the motivations of the characters. For example, I'm thrilled to see Tessa Thompson in something else. Since Ragnarok I have been interested in her as an actress. I instantly grabbed onto her character sooner than, say, Jane the Virgin. I have no problem with Gina Rodriguez (I'm not Googling any of this), but I like Thompson, so I watch for her. But when she has her breakdown, as well performed as it was, I had no transition into it. This all begs to question why Lena lasts as long as she does. It feels like the Shimmer is perhaps torturing her more than the others. We have Oscar Isaacs everywhere. (I refuse to call him "Kane".) It seems like her story is the one that is most connected to the events in the Shimmer, yet she is the least crazy of them. While I adored the scene and especially how it looked, it is weird that Thompson just decides to be crazy and die. It's an odd decision. We see stuff like this with people going crazy. We know that our protagonists are under the influence too, but we never really believe it because stuff just happens to other characters.
I wanted to love Annihilation more. It's a very good movie and it is absolutely gorgeous. I don't think I've ever thought of horror movies as pretty, but this one definitely is. It's just that it seems rather run of the mill compare to some of the other science fiction outings I've seen lately. The Shimmer, with all of its explanations, still seems kind of lacking depth. It doesn't really tie emotionally to a theme as much as it needs to. I know, you really could make it fit. But it just seems convenient at times. The Shimmer does what it is supposed to do. It's a set that is a Macguffin. That's fine and all, but I really wanted something concrete to tie the whole thing together.
PG for incest. Okay, that's strawmanning it a bit. It's PG for swearing, drinking, attempted rape, violence, attempted vehicular manslaughter, incest, peeping, plagiarism (Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan), playing really loud music, porno movie theaters, poverty, graffiti, racism, drunk driving, bullying, and being late for school. You know. PG stuff.
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
I didn't think I had an article in me today. I'm stretched to the gills with how busy today is. Realistically, there's a good chance that I don't finish writing this until tomorrow. The only thing that didn't make me throw in the towel, besides the fact that I have an iron will, is that my Notes App on my phone said that I got to write about Back to the Future today.
I'm a little ashamed to love Back to the Future as much as I do. People who know me in the real world know that I'm obsessed with really good time travel stories. I'm a Whovian through and through. I don't think I've been really subtle about that. I've regularly made comparisons to Doctor Who in articles left and right. I don't love when people say, "I'm really into time travel. I love Back to the Future." I'm the bad guy in this scenario. You should love Back to the Future. Even though Doctor Who is older than Back to the Future, I felt like Doctor Who never took full advantage of its brain-breaking conceit until recent iterations. Back to the Future, however. That's a time travel story. It actually might be the OG time travel story because it is the only one to realize that time travel is a truly messed up thing. How is it that the best scripted time travel story comes in the form of a comedy / romantic comedy about someone trying to get their mom to fall out of love with him?
The entire Back to the Future trilogy is extremely smart. I know that people lose their minds over this movie and that it is the only movie that they watch. There's a reason for that. I'm always going to advocate for broadening horizons in film, but this well is fun to come back to once in a while. The reason is that it feels like the tightest script I think I've ever read. Every time I watch it, I notice something different about how time travel works. Sure, Avengers: Endgame might comment on how the Back to the Future time travel doesn't work, but it definitely feels like ribbing versus and actual attempt to dethrone the king of time travel storylines. There is one brain-breaky paradox thing that happens in the movie that I only notice this time. I'm going to talk about it, but I don't want to fault the film whatsoever. Everything that the original Back to the Future does lines up with the fact that it might be a perfect movie. If Bob Gale or Robert Zemeckis addressed what I'm about to bring up, it would actually ruin the film. This is one of those things that probably other people have thought before, but I'm going to do my best attempt to do the same. Here we go. SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY.
I'm going to call the Marty for most of the movie "Twin-Pines Marty". You might already see where this is going. If you do, you win the Marvel No-Prize. Most of the film, the Marty we know comes from a timeline where the mall that was in Hill Valley was named "Twin Pines Mall." It was named that way because the farmer in the film had this weird notion about breeding trees. When Marty goes back in time, that has to be the first version of Marty going back in time. (It actually doesn't have to be the first one. Maybe Marty actually screws up his timeline in some of the versions.) In the Twin Pines timeline, George McFly is a loser and Lorraine is an alcoholic. Because of these things, Marty is really confused about seeing versions of his parents that either align or break expectations of what he understands about his folks. George McFly lines up with what he knows. As an adult, he was picked on by Biff Tannen. As an adolescent, he was picked on by Biff Tannen. Lorraine McFly is an alcoholic who settles for mediocrity. She claims to have been extremely well behaved as an adolescent, commenting that Jennifer shouldn't be calling Marty because girls don't call boys. In truth, Lorraine Baines pre-McFly (nee' works the other way in time travel) is actually aggressively sexual and rebellious. Because of Marty's knowledge of the Twin Pines future, he is forced to do everything that he can to ensure that his parents get together. He knows that his father is a neurotic wallflower who needs to be bullied into doing everything. It's how he scares him into asking Lorraine out on a date. He actually bullies his own father because he knows that it is his trigger. Through bringing George and Lorraine together, he actually teaches his dad confidence. George, knocking out Biff Tannen, changes the timeline. From that moment forward, George faces his problems head on. He writes a book. Both Lorraine and George are successful. Doing what? I don't know. Now, George knocking out Biff is really the inception of the Lone Pine Mall universe. The George of the Lone Pine Mall universe has made money. His kids are all successful. This raises two questions: 1) What is George McFly and Lorraine McFly doing living in Lyon Estates? Hill Valley is a dump. There's a homelessness problem. Everything is tagged with graffiti. There's a porno movie theater. They don't even have money to restore the clock tower. Why would they live there? Devil's advocate: They fell in love in Hill Valley, so they're going to live there. But why in the same house that they would have picked if they were poor. (Oh my, the commentary on the family who lives there in the 1985-B universe is even more troubling.) But the bigger issue I have is the psychology of Lone Pine Mall Marty. I suppose we have an inversion in expectations between Mom and Dad. In Lone Pines Universe, Lorraine seems much more in line with her personality as an adolescent. Perhaps she's not as crass, but she probably doesn't really betray her core beliefs. George has got to come across as a shock. But Marty would probably treat them differently. He wouldn't know about the fact that Lorraine fell in love with George when his grandpa hit him with the car because that never happened.
There's things like that. But you know what? I love stuff like that. That's what makes time travel storytelling so interesting. By having stuff like this, it makes me think. The thing is, it took me a million watches of this movie to spot that paradox. There are other paradoxes that I have completely forgotten about. For all I know, I've thought of this paradox before. But Back to the Future exists not because there's a paradox that prevents these stories from happening, but I think that the movie wants you to kind of think about it. There are all these scenarios that don't take the easy way out. If you have ever wanted to tell a tale about the Butterfly Effect, this movie is it. The actual movie The Butterfly Effect didn't really make use of its conceit as well as Back to the Future. Not going to hide this, but I adore Back to the Future II. It's my favorite of the series. Part of what makes it all really work is that fact that the filmmakers never really treat it as a comedy. They are making a great science fiction film that is lodged in the real world. It's funny because the characters are compelling and the tone is light, despite all of the insane things that happen in the movie. I don't think we'll ever get a movie as tonally perfect as Back to the Future. Endgame really tried, but it was its own thing. It's why people get so nostalgic for this movie. It holds up so well that every time I watch it, I don't watch it through a nostalgic eye. The movie is just a good movie, unlike a lot of the other things I watch from my childhood. The two movies that hold up more than any other films? Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. There's nothing dated about these films, which is ironic because they keep screaming that 1985 is the present. I showed one of my students this film for the first time and he adored it. He hates everything. But you know what? I adored it just as much. I laughed at parts that I knew were coming up. I tried not to. But I did. I'm not even sorry for it. The movie just gets me every time.
Yeah, I'm a hipster. I wish I could say that Primer was my favorite time travel movie because of the cred. Maybe Chronos Crimines. But Back to the Future, if I'm being completely honest, is probably the best time travel movie ever made. If you haven't given this one a whirl in a while, do. It's still a great time.
Not rated, but that's because it's a bit too underground to really hit the MPAA's attention. It's very Catholic, but it also probably should earn an R-rating. While we don't see any nudity, there's a couple of pretty intense sexual situations. Also, they smoke like chimneys, get high, and swear like the dickens in one scene. It's a really weird parental guide this time.
DIRECTOR: Joe Duca
Geez Louise. This movie, guys. This movie. This movie sat on my to-watch list for far too long. I watched about a minute of it and said, "Nope." It's because I'm an unfair person. I was asked to review this movie through CNA (which is coming out. It's one of those rare ones where I literally just finished writing the professional one before I write the vent-y one. No not "Venti" one. Although this one probably will be longer and more ramble-y.). I asked my editor if I could skip it based on the first few minutes and he gave me the okay. But then I realized I wasn't really doing my very specific job if I didn't actually review it. My only reason that I took so long was because I didn't want to do it and that makes me a bad person.
It did suck. I'm sorry. It didn't suck as bad as I thought it would, but this movie was still a chore. It was probably about the longest hour-and-a-half I've had to go through for a while. A lot of that is because this is a short story that is blown up into an hour-and-a-half long feature. At Steubenville, where I went for college, my buddies made a comedy for his communications class. It's one of those scenarios where it is very entertaining, but way too long. We were desperate to make it a full length film and the content really didn't support it. I'm extremely proud of that movie, but I can see outsiders getting a little tired of it. Now, imagine you did the same thing for a Catholic film about relationships. Yeah, the movie could have been a great short. Okay, the movie could have been a pretty decent short. But as a film, it is drill-a-hole-through-your-head bad. I wasn't even allowed to play on my phone. I don't do that normally, but I REALLY don't do that when I'm being paid to watch a movie. I also have another confession to make. I really don't like Christian cinema. In high school, I really got into Jars of Clay and DC Talk. This is all vulnerable stuff here, guys. But like many of the things I only liked for a short time, I quickly got off the Christian music train. It's not like my faith went away. It just got kind of corny. (By the way, which was the Christian ska one that my wife probably listened to?) Christian films never really got on my radar, but there's something about Christian rock and Christian movies that share something in common. As much as they want to be treated like their secular contemporaries, there's always something off about the whole thing. There are some Christian songs that can slightly pass. I tend not to like them because I don't really like a lot. But movies that are exclusively marketed to Christian audiences never appeal to me. I know this isn't universal, but most of them are pretty bad.
I like the movies that have a Catholic message, but aren't necessarily Catholic movies. I tend to recommend the Doctor Who episode, "Kill the Moon" for a great abortion allegory. You can guess how I kind of roll when it comes to talking about my faith through cinema based on that choice. "Evergreen" is a Catholic film that has a really good intention, but a pretty abysmal execution by-and-large. I don't want to condemn the whole thing. There are a few scenes that actually got me to directly engage and be emotionally moved. Considering I didn't like the movie, that's pretty high praise. But my wife asked me something at the midway point that is dead-on. She asked, "Who is this movie for?" It's an excellent question. It was at about this time in the movie that she abandoned ship and escaped into the world of her phone to look up the personal histories of everyone who was involved in the movie. She knows every Facebook and Twitter post from Tanner Kalina. That's how she rolls and I love her for it. Also, I often want to smash her phone. (Love you, Sweetie!) I know who this film is meant to be for. It's meant to be for all Catholic audiences. It's meant to appeal to the hardcore Catholic set, with its references to Love and Responsibility. Its spouting of dogma and theology while placing the Holy Family at the center of Advent rocks and it totally feels like a Catholic film. But it also wants to get the stray Catholic who got rope-a-doped into watching this. It has some pretty hardcore sexual stuff in it. People smoke weed on top of heaps of tobacco. They say the f-word...like a lot. (In one scene.) They [think that they] talk like real people. Man, I bet this has people coming back to the faith with its rad and edgy attitude.
But, like, it doesn't. By not having a hard line, I think that the movie fails at attracting either audience. I know that it got some awards. I really want to question how someone had a good time at this movie, enough to write multiple positive reviews. But imagine you are Catholic...you know, like I am. You are sitting down with your wife, like I did, and strapped yourself in for a film with good Catholic ideals. "Oh man, I hear that they address issues of lust and premarital sex." And then, you know, you watch a movie with some pretty intense sexuality. Like, uncomfortable sexuality. You know, unnecessary lustful sexuality. Yeah, that's not really appealing to Catholics. You can talk about Claddagh rings all day. You can throw around Love and Responsibility until the cows come home. It doesn't change that you just showed a really hot scene of people almost having sex. The other end of the spectrum is true as well. You have this sex scene that is probably normal for most movies, but really intense for a Catholic movie. Then you have to sit through and hour-and-fifteen more minutes with people talking about morality and ethics...occasionally doing it while high. Let's go with a best-case-scenario for this whole thing. Imagine that it worked and someone who was on the fence decided to turn his life over to Christ. Yay. I'm excited. Wait, it's okay to get high? It's okay to have a sex-free weekend with your girlfriend and co-habitate? It's okay to wear trying-too-hard suits and a fedora. (I'm sorry, but I could just see this guy walking around Steubenville. I know he didn't go to FUS, but the fedora and bow-tie put it over the top. The man bun didn't help.)
There's so much that didn't make the movie work. I'm going to go into one more thing that was so nagging at me that is petty, but it's my website. If I had to see one more scene of the protagonist putting his outrageously long hair into a bun, I might have smashed my phone. (I was casting it to the TV. Calm down, David Lynch.) THEY ROLL CIGARETTES, GUYS! Just scenes of man buns rolling cigarettes. I know it's all petty! I hear me too. But also, I'm supposed to be on that guy's team. I'm supposed to be like, "Catholicism, brother. Catholicism." Instead, I just wanted to shake him a little bit. Listen, I'm pretty woke. I'm down with millennials and my students. It's just this combination really bugged me. I'm supposed to be rooting for him and instead, I kept thinking that a random serial killer was going to enter the house and, in the pursing fight, cut off his hair and throw away his cigarette kit.
Okay, I got it out of my system. I can't dunk on this movie the entire time because there's some actually kinda/sorta decent stuff in the film. While the main story is completely annoying and in your face, the character backgrounds are actually kind of interesting. I like that the protagonist was married. Evergreen actually has some interesting things to say about annulments that I haven't really seen too often. Yeah, the movie as a whole comes across like a NET skit, (Catholic cred, right there) the moments where Paul interacts with Cassie actually have a bit of merit. I know, I am preaching all about how this movie lacks subtlety and the one thing I ask for the movie to do is to take the one subtle element of the movie and move it to the forefront. I'm a bad person and I've really established that in the review. But there is an emotional honesty behind the whole film. As much as I dislike this film, it has the right idea. The movie does really try to sell issues that Catholics deal with during the courting stages of a relationship. It takes into account that people have all kinds of baggage that affect the way we interact. Also, SPOILER: The movie kind of has a bummer ending. I love bummer endings. Sure, it's a bit hopeful at the same time, but it is a bummer ending. Oddly enough, the actress who played Cassie was pretty great. I mean, she had to be quiet and sad for a majority of the film, but she's effective at being quiet and sad.
I'm so sorry to some people reading this. If you like Christian and Catholic films, please continue doing so. I wish I did. I would love to be recommending these films to others instead of the trash I watch. But I also don't get a ton of artistic merit from a movie like Evergreen. Rather, I find it tedious and really frustrating. Also, I cannot stress this enough, the protagonist...GAH! He's just too much. I'm so sorry, Tanner Kalina. I am sure you are a prince in real life. It's just too much.
The game is over, and we’re ready to discuss. SPOILERS AHOY IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED ALL OF GAME OF THRONES. The guys this week break down the ending, who gets to be in charge, and the very nature of television and fantasy in a post-Game of Thrones era.
Content warning - discussion of one character’s sexual assault as a characterization technique.
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PG, for old timey James Bond action and sexuality. James Bond is infamous for just toeing that line for what is considered inappropriate. Yeah, it's wildly inappropriate. But the weird thing I noticed that, as sexual as Moonraker is, it is so far removed from the dirty stuff that was in The Spy Who Loved Me. Like, it's there. But it's not so in-your-face like it was in the last film. Technically, PG.
DIRECTOR: Lewis Gilbert
When I was in high school, I adored James Bond. This was the Quicktime video days. These were the halcyon days of clicking a link and sitting there and waiting for the trailer to The World is Not Enough to load. I'd watch every frame and try to hold back from clicking it. After all, I would have lost the tone of the trailer. There's a purpose to watching it one sitting. Then, I'd frame by frame the whole thing in hopes of figuring out what the plot was about. I'd visit EoN, but that was all publicity stuff. I've definitely tamed my James Bond obsession. I used to watch my widescreen VHS copies to death. I'd watch my DVD copies to death. If I had them on Laserdisc, I would watch those to death. But something happened when I got the Blu-ray box set. I think it is a little mix of the political climate and the fact that I've grown up a bit. James Bond wasn't this amazing thing that I absolutely adored anymore. Some of the movies I actually found to be a little boring. Aging, right? After watching The Spy Who Loved Me, I actually dreaded having to get into the dregs of the Roger Moore era.
Moonraker --and I'm not finished talking about this --might be what is quintessentially wrong with the Roger Moore era. Don't finish reading here because there's going to be a twist coming up. Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me are insane films. But the attitude of those two movies is to outdo the other Bond movies that come before it. One of the repeated marketing ploys that the Bond films did was to advertise how the current film was the "Biggest One Yet" and stuff like that. But by that logic, we could have seen Sean Connery play those roles. I might say that The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore's baby a little bit. But Moonraker has almost an attitude of giving up trying to be a sequel to the Sean Connery Bond movies. The formula is still there, but imagine that the entire kitchen sink was thrown in. When a film franchise takes its movie to space, you know you've jumped the shark somewhere down the line. The film adds science fiction movie homages left and right in Moonraker. There's a gondola that turns into a race car with missiles. A pigeon does a double-take (admittedly, at the gondola) at one point. There's a space laser fight. It also brings back a henchman?! Really? It's insane.
But maybe because I wasn't ready to revisit Moonraker, I really enjoyed it this time. The Spy Who Loved Me was such a chore that I thought I was done with Bond for a while. It's only because of this blog and my obsession with To-Do lists that I watched it. I mean, it's not like I've saw a new film. I could still quote major portions of Moonraker. And that's when I remembered that, as a kid, I had a Moonraker poster on my wall. I know that Moonraker is pretty shameless. It's one of the most cornball movies in the franchise. It does almost everything wrong, but I really don't care. What makes me love Moonraker is that it allows the movie to just exist. It's not trying to be high art at any time. When I was younger, I thought that there was something about 007 that screamed "prestige film". I know that Goldfinger is in the film canon, which kind of blows my mind at times. But Moonraker actually does something really weird that is so minor, but it changes my attitude towards the whole franchise going forward. (Okay, I never liked For Your Eyes Only.) It takes a lot of the Bond tropes and tempers them a bit. The Maurice Binder opening credits, while still having naked girls flipping all over, minimizes the actual nudity. The movie leaves a lot up to the imagination and innuendo. Yeah, we can see Roger Moore and Lois Chiles floating mid-coitus at the end of the film. But instead of really playing up how sexy the film is, it is more playful. From a spiritual perspective, this is probably really dangerous. But it seems like Moonraker understood the proper audience for James Bond fans. There's a reason that these movies during the Roger Moore era continued being PG (besides the fact that there was no PG-13 yet) and that's because the movies are kind of aimed at adolescents. While I will always adore the other Bond eras for what they were, there's something remarkably fun about Moonraker.
I forgot how good and how fun the pre-credit sequence is in Moonraker. It might be my favorite stunt done in Bond. James Bond being pushed out of a plane without a parachute might be what the entire Bond series has been striving for. It is possibly the most hopeless situation that Bond has ever faced. It is a death-trap without the artificiality of a traditional death trap. It's what we always assume out of James Bond. 007, given a modicum of time, can figure his way out of death each and every time. Normally, the filmmakers rely on some elaborate scheme. Possibly the most famous of these schemes comes from Sean Connery's Bond in Goldfinger, with the laser beam to the genitals. That's a good one. But if you remember how lame that one ended up getting resolved, it's so refreshing to see the plane jump. In Goldfinger, by the way, he just talks his way out of it. He pretends to know more about Operation: Grand Slam than he does. Whoopee. But throwing someone out of an airplane during a fight seems like there's no artifice of torture. It's simple. The quickest way to kill Bond is letting him fall to his death. Yet, there's a way out. You or me fall out of a plane, we're dead. If not dead, pulverized. (I second hand know of a guy who survived a fall from a plane. Just a weird story that I have in my back pocket.) But Bond? It works so well. It's clever. It's action packed. It must have been hell to film. That's what makes classic Bond work so well. I think of my least favorite stunt from Bond, when Bond rides the iceburg in Die Another Day. This was a bunch of stunt guys jumping out of planes and wrestling in mid air, then doing it again. This was a huge challenge, but it also has this element of playfulness. "Can we pull it off?" Sure. It's just like The Man with the Golden Gun and the corkscrew, but everyone doesn't leave mad. I mean, I could even contrast it within the same movie of a forced deathtrap. Drax putting Bond and Goodhead (it's creepier now that I've written it) under a shuttle? While the table coming down into the floor is super rad and the set designer deserves major kudos, that's absurd. Also, should the explosive work? Isn't that grate meant to be resistant to extreme heat?
I kind of believe that Moonraker might be afraid of its conceit a little bit too. Don't get me wrong. That trepidation worked in Moonraker's favor. The promotional art is Roger Moore doing the "Casual Bond" pose in a shiny space suit. The entire time, you are waiting for him to get to space. I know that everyone involved had no idea how to do good sci-fi. This is post Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Close Encounters. You know that because the references are dropped. But most of the movie is on Earth. It actually follows a lot of the traditional formula. Bond is sent on his mission. He explores one locale. He gets into a fight. He seduces someone. He finds a clue. Onto the next location. But somehow it feels tighter than The Spy Who Loved Me. I kept feeling like people would just tell Bond where to go and there he'd go. There's oddly a logical progression of clues in this one that gets him very different locations around the world. Yes, I'm glad that the movie ends with a giant space battle. It would be a crime if this part of the film was completely ignored. But if it didn't have the space stuff, it would actually be a fairly strong Bond film without it. But like I said, they were probably terrified to do Bond in Space. The Moonraker taking off on top of the plane? I know. They said that it could do that. But so much feels unresearched. The interior of that shuttle was roomy as heck. I know, this is so nitpicky, but I adored it. Moonraker's definition of zero g is that everyone moves in slow motion. It also gives people in zero g the power of flight. All these supermodels in the movie had luscious long hair and it just sat there. At one point, a character just walks in slow motion to get to the escape hatch. But this stuff all matched the tone of the film! I don't think I ever noticed the gravity stuff before. But it is hilarious.
The insane part is that I don't think that anyone's opinion of this film would be changed. It sounds like I love this movie ironically, but I don't. It's a silly movie with one of the more forgettable bad guys. It's odd, because he almost has the same goal as Carl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me. But the movie is almost incidental. The movie throws so much at the screen that it actually becomes fun. I wouldn't say that this formula could work every time. In fact, a lot of people don't think that it worked. But it's like accidental art. It's pretty good, despite the fact that it does so much wrong. It's not a trainwreck. It's just the joy of reckless abandon in the process of filmmaking. Not often, but here...it kind of works.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.