Daily Archives: August 28, 2022

Movie Review – Nope (2022)

Nope is a big nope for me.

BQB here with a review of Jordan Peele’s latest.

It’s hard not to root for Jordan Peele. Very few comedians make the transition to serious movie director. His first two films, Get Out and Us used the horror genre to discuss society’s racial problems that all too often leave black people feeling like they’re living in a real life horror film. Us was especially scary to me, so much so that I never wanted to watch it again, not because it was bad because it was that scary and I didn’t want to get scared again.

But while the first two flicks had clear messages (white people controlling and/or replacing the identity of black people in Get Out or how an underground world of our violent, angry doppelgangers who are just like us suffer while people above thrive serves as a lesson about class privilege in Us) the message here is not very clear, unless I am oblivious, which is possible and if so, feel free to explain it to me in the comments.

The plot? Daniel Kaluuya and Emerald Haywood are OJ and Emerald Haywood, the brother/sister team who, after the untimely death of their father Otis Sr (Keith David) are struggling to keep their family business afloat. The Haywards are the descendants of Alistair Haywood, the jockey who appeared in the very first movie ever, a short film showing a jockey ride a horse. Thus, a Haywood was Hollywood’s first actor, stunt man, and animal trainer. The Haywoods have run a ranch in Agua Dulce, California ever since, providing horses to Hollywood productions. Alas, as often happens in family businesses, the loss of their father leaves a big hole to fill, the kids feel like they don’t measure up to the old man’s years of experience. OJ knows how to handle horses but is painfully shy. Emerald has no interest in helping out at the range but is boisterously outgoing, thus the person who communicates to all the Hollywood folk. Ultimately, they need each other.

Their competition is Jupiter’s Claim, a ranch run next door by former child actor Ricky Park (Steve Yeun). OJ and Ricky know that animals are unpredictable, and have seen devastating results that suggest animals really were never intended by nature to be sources of entertainment for man. As a child, Ricky was the only member of a sitcom (about a family that adopted a chimp) cast to avoid being either killed or horribly maimed by a chimpanzee’s on set freakout. OJ’s lack of communication skills (well, maybe rather a lack of ability to communicate authoritatively) lead to a crew member getting kicked in the face by a horse. Sadly, despite seeing what can go wrong when animals are controlled, OJ and Ray stay in the animal training business anyway.

Anyway, when strange doings in the sky transpire above Agua Dulce, OJ and Emerald see dollar signs. The family business has been losing customers and therefore money ever since their father passed. They hope if they can catch photographic evidence of UFO activity, they’ll get a payday, fame and maybe even an interview on Oprah. (When was this movie supposed to take place? Oprah has been off the air a long time.)

Meanwhile, Ray hopes to wow audiences by baiting the flying object into appearing for the viewing pleasure of his ranch guests.

Ultimately, I’m not exactly sure what the film’s message is. There’s an obvious ribbing of man’s desire for fame and fortune, as well as the stupid lengths we go to grab it. Ray clearly lives in the past with an entire room dedicated to his child sitcom star days, even though one would think the horror he experienced on set would have gotten him out of the acting alongside animals game for good. Emerald wants to be an actress herself, going to great lengths to promote herself during set visits while ignoring very real aspects of her family’s established business.

It all culminates in a final half where everyone’s running around trying to film whatever the heck this flying thing is rather than embracing the survival instinct and getting the heck out of there. It’s all about grabbing the footage to get the cash, no one ever thinking maybe they ought to call the government, get the area closed off to save lives, then protect themselves. People doing stupid things in the name of good footage to post online seems like a problem in the social media age.

I’ll share in other online criticism in that the previews made us think we were getting a pretty awesome UFO flick while the movie itself is very long and the first half is mostly dedicated to how shitty the Hollywood animal training business is and how perhaps it shouldn’t even exist because humans are stupid, treat living things like props and attempts to control living things inevitably explode in dangerous ways. All valid points and feel free to make an entire movie about that, but as a viewer, you just sit around, look at your watch, and wonder when the UFO is going to appear.

The last half featuring a showdown between the flying object, the Haywoods and their buddies Angel, an IT tech and documentarian Antlers Holst (Brandon Perea and Michael Wincott) who serve as the cameramen tasked with documenting the phenomenon while the Haywoods draw it out.

Perhaps Holst provides the movie’s message. “This dream you’re chasing, where you end up on the top of the mountain and everyone is cheering for you. It’s the one you never wake up from.”

In other words, we’re all fools and the lengths we go to in order to get noticed, to get rich, are all silly and ill-advised. Maybe the work-a-day stiffs have it right. Earn a living, keep your head down, stand by your family. Everyone else trying to be famous will never find what they’re looking for.

STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy. I almost ranked it non-shelf worthy but it has fun moments. The movie’s running joke, where OJ sees danger, says “Nope” matter of factly, then hides from it, is funny and perhaps is the best strategy for life. When you sense something is wrong, usually it is, so don’t run toward it in hopes that you’ll achieve fame. OJ is the reluctant hero as he doesn’t really long for fame and fortune and is only participating in the alien photography project to save the business his father and family created and built. Ultimately, I think the film’s extra long run time makes it suffer and Peele needed to decide if he wanted to make a movie about UFOs or about how the Hollywood animal training industry sucks. You might not believe he eventually does tie the two together, but you do have to wait for it.

The stars are good. Kuulaya plays a quiet man so doesn’t get a lot of material, but uses what he gets well. Keke is funny as an attention grabber. Steve Yeun gets a chance to shine and this might be his most interesting role since playing The Walking Dead’s Glenn. Everyone does their part, I just think the movie wasn’t sure what it wanted to be.

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TV Review – She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022)

It ain’t easy bein’ green, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the super silly She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

I have to admit I waited a week or two before diving into this, largely because of the social media tomfoolery over it. Various memes and posts suggested the primary focus was going to be an assertion that every woman secretly has an angry green rage monster brewing inside them that they keep at bay at all times because society treats them so harshly, the flip side being that all men live on easy street and la dee da through life with nary a problem.

Though I know women have it rough in many respects, I always thought social media is a place where nuanced arguments go to die. It is very much an either/or place. Post that you love cookies and everyone will accuse you of despising muffins. No, you just happened to really love cookies at a particular moment in time and wanted to share your love of it, but that doesn’t mean you hate muffins or gasp, even cupcakes. Mmm cupcakes.

At any rate, the world is a harsh place like Sisyphus of Ancient Greek legend fame, we all have our own comically massive boulder to push up our own neverending hill forever and ever. Me complaining about my boulder was never meant to imply you don’t have your own boulder or that my boulder is bigger than your boulder or what have you. Sometimes we just need to complain about our boulders and have people listen. Other times if we complain about our boulders, people might, just might either get out of the way or even help give our boulders a little push in the right direction.

Ultimately, we have to stop talking past each other and too each other and social media is a place where that rarely if ever happens.

Bottomline: She-Hulk is a lot of fun in my book. It’s a comedy. It’s light yet mixes in the action and it recognizes and arguably even fixes one of Marvel’s longest running problems, namely that The Incredible Hulk (and other variants by proxy) is an awesome, fan favorite character when part of an ensemble, but when heading up a stand-alone film, he’s box office poison.

Much of the problem, at least with the first two attempts at a Hulk flick in 2003 and 2008 is that said films usually focus heavily on the science (gasp I know, right?) and Banner running around avoiding the law and government agents who want to catch him and study him and avoiding getting angry for fear of losing control and going into Hulk smash mode and then when Hulk is the Hulk he is a big dummy so it’s hard to direct him toward productive activities.

Long story short, She-Hulk embraces the “women have it way tougher than men” narrative to, well, make the long story short. We know how Batman became Batman, we know how Spidey became Spidey and we know how hulks become hulks, so thankfully the show didn’t spend an entire season on an origin story, or rather, at least one in which She-Hulk comes to grips with being a lady hulk.

Instead, the show is a parody, lampooning the superhero genre.

The plot? SPOILER ALERT. Overworked attorney Jessica Walters (Tatiana Maslany) goes on vacation with her cousin, the one and only Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). When a frigging spaceship cuts them off in traffic because that’s life in a world where superheroes exist, Bruce cuts his arm, his hulk infected blood accidentally squirts onto Jessica, and now she’s infected with hulkism and has to live her life as a goddamn frigging hulk.

Sounds like a pain in the ass, right? Bruce whisks his cousin away to a secret island facility, advising her that her life as she knew it is over. Apologetic and solemn, he councils her that as he once did, she too will go on a multi-year journey where she learns to control her rage and learn to use her hulkism for good. Daily training and exercises and…yeah, blah, blah, blah, not so much. Turns out like all women, Jessica was always great at controlling her rage and only male hulks have to sit around and do yoga to learn how to keep from going into unbridled hulk smash mode.

I mean, yeah, it openly embraces the women rule and men drool motif but come on, it’s funny. It’s done in a humorous way and I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t want to watch five seasons where Jessica lives in a cave, outcast from society until she finally learns to control her anger and channel her hulk and neither did you.

Turns out, she doesn’t want to be a superhero either. Yeah, she has a special power now. She can turn into a super strong and enormous lady hulk at will, but she has no interest in running around with the Avengers. They don’t even get paid, she opines, and she has a career as a lawyer to get back to as well as law school loans to pay off.

And so, she returns to her practice, content to hide her hulkism until she learns that old adage “with great power comes great responsibility.” When a supervillain breaks into court one day, hellbent on murdering the entire jury box, Jessica realizes she can’t in good conscience not hulk out and save the day and so She-Hulk she comes to be.

Given the shaft by the legal industry (the bastards don’t want the liability of a She-Hulk on the payroll), she is hired by a major law firm to head up their new superhero law division, because you know, people with super powers tend to destroy a lot of shit so someone needs to handle the legal fallout of that. Her first case? Handle the parole hearing of Abomination (Tim Roth reprising his role as the villain from the 2008 film), a real conflict of interest as the dude tried to kill her cousin, but he swears he’s better now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. This is an example of a show trusting the fans to already know what they need to do and delving right into the nitty gritty, rather than boring us with hours upon hours of origin. It dives right in and comes out swinging. It’s funny. It’s got a lot of action. At a half hour per episode, it’s even short and sweet. It’s your own personal Rorschach test. If you think the “women have it tougher than men” narrative is right, then it’s reinforced. If you think it’s wrong, then it’s poked fun at. Ultimately, it is all handled with good humor.

Bonus sidenote: I really enjoyed the scenes with Jessica’s family. Who hasn’t gone to a family dinner only to be peppered with nonsensical questions, to be heavily criticized and talked over and yeah if you had hulk powers, your family would be constantly demanding that you lift their heavy stuff and fix things for them all the time.

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