Post Endgame, it felt like Marvel might have hit a bit of a slump, story wise. SPOILER ALERT, certain big characters were written out of the narrative (Iron Man died, Captain America traveled back in time, lived his life in his time period, then got super old, Black Widow died.)
And while it’s not impossible in a comic book-verse to bring back the deceased (Black Widow came back in her titular movie via a prequel, Loki came back in a Disney Plus show via an uber complicated, I still don’t understand plot involving time travel and the multi-verse) it looks like Marvel’s lesser knowns, like Captain Marvel, Dr. Strange and company will be carrying the franchise’s water for a while.
(Yes, I know this is where comic book nerds throw a shoe at my head and tell me Captain Marvel and Dr. Strange aren’t lesser knowns but I mean, to the general, non-comic reading public at large?)
Long story short, Marvel flew this one under the radar. Not a ton of promotion unlike their others. Not a lot of hype. I thought by the trailer I see a couple months ago it was going to be good and low and behold, I was not disappointed.
The plot? Awkafina! I kid, but seriously, she serves as a tres adorbs plot device. Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) have been friends since junior high school and now as young adults, they act a lot like a couple though they have yet to admit it.
One day, their seemingly normal lives are upended when Shaun is attacked by a band of kick-ass baddies with mad kung-fu skills. When he breaks out some skills of his own and defeats them with ease, Katy becomes that character many movies have, the one the audience follows down the rabbit hole as all the rules of this new world are explained.
Turns out Shaun is really Shang-Chi and has hidden a secret life from his BFF/Possible GF for years. His father is the legendary Wenwu, an immortal figure who, with the aid of his super awesome ten rings, has secretly run the world for over a thousand years. Together, Shang and Katy must travel to China, confront Shang’s old man, save the world and yadda, yadda, yadda. I won’t spoil the rest.
There are some pretty great martial arts fight scenes, special effects, and tie-ins to the Avenger-verse that surprisingly hit the mark and aren’t clunky (i.e. they are good and not like the TV shows where someone will pretend that Thor just walked by and sorry you missed him.)
Overall, I do think Iron Man and Captain America were the two big draws of the Avengers films (though Spiderman is doing yeoman’s work as of late) but with Shang-Chi, Marvel is succeeding in breathing new, exciting life to the lesser knowns. Keep in mind as of 2008, the general non-comic reading public was only semi-familiar with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor (everyone knew the Hulk) but they were built into powerhouses with rich back stories. For Shang-Chi, this was a great first shot across the bow and I have a hunch the next one could totally be a summer blockbuster that will put a lot of butts in seats (assuming the pandemic is over by then and we aren’t on the sigma variant or the epsilon variant or the woobie doobie variant or whatever.)
Bonus points for Awkwafina. I think she’s great in everything she does and is a prime example of how social media has given rise to a lot of stars who may never have had their chance to shine without this new technology. (Google her “My Vag” song for uproarious laughter even if you are a decade late to the party on that one.) To the film’s credit, they did’t make her outrageously wacky here, but still capitalized on the humor that would ensue if one day you discovered your BFF was secretly hiding a double life as a kung-fu master.
Just wanted to give a quick shout out to this fun flick I watched on Netflix last night. I saw it years ago and its sad how quickly the time has passed and of course, the things I didn’t notice or realize then that I do today.
What if I told you there was a movie featuring some of the biggest stars today in their bright eyed, bushy tailed youth? Here, you’ve got Chris Evans about a year before he became Captain America. Idris Elba before he became Thor’s BFF Heimdahl. Zoe Saldana before she became Gamora of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. Jeffrey Dean Morgan before he picked up Neegan’s bat in The Walking Dead.
In short, you’ve got some very young looking actors before they reached the heights of comic book movie fame, ironically in a comic book movie. Though it’s not very comic booky in that there are no capes or spandex, it is based on a comic. It’s about a squad of U.S. military, double-crossed and left for dead in Bolivia, forced to take on one last mission to save the world, promised that their names will be cleared and lives restored if they are successful.
Bonus points for Jason Patric who chews scenery as a villainy who positively exudes villainy (he freely shoots members of his entourage in public for making the slightest, most trivial mistakes) and his henchman, a brown haired young Holt McCallany, before he found his groove as gray haired FBI agent Bill Tench in Netflix’s Mindhunter.
It was a fun walk down memory lane and though I knew most of these actors at the time, it’s wild to think about how far they’ve all come in the decade since this movie. Sad there may never be a sequel because to get them all on the same set now would cost boku buckaroos.
Also, it’s short and sweet, about an hour and a half run time. They do a lot with a little and the action never stops.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Where does the time go? Watch on Netflix.
BQB here with a review of the ninth installment of this long-running gearhead fest.
Alright, I’m just going to say it. I was disappointed. I didn’t want to be, but I was. For the past decade, seeing that a Fast and Furious movie was out was like having a three day old piece of pizza in the fridge. I know it’s there. I know I shouldn’t eat it. I know I’m going to be sick later but during the moment of consumption, it’s going to be oh, so enjoyable.
Long standing franchises are, in a way, like old fridge pizza. They’re not the best choice, but you know what you’re getting. Just like that pizza will have nice, cold sauce and perfectly congealed cheese, so too will Star Wars always have awesome lightsaber duels and James Bond will always ask for his martinis to be shaken, not stirred. It’s all mostly sub-par, but dependable, and occasionally, a masterpiece happens once every five years or so – just like Fast and Furious’ Fast Five (see the scene where Dom and Brian drive a bank safe down a Brazillian highway via cords attached to Dodge Chargers for more) or Star Wars’ Empire Strikes Back (see the whole thing for more) or James Bond’s Skyfall (again, see the whole thing for more) or that run of pizza pies in 2017 when Vinny’s Pizza hired a pizza chef from Italy and he made some fantastic pies before he left and started his own restaurant.
But I digress.
Here’s what I have come to expect from “The Fast Saga.” These are the three reasons I have, time and time again, plunked my cash down on the ticket counter:
#1 – Scantily clad women. (Yes, I said it. I don’t know how we all became puritans all of a sudden but yes, men like to watch movies in which hotties with little to nothing on shake their moneymakers. Shocking, I know.)
#2 – Bald, testosterone addled musclebound bodybuilders beating the crap out of each other. (It reminds men of their cavemen days when they would lift rocks all day so as to grow their muscles large and then they would challenge each other to fisticuffs in order to impress the hairy cave women.)
#3 – Insane, borderline comical car stunts. (There was an Onion video years ago where a newsman says he’s going to interview the screenwriter of the Fast and Furious franchise. Cut to a little boy smashing his toy cars together saying stuff like, “And then Dom is gonna drive his car really fast and jump over a train and then Brian is gonna jump his car over a helicopter and…” Yes, that’s pretty much the writing process.
So, why am I disappointed?
In this outing, I only got #3. Getting all three makes these movies great and sometimes two out of three ain’t bad, but three is all you get here. You might argue we get 2 because Vin Diesel is in it and he’s as big and bald as ever but it’s never been more obvious than it was in this installment that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham have been carrying these films on the shoulders just below their big, bald heads.
Seriously, that’s what this movie was lacking. It needed Hobbs. It needed Shaw. Obviously, as the proprietor of a blog that is only read by 3.5 readers, I was not privy to the creative process of this film and/or why The Rock and J-Stath took a powder in this go-around, but I can only assume it’s because Universal blew their bald, muscular action star budget on 2019’s Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw, which, though a fun flick, might have been penny wise and pound foolish, for they really need to be present in “the saga” itself for it to continue.
And sure, this film tries to pull out all the cameo stops. Various appearances from this person and that person where you squint and say, “Oh yeah, I think they were in that FF movie from like, seven years ago. Wow, that’s some fabulous continuity!” but none of it compares to our favorite chrome domed warriors.
Sure, John Cena is in it. He’s big. He’s muscular. He’s not bald though. For a true action flick, the stars must be bald, because then you realize that this dude is so big and bad that even his hair ran away screaming in terror one night and with a full head of hair, you know Cena isn’t that tough if his hair isn’t afraid of him.
All kidding aside though, I was excited to see that Cena was joining the cast, but I don’t think they gave him enough to do. He has carried films before (See 2006’s The Marine and the grossly unrecognized 12 Rounds (2009) for more.) If he’s to return in future FF’s, I hope they let him off the proverbial chain.
BTW he stars as Dom’s long-lost, totes estranged brother, who became super evil over a brotherly spat. In any other film series, introducing a here-to-fore never discussed brother who has been committing acts of super-villainy for years but has never been discussed would be considered a gaping plot hole, but this series, to its credit, is self-aware and slaps its holes shut with a wink and some silly putty.
Alright, so it fails on #2.
Does it succeed on #3? Of course. There are some truly insane, awesome car chases. Part of me wants to say there isn’t anything as awesome as, say, Cypher’s taking control of all the cars in the city and hurling them at Dom like a kid who just dumped out a tub full of Matchbox cars (ala The Fate of the Furious) or Fast Five’s bank vault down the highway scene, but there are still some pretty intense scenes. I suppose I shouldn’t give it away (SPOILER WARNING) so I’ll just say that electromagnets, a Tarzan-like swing (from a cable…across a ravine…in a damn car…crap I said I wouldn’t say it but I did, oh well just pretend I didn’t) and space are all involved.
But I must say, the movie fails, utterly, fails when it comes to #1. There are no scantily clad females to be seen at any point in this film’s much too long 143 minute run time. I mean, seriously, you can get me to sit down for car chases, but if you want to keep me glued for two and a half hours, there needs to be some hot babes in various states of undress.
Just as we can always count on James Bond to ask for his martini to be shaken and not stirred, so too can we always count on a FF movie to have at least one drag race scene where a voluptuous vixen in skimpy attire drops the flag, a signal to the gearheads that it’s time to step on the gas.
A mere 4 years ago, 2017’s Fate of the Furious gave us a scene in Cuba where a hot babe with a dress so short and revealing that I honestly wondered if maybe there was a wardrobe malfunction where maybe she left the skirt in the dryer too long and it shrunk and no one from the wardrobe department noticed. You caught glimpse of partial cheeks and everything and I’m just saying that as a movie buff and not as a lonely man who ran that scene back a hundred times.
Flash forward to today and naturally, there was a drag race scene, but the flag dropper just wore a pair of jeans. Like, not even revealing jeans. Like, Costco dungarees two sizes too big. She didn’t give a rousing speech or anything. It was just like, “Eh, this is my job. I’m the flag dropper. Here, flag dropped. Done.”
“But BQB” you might say. FF has a number of recurring, hot female characters. Surely…”
No. Charlize Theron reprises her role as the villain Cypher, but she’s barely in it. She’s in a glass cage in most of her parts, kind of suggestive of Charlize maybe saying, “Yeah, I’ll be in this stinker if I can show up for a day, two days tops and do all my lines in a glass cage and then I’m out.”
But just in case you were worried you might be aroused, they gave her a Moe Howard style bowl cut. I don’t have time in this post to rant about the growing trend where Hollywood seems to feel like the only way that female characters can be empowered with strength is to dude them up (see Teela in the He-Man sequel cartoon for more.)
Look, I’m not saying that’s what they were going for here because again, I wasn’t privy to the decision making process. All I’m saying is they took one of the most beautiful female movie stars today and made her look like a grumpy 1930s male comedian. That’s all I’m saying.
Oh, I almost forgot, there is a Cardi B cameo.
“Oh thank God, BQB, the movie is saved!” you might say. “Cardi is known for her popular music videos where she shows off her impressive, bouncy derriere. Surely, she…”
Yeah, she and a group of super hot chicks save Dom whilst clad head to toe in SWAT team body armor. Oh, sorry, I should have announced a spoiler. SPOILER ALERT – Dom gets saved from the baddies by being arrested by a SWAT team, only for the big reveal later to be that the SWAT team removes their helmets to show they are a team of hot chicks led by Cardi B. (Being 5 feet tall didn’t give it away.)
So, anyway, if a lady rapper known for showing off her hiney having said hiney covered by kevlar is your thing, then by all means, turn this movie on and knock yourself out.
Look, I get it. We are in the #MeToo era. It was a long time coming. Some very bad men in the entertainment industry got the comeuppance they so richly deserved. All I’m saying is, it seems unjust that average chumps like me who, let’s face it, the closest we’ll ever come to a hot babe is seeing them in the movies, have to suffer because of the terrible acts of evil men.
I mean…seriously. Harvey Weinstein is an uber sleezy pervert for thirty years, and literally all of Hollywood covers for him for thirty years…and rather than just punish him and his ilk…I have to be denied my one every 4 year chance to oggle hot bikini babes in an FF movie.
STRIKE #1 – They can’t afford big time action stars like The Rock and Statham anymore, and frankly, I don’t really see a lot of action star talent coming out of the millenial generation. Unless the next film involves an avocado toast heist, this franchise might, itself, become toast.
STRIKE #2 – No more hotties in skimpy outfits because Harvey Weinstein was a pervert. I mean, look, I’m no Hollywood expert, but there probably are women who would very much like to show off their hot bods on film, so like, Hollywood, if you could get all the necessary lawyers together in a room and hash out all the various and sundry consent forms to make sure these women really do want to appear on film in various states of undress, maybe even hire a bona fide fortune teller who can predict whether the women won’t regret it later and then like, once the consent decrees are signed in triplicate and the fortune teller or the Minority Report style pre-cog guarantees that the woman won’t regret it in the future and alright….I can see how getting a woman naked for the big screen has now officially become more complicated than launching a nuclear missile so…yeah, fine…just put the drag race flag wavers in jeans from now on…maybe a nice turtle neck…goose down parka. You know what? All women in this franchise should just appear under piles of 50 blankets or more. Thanks Harvey. Thanks a lot. A-hole.
WHAT SAVES IT – The insane car stunts, though I fear it’s only a matter of time before those are taken away too. Someone will complain that all this driving at high octane speeds is bad for the environment, so the next film will probably be Dom drag racing a Prius. The flag dropper will be Sister Mary Elizabeth from Our Lady of the Perpetual Iron Underwear. She’ll come out in full habit, drop the flag, and then Dom will floor his environmentally conscious ride all the way to the Quinoa stand.
STATUS – Moderately shelf-worthy, but on life support. You’ll be entertained and it’s worth a watch, but it’s not what it used to be. You know, it’s funny, when I saw the ads where it showed Cena vs. Vin, I thought “Wow, they’re kicking it up a notch” but then after a half hour in I was like, “Wait…no Rock? No Statham.” I don’t know why I thought they’d be in this one. I guess you just come to expect it but I realized “Oh yeah, they weren’t in the ads. Crap.”
So, you know, times, they are a changing and I suppose movies are made for the young, though I admit I have never seen a generation in so much of a hurry to be old. Maybe they can reboot the franchise with a new cast, perhaps one where Dom has a fedora and glasses and urges his Uber driver to drive at a brisker pace so he can be the first in line at the soy latte stand. The Uber drag race can be kicked off by a hot babe wearing a cardboard box.
The original Hitman’s Bodyguard, released, wow 4 years ago already, was a surprise hit, one of those original films where your faith in Hollywood is restored and you’re happy to see something fun and new. In that outing, you might recall that Ryan Reynold’s disgraced bodyguard character, Michael Bryce, was totes depressed over losing a client to a hitman…and alas, in order to save the day, he must protect that hitman, Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid, the professional killer who shares Jackson’s penchant for saying the word “mother-effer,” from certain doom so he can testify against a war criminal.
In that role, we were introduced to Kincaid’s wife, Sonia, (Salma Hayek) equal to her husband when it comes to a penchant for violence and obscenity. In this go-around, the trio must, once again, band together to save, not just the day but the world, for an evil billionaire (Antonio Banderas) has vowed to crush Europe in retaliation against economic sanctions levied on Greece.
As sequels go, it’s fun, full of lots of great action scenes and hilarity. Once that band-aid is ripped off the first, the second outing is rarely as good once we’ve become used to something, but still, worth your time.
STATUS: Shelf worthy. One of those movies I meant to see and ended up renting on TV, so I do wonder about the future of theaters. I do want theaters to remain in business and yet, if they’re going to keep putting blockbusters on my TV, I’ll probably remain to lazy to go to the theater when a blockbuster is available at the push of a button.
Bonus points to this film for having one of the hardest titles to say. Try saying it three times fast.
Have you ever had an ex that you dumped because of X reason, but then the years go by, the world beats you up, you suddenly realize nothing and no one is perfect, and all of a sudden, you wish you had them back in your life because the alternatives are so bad that X reason doesn’t even seem like a good reason for dumping them any more?
That’s how I feel about the original Space Jam in light of the new Space Jam.
When I was a kid, I thought the original was a horrid mess, just a dumb piece of film, sans plot, just one big ad for the NBA and Loony Tunes, a marketing ploy to get people to pay attention to both.
Ah, but the new one made me go and seek out the old and…well, it still is a very silly movie…but I’ll admit…there is a better attempt at a plot and much more success at humor.
The thin plot? Swackhammer (Danny Devito) is the crooked owner of the intergalactic theme park known as Moron Mountain. Sales are dwindling, so he wants to kidnap the Looney Tunes and force them to perform for park guests until the end of time. He sends his tiny minions, the wimpy nerdlucks, to kidnap Bugs and Co and while they lack physical size, they make up for it with enormous ray guns that the tunes can’t beat.
In true Bugs fashion, the wascally wabbit sticks a post-it note in a made-up rule book that says the Tunes get a chance to defend themselves (he could have just written you have to let the tunes go but then the movie wouldn’t happen.)
Long story short, Bugs challenges the nerds to a game of basketball, thinking his opponents are so small that he and his loony friends will easily dominate them. Alas, the nerds manage to steal the skills of famous 90s players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues and a few others whose names I forget already.
This makes for the funniest parts of the film, as it becomes an ongoing sideplot where the players and the NBA investigate how they lost their skills. The NBA assumes a mysterious virus is in play, so they cancel the season so they can tent and fumigate all the basketball forums, almost a blast from the past that we can relate to today in this age of covid.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles and friends visit doctors, healers and all manner of quacks in the hopes of figuring out how to regain their skills, each scene funnier than the last.
The Tunes kidnap Jordan so he can become their star player, and the film literally wastes no time on Jordan wondering how the heck he got there or being shocked that cartoons and/or aliens are real and so on. Like, it almost would have made more sense if they had spent a minute or two with Jordan being shocked about this, but His Royal Airness is just like, oh well this is just an unexpected pain in the ass thing I have to deal with.
Bill Murray and Wayne Knight round out the cast, Wayne of Seinfeld fame being Jordan’s toadyish sidekick/publicist and Bill declaring that he always harbored a secret desire to play pro ball. B-Ball legend Larry Bird has a few funny scenes, the funniest being when he and Murray witness Jordan being sucked down a golf ball hole and decide that they’re too busy to do anything about and not to worry because he’ll probably be OK.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Both the original and sequel have major plotholes, though both have the attitude of plotholes being so silly that they make the movie good. However, the original at least made an attempt at patching the holes together with tape and glue, while the sequel doesn’t try. I noticed more second and third billing tunes were allowed in the original, which makes me think these cartoons are so old that today’s kids only know about Bugs and his immediate friends. The original is only an hour and a half long, whereas the sequel drones on, and the Tunes get way more screen time. The film has a self-depricating approach, where the tunes themselves mock things that don’t make sense, spiriting plotholes away with a joke.
I couldn’t help but notice the distinct lack of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” but I’ll review it anyway.
I was a kid when the original Space Jam came out and my thought at the time was, “This is the dumbest movie ever made.”
And then I blinked, half my life passed me by and now they’ve made the dumbest sequel to the dumbest movie ever made.
But let me back up. The sequel inspired me to watch some clips of the original and I’ll admit, as an adult, I appreciate the original a bit more and I somewhat understand what everyone involved was trying to do.
Basically, in the 1990s, Michael Jordan conquered basketball, but unlike Alexander the Great, he didn’t weep, because there were plenty of other worlds to conquer…and boy he tried, oh how he tried. His Royal Airness tried to dominate baseball but didn’t get too far. He got into shoe design and succeeded, Air Jordans being more popular than ever.
And he attempted a foray into Hollywood with the original, “this is so bad it is kinda good” movie…at the very least it developed a cult following. If you were a 1990s kid and you loved cartoons and basketball, then you loved this movie.
Meanwhile, the Looney Tunes had grown stale, stagnant. The world had become a rougher place and there was less appreciation for their brand of pie in the face, slapstick comedy.
Thus it was a match – a movie that allowed Jordan a Hollywood victory while keeping Bugs and Co. alive well into the twenty-first century.
Skip a head a couple decades and some change and Lebron James is today’s numero uno basketball star. Hollywood is remaking literally everything, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before they remade a movie that was odd to begin with.
The main criticism you may have read already? It sells out. The entire movie comes across as one great big commercial for Warner Brothers’ movie catalog, perhaps even taking advantage of the opportunity to rekindle old IP claims.
Disney is a master at this and there are times when Mickey and Co. collaborate with the House of Mouse’s stars, only for the audience to gasp at how far reaching their cinematic universe is.
So it feels like WB wanted to mimic that…but I mean…you know…come on now…how many kids were waiting to see a cameo from Casablanca, or A Clockwork Orange or What Happened to Baby Jane? (I actually thought that one was an odd looking Marilyn Monroe until the web told me different).
My 2 cents is the massive sell-out saves the movie, and is probably the only way it could have been made. The plot, if you can call it that, centers around “Warner 3000” or the Warner Brothers Studio server, controlled by an algorithm or to be exact, “Al G. Rhythm” and honestly, I’d love to be the writer who came up with that name. He was probably like, “Yeah I have to get this draft in soon and I don’t want to be late for pilates so Al G. Rhythm it is.”
Even worse, Al is played by the great Don Cheadle. Part of me feels bad that Don, a longtime established thespian who has taken on great, dramatic roles and appeared in some of the biggest movies of the past few decades, lowered himself to appear in this drek…but then the other part of me reminds myself that Don cashed the check so…moving on.
Al considers himself a great genius deserving of glory and will never be famous for as long as he remains hidden in the Warner Server-verse. So, blah blah blah, long story short, he hatches a plan to kidnap Lebron’s son Dom and challenges King James to a basketball game, to be livestreamed to the public, the clicks of which will no doubt give him the attention he desires.
At first, Lebron thinks this will be a cinch, for he can call on WB’s greatest champs, like Superman, the Iron Giant, King Kong and so on to take on Al G.’s Goon Squad consisting of NBA and WNBA greats mashed up with animals to become b-ball dunking monsters.
‘Alas, you guessed it…Bugs Bunny and friends are the only back up that the Warnerverse will put at Lebron’s disposal.
In my opinion, the Tuney crossover into the Warnerverse saves the movie. I get why people think it’s a sell out, but 30 minutes into watching Lebron act (hey no offense, but everyone has one talent gifted from God and people want to see basketball players act about as much as they want to see Meryl Streep dribble a ball)…watching Bugs chase down his pals who migrated to other corners of the Warnerverse gave me the laughs I needed to keep watching.
For me, Wyle E. Coyote and the Mad Max villains chasing Road Runner and Wyle E. holding up a sign that reads “Witness Me!” was all I needed to stay…and at a run time of 2 hours for a plot as thin as tissue paper, you really do need a good laugh.
On the one hand, it’s fun. It’s got a lot of pretty colors and great graphics. If your kids like sports, they’ll like it. If they don’t like sports, just fast forward through the first half hour until Bugs shows up.
On the other hand, I have to question several of the cameos. While Disney’s characters are family friendly…much of the Warnerverse? Not so much.
Examples? Rick and Morty return the Tazmanian Devil to Bugs, after apologizing for conducting experiments on “his weird badger thing.” Yes, R and M is a cartoon but no, this is def not a toon you want your kids watching. Frankly, you shouldn’t watch it either. It’s that naughty.
Others? Well…the game at the end is attended by a vast, sprawling audience consisting of WB characters, with one side devoted to the villains who cheer Al G. on. Some are fun…like an assortment of Batman villains, decked out in their garb from the 1960s, 80s, 90s and so on. Danny Devito’s Penguin hanging with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Cesar Romero’s Joker etc. The Flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz? Sure.
Of course, good guys like The Jetsons, the Flintstones, Scooby and the Gang show up to cheer for Lebron and Co.
But then the cameos take a weird turn. Pennywise – seriously, who thought a clown who murders children would be good in a kids’ film? The Nuns from Ken Russells’ The Devils, a film so sexually explicit that WB had to make big cuts to it during the 1970s, which was basically the Wild West period of filmmaking – post Hollywood’s Golden Era where people just agreed nothing naughty should be on film and before the 1980s’ invention of the rating system, which at least gave viewers a heads up if they were about to watch something naughty.
Perhaps the strangest of the strange cameos are the Droogs. Keep in mind that noted skunk pervert Pepe LePew was cancelled, forever banned from the Loony Tunes line up. Those unfamilar? He was a skunk who spoke with a French accent who fancied himself the world’s greatest lover. In each of his toons, a female black cat would accidentally be painted with a white stripe down her back, thus fooling Pepe into thinking there was a hot lady skunk afoot. The Pepester would then pursue the female cat with reckless abandon, refusing to take no for an answer, constantly hitting on her and usually getting clobbered to funny effect in the process.
All I can say is once upon a time, context existed. Pepe never existed to say that men who act like him are to be admired – far from it. He was a character used to make fun of such men and show how ridiculous they are and how women are reviled by them.
But all 2020s Twitter saw was a pervert skunk…so be it. The stinky twerp was cut from the film. I mean, a good writer could have drummed up a quick take where Pepe is called into WB Studios and told that he’s being fired for being a problematic, socially unacceptable pervert skunk (I thought I read somewhere they tried something like that but even a scene where Pepe is shown as problematic would be problematic apparently.)
Where was I? Ah, yes. The Droogs. Have you seen Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Don’t. It will warp your mind. It focuses on mind control experiments where the government tries to wash all violent, sexual and evil thoughts and actions from London’s criminal gangs. One such gang, the long john wearing, bowler hat sporting Droogs, conduct a home invasion where they abduct a poor, unsuspecting woman and do horrible things to her.
I won’t belabor the point but like so many who have already opined on this, I find it odd that the pervert skunk had to go, so awful was he that he couldn’t be included even with a joke about him being a pervert skunk, but a gang of brutal rapists, also from the 1970s pre MPAA ratings period, were placed front and center at the b-ball court.
No one seemed to find it odd that Game of Thrones cameos were included. On one level, dragons and white walker zombie cameos are fun and ostensibly kid friendly, just as long as kids don’t ask their parents if they can watch Game of Thrones…because that surely isn’t a show for kids.
Overall, I could go on and on about this point. Warner Bros wants to flash all of its kid characters on screen? Sure. Have it. Flintstones? Jetsons? Scooby? Bring it on. But leave the cameos from adult movies and shows at home. The adults won’t find them that interesting and won’t want to have to explain who that is and who that is to kids who are better off not knowing who they are.
Alas, I can picture the thought process of the WB suits (who, to their credit, are also parodied). “Sure we can cancel Pepe the Pervert Skunk but…WHAT?! You want the Droogs out of the movie?! But someone might see it and want to watch it and then we’ll make more money!”
Which just goes to show that Pepe LePew could have gotten away with sexually harassing poor, unsuspecting white stripe painted female felines for decades to come as long as he made Hollywood money. Disagree? Research the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby cases and get back to me.
STATUS: Shelf worthy. I applaud it’s good message where Lebron advises his son that whatever he wants to achieve in life, he needs to put in the work. An early scene shows a young, unfocused teenage Lebron who almost lost a game due to a lack of focus, a mistake he vows to never again make, thus leading to his success. Focus and hard work. You won’t get far with out either.
There’s also the inevitable lesson for kids who feel pressure from their parents to choose a career path they aren’t interested in, to abandon a dream that seems unlikely. Lebron and Dom lock horns as Lebron wants his son to follow in his b-ball footsteps, while Dom dreams of becoming a video game creator. (I mean, not exactly relatable as most kids might dream of being a b-ball star or a video game creator but instead, their parents want them to go to plumbing school to learn how to install toilets or something, but you get the gist.)
But I must knock off 1 million shelf points because many of the villain cameos were inappropriate and ill advised. Warner, you aren’t Disney, ergo, you might have a Warnerverse, but leave the murderous kid killing clowns and roving gangs of 1970s London based rapists in the vault.
And you know what? Adults don’t really want to see this stuff in a lighthearted kids’ movie either. I get sometimes writers/producers of these movies will throw in the occasional joke that will sail right over the kids’ heads and make the adults laugh as a thank you to those who bought the tickets, but do adults who signed up to watch a movie about Bugs Bunny and Lebron James playing basketball want to see murderous clowns and rapists and evil nuns and so on in the background? No. No we do not. WB should have asked a focus group that question and would have easily found the answer is no.
Want to feel old? The star of Space Jam 3 probably hasn’t even been born yet, or at least hasn’t started playing ball. Here’s hoping I’ll be alive to make fun of the third installment in another 25 years.
Russian spies! Explosions! Boris and Natasha accents!
BQB here with a review of the latest Marvel movie, Black Widow.
It’s funny, I forgot to mention in my Major Grom interview that it would have been better if the characters who dubbed the English lines over that film had spoken in bad Russian accents. It was odd to see characters running around Russia speaking American English, whereas if they had just spoken like Count Dracula, my American ears would have been like, “Oh, OK! Now I can get into this!”
Well, don’t worry because the accents are here…except for Scar Jo. I guess it would be a lot to ask her to keep up a Russian accent for so many films. But I digress.
Anyway…so after a year and four months of not going to the movie theater, I finally ventured out and saw this one…in a theater…with a bag of popcorn…and miracle of miracles…I didn’t die…yet…for all I know someone might have sneezed the Delta Variant on me while I wasn’t looking, but oh well, I suppose you can lock yourself up from all the world’s ills and live forever, but then again, if you do that, you will have never truly lived.
I’ll say it up front. It’s good. The movie is a prequel that should have been a sequel. I mean, for Christ’s sake, they gave Ant Man two movies before they gave Black Widow one. It sort of feels like an afterthought, i.e. now that Marvel ended the Avengers films, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Loki gets a show. Falcon and the Winter Soldier get a show. Holy crap, even Loki gets a show. But Black Widow was never bottom of the barrel material. She was ready for primetime all along.
The plot? In the 90s, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz appear to be a typical couple, parents of two daughters living in Suburbia. As it turns out, they are spies, posing in the states so as to get their hands on U.S. tech, and once the mission is done, they return their lives as covert spies, Melina as the Iron Maiden and Harbour as the Red Guardian, Russia’s answer to Captain America.
The daughters, quite horrifically, are sold out. Young Natasha aka Black Widow was old enough to know she was just posing as an American kid for spying purposes, but wanted the idyllic American life to continue. Sadly, Yelena was so young she thought she actually the spies were her parents and was heartbroken to discover they weren’t.
The years pass. The “Red Room” program begins, led by the evil Dreykov, aptly portrayed by Ray Winstone, who honestly, is pretty decent as comic book villains go. While other MCU villains rely on gadgets and costumes and powers, Dreykov relies on espionage combined with an army of abandoned young girls turned Black Widows, or brainwashed assassins who murder and destroy on his command. Oh, and his top baddy is The Taskmasker, a masked evildoer capable of copying an opponent’s fighting style and using it against them.
Long story short, Yelena, now a Black Widow herself, discovers a chemical that can break her fellow widows free of Dreykov’s mind control, but she must team up with Scar Jo’s Natasha as, well as Red Guardian and Iron Maiden…in order to take Dreykov down and set the widows free.
Overall, a fun time and Florence Pugh steals the show, the bratty little sister who constantly mocks Natasha’s alleged posery (What is this stance you do where you land on your feet and grab the floor? What is that all about?)
My main criticism is I thought Natash and Yelena forgive their faux parents way too easily. I guess you could make the argument that they live in a rough world where parental figures selling them out are the least of their worries…not that this isn’t something to worry about but, you know, you have to prioritize when bad guys are literally trying to explode you every five minutes. But ultimately, Guardian and Maiden were the only Mom and Dad these kids knew…they’re just forgiven too easily for abandoning their parental roles and turning them over to the evil Red Room program…but then if they didn’t you wouldn’t have a movie.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I have to be honest, I always was a big fan of movie theaters. I have stayed away a long time out of COVID fears, plus it didn’t feel like Hollywood really put out anything worth while, opting to save their best stuff for post Covid days. But Black Widow got me back to the theater, even though I could have rented it on Disney Plus.
I’ll be honest, there were days in the past where I almost went to the theater to see anything, literally anything, just for something to do. But now…I mean…will I go to the theater to see something like Space Jam? I hate to admit it but in the past, on a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing better to do, I might have (OK I would have) but now…I mean yeah, if they’re letting me see it on TV now, I’ll watch Space Jam at home and only the big movies like Black Widow will get me to buy a ticket.)
Wow, 3.5 readers. It’s official. The Russkis have entered the comic book movie world.
BQB here with a review.
So like the rest of you, I was scrolling through Netflix’s Top Ten the other day and came across a film by the above name. I thought it sounded like a dumb name for a movie but then again, when I scroll through most of Netflix’s original offerings and read the titles and descriptions, it makes me feel like their entire greenlight strategy is that there’s a chimpanzee in a business suit in the basement of Netflix HQ throwing darts at various words and phrases and whatever the darts land on ends up being the next show.
But I digress.
It turns out this is a Russian movie. It’s dubbed in English but you can tell it’s a bit off, i.e. it might make more sense if you knew Russian and saw it in the original Russian, but then you’d also have to know Russian expressions, manners of speech, accents, colloquialisms etc. Sometimes I wonder if these movies are better not dubbed. For example, I thought the IP Man movies were better with the subtitles and lost something when they got popular and were dubbed with English speaking actors. With the subtitles, you could find out what they were saying but then also hear what is emphasized, what isn’t in the native language even though you don’t understand it.
Bubble Studios is behind this, a name I’d never heard of until coming across this movie. After looking it up, it turns out they’ve been bringing American style comic books to Russia for the past ten years, with the ultimate goal of making a movie and this is it.
It stars some Russian guy as the titular Major Igor Grom (yeah I’m not looking up all the actors and stuff I am too lazy), a St. Petersburg police detective with a reputation for being tough on crime, not afraid of skirting the rules if it means putting a bad guy behind bars. The beginning sequence and aftermath, where he chases down a van of bank robbers by wrecks half the city while doing so, only to end up getting yelled at by his captain makes me think some Russian film executive somewhere is a fan of the Lethal Weapon series and all the cop movie tropes that come with it.
Moving on, after the obligatory, “Give me your badge and OK you can have your badge back we have bigger problems!” sequence, we learn the son of a powerful billionaire has, in a most crooked manner, been released on charges stemming from him running an orphan down with his fancy sports car. From this incident, the vigilante known as the Plague Doctor is born. In olden times, Plague Doctors, with their big long beak masks, would treat the diseases, sometimes setting fire to afflicted areas if need be.
Here, the vigilante sees corrupt rich oligarchs as the modern disease that he must burn with the fire shooting fists of his elaborate costume.
Naturally, Grom must investigate, with a nerdy rookie sidekick in tow and a love interest in the form of an intrepid lady journalist on his arm. Sometimes he stops to eat a burrito (I think it is a burrito unless it is a Russian treat I don’t know about) to give him personality.
Overall, the movie is very silly, laden with plot holes, and sort of reeks of Russian film execs saying, “Hey look! We can sell out just as hard as the Americans!” A lot of stylized action and so forth, a lot of explosions and special effects and the occasional attempt at humor or plot explanation.
There are some things will come across as odd to Americans. For example, the Plague Doctor becomes popular on social media, leading some to ask why the government doesn’t just shut his postings down – after all, he’s hamming it up for likes and might stop if his attention goes away. Clearly, the Russian government has a greater power to do that than in the US. The freedom of speech becomes a key plot point – if we pick and choose who can speak, pretty soon the government will warp that into just shutting down any and all governmental criticism. Still, sometimes people say things that are pretty awful. In America, we’ve accepted that we have to accept people saying awful things as the cost of saying everything else we need or want to say, and of course, one person’s awful thing to say is another man’s firmly held believe so where does it end and where does it begin?
There are also some cultural differences that some American viewers might question. For example, Yulia, at first a thorn in Grom’s side as a journalist who keeps bothering him and later a love interest, obtains her goals through trickery and deception, for she lacks Grom’s muscles which he uses to smack the answers he needs out of most of the film’s goons and henchmen. In an American film, Yulia would just smack the goons around herself, the 300 pound brutes being flung wildly through the air upon a single kick from her tiny high heel shoe, although to the film’s credit (SPOILER) she does get to mace a couple of baddies so that’s fun. At any rate though, my brain registered a few moments where American feminists might be rattling off a curtly lettered complaint letter to…I’m not sure where such letters go in Russia…probably some bureaucrat in Siberia I guess.
Long story short, this is probably something I never would have watched if we a) weren’t in a pandemic where Hollywood has scaled back and new, blockbuster American films are few and far between lately and b) if Netflix didn’t put it in front of me. I would have never gone in search of Russian comic book movies. It was fun and I suppose the rub is now that I watched one I’ll probably watch a sequel.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I do worry about the implications of the Russians entering the global blockbuster type popcorn munching movie market. The movie is fun and makes Russia seem like a nice place to live where tough guy cops like Grom have the citizen’s back. However, I’m not sure these movies ever would ever criticize the Russian government or Putin. Maybe there are Russian legal reasons why they can’t or maybe, more understandably, they just won’t because they don’t want to wake up cracking rocks in the gulag one day. I’m not sure what life is like for the average Russian and info coming out of that country seems to be scarce. My gut tells me its probably better than it was during the Cold War but not as good as it could be. Somewhere in there but what do I know? All we know is Putin has been president for what? Twenty something years? There isn’t a true democracy that would keep anyone in power for twenty something years. Add to that how Putin’s critics have a tendency to go belly up and well…I just worried a growing trend of Russian action/comic book movies might leave Americans thinking, “Hey, look! It’s a lot of fun over there! No need to worry about human rights abuses and so on.”
Putting the obligatory geo-political worries aside, the movie is fun and it isn’t lost on me that Grom has no powers other than he punches bad guys in the face, then eats a burrito while his girlfriend and nerdy sidekick do all the paperwork, which let’s be honest, is probably the Russian version of having a superpower.
Aliens! Time travel! Chris Pratt’s Aw Shucks Everyman Demeanor!
BQB here with a review of Amazon’s latest (first?) sci-fi blockbuster.
In its early days, streaming media brought us a new age of golden television, with a lot of hits coming to the forefront that would have otherwise been lost. Lately, in the past few years, IMO, streaming service generated movies and/or TV have been rather stale, stagnant – devised by committee tripe designed to appeal to the widest possible audience without really achieving anything.
In my further opinion, Amazon has been the worst at creating its own content. At least Netflix gave us House of Cards and Stranger Things. Hulu gave us The Handmaid’s Tale, though it looks like they’re going to milk that for all its worth and never come up with something new.
Amazon has had a couple of interesting flicks here and there. While I would never watch it again for fear of being swept into a depression coma, Manchester-by-the-Sea was a sad, poignant study of how sometimes a man can screw up his life so badly that a happy ending is simply not possible. I also enjoyed 2019’s The Aeronauts, about a death defying flight in a hot air balloon in the 1800s.
But by and large, Amazon really stunk it up. I finally ponied up the dough for their streaming service in March to watching Coming to America 2 and while it had its fun moments, it was sad, watching the great comedian Eddie Murphy, who no doubt still has plenty of funny left in him, be proverbially chained up like a captured tiger in a cage, unable to roar and make us roar with laughter because, OMG, he might offend someone somewhere and Amazon can’t have that. Someone might get so offended they might go to another service that will allow them to buy a toothbrush and a tin drum of popcorn and a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers and have them delivered the next day by a minimum wage worker who has to pee in a jar because they aren’t allowed pee breaks.
Where was I? Oh, right. A movie review. Anyway, I’d been thinking about getting around to cancelling Amazon Prime because the movies weren’t worth the monthly cost, and sure Prime allowed my fuzzy bunny slippers to be delivered earlier, but I’d rather wait and save the dough. But I’ll admit this movie was pretty good and thus I’ll wait a bit longer to cancel the service.
Chris Pratt stars as an Iraq War veteran turned high school science teacher who dreams of doing something big with his life, but can’t catch a break. He’s married to hottie Betty Gilpin and has a daughter but he dreams of doing great things with science. One wonders, if he dreams so much of being a great science, why he doesn’t go study more science, but it is a movie.
Time travelers from the future arrive to inform us that in 30 years, the world will be overrun by freaking scary ass aliens. A debate ensues as to whether or not present folk should venture forth into the future to assist future people in the fight. Some say yes because these people are our collective kids. Some say no because, you know, the aliens aren’t attacking us now so eff the future people, it’s their problem.
The debate becomes moot when a worldwide draft is handed down, and literally everyone and I mean everyone is drafted. Dark humor ensues at the start of the film when Pratt is drafted and with his soldier training, most lead a rag tag group of civilians against an alien horde. You’ve got people showing up to fight in regular clothes, grandmas struggling just to put their boots on, people who have never handled a gun before, it’s a mess. But that’s how bad the problem is – doesn’t matter if you’re old or incompetent at fighting, if you have a pulse, the govt will stick a gun in your hand and demand you travel to the future to fight aliens.
Amidst this chaos, Pratt meets his daughter, all grown up (Yvonne Strahovski.) They could have played up the father/daughter working together while they are the same age angle more, maybe even for laughs, but they did it very straight here, Pratt’s character mostly following her orders out of respect for her position though occasionally breaking rank at times where, hey, he’s not going to let anything happen to his kid, rules be damned.
Rounding out the cast is JK Simmons as Pratt’s estranged father, who is given a chance to redeem himself in the fight.
Overall, it’s a good movie that somehow survived Amazon’s design a film by committee so as to appeal to everyone and not offend anyone strategy and if theaters were open to full strength, it would have been enjoyable to watch this on the big screen with surround sound. As with many action sci-fi films, a lot of suspension of disbelief is required and there are dumb moments, but hey, it’s got guns and aliens, so it’s worth a watch.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy, but I still haven’t forgiven Amazon for muzzling Eddie.
BQB here with a review of Liam Neeson’s latest action flick.
Did you ever wonder what would happen if Ice Road Truckers was turned into a movie? This is it. Ice road trucking finally hits the silver screen.
Liam, who apparently does 100 old man action flicks a year in his sleep now, stars as Mike McCann, an old trucker recently fired after punching out a fellow trucker who was making fun of his brother, Gurty, (Marcus Thomas) a war veteran who suffers from PTSD and aphasia, meaning everyone’s trying to put the poor guy in a home which would be a waste as he can take apart and reassemble a truck engine like nobody’s business.
Long story short, a bunch of miners get trapped in a mine after a gas explosion caves them in. Holt McCallany, the toughest tough guy to ever come out of Netflix, plays the head miner who has to keep the other miners from flipping out while the company assembles a rescue team.
Said team takes the form of Liam’s Mike and brother Gurty, Tantoo, a sassy Native truck driver Tantoo (Amber Midthunder) and Laurence Fishburne as Jim Goldenrod, who must drive a three truck convoy over the icy roads that traverse various bodies of water in the icy depths of Canada. As we are told in great detail, ice road trucking is a dangerous feat, for to drive too fast or too slow or to make any mistake, really, will result in a big rig and its driver plunging into the ice, never to return. One wonders why anyone does it in the first place, though I suppose those who dare are super macho and deserving of much praise.
Ah, but there is danger afoot as evildoers want to stop the convoy from bringing the much needed rescue equipment to the collapsed mine. Much to my surprise, Matt McCoy is the villain of the film, and I haven’t seen that guy in a movie since he played Mahoney’s replacement in the later installments of the Police Academy movie series.
Overall a fun film, though you might have to suspend disbelief and not ask yourself questions like, “Wouldn’t a professional mining company already have life saving equipment on site?” and “Would anyone really want to stop a life saving convoy from reaching its destination?” and “Has Liam Neeson made a deal with the devil that allows him to play the tough guy in every action movie until he turns 100?”
It is pretty cool that Netflix made this movie. Their flicks have been a little lackluster as of late, so this one’s worth a watch.