Tag Archives: 2015

EAKER VS EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS (BONUS COVERAGE): ANT-MAN (2015)

Eaker vs. Eaker is the latest “send Alfred to the summer blockbuster movies so that he can curmudgeonly complain” event, but with a twist, cinema fans and friends! For the first time (without even knowing it), you voted to send Alfred and his wife, Aja, to the flicks and have them duke it out, publicly, about each so-called-blockbuster. Everybody here knows all about Alfred’s cinematic savvy, and his cranky-old-dog approach to film critique. Now, you get 2-for-1: Aja is Alfred’s beloved clinical and counseling psychologist partner, who loves to counter just about every cinematic point Alfred makes. You didn’t choose to send us to Ant-Man (2015), but we went nevertheless.

Aja and Alfred 366Alfred:

How much of the script for Ant-Man (2015) was written on a chalkboard? I imagine a bunch of executives sitting round the table, outlining the plot for its six writers: “To be successful, we have to follow the Marvel formula, have archetypes, etc.”

“Well, we can do it like Iron Man.  Have the hero in and Ant-Man suit and a villain in a rival insect suit.”

“Ok, but Ant-Man is little. So what other movies are there about shrunken people.”

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

“Ok, good. What else?”

The Incredible Shrinking Man.”

“Well, maybe, but that’s kind old, isn’t it?

Still from Ant-Man (2015)“Hey, it is about ants, so what about the Ants move?”

“Good thinking. Let’s look at Ants too. We need to give him a mentor, some comedy relief, and a femme fatale babe.”

“Ok, good, but we gotta give Ant-Man something to fight for. Audiences love little girls. Let’s give him a daughter.”

“Yeah, and the villain goes after her like that Octopus guy went after Spiderman’s aunt.”

“Or Lex Luthor when he went after Lois Lane.”

“We can even have a bald villain, like Luthor.”

“Let’s develop all that and up the ante. Make Ant-Man a divorcee—kind of a loser. He only gets to see his daughter on weekends.”

“Yeah, and his ex-wife is married to a jerk.”

“Right, and after learning her biological dad is Ant-Man, the daughter learns what a true hero he really is.”

“Now, we’re rolling. What else?”

“Let’s use the corporate bad guy plot, you know like making the big business guys trying to get the secrets of the suit, so they can sell it Continue reading EAKER VS EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS (BONUS COVERAGE): ANT-MAN (2015)

ALFRED EAKER VS THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

A dumb, unoriginal movie made by dumb, unoriginal people. Terminator: Genisys (2015) has received well-earned negative critical reception and press. This latest from a franchise well past its tether is the summer blockbuster equivalent of nails meeting a chalkboard.

That its sheer awfulness was entirely predictable makes Terminator: Genisys even more disappointing. Worse, it is insulting on multiple levels. It reportedly did not perform as well as hoped for on opening weekend, and that is partly because it caters solely to the formula-craving fanboy audience it inherited. It seems to care not one bit for creating a new audience.

Ultimately, it offers nothing new, although there is a half-assed effort on the part of its hack writers (Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) and director (Alan Taylor) to inject convoluted rehashes masquerading as new plot developments. This they do with the standby alternate timelines, which we have seen a lot recently in franchise reboots, such as J.J. Abrahms’ Star Trek (2009). The resume of the production team should have indicated, to anyone but an executive, that they simply were not up to this challenge. Predominantly, however, the blame must go to Paramount for ordering this unnecessary mishmash and handing it over to a pedestrian team. Studios might be financially savvy, but one is tempted to ask aloud if production executives actually go to movies, and whether they have anything better to produce with their money.

Humphrey Bogart once said: “The industry hurts itself by making so many lousy movies. It’s as if General Motors deliberately put out a bad car.” Terminator: Genisys is Paramount’s shamefully intentional lemon, counting solely on star Arnold Schwarzenegger and hoping the movie will just make itself.

It does not even succeed at that. The plot, for those who inexplicably care, features John Connor (Jason Clarke) who defeats Fascist machines that create a holocaust which wipes out most of humanity. In retaliation, the machines send a robotic terminator (Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 in an effort to kill John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke) to prevent John from being born. John gets hold of another time machine and sends his daddy, Kyle (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 as well, so he can save and impregnate Sarah. If that sounds overly familiar, just wait for alt timeline plot twists.

Still from Terminator: Genisys (2015)This time around, the 1984 version of Sarah is already an apocalyptic warrior, as opposed to the clueless, helpless waitress of the original. She keeps the company of an old, gray-haired terminator (Schwarzenegger), who protects her from the new terminator (a digital Schwarzenegger). A nearly seventy-year-old Schwarzenegger can hardly compete with a CGI Schwarzenegger. Old Schwarzenegger does get a clever/cute line: “I’m old, not obsolete.” The only thing more grating than macho attempts at clever/cute (think of Arnold’s cringe-inducing ‘thumbs-up’ finale of the hopelessly overrated Terminator 2: Judgment Day) is geriatric macho attempts at clever cute (think William Shatner in Star Trek: The Final Frontier).

Nor can Clarke and Courtney compete with the original Sarah and Kyle (Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn).  Oh, what to do if the actors are just as lacking in personality and originality as the director and writers? You throw in lotza “character revelations” and even more CGI car crashes with exploding terminators.

The theme behind Terminator: Genisys is one that has been used since Beethoven’s “Fidelio”: the rights of the individual supersede the collective, which is hypocritical given that the film was dictated to the principals by Paramount.

Although original Terminator director James Cameron was not involved with Terminator: Genisys, he has been canonized by Taylor and company, which the previous two franchise entries failed to do. Naturally, when young sycophants kiss a veteran’s ass and stroke his ego, said veteran is ready, willing, and able to stamp the film with his endorsement, which is precisely what Cameron did.

That might be fine for undemanding fans, but not for the rest of us. Reportedly, the terminators will be back for two more lemon sequels straight off the assembly line.

SATURDAY SHORT: MEATSACK WORSHIPERS (2015)

are going in an arguably weirder direction with their spinoff YouTube channel, Memory Hole. This newer project features similar editing over footage from home videos. Although the end goal still seems to be laughter, the lead up to the punchline is a lot less comfortable than their work under the EiT! brand… and we’re totally fine with that!

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS (BONUS COVERAGE): INSIDE OUT (2015)

Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) is one of those “eat crow” moments.

The glories of Wall-E (2008) and the Toy Story trilogy have been overshadowed by the pedestrian equivalent of Disney Big Macs with such junk fodder as Monsters Universty (2013), Brave (2012), Cars 2 (2011), and Finding Nemo (2003). Pete Docter and Ronlado Del Carmen are the writing/directing team on Inside Out; their previous credits do not suggest anything resembling exceptional caliber.

Thus, when my Portland tribe voted on Inside Out, I made sure to grab the Rolaids on the way out, anticipating an overdose of saccharine banality. Within moments of this astoundingly remarkable film, my mirror of preconceived notions had delightfully shattered.

Inside Out is one of the most innovative (animated or not) films since The Lego Movie (2014) and, as an entertaining catapult into emotional intelligence via an adolescent girl, it actually surpasses, and is more important than, last year’s animated blockbuster.

The plot is threadbare and can be easily summed up. Riley ( Kaitlyn Dias) moves, with her parents (Diane Lane and ) from Minnesota to San Francisco. She initially hates her new school, her new hockey team, her new town, but learns to acclimate herself.

Of course, that is something many of us have experienced at least once, so the excitement level, upon reading said plot, may not even register. Except that Inside Out honestly goes where few films have gone. It takes us into the fear of change. What better subject is there for that journey than an eleven-year-old girl?

Children fear change, which is why they often are obsessed with familiarity (of course, some adults are just as prone, but we will stop there in the spirit of avoiding polemics, for once).

Still from Inside Out (2015)We are taken inside Riley’s heart/mind to a very busy control room and introduced  to Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The characters are color coded: Joy/Yellow, Sadness/Blue, Anger/Red, and so on.

Although the emotion controllers are often at odds with one another, they work together for the benefit of Riley. They, like Riley herself, learn to adjust through trial and error to unexpected turns of events, mitigating circumstances, and the pains of evolving. Naturally, the lessons taught from either/or vs. both/and approaches are often painful ones, and commendably Inside/Out does not flinch.

This may sound vaguely existential, for a reason: it is existentialism. However, there is no need for trepidation; the production team smartly hurls everything at us at such an entertaining, kinetic pace that never once does it become pretentious. Rather, by the time we sink back into our seats during closing credits, we are inspired to comfortably smile, having matter-of-factly experienced familiar memories.

Riley’s dreams are produced in a dream factory, which gifts Inside Out enough breath to venture into ian terrain. An imaginary friend weeps Wonka treats and sacrifices himself so that Riley may survive adolescence. A future potential (and hilariously vapid) boyfriend also makes a similar sacrifice.

We visit the islands of Riley’s conscience—Honesty, Family, Friendship, and Hockey—and are pulled to the seat edge when those landscapes are threatened. Subtle shades of Rankin and Bass abound.

Joy is kind of the designated Captain Kirk of the emotion control team. She enjoys her position and clout as she runs back and forth manning an assortment of pinball levers. However, just as Bill Shatner did, she learns that, indeed Riley needs Sadness (Spock) and Anger (McCoy—true to form and tradition, Black, like De Forest Kelly before him, often steals the show without much effort). Beneath that realization is a layered critique of imposing false happiness on a child, who requires an essential full range of emotional experiences. MacLachlan’s thoroughly suburbanized father is another scene-stealer, an almost ironic subtext for the former Blue Velvet star.

There are moments of surrealism and abstraction, but these are filtered through a mesh of middle Americana, so much so that it would be easy to imagine the late composer Charles Ives being inspired to write a new a score for the film.

Seated between two clinical psychologists, I was not surprised to hear their approval. This may be the most un-Disney movie produced by Pixar. One can only hope Inside Out will inspire a whole new school in the art of filmmaking; one that could potentially change the way we think. It prompts us to think about thinking and, in doing so, it may be the most original and innovative movie of the year. Who would have thunk it?

EAKER VS. EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)

Eaker vs. Eaker is the latest “send Alfred to the summer blockbuster movies so that he can curmudgeonly complain” event, but with a twist, cinema fans and friends! For the first time (without even knowing it), you voted to send Alfred and his wife, Aja, to the flicks and have them duke it out, publicly, about each so-called-blockbuster. Everybody here knows all about Alfred’s cinematic savvy, and his cranky-old-dog approach to film critique. Now, you get 2-for-1: Aja is Alfred’s beloved clinical and counseling psychologist partner, who loves to counter just about every cinematic point Alfred makes. And you, kind reader, chose to send us next to Pitch Perfect 2.

Aja and Alfred 366Aja:

Okay, folks, here’s the story. First, we went to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which caused a bit of a controversy in the differing experiences between Aja and Alfred. We just got home from seeing Pitch Perfect 2. And this is literally what just happened six seconds ago:

“I am totally going to nail your ass on the next write up.”

Alfred cackles loudly, “Are you going to tell them about the snoring?”

“Of course!”

“Well, I hated the the first one. But you know, that’s just me,” Alfred exhales a stream of cigarette smoke that betrays him. Yes, it is true. The man I adore stayed fast-glued to freaking Mad Max: Fury Road, which, really, was lame, and during Pitch Perfect 2 Alfred slept—not just slept—SNORED—through 35 minutes of it.

Still from Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)I am certain of only a few things. First, that Alfred was definitely awakened not by the noise of the onscreen dialog, but by my own howling laughter. In fact, I laughed so hard I farted. It was a small squeak, so I am sure that that is not what woke Alfred. Second, Pitch Perfect 2 was awesome, as the talent, dedication, precision, and sheer effort that it takes to perform as a triple threat (sing, dance, act) is one helluva task, and the entire cast nailed it solidly. Third, Alfred does not dance, only sings David Bowie songs in the shower, and only likes acting if his face is painted blue. So anything he tries to diss about this movie, do not, do not, do not listen to him. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

The appearance of Katey Sagal as a former “Barden Belle” singer was a wonderful surprise. Recently, she has taken on the gritty role of biker babe maven mom in the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.” (For the record, I loved SOA until they killed off Opie. After that, forget it, not Continue reading EAKER VS. EAKER AT THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)