Tag Archives: Summer blockbuster

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

is claiming (again) that he only has a single film left in him: an R-rated “Star Trek.” Of course, volunteered to revive Captain Kirk. Paramount needs to jump on this. If anyone could breathe life into that long dead formula, it would be Tarantino. As for Shat, perhaps he would learn something, even at his age. When Shat took his Star Trek V idea of the Enterprise crew battling God to the studio, Paramount, Gene Roddenberry, et. al. shot back: “They can’t meet God!” Shat lost his balls. He should have grabbed Tarantino, then because this is a filmmaker who does not let history, social norms, or formula expectations dictate to his art.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood posterAfter his films with Sergio Leone, composer Ennio Morricone became such a cult figure that it wasn’t long before wannabe film composers began paying homage to him with one yawn-inducing, predictable tribute after another. Of course, most attempted to solicit his endorsement, and received blank stares and unanswered letters in reply. That is, until jazz composer John Zorn came along and filtered Morricone through snippets of Carl Stalling, video game music, and his own sensibilities. Morricone was delightfully startled, breathed a sigh of relief, and gave a resounding accolade, noting that finally here was a worthy tribute, because Zorn refused to treat him with reverence. Zorn was as radical and revolutionary as Morricone himself.

This is what Tarantino does consistently. The title of his latest is no coincidence, paying his homage to cinematic idol Leone. Tarantino clearly has an authentic love of 1960s and 70s grindhouse cult film as well; so much so that he is no mere imitator, and this makes him one of the most interesting filmmakers of the last 25 years.

As in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino takes the role of a celluloid antifa and wallops the fascists. “Let’s kill Nazis,” goes the chant, probably much like the American troops sang  on D-Day (one must ask: when did hating Fascism become a bad thing?), but he has a new Fascist offshoot target as well: cultists. And, as before, he rejects the way his source material ended, and so crafts a new dreamscape ending. In this, Tarantino reminds me of an artist named Antonio Adams who created adult sculptures of JonBenet Ramsey and Emmett Till, allowing them to grow up in his sculptures, denying their fate. So Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ALADDIN (2019)

One has to wonder about the mindset of studio executives. Disney handed the live-action Dumbo remake over to , who hasn’t made a good movie in twenty years. Then, they assign Aladdin to Guy Ritchie, who has never made a good movie. On top of that, there’s the utter pointlessness of “live action versions” of animated classics. This one is no exception. Unless the original fell short some one way or another, why remake it (except to improve on it)? It’s especially futile when the original was so damned good.  Aladdin (2019) is just a piece of crap, and the only actor who survives this embarrassment—and smells like roses, comparatively—is Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, the handmaiden of Jasmine (Naomi Scott).  Why does Aladdin (Mena Massoud) prefer the personality-bankrupt Naomi over Nasim? Oh, because that’s in the script. And, Aladdin is a braindead jackass.

Still from Aladdin (2019)The original Aladdin (1992) came at the tail end of a brief Disney resurgence that began with Little Mermaid (1989) followed by Beauty and the Beast (1990). This revival came crashing down with the saccharine, run amok Lion King (1994), which of course has a live-action (sort-of) version in the works. Why does Disney keep doing this? Because fans don’t give a hoot. Aladdin has already made a zillion dollars and the undemanding Disneyphiles, who actually crave more of the same, are singing its praises all over social media.

The changes Ritchie makes are hardly worth mentioning, with two  exceptions. First, he manages to solicit a dull performance from Will Smith, which is not an easy task. Understandably, Smith does not attempt to copy the fiery performance of the late , but Ritchie slaps a harness on Smith—which echoes the film itself, because the director sucks every ounce of color and fun out of the original.

Clunky, clumsy, and gray, Aladdin was an endurance test, and likely the briefest Summber blockbuster write-up I’ve given. Instantly vapid and unmemorable, it does not deserve more of my time. It does not deserve yours ether. If you’re craving the story, go back to 1992.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU (2019)

What the hell can I say?  When I saw that 366 Weird Movies’ readers had topped themselves in sadism with this year’s summer blockbuster picks (a video game, a Disney, AND a comic book movie) you can understand why I, quite frankly, forgot the lot of you. The only possible reprieve is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,  which is why I’m here belatedly for the video game entry and did not bail entirely (or get my revenge by making Greg go in my place).

You could have at least sent me to the Star Wars thingamajig so I could piss off both the lovers and haters (they’re still bellowing over The Last Jedi, which, let’s be honest, is the first Star Wars with any sense of surprise since 1980).  And you hit me first with a goddamned video game movie adaptation, which is about as low a bar as it gets.

First, let me tell you what annoys me about gamers. Now, mind you, I did play Pacman and Centipede once, in a Godfather’s Pizza, but I least I got to enjoy smoky treats while I got slaughtered (not that many of you would remember, but yeah, we used to smoke in public—restaurants, college, malls, airplanes—before all you annoying nonsmokers overbred and took over the entire world). But that was not when I decided that suicide would be preferable to the whole video game thing.  No, that realization came after I did a few years managing a video store (Do you remember these? that’s a Statler Brothers reference, by the way) when I had to deal with gamers. They would call the store and, to a man, they would rattle off game titles, most of which had some kind of X followed by a number. Those excitable boys would say the names at such a fast clip I always had to ask them to repeat that a tad slower. I remember one gamer coming in wearing a shirt which said something to the effect that Nintendo (or whatever) was better than girls. How would he even know?  And then their comedy is the cherry on the cake; you know, when they get defensive and claim they are  being productive and that video games are art and they are complex and… zzzzz.

Now you gaming twits have taken a swipe at me by sending me to Pikachu. Oh, how cute. Now it’s my turn.

Still from Pokemon Detective PikachuOK, first, is this yellow a guy a rabbit? He sort of looks like a rabbit, which might explain why this movie rips off Roger  Rabbit (and several other films). Except that director Rob Letterman is no Robert Zemeckis, Pikachu is no Roger, and Justice Smith is no (actually all the humans here are pretty lifeless, like that one Star Wars prequel where Yoda was the most animated person). Also, Roger Rabbit was actually a funny screwup. Pikachu does cutesy one-liners that are predictable and ingratiating.

I suppose we should get to the plot. Tim (Justice Smith) does not like Pokemons because his detective dad was supposedly killed by one (sound familiar?) Tim lives on the outskirts of Ryme City (visually, a cross between Blade Runner and Toon Town), where Pokemons and humans cohabitate, and now has to team with Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who was his dad’s partner. Insert Phillip Marlowe references. Repeat often for filler.

Of course, there’s a plethora of universe building. Am I the only one who does not give a hoot about all the extended universes of late (Marvel, DC, etc)? Someone in the popcorn line (you tightwads have never even sent me a damned AMC gift card for enduring these summers) referred to it as the “Pokeverse.” OK, I’m putting my foot down. I will not even include the next Pokefeature as a summer blockbuster poll option (and no doubt there will be many more to come as it has already made a zillion dollars. As the saying goes, you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence or taste of the American public.)

Anyway, the CGI excess is not a surprise. It becomes tediously hedonistic about the midway mark. What is surprising is that the plot gets complicated and sloppy. There’s the rub, so to speak. Pokemon wants to be taken seriously, but it wants to be entertaining, too, and tries this mostly through Pikachu’s sidekick, Psyduck (I’m not making this up), who has to be kept calm or he will implode (think of the tradition of bringing in a cantankerous duck when the protagonist toon gets too goody-goody dull.)

The Sherlock Holmes bit apes countless cop buddy movies, but suffers most from an outcome that is anything but a mystery. Some of the humor is a tad risqué—that’s clearly the reason for casting Deadpool‘s Reynolds—but even that can’t save Pokemon, once it ceases to be a movie in favor of product building.

For Pokefans only.

Next week: Aladdin.

I hate all of you.

READER POLL FOR ALFRED EAKER VS. THE 2019 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

Summer’s almost here, and that means it’s time for the 366 Weird Movies reader base to send me, Alfred Eaker, on my sixth masochistic field trip of blockbuster movie torture. Since the blockbusters listed here actually extend to the end of the year in 2019, I will grant readers a choice of 4, rather than the normal 3 (AS LONG AS AT LEAST ONE CHOICE IS A FILM DEBUTING AFTER JULY). The candidates are below. Be sure to view the entire post; you will vote at the end.

  1. We’ll start with the most masochistic film imaginable: Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Opening May 10). Do I have to explain why a field trip to a mortuary would preferable? Although I’ve never seen anything out of the Pokémon franchise, I know it’s supposed to be the most profitable media franchise of all time and I’ve seen enough of its merchandising to know this is something to be quite afraid of. Of course, one will never go broke underestimating the intelligence and taste of the American public, so it will naturally be the biggest thing since Moses parted the Red Sea… until the next big thing, that is.
  2. Aladdin (Opening May 24). Strike one: is dead. Strike two: This is directed by Guy Ritchie, who’s never made a good film in his entire career. Strike three: Uh, live action movies of animated Disney fodder are lessons in banality and redundancy. The proof is in the pudding of Dumbo. Did anyone really think that was going to be anything less than a pile of excrement? Especially, since it was directed by whose mojo violently gave up the ghost twenty years ago. Disney never learns.
  3. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Opening June 7). There has been a pretty consistent lesson with the whole “X-Men” thing: hire , avoid all the entries not directed by him, and do not let him direct anything else. With Singer’s personal and legal matters, his career seems to be history now, so why not put the franchise out of its misery? Not a chance, no matter how many godawful movies they churn out.
  4. Child’s Play (Opening June 21). On the (maybe) plus side, Mark Hamill has a supporting role, hopefully as a villain, as he is far more interesting when his ugly side comes to the surface (something the crying fanboys could not grasp regarding Last Jedi). On all of the negative sides; the director, Lars Klevberg, has only directed one feature, and it was reportedly dreadful. So too was the original Child’s Play, which failed to do in 2 hours what Trilogy of Terror accomplished in 15 minutes. The sequels were even worse—so now, let’s revive that dead horse.
  5. Spider-Man: Far From Home (Opening July 5): Ok, the previous one, also directed by Jonn Watts, received great reviews. However, the trailer for this looks like a preview for the next Avengers thingamajig. Besides, I heard they killed Spidey in the last Avengers thingamajig. Still, hopefully it will suck so I can pan it and piss off Marvel fundamentalists.
  6. The Lion King (Opening July 19). Oh, come on! Two–count ’em, two–pointless live-action rehashes from the studio of mucus in Continue reading READER POLL FOR ALFRED EAKER VS. THE 2019 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (2018)

Brian Henson has daddy issues, continues to commit career suicide, and The Happytime Murders may be the worst movie of the decade. For those in a hurry, you can go now. I wouldn’t blame you one damned but if you did. For the rest of my fellow masochists, I’ll elaborate, and make it mercifully briefer than this movie’s torturous 90 minute running time.

Still from The Happytime Murders (2018)The first time I read about The Happytime Murders, the description was a single sentence that went something like: “A movie about a serial killer who preys on Muppets.” My initial thought was, that premise is so weird, how can it go wrong?

Oh, it went wrong. Apparently Brian Henson feels that he doesn’t measure up to daddy, so much so that he’s gone the distance to butcher his pop’s legacy and intentionally produce something so wretched as to provoke Jim’s ghost. I hope it worked, because nothing else did in this mess, which is essentially the Muppets go Porkys with a few murders and fish-out-of-water Melissa thrown in. At least Porkys had a few (very) strained laughs, and Melissa’s previous “blockbuster,” the Back to School ripoff terribly directed by hubby is, comparatively, an endurable fun fest. Meet the Feebles (1989) this is not. Congrats should possibly go to Ben now that Henson has now replaced you as your wife’s worst director. However, since Ben is this film’s producer….

Henson has no idea what to do with his premise, and resorts to gags like Muppet sperm (silly string) and S&M puppet porn parlors. McCarthy is not only back to fat jokes, but after a confused Muppet offers her oral sex, she quips “I wish I had a d**k for you to suck.” Yuk. Yuk.

But see, she’s kind of a Muppet herself because, after being wounded in a sort of backstory shootout, it turns out she received a liver transplant from a dead Muppet, and the reason for that revelation? If you find out, don’t bother to share.

There’s a paper-thin satire on film noir detectives and a half-assed, insincere allegory of puppets as abused and oppressed minorities; which is blatantly condescending, as is the endless barrage of caricatures and stereotypes.

McCarthy is essentially rehashing her crude cop from Paul Feig’s The Heat (2013) and doing it much more poorly here. She clearly cannot distinguish between a good script and a bad script, and since audiences seem to tend to think that the actors just make up movies as they go along, McCarthy will take the lion’s share of the blame. Henson, who clearly was planning this as the initial entry in a new franchise, forgot the old adage about first impressions. With both critics and audiences in rare agreement, The Happytime Murders tanked on its opening weekend. It deserved to. The credit bloopers suggest the cast and crew had a blast making it. That fun is not at all in the movie, and everyone involved knew it.

Hands down, 2018 is the worst summer of movies I can recall.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE MEG (2018)

Every year that 366 Weird movie readers have been sending  me to the Summer blockbusters, I’ve managed to actually see one good or at least remotely passable movie picked from the poll. Not so in 2018. All three picks, including this week’s, The Meg, scraped the barrel’s bottom.  366 readers found the summer goldmine of  blockbuster feces, but didn’t even bother to spot me for a pack of peanut butter M&Ms to alleviate their sadism in sending me to both Slender Man and The Meg in one weekend. As this may be (or not) our last Summer Blockbuster together, I’ll thank you for not sending me out with a bang, but rather feeling like barely getting through a trilogy of embarrassments. Actually, neither movie was as fun as a Wood opus. If only he were still around to inject some inspired lunacy. That’s the problem with The Meg; it neither realizes its dumbness, nor is it dumb enough. It’s not hard to imagine the boardroom scenario: “We’re going to do a shark movie. Jaws made a ton of money.”

“The last few Jaws movies were flops.”

“Yeah, so we’re going to change the name to The Meg.”

“‘The Meg’?”

“Yeah, like the Megalodon. So, see instead of it being a 25 foot great white, it’ll be a 75 foot prehistoric shark.”

“So, kind of like Jurassic Park meets Jaws?”

“Exactly. We throw in a good looking cast and we’ll make a killing.”

And it is making a killing, because as long as something is marketed right, Americans will consume anything that is fed to them. In his TV and film career, spanning 25 years,  director John Turteltaub has been consistent in never once having an original thought or producing an original work. In short, he’s a hack, and if he has anything resembling a style, it is his derivativeness.

In a recent interview with Collider, Turteltaub defends his excrement with “I didn’t set out to win any awards,” which is the paint-by-numbers auto-response for something embarrassingly bad. Although he did admit that he wanted it to be “R” rated (it might have helped) and hinted at a lot of studio interference, he also had the chutzpah to claim he didn’t pander to audiences, before then talking about the ways in which he did pander to audiences. I wouldn’t doubt studio interference, but I doubt it would have been much better had the studio left him alone to craft his masterpiece.

Usually, the legitimate complaint about Jaws ripoffs is that they take Stephen Spielberg’s reworking of Melville about three men, one of whom is an Ahab-like character, facing a community terror, and turn it into a slasher film focused on a shark who is a replacement for Michael Meyers. Still, with as little as Turteltaub had to work with from the screenplay (Jan and Eric Hoeber and Dean Georgaris adapting the “reportedly” superior novel by Steve Alten), it might have been smarter to focus more on the beast. Instead, he makes the movie a star vehicle for stud muffin Jason Statham as Jonas (you know; the Bible guy in the belly of the whale). While Statham is no Robert Shaw, he does have adolescent charisma that would do, if only the movie supplied him plenty of shark ass to kick.

There’s an early nod to submarine-in-peril melodramas (e.g. Gray Lady Down) that requires an expert rescuer. Of course that would be Jonas, but he has a haunted past. The portrayal of inner torment, however, is a mere sketch that can’t offer the pathos of a U.S.S Indianapolis experience or anything in the way of Old Testament lessons. Then, the movie makes a fatal mistake. It spends the next half on… nothing.  Instead of offering anything in the way of characters, there’s a lot of techno mumbo jumbo, mixed with occasionally cheesy dialogue, including about a half minute of a half-baked sermon about the immorality of hunting whales, etc.

Cliched archetypes abound; the shady billionaire financier, the joker sidekick, and a potential romance with a marine biologist (Bingbing Li) who, despite being smart-as-a-whip, needs rescued a lot by he-man Jonas.

Still from The MEG (2018)Then, there’s the shark, which is a complete CGI failure. Spielberg’s mechanical shark Bruce, for all its off-screen malfunctioning, felt threatening. That is not the case with the Meg, which looks like a souped-up version of “Jabberjaw.”  She whizzes by, and we never actually sense her there.

The late-in-the-film big set piece is a blatant ripoff of the beach scene in Jaws. For a moment, it looks like it’s either going to full-out one-up the original source, with an ocean-full of primary colored balloons and lifejackets and a poor tyke about to prove that the world is one big restaurant; either that, or U.S.S Indianapolis-meets- Godzilla. But, it’s too late in the game, and the movie chickens out of going either direction. The scene, like the film itself, evaporates.

I vividly remember seeing Jaws on its opening weekend in 1975. Dad took us to see it, and the theater employees were busy cleaning up from the previous audience where someone had vomited. Everything in Jaws—from the two guys on the pier complaining about a wife’s roast, to Scheider’s improvised sweaty line, the interplay between Dreyfuss and Shaw (most people don’t get the beer can image today since beer cans in 1975 were made of a harder aluminum, not tin)—all of it seemed intimate, which heightened the horror.

Comparatively, The Meg is an a adolescent cartoon, and not even a fun one at that.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: SLENDER MAN (2018)

Slender Man (2018) is a movie that shouldn’t be watched alone. Not because it’s scary, but rather, if one has to suffer through a movie this wretched, you might as well have someone to suffer through it with.

I am tempted to leave this review at that and call it a day because it rather sums it up. However, since 366 Weird Movie readers inexplicably voted for this dung heap more than any other movie in the 2018 summer blockbuster poll, I might as well give your money’s worth and count it as my penance for all the readers that I’ve pissed off over the last nine years.

I do recall some reader was shocked that I had never heard of the Slender Man. A co-worker (a clown actor—I mean, he literally plays a clown) who saw it before me texted that the movie was “ratchet,” but it was worth seeing because the girl was “thicc.” I thought I had detected a couple of typos. After he texted back ROTFL, I deduced I had better Google a millennial translator. Job done, I texted him back that this is why I sometimes feel, if you’re under 40, I’m probably going to hate you. (Not really, of course. Overall, I think millennials are a better lot than my baggage-saturated generation.)

Back to the movie, if we must.

Humphrey Bogart once complained that Hollywood intentionally putting out bad movies was like Ford intentionally putting out bad cars. Sylvain White’s Slender Man is such a case. It’s lazy filmmaking at its worst. This is White’s fourth American film, and although he is mostly known through television work, he has the distinction of helming a string of American feature film flops. One would think that would deter producers. Not at all, especially when their sole concern is to cash in on an internet-based urban legend, a lot of yawn-inducing fan fiction, and a 2014 fan stabbing, which was detailed in the 2016 documentary Beware the Slender Man (that received mixed reviews). White, who has made his reputation mostly for small screen work and the 2013 French thriller Mark of Angels had to have known David Birke’s script was a derivative waste. This is not going to help his resume.

Even producers were aware this is a rotten egg, extending their review blackout date by 24 hours.

Still from Slender Man (2018)The film had potential; all of which was flippantly squandered. When our 7-foot tall haunted house actor took the guise of Slender Man to pass out fliers last season, throngs of people freaked out, and it made the news. The actor didn’t actually do anything. He just walked around in the mask and suit. The scare factor lies in people’s perception from the social media history. The film unwisely focuses too much on the character, bringing him to life through a scenario we’ve seen countless times before: a group of vapid teens, hearing about the legend, Google “Slender Man” (no, I’m not kidding) and close their eyes, ding go the church bells, and lo and behold, he is summoned forth through what looks 10th generation Photoshop FX ripped off from The Ring . Of course, the teens fill every stereotypical prototype and can’t die soon enough. One of the brood gets kidnapped by Slender Man and what follows is a brief detective subplot that has all the horror of Snoopy playing Sherlock Holmes.

Slender Man apparently likes modern technology because he somehow makes cellphones squeak, messes with the kids’ jams, and even sends really wacky (and badly edited) video footage to potential victims. The hair on the nape of my neck was standing on end. Actually, it was the cinema air conditioner (we are in our third week of a 100 degree weather). How does Slender Man do all this? Why does he do all this? These are questions that the world may never know.

And of course, just when you run and turn the corner, bam! Slender Man is there! But, even the jump scares are few and far between. At least Freddy had that in his worst outings. Slender Man commits not one, but two cardinal genre sins: it’s a scary movie  that’s not scary, and it’s a total bore to boot. As for the “thicc” chick (how do you pronounce that? Does it rhyme?), I have no idea which “chick,” the clown actor was referring to but, maybe that’s because I’m in my mid fifties.

“Slender Man is so bad…”

“How bad is he?”

Slender Man is so bad, that fanboys aren’t even claiming there’s a critical conspiracy to make fun of the character.

Slender Man is so bad, that for once audiences and critics actually agree.

Slender Man is so bad, that I actually saw four patrons (there weren’t many to begin with) walk out within a half hour.

Slender Man is so bad, that our House of Shadows actor, who’s been playing Slender Man for three years, had plans to use the occasion of the film’s opening weekend to dress again as the character and pass out fliers.

Then, he saw the movie …

…and promptly canceled his plans.

If readers overwhelmingly picked this movie because they thought it was going to be “cool” (or insert whatever millennial slang one uses), you utterly failed.

However, if readers picked Slender Man as a sadistic revenge upon me, you have triumphed.