Tag Archives: Summer blockbuster

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.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: LIFE OF THE PARTY, WITH BONUS AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

The trashy frat house machismo of Animal House wasn’t my cup of tea in 1978 and, typical of ‘ work, its excesses have dated. With and hubby Ben Falcone co-writing and producing Life of the Party, I wasn’t expecting anything along the zany lines of the National Lampoon boys, but rather something akin to Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School, done via McCarthy’s typical cutsey dumb girl humor. Although McCarthy’s on-the-sleeve screen persona is not one I cozy up to, she was amiable enough in pleasantries such as Bridesmaids, The HeatSpy, and Ghostbusters (all directed by )

We’ll get back to that. Having a long day off (both a school break and a work break), I opted for a double-feature picture show. The first feature, Avengers: Infinity War, was essentially a 21st century update of Animal House, with the boys spinning their tires in school parking lots replaced with super dupers. Essentially, though, both of those movies are tailored for secular camo-wearing bucks. I’ve never quite understood extreme virile conservatism divorced from religion. Don’t the two kind of go hand-in-hand? But then, Avengers does feature an overload of costumed deities who practically all get slaughtered by a big guy with an even bigger chin. I suppose it gives fans of the funny paper bibles what they want: two-dimensional gods who die horribly. It’s not so much a movie as a collection of video game levels. All the super dudes and super gals (too many to name) are like walk-on figures who go through multiple battles before getting wasted and replaced by the next set of supers whose powers are interchangeable and vague.

Still from Avengers: Infinity War (2018)It’s so damned deafening and foul, made all the more so by “Game of Thrones”-fed audience members who acted like a rabid tribe of simians, a-gruntin’ and a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ at each explosion. The atmosphere reminded me of a news article I had just read online with hundreds of commenters rooting for the death of John McCain because he dared to oppose torture (after being tortured) and he stood up to Lord Thanos, er, Trump. Yes, there is a political current coursing throughout Avengers. It’s the politics of monochromatic deathlust, and the bloodbath is only alleviated by ingratiating macho jokiness. Then back to more carnage for 160 endless minutes.

Of course, it’s going to make a trillion dollars and in many quarters this pedestrian mess is preposterously being hailed as something on the scale of Empire Strikes Back. If it really matters, it’s about these infinity stones, and the fate of the universe, and Tolkien-like sacrifice and… it doesn’t matter one bit. Undoubtedly, the various action figures will rise again so fans can be rest assured that there will be more. However, there was an actual death permeating the entire experience; the repugnant death of the greatest art form birthed in the 20th century.

Life of the Party (2018) posterAfter TammyThe Boss, and Life of the Party, all made with Falcone, McCarthy would be wise to work solely with Paul Feig. Her collaborations with husband are comparatively bland, never more so than here. Translation: Life of the Party is a crashing bore, which is the kiss of death for a comedy—especially one that features a star whose reputation was built on pratfalls and mugging. Almost as bad as the direction, the script, like Avengers, is utterly pedestrian non-writing, with the only surprise being how lifeless this party is. While it wasn’t soulless in the way Avengers was, Life of the Party could have used the slobishness of a John Belushi, or the madcap salty pathos of a Dangerfield. Normally, for all her obviousness, McCarthy at least delivers something in between the two; but here, she takes the worst route of all: toning down her antics, thus zapping away any personality.

The ho-hum plot is a sputtering series of muddled vignettes. After her jerk hubby has left her for another woman, McCarthy enrolls in college to study archeology. Naturally, it’s the same school her daughter (Molly Gordon) goes to. No prizes will be awarded for guessing what comes next in this listless remake of Back to School. Yes, fish-outta-water, dejected McCarthy plays mom to all the students, embarrasses her daughter, hooks up with a young dumb stud, becomes a favorite of all, and everything turns out OK for those on the screen (not so much for us).

Surprisingly, McCarthy is upstaged by co-stars , Heidi Gardner, and Gillian Jacobs. While The Avengers was a bodiless set of redneck testicles, Life of the Party is spayed suburbia. The only mercy afforded was in its comparative brevity. Also, the audience was less overbearing, but then over half the seats were empty—probably not a good sign for the producers and star.

Nor is this a good sign for my upcoming summer slate. Both Avengers and Life are DOA. At this rate, perhaps 366 readers can chip in and gofundme for a couple of packs of smokes and a very large can of sugar-free Rock Star. I think I’m going to need them.

READER POLL FOR ALFRED EAKER VS. THE 2018 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

The poll is closed. The winners were Slender Man, The Meg, and Life of the Party. Look for reviews this summer!

Summer’s almost here, and that means it’s time for the 366 Weird Movies reader base to send me, Alfred Eaker, on my fifth masochistic field trip of blockbuster movie torture. The candidates are below. Be sure to view the entire post; you will vote at the end.

  1. Life of the Party (Opens May 11). 1 hour and 45 minutes of ‘s one-note jokes. Guess what it’s about? Melissa as the life of the party.  If I get drafted into this, I’m taking my toenail clippers and a crossword puzzles (and I guarantee that I will still be able to give a detailed review).
  2. Deadpool 2 (May 18). The first one was, I think, the most successful R-rated movie to date being about a foul mouthed superhero (OK, yeah, that’s what I want out of superheroes). I haven’t seen it. Although it has the same writer, a different director was tapped. The jokes in the trailer are of the narcissistic  macho cutesy variety, which are the absolute worst kind.
  3. Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25). God, the trailer looks so obvious and bad. The credentials don’t help; directed by one of the most pedestrian directors of the last 50 years (Ron Howard) and written by Lawrence Kasdan who, lets be honest, managed to followup the best of the Star Wars movies (Empire Strikes Back) with one of the worst (Return of the Jedi). After the too-original-for-its-own-good The Last Jedi proved to be the Milk of Magnesia for formula-craving alt-right fanboys, this looks to settle them back into a regular bowel movement routine.
  4. Action Point (June 1) brags that it stars the cast of Jackass and Bad  Grandpa, which means a lot of predictable juvenile pratfalls to amuse rednecks. It looks to be as exciting as a mud and tractor pull.
  5. Incredibles 2 (June 15). Again, I missed out on the original, but the trailer looks like a commercial for a line of toys.
  6. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22). Geez, the last one actually made dinosaurs boring. I miss seeing a guy in a wrinkled lizard suit stomping on toy tanks.
  7. Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6). Helmed by the director of the original, this promises to be… more of the same, and that wasn’t very good to begin with. I received a lot of hate for my lukewarm review  of its predecessor. Heads were exploding all over fanboy forums. I think I’ve been far more offensive since then, so perhaps this will restore me to some kind of previous glory.
  8. Skyscraper (July 13). Towering Inferno meets Die Hard. How original. At least Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were actual actors and could form syllables. Of course, they’re dead. The trailer gets philosophical, announcing: “Courage has no limits.” Hmph! Smell likes Old Spice. Director Thurber’s resume is that of an assembly line hack.
  9. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (July 20). The first one was unbearably phony, with people in scuba flippers dancing to ABBA and waxing schmaltzy. Despite the presence of Meryl Streep (who embarrassed herself enough in the original) and Cher, even the title tells you it’s a fatigued rehash. To get us excited, they add an exclamation point. This  actually looked like the worst of the lot, until I saw the trailer for Life of the Party.
  10. Mission Impossible: Fallout (July 27). How much longer are we going to have to watch take off his shirt and run?  Even less exciting is the co-star casting of the worst Superman actor in history.
  11. The Meg (Aug 10). Jaws meets Godzilla? Might have some kind of potential if it was directed by someone so inept that they could produce an unintentional masterpiece. Instead, it has director Jon Turtletaub, who has been consistent in producing one film after another that is a hodgepodge of stale, leftover scraps.
  12. The Happy Time Murders (August 17). On paper, a muppet movie about a serial killer offing the entire cast of a children’s TV show sounds amazing. However, director Brian Henson (who’s no chip off the old block) and writer Todd Berger (The Smurfs and Kung Fu Panda) don’t leave a lot of room for optimism.
  13. Slender Man (Aug 24). When the haunted house attraction I work for sent an actor dressed as “Slender Man” to pass out street fliers, people freaked out and it made national news. I’m so out of the loop, I didn’t even know Slender Man was a preexisting character until today when I received the list of summer movies. When original ideas for a horror flicker run short, throw in images of maggots. That’ll gross ’em out! The trailer was a mere 2 minutes and within that time frame my mind started wandering toward my chemistry assignment (and I HATE chemistry).

(Poll is open for 1 week only. You may vote once per day).

Direct voting link in case your browser blocks the poll.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: DUNKIRK (2017)

After sadistically subjecting me to Pitch Perfect 2 last year (I’m still reeling from that), 366 readers had some compassion this year and voted me into watching Alien: Covenant, Wonder Woman, and Dunkirk. As our administrative prophet and editor-in-chief pointed out, the last choice was rather odd, since we know that is an ambitious, high-caliber filmmaker and any film of his would hardly constitute a viewing ordeal. Largely positive critical consensus would seem to validate Greg‘s observation…. except, this selection, which one would assume to be a knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark hit, is fatally uneven: cinema as trauma, with a director at his most aggressively self-important, delivering a film that features, by turns, examples of his most adroit and slovenly aesthetics. Despite its flaws, which inevitably stem from Nolan’s consciously elevated approach, Dunkirk, while falling short of expectations, is an effective work. It’s not a war film, as publicity would indicate. Rather, it could have just as aptly been titled The Great Escape.

Still from Dunkirk (2017)This is hardly the first cinematic treatment of the WWII evacuation of British soldiers from the harbor and beaches of Dunkirk, France in 1940, but with the craft and budget that went into this production, it easily surpasses previous, languid versions. On the IMAX screen, Dunkirk is a sensory overload. Undoubtedly, that’s the best way to see it, because all that upheaval, from the lensing of Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar) to Hans Zimmer’s aggrandizing score, provides necessary detail. With almost no dialogue, we are bombarded by an overbearing, apocalyptic sound design, which includes explosions of every contemporaneous weapon of mass destruction. It’s too much and—although it convinces us of the torturousness of this historical experience—it’s also not enough; curiously, it’s spiritually bankrupt.

The film centers around understandably frightened young soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), who, with fellow soldier Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), tries to make his way to a rescue ship. The intensity is almost unendurable; so much so that we are forced to sympathize with the protagonists. However, one of Nolan’s worst tendencies sabotages our chance for actual empathy: he begins overwriting, catapulting us into unnecessary vignettes, one of which involves an RAF pilot (). The result is to distance us from Tommy and Gibson. Undoubtedly, Nolan is a superior narrative writer, but he’s an impoverished dramatist. Say what we will about John Ford’s dated, overt sentimentality—he knew, particularly in this type of genre, to level the wham-bam machinery down to a minimum and keep the faces (, Robert Montgomery) upfront. Likewise, Ford could be counted on to utilize color almost orgasmically—even in emotionally harrowing sequences. Comparatively, Nolan’s monochromatic palette here further magnifies the film’s frigidity.

The action scenes, never Nolan’s forte, are hopelessly muddled, and in spending so much time on them, his structure becomes frayed. As in his Batman trilogy, sweat is needed. Nolan then, and Nolan now, is just too literal to perspire.

Dunkirk is inherently about the immediacy of survival, and too many intimate idiosyncrasies would detract from that goal, but aloofness can be carried to an undesired extreme. Ultimately, this is like an aesthetically impressive video game; ferocious, but emotionally blunted.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) is reaping critical praise, and opened with an astounding one hundred million dollar weekend box office. It’s being hailed as the best movie in the DCEU—i.e., D.C. comics extended universe—although I’m not sure how exactly that’s different than the DC movies that preexisted that label.

Still from Wonder Woman (2017)Regardless, this is the first big screen standalone treatment of the character, which originally debuted during the Second World War, created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. Wonder Woman was always a kind of female variation on Superman. Paradoxically, she was both a symbol of female empowerment and a pinup bondage fantasy. Initially, under the original artists, she was more feminist than titillating. Predictably, it was the pinup quality that drove the bulk of her fan base and informed most of her subsequent incarnations, the notable exception being the series helmed by George Perez’ silvery pencils. Even then, “Wonder Woman” comics never equaled the sales of her male counterparts. When it was announced that Israeli actress Gal Gadot was being cast as the big screen Wonder Woman, a lot of fanboys harped, comparing her unfavorably to 1970s TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter—because, frankly, Carter has more robust cleavage. In 2011, an updated TV movie was planned, but once publicity stills were released of actress Adrianne Palicki wearing a long pants version of the red, yellow, and blue suit, the DC fundamentalists were up in arms. They wanted legs, dammit, and went the politically correct route of whining about political correctness. The movie, which apparently was a pilot for a series, was purportedly wretched anyway, and seems to have vanished from memory. Five years later, when Gadot’s cameo proved the only bright spot in the execrable Batman vs. Superman, the fanatics were finally appeased, and thankfully silenced.

Wonder Woman is well-crafted, entertaining, and has a charismatic lead, which says a hell of a lot more than the recent crap fests Man of Steel, the aforementioned BvS, and Suicide Squad. It gets right what all those films missed—it remembers that simplicity, primary colors, and ethical nostalgia, all wrapped up in a lasso of fun, are the attraction of the DC characters, who are really more appealing than their angst-ridden Marvel competitors. With a few exceptions, the multiple DC based TV series (live action and animated) get that right (i.e., “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and the recent “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,” which could as easily have been dubbed “The Return of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar”).

One of the main positives here is the direction of Jenkins, who is far better suited to the material than the dullard boys have proven to be. Predictably, right-wing fan boys, while giving faint praise and Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

Forty years after his superb 1977 début with The Duelists, has proven, more often than not, to be an engaging filmmaker. At nearly 80 years of age, he remains a provocative dinosaur from the school of ambitious science fiction, a genre he excels in, but has only worked in sporadically. Along with the late , Scott does it better than anyone—arguably, even better than Kubrick. It’s often forgotten today, but upon its première, Alien (1979) was criticized by some as a jazzed-up variation of the gorilla in a haunted house. Those trappings were deceptive. If Alien were only that, it would hardly have come to be considered a science fiction/horror yardstick. The same could be said for 1982’s Blade Runner, which was initially a critical and box office flop, but became a cult phenomenon. When Scott belatedly returned to the Alien franchise, he produced the sublime and startling Prometheus. It proved to have too many unresolved mysteries, was too aesthetic, too peculiar, too cerebral, and too resourceful to be the fix that the formula craving audience desired. With Alien: Covenant, he delivers a hybrid: a sequel of sorts to Prometheus, and a vague segue into Alien. It’s a summer blockbuster that, coming from Scott, is something more. As can already be seen by its modest American opening and outraged reactions spewed by those who prefer their sci-fi unchallenging, Covenant is not going to please face-hugger followers. And unless it does well overseas, the likelihood of another Scott-helmed Alien seems a stretch. Although that is almost predictable, it’s also unfortunate.

Posyer for Alien: Covenant (2017)Paradoxically, Covenant contains some of Scott’s most assured filmmaking along with his roughest. Beautifully filmed, filled to the brim with surprises, drawn out, disheveled in sections, and sporting what, on the surface, appear to be derivative fan-appeasing choices, it, along with the 1979 original and Prometheus, make up Scott’s standout Alien trilogy. These are far superior to any of the sequels made by others, including the action-oriented Alien-Rambo crowd-pleaser from James Cameron. Although Aliens is a memorably punchy film with etched-in-stone performances by Sigourney Weaver, the shiny beast (courtesy H.R. Geiger), and Bill Paxton, Cameron unwittingly gifted Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

READER POLL FOR EAKER VS. EAKER VS.THE 2017 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

With summer just around the corner, it is time for the 366 reader base to vote on which three summer blockbusters to send the Eakers (Alfred and Aja) to review for our fourth annual installment of the series “Eaker v.s Eaker vs. the s.” The candidates below are listed in order of release. Be sure to view the entire post; you will vote at the end.

  1. Alien: Covenant, opening May 12. I ‘ll have to nix the latest Fast and Furious (April 14) and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (April 28), simply because they’re coming too soon.  That leaves us to potentially open with Alien: Covenant, ‘s sequel to Prometheus, which is probably the  most likely to send me sleeping on the couch for a couple of nights. Why? Because I loved Prometheus and thought it the best of the entire Alien series (yes, you read that right). Aja, on the other hand, sided with the fanboy masses and hated it so thoroughly that I was not able to even watch it a second time until she left town for a week. So, this is probably the number one candidate for a knock down, drag out fight. Of course, I could be wrong. It really could suck. After all, no artist is infallible, and Scott is undeniably an uneven director.
  2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, May 12. Hasn’t this story been told a few times already? It’s directed by Guy Ritchie, whose resume doesn’t promise anything even remotely approaching freshness.
  3. Wonder Woman, June 2.  With their last few entries, DC comics have earned the reputation of being hacks when it comes to the big screen. This is odd, since they rule the small screen with their animated and live action series. And, let’s be honest—they have cooler, more colorful characters than Marvel. Exhibit A is the delightful series “Supergirl,” which apparently a lot of humorless fanboys hate. With Marvel, it’s usually the reverse (Exhibit B is the reportedly godawful TV series “Iron Fist”). Gail Gadot was the coolest element of the execrable Batman vs. Superman, but she was only in it briefly. Also on the potential plus side is director Patty Jenkins, whose Monster (2003) was critically acclaimed. However, her work since then has been sporadic and confined to television (although she won several Emmys). On the negative side, the trailer indicates an overblown spectacle—which shouldn’t be surprising  since a certain hack named Snyder co-wrote the script, and the only thing he seems to write well are recipes for disaster.
  4. Baywatch, June 2. Based on the cheesy TV series and starring Dwayne Johnson. Jesus God, this is gonna be really bad.
  5. The Mummy, June 9. Director Alex Kurtzman is known primarily as a writer… of bad scripts (Amazing Spiderman 2, a Transformers movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness). Lead actress Sofia Boutella is earning a reputation as a formidable screen presence. It also stars whose work is usually uneven. This is supposed to be the first entry in Universal’s planned reboot of its classic monster Continue reading READER POLL FOR EAKER VS. EAKER VS.THE 2017 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES