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Bowling for Columbine (2002)
This has not aged well.
There are several ways in which this film has aged badly. It comes from a directly post-Columbine, post-9/11 world, so while Moore's discussion of the climate of fear might have resonated then, it rings a bit hollow now, especially when people on his side are spreading more fear than anyone else. (Between covid and climate change liberals are living in more fear than anybody else).
So what is he saying in this documentary? I came out of it understanding that Americans are unnaturally violent and fixated on murder, but Moore's arguments for why this is are not terribly convincing. He runs all over the place blaming the NRA, the media, violent movies, poverty, racism, and it all ends on a shrug. I still don't see how the NRA is connected at all with shootings; it just seems to be a useful scapegoat for anti-gun activists. I don't know what changed in the liberal agenda between 2002 and now, but the media hasn't changed a bit and now all liberals do is fawn over them. I found it interesting that a 'liberal' documentary would be so anti-media. The bit about violent movies was ridiculous, and I wonder if Moore has ever paid attention to the culture of any other countries. Some of his precious Canadians (Cronenberg, Cameron) have made extremely violent movies. And they are popular all over the world, not just in America...
Then he has a stupid cartoon that only a white liberal could create, a suspiciously-edited scene of him getting a gun at a bank, and so on and so forth. There are many strange people interviewed; I have no idea where he dug them up.
Whatever. The documentary was fairly entertaining and well-made, only for Moore to end on such a sour note the entire affair is tainted. I'm talking about his passive-aggressive ambush of Charlton Heston, at the climax at which he demands and bugs Heston to 'apologize' for holding gun rallies. Heston does what I think was proper, aka walk out, and Moore than uses deceptive editing to make Heston look more cold and callous than he likely was. Are you happy now, Michael Moore? Is this the only way a liberal can win an argument? By harassing an elderly man with Alzheimer's?
Everything people complain about in modern movies
I think overall this was a step above the original movie which was really a drag. (Mainly because the plot this time does not revolve around a lame McGuffin). However, it is rife with multiple issues which will never have me recommending it to anyone else...
- The bad CGI. This movie has some of the worst CGI I've seen in any Hollywood film of the last decade, which is embarrassing because Marvel and Disney are such billion dollar companies. Why can't they do better? Be on the lookout especially for a scene in the beginning where a giant blobby monster is rushing through a portal at the heroes; it's like leftover CGI from the original Toy Story. The effects in Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong remake were miles ahead of this. As were the effects in James Cameron's Avatar...or even the first of the Michael Bay transformer movies! I think effects artists have grown too complacent, lazy, preferring instead to bombard the viewer with nonstop effects that are not special.
- The characters. What a load of losers, and what, they're supposed to be 'cool' or something? No. Chris Pratt was better in the Jurassic Worlds. Baby Groot is there to sell toys, forget the Ewoks.
- The plot. Yes, there is no McGuffin. Unfortunately, now the storyline revolves around Chris Pratt meeting his evil father and killing him. What is the purpose of this? What exactly are the filmmakers trying to communicate here? I honestly don't care enough.
At least there were some funny jokes. But on the whole we'd all be better off watching Bob Hope movies; Road to Morocco is a good place to start.
The most Scorsese-like of movies Scorsese never made
What is this? A story set in New York, check. Graphic violence, check. Joe Pesci, check. The only way we know that Martin Scorsese wasn't the secret producer/director of this film is that Robert De Niro wasn't in it.
Anyway, this sequel copies far too many story beats from the original-just as egregious as the Force Awakens in that regard-but it still gets by from being quite funny. (Especially during the hotel scenes). It's also far more violent than the original; not only do we get the infamous four-story free-fall bricks to the head scene, but there are also staple guns, jumper cables, explosions, and more, accompanied by enough bodies crashing to the ground to rival Brian de Palma. It's still funny, though dark in a way only 80s/90s movies could be.
Side Note: Hilarious that Trump shows up, and since this is a movie set in 90s New York, how could he not? Of course, the liberals are so horrified that they are trying to censor him out of it, which I think is absolutely infantile. I watch movies all the time made by and starring people I don't politically agree with, and I don't care because I am actually an adult.
Saturday Night Live (1975)
One star for the unworthy diarrhea it's become
Sure, this show used to be all right, it used to have actually funny people running it and guest starring in it...but not many people can remember those days. Given how it's run today, you can get more laughs reading the dictionary.
I hear a lot of talk about how political correctness destroyed comedy, and though there may be some truth in that I would say that the lack of funny comedians destroyed it. None of the modern SNL people are funny, and that's why none of them can make any decent comedy films. They all come across as a bunch of self-righteous jerks providing either biased political commentary or embittered cynicism. Even some of the sketches I liked, such as the Kylo Ren Undercover Boss ones (politics are mostly absent) have an unnecessary mean streak fueled from gags too half-baked and lame to be decent black comedy.
There was one guy I knew who would constantly be defending this show in its current state. (He was a Bernie bro, so not too surprising there). "It's satire! SNL is great satire!" he proclaimed. I disagreed with him. Satire always has something constructive to say, while this is just a bunch of spite-stuffed liberals mocking people they don't agree with. To borrow from their own vein of wit, I guess I can call them all ignorant boobs. They have nothing to say. Their propaganda politics aren't funny or even convincing. (They keep trying to tie Trump to the Jeffrey Epstein, not once mentioning the irony that Epstein was a mega-Democrat donor...just like Harvey Weinstein...hmm...good thing they can deflect all the blame elsewhere).
If the current generation sees this as the epitome of satire I feel more sorry for them than anything else. Watch Dr. Strangelove or read Jonathan Swift if you really want to see how it's done.
Phony controversy like everything else
Well, now Christopher Nolan has completed his mind-mush trilogy of reality, space, and time (Inception, Interstellar, and Tenet respectively). I appreciated Tenet a lot more than Interstellar, if only for the mind-boggling plotting that was beyond what any other director is even trying to do. Comic author PG Wodehouse once said something along the lines of 'whatever people say about my work, I want them to admit that I have worked excruciatingly hard on the plot'. The same principle applies to Tenet. You may be bored with it, you may despise it, but good grief, look at all the intricate detailing that Nolan must have diagrammed and charted just to get the script for this thing finalized. Other 'I'm so great' pretentious directors don't even try to go to these kind of extremes.
The phony controversies around this film also raise it in my esteem. It was released during 'the GLOBAL PANDEMIC' (you know what I'm referring to), which caused a lot of hand-wringing from dweebs too chicken to see it in theaters. (I saw it in the theaters with no problem and didn't get sick afterwards; and there was almost nobody in the theater to spread disease anyway.). Nolan was slammed left and right as a literal madman trying to murder audiences for money. Give me a break. People should be allowed to use their own judgement to decide whether to go to a freaking movie theater or not.
Then there's the sound mixing. The dialogue was a little hard to understand sometimes (I heard one of the first lines as 'we live in a toilet world') but only in some scenes, not throughout the whole movie like people were complaining. I think this criticism originated from people furious that it got a theatrical release and desperate to slam it any way they could.
As a final side-note, what is up with this anti-theater conspiracy that is all over the Internet? Is it funded by the streaming services, which want to dominate pop culture with a flood of mediocre 'content'? People keep saying now that 'movie theaters are dead' but when a boring slop like Avengers Endgame can become the highest grossing movie the year before, this statement rings false. There is something else at work here.
Marvel can never be great
If Disney would have just come out of the blue with a new science fiction TV show in an I Love Lucy style comedy setting, I would be the first to appreciate that risky venture.
But this is Marvel. There is no gamble. Despite what people are saying, there is no risk, no re-definition, this is not ground-breaking. It's just freaking Marvel. They can do I whatever they want, cram as many genres as they want into the M'C'U, and legions of fans-the same ones who dubbed the visual slop that was Avengers Endgame one of the greatest movies ever-will show up anyway to get their superhero high. Even worse, these shows are degrading and/or killing off classic movie and TV genres with these hollow attempts to do something 'new', and actual, better works in the genre will be ignored because people get dumbed down by these stupid superheroes.
No need to watch westerns when you can watch Logan. No need to watch heist movies when you can watch Ant-Man. No need to watch war movies when you can watch Captain America or Wonder Woman. No need to watch comedies when you can watch the Marvel movies. No need to watch action movies when you can watch superheroes.
This is as much a criticism of superhero obsessions as it is the people who are making movies nowadays. If this seems more like a rant instead of a review, that's because it is one.
Clustered and over-done
One of the oldest human texts ever written is the Epic of Gilgamesh, translated from cuneiform tablets found in various parts of the Middle East. The epic deals largely with Man's vain attempts to escape death, so this theme can be called the oldest of human stories.
Director Gore Verbinski and his crew of writers sometimes seem to be tackling a similar theme in both this sequel and the previous one, Dead Man's Chest. (The previous movie saw Jack Sparrow desperately trying to escape death when his time was up; this movie sees Jack trying to become immortal). But Verbinski has no restraint, no focus, he just throws one thing after another on the screen and over clutters and over-complicates his plot to ridiculous heights. Characters who are ostensibly allies betray and cheat each other at a rate that would give Sergio Leone pause. Extended periods of time are given to Jack's looney hallucinations in Davy Jone's Locker. An entirely pointless and extended plot line about a sea-goddess is thrown in right when you want the writers to just calm down. The pirates are cheating, immoral rogues, yet they somehow have some kind of bible containing a 'pirate code' that they all respect. (The pirate council is hilarious, however, and is the highlight of the movie for me at least). But then the final battle has multiple climaxes, none of which are particularly euphoric. Along the way any attempt at finding an overarching theme will be thrown off the plank.
Things go on and on, usually entertaining, mostly funny, but ultimately long and exasperating. Verbinski makes the questionable decision to de-mythologize his own mythology, an idea which maybe looked good on paper but basically derails the series. Davy Jones, so powerful and unsettling in the previous movie, is reduced to a blustering pawn in the hands of the East India trading company. The fearsome Kraken is killed off-screen. The biggest threat is a bunch of capitalists that the pirates defeat with relative ease. There's no threat or sense of danger here.
Oh well, at least we have the performances. Johnny Depp does his Jack Sparrow shtick and this is the last movie in the series when it's entertaining and consistently funny. Geoffrey Rush gives a prototypical (or maybe stereotypical) pirate act which is too good for a popcorn blockbuster. Kevin R. McNally plays Mr Gibbs, who exists to spout pirate legends and superstitions. One of the Rolling Stones shows up.
It's ultimately too bad, Verbinski and Disney were on to something with this crazed saga expanding Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island setting, but they stumbled a bit at the end, going for excessive spectacle and jokes when it could have had that yet been something more.
A movie about a United States president attempting to improve the country and having to deal with Democrats trying to block everything he does? No, wait, this movie is set in the 1800s, not the late 2010s.
Some things never change.
Not the best Bond film, not the worst
While Casino Royale was a pretty good Bond film riffing off Nolan's Batman Begins for an origin story, Skyfall is an okay Bond film lifting wholesale from Nolan's the Dark Knight. The action, cinematography, villain, tone and near apocalyptic levels of threat reminded me inescapably of that film, and there are even corresponding plot elements.
Consider this scenario. Around halfway through the film the villain is seemingly foiled, captured by the heroes, and jammed into a transparent prison cell for questioning. The villain then taunts the heroes who only find out too late that 'he wanted to be captured!' and run around with arms flailing as the villain escapes to put his real plan into effect. I'm not sure if Nolan started this trend with TDK, (serial killer movies have been obsessed with it for forever) but he definitely popularized it in blockbusters like this one. (See also the first Avengers film, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc).
But why isn't the film quite as good as The Dark Knight? I think it may be trying too hard; individual scenes, (especially that opening sequence followed by what may be the best Bond theme ever, there I said it), work extremely well in isolation but seem a little exhausting put together. Director Sam Mendes seems to be straining, straining, trying so desperately to make the movie some kind of masterpiece that it nearly corrupts the entire viewing experience.
Side Note: The main villain first appears more than an hour into the film, and literally the second we do, when he first meets Bond, he begins prattling on about his grandmother's island where he baited rats with coconuts and had them eat each other. Vague metaphorical stories even before we clearly see his face. Good grief.
The Mummy (2017)
Don't play with mercury, kids
Early on in the Mummy, Tom Cruise is shown fiddling around with mercury, which is dripping all over the place as he enters the mummy's tomb. One gets the feeling that the people who wrote this movie and who ran the company that funded it were doing the same thing in their spare time. Or maybe the mercury was actually put in for a reason. In this movie, Tom Cruise suffers from so many hallucinations, flash-flashbacks, and violations of his mind that it would not be surprising if the whole thing was meant to be one big psychosis that came from him meddling with the stuff. Take this one scene, for instance: Cruise is being chased by the mummy and an army of rats, he is trapped in an alley with all the doors locked, the rats swarm over him, knocking him to the ground and holding him down, the mummy approaches ominously...
Cut to Cruise walking down the street with the requisite female character, wondering why it is that he can understand ancient Egyptian.
What is going on here? How can anything in this movie be considered 'thrilling' if we don't even know what's supposed to be real?
The movie can't seem to decide itself. The plot ostensibly concerns Cruise, (He has a character, I think, but just acts like himself), his sidekick, and a female archeologist, who find the mummy's tomb in Iraq. They then raid it, accidentally releasing the creature out into the world, and then things stop making the remotest sense-things just happen, such as the rat scene that I mentioned. The archeologist (Annabelle Wallis) says a lot of empty words which are meant to sound knowledgeable. The sidekick, (Jake Johnson), is the comic relief who is bitten by a spider, becomes a zombie, is shot three times, and ends up as a zombie ghost who periodically haunts Cruise. "I'm cursed!" he whines, with all the intensity of a thirty year old finally being kicked out of his parent's basement. They are pursued by the mummy, who wants Tom Cruise's body for something. She converts many innocent people into mummy minions, and it's here that the movie's most thought-provoking question appears. What is the difference between a mummy and a zombie? This movie is supposed to be about mummies, but the mummy minions look, sound, walk, fight, and die exactly like zombies in any other movie. What sets them apart?
Eventually everything converges on a monster-fighting organization, and it's here that the wanna-be franchise aspects of the film kick into high gear. The organization is run by the great Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), and it is apparently committed to capturing evil things, studying them, and then destroying them. I'm not sure what these people expect to gain by studying the evil things, and keeping them alive at all seems like a recipe for disaster, especially if your boss has the most famous split personality on the planet.
What a let-down. This show is becoming more and more pointless as time goes on...at the end of this season 2 what have we really gotten besides a bunch of fan bait? Not much. I expected more, some development that would take the show and put it into a surprising new context. (E.g.: Mando keeps the Dark Saber for himself and becomes the ruler of Mandalore, something like that.). At least they could have added some overarching theme to the narrative. Alas, no. The ending falls flat; basically Luke pops up at the last minute, takes Baby Yoda away to presumably be trained, and that's it. Season over. This wasn't even worth the Disney+ password I got from someone else.
Some questions are still left up in the air. Is Moff Gideon dead? Last we see of that unscary supervillain he gets conked in the bean and falls over. He says he got Baby Yoda's blood already, so now what? Why do stormtroopers always tell the heroes to 'drop your weapons' when time and time again they get blasted apart by said heroes? They should just kill them. Why can't at least one of these invincible fighter chicks die? They are all expendable and I didn't care for any of them. What happened to the dark saber again? Where did Luke ex Machina come from?
Star Wars is only going to get worse from here. They announced like ten new shows not including the Boba one at the end of this episode, and all of them are going to be a glut of forgettable slop like this. We never should have let on that we liked the Mandalorian in the first place, because now look what's about to happen. Star Wars, already run into the ground by the Han Solo movie, is about to become an incoherent Marvel-derivative where we have shows for every character and nothing means a thing. It never ceases to amaze me how one man's imagination (Lucas's) can be so relentlessly plundered like this. It's tragic.
So much for new stories.
Two stars for dubstep troopers.
The Island (2005)
2019? Darn it, if they only would have moved the year up by one this would have been a hilariously prophetic movie. Loved all the talk about 'contamination', 'quarantine', and 'proximity alerts'. These type of buzzwords are all over the place now, so that would have made the movie even funnier.
Finally, something happened!
I was waiting throughout the whole season for the stakes to somehow get higher and now they finally have. Yay. This would be a perfect episode, except for the fact that stormtroopers have been used as useless cannon fodder for so long now that they don't even remotely seem like a threat. (Even worse, the Mandalorian has laser-proof armor so they literally are not a threat). You're not supposed to feel sorry for stormtroopers but in this episode (and also S2 e3) I kind of did. They are just too pathetic. Even Baby Yoda gets to beat some of them up.
Also, this episode made out Boba Fett as someone who hates the Empire. Why? Last we saw him, Fett was HELPING the Empire capture rebel leaders and those same rebels were the ones that threw him into the Sarlaac. Why is he so upset that 'the Empire is back'? I just don't get it. Somehow I doubt he would be doing all this out of the goodness of his heart.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Faster than a speeding head on a CGI body. More powerful than a finger which has just picked a nose. Able to leap large plot holes in a single bound.
It's a bird! It's a pixel! It's Captain Marvel! Yes, it's Captain Marvel. Strange, masculine woman from another planet. Who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of actual men. (E.g. making her body disappear except for her head and replacing it with an indestructible cartoon. See poster.). Captain Marvel! Who can destroy the integrity of mighty franchises, devastate toxic trolls with one image of her face, and who, disguised as Carol Danvers, surly-minded nobody from a great superhero-stuffed excrement, fights a never ending battle---for woke, feminism, and whatever lies in between!
Found footage is a plague
You know the drill: young people enjoy stupid parties until some disaster happens and the banality of their existence is turned into survival. The camera bounces and jostles in a vain attempt to evoke intensity, people wobbling across the screen gasp and make surprised faces as the gore flies everywhere, etc. It's very lazy.
If you want to see intensity and danger done right, watch Alfred Hitchcock. At least in his era there was such a thing as blocking and staging shots. This is literally the same level of any loser with their camcorder. And, even worse, that's the point.
The Mandalorian (2019)
Not perfect, but better than all the rest of Disney Star Wars
Before this show came out Rogue One was the best thing produced by Disney Star Wars, but now that dubious honor is held by this show, the Mandalorian, and renders said honor less dubious as a result. The people behind this show know what they're doing...
Unlike the Star Wars sequels, which rehashed the same old 'oppressive empire versus downtrodden people' trope which had already been stale in science fiction at the time, this show depicts the rise of the New Republic in a more or less negative light. It shows how the fall of the Empire led to a power vacuum which led to more tumult and a lower standard of living for everyone else. I would have preferred to see the sequel trilogy with this aspect: the Empire suddenly becomes popular with the 'downtrodden people' because it provided them security, while the New Republic devolves into a bureaucracy. Now that would be interesting. Literally anything would be better than the simplistic 'First Order' versus 'Resistance'.
So this show has a really good setting. I really liked the Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah influences while making the show a 'space western'. The soundtrack is pretty good even though it sounds nothing like what a Star Wars soundtrack is supposed to be. The action sequences are very cinematic.
Even with all this it has its flaws. The Mandalorian is supposed to be like Clint Eastwood's character in the Dollars trilogy, yet unlike Eastwood he just can't shut up. The guy is constantly chatting about this and that and it conflicts with his 'tough' character. I did realize, however, that we almost never see this guy's face, so he needs to make up for the lack of expression with constant speech or else he's just a blank slate. It was still a little irritating. Meanwhile, Baby Yoda is simply the latest in a long line of infantilized characters-(Baby Groot, Baby Jabba the Hutt, etc)-but the fact that he is a puppet instead of CGI makes him so much more interesting to watch.
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
If this was made today, people would be freaking out over making jokes about Nazis. Oh, wait, they already did.
Get a grip, people. Hogans Heroes and the Producers were made in the 60s when there were many people who had the horror of WW2 fresh in their memory. I'd bet that nearly everyone complaining about the Nazi jokes are millennials being being politically correct for stupid reasons. Plus, many of today's acclaimed 'comedies' are more tasteless than this and less funny. Just Google 'best comedies of the 21st century' and watch the crap appear like magic.
Probably the best AFI list
The list works to give you ideas on what classic films to watch, and overall the thriller theme gave better yields than the comedy one. There are several quintessential action movies here--Die Hard, Speed, Terminator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc-a genre that is really one of American cinema's strongest points. There's also a lot of good Hitchcock stuff (Strangers on a Train) and some mediocre Hitchcock stuff (Rebecca) and a load of Hitchcock imitations. There are a couple odd choices, (does anyone really find E.T. 'heart-pounding' or even thrilling?), but makes up for it by mostly avoiding those worthless gore-fest movies and staying classy.
The China Syndrome was lame, though.
Not quite the best of American comedy...
There are many good comedies contained in this series but I am at a loss as to how people included some of them. Some thoughts:
- There a too many hippie comedies from the 70s in here that are not funny. (Generally the 70s comedies are the weakest except for Mel Brooks and American Graffiti). We get five different Woody Allen movies here. Five! Meanwhile Bob Hope only gets one, the Road to Morocco, so at least while they made a good decision choosing which one to include there was no reason to stop there. Bob Hope is way funnier than Woody Allen.
- Be warned, there is a bizarre obsession with cross-dressing comedies. Some Like It Hot might have been funny but do we really need to see that concept used over and over again? I don't think so.
- No John Hughes movies? That really doesn't make sense.
- One, Two, Three should 100% be included, at the very least they could have replaced Ninotchka with it. At best take off one of those Woody Allen things.
- Nice to see all the Marx Brothers comedies. Those definitely hold up.
- Thank goodness they didn't forget about Danny Kaye. Actually, they do a pretty good job in covering at least one film from all major comedians, just some of them who get only one deserve more.
Shang hai bao lei (2019)
There are better things to rip off...
...then Roland Emmerich. Why are the Chinese doing this? If they want to rip off Americans there are better things than Independence Day and 2012. This movie is the same type of deal as the previous acclaimed Chinese blockbuster that was on Netflix. It's all Roland Emmerich stuff.
All of it.
Robin Hood (2006)
Welcome to Wimpyhood, my lady!
This show will make you reconsider the meaning of dumb. Literally the only good thing in it is the Richard Armitage playing Sir Guy, all the others are Kansas City wimps. (To use a milder word). Armitage is the only actor with any charisma in this thing. He should have been Robin Hood.
The Musketeers (2014)
What a turd.
Alfrid as the King of France? What the guts? Doctor Who as some kind of cardinal? Why are the musketeers all Spanish? Why do they dress like bikers? Why is d'Artagnan pronounced dart-AN-yan? How will this British-made, French-set, Spanish-acted telenovela end?
These are all questions you will never have answered.
You will not get far enough.
Justice League (2017)
I couldn't even finish Batman v Superman but all the nerd hype is infectious and I want to see the Snyder Cut and unsee this. Literally the only good part was when I turned on the radio and started playing 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' during the final battle, adding a whole new dimension to it.
Side Note: Interesting how the Snyder Cut haters changed their tune from "It doesn't exist!" to "This is causing toxic fan entitlement!".
Side Note: Interesting how the Snyder Cut haters say that "Why should anyone be excited for an alternate version of a bad movie that only got 43% on Rotten Tomatoes?" This movie IS bad, that's exactly why another version can not help but be better! Plus, Rotten Tomatoes is no reliable criteria for judging movies or else that means the Force Awakens is a better movie than the Charlton Heston Ben Hur. That is RUBBISH.
A gai waak (1983)
True Action Comedy
Literally the only guy I think can consistently pull off true action comedies is Jackie Chan in his Hong Kong era. The action scenes are both impressive displays of agility and bodies being flung around, while at the same time being so pervaded wit humor you can only wonder. American action comedies usually have action scenes too good for outright comedies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) or some funny bits in between generic action scenes (any modern 'action-comedy'). Jackie Chan can do both and have them mesh well. Supposedly different cultures have different senses of humor, but I still found this Chinese movie pretty funny so I guess that proves that slapstick transcends nations.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Against all odds, it works
Literally the ONLY reason this movie works is that James Cameron managed to come up with a villain so powerful and terrible it make Arnold's T-800 look like small potatoes in comparison. If not it would have ended up just like superheroes: two guys, the only difference between them being one is 'good' and one is 'bad' duking it out. Thank goodness. Terminator movies wouldn't turn into superhero movies until many years later in Salvation on. And nobody cares about those ones anyway.