Triple 9

By: Kevin Jordan

Distractions everywhere.

I don’t know that there’s ever a good time to release a movie about corrupt cops, but now seems like an especially bad time.  One day, assholes are killing cops and the next day, cops are killing kids wielding toy guns in a park.  Every one of these events has people on all sides of the issue vehemently arguing about police abuse, the ability of cops to fulfill their duties, targeting of minorities, targeting of cops, and possibly the lowest amount of trust exchanged between the general public and general police force.  With all that dominating the ten percent of news cycles that aren’t devoted to the current election circus, the higher-ups over at Worldview Entertainment said “fuck it; let’s do this.”  Not only did they decide to release a movie about good cops, bad cops, and a whole lot killing, but they decided to name the movie after the code given for an officer down.  Who’s ready for some fun, huh?

TRIPLE 9 Poster Art

Walking out of the theater, the most common reaction I heard was “that movie was really confusing.”  I wouldn’t characterize the movie as confusing, but I would say that the movie leaves a lot of unanswered questions in its wake.  For instance, my biggest question was how bad was Kate Winslet’s Russian accent?  Egads was that thing exaggerated.  Once I stopped thinking about that, my next question was why was Woody Harrelson wearing dentures?  I thought the accent was distracting until the dentures distracted me from the accent.  Then, I wondered what Casey Affleck had to do to hulk out like that.  Welcome to the gun show is right.  Yes, these are the things that I think about during movies that don’t bother to write a compelling plot or give us back stories to its characters.  Now you know why those people were confused.

(Some spoilers coming up, though I won’t tell you which cop needs the 999.)

Based on the trailers, I thought the movie was going to be a heist movie and it definitely starts out that way.  A crew of five guys consisting of two ex-special forces soldiers – Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russel (Norman Reedus) – Russel’s brother and former cop, Gabe (Aaron Paul), and two active and corrupt cops – Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (Clifton Collins, Jr.) – are hired a by a Russian mob wife, Irina (Winslet), to rob a bank.  Their target is a safe deposit box and these guys are really good at robbery.  Upon delivery of the box, Irina shirks on paying them, instead insisting that they perform another theft, this time stealing a box from a secret Department of Homeland Security warehouse.  Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?  Well, hold on to your butts.

Chris Allen (Affleck) is reassigned to Marcus’ precinct as Marcus’ new partner.  Chris is also a former soldier, but he just wants to make a difference.  They make a big deal out of him being transferred from a cushy precinct, but no explanation is given as to why.  But, don’t worry too much about it because they’ll distract you with his wife’s (Teresa Palmer’s) naked ass.  I’m not sure how that helps those who aren’t attracted by such things, but it works for me.

Further muddying the waters is Chris’ uncle, Jeffery (Woody Harrelson), who is a lead detective at another precinct.  He’s leading the bank robbery investigation, but spends his spare time drinking and smoking his ground-up medication.  I’m sure there are metaphors in these character traits, but after a whole lot of time watching these cops bicker with each other and no heists to speak of, I just didn’t care.  All I cared about was answering why Irina would kill Dwight from The Walking Dead (Reedus) as a scare tactic if she was holding Michael’s kid hostage?  Oh wait, there’s Gal Gadot’s (playing Irina’s sister and the mother of Michael’s kid) almost naked ass.  Nevermind.

Eventually, the now short-handed crew decides that the only way to give themselves enough time to pull off the DHS heist is to distract every cop in Atlanta by killing a cop and calling in a code 999.  No, seriously, they explain to us that every cop will definitely drop whatever assignment they have to respond to an officer down code, no matter how far away or pre-occupied they might be.  It’s totally believable, just like it’s totally believable that a secret DHS facility would be guarded by only a handful of incompetent rent-a-cops that were probably kicked out of the TSA for riding through the x-ray machines late at night.

Remember how I said the characters had no back stories?  What I meant was that they had no back stories to explain their motivations.  Why are the cops corrupt to the point of robbing banks?  Why are Michael and Marcus stuck doing jobs for the Russian-Jewish mob?  Are Irina’s hired muscle really wearing yamakas?  What exactly are they stealing and why is it important enough that the Israelis would release Irina’s murdering, mob-boss husband from Israeli prison?  Seriously, they’re wearing yamakas?

If the movie had any kind of redeeming quality (besides some very nice ass cheeks), it was nice watching Mackie, Ejiofor, and Winslet playing against type.  For all the lack of compelling writing, the performances were solid, accents notwithstanding.  But, again, in today’s current climate, I don’t know who this movie is for.  The folks expecting a good heist movie are going to be very disappointing and everybody else is just going to be wondering how they ended up here instead of at Deadpool.

Rating: Ask for all but two dollars back.  Triple 9 is probably worth a Redbox rental, but only if your first three choices are out of stock.

How to be Single

By: Kevin Jordan

Jerking us around.

Like last year’s Love the Coopers, How to be Single is an ensemble movie featuring many characters and several stories that kinda, sorta, intertwine.  Also, almost all of both movies’ characters are jerks.  I don’t know why screenwriters have veered in this direction with their romantic comedy characters lately, but it’s a little hard to hope for a happy ending for people who suck.  My initial reaction to this movie was meh, which was also the initial reaction of my sister-in-law, who was gracious enough to accompany me to this film.  She also reminded me that How to be Single is a lot like 2009’s He’s Just Not That Into You, but not nearly as good.  For the record, He’s Just Not That Into You wasn’t very good either.

How to be Single’s main character is Alice (Dakota Johnson).  We first meet Alice as a college freshman who is rescued from an embarrassing situation – in which she is standing naked in a dorm hallway – by Josh (Nicholas Braun), also a college freshman who quickly covers up Alice while ending up naked himself.  Sadly, this is the full extent of nudity in a rated-R movie about single people.  Yeah, I know – buckle up.

(Here is where the SPOILERS start.)

Fast-forward four years to our young, graduating-from-college couple (of course they became a couple) and we witness Alice pulling a traditional dude move – she wants to take a break from their relationship to discover who she really is.  Of course, if she were a dude, this would be code for “I want to have a whole lot of sex with people who aren’t you.”  Finishing off the role reversal, Josh is broken and weepy, though does manage to lament about missing her boobs the most, so we know he isn’t completely neutered.  Alice moves to New York City, gets a job as a paralegal, crashes at her sister Meg’s (Leslie Mann) place, and meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), who takes it upon herself to teach Alice how to be single.  Now, you might think that the hijinks start from there because you saw the trailer and it sure seemed like it would be a funny movie.  Remember what I just told you about the nudity, or lack thereof?  Lather, rinse, repeat for the hijinks.

Even though Robin is a drunken slut for the entire film, she manages to make herself seem worse by taking Alice out on the town after her first day of work and causing her to be three and a half hours late on her second day.  Before we get to see more partying, we are quickly introduced to Tom (Anders Holm), a bar owner who doubles as a man-slut, and Lucy (Alison Brie), a down-on-her-dating-luck woman who thinks she can write an algorithm to find the perfect guy on dating websites.  Also, she mooches off the free wifi at Tom’s bar.  There is an obvious chemistry between the two of them, but don’t hold your breath because this story resolves itself in just about the worst way possible.  Notice how Josh seems to be the only non-jerk so far.

The other side story happening in parallel with Alice is that Meg decides she wants to have a child.  No, she is not married.  Or dating.  Or in any real position to have a child at all considering her devotion to her job as an OBGYN.  But, apparently, all women turn to mush when holding a baby, even those who tell us they delivered 3,000 babies and never wanted to have kids.  I guess 3,001 is the magic number and it’s off to the sperm bank for Meg.  But don’t worry – Meg meets Ken (Jake Lacy) during her first trimester and he attaches to her like a leech.  And, that’s before he finds out about the baby.  Meg reveals her inner jerk by pushing him away for no reason at all, but that puppy dog returns before the end credits to hold that baby and profess his undying love.  Kids.

Anyway, getting back to our main jerk, Alice takes a cue from Robin and bangs one out with Tom.  After a few more nights of finding herself – being drunk, or hungover, or walking with shame – she decides she’s figured it out and goes back to Josh.  Unfortunately, Josh has moved on (in what seems to be a couple of weeks at most) and, proving that he does in fact have testicles, tells Alice off and leaves her alone.  This is actually the closest this movie ever comes to the truth with regards to being single, but this happens at roughly the thirty-minute mark.  I know.

At this point in the film, I was thoroughly bored and trying to guess what was going to happen next.  I thought Lucy’s algorithm would lead her to Josh, that Alice and Robin would befriend Lucy (they all frequent Tom’s bar nearly every night), but then find out about Josh and Lucy and have the big misunderstanding.  This would have tied their stories together nicely, but the movie never even tries to tie the women together.  Instead, Tom realizes he has fallen for Lucy and the closest Alice and Lucy’s stories come to mixing is that they both know who Tom is.  Wait, it gets worse.

Our last jerk comes in the form of David (Damon Wayans Jr.).  His comedic talent is completely wasted, as he plays a widower with a young daughter.  He and Alice strike up a relationship that we barely see, consisting of David starting out wildly charming, then, three months later, yelling at Alice for singing a song to his daughter.  He breaks up with her on the spot and I can’t believe I remember this much of such a drab movie.  And, just to show you how much of a jerk David truly is, he doesn’t even redeem himself by the end of the movie, even when he has a chance to.  I think “gachhh” is the word you are looking for.

Finally, back to Josh.  For Hollywood reasons, Josh and Alice keep running into each other.  It’s awkward every time, and Josh’s relationship has progressed with each run-in.  He even invites Alice over for his Christmas party to make sure she isn’t alone on Christmas.  I know it seems like Josh isn’t a jerk, but he blows that one before the credits role (and if you don’t see it coming, it’s because you fell asleep).

I realize that I just told you a whole lot of what happens in this movie, but I really wanted to make sure you took two things away from it.  One – every person not named Ken in this movie sucks and only Ken is worthy of any sympathy.  On top of that, many of the stories in the film are underdeveloped because there are simply too many characters and things going on to devote any time on them.  I nearly choked laughing when the mostly under-twenty-five female audience went “AWWWWWW” when Ken showed back up at the end.  Don’t they know they were tricked into believing that there was love between two characters whose entire shown interaction consisted of copy-room sex, arguing about a Christmas tree, and fighting in a baby store?  Those girls are in for a rude awakening.

The second thing is that the movie wasn’t very funny.  Yes, there are a handful of funny parts – mostly in the form of crude, British-accented one-liners from Robin – but the movie seemed far too concerned with thinking of as many different versions of single people as it could, rather than focusing on teaching its main character how to actually be single and having fun with that.  When a movie’s most notable gag is showing Alice unable to unzip her own clothes (if she can’t unzip them, how did she get them zipped in the first place?!), you know the com part of rom-com was just someone jerking you around.

Rating: Ask for nine dollars back because at least Rebel Wilson was trying to make you laugh.


By: Kevin Jordan

Holy S#!@ was that !$#*^&% (or Cussing up a storm).

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It’s been awhile since I discussed audience reaction at a screening because there usually isn’t much to talk about.  At most of the movie screenings I attend, regardless of how good or bad the movie is, the audience claps.  Why?  I don’t know, but I’m guessing large of amounts of sugar from the three gallons of soda pop they just drank forces their bodies to do something energetic when the credits roll.  I distinctly remember the audience giving an ovation to the final movie of The Hobbit trilogy and that was one of the worst movies made that year.  How else to explain such a reaction other than an involuntary spasm of the hands?  I also don’t understand who those people are clapping for.  The movie can’t hear you; it’s not a stage play.  But, then I remembered something while watching my friend lose his mind for four hours during the Super Bowl – sometimes people just need to release their own excitement.  I’ve certainly done this while watching sports on television, I’ve just never been moved enough by a movie to elicit applause.  That is, until I watched Deadpool.  I’m not sure if it was 100% my own reaction or partially because of the uproar in the theater, but I found myself clapping along with rest of the audience in what is easily the best reception I have witnessed to a movie.  And, I didn’t even drink any Coke first.

Before we get into Deadpool, it’s important to remind you that Fox Studios tried a movie with Deadpool a few years ago with X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Deadpool was the villain and was played by Ryan Reynolds.  Everyone thought this was brilliant until they actually watched the movie and stared in horror when Deadpool emerged late in the movie with his mouth sewn shut.  What dumbass writer thought it was a good idea to silence a character whose nickname is “the merc with the mouth” and what dumbass producer (among others) okayed that idiocy after casting Reynolds, a guy known most notably for his mouth?  Yes, I’m still mad that happened.  Luckily, someone decided to give Deadpool and Reynolds another shot and, even luckier still, did not employ that same dumbass writer or producer.

Okay, now the movie you’re here to read about.  Deadpool was fucking awesome.  Yes, cussing is required to adequately describe how fucking awesome it was.  See – I did it again.  And, if you think F-bombs are inappropriate in a movie review, you really shouldn’t see this movie.  I don’t keep track of the number of times certain words are used in a movie (I’m too busy watching the movie to waste my time doing that), but I’d guess ‘fuck’ was used somewhere north of fifty times.  I’m sure that contributed heavily to the R-rating this movie earned, but that is far from the only thing.  There is also bloody violence and plenty of nudity (both Reynolds and Morena Baccarin show off their spectacular bodies), so if you are one of those uptight conservative puritans who think all movies should be family-friendly, you are going to need some therapy after watching Deadpool.

For everyone else, the film includes every element of Deadpool comics that you hoped would be there.  The plot is very straightforward and simple – Deadpool (a.k.a. Wade Wilson) is trying to find Ajax (Ed Skrein), the guy who ruined his face and nearly killed him while trying to unlock Wilson’s mutant genes – so the writers were able to focus on jamming in as many one-liners and fourth-wall breaks as they possible could.  Unlike in the Origins movie, these writers (Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese) understood that Reynolds was born and bred to play Deadpool and made sure to give him everything he needed to succeed.  The entire movie is quotable, my favorite is a scene in which Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) is dragging Deadpool and telling Deadpool that they are going to see Professor X.  Deadpool responds with “McAvoy or Stewart?” and I almost pissed myself I was laughing so hard.  As an added bonus, T.J. Miller plays Wilson’s best friend (Weasel) and the two of them have a banter in their scenes that plays up both of their strengths as snarky, witty comedians.  Again, I almost pissed myself when Deadpool is getting ready to go kill everyone and Weasel says “I’d like to go with you.  But, I don’t want to.”  Just, wow.

The other great element they kept intact is that Deadpool is kind of an asshole and a little bit of a murderer (though he only murders bad guys).  A subplot of the film is that Colossus is continually trying to convince Deadpool to join the X-Men, and Deadpool responds with ridicule and barbs aimed at both Colossus and his trainee, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).  Instead of joining them, Deadpool ditches them and kills more bad guys in his quest to catch Ajax, all while delivering F-bomb-laced witticisms.

The last couple of years, I haven’t been able to identify a truly great movie until well into the fall, but this year is different.  I hoped that Deadpool would be a good movie, but I never expected a February release to be so phenomenal.  Like I said, the audience reaction was easily the best one I’ve ever witnessed at a movie.  But, there was one guy who hated the movie and the screening representative was kind of enough to share what that man said (to be clear, we only got the quote, not the man’s name) – “it was filthy ass trash.”  As we all reacted with disbelief, my mind went to a random thought.  Did the guy say “filthy-ass trash” or “filthy ass-trash?”  I guess I just have Deadpool on the fucking brain.

Rating: I cannot wait to see this movie again.  The ticket-counter clerk (or is it ticket counter-clerk?) could ask me for thirty dollars and I wouldn’t even blink while handing it over.