By: Kevin Jordan
Dick move (or, just fast forward to the good part).
Wretched. I tried to think of the most appropriate adjective to describe Wonder Woman 1984 and…wretched. And I was looking forward to this film. Yes, I know – this is a DCEU movie we are talking about; I should know better. Of the eight prior movies, four of them are completely unwatchable and the other four combined are worth one and a half decent movies. I just figured since Birds of Prey was at least an entertaining movie and Wonder Woman’s second act was solid, that Wonder Woman 1984 would be entertaining and kind of solid. Nope. Wretched.
(SPOILER ALERT – You can thank me later.)
Like the first installment, Wonder Woman 1984 starts with a scene on Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) home island when she is a young girl. Except this time, there is no reason to do this, but it does bloat the film’s running time to two and a half hours. Since you are most likely going to stream this movie on HBO Max rather than attend Covid Night at your local theater, you have the power to fast forward through this scene. It shows her learning a lesson about not lying, but we already know she is virtuous because we watched the last movie. There – I just saved you fifteen minutes.
From there, the film jumps to 1984 instead of current times because if one prequel to Justice League is good, two is better. Also, fuck the 1980s. The 80s was a diaper rash of an era filled with awful clothes, bad music, violence, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and a recession, all wrapped in cocaine. If you need more proof, listen to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. The 80’s were so shitty the song just quits because Joel “can’t take it anymore.”
Once in 1984, the first scene we get is a fight scene in a shopping mall. Four guys rob a jewelry store and Wonder Woman shows up to stop them. For Spider-Man reasons, she comes in via her lasso and takes out all the security cameras before dealing with the thieves. Keep in mind she is not wearing a mask and the shopping mall is teeming with people, so destroying the cameras just feels like a dick move. And the four thieves she takes out are the equivalent of rodeo clowns, including the acting. I kept expecting a director to yell cut and find out they were shooting an episode of Hill Street Blues or Magnum P.I. or even the original Wonder Woman television show (which ended in 1979, but could have been billed as a TV movie event or continued on in this alternate timeline). Nope. This scene was literally there to show off Wonder Woman’s fight skills against four inept morons, punctuated by Wonder Woman dropping the four of them as a group on a police car, destroying the car and, presumably, many of the thieves’ bones. Seriously – dick move.
After the mall scene concluded, I looked over at my wife and in-laws and they all had the same look on their face, which said “you wanted to watch this on purpose?” You probably want to fast-forward through this scene, too, since even the special effects are terrible.
If the first two scenes weren’t big enough red flags, the introduction of Kristen Wiig as a supporting character was the equivalent of an air raid siren. I am still angry at the Ghostbusters remake for being one of the worst movies ever made and Wiig is a large reason why. Another reason she is a red flag is because sketch comedy actors do not belong in major roles in superhero movies. Jim Carrey proved that one for us years ago. Wiig plays Barbara, a thrice-degreed scientist recently hired to work at the Smithsonian museum where Wonder Woman works. Barbara is also a klutzy, unpopular dork who becomes infatuated with Wonder Woman (Diana when she is not being Wonder Woman) because Diana helped her pick up some papers she dropped one time. The plot finally starts when the two of them examine a crystal mounted on a base etched with Latin. For what it’s worth, the stone was part of the mall heist, sent to them for examination by the FBI. If you cut out the mall heist part of that sentence, it doesn’t sound nearly as stupid, does it?
The women soon learn stories that say the stone grants the person holding it a single wish, but of course they don’t believe it. Just kidding. Diana doesn’t believe it and jokingly wishes that her dead boyfriend Steve (Chris Pine) were alive. Soon thereafter, Barbara wishes she were like Diana. Around this time, we also meet Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), an oil entrepreneur who is about to go bankrupt. He has been searching for the stone and donates some money to the museum, hoping to steal the stone and become rich. All of the above happens and the movie somehow makes the mall scene seem like the best part of the film.
One of my biggest complaints about DCEU movies is they don’t even try to make sense in their own context. They will set things up, then ignore those things. We learn that the stone grants only one wish per person, but in return takes what a person most desires or cherishes. Halfway through the film, Barbara will verbally point out the obvious – isn’t the thing a person most desires the thing they wish for? It sure is, Barbara. It sure is.
And that one-wish-per-customer-thing is more of a guideline than a rule. Max wishes to be the stone, which, instead of sucking Max into the stone or turning Max into stone, imbues him with its powers (ironically, this is the least nonsensical thing in this film). Max’s plan is to trick people into making wishes so he can steal the thing they most desire. At one point, he decides to grant Barbara a second wish (turning her into some kind of human-cheetah hybrid) because he is “feeling generous.” There is no indication of what he took from her at this point, since the thing taken for her first wish was her being a decent person (huh?), but why does he get to ignore the rule when it was literally enforced at every other point in the film? Are you still fast-forwarding?
Speaking of nonsense, instead of Steve just appearing alive as a result of Diana’s wish, he appears as the possessed body of a random yuppie. We actually get to see what said yuppie looks like, as does Steve when he looks like in a mirror and the script waives this away when Diana says “all I see is you.” In a movie with a magic wishing stone, the choice to try to make Steve’s appearance semi-logical is embarrassingly stupid. And I am fairly sure it was done for the sole purpose of a gag scene where Chris Pine tries on a bunch of 80s clothes in his body’s closet. Because, get it? 80s clothes are ugly. This is exactly the kind of shitty skit that made Saturday Night Live unwatchable when Wiig was a cast member.
When Diana and Barbara find the stone’s base later in the film, Diana recognizes hieroglyphics on the inside of the base’s ring as “the language of the gods.” This particular object was created by a deceitful god named Dolos and I, once again, expected this movie to take that idea somewhere. Since the first movie featured Ares, an actual Greek god, I thought Dolos would eventually reveal himself as the villain, having used Max and the stone to come to life or return from exile or turn into a giant snake and capture Wonder Woman in a giant hourglass. At least it would have been consistent. Nope.
Max really is the villain and rather than take the thing most cherished from people who make wishes, it turns out that he can just take what he wants at that moment. Look, if that is what the movie wanted, why didn’t the ring just say that? And why is Max getting headaches every time someone makes a wish? And also bleeding from the eyes and ears? And why is Diana losing her powers only sometimes and really slowly? And why is everything devolving into chaos? And is the one consistent thing in this movie really that in order to fulfill a wish the person has to be touching Max, so he is going to use a satellite constellation to “touch” everyone because the President said his advisors explained to him that technically the satellite is touching particles that touch people so that counts for Max as touching everyone? And to undo a wish, people must renounce their wish and we are expected to believe that every person on Earth simultaneously renounced their wish? And isn’t it kind of a dick move when a bunch of bullshit gets thrown at you all of a sudden?
In summary, wretched. The plot, the villain, the creative choices, the dialogue, the editing, the special effects, 1984 – everything. All four family members in the room with me were seriously considering rescinding their Christmas presents to me after sitting through this abomination. And I do not blame them. After watching this film, I wanted to put coal in my own stocking. The most amazing thing about this movie is that the creators read the script, filmed it, edited it, watched it again and went “nailed it.” At this point, the only explanation for DC Films and Warner Brothers continuing to churn out shit blockbuster after shit blockbuster in this shit film universe (DCEU) is that they want to be the anti-Marvel. Dick move, Bros. Dick move.
Rating: If you went to a theater to see this, what is wrong with you? If you saw it on HBO Max, ask for nine months of subscription back.
By: Kevin Jordan
The best animated feature of the year?
I was not planning on going to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I assumed it was going to be a throw-away film aimed specifically at comic book nerds to make an easy buck. Then, my wife asked if I was taking our six-year old son and, before I could answer, he said “it has Peter Porker in it.” Well, that answered that question and I found myself sitting next to my son at the theater, waiting to watch a movie and I only had a passing interest in. After sitting through it, I can say that either it was a really good film or I am secretly a comic book nerd. Fun fact: I have never purchased a comic book in my life.
As usual, my opinion barely matters when it comes to animated films, so, as usual, here is what the intended audience, my son, thought of the film.
(Side note: This film was really, really good. Far better than I was expecting. Deep characters, extremely witty, and motivations both interesting and profound.)
How did you like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?
Like, all the funny parts were really funny. The only part that wasn’t funny was none of the movie.
What was the funniest part of the movie?
The funniest part about the movie was when Miles fell off the building.
Spider-Man wearing sweat pants is pretty funny too.
Who is Miles?
You know. The kid. Miles is the kid.
Is Miles the main character?
No. Peter Parker is because he’s Spider-Man.
Okay. So tell me more about Miles.
I liked both of his suits. The normal one; the red one. And the black one.
Was Miles also Spider-Man.
Yeah. Yeah. I like that term – multiple Spider-Mans and Spider-Womans.
Were there more than two Spider-Mans?
Yes. The coolest Spider-Man was the black Spider-Man with the black hat. The thief Spider-Man. Because he looked like a thief.
You mean Spider-Man Noir.
Yeah. He took the Rubik’s Cube.
What other Spider-Mans were there?
There was the little kid Spider-Woman with the big giant robot that was her best friend.
Okay. Any other ones?
The white Spider-Woman. She was really, really, really, really, really beautiful.
She was also kind of awesome in fights, huh?
Weren’t there two other Spider-Mans?
Yeah. There was a cartoon pig who said “I washed my hands. That’s why my hands are wet.” And I like how at the end when he was laying down and the pig said “phbtbbtbtb – did that feel like a cartoon?”
Very diverse. And funny.
That was Spider-Ham?
Yes. Spider-Ham. And the last one was older Spider-Man with a bigger belly. I also liked at the beginning when Miles accidentally fell into Peter Parker’s grave stone because I thought it was really funny.
Why did you think it was funny?
Because the camera was going right into the grave stone and I think maybe it cracked or broke apart. Because you didn’t see what happened. That’s all.
Okay. What was the movie about?
Multiple Spider-Mans fighting.
Why were they fighting? Or who were they fighting?
Who is Liv?
That scientist that had the big claw-y, big tentacle arms. Remember that part? She chokes people by that? (Waving his arms around)
I do remember. She was also called Doc Oc, right?
What was Doc trying to do that the Spider-People were trying to stop her?
I don’t know. I forgot.
It was hard enough remembering six different Spider-Persons.
Do you remember the big machine they were trying to turn off?
Yes. It like blasted things together and made another dimension.
Why was she trying to make another dimension? Was there someone else she was trying to help?
Kingpin was trying to get his family back.
Wow. That sounds pretty serious. Was it okay to have serious and funny?
Did you like it?
Yeah. It was really, really funny. Also, I liked when Miles did all the stuff and it was on the magazine. I like the picture with all the words and they traced him on the wall in the sewer.
If another kid asked you if they should go see it, what is one thing you would tell them about the movie?
It’s a scary movie. Because you said “It” and “It” was a scary movie. (Rimshot)
That’s all folks!
Rating: It is greater than what you paid for it.
By: Kevin Jordan
And several in my brow.
Recently, I have watched a couple of classic movies with my five-year old son – Jaws and the original Godzilla (the black and white Japanese version from 1954). He loved them and has now watched them multiple times. And, in case you are wondering, no, he has not had any nightmares (#goodparenting). Upon completion of a screening of the horrific A Wrinkle in Time, my friend asserted that I was being too hard on a movie aimed at kids and that my son would probably enjoy A Wrinkle in Time. We are talking about a child who has also watched Titanic at least twenty times and I assured her that he would be bored out of his mind watching A Wrinkle in Time.
(Do I really need to issue a SPOILER ALERT for a 56-year old book that almost everyone has read except me?)
Having not read the book, I do not know why so many people have such fond memories of it, but if the book is anything like the movie, then those people have really faulty memories. I had no advanced knowledge of the book, and I watched zero previews. My only bias was based on the rosy nostalgia from friends, so I went into the movie with positive expectations. What I saw was a movie that was the equivalent of the glitter farts from Guy Diamond in Trolls.
What little plot existed in this film revolved around the search for Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine), a physicist who successfully figures out how to teleport himself across the universe, but never returns (the story takes place four years after his disappearance). Unfortunately, nobody knows about the teleportation idea except his wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), so everyone believes him to have simply run out on his family and life. Luckily, precocious young Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), Alex’s adopted five-year old son, has been chatting with three magical women, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who want to help find Alex. They enlist Alex’s thirteen-year old daughter, Meg (Storm Reid), who spends most of the movie brooding and sulking, even after she is teleported by witches to other planets, converses with flying flowers, and told that her father is alive. Teenagers, right?
Hello? Has anyone seen a plot around here?
While on the flower planet, they see a black tentacle cloud in the sky, identified by Mrs. Which as the It and that the It is pure evil. Mrs. Which also explains that the three women are warriors that fight the It to prevent evil from spreading, but that they avoid the It. Paging Mrs. ExcuseMeWhatNow? Did you just say you fight the It by steering clear of it? This is the first of many, many (MANY) nonsensical statements and actions that make you furrow your brow so hard you draw blood. It turns out the three Mrs. are nothing more than exposition spouts who can teleport, but are actually worse than that. At the start of the third act, they literally tell Meg, Charles Wallace (who is annoyingly always referred to by his full name), and Calvin (Levi Miller) – a boy who has a crush on Meg and is brought along on the quest for his diplomatic skills, which consist entirely of telling Meg she has great hair – that they are leaving the evil planet they brought the kids to, so the kids are on their own. But, don’t worry, each Mrs. gives the kids a gift to aid their quest, consisting of magic eyeglasses that only work in a special room that only the It can take them to, Meg’s character faults (not kidding), and advice to never split up (still not kidding). Of course, being teenagers, they almost immediately leave Charles alone, but overcome evil when Meg screams her faults at the It.
It is worth noting here that the three women are terribly written characters and the actors knew it. Oprah appeared as disinterested as possible, as Mrs. Which is given nothing to do beyond wearing sparkly, aluminum foil outfits with cartoonish, glittery makeup and sequined eyebrows. Mrs. Who literally only speaks in random quotations from other people (most of which aren’t even recognizable), and very few of them for that matter, and Kaling was visibly frustrated at how obviously worthless her character was. As the rookie warrior (whatever the hell that means) Mrs. Whatsit, Witherspoon chews up scenes trying to cover for the fact that Whatsit is kind of a blithering jerk whose dialogue sounded like Witherspoon had to make it up on the spot.
Do not be fooled; she is dying inside.
During all of this nonsense, there is no point in which we get a clear idea of any motivations for anything happening besides Meg wanting to find her dad. We don’t know why the It has been holding Alex other than the It is evil, we don’t know if the It actually wants Charles (he’s mentioned as being a genius, though the only indication of it is he is articulate) or Meg (she had a high GPA before Alex went missing, so…) or why the It doesn’t just murder them all when they show up on the It’s planet. Most importantly, we are never given any sense of time or urgency regarding how long they have to find Alex or stop evil, but the It can make sandwiches out of actual sand so Alex simply must be rescued.
Rather than strive for a coherent plot or use its characters to any worthwhile affect (including getting the audience to empathize), the screenplay focuses on a love-trumps-evil trope, fashions it into a cudgel, and bludgeons the audience with it in the hope of keeping us from noticing the movie sucking. But it’s not just the writing that makes this film so lousy. The special effects range from top notch (the first planet they go to is visually stunning) to elementary school play (a scene with Zach Galifianakis asks all of the actors to pretend to teeter while standing on what look like painted-orange Styrofoam blocks). The music was like listening to four kids singing through kazoos for the last five hours of a road trip. Most of the actors appear to be there against their will, delivering performances as shallow as their characters. The film even manages to insult the intelligence of the audience when Alex attributes the success of certain scientific achievements to magic and Meg incorrectly explains how lift works when flying. You might think that second one is a nitpick, but when a film goes out of its way to tell you a character is brainy, then has her explain a scientific concept wrong, it deserves a call-out. Plus, it’s a fantasy film – why are they talking about science at all?
Just a nit?
Despite this film being a front runner for worst movie of the year (relax, it’s early, folks), I still want to read the book. I have a really hard time believing that so many people are remembering a shoddy book so favorably, and I am always willing to give a book a chance. But, if the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book, I will be pointing my kid toward reading Cujo because I know what my kid likes (#parentingfail).
Rating: Ask for all of your money back, plus the twenty minutes of my son’s music class that I gave up to get to this movie on time (#iffyparenting).
By: Kevin Jordan
Lies, damn lies, and previews.
When it comes to movie previews (or trailers, if you prefer), you always have to ask yourself how much of the movie you want spoiled and how much you want your expectations swayed prior to watching previews. It’s been awhile since I last gave this advice, so here it is again – if you want to get a peek at a movie, but not have the preview ruin your expectations or spoil the movie, watch the first theatrical preview and avoid all other previews like the plague. The first theatrical preview always comes out before the movie has finished post-production editing, so they are the least likely to do something stupid like show you the ending of the movie. Subsequent previews are almost always made after the film is in the can and usually reveal far too much about the film as part of the marketing push that occurs in the 2-4 weeks prior to the film’s release. These later previews are the ones that tend to give away the best jokes of comedies, show the misunderstanding that breaks up the couple in a rom-com, or reveal how the thieves steal the gold in The Italian Job.
The other thing previews tend to do is deceive you. Sometimes they’ll feature scenes that aren’t actually in the movie, and other times they’ll make the movie seem like something else entirely. Into the Woods does the latter and does it by neglecting to mention a tiny detail about the movie that is kind of important – it’s a freaking musical. Unless you are a fan of the stage, there is no way you can know that detail unless someone like me tells you about it. And don’t think Disney just made a mistake – they intentionally kept the previews from revealing that because it would murder their box office receipts by turning off nearly every male between the ages of six and dead. Dishonest shenanigans like that are part of the reason why Sony got hacked (and for the last time, it wasn’t the North Koreans).
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Into the Woods; it just surprised me to find out it was a musical. I was looking forward to a fun mash-up of fairytales that would help me forget ABC’s incredibly disappointing Once Upon a Time (also owned by Disney). When the movie immediately kicks off with a song, my first reaction was “we’re going to find out what Emily Blunt and Chris Pine sound like in the shower? Nice.” Of course, most of us would rather see what those two ridiculously beautiful people look like in the shower, but I digress.
(Very mild SPOILERS ahead.)
Into the Woods is a fairytale about a couple (James Corden and Blunt as a baker and his wife, respectively) trying to lift a curse on them that prevents them from having children. In order to lift the curse, they must collect four items for the witch (Streep) who placed the curse on them. The twist to the story is that it weaves Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel into the greater story, though Jack and the Beanstalk is by far the dominant of the four; the other three really just there as side stories to provide supporting characters. All of the actors are delightful, the stories are fun and amusing, and the audience was thoroughly enjoying the film. That is, until it ended halfway through and a new movie started. Yeah, you read that right.
Of course, it wasn’t actually a new movie, but it might as well have been. There is most definitely a happily ever after concluding the first half and then the movie completely switches tones, going from lighthearted and fun to dark and cynical. It’s as jolting to the viewer as finding out about the singing, but is much more confusing than the singing. After the movie concludes, it’s obvious that the intention of the film was in the spirit of a true Grimm’s fairytale, but the two halves are such polar opposites that the movie as a whole doesn’t feel like a whole. It seemed almost as if a sequel was just bolted on because neither half was long enough to be its own movie.
Before I get to the truly confounding component of the movie, I want to reiterate how fun and entertaining the first half of the movie is. The movie hops between the different stories and brings them all together seamlessly. There’s a wealth of humor and the actors, appear to be having the time of their lives, including Anna Kendrick, who is making everyone forget she was in the Twilight series. Surprisingly, Chris Pine has a very good singing voice, though one that I never would have attributed to him if I didn’t see his name listed as the performer in the credits. Unsurprisingly, Emily Blunt is amazing and, like Benedict Cumberbatch, is on my list of people who I would pay to watch read the phone book.
About that confounding component, fairy tales traditionally include a moral for the reader. Based on what you actually see and hear in Into the Woods, the moral is “be careful what you wish for,” which is plainly observed in the second half of the film. What’s confounding is that the movie ends with Meryl Streep singing the moral of the story, but it’s something else entirely – “be careful what you say because children will listen.” Huh? Nothing in this movie points to that moral, in fact, the opposite is stressed since the children in the film don’t listen to what anybody says. I have no idea where that came from and even less idea what it’s supposed to mean. Was the movie actually trying to tell us not to cuss around our kids? Or that we should lie to them? Were they trying to tell us we should act like parents from the 1950’s?
Like I said, I enjoyed the film – the first half much more than the second half – though I’m not sure I’d recommend it to young children on Christmas. Though, come to think of it, lying on Christmas is an annual tradition.
Rating: Ask for two and half dollars back. In addition to the non-moral, I confess that I lied too – and this is a lie of omission – Johnny Depp gets a short cameo that is just above cringe-worthy.
By: Kevin Jordan
There’s a first time for everything.
After watching the terrible Dumb and Dumber To, I tried to think of any comedy sequel that was good or even worth watching, but came up blank. Considering the premise of Horrible Bosses, it was difficult to come up with a scenario in which a sequel would be anything but redundant and humorless. As you can see, my expectations were not very high. Compounding on this, my drive to the theater that normally takes 30 minutes ended up taking an hour and twenty minutes and I spent at least half of it fantasizing about turning I-25 into demolition derby. By the time I got to the theater, I was frustrated and angry and in no mood for comedy. Imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing twenty minutes into Horrible Bosses 2.
Before watching this film, I was guessing that our heroes from the first film would be our horrible bosses in the sequel and I wasn’t wrong. However, they were horrible in a different way; not horrible in an evil way like their former bosses, but horrible in that they just weren’t good at it.
The movie begins with the trio of Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) appearing on a morning talking show to promote their new product – the shower buddy – which is their new business’ only product. The scene quickly devolves into a faux masturbation scene and I thought we were going to be in for a very long movie since whipping out that kind of comedy (ahem) is usually something you don’t do in the very first scene. Luckily, that ended up being the low point of the movie.
The next scene introduces us to Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) and his father, Burt (Christoph Waltz), owners of a company that wants to distribute the shower buddy. Burt orders 100,000 units and the guys are ecstatic. They acquire a loan, hire a staff, and build the units, even finishing the order three days early. But when they go to meet Burt, Burt informs them that he is cancelling the order, explaining to them that when they default on their loan, he will buy the shower buddies at a fraction of the cost, including the patent, and sell them at a bigger profit. Thus, we now have the true horrible boss established and the only redundancy occurring in the form of the guys coming up with a plan to defeat him.
If you‘ve seen any of the previews, you know that plan is to kidnap Rex and hold him for ransom. Now you know why. The nice thing about this plot is allowed them to continue the theme of the bumbling fools trying to perpetrate a crime without feeling like a rehash. Even the scenes with the other returning characters (Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston) felt fresh and not forced. Their scenes even serve to move the plot forward instead of just being inserted for a cheap, nostalgic laugh. Of course, it helps that all three of those actors are very good at their jobs, stealing their scenes from the main characters. Not to be left out, Pine and Waltz also perform their parts well, though Pine was much more enjoyable (Waltz is coming dangerously close to becoming a caricature of his Inglorious Basterds role).
By the time the movie was over, I had completely released all of the anger and frustration I walked in with and, quite possibly, seen the first decent comedy sequel in years (if not ever). Maybe it’s true what they say – laughter is the best medicine. Of course, there’s a good chance demolition derby would have accomplished that release as well.
Rating: If you can handle some pretty crass humor, don’t ask for any money back. If you can’t, then a couple will dollars back will do.