By: Kevin Jordan
I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
The battle against movie piracy has officially gone too far. Typically at advanced screenings, we are asked by security folks to silence or turn off our phones and not get them out during the movie. You know, like literally every movie does at every theater in the world. Anyone who still looks at their phone during a movie is either an asshole or an on-call doctor. The spiel usually includes some words about movie piracy and every time I hear it I wonder who is the pathetic loser watching a pirated, grainy, hand-held version of Fate of the Furious? For advanced screenings for movies expected to be very popular, they tend to collect everyone’s phones prior to entering the theater. For Spider-Man: Far From Home, not only did they collect all phones, but they also collected smart watches and Fitbits. Seriously, this happened and the security professional inside me burst into flames.
I get cell phones because they have cameras. You can make the flimsiest case about smart watches because they have microphones and there is definitely a Dark Web movie site for blind people who want to listen to pirated movies (there isn’t). But Fitbits? No. Fitbits do not have cameras or microphones, must be within Bluetooth range of their accompanying phone (you collected our phones, remember?), and only pose a security threat if they are plugged into a computer and used to save data off to. So, unless someone in the theater were to climb through the window into the projector booth and copy the movie onto their Fitbit, Fitbits are not a piracy threat.
Did you take off your Fitbit before you entered this lair?
So why such militancy? If this really were about saving any of the 15,000 jobs that went into creating a movie, phones would be banned from theaters at all times. If this really was about ensuring maximum box office sales, phones would be banned from theaters at all times. If this really were about protecting future streaming/DVD sales, phones would be banned from theaters at all times. See the pattern here? Not to mention that anyone who is willing to sit through that kind of boot-legged version of a film was never going to pay to see the film anyway (or any film). No, the militancy is about spoilers – a far dumber, but potentially more lethal, problem than piracy.
The spiel from security guy also includes a plea not to spoil the movie. Do you know how ridiculous it is to tell people not to spoil movies when previews/trailers exist? And, not just one trailer per movie, but three, or four, or ten? As I have said many times in the past, I actively avoid trailers specifically because they spoil movies. Watch enough trailers for a movie and you have almost seen the entire movie. Plus, they tend to use the best jokes, parts from every action scene, and at least one clip from the climax in every trailer. And remember, the studios themselves are greenlighting these spoilers.
You didn’t tell anyone, did you?
It is also absurd to ask film critics not to spoil movies. This is another topic I have written about ad nauseam, but it bears repeating that giving opinions about a movie should require details to support said opinion, not to mention the opinion itself is going to create a bias or expectation for the reader. Movie reviews are spoilers by definition. Case in point, my Ruthless cohort (Goat) reviewed Godzilla: King of the Monsters, at one point saying “It was worse than stage 4 ass-cancer” (he has a way with words). With that in my head, I took my son to see it and, while it is definitely a loud stupid movie, my expectations had been artificially lowered so deep that I ended up enjoying it (well, for the most part). And the real truth is unless I really don’t want you to waste money on a movie, I am not going to give away the twist or big reveal or conclusion or best jokes of a film.
I get it though. People get insane about spoilers. Comment sections on movie reviews are constantly filled with people angry about spoilers despite those same reviews always giving spoiler alerts. Death threats were made when spoilers leaked out about Avengers: Endgame. My own reviews always contain spoiler alerts in all caps and bold font and I still rarely give away any significant spoilers. So far, I have not received any death threats (even when I throw in political opinions), but I probably should have by now considering some of the films I have not held back on. So, in the interest of not losing my death-threat virginity (as a writer, at least), here is my spoiler-free review of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Come on! The trailers have tons of spoilers.
Far From Home is a Marvel movie. Spider-Man is in this film. It picks up the greater MCU story after Endgame, with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) dealing with the events of Endgame. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall) is in this film. If you do not know who Mysterio is, definitely do not Google his wiki page. Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) is in this film. There is action. Lots of action. Peter’s school class goes on a trip to Europe and Peter wants to hook up with MJ (Zendaya). There are elemental monsters attacking cities and Spider-Man teams up with Mysterio to fight them. There are jokes. Lots of jokes. How am I doing so far? Have you noticed I am just recapping the trailer yet?
Okay, how about one thing that is about the mildest SPOILER (ALERT) I can think of, but needs to be mentioned? This film has one of the most blatant MacGuffins in the history of film. For those of you who don’t know what a MacGuffin is it’s a thing with seeming importance that the good guy, bad guy, or everybody is trying to get, but doesn’t actually matter. I won’t tell you what Far From Home’s MacGuffin is or what it does, but I will tell you that if blank needs to get the MacGuffin to blank, but appears to already blankety-blank without the MacGuffin, blank-a-blank blank. BLANK!
The other thing I will tell you is that my son and I both really liked it. It is a typical Marvel movie, so of course we did. My son especially liked how funny it was and I liked many of the little details. And, yes, like every Marvel movie except Endgame, stay until after the credits. You didn’t really think Endgame was the actual end, did you? I would tell you more, but then, well, you know.
(P.S. For my friends at the screening agency that make all these advanced screenings possible, I know you are just doing your jobs and that the studios are solely to blame for this silly exercise in security theater. You guys are the best.)
Rating: Do not ask for any money back. Or do (but, really, don’t).
By: Kevin Jordan
Let’s get ready to R-R-R-UM-M-M-BL-L-L-E.
At the risk of repeating myself, how is it that Marvel keeps making outstanding movies? I’m not really surprised by this anymore, but I am surprised that they continually top my expectations. At this point in time, the law of averages says they are overdue for a real stinker, but I’m happy to report that the new Captain America smells very nice. Wait…that sounds weird – let me start over. Captain America: Civil War knocked my socks off. No, that’s weird too and makes me sound like someone’s grandmother. Alright, I’ll figure out a better way to say it by the end of the review, but you get the point – Civil War is arguably the best movie released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
As I said in my review of Batman v Superman, I was really looking forward to Civil War if only to get rid of the taste in my brain from viewing BvS. BvS was always destined to fail at a story level because Superman could just throw a building at Batman and movie over. But the real reason it failed was because the reason Superman and Batman are fighting at all is murky at best and completely nonsensical and dumb at worst. Civil War is exactly the opposite and is more than Captain America v Ironman: Dusk of Avengers – they are fighting for reasons that actually make sense. Sorry DC fans, but the sooner you admit BvS and Man of Steel were just bad movies, the sooner you can start demanding that Warner Brothers hire some writers and directors that don’t suck, follow the Marvel formula, and start making movies worthy of DC’s source material.
The Avengers have always been a tenuous alliance of superheroes, not so much because they don’t get along, but because they have different ideas on how to achieve the mission – world peace and protecting the human race. The film kicks off with the newly reformed Avengers (that we saw at the end of Age of Ultron) chasing down some bad guys in Nigeria who were trying to steal a bioweapon. By the time the scene is over, some collateral damage has occurred including eleven civilians dead. The Secretary of Defense (William Hurt) informs the group that more than one hundred nations have come together to decide that The Avengers should no longer be a private entity and must start operating under the purview of the United Nations. Any crime fighting undertaken outside of that oversight is to be considered a crime. As the team digests the information and debates amongst themselves, sides start form. One side, led by Tony “Ironman” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), agrees that oversight is necessary because they are powerful and dangerous, but mostly out of guilt for the Sokovia incident (from Age of Ultron). This is understandable since it’s literally his fault that Ultron came to be. The other side, led by Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans), believes the opposite – that the various countries and diplomats have their own agendas and the team would end up becoming a weapon to be wielded by the U.N. This is understandable because Cap didn’t trust what S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury were doing in The Winter Soldier (and rightly so, as it turned out). The conflict arises because they are both right – oversight is a good idea, but the decision makers are completely untrustworthy. Talk about art imitating life (*cough* Republicans v Democrats *cough*).
Side commentary – the logic of the SecDef mirrors the short-sighted-can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees thinking that we see in real life today. While making his case to the Avengers, he places the collateral damage blame on them for the following events: (1) the Loki-led Chitauri invasion of Earth (The Avengers), (2) the Hydra-led invasion of D.C. (The Winter Soldier), (3) the destruction of Sokovia (Age of Ultron), and (4) the eleven dead in Nigeria. Here’s how the team should have responded to those: (1) we stopped an alien invasion aimed at destroying/enslaving humanity, (2) we stopped Hydra from taking over America and the world, (3) yeah – that was our fault, and (4) hello – bioweapon. I find it stunningly narrow-minded to get upset about the collateral damage when, had they not intervened, everyone dies or the world is taken over by bad guys or everyone dies. My point is they could have come up with a better list of examples or just stuck solely with the Ultron incident. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The part I really want to put emphasis on is that the competing sides didn’t just jump to punch-kick-shoot, like Batman and Superman did, they literally talked about their ideologies. Following their disagreement, another incident happens and they talk about it again. I know that sounds a little boring (trust me, it’s not), but it makes the battle royale later in the movie much easier to accept because it’s the logical result of the escalation that occurs during the film. And that, dear DC fans and Zack Snyder, is how you make a superhero v superhero movie.
On that note, the battle royale is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking. I won’t spoil the who takes whose side, but here are your contestants – Ironman, Captain America, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Warhammer (Don Cheadle), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) – and all of them get their fair share of the camera. The scene also has great special effects, a very smooth escalation of fighting, and plenty of fun banter (at one point, Spider-Man is praising Captain America while simultaneously fighting him). Yes – Marvel and directors Anthony and Joe Russo handled a twelve-person superhero fight movie better than DC and Zack Snyder handled a two-person fight.
Aside from the main story, they even managed to give due diligence to the introductions of Spider-Man and Black Panther, which is amazing considering how many characters were in this film. That includes the additions of Emily VanCamp as CIA Agent Carter (to be fair, she’s not new, but she’s given far more to do this time around), Daniel Bruhl as the one true villain of the film, Martin Freeman as another government higher-up (and doesn’t he have to appear in Doctor Strange opposite Benedict Cumberbatch?), and even Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. As incredible as it sounds, not one of these characters felt like a throw-in just to get a silly cameo for an upcoming sequel or standalone movie (seriously D.C. and WB – get your shit together).
So, yeah – Civil War was freaking awesome from pretty much every aspect you can think of. Great characters, great story, no obvious plot holes, tie-ins with previous movies to maintain continuity, great new characters (and a big thank you to Marvel for fixing Spider-Man), great action, great acting, great dialogue, and most importantly, great entertainment. See? I told you I’d figure out a better way to describe this film.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back for Batman v Superman again. Then, see Civil War again.
By: Kevin Jordan
Merry effing Christmas (or, a real sausage fest).
Do you love ensemble movies featuring fourteen different main characters and six stories? Do you love Christmas movies? Do you love the thought of attending the annual family Christmas gathering with people you don’t particularly like, but suck it up because you share a few chromosomes with them? If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then have I got the movie for you – Love the Coopers. Also, when are you due back at the ward?
The difference between Love the Coopers and other, similar movies (like Love Actually) is that pretty much every character in Love the Coopers is a dick. Hey – don’t get mad at me, I’m just repeating what Madison, one of the characters in the movie, says. She may only be six years old, but she’s just telling it like it is. Let’s go meet these dicks, er, characters, and hear their stories.
First up is Bucky Cooper (Alan Arkin). He frequents a local diner every day for one reason – Ruby (Amanda Seyfried). Yes, I said Amanda Seyfried, and I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not like that. Okay, it’s kind of like that, but it’s much more innocent than a dirty old man stalking a beautiful young woman. Bucky just misses his dead wife and Ruby reminds her of him. They joke about the quality of the food, he suggests movies for Ruby to watch, and they have a good time together. They are two of the nice people in the film, though they do share a moment where they are dicks to each other.
Next up is Hank Cooper (Ed Helms). He is divorced with three kids, Charlie, Bo, and Madison (Timothee Chalamet, Maxwell Simkins, and Blake Baumgartner, respectively). He and his ex-wife, Angie (Alex Borstein), hate each other and he is trying to get a new job, but is lying to Angie about still having one. They are serious dicks to each other, though most of the blame lies on Angie since she is a dick all of the time and Hank is only a dick when Angie brings it out of him.
This leads us to Hank’s kids. Madison spends time with her grandparents, Hank’s parents, Sam and Charlotte. You know her story already – she owns the catch phrase of the film. On the other hand, Charlie and Bo are hanging out the mall. Bo is looking for the perfect gift for Charlie while Charlie is trying to flirt with his crush, Lauren. Surprisingly, none of these kids are dicks, which is a nice change for a movie involving teenagers. In fact, they provide the best part of the movie – a French kissing scene between Charlie and Lauren in which they manage to not touch lips. Imagine the way two golden retrievers would look if they were making out and you’ve got the idea.
Coincidentally, Emma Cooper (Marisa Tomei) is also at the mall, but not for very long. She has serious issues with Charlotte (her sister), shoplifting, and lying and spends most of the movie in the back of Officer Percy Williams’ (Anthony Mackie) police car. In an attempt to not go to jail, Emma decides to use her social worker skills to provide Percy some therapy to help him come to grips with his lack of emotions (due to an abusive mother). On one hand, I feel bad for Percy because he has to sit and listen to Emma dole out unsolicited advice, but on the other hand – where the hell is the police station? They drive around for hours, so either he’s lost or he really hates his mom.
Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton) are a whole different story. Charlotte is a Cooper by birth (Bucky’s daughter) and is the mother-in-law (or mother) that every stereotype was born from. Everything is always about her, which drives her two kids – Hank and Eleanor – crazy. Be it Hank’s inability to keep a wife or job or Eleanor’s affair with a married man, Charlotte always wants to know “was it something I did?” After forty years of marriage, a continuing, unhealthy obsession with her kids, and an untold number of broken promises (including a 35-year delayed trip to Africa), Sam is at the end of his rope. He doesn’t want to give up, but Charlotte devoted everything to her kids and Sam waited decades for her to devote some time to him. It’s tough to blame a guy for wanting to have a little happiness before he dies after forty years of being little more than a prop. And, you would want to leave too if your wife (or husband) insisted on elaborate Christmas gatherings including forcing everyone to say what they are thankful for around the dinner table and sing Christmas carols in the living room as a group. Dicks like Charlotte are a special breed.
Finally, we have Eleanor Cooper (Olivia Wilde). She is hanging around the airport after having arrived in town, stalling as much as she can before heading to the big gathering, when she meets Joe (Jake Lacy). The two of them are as opposite of each other as two people can be, but they are easily the most interesting people in the movie. They are also the obvious love story of the film, but what makes them interesting is that they are caricatures of the two sides of our political system. Eleanor is an insufferable, liberal democrat who feels the need to lecture Joe about everything he’s “wrong” about. Joe is a religious, conservative republican who looks down his nose at Eleanor’s beliefs and judges her on everything. Also, he’s an Army soldier, just to complete the stereotype. Joe’s flight is cancelled (which is why they’re both still in the airport) and after several cutesy moments and misunderstandings, Emma convinces him to pretend to be her boyfriend and accompany her to the family gathering. These two people are not good humans, but they are entertaining. They also provide the best exchange I’ve heard in a long time:
Eleanor – “You probably don’t even believe in evolution.”
Joe – “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”
Eleanor – “That’s funny; my dog asked me the same thing about wolves.”
I sincerely hope I get to use that last retort in real life because it (and the French kiss scene) made this entire movie worth watching.
By the time the movie gets to the big Christmas dinner, you will be so thoroughly depressed (or disgusted) at either the characters or their lives that you won’t really care if they forgive each other by the end of the film. This, in a nutshell, is why the vast majority of critics did not like this movie. There’s no plot to speak of; just a bunch of related people winding their depressing stories toward the inevitable dinner explosion between some, if not all, of them. And, despite all of that, I found myself not hating this movie. As much as I didn’t care about any story save Joe and Eleanor, I never once thought I should get up and leave the theater. Maybe that’s the real power of Christmas – it allows you to see the entertainment value in the numerous dicks in life, rather than just getting angry about them. You’re looking forward to Christmas dinner now, aren’t you?
Rating: That sloppy kiss and evolution quote are worth the price of admission…if the price of admission was half of what it is today.