Early Man

Early Man

By: Kevin Jordan

Soccer?  Really?

Of all the animated films I’ve taken my son to see, Early Man is easily the weakest.  Of course, that doesn’t matter to my five-year old, so the only thing I will say about this film is if it inspires my son to want to play soccer (which the very idea of watching makes me break out in hives) I will write my own review of this film.  For now, here are some things my son had to say about Early Man.

What was Early Man about?

Cavemen. And villagers.  Playing soccer-ball foot-ball.

 

Is it soccer or football?

Soccer.

 

Are you afraid that Europeans might get mad at you?

What? Peens?

 

No, Europeans.

Peons?

 

People from England!  You think they’re okay with you calling it soccer?

Mmhmm.

 

Who was your favorite character?

Hog-nob.

 

Who’s that?

The caveman’s pig.

One of them is the MVP.

Did he play soccer also?

Yeah.  On his team!

 

Where on the field was he?

Um, on the side…?

 

Was he the goalie?  Stopping the ball from going into the goal?

Yeah.

 

Why were they playing a soccer game?

Because they do.

 

But why?

Hog-nob keeping the ball from getting into the goal.

 

Remember, they were trying to save their home.  Do you think it was cheating that a pig was playing goalie?

It’s not cheating.  Because pigs think it’s hard to do it, and hard is kind of fun.

 

Do you think you’re a better artist than the cavemen who drew on the cave walls.

Mmhhmm

We quit playing for a reason.

Why?

Because I’m the goodest drawer in this house.

 

What would you draw if you were drawing with them?

Like a football.  An actual football.  An oval football.

 

What were they hunting?

A bunny.

 

Do you think they hunted the duck, or was the duck too scary?

That caveman saw that giant duck, and he was hungry. He was going to eat the giant duck.

 

Did he eat it?

No.

 

Why not?

Because he ran away because he’s gigantic.

 

Tell me about the bad guy.

He was the king.

He’s all about the brass.

Was he a fun bad guy?

He looked angry.

 

What did he want?

He wanted….i don’t know.  But the mouse ate all the coins.

 

What mouse?

The mouse that goes like this [arms in the air] side to side.  He heard a noise and he looked around and the mouse was eating the coins!

 

Do you think it’s okay that Lord Nooth didn’t want girls to play soccer, or was that mean?

It was kind of mean.

 

Do you think it was weird there were no trees outside of the valley?

Um….yeah?

 

What happened to all the trees?

Chopped down.

 

By whom?

A giant duck.  Maybe the duck stepped on all the trees. [looks disinterested] ….ask me the question what’s your favorite part?

 

Okay, what’s your favorite part of the movie?

When the duck pooped on the king.

Soccer does seem easier than hunting that guy.

What part did you not like?

Nothing.

 

Nothing?  You liked the whole thing?

[nods]

 

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

Change the ball to an actual football.

 

Would you tell other kids to see the move?

Mmhmm.  Because they might like it.  Like me.

 

How much money do you think people should pay to see the movie?

Like five.  Because it might be easier, cuz they want to see the movie SO BAD!

Rating: He called it – ask for half your money back.  It’s what I would have said.

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok

By: Kevin Jordan

Party on.

Among other things, here’s what I said about Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 – “It felt like two hours of dudes fucking around on a film set for two-plus hours and calling it a movie.”  Thor: Ragnarok is those same dudes throwing an epic party where everything goes off perfect and everyone talks about it for the rest of their lives.  Lucky for you, everyone is invited.

(Mild SPOILERS and I’m sorry for all of them.)

The film picks up two years after the events of Age of Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) dangling in a cage, then bantering with a fire demon.  This scene is extremely important in that it sets the tone of the movie at roughly a beer and a shot into the party.  Serious, semi-moody Thor is no more, replaced with a Thor who has obviously been hanging out with Star-Lord a lot.  Immediately following this scene is another in which Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is eating grapes while watching a revisionist version of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) death.  Since we all remember the end of Thor: The Dark World, we know that isn’t really Odin and Thor confronts him.  Like the opening scene, this one is all fun and giggles and the tone is now the same as you answering the door at the party and greeting the guy with the cooler full of Jell-O shots and he is Jeff Goldblum.

Fun Bobby is here!

In a movie bursting with great actors and brilliant performances, you can’t go wrong picking any of them.  For me, Goldblum as Grandmaster wins because the role fit him to a tee.  Grandmaster governs a planet that is one giant garbage dump (literally), running gladiatorial death games as the main entertainment.  Grandmaster is Dr. Malcolm, Jack Sparrow, and The Dude hitting a bong while hosting a game show.  Brilliant is almost an understatement in this case.

The rest of the movie is a series of those scenes featuring characters as awesome as Grandmaster.  It’s scene after scene of max fun, silliness, standout performances, and perfectly timed jokes.  And, it gets even better than that because this movie has a plot and also moves us much closer to Infinity War.  Ragnarok is a prophecy foretelling the destruction of Asgard, as Thor and Loki learn from the dying Odin.  They also learn they have an exiled sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the God of Death, who draws all of her power from Asgard.  Pretty ominous, right?  Don’t worry.  She is easily having as much fun in this movie as everyone else and Hela is weirdly endearing.  Anyway, she follows Thor and Loki in one of those rainbow teleporter tunnels and makes it to Asgard, while knocking Loki and Thor out prior to their arrival (that’s how they end up on the trash planet).  Unfortunately, Heimdall (Idris Elba) disappears with the big sword that works the teleporter, so she’s stuck in Asgard and can’t begin her conquest of the universe.  You might think the party just took a turn for the serious, but Blanchett is the one doing keg stands and kicking everyone’s ass at beer pong.

Best. Party. Ever.

That’s the crux of it and it’s so simple.  Thor must escape the garbage planet to stop Hela from going on a conquering spree.  Where it ties into the greater MCU narrative is in the supporting cast and where the movie ends up when the credits roll.  And what party isn’t complete without the main body of guests?  Since standalone Incredible Hulk movies have not gone well, and Ironman and Captain America got their buddy film, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) returns after disappearing during the climactic battle against Ultron to form another Avengers buddy movie with Thor.  Since there is no way you haven’t seen a trailer for Ragnarok, you already know that Thor has to face off against Hulk in Grandmaster’s arena and it is you doing navel shots and everyone dancing to Love Shack (baby).

Dancing with you is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who is as badass as anyone in the film in a fight and seems as if she’s been part of this franchise since Tony Stark blasted out of that cave so many years ago.  The chemistry she has with Hemsworth and Ruffalo defies belief and she damn well better be invited to the next party.  Behind you is Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who didn’t stay at the party too long (one scene), but reminds you why he’s always invited.  His scene is more of a foreshadowing of things to come, but he gets to show off his power and match witticisms with Thor and Loki.  If Strange’s toying with Thor and Loki and casually dismissing them means anything it’s that he’s going to be pivotal when Thanos finally makes his move.  Finally, that’s Skurge (Karl Urban) over there in the corner, wanting to join the dance, but not sure how to.  He seems out of place and uncomfortable and nobody remembers inviting him.  He hangs out with Hela for survival purposes and is basically a lost puppy dog for most of the film, but damned if he doesn’t bring it when the life-sized Jenga challenges are thrown down.  Ok, I’m really stretching the analogy, so let’s wrap this party up.

Who wouldn’t do shots off that?

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen actors visibly having as much fun in a movie as in Ragnarok.  The ease in which these characters come to life in the most entertaining ways possible is astounding, even for such seasoned actors as these.  I especially loved unrestrained Hemsworth and Blanchett knocking their performances out of the park.  The movie pushes the boundaries of action-comedy to the brink of absurdity, but there’s just enough restraint to keep it from crossing the line.  Yeah, there are tiny moments of stupidity (they couldn’t resist a bad poop joke, Hulk somehow stays Hulk for two solid years, and Hulk even manages to speak in almost complete sentences now), but what epic party doesn’t include the guy puking in the bushes?  Everyone else helps puking guy to a bed to sleep it off, then they all sing 80s rock ballads until they’re hoarse.  By the end of the night, they all pass out together in one giant mass of bodies in the living room, waking up with all their clothes on and realizing, with a smile, that everyone is still just friends.  It’s the party of the year, friends.

Rating: Worth ten times (or more) what you’ll pay for it and you won’t stop talking about it for months.

Crimson Peak

By: Kevin Jordan

Well, that was a…umm…movie.

Crimson-Peak-poster

One of these days, Guillermo del Toro is going to make a movie that blows us all away.  Ten years ago, I thought that movie was going to be Pan’s Labyrinth, which featured fantastic creatures and a few really good scenes, but was a disappointing movie overall.  Then, Hellboy 2 came out, the fantasy nerd in me shrieked in delight, but at no point during the film did I ever think del Toro hit his peak.  More recently, Pacific Rim released and the makers of the latest Godzilla movie cried because Pacific Rim was exactly the movie they thought they were making until they noticed that they had left Godzilla out of two thirds of their movie.  Pacific Rim was an awesome movie, but all del Toro really proved was how not to fuck up a giant-monster-battle-royale movie.  Amazingly, those are the only three movies del Toro directed between 2006 and this weekend’s Crimson Peak, and after watching Crimson Peak I can unequivocally say that it was, indeed, a movie.

Maybe it was the toll put him on during his involvement with The Hobbit trilogy that led to a very ho-hum Crimson Peak because it was the least creative movie he’s ever made (full disclosure – I haven’t seen any of his foreign films).  If you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know there are ghosts and as my friend succinctly put it, “you could have interchanged any of the ghosts and nobody would have noticed.”  The lack of del Toro’s usual eye-poppingly unique creatures was painfully evident as the humans in the film were asked to carry this film on their back.  Granted, they are very capable humans (Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Tom Hiddleston, with support from Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver), but the lackluster story and screenplay buried them.

First act notwithstanding, the film is a haunted house thriller that del Toro insists is not a horror flick, but a gothic romance.  Seriously, look it up (del Toro said as much in interviews).  Even though the film features ghosts that look like they are bleeding, it’s really about a romance between Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) and Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and is set around the turn of the twentieth century in a dark and spooky house in England (mostly), so gothic.

(Side note: I could have a problem with this since the Gothic period was from the 12th century to the 16th century and this movie is a period piece, but I didn’t know del Toro had said that prior to watching the movie.  It has no bearing on the movie anyway, the characters “look Goth,” and del Toro might still have been a Hobbit-made puddle, so whatever.)

And you know what – I believe him.  Sadly, that’s what makes Crimson Peak so ho-hum.  I don’t go into del Toro’s movies looking for romance and I’m guessing neither does anyone else.  The romance in question is between Edith and Thomas, much to the chagrin of Edith’s father, Carter (Beaver).  Thomas’s sister, Lucille (Chastain), condones it only so far as to get to Edith’s money.  Dr. McMichael (Hunnam) has eyes for Edith, but never acts on it and is forced to settle for disapproving looks at Thomas.  The first act ends predictably, the movie relocates to the Sharpe estate in England (the Cushings live in Buffalo, NY), and the cast shrinks down to the Sharpes and Edith.  The rest of the film is Edith uncovering the truth about the Sharpes and trying not to die, neither of which is particularly interesting.

At this point, you should be wondering two things – (1) what about the ghosts and (2) why is the movie called Crimson Peak?  Those are supposed to be the two interesting things, and like the rest of the film, underwhelm.  In reverse order, Crimson Peak is a nickname for the hill that the Sharpes’ house is built on, so named because the red clay it is built on stains the snow red during the winter.  Incidentally, Thomas marries Edith in part because he needs money to restart his family’s clay mine.  Anyway, the ghosts exist solely as a combination of breadcrumbs and oracle to Edith.  At first, they appear to be menacing, but, like most of the ghosts in The Haunting, they really just want the heroine to save/avenge them.  While they are creepy looking, the only entertainment they provided was my friend wondered why oracles in movies never speak in plain words rather than riddles.  Specifically, Edith’s dead mom appears to her early in the film and says “Beware of Crimson Peak.”  If her warning was so dire, why not just use the actual name of the Sharpe estate or “Beware of Thomas Sharpe” or “Beware of the crazy bitch playing the piano?”

I’m sure a lot of main stream critics are going to overlook the lackluster, blah nature of the story in order to fawn all over Jessica Chastain, the costumes, and set pieces.  They’ll also make sure to tell you that Tom Hiddleston also plays Loki in the Avengers movies because they think you are stupid, blind, and live under a rock.  What they don’t realize is that they focused on those things because the movie was that boring.  So, if you read any other reviews and they try to convince you that it is a good movie, just remember that they are only right about one thing – it is, in fact, a movie.

Rating: Ask for eight dollars back.  The remainder is equal to the percentage of importance costumes and set pieces are to making a movie good.