Look for the Plain Label Podcast to return July 6th with our new theme of remakes!
Look for the Plain Label Podcast to return July 6th with our new theme of remakes!
Bryan and Kent wonder if their mutant power is thinking they saw a different movie than other people; they actually like this critically-maligned X-film. Unless you can read minds, you’ll have to listen to find out why.
Also, find out our thoughts on Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, our recommended picks and a remembrance of the late, great Darwyn Cooke. All this and news in the latest episode of Aisle of the Damned.
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
The Suicide Machines- It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Bryan and Kent jump with both feet into the summer movie season with Captain America: Civil War.
Despite a disappointing lack of appearances by Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, they’ll make do with Iron Man and Captain America having an ideological measuring contest. Spoiler: the audience wins.
Also, reviews of Keanu, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Nice Guys, and Green Room, plus our recommendations and discussions of the Rogue One trailer. All this and less in the new episode of Aisle of the Damned!
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie!
The Rolling Stones- Street Fighting Man
Sketch comics/stand-ups taking the lead in their first movie is in some ways a right of passage. Steve Martin’s The Jerk probably stands as the high water-mark,* but most have some sort of value in terms of being a look at a performer’s comedic worldview while they’re still hungry. Take Billy Madison as an example. It may not be regarded as a great film by a lot of people but, in the words of Undeclared, there’s something a bit “punk rock” about it. Something that diminished until Adam Sandler turned into a dead-eyed, haunted-looking shell of a human being.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been around a while, individually working on projects and appearing in films and TV shows, but Keanu is their first film following the break-out success of their sketch show on Comedy Central. Personally I haven’t watched much of their stuff. Just a few bits here and there which have virally wafted my way courtesy of Facebook. Of course I loved their Gremlins 2 bit, being a huge fan of that film. But my limited TV viewing hasn’t drifted that way. That said, this film seems very much an extension of what I’ve seen from them, so I’m going to make the not-so-wild assume that it is very much tapped into that same vein of “firsts.”
The plot itself makes some less than subtle allusions to being a goof of the Liam Neeson Taken trilogy as the pair attempt to get back the kitten of the title when he’s stolen. It turns out this particular cat’s cuteness is a bit infectious because it becomes a running gag that everyone he comes in contact with becomes so enamored with him that they lose all common sense. However, apart from that basic framework there really isn’t that much to tie the film thematically to the ongoing saga of the man the internet has dubbed “John Taken.”
In fact, much of the film seems to settle into a much better (and certainly funnier) version of the central conceit of the maligned Will Farrell/Kevin Hart vehicle Get Hard, as the duo attempts to bluff their way through the criminal underground. Or at least the Hollywood version of ‘gangsta culture,’ though it seems more authentic than some depictions, despite the comedic aspects.
The main issue with the film is uneven pacing. There is an extended sequence in the middle of the film which I think best exemplifies this; it features a pretty good cameo, but drags on and on as it spends its time divided between the inside and outside of a Hollywood estate. Unfortunately, things are much funnier in the car and, at least in my case, I found myself regretting every return to the interior; up until a fantastic gag caps the scene. (One which is ultimately negated in the wrap-up, but I’m trying not to focus on that.)
It’s great that Key and Peele take things in a different direction than what one may expect by abandoning the idea of a strict parody of their inspiration for the story (though I could see a very different, equally funny movie coming from sticking to that concept) but they still seem to have a hard time filling the 90 minutes of the film. They come close enough that one can’t deny their success though, at crafting an overall entertaining experience that captures their spirit.
(Three and a half damns given out of five)
*Mostly because Monty Python’s initial offering was their recycled sketch film, …And Now for Something Completely Different.
This is episode 0. Where I dive into why I’m doing this, the goal of the show and how much I want to hear from you! Tune in, enjoy and follow the show on twitter and instagram!
I’ve been a defender of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite the issues I have with it (the terrible color correction, the insane death of Jonathan Kent, etc.), I thought it made the best of some source material that I always found questionable, aka forcing a Xerox of Batman’s spirit quest around the world into his mythology. I guess I was so relieved to finally have a Superman movie without an awful, over-the-top bumbling Clark Kent performance, a nonsense Luthor scheme, fluctuating powers that defy the movie’s internal logic, bastard kids or a thoroughly dislikable Lois Lane that I could overlook the flaws. After all, despite the bleakness, there’s promise in the film. Clark has finished a costly first battle and is in a position to use that sacrifice to learn and be the hero he should be. He can take his actions from Man of Steel and build on them, vowing to never take another life. Though unlike all the people who apparently have forgotten both the comics and the ending of their beloved Superman II, I had no problem with Clark killing Zod, seeing as how he’s the one character Superman has ever knowingly offed.
The question was, would the sequel build on that promise, or would it double down on the unique problems this take brought to the franchise? All of the marketing material seemed to indicate this would not so much be a Superman sequel as either a proto-Justice League movie or a jumping off point to a Frank Miller Batman franchise, none of which sounded particularly appealing. Unfortunately, this is largely correct. Superman seems like an also-ran in his own film for the most part.
After a strangely gripping prologue that gives a street level view of the devastation wrought by the battle between Clark and Zod in Man of Steel, the film settles in for an hour or so, spending a lot of time introducing us to this version of Batman, who follows the natural through line from Burton to Nolan to Snyder, finally adopting a fully-functional Dark Knight Returns-style Batman who is equal parts psychotic and broken. An impotent man who takes out his fury by torturing criminals and not especially caring if people die in his pursuit of self-serving justice. It’s certainly not my favorite style of Batman (I skew much farther towards the Denny O’Neil-style well-rounded version) but much as certain fanboys may deny it, this version of Batman is what many of them have been angling for. Be careful what you wish for.
Meanwhile, we see Superman performing many acts of heroism, saving people around the world from disasters, intercut with footage of a world who doesn’t know how to react to him or trust him. It’s not so much a bad portrayal of Kal-El, but it certainly does create a morose environment surrounding him. After much sturm and drang, this overall paranoia leads to the confrontation of the title. To reveal much more would be to give away the mechanics of the plot, but it is fair to point out the much touted appearances by other Justice League members don’t just feel distracting, but actually lower the excitement over Warners’ plans for their characters.
The good news is that while the film is full of bad ideas, the ideas are filmed and acted competently. The bad news is that competence doesn’t fix bad ideas, it simply makes them go down easier. Make no mistake; there are some things to enjoy in the film which make it still worth seeing. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does great things with her limited screentime. Gadot herself, apart from seeming to have trouble getting her Israeli accent around some of the overinflated dialogue, is a wonderful physical actress. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred manages to be an absolutely necessary source of humor in an otherwise dour affair. The majority of the acting is fine, even Ben Affleck’s, though he comes up short selling Batman’s character arc and revelation moment. The major exception is Jessie Eisenberg who seems to be edited in from a completely different film. While I’ve never been a fan of the way Luthor has been used in the Superman films, it’s quite a shock to go from the intelligent menace of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to Eisenberg’s collection of tics and vocal contortions masquerading as a performance. He plays Lex Luthor as some kind of bizarre Joker variation, his motivation either making him pathetic or a puppet. Sometimes he is effectively creepy, but mostly he comes off as annoying.
The plot grabs famous storylines from the two characters at random like Scrabble tiles from a bag. In the end, what we have is a mess. A mess that is interesting, but overly long and needlessly complicated. It has a fourth act tacked on because there was never a scenario where the Superman/Batman fight could be dramatically satisfying as a conclusion.
Worse, in their misguided race to force a rivalry with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. attempts to cram huge amounts of set-up into the film and none of that set-up feels earned. Watching it feels like we missed a few movies that were released between Man of Steel and now. Many audience members may even be completely lost as to what a lot of what is going on. When your entire movie is based on laying a foundation for future installments, that should be rather disconcerting. As of this moment, I’m not particularly looking forward to Justice League. Or Suicide Squad with its copy and paste characters who look like they stepped out of a 90s pitch meeting when “edgy” was still a buzzword. Wonder Woman and the Lego Batman Movie are they only DC film projects which continue to pique my interest. As I am a person who was a big DC fan until fairly recently, that kind of reaction should have Warner Bros. concerned. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll care.
(Two and a half damns given out of five)
In the historic tradition of such epic cinematic grudge matches as Godzilla vs Mothra and Kramer vs Kramer comes Batman v Superman. As DC bets the farm on Frank Miller fanboys, Bryan and Kent also set about to fighting; one of them hates it while the other… hates it less. Also, looks at 10 Cloverfield Lane, London Has Fallen, Zootopia, the Ghostbusters ’16 trailer and our host recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned.
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Will Arnett- Untitled Self Portrait
Welcome to the Plain Label Podcast! In this episode Rachel and Eric are joined once again by Catie O’Brien and Anelle Strauss as we look at a few films we missed in 2015! In this episode we discuss the films, Dope, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Z for Zachariah, and Room! Do yourself a favor and check it out!
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