Kent’s Best of the Rest

Oh, you’re still here? Then take a look at some of the other things that stood out to me over 2017. They may not have made my “best of” list, but they’re definitely noteworthy.

O’Shea Jackson Jr. in INGRID GOES WEST
Ice Cube’s son may have gotten his big break playing his old man in Straight Outta Compton, but Ingrid Goes West is where he really makes his mark. The whole of the film that I called “Cable Guy for the Instagram generation” is pretty funny and fascinating, with its damning view of both social media and the L.A. community in general. But it’s Jackson as a vaping, Batman-obsessed, screenwriting landlord to Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid, who ends up being the film’s secret weapon. He spends a good chunk of the movie charming the audience even as he’s manipulated into doing questionable things for Ingrid due to their bizarre descent into coupledom. Almost more importantly, he and Plaza are responsible for the funniest sex scene of 2017, with some laugh-out-loud, awkward, superhero roleplay.

The Fiance in ROUGH NIGHT
Rough Night didn’t make my worst of list, mostly because it has a few moments of genuine pleasure here and there. A few revolve, unsurprisingly, around Kate McKinnon as an Australian exchange student who at times feels more like she’s from another planet, but most of them come from Paul W. Downs as he completely breaks open the film as a beta-male turned diapered, caffeinated mess trying to save his engagement to Scarlett Johansson. If only the film had been about him, instead.

Truth be told, I still don’t think LotS is a BAD movie, per se. I still think it would have been much better received if it had been presented as an original property instead of a reimagining of Arthurian legend. But it wasn’t great. Except for that opening sequence straight out of a crazy Bollywood Lord of the Rings knock off where King Eric Bana faces off against a bunch of wizards on the back of elephants the size of Mr. Stay-Puft. It’s nutty, trippy, and the kind of high-fantasy fun the whole movie seemed to be aiming for, but just didn’t hit.

Liev Schriber, Sean William Scott and Wyatt Russell in GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS
The second Good film makes the series bookend the beginning and end of good-natured tough guy Doug Glatt’s hockey career. While not as good as the first (it’s too messy and the humor is too broad), these three outstanding performances anchor the film and show that Jay Baruchel should probably be directing more movies. Russell, especially, makes quite an impression as an unhinged star living in his father’s shadow, who lashes out wildly against anyone: friend, foe, or teammate. (Also, a nod to Elisha Cuthbert who makes the most of her small role and who I still have a crush on, going back to The Girl Next Door.)

Valerian mostly feels like a missed opportunity to reach the same kind of giddy pop-sci fi heights that The Fifth Element wrangled onto movie screens. Dane Dehaan is largely responsible through his lack of charisma and flat performance, but the way the screenplay picks up and drops plot threads doesn’t help either. One of the worst offenders is a character played by singer Rihanna and a lot of CGI, who serves as a plot device and ultimately goes nowhere. However, her introduction is a reminder of how Luc Besson can seemingly do things American directors couldn’t/wouldn’t as she performs a surprisingly effective PG-rated burlesque dance that features about a dozen costume changes in the span of five minutes.

It’s not really a surprise that Superman shows up in Justice League. He’s on the poster, after all. But what is surprising is that Joss Whedon doesn’t just fix what was done to him in Batman v Superman, but puts the best version of the character ever on the big screen. While the movie itself is simply okay, it’s worth seeing for this alone, if you’re a Superman fan. I still defend Man of Steel and Henry Cavill’s performances, but it goes without saying that the writing for him in BvS was disappointing, as is the waste of the impact that a Death of Superman storyline should have. The fact that this is put right in half a movie, even despite the weird CGI smear-lip, tells me that giving Whedon a Superman film after he’s done with Batgirl would be the best move Warner Bros could make for the character.

The Spider-Man Theme in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Homecoming was a fun movie that made up for the awful “Amazing” films and Tom Holland does a great job as the web-slinger. There were so many moments when it was obvious that Marvel really cared about making this new series work, and wanted to let their fans know it in subtle ways. I’m hard pressed to think of a moment that put a bigger smile on my face than when an orchestral version of the theme from the ‘60s Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man cartoon series started playing over the Marvel logo. It was a small, perfect, low-key moment of fan service.

The gore effects in RAW
I described Raw as, essentially, a great werewolf movie without any werewolves. I stand by that. It wouldn’t work as well as it does though, if the handful of gore effects that mark the character’s descent into cannibalism weren’t as fantastically done as they are. They aren’t flashy, or over-the-top, but that’s what makes them work so well. The body parts and the bites look entirely realistic and matter of fact, and they’re pretty much perfect.

Armie Hammer in FREE FIRE
I was prepared for Sharlto Copley to give a crazy performance in Ben Wheatley’s one-building action experiment. What I was not expecting was for Armie Hammer to steal the whole movie for me as an independent agent who remains the epitome of cool in a crisis, even as tempers flare and bullets fly. I hate that he’s had so much bad luck with big budget films thanks to that Lone Ranger debacle of years ago, because he’s more talented than he’s often given credit for.

The apartment fight and ensuing car chase in ATOMIC BLONDE
Even with a strong sequel to John Wick, some great Marvel films and a new Kingsman movie, I’m hard-pressed to think of an action sequence that blew me away like the abject brutality of a scene in Atomic Blonde when Charlize Theron and a communist goon destroy each other in an abandoned apartment building. It is an all-timer in the middle of an already solid action flick. The choreography makes it look like one of the most painful altercations since The Raid 2. Then, they added a top-notch car chase on top of it.

Charlie Hunam in THE LOST CITY OF Z
I’m the first to call Charlie Hunam a block of wood. While that didn’t stop me from loving Pacific Rim, and it didn’t completely ruin Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur for me, he certainly doesn’t add much to most of the films he’s in. Imagine my surprise then when he gave a fantastic performance in the historical exploration drama, The Lost City of Z. A throwback to the kind of British pictures that actually celebrated brave men who would venture into the unknown for knowledge, he is able to be noble, obsessive and desperate in equal measure as he makes trek after trek to the jungles of South America to try to find a lost civilization that he believes may have rivaled the celebrated empires of antiquity. Let’s hope we see more of this from Charlie in the future.

Trey Parker in DESPICABLE ME 3
Animated sequels are often the victims of diminishing returns and Despicable Me 3, while still having plenty of gas in the tank, definitely finds itself succumbing to the usual clichés as an unknown twin brother for Gru is unearthed and trotted out like an Eastern European Cousin Oliver. However, the filmmakers did themselves a huge favor by casting South Park creator Trey Parker as an 80s obsessed villain, Balthazar Bratt, out for revenge over his cancelled TV show from 30 years ago. While Parker and Matt Stone certainly keep themselves busy with their South Park empire, occasional film projects and a hit Broadway musical, I can’t help but hope this will open doors for Parker to do more voicework outside his own projects, as he’s just plain great at it.

The No More Catholics Song in T2: TRAINSPOTTING
2017 was the year of the long awaited sequel, and many of them were much better than they had any right to be. But the one that decided to be as meta as possible, by simultaneously wallowing in nostalgia while pointing out how gross, false and irresponsible such an act can be, was the follow-up to Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Trainspotting. T2 catches us up on everyone’s favorite Scottish derelicts as they reach crossroads in their lives. The stand-out scene is when Renton and Sick Boy infiltrate the lair of an anti-Catholic group, still celebrating a military victory from hundreds of years prior, in order to steal their debit cards from the coat room. In a darker spin on the “sing the blues” bit from Adventures in Babysitting, they find themselves on stage and forced to perform. As they make up a tune on the spot in order to keep from being found out, and effectively whip the crowd into a frenzy, I was cackling like a maniac. (This despite being raised Catholic, myself.) It’s proof positive that Danny Boyle still has that magic touch to make something profane and crazy work like a charm.

The remote car chase in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
The eighth movie in the F&F cycle was the weakest one in quite some time. Who knew Paul Walker was so important to the films’ chemistry? However, it continued the series’ tradition of finding new, crazy stunts to pull. When dozens of unmanned cars begin chasing a security convoy while even more rain down from parking garages onto the street like a hailstorm, it’s hard not to admire their commitment to fresh automotive carnage.

“I explode if I eat cake.”

That’s all, folks. Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? Feel free to let us know on our Facebook Page!

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Aisle of the Damned: 05/12/17- Mashed Potato Sculpture Man

Anybody got a cigarette?

It’s time to Ooga Chaka again! That’s right, Bryan and Kent take an extended look at James Gunn’s wonderful Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Kent also looks at a couple of excellent indie films with Colossal and Free Fire. But first, we examine the first look at Kingsman 2, which features the great Frank Sinatra, and the final look at Wonder Woman, which features… music from a late-90s Army recruitment ad?

Plus Hellboy news, recommendations and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Charly Bliss– Ruby [Single Version]

Aisle of the Damned 09-23-15: Bye, Felicia!

Gimme that that that nut

Kent’s back from his vacation and we are ready to roll. A couple of white guys talk about the musical biopic/memoir Straight Outta Compton about the rise of NWA and 90’s gangsta rap. We also bitch and moan about the late summer/fall wasteland this year. Meanwhile, Kent took in Guy Ritchie’s lukewarmly received TV update The Man From U.N.C.L.E with Superman and a Winklevoss twin.

The Aquabats: Stuck in a Movie
Ben Folds: Bitches Ain’t Shit

Kent’s Movie Diary: Dead birds for everybody!

LRresizeTHE LONE RANGER- “I can’t help but feel it’s a mistake to try to mash up Pirates of the Caribbean and Unforgiven.” -Nobody associated with The Lone Ranger film

Anyone else remember that Night Court episode where they had the Lone Ranger-ish guy that wouldn’t take off his mask because some Hollywood schmuck was trying to do a gritty reimagining of the character? I can’t help but feel that he was trying to prevent a misfire of a crap pile like Disney’s Lone Ranger. Apparently the Mouse House didn’t watch their own Muppet movie, because this is the Moopet Lone Ranger. A hard, cynical Western comedy for a hard, cynical time.

I wanted to like this movie. I really, really did. And the reason it hurts most is because the zygote of something good is here, but nine out of every ten decisions made in the making of the film are completely mind-boggling. And they’re mistakes that seem like they’d be so easy to pinpoint at the script stage.

I’ll start with the good. First off, Armie Hammer is actually not a bad choice as the Ranger. He has some of the same kind of wooden charm that the cowboy heroes from the thrilling days of yesteryear (see what I did there?) possessed in their simple morality plays. In theory he is a fitting replacement for Clayton Moore. The problem is that he’s given so little to work with. Instead of being a capable Texas Ranger who was ambushed and left for dead, he is a nitwit lawyer in over his head. In many cases he’s heroic by accident and rather than simply being a great lawman-cum-cowboy, he has some kind of supernatural “spirit-walker” powers. I have nothing against doing some kind of supernatural western genre concept, even if they seem to be tough to pull off. But there’s very little left that makes him the Lone Ranger in anything but name. So the fact that he’s still even partway likable is a testament to Hammer.

There’s also one hell of an amazeballs action sequence at the end in which the film seems to finally figure out what it is, complete with the William Tell Overture and jumping Silver from train car to train car. Right before it falls on its face again trying to take its own piss. But for about twenty minutes, it is the Lone Ranger movie that it should be. The type of fun action Western that it was sold as. It’s like the characters are completely different in this sequence as well. You feel as if you suddenly are transported into an alternate universe in which they got the movie right and then, sadly, back again.

The fact is, the people involved seem to be completely ignorant about the property. It’s not just the title character that is different. Tonto is unrecognizable. For all the complaints about Jay Silverheels’ speech patterns, I remember Tonto being a rather competent sidekick who saved the Lone Ranger’s life. He certainly didn’t resent him. Or drag his head through horse poop. Depp’s Tonto is (forgive me) Injun Jack Sparrow. He’s a white face, psychotic goofball mostly concerned with revenge and mugging for the camera. I know the look of the character was inspired by a piece of artwork, but it’s almost as over-the-top as his horrible Mad Hatter get up.

The script is determined to make jokes at the expense of iconic things that they think people either don’t remember or are too sophisticated to enjoy. But if that’s the case, why are they making a Lone Ranger movie in the first place? The use of “Hi-yo Silver, away!” is met with derision as though it’s something cheesy. As opposed to a guy with a dead bird on his head. (Seriously, that stupid bird is the worst.) Instead of celebrating the character and the adventure of the old west, it is an exercise in seeing unpleasant a film can be and how many corrupt, horrible white guys they can pack into a liberal arts professor’s vision of the time period. Add to that a constant barrage of non-sequitors, gross-out gags and a framing sequence that adds nothing to the film but padding on it’s already bloated runtime, and you’ve got one of the worst summer tentpoles this side of Michael Bay.

Trek9resizeSTAR TREK: INSURRECTION- I finally saw the ninth film of the Star Trek franchise. First thought: Become a rapper called Trek9 and do songs only about this film. (OK, so only Kansas City people might get that gag.) Anyway… It shouldn’t surprise me to see an anti-technology fetishist Star Trek movie, but somehow it still does.

Yep, the crew of the Enterprise, whilst zipping around in their starship, seeks to stop some white Indians that live “in harmony with nature” and never age due to their planet’s unique atmosphere from being displaced by a bunch of grotesque beings.

It’s obvious from the outset that the vaguely European luddites are stand-ins for Native Americans being forced off their land. (Settlers from another land that live “unspoiled” lives being relocated by a more powerful group for the sake of progress. Not really historically accurate, but what else would you call it?) However, the themes of the film are so muddied that it completely falls apart while they’re trying to make whatever vague point that they think they’re making.

The settlers are, of course, pacifists. Though they have no trouble with the crew of the Enterprise locking and loading on their behalf. Later on we also find out that they do not tolerate change or any kind of opposing views amongst themselves, but this is completely brushed over because it’s inconvenient to actually ask about the morality of the people Picard and Co. put their chips in with. Not when there are imperialist villains to fight in the name of the Prime Directive. Or not. Whatever.

It’s just one big episode of Next Gen, which for me is not a selling point since I’m much more of a TOS fan. This explains why this was my first viewing of Insurrection (and the upcoming Nemesis.) On a technical level it’s not all bad. Jonathan Frakes does a good job of directing and misdirecting, as it were. It looks good, even if the renaissance fair opening credits are eye-rollingly boring as hell. The effects are more than comparable to the task. It’s even got some good character moments. It’s just not a good story. If it were nothing but a think piece, I would be more behind it. I’m one of the defenders of the first Trek movie because I love the ideas behind it. But the film is trying to serve two masters in trying too hard to duplicate First Contact by grafting in some rather generic action sequences. Together with the half-baked screenplay, it ends up less bad than simply bland.

V&DresizeVIOLET AND DAISY- Everything that’s right about Violet and Daisy can be summed up with the beginning. During the first few minutes the title teen girl characters, dressed as nuns, clean out an apartment full of armed men with handguns, culminating with a pretty faithful cover of “Angel of the Morning.” Everything that’s wrong with Violet and Daisy can be summed up with the mawkish, sentimental ending. A story of two unusual assassins, it definitely has its moments, but ultimately falls under its own pretension, like someone trying to set a Thomas Pynchon novel on a Jenga tower.

I decided to watch the film based on the cast, who are the bulk of what works about it. Saoirse Ronan is Daisy. Light and airy like the spongecake that seems to exist between her character’s ears, she seems to be drifting through much of the film on a pink cloud. Alexis Bledel is Violet, the more hardass of the two and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t mean to disregard her acting ability because I actually thought she was pretty great on Gilmore Girls, but if it had been a more one-note performance and not included some pretty wild temperamental shifts, she probably would have been better. As it is, I wonder if the chemistry between them would have worked better if they’d switched roles, especially having seen Hana. A pre-death James Gandolfini is a target that takes the girls by surprise. He’s not bad. But like the film itself, he descends into mawkishness eventually. I’m not sure how much of this is problems with the script and how much of it is issues with the directing.

The performances/directing is definitely stylized and reminds me almost of the performances in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, despite being very different films. Probably because it involves a couple of young characters spouting nonsense dialogue with severe conviction like it’s gospel. Plus both include really bizarre surreality at random as well. Now inject into that a sense of Quentin Tarantino-style cartoonish playfulness for some of the crime aspects, including a complete disregard for linear storytelling and the (albeit more subtle) use of graphics. The titlecard reveals, among other things, that the film is in technicolor and 3D, but it is very small, almost like they intend it to be an inside joke for the filmmaker. It also divides itself up into chapters, some very short, with a brief name for each.

It’s a fun film stuck with some horrible dead spots. Or is it a mediocre movie with small flashes of delirious coolness? Either way, it’s not a film I can recommend, but I did laugh a decent amount and I don’t regret seeing it. Even though it’d probably make a better play than a film. It feels like an effort of someone with potential but who needs to learn more about tone and structure and rein in the instinct to deepen the story by creating an aspartame ending full of false sweetness.

KoSresizeKINGS OF SUMMER- If I were 16 years old, The Kings of Summer might be one of my favorite movies. As it is, it made me laugh a lot, both at the a-holish behavior of Nick Offerman as a recently widowed father and the angst-shellaced pubescent antics of a trio of teens that decide to build a home in the woods to assert their independance and masculinity.

Like a guaze-wrapped summer daydream, it spins a golden tale of boys becoming men (in the traditional sense, not the way that most teen comedies do by having them lose their virginity) and failing along the way. Joe is the defacto leader of the group, ironic as his friend Mike is the larger and more centered of them. Then there’s Biaggio, a strange kid that seems like the ethnic offspring of Dwight Schrute, spouting nonsense and playing with a machete the size of his arm.

Sick of their parents’ interference, they retreat to the middle of nowhere so that no one can find them and proceed to live (almost) off the grid, building a suprisingly sturdy house out of found objects. They play, swim, explore and basically do what boys do in the woods. Of course this can’t last forever and a combination of hormones and hurt feelings threatens to destroy their Eden, but that’s always the way it goes. In the meantime, there’s some great one liners and deviations about Chinese food and board games.

The cast is largely excellent with some surprise actors taking part. Alison Brie, one of my official crushes and star of Community, is a secondary player and there are appearances by 24’s Mary Lynn Rajskub and Arrested Development’s Tony Hale. The music is also interesting as it liltingly flips from indie to chiptunes.

I highly recommend taking up Kings of Summer for a viewing, especially once the season finally hits and we get out of this winter hellhole. As it was, at least it reminded me of a time without snow. And that was something I really needed after the last couple of months.