Aisle of the Damned: 06/23/17- It Has to Wash Its Sheets in the Morning

Transformers: It Comes on a Rough Night

Two weeks ago saw the opening of It Comes at Night. Last week, we had the bachelorette comedy Rough Night. This week we get Transformers: The Last Knight dropped on us like a 10-ton anvil. Coincidence?

Probably.

Regardless, Bryan and Kent are here to slice and dice films for your pleasure and It Comes at Night and Rough Night are both on the chopping block. So which is worth your dollars? The divisive psychological horror film or the gender-bent Very Bad Things? Find out in this episode! Plus, we have Pixar’s latest: the inevitable Cars 3. Does it handle better than the second entry?

PLUS, we have some movie news, including some superhero stuff. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine- Down with the Sickness

Aisle of the Damned: 03/22/17- Logan’s Heroes

This is the worst photoshop you will ever see.

We’re back after a medical hiatus to discuss the latest that Hollywood has dumped on us! Just kidding; March apparently doesn’t suck anymore as we have some pretty damn good movies to geek out about, including X-Men outlier Logan, giant monster movie Kong: Skull Island, indie horror wunderkind Get Out and the latest in the Matt Damon series, Matt Damon Goes to China.

We also discuss some new trailers, like Wonder Woman and Baby Driver, finally crap on the Oscars, talk about Joe Carnahan’s good decisions and Sony’s stupid-ass decisions and talk about Disney’s battle with their own history.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Big T. Tyler– King Kong

Aisle of the Damned: 1/23/17- Best of 2016… and Passengers

*punch* No ticket.

Following our Christmas episode, we took a little time to enjoy the new year before we came back with one of the most anticipated episodes of the year: The Best and Worst of 2016!

After a discussion about the difficulties of seeing a lot of the stuff out there these days (there’s only so many entertainment dollars to go around) we lay out what rotted our eyeballs and delighted our brains over the last year. We also take on Underworld: Blood Wars, La La Land and Passengers before we’re done, and talk news about some blu ray announcements, Deadpool 2 news and how Warner Bros. still just doesn’t get it.

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie

Still Corners- Lost Boys

Aisle of the Damned: 6/6/16- It’s a Metaphor for the Suburbs

Baldpocalypse Now!

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.

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
The Suicide Machines- It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Aisle of the Damned: 03/02/16- Bryan <3s Deadpool

Somehow, the highlight of Ryan Reynolds' career

Greetings, puny mortals! Bryan and Kent present a review of the movie about the merc with a mouth. Additionally, we start a new segment of recommendations directly from our mouths to your earholes. Trust us, we’re the experts!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Yello- Oh Yeah

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Deadpool

Somehow, the highlight of Ryan Reynolds' career

Let’s take a moment to let this sink in: Rob Liefeld’s golden boy has a movie. Robbie has got to be the richest comic artist ever who won’t draw feet. Was getting this movie worth handing him enough of a wad to keep him hip-deep in Levis and hookers?

Yes.

While sure to be a divisive film, I spent the drive home reminiscing with my viewing companion about the best moments. I can’t recall the last time that happened. (Though to be honest the crushing solidarity of my usual trips to the movies could account for that.) For the majority of its runtime, it is a kick to the fun sack, with only some tonal issues and questionable character moments getting in the way. But it’s understandable. While there may be some of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass in its recessive DNA, it’s largely a type of film that’s never been made before: a mid-level budget that all of the X-movies since the original would wipe their asses with, a fairly hard R-rating, a comedic overtone, a character who has only been around for a couple of decades, a tangential relationship to a major franchise and an anti-hero main character. We’ve seen some of these together here and there. But certainly not all at once. So to juggle this all successfully is actually pretty impressive and it doesn’t take the coward’s way out as it also plays with structure, mixing one broken up set piece with flashbacks for the majority of the runtime.

Here’s where the film falters: it’s great that the structure is fractured, but it still manages to sag in the middle as we go through the one tradition that the movie refuses to break with: the origin story.

And yet, their attempts to brighten up that part of the film isn’t deftly directed enough to present a really meaningful before and after for Deadpool himself, Wade Wilson. At least not personality-wise. Is it enough to derail the film? Not even close. But it is noticeable enough to make a dent that you won’t find in the slicker, mainstream Marvel factory. Should we be lucky enough to get the unprecedented Deadpool 2 (suggested tag-line: Dead Pooler), this most likely wouldn’t be an issue. It’s still pretty impressive for a first-time feature director and one gets the feeling he embraced the budgetary challenges presented due to his effects background.

The important thing is that I had an absolute blast with the majority of the movie from the very first moment. As in, it features possibly the best opening credits sequence in history. Then you have Ryan Reynolds showing that it was worth his remorseless guerilla campaign to acquire the role. On the flip side, Morena Baccarin somehow manages to meet his over the top performance head on and provide a great counterpoint to him. What is it about dudes from Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place that bring out the best in her?

Admittedly, I’m tuned to this film’s frequency. I was getting every in-joke about Reynolds’ career, superhero movie conventions and studio politics that it lobbed at the audience. While at times, there’s an almost This is the End level of self-scrutiny involved that will reward fans, its neither in your face enough or so reliant upon inside baseball to require knowing the troubled history of the film to enjoy it. Like a Zucker film, when the comedy is flowing, there’s often multiple gags being set up at once. Sometimes what seems like gratuitous violence actually sets up great payoffs further down the line.

Maximum effort, Fox.

(Three and a half damns given out of five)

Aisle of the Damned: Episode XXIII- It’s your kids, Professor X! Something’s gotta be done about your kids!

Time for a new episode, humans and mutants! YES. ALREADY. This time, Kent talks about Godzilla, Bryan waxes X-Men: Days of Future Past and we both like Neighbors. Then we wonder bewilderingly about Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man and David Goyer being a total dick. Join up, will not you?

Music:
The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Huey Lewis and the News– The Power of Love

Go-Kart Godzilla! Woo-ooo-oooo-ooo!

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men 5

We’re two for three in superhero movies so far this summer. Bryan Singer’s welcome return to the X-Men franchise is incredibly successful with Days of Future Past. I’m not sure that I can say I enjoyed it more than First Class, which I enjoyed initially and have liked even more with subsequent viewings, but between the two of them, the franchise has officially been rescued from the God-awful Last Stand and only slightly better Origins: Wolverine that were nearly the one-two punch that killed this cash cow. (Maybe I should have hoped for that so the characters could return to the Marvel fold, but we’ll let it go.)

Loosely adapted from one of the most popular stories that the characters have ever been involved in, it begins in an undisclosed future where mutants and many humans have been hunted down by the robotic Sentinels from the comic books. We get to see a few of the X-characters in this future that I honestly never believed would appear unless it was the kind of crap cameo that Brett Ratner relegated Psyclocke to. We get Blink, man. I am honestly flabbergasted about that one. And she is done well. (For those that don’t know, Blink is a popular mutant that creates portals. She seems depowered and decidedly non-lilac in this instance, but still.) It feels much less like the mutants of the film are getting short shrift here just to pack in as many as possible the way some of the lesser movies have done. In a departure from comic lore, Wolverine is sent back in time to stop the Sentinel program from ever being started. (In the comics, it was Kitty Pryde that did the honors, which I would have welcomed instead of getting yet another Wolverine-centric movie, but the bean counters at Fox apparently think only his bub-ness sells tickets, First Class to the contrary.)

It is a little surprising to me that Singer seems more at ease with the cast of First Class over the runtime than those of the original film since Matthew Vaughn was at the helm for that one. I guess maybe he was hands-on as a producer? In any case, aside from some clunky exposition that even Patrick Stewart can’t keep from sounding overdone (and he has a lot of experience with exposition from Star Trek) the movie gets going quickly and doesn’t stop often. It all comes out a bit Terminator-ish, but then Marvel beat Cameron to the punch by a couple of years so all’s fair.

The time-travel reset button is a brilliant thing to do on multiple fronts. Number one, it gives the people currently making the films a chance to eliminate all the horrible decisions made when Fox was in the mentality that the X-Men films a) needed to be forced into a trilogy, because that’s just how it’s done and b) needed to be crapped out as soon as possible in order to punish Bryan Singer for taking a job directing Superman Returns. I think making that movie was punishment enough. Number two, it allows the use of both the original characters and the new cast that earned the right to continue the series. Number three, it creates the possibility of doing two equally deserving continuities, one in the past and one in the present going forward. If this is Fox trying to play catch up with Marvel Studios, all I can say is bravo for doing it in an incredibly inventive and dramatically fulfilling way compared to Sony and their botched Spider-Man experiment.

Even though it is yet another movie with Wolverine front and center, we get to spend a lot of time with Charles (Professor X) and Erik (Magneto) in both timelines, and the film is all the better because of it. Their relationship is by far the most interesting part of this series and First Class made that painfully obvious. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be fantastic in their roles. At this point they own them just as much as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Combine that with pretty meaty parts for Mystique and Beast and you have a much more rounded ensemble film than it could have been. They lucked out when they cast Jennifer Lawrence and they seem to know it, making her an integral part of the story. As per the aforementioned Blink and Kitty (Ellen Page, returning as one of the two good things from X3 worth saving), as well as other mutants like Iceman, Bishop and Storm, they aren’t really given much to do for an arc, but they’re well used enough in action sequences that they don’t feel like they’re given short shrift. Many others have glorified cameos, but nothing feels particularly forced.

The only other new characters to truly be of note are pretty much Evan Peters as Qucksilver and Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. Both are excellent. For all the hubbub about Quicksilver appearing in both this film and the second Avengers film, I doubt there will be much similarity in the portrayals. In Future Past, Qucksilver, really only brought in for the purpose of one action scene, is less the abrasive speedster from the comics and is instead an carbon copy of DC Comics’ Impulse with a worse costume. An ADHD-riddled kid with bad hair and a penchant for being charmingly annoying. The action scene in question is possibly the most fun scene in the entire film, so it’s understandable that Singer was so hyped to use him.

Trask does horrible things in his quest to realize his dream of the Sentinels. He cautions that mutants will replace humans, citing Neanderthal man’s disappearance as a warning. (Of course he wouldn’t be privy to the current theory that Neanderthals actually interbred with cro-magnon.) We’re given glimpses of his life that indicate he’s a genius and he talks about doing a lot of good things for humanity. But it’s obvious he doesn’t see mutants as humanity, only as a means to an end. They don’t exactly subtle-up the Nazi metaphors. And just to make one statement about who would normally be one of the villains of the film, it was nice to see Richard Nixon portrayed as an actual human being and not a complete cartoon bad-guy for once. The government and the military aren’t shown to be evil or even necessarily in favor of wiping out mutants. They simply get used by Trask as more means to his end.

The movie is paced elegantly with never a dull moment, but also never being overwhelming. It feels like all of Singer’s superhero movie experience has been leading to this moment where he finally feels comfortable with all the things he was holding back on in the second film. (Having the brass at Fox on his side instead of demanding Jon Peters-esque changes on a whim it probably helps.) The action sequences feel fresh, despite several of them having a lot in common with previous installments which is a testament to their presentation and the quality of the effects. There is no question in my mind why this movie cost so much and it honestly seems worth every penny. It is polished and even the questionable CGI just makes it seem that much more comic book-y.

After seeing the teaser at the end which brought many a “What the hell?” from the crowd in our theater, I am very much looking forward to seeing what Singer, Vaughn and their cohorts bring to us next.

(Four damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Wolverine

The posters are the best part of the movie

The Wolverine is certainly better than it’s overly-named predecessor X-Men: Origins- Wolverine. This is, of course, damning with faint praise as Origins was a fairly terrible movie, only better than the truly awful X-Men 3 which, for all intents and purposes, seemed to have started to euthanize the franchise until Matthew Vaughn’s First Class managed to apply a defibrillator to the near-rotten corpse.

The main problem with the X-Men version of Karate Kid Part 2, is that it is absolutely mediocre except for one fun action sequence involving a bullet train that pushes it up a half-star for me. The set-up is intriguing enough and the actors are certainly putting in an effort. But there’s little visual payoff. The first major action sequence could have been carbon-copied from any Bourne movie, except with adimantium claws grafted on. I shouldn’t have a desire to imitate the guys from The Office screaming “Parkour!” when watching a $100 million dollar action film at this point, but guys doing unnecessary flips over buildings while a shaky cam manages to catch very little of the action will make me want to do just that.

Logan, played for the sixth time by the stalwart Hugh Jackman, travels to Japan. It’s a welcome change of scenery, in what is largely a compacted version of one of his classic story arcs. For me, Wolverine has always been better as a side character and, to risk the collective fanboy rage of the internet, has never worked for me as the flagship of the film franchise, even with Jackman’s charisma. He’s at his best when he’s a dumb, violent, midget scrapper. The guy who, when Joss Whedon was showing his internal monologue during a fight in the comics, only managed to think, “I really like beer.”

Still, what we’ve got is what we’ve got and it ain’t bad. It ain’t that good either. It is, as predicted by the trailers, entirely milquetoast. And as I can’t simply recommend it solely based on the strength of the out of left-field mid-credit sequence that I wasn’t expecting, it’s going to come down to just how much you enjoy watching what must be a constantly creatine-ingesting Jackman run around the Far East in a wife beater, saying, “Bub.” Even the storyline is pretty paint-by-numbers as it mostly revolves around him trying to protect Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto), the granddaughter of a Japanese business magnate and soldier he saved in the second world war, despite having his healing ability depowered back to around the level that it was in the comics when he was introduced. He is still healing better than a normal human being, but when he gets shot, he actually gets slowed down a bit instead of being the T-1000.

What’s absolutely frustrating is that Jackman’s chemistry with Okamoto is so much more palpable than what he shared with Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey, who’s attraction was certainly noted in the first two installments of the franchise, but who didn’t truly reciprocate until Brett Rattner showed up to ruin everything. Yet over and over again the film can’t help but rub our collective noses in the failure that was pushing Wolverine into the rightful spot of Cyclops in X-Men 3. Every time the romance angle begins to bear fruit, the film slows to a crawl as he has hallucinations of Jean haunt him.

The cast is almost all Japanese (which is also a nice change of pace) and also on hand is Rila Fukushima who seems to be the more off-putting Asian counterpart of Cristina Ricci in her role as Yukio. This works for her, however and assists her in making her part much more memorable than, say, Svetlana Khodchenkova’s “Viper,” who seems to be such a generic template femme fatale that even when she explains her character and her motivation I still felt like I didn’t know anything about her. I would actually enjoy seeing Yukio in the upcoming Days of Future Past, but I doubt that will happen considering how practically everyone from the first three films and First Class are already being sandwiched into the script.

I can give director James Mangold credit for the stuff that does work, including but not limited to the internal family battle for the Yashida family, an interesting opening involving World War II, a few funny bits involving Logan’s fish-out-of-water status and the mentioned train sequence, but so much of it comes across as limp that it’s hard not to imagine what would have happened if Darren Aronofsky had directed it as originally planned and brought his special blend of visual craziness to the tale.

(Three damns given out of five.)

Kent’s Damned Retro Reviews: X-Men: First Class

Just standing around like we're on a Christian album cover.

Let’s get one thing out of the way before all else; Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class is miles better than the slightly fun, but mostly dumb, Wolverine and the all-dumb X-Men 3. Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise as a producer is felt immediately and this is very much the spiritual successor to the first two X-films. One will probably find themselves wishing that he would ape his own Superman Returns in its flagrant nose-thumbing at what’s come before and make a sequel to the first two films that ignores the established film continuity of the third and fourth. (Actually, I’m pretty sure First Class already does in a way. I haven’t seen Last Stand since it was released in theaters due to its stank, but I seem to recall its opening (and the end of Wolverine) being contradicted by the ending of the current film.)

But enough of this nerdy fanboyism as to continuity and its place in the X-pantheon. (Yes, I hope to use a lot of X-words today.)

As an origin story, X-Men: First Class is pretty much X-pendable. It’s simply not needed. The first film did a good enough job introducing the characters and concept. However, this is no waste of a movie. It’s a solid piece of storytelling and a lot of fun.

The important thing is that not only does this sequel take us back to the roots of what made the franchise enjoyable, but it gives us something we haven’t seen before; a period superhero film that isn’t set in World War II and that takes itself seriously enough to get us to take it seriously.

It’s the sixties and the Reds are just shy of parking some warheads where they can shove them up our collective asses in, as JFK pronounces it, “Cuber.” In this alternate, comic book history, we see the situation being exacerbated for the malevolent machinations of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), leader of the infamous baddies, The Hellfire Club. Will the X-tots be able to stop all-out nuclear war? Will Shaw act as Blofeld-ian as Kevin Bacon is capable of? Will Emma Frost strut around in what appears to be a wonderbra long before they were invented? What do you think?

There are certainly moments when the proceedings (or at least some of the props) will likely make you roll your eyes, but none of them are deadly to the enjoyment of the story. For the most part, the actors play their roles well and look the part, especially in their dapper yellow and black outfits, inspired by their Silver-Age origins. Take that, black leather.

The biggest question marks in the casting going in would undoubtedly be Xavier and Magneto, given the pedigree that the characters have been filled with in their later incarnations, but both are portrayed acceptably. Michael Fassbender’s turn as the future leader of the Brotherhood is especially inspired as he harnesses the rage of Magneto before it is tempered and turned into the simmering, weary villain that Ian McKellen would embody.

Quite a number of the other mutants are throwaways, shoehorned from more modern eras, but most of them work. Special attention is due to Rose Byrne as Moira McTaggart, a CIA employee that manages to pull off seeming like a capable agent and looking great in her underwear at the same time. Not an easy feat.

If you started out as a fan of this series, but feel burned by some of the previous entries, I recommend giving Professor X’s brood another chance. You’ll likely find a lot to enjoy in this Bond-ian superhero romp.

(Three and a half out of five stars)

 (This review was first published at the time X-Men: First Class was released in theaters.)