Triple Scoop Review: Gunpowder Milkshake, Black Widow, The Long Kiss Goodnight

Gunpowder Milkshake

Year: 2021
Director: Navot Papushado
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Nope
Grade: Strawberry

I’ve been looking forward to Gunpowder Milkshake for quite a long time now, and it’s . . . okay. The cast is outstanding. Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, and Ralph Ineson? Yeah, I am here for this cast. I’m especially here for Michelle Yeoh because oh my God, Michelle Yeoh in this movie, with that hair, and those clothes, and that chain. Like, could we just have thirty more minutes with Michelle Yeoh, please?

Actually, that might be the crux of my problem with Gunpowder Milkshake: it feels a bit spread thin, a bit rushed. Please believe me, I am ecstatic to see an action movie under two hours, but I also feel that we just barely skim the surface of this world and these characters, particularly their relationships to one another. I wanted more with these badass women; in fact, I wonder if the story might have benefited from being a two or three part series, where we get to spend a decent amount of time A) with the Aunts, who are awesome, B) seeing more of Scarlet’s sorta-thrown-in-there backstory, and C) just establishing this world. Especially cause, like . . . okay, I often get extremely worked up when people complain that Work X is obviously derivative of Work Z just because they have a similar setting or something, and I was ALL prepared to insist how Gunpowder Milkshake was very much its own thing and not just a weak, gender flipped version of John Wick, which is still true, but . . . IDK, I can’t deny that it did heavily remind me of John Wick. I just feel like if the story was a little less go-go-go, maybe we’d have the opportunity to see something that sets this story and world apart aside from its fucking phenomenal cast.

The stylized action scenes are fun (particularly the diner and everything that happens in the library), and of course, I love both the violence and just the general aesthetic. I mean, this movie has fashionable LIBRARIAN ASSASSINS. There are things to enjoy here, clearly. And they did successfully trick me into thinking that a certain character would bite it, and surprise, they didn’t, so kudos on that. It’s just that, overall, I felt a bit distant from the movie. I was hoping to really get into it more than I actually did. OTOH, if Netflix gave me a prequel series with the Aunts (played by the same actresses, not younger ones, thank you very much), I would be ALL onboard. Do you hear me, Netflix? I am actually asking for a prequel, ME.

Black Widow

Year: 2021
Director: Cate Shortland
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Disney Plus
Spoilers: Yes, for this and for Endgame
Grade: Vanilla

Speaking of prequels . . .

As with most of Marvel’s properties lately, I watched this for Mek (we have a whole trade-off system), and I enjoyed it more than I expected, although I must admit, my expectations weren’t particularly high. Still, this is a very fun cast: I adore Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz, I’m very fond of David Harbour, and despite the fact that I usually cringe whenever Scarlett Johansson decides to talk about casting, I do actually like her as Black Widow. I don’t think it would’ve hurt to cast, you know, at least one Russian actor in the bunch, but wandering accents aside, I enjoy most of the action, and most of the humor, and I really like the whole spy family dynamic, particularly between the sisters. This one isn’t breaking the Marvel mold, but considering it’s only the second female-led Marvel superhero movie? To hell with it. I’m just happy to see a lady superhero get her fun popcorn flick–or I would’ve been 5 years ago. But we’ll come back to that.

There are some things I don’t think work quite so well. I’m not sure the Taskmaster twist does much for me, like, not because of the genderbent thing (I didn’t even know who Taskmaster was until I read the whining on Twitter), but because I thought her secret identity was pretty obvious, and also because it read, to me, like a way to soften Natasha’s backstory, which I felt was unnecessary. Also, the bit about Natasha’s birth mom, like, why? That definitely felt unnecessary. I didn’t love the fat jokes about Alexei, either, although at least there weren’t so many of them. (Fuck you forever, Endgame.) And sweet Jesus, how did Natasha even survive this movie? She should’ve died, like, four different times. (This one isn’t really a serious complaint, but I did need to mock.)

Still, my real problem with Black Widow is that nothing, nothing, about this movie works better as a prequel, except that Florence Pugh might not have been cast if it had come out in 2017 instead of 2021. I just couldn’t stop thinking it as we watched the movie: this story would’ve meant so much more to me if we’d seen it after Civil War, you know, when it actually takes place. This story would’ve meant so much more to me if we saw it before Natasha died. Seeing it now doesn’t provide some kind of meaningful perspective. At best, it keeps me at a distance; at worst, it actively pisses me off.  I desperately wanted a Black Widow movie once. Now, I only watched it so Mek would check out the first season of Evil with me. Like, the film is fine, and I could watch it again, but goddamnit, I would’ve actually cared back in 2017.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Year: 1996
Director: Renny Harlin
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Yup
Grade: Chocolate

After watching Gunpowder Milkshake and Black Widow, it just felt like the right time to sit down and finally check out The Long Kiss Goodnight, which is, like, 90’s over-the-top Christmas-action-noir-cheese. (Obviously, it was written by Shane Black.) And I had a good time with it: the script is chockfull of witty lines, the action scenes are fucking ridiculous, and the whole cast is great. Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson have just fantastic buddy amnesiac assassin/sleazy PI chemistry, and we’ve got some great players in the supporting cast. My favorites are probably Tom Amandes (who I first saw in Everwood and does solid work here as Aggressively Normal Husband), Melina Kanakaredes (who’s in this movie for all of two minutes, but I liked her, and bonus, she doesn’t die!) and most especially Brian Cox (whose line deliveries in this movie are the fucking best, but unfortunately does die, and a bit sooner than I was hoping.)

There are some jokes here I don’t think have aged well, and while I don’t necessarily mind a plot that has white bad guys framing their evil deeds on Islamic terrorists, I do think those stories should probably have at least one decent role for a Muslim character, like, a good guy who’s not a terrorist and has actual lines and motivations and everything. When your entire representation in a movie is one frozen dead guy, like, that’s not amazing. I also think that some of the action scenes are a bit drawn out, and I suspect I laughed at more moments than I was actually supposed to? But I like to laugh, so that was okay.

Nobody wears a fucking seatbelt even once in this movie, and basically everyone should be dead from all these insane car accidents, like, I know I just said that about Black Widow, but BW doesn’t even hold a candle to this absurdity. How are any of these people still alive? HOW DID THAT BOMB NOT GO OFF WHEN THE TRUCK CRASHED, HOLY SHIT?! I haven’t seen anything that egregiously ludicrous since Nicolas Cage ran around Alcatraz without exploding his little green toxin ball.

So 90’s. So cheese. (So scrumptious.)

Triple Scoop Reviews: Robin Hood, The Sword and the Stone, and Spider-Man: Far From Home

Robin Hood (1973)

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Disney Plus
Spoilers: Not really. Besides, come on. It’s Robin Hood.
Grade: Strawberry

I grew up on two Robin Hoods: Prince of Thieves and Men in Tights. Disney’s Robin Hood, though? Not so much. But now that we have Disney Plus, Mek and I decided a viewing was in order, if for no other reason than to investigate the root cause of everyone’s sexual attraction to foxes. (I have to admit, I predictably remain mystified on that front.)

As far as the movie itself goes, it’s . . . there? I can’t really say I enjoyed it, but I was certainly bemused by it. Sir Hiss is my favorite character, or maybe I just felt the most sorry for him. (The name, of course, is amazing; it would work nearly as well for a cat. Clearly, I need more cats: Sir Hiss and Ser Pounce would obviously go well together.) I find Sir Hiss particularly interesting because a) he doesn’t seem to have an equivalent character in any other Robin Hood story I’m familiar with, b) he wears fashionable hats, and c) after explaining how he hypnotized King Richard into leaving for the Crusades, Sir Hiss’s hypnosis powers never come back! Writers, seriously. Did no one teach you about Chekhov’s Hypnotic Powers? (Dedicated MGB readers: yes, I’ve made this joke before and fully intend to make it again. In fact, Chekhov is gonna be a whole damn tag now.)

I was also fond of Lady Kluck because to my very great surprise, she kind of kicks ass. Sadly, once she’s done kicking the shit out of Prince John’s guards, she mostly drops out of the movie. (As does Maid Marian, oddly enough.) Prince John himself is . . . ah . . . well, it’s certainly an interpretation. The constant thumb-sucking weirded me out, and generally, I found him more aggravating than funny, although he does actually have two of the best lines in the whole movie: “release the royal fingers!” and “I sentence you to sudden, instant, and even immediate death.” Alas, the rest of the film? Meh.

The Sword and the Stone (1963)

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Disney Plus
Spoilers: I mean, I guess? There isn’t really that much to spoil.
Grade: Vanilla

Continuing the Nostalgia Train–well, Mekaela’s Nostalgia Train, anyway, because she apparently watched a lot of old Disney movies before I was born or while I was doing other important things, like napping–we have The Sword in the Stone. I’m not sure how I would’ve felt about it as a child, but as an adult, well. It’s kind of a hot mess. Like, there are a few genuinely funny moments, sure. Honestly, I think I enjoyed this one more than Robin Hood, despite the fact that Robin Hood at least has something resembling a plot. This movie . . . yeah. There’s no plot to be had: it’s just Arthur turning into various animals and being chased around by other animals. That’s it. That’s the movie.

Of course, these scenes are supposed to be lessons. And that could actually be pretty cool, except a) Arthur never really learns anything (except that knowledge is power, I guess), and b) he never uses what little he does learn during the course of this movie. Like, I thought maybe he’d figure out how to trick Sir Ector and Ser Kay into taking him to London? But nope, Arthur’s just a last minute replacement because Sir Kay’s squire got sick. Then I thought, okay, Arthur must do something semi-crafty to find our titular sword, like, maybe he’s forbidden from trying to lift it? Instead, Arthur just stumbles across said sword when he forgets Sir Kay’s blade and needs a hasty replacement weapon. In short, Arthur proves he deserves to be the King of England by being the worst fucking squire of all time.

It’s also hilarious that three different actors voice Arthur, and at least one of those voices is really bad. OTOH, I generally liked Merlin and Archimedes well enough. Merlin is a delightfully irresponsible and terrible teacher, and I can’t lie: I kinda wanna cosplay Bermuda Merlin now. So, the film isn’t wholly without merit; it just has serious narrative problems, and also, how the fuck could they just leave Girl Squirrel crying like that? This is some bullshit. Justice for Girl Squirrel!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Not really
Grade: Chocolate

Moving on from Classic Disney to Present Disney (We Own Everything, Including Your Souls), we have the latest Spider-Man film. I didn’t see Far From Home in theater, partly because Mek didn’t want to, partly because I’ve really been feeling the Marvel burnout this year. Still, I did enjoy this one. I continue to really like Tom Holland as Spider-Man, and not just because he hurts so pretty; that kid’s been great since Civil War, and obviously won my heart forever with “Umbrella.” Which, yeah, you’ve already seen 76 times, but I just linked the video, so now you have to watch it for the 77th time. Those are the rules.

This is a decent follow-up to Endgame, a solid balance of humor and action and Feels. I’m happy that the film spent at least a little time addressing the consequences of the Blip, though I can’t in good conscience say that “blip” with a straight face. We’re not . . . we’re not really going to keep calling it that, are we? (We should never, ever stop saying “the Peter Tingle,” though, because that shit’s hilarious.) I’ll admit, what I want more than anything is a character drama and/or missing person detective story that takes place in a post-Endgame world, but obviously, that’s something I’ll never get.

The supporting cast is also great: Jake Gyllenhaal appears to be having a blast in this movie, I absolutely adore Zendaya as MJ, and Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are pretty great as the class chaperones. Other than that, I’m honestly not sure how much else I have to say. If comparing to other Spider-Man movies . . . I think I liked Homecoming more, and I know I liked Into the Spider-Verse more. But I also didn’t have any major problems with it, either. If comparing to everything else in the MCU . . . fuck that shit, there’s been like 700 of these movies, and I have things to do. In general, I’d say it’s somewhere upper-middle for me? Not one of the more ambitious or groundbreaking of the Marvel films (yes, I would qualify some as such), but also fairly charming, entertaining throughout, and overall pretty solid.

Triple Scoop Reviews: A Wrinkle in Time, Kong: Skull Island, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

A Wrinkle In Time

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Yes
Grade: Vanilla

I absolutely fell in love with A Wrinkle in Time when I was eleven, but it’s not a particularly easy story to adapt. Like, it’s a SFF children’s book from the early 1960’s that’s heavy on the Christianity, complicated mathematics, weird aliens, and Love; it’s peculiar, is what I’m getting at, and when it comes to kids movies, I feel like Hollywood is often afraid of any real peculiarity. The 2003 TV film adaptation is particularly generic, just utterly lifeless. Ava DuVernay’s 2018 film is, thankfully, a billion times better than that, but I do think it has some issues. Pacing, for one (Charles Wallace’s possession goes far too fast for my liking), but more importantly, I find the movie both visually and tonally disjointed, almost like two different adaptations being sewn together. Neither is bad, exactly, but together, I don’t think they work nearly as well as they could.

For instance, at several points, A Wrinkle in Time does look and sound like what I’d expect from a more generic fantasy film aimed at kids. Some of the dialogue is very on the nose, particularly in regards to love–although considering the source material, that’s not exactly surprising. (This is very much a Power of Love story.) Some of the CGI isn’t great, particularly when Mrs. Whatsit turns into a giant flying leaf-thing, and that whole filler flying sequence with the kids? I don’t know, it feels very . . . expected? Obligatory? I wasn’t crazy about the scene where Meg and Calvin run from the tornado-earthquake thing, either, although I do love that Meg’s the one who figures out how to survive. Also, Mrs. Which’s makeup and especially eyebrows strike me as comical, but, like, not in a good way? (Admittedly, that could just be personal taste, and happily, I have nothing but positive things to say about Mrs. Who’s hair and costumes. They are delightful.)

The thing is, I was okay with most of that because this is a kids movie, and it’s supposed to appeal to them, not my cranky ass old self–but then there are these gorgeous scenes that feel much more sophisticated, like when Meg uses Mrs. Who’s glasses to find her way to the invisible staircase or when Meg finally successfully tessers home. It’s not that these scenes are inappropriate for a kids movie, far from it. But they definitely feel like they belong in a different one: there are these incredibly compelling moments, both visually and narratively, but they feel extremely disconnected when compared to scenes like Kids Whee Around Whilst Atop Lousy CGI Creature.

I do think many of the modern updates and source material deviations work quite well. Updating Mrs. Who’s Big Book of Quotations to include Hamilton is a particularly inspired choice. (And pretty cool for me, personally, as I’d literally just seen the play for the very first time that night.) I miss Aunt Beast, of course, but I completely understand the exclusion of Sandy and Dennys. It’s also pretty great that the Murrays are a multiracial family, and that Meg–brilliant and angry and caring and insecure–is a very fully realized protagonist whose ethnicity is always a part of her characterization but never the only defining factor. I love watching her progress from someone who doesn’t like herself to someone who can acknowledge her strengths and flaws, who can stand up and say she’s worthy of love. My personal favorite microcosm of this is watching Meg finally accept a compliment about her hair. It’s a wonderfully empowering moment, and if I think that as an adult white woman, I can’t imagine how much it might mean to a young black girl.

Storm Reid is excellent in the role: the scene where she first reunites with Chris Pine–also excellent–is particularly well done. I enjoy Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon, too, although 11-Year-Old Carlie is a bit disappointed with how Mrs. Whatsit’s attitude towards Meg has become so disapproving that it borders on adversarial, like, no, she’s nice; she’s a self-sacrificing, exploded star! (This is exactly the sort of thing I mean about Hollywood eliminating weirdness.) Thematically, though, the switch-up definitely works for this particular adaptation, even if it gets a bit repetitive for my tastes.

All in all, I like A Wrinkle in Time and suspect I would’ve loved it as a kid, which is obviously the most important thing. I just can’t shake the feeling that overall, it’s a B movie which easily, easily could have been an A.

Kong: Skull Island

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Definitely
Grade: Strawberry

So, this was okay. I might’ve liked it more if I had some nostalgia to pull from, but I didn’t grow up watching any of the King Kong movies. As is, I think this one has a great cast and a strong start but a much weaker second half.

What delighted me about Skull Island is that, initially, it almost felt like a heist movie. You know, it had that whole “let’s get the crew together” segment where we’re introduced to all our main players–and a surprising number of them really felt like characters who could easily serve as protagonists. Like, Corey Hawkins is not just the lead scientist but also our introduction to the main story. Tom Hiddleston is the smooth, ex-military tracker extraordinaire. (And, you know. Tom Hiddleston.) Brie Larson is, well, the Girl (she’s a photojournalist and spunky!), while Toby Kebbel is easily the most well-drawn of the good guy soldiers, the only one who doesn’t feel like a red shirt waiting to happen. It’s fun because it really gives you a sense of “oh shit, who’s gonna make it out of this alive,” which doesn’t always happen with action movies.

And some of the action itself is pretty great. The scene where King Kong just starts killing the shit out of the helicopters left and right is crazy fun. There’s a lot of amusing dialogue, mostly from those soldiers I mentioned, and even the blatant implausibility of this island is kinda delightful. Like, an absolutely ludicrous storm-shield? Sure, why not?

But Skull Island heavily starts falling apart for me as soon as John C. Reilly comes into the picture. Which bums me out because I like Reilly in plenty of things, but the choice here to play this traumatized WWII pilot who’s been stuck on this island for almost 30 years as “hilariously loopy” is, IMO, a pretty poor one. Another poor choice is killing the Japanese pilot offscreen so that only the white dude gets to speak Japanese and wield a katana. Like, come on, dudes. It doesn’t help that the indigenous, non-white people who live on this island don’t talk, like, at all; instead, it’s Reilly’s character who provides all the exposition, which a) not great, and b) is way too lengthy. All the time we spend on this guy is time I’d rather be spending on the other less frustrating characters.

Because that’s my other big problem here: after such a promising start, most of the cast is stuck with almost nothing to do. Killing off Toby Kebbel so early could work–like, shit, I expected him to make it to the third act, at least–but then Corey Hawkins completely fades away into the background, leaving us with only Hiddleston and Larson as our protagonists, and they are Nilla Wafer bland, like, the script just gives them nothing. Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson’s turn to the Ahab Dark Side is . . . fine, I guess, but what could’ve been a good-if-expected arc ends up so damn cheesy, particularly considering the many, many slow-mo shots of his Vengeance Eyes.

A few more random notes:

A. Seriously, the slow-mo in this movie is ridiculous. I outright laughed when I definitely wasn’t supposed to.

B. A lot of this music is my jam, but man, this is a soundtrack that really, really wants you to remember this movie is set in the 1970’s. Honestly, I think the only surprise here is that Edwin Starr’s “War” doesn’t pop up.

C. Brie Larson’s character may be a walking Nilla Wafer with a camera, but boy, does she have some of the best reaction faces while King Kong is murdering all the helicopters. Side note: you can always tell if a helicopter will explode upon crashing based on which cast members are sitting inside it.

D. Finally, one positive thing I will say about Skull Island is that a few characters live who I definitely thought were toast. Three of the soldiers (the young guy, the funny guy, and Pillboi from The Good Place) all make it, as well as Corey Hawkins and the Asian biologist/only other woman on the expedition. (It’s a pretty minor win, though, considering how little she actually does in this movie.) Shea Whigham, sadly, does not, because I don’t think he’s ever survived anything I’ve seen him in. (His death is especially sad here, since he goes for a self-sacrifice moment that 100% fails to work.) And Marc Evan Jackson–also from The Good Place–was clearly doomed for death the moment he expressed his shock that famous photojournalist Mason Weaver was, gasp, a woman–but even he managed to surprise me by just how ludicrously dumb his death was, like, rather than go with Tom Hiddleston’s group trying to get off the island, he instead goes with the soldiers who are planning to directly confront King Kong. Like, what? What? WHAT?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Only mild ones
Grade: Chocolate

Yes, I have finally watched Into the Spider-Verse, and loved it, thank God. I did not want to be the asshole writing about what a letdown it was. ItSV is funny and clever and moving without ever being cloying. It was pretty awesome to finally get a Spider-Man movie not starring Peter Parker, and of course, we got several Spider-Man iterations here: Gwen Stacey is fun, and Peter B. Parker and Spider-Man Noir just crack me up. (Spider-Ham is amusing, too, in a cracktastic, “wow, you really went there” sort of way.) But Miles Morales, especially, just makes for a great lead, not to mention it’s pretty cool to hear him speak Spanish while just going about his day. With the exception of Xhosa in Black Panther, I feel like it’s rare to hear superheroes on the big screen speak anything other than English. Fictional alien languages, sure, but the second most commonly spoken language in this country? Not so much.

My only real problem with this movie is the barrage of tubby jokes at Peter B. Parker’s expense. I don’t know that it bothers me as much as Fat Thor in Endgame, but I’m honestly not sure why: the basic joke, after all (a hero gains a bunch of weight after his life goes to shit, and everyone cracks wise about it for the next two hours), is pretty much the same. Is it because this is a cartoon, a medium where I’ve just become numb to the rampant fat phobia? Is it because I didn’t see this in theater with a bunch of strangers chuckling around me while I tried to melt into my chair? Or am I simply giving Into the Spider-Verse a little more leeway because I just like the film more? One way or another, though, I was disappointed with this aspect of the film.

Other than that, I really loved this movie. The animation, of course, is just outstanding, imaginative and innovative and so, so colorful. And there were all these little moments I really enjoyed, like the scene where Miles gets ready to jump off a high-rise, then abruptly runs downstairs and finds a much shorter building to practice from? That shit cracked me up. I thought the scene where Miles’s Dad talks to him through his bedroom door was well-done, too, not to mention all the various “get up” moments. And, of course, the whole soundtrack, up to and very much including “Spidey-Bells (A Hero’s Lament).”

It is my favorite. Chris Pine is kinda my favorite. I have listened to this song, like, A LOT.

Triple Scoop Reviews: Captain Marvel, Cast a Deadly Spell, and Bad Times at the El Royale

Captain Marvel

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other (Theater)
Spoilers: Not really
Grade: Chocolate

Well, I finally did it; I left my house and got my ass down to the movie theater for the first time in, like, a bunch of months. I confess, I don’t know exactly where Captain Marvel fits in my Ultimate Marvel Movie Ranking, but I had a pretty good time: Brie Larson is a joy to watch, she has amazing buddy cop chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, and I really like her friendship with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). I know some people were really into Carol/Maria, though personally, I can’t say I ship it myself. I didn’t quite see that type of chemistry, and besides, I’m (unsurprisingly) ecstatic that Captain Marvel a) features an important friendship between two women, and b) doesn’t waste time on a needless romantic subplot. That all being said, should Carol end up with, say, Nebula or Valkyrie in later films? I’m saying, I could be here for that.

I do feel like Captain Marvel starts a bit rough. I’m not totally sure why, either, just that I wasn’t super engaged with the first, say, 20 minutes of the movie? The second Carol lands on Earth, though, the whole story comes alive. Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are comedy gold; I particularly enjoy seeing a younger, happier, cat-loving Nick Fury. Obviously, Goose is fantastic, too. And actually, I really like all the supporting players: Ben Mendelsohn steals half the scenes he’s in, Annette Bening’s character, Dr. Lawson, goes in a pretty neat direction, and I always enjoy seeing Agent Coulson pop up. Although. Whatever they did to his eyebrows? No. Just no.

What I really like about this one, I think, is that it’s just a fun movie with a badass female lead. There’s often so much pressure on women-led films to not only be flawless but also Significant; like, if the films themselves aren’t Perfect Feminist Victories, then they’re automatic failures that only prove how this “trend” of gender-flipped and/or women-dominated films are unnecessary, a PC ploy, etc. But that’s crap for a lot of reasons: for one, every damn movie has flaws or things that could be improved; for another, a film can be significant without having to be Significant. And for the most part, Captain Marvel strikes me as a fun, easy-breezy installment in the Marvel machine; it’s another superhero movie that just so happens to have a badass lady at the forefront. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly groundbreaking material; I would say that it’s a lot of fun, and it would’ve meant a lot to me especially if I could’ve seen it as a kid.

A few final notes:

A. Gemma Chan doesn’t have a ton to do here, but I like her and I’m interested in seeing more from her in other films.

B. I’m a 90’s kid, so obviously, I’m all about this soundtrack. Garbage! Hole! No Doubt! TLC! Surely I’d buy it if I didn’t already own a good chunk of the songs.

C. Any superhero who’s dressed in a NIN shirt for half the movie is a superhero I’d like to see more of.

D. I really do like Brie Larson a whole lot in this. I’ve loved her since Envy Adams and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and I’m eager to see her in Avengers: Endgame . . . even if I’m still not super pumped to see Avengers: Endgame itself.

E. There are lots and lots of great lines in this movie, but without a doubt, the most powerful one for me was “I have nothing to prove to you.” That’s already on a T-shirt, right? I need to buy it immediately.

Cast a Deadly Spell

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other (HBO)
Spoilers: Yeah
Grade: Strawberry

Look, I was five, mostly, in 1991, so there were a few things I missed out on. For instance, did you know that HBO made a fantasy-noir TV movie about H.P “Philip” Lovecraft, a private eye who refuses to use magic in a world where everyone else does? It’s true! Fred Ward plays our shamus; meanwhile, Clancy Brown plays a gangster, Julianne Moore plays the femme fatale, and David Warner the rich, shady client. And it’s not just witches and warlocks, either; there are unicorns, gremlins, vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, demons, voodoo zombies, and, of course, the Old Ones. This is full-on urban fantasy, set in a noir backdrop, and I can’t believe I had to wait almost 30 years to discover it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean this movie is any good. Oh God, no. There’s a reason film noir is so easy to parody: hardboiled dialogue is tricky to pull off naturally, and I’m not convinced Fred Ward quite manages it. The script has a number of issues, from problematic queer rep to problematic racist shit to forgetting the basic principles of Chekhov’s magical gun. And the special effects are . . . well, let’s just say HBO has come a long way in 30 years.

But Christ, I’d love the opportunity to remake the hell out of this. I mean, I’d change a LOT. Our detective absolutely does not need to be named Lovecraft; seriously, fuck that guy. I’m keeping the Old Ones, sure, but HP goes. I’d also prefer our gumshoe had a better reason for abstaining from magic than condescending moral superiority. Everything about the queer couple (the gay guy is fat, sweaty, and pathetic; the trans woman is attacked both verbally and violently by our hero, both die badly, etc.) must fuck right off. It’d really be for the best if all the zombie slaves weren’t black, and if a virgin is going to save the day by losing her virginity before she can be sacrificed, it would help if a) she had more agency, b) wasn’t underage, and c) was actually allowed to be the hero. Instead, it’s the schmucky, adulterous, very adult cop who’s called a “hero” for having sex with her.

Still, if I could write an adult hardboiled noir urban fantasy series with or without Lovecraftian undertones for HBO today? Oh my God, that is the dream. Until then, I’ll just have to console myself with the fact that Hypolite (a witch, Lovecraft’s landlady, and presumed dead meat character) actually lives. Also? There’s a sequel. Starring DENNIS HOPPER.

I take it back. That’s the fucking dream right there.

Bad Times at the El Royale

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: ALL OF THEM
Grade: Vanilla

Man. I wanted to like this so bad.

It starts out great. The movie has a fantastic premise, a talented cast, and atmosphere in spades. I like Cynthia Erivo a lot, as well as Lewis Pullman and Jon Hamm. Hamm’s whole section–where he discovers 80 bazillion bugs in his motel room, as well as all the two-way mirrors–is particularly creepy. Unfortunately, the film also starts falling apart shortly after he dies. Specifically, I think it starts falling apart when Chris Hemsworth arrives on scene, which feels sacrilegious to say, I know. But it’s not an acting problem. The third act just desperately falls short of all the movie’s potential.

One problem, I think, is that cult leader Billy Lee (Hemsworth) doesn’t feel important enough to be this film’s chief antagonist. Creepy shirtless dancing aside, his presence and placement in this story feels a bit too random; he should just be one of the strangers at the motel with a secret agenda, not a Big Bad who strolls in thirty minutes before the end of the movie. He is, honestly, a little too boring to hold the whole third act. This story’s real Big Bad ought to be Management; they’re the villains that tie everyone’s stories together, or should, anyway. But Management is only briefly discussed, a vaguely nefarious non-entity who drops out of the movie entirely, presumably because the writers don’t know who or what the hell Management really is.

Or maybe they do know but don’t care–there’s something of a smug “we don’t have to tell you all the answers” vibe to this movie. Who’s on the film reel, for instance, and hey, I actually agree with that: we don’t need to know which famous dead person was filmed. Still, there’s a limit to how many times a movie can cheekily avoid giving you a straight answer before you wanna smack it right in the face, and Bad Times at the El Royale well surpassed that limit. Not to mention, there are just so many dropped plot threads by the end of the movie that you know it can’t all be intentional.

For instance, who murdered bank robber Nick Offerman? The movie sets it up as a mystery–we never see the killer’s face–but presumably it’s the third partner we barely glimpse in flashback, someone who’s only referred to as “the kid.” And wouldn’t you know it, desk clerk Miles (Pullman) certainly fits the bill: he’s roughly the right age, still working at this dodgy ass motel for some reason, and keeps trying to confess something that isn’t all the pervy spy shit to Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Except it turns out that Miles is not that guy, considering he’s literally the only character in this movie who actually thinks Flynn’s a priest–and, well, that’s it. The movie sets up a mystery in the opening act and then promptly forgets about it for the rest of the film. Also! Why the hell set a movie in a place where a literal line divides characters in different states if you’re not going to prominently use said line in an interesting way during some awesome climactic scene? Or, shit, at least figure out a way to tie it into some goddamn themes.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes, Bad Times at the El Royale is easily 20 minutes longer than it needs to be, with too much time spent on lengthy or unnecessary flashbacks. (Case in point, Miles’s incredibly last minute Vietnam War scene.) Despite all this, though, the movie is still totally watchable, especially if you, like me, are a sucker for these kinds of stories. Unfortunately, that only makes it more disappointing when what started out so promising turns out to be such a hot mess by the end.

Coming Soon-Ish: Blondes, Clowns, and Apocalypses (Including Ragnarok!)

Thor: Ragnarok

You’ve all seen this, of course. The whole teaser is fun, like, there’s so much going on: holy shit Mjolnir, and all the goddamn iconic hats and headpieces, and the teeny-tiny glimpses of Idris Elba and Karl Urban. Not to mention, I can’t decide who I’d rather cosplay: Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, or Jeff Goldblum.

But it’s Thor’s absolutely perfect reaction to seeing Hulk in the ring that completely sold me on this movie. I figured I’d probably watch it in theaters, having seen the prior two Thor movies there . . . but I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Now I’m like, “Wait, HOW long do I have to wait for this movie? I NEED JOY IN MY LIFE.”

Atomic Blonde

Speaking of joy in my life.

This trailer looks immensely fun. Beating someone in the back of a car with a shoe really oughta be on my list of life goals. There are so many awesome looking fight scenes here, and Charlize Theron seems particularly badass. I’m all for her and James McAvoy having a comedic dynamic, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t actually take a romantic turn: she seems way too badass for him, and I’m much more interested in the Atomic Blonde/French Operative ship. (Please don’t actually die in that scene where it totally looks like you die, Sofia Boutella.)

I could definitely watch this one in theaters. It looks pretty great.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Warnings: Red-band trailer, mostly for a bunch of curse words that I’m absolutely sure you’ve never heard or spoken yourself before.

This is . . . interesting. It appears someone had the idea to pair Peak Samuel L. Jackson with Peak Ryan Reynolds and wrap them together with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard. It’s . . . actually kinda spectacular, really, although I’m probably only so-so on the trailer itself. Some of the jokes made me laugh (particularly at “I hope they kill him; I really do” and “this guy single-handedly ruined the word ‘motherfucker'”), but I’m not entirely convinced that the joke won’t run out of steam in the first 20 minutes. Interested, but probably as a rental.

IT

On first blush, it looks pretty decent. Hard to judge Pennywise, considering he doesn’t actually talk in this clip. I don’t mind them going a more traditionally scary clown route–like, you aren’t going to surpass Tim Curry, so don’t even try to imitate him–but Pennywise absolutely must have an actual personality, so it can’t all be dark makeup and super quick monster crawls in the sewers. Little Georgie’s pretty creepy, though.

One way or another, I’ll see this. It is my favorite Stephen King novel (except for, you know, THE SCENE) and I get endless joy out of how simultaneously both brilliant and atrocious the 1990 miniseries is. But I’m not quite pumped about this just yet. Mostly, I wanna compare the terrible adults from the miniseries to the adults in this remake . . . but sadly, I won’t get to for a while, since we’re saving them for the sequel, a decision I completely understand but am a little bit disappointed by regardless.

Finally . . . The Bad Batch

I have virtually no idea what the hell this is about, but it’s colorful and weird and I’m interested. (I still need to watch A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I’m so behind on all the must-see horror films.) I don’t think I know the actress playing the MC, but I do recognize Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves and Giovanni Ribisi, and hey apparently Diego Luna’s in here somewhere, and–holy shit, that’s Jim Carrey?!

Meanwhile, IMDb is giving me this synopsis: “a dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.”

Yeah. I can’t pretend I’m not curious.

“Keeping You At A Disadvantage Is An Advantage I Intend to Keep.”

Mekaela and I chose to celebrate New Years Eve with the things we love best: cookies, tacos, caffeinated beverages that may or may not have had booze in them, and–of course–movies, the first of which ended up being Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

buds

We began this movie in 2016, but since it took eons for anything to actually happen, it didn’t end until 2017, and thus became our first movie of the year.

You may have picked up on this, being the clever readers I know you are, but I didn’t really care for the film.

Continue reading

Coming Soon-Ish: Cowboys, Babysitters, and The Joker’s Crappy Origin Story

The Magnificent Seven

So, this looks cool. It’s not the all-girl version of The Magnificent Seven I was dreaming of, but Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Matt Bomer, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio,     and some big ass guns? Could be fun. Plus, while this appears to take place in one of those universes that are populated by 40-men-for-every-1-woman, it also seems that our sole main female character will have some action-y stuff to do, so, yay! I doubt she’s one of the titular seven, and it’d be really nice for a western or action film to have more than one (or even two) important female characters, but still, one woman is one more than I seem to remember from the original Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai. So, er, progress? (Unless I’m misremembering, of course. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen either film.)

Also, “I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge” is a pretty great line.

Cell

Well. That looks spectacularly bad.

Here’s the thing about Cell: I read this book back when it first came out in 2006, and it was super creepy (until it suddenly wasn’t–I had problems with the second half) because I was late to the cell phone game and didn’t get one until, oh, maybe the following year? So I’d look up from my book on the bus and everyone would be on their phones, and I’d be like, Shit, the zombies are here, THE ZOMBIES ARE HEEEEEERE. By 2016, though, pretty much everyone and their grandmother and their grandmothers’ dogs have cell phones, which in theory would make the story even more scary but somehow makes it feel obsolete instead. There isn’t really any lingering ‘cell phone causes brain cancer or whatever else’ dread going around these days. The whole premise just feels a little silly.

More importantly, though, this just looks like a terrible movie. My only real interest in watching it is as a possible candidate for next year’s Bloody Hearts.

The Killing Joke

I actually just read this comic for the first time the other night. It’s generally considered to be one of the best Batman graphic novels ever. Naturally, I hated it.

I want to be interested in this. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are involved, so that’s a huge plus. I’m all about R-rated animated movies, and the attention to detail in this is exquisite. I mean, damn. This looks to be a spot-on recreation of the comic. But I guess that’s the problem because I really, really did not like this comic. Between the abhorrent treatment of female characters, Joker’s sad sack backstory, and Gordon’s S&M gear at the circus . . . yeah. I liked one of the ideas (if not the execution) and the last page. That’s about all.

Probably going to skip this one and watch Under the Red Hood again instead. Oooh, or Batman vs. Robin. I’ve been meaning to get around to that.

Approaching the Unknown

This looks interesting. It’s hard to know exactly where it’s going to go, and I’m guessing it’s the kind of movie you don’t want to know too much about before going in. Mark Strong, Luke Wilson, space, and mysterious, mind-trippy stuff are enough to catch my eye . . . but I have a couple of concerns.

One: my tolerance for ‘am I going crazy’ stories is pretty minimal, so while some mindfuckery is fine, I can’t have that be the driving question for the entire movie. (Also, I’d deeply prefer it if the answer wasn’t yes.) Two: I’m having a real hard time buying the idea that one guy would be sent alone to Mars, especially if it’s not supposed to be a routine, ‘we’ve done this a billion times already’ kind of trip. I can generally buy all sorts of ridiculous premises, as long as I know about them up front, and admittedly, I don’t know much about NASA that Packing to Mars and Armageddon didn’t teach me–but a lone wolf astronaut in space? Pretty much stretches my credulity to the limit.

Still. I have to admit I’m way more curious about this one than, say, Snowden or the next Jason Bourne movie. (I watched trailers for both but couldn’t manage to drum up enough reaction about either of them to bother jotting down.)

And finally . . . Adventures in Babysitting

Oh, what the shit is this?

Apparently, the Disney Channel has heartlessly decided to mine the depths of my childhood by remaking Adventures in Babysitting, and I mean “remaking” in the loosest possible sense. Godamn vultures.

Look, it’s been forever since I’ve seen the original Adventures in Babysitting, and fine, it probably doesn’t hold up all that well, but this . . . this . . . travesty just makes me sad. Come on, Disney Channel! Does your TV movie have Elizabeth Shue rocking this dress while dancing to “Then He Kissed Me,” or Bradley Whitford as a sleazy boyfriend with terrible excuses, or Vincent D’Onofrio playing Thor (well, sort of)?

I think not, Disney Channel. I think not.

And the Great Horror Remake Shall Be . . .

Last week, I asked (and in some cases, begged) you to pick which classic horror movie you’d most like to see remade. It turned out to be a pretty tough battle, but in the end a victor arose.

saw

Quentin Tarantino remaking Saw!

Now I need to need cast this. Who are we thinking in the room — shall we stick to standard Tarantino regulars, like Christoph Waltz and Tim Roth, perhaps? And who should be Jigsaw? I mean, it has to be Samuel L. Jackson, right? Or would he be far too obvious? Well, that’s the problem remaking movies with a Big Twist: it’s kind of already ruined for you, unless you change the twist, of course. But the original had a pretty good one.

Coming in at a close second place: Guillermo del Toro remaking Suspiria. The bronze medal, meanwhile, must be split between Tarsem Singh’s take on A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Coen brothers’ take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Total Loser Award is surprisingly given to no one because everybody got at least one vote, even Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, who I feared for the most.

Honestly, I could probably watch all of these remakes. David Lynch doing House of Wax would probably be my own personal least favorite, knowing that Lynch rides the line for me between Awesomely Disturbing and Unpleasantly Icky. If I personally had to pick one, though . . . yeah, it would probably be Wes Anderson doing I Know What You Did Last Summer. I doubt it would be the most successful of the proposed reboots (I suspect del Toro could do some pretty fabulous things with Suspiria) and would probably function best as a dark comedy instead of a true slasher . . . but man, I want to see it anyway. The whole idea of it just delights me to no end.

Well, that’s it for our annual Halloween-themed poll, everyone. As always, thanks for playing!

Coming Soon-Ish: Final Girls, Boy Scouts, and Quentin Tarantino

The Final Girls

Okay, so, this movie was basically made for me. It’s like Scream meets Last Action Hero, or The Purple Rose of Cairo. I know some people are tired of the whole meta-horror comedy thing, but what can I say? That shit’s where I live, and I’m actually pretty interested in the whole mother/daughter storyline here. It sort of adds a new angle, and I think it’s awesome when parodies like this have something more going on underneath, something with a little heart. Whether it’ll be effective or not, I couldn’t say, but I’m interested regardless.

My main concern here is that this trailer’s giving away all the best parts for free. (“I want chainsaws and big ass knives, and I want them now.” YES. Excellent, Nina Dobrev.) But hopefully not. I want to see this, and I want it to be good.

The Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse

Unfortunately, I’m a lot less into this particular horror comedy. (And pretty NSFW, by the way.) I want to be excited about it — I mean, come on, it’s Boy Scouts vs Zombies!  — but after that trailer, I’m just like, Okay, so we’ve got one token hot chick badass, plus three stereotypically pathetic nerd boys, and some huge zombie tits. Uh, yay?

Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this movie will surprise me by being totally awesome. But my interest just took a pretty sharp nosedive.

Victor Frankenstein

I’m not sure what tone I expected Victor Frankenstein to have, exactly, but I’ll admit . . . that wasn’t it. Honestly, I could still totally watch this movie — I’m kind of digging James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe’s lighthearted banter — but at this point, I think it’s probably for the best that I keep my expectations low because it’s kind of looking like a hot mess. Although maybe that’s not fair. Maybe I’m simply judging it on some of the weirder monster shit, which immediately reminded me of Van Helsing — NOT one of my favorites.

Also, when McAvoy says, “It’s . . . alive!” I’m like, “What is? The Creature, or Harry Potter’s Stupid Hair?” I mean, look at that mop. It’s completely ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as Daniel Radcliffe’s current actual beard. I say this knowing that I have green/black/blonde/blue hair right now and probably no right to speak to anyone, but . . . no. Just no, honey. You have lovely features, and the razor is your friend.

The Witch

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here (other than, you know, super spooky shit), but I feel like this movie might have come into being by somebody watching The Village and thinking, “Fuck you, Shyamalan. I’m taking this shit and making it EERIE.”

There is just a ton of creepy imagery packed into this trailer, and some of it looks pretty disturbing. I wouldn’t mind a better idea of the actual plot, but I could potentially check this one out.

The Keeping Room

This actually also looks pretty interesting, too. Westerns (like most genres that aren’t romantic comedies or family dramas) rarely have multiple lead female characters, but here there appear to be three, defending themselves and their home against Sam Worthington . . . and yes, while Sam Worthington is almost always an automatic strike against the film these days, well, who knows? Maybe playing a villain will give him a spark of personality.

Either way, I’m kind of into this. I’d love to see more feminist westerns, and some of the cinematography looks absolutely stunning.

And finally . . . The Hateful Eight

Now notice how many women are in this western? Yup. That’d be one. She also doesn’t say a damn thing, either, and I don’t know if that’s because her character’s mute or just isn’t worthy of speaking in this trailer. (I could Google, but, like, effort.) Then again, I did laugh pretty hard at all her waving hello and pantomiming death, so it’s not all bad. (Just . . . it’s possibly not a coincidence that Kill Bill and Death Proof — you know, the ones where the female characters easily outnumber the men — are some of my favorite Tarantino films.)

Still, let’s not even pretend that I’m going to skip Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. Obviously I’m going to watch it. The setup looks like a lot of fun, and there are a ton of actors I really enjoy, although I’m basically bucking myself up now for Walton Goggins’s inevitable demise. (I just love the actor so. Surely, I’ve doomed him by my adoration.)

Could a ticket to The Hateful Eight be a Christmas present to myself? Maybe. Sure beats The Polar Express, anyway.

*shudders*

Worst. Christmas Movie. EVER. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself lucky. It is the schmaltziest crap of all time. Stay away. STAY AWAY.