Category Archives: Why the Hate?

“Alien: Covenant” disappoints on many levels

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As I left the theater, I honestly gave a small giggle. Once I got into my car, the giggle became a laugh. Then, as I drove to my house, the laughter just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe how absurd and dumbfounded this feature was that I found myself laughing in mockery over what strange choices director Ridley Scott took. At least when “Prometheus” came out, Scott had the upper hand in starting a fresh timeline. My theory is thanks to those who complained about the unhinging questions and mysteries from that movie, we ended up with “Alien: Covenant.” A film meant to pacifier fans who complained about Scott’s prequel. Instead, I feel those pacifiers have been rejected in the process.

I should point out another film would have taken place after “Prometheus” called “Paradise Lost” and I was rather intrigued to see where it would lead. From what I recall, unless its the “Mandela Effect” kicking in, we would have seen Elizabeth Shaw’s character visit the Engineer world and seek her questions of why this and that. Either that concept was tossed when writer Damon Lindelof left or Scott had alternate plans. After all, he did say there would be no xenomorphs in the next feature and then contradicted himself by saying they would have aliens of a similar breed. Honestly, I’d rather get my opinion out of the way now considering how confusing it is to look into the behind the scenes stuff already.

The plot is very close, if not, and somewhat similar to the first “Alien” movie. A group of people get a distress call and go to investigate, they find a strange stuff there, one of the members gets attacked by a creature that impregnates him with an alien and so forth. Scott tries to rectify that by doing some new stuff like introducing the ship’s crew in the midst of an action scene. But when casualties happen, like one of the scientists die in the wreckage, we feel little to no empathy because we just met these people. In previous movies, at least we had time and development in understanding who we are with. Here, I could care less.

The spacecraft named Covenant holds a crew on a mission for colonization. That means, we spent with couples instead of scientists. Even when the crew of Prometheus was doing things like taking helmets off in oxygen laden alien ships, I wouldn’t mind it too much because they were observers and examining things. Here, when I see normal people walk around on an alien planet without something crucial as a space helmet, it begs the question if they really think they got a chance at living or have a death wish. And when your characters are so dumb enough to a point they slip on bloody floors or shoot alien creatures inside a ship near explosive equipment, it gets irritating to wonder if anyone has any brains. Even the Robinson Family on the “Lost In Space” series knew much better than these people.

I can’t remember a single character that was memorable or did anything significant. Sure, Katherine Waterston’s character is given this Ripley-style arch where they place her in the background and build her up, but it doesn’t work. All we know to her character is that she is suffering from a loss and you don’t feel the building emotion of her recovering once her big action scene kicks in. Most of these crew members feel like the red shirts you would see on Star Trek. The minute you see them, you know someone is going to act dumb and die from their consequences. Even the captain is so miffed that what happens to him later on is so baffling that it makes you think why would anyone make such poor choices.

So is there anything worth sparing? For one, Michael Fassbender has proven to be very unique to this “prequel” trilogy. He does double duty as android Walter who seeks to serve the crew and android David who plans to one up mankind in his own right. Being a fan of Blade Runner, there is a running theme of creation vs. creator that is reflected here. Instead of creation asking for something impossible to achieve, it seeks to outdo creator by means of making something in his own image. It is here the character of David is brought to creepy levels that overpower those of HAL 9000. The idea if he is created in the most perfect way possible and wishes to let humanity die on its imperfect nature. A typical trope but it’s helped with the character of Walter who is complete opposite and let nature take its course.

Even if I said most of the crew are forgettable, Danny McBride is surprisingly engaging here. His character Tennessee is more laid back and less manic compared to his other comedic roles. McBride tries to channel his actions like he is the next Kurt Russell when it comes to overpowering computer restrictions and comes handy in key action scenes near the end. Considering how I’m used to seeing him in raunchy comedies, I’m very speechless to see how great his acting is here. When he looses someone dear, we see him react in broken manner that shows how much he is giving it his all.

On the whole, did I completely hate this movie? For the most part, I’d say maybe the first and second acts where fine. When it was doing its own thing and trying to follow on the questions “Prometheus” left, that’s when I felt it worked. The final 20 minutes, on the other hand, try way too hard to repeat what made “Alien” so enjoyable. “Alien” was about claustrophobia and survive in the unknown space frontier. Here, all of that gets revisited in a section of the movie that could have been so easily cut out and you wouldn’t have noticed it. I won’t go into spoilers about what happens in the final third, but if you know what happens at the end of EVERY ALIEN MOVIE, then I’m certain will expect that it will go in THIS DIRECTION as well. But wait, there is a bonus twist tossed in that is sure to throw viewers for a loop but even we can see that coming a mile away.

How did one of the most unique and mysterious of features get turned into something akin to “Friday the 13th?” The beauty and sublime are replaced by trope characters repeating things that have been done light-years before. There was never a sense of dread or fear. I was never scared at all by these CGI monsters and never felt like I was on the edge of my seat during the action scenes. It’s hard for me to chalk off if Ridley Scott was giving too much freedom with the franchise or the keys to the liquor cabinet during press interviews. I feel bad for saying that because Scott is capable of doing a good movie and this shows it. There is much eye candy to behold, but the story that goes with it doesn’t match up. If 20th Century Fox is considering another installment, my best recommendation is to really overlook what has become right before they hand over the blank check budget.

“Madea Halloween” scarily unfunny

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I think I just saw a movie. Then again, I’m not sure if I should call it a movie. The more the minutes lingered, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” felt more like an out of body experience desperate to find at least some humor. One joke to hang onto despite a soulless effort to make use of the holiday. Tyler Perry stated in interviews he’s not a fan of ghosts, witches or anything creepy crawly. A shame as the trailers advertise scenes of everyone’s favorite granny punching clowns and running away from zombies. If one thinks this will be a big “monster mash,” you will be disappointed to find its really a lame pumpkin smash.

The main plot relies on Brian Simmons (Tyler Perry) and his inability to control his bratty daughter. He crushes his daughter’s plan to go out and party at a nearby fraternity by having Madea watch her. As expected,  Brown’s daughter sneaks out and the granny is not happy. Armed with her two friends and brother, Madea seeks justice in a plot that really goes nowhere. I shouldn’t be surprised as that tends to happen in most of these movies. There seems to be a spark of an idea but somehow gets lost in a sea of meandering subplots and running jokes.

First, we get the fraternity and their big Halloween bash as every teen acts like a stereotype from Animal House or a watered down gang that boozes on beer and sex. While we don’t see any beer glasses touch lips, the writing for these characters gets irradiating with a one sided view on the modern teenager. The kind who is constantly saying a bunch of suffer talk in a masculine way, but acts all tough. The only time the fraternity got interesting is when they try to wise up (say if, someone under-aged appears at their party) and take responsibility. But even then, this action would immediately backfire when they decide to do something completely irresponsible like intense pranking.

This leads into one of the biggest problems of the whole movie. It seems to be really centered on the idea that a prank gone too far can have serious consequences. And honestly, I’m ok with stuff like that. The way its being handled is what I can’t tolerate. Without spoiling too much, certain characters will go out of their way to do these elaborate pranks against each other wither it be staging a zombie apocalypse or the death of a main character. I understand the morale value behind this subplot, but it wears the welcome too much. It even trails into an unnecessary 15 minutes near the end which completely contradicts the “other” main message.

And that is the other big problem I have which is the main theme of parenting. Most of the Madea movies center on a certain theme from second chances to dysfunctional families. “Madea Halloween” tries to examine the idea of what is good parenting and bad parenting. But it gets a set of mixed messages when you have jokes about how to beat a child up wrapped around a climax when Brian finally gets the idea of how to discipline your kid. I’m all for the idea of show and even discussing the limits of child discipline. Yet everything goes back and forth on key jokes like Brian talking to Uncle Joe about a time when Joe tossed him off the roof to learn a lesson. Material like this is not funny and bogs down the message to the point it will feel like a beating to the head or exhaust itself.

I can’t remember a single character I liked from this movie. They were all annoying, irradiating and even some that got under my skin a lot. Madea was never funny or interesting to me. I get the reason why people love this character, but I always find her to be too mean spirited at times. And it doesn’t help when you have her force out this morale message of kids respecting parents when immediately afterwards has a entire sequence when she does something mean to others. I know the purpose why she does (I can’t say without spoiling), but it sort of goes against those moments when the character has a heartfelt morale to say.

As for the others, I really couldn’t care less. Uncle Joe is the perverted senior that’s always trying to say some kind of catchphrase or dirty joke. Aunt Bam has this running gag about being able to legal smoke marijuana which gets old. Hattie is the comic relief with the annoying voice that keeps mispronouncing words just for a gag. The biggest offender I found was really Brian and his daughter. I get they are trying to build this arc over how he can’t manage to connect or even maintain control of his daughter. But when we get to their moment when they recoup, it feels manipulated after a slew of exposition on why Brian is inept over taking charge. And for someone his age, Brian should at least be able to know his daughter this well.

There were only two times I actually did snicker during “A Madea Halloween.” Once at a gag when Bam steals candy from kids and a comment from Uncle Joe about Madea having a prostate. Those jokes only worked because of the delivery of the humor and the ideas behind these two jokes. Everything else I recall is material about being harsh on child discipline and fraternity boys learning responsibility the hard way. There is nothing else I can remember that was remotely investing outside of the advanced technical work giving us the ability to see three Tyler Perry characters in one shot. I know there is an audience for Madea, but I’m not one of them.

“Boo! A Madea Halloween” left me feeling empty and dumb down to the point my mind felt numb. The morale is mixed between cynical humor and taking responsibility to the point it feels kinda calculated. Tyler Perry said his movies were meant for entertainment and not to be thought too heavily on. My criticism to that is when you force a morale like that amidst jokes of spanking and child beating, there will be mixed signals. There are better things to watch this Halloween season and this movie is no treat. I wouldn’t even recommend a single frame to anyone. The only positive about this whole thing was that I saw this Madea movie at my local cinema on Bargain Tuesday for $6. Because it would have been a whole lot scarier if I paid to see this for full admission price.

New “Ghostbusters” underwhelms with unfunny humor and dull spirits

ghostbusters2016Prior to seeing Paul Feig’s new film, I read an article from the daughter of Harold Ramis. I enjoyed with delight seeing Violet share moments with her father and how much she appreciated the cult phenomenon he created. There were two parts in that piece that got my attention. One where she goes on to say how disappointing it was to see her dad’s likeness not used for “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon. To which Harold replied, “It’s fine. …The cartoon is its own thing.The same way you used to ask if the fans knew I wasn’t really Egon? Well, I’m not. It’s a character. There was a different Superman when I was a kid. Things change. ”

The second part that got my attention was near the end when she mentions the backlash of the new Ghostbusters movie with the principal characters gender swapped. At first she was mad, until the negativity came in. In a response, Violet pleaded to stop using the death of her father as a reason to hate the movie. To which I agree. Because a creator is gone and unable to make his vision, doesn’t give reason to use it as a purpose to hate another’s interpretation. Consider this a public service that just because someone decides to make their version, doesn’t mean it must be shunned. Call this contradicting considering my thoughts of the movie to come later, but if you don’t want to see or bother with this movie, then don’t. But when you criticize and claim you saw something before you have seen it, doesn’t give it the satisfaction it deserves. And while I admit this is not a good movie, its not one to really hate over. Because right now, right across from the laptop I am typing at are two copies of the first movie. One on Blu-ray and the other on DVD. They are on my shelf unharmed and untouched. And even if this new movie tries to erase the continuity of the original, it still exists in the minds of those who love it. Now that I am off my soapbox, let’s break into this.

Even as I type this, I feel really bad for saying that I didn’t find myself enjoying Paul Feig’s take. And personally, there’s a lot of factors to blame here. I could point my finger at Sony for how they tried to make another franchise after losing Spider-Man to Marvel Studios. Its quite clear in the advertising and marketing that they want this to be a big thing. But the problem is that the original 1984 film wasn’t destined to be a huge cultural hit. There was no planned franchise at the time. It was like lightening in a bottle. Once it comes it, it makes a strike on the big screen that can’t be duplicated. They sure tried here, but it falls pale in comparison. Even on its own, I can’t help but pick apart certain plot points and things that really bugged me which I talk about later in.

Another problem I could say is the casting, but even that’s not it. These are all really funny and talented people. I’ve seen Melissa McCarthy in movies like The Heat and she can be really funny. Even thought I wasn’t a fan of Bridesmaids, I admit she was the funniest thing in that movie from her twisted attitude and loud personality. But even here, I felt like she was struggling a bit considering the PG-13 tone this movie is mean to have and the relationships with the characters. The only break out was Kate McKinnon who had this mad scientist personality which was delightful to watch. Kate felt way more animated and seemed like she having way more fun. When Kristen Wigg and Melissa are together, there is more banter than playing off each other. Almost like arguing and that’s in part to what the characters do to each other early on. Nothing said to me, “oh, these two are close friends and I can see them getting along.” The performances were sort of dull and not very interesting. To which I personally blame more the script as opposed to the effort going into it.

The big take away is that the cast and crew really wanted to make a good movie, but it feels like they knew nothing worked because how weak the story was. Basically, it does feel like a rehash of the first movie with similar beats. There are differences here and there to keep it far apart from the original, but nothing stands out. For example, in the first movie, the original crew captures their first ghost and immediately they find the business they created booming greatly. Instead here, once they capture their first ghost, our heroines  get an immediate scolding for no reason. We want to root for these underdogs and see them succeed. That’s what made the first film work, because you felt success was on their side. In this new film, reality intervenes and prevents you from enjoying their success. Now they are being told to keep this supernatural stuff under warps and avoid public panic, when clearly its not even sending a panic. That never made any sense to me.

Another thing that bothered me was the constant use of negative male stereotypes. When watching this new take, I barley remember a point when I recall a male character that actually did some good justice for the girls. In a way, I felt more sorry for them to be surrounded by a cavalcade of jerks, morons and (without giving too much away) delirious fanboys. A prime example is Chris Hemsworth who joins in as their secretary and all he does is just act dumb to them. He doesn’t provide any help and just goes about like a buffoon.  It kept aggravating me because I felt like some better use could have been made out of this character and it didn’t. It was a one note joke that went on for way too long.

Without giving too much away, the villain is certainly the most weakest part of the movie. Neil Casey plays this creepy janitor that plans to bring an end to the world and they try to make it fit into this whole message about bullying. But it doesn’t feel blended in right. I feel its due to how there is no justification for the Ghostbusters crew and how unfairly they get treated. All Neil’s character does is go about and try to motivate the plot, but his moments are so little they could have been cut and replaced with something different. The motivation is not big enough to care for as he mucks his way to the big finale which tries way too hard to please.

The finale in particular tries to be overblown with much effects and spooks, but it goes on for too long. Its like they throw one thing after another just to please viewers of old and new with new monsters and appearances by old faces. However, there is no build up to this big climax. Ghosts come out and start to tear up New York like a giant cookie. Even the choice in ghost designs are uninteresting. In the original, they had these abstract and deformed designs that looked other worldly. In the new version, they feel like floating pedestrians crossed with rejected designs from The Haunted Mansion ride.

This new movie really tries to win fans of the old with Easter eggs and even cameos from characters who were in the original film. But it tries way too hard. Its trapped between trying to do something new for a different generation and appease fans of the old. And a good example are these cameos by the stars from the first film. Some I did find a little cute like Annie Potts and maybe Ernie Hudson. But others suffer either from feeling forced or going against what their original characters represented. One in particular plays this scientists that tries to debunk the girls, but the person who plays him doesn’t fit it. It completely goes against what the original role intended from the first film for someone who believes in paranormal activity.

I’m certain this movie might have it fans and I know really well, this will be an easy movie to hate on. But at the end of day, all these cast and crew members wanted to do was make a good movie. However, a troubled script can’t save the day. I feel really bad for not liking this because I wanted to give this new incarnation a chance. I wanted to walk out of the theater and admit I was wrong about the whole affair. Sadly, that is not that day. Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” is so flawed that I found myself being emotionally taken out of the movie a lot. I wanted to accept what was on screen, but nothing clicked. The jokes were unfunny, the effects were not memorable and the overall experience was just dull and boring. I literally sat there in my seat trying to find a good joke throughout the whole affair. In the end, I only laughed three times. So far, this has been a dull crop of summer blockbusters and I keep hoping something will come along to break the dullness. To which I am sad to say “Ghostbusters” didn’t answer the call very well here.

 

P. S. If you are curious about Violet Ramis’ article, click the link below. I really recommend it. It helped me out.

http://splitsider.com/2016/07/on-my-dad-harold-ramis-and-passing-the-ghostbusters-torch-to-a-new-generation-of-fans/

“Looking Glass” is colorful yet underwhelming

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The sequel no one asked for…and it exists?

Is there really a reason for this sequel to exist? The executives at Disney feel so considering the $1 billion Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” grossed back in 2010. Truly these are different times when one judges success by the box office numbers and not public criticism. That was the old Disney way considering if it wasn’t for the polarizing reaction to “The Sword in the Stone,” we wouldn’t have gotten Walt Disney trying to make “his” version of “The Jungle Book.” On the other hand, Lewis Carol did write two books on Alice’s adventures in the strange Wonderland, so I guess a sequel is needed. However, what we got was an entry that strays farther from the source despite its good intentions to better than the first one.

Mia Wasikowska returns as the curious Alice Kingsleigh who returns from her trip to China, as depicted in an opening which appears like a scene taken from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Not much to say about her character as takes on a spunky attitude and sees life as an adventure. However, her family is in debt as the only means to save her mother’s home is to sell off her ship to the snooty suitor from the first movie (Leo Bill reprising his role) in a possible move of revenge on his part.

Before a deal can be struck, Alice returns to the strange world of Wonder-oh, I’m sorry- UNderland where things are brighter and more colorful compared to the dreary and murkiness of the first film. Director James Bobin (The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted) brings a new variation of the topsy turvy world that appears more whimsical and less grim. Almost every scene has a bright blue sky and only the intense moments have darker shades of black and navy blue. While some practical sets are used, most of the effects are CGI and sadly appear more cartoony and less lifelike. Sometimes, I feel actors get lost on a green screen as opposed to making us believe something is right in front of us. Most notable is Alice’s first descend into the mirror as she takes moving chess pieces and a living tiger skin rug as a natural occurrence.

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Alice tries to help her friend the Mad Hatter, who looks more like a cross between Willy Wonka and a Halloween clown

Not everyone is happy as The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is falling into a deep depression when he feels unsure if his family is alive or dead. While Depp’s performance is not heavily used like the previous movie, there’s something strange about this take her. While the Hatter in Tim’s take was wild and manic, I found myself wondering why Depp would change that here. Instead this Mad Hatter seems confused most of the time and talks in a soft lisp that feels unintentionally comedic. It’s like Jimmy Stewart trying to do an impersonation of a cartoon character.

With her best friend under sorrow, Alice decides to help out by paying a visit to Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) with plans to steal a device that can travel though the past. She believes that she can find a way to save the Hatter’s family so he won’t be under so much guilt. This is an element that was obviously not in the original book as the story of “Looking Glass” was an allegory for chess. Personally, I found the book more unique taking Alice’s journey and putting it on pair with a parlor game. It made for something unique to look into how an innocent girl’s quest to be queen can be seen this way. Unfortunately, that is no the case here. Any material from Carol’s book is tossed out to make way for something far removed from the source as Alice goes from one time period to the next as her venture serves as an excuse to see the origins of characters like the Cheshire Cat or the Queens. Even stranger is the time machine that looks exactly like it was a prop modeled after the craft in George Pal’s 1960s “Time Machine” making it weirder to see sci-fi cross with fantasy nonsense. On the other hand, a set of clock minions can mutate into giant Transformer robots, so why complain?

When “Looking Glass” is not trying to be a prequel, it revives its previous villain, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) with a plan to steal the time machine Alice took in order to change her sister’s past. Without giving too much, her plan only provides as an excuse for Carter to just walk about, yell obnoxiously and act like a brat as opposed to being a threat like that last film. And when you do find out what her sister, The White Queen, did to make her life so miserable, it makes one to wonder why she didn’t just apologize about it in the first place to avoid such a chaotic mess?

Honestly, I didn’t care much for this sequel and in-between the six years it took to get this into production, I would have been find without it. Characters like the March Hare, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum get side-linded with minimal lines compared to how prominent they  were before. Most of the cast feels like they showed up for a paycheck considering the three lines spoken by the late Alan Rickman as the Caterpiller show how disrespectful they were to the source. Why even have these characters return when they don’t even make an impact? You could have just cut them or replaced them with other characters and the movie wouldn’t change at all. Even some give off hammy and bizarre performances like Anne Hathaway who is reduced to waving her hands like ‘The Wizard of Oz’s” Glinda the Good while talking exposition in an air-headed manner.

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The sequel no one asked for…and it exists?

The only redeeming factor, surprisingly, is Sacha Baron Cohen as the new character Time, who oddly gets played up like a villain when he doesn’t even intend to be mean that way. True, he does monitor those who kick the bucket and lives in a dark castle, but Cohen’s performance saves this character from being a one-note creation. Time comes off as an eccentric creature that is so obsessed with timelines that even he works like a clock literally. There’s a lot of effort and creativity going into this one character which feels like a mix between a Flash Gordon villain and a Rolex watch.And while I’m not fan of Cohen’s work, I admit when he plays a side-character, there is when I feel most comfortable. Its almost like his wild energy is restrained as he knows exactly what to do with the material he gets, even if its minimal.

As for the rest of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” there’s not much that can be said. Its a harmless sequel that tries too hard to be expansive, but doesn’t have much necessity value. Plotlines go left and right while characters either chase after each other or try to find a working motive. I also have to question there are odd times when it does have a small dose of darkness that barley goes anywhere. About midway, Alice transports into the real world to find herself trapped in a Victorian asylum without proper transition. A character explains how she ended up there as opposed to showing how she was taken. Something tells me there are missing scenes here. But if the movie is not interesting in clearing this up, than so what? Why should I care for the near death of the Mad Hatter when Alice is busy trying to mend things with the Queens, the Hatter’s family and trying to avoid destroying the fabric of time when she already has done so much damage? For a movie that crams so much and does so little to invest me into what’s happening, I tend to wonder why a raven is like a writing desk more often than the plot holes in this movie. Not the worst, but better recommended as a rental.

“Batman vs Superman” dull, bleak and forgettable

batmanvsuperman-xlargeTrying to remember everything about “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is like taking a math test. You know you studied it, but the answers are not coming to mind. Reminiscing about this movie is tougher considering the amount of material tossed in that doesn’t stick or pay off at the end. I saw this with a near full house and recall nine walk outs and plenty of quiet chit chat during some crucial scenes. Even a few cell phone lights were noticed in the crowd. If this is how this movie is being treated in other places, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is two and a half hours of talk, strange editing, bizarre acting and underwhelming fight scenes. Not to mention cinematography so bleak that it makes you wonder where did all the color go.

I should probably get the good stuff out of the way, seeing they are easier to talk about. Ben Affleck makes a good Batman. He’s suave and cunning when he’s Bruce Wayne, but brainy and crafty when donning the suit. They even give a small explanation for the hiding of the voice which covers up a plot hole looming over the franchise since day one. This comes in the form of an electronic voicebox which is a tad silly but forgivable. Least I hear that gruffling Bale voice, the better. And sadly, this is where most of the praise stops.

Bruce sets his sights on the man of steel,(Henry Cavill), as a financial building is destroyed during the fight with Zod, for questioning the strong man’s ethics. The motive is there but little of it feels driven. They set up a reason for it early on, but then it takes a backseat to Superman’s dilemma about how he is seen on Earth. There are times when they toss in this theme of Superman being depicted as a menace or a god, but it doesn’t come together in the end. Feeling like an oddball with superhuman abilities, Superman/Clark Kent seeks out to show he’s a figure of good while setting sights on debunking the vigilantism of the bat.

Its clear we have two different movies going on, but none of them come together until the final half. Most of the time, we get some scuffle as they see each other as pests. The only time their paths do cross is when Superman interrupts a chase scene and that’s really it. The big fight is saved for near the end and only exists because there is a “VS” in the title. There is no reason for this fight scene to occur considering the less amount of action that took place and how dialogue heavy everything is. The big confrontation has promise, but I feel borrows too much from Blade Runner as the two heroes duke it out within an abandoned building with rain drizzling in.

Looking back to the past, the crossover films had more going for them. King Kong Vs. Godzilla had the big ape being used to stop the lightening lizard and more fight scenes involved. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man was a clunky entry but the story line of Lawrence Talbot keeps it together with the monster battle saved as the end. Freddy Vs. Jason used itself to great potential, while Alien Vs. Predator was decent for the monster brawls. These crossovers hold more because they had one thing missing from this one, an actual story and excuse for these two to meet up.

This “excuse” comes in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who has this plan to bring down these two “heroes” and that’s really it. In the previous incarnations, Luthor at least had an motive and reason; to make it rich and be the ultimate tycoon. While that is not interesting, what made the character unique was how he acted. Luthor to me was kind of like a car salesman with the brain of Albert Einstein. Despite his con man personality, he always appeared one step ahead and enjoyed every minute of his diabolical ingenuity. This Luthor I wanted to see get melted or pummeled to bits. Eisenberg appears to perform him like a bratty Richie Rich that is giddy and overly eccentric. Its not fun and comes off as so obnoxious that my eyes kept looking up at the ceiling of my cinema whenever he was on screen. I’d go further into why this plan doesn’t hold menace, but that would be spoiling a good part of the movie. All I can say is that they try to do this Frankenstein thing with his character but it doesn’t pay off and feels tagged on.

And that was the feeling I got from this movie. Everything felt tagged on and plastered to the wall just to see it stick. Its like “Hey, we need the people of Gotham and Metropolis to question how good the ethics of a hero are, because it was done in Watchman.” Or “Hey, we need Wonder Woman in this movie, just so we can have our Cinematic Universe.” Or “Hey, we need a last minute villain just so we can have this explosive finale and lead it into our Justice League movie.” And while I do admit seeing Gal Gadot as the lasso famed heroine was nice, it just felt there to please the fans clamoring for a Wonder Woman movie. Heck, you can even argue the whole movie is just a two and a half hour trailer seeing its edited that way. They do this thing where after a dramatic scene, it instantly cuts to black. At least give Roland Emmerich credit, he didn’t overuse them in his magnum opus Independence Day and used them to the right advantage. Here, they will have this big moment like Superman getting framed and then cuts to black and we see the LexCorp destroyed. It gets old very easy.

This movie is so bad that its own continuity doesn’t make sense. We see the origin of Batman inter-cutting the death of his parents with his discovery of the bat cave. But then later, we see Bruce drive past the Wayne Manor and its already destroyed and burnt down. I know the Manor was destroyed in Batman Begins, but wasn’t it rebuilt in The Dark Knight Rises? If this was meant to be a reboot  of the Batman franchise, I would be fine with it. But little details like that take me out of the movie too easily.

Its funny because the night before, I saw a documentary called “The Death of Superman Lives” which covers the story of a Superman movie in the late 1990s that never got made. After seeing so many ideas and even some unique footage of Nicolas Cage in a decent Superman outfit, I’m starting to wish we got that movie instead of this one. “Batman vs Superman” doesn’t live up to its promised grudge until the final third. Everything else is so dull and delivered in a shoddy manner that I’d rather brush it off as a bad movie and move on. I feel bad because at least it did one thing right by giving us a Batman that works but not for this kind of movie. Even Jeremey Irons as Alfred feels underused compared to Micheal Cane who went on about speech after speech. There is only one good reason to see this movie other than Batman and that is to use this flick as an excuse to eat candy in the dark. Then again, same goes for every other feature running at your local cinema which probably holds better fun and entertainment than this Bat-Bomb.

Rental Corner: An unfortunate visit to “Tomorrowland”

How misleading the advertising can be...poster and movie name

How misleading the advertising can be…poster and movie name

When dealing with themes of the future, movies have a two-sided coin to present. One says make it bright and hopeful like Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part II while the other says make it darker and grimm like Blade Runner. To present an optimistic view of the future while showing conflict is an even heavier attempt has a movie has to balance between showing the upside to a higher lifestyle while presenting there are conflicts like the society of wealthy vs. poverty in Metropolis. To make these elements into a thought provoking blockbuster is not a bad idea but it depends on how the mixture of these elements get handled. Or else one will end up with such a clunky and off-tone picture as Tomorrowland. As I am sad to say, one of the biggest domestic box-office flops of this year seeing so much effort and talent were thrown in yet little pays off or comes as entertaining.

The premise deals with a hidden utopia on Earth, how it is hidden remains unclear, with a promise of peace and harmony but comes off looking like a giant spa resort of gizmos and gadgets taken from The Jetsons and many other future films. Perhaps I should be more precise and bring up the fact this is based on Disney’s Epcot and Tomorrowland theme park attractions. Which is no surprise seeing certain elements like Space Mountain do appear as Easter Eggs here and there. But as expansive as the giant city is, we don’t spend much time in it. The main focus is the story and characters surrounded by this massive place which I wouldn’t have much of a problem if these elements were at the very least interesting.

Britt Robertson plays a tech-savvy teen that always believes in optimism but it nearly contradicts with her character by means of vandalism to a NASA launch pad being dismantled so her father can remain an engineer. I guess her actions account for something seeing she gets a magic pin that shows her this amazing city but only as a holographic illusion. Even more questioning is the ability of the pin as once one touches it, they see this great world but stuck in the real one as they lumber around like some kind of virtual reality helmet strapped on. Even in one scene, we see her move to the city in a corn field but also falling down the stairs when doing so in real life. If this pin makes an illusion, wouldn’t it be safer to confine it to one room as opposed to having said person meander in real life? What if one touches it and walks around in day time traffic? So much for the future of that poor soul.

George Clooney tries to find a solution to save the Earth and the crumbling utopia...but can't find one for the movie

George Clooney tries to find a solution to save the Earth and the crumbling utopia…but can’t find one for the movie

Either way, this pin creates such curiosity, that she seeks out the origin of it. All traces lead to a cranky inventor named Frank Walker (George Clooney) who wishes to be left alone then return to the fabled city he was banned from. Apparently, he somehow manages to keep track of the world’s lifespan as an impending doom is set against the Earth. He thinks the young teen has the ability to save it as in much stories where the young hero or heroine is chosen to save the day thanks to her kindness.

In a sense, the film tonally tries to be something along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the good kid gets picked due to their ingenuity and despite hardships has a kind heart but I didn’t really get a sense of care for out characters.  The performances are fine but just something about the writing feels off in narrative and character wise. The narrative flow gets distracted by Clooney’s flashing back as the structure of the movie is held by first person narrative as we cut back to the character Frank telling viewers what we are watching. An element cleary unneeded as the film can unfold without it.

Outside of Britt’s character having an open mind and Clooney being the man who lost hope, there wasn’t much else I found that really showed a care or motive to hang on to. Maybe its the jumbled narrative or how little we see of the city, but most of the plot feels very spotty that when one character decides to go on a search or move to the next story beat, there isn’t much risk or purpose behind it. She find a pin, goes to see the source, finds out the villains, saved by a sidekick/henchman type character, comes across a grizzled guy, go to futuristic place, find something is wrong and try to fix it. The story is so basic and paper thin that it shouldn’t feel this complex when its being told. And with not much connection to these story beats and directions it takes, why should we care as viewers?

Your a mean one...Mr. House!

Your a mean one…Mr. House!

The bigger problem comes in the second half when our heroes make it to Tomorrowland to find it in shambles. Apparently, a last minute conflict comes in the form of Hugh Laurie who plays a pessimistic Governor of the place who knows the secret link between Tomorrowland and the real world as well as why things are crumbling as they are. With the fear of an apocalypse on the way in people’s minds, it feels this is the direction things are heading into. So right off the fly, the message is a no-brainier. Be happy, keep being positive, work toward a bright future and don’t be negative. My problem is how heavy handed this message is and obvious they hammer it through the majority of the movie to the point it becomes more of the focus and less on the story.

To compare, The Peanuts Movie has a similar theme but not as obvious. As Charlie Brown tires to show he can do great things and fails, the more the viewer wants to see him succeed. The message of hope is more well-preserved here because that is not the focus. The focus is the characters and the story so later on, we can look back and remark the trails the protagonist had to endure as we compare them to our lives. Even themes of optimism and pessimism are explored better in Inside Out as we see how one can’t live without positive and negative things. They have to co-exist and co-operate. Tomorrowland takes these elements and instead cooks them into a good vs. evil manner at the last minute that has been done to death.

Without giving too much away, Laurie’s character reveals how people’s positive and negative thinking are essential to the world of Tomorrowland in a reveal so preachy that it undermines the entire message of the movie. With images of doom and gloom plaguing the real world, it has the future seeking to go in that direction unless convinced otherwise seems to be the logical solution. Instead, the final 20 minutes opts for a big action climax instead of a much smarter route like maybe a talk or a way to convince Hugh’s character that convincing people to be positive is a means to make a brighter future. That doesn’t happen. We get a feast of explosions, destruction and a villain’s downfall that is so cliche it makes my blood boil to see what could have been a nice story about building to a better tomorrow turn into a cliche blockbuster romp.

Sure it looks nice...but I wouldn't want to visit

Sure it looks nice…but I wouldn’t want to visit

The screenplay was written by Damon Lindelof who credits include Lost and 2012’s Prometheus while Brad Bird co-writes. With this knowledge, it feels like two different movies are mixed in as the ideology of Brad Bird is clashing with the “whizz,” “bang,” and “pow” of an edgy sci-fi movie. Instead of taking a break for character development or perhaps even heart felt moments which are standard of Brad’s work, we find ourselves watching and counting out the story beats as hero goes from point A to B with little interest knowing what will happen next. Times that could have been used for exploring character relationships are traded up for big action set pieces and CGI wonder as a  monument turns into rocket ship and people get obliterated by lasers held by evil androids. There is something very tonally off here between the future talk and the action.

And for those who think I’m being “negative” over Brad Bird, I like the guy. I do. I recall The Iron Giant when the metal monster is told how souls can’t die. Or how about the “Krusty Gets Busted” episode from The Simpsons when Bart is trying to convincing himself his hero is not a crook under shades of blue and Krusty merchandise. And need we not forget Mr. Incredible’s dilemma of trying to be a secret superhero and a family man. If Tomorrowland had more charm much like these small scenes that carry so much weight, perhaps I wouldn’t be so harsh. The city might have an interesting design, but under the retro rubble is a clunky and uneven story that crumbles and pods without pay off or impact. If you want a movie about the optimism and pessimism of the future play against itself, I recommend watching the Back to the Future trilogy more seeing themes of controlling one’s future and the negative benefits of a positive change are far better explored. Even movies like Explorers and The NeverEnding Story had a better handle with certain aspects like building to the unknown or trying to maintain hope. Fraggle Rock’s themes of universal peace was better explored without the aspect of violence being involved to solve a problem. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland didn’t do much for me. Aside from the performances being ok, it just came off as dull, preachy and just really a waste of good talent. I feel bad for saying this but the future of this movie looks rather grim as it stands at #4 at my worst of 2015 list.

Why the Hate?: Cabin Boy

Aside from the stormy box-office, it sailed on to a better life....kind of

Aside from the stormy box-office, it sailed on to a better life….kind of

This is one of those movies I remember hearing about as a kid and always been curious to see how it plays out. It had a lot that interested me. An adventure on the sea, all sorts of strange and cool monsters as well as some neat looking visuals. Again, I never saw “Cabin Boy” but knew of its existence. And when the dawn of the Internet came into my reach and began expanding my knowledge of film history, I would learn that the cult following for this one was relatively small. In fact, this movie today is decreed as so bad that many disregard it as the worst or even straight bad. Which is a shame seeing there is clearly a lot of talent behind it. Chris Elliot not only stars but also writes the screenplay, Tim Burton (who couldn’t direct due to duties with Batman Returns) produces and there is clearly a lot of effort in trying to make this a grand eye-visual please. At least in where it tries to be grand on a small scale. So what is it about this movie that rubs people the wrong way?

Chris Elliot is the innocent Nathaniel as he talks to one of the locals played by David Letterman. Chris and David used to work on the Late Night show together

Chris Elliot is the innocent Nathaniel as he talks to one of the locals played by David Letterman. Chris and David used to work on the Late Night show together

Chris Elliot plays Nathaniel Mayweather, a self-centered snob with rich folks and crass dialogue that is sarcastically harsh but funny from time to time. And I know what your going to ask, it is one of those movies. The jerk goes on a journey of self-discovery and later learns to be a better person. The character arch isn’t that interesting but you have to give Chris Elliot credit. He really tries with the material even when the scenes he’s in are hit and miss. What works best of the character in my opinion in just how crass he is to not just the poor but even the higher-class too. It shows that he’s not the kind that is into his rich lifestyle but perceived as a grown up spoiled brat. Again most of the comedy works from his child-like antics but I can see this being done better with someone like Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) or even Martin Short.

The crew of the Filthy Whore. And if that didn't make you laugh....

The crew of the Filthy Whore. And if that didn’t make you laugh….

Anyway through a huge misunderstand with a direction sign, he boards a fishing boat on accident thinking at first its a theme boat. But as the captain and crew get annoyed of his snotty attitude, the salty sailors appoint him as a cabin boy and try to find a way to get rid of him. All the while, Nathaniel tries to make things work with the grumpy fishermen as he tries to find his way to Hawaii in order to meet with his father or something like that. I guess you can sort of see the big problem here. There is little to no plot to keep an interest from time to time. Most of the movie takes part on the boat and trying to find something funny with the characters. And to be honest, a comedy can work that way but viewers like to have a story to follow or at least something engaging. This is really the weakest problem as the snobby lad goes from serving fish stick kittens for dinner to swabbing the deck with nothing but soap and his tongue. Its a movie that really feeds on jokes and gags than really giving a compelling story.

Honestly when the comedy works, it does work. There’s a scene when Nathaniel is set adrift on a small raft and has these weird illusions which does take a weird but funny turn. Chris’s material shows his innocent comedy by trying to keep positive despite the harsh conditions from using cooking oil as sun screen to going bonkers. And that’s sort of this movie in a nutsell. Its one gag after another and you wait for the next to come by. Dare I say, its one of those kind of movies you watch with a friend just to see how they react. You either laugh along or pray there is a good joke.

Chocki, half-man and half -shark. One of many unique monsters that shows how great a practical make-up job can be.

Chocki, half-man and half -shark. One of many unique monsters that shows how great a practical make-up job can be.

Also for a movie that was given a low budget, I’m surprised to see how much effort they tried to put into the special effects. In an interview, director Adam Resnick mentioned how he had a hard time trying to make this movie as it was originally meant for Tim Burton to direct. And yeah, I can see where he is coming from. Trying to attempt one’s vision is not easy unless you have someone who understands what he or she had in mind. But I think it was a good attempt. Some of the designs in the monsters have a Burtonesque quality even if  they feel simplistic. The visual look does have a Burtonesque quality even right down to those curtain backdrops. Again, “Cabin Boy” was made on a very low budget but you can tell they really tried to make something out of it. You still get some creative visuals like a ship in a stormy sea or a stop-motion ice monster. Even the make-up job on creatures like a half-man, half-shark being or a six armed goddess really shows what can be done with practical work. A testament to how well something real and in front of the camera can work compared to CGI.

Even the performances are not that bad either. Brian Doyle-Murry plays on the shipmates who knows his mythology and despite the movie he’s in you know he tries. There’s also some cameos by David Letterman and Andy Richter who get a funny line or two as well as some small running gags that are cute. I can’t say there is a bad performance or even one that was painful annoying. There were all around ok.

The Hallucinogenic Floating Cupcake...one of many iconic scenes that viewers remember

The Hallucinogenic Floating Cupcake…one of many iconic scenes that viewers remember

The only reason I can see why some viewers hated “Cabin Boy” on arrival was by how mismanaged the production was from the studio and what they didn’t know what to expect from its bizarre comedy. As a whole, the comedic tone is sort of a demented Popeye cartoon crossed with the surreal nature of Spongebob Squarepants. If this was done in better hands like Henry Selick, perhaps “Cabin Boy” would be molded into a better film. But from what I saw, I felt it was alright. I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it considering the continuing mixed reception that’s been building. It feels like a throwback to those fantasy movies of the 1930s with really cheap effects and silly stuff from time to time.  But if that’s not your kind of fun, I understand. I just think its a silly comedy that really tried. Nothing too horrible or insulting to the eyes bad but far from perfect. Give it a rent and judge for yourself.

Rental Corner: “Smoochy ” curious misfire

*Insert clever Barney joke here

*Insert clever Barney joke here

Never has there been a comedy I’ve seen in a while that comes close to what its satirizing and yet feels misguided. Well, “Death to Smoochy” knows what its trying to parody but at the same time missing a lot of opportunities. Now granted, the film wasn’t a big hit at the box office but somehow was able to get new life on home video and television. I can see why considering its main target is the Barney craze we went through in the 1990s. We all remember when that big and happy purple dinosaur entered our living rooms teaching us things we knew in pre-school. I have the unfortunate task of saying I was one of those kids who grew up on the show. However, I also favored more PBS programs like Sesame Street and even Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood at the time for being diverse and not shying away from big topics. Its ironic because “Smoochy” tries to be this dark farce of children’s show hosts but yet somehow feels watered down. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it tries to be really hard but it doesn’t really raise the bar or sometimes plays itself very safe.

Edward Norton is a goody named Sheldon Mopes who is so “squeaky clean” he would qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize. He has a character named Smoochy the Rhino that is obviously a loose Barney as he tries to keep a clinic open for drug addicts. He gets picked to replace a former entertainer and is let upon a world of evil executives, back stabbing agents and even hostile charities. On the upside, his show Smoochy’s Magic Jungle is a huge hit as Mopes tries to keep the good nature while battling against typical corporate. Meanwhile, a washed up children’s show host named Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) seeks revenge against the rhino that took his timeslot seeing the show gets canned and its creator/executive producer is seen for the fraud he is.

Again, there is so much ridding on this movie with a lot of great ideas and concepts but nothings is really exploited that much. I remember reading in Jim Henson’s biography how the merchandise for Sesame Street helped fund the show and how during a deal with Disney that Michael Eisner failed to get control as Jim refused to let what funded the show be misused. Elements like that do appear with an Ice Show that serves as the climax but nothing really pays off or feels fully parodied. For example, the Mopes character somehow makes it so most of the snacks are healthy but also free. Not to nitpick too much, but you have to hire some vendors who are willing to pull off such a miracle to provide no cost munchies. On top of that, you should be using the revenue of food for added funding towards your charity work and not just ticket sales. Little things get in the way very easily for to question just how much reality can you bend for your viewers when you know how things work in real life.

Ok, so maybe the Barney aspect is a hoot? Well, the style of the show they lampoon tries to not only do the purple dinosaur justice but also other shows too like Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Captain Kangaroo. I found this weird seeing how much I was expecting a mean spirited jab at the infamous PBS show but surprised to see other elements the mix. The Mopes character, in fact, reminded me of Paul Rubens a lot and how he wanted his Saturday Morning show to be more than just a show. Like Reuben, Mopes tries to be a big role model and live up to being a saint for kids. This is a good thing as we get a lot of psyche on the character’s good-will attitude and we sympathize how it can be hard to live up to being a good man while a respectable idol for kids. This backfires because of how too much a goody he is and that could make him either unbearable for some or just be forgettable. We all know the world isn’t a perfect place and trying to be a good guy is tough. They try a little of that near the end when he has to make an ethical decision but it doesn’t pay off as much. I can’t say its a bad character but I wish more was done.

Speaking of which, if you have noticed by now, not much is talked about Robin Williams’ character and that’s because there isn’t much of him despite top billing. Randolph is built up to be this big character but it feels like Mopes is more of the centerpiece. Its a shame because there’s so much that could be done to Robin’s character but he’s left with trying to work with very little. I guess they are going for this Sideshow Bob route but it doesn’t come together. He tries these schemes to set up Mopes by tricking him into giving out phallic shaped cookies and even go as far to get him to perform in front of a Nazi rally. These plans almost feel short of Willie Coyote (Super Genius) levels and don’t really pay off. To be fair, it leads to some decent laughs but nothing really memorable. In fact, we get so little moments with the Randolph character that we don’t side with him as much. You could cut out almost all of Robin’s scenes and the plot wouldn’t be drastically altered. I feel bad for saying this seeing Robin is a comic genius. And when a good actor is giving little to work with, we too feel the strain.

Even for a dark comedy, Smoochy feels really inconstant. I guess you could argue the dark elements are mostly in the dirty things on a kid’s show (behind and in front of the camera). From time to time, they go that route and it plays fine. But once in a while, it tosses a really uncomfortable joke that almost feels like its trying way too hard. For example, there’s a number Mopes sings on the show about step-dads and how they having a hard time trying to adjust. I don’t want to feel like a prude but the whole joke itself just flat out offended me as it hammers in teaching broken marriages to kids. Even Mrs. Doubtfire was better at things like this. If that wasn’t enough, it will really dig into the dark bin too deep with things like a guy getting an ax to the head from an Irish mafia. You heard me right! To be fair, the axing is off-screen but the scene is shot in such an intense manner that it nearly made me turn the film off. I know the idea of dark comedy is to shock viewers with a laugh but things like that are almost straight out of a nightmare.

Outside from that, is there anything good to talk about? Well, the performances are good. The actors do a good job trying their hard to make a weak script work. Its shame because there’s a lot of great talent behind it with even Danny DeVito in the director’s chair. But most of the time, his choice of angles and shots can get a little odd. The side characters can be likable including a group of Irish mobsters who surprisingly have so much great chemistry with the Mopes character that I wish they had their own movie. But is that enough to give a solid recommendation? Sadly, no.

“Death to Smoochy” had so many open opportunities for jokes that it either hammers them in, missuses them or skims over certain ideas like the popularity of a TV show or network censors which could have made way for a lot of good jokes. Even right down to the cinematography, “Smoochy” is lost in trying to be a gritty dark comedy or a silly parody when the color scheme is too vibrant and bright for this kind of film. I would have loved to see a more darker look like maybe something along the lines of Blade Runner trying to be PBS. Or perhaps have someone else do a better take that is able to balance the dark and cartoon nature like Frank Oz or Bobcat Goldthawit? Heck, even Bobcat did better with “Shakes the Clown” leaving viewers in a whole world were clowns were the highest form of acting and entertainment while knowing when to balance drama with silly fun.

While I didn’t find myself hatting it like most critics do, I wasn’t too crazy for it either. Its really half and half for me. Some parts of it work while other factors just didn’t add up. I know this movie has a cult following and will probably get bigger in the years. But if your looking for a really mean comedy that takes your beloved childhood icon and smashes it while making your laugh, this rhino is not worth mounting on your wall for.

Rental Corner: New “Annie” falls flat…dead flat

"By having grown-up humor, you make it more childish!  By modernizing the dialogue, you make it more dated!  And by changing the source material, you show how much you don't respect what's already perfect!"

“By having grown-up humor, you make it more childish! By modernizing the dialogue, you make it more dated! And by changing the source material, you show how much you don’t respect what’s already perfect!”

There’s an embarrassing story I must confess before I begin. A week into the new year, I actually tried to see the new “Annie” as part of a resolution but it didn’t last long. I was alone with no one in and by the time “It’s a Hard Knock Life” came on, I got up and left. 15 minutes was all I could last. But then, I thought maybe things would change when it would come out on home video. Perhaps I was in a different mood or atmosphere at the time. Well, I have to say that anything past those 15 minutes I don’t regret missing. Maybe a small thing here and there but the execution and everything else kills it to a beating pulp of crumbled screenplay paper.

Tempted to call it a remake, this new “Annie” is more of “remix” trying to be a contemporary take of the 1977 Broadway musical seeing it uses eight of the original songs and injects new score and lyrics to bring a modern style. I’m not against the idea of a modernization unless I feel its done good respect and justice. But in this case, next to nothing works. On paper, certain aspects could be salvageable but the choice in cast, the music and the overall delivery completely brings things to a lifeless and dull standstill. And this is coming from someone who wasn’t a big fan of the original musical or the 1982 film.

The better actress is on the left...

The better actress is on the left…

The movie literally opens with an Annie lookalike finishing a report on William Henry Harrison only to be greeted with groans and bored looks while the new Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) tries to hip her ad-libbed report on Franklin D. Roosevelt with class participation and false information much to the confused look of the teacher (who says “Good job, Annie” with the magic of ADR). On top of that, she is no longer an orphan but in foster care while she awaits the return of her parents who abandoned her years ago. Unlike the previous versions, we never learn their fate and thus left to guess they are dead or written out for a sequel.

But let’s go back to the previously mentioned scene on how they introduce this Annie but saying the old was annoying and cheery without any personality. But yet throughout this movie contradicts the “new look” by giving a personality that is cheery, overly optimistic and nothing but smiles. There’s not a single thing I remember that Wallis does new to improve this character other than giving Annie a literacy complex. She’s not feisty like Aileen Quinn nor clever like Alicia Morton. There are times when they try to show this Annie is not dumb as you think but its played up for the cute factor more often. I try not to hamper on child acting too much but when your told to look cute and smile a lot, that’s very much what you get here.

No words....that face says how much pain she brings

No words….that face says how much pain she brings

She’s under the care of Miss. Hannigan performed by Cameron Diaz in one of the worst roles I’ve seen her perform. I can’t say Hannigan is a moral character seeing she is supposed to have a huge hate for children despite living off the misery of orphans (oh, I’m sorry “foster”) and in return gets hit back. The Carol Burnett take was fun despite being floozy and dark while Kathy Bates went for a more manic approach. Diaz gets the drunk aspect but takes the cruel matters way too far making her portrayal so annoying and unbearable that looking at undigested vegetables in my colon were more fascinating than the countless pop culture references she spews out (“I never told you the time I was almost one of Hootie’s Blowfish”) or when she treats that foster girls like pure trash to the point she uses a spray bottle to get their attention.

Again...the face is what you see thought THE WHOLE movie

Again…the face is what you see thought THE WHOLE movie

Jamie Foxx achieves a new low as the Daddy Warbucks character; now renamed Will Stacks. Stacks is a tycoon that does a cellphone business but is pursuing to be mayor of New York City. Why? There is no clear reason. All we get is this cheap “work hard in life” motive but it doesn’t go anywhere. On top of that, how is it possible for a head in a telecommunications business be able to run for politics? Either way, Annie is brought in to soften his image especially seeing he rescued her from a near car accident that goes viral on the Internet (perhaps, too quick as the universe of this movie says that what Stacks does goes viral globally at the drop of the hat.) To add on, Foxx’s performance feels tiring and stiff. He barley cracks a smile and at times rarely shows an emotion. At least the previous Warbucks had an excuse for their grump complexion but had a change of heart. Here, Foxx doesn’t show this form of change and left yawning along with him as he goes out to a Twilight-style movie and try to bond with Annie. The only times he shows signs of life is during the songs but even they feel stiff due to the song style and lame lyric changes.

Bobby Cannavale replaces Hannigan’s scheming brother in the form of a slimy political adviser  (“I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong Il, that Blood Diamond guy”) who seems his only motive is to get Stacks elected and get paid for his work. There’s no other big motive than just get this guy mayor and get his name out. To describe the annoyance I developed with this character, picture someone from Jersey Shore mutated with a Republican and Cameron Diaz’s performance in this movie. The result is the migraine I got for the rest of the movie as he tries to bug in on Stacks to “up the polls” and act devious for no other reason. I get it! He wants to see Stacks mayor but what does that accomplish for this guy. Even when he tries to remove Annie from Stacks (even though it was his idea to adopt him) near the climax with fake parents, I kept asking just what is he accomplishing and what purpose does he serve. Even if you added a mustache, a top hat along with a back cape, he wouldn’t fit the standard cliche of a 1920s silent movie villain because there is no strong motive to support his actions. At least Rooster in the previous incarnations had a purpose even if he was a last minute conflict.

They are happy....I'm not

They are happy….I’m not

Other than forgettable and tiring performances, the songs are just standard and sound the same. When I mean “sound the same,” they attribute with the same style of pop tempo and constant auto tune. There’s never a moment when I stopped and thought, “wow! they are singing!” like in Les Miserables or Into the Woods. Every note that is belted or every word that is sung is enhanced with electronic voice and it goes so tiring that it becomes a drinking game. Even the new lyrics that are added to “Hard Knock Life” and “Little Girls” feel lazily written with no clever spin or twist. “Little Girls” being the worse of the batch as Diaz’s Hannigan whines about being famous and not surrounded like little girls saying she is locked away like a princess which contradicts her character seeing she drove herself to this point of living and no one else. Choreography is beyond stiff without any inspiring use of set as musical numbers are shot from a far distance with tons of empty space as the camera moves around trying to do something interesting. As bad as “Little Girls” is, it had an interesting idea by having Hannigan hallucinate her furniture and clothing into little children which at least did something but that’s the only thing I can remember that I thought was close to clever.

In fact, a lot of this new “Annie” didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I barely remember the other foster kid’s names or what they did in the movie. Even by the big climax with her parents found at about 90 minutes in, I still felt things were dragging on to a dead creak. There’s already so much you have done, what else is there? Wrap up and get to the “super mega happy ending.”  I want to compare it to something like The Wiz but even that journey down the Yellow Brick Road had more flare and effort. This comes off as a heartless and “slap-dash” feeling that feels more half-arsed by the end when red balloons from the celebration finale keep bouncing off the end credits to no end as if they want us to find something to enjoy from it desperately. I want to say they tried, but I sense not much of an effort when you have boring to annoying performances, stiff dancing as well as song “re-scoring” you can find on any “Kids Bops” CD and painful pop culture references that try to modernize but end up dating the movie as opposed to be a timeless affair. And I swear, if anyone tries to convince me other wise that this WAS a good movie with effort and grace, then do me a favor and never speak to me again. Please?

Rental Corner: The egotistical and skippable “Star Trek V”

Answer: Because this movie is a messy, bumpy ride to endure

There’s more than one reason why “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” doesn’t work. If I was a fan of Star Trek, chances are I would be highly disappointed and find myself yelling many Klingon obscenities at the tv screen. As a typical moviegoer, I really don’t know how to put this. In a way, I heard this one was the worst of the batch and sort of expected what was coming. I didn’t come off feeling angry but what I can say is that I wasn’t amused either. Most bad movies like “Masters of the Universe” and “Howard the Duck” at least had some form of effort and left me with something to enjoy. “Final Frontier” is a strange case where it does start with an interesting idea but then explodes like the first bite of a sloppy joe. The meat sinks from the sandwich buns and seeps onto your plate to the point you find yourself eating it with a spoon in understanding the confusion.

To understand why this is considered the worst in the original film series, let’s examine the faults one step at a time. The previous Star Trek films had a director that at least had an understanding of the franchise. Robert Wise took “The Motion Picture” on the show’s themes of technology’s  vast expansion while Nicholas Meyer examined the human element more in “The Wrath of Khan” making for a successful entry. The late Leonard Nimoy wasn’t a bad director as clearly he can mange making a movie but some of the ideas felt very far fetched from whales communicating with aliens to rebirth. While “Search for Spock” and “Voyage Home” made up for it some great writing and humor, the themes and ideas felt too vague and incoherent but still had some supporting legs for its existence in the story.

Instead, directing duty went to William Shatner who I will admit had an interesting idea but somehow got lost within the production problems and weird choices. There’s no such thing as a bad director until you see the movie but unfortunately this movie is proof Shatner is not good at directing movies. There appears to be some oddly shot scenes to cover up cheap special effects and even the editing is by far the most unforgivable raging from the infamous “Hover Shoes Elevator” scene which could have been easily edited to even obvious wires and ships that fly around like they are from a Looney Tunes. From what I understand, there was a much bigger story in the works that got whittled down thanks to studio interference and criticisms from the cast. Thus a parable about religion got lost in the mix of goofy yet forced humor and again some production troubles ranging from special effects made someone lesser than ILM to even a production story where Shatner nearly died when filming the desert scenes. Credit to ambition but the bigger faults lie within the story.

The Enterprise trio with Sybok who hijacks the ship along with the sanity of this movie

The Enterprise trio with Sybok who hijacks the ship along with the sanity of this movie

Laurence Luckinbill plays a Vulcan named Sybok who turns out to be Spock’s half-brother. He goes around curing people of their pain by removing it and plans to meet up with an entity he believes is God. And that’s just the surface. This doesn’t come into play till the second half and already there are some problems. We never get to learn where Sybok got these powers or even understand his motives that well. He cures McCoy and Spock of their painful memories later on but it doesn’t prove much. Does he have connections with this big God anomaly? We never really understand in the end.

In fact, more time is devoted to Kirk and his pals vacationing at Yosemite and forced comedy aboard the Enterprise that is not functioning fully. What made the previous installments work was the compensation between political views and actual character development. Even if they did channel the campier side of the original show, they did it in a mature manner as if it was a B-movie with brain. “The Final Frontier” uses this campy factor to full power complete with one-liners, surreal moments like Uhura’s infamous fan dance and some very forced comedy. Highlights include Scotty having trouble getting the Enterprise fixed together, a bunch of Klingons trying to chase after Kirk that look like space hillbillies and Kirk trying to help Spock understand the concept of a night with a campfire. This can work but its execution is so forced in it feels desperate for a laugh.

"Are you a God?"

“Are you a God?”

“Voyage Home” worked because we were fascinated by the idea of the future seeing the past and making a unique commentary about how “advanced” we were at the time. The chemistry came from the Enterprise crew interacting with 1986 computer devices and mingling with people that are far off from the 23rd Century. Aside from whales and time travel, that was the glue that held it together. “Final Frontier” has a ridiculous concept but there is nothing to connect to as the story goes from a campfire to a hostage rescue to a mutiny lead by Sybok to the climatic meet-up with the God entity. There’s clearly too much going on here and without a clear connection, we get no support as we feel like we are watching three Star Trek movies crammed into one. Even most of the focus is on Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the supporting cast are used for one-note jokes or just used little at all. The previous movies gave small roles a sense of importance and character. Not shove them aside for a Stooge trio making the film more “Kirk” centered than the others.

However, the character of Sybok does try to be some form of connection in these string of plots but his actions don’t make any sense. He wants to get a starship to meet up with the God entity but stages a ransom to hijack one. He doesn’t want people to die and tries to act innocent, but his villainous actions contradict the character’s good will. Would it kill to send out a distress signal or at least some kind of contact to get a ride? All this trouble just to get to a creature that claims to be God but isn’t feels like a waste of time not just for Kirk and the crew to go through but even our own.

Test footage from the deleted "Rock Monster" who was deemed not good enough. In hindsight, this actually would have been better than a giant blob of light claiming to be God

Test footage from the deleted “Rock Monster” who was deemed not good enough. In hindsight, this actually would have been better than a giant blob of light claiming to be God

Bottom line, “Final Frontier” is easily the most skippable entry. Its one you can live without seeing. I can’t say its 100% terrible as there can be a nice scene once in a while with some character development and there was at least some promise. William Shatner said the idea for this one came from watching televangelists and noticing how they were strangely horrifying yet fascinating to watch. Sybok almost has this feeling with promises of something greater and healing powers. If this character was developed further and maybe given a stronger motive, perhaps there would be a stronger conflict at play. But alas, nothing comes together. I didn’t even talk about the pointless David Warner cameo, the triple-breasted feline bar dancer or even the fact that almost every scene has someone drinking alcohol. Maybe the original script was a better movie at the start with cut material ranging from Kirk going against the Devil to a rock-monster that got replaced with a giant blob of light. Even when the Star Trek movies where being released on 2-disc DVDs, Shatner asked Paramount Pictures to do a recut of the film with added footage and new effects to improve it. As you would expect, Paramount decided to not to support this idea and didn’t attempt it. That’s well enough proof for you. A Star Trek sequel so infamously bad that even its own studio doesn’t want to fix it up.