Movies | Summer Movie Fantasy League

Summer Movie Fantasy League: Huge Ackman Edition


Hi! Kris and I are deep into our 3rd annual Summer Movie Fantasy League, so I thought it might be time for an update.

With each of us having had seven of ten movies released and tallied for their opening weekend domestic earnings, here’s how the picture looks:


I came out of the gate strong, with Fast & Furious 6 nabbing almost $100K, but it was all downhill from there. World War Z did pretty well, but my poor choices of After Earth, Epic, White House Down, and Turbo did me no favors. Meanwhile, Kris picked the single biggest film, Man of Steel, plus got the two biggest kiddie flicks, Monsters U and Despicable Me 2. With three movies left for each of us, things are looking grim for the former champion (me).

However! All is not lost. With a string of crap and duds hitting the theaters over the past few weeks, and The Wolverine basically opening without any competition, I could cut a hefty chunk out of Kris’ $96 million lead this weekend. Unfortunately, I doubt it’ll be enough to win. She still has Elysium, which 1) has been advertised like crazy, 2) looks like it might be good, and 3) MATT DAMON. I’m not sure how 2 Guns will do, but it’s got Denzel Washington and Marky Mark, so I assume it’ll have a healthy opening. I think I’m still gonna get beat, but maybe it’ll be close.

Meanwhile, our three film picks for lowest Rotten Tomato score was close for a while! The Purge and The Internship were both basically the same degree of stinky. Kris looked like she might have run away with it by picking Syrup, which had zero positive reviews for WEEKS, but suddenly a positive one appeared, knocking it up to 17%. I managed a 0% pick too, with Hammer of the Gods, but we’ll have to keep an eye on it in case some tool decides to like it enough to give it a decent review. R.I.P.D. was much-hated, but not as much-hated as the most-hated Grown Ups 2. As with Syrup, these scores tend to fluctuate a bit as late reviews come in throughout the summer, but right now, I think I’ve got this portion of the summer league won.


Some Spoiler-Free Words About “Looper”

“I don’t want to talk about time travel.” — Joe (Bruce Willis), in the film Looper

“I kinda do.” — Me, in the audience of the film Looper

(Note: There will be no spoilers here, the only real information I’ll be talking about are things evident in the movie trailers.)

There were two things I knew about Looper before I saw it. Both of those things were revealed in the trailer for the film, and both of them worried me, because both of them seemed pretty stupid. I’ll get to both of those things in a minute. First, some praise!

Looper is a GOOD MOVIE. Go see it. It’s interesting, entertaining, funny, exciting, violent, cool, thought-provoking, and best of all, completely surprising, and you should definitely go and see it, despite all the paragraphs of whining you’re about to endure. Or, don’t endure them! You don’t really need to keep reading, because if you just go and see Looper, you’ll probably enjoy it. I don’t want to say much else about it, other than the two things I will go on to say, because it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.

Now, the two things I knew about Looper before seeing it. The first thing that worried me was the general premise: in the future, the mob controls time travel, and uses it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen. Before I saw the movie, this just seemed patently absurd. And, having seen the movie, it is still patently absurd.

Look, I can see the mob controlling, say, gambling, prostitution, drugs, weapons, maybe even politicians. Maybe even secretly controlling some sort of science, like a pharmaceutical lab or maybe some kind of high-tech gadget firm or something. But time travel? Which would be the biggest and most important scientific discovery ever? That seems about as plausible as the mob controlling space travel. I just can’t envision a future where a bunch of mafioso types walk into NASA and say, “Yeah, you gotta nice space program here, but we’re gonna be making some changes, capice? Dis is Big Vinnie. From now on, you wanna go to da moon, you wanna go into space, you wanna, I dunno, do da thing where you send a rocket to look at space rocks on Mars, badda bing, badda boom… you talk to Big Vinnie foist.” *straightens tie, walks out*

You do get a little explanation of how it works, and why the mob uses it the way it does, but the explanation is brief and, from a logical standpoint, pretty unsatisfying. But, that’s kind of okay.  Sometimes, in science-fiction movies, the fiction is more thought-out than the science, like in Back to the Future, where the focus is on the journey of Marty and his parents, and the science is just a magic car and a photograph that people disappear from a bit at a time. We accept that, or at least it doesn’t bother us too much at the time because we’re enjoying the story (though it’s definitely fun to pick it apart later). Other sci-fi films focus on the science, such as in the time travel film Primer. In Primer, the science was definitely nailed down, but the fiction, in my opinion, was crap (and here fiction includes things like storytelling and acting and making the audience give a shit about anyone on the screen).

I always want both sides of the equation to have equal heft. I want some good science, and I want some good story, and while it’s pretty rare to get both, films can work just fine with just one. Overall, I don’t think Primer is a good film but the makers really did an amazing job of logically portraying time travel, probably the best anyone has done to date, and that part of the film really works. Meanwhile, the time travel in Back to the Future is silly garbage, but the film is fun as hell and has a fantastic script.

Looper basically falls into the Back to the Future camp. The science of their time-travel is redonk, and doesn’t really try to be anything else. The quote at the top of this entry, said by Bruce Willis to his younger self, is more or less the attitude of the film. Another character says roughly the same thing, and these comments are really directed at us, the audience. The mob controls time travel, they send people back 30 years to get whacked, don’t worry about the reasons or how it works because it doesn’t, really, and even if we sort of wish it did, the story Looper tells is entertaining enough without it.

Now. The second thing from the trailer that concerned me: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is covered with facial prosthetics (see disturbing image above) to make him look like a young version of Bruce Willis, since they play the same character at different ages. Even in just a few seconds of trailer footage, I found this kind of distracting.

In the two-hour movie, I found it immensely distracting. The contact lenses, the eyeliner, whatever the hell is going on with his stupid fake eyebrows, the curved nose they stuck on him, the giant oil painting of a bottom lip they glued to his real bottom lip… all of these things just kept me staring at parts of his face for the entire movie through squinted eyes thinking, jeez, I am so distracted right now. Is that a lip or a throw-rug? EYEBROWS! EYEBROWS! Lip. Liiiiiip. Contacts. LIP! Nose. Fake nose. Eyebrows eyebrows LIIIIIIIIP.

But it’s not JUST the make-up. It’s also the constant facial contortion he’s undergoing, rigidly holding a lemon face to approximate Bruce Willis’ sour mug, and the raspy muttering Bruce Willis voice impression, and the attempt at the famous Bruce Willis smirk, and the worst part of ALL OF THESE DISTRACTING DISTRACTIONS that he STILL DOESN’T FUCKING LOOK OR SOUND ANYTHING LIKE BRUCE WILLIS.

THUSLY, there is NO POINT. We would have easily accepted the idea that they were the same person at different ages if the film just told us that. We may have thought initially, well, they don’t really look anything alike, but we wouldn’t be obsessed with it for the entire movie. (LIP. LIIIIIIIP.) We would probably just accept it. Suspending disbelief isn’t always easy, but it’s especially hard when you’re staring at an actor who you like and who you are familiar with while he does a shitty Bruce Willis impression for two hours with a face covered in plastic noses and fake eyebrows and lip-murals. AND, if you insist on covering JGL with weird, distracting make-up, why not have him play dual roles, so the young JGL is just JGL, and the old JGL is JGL covered with old-person make-up? At least that way, while one JGL is covered in stupid, unconvincing make-up, you still have one that isn’t.

Anyway. Those were my two concerns going in, and they remain my two concerns coming out, but they are both ultimately overshadowed greatly by the quality of everything else. There’s a great story to Looper, and the film has plenty of excitement, several WTF moments, some great character development, and if you can let the science go, and do your best to forget JGL is wearing a Bruce Willis mask that doesn’t look anything like Bruce Willis, I think there’s a lot to enjoy. Go see it!


The Bourne Legacy: Two Reviews

I’m a big fan of the original Bourne trilogy, though by the third I felt they were treading pretty familiar ground. So how is The Bourne Legacy, the Bourne movie without Bourne? Two reviews follow, one short and concise, the other a muddled meandering mishmash of something beginning with M.

Here’s the first:

In attempting to launch a new chapter of the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy sticks too closely to the beats of the original trilogy to feel fresh or new. Shaky-cam fights, rooftop and busy-street chases, and government data-mining scenes have been all been done before, and done better. The best part of this film is Rachel Weisz’s performance, which is fantastic, but Jeremy Renner, as the replacement for Matt Damon, elicits little sympathy or interest.

The second review below. Spoilers follow for all four Bourne movies, so don’t read unless you are planning to lose your memory and travel through the most recognizable cities in Europe to unravel the mystery of your past and then watch all the Bourne movies.

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Movies | Netflix

Warrior: Two Reviews

Warrior, the mixed martial-arts drama, came to Netflix instant, and I watched it, and here are two reviews of it: the first short and spoiler-free, the second, a long floppy flood of finger-farts containing all of the spoilers for absolutely everything in the movie. First review:

While it veers into melodrama and hits a number of incredibly familiar sports-movie beats, strong acting performances and exciting, believable fight scenes turn Warrior into a decent sports film. I hope you noticed my clever wordplay back there. Because it’s a fighting film, and I said hit and beats.


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The Dark Knight Rises: Two Reviews

I skipped out of work early the other day and went to a matinee of The Dark Knight Rises, and here are two reviews: one short and spoiler free, and one long rambling spoiler-filled sack of arglebargle.

Here’s the first review:

In The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman comes out of a long retirement to face Bane, a supervillain who wants to destroy Gotham City. I thought it was pretty good, though I enjoyed the first two films a lot more.

Okay, onto the SUPER SPOILER plot summary, which contains SPOILERS. SUPER ONES.

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Prisoners from Space and Jerks from Manhattan

We caught up on a few movies over the weekend, and here are some quick reviews:

Lockout: What I was hoping would be a big, dumb, fun action movie turned out to be just a big, dumb action movie. There’s a prison, in space, filled with horrible villains who are in suspended animation. The president’s daughter goes up to make sure the space prisoners’ rights aren’t being violated, and a prisoner escapes and kills the only two guards who bother to protect the big button labeled “Let All The Prisoners Out Of Stasis.” Naturally, there’s only one guy who can infiltrate the space prison to rescue the president’s daughter, a wise-cracking former special commando agent (or whatever) who is waiting to go to space prison for a crime he totally committed. Oh wait, SORRY, he didn’t commit it, in a shocking twist that’s never been done before ever.

This movie was terrible and no fun and after about forty minutes we just fast-forwarded to the end. Part of the problem, I think was that it was rated PG-13. Look, if you’re going to do a movie about horribly killing a bunch of space prisoners, make it rated R. There’s a scene where Guy Pearce puts an explosive collar around a guy’s neck and it explodes, and they don’t show it. Show it. Show all of the violenceseses. Give yourself a fighting chance to make your dumb movie at least gross-out entertaining. You have people being sucked into space and you don’t even get to see them pop. Lame.

Also, why not let Guy Pearce speak with his normal accent? He’s never been great about hiding his Aussie accent anyway, and Aussie accents are great, and an Aussie accent in space would be even greater. It might seem unlikely that a top American covert commando tactical spec-ops agent assassin (or whatever the damn hell) is Australian, but then it’s unlikely to have a prison in space, so don’t sweat it. You have Peter Stormare, too, and, come on, you’re not fooling anyone by trying to make him sound American. Let him talk how he talks, all Swedish or whatever. Not enough Swedes in space. Plus, the main two bad guys were Scottish, so having all those accents flying around (in space!) would have been fantastic. Being able to not understand any of the dialogue totally would have helped this film.

Friends With Kids: Wealthy gorgeous young-ish people in Manhattan with vaguely defined jobs dress really well and live in beautiful expansive apartments and attend fancy dinners and go jogging a lot in Central Park. But they have problems, you guys! Because raising kids is hard when you have a million dollars and live in New York and rent cabins for ski trips! The stress of interviewing all the full-time nannies you can afford just gets to you. I can totes relate because I am rich and beautiful but sometimes I’m like, AGGH, I haven’t had sex with Maya Rudolph as much as I used to so my life is garbage!

This movie is notable for having an incredible cast of some of my absolute favorite actors/comedians — Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd — and essentially doing nothing with them but having them all be kinda whiny beautiful jerks. I love Adam Scott, too, but he’s a unlikable idiot for way longer than he should have been (roughly 99.9% of the film). The director and lead actress was Jennifer Westfeldt, who has been dating Jon Hamm for years, so even if she’s bummed at making a crummy by-the-numbers romantic comedy, at least she can go home and stare at Jon Hamm. No matter how bad a day you’ve had or how bad a movie you’ve made, being able to go home and stare at Jon Hamm has to help.

Wanderlust: Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are beautiful youngish people who live in the city (Manhattan, the city that never sleeps and also the only city that exists anywhere, ever) and are ambitious career types, but then their careers go bust and they have to go live in Atlanta with comical jerk Ken Marino, but along the way they wind up stopping at a hippie commune in Georgia and one of them winds up liking it while the other doesn’t, and then the first one doesn’t like it but the other does, and then conflict, and then resolution. Great bunch of comedians and actors: Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Joe Lo Truglio, Jordan Peele, Alan Alda, Todd Barry, Kerri Kenney. Lots of hippie humor. Some dongs and butts, jokes about weed and toilets, and Paul Rudd being inexplicably weird while talking to himself in the mirror. It was okay. Decent rental.

Jams And Slams

Finn The Human, Spelunking, and the return of Heisenberg

I think every Friday I’ll try to post a list of the best and worst stuff that has crossed my various screens during the week. I’m calling it Jams and Slams because that’s the stupidest name I could think of.

This Week’s Jams:

  • Adventure Time. I saw the pilot for this cartoon a while back, thought it was cute, and promptly forgot about it. Then I caught an episode earlier this week and completely fell in love with it. It’s a cartoon kids will like because Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are brave, cute, and have silly, romping adventures in a magical world filled with oddball characters. Adults can enjoy it because it’s funny and a bit dark: Finn is the only human left on earth after an apocalypse (clues to which are scattered around the episodes), and the supporting cast of characters are often psychotic and dangerous. The best thing about just signing on to this show is that Cartoon Network reruns a handful of episodes per day, so your DVR can quickly be chock full of them.
  • Breaking Bad and Inside Men. Breaking Bad has returned for its final season, comprised of eight episodes this year and eight more next year. Walter White is now the full-on bad guy, less the loving family man and more the merciless Heisenberg. Inside Men is a four episode series broadcast on BBC America (the final, slightly disappointing episode aired this week), about a milquetoast money manager who plans and executes a multimillion dollar heist. Both shows have something in common: a wimpy dweeb reaches deep down inside himself and finds the cold, calculating heart of a master criminal.
  • Spelunky for X-Box 360. I’ve played my share of Spelunky on PC, the completely unforgiving platform adventure, and I’m pretty amazed at how the X-Box 360 version turned out. Dare I even say it: it’s better than the original. Unfortunately, I’m still terrible at it. Tom Francis, our ambassador to Spelunky, has written regularly and enjoyably about both versions.
  • Steam’s Summer Sale. Steam is once again selling ALL OF THE THINGS. And so, you will be reading about me playing Train Simulator sometime soon. Lucky you.

This Week’s Slams:

  • Conan The Barbarian (2011): Wow. I figured this film could go one of two ways: fun to watch because it’s fun, or fun to watch because it’s crap. Somehow, it’s just no fun at all because it’s astoundingly boring. I made two stabs at watching it on two different nights and fell asleep both times.
  • The Trailer for Looper. I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of this film. As I understand it, the mafia uses time travel to send their enemies into the past to have them killed, which seems needlessly complex and potentially disastrous. If you must use time travel to whack people, why not at least kill them first and then send their dead bodies back to dinosaur times? Also, why do it at all? Don’t they have rolled-up carpets and woodchippers in the future? But my main question is, why cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics to make him look like a young Bruce Willis, when even with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics he doesn’t look anything like Bruce Willis? And, if you’re going to cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amount of makeup and prosthetics anyway, why not just make him look like Old Joseph Gordon-Levitt and have him play both versions of himself? The mind reels.
  • Pornographic Classics: Due to the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey, some classic novels like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea are being retrofitted and re-released with explicit sex scenes. The publisher asks, “You didn’t really think that these much-loved characters only held hands and pecked cheeks, did you?” No, I fully assumed Sherlock Holmes was humping Dr. Watson, and I was right.


Summer Movie Fantasy League

The Second Annual Summer Movie Fantasy League!

If you recall, last year my wife Kris and I engaged in a summer movie fantasy league (we got the idea from Film Drunk), where we held a draft and picked summer movies based on what we thought their opening weekend totals would be. I won, but not by much.

We’re now in the midst of our Second Annual Summer Movie Fantasy League, and I’m long overdue for boring you with the details.

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