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Out in Theaters: ‘DEADPOOL 2’ 

The novelty of a fourth-wall-breaking, F-bomb-slinging, crotch-grabbing “superhero” may be gone but Deadpool’s not backing down an inch in this full-brunt sequel to the wildly popular R-rated 2016 comic book movie. With Deadpool 2, audiences will get what they expect – Ryan Reynolds spitballing irreverently, kinetic action scenes, a garbage truck full of winks and jabs at other superhero movies – but the comedic blockbuster has been reworked as a whole (*insert Deadpool joke about “reworking” a hole*), ironing out some of the kinks of its lurid predecessor, and making for an all-around more streamlined and better product.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY’

With every Holiday season comes the arrival of a new batch of Holiday movies. Some are geared towards the whole family, others exclusively for adults (read: stoned teenagers) but most are disposable garbage. Increasingly, we’ve seen an uptick in adult-oriented, hard-R holiday season comedies and with Office Christmas Party, Why Him? and Bad Santa 2 all in theaters this holiday season, there is no shortage for those looking to mix some raunch in with their ugly sweaters and eggnog. But at least with the former, you’ll find a few chuckles buried in among the coal. Read More

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Out in Theaters: BIG HERO 6

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In the past, I’ve been something of a bitch when it comes to animated movies. The Pixar classics are notorious for beating down my manliness and summoning up the tears – Up, Toy Story 3, even f*cking Ratatouille all got me going. Something about the to-the-bone earnest family connection gets this child of divorce waterworking. It’s clockwork. Minute 82 and I’m Niagara. The last animated movie to move me: How to Train Your Dragon 2. The Mom stuff. The Dad stuff! Whew. Color me teary.

In Big Hero 6, the tragic beats are there – dead parents (c’mon, it’s not a Disney movie without dead rentals), another family member who bites the dust in a ghastly explosion and, yup, a close friend and confidante who also eats the proverbial bullet. The kids in my audience gulped palpably and cried out in waves of concern.

But where was the lump in my throat? Had I grown too cold and calloused to experience my fair share of emotional woes? I felt like Palahniuk’s narrator stuffed into Bob’s meaty bosoms, post-Marla. What the eff was going on?! And then I realized, the fundamental issue was this was more Marvel movie than animated flick. The deaths were without meaning. The sacrifices just temporarily absences; a normative formula via disappearing act that’s taken hold in sequel culture. The offings were like watching Agent Coulson die in The Avengers (spoiler, whoops) or Sam Fury die in Cap 2 (whoops, more spoilers). You just don’t really care. Worse yet, you don’t believe it. This symptom of emotional weightlessness is part and parcel of the pricklinesslessness (not a word) that is the Marvel-verse. Everyone is safe, everything works out. If I had a nicket for every faked death in the MMU, I would have like a full quarter. This consequencelessness (also, not a word) leaves me cold and indifferent. With Big Hero 6, I laughed heartily, I generally enjoyed myself, but I never felt a single thing. Nor did I ever feel a sense of danger.

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And that’s why I’m struggling to conjure up words to properly describe my experience with Big Hero 6. It was pretty good. It made me smile. But that’s kinda all one can really say. It’s a hearty head shake; a smiling nod. You can recommend it to just about anyone and they wouldn’t be offended by what they’ve seen. They’ll likely enjoy it quite a bit. It’s got plenty of funny moments to boot, the actions sequences are beautifully realized and colorfully captivating and there is a heart to it, it’s just more robotic than of flesh and blood. But once it’s all over (and with an inevitable load of sequels on the way) there’s really nothing to talk about; nothing that sticks with you.

The latest from Disney is adapted from an under-sung Marvel comic created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau in 1998. The first collaboration between Marvel and Disney since Disney acquired Marvel almost five years back, Big Hero 6 tells the story of 13-year old Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a robo-tech genius taken to back alley bot battles. After a narrow escape from one black-market moonlighting or other, Hiro is seduced by older bro Tadashi to go legit and enroll in a prestigious engineering program promising to hone his robotic skills. Decidedly won over by Tadashi’s classmates, his state-of-the-art workspace, his just-finished invention and the winning Professor Calahan (James Cromwell), Hiro decides to win the science fair and earn a place among these up-and-coming science wiz-kids.

Set in the hyper-futuristic San Fransokyo, the superhero saga sees Hiro team up with medic-bot Baymax (Scott Adsit) and fellow students Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung) and Fred (T.J. Miller) to take down a mysterious super-villain who’s stolen Hiro’s next-gen microbots and has nothing short of evil intentions for them.

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The script has a massive nine credits (!!!) to its name, which accounts for the rigidly structured and carefully manicured movements of Big Hero 6, but co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams find ample opportunities to let the jokes waft from the otherwise stenchy grasp of formulaic mediocrity. The humor flows liberally from the emotionally stinted Baymax, a plushy bot who’s more Wall-E than Vision. From fist bumps to mixed colloquialisms, Baymax’s journey to figure out the human world – and the associated emotions that come with it – is flooded with moments of laughter and genuine warmth. Of the seis big heros, he’s the only one anyone’s going to be talking about exiting the theater. Trouble is, outside of this smiley Stay Puft marshmallow man, the film is inflated with flat characters and narrative breadcrumbs all leading to an overdone and overblown ending you could see from miles away without a super scanner. So while it is paint-by-numbers, the colors used are at least rather pretty.

Big Hero 6 is like a Nilla Wafer; yummy going down but nothing to write home about. It’s funny and entertaining in a bland, gingerbread kind of way. It’s the taste of the scrumptious substancelessness (not a word) that defines the Marvel cinematic universe now bleeding into Disney. I don’t doubt that you’ll like it, maybe even love it, but I challenge you to remember this movie five years down the line. You know, once the Avengers 4 is out.

C+

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Out in Theaters: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

Einstein said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

You have to be insane to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Heading into tonight’s NBA Draft, I was resolved for the worst, because you can expect nothing more from one of the worst professional franchises in sport, an organization that’s run like a penny-saving ma’ and pa’ store with Enron savvy.

This is a team that’s drafted a guy they vowed not to draft because they hadn’t planned for a scenario where they wouldn’t get the guy they wanted. This is a team that puts players they don’t want into a so-called “S Box.” This is a team that drafted a 21 year old player who turned out to be 26 years old. This is a team run by Flip Saunders, a GM/Owner who hired himself as coach and wrote down his draft pick on a sheet of paper like Kevin Costner in Draft Day. And yet, here I was thinking we could get it right this time around.

We ended up getting Zach LaVine, a Point Guard from UCLA who didn’t start this year and seems to have all the qualities that would make one good at being a gazelle, and none of the talent that lends to being an actually good basketball player. He responded to being drafted by banging his head on the table and saying “Fuck me,” then proceeded to call Minnesota a “great city.” This guy’s a gem.

Somehow, I expected something better from Transformers: Age of Extinction—something sane. Maybe because Director Michael Bay’s on his fourth installation in the franchise, maybe because Mark Wahlberg is starring in it, maybe because the girl that plays Wahlberg’s daughter, Nicola Peltz, is super hot. Instead, Bay’s two and a half hour robokkake elicits the same response as Zach LaVine: “fuck me.”

In Transformers: Age of Extinction, Bay spends his seemingly endless time pouring salt on the barren wounds left by Transformers 1, 2 and 3, but this time it’s with a smirksome eff you to the audience. Everything is turnt up past 11 in this $165 million film: the jean shorts shorter; the sweat sweatier; the muscles more rippling; the cars more decadent; and worst of all, the Transformers are souped up. Dinosaur. Transformers.

Thankfully, we don’t have to struggle through another Sam Witwicky slog because Shia LaBeouf and his head-sack are nowhere to be seen. This time, we’ve got Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) as a ripped inventor whose inventions don’t work. He fixes up neighbors’ old trash for cash and builds malfunctioning robots that explode and combust, like a guard dog that couldn’t guard Zach LaVine.

He’s also an overprotective father of a gorgeous 17-year old (don’t worry I checked: she’s actually 19!) because he knocked up his wife when he was 17 and doesn’t want the same problems to befall his soon-to-be-graduated daughter. Turns out she’s hooking up with an incredibly handsome Irishman behind his back, Shane (Jack Raynor), who races cars for Red Bull. T.J. Miller (HBO’s Silicon Valley) is Wahlberg’s comic relief buddy who quickly gets burnt to a literal crisp and displayed on-screen as a carbonated trophy for a traumatic twenty seconds.

When Wahlberg finds an old rickety truck and discovers that it’s Autobot leader Optimus Prime in disguise (gasp!), the story starts to unfurl. The good Transformers who fought to save the world in Transformers 3: Revenge of the Bots are almost extinct as the government—headed by evil agent Harold Attinger (a bearded Kelsey Grammer)—tries to kill them all. Now there’s only five left.

In the mind-numbing two hours of battling and running and slow-moing and close-upping that follow, Wahlberg and friends team up with Optimus and his crew (notably John Goodman voicing a fat cigar-smoking Transformer and Ken Watanabe as a super-offensive NinjaBot) to ride some dinosaur Transformers and fight Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, a bomb called “The Seed,” a Transformer whose face is a huge gun, and some mechabot thing called Galvatron. None of this shit made any sense to me either.

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Granted, visually, this film is probably the most gorgeous thing that’s ever graced a silver screen. To his credit, Bay has perfected the Transformer graphics to the point that now he’s just playing with it like an infant with a toy chest of action figurines. Explosions boom in IMAX 3D. The cars, planes, alien ships and Transformers glimmer and shriek as they come apart and fit back together. The gun-head Transformer and the DinoBots are definitely the craziest, most preposterously incredible creations Bay has ever come up with. Bugattis and Ferraris flip and twist into robots. It’s astronomically cool.

Despite the glorious IMAX 3D monster that Bay’s created to top the box office charts for months, this flick reeks of #2. He’s trolling us now: Victoria Secret ads are blown up, US Banks are crushed under a Transformer’s boot, and Wahlberg stops in the middle of all the chaos to drink a Bud Light. There was even a quick intro before the movie where everyone involved just talked about how awesome Michael Bay is. Really, Age of Extinction is one big commercial, and the product placement made it seem like Transformers had accidentally wandered into a GQ photo-shoot and just decided to blow everything up.

Optimus Prime is awesome as usual, but there’s just so much crazy and absurd stuff happening to really get anything more than a headache. Plot points are brought up then completely dropped, like when Optimus is said to need repairing and then just magically repairs himself. Close-ups of actors were too jarring in 3D, and Bay too often forces the shots in. Though Tucci and Grammer are outstanding in their villain roles, it’s problematic when you find yourself hoping the good guys lose.

Though Mark Wahlberg is great at playing Mark Wahlberg, anything involving him, Peltz and Raynor is utter garbage. We’re subjected to almost three hours of “you can’t date boys until you’re 18” discourse that never ends. Peltz’s outfits get increasingly tighter, so much so that they look—as the country-folk say—painted on. Luckily she’s really hot, which distracts from how utterly annoying the overprotective Dad shtick gets. Otherwise, my main complaint comes with hotty racer Raynor: why couldn’t he be fat and nerdy and play League of Legends? Why do these guys always have to be way too good-looking?

Age of Extinction is just too long. It’s arduous work just watching because so many things are crammed in. This film could have been an hour long, and it might’ve been fantastic. Too often it dragged out unnecessary plot and confusing battles. There’s a Jaw-like wait just to see the DinoBots. Wahlberg amps up the Wahlberg, and seems to be made out of the same stuff as the Transformers.

At the end of the night, you wonder how you ever expected anything more. History repeats itself and so does Transformers, ad nauseam. One has to wonder if Flip’s “S Box” stands for “Shit Box.” If so, cram Age of Extinction in an S Box and never let it out.

D

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