29 August 2013

The Long Halloween Vol. IV: Simpsons Edition - Roman Holiday

August is always a difficult time for The Long Halloween. There aren't really any major holidays to be found at all. Calendars always just have the PGA Championships just to have something to fill those blank dates. So what does that mean for this column?  We've been cruising through the greatest Simpsons holiday specials all year. Do we focus on golf with "Dead Putting Society" (S2;E6), "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield" (S7;E14), and even shout-out to Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge in "Marge Be Not Proud" (S7;E11)? Something about that is still a little unsatisfying.

Naturally, we took inspiration from the Long Halloween's namesake, the 1996 Batman comic by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. They were also a bit stumped by August, but since Loeb's father's birthday is in that month, they also made it the birthday of crime boss Carmine "The Roman" Falcone and centered their holiday-themed issue that month around that event. This is a roundabout way to say that my birthday is also in August - so of course, it's then time to talk about Birthdays on The Simpsons. As you do.
"He dresses without flair!"

There is an expert list of every birthday from the show that you can find over here. Typically characters seem to forget each other's birthdays, whether it be Homer forgetting Marge's in "Life on the Fast Lane" (S1;E9) or Bart forgetting Lisa's in "Stark Raving Dad" (S3;E1). The latter is particularly notable for featuring one of the show's all-time biggest guest stars, Michael Jackson. 1991 Michael is interesting, considering he was still the biggest star on the planet without the tainted legacy of erratic behavior, bizarro health problems, and child molestation charges. While it's obvious that Michael was probably more of a victim himself of brutal parenting and an inability to really deal with fame, there is still a bit of a taint to parts of this episode, particularly how excited Bart is to have MJ stay over at his house.

When thinking of Simpsons birthdays it's tough to get "Lisa, It's Your Birthday" out of your head, but really "Stark Raving Dad" is a swirl of riffing on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Michael Jackson's oeuvre, and only ties that birthday on during its final, sweet moments. We can look beyond to shoddy thoughtless last minute birthday gifts (both from  Bart) in "New Kid on the Block" (S4;E8) and "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday" (S10;E11). There is also the notable moment in "The Springfield Files" when Homer notes that his birthday is the same as the dog's (S8;E11). There are, however, three notable Birthday Party episodes that you could watch in August. If it's your birthday. Like mine and Jeph Loeb's father.

The first is the first birthday of Maggie Simpson in "Lady Bouvier's Lover" (S5;E21). There's nothing really exceptional about the party, but the episode should be known for two fantastic moments, the first when Homer pictures how his kids would look if they were more realistic (derived from his own insane logic, which stems that if his father dated Marge's mother, they would become siblings). The second is "The Sound of Grandpa" which parodies Simon & Garfunkel along with the ending of The Graduate (1967), and remains one of the show's better, subtle parody songs. The only song that may come close is the biting truth of "Flaming Moe's", tackling the same subject of Cheers' "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" with an acerbic Simpsons twist. Both songs were crooned by Kipp Lennon, who also provided Michael Jackson's singing voice in "Stark Raving Dad." There's your Simpsons  trivia for the day.
"You know - makin' babies!"

Moving on, we have Martin Prince's extensive birthday celebration in "Grade School Confidential" (S8;E19). There are some great moments that capture the overall shittiness of children's' birthday parties, from the massive boredom adults may feel, to the awkwardness of interacting with both people you don't know or people in a new setting. It's enough to make you sick - literally if you got into that bad batch of oysters. This episode also features one of the better subtle moments in the series - as the camera pans over the crowd after they learn that Skinner is a virgin, Krusty's face goes from sheer horror to unbridled joy. It's a magnificent background touch.

Finally, perhaps the most famous Simpsons birthday episode is "Rosebud" (S5;E4), which features a birthday not from the core family, but C. Montgomery Burns. It also gave us a birthday song that we should be singing more often than "Lisa, It's Your Birthday." More importantly though, "Rosebud" illustrates that all the riches and fancy gifts and guests int he world can't buy us what we really want - whether it's just family, friendships, or a small stuffed bear named Bobo that symbolizes our childhood innocence.

We only have one more month full of holidays until we come full circle and that will be about it. Stay tuned for one more great September Simpsons episode to enjoy - until then, Happy Birthday!

26 August 2013

Summer Jam Week 16: Imagine some Dragons, Robins, and a Hot Mess named Miley

Welcome to the penultimate week of Summer, folks! As all the little bastard children get ready to trot on off back to school the Hottest Summer Jams are winding down, but it's looking more and more like a certain rape-y song will become the Season's Victor. Barring an extreme 11th Hour upset, "Blurred Lines" is the place to be. Here are the rest of the week's winners:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Demons" by Imagine Dragons

I mentioned this track a few weeks back as a possible second monster hit for the group, although it's admittedly a much weaker jam than "Radioactive." This still isn't really going anywhere, but it's fiery enough to get the Hot Spot this week, as forgettable as the song is.

Pretty Girls, Bright Lights: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

While this song never became teh super-jam I thought it could be at one point, its summer has still been pretty pointed. After a few weeks off this rundown, "Treasure" comes back in a real mild way, but still as funky as ever. It remains one of the more listenable songs of the summer, but ultimately may not have a truly significant place in Bruno's catalog.

Put Your Hands Together: "Applause" by Lady GaGa

After a unique VMAs performance it's clear that GaGa wants back in the spotlight. Unfortunately on Monday morning the only thing on people's minds seems to be Miley's performance (more on that later). "Applause" is a solid introductory song to GaGa's new style and sound, although it hasn't really changed all that much. It's clear she's trying pretty hard to be an "artist," or at least whatever she thinks our concept of a serious "artist" should be. "Applause" isn't really a "Telephone" and certainly not a "Bad Romance," but a serviceable reminder that GaGa is still out there somewhere.

Still Glowing: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

Does this jam have legs or what? "Radioactive" is still kicking around, and thanks to the monster hit, Imagine Dragons can be considered a major current rock power player. At least, that is, until their next jam bombs and they fade from all our memories like a Modern Day Gotye. That's right. Imagine Dragons are pretty solid, though, and ought to keep churning out the hits. Until then, they'll be milking the intensity "Radioactive" for all its got.

Indiana Jones and the: "Holy Grail" by Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake

It's such a shame that JT is the best part of this song when Jay-Z was actually used pretty well on "Suit and Tie." Typically random collabos like that are just mash-ups that don't really add anything to a track (see also: will.i.am's horrendous rhymes on Ke$ha's "Crazy Kids"). Here Jay-Z doesn't add anything to his own song, although half of JT's lyrics don't even flow into what he's singing either. The problem with this kind of mafioso rap that reaches for the stars is that it's so easy to fall short, and when you do there's no real excuse for an artist with a self-imposed "Greatest Musician of All Time" title to suck eggs. Sorry, J.

Boogie Oogie Oogie: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

Having a music video certainly would have helped Daft Punk get that final push to Legendary Summer Jam status, but I also dig how they totally don't give a shit about any of that. They're content with just making awesome music, and we ought to be content listening to one of the more engrossing tracks of the Season. Still, with lots of VMA buzz, the next two winners this week get a final edge over DP and P.

Holy Shit, Girl: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

I don't really give a shit about Miley Cyrus, and frankly, her performance wasn't all that shocking or even that sexy. It's a little awkward to see Miley really whoring it up on Robin Thicke, who is like 16 years older than her, but anyone who has paid attention to Miley's recent career, or even seen the video for "We Can't Stop" could have seen this coming. There are more troubling comments such as the idea that Miley's wildside stems from her virtual lack of a childhood akin to many other child artists whose upbringings were very controlled, and her bizarre and possibly racist appropriation of black culture. If anything, Miley does inspire some good debate. The whole thing is pretty insane.

Hail to the King (Probably): "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

Just when it seemed to appear that "Blurred Lines" was finally on its way out, it comes back in a big way this week. This has just about unequivocally been THE Jam of Summer, but there is one week left for someone Daft Punk-ish to upset the master. Considering the album that contains "Blurred Lines," Blurred Lines is also picking up sales, this song may not be going anywhere soon. Because you know, how else are people going to hear the song? They have to buy the album, that's how. Because the current year is 1967.

Next week...

It's all coming down to this folks - Week 17! The Final Week of Summer! As Labour Day looms large and dreary, we'll run through one more week of Jams and then recount the entire Season of Sun to determine which song and artist is finally crowned True Summer Royalty! Stay tuned, folks, it's all coming down to this!

23 August 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: You're the End Bone

Once more into the breach - with a couple more big flicks popping out this day (and no, none of them are particularly that big), we reach the final Friday of Summer, and so our final installment of the Road to a Blockbuster. All Summer long we've been analyzing the critical, commercial, and cultural potential of each big film to hit theaters. Making a lot of cash at the box office is one thing, but we've also been keen to keep our eyes peeled for that big cultural phenomenon - the films that really get people talking or the films that will stick with us for twenty more years. Take this recent article on Blade Runner (1982), for instance. Blade Runner was a product of the Summer of '82. Thirty-One years on we're still writing articles on it and it remains a heavy influencer of pop culture. What movies this summer will we be writing about in 2044?
If it's not a forbidden Frankenstein / Mummy
romance, I am NOT interested.

I can bet it won't be the first big film coming out this weekend, but it's possible the other two have some damn decent cultural merit. Getting the widest release today is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), which is another young adult novel adaptation. It's easy to imagine the incredible amount of wealth generated by all these YA fiction writers who were approached after the Twilight novels gained such success. After The Hunger Games also caught on, to some extent even surpassing Twilight, studios tended to snatch up every other novel series out there.

This year has not been kind to YA adaptations, however. Beautiful Creatures (2013), The Host (2013), and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) have all failed to take off culturally and commercially. The only real success has been Warm Bodies (2013), but that had a hefty amount of crossover appeal with zombie fans along with its YA fiction reading audience. The Mortal Instruments actually looks exactly like Beautiful Creatures, and with its arguably worse release date, will likely be one of the worse bombs of the year. And apparently a sequel is in production. Woof. What's next?

Oh - You're Next (2013). I'd say out of all the horror films released in a given year, there's always about one good one that sets a trend for the next couple years and then everyone else copies. This, of course, has been going on for literally, forever. You could date it back to Dracula (1931) for goodness' sake. In more recent years we've had our SAW (2004), our Paranormal Activity (2009), and even Insidious (2011) a few years back. James Wan sure does help. Will 2013 become a banner year for the successful horror film? Since kicking off with Mama (2013), we've had The Purge (2013) and The Conjuring (2013), which both set records for R-rated Horror Opening Weekends. In Summer. That's really unheard of, and we're going to be getting a ton of Summer Horror flicks in the years to come as a result.

This will all pail in comparison to You're Next. I'm not even a horror fan and I want to see this damn picture. It's tough to imagine another horror film, or even any other film that has had a better marketing effort this year. It's a premise that is aesthetically similar to The Purge, but without the futuristic or political overtones. Still, the premise has been very clearly delivered and the stakes of the family dinner home invasion have been quickly demonstrated - but the key here is the little bit of edge and dark humour lent to the proceedings. This commercial in particular really sells the film - fresh, scary horror with a little bit of really dark goofiness to it all. It's a spectacular effort. Not to mention the mysterious masked characters invading other movies' posters.
Who knew that a bakery catchphrase would
spawn such a terrifying movie

A lot of viral marketing comes off as cheap or forced, but this style works really well for You're Next. It creates this insane mythology behind these characters that we really know nothing about besides the fact that they want to kill us and will invade other posters to do so. There has also been website-specific posters singling out specific writers from sites like Shock Till You Drop and Bloody Disgusting. All this couple with reviews that actually indicate the film to be spectacular and refreshing is textbook horror marketing that ought to be followed for years. Of course, You're Next does need to actually be a success first, but that should be no prob and these animal killer masks will one day be as iconic as Freddy's fedora and Jason's Red Wings Mask. Maybe.

Lastly this weekend we have the triumphant conclusion to the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End. Starting with the British series Spaced, the trio of actors Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright have collabo'd on some of the bigger cult hits of the past decade, decreed the Cornetto Trilogy based on both the flavor of ice cream enjoyed in each film and as a riff on Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colours Trilogy. Starting with Shaun of the Dead (2004), each film has walked a careful line between parody and homage. Shaun expertly spun the Zombie genre as a comedy, which in the wake of Zombieland (2009) and Warm Bodies seems the norm nowadays in a genre that has been thoroughly deconstructed. The foresight of Shaun of the Dead as now one of those films that initiated the Zombie Craze of the 2000s is palpable.

Hot Fuzz (2007) was widely anticipated and although it didn't register as quickly as Shaun did, it equally makes fun of and honors the Buddy Cop / Action Genre. The Trilogy is interesting because while Wright, Pegg, and Frost can't really be considered a comedy troupe, and each subsequent film assuredly aren't sequels, they're unified in abstract high concept (genre parody / homage), primary cast, and both the style of crisp writing and directing. Wright is like Guy Ritchie with a better sense of humour and without Madonna baggage. It's almost a stretch to call the films parodies, because they also maintain a lengthy distance from the absurdity of Mel Brooks, the surreality of Monty Python, the non sequitors of the Zuckers and Abrahams, or the pop culture junkiness of the Wayans brothers and their descendants. There is another line the films walk.

Shaun of the Dead is equal parts a comedy film and a genuine zombie apocalypse film. There are moments of hilarity coupled with moments of actual terror. It's great and balanced on both accounts without coming across as desperate, schlocky, or misguided. Likewise, Hot Fuzz has spectacular set pieces and action sequences along with genuinely interesting mysteries and plot twists to pair with its razor-sharp script that foreshadows just about everything to follow while maintaining hilarity. Both films are very rare pieces of cinema.
The British Mayans were right!

So here we have The World's End (2013), which is not to be confused with It's a Disaster (2012), Rapture-Palooza (2013), This is The End (2013), or even Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). From all accounts the film seems to give the same Shaun / Fuzz treatment to Disaster / Sci-Fi films and will hopefully continue to be equal parts parody and homage. The Cornetto Trilogy, despite being comprised of only two films, has been pretty damn reliable, as has Wright, who has only directed a single film outside the Trilogy so far, 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. While that film famously did not catch on with mainstream audiences, it remains one of the better films of the past decade. In essence, Wright hasn't done a thing to sully his reputation yet. We can all pray that with all this goodwill and hype, the Cornetto Conclusion doesn't disappoint. If it does he'll be shunned forever.

The closest analogy I can think of is the Broken Lizard troupe. They too make movies that aren't sequels to each other, but have similar casts, callback jokes, and similar writing styles. Of course, their movies tend to be a bit dumber than the Cornetto Trilogy (though that doesn't impact how funny they are), and they tend to produce like the old Star Trek movies used to - making every other film great. Club Dread (2004) was a hideous follow-up to the immortal Super Troopers (2001). When they came back in a big way with Beerfest (2006), they soured all this goodwill with The Slammin' Salmon (2009), and haven't really been heard from since then. Let us all pray that Wright and Co. avoid this distinction and go three for three for immortal comedy homages.

19 August 2013

Summer Jam Week 15: GaGa vs. Katy Again!

We're officially in Summer Wind-down mode now, folks, but there are still some hot jams to cling to. We've got an upset at number one, near vanishes from most of the hottest tracks that have been cruising all Season and more new fuzz than you can shake a hamster with. That's got to be an idiom somewhere. Let's do it:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Applause" by Lady GaGa

GaGa has been pretty quiet lately, but everything she's done in the last couple weeks seems to point to her coming back in a very big and very weird way. From her completely insane Abramovic Method video where she got straight-up naked (it's about time) to her leaked "Applause" track, and as of six hours ago, a video as well, everything is coming up GaGa. While she was once a staple of Summer Jams, a Crown has continually eluded her. From "Alejandro" in 2010 to "Judas", "Yoü and I", and "The Edge of Glory" in 2011, she's always been around, but not quite a clincher. "Applause" is coming out way too late to really be considered jam-worthy, but can she set things up to be a 2014 Summer Champion? We're always cheering for GaGa.

Close Call, Cloverfield: "Roar" by Katy Perry

It seems like Katy and GaGa tend to release competing singles in tandem, although in the past couple years, Katy Perry has had far more commercial success. That's not to say that GaGa hasn't really been successful, but Katy's run of #1 hits is nothing short of pop legend. Also, when I hear "Roar" I still of course think of the overture from Cloverfield (2008), which is a much better track than Katy's version. Grrr.

Douches of the Year: "Can't Believe It" by Flo Rida ft. Pitbull

I'm not saying that there is any evidence of Pitbull ever raping somebody - but you've got think that he's not a dude who believes that "no means no." This is probably one of the more overtly douchey songs in recent memory, which literally deconstructs females into walking asses. That hook "white girl got some ass" is sure to play nicely in suburbia, though, and you've got think that if this had some more time it could have caught on a bit more this summer. Still, what a pairing, right? This is also the most hastily thrown together, cheap CGI'd video I've seen in a long damn time. Congrats, douchebags.

Speaking of Douchebags: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell.

Robin Thicke actually also has a new jam out this week, "Give It 2 U" ft. Kendrick Lamar, which does not parallel "Blurred Lines" at all. Thicke may be resigned to be another Gotye or Carly Rae, who has a huge Summer Jam and is then relegated back to obscurity. A one-hit wonder, if you will. "Blurred Lines" does seem like such an anomaly - a mania fueled as much by the charisma of Emily Ratajkowski as the most infectious beat in years. You got it.

Back in Back: "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert

Yeah I feel bad about that joke. "Same Love" seemed to surge up a bit this week after a few weeks of teetering out there. It's certainly been a big Summer for Macklemore, although "Can't Hold Us" burned out a bit too early to really be in jam-worthy contention right now. "Same Love" has been really solid, but its achievement ought to be in bringing homosexuality more into the cultural norm than from being a really popular hit jam. And that's really the best result we could hope for.

The Queen's Baby: "Royals" by Lorde

Lorde probably doesn't deserve to be so high this week, but I'm digging the hell out of this track and nothing else seems especially catchy. It ought to be dying out pretty soon, though, and remembered forever only by me. It has one of the better hooks of the Summer, though, and itched its way onto my playlist sooner than just about anything else did this Season. Kudos to Lorde.

Robo-Fever: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

What can we say - "Get Lucky" remains a very hot jam. I imagine this summer will come down to a countdown between this and "Blurred Lines" for the final champion, not unlike LMFAO and Adele a few years back. "Can't Hold Us" may be in there, but ultimately it's down to these two. "Get Lucky" has held up way stronger down the stretch, but the cultural influence is all Thicke. Who gets the crown? We've got a few more weeks to firm things up.

Oh, and This is #1: "Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes

This track was everywhere this week. Somehow. See, sometimes I can really call what songs are going to blow up big, and other times I am way off. I counted this jam out as an obscure one-week wonder, but here we are, this jam is everywhere. It is a pretty damn attractive song, although despite its late-Season run up, it doesn't really have a chance to be the Queen of Summer.

Next week...

I mentioned Thicke's new jam, "Give It 2 U", and we'll certainly be keeping an ear on that during the penultimate week of Summer. Other than that, it's likely to be GaGa, Katy, and Foxes from here on out, so stay tuned to see the last minute shake-ups!

16 August 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: iAss

There are only two Fridays left in the Summer Blockbuster season - can you believe what a long, crazy, and fairly disappointing summer it's been?! There have been ups and downs for sure, but more importantly, it's been a crazily crowded Summer with an unrelenting hammer of big new films all trying to become the next big thing. More recap will come next week - for now in this penultimate edition of the Road to a Blockbuster we will examine the critical, commercial, and cultural potential of a handful of new films opening today, with particular focus on two heavily hyped up properties.

First, though, let's briefly talk about two films getting similar-sized releases, but without much fanfare. First is The Butler (2013), which is about presidential butler, Cecil Gaines, who worked in the White House through eight presidential terms in the middle of the 20th Century. It seems like interesting enough fodder, but hasn't at all gotten its share of attention. Perhaps the boffo casting, which includes wackiness like Robin Williams as Eisenhower and John Cusack as Nixon contributed to an awful film instead of an intriguing one. At any rate, I have no idea how this movie is, it's completely under the radar.

Next is Paranoia (2013), which stars Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, and Thor's Brother. That also seems like decent marketing fodder, but it's had about a week's worth of commercials featuring a Bald Indiana Jones and that's it. Harrison Ford actually seems to be in a surprising amount of movies lately, from 42 (2013) and Paranoia to an upcoming string of high profile outings including Ender's Game (2013), The Expendables 3: Diaper Duty (2014), and supposedly Star Wars Episode VII: Jedi Pie Fight (2015). Still, not much of a push on this one. Let's get to the real heavy hitters this week:

First is Jobs (2013), which used to be stylized as jOBS until it had a favorable type formatting change. The film features the life story of Steve Jobs who started Apple, was a rebel, got kicked out, and then came back in and changed everybody's life. It stars Ashton Kutcher, who basically got the role because he sort of looks like Steve Jobs and is also a huge dick.

So what are the odds of Jobs becoming the critical bio pic of our time? I'd say awful. The film feels rushed considering Jobs passed away in October, 2011 and instantly had his life and work canonized. He's also such a polarizing figure, with most Mac junkies adoring his every word, and most PC folk remaining skeptical of his efforts to integrate life and technology. Also, overpricing. Mac is so damned expensive and they force you into this cult that needs to upgrade every year. Sorry - I am one of those skeptical PC folk. At any rate, there are people who love Jobs and those who hate him. The film seems to be positioning the former CEO as a tortured, innovative, and underappreciated genius without anything substantially critical to say about his life. That will ultimately hurt any real merit this biopic had.

If you consider a film like The Social Network (2010), which also essentially served as a biopic of one of our current technology innovators, Mark Zuckerberg, the film both acknowledged his genius and highlighted many of his personal flaws and problems. That's why it was nearly a best picture winner. Jobs seems to be doing nothing but lip service to its subject matter. Since it is coming out so close to his death, anything less may actually seem inappropriate (who is going to trash the man after he just passed away?), but therein lies the problem with this movie existing at all.

Finally, we have Kick-Ass 2 (2013). The first film was entertaining, refreshing, and despite featuring way too much MySpace for its own good, was saved mostly by an insane performance by Nicholas Cage as well as a little girl repeatedly using the word "cunt." It was a magical adventure. Still, the comic sequel seemed plagued by unnecessary amounts of violence that only served shock value without any real theme or merit. The movie will surely contain less of this, but even superstar Jim Carrey, who is really the Nic Cage of this installment, has attempted to distance himself from the film.

So, what of it? Kick-Ass 2 has been everywhere the last couple weeks, and considering the first film at best did OK at the Box Office, I'm not sure why this even deserved a sequel. My guess is that this film will be driven by violence again, and I'm not totally buying that it shows the "consequences" of violence as Mark Millar suggests. Nothing about these films is that realistic, despite its core premise. Like Cage in Kick-Ass (2010), I bet Jim Carrey, the dude who apparently hates this movie the most, will be the most entertaining feature, and that will be that.

We have one more week of Blockbusters to handle and then it's back to school for everybody. What do you think of Summer so far?

13 August 2013

First Impressions: Elysium

Years on down the line when we're all nestled in to watch The Avengers 8: M.O.D.O.K.'s Beach Party (2033), we'll look back to a summer twenty years earlier and wonder where all the original blockbusters had gone. Via Oblivion, After Earth, Pacific Rim, and Elysium, this is our death sentence to a life of bland comic book sequels forever.

And that's not entirely fair. Out of that lot, the only really bad film is After Earth, and all of the rest performed pretty decently. None, however, have really caught on the way original properties used to, and for now it's a decent measuring stick demonstrating that the next big thing in mainstream cinema isn't going to come from a writer's head - it will come from toys made in the 80s.

Elysium arrives from the mind of Neill Blomkamp, who wowed everybody in 2009 when District 9 dropped and hundreds of prawn exploitations later, is still a pretty radical film and a nice hit. It's easy to see Elysium as the natural extension of that film and in many ways it's his version of Pulp Fiction (1994) or Mallrats (1995) - a solid follow-up film to a surprisingly good first film that is still a little derivative of the first in theme and setting. At the heart of District 9 was this analogue to South African apartheid, and institutionalized racist political and social structure built on a baseline inequality and substantial fear of a foreign "other" - in this case, SUPER-foreign hordes of destitute aliens. This review is meant to open up a thoughtful discussion of Elysium, so obviously, SPOILERS from here on out, folks.
We've had more Robot fights this summer...

Elysium sticks with humans, but remains in the science fiction wheelhouse, transporting us to 2154 (the same year that AVABAR [2009] takes place in by the way - this could be the Earth from that film! No, probably not), where he haves live in a huge floating space station and the have-nots apparently all live in Los Angeles, which now looks like Mexico City. Which is actually where they filmed those scenes.

It's a jarring contrast for sure - the spacestation Elysium is a sprawling Stanford Torus (although most people's first reaction [including mine] would probably be more like "Cool! Halo!") filled with the richest people from Earth. It looks like the greatest vacation spot in history, with sprawling Romanesque mansions, swimming pools, and a continuous flow of luxury. It's also distinctly American, with a President (although he's Brown president played by Faran Tahir of Iron Man [2008] - naturally, things don't go well under his leadership) and even a Director of Homeland Security, played with a sinister edge by Jodie Foster. It's this evil Department of Homeland Security that causes most of the conflict in this film.

Back on Earth, LA is a shithole. Something always seems to be on fire, hospitals are overcrowded, and work is tough to come by. Similar to last year's Looper (2012), it's surprising and frightening how easily this future seems possible. Like its Pakistani President, there is a nice mixing of races here, though, which is always refreshing in a Sea of Blockbusters that tend to be male and white. Everybody speaks Spanish, including our hero, Matt Damon as Max Da Costa, who appears to be Latino or something, despite being Matt Damon.

At first this appears to be a role a little outside of Damon's usual bag, but the street-tough punk is really similar to a little Good Will Hunting (1997) action. Except that Da Costa isn't really a genius janitor. You could say that those nifty Bourne films helped Damon's action creds, but this is more R-rated badassery than Damon has ever done before. Apparently, this role was originally supposed to go to Eminem, so chew on that for a little bit. Damon does a fine job, gets a nice shirtless scene to show off the hard work he put in on his pecs and abs and plays gruff and scared in fine equal measure. Da Costa isn't a particularly interesting character to begin with, and honestly, isn't even really that heroic. This selfish protagonist is actually fairly inline with Sharlto Copley's Wikus van de Merwe from District 9 who is really just a huge asshole.

Speaking of Sharlto Copley, he returns here all jacked up and crazy as the rogue-ish agent Kruger, who basically kills his way through life under the shady employment of Jodie Foster. In the miserable tough life of the future, he's the one dude who seems to be enjoying himself - he's wild and animalistic, a perfect fit for the brutal life of 2154 Los Angeles. In a way he actually reminded me of Danny McBride in the last few moments of This is The End (2013) - totally in his element during the apocalypse and unsuitable for normal society.

While his character isn't totally developed, he doesn't need to be. Through and through he's the menacing badass he needs to be. More often than not it seems as if recent movies have jammed down our throats words describing how evil villains are instead of actually seeing them do evil things (one major example this summer was Star Trek Into Darkness [2013], where we're continually reminded that James Harrison is one bad dude, without ever really seeing it demonstrated). Elysium counters this by being virtually all plot. We're introduced to Kruger as he's blowing up illegal transport ships to Elysium, and every appearance after that we're seeing his evil ways on screen, instead of talking about it. It's a very astute and effective way to develop a character.

The film shoe-horns in a love interest (Alice Braga) and her cancer-ridden daughter (Emma Tremblay) for Matt Damon to deal with, which kind of sidetracks things a bit from the main story, which is really just Damon trying to save his own damn life at any cost. Because, you know, he's literally got nothing to lose. After a lethal dose of radiation (which was meant to be applied to Robots. Who knows what that radiation would do the Robots or why they needed it, but whatevs), he's got a 5-day countdown till his death. Since all his organs are failing he's outfitted with a robot exo-suit to give him increased badass abilities to complete one last job for underground hacker / arms dealer / Harriet Tubman Spider (Wagner Moura), who is kind of a skeezeball, but is ultimately a bit more noble than Max when concerned with helping out society.
When Elysium is in ashes...then you have my permission to die.

And then we can get into the core themes of this film, which really makes it the most liberal movie ever. The central political conflict of the film is that the poor people of earth keep trying to sneak into the rich land of Elysium, mostly for their free beds that instantly cure anyone of any illness. The Department of Homeland Security makes sure to blow up any intruding immigrants and keep their spectacular medical technology to themselves while hospitals overflow on earth and Matt Damon gets little in workman's comp from his injury. It's certainly a jab at anti-immigration and anti-health care laws, although by the end of the film, its ham-fisted handling of its own themes and over the top bludgeoning over the head with its message trumps its ideology. I half expected Matt Damon to die in a cross position.

This is tough to criticize because immigration reform is integral to global society, and the socialization of health care is a complex issue that is largely simplified in the world of Elysium through the insta-heal med beds. Of course, in the real world, health care could be much more affordable and available than it is now, so there is some argument to be had both ways. At any rate, while District 9 was a thorough meditation on race relations through a Kafka-esque cinematic experiment, Elysium is clumsier in managing and expressing its political constructs.

Still, there are tons of cool stuff in this movie. Like District 9 the technology remains pretty realistic but also really cool. From the Robo-Suit duel to the exploding machine gun bullets and brain-downloads, the technology is sweet. One of the more badass moments, though, happens after Sharlto Kopley literally gets his face blown off from a grenade. It seemed like a very anti-climactic ending for the main villain, then it turns out that he survived, because he's just all kinds of awesome. He gets his face reconstructed (looking less scared, dirty, and younger in a very cool touch), and gets back into the action. It's a great gross-out moment.

This is also a fine film for anyone who hates Matt Damon and wants to watch him get brutalized for two hours. Seriously, he gets his arm broken by Robot Policeman in the first five minutes. From there he's poisoned, stabbed, has his head drilled into, shot at, smacked around, and eventually dies. It's total cray cray.

All in all this is a solid film with decent plotting, nice action, and a strong adherence to a "show, don't tell" philosophy that pays off. Its characters are a little whatever, and although it hits on important themes, it's all a little too obvious to be really insightful. I'm still looking forward to Blomkamp's next outing, but for now, Elysium is a fine late Summer Entry.

What did you think of the Bald Matt Damon flick?

12 August 2013

Summer Jam Week 14: A Summer Duel on the Report

As we lurch into mid-August it's time again for another rendition of the weekly Summer Jam countdown - our look at the hottest tracks to beat the Sunshiney Heat. Things are certainly heating up between Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, with their latest battle ground being a virtual duel through The Colbert Report. More on that later. For now, your hottest jams on a damn crowded week:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Hopeless Wanderer" by Mumford & Sons

I haven't thought much of Mumford & Sons since their breakout back in 2010. Nothing since then has really stood out, possibly because they helped usher in this continuous sea of Pop Folk that doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing. This video, however, gets some mighty props from featuring a quartet of hilarious dudes playing the band - Sudeikis, Bateman, Forte, and Helms give it their all. It reminds me a bit of the quartet of Rappers who once stood in for Korn, and that's really only a good thing, of course.

Red or Grey: "Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes

"Clarity" hangs on for another week and remains a cool little song that I do not believe will last another week. It's actually pretty addictive, probably due to its variable ascending melody, cool smashing video, and infectious vocals. It's a tubthumper for sure and equal parts clubbanger and chillout music. What I am I thinking, this song is about to stick around forever, it's so adaptable.

Princess Merida: "Brave" by Sara Bareilles

I may be out on a limb here, but this track is catching on. It seems like Bareillis is always kind of hanging out somewhere on the pop scene, although she hasn't really had a real hit since "King of Anything." And that wasn't that huge. Let's go back to "Love Song" for a real hit. Her lack of success is probably just due to her last name being crazy hard to remember how to spell. She also generally puts out more inoffensive, cheery pop that doesn't include any insecurity or sexual overtones. So obviously against the grain of pop culture.

More Pharrell? Why Not: "Get Like Me" by Pharrell ft. Nicki Minaj

See, these are the sexual overtones I was talking about. Pharrell can add to what must be the greatest summer of anyone ever, and Nelly can at least get some R&B cred back as he sing-raps his way through this after his country collabo, "Cruise." What's most surprising about this track, though, is that for about the first time ever, Nicki isn't the best vocalist present and doesn't have the most addictive verses. What's up with that? It's a solid hip-hop track without really enough time to catch on before summer breaks, but a solid jam.

Blondies Rise: "I Need Your Love" by Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding

This track dropped a long time ago and while it's flirted with this list all Summer this was Calvin and Ellie's big week. The track was everywhere, really this week's version of last week's "Clarity." Ellie has done better, Calvin really hasn't, so the product leftover is all sorts of meh, but no matter, a big week this jam makes.

No One Can Judge Us Except for Judges: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

More often than not, the Key of Awesome plays to a more cynical nerdy crowd and misfires, but every once in a while they nail a particularly retarded song for all its worst aspects. Since they rifle through just about every joke I could make about this growing trainwreck, I'll direct you to the above link - have at it and enjoy, even if it doesn't quite know how to end without being desperate.

What a Terrible Live Performance: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell & T.I.

If you missed it, Daft Punk was going to play the Colbert Report but had to bail at the last minute through a convoluted disagreement with Viacom over appearing at the MTV Movie Awards instead. Next Month. No one really understands it, but Thicke stepped in to compete openly for Summer King status, and sang...really awfully. It seemed like he couldn't hit any of those high notes he does when standing next to Emily Ratajkowski. Listen for yourself. Oof.

Breaking Daft: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

Obviously the most legendary Summer Jam moment of the year is Stephen Colbert's star-studded tribute to Daft Punk not being able to appear on his show. Add a little Bryan Cranston who is peaking more than anyone thanks to the finale of Breaking Bad last night, and you've got a real potent mix there. Even though they didn't actually make the show and Colbert sort of gave Summer King status to Robin Thicke, it's obvious that this was the better moment, the better song - and jeez I'm really leaning towards the Robots now. Only a few weeks remain - will the Daft Dudes pull it out?!

Next week...

I snubbed Bruno Mars' "Treasure" again for no great reason. It's still a fansastic song, but has somehow been a little more lukewarm than some others for a few weeks here. It's still a hard and fast #9, and just about has a guaranteed spot on any slow week, but not here. Finally, I super-dug "Royals" by Lorde this week (and yes, I think the US Version has a little more pep and gets off to a quicker start than the UK one). I'll be hard pressed to leave it in the dust next week. Stay Tuned, folks.

07 August 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Pot Smugglers, Ocean Monsters, Planes, and Matt Damon's Robot Arms

Here is a special Wednesday Edition of the Road to a Blockbuster. There are no less than four very disparate films dropping this week, and two today. They're all in crazily different genres and none are very likely to succeed financially. This column is not only focused on the films' commercial success, though, but also any potential for critical praise or more importantly, cultural cachet. Let's start with the Wednesday films:
At least it has that chick with the cute eyes from that Imagine Dragons video

First up is Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013), which is a sequel to Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) that I did not realize was being made. Based on a popular series of young adult novels, the first film was a reasonable hit for a February release, although I'm not sure it deserved a Summer Sequel. Still, this is August, where plenty of crazy random movies are typically dropped and sometimes succeed (District 9 [2009]) and sometimes plummet (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [2010]). So what kind of potential does Sea of Monsters have?

Although it's an established property that likely has a good number of fans who are eagerly anticipating the release, but the marketing campaign has barely registered with anyone outside its demographic. While the first one was competent enough of a tween-pleasing modern mythological romp, no one else really gave a shit about it. There's also a shitload of these books. Like eight of them, apparently. These tend to be to Twilight what the The Chronicles of Narnia to The Lord of the Rings - a much less successful adaptation that will fizzle out far before its time with very little cultural significance. Or perhaps we can see it as the children's version of Clash of the Titans (2010). Either way, this franchise is garbage.

Next we have We're the Millers (2013), a nice raunchy late summer R-Rated comedy. This is often a good launching point for these kinds of flicks, from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) all the way through The Campaign (2012). We're the Millers features an exceptional cast, from supporting Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, and Katherine Hahn to the core of Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. Aniston in particular seems to be finding a better niche playing against type than she ever did in forgettable roles that could have been played by anyone, like Bruce Almighty (2003) up through The Bountry Hunter (2010). Between this and Horrible Bosses (2011), though, she's really been playing the R-rated older sexcat pretty damn well.
Not bad for 44 years old...

If anything, We're the Millers ought to be remembered as that movie with the Aniston striptease scene, not unlike how a film like Your Highness (2011) is known for showcasing Natalie Portman's butt. It's a great achievement. As for Sudeikis, is there any other SNL alumn who is more desperate for leading man stardom? He's had a string of low to high profile flicks poised to be his breakout flick, his Happy Gilmore (1994), or his Anchorman if you will, but none have really caught on to become classics. Sudeikis just isn't terribly funny. He's more bland and snide than really likeable and relatable, even if A Good Old Fashioned Orgy remains underseen and underrated.

I'm not sure We're the Millers will break out and become the next huge comedy movie or even become a beloved cult classic, but it's got a decent premise, a measurable spin on the family vacation movie, and the kind of sardonic attitude it needs to become decent Netflix material. Speaking of films that are better at home viewing, let's move on to Disney's Planes (2013).

Planes is a spin-off of Pixar's Cars (2006), that was not created by Pixar, but rather Disney, originally for a direct-to-DVD release that suddenly got a nice theatrical release in one of the more crowded summers for Animation in recent memory. Hell, it's even been a croweded July for kids at the cinema. From EPIC (2013) to Monsters University (2013), Despciable Me 2 (2013), Turbo (2013), and The Smurfs 2 (2013), it's been a little overwhelming. And Cars was soulless enough without the blatant cashgrab Cars 2 (2011), much less the needless spinoff, Planes. I mean, the Cars franchise basically did the unthinkable, lowering Pixar's brand and reputation as a vaunted movie studio that effortlessly churned out hit after hit, critically and commercially. Planes is just further skewering their goodwill, although to be fair, all that is actually doing is bringing them down to everyone else's level.

There's no way Planes succeeds this weekend. Parents are already sick of dragging their stupid brat kids to every dumb movie this summer, and assuredly won't dish out more dough for a version of Cars in the air. There is also very little chance it catches on culturally in any way. If anything it will merely add to the hated legacy of Cars than build anything on its own. That's why Cars is so criticised. It's symbolic of Pixar finally failing and making subpar movie with the intention only to sell toys. Planes is a reflection of that and as a result, is ultimately hollow.
Is Matt Damon turning into Bruce Willis?

Finally, we've got the big hitter this weekend - Elysium. All this took was a cool name and a proven director - Neill Blomkamp and I was in. Of course, Blomkamp really only has District 9 to his name, which more built off what he had previously created. Who knows if he can actually make a decent big original sci fi film, but at this point, originality should be praised. This summer actually had a handful of original sci fi flicks, from Oblivion (2013) to After Earth (2013) to Pacific Rim (2013). It may be argued that Rim serves more as an homage, Oblivion as a pastiche, and  After Earth as a heaping pile of shit, but at the least, none were sequels. None of these films have exactly lit up the box office, either, which doesn't portend well for a future that is full of sequels and remakes ad nauseum.

There is hope with Elysium, though, right? There's no telling how the film will actually be or whether or not we'll by Matt Damon in his bald glory, but out of every film dropping this summer, this is about the only one that could really make the kind of cultural impact we've been looking for. This is the movie that will inspire the hipsters of 2035 - the ones who will wear ironic Matt Damon T-shirts and reminisce how they don't make movies like Elysium anymore. Those may be some steep expectations, but it's what we need in these dark times. Help us, Matt Damon, you're our only hope.

Which of these four insane movies will be you watching on Netflix 6 months from now?

05 August 2013

Summer Jam Week 13: Blurred or Clarity?

Heloooooo August! It's time now for another edition of the Summer Jam, our weekly countdown of the greatest hottest Jams trying to become true Summer Royalty. As Shark Week dawns, where are the hot jams at? In an exceptionally pop-y week, they're right here baby:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Choe (You're The One I Want)" by Emblem3

Boy bands rule, obvi. Emblem3, the latest in a long line of boy bands like the Jonas Brothers and One Direction, who really haven't gone anywhere, actually, will seek to emulate this horrible popular style. Now, the Backstreet Boys at least had a completely boffo reunion in This is The End (2013), can we expect the same from Emblem3? No. This is the last time anyone on the Internet will talk about Emblem3.

Sunny Blues: "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey

This jam actually came out last year in Europe, but didn't really hit the U.S. until a few months ago. Still, because that's a bit old, we're highlighting the Cedric Gervais remix, which we can only assume is some kind of combination between Cedric the Entertainer and Ricky Gervais. It's a nice thumper of a Summer Track, though, even if it's more an ode to a Bummer Summer than a Boomer Summer. Lana Del Rey remains one of the more brilliant pop acts out there, if only from her apparent complete lack of interest of being a pop star. Good on you.

Booty Indeed: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

This Jam is still hanging around, although it's dropped a bit more than I expected it to. I would take its refreshing retro video over the smut of "Blurred Lines" any day. Maybe not. Those chicks are pretty hot. Anyway, this is an epic jam that's getting a little over-muscled by anything Pharrell is doing this summer, which is a shame.

Schizophrenic Pop Rap Jam: "Holy Grail" by Jay-Z ft. JT

There are parts of this track that I really like but other parts that are awful. It's really all over the place. From Justin crooning and building intensity to Jay-Z doing his random mafioso thing and the non sequitor "Smells Like Teen Spirit" breakdown, this track tries to be everything at once and can't quite pull it together. Jay-Z in particular should be better. He was a bit crispier and more coherent on "Suit and Tie" for goodness sake. Who is this song targeted to anyway? Is it pop? R&B? Gangsta? Who knows. About half of it is worth a Summer Jam so here ya go.

Fuzzy Dashes: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

I'm ready for "Blurred Lines" to fizzle out. Among all the Jams on this list and this summer though, there is perhaps no song that has made a bigger cultural splash, which is exactly what a Summer Jam needs to do. Its domination may have passed, but this is still going to kick around for a while and even with four more weeks of Jamming, it's just about a done deal that these dudes become King.

Better or Worse? "Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes

This is the kind of random upsurge that makes Summer Jams fun. You've never really heard of this track before this week, and maybe you won't hear it ever again. But for the 13th Week of Summer, "Clarity" was everywhere. It's got a really crazy music video full of these big building moments that are kind of boring yet hypnotizing. The lyrical ascension reminds me of an Ellie Goulding track, which is only a good thing. Maybe it'll stick around.

Till You Get Enough: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

Miley has gotten tot he point where you really have to double check whether or not she has brain damage. I'm down for a Disney chick like her who completely shakes off her family friendly image to just go nuts. Of course, the extent of her going nuts hasn't reached dangerous Amanda Bynes-like levels yet, but that's another story. It's actually a fairly enjoyable song, and pretty sweet for any Summer Party. Just no lines in the bathroom, girl.

Robots Rule All: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

For the second week in a row the winner is no contest: "Get Lucky" is quietly taking over all of Summer, although it's not getting the word of mouth that "Blurred Lines" really has. Can it match their cultural cachet? It's the ultimate battle between an infectious widely seen music video and a song that doesn't really have a music video. "Get Lucky" is where it's at - we'll just see now if it an close out Summer on top to make a good case for its Kingliness.

Next week...

The battle is really coming down to "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines" in August, but there are still a few hits to be seen. I mostly want to seee how the star studded Mumford & Sons video "Hopeless Wanderer" does a few years into the Folk Pop Rock Revolution.

02 August 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Smurfs 2 Guns

Here we are another another Summer Friday Morning, so it's time for the Road to a Blockbuster - our weekly examination of the cultural, commercial, and critical potential of each big nationwide release that hits our nation's theaters. We're looking here not only for signs that films will do well financially, but whether or not these movies will resonate with our public cultural consciousness ten or twenty years from now. And this week, folks - well, this week is one of the roughest weeks of the whole Blockbuster Season.

Today both The Smurfs 2 (2013) and 2 Guns (2013) hits theaters. None seem all that appealing, and as a result, The Wolverine (2013) has a chance to secure any legacy it may have. Still, we're here to talk about Smurfs and Denzel, so let's do that:

The Smurfs (2011) debuted against Cowboys & Aliens (2011) a few years ago, and perhaps most famously, nearly came out on top. Harrison Ford was not pleased. The Smurfs did really well though, because unlike fanboys, little kids actually come out for horrible, horrible movies, and there is perhaps no better super kiddie-friendly flick around. It's truly a rough picture to sit through for any self-respecting parent, but kids eat up this shit like crack.
What is that, a Nega Smurf? Evil Smurfette Twin!?
Seriously, I know nothing about this movie.

It's actually incredible that out of the ridiculous amount of old cartoons-turned movies that The Smurfs caught on and became its own little franchise. There has been a crazy amount of old television cartoons that have been turned into movies in the past decade. A quick glance will illuminate some of the worst films of all time. It's kind of insane that all things equal, the Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks rise to the top.

The Smurfs was a fairly subpar television show, notable really only for the use of "Smurf" for just about everything, which could be played up to comic effect by inappropriate older kids. Or the debate as to just whatever Smurfette actually is. Actually, consider me a Smurf newb, but I did not realize that Smurfette was created by Gargamel to sow dissent within Smurf society. Either way, she's clearly either a whore, or the most desirable member of Smurf Village, being the sole lady. Essentially, Katy Perry is the perfect actress to voice her.

I also enjoy how these films have made no attempt to modernize or rationalize Gargamel - Hank Azaria seems to be playing him straight from the TV show (or the Belgian comic? The Smurfs started as a Belgian comic strip? How do I know so little about the Smurfs?), with a crazy tattered robe, bald spot, and a complete overacting obsession with either eating the Smurfs or turning them into gold. Who knows. I'm actually getting kind of jazzed up about The Smurfs 2 now, just for the ultimate sheer ridiculousness of everything associated with that property.

But we've also got 2 Guns this weekend, which may be one of the least creative and more awkward titles of a major motion picture in some time. It's Denzel and Mark as two undercover agents that were working to bust each other but then Bill Paxton gets pissed at them, I don't know. I can't really make any sense of the trailer. A red band trailer was released a few days ago, that really doesn't show anything that scandalous, but there may be a handful of laughs here.

And as this article at Cinema Blend accurately attests to, 2 Guns could be the best movie of 2013 that nobody sees - because its marketing material has been so damn generic. Sure Mark and Denzel are an extremely likable pair of actors, although Mark has really stumbled with these sort of films like Contraband (2012) and Broken City (2013). If 2 Guns is dissimilar to these films, you wouldn't really know it, but that latest red band trailer does offer more of the snappy, short tempered, and quick-witted Mark from The Other Guys (2010) and Pain & Gain (2013), which is far better form.
It's time like these where we need a
Jay Pharaoh / Andy Samberg parody real bad

Denzel also makes a lot of these stupid generic cop movies like Man on Fire (2004) and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009). Sprinkled in there as of late, though, are more outside the box features like The Book of Eli (2010) and Unstoppable (2010). It's tough to figure out what to expect, but with so many clichéd cop films under their belt, these two need to come together for something much fresher. It helps that Denzel is coming off of Flight (2012), which is one of his better performances in year in a movie whose only fault was not always focusing on him, as well as being about 45 minutes too long. Both of these actors are really hot, and that scene where Denzel doesn't look at an explosion? What a cool guy.

So, Smurfs 2 and 2 Guns. Which one will we be talking about ten years from now? The Smurfs 2 could get points for being really really weird, inspiring a great, awkward Britney Spears song, and starring more celebrity voices than any other animated film (from Shaq to John Oliver to Shaun White. Yes, it's insane). 2 Guns could be awesome, but no one will really notice. At this point, I can unabashedly say it's a solid Christmas Netflix pick-up that could be surprisingly good.

So next week we have...holy shit - young adult fare Percy Jackson (they made a second one of those?), R-comedy We're the Millers, sci-fi epic Elysium, and the Cars spin-off from Disney, Planes. Jeezum crow. What a wacky weekend. We're still choking down our Smurfs!

Like Boyz II Men, will you Smurfs 2 Guns this weekend?
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