29 July 2015

The Road to a Blockbuster: Ed Helms vs. Tom Cruise on the Impossible Vacation

We're coming at you a bit early this week since we have a new flick dropping on a rando Wednesday in July for some reason - Vacation (2015). This flick joins the latest Tom Cruise actioner, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), which lands on the more traditional Friday, but we'll tackle both here today. It's a strange pairing to be sure, but there may not be many people interested in both.

Actually, there is going to be plenty of people interested in both - even though they would appear pretty different in name and genre, an R-rated Comedy and a PG-13 action flick are both going to attract the same kind of classic young male movie crowd that's actually been pushed aside more than usual this summer. The result of course, has been a lot of movies that have made a lot of money, but you've got to expect Hollywood to head back to the well at some point. Anyway, without further adieu, let's talk about the critical, commercial, and cultural prospects of these two flicks:

First, Vacation. The 1983 movie is a favorite of just about everyone on earth, and is a good reason why even though everyone in Hollywood hates Chevy Chase far more than Dan Aykroyd, he's still gotten pretty steady work in the spotlight for the past thirty years. He was the prototype dad for a few generations, and part of what makes that film so great is that despite the buffoonery, he's always trying to do what's best for his family, and some of it ends up working. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) spawned waaay too many films than it should have, but we at least got one good sequel out of it - the immortal Holiday Flick, Christmas Vacation (1989).
It is literally amazing that Beverly D'Angelo has
stayed pretty true to Chevy Chase all these years.

Now, I'm not totally opposed to sequels or retreads of classic films, although long-range comedy sequels tend to have a ton of problems. In the case of Vacation, though, it's less about trudging out the same actors or even the same characters, and more passing down the traits of the elder Griswolds, and from the looks of the trailers, it seems like this has been updated and even infused with a bit of logic to make the whole thing make some sort of sense from an organic standpoint.

So why don't I still have a good feeling about Vacation? Maybe it's because it's another movie that I just didn't care about them making. I'm not one to get angry or vindictive over these things, but there is a strong sense of "who cares?" at work especially when the original still holds up phenomenally well, in part because dads are stuck in a time lapse so that no matter how old you are, your dad acted like Chevy Chase at some point. More than that, though, is the sense that we've seen that Vacation story a few times now, and we have a pretty clear indication of the Griswold's future.

We've also seen that same "family on a road trip from hell" motif repeatedly since 1983, most recently in We're the Millers (2013), which was an adequate, if not forgettable R-rated flick, not wholly unlike what Vacation is trying to do, especially with its foul-mouthed younger son, who I can see being a highlight, even from the small mount of material we've gotten so far. And yeah, upon hearing that Ed Helms plays Rusty, you think "That's perfect!" Ultimately, though, since this film had an upward battle to begin with, it really needed either some great reviews or a great trailer to put it over the edge. Since it's apparently really really bad, and nothing has appeared to be that funny, I'm thinking it's a solid skip.

But what will the people think? Here's where the marketing has failed a bit, because even when the trailer addresses the fact that no young person has heard of the "original vacaton" (meaning, within the narrative, the trip that Grandpa Clark Griswold took Ellen, Aubrey, and Rusty on), the connection is never actually explained with any degree of confidence. This could be hope that the new film stands on its own, but it ultimately just paints this as another forgettable family road trip comedy.

This ought to have an even tougher time coming after Trainwreck (2015), which is another R-rated vehicle that feels fresh in every way that Vacation feels stale, and ought to hold pretty well with its positive word of mouth and impressive Box Office Debut (it's admittedly odd that you're happy for Trainwreck's $30 mill while TED 2 (2015) clocking in nearly the same is a huge bomb. It's all expectation, I guess). I don't think Vacation will crash and burn, but there are just too many better options out there. And in another thirty years we'll still be remembering Chevy Chase over Ed Helms. A little John Hughes heart goes a long way.

Now we'll shift gears a bit and talk about Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, to which there feels like an endless string of shit to discuss, but there's really not much there. That's a lot like the franchise itself. Heaps of complicated and intricate plot piled on itself belying an ultimately hollow story that bases itself around a few admittedly breathtaking action setpieces and allowing the rest to fall by the wayside.
Yep. That's the money shot.

Rogue Nation is running with this characterization. The series seems to have gained some kind of understanding of its own merits sometime in the wake of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), maybe because five years on we all remember the Burj Khalifa scene and...not much else. Each film has this, from the iconic wire-hanging to the cliff climbing to uh...yeah the only thing I remember from Mission: Impossible III (2006) is actually Keri Russell's brain turning into putty. In this vein, they've been selling the airplane scene in Rogue Nation pretty hard. And the underwater scene. And the motorcycle scene. And apparently, they're all totally interchangeable.

Part of this works because of that ol' Tom Cruise guarantee. Say what you want about how absolutely insane this guy is, or even the quality of his movies, but he's a superstar for a reason. He's one of a few A-List actors who gives 110% in every single role, with full commitment to stunts. This commitment isn't to like, a fight scene like Hugh Jackman does (also impressive, though). This is commitment to like, actually climb the Burj Khalifa, or actually dangle off of an airplane. I'm sure it's partly due to that craziness, but in a growing age of green screen backdrops (Mad Max: Fury Road 2015] aside), there's something really refreshing about witnessing this kind of spectacle. It's almost as if we've come full circle now - instead of CGI spectacle putting butts in seats, it's now that guarantee of real world danger and practical stunts that attracts attention.

For better or worse, Mission: Impossible has basically become the definitive Tom Cruise franchise. There are probably more memorable or distinctive roles he's had in his long career, but this is the closest he's come to a reliable franchise. It makes it all the more hilarious that there were rumours of the studio grooming Jeremy Renner to replace him. That could maybe still happen, but poor Hawkeye is just going to end up second banana for the rest of his career. It's also fairly odd that at his age and career that Mapother is settling for these insane action projects instead of something a little more challenging acting-wise. It's as if Cruise has the inverse direction of most actors, who do their action films early and eventually settle into taking those more adviserly, older roles, letting the next generation shine.

Instead, Cruise got all his serious acting out of the way early in his career. All those Born on the Fourth of July (1989), A Few Good Men (1992), and Jerry Maguire (1996) movies seem to be behind him. His final dramatic role at this point could well be Valkyrie (2008), which is a pretty underrated film that was more caught up in the sweeping "over it" feeling about Cruise in the mid-aughts, along with the inherently funny "Tom Cruise is a Nazi!" line of jokes. But it is weird that a man who is a legit superstar with a personal life that can't really be criticised or degraded any more than it is doesn't take more risky or challenging roles. He's a good actor, too! You have to think that he's itching for some Academy recognition before his career is over. And yes, at 53 he's still somehow believable as an action hero, but will he be at 63? 73? 83? You know that we're getting Mission: Impossible XXI - Lightning Drops (2045) starring Tom Cruise where he does an actual space jump naked into an electrified pool of lions riding on sharks with machetes for claws.

That's the other thing - Cruise seems reluctant to hand over the reigns of this franchise. He's now played Ethan Hunt five times over the span of 19 years, which is far longer than any other Bond actor, unless you're counting Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. It's also odd that this franchise has sustained itself for so long considering every single sequel has been pretty long-range. It's almost like the Terminator franchise, which averages like 7 years in between installments. Mission: Impossible has averaged about five years in between sequels, and that's been pretty consistent starting with Mission: Impossible II (2002). It's also had virtually a new cast and a new director each time, with Ving Rhames' Luther being a heavy presence early on, and has popped in here and there since, and Simon Pegg's Benji being the only other consistent presence lately. All this puts the franchise even more solely on Cruise's shoulders.

At any rate, it's totally safe to call Mission: Impossible the most successful old television show adaptation ever, unless you count Star Trek. Simon Pegg makes some good career choices, eh? So, needless to say, I spoke at length about both these films I have no intention of seeing. Rogue Nation I imagine has the same legacy as Ghost Protocol - in four years we'll remember that airplane scene and not much else. Since this summer has been so insular with its blockbuster successes, I also predict that it'll do just fine at the bank. Surfing some surprisingly good reviews ought to help it out, although all Mission: Impossible films seem to have a ceiling around $200 million.

What will you see this weekend? Or today?

27 July 2015

Summer Jam Week 12: Too Many Southpaw References to Make a Good Post

Well we're about to close out July which means it's do or die time for most of the hot tracks that are surging out there trying to vie for the opportunity to be named True Summer Royalty - THE Hot Jam of Summer 2015. There's still room for songs to move up or down and even a decent shot at something brand new and fantastic to drop and win its way into our hearts. It's unlikely that anyone at this point is going to make real significant waves, but there's certainly room to break into our Final Top 8. Without further adieu, let's talk about the last week of July:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Kings Never Die" by Eminem ft. Gwen Stefani

Eminem apparently contributed a few songs to the Southpaw (2015) soundtrack, and this is a little better than the ubiquitous "Phenomenal" featured in most of the marketing material. It's almost a bit odd that Em hooked up with Stefani to add the chorus vocals here, because he'll usually pair with any random broad with adequate pipes like Skylar Grey or the dozens of contributors to The Marshall Mathers LP 2. You know, outside of Rihanna. Neither this jam nor Southpaw has a huge chance of busting out, but it's cool for this week.

Lookee Here: "Watch Me" by Silentó

I still can't believe that Silentó is a 17-year old High School Senior, but there you go. I'm also curious to see how his career will change when he hits puberty. Seriously, it's tough to pin him for a dude during that opening shout-out. He's still having the best Senior Summer of anyone in the country right now, and to add to that career prediction, I believe I can safely say that he won't really have to worry about his voice dropping. Quick, what was the last album that J-Kwon put out?

Electric Rasta: "Lean On" by Major Lazer

"Lean On" churns out another stellar week, but I have a gut feeling it's about to crack. I mean, truthfully I am always wrong about these sort of things, but it feels like it hit a peak. Then again, this could just be a valley and not a permanent sentencing. I'd be curious if "Lean On" paves the way for other Major Lazer jams to break, for which there's been plenty. The cartoon show is crazily hit or miss, but also pretty addictive. I'm game. Better than Diplo...

Numb'd: "Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd

The Weeknd has been quietly having a pretty good year, actually, and I haven't found as much room for them in these weekly lists. He's just not typically my bag, although with this track I'm reconsidering. He deftly treads that line between pop and R&B. I also get a weird young Michael Jackson vibe at times from Abel Tesfaye's voice, which is solid. Also I did not realise that The Weeknd is just one dude. And it's really hard not to type that third "e" each time, dammit. I haven't had to written about an artist this grammatically frustrating since fun.

Southpaw Theme: "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten

Much more appropriate for Southpaw than "Phenomenal." I mean - fight song! Fight songs. Right? I don't give a shit about Rachel Platten, and although this is conceivably a pretty empowering jam, it's far too uninteresting a composition to grab my attention in any kind of meaningful way. It's kind of nice to hum along to absent-mindedly, but that's not my goal. My goal is rocking out to tasty hot summer jams!

Is it: "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony

Yeah! That's more like it. No, no, this song is terrible and this group is so damn weird and their artistry is so visibly forced through the creepy hand of Simon Cowell and his ever-growing plot to manipulate young hot women into singing generic songs to further his slowly crumbling empire. It got some nice commercial exposure this week in some commercial that I forget whose product it was selling exactly. Chocolate or something? Who cares. All I want is to be able to distinguish any of their voices. Maybe. And that green-eyed black guy in that video freaks me out.

Cool for the Bummer: "Cool for the Summer" by Demi Lovato

This song has less earned this spot on its own than being anointed by a populace thirsty for explicit summer-based pop jams. We haven't had any this year, which is damn right ridiculous, so Demi's there to fill a gap, which is awesome timing for a woman who usually misses the boat. Anyway, we just got a video for this forgettable song, and with a solid gap in obvious Summer Jams right now, this could make a run for it.

Living Up to The Name: "Bad Blood" by Tay Sway

Ranking #1 again, finally, comes "Bad Blood" again, despite a week full of mild controversy between Taylor and Nicki Minaj along with Taylor and Katy Perry, who this song is supposedly about. It's all pretty extremely stupid, particularly on Taylor's part, jumping in where she didn't belong, but whatevs. This song and video are still pretty addictive, even if there is an oblique, unintended point for Nicki to make criticising how a video featuring a bunch of skinny white girls is loved by everyone on earth. Sorry, but did you really think "Anaconda" was saying anything more important? You'd have to argue that her dead, objectified eyes were satire, which I kind of think they were, but it's still a little close to the chest, Nicki. Whatever. This works until we turn on to Demi.

Next week...

I'm reaching that point where I think I'm finally sick of "Bad Blood," which was certainly a long time coming. This summer's been weird. More than usual it seems like nothing has broken out to totally dominate the airwaves. Maybe that's a sign of fractured media, maybe it's a sign of depleted talent, or maybe it's just random. We've definitely got our share of memorable tunes, but at this point it's hard to say where that classic jam is. Stay tuned, we got but five more weeks to see how it all sorts out!

24 July 2015

The Road to a Blockbuster: Boxers, Indies, and The Worst Sandler Film Ever

Lo and behold it is the dawn of another Summer Friday, and with that we have not one, not two, but three major films dropping on the nation vying for our ever-precious cultural attention. What are the odds that any of these new films breaks away and becomes a critical, commercial, or cultural giant? Stay tuned as we tear into the delicate Paper Towns (2015), the fierce Southpaw (2015), and the cinematic affront against God, Pixels (2015).
What the fuck is this about?

Let's get Paper Towns out of the way first. My complete knowledge of this film comes from the past forty-five seconds of googling, so here it goes. It's an adaptation of a young adult novel written by John Green in 2008, who is also the author of The Fault in Our Stars, which was converted into a surprisingly successful under-the-radar film last summer.

At first glance, Paper Towns may not seem like much, but it's got quite a bit going for it. The Fault in Our Stars (2014) took off both on Shailene Woodley's rising star (wha-hey!) and its canny young female counter-programming against all the mindless bashing smashing blockbusters of the summer. Paper Towns is in a similar position to court decent demographics, although there has been more girl-centric fare this year, but it's lacking that major star. Now, Cara Delevingne is pretty well known amongst teenage girls from her modeling, but I'm not sure appearing in "Bad Blood" equates to Shailene Woodley-level fame. Suicide Squad (2016) ought to help her profile, and the timing of the trailer bodes well to match her face with the chick from Paper Towns, but I mean, c'mon, no one knows who Cara Delevingne is. Or even how to pronounce that last time.

All I'll say is don't necessarily count out Paper Towns, because it's the only movie of its kind dropping this summer. At the same time, though, you can't expect another Fault in Our Stars, which also rocked out to that great Charlie XCX jam "Boom Clap," which I always thought described my farts pretty well. But whatever, I'm sure this will be profitable no matter how much it makes at the Box Office.

So let's move on to Southpaw. Now, this actually looks like a pretty sweet movie featuring Jake Gyllenhaal who is doing crazy body transformation stuff lately like this and Nightcrawler (2014). He's also proving more and more that he's a pretty legit actor, with the aforementioned Nightcrawler as well as his pair of Denis Villeneuve flicks, Prisoners (2013) and Enemy (2013). The dude is just hankering for an Oscar, and the Academy does love its boxers. De Niro's Raging Bull (1980) is the obvious one, but we've also got more recent wins from Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Christian Bale (by way of being a former boxer/current trainer/crackhead) in The Fighter (2010). I'm not sure Southpaw is really enough of a stand-out role that's getting a lot of attention for Gyllenhaal, but you've got to think it's on his mind. And he's totally committing his body for it.
So, do you crossfit, or...?

Southpaw supports an impressive cast, with Rachel "Detective Bezzerides" McAdams, Forest "Which Way He Lookin?!" Whitaker, and uh...50 Cent rounding out the cast. They're all pretty bankable players right now and there's no reason why this flick can't get a lot of love. It's more adult sports drama than blockbuster, and there's typically not much of that to go around in Summer. 2015 is looking like an odd year for the Boxing Movie, with Creed (2015) being the other big name release, along with a handful of others. Unfortunately, even without the Rocky tie-in, Creed looks like the better flick over Southpaw, although the latter looks way more intense, and that throbbing Eminem jam GETS THE PEOPLE GOING.

In ten years this will be forever known as "that Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie," which is perfectly fine. It can join "that Jake Gyllenhaal war movie," "that dumb Jake Gyllenhaal time travel movie," and of course, the "Jake Gyllenhaal gay cowboy movie." Now play the game of guessing the names of all those flicks without clicking the links. I actually couldn't recall Source Code (2011), which is the first result if you search Google for "Jake Gyllenhaal time travel movie," but if you actually search for "dumb Jake Gyllenhaal time travel movie," I got Donnie Darko (2001). Anyway, I can't see this making much huger waves than that, but other adult drama flicks have proven that there is a market out there.

That is to say that Southpaw could be like, the American Sniper (2014) of the summer. I'm not totally sold on that, that movie made its bank off its real-life subject matter, general love for Brad Cooper, and its throbbing flirtation with controversy. Still, it's there, and of any new movie this week, Southpaw is definitely the one that could go off, especially without especially stiff competition anywhere near it, including Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) next week which feels more like a dud than it should. But I could eat my words.

So last but not least, we have Pixels. Oh Pixels. Ever since I saw that first terrible, terrible, awful trailer I've been waiting to tear this shit apart. There isn't a doubt in my mind that this loud, expensive, ambiguous genre-styled, self-indulgent film won't end up being one of the worst of the year. I am filled with such seething rage at the mere thought that this movie actually exists that I would literally vomit in terror.

If that joke sounds familiar, it's because I yanked it from Futurama, par for the course for this bad boy, who literally made an entire movie out of a sketch from "Anthology of Interest II" (S3;E18), where...classic video game characters invade from outer space and attack New New York. Pixels is nominally inspired by the 2010 short film "Pixels" which I actually remember watching and enjoying with far less annoyance, possibly because it felt more like a clever use of special effects and mystery instead of an aggravating rip-off.

Don't get me wrong, there is much more rough shit going on here than just a neb of Futurama. It's just that no part of this looks like it was made for...anybody. Children are likely the primary target, with the bright colors, bad jokes, and general goofiness - but are kids really going to be thrilled to finally see Donkey Kong and Pacman as villains on the big screen? So it's more like the parents who will be nostalgic for this shit will be more tolerable taking their dumb wiener kids to see this? The trailer was painful. So much of the film just seems to lay everything out in the simplest way possible. "Donkey Kong - the one game you could never beat!" I fucking wonder what will be the final game that Adam Sandler has to beat. For fuck's holy sake.

I'm even mostly a Sandler apologist. I'll consider Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996) among the finest comedies of the 90s, and even more recent shit like You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008) has some really fine parts that excel in unrepentant zaniness. Eight Crazy Nights (2002) might be one of the finest adult animated films ever made (alright, that genre is slim), and yes - yes, folks, I even went gaga for That's My Boy (2012) and consider it one of the funnier films of the current half-decade. And dammit, I'll even admit that Grown-Ups (2010) does the best job of capturing that "friends a at a lakehouse with their shitty families" experience since The Great Outdoors (1988).

Now, having said, that, Adam Sandler has contributed more to the demise of the art of cinema in the past five years than any living human on the planet. He has completely eroded any trust in his brand, until only the most diehard of juvenile followers are left standing. Pixels is the paradigm of this high concept, cheap joke telling, unwanted kind of movie-making. When I saw unwanted, I mean that it's impossible to watch this and think "Oh, that's clever" or even "Wow! That looks cool!" Nothing seems to be firing well. I honestly feel sorry for most of the actors, some of who have respectable careers.

The bottom line, though, is whether or not this will make any money. I really don't think so. It's a straight children's action-comedy, which has some precedent for success. There's the Night at the Museum movies, or Spy Kids, or Sandler's own Bedtime Stories (2008) or something, but all in all this moreover reeks of desperation on the part of Sandler, who is still making some good coin on each film, but appears to be completely devoid of any attempts at making good or even competent, funny, classic movies anymore. I still love That's My Boy, but I'm in an extreme minority there.

So what do you think? Which terrible film will you see this weekend? I hear Jurassic World is good and still playing in a few theaters...

20 July 2015

Summer Jam Week 11: Naughty Hemoglobin Takes Its Birthright

Amazingly, it's already Week 11 of our Long Sunny Summer! We're rounding out July now, and getting in all those last minute vacations in one of the hottest weeks of the year! The kids are at camp, the adults are fucking away, everyone is rolling in the good life! But we have to have some cherry tunes to jam to if we're to maximize our fun in the sun. Here's your Hottest Jams for the Week:

Hot Jam of the Week: "R.I.C.O." by Meek Mill ft. Drake

Meek Mill is as rising of a rap star as they come, and it's weird to think of Drake as an experienced mentor appearing on a track like this, but the softest man in the game is filling that role somehow. "R.I.C.O." is an adequate if not an extremely catchy or interesting track. Fine, I'm not going to pretend I'm proud of selecting this jam. Let's move on.

Throwin' Back Ones: "Cool for the Summer" by Demi Lovato

Speaking of bland summer jams...but Demi's latest is probably one of her best, and you know she's pushing hard for a late run at the Summer Jam Throne. It's a tall order at this point, but in actually, the timing isn't terribly off, considering all those early forerunners are starting to fall away. This actually grew on me a little hearing it again and it might got a chance.

Holding Up the Wall: "Lean On" by Major Lazer

I guess I didn't quite realise how popular this smash has been the past few months. It does have 290 million and counting YouTube views...I guess I was more of the conviction that Diplo's Reggae Electronica project was more niche than it is, with this jam exploding over the past few weeks. I'm all for it, even if I got into "Lean On" months ago, and I try to say that with minimal hipster conviction.

Welcome to Adulthood: "Good for You" by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky

I feel like this jam is finishing the job that Spring Breakers (2013) started years ago, even if Selena was really the "innocent" one. Anyway, this is actually an enjoyable, chilled out, good song, which is something I never really thought I'd be writing about bubblegum Gome's. It's almost Miley-esque, although her departure from Disney Channel music was more hypersexualised than it was moody and melodic. And by the way, just like with "Wrecking Ball," you need to listen to the song without the video because it's way too distracting, in this case it's the fact that Selena still looks like a 12-year old.

Winning One for the Home Crowd: "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten

This jam has really quietly been around forever by now, and I ought to recognize it more than I have. It's just not totally recognizable or distinctive, rather something that just dibbles in the background for months until you realise it's a palpable soundtrack to your life. Damn you, Rachel Platten. She's totally a modern day Colbie Caillat or Christina Perri or something. Not like that's a bad thing, but do you really remember either of their big jams from way back when? You know, like 2011?

Haha, holy shit, all three of those women are actually on tour right now - I swear I didn't know that before I started making jokes that they all sound exactly the same. That's brilliant. I hope they mix up each others' songs and you get Platten singing "Jar of Hearts" and Caillat belting out "Fight Song."

Pumping Up the Home Crowd: "Cheerleader" by OMI

Such a chill song and really perfect in every way for some lazy summer nights, "Cheerleader" is coming on strong, and finally broke out to be the #1 Track on the Hot 100 this week. "C U Again" may yet dethrone it, because it's been obnoxious this summer, but other than that, I bet it could contend for a while. It's tearing up airplay in every way and could have a nice little run here, especially considering how far ahead it its of Demi Lovato.

Silence: "Watch Me" by Silentó

So, Silentó was born in 1998, which I just found out. Let that sink in a bit. Silentó isn't just younger than Jurassic Park (1993), he's younger than the damn Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). Does that matter to anyone? Who reads this? My audience might actually all be girls who were born after Jurassic Park III (2001). Such a thing would not surprise me. This song is popular.

Struttin' Fab: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar

That's right. Finally, finally, this jam is having its day. At least this week. "Bad Blood" has been weirdly rocky - it's certainly infected every part of our lives, and the video was instantly iconic, for one reason or another, but it's not totally beloved and dominating like I expected it to. It was definitely our theme song this week, though. Let's see if it holds on.

Next week...

I'm digging quite a few jams right now, but most of them are really archaic. We're at an odd juncture in the Summer Season right now, with "Shut Up and Dance" falling off, "C U Again" still potent but with a slight bump in the road, and the possibility of "Bad Blood" charging ahead, even though I'm the only one who actually likes the song. Stay tuned, people!

17 July 2015

The Road to a Blockbuster: Ant-Wrecked

With Friday coming in hot it's time again to assess the critical, commercial, and most importantly, the cultural potential of the new flicks hitting the theaters. This week we have two highly anticipated films (to some degree), the Marvel Superhero movie Ant-Man (2015) and the Amy Schumer / Judd Apatow joint, Trainwreck (2015). Let's take a look at what we're in store for, starting with Trainwreck.
Bill Hader is so dreamy.

It's clear that Trainwreck is positioning itself to be THE Summer Comedy of 2015, with TED 2 and Hot Pursuit both falling on their face. Hell, it could be THE Comedy of all 2015 if the year continues the way it has. The only major success so far has been Get Hard, and it's safe to say that even with the pull of Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart going strong, that flick underperformed. 2015 is wide open for something like Trainwreck that looks pretty genuinely funny, has an impeccable cast, a well-liked director (even if the underrated Funny People [2009] was a bit of a bust and no one on earth watched This is 40 [2012]). It's actually almost ironic now that Judd's going against Paul Rudd in Ant-Man this weekend.

Trainwreck's biggest test is really the viability of Amy Schumer. The comedian is a fairly popular stand-up and a rising star from her show, Inside Amy Schumer. This flick is actually coming out at peak Schumer popularity, which is a damned lucky move by the studio. Or not a coincidence at all. This will be Schumer's coming out party. It's like Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) or Adam Sandler's Billy Madison. Ben Stiller's Meet the Parents (2000). Or to highlight another Apatow star, Seth Rogen's Knocked Up (2007). Judd has had a phenomenal amount of success grooming future comedy icons (not the least of which is the fact that he's worked with all of these comedians I just mentioned) and this is a showcase for Schumer.

Almost everything about Trainwreck has been marketed exceptionally well. It features a jump-off of her pretty well defined public persona in a role that totally slides into our expectations. It shows off a balance between female-driven comedy and sports references for the random group of guys who for some reason may otherwise be turned off by said comedy. You know, it's actually bizarre how female-driven comedy on TV has become. The best comedy shows of the past year were totally Parks and Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Broad City. Even Brooklyn Nine-Nine does a fantastic job building realistic female characters. Trainwreck is that big litmus test - can this translate to on-screen funniness like Bridesmaids (2011) did a while back? I think the answer is yes.

On that note, we ought to comment on how this is going to make a ridiculous amount of money. Even though it's a scrappy first-time outing for Schumer, it's got the weight of some thoroughly established comedy names behind it. Audiences male and especially female are also starved for good comedy right now and it's perfect counter-programming for those weary of the bloated superhero blockbuster, even if Ant-Man feels less bloated than most. Ant-Man is in fact, tiny.
I mean, this thing is weird.

So, let's get into that one. Ant-Man is possibly Marvel's toughest sell yet, which is crazy, because it feels like all of their films are tough sells in the beginning. It's not only an obscure, dumb hero (easily the Aquaman of the Marvel world), but the production was plagued with skepticism, trouble, and a not-so quiet and humble departure from visionary Edgar Wright to the "who cares?" notoriety of journeyman Peyton Reed. When all is said and done, this ought not to have anything to do with how the film actually turns out, but it tends to pop up as a weird hex on the film anyway.

The biggest thing about Ant-Man does tend to be that "who cares?" factor. I don't think anyone is too pumped up for this one. It's getting a bit old to be complaining about the glut of superhero movies these days, but in all actuality, the more I remember Age of Ultron (2015) the more I struggle to even recall which scenes I liked or even which scenes were memorable. Ant-Man needs to do something very distinctive with itself in order to break away from the pack of other carbon copy superhero movies.

This is all kind of tragic because Hank Pym is a great character in the Marvel Universe, the Scientist Supreme who also has all these ego and guilt problems, mostly for creating Ultron. That's really the most interesting thing Pym has done, actually, and well, in the MCU that's now Tony Stark's prerogative. The decision to go with Scott Lang is sort of bizarre, but it's really just creating a more interesting movie. Hank Pym slides better into that mentor role while they can give Lang the smart aleck dialogue that they've really settled on. He's getting into that Stark/Peter Quill sort of sarcastic reluctant hero thing that audiences are just eating up.

All in all, the footage we've seen so far from Ant-Man honestly feels like an Edgar Wright movie in a shittier shell, which is exactly what this is. It's useless to whine about the causes for his dismissal or whether or not Wright's Ant-Man is the best superhero movie never made, but that feeling is really hard to shake off, especially when you hear some of the whipsmart dialogue paired with tepid, uninteresting visual camera work. Things didn't tend to land in the trailers, which is a huge concern.

Financially, it's hard to predict where Ant-Man will fall. There certainly remains a huge audience for these movies, although it's important to note that original non-Iron Man, non-Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel films don't tend to light up the box office. Ant-Man is more about selling Civil War (2016) and other Phase 3 flicks than it needs to sell itself.

So what do you think? Trainwreck or Ant-Man? Or will you be seeing Minions (2015) again in what looks like a terrific summer for any movie featuring weirdly-shaped animated things or dinosaurs.

13 July 2015

Summer Jam Week 10: Demi's Tooooo Cool

Here we are baby, really in the thick of things now. It's time again to countdown the hottest summer tracks of mid-July, and things are really burning up. This is really peak summer time, folks. People are slugging some vacations, soaking up the sun, living and loving life as they near that nexis point where they're gaining maximum distance both from school and to school. There were actually nearly too many hot jams to count this week, so this is a mere sampling, but stay tuned for the "Next week" section where I recount all the very worthy jams that I did not care about writing about:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Cool For the Summer" by Demi Lovato

Demi was kind of a force this week, announcing her bizarre freemium music celebrity game along with churning out this jam, which is totally completely non-distinctive, although it is about Summer. So that's cool. I like a lot of Demi Lovato songs, but this really doesn't add anything new to my life. Nothing was missing after listening to this song. Still, it's got Summer in the lyric, which is cool. Such a cool song. It's not a terrible summer picnic background song, and that may be the sum of her efforts here.

>Hemorrhaging: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar

I nearly left this off because I don't think it's had nearly the impact it should have, although its digital downloads are still high and there's been an excess of parodies and cultural reverberations that signify its extended penetration into our national consciousness. I guess that's alright, but I still think that it's brightly shone time in the sun is done.

Goin' For It: "Girl Crush" by Little Big Town

I didn't know that Danica Patrick had a band. But really this is a surprisingly incisive soft little jam that's totally rad to spin on a chilled out Summer Afternoon. It's also a nice lesbian country jam which seems counter-intuitive for most of country's followers, which makes it an odd little niche track that I at least really enjoy. My scientific impression from reading the YouTube comments are an odd mix of support, thoughtful analysis, subjective implication of sexual or transgender fascination or politics, and minimal out and out hate speech. 2015! Equality! Country songs!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: "Lean On" by Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. M0

You know, I never really watched this video before today - why is it super-Indian? Who knows, but I'm still loving that this jam is surging pretty well right now. It might even break into the top spot! Not bloody likely, but this was one of my personal favorite jams like two months ago, so I'm down. My only fault now is the fact that it had already run its course in my head and now it seems like everyone else is catching on, so I think that it's old news when everyone else is like "mad hot, yo!"

Break Yo Legs: "Watch Me" by Silentó

Ya'll already know who it is!! "Watch Me" is getting pretty huge actually. I imagine it's got to be popular at Summer Weddings due to its instant ghetto-dance worthy simple instructional lyrics and incredible ability to appeal to all ages. Seriously, this is like a little kid fun dance video, a community dance video, and even something that old white women shouldn't have that much problem doing. It's all around solid and also provides for good car dancing.

Pom Wonderful: "Cheerleader" by OMI

Crushing it again is OMI, who may just have the slickest jam of the summer. What can I say, white people love reggae but usually can't get past all the references to Jah and the African Slave Trade. Faux-reggae is proving to be a huge market for bumpin Summer Jams. I'm down. This song is great, with the caveat that it's more pop than reggae. But fun is fun.

What? "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink

Listen, I don't understand Fifth Harmony anymore. They're proving to have more staying power than most shitty Simon Cowell-produced shallow pop girl groups and after quite a few weeks of not doing anything, this song was everywhere again this week. My curiosity was even peaked enough to look up these broads. None of them are white, somehow, and that one hot one is even Tongan or something. The hottest one is 22, though, and because you wanted to know, yes, two of them were 17 when they shot this video. So congrats on your masturbating. I'm also unsure why they even featured Kid Ink, besides the obvious currently accepted pop single format. He's by far the worst part of this song and doesn't feel necessary at all.

The Crownless Again? "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon

It might be a done deal by now. I think it's safe to call it for "Shut Up and Dance." I don't know how this happened, actually. I just keep hearing this song and it also tends to dominate the cultural landscape. Billboard doesn't seem to reflect that, so maybe I'm just tuning into it more than the average mortal man, but for one more week at least, it reigns supreme. You know, we do have seven more weeks left, including all of August, which offers plenty of shake-ups, so who knows?!

Next week...

I felt really bad about leaving off some possible Hot Jam candidates along with a few staples. "C U Again" at this point is a given, although it wasn't too ubiquitous in my life this week. Beyond that, we ought to talk about Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," which is doing better and better. It was tough axing Selena Gomez's "Good For You" because that might be my favorite song right now and Nicki's "Hey Mama" which probably deserved a spot here. Other than that, Future came out with "Blow a Bag" which I almost included, but it kind of sucked, and Natalie La Rose featured Fetty Wap in what has to be the hottest artist collabo right now in "Around the World" which also kind of sucked.

So that's it. Who do you think deserves to be listed next week? Stay tuned!

10 July 2015

The Road to a Blockbuster: Minions Swinging from a Gallows Pole

Alright, boys and girls, now that a stunningly pathetic Independence Day has passed, it's time to really get clit-deep into the heart of summer's throbbing brain. And the Fourth of July weekend was't actually all that terrible, really - just that the two major debuting films dropped in third and fourth place, respectively. How will we survive in a post-Terminator: Gynysys (2015) world? Maybe two new movies this week, The Gallows (2015) and Minions (2015) will be our answer to the unstoppable juggernaut combo of Jurassic World (2015) and Inside Out (2015), whose success has run rampant and unabated across all other measly summer blockbusters. Take my hand on this journey, young padawan.
No one? No one here has a pair of scissors?

Let's start with The Gallows. I literally saw a commercial for this trainwreck advertising that the killer's noose in this film would be as iconic as Freddy's claws or Jason's machete. Hate to break it to you, but no one remembers what Dr. Giggles (1992) used to kill his victim. Well, it was probably a scalpel or something. More importantly, you did not know that Dr. Giggles was a film. It's almost sad to see the marketing effort of a little film like The Gallows that you just know we'll all forget by like...August.

The Gallows is trying to do a few things here: 1) It's trying to fill a hole caused by a significant lack of horror films recently, and this year in general and 2) It's trying to jump on some recent well-done summer horror flicks like The Conjuring (2013) and The Purge (2013) that have made serious bank in the summer. The key difference, though, was that The Conjuring was a James Wan film that was bolstered by good reviews along with perfect timing. The Purge had the catchiest byline ever and was a super high concept flick that settled into a weird home invasion subgenre that was going on a few years back (for my money, the film to see in that stupid subgenre is You're Next [2013]).

So no, this found footage horror movie that stars some weird killer and a vague revenge-from-beyond-the-grave plot involving a noose isn't going to work. How do you go on a massive killing rampage armed with a noose? I mean, a slashing weapon you hack and dice and get the job done quickly. Noose-killing...has there ever been widespread noose-killing? It would take so long to do. And during the whole thing you could you know, try to break free, unless the killer is also armed with plenty of cliffs or gallows. Hey! Full circle! You'll forget about this movie as soon as this paragraph is over.

Moving on to Minions, it was about time that these little dickless bastards got their own film. They are by far the best part of those Despicable Me movies, and are instantly iconic. They're super-weird, farty, funny, and in general, pretty incredible. Can they sustain an entire movie, though? Hell, no. The major analogue is really Scrat, from the Ice Age films, who engages in some classic animated tomfoolery, but there's not enough material there to go on for a feature-length film. He has his little diversions, and those are really fun breaks in the movie, but they know not to stretch that out. At least, I'd hope so. At least so far.
Seriously, imagine fucking this thing

Universal just seems to want to add to the legendary year they're already having by hitting their solitary tried and true animated franchise. Read: their only animated franchise that was totally unlikely to make as much money and have as much cultural influence as it did. I rolled my eyes at a lot of the early Minions footage, which just all seemed unnecessary. I was actually starting to get into it when I hoped beyond hope that the film would feature no spoken English words and just contain weird Minion-speak for the duration. That would really be a bold move, and probably wouldn't have changed the ticket sales that much. Kids are going to this because they love little yellow twinkie dildos, not because they care about the story. And they might just be sick enough of crying during Inside Out to make this land in a big way.

Now, I know I was just complaining that the Minions don't contain enough material for a feature length story, and then right then I expressed a desire to see a movie featuring Minions that contained no English. These things aren't mutually exclusive, and they're what makes the Minions work as comic relief for the most part. They're a break from the serious story. Now, the story here has the somewhat large caveat to swallow, that Minions exist to serve the most diabolical rulers around. This is really, really actually misgiving. Did they serve Hitler? Stalin? Genghis Khan? Pol Pot? Idi Amin? Vlad the Impaler? Yes, we definitely need a Minions/Dracula Untold (2014) mash-up, pronto.

I don't understand how they can be cheeky about this. Minions are cute and lovable, which really seems to contrast with their need to help the most evil people in history conquer the earth. How will they pull that off? Gru was supposedly evil, but the whole point in the first movie was kind of him discovering that he's not really an asshole. I never saw the second one. Why would I? To see purple Minions? I guess that's good enough, actually. I can't imagine a film like Minions to handle this juxtaposition with any actual nuance, though, and I'm nearly sure that my intrigue is groundless.

So, like I said, I'm sure that this film will do pretty well, considering the space it has from Inside Out, despite the fact that Inside Out was actually the #1 film last week. It's nutty to think about, but it is in its fourth week of release and only made $29 million. Things are actually more wide open than you'd think.

So, what say you? Will Minions and their unstoppable, ever-present marketing (we had a Minions Dance Party Break at the minor-league Baseball Game I went to on Wednesday night...) lead to an auspicious start? And if so, will it even have the cultural legs to distinguish itself like Despicable Me (2010) did, riding off of fluffy unicorns and tricky Steve Carell accents? Or will you go see The Gallows for some reason this weekend instead?

Let us know below!

06 July 2015

Summer Jam Week 9: C Us Again!

Happy America, everybody. On this most auspicious of Independence Days we have a spectacular list for you to dig into. There's a bit of everything this week, some really exciting gainers and other random shitty acts that we get every week. The Top Spot is also completely up for grabs at this point, with someone I had counted out surging back in the lead. Join us, won't you?

Hot Jam of the Week: "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" by Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend

I was actually mildly shocked when I heard that this was Meghan Trainor elegantly cooing this romance tune instead of belting out do-wop. John Legend adds his usually reliable voice, but this is remarkably mature for Trainor. Expect a video shortly and after that, this song to played at every wedding in Summer 2015. It's downright adorable.

Official Dance Jam of Summer 2015: "Watch Me" by Silentó

This jam finally dropped a video to accompany all the fan-made shit over the past few months, and in a cool move, they added a lot of those fan efforts to this great video. Well, great may be stretching it, but it's certainly fun, and if you haven't been Nae Naeing in your car every time this jam has come on the past few weeks, there's something wrong with you. Super addictive, catchy, and awesome, I think Silentó could have a great July.

Ra Ra Ra! "Cheerleader" by OMI

Clearly one of the biggest gainers this week, there isn't really a fresher song than "Cheerleader" going on right now. It's another really fun song with a bit of faux-reggae for good measure. It's actually got some cute pop progressions to its melody, a kind of weird lyrical subject and really soothing vocal work contrasted with an upbeat rhythm. Its....the...perfect...SUMMER JAM!

More Reggae...Electronic Reggae: "Lean On" by Major Lazer

"Lean On" has certainly been on the scene for a while, but this jam is finally bringing Diplo's Major Lazer project/character/persona/cartoon star to the limelight. "Lean On" is probably be best jam off of Peace is the Mission and I'm pumped that it's gaining traction.  I do love how "blow a kiss/fire a gun" basically sums up all of human history and how this song builds and crescendos upon its intimately intricate beat. This song was suddenly everywhere this week, so BAM here it be.

Smoke Smoke Smoke Me Broke: "Talking Body" by Tove Lo

I had discounted this jam for a bit, but it definitely came back in a big way this week. Tove Lo's run at Summer Jam Queendom apparently is far from over, which is great, because I love nearly every line in this song, which also makes for great titles and jokes in my recap list. Day drink into the night is a great Fourth of July philosophy, even if this track is meant to be somewhat ironic, or at the least melancholy.

Naughty Hemoglobin: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar

I just can't pretend that this is the powerhouse it should be anymore. Sure, it'll have a spot on this list for a while and it's getting better the more times I hear it, but it's far from being as ubiquitous as many of the other likely contenders this summer. I still dig the cameos, and as all those other ladies get more and more famous, this video is going to grow in notoriety. What a good investment, Tay Sway!

Zip It and Boogie: "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon

I've doubted this song forever, but I think it's time that I shut up and dance about. I was getting sort of sick of it, but it's clear that everyone else still loves it. Or at least radio stations and DJs do. It is an infectious Jam, that wears its fun on its sleeve and can easily be one of those generational anthems, even though it's totally 80s. Wait, recycling 80s themes IS this generation's mantra...PERFECT SUMMER JAM.

Hello Again: "C U Again" by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth

What can I say? Unlike Paul Walker, this song just won't die. Too soon? After really thinking this was out, I heard it everywhere this week. It's really not fair to have both a huge movie and a huge song. This is like "Let It Go" but actually radio-able. It's mind blowing. Seriously, it has like 605 million YouTube views as of Independence Day 2015! There's no doubting that this is one of the biggest tracks of the year, and much of that is this Summer, which is still going strong. PERFECT...nevermind.

Next week...

So, I definitely left out a couple this week. It was tough letting "Hey Mama" go, but I think it just faltered more than other this week. I was also close to posting "Post to Be" after the realization that "You gotta eat the booty like groceries" has slowly become THE lyric of Summer 2015. So, just enjoy that.

What do you think? What were you listening to this weekend as you watched parts of this country explode in celebration of our birthday?

03 July 2015

Road to a Blockbuster: Terminator! And Strippers!

Ah, Independence Day Weekend. Is there a better time to blow up a small part of this great country in celebration of freedom, democracy, and capitalism? For me the answer is...almost any time, because explosions are great and there's never a bad time for fireworks. Really, there's never a moment where I'd be standing around somewhere and someone is like "Hey you want to see some fireworks?" and I'd be like "No, that sounds terrible." What a time to be alive.
Thank goodness marriage equality passed, or
I'd feel funny staring at this...for hours.

Like every Friday this Summer (and beyond), we'll take a look at the major motion picture releases for the day, and we have two very special films coming out today that I've been wanting to rant about for a while. The first is the highly anticipated follow-up to the surprisingly excellent male stripper movie, Magic Mike (2012), which will try to succeed despite the lack of its two biggest at-the-time draws, Matt McConaughey and the steady hand of director Steven Soderbergh. The second is Terminator: Genisys (2015), which, SPOILER ALERT, I'm going to absolutely shit on for the next dozen or so pages of text. Let's start with Magic Mike XXL.

The big question with Magic Mike XXL is simply, "Will it work?" Soderbergh is still in as the cinematographer and the editor, and director, Greg Jacobs doesn't have a ton of work to his credit, but he has been Soderbergh's first AD forever. If there's anyone to carry on Soderbergh's legacy as a retired director, he's the dude. It's sort of funny that Magic Mike XXL is his first shot to do so, but whatevs.

Channing Tatum's star has only risen since Magic Mike, and the cast has switched around a little bit, but does any of that actually matter? it's all just saucy lady boner fuel, and any abs will do, really. Magic Mike worked because it gave a lot of the pathos and nuance behind the crumbled dollar bills, and the outrageous stripper scenes were just window dressing to make all that other boring shit more fun.

The issue is that I'm not sure it has the energy of the first one, or the daring to do things any different. Is this sequel really necessary? Well, the answer is, of course not, I mean, no sequels are, but is it actually pushing the story in any kind of worthwhile way? From the marketing material I can say that I have no idea at all what is happening, but then again, the first film didn't present much other than hot abs, so whatever. This ought to do alright, because it's targeting a decidedly female-centric audience, although to be honest, there actually has been a solid amount of female protags so far this summer, so maybe that won't be counter-programming enough to serve an under-served audience. Nah, no other film in a while has matched this well with the interests of horned up young women.

So, now, let's move on to what we all came here to talk about, the bound to be completely awful Terminator: Genysis. Err...Genisys. Whatever. You didn't even notice that was a typo, did you? Now, just for fun and to have a little something in the background while I wrote this, I searched Netflix for Terminator and found they only have the first one. That's kind of odd, right? I mean, this is the originator of the franchise, but one can hardly project how overblown and crazy shit got after this relatively straightforward story. Actually, T2: Judgment Day (1991) is relatively straightforward as well, but applied a spin to the story along with cutting-edge effects to beef it up without becoming overblown. It's one of the reasons I wrote a whole article about it being one of the greatest action movies of all time.

That was actually five years ago and I still have the same torn feelings towards the Terminator franchise. On the one hand, it produced two of our greatest sci-fi action films, including a rare sequel that improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way. On the other hand, it's given us three sequels now, each more emblematic of Hollywood's simultaneous inability to innovate beyond their past success along with their urge to rekindle a long-dead franchise every couple of years.

Seriously, all three terrible Terminator sequels were long-range pointless follow-ups. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) actually has some cool parts, and to be honest, I dig the ending a lot, although the TX as a villain just can't compete with the T-1000 and the whole thing just feels like a hollow echo of T2, without adding any actual value to the franchise.

It's almost hard to believe that as much time passed between T3 and Terminator: Salvation and that movie to now, but there it is. Salvation was supposed to promise a new trilogy, but who knows how the hell that was supposed to happen. That film is mostly remembered now as the scene of Christian Bale's temper tantrum over Dave the Lighting Guy, which is almost too bad, because there's a handful of cool things going on. For the most part, though, it's stuck in its own nostalgia, with literal shit like flaming garbage cans and a rubbery CGI Arnold to beat up poor John Connor, who Christian Bale somehow doesn't embody as well as Edward Furlong.

There are almost too many problems with Salvation to catalog. No part of it sells John Connor as a leader or an expert at defeating machines like T2 or even T3 did. You know, I want to comment again about watching Terminator (1984) right now - Arnold looks fucking cool. Like, he's not trying to be cool with the all black leather. Because why would a robot care about looking cool? He's got some bizarre 80s Tee on with a gray jacket, it's fantastic. Salvation also introduced Marcus Wright, who would be interesting if his character made any sense or worked the way anyone wanted him to in the movie, and maybe better if he was played by anyone other than Sam Worthington, who really gained the most notoriety by being the first of the super bland leading men, to be followed by Garret Hedlund, Taylor Kitsch, Charlie Hunnam, and our very own Jai Courtney.

So, Salvation didn't work on any critical, commercial, or cultural level, and no one really cared about it, so any and all sequel plans fizzled out. That's almost a shame because it was a departure from any other Terminator movie and proved that that world could be expanded without sticking to the repetitive robots-through-time shtick that the first two sequels couldn't break away from. The problem with this is that, as it turns out, the little glimpses we saw in Terminator and T2 were enough, and apparently, the more interesting story was always in the present.

So, if Magic Mike XXL was unnecessary, this sequel is totally unnecessary. There is zero storytelling effort going into this and virtually nothing to be gained other than an Arnold Schwarzenegger vanity project that is supposed to set up the studio with their next franchise. But this isn't like Jurassic World that is deferential while blazing its own path through intelligent self-reference. This is just this really dissonant experience between literally repeating the past and offering some extreme mind-fucks in its own insane meandering towards who knows where.
Hasta mañana.

Apparently, this also takes the path of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Jurassic World (2015) in selectively honoring certain sequels and ignoring others. It's not a terrible proposition, but I can't figure out why sequels tend to care at all about continuity. It's as if there's this big concern about fans being able to keep up, which I suppose is true in our obsessive, Internet-adled age, but I sort of wish sequels would be brave enough to just pick and choose without having to resort to big continuity jumps. Again, I'm describing Jurassic World, which didn't have to jump through hoops to remind us that Jurassic Park III (2001) sucked.

Now, I have only watched the trailers and every television commercial, but it's as if Genisys offers nothing new, only what worked in the past but remixed. It's blatantly declaring itself to be everything wrong with franchise sequels, which just stings more after other flicks this summer like Jurassic World, and fuck, to an even greater extent Mad Max: Fury Road got so much right. If you have confidence in your world you can make a great movie out of your setting if you just focus on making a great movie first and worry about setting up your sequels or shared universe or whatever later.

That probably wouldn't leave room for Arnold's involvement, and that might make him sore, but he's really really just too old for this. It might not be a coincidence that the trailer for Creed (2015) dropped this week, which showcases Stallone's most famous long-running franchise character, but it appropriately pushes Rocky to the side in favor of rising star, Michael B. Jordan. It's a spiritual passing of the same themes, which may not be appropriate for the Terminator (I can't picture Arnold coaching young...Terminators), but it's a step in a satisfying direction and an actual show of humility and realistic expectations from its aging superstar actor. I'm not sure after Salvation the studio wanted to risk another go around without Arnie, though.

Speaking of which, the Young Arnold in this does look far better than the one in Salvation, but that belays the point I just made - they can't get away from his legacy. No one saw Fury Road and thought "This would have been improved by Mel Gibson." Why can't we do the same with Terminator? Is it that Arnold is much more well-liked than Mel (arguably true, but they've both had their share of pretty rough scandals), or is it just that they want some bankable star to lead this crop of newbies? Hate to break it to you, but since his governator days, his three 2013 films haven't been so great in any sense of the word. Those being The Last Stand, Escape Plan, and Sabotage. He's not quite as bankable as he was in the 90s.

The rest of the cast is a total mixed bad. Emilia Clarke should be a superstar. She can be. Jai Courtney has tried so hard to be a superstar, but always turns into a dope. This won't push him to the A-List. Maybe Suicide Squad (2016) will if he can be sort of memorable. In Jason Clarke's two most high profile roles, he has been solid but hateable in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and the most uninteresting part of an otherwise great film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). This role here as the villainous John Connor (more on that later) just seems too damn weird to make a case.

I am actually a big Byung-hun Lee fan after G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009), where yes, he's the best part, and The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008), which is a crazy fun action adventure western out of Korea. But he succeeded in these roles because he was a hardass who was allowed these little moments of humanity to show emotion, which made his characters subtext really interesting and well rounded. Robot. Totally.

Okay, let's discuss the John Connor thing. The trailers have given away what even director Alan Taylor has said is a decent spoiler, that somehow the machines made him into a super Terminator and also sent him back in time. So, he's now the bad guy. So, if that's the fucking case, then why do they have to go back in time at all to kill Sarah Connor? I mean, as I just found out in Terminator, the point is that John Connor won, and the Terminator was a last ditch effort. So killing him just undoes a lot of the shit he did. But if they still capture him in the future and make him a Super Terminator, can't they just rebuild from there? Or at least use him to wipe out the rest of his command? I haven't seen this yet, admittedly, but why is anyone going back in time? Why not make all their enemies into terminators? This is all retarded.

Evidently, the spoilers started popping up, ironically to spark interest and show the world they are into new directions, but they've totally made me want to see this movie less. Everything about this marketing campaign has just reeked of desperation. The latest trailers playing in theaters are even trying to get James Cameron's endorsement, which is just all soo, soo, sooooo pathetic. It's clawing at any strand it can and just shows that the studio has no faith in this project.

Plus, the title is terrible.

And if you want my honest opinion (if you haven't figured it out so far), I actually sincerely believe that they should just play Judgment Day in theaters this weekend instead of this. I would honestly go see Judgment Day in theaters if it was playing. That'd be sweet. I've never seen it in theaters. I have no desire to see this and the sooner we can all forget about it, the better.

Now, will this actually make any money? There's maybe enough distance from Jurassic World, but it could very well get buried by that and Inside Out (2015) which is still going strong. Its appeal is way more that classic PG-13 action blockbuster nerd crowd, though, and it's been a little while since we had a really good one of those. It's Independence Day, long weekend, things could go smoothly. It's not going to set any records, but it probably won't do completely terrible.

So, what do you think? Do you already hate this movie as much as I do? Will you be shelling out for Magic Mike XXL instead? Terminator is on Netflix. Give it a shot!
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