31 May 2016

Mutants for Days! Filling X-Movies for Generations to Come

It's been a big year for X-Men movies, and this weekend saw the release of the highly anticipated yet coldly received Apocalypse (2016), which is a true crossroads for the franchise. Not only is it essentially the culmination of the trilogy begun with First Class (2011), but it also seems apparent that this will be the last go around for some of the stars that weren't such huge stars when it started. It's somewhat insane that despite its expansive cast of characters, we've zeroed in on Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique for the better part of eight movies, the only real exception being Deadpool (2016) for some reason.

That being said, we'd be in good shape to move forward not just focusing on the "new" characters of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler introduced in Apocalypse, but on the ridiculous number of mutants we somehow haven't seen yet. Now, admittedly, these get a little rough. Not as rough as this, because there are thousands of terrible obscure mutants, but here are some of the more blatant bigger names we haven't approached yet:

Cable, Domino, and Other Shitty X-Force Mutants
X-Force is really just X-men with guns

This will supposedly be addressed in Deadpool 2 (2018), and the names tossed around like Stephen Lang, Dolph Lundgren, Ron Pearlman, or Keira Knightly are all spectacular choices. It's an even better choice to slot Cable into Deadpool, which will likely eschew an origin story, because that could take up a whole damn movie and waste a lot of fun time. Domino is probably the other biggest name mutant attached to the Deadpool mythos, and after also being played by Keira Knightly, ought to find herself on the big screen.

Outside of that, there's a slew of shitty X-Force Mutant that are super-90s like Shatterstar, Rictor, Boom Boom, and Cannoball that deserve background moments or just fights like Days of Future Past (2014) did. Some of these are really weird. Shatterstar is like, an interdimensional clone from the future. Why is that necessary in a comic about mutants?


We shouldn't doubt the influence of the 1990s Fox Kids X-Men cartoon on our public consciousness and canonization of the core X-Man team. There's a reason why we all know Jubilee more than Psylocke. Iceman seemed to never make show appearances, either, but as an original X-man that's well-regarded as the most powerful cryokinesis user, he's well-regarded in our memory.

The same can't be said for Sunfire. No one seems as interested in a Human Torch vs. Firefly vs. Pyro vs. Sunfire bout. I'll suggest it's his super-doofy squidface mask, and despite the phenomenal Age of Apocalypse re-design that never really stuck afterwards. His powers were mimicked by Sunspot in Days of Future Past, and even though his backstory is full of intrigue, I can't see him in any near future installments.

Mr. Sinister

His powers have been a mystery for 30 years
I never thought I'd see Apocalypse on the big screen, but I feel the same about Mr. Sinister right now. He's "too weird," "too campy," or "too obscure." He's certainly the kind of guy who you could center a film around, especially now that Apocalypse has been introduced into the cinematic world. Have a flashback to the 1800s geneticist's transformation into he insane Mr. Sinister and we're right there. Ultimately at this point though, he'd totally feel like a step down in terms of threat level. There's nothing really wrong with telling a smaller story, though, especially when you're leaning on Tye Sheridan's Cyclops going forward. Let's see him shoot some concussive blasts in the sewers and figure out his life. It'll be more fun than a barrel of Morlocks.


The worst thing about Sauron is that from then on, we'd refer to the big bad in The Lord of the Rings as "SOAR-on." He's also a giant pteranodon, which both has shades of this and the general insane baggage that the Savage Land brings. If we're really comic book-ifying everything, though, you can't get much campier than Ka-Zar and the Savage Land. I say go all in. Deadpool showed what staying true to comic goofiness can do. We really lack the insane mind-blowing super science stories in movies these days. Of course there's a line between knowing irony, meta-genre work and pure camp. Right? Who knows where that line is. It's Sauron turning the people of the Savage Land into Dinosaurs. Wait...that actually was the plot of Amazing Spider-Man (2012), right? Fuck me! Let's scratch that.


It's kind of weird that the X-Men movies have showcased nearly the entire Brotherhood, although they've never really managed to have everyone on screen at once. From Toad in X-Men (2000) to Pyro featuring prominently in The Last Stand (2006), and of course the other mutants popping up in weird places like the Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and Quicksilver bypassing his villainous past and going straight to the X-Men. Mystique has been everywhere. There's other weird Brotherhood of Evil Mutants characters like Destiny, Phantazia, and Mastermind (who I'd contend was a solid inspiration for William Stryker's son, Jason in X2 [2003, even though there is a basis for that character, his powers are super Mastermind-ish]). Throughout all of this, Avalanche is conspicuously absent. I always saw him with Blob and Pyro as a trio of BFFs, but the live action pretty much ignores him. He'd be a fantastic addition visually and could surely pad out any team of evildoer. He's surely more crony than big bad, but there's plenty of space for that.


Rumours of Taylor Swift appearing as Dazzler in Apocalypse were too good to be true. Relegated to an Easter Egg is fair, but why not implement one of the more bizarre product placements of all time? Originally a cross-promotional effort by Casablanca Records and Marvel comics, she somehow became the greatest rocker / superhero / whatever in the X-Men universe. Sliding her into Apocaylpse would have worked best since she's one of the most 80s Creations of all time, but there's still room for her to pop up elsewhere. Every generation has shitty music with bad weird stage light effects, and she could fit in wherever. I mean, Rebecca Black, Zendaya, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dazzler! Right? Only one of those is actually a great teen bob sensation. It's Dazzler!

Gladiator, Lilandra, and Other Shitty Space Mutants

There is some indication that the series wants to move into the 90s with a cosmological bent, which would make sense, since the X-Franchise seems to straddle the line between innovating in the superhero genre (period films, crossover films) and aping similar styles, with the possible advantage of needing only one series of films to bring together (internal hero wars, Big centralizing villains). As DC tried and failed to go cosmic with Green Lantern (2011), and Marvel was much more successful with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), could X-Men do the same with Gladiator, the Starjammers, and all that other crap? There's certainly enough material out there to make a nutty space film, although they ought to use some caution in its construction.

I don't think a detached, ironic, Guardians-esque approach would be appropriate. A Green Lantern-style film that slams too much insane jargon is forced into a movie isn't a great situation either. An X-Men movie that implements a space opera starring an established set of mutants playing across the galaxy could be a fantastic idea if done right. Gladiator's not only a powerhouse mohawk'd Superman to put on film but Lilandra has the most bizarre hair ever and a weird Professor X relationship that would make an incredible yet really weird film.

Puck, Guardian, and Other Shitty Alpha Flight Members

Alpha Flight might be a stretch, but at least Puck and Guardian ought to make an appearance somewhere. Not only is Puck just about the only little person superhero ever, but Northstar is also one of the very few openly gay superheroes. These are all great opportunities to expand the variety of superheroes on screen beyond angsty white dudes, which is a nice shift. There's almost no way to do this without showcasing Wolverine again as the big connector, though, which is an awkward obstacle.

Chamber, and Other Shitty Generation X Mutants

He'll never taste bacon again!
Supposedly the New Mutants are evolving into a film of their own, and most of them are pretty forgettable, even though the eventually evolved into X-Force. A generation later, Generation X came up with a ton of young weirdos figuring out their powers, which included some great potential on-screen mutants like M and Husk, but I've always liked Chamber. He'd be quite the pain in the ass to put on screen, but that initial chest explosion would be a pretty sweet into to any film you could come up with.

Polaris, Strong Guy, and Other Shitty X-Factor Mutants

You may kind of get the point by now...there are plenty of teams that haven't really been fully exploited yet. The 90s incarnation of X-Factor has already seen Havok and Multiple man appear on screen, but padding it out with Strong Guy, Polaris, and Wolfsbane would be worth it. Out of that crop, Polaris is probably the most developed character, although her Magneto-like powers may prevent her from getting on screen until the film series finally gets away from the Metal Master. Strong Guy would be another real weird one of they went comic accurate, but considering how scared they are of featuring super-strong heroes, he could have a purpose.

Longshot, Mojo, and that Crap.

Ironically, the exact opposite of Austin Powers.
The last biggest gap is Mojo and the completely insane Mojoverse. This would really be the biggest stretch possible, and something I never really see happening. It's not like Mojo was ever a fan favourite. Apocalypse or Psylocke or Quicksilver finally appearing on screen inspires a lot of excitement and curiosity. Mojo does not reach those same levels of instant interest. It would be a much harder sell, especially with out serious the franchise is outside of Deadpool. Mojo is certainly a step in that Deadpool-like direction, and that film would be an extreme commitment to insanity in a completely goofy way. The benefit is Longshot, who could be played with aplomb by any young up and coming actor with plenty of room for some innovative action scenes. His power is luck, after all - what's better for film convenience?!

Honourable Mentions: There is a lot more to go through. There's a more recent wave of mutants including Dust, Elixir, and Rockslide. I've never really been into Morph, Magik, Mimic, or Madelyne Pryor, but those are all possibilities. Pryor would bleed into Selena, Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club, which was all touched on in First Class. The other big side is straight Wolverine-specific enemies like Omega Red and Daken, which you could even combine with X-23 to make a full movie, although Hollywood tends to make him mentor other random young heroines in training. I suppose we have Wolverine 3 (2017) to possibly run this last bit, but who knows.

There are also some really terrible villains, from Unis, to Vanisher, to the Shadow King, Garokk, oh, it's all pretty bad. And you wonder why the movies keep repeating Magneto...

So what do you think? What did we miss?

30 May 2016

Summer Jam Week 3: The Odd Memorial Day Mix

For better or worse I've found that I've totally devolved into weird hip-hop and funky folk band music. It's an odd combination at best, and the Memorial Weekend soundtrack it's provided is pretty unusual. Still we have no regurts. Perk up your earballs, America:

Hot Jam of the Week: "No Problem" by Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne

There seemed to be a lot of new rap jams dropping this week, but none were as fun as this track. It's my hope this is 2016's "Trap Queen" - it's at least equally unintelligible, but that matters less than its flow which is pretty addictive. Chance the Rapper needs a bit legitimizing hit. He doesn't have to convince anyone who listens to hip-hop that he's incredible, but the rest of the world ought to listen up.

Red Hot Funky Peppers: "Dark Necessities" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is quite a bit funkier than any Chili Peppers song I can remember, and even though I'd argue that the band has never gone away for too long, this is a nice jam to reassert their relevance. Is it actually relevant, though? There are way hotter jams out there right now and this feels like a relic without invoking Weezer-like nostalgia. I'm down, though. This is chill enough to beat the hotness this past weekend!

Keep That Funk Rolling: "Ain't No Man" by The Avett Brothers

Just as "Dark Necessities" is as funky as the Peppers are going to get, this is totally the Avett Brothers version of funk. I don't really care for most of their pop-folk jams, but this is a tits song. The video actually comes across mad awkward, and I don't know what the actual audience for this thing is - can you picture a drunken frat party belting this out? A Brooklyn block party? A West Virginian family reunion? Who knows and for that reason it'll vanish pretty quick, but for now it's a nice slice of summer.

Laid Off: "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony

I get a lot of mixed feelings from this video. Just when I start to get a boner it's intercut with all these sweaty dudes. They slam beautiful people everywhere to confuse my poor sensibilities. This is still a pretty hot jam, though and even though the lyrics are kind of insipid and make no sense, I can get behind it for the next few weeks fo sho.

You Only Dance Once: "One Dance" by Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla

This is another jam that's really growing on me, and even though there seems to be a few Drake jams going on at once right now (aren't there always?) the subtle sensuality of this track is starting to get its hooks in me. It's one fault might be that it's actually a remarkable short song. It tends to give me slow jam blue balls.

But It Feels Like a Lifetime: "7 Years" by Lukas Graham

I think I've officially gotten sick of this song. I can't get over how Lukas Graham looks like a little white kid who escaped from an Inglewood fat camp, but I am over how interesting this song initially was. It's probably not going anywhere for a few weeks, which is unfortunately for my poor ears.

Bamboo Boogie: "Panda" by Desiigner

Fine, I'm on board with this. After doubting this song's actual potential last week, this track's charm has won me over. I suddenly don't think it's going anywhere. The "panda" repeat is actually really infectious and Desiigner's rap style, basically an emulation of Fetty Wap, is pretty in vogue right now.

You're Breaking My Heart: "Ophelia" by The Lumineers

I heard this track a ton this week, and it's probably at its peak. This feels like a big step for The Lumineers, who side with The Avett Brothers in that pop-folk category that seems irrelevant if not for their niche sound. This has also crossed over to more pop stations in addition to its rock pedigree, which helped boost its obliquity this week. Is this really deserving of the Memorial Day crown? It doesn't feel like it, but there were plenty of close call this week.

Next week...

I dissed JT for the second week in a row, which may be to my detriment, but I'll stand by the jams I picked. I was also considering Flo Rida's new track, "Hello Friday" because you really can't have summer without Flo Rida. He doesn't actually make any real music, just sexy summer jams. I also can't figure out which single Rihanna is backing from Anti, because now "Needed Me" seems like a thing. Same with Beyoncé's "Sorry." Of course next week, we're most looking forward to is Connor4real...

27 May 2016

Apocalypse: Through the Looking Glass

Memorial Weekend is upon us folks, and if the first weekend of May wasn't enough for you, this is really the start of your Summer Sextravaganza. It's truly the time to settle in and clench for week after week of ad nauseum blockbuster assault until you puke in ecstasy. This is a rare Memorial Day Weekend where we have two pretty big films opening against each other set to cannibalize the shit out of their audiences. On the one side of the aisle we have the eighth X-Men film in sixteen years, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), which promises to bring the greatest X-Foe to the screen. On a not too distant side of the spectrum is Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), which infinitely feels like a film that's dropping way too late to follow-up another movie that made seriously surprising bank but hasn't totally held up well since. Who wins this weekend? Let's overanalyze:

It's important to keep focus on the three major influences a film can have. I generally file this under a film's critical, commercial, and cultural potential. You can consider a film successful if it excels at any of these aspects, and its success grows if it can hit two at once, and if it strikes at all three then we've got a really special piece of art on our hands. Where does Apocalypse and Alice fit?
Jennifer Lawrence wrote it in her contract that the Mystique
make-up would be more flattering in each installment.

Reviews for Apocalypse are already pretty harsh, with some even calling it the worst superhero film ever. I'm cautious about reviews that are piling in and tending towards groupthink, which seems really easy to do with blockbusters meant to appeal to nerds. We tend to make up our minds quickly and fear deviation from the Internet's general consensus. I only say this because when looking at a film like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), everything presented in the trailers (except for that first trailer, which was so good) looked like total shit. I'm much more on board with the marketing material presented for Apocalypse, which looks equal parts campy, ridiculous, intense, awe-inspiring, and comic-accurate. This is a big turn-around for Singer, who has come full circle from X-Men (2000), which always seemed somewhat ashamed of its origins, like it was trying to disguise its pulp origins. Apparently X-Men movies need to be period films to make their gaudy costumes work, but I'm okay with that.

Commercially, I would suggest this is almost guaranteed to make bank, although this will likely come more from overseas markets. The bright colors, all-star cast (or as close as we're going to get these days), and sheer spectacle, apparently at the possible expense of story, are all tailored towards solid international play. It's already lead the world in its opening last week and could keep surging for a while without any real competition besides Alice.

Having said that, the X-Franchise seems to have a solid ceiling compared to other superhero films. This is of course acknowledging that Days of Future Past (2014)'s $747 million is a weak haul. It doesn't really have that all-encompassing Dark Knight (2008) or Avengers (2012) under its belt to secure its place in the billion-dollar club. I actually amazingly overlooked Deadpool (2016) earlier, which means this is actually the ninth X-Movie, which is still notably the highest-grossing film in the franchise.

There's a lot riding on this, and by all means all signs should point to it being the culmination of these nine films. Apocalypse is the biggest and most powerful comic book villain ever put on film in direct conflict with our heroes (a cogent argument exists for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer [2007]'s Galactus, but c'mon - that's horseshit). In its own way this is how the X-franchise beats Marvel's Thanos and DC's Darkseid to the punch, although it doesn't quite feel as epic. It's essentially built its franchise expansiveness within its own films, using Days of Future Past as its team-up movie linking two trilogies' worth of characters. Apocalypse also practically serves as its "Heroes Fight Eachother" movie, even if we haven't seen this exact incarnation of Storm and Angel in the mix. Still, each of the Horsemen besides Psylocke have been introduced in previous films, and bouts like Storm vs. Cyclops, Beast vs. Archangel, Psylocke vs. Mystique (whose character has, for the better, been so mutated by Jennifer Lawrence's pedigree and talent, that she's become the central protagonist of the First Class Trilogy) are nearly as compelling as watching Cap wail on Iron Man.

This all makes the critical drubbing disappointing, moreso if it's actually true that it sucks balls. I think this could have had a decent cultural effect. Most X-films have had something great about them to reflect on, even if it's odd or out of place. What happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch! The two Wolverine movies, for better or worse have stuck in our memory, even if The Wolverine (2013) comes off better if not less relevant. Quicksilver's "Time in a Bottle." X2: X-Men United (2003) remains one of the best films ever, and only needed Nightcrawler's White House Attack and Magneto's prison escape to do it. I generally trust in Bryan Singer's creativity, although Jack the Giant Slayer (2013). There are a lot of superhero films this year, and most of them are pushing the genre into unfamiliar territory. I think Apocalypse's detriment, as indicated by early reviews is quite possibly that it's not pushing the genre anywhere and comes off as stale and insignificant, despite its villain's omnipotence, role as franchise apex, and cast and crew quality. The result is a simple misread of the zeitgeist. I'd be curious if it's reappraised in a few years. Or if critics are just haters.
Mia Wasikowska wandered into Beorn's shack

Let's move on to Alice Through the Looking Glass. Early reviews are pretty damn awful, and the synopsis seems completely vapid. Alice in Wonderland (2010) really came out of no where, and made a ton of money despite being a pretty worthless film. I actually like some of the concepts that abound, and the world is pretty immersive, if not full of CGI that's now aged in a way that's not great. It's solely to blame for the current glut of Disney live-action remakes, although Wonderland weirdly advanced the story while also re-making it. It's an altogether odd affair that was bolstered mostly by the 3D ticket sale boom of 2010.

I suppose that precisely, Through the Looking Glass isn't actually a live action remake, because even though it's based on the Lewis Carroll book sequel to the more famous Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), it's never really had a definitive adaptation, although elements have been lifted and slotted into previous Wonderland adaptations. So, what is this, then? A sequel to a live action remake that's also a literary adaptation. Sick, bro. Is this even a franchise?

Creatively, something like Snow White & The Huntsman (2012) had a lot more going for it from a production design standpoint. Even though at the time, Wonderland was only the fifth film to crack the $1 billion mark (which it did in March, by the way - see also: every fantasy film that's been released in March ever since trying to capitalize on this "dead" time), it hasn't really entered into that cultural discussion as a beloved modern classic. At all. Through the Looking Glass doesn't seem to want to add to that conversation.

It'll almost certainly make money, but as a sort of children's fantasy adventure I think there are better options out there, namely The Angry Birds Movie (2016), which seems a much more positive affair. I suppose it's really targeting that 12-14 year old market more, possibly sliding more female than male. That same age group on the boys' side is probably watching Apocalypse this weekend, or at least buying those tickets and sneaking into Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016). I can't really see it winning the weekend, although based on prior investment, you actually need to lean on Alice over any X-Men movie. There might be enough goodwill there to push it through. Somehow it could be considered the broader option.

Critically and culturally I'd predict Through the Looking Glass an abject failure. With director James Bobin taking over from and putting his own spin on Tim Burton's distinctive aesthetic, I'm curious if it's more Muppets (2011) or Muppets Most Wanted (2014). If it's more the former, we're in good shape. I'm sure it will make some coin, but it feels more like Maleficient (2014) numbers than Alice in Wonderland numbers. Remember back in 2014 when we had like six $200 million movies that were all kind of successes but not really bombs? That must have been rough to write hyperbole about, Internet. Based on how this summer is sandwiching blockbusters, I think it'll hit around that mark.

So what are you seeing this weekend? Crazy shit or crazier shit? Who will win the battle for America's soul? Leave it below!

25 May 2016

SNL Season 41 in Review

Another season of Saturday Night Live has come and gone, and after thinking about it for a week, it's time to dive a little bit more into the season and chat about those great hosts and sketches that we'll be Googling to waste time for years to come. In general we're at a weird time for SNL. It's still re-building after losing the bulk of its main late-2000s cast the last few seasons, although at what point does re-building wear off? This was Jay Pharaoh, Taran Killam, and Vanessa Bayer's sixth season and somehow Bobby Moynihan's eighth. I'm fans of all these people, isn't it time they broke out?

The season MVP is assuredly Kate McKinnon. It's about damn time she got some movie roles and I'm hoping she's the breakout star of Ghosbusters (2016). She draws the eye in any sketch she's in and has mastered the odd yet confident delivery with a wide range of insane roles, always barely hiding a knowing smirk.

The only rookie this year was Jon Rudnitsky, who seemed to try awfully hard, although wasn't seen too much. Still, that Dirty Dancing bit was inspired (pulled off NBC, but here's him doing it as part of his stand-up) and given the opportunity I think he could succeed off his earnestness and ability to mug without being obnoxious about it. As far as other newbies go, I'm all-in with the Kyle Mooney / Beck Bennett anti-humour, and Bennett has become an incredible utility player. Pete Davidson plays like a 2016 version of Adam Sandler.

Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant have well-developed comic personas and are also ready to break-out. Last year I cringed whenever Update came along, but Colin Jost and Michael Che seemed to retool their chemistry this year and it became the highlight of nearly any show. This is in part due to Che perfecting his delivery. Thankfully Leslie Jones is also getting more comfortable live, and her persona is so definitive. Sasheer Zamata seemed to vanish by the latter half of the season for reasons I don't really understand. Sure her bit on update towards the end of the year seemed awkward and unsure of herself, but she typically kills it in sketches. Still, it's clear she's a supporting player rather than a star.

Before we get into the best sketches, let's present a definitive ranking of every episode this year by host:

#1: Ariana Grande
Ryan Gosling
Adam Driver
Fred Armisen
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Tracy Morgan
Larry David
Elizabeth Banks
Chris Hemsworth
Russell Crowe
Amy Schumer
Peter Dinklage
Matthew McConaughey
Ronda Rousey
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
Melissa McCarthy
Brie Larson
Jonah Hill
Miley Cyrus
#Shit: Donald Drumpf

So, feel free to chew on that for a while. Let's get into my favourite sketches, which generally tend to lean real, real weird:

"Tidal" or "Sound of Music" or "Kids Choice Awards" from Ariana Grande

I couldn't decide between these three, but needless to say the Ariana Grande episode hit all the right notes with a host who was totally game for weird awkwardness, spot-on singing in almost every sketch, and a lot of very carefully set-up premises like these three.

"Brunch" from Chris Hemsworth

I really love how weird and willing to poke fun of himself Hemsworth is in this. And not typical celebrity self-awareness, the eventual revelation that Chris Hemsworth is possibly in sexual love with himself or just disguises himself as this woman, "Claire" supposedly for years, or as it turns out, just a day, in order to talk up how hot he is. It's an amazing deconstruction of celebrity egoism that goes into surreal territory that's spectacular.

"The Champ" from Jonah Hill

This is another really surreal sketch about a hapless weirdo whose rug is pulled out from under him. This bit just revels in setting up Jonah to impossible elation and then slams him down into a pit of pathetic despair. It's fantastic.

"Movie Night" from Melissa McCarthy

There wasn't a better "watch sex with your parents" sketch this year, and the level of increased awkwardness on all three sides is brilliant. Incest is almost always funny, no matter what your friends say and the revelation of subtext is great, especially when the Dad just starts repeating the Farmers Insurance theme as Pete gets more and more desperate.

"Thanksgiving Miracle" from Matthew McConaughey

Maybe just because it was the most timely sketch ever, from refugees, ISIS, transgender people, Adele - it's so damn November 2015 it's crazy. It's also spot-on accurate that Adele unites everyone, bringing out their inner-fur coat wearer. It descends into looniness and parody but really everything works here.

"Bern your Enthusiasm" from Larry David

The whole Larry David = Bernie Sanders thing was a brilliant observation someone made last year, and SNL cunningly made it happen. It all came together here in the smartest sketch of the year, which I'm sure has all to do with its Curb Your Enthusiasm ties. It's truly a 5-minute version of Curb starring Bernie Sanders, which is stunning to pull off.

"Meet Your Second Wife" from Tina Fey & Amy Poehler

The Tina & Amy episode was a little disappointing until this sketch delivered a perfect premise that cuts through a social issue that's typically ignored beyond regular muffled disgust. It's a perfect spin on the game show premise that SNL has been keen to play with lately; using the format to spin on issues or concepts rather than making jokes out of the gameshow itself. It's a biting bit and when soon-to-be impregnated Cecily Strong walks out, it reaches perfection.

"Close Encounter" from Ryan Gosling

The premise of this is really "Just let Kate go nuts." Her character is artfully crafted and soon became classic McKinnon. Every other cast member does their best to not crack up as they serve her softballs. The jokes, timing, and wary conclusions her frazzled character draws are genuinely hilarious. This works by being the wall-to-wall funniest sketch of the year.

"Farewell Mr. Bunting" from Fred Armisen

They assuredly saved the best sketch for last. From last week's Fred Armisen episode, this pre-recorded goof on Dead Poets Society (1989) has such a long, drawn-out set-up that's dramatically captivating with very little jokes (besides that Jay Pharaoh hat bit, and the general hyperbole of Bennett's reading about poetry ["The arts in general are for women and homosexuals"]). Then that ending. Wow. If you haven't seen it, press play right above and treat yourself.

As for "Space Pants", yeah it's great, but the mis-timing by Rudnitsky and then Gwen Stefani always throws me. It's also a bit too weird without the regular amount of surreality, subtle subtext, or aggressive unexpectedness that I usually dig about the show's more absurd sketches.

So that's a wrap for the year. Do you agree with these sketches? Sound off below, loyal citizen.

23 May 2016

Summer Jam 2016 Week 2: Live from Mt. Doom

Welcome to the Second Week of our Summer Adventure - we're still crawling out of our winter shells and into the bright sunshiney hope of the year's middle, and so we've got eight more hot jams to slather over. Now, these are obviously the hottest possible tracks around, definitely none that have been around for a year that I just discovered this week.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Way Down We Go" by Kaleo

This is a gritty-ass song, emphasized by the fact that it was recorded inside a volcano in Iceland. That's definitely a Dethklok-esque gimmick, but the end product is pretty satisfying. I did just hear it on the radio yesterday so it gets a spot here. In NMW's infinite reach and musical though leadership it's the least I can do to highlight a blistering group like this.

Just Us: "Me, Myself, and I" by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha

This is kind of past its prime, so it gets a low spot, but it deserves some kind of mention since it's riding a solid wave from the spring. I dig G-Eazy, notably dishing on "I Mean It" two summers ago and this track is bolstered a ton by the confident nots of Bebe Rexha, whoever that is, whose owl sounds really push this into infinitely listenable territory. I think it's well past its peak, but like I said, only the hottest, baby!

90s Incarnate: "King of the World" by Weezer

You can tell I've been listening to more rock than pop lately, since there's no Demi Lovato or Natalie La Rose anywhere. Weezer totally found out how to tap back into their 90s sound, perfectly recreating that whole damn decade, for nostalgia fans everywhere. It's not even like they're really aping their earlier style, though, it's more like they're just still making good music that stands on its own. This of course contrasts with the Foo Fighters, who just kind of put out the same song each year since 2012.

Hamlet 3: "Ophelia" by The Lumineers

See, rock tends to be on a slightly different release spectrum than pop. All its hits are delayed before they hit our my ears. I swear. I dig this track, though, which rides that faux-pop folk trend started by Mumford & Sons in 2010 less than some of The Lumineers' more hipster-y work. I can see this being a nice one to jam to this summer, less obnoxious than it would sound at first.

Rufio FTW: "Lost Boy" by Ruth B

This is such a sweet little song, probably too mellow and maudlin for true Summer Jam-ness, but it's still a pretty hot track right now. I like the dissonance of this chick calling herself a Lost Boy - gender roles be damned fo sho. Was this on the Pan (2015) soundtrack? Do you guys remember Pan? No? That makes sense. I'd be curious to see how this floats on, because it's an addictive, if not a sorrowful track.

Sneeze on This: "Panda" by Desiigner

This is totally the kind of song where I'm not sure if the artist's name was "Panda" or "Desiigner." Also those double i's are really annoying. This is fun. all over again. This was a soaring jam this week, though, even if the lyrics are real weird. Ultimately this is no "Trap Queen" or "Jumpman," though. There's just nothing really distinctive about this to put it over the edge. I do dig that part where he just says "Panda" over and over though.

Seat to This: "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign

I get endless joy from Fifth Harmony. You know they were all born in like 1996, right? And none of them are white! As far as Simon Cowell's manufactured and exploited pop groups go, they've seemed to rise above other sheer trash like Cher Lloyd or Little Mix. I also had no idea this was made up of five women until I saw their first music video. Somehow they've turned themselves into not a one-hit wonder, and are mounting an assault on Summer 2016 just like they did last year. Risky move to not sell with sex.

Pop Lifetime: "Seven Years" by Lukas Graham

So just about all these songs are kind of boffo as Summer Jams. This may has well be the week of slow sad jams. And "Work From Home." Like I said, Sad Jams. Lukas Graham looks like Clark Duke if he tried to be a rapper. Except he doesn't actually do any rapping. This is a popular track though, even if I struggle to picture it playing successfully at a college graduation party. Too heavy, bro! I'm figuring this hangs for a while at this point.

Next week...

There's a new JT jam out, and it debuted at #1, but it kind of blows so I skipped it for now. It'll probably be here next week if it spreads like it should. Other than that, I'm still looking to Bieber and Ariana, but they both seem to be falling more than rising. I definitely leaned into the rock this week. Time to bring back the R&B Jam of the Week methinks...stay tuned for the Memorial Day Edition!

20 May 2016

Nice Guys, Bad Girls, Mean Birds - Weekend of Champions

I didn't say much in anticipation of Captain America: CIVIL WAR (2016) two weeks back, and unbelievably, I also kept my mouth shut during the premiere of The Darkness (2016) and Money Monster (2016) last week. Today, however, we have a trio of films that we need to discuss. As I've done in years past, we'll spend every Friday from now until forever discussing the critical, commercial, and cultural potential of each big summer film. It's a big beefy version of this.

There are three wide releases dropping this week, and although some of them are kind of similar, they make for a good block of programming. I'm not convinced any will do all that extremely well, but there's no reason to doubt we have some quality films on our hands. First up, Shane Black's The Nice Guys (2016).
Fightin' 'round the world!

The Nice Guys found its way on my most-anticipated list this year, and I'm still pretty excited. If anything it's a great excuse to talk about Shane Black, who I think gets a little bit of flack for writing the game changing Lethal Weapon (1987), then copying his own style for years and years until he literally had to parody himself in Last Action Hero (1993), which soured a lot of people on both his talents and Arnold Schwarzenegger (I, of course, personally disagree, although it was a bit ahead of its time). He actually had the gall to follow that one up with a Geena Davis / Sam Jackson buddy cop movie that no one has seen, then took a break for a while.

Shane Black really is the buddy cop expert. Literally every film he's written with the exception of The Monster Squad (1987, and that was mostly Fred Dekker) have featured some kind of buddy pairing, whether it be meta-commentary or not. He arguably peaked with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), which more blatantly used all of Last Action Hero's fourth-wall breaking along with serving as the first entry in Robert Downey Jr.'s comeback tour (and Val Kilmer's. And Black's himself). That film was able to fulfill all of Black's tropes while toning down the extreme, over-the-top masculinity of something like The Last Boy Scout (1991), which is super-insane. It tempers his wild energy with freshness and charm instead of shock value.

The other big entry is obviously Iron Man 3 (2013), which remains one of the better-constructed Marvel films, even if the third act gets wonky and there's suddenly a fuss over the lack of a female villain. This isn't even really anything to get mad about. I mean, getting mad at evil corporations for wanting to make money is like getting mad at a pig for eating shit. It's objectively a sexist move, but we ought to stop thinking of big movies as creative, progressive expressions of art.

So, what do you do when you make the 10th highest-grossing film of all time (5th at the time of release..)? Obviously you scrap together $50 million to make an original goofy period buddy movie starring Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling. It's really telling to see what movies directors choose to make after they get carte blanche. Nolan made Inception (2010). Bay made Pain & Gain (2013). Raimi made Drag Me to Hell (2009). Verbinksi made Rango (2011). Look at James Cameron making fucking AVABAR (2009)! It also reminds me of the Coen Bros riding astounding critical acclaim and a Best Picture win after No Country for Old Men (2007) settling into Burn After Reading (2008) and A Serious Man (2009). Who does that?! We've gotten some really great, really weird films from directors trusted to do whatever they want, typically using their name alone to sell the film. I don't think Shane Black's there yet, since this is actually only his third feature as a director, but it's nice to see this getting made at all and squeezing in among the blockbusters that he helped helm three years back.

The ad campaign for this has been light, fun, and witty, and it feels like a total throwback film, which I think will appeal to a certain age group. It can capture that certain feeling of older audiences who want to move on from juvenile superhero films (although CIVIL WAR is decently mature), but still have a fun and fresh time at the movies. That seems like a narrow window, though. Ultimately I think this could have a decent cultural effect if it's good and warrants a lot of repeated viewership. There's no real reason to expect it wouldn't, if Black is trending more Kiss Kiss Bang Bang than The Long Kiss Goodnight. What's most fair, though, is that his career in general is about equal hits and misses, even if his misses are fucking spectacular.
They call the JV squad "The Joeys"

Up next we have Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zach Efron, and a whole gaggle of insane young actresses. The first Neighbors (2014) was a spectacular film and pretty close to the funniest film of 2014. Seth Rogen rarely misses when he makes a film where his Rogen-ness is fully on display. The Green Hornet (2011) and The Guilt Trip (2012) are clear blemishes on his record, but I can get behind just about anything else he's ever done. It's that great ability to write really funny and intelligent scenes while playing up his natural doofiness. More than that, he just seems like he strikes the zeitgeist really well, providing a sense of humour tailor-made for the current generation of feisty youths. Neighbors nailed this to a T, offering a classic generational conflict that succeeded in part because the Frat House feels extreme yet believable. If their Sorority spin is any indication, we should see a lot more of that.

I can picture this succeeding pretty well because it's a classic extension of the premise that worked so well last time. It's exactly as simple an idea as the first film with just as enticing a cast and an assurance of similar levels of silliness. The only thing that could bog it down is the simple fact that comedy sequels so rarely work. We've discussed this at length here at NMW, but namely, that initial surprise that first generates the funny is difficult to sustain.

My only trust at this point is that Seth Rogen is smart enough to put a spin on the typical sequel. We've actually had some decent ones recently, most notably 22 Jump Street (2014) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013). Of course the latter is somewhat debatable (although I'd actually consider it superior), and the former is more the product of Phil Lord and Chris Miller who hide behind layers of meta and self-awareness to get past the groan-worthy hurdles of tired sequel tropes. I have similar faith in the Rogen / Evan Goldberg / Nick Stoller team. Of course, as a writer, Nicholas Stoller misses at least as often as he hits (for every The Muppets [2011], there's a Sex Tape [2014]). He also just gave us Zoolander No. 2 (2016), which doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Still, as a director, with Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Get Him to the Greek (2010), The Five-Year Engagement (2012), and Neighbors under his belt, you have to be excited for the chances this has to succeed.

Comedy sequels are also difficult because it's rare that they'll actually add anything new to the mythos. Ghostbusters II (1989), Christmas Vacation (1989), and even Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008) did this pretty successfully, mostly because each one took the well-received characters from the first installment and put them in completely different situations (Ghostbusters II may come the closest to leaving this promise unfulfilled, but Viggo is at least as iconic, if not more so than Gozer). Sorority Rising doesn't really look like it's elevating above the original's source material. Instead it will probably just rely on being the funniest film of the Summer. I'm not sure we will really adore this flick 10 years from now or just blur it together with Neighbors. That's the Horrible Bosses effect.

Lastly we have The Angry Birds Movie (2016). Now, there is objectively no reason for this to exist, but we've seen a lot of movies like this lately. The LEGO Movie (2014) comes to mind for sure. That film relished in existential inter-textuality, though, while maintaining a really sincere level of goofiness. I'd argue that The Angry Birds Movie seems capable of doing the same thing as long as it adds layer after layer of irreverence.

The critical difference here of course, is that LEGO is a well-known brand that's been around for decades and I don't think anyone really cares about Angry Birds anymore. It's also really a lot less substantial of a brand. It's not nearly as expansive as the LEGO empire. But this is sort of an unfair comparison. How much money will this thing make?
I have no idea what Angry Birds is actually about.
Is this in the app game?

It's an easy assumption that The Angry Birds Movie will win the weekend. It has the broadest appeal and kids haven't really had anything to see at the theater since Zootopia (2016). May seems a little early, though, because most of those brats are still in school. There's a reason why Pixar does so well when it drops its flicks in late June when little wiener kids can actually go see it. I also can't really understand if little kids would even be into this. Doesn't Angry Birds feel really really 2013? Sure it does, that's when they started putting together this movie.

Then again, what else could win this weekend? Based on Civil War's hold, it'll probably pull in $30-some million, so that's the mark to beat. Neighbors somehow made $49 million back in 2014 and The LEGO Movie pulled in $69 million in February 2014. I don't really think either can be a direct comparison to now, but it may actually be a good bet that Neighbors 2 wins by hitting that $40-50 million mark. It likely won't have to compete much with the Angry Birds audience.

The film does seem to shoe-horn in a lot of how the game is actually played. We call this the Battleship (2012) effect. If it comes off organic that's great, but it also makes you question whether any of this was really necessary at all. It's one of those great mysteries. Does this count as a video game movie? No, it's an app movie, right? Do you think we'll get a ton of app movies now? Tinder: The Movie (2021) coming soon. Don't worry, they preserved the experience.

Ultimately like with anything else, the legacy of Angry Birds depends on if the film is actually any good or not. Zootopia, Frozen (2013), and every non-Good Dinosaur (2015) and Cars Pixar film ever makes its bank on its critical success, which attracts parents willing to sit through this crap in addition to giving it to their unloved bastard children. And to be fair, despite Jason Sudeikis' decidedly non-presence, it looks like it has its decent share of jokes. In terms of its production pedigree, it's a product of Sony Imageworks, which is really just building its animation tradition. On one end of the spectrum is the vastly underrated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009, and its arguably better sequel). On the other end is the Hotel Transylvania series. If it leans more towards the former we could be in a for a decent experience. After my endless comparisons, this really should have just been directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, right?

So, what do you think? What are you seeing this weekend? I can see each of these films fulfilling their niche and making some bank, or they could just all cannibalize each other. Go see something!

16 May 2016

Summer Jam Week 1: LE TIT BEGIN!

We've finally made it, people. For the seventh (SEVENTH) consecutive summer we'll be taking a moment out of your week each and every week to countdown the hottest, blistiest, bustiest, tightest jams around. Only the tastiest beats may apply. More often than not this really just comes down to the eight songs I was into the most that week. And yet this is the most important countdown you'll get. By far. We put vH1, Billboard, and your grandma's stereo to shame.

For last year's results, which I will probably totally retcon, because a year out I couldn't even remember the name of my named winner (it was Walk the Moon - ugh), click here. When you're done with that, prepare yourself to press on for seventeen weeks of mind-blowing inane riffings on pop music. DIG IN, cowboy!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Kiss It Better" by Rihanna

This video dropped a while ago, but I just heard it on the radio this week so here you go. Like I said, this list only features the most modern, up-to-date fresh jams available. This is just getting started, though, and I'm pumped. I was really really obsessed with Anti back in February, 2016, and this was my second favourite jam off the album (to "Same Ol' Mistakes" obvi). I wanna see this jam rip up summer because Rihanna is underrated as one of the most original and independent artists out there, who totally actually outsells everyone over her lifetime.

What Ever Happened to Pop Punk? "Bored to Death" by Blink 182

It died a slow, painful death. I can't really pretend that I like Blink 182 anymore, although I totally dug them from 1998-2002. I have three of their albums. They're really a pretty awful band and I thought they broke up, but whatever. This jam is really forgettable, but has nice timing to take on summer, fulfilling the ass-blasting niche that no one has been terrible enough to fill since they became irrelevant years ago. Again, I have three of their albums.

Cover of the Week: "The Sound of Silence" by Disturbed

Oldie but a goodie. Okay, I just wanted to rant about this. How good and random is this jam. Great for summer parties. All night long, baby! No better way to crush some pussy on the beach, playa!!! Now, for reals, this is somehow an incredible cover, mostly on the extreme change in vocal timbre, since much of the rhythm and instrumentation remains fairly similar. Gets me pumped though. Crushin' dick on the beach, playaaaa!!

Canadian Bacon: "One Dance" by Drake ft. Kyla & Wizkid

This is the kind of song that I need to check seven times to make sure I got the featured artists right. Drake is boosted this week by a pretty competent SNL hosting gig, and even though it's the #1 jam on the Hot 100 right now, this really hasn't invaded my life like "Hotline Bling" did to everyone in the world last Halloween. It's still a sexy jam, though, and we'll leave it here. For now. I'm not that convinced this is something we're going to keep coming back to all summer.

From the Roof of Apple Records: "Don't Let Me Down" by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya

You really should listen to the Beatles single, which is a way better version of this song. One of my favourite Beatles tracks, and I should know - I turned the second track on Rubber Soul into the name of this blog. Upon my second or third listen, though I think this isn't a cover but rather an original track. Lame. This is as good and catchy as EDM gets, and although it's really not the best Chainsmokers song, or even their best song of the past year, it could have some legs. Maybe.

Poppin Like Doc Venture: "Pill in Ibiza" by Mike Posner

This track is definitely a few weeks into its lifetime and we probably won't see it past June or so, but I think it hold strong until then. It's kind of a cool ethereal song that I actually find myself getting into. I don't think it ever gets as good as that first humming lyric, but Posner just rides it for the entire track. The beat is as forgettable as any non-Major Lazer EDM jam, but people like this crap (like I said, even I'm addicted), so it can stretch quite a bit.

This is Your Life: "7 Years" by Lukas Graham

This is kind of a weird track and Lukas Graham looks like he's 14, but it's pretty damn catchy and this boy can sing. That's really the only formula you need. It's distinctive, heartfelt, and invigorating. It's also been around for a few weeks to establish itself, but I think that will help it for these first few weeks more than anything.

Hand Action: "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber

So, if 2016 accomplishes anything, it accomplished the first time that I unironically loved a Justin Bieber song. This is fucking incredible. I love the muted sarcasm, the confident break-up anthem, and smooth, pared down melody to coo along with really biting but honestly clever lyrics. It exists in a bit of a tonal quagmire because of its inherent negativity but the loose edginess it has offers sublime sing-a-long-ability. While the video is cool and interesting, I wish it matched with the lyrics on a more thematic level instead of just dropping hints at coherence. Your first #1 of Summer is something I think could make a solid dent, even if it's absolute freshness has probably peaked. But hey - "Shut Up and Dance."

Next week...

All of these songs we'll keep our eyes on, but it's about guaranteed that I stop talking about Disturbed. Ariana Grande, Meg Trainor, and Fifth Harmony all have some solid jams either bopping right nor or coming down the pipe. More than that, if Beyoncé can spin something really momentous off of Lemonade she can have a fearsome summer. I think her issue right now is exclusivity. Catering only to HBO and/or TIDAL supporters is a rough business. "Sorry" is alright, but I don't think that's her real hook, either. Stay tuned each and every Monday morning for your dose of HOT JAM!

12 May 2016

First Impressions: Captain America: CIVIL WAR

It's a tough task but this is about the best follow-up to Marvel's best film, The Winter Soldier (2014) that we were going to get. It's not a superior film, although some moments come pretty damn close. It's also a fairly flawed film, which is almost as surprising as the fact that it smooths over its tonal issues and plotholes with such aplomb that it doesn't really detract from the enjoyment it stirred in me. Needless to say, SPOILERS FOREVER, so let's discuss this solid Avengers 2.5 entry into the Marvel canon.
Captain America is the one in blue.

This is far better than anything Ken Burns ever did. There is a lot going on in this film, with a solid amount of intertwining plots that are sometimes too convenient, but it sells itself on its characters and motivations so well you hardly notice. The core conceit is that after the Avengers have fucked up the world for a few years they're now paying the price and are about to be regulated by a third party, namely, the United Nations. Iron Man says this is necessary, a stance mostly fueled by his own guilt and PTSD over Age of Ultron (2015). Captain America calls this bullshit, mostly on his complex relationship with both his lost best friend-turned-brainwashed-Russian-Assassin (we've all been there), along with the S.H.I.E.L.D. nonsense in The Winter Soldier.

Everyone else trying to create a shared universe out there needs to understand this. These two factions are going to war after disagreeing over this new issue based on motivations and character growth informed by previous films' events. This simultaneously requires a deep investment from its audience, which Marvel has secured by now to a ridiculous degree. So let's talk about every possible aspect of this film. Starting with Stark.

One of the more impressive feats of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far is the reversal of Stark's ideology. This came to a head in Iron Man 2 (2010) where he refused to let the Iron Man suit become government property and instead defended his right for privatization, claiming that he should be trusted to act as an independent agent. I even wrote an article about how much this contrasted with his comic book persona. Through the past three films though, we've seen this arc where Stark is actually positioned as the big bad of the Marvel Universe. Seeds of conflict between him and Cap were planted as early as The Avengers (2012), and by the end of Age of Ultron, Civil War was inevitable.

Civil War adds to this by giving its two Team Leaders heavy personal stakes to add to their personal tiff and ideological conflict. There are a lot of reasons for these two to fight. Almost too many. If anything it's a bit too perfectly constructed. Cap has his boy Bucky to defend, mostly because he's the only one who'll do it. Stark is feeling a lot of pangs for his dead parents, and by the end when these elements literally crash into each other, it's a lot of investment that explodes to the surface.

On that note, let's get into our first gripe - how much is there in this film to really show that Bucky and Cap are BFFs? I know they grew up together and we saw a bit of that in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), but that was a long damn time ago, both in our history and the fictional history of their universe. I mean, that was like 70 years ago. There isn't a ton here to show that bond or even much of a personality left in Bucky. It makes Cap's defense of him to the end a little forced. The one thing that stands out actually is just how well they work together in a fight. They're nearly unstoppable, seeming to sense each other's moves and provide great support and combos. It's an impressive bit of fight choreography for sure.

As if all of this isn't enough, it's not a big reveal, but it's revealed that most of the reason this is happening is due to Zemo. Baron Zemo, as he's known in the comics is a weird dude who accidentally glued a Cobra Commander mask to his face. Seriously. I'm not sure this was really necessary, but it's a nice impetus for the Winter Soldier to emerge and kick some ass, which embitters both sides. Every part of this film is escalation, and he's a decent propulsive element to this. The fact that Zemo wasn't killed off is actually a strong indicator that he might return in a future installment, which I'd be for.

This contrasts with Frank Grillo's crossbones, whose explosive death in the opening scene sets the stage, echoes the impetus for the comic book version of Civil War, and falls in line nicely with Marvel's proclivity towards giving most of its non-Loki baddies the axe. I've found that I've grown to like the Captain America villains, because they're mostly just people. Winter Soldier works primarily as an action movie because it's basically just a couple dudes fighting the whole time. The same is largely true for Civil War, which even though it also features a floating density-shifting android who fires lasers out of a magic gem in his head, where the most important characters wail on each other in a test of Marvel Martial Arts.

Zemo's overall plot, though, is a a bit of a stretch. It's contingent on both Stark and Cap arriving at the secret underground Siberian bunker at the same time, which Stark only did once he started to believe that Bucky was innocent. I suppose Zemo figured Stark would track down Cap out of anger using the same high-degree sleuthing he used to somehow discover that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. It also doesn't make a ton of sense that Cap knew that Bucky killed Stark's parents, although it's been posited that he may have learned that from Armin Zola. In a film where everything else lines up so neatly, it's a little jarring, but as I said earlier, it's overshadowed by the immense personal stakes it pours on to get these guys to pound each other.

This whole plot is also essentially a fake-out that works really well because it's not about what the heroes think it's about. It's almost as if they're too used to being in these kinds of movies. Of course they figure that Zemo's looking to destabilize world governments with an army of super soldiers, but it's actually about breaking up the Avengers themselves. Zemo also knows what movie he's in and he's counting on the heroes to try to foil him, which on that note, it's important to remember that he's successful, even if Cap tries to reconcile at the end.
You damn well better respect the Falcon.

Speaking of that, there's no way that Captain America would be able to take a direct punch in the face from Iron Man's armour, right? I mean, regardless of Cap's stamina, Iron Man can punch through a brick wall. I love the conceit that Cap and Bucky are way better combat fighters, and again similar to the comics, Stark's only advantage is analyzing his moves and providing counter-measures technologically. As we're talking comics, I do love that they threw in the most iconic shot. Just as his defensive iconography contrasted with the Winter Soldier's offensive metal arm, it also provides a great weapon vs. shield imagery.

For the haters who say that every Marvel movie is the same (I've jumped on that bandwagon before), Civil War really proves that they know what they're doing. Looking back over the past two years, we have an extreme variety of films, from Winter Soldier to Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Age of Ultron and Ant-Man (2015). With varying degrees of quality of course, each of these is telling a very different story with wildly contrasting tones. After such an extensive build-up, Civil War burns down the universe almost completely. This seems in part to make room for the next couple films that will likely only tangentially touch on the core MCU / Avengers storyline such as Dr. Strange (2016). This may be the first Marvel film that ended without feeling like it was setting something else up, in the sense that there's no clear follow-up on the horizon to predict where the story goes. Presumably, Black Panther (2018) will carry on these theads to some extent. But this largely didn't feel like a set-up movie. It felt like a finale movie.

Having said that, let's talk about the characters a bit, because in addition to introducing Black Panther, which yes, is setting him up for his own movie, but he still feels like he belongs here, we've also got Spider-Man. There's no doubt that Spidey was a late addition because it feels really really natural to excise all of his parts and still end up with a cogent film. Still, about a third of the way through the film I realised that I had actually forgotten we were getting our third cinematic Peter Parker of the 21st-Century and started getting really excited. It would have been easy for Spider-Man to completely dominate the screen because  he's more popular than every other character in this movie, but he's handled well as this obnoxious rookie who's pretty inexperienced.

He gets an incredible introduction, though. As soon as Tony Stark says he knows someone, and the screen cuts to "QUEENS" I knew what was coming. It's a great into. Since her casting this has been discussed quite a bit, but the Marisa Tomei Aunt May thing is really really weird. This is mostly because she's pretty hot (acknowledged by Stark himself), but also because part of Spider-Man's deal is that he frets over his old feeble auntie who barely gets by. Not to denounce it completely, I'd be curious where they go with this in the awkwardly titled Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man himself really steals the show in this movie, even if they seem to conspicuously avoid the use of the phrase "With great power comes great responsibility," yet come up with possibly the best way of saying it without actually saying it. They probably should have just said it. The phrase has lasted as long as it has for a reason. It's succinctness as a mantra is fantastic. He injects a ton of fun into the proceedings, and is totally realised on screen in both Parker and Spider-Man identities. It is a total shoe-horn, but it still gets me more amped for Homecoming than I was.

The other stand-out is again Paul Rudd's Ant-Man, who finally gets a showcase as Giant-Man, although his mini-moves disabling Tony's suit were pretty clever. This all coagulates when Spider-Man fights Giant-Man while referencing "that really old movie," The Empire Strikes Back (1980), in a great setpiece that's fun, action-packed, and exhilarating.

Naturally at this point, we ought to talk about the fact that Iron Man's side is so stacked. War Machine, Vision, and Spider-Man alone are a fearsome damn team, and to throw Black Widow and Black Panther into that mix is dirty. Team Cap (which by the way, I'm totally Team Cap, hardcore) tends to feature more gritty fighter-based heroes. Scarlet Witch is their biggest heavy, who seemed to help everyone all the time telekinetically throwing combatants off each other. She should have used some of that mind-control power from Age of Ultron.

The Winter Soldier may actually be the greatest ally on Team Cap because he's essentially been developed as the best fighter in the MCU. I don't think he's ever been beaten in a straight up fight, except of course when Iron Man blows his arm off here. The tiff between Black Widow and Hawkeye is amusing, and together they both continue to be the heart of this franchise. Jeremy Renner is again kind of worthless, but he's trending upwards in character growth, and his battle against Vision was pretty clever. He also seems to be gaining more ground towards his comic book counterpart in his sly witticisms and irreverence.

Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow continues to grow and tie everyone else together, though, and it's a perfect fit that she takes the role Spidey did in the comics by switching sides to Cap and helping turn to the tide. She's a powerful personality and struggles to find her place in a world where she doesn't even know where her loyalties are supposed to lie. I wasn't really on the "Black Widow should get her own movie!" bandwagon until now. I think we have a lot of backstory to cover.

At the same time, though, Marvel seems completely disinterested in backstories, which is fantastic. How did Crossbones get his armour and cronies? Who cares. Who the fuck is Black Panther? Fuck you, that's who. We never saw the spider bite this random teenager! GTFO that's Peter Parker, ya'll know me. It's an incredibly refreshing proposition. We all have Wikipedia. We'll look up shit we care about understanding.
You know, two black guys here, but you'd never know. THANKS.

It's to this film's amazing credit that every character is largely balanced and gets a little spot to shine, even if it feels like the Winter Soldier's film even more so than The Winter Soldier. To clean up the rest - it's been said elsewhere and I agree, that Don Cheadle somehow looks really really old. Black cracked. Did Miles Apart (2016) run him ragged? Also, did anyone out there not think that Sharon Carter was Peggy's daughter or niece or whatever? I thought that was always a known thing. Maybe i just assumed it, correctly. That little bro moment with Falcon and Bucky is spectacular. Speaking of which, I also love the inclusion of Redbird which was totally lol-worthy.

And if Sharon Carter is related to Peggy Carter, is Martin Freeman's Everett Ross related to General Thunderbolt Ross? Too coincidental. No, they're not in the comics, but it seemed weird to me. I'm curious how his role develops. I feel like Martin Freeman was up to some shady shit, although the basis of his character is largely benign.

I didn't speak too much about the ideologies presented or film techniques at work here, but they're largely up to par. It's great that a big film like this is willing to take the time to engage in thoughtful discussion between its principal characters; confident enough in its action showcases to not feel the need to have giant cities destroyed all the time.

It's telling that out of all the little pockets in the development team, this Captain America squad has been the one tapped to bring Infinity War (2018 & 2019) to the big screen. It offers a lot of reassurance that those big flicks won't suck. The big question is how these other weirder threads will continue to tie together, although the Russos seem to favor a stripped down story rather than an expansive one. Infinity War ought to never end, though, so who knows what's going on. By that time a lot of these actors will have aged out of their roles as well, too, so it's tough to say.

In the end, I feel like it's easy to dismiss the superhero genre until we actually get a film that's as good as this. In that airport fight, every single character has a reason to be there, which is a tough task to pull off as smooth as this film does. This and Deadpool (2016) could make a lot of year-end lists, which is an indication of them breaking down and destroying the genre as much as anything else. Marvel is undoubtedly trending upwards, and now it's up to Dr. Strange to work his magic. Ho-hoooo!

02 May 2016

Norwegian Morning Wood's Official Summer 2016 Movie Preview

Ah we have arrived at last at the greatest time of the year - that magical period between the first weekend in May and like the second or third weekend in August where common sense is thrown to the wind and the theaters are ruled by the loud and obnoxious rather than the tepid and mundane.

Of course, if this year is to prove anything it's that Summer Release dates don't actually matter anymore. Deadpool (Feburary), Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Just-Ass (March), and The Jungle Book (a few weeks ago) have already proven that whenever a film comes out, if people want to see it, they'll see it. You see this in television as well - more and more traditional Fall to Spring seasons are eschewed by cable networks in favor of just dropping episodes when they're ready.

Well, we're clutching on to something special, dammit. Let's take a look at every single film that's opening big enough to be worth our while:


May 6th:

Captain America: Civil War

Interest Level: Damn High
Cash potential: Fucking righteous
Cultural effect: Less than Bats v. Supes, but quite a bit more positive

May 13th:

The Darkness

Interest Level: What the hell is this?
Cash potential: non-existent, even if it's counter-programming for horror lovers
Cultural effect: In two weeks after its release this will be as unknown as it was two weeks before its release. I believe in a thing called love!

Money Monster

Interest: More counter-programming for adults who like George and Julia.
Cash: Could be decent, but not huge
Culture: This looks really dumb and tonally mismanaged.

May 20th:

The Angry Birds Movie

Interest: I'm not into Angry Birds at all. It looks like it's forcing things a bit more than The LEGO Movie (2014), which took likewise unadaptable material and made something really unique.
Cash: Kids movie opening in a graveyard. Although do kids play Angry Birds?
Culture: I don't think we're getting the next Minions out of this.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Interest: Pretty high. Seth Rogen almost never misses
Cash: It'll make like $80-100 mill and that's a success
Culture: Neighbors (2014) was absolutely hilarious and has had a decent cultural impact. This could just add to more of the same mythos.

The Nice Guys

Interest: I'm down, but not sure many more are. Summer is a weird time for this release.
Cash: I actually have a small feeling this will bomb. Not sure anyone cares.
Culture: Cult status is possible, but I think it'll be a decently small splash.

May 27th:

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Interest: For all it's ragged on, Alice in Wonderland (2010) has some cool and unique moments. It's not a good film at all, but whatevs. I don't think anyone has cared about it since its release so also whatevs.
Cash: There's no way this cracks $1 billion like the first one. For one the marketing has been way more subdued, and that was totally that early 2010s 3-D/IMAX affect. See also: Wrath of the Titans (2012).
Culture: Can't see it.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Interest: Certainly higher than Alice, but possibly more niche.
Cash: Non-Deadpool X-Men movies seem to have a ceiling. And the feeling around this isn't nearly where Days of Future Past (2014) was. I'm actually discounting this, but it won't flop.
Culture: There's lots of really cool iconography on display, although the plot seems awfully formulaic.


June 3rd:

Me Before You

Interest: What the fuck is this shit?
Cash: There will be none
Culture: I repeat my first statement

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Interest: I'm super on-board with this, although I'm not sure it has the buzz of some other high profile comedies like Neighbors 2 and Central Intelligence.
Cash: The Lonely Island trio have had a crazy amount of success making viral videos, SNL zeitgeist-capturing products, and have now branched out to shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The LEGO Movie. Having said that, they actually have an egregiously terrible track record at the movies. This may land with a thud.
Culture: See above. Previous directorial works from either Jorma Taccone or Akiva Schaffer include Hot Rod (2007), MacGruber (2010), and The Watch (2012). I might consider the former two decent cult hits, and I have a sneaking suspicion that's where this lands as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Interest: I'm somehow more into this than the first go around. I think it's the emphasis on aggressive goofiness that I'm into more than any kind of self-serious gritty treatment of this material. It's more 80s cartoon than 00s cartoon (or 80s comics for that matter)
Cash: The first go around did alright and this has a bit better release date. It really finds its buck as a children's action film, of which there are virtually none of anymore. It will find its way.
Culture: The modern live action film series seems to add to mythos rather than extend it, and although there are some real wuuurd choices going on here, I'm not sure it'll really be cultural dynamite.

June 10th

The Conjuring 2

Interest: I actually JUST saw the first one, and didn't really think it was that much better or scarier or different than any other stock horror film, although I remember it getting a ton of good press back in the day when it was released. I'm not all that in to it, although if I had been more impressed with the original I might have been.
Cash: The first one made a ton on its own, but do horror sequels ever outgross their predecessors? My guess is that if the critics come around again and are like "It's sick, bro!" it'll do fine. If they be like "Nah, it's whack, dude" then it's fucked.
Culture: The Warrens have kind of penetrated pop culture, but for most normies it's still all about the ghosts or whatever is possessing whatever. Remember Annabelle (2014)? Lol

Now You See Me 2

Interest: Here's another sequel to a film that did well and was generally well-received, but did anyone really care? The cast for the first one was always way too good for its source material (boasting two Oscar winners and three more nominees - and the best left is still Mélanie Laurent).
Cash: This is another instance of a sequel to a film that did surprisingly well. There's honestly not a lot of exact competition around it (Ninja Turtles might be the closest thing that steals its dollars, and that's saying something), so it could do pretty well.
Culture: Name any one of the first film's characters! Didn't think so!


Interest: This is all but guaranteed to be the first really big flop of summer. I can't get into this at all. What the hell is the story here? It looks like a CGI explosion, admittedly a pretty good one, but who the hell can tell what's going on. Stop giving B-movie material huge budgets just because Lord of the Rings did well fifteen years ago.
Cash: Calling my shot now, this one totally bombs.
Culture: No one will care about Warcraft, except for possibly nerds.

June 17th:

Central Intelligence

Interest: That Dwayne Johnson fat shower is real, real weird, but putting these two in a film together is a damn solid move. I don't really find myself caring about it, but a lot more will.
Cash: No brainer. This one rules June.
Culture: I have trouble naming Kevin Hart movies, but then again, I'm not black.

Finding Dory

Interest: I have almost zero interest in this, even though Finding Nemo (2003) currently sits at #2 on my Pixar Movie list. Long-term sequels just feel weird coming out of Pixar, who is known so much for its original storytelling. I'd take something weird and experimental like Brave (2012) over Monsters University (2013) any day.
Cash: Nemo is one of Pixar's truly great moneymakers. It'll do damn fine.
Culture: This all depends on how they push it. Are we really talking much about Monsters University three years down the line? No, but Obama still watches Toy Story 3 (2010).

June 24th:

Free State of Jones

Interest: I was totally getting this confused with The Birth of a Nation. Is it weird to be turned off by too many prestigious slavery movies? The premise got me but I thought the trailer took some wind out of it. If it's good I'll see it.
Cash: Why is this coming out in late June? McConaughey pushes it towards popular territory, but no part of this feels like it deserves to be here. Counter-programming against ID4: Resurge? No doubt, and it shouldn't be too tough to make its budget back.
Culture: That kind of depends on whether it gets lost between Django Unchained (2012), 12 Years a Slave (2014), The Birth of a Nation (2016), and Harriet Tubman on the $20.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Interest: Summer '96 was so hard for ID4. I remember seeing that motherfucker on vacation, man! This is totally going the Jurassic World (2015) / Force Awakens (2015) route of going bigger and nuttier while more or less retaining the exact same storyline. I lean towards not caring.
Cash: For all the reasons above there's no real reason why this doesn't light it up. I still have a nagging feeling though, mostly because nothing really grabbed me in the trailer as must-see. It will probably do okay and not the Jurassic numbers it's hoping for.
Culture: ID4 was so pure for so many years as that one non-franchise franchise. Fuck that now. I don't think this will necessarily damage the brand, but tough to add to it.


July 1st:


Interest: Could care less. Spielberg tends to fumble with this kind of material (namely beloved stuff that's not his), although our only real example is The Adventures of Tintin (2011). It's amazing how much that soured me. But I feel the same way about this as I did about that disaster.
Cash: Hard to say. It's coming off of ID4: R and running into Ghostbusters (2016) soon after, so it's a tight window to make a buck - and moviegoers have tended to run out of steam in July lately. Not sure anything about this screams "SEE ME!" and we might have our second major bomb of the Summer.
Culture: Doofy CGI. Nothing that won't be forgettable. Why does Spielberg have this hard-on for Mark Rylance all of a sudden?

The Legend of Tarzan

Interest: So damn low. I don't care about Tarzan. No one cares about Tarzan. See my comment above about B-movies getting A-Blockbuster treatments.
Cash: It seems to skew a bit darker and older than The BFG will, but they're still splitting that weekend. That's tough to come out with any significant cash flow.
Culture: Will we see a lot of Tarzan Halloween costumes? You know, you might have a kid factor, because I think I'd be down for a Tarzan when I was like 12 years old (actually, I got one - with dreads, bruh!), but it's not that cool for thirty-year olds to swing around their furniture screaming that they're Tarzan. Hrmm...

The Purge: Election Year

Interest: There seems like there is a ton of shit coming out every weekend this summer, and some of it is decent counter-programming, but stuff like this will totally cannibalize itself. Purge movies actually seem to be trending better, which is cool, and I didn't even know another one is coming out. I'm down, what the hell.
Cash: It's probably good. This is horror, but it's more fun horror, unlike The Conjuring 2, which is scary horror. This weekend certainly trends in a line from The BFG to this in getting more serious and adult, and that could pay off. It's certainly not running into The Secret Life of Pets (2016).
Culture: It's all the same at this point, although the second one actually did a decent job differentiating itself, and introducing a larger, bigger budgeted world. There's room to innovate here.

The Shallows

Interest: No one knows what this shit is. Move on.

July 8th:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Interest: I'm personally super on-board. The trailers have done a really nice job, the cast is a dream of young likable people right now, and the turn presented among the principal characters is amazing.
Cash: Will this be the Summer of Efron? I'm actually curious how this differentiates itself from Neighbors 2, but I think it can break out. It seems like it has enough of a hard edge over some of the other comedies this summer.
Culture: Will 2016 give us one of the best summers for comedies, ever? The action films all look like garbage so I'm down.

The Secret Life of Pets

Interest: I'm generally on Team Zootopia (2016), which looks like the total winner in this "animated talking animals" showdown. Nothing about this looks very clever or interesting and it's a solid pass.
Cash: Finding Dory isn't that far behind, and that's all but guaranteed to be giant. Angry Birds isn't too far behind that, either, and has had a fair amount of marketing awareness. This will be the third talking animal movie of the summer and fourth on the year. In just two weeks it also runs into the much much much more well established Ice Age: Collision Course (2016). "Totally doomed" is a phrase used all too often these days...
Culture: Does anyone care?

July 15th:


Interest: So hard for this one. There's no one in the cast that I don't adore (for all the hate, Melissa McCarthy delivers more than she misses, even if her movies have missed lately), and Feig obviously has the credentials, but the honest truth is that nothing the film has put out has been all that funny. Hoping something lands, but could probably pass at this point.
Cash: The expectations are obviously huge. This is probably the major film of the summer if not the year. There's probably enough goodwill amongst those who follow all the bits from the cast to beef it up, but it probably won't win summer based on the collective meh of a lot of people like me.
Culture: It seems like it's halfway steeped in 'buster lore, and halfway doing its own thing. That's probably good. If this could just make Kate McKinnon a bankable megastar I think my work here on earth would be done.

The Infiltrator

Get outta here

July 22nd:

Ice Age: Collision Course

Interest: I obviously have no interest in Ice Age 17 or whatever. I actually, I think it's #5. How have they made five Ice Age movies? It battles the mind. I am pretty into Scrat, though. Great throwback to clever silent animation of yesteryear.
Cash: There's a reason why this is the fifth Ice Age and we haven't seen Ray Romano do shit else in like ten years.
Culture: Can you remember what happened in the last Ice Age? Was that the one with the pirates? It's all the same movie by now.

Lights Out

Interest: This is turning into a big summer for horror. This actually had a cool and creepy trailer, and if it rides that vibe, I might be down. Looks real stupid, though.
Cash: Right after The Purge 3 is rough, but it's a pretty different style of movie. Summer horror counter-programming doesn't work, however, when it strikes three times.
Culture: I don't think anyone will remember this years on down the line, but it's kind of a cool gimmick for the summer.

Star Trek Beyond

Interest: Ohhh yeah, another Star Trek is coming out this year. Do you remember how pumped up everyone was for Star Trek (2009)? How was that seven fucking years ago? I remember even getting jazzed for Into Darkness(2013) despite its dumb title, terrible obvious and unnecessary plot twist and the general apathy I had after it sandwiched itself in between Iron Man 3 (2013) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). That's kind of where I'm at again. For some reason the property can't seem to elevate itself in its franchise wars.
Cash: It's really hard to say. I'm not sure this summer will undergo blockbuster fatigue at this point like 2014 or 2013 did, but that could spell doom for this. Depending on if people are enough into Ghostbusters to ignore this it might do okay.
Culture: Into Darkness, even if it was ultimately a pretty forgettable movie at least gave us that sweet space jump scene and a terrible character twist to endless debate and bitch about. Can Beyond hope to do the same!? We haven't really seen much at all about it (or even Idris Elba's villain. Yeah - he's in this film! He's in every film! He's like a black Samuel L. Jackson).

July 29th:

Bad Moms

Interest: What the fuck is this movie? Wait - is it some kind of raunchy comedy starring Christina Applegate, Kristen Bill, and Mila Kunis? Ahh - the trailer literally dropped a few hours ago....and was apparently pulled already. That's not a good way to make Bryan watch your movie.
Cash: Who knows. This seems like it's going for a Bridesmaids (2011) thing, which obviously did pretty well. Considering the cast of Bridesmaids is jamming out in Ghostbusters a few weeks before, the release date seems like a weird move. These should be pretty different films though. Or we're clearly looking at the greatest Ghosbusters ever.
Culture: Got me. Could be something.

Jason Bourne

Interest: Next to nothing. I love how they dropped Damon for Jeremy Renner, made a shitty movie, realised he sucked, and are now trying to circle back. Man, the Bourne story just feels soooo finished.
Cash: It's really really weird how the Bourne Franchise became a franchise. I remember seeing the first one alone in theaters and feeling like I was its only fan. Now it's legit, albeit with a definite ceiling. There's no real reason for audiences to feel like they need to come back, though, and it could bomb pretty bad.
Culture: Bourne's shaky cam set pieces really ruined action films for a long time. Let's avoid that.


August 5th:

The Founder

Interest: Decent. Can you tell that Mike Keaton was sore after not getting the Oscar he should have? He's crushing these kind of high profile roles. This is totally The Social Network (2010) for McDonald's, but who cares, that was a damn strong trailer.
Cash: Again, the release date seems off. Shouldn't this be an October picture? Sure, the non-Fincher here is a whole bit lighter, but it feels like this gets buried, unless its good reviews bring the old people who have been neglected all summer - having only received the maddening Money Monster a few months ago.
Culture: Could be pretty high. A good portrayal in what looks like an unconventional biopic that's relatively high profile can make a splash. The issue I can see is if McDonald's is glorified, but do average people really care about that? I had McDonald's in the past 10 days and I hate their food.

Nine Lives

This is some kind of Kevin Spacey / Jennifer Garner cat movie.

Suicide Squad

Interest: Super high. This flick has had some of the best marketing ever. Hopefully it rises past Batman v. Superman's terribly bad will and is actually a rad picture.
Cash: There's certainly a market for this anti-Superhero movie, and if Deadpool proved anything, it's that audiences want more. This could rake it in and coast through August.
Culture: All the pieces are there. Personal investment is high, the iconography is strong, and the cast and performances seem damn solid. I'm all in.

August 12th:

Florence Foster Jenkins


Pete's Dragon

Interest: So damn low. I don't really care about the original movie, and this feels really shoe-horned. Is he the one who puffs by the sea? No, that's Puff the Magic Dragon. Is that the same thing? You gotta give me something here.
Cash: There might be enough nostalgia here to lift it up, but it just doesn't feel on anyone's radar, especially for a live action adaptation on the heels of The Jungle Book, which was super successful. Bomb.
Culture: Nope.

Sausage Party

Interest: This seems really weird. I'm not totally into the concept or the parody of animated "Secret World" films with adult overtones. I was actually looking forward to this out of intrigue, but I'm not sure that it has the wit to back its crudeness.
Cash: There's almost no way this is profitable. It's so niche. It belongs on Adult Swim or something, which is influential and popular, but not in the sort of broad sense you need to sell tickets.
Culture: If anything, this could leave a huge dent in our culture for being really super weird, but I'm not sure enough thought leaders will see it for that to matter.


No one knows what this is. I mean, seriously, you don't have a poster, yet? This sounds super-August with notes of Skyline (2010).

August 19th


Interest: Do I really have to talk about these last four? These are absolute abominations that no one will see. But Ben-Hur is damn sure trying, so we ought to include the weekend.
Cash: Not for all my pocket change.
Culture: Well, the original isn't that well known or culturally significant, so surely the remake will fare better.

Kubo and the Two Strings

What the fuck is this shit? Actually this trailer is kind of legit. It might have a shot with the right marketing.

The Space Between Us

Alright, so admittedly I need to research some of these shitty movies. This trailer is also kind of cool. I'm all about original sci-fi, although that's pretty horseshit, because that doesn't a good movie make. But I'm curious about this, which probably won't light up the box office but could make a decent late August splash if marketed right.

War Dogs

Lastly we have a weird Todd Phillips war profiteering dramedy starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill. I don't care if this movie exists or not. It has the production acumen, although I think Phillips struggles when the tone isn't explicit. He seems to have trouble finding the moral sweet spot between elucidating boorish behavior and condoning it. His movies end up a pretty dark shade of gray.

So that's it. As of now you actually don't need to see any movies this summer because we've listed them all here. And just for finality's sake, let's give an official list of my "Definite Want to Probably Spend Money On":

Civil War
Neighbors 2
Nice Guys
Never Stop Never Stopping
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
The Founder
Suicide Squad
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Space Between Us

There. You only need to see nine movies and your life will matter.
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