22 September 2017

LEGO, Facebook Demons, and Cowboy Spies - ALL TONIGHT and MORE!

As we mentioned last week, September 2017 is rolling, folks. There are plenty of notable films emerging from the woodwork like little shitty termites here for our pleasure. There are three big films this weekend, although one will almost assuredly be lost in the shuffle, and the other two appeal to relatively distinct demographics. So, as is the norm, let's go through this in my personal order from least to most anticipation.

Friend Request (2017) is a film I kind of thought they had done years ago, but I guess still exists for some reason. Once again I have attempted to actively know nothing about this film before I set to ramble about it, and I'm more confident than ever. This is about some kind of Facebook Demon I guess, who lives in the computer and requests you to be its friend, then eats you or something. All of this is unfortunate, because while there are a lot of interesting ways to dissect horror in a modern technological setting, Black Mirror does it better than any of this.

Critically this is not getting a lot of love, but I don't think it was ever meant to. There are a shitload of interchangeable horror films these days, but then again, there has always been a ton of horror movies, just instead of bad B-Monster movies we get weird demon computer ghosts or whatever. This kind of disposable, quick-scare, quick-buck horror seems kind of fruitless coming off the hot heels of IT (2017), though, right? 2017 is becoming a banner year for horror, with the excellent Get Out (2017) and the shitty Anabelle: Creation (2017) doing comparatively massive business. Now, Anabelle: C certainly falls into that cheap buck category, but simply by its tangential relationship to the legitimate Conjuring franchise, felt like it had more prestige backing it up. Friend Request sounds like a "Boy in the Wall" movie that we will never again care about.

While it would also seem that horror is really in these days, kids have definitely gotten their fix from Anabelle and IT in the past month, and typically, non-IT horror doesn't even work in September anyway. IT's success really has to do with so many other factors, from expert marketing, a perfect mix of nostalgia and ambivalence towards the remake, and frankly, the current trend of psychotic clowns roaming the countryside. Friend Request looks pretty rough from all angles, and will be gone as quickly as the time I spent thinking about it.

How could you not want to watch this movie
Moving on, for the kiddies today we have The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017), which really snuck up on me. I think that The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) was so high-profile (and also frankly, sort of disappointing), that this one totally slipped my mind. It also doesn't help that LEGO Batman fits a far wider audience profile, with easily recognizable characters and the voice of Will Arnett, whose LEGO Batman is probably his second-most famous role at this point. It also feels much more specific than The LEGO Movie (2014), which successfully connected children's interpretations of LEGO imagination to the adult world in all sorts of meta post-modern ways.

This is of course all a fallacy for those in the know who know that LEGO Ninjago is one of contemporary LEGO's most successful brands. LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu has run for an impossible seven seasons on the Cartoon Network, and this film is almost more an extension of that rather than an extension of the LEGO Movie brand. It does seem to retain more of the latter's humour style and high-profile voice cast, which really works pretty well. It's harder to latch on to something broad here, though, and anyone caught unawares of what Ninjago is will assuredly be lost. Casual fans can hop on to the LEGO Movie, which ran through a lot of classic town, Old West, and Space sets while telling an original story engrossing enough to bring in casual fans both through its actual plot and its more general theme / advertisement of digesting what it means to actually play with LEGOs. Ninjago is like...Ninjas? Or something? With robot dragons? LEGO Power Rangers? All this makes it a tougher sell for casual fans.

Kids, however, ought to line up. And they've been starved for a truly good animated movie all year. This is a weird spot where it looks pretty good but not really a must-see for adults. The good success but not really as great-ness of The LEGO Batman Movie has got to be worrisome, as is LEGO's general recent decline, they're surely banking on this flick to prop up sales of their most popular line. There's not a crazy amount of competition right now, and it ought to get second or first place this week if it can clear the $30 or so million that IT will make.

Culturally I can see this becoming a gem, but likely not really ubiquitous. Again, it's largely apart from adult consciousness, but those who seek it out will probably be rewarded. Or it may be total shit, although the wit and weird father/son blatant insane supervillain conflict plot on display so far is appealing. I'm a little concerned about the three different directors, none of which really have much pedigree in directing (Charlie Bean has done plenty of other animation roles over the years), so it's hard to say they're a slam dunk like Lord and Miller. Who knows, but my interest is peaked.

I mean, come on
Finally, the long-awaited sequel to The Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) comes The Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017). Now, there were a lot of fucked up things about the first Kingsman, mostly that ending and Sam Jackson's weird lisp. Still, I was a big fan of the church scene, obviously, as well as candy-coloured head explodings. It was like the xXx (2002) for the modern age - a Bond that didn't give a shit about being Bond. The sequel promises what every sequel promises - all the dependable home shit from the first movie burned down and no one to trust by Channing Tatum.

This franchise lives and dies by its action sequences, which need to be up to par for this film to be memorable at all. While The Kingsman is generally underrated as an all-time great modern action movie, it's certainly distinctive enough to be remembered and referenced more than some other shittier flicks. It also did great despite a February release. Golden Circle has an equally non-traditional September release, but that might do it a favor by opening far away from the cluster of the Summer. This and IT really ought to be the first step towards uncrowding the Summer and showing that a big film can be be released whenever, an even better release model that allows similar films to shine on their own without blending into each other and causing fatigue.

Critically this film seemed to get rid of its weak points and added some great new cast members. The first film was well-received, although nothing like a serious award contender or anything. The Golden Circle needs to do enough to distinguish itself from its predecessor while retaining the renegade fuck all spirit it had. This is certainly possible and with director Matt Vaughn returning, it feels like it's in good hands.

So that's it, folks. There's some potentially good under-the-radar shit coming out this week that could be pretty good. Or it could be more overplayed crap. Everything has a decent pedigree and solid marketing though (well, except Friend Request), and both these films will have to give me a reason to doubt them before I assume. What are you checking out this weekend? IT? Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)?

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