15 September 2017

Mama Mia La Madre!

So, we've gotten past the big blockbuster summer crap, and for a while now I've thought about bringing this "Road to a Blockbuster" column into the fore as a year-long thing. There aren't any franchise-starters or anything dropping this week, but it'd be fun to analyze this shit anyway, right? I need to come up with less obscure titles, though. But you kind of get that I'm talking about mother! (2017), right? I mean, what else? This week we see the release of both this and American Assassin (2017), which is so obviously dumped into the dead month of September. Let's start with our cultural preview for that one first.

Listen, I don't have words. Those are actually my driving glasses.
I know nothing about this film. So let's go on this journey together. I want to try to piece this piece of shit together. First, let's look at the posters. I have no idea who the main character is, but judging that an action film needs a young up-and-coming brunette male lead, I'm guessing it's Dylan O'Brien who looks so much like Taylor Kitsch that it's stupid. But then Taylor Kitsch IS actually in this as well! This is like when The Roommate (2011) had both Minka Kelly AND Leighton Meester! They should make a remake of that film starring Nina Dobrev and Victoria Justice. That's a great party game.

Getting back on track, Dylan O'Brien is most famous for being an interchangeable white dude protagonist in the Maze Runner film series. The first film that came out in 2014 was apparently okay. I actually infamously saw the second film, The Scorch Trials (2015) which was one of the worst films I had seen in years. I was actually really curious about it because I heard it was a uniquely terrible adaptation that completely ignored the source material. I probably should have read the book to actually compare, but it was pretty awful. It's also fairly unique because it kind of becomes a totally different scenario. Like there's zombies for some reason that only appear in the second one, because the first one is just this maze or whatever. Zombies in the "Scorch." Yeah, you can figure this out.

Oh no! Dylan O'Brien apparently got fucked up so they delayed The Death Cure (2018). Haha, that sucks. How did he get around to filming American Assassin? They probably just used Taylor Kitsch for the whole thing instead. Poor Taylor Kitsch. He's neither the worst part of Battleship (2012) or John Carter (2012), but that's a tough one-two punch. Dude it's just dawning on me now that I saw both of those shitty films in the theater. It wasn't my fault they bombed, Taylor!

Who else is in this shit? Where are those posters. "Takes one to kill one!" Hahaha. Alright, I'm officially having fun with this. There's some variation on that phrase on every single character poster! "Takes one to uncover one!" What does that mean? I don't know who Shiva Negar or Sanaa Lathan is. Ohhh! That's that chick from AVP (2004). That's right. She broke all sorts of little boy's hearts when she didn't make out with the Predator at the end. Seriously, if that was Schwarzenegger left at the end, they definitely would have kissed.

And Michael Keaton. He's having a great post-Birdman (2014) career to make up for his Oscar loss. This totally feels like Kevin Costner in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) or Harrison Ford in Paranoia (2013), right? Damn that's a really specific genre. Old respected actors slumming it in cheap thrillers featuring pretty main stars? Is there a Netflix subgroup for that? Keaton is hot coming off of Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and The Founder (2016), where he did solid work in two solid movies. He's reliably good, but his performance here will likely depend on whether he respectably believed the material was beneath him OR if like Nic Cage, he believes that no material is beneath him.

So, my guess is this film is about like, an assassin of some kind who is sent to kill somebody, then gets double crossed, probably by Michael Keaton with what looks like Taylor Kitsch representing some kind of evil twin thing and probably one of the women, my money is on the Predator-kisser, works to get him out of it like Joan Allen in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). I still don't really want to watch a trailer. Someone else check back in to see if I'm right.

Although that number will undoubtedly be pretty small, because no one is going to see this fucking movie. We just got The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) and yeah, that did great and is still third somehow because no one is seeing non-creepy clown films in the theater, but that was also a funny film starring likable actors. This stars Dylan O'Brien, Taylor Kitsch, and the chick from Alien vs. Predator. We will probably never talk about it again, which is kind of sad because I like ragging on it.

But does she bang Mila Kunis
In the other corner we have the latest from brilliant director Darren Aronofsky, mother! Well, he's not totally great, but when he fails he fails SPECTACULARLY. There's always something really sad and sinister about how he gets to the heart of his subjects starting from the ultimate film you only want to see once, Requiem for a Dream (2000). Before this feel-good film of the decade we got his initial film, Pi (1998) which is crude in the way that all great directors' first films are crude but is also a brutal look at mathematical obsession.

Success made Aronofsky really weird, which is awesome. The Fountain (2006) makes no damn sense and was pretty savaged, but has found a little following. I mean, he doesn't crank out Book of Henry (2017) when he misfires, he cranks out the fucking Fountain, an insane 1000-year journey through time which doesn't even really take place on earth as far as I can tell.

Then he gets super-grounded with The Wrestler (2008), which is the second old man Oscar whiff we've covered today, but still hold some incredible performances from Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Robo-Wood and a tragic story of a man good for one thing and one thing only to the detriment of everyone around him, including himself. Then Black Swan (2010) of course, which seemed to fuse his trippy reality-bending sensibilities with another grounded look at a physical performer only good at one thing and a complete failure at every other social aspect. Black Swan taken literally makes no sense at all, which is challenging since it works as a constant metaphor where we're never really sure whose head we're in (mostly either Natalie Portman's or our own). It's surely a masterpiece that finally won his muse an Oscar.

Then we got Noah (2014). I'll actually hardcore defend Noah, but it's also sincerely fifty minutes too long (they get on the damn boat with like a third of the movie left to go!) and there's a lot of brutal dumbass decisions, mostly made by Russell Crowe himself that take you out of the moment. You still get one of the better looking blockbusters ever, a weird 900-year old Anthony Hopkins, and this little montage, which rules.

By all accounts mother! is back to that Black Swan territory, which at first feels more grounded (at least more so than The Fountain or Noah), but there's also something real real weird going on here. Jennifer Lawrence is the main girl here obvi, but she's got some fucked up relationship with her old gross by still Spanish husband Javier "Silva" Bardem and who the hell knows what Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris are doing here. Then Kristen Wiig and Domhnall Gleeason pop up for some reason, too? This is the best cast film ever.

Apparently it's already a critical hit. Who knows if it gets too weird for maitstream or at least Awards-stream acceptance, but for some reason that really didn't stop Black Swan. Maybe Aronofsky was like, "Fuck these guys for not being weirded out by Black Swan, let's push this way weirder!" We can all dream. The poster, in contrast to American Assassin, was all sorts of simultaneously tepid, reserved, and subtly wild and full of bizarre possible clues. Also the heart thing.

But let's sink into J-Law. It kind of feels more and more that the lovable pizza-eating bro J-Law it girl that everyone loved was getting a little thin, right? Like, especially with Passengers (2016) last year it was like, this chick is too much. It was probably a good move to stay out of the spotlight for a bit and then make this wild wacky psychological thriller. She's never really sank her teeth into this kind of material, except maybe Winter's Bone (2010). If you really boil her best work down, which is basically just her non-Hunger Games and non-X-men work (damn that actually makes for a crazy short list), you get Silver Linings Playbook (2012), American Hustle (2013), and JOY (2015), which are not coincidentally three out of her four Oscar nominations (the fourth being the aforementioned Winter's Bone). Those are all outstanding dramatic roles, but all pretty loose drama Oscar bait-y works. Also all David O. Russell works. I'm curious what she does in a film that looks like a somehow creepier more intense version of Queen of Earth (2015). There's a lot to look forward to here.

The rest are probably good. Ed Harris has never won an Oscar. That fucking blows. Neither has Michelle who is actually putting together an underrated little comeback between this year and next. I do think she was kind of underrated in Dark Shadows (2012) and The Family (2013). Ugh I watch so many terrible movies.

At any rate, I think mother! can be pretty distinctive, at least enough to leave a solid cultural crater, even if it feels smaller than The Wrestler or Black Swan. That could just be pre-Oscar shit, too. If it takes off and gets second to IT (2017) this weekend it could find a nice audience, although it is coming out damned early to really do some damage. Anyway, I'm pumped.

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