22 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 11: Summer Beatwave!

What better way to beat the summer heat than with cool cool beats! Yeah bro! The earth is boiling itself - because of people! Whoops! It's time to lay back by the pool and let the apocalypse run its course. We've got cold brews and plenty of watermelon to complement our sexy summer songs.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Gravy Train" by Yung Gravy



I can't really tell if Yung Gravy is a real rapper or a Lil Dicky Rapper. He looks like a cool Ed Sheeran. Still, this song is fire and strikes a nice middle ground between joke and real. The Maxine Nightingale sample is a great addition and fits really well.

"The London" by Young Thug ft. Travis Scott & J. Cole

"The London" has been super underrated this summer. It's a legit track and has gotten decent hip-hop radio and spotify airplay, but has eluded mainstream attention. It popped back on my radar this week and deserves another shout-out. It's a very smooth track featuring a trio of rap stars ready to explode on the scene. I'm all about it.

"Rodeo" by Lil Nas X ft. Cardi B

I actually like "Rodeo" a lot more than "Old Town Road." I was singing it all week to myself. It's super catchy and you can just shout it out wherever. This Travis Scott remix is also as hot as my driveway is right now. Lil Nas X has released a ton of other tracks that all kind of suck, and I think "Panini" out of the crop may be the most notable? Whatever, I'm team "Rodeo" from here on out.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X

This song won't die. Not only is everyone still talking about it, but the remix got the most zeitgeist-y animated video ever this week (linked above). It may star Thanos, but this bitch is a Juggernaut. It's as if it's life is just getting started. Lil Nas X may not actually be able to sing or even produce a beat, but damn he knew exactly how to make the most memeable song ever. Will the future of music just be memes? It's very likely. But it's also tough to do.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

This may be the best first bar of any song ever. That's definitely not true, but it's still hella cool. I wish Lizzo a great career - this is a truly great first song to truly break out. Down a little bit from last week but still a real fun track. It ought to definitely stick around for quite a bit here and is starting to feel very Summer 2019.

"Señorita" by Camila Cambello & Shawn Mendes

Folks were chatting me up about this this week as well. It's rocking a lot of streams and still feels very fresh, even if it doesn't seem to be reaching true ubiquity yet. I still think this could do some serious damage this summer, but time may be out for all but gay black cowboys this year.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

I've already ranted quite a bit about my issues with this song. The first third seems like it's about personal Taylor Swift haters, then it morphs into a gay rights anthem that warmly co-opts the movement's messages to support Swift's own agenda. It is pretty catchy, though. I'm sure CATS (2019) will be great.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber Sheeran

Ugh this song blows. But I heard it three times in a row so here we are. It's not very good in anyway. People like it, fine. By this point it has amassed a solid amount of appearances here and although I wouldn't want it to emerge victorious this summer, it's putting together a plausible campaign to challenge "Old Town Road." We'll see how it shakes out.

Next week...

I wanted to find room for "The Git Up" again, but it just barely missed out. "Talk", "Dancing with a Stranger", and "Wow" all also found themselves on the floor this week, but are worthy of mention and all strong Summer Jam candidates at this point. We'll see how we flex next week!

15 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 10: The Heart of Summer

Ah the post-Independence Day Summer Jam Post. Truly the Heart of Summer. But with these songs, more like the FART of Summer! We're trying. It's all good fun. There are a slew of hot jams to crank out while going to the beach, watching cool Uber-related movies, making out at camp, and causing a general ruckus. Let's press that plus button to turn the volume UP!

Hot Jam of the Week: "DOLLAR" by Becky G, Myke Towers



I was hammered drunk when I found this song and despite understanding no lyrics I definitely got down. Not sure if it will get any English-radio traction, but hey, "Despacito." This is infectious, not nearly "Despacito" levels, but is still a fun jam for the spicy scorcher days of Summer. I didn't even know Becky G was Spanish.

"Cross Me" by Ed Sheeran ft. Chance the Rapper & PnB Rock

Ed Sheeran is actually having a lot of hits this summer. I really dislike Ed Sheeran. Is he a jokester? A mellow man? A crossover hip-hop artist? Is he cool? Why is he running around with Travis Scott and on Game of Thrones and shit. He's a ginger enigma. This song is cool, though. It doesn't really make any sense lyrically - like shouldn't it be obvious if someone crosses your girl that's also crossing you? That's apparently not automatic. I did Chance's bars here, though. It's an older song but I heard it a bunch this week and still like it.

"Wow" by Post Malone

Another oldie, same as "Cross Me" this just seemed to infect my brain this week. This has the sickest beat and flow of the year, though. So sick I can't get sick of it. It's a tubthumper dance, groovy car jam, and has a lot going for it. Despite at this it hasn't quite broken out to the top of the charts or anything. "Old Town Road" is a behemoth.

"Señorita" by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

This is another earworm song whose reign I think is just beginning. I gave Camila Summer Jam 2018 honors by a hair last year, and she could rise again with this jam. It's a charming, disarming, alarming romantic jam that soothes its way into our variable hearts. I dig it. We're very Spanish this week. Like a whole bunch of this great nation we call America. I mean this in a positive way but sense a controversy there somehow.

"I Don't Care" by Ed Sheeran & Bieber

This song won't quite go away, and that's just fine. Fine. It's kind of annoying, but not so much that it's totally irritating. I could just take it or leave it. By now it's made a nice Summer Jam name for itself and doesn't appear like it's going away. If it could continue to be present and rise up it might make a run for the Crown here.

"The Git Up" by Blanco Brown

"Old Town Road" hold my beer. Blanco Brown is fusing hip-hop and country even further, in a track that really sounds more latter than former. It's basically a line dance set to a beat, but since the artist is black it's a rap song, right? Oh, I can tell that it's country, because it's super irritating to my own precious ears. Still, it's fresh, popular, fun, and easy to listen to. "The Git Up" could become a thing.

"Talk" by Khalid

Yep, "Talk" was a thing again this week. By this point it's staying around quite a bit, although some weeks it hasn't quite been a presence. I feel like I heard it every day this week. It should be able to make it with at least one more round at the Top. Or never again. It seems like it's that kind of song.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

After all my hesitation about this song because it's old af, there was nothing like "Truth Hurts" this week. The flow is so damn good and it really sounds like only its own thing. I will truly think of Lizzo in mid-July 2019 and that's what this list is all about. I feel embarrassed I ignored it for weeks this summer, but it's just undoubtedly a Summer Queen Contender right now. It's engaging enough that even if it slips from the #1 spot it ought to stay on this list for a while yet.

Next week...

I narrowly left off "You Need To Calm Down" and "Bad Guy" this week. Both are still hammer-wielding worthy. "Old Town Road" also got a new popular remix this week, but it kind of sucks so I left it at home for what might have been the first time this summer. At this point it's like "Old Town Road" is notable for being "Old Town Road" and its notoriety will keep it going. But I do think we've crested that ridge and there is finally room for some other jams to climb out and assert their case for Summer Jam Champion!

08 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 9

We've rounded the fourth of July and now in front of us is so much unencumbered, pure summer that I could just fall to my knees and cry. Warm weather, shaky rocks, and plenty of pools from here on out! There are a slew of jams as well - let's take a listen to what was hot during America Week 2019!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Mother's Daughter" by Miley Cyrus



Not to be outdone by her dad this summer, Miley scores one for the moms in this pop ballad. Sort of. It is a sign of her growing maturity that it's not totally about just getting wrecked, but it still is in a way, but there is a bit more subtlety here than usual. I will always contend the artistic merit of Miley Cyrus and get excited about any new music she cranks out. This is ultimately an okay track, I don't think it'll totally catch on, but fine for now.

"Happy Days" by Blink 182

Hey! Is it 1999? No, but Blink 182 has a new song! Mark Hoppus still can't sing, but this really does sound like vintage Blink. Is this music even popular anymore? It is punk-pop, which should have even more appeal now than before. But does an old man singing about youthful platitudes have any real weight? No, and neither should you.

"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross

Drake gets another hit this week because this track is growing on me, although not nearly as catchy as anything he did last year. It's an engaging yet simplistic beat, Drake's flow is always solid, and singing about money is fun. Just ask Ariana. Is this a statement about the estate tax? Anti-bank? I don't know, who cares.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

Yep, this song still earwormed itself into my brain this week, and despite it being pretty old, feels fresh enough that it could stick around for a while. It's got legs for days! It sounds very new and exciting and I dig a lot of what Lizzo is producing these days.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber and Sheeran

At this point, this jam has certainly made its presence known. It's been represented here pretty consistently, although never all that high. It's easy listening enough that it could last for quite a while longer. As "Old Town Road" fades, could it play the role as usurper? We'll be waiting! Probably not.

"Señorita" by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

Camila had a great year last year, but hasn't had much so far in 2019. That could change with this jam, which is sexy, spicy, and wonderful. It's definitely more a spot for Camila rather than Shawn to shine, but pretty good nonetheless. It had a great debut, enough that it could also threaten as "Old Town Road" starts dropping. We'll see if Camila can make another run at this.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

It's pretty clear that this song is kind of weird and annoying, but I also wonder how much of that is weird Taylor Swift hate for no reason. It comes off as both self-serving and positioning itself at an unearned forefront of the Gay Rights Movement. Anyway, the song itself is pretty fun and the flow is summer enough that it'll keep being popular. Can it unseat "Old Town Road"? We have some pretty solid contenders at this point, as you can tell.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray

So I was doubting this a little, then Lil Nas X apparently came out, and I couldn't ignore this Gay Black Cowboy at the tail end of Pride Month. There's still some juice left in here and as the biggest song in America during Independence Day it's earned a spot here. Any other song would be very hard-pressed to upset this jam at this point. We haven't had a clear Summer Jam winner like this in many years. Then again, we do have eight more weeks, so things could happen. Stay tuned!

Next week...

I left off Billie Eilish, but she's still a thing. There were other random jams dropped this week. I kind of liked the new Slick Rick song, and then another by Asian rap group Loonies, but they really just weren't sticky enough to catch my ear and earn a spot. I think our contenders are set really well and it'll come down to whether or not "Old Town Road" fades and someone else takes their spot. Come back next week!

02 July 2019

Celebrate Midsummer with Spider-Man

And Midsommar (2019)! Last year Ari Aster showed us new levels of terror and emotionally draining depression with Hereditary. Now it's time to him to take a light romp through the weird Swedish summer festivals. Oh, and also a new Spider-Man movie.

I'm actually pretty excited for both of these. Aster is an exciting young director who is already building a cult following. The sophomore picture will really determine whether he becomes a Yorgos or an M. Night. Either way, this should come full circle and he'll be able to direct a Marvel movie soon.

Def more crowd pleasing than Spider-Man
Everything about Midsommar looks like classic Wicker Man stuff ('73 or '06, take your pick. TOTALLY EQUAL FILMS). Pagan holiday, the veneer of family festivals masking the darkness within. It's apparently got a handful of comedic elements that you'd have to be totally insane to laugh at. Since this is an Ari Aster film, you have to be totally insane to watch it to begin with, so that works pretty well.

It's hard to unpack much more than that. I do enjoy the fact that the movie is actually coming out right at the mid-summer date and should be good counter-programming for people who don't want to see animated toys or spandex swinging. Hereditary did surprisingly well, although a lot of that was more word of mouth and the simple fact that good horror is so rare people flock to see it (although it's becoming more common). You'd think that with that in his back pocket now, Midsommar would do even better, although the marketing belies a subtler, subdued horror, if horror at all. It's not quite as apparent as Hereditary, which could bank off itself, not just its director. And let's face it, there ultimately isn't Chris Nolan-level director worship for Ari Aster. Yet!

I can't really see this doing that well. There's no real big names in the cast (Will Poulter maybe?), an obscure premise, and nothing that really screams must-see horror. It's also two and a half hours long for some reason. Still, it ought to at least make its budget back. I will totally watch it, though, and you should too! We need more films that are content with being good movies that make their money back.

Then we have Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). There's a lot riding on this one. Not only is it Jon Watts' follow up to the wonderful Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), but it's coming hot off the heels of both Captain Marvel (2019) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Dropping three movies in four months is audacious on Disney's part, but they've all been crowd-pleasing so it works so far.

Will it be minnows, guppies, or the classic goldfish?
While Endgame gave us all kinds of catharsis and finality, that very finality left a few doors open for our newer Avengers to deal with - one of the biggest being Spider-Man's relationship with Tony Stark. No one really seems to care that it has no basis in the comics, which once again goes to show that you can actually change whatever you want from the source material as long as the end movie turns out good. And after a string of really terrible Spider-Man movies, Homecoming was a great, clever addition.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) came out fifteen years ago this past Sunday (a date forever burned in my brain - I watched it twice on opening day) and for better or worse I've internally canonized it as the greatest superhero film ever. An underrated element to all this is that Spider-Man has so many bonkers villains that they have yet to use the same one twice, besides Harry Osborn. And they still haven't touched Kraven, Carnage, Stegron, or Swarm!

That's right folks, we finally get a little Mysterio. And this damn movie better end up with Mysterio being the big bad guy. He's got to, right? Him masquerading as the hero before showing how insane he is is the premise for every Mysterio story ever. Then again, as I said, if it's a good movie, no one will care. The issue right now is that I've already crafted a story in my head of Mysterio's illusions and deception that I know I'm going to be disappointed when the movie makes a left turn. Oh well.

Mysterio is one of my favorite villains. He's weird, has a big fishbowl, and can definitely manipulate the fabric of reality, which is always waved away as "Hollywood Special Effects." It makes no sense. But he's also one of the more psychologically damaging villains in Spidey's Rogue Gallery, preferring to defeat Spider-Man by convincing him he has no powers or to trick Wolverine into killing the X-Men. Old Man Logan really elevated Mysterio in to the A-level.

So Jake Gyllenhaal  has a lot to live up to. We'll see. Still waiting on some kind of Sinister Six move, which at this point will truly never happen. Rumours abound of Venom making the jump to the MCU. Why does everyone except fans hate Venom? Let's take him, Vulture, Mysterio, Shocker, Scorpion, and then add an MCU Doctor Octopus to round out the team. You got your dumbass B-listers Shocker and Scorpion for Spidey to beat early on, Venom can go nuts and rogue half-way, and then the rest are legit threats. Perfect. Perfect movie. Spider-Man 3: Home of the Sinister Six (2021). Put it in the bag, Feige, I've got plenty more.

So what are you watching this weekend? Padding the pocketbook of the Disney juggernaut or watching weird Pagan Summer Fest movies? Leave a comment below!

01 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 8: Say Hi to July!

Ahhh July 1st. Summer is truly finally here. Of course we've been at this for eight weeks. Nine more to go! It's hot, there's sun and bugs and shit. It's time for Summer Time Jams! We have a mix of tracks old and new this week and I've gone from doubting a track to it basically being #1 again. I'm not sure what to do, but this is probably the Summer of "Old Town Road" already. Yep.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Homicide" by Logic ft. Eminem



This song kind of sucks actually, but was interesting enough to earn some talk here. #2 on Trending yesterday, and certainly a legendary meeting of the best old white rapper and the best new white rapper. That's just it, though - this song treats itself like it's an epic meeting, but it's kind of underwhelming. Watching a version of white trash Eminem also made me thinking about how that's like the prototypical blue collar white Trump voter. It's hard to picture 90s Em voting Hillary, isn't it? There is more to discuss here, but I'm curious what his fans think these days. Welcome to the age of cognitive dissonance!

"When the Party's Over" by Billie Eilish

We finally dropped "Bad Guy" this week but aren't quite done with Eilish. This song is hella more haunting and I actually dig it a little more. It's more evidence that she really is a genre all to herself. This isn't quite an uplifting boppy Summer Song, but there's more soul here than you'll find otherwise. And it's starting to get some steady airplay. It might do something.

"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross

Rick Ross isn't in enough videos. That insane man. Drake has become a pretty reliable hit-maker, although it's almost exhausting how good his music is. And by that I mean, it's a point where all his shit is good so they end up all being pretty equal, with nothing exactly standing out. Also, it's all flow matching beat instead of real lyrical sophistication. Anyway, this song is cool, but I'm not sure has the crossover pop appeal of anything he made in 2018, which was a crazy Drake Summer.

"Cool" by Jonas Brothers

Once again, another middling appearance, but good enough to make the list. This track is still attractive to my earballs and even though "Sucker" is maybe a little more popular, I dig this a little more. Contrast this jam's summer-ness with Billie Eilish and there's a huge discrepancy. If I may editorialize, which I surely never do, that's also exactly what has made Eilish take off. Don't knock studio-manufactured pop, though. This is fun and catchy, and that's tough to pull off.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

I've been listening to Lizzo for a while, and even though this track is pretty old, it's just catching on now. Her whole album is pretty listenable and despite its age, I couldn't ignore this anymore. It's really fresh, got a fun flow, and heralding a new spicy voice in pop! I think this will keep moving up as more folks catch on.

"Glad He's Gone" by Tove Lo

This jam also got a music video recently and was again crazily stuck in my head. Paying attention to the lyrics this song is actually brutal in all the right ways. It makes me feel sad and glad and stunned and happy all at once. Basically perfect. And no, it's not actually all that popular at all. But, we've never exactly cared about that.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber and Sheeran

Soaring in popularity this week and the only reason it comes back is these two. I heard this jam a ton this week. It's clearly not going away yet, although its streaming isn't all that great. The video is weird. It reminds me of when Katy Perry just tried to make a meme video with "Swish Swish" a few years back, but it just came off as a Grandpa trying to be one of the cool kids again. I also truly cannot tell who is singing when here. Whatever, it's #2 this week.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray

Yep. Again. I actually really thought this was done. But I've been reading articles and streaming and Billboard and YouTube recommendations and it's just not finished. There's no other song that is invading so much of life right now and it just needed this spot again. This has hardly been on the list not at #1. We do still have a lot of summer left, but it'll be hard for anyone to catch up. But that's kind of the point, right? Like, when Bieber and Sheeran are trying so hard to make memes, Lil Nas X just does it. Classic.

Next week...

Speaking of Katy Perry, she's on the periphery again, as she seems to always be these days. It is not 2010. I also very nearly included Cardi B's "Press" which I have many thoughts about. It's thematically very solid, although I think in reality her nudity distracts from her actual message. I also still don't quite believe her. Like, the point of this video is to obviously generate more press. Whatever. It's controversial enough that it might sneak in. Or maybe even naked Cardi is just white noise at this point. New Black Keys this week but no one cares. Stay tuned, folks! Summer! Yippee!

30 June 2019

NMW Mid-Year Review!

2019 has been a wacky year so far and I'm excited to see my stats. See, I keep track of everything I watch, which you may follow for some reason right here. This is more a personal feat than anything, but it's actually been surprising to put some hard data to trends both in what I've watched but how I've watched it. Television is basically non-existent as streaming has exploded over the past few years. See, I say this not as general prognostication, but actually reporting how I've consumed. So, let's take a halfway look:

Total Movies Watched: 112
First Time Viewings: 72 (65%)
Repeat Viewings: 39 (35%)

How does this compare with the last few years? Well, at the mid-point in 2018 I had 127 movies, which is a 12.5% decline. This is actually impressive - I felt I was chasing so many movies in 2018 that I really lost time for anything else and was needlessly stressed. 2019 has felt much healthier, but the numbers aren't down all that much. In fact, I hit 112 by this time in 2017, which...holy shit in a handbasket.

My new viewings in 2017 was 58 (52%), while 2018 was 83 (65%). So, as you can see, even though my first time viewings are down in number from last year, I'm actually right on the money in terms of percentages.

Here is a breakdown by media:

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MediaNumberPercentage
Netflix Streaming4540%
Netflix DVD2119%
Hulu1715%
DVD109%
TV55%
Delta Airlines44%
Theater44%
YouTube33%
Google Play11%
Redbox DVD11%
Kanopy11%

My total streaming is actually down 4% from last year, which was surprising. Everything else is pretty stable, except my Theater viewings actually suck. I've watched as many movies in the theater as I've seen movies on airplanes this year. That is not good. See, that's why we do this - I need to get off my ass more in the second half of the year.


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YearNumberPercentage
1940s11%
1960s22%
1970s22%
1980s65%
1990s1614%
2000s1816%
2010s6760%

So last year I made a huge effort to watch a film from every year 1970-2018. That turned exhausting so I gave it up. It shows. I've actually seen more 90s movies, and real old films are comparable to years past (still crazy low), but my 60% 2010s is an 11% increase from this time last year. When looking at movies for the past two years, my number has gone up from 31% to 48%.

Is that a bad thing? Being more up to date with modern cinema? Maybe. I'd like to increase my older viewership, but the catch is that as years actually progress it's harder to find old movies I haven't seen. They aren't exactly making new movies from the 1970s. I've sniffed out some classics like Logan's Run (1976) this year and there are still others I could find. This is perhaps just all an excuse to watch newer movies instead. It's an eternal debate. What do you think?

Lastly, we've gotten into a habit of ranking all the movies I've seen in the Calendar year for the first time. This disregards any kind of actual release date, but simply the best I've personally seen. I always think these lists are fun for maybe introducing a hidden gem I missed years ago or re-discovery of a classic.

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NameYearRank
American Animals201810
Cool Hand Luke19679
Godzilla: King of the Monsters20198
The Perfection20197
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote20196
Revenge20185
The Clovehitch Killer20184
Free Solo20183
In the Loop20092
Assassination Nation20181
Alright - two things. First, a product of 48% of new movies watched so far this year bent this list HEAVY towards 2018 and 2019 releases. What's the point, man? Second, without totally realizing it I kind of got into rape revenge fantasy thrillers I guess? The Perfection, Revenge, Assassination Nation (kind of). All three were really captivating, interesting movies that stayed with me for a long time. That's good, but now I'm wondering if we can have some women stories that aren't exploitative? I narrowly left out Support the Girls (2018), which was also fantastic.

2019 Movies so Far:

I haven't seen a ton of 2019 movies. I'm pretty reliant on Netflix DVD service and will crank a lot of them out by year's end. But here's a Top Ten so far:

Actually, screw it, I've only seen fourteen 2019 movies. Just wait until December, folks.

What about the worst movies?!

There are some clear candidates. Polar (2018) was really wretched in all the worst ways with a plot that made no sense but tried so hard to be cool and edgy. I watched Exposed (2016) because I was excited about everyone in the cast but it was so boring I literally forgot that I had actually watched it and almost put it my queue again. I also crushed some truly terrible comedies. That's what I get for giving movies a chance and trying to understand if they're actually underrated gems. No, there's a reason why everyone hates Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) and In the Army Now (1994). There's more to suss out what exactly makes these movies terrible and other Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies great, but I have yet to pin that down.

And that's it for 2019! The first half! What have you seen this year?! It's clear I have a little course correcting to do, but the rest of the year will be a good one! Maybe.

26 June 2019

For No Reason Let's Look at G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

We are actually approaching the ten-year anniversary of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), which is amazing and as good of a reason as any to ramble about this lost gem of American cinema. But truly, I just saw it pop up on Hulu and will still contend that it's one of the greatest action-adventure movies of the modern era. It gets a lot of flack just because it's really stupid and has pulpy source material, but none of that actually matters. Top to bottom this flick is amazing. Come, dear reader - let me tell you why.

This all starts with Transformers (2007). Some might call it the pioneer of blockbuster 80s toy adaptations. It made a ton of money, soaked up all of Michael Bay's time for ten years, and was lauded for its incoherent visuals and complete disregard for plot or taste. This was a formulative moment in cinematic history. At the very least it gave Hasbro the idea that it could convert all of its toys into movies.

Ninja fights!
Now, the original source material for all this crap is pretty bad. Nostalgia takes over, but neither Transformers nor G.I. Joe nor Thundercats or Voltron were any good. They were all pretty cheap cartoons all made expressly to sell toys. That's really it. It did form this vague collective memory, though that allowed us to partly dip a tow in the nostalgia market while also staying far enough away so that fans wouldn't be pissed. Beyond Optimus, Megatron, Starscream, and Bumblebee I'm not sure any casual fan remembered any other Transformer. Except Hot Rod and it took until the fifth fucking movie for him to debut. G.I. Joe is even worse. Was the lead character even named Joe? No one cares. We just remember Snake Eyes.

This put Rise of Cobra in a fun position. It could trade heavily on the Joe name while being its own ridiculous thing. And G.I. Joe is inherently insane, even to parody. It's hard to think of joke names because a lot of Joe names really were joke names. Who better to take the reigns of this epic attempt at making money than Stephen Sommers? He had quite a few random movies in the 90s until he found his magnum opus in The Mummy (1999). One need only watch this throwback adventure tale to understand what brings Sommers above his contemporaries - an understanding that movies are fun.

Sommers also gave us The Mummy Returns (2001) and Van Helsing (2004), and before you ask, yes, that's about it. These are epic, studio-driven films that revel in their own stupidity. There is no shame or reluctance to his filmmaking. He'll throw everything against the wall and keep only the fun, epic parts. There's such an earnest quality to his movies. Sure, they don't really have...plots, but that hardly matters. He's well aware of the pulpy realm he exists in and has a lot of fun with it. I'll also shout out Odd Thomas (2013), a fantastic small little movie starring the late Anton Yelchin that maintains Sommer's flair.

All this percolated in Rise of Cobra to create one of the best pure action-adventure films of the modern era. It surely didn't last that long in a post-Dark Knight (2008) world that suddenly took everything dark, serious, and brooding, but my appreciation has only grown. As a movie, while there are certainly leaps in logic and quickly bypassed character development, it still establishes simple but potent stakes very early, sticks by them, and crafts an insane yet sincere world for its toys to play in.

Before watching this, I had never seen a film that so purely put playing with action figures on screen. There are implausible secret bases, evil nano-technology mind-controlled soldiers, submarine armies, and so much more. It took a kid's imagination and gave it a $175 million budget for some reason. The only other film that's come close was actually last month's Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), which gave me the same feeling. Both films throw plausibility to the wind and truly don't care about doing it. How do these organizations get funding? How do these characters figure out where everyone else will be? Where do these skills come from? Nobody cares. If it's not pure cinematic fun, it's left on the cutting room floor.

And to be sure - this is a tricky line to walk. There are Sommers-esque directors who fail. Look no further than John M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliaion (2013) which somehow too the exact same source material, added The Rock and Bruce Willis and then totally whiffed. There's a difference between treating the source material seriously and making a serious movie. Rise of Cobra relishes its world but knows that that world is inherently silly. Save a few clever scenes, Retaliation never felt like it knew how to loosen up and be fun. There are many more problems with that that we'll get to, but it also lacked focus, which is surprisingly always crystal clear in Rise of Cobra.

The film takes four minutes to establish stakes. I timed it. And those stakes never change. There are nanomite warheads that can destroy a city if they fall into the wrong hands. That's it. The whole movie chugs along with that underlying danger (EXCEPT the big twist is that this isn't actually Cobra's plot at all, in a stroke of genuine brilliance - more on that later). The warheads are basically a MacGuffin in the sense that everyone in the movie is chasing them and they drive a lot of the plot, but they also actually have a function rather than just being an obscure jewel or something. Also, the MacGuffin becomes a Red Herring! It's awesome!

Also, Dennis Quaid is here for some reason!
Within the first 21 minutes we hear, "Knowing is half the battle", "Real American Hero", and "Kung Fu Grip." That's all we need. Each member of the Joes has a little gimmick like the hacker, the bombs guy, the woman with the head-exploding crossbow. It's almost as if they lacked a white man until Channing Tatum comes in, with the power of being white and leading them. There's a scene of Channing Tatum watching a funeral in aviator sunglasses in the pouring rain while riding a motorcycle. It's sublime.

Tatum is ostensibly the protagonist, although this is an ensemble more than anything, and he's actually the one captured and who needs saving at the end. This is way too late, but SPOILERS for this 10-year old movie that no one cares about, I guess. Marlon Wayan is also here, with some cringy hitting on the non-sportscaster Rachel Nichols after she says no. How did we not realize until like 2017 that women are capable of independent agency? Other than this awkwardness, which was standard then (and still now), Wayans actually does a nice job balancing comic relief and genuine action chops. You could say he was the original black best friend. Shit that goes back a ways actually.

We also have great ethnic character actors in Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Croc from Suicide Squad [2016]) and Saïd Taghmaoui (The same exact character in Wonder Woman [2017]) doing their thing. Most importantly, Akinnuoye-Agbaje also featured in The Mummy Returns, and this movie is an insane reunion of Mummy actors. Kevin J. O'Connor, who played the weasel Benny in The Mummy appears as the best named character, Dr. Mindbender. Arnold Vosloo is actually downright charming here as the sadistic murder / master of disguise Zartan. And Brendan Frasier even appears on a little ATV-thing during the best training montage ever. It actually took me a while to realize they weren't even playing "Bang a Gong" in the background. I still think of this montage every single damn time I hear that song. It perfectly encapsulates the fun sincerity of this film. Was Rachel Weisz unavailable? She also was absent from Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). You now John David Hannah was available.

Rounding out the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the hammiest performance of all-time as Cobra Commander. Of course, you don't find out he's Commander until the last scene, but the lead-up to his ascension is awesome. He always seems like just this weird creepy nano-doctor who is obsessed with snakes. Christopher Eccleston is Destro for most of the film and the main antagonist, wielding power in the form of a billion-dollar weapons empire and somehow super-advanced energy bubble gun technology. He's also a moustache-twirling insane person. This is Sienna Miller's best movie. She's the Baroness, although I do sort of wish she wasn't mind-controlled, just actually evil. It makes it a little weird when Channing Tatum has to save her with his mighty man charms, but she's also still straight up in jail by the film's end.

Finally, the two best characters. See, this is largely a NATO vs. Terrorists show of military propaganda (nominally - you can read NATO pretty transparently as USA and Cobra as...there's no real analogy there), but this is also an intense Ninja Revenge drama. That's the awesome thing about G.I. Joe. For some reason it really boils down to all Good Guys vs. all Bad Guys. Like, it doesn't matter if they have military affiliation or not. This film spares us weird snow people, but preserves good ninja vs. bad ninja.

Meet Snake Eyes, a white guy who wears black and never talks and Storm Shadow, a Japanese (ok - Korean actor) guy who always wears white and talks sometimes. Snake Eyes took a vow of silence after Storm Shadow killed their sensei, the Hard Master (fuck these names...), although that is retconned in a way that severely undermines his character and arc in Retaliation.

Played by Byung-hun Lee of The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008), it's both the best acting and best character in this movie. While Ray "Darth Maul and Toad" Park is Snake Eyes as a quiet spirit of vengeance, you feel all the anger and pain Storm Shadow feels from being in this dumbass rat white kid's shadow for like twenty years. He's competent, brutal, merciless, but does have a code of honor above his other Cobra people. You kind of wonder what the hell his motivation is in helping these people, but you also get the sense that he's just a lost soul just looking for an excuse to kill Snake Eyes. And the kid version is played by the kid Heroin leader from Tropic Thunder (2008)!

One thing I always liked though is that the good guys are actually as cool as the bad guys. Ohhh the bad guys are always the coolest. Snake Eyes pushes the Joes over the top, though. As do Ripcord and Scarlett. The two of them seem to be able to figure out what Cobra's doing at any turn. I think some of that is gearing this film towards a younger, dumber demographic. Like, how the fuck does Scarlett speak fluent Celtic to save the day at the end? That's downright bizarre. It's just to keep the plot moving, it's okay.

Sommers, known also as the King of Shitty CGI, fills this movie not only with childhood characters but childhood playsets. The CGI is so bad. Are you ready for the worst in the movie? It's right here. This is 2009 and this movie again cost $175 million! What the fuck? But this vehicle, with all its gadgets fits perfectly as a play accessory. And that Paris chase sequence is fantastic. Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans don literal Iron Man suits, blast through Paris, fail to save the Eiffel Tower, then get arrested and are banished from France forever. This is all straight up what happens in this movie.

It's a little hint towards the end that the Joes actually fail here. Quite a bit actually. They are continually outmatched by Cobra. First they get their asses handed to them in the opening scene. When they slink away, they are outwitted once more, accidentally activating a homing beacon that reveals their secret base's location (this however, leads to the single best scene, when a door explodes because of bullets). They can't get the warheads back in Paris and the city is nearly destroyed.

Oh yeah - the bases. The Joes live in a secret base under the Sahara desert in Egypt, which seems to have been picked with total disregard towards actual Middle Eastern geopolitics. But the Cobra base - that was when I knew I was watching something special. A giant underwater base beneath the Arctic Ice Cap?! How? Why?! It's completely impractical! As the Joes say, though, impossible to detect! Except for when they detect them immediately!

As you might guess, this all leads to a massive underwater submarine fight that would go unmatched until Aquaman (2018). There's one point where Sommers actually does a match cut between a barrel-rolling jet in the upper atmosphere and a Manta sub in pursuit of Cobra Commander. It's amazing. At one point Cobra detonates the ice shelf and everyone needs to escape BECAUSE THE ICE SHELF WILL FALL ON THE UNDERWATER BASE. They eventually get away and disable the base's mega-cannon and capture the elusive new Cobra Commander.

BUT - and here's the final twist. This was all just bullshit. See, Destro has also built the President's bunker, which he knew would be protocol once a warhead was aimed at Washington, D.C. The entire warhead was a production - a big ruse to trick the Joes and America into doing exactly as they wanted. For lo and behold waiting for President Don Quixote in the Destro Bunker is Zartan, disguised as a perfect copy. It's basically a David Tenant / Mad-Eye Moody situation. So while the rest of Cobra appears dismantled and defeated, they have a man in the White House and no one is the wiser. That's how the movie ends! The bad guys win! And no one knows! I was actually blown away and really excited for the sequel.

Rachel Nichols taught me what puberty is from this movie
Retaliation sucked. It didn't help that they either killed everyone or replaced the competent, likable cast. In a fun twist, Channing Tatum spent the intervening years becoming the 21 Jump Street (2012) Tatum, suddenly a reliable and unique leading man with charms they failed to deploy in Rise of Cobra. They kept Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee, thank goodness, but fucked with their Ninja background and made their decades long grudge make no sense. In a true way of trying to sell more toys, though, everyone else fell by the wayside. You can't replace Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Luke Bracey and expect it to be any good. He's Cobra Commander! An iconic 80s villain on par with Skeletor, Megatron, and Mum-Ra! How could they find no one of high caliber to take that role. It's such a good, meaty, campy, insane role to play.

They added The Rock and Bruce Willis and they're okay. Adrian Palicki, Elodie Young, and Ray Stevenson are all good additions, but it's really hard to just start over. They could have all been additions to the cast instead of wholesale upgrades. Why can't this team have two women on it at the same time? Speaking of that - the Baroness nano-brain cliffhanger is never brought up again. I still think it would have been some better character development if she had made a conscious decision to be super evil, but this film doesn't have time for that.

And while I remember the ending of Rise of Cobra so well as the greatest ending ever, I have no idea what happens in Retaliation. I've watched it twice. It doesn't stick in my brain. It feels like a cheap movie made on the fly that no one cared about.

Okay, okay sure - let's get cynical. Sommers is a hack and Rise of Cobra was designed to capitalize on Transformers' popularity and sell toys. There are loads of problematic narrative shortcuts and an uneasy comfortability with the military-industrial complex. Everyone knows this. But true globe-trotting adventure movies that are fun and earnest are really rare. You would be hard-pressed to find a movie like this these days, which is partly why I was so excited by Godzilla: King of the Monsters. They're movies who aren't afraid to be movies, and that's something I really appreciate.

What do you think of this movie? Am I crazy? Is this trash? I could watch this every day of my life.

24 June 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 7: He's Gone

We got a bunch of new jams and some very old ones this week all combining to make a perfect flurry of Summer Pop-ness. We're deep into June at this point and rounding the third-way Summer barrier. What song will we always remember as Independence Day 2019? Well, keep listening next week for that one, but for now here's what's hot:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Rodeo" by Lil Nas X ft. Cardi B



Okay, so it's fairly clear at this point that Lil Nas X isn't going to have another "Old Town Road." I hope he's good at saving his money. Throwing Cardi on this track is a no-brainer but also feels very 2018. Nas X dropped like three songs this week and they all suck pretty hard. "Rodeo" hits that Country / Hip-Hop vibe the best (some call it "hip-haw", which I like). This is actually kind of a cool jam but I wish he'd make something longer than two minutes.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

Hey, Taylor. You know I've been a big fan for a while. What is this? Is it a gay rights anthem? Is it you squashing your random pop beefs that no one really cared about? There's something passive aggressive here - like telling someone to calm down has never had the effect of calming them down ever. Her lyrics of yesterday were so witty - this jam falls flat. I spent more time wondering when Taylor re-positioned herself as an LBGT icon than listening to this message, which is maybe a petty thing to do. I did like the Pop Queen Drag Show. Like most things, The Onion has the best take.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

This is still kicking it and it's clear that despite being a perennial runner-up to Lil Nas X in this moment, Eilish has enough pop grit in her to crank out some great songs for years to come. I did not realize how young she was, but there's a lot of punk in her pop that's new and refreshing and exciting. She just needs to break away and have a moment that's only hers.

"Cool" by Jonas Bros

Is this song actually cool? I kind of like it. It does seem like you're not really cool if you think you're cool. Billie Eilish is cool. I'm not sure the Jonas kids are. Props for them not turning out to be total weirdos and preserving, even maturing most of their early boy band sound into whatever this is. Good enough for me to sing their praises here.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray

Yep this is still around, still exists, but fading at this point. I think it's done a fair amount of damage so far to make a great claim, but we'll see how recency affects the latter two thirds of summer. Historically it's been tough for a May / June breakout hit to keep momentum through Labour Day. Keep those horses high!

"Happier" by Marshmello ft. Bastille

I told you we were going old. This song, which I'm sure your grandparents had fun dancing to, seemed to crop up a lot this week. And I'm at the point where I can totally sing it without thinking about it. How did that happen? It wormed its way into my brain. This is how seemingly innocuous pop takes over the world, people. It's scary.

"High Hopes" by Panic! At the Disco

Same with this song. I hate grammatically incorrect names like this and fun. Also that voice, jeez, man. This is terrible. But still everywhere, somehow increasing Hot 100 position and still on the radio everywhere. I'll switch to Spotify next week, I swear. Then this list is going to be full of Tyler the Creator and Lizzo. I should have looked closer this week.

"Glad He's Gone" by Tove Lo

This song was in my head all week and it got a video companion. I actually dig this a lot - it really hasn't done much damage on any kind of chart or for anyone who is not me, but I like the flow, the message, everything is good. Also nice to see Tove Lo have another hit. And by hit I mean song that I've heard. I don't think this has serious Summer Jam potential and we're probably throwing everything out of whack here, but who cares, this is cool.

Next week...

There is still Khalid and Normani tunes out there that I ignored this week. Aforementioned Tyler and Lizzo. Lots that could crop up. "Old Town Road" may not be as dead as I suggest, and no one else has really made a move for the throne yet. You just know Taylor wants to, though. Stay tuned to find out! This has been Norwegian Morning Wood, your definitive contemporary pop music source.

21 June 2019

Toys Come to Life Weekend

Hey there. So we used to discuss the cultural, critical, and commercial prospects of each new film each and every Friday around here. So, that - but the short version because there isn't all that much to say beyond the fact that this weekend bizarrely features both the adorable and horrific aspects of toys coming to life. Toy Story 4 (2019) and Child's Play (2019), everyone!

So, these toys are immortal, right? Will we eventually reach
a Highlander-type situation?
I am a Pixar fan because I am a living, breathing human being with a heart, but the studio isn't without their problems. I just mentioned while talking about Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) that the studio tends to be averse to the more cartoony aspects of animation, relies on cheap tearjerkers as excuses for depth (despite them mostly being earned, which is why their movies are genuinely good), and lately have traded in original stories for easy sequels that just don't the same panache.

And then they crank out COCO (2017) which is the most underrated Pixar movie ever, but also completely out of the Pixar tearjerker playbook. Sad doesn't automatically equal great, although like I said, COCO's tears are mostly earned, so it works.

I tried to get into their sequels, I really did, but they're just not all that good. I don't know why they've decided to go back to the well so often, either. They had a $200+ million streak from Monsters, Inc. (2001) to UP (2009). Even original films since like Brave (2012) and Inside Out (2015) have made consistent bank while the Cars series has had diminishing returns (but way more merchandisable than Princess Merida). Still, the big nostalgia jerkers - the Toy Stories, Finding Dory (2017), Incredibles 2 (2018) - those are making the kind of money that really gets attention. It's not about $200+ million anymore. It's about hitting that Billion Dollar worldwide mark.

So despite having the most satisfying cathartic ending of any movie in history here we are at Toy Story 4. Great. Half the original cast is dead. I honestly haven't even been interested in the trailer. My life if so complete with Toy Story 3 (2010) being the endpoint. I'm trying not to just be a whiner but I'm moved on. I can't even conceive of another adventure for these characters that would feel momentous enough to earn another outing. I'm glad they got Keanu Reeves. I'm sure he's great. I can't get hyped for this.

On the other end of the aisle is the new Child's Play which is totally a thing I didn't realise was happening until I randomly looked at what new releases we had this week. I knew this movie was coming, but Friday? Holy shit! There's Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tee Henry, and Tim Matheson (better known for being the best part of A Very Brady Sequel [1996]). Mark Hamill as Chucky?! Let's watch this!

I feel like I could have told you this doll is evil.
Ooooh he looks like Thunderbirds!
Chucky is so stupid. Just kick the doll away. Once the series started getting campy and insane with Bride of Chucky (1998) it definitely became more its own thing. I don't know if Chucky is a horror icon - I guess so? I'm surprised this hasn't had a more mainstream reboot, but in researching this I was surprised to learn it has had a fairly steady Direct-to-DVD presence. That's not really surprising.

So, let's talk cash, cultural cache, all that stuff. Toy Story 4 is going to make a lot of money this weekend. There's been no great financial juggernaut in a few weeks and there's really nothing next weekend, either. Chucky is great counter-programming and Summer Horror can work, but it's also a property that I don't think that many people care about. We will eventually reach a point where this movie is just debuted on streaming services and we coordinate enough that it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other low budget horror movies on streaming sites. That's not this weekend, though.

Will these movies have cultural weight? I don't think so. How often do you reflect on Monsters University (2013) in your life? It was nice to remember Bride of Chucky. That movie is fun as hell. There might be a little of that going on here - with a much more violent streak. It's a tough tone to do well, and it might get a bit of a cult following. A...Cult of Chucky (2017) following? Eh? EH?!

What are you going to see this weekend? I mean, this is the longest day of the year, do you want to spend it on this crap? Go watch Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Let's keep that franchise alive!

20 June 2019

First Impressions: The Secret Life of Pets 2

That's right. This was...such a weird movie. In reality it wasn't actually a movie at all. It was more three unrelated stories strung together for eighty minutes. But more on that later. SPOILERS to follow about The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019).

I actually just watched The Secret Life of Pets (2016), so that was nice and fresh. In the intervening three years a lot has happened, namely lead little dog voice actor Louis C.K. was out, Patton Oswalt in. Kevin Hart is still here as a maniacal little rabbit named snowball. Is he still okay to like? Take of that what you will.

The Secret Life of Pets was a pretty surprise hit back in 2016. Never underestimate the appeal of a bunch of cute animated talking animals. It comes from Illumination, which is NBC / Universal's animation branch, primarily known for Minions movies. Pets has little hints of this, and a nice minion introduction just to remind you of the studio's bread and butter. Twinkie and butter?

Snowball's superhero name is Captain Snowball.
Next up, Captain Steve Rogers.

Unfortunately, the studio has then become known for somewhat diminishing returns. Despicable Me remains their highest rated (81%) and most sentimentally adored film. That being said, they haven't quite entered DreamWorks levels of pop culture regurgitation and celebrity worship, but they're close. More importantly, though, their films tend to find a way to become financially successful. How the hell did Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (2018) find a way to $270 million last year?

From an animation standpoint I tend to be turned off by Illuminations' fan of giant heads and bodies with tiny feet and arms. It's off-putting to me for some reason. Having said that, their backgrounds are awesome. I loved Pets' interpretation of a massive, endless glistening New York City. There is a sense of frenetic action and purposeful unrealism that modern CGI, namely Pixar tends to avoid. SONY Animation, for all its wretchedness actually does animated slapstick really well. It keeps me interested in the Hotel Transylvania series of all things.

The heavenly depiction of New York in Pets borders on irresponsible with how clean and crime-free it looks, but that movie found contrast between the silver shine of the city and the grimy underground of flushed and forgotten pets. This all came together into a coherent story of Louis C.K. dog loving his master until a newer, bigger, wilder dog is introduced. They then get lost, find the misfit pets and need to escape to get back before their master notices them gone.

Holy shit.

Sorry, I just realised this is the plot of Toy Story (1995). Okay, okay - moving past that.

It's fine and entertaining and full of really genuine pet / owner moments that earn a handful of chuckles. It's not thematically dense or anything, but it's also really not trying to be. We often talk around here of how a film can accomplish its own goals, which I think Pets does, it's just not a far goalpost. To be real honest, it was a whole lot better than I had been led to believe and I could stand to have this play in the background for like two months straight if I had kids who got into it.

Pets 2 mystified me. The basic premise is that Patton Oswalt dog's owner gets hitched and cranks out a baby, which the pups are at first wary of, but then grow to love and eventually be overprotective. The helicopter parent analogy is pretty clear here. They then journey out to the farm for reasons that are never explained (I suppose that keeps with the dog's perspective and it also doesn't quite even matter) and meet a dog voiced my Harrison Ford who thinks the city dogs are pussies (ha) and is way more into an old school way of parenting.

It wasn't until long after the cinema that I found myself wondering who this plot was even for. Are kids like "Yeah, mom and dad - don't raise me like that!" Would they even pick up on it? I liked that it was at least an indictment against helicopter parents and not Millennials, which tends to be an easy target in films like this filled with old folks who don't understand that thar Ol' Intranets. And Harrison Ford actually does a fantastic job and doesn't even sound that grouchy.

There are good sheep jokes but there is truly no place for Eric Stonestreet dog. It's tough when his very presence was the central conflict of the first film. He just kind of exists here. They could have developed him a little more - say he sides against Oswalt dog and when Harrison Ford shows up there's more conflict there when he justifies a lot of what he's been saying the whole movie.

Apparently they didn't have time for all that, though, because there are two whole unrelated stories at play here. The first is Jenny Slate dog learning how to pretend to be a cat in order to infiltrate an old cat lady's apartment to steal back a chew toy Patton Oswalt lost.

And don't get me wrong - this bit is hilarious and works exceptionally well as its own 20-minute short. But what the hell is this doing intercut with two other unrelated stories in a feature-length film? The old lady gangsta pay-off as she kills the Evil Circus Owner at the end who she definitely did not know is fantastic, but narratively this film is insane.

Yes, Evil Circus Owner - voiced by Nick Kroll and dressed like the Wicked Witch of the West for some reason. Russian because Evil German was too on the nose I guess, but the last vignette involves Kevin Hart Snowball bunny dressed as a superhero (because superheroes are popular) teamed up with Tiffany Haddish (because Haddish is popular) to free an imprisoned White Tiger. Again, this all works better than it sounds. Haddish is a little miscast - her character is surprisingly relaxed and calm and doesn't seem to take advantage of her raspy, excitable voice. Still, it's a fun Night School (2018) reunion. Did ya'll see Night School?

This Tiger-saving ends up being the thing that Oswalt dog needs to do to prove his bravery at the end of the film, but considering he has never met this Tiger or Tiffany Haddish it feels really weird and empty. All the stakes are there and even the proper build-up, but then they switch out the hero for one who is in better need of the hero moment. It's bizarre. Like, it fits Oswalt's story but...isn't.

Pets 2 works as a series of vignettes and it's fun to play around in this world for a little bit. That's essentially all that's going on here, though. It's playing and spending a little more time with these characters. The jokes land and kids will be entertained (I think a little more by the latter two vignettes, but whatever), but this is such a weirdly structured movie. It's like as if Four Rooms (1995) or Amores Perros (2000) was set in the Secret Life of Pets universe. I'd actually like to see a little more of this. I suppose what threw me off the most was waiting for these stories to intersect or to find meaning in parallel to each other. Like, imagine if Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019) is just three separate stories in the Star Wars Universe. Okay, that might actually be awesome, but my brain spent more time trying to piece together what was happening than enjoying the cuteness.

Anyway, I've whined a lot but I generally liked this for the same reason I liked the first film. They just nail pet/owner relationships so well, it's a familiar chuckle, and Lake Bell, Harrison Ford, Dana Carvey, and Jenny Slate all give some legit great voice performances. Upon second viewing it would be nice to relax and enjoy cuteness. Also notable is the simple fact that this film made no attempt to simply re-do the plot of the first film, which often befalls these kinds of movies. It knows what it wants to be and then is that. Tougher than it looks.

What did you think of Pets 2? What the hell will they do with Pets 3
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