Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We Are Never Ever Getting - Shut The Hell Up!

For the record, I don't hate the country-pop superstar known as Taylor Swift. I respect and admire that she writes her own songs, plays her own music, she supports LBGT issues, and the fact she built up her fan base via social networking sites. I understand her appeal: she's pretty, but not supermodel hot; her doey-eyed optimism and young girl angst makes her easy to relate to. Swift is the girl next door that your mother would be proud to call her mother-in-law if you ever had the good sense to look past the hotness factor and see the radiant and mature woman that she is. She hasn't fallen into the trap of transforming from Ms. Innocent into an over-sexualized Britney Spears clone, and for that, we are all very thankful that young girls still have an idol to look up to in an age where too few of said idols are around. And I think we can all say we were on the Swift bandwagon after Kanye stormed the stage saying that Swift didn't deserve the award for Best Female Video at the 09 MTV VMA's. We all wanted to give Swift a big ol' hug when it was reported that she was crying furiously after West ruined her big moment, and give West - and his ego - a nice, hard kick in the ass.

Unfortunately, overexposure and her stunted growth as a recording artist have swallowed up most of the goodwill she received after Kanye-gate, and to an extension, the last three years. Most of her songs, from "Fifteen", "You Belong With Me", "Teardrops On My Guitar", "Speak Now" and "Back To December" all deal with either one of the following themes:  Her having a crush on a boy, experiences in high school, or a breakup with a boy. How many times can an artist return to the same drinking well before that baby is tapped out completely, or when does it reach a point where people just get sick of hearing the same song over and over again and tune her out.

Apparently, not anytime soon, as Swift has released her new single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" from her fourth LP, Red due out next month, and as I speak, it is now the no.2 song on Billboard's Top 100 charts. What makes Taylor's latest break-up anthem insufferable to listen to? Well, ladies and gentleman: she's officially sold herself out.

Let me explain: despite Swift falling back on themes of first love, teenage angst, and bad breakups, I'll admit there was a certain sincerity to the songs; you felt that she had a true connection to the words and lyrics she crafted, despite how annoying and overplayed Swift eventually became. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", by contrast, sounds like something that was written by studio hacks; it's the kind of soulless, yet highly polished, bubblegum track that sounds almost nothing like the artist that sings it. But it's not just the predictable hooks or the fact Swift ditches her signature Folk/Country sound for the bland, already-been-chewed, slickness that is pop music, it's the lyrics themselves which make the song even worse than it already is.

As you might have guessed by the title, Taylor is involved in yet another failed relationship (breakup no. 28, if you're keeping score at home), but this time, after all the drama and bullshit she's been through with this guy, she's finally (like, for real this time) ending it with him.


Now that we've all had time to digest this song (and if somehow the chorus and this line, "You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me," gets stuck in your dome, I suggest you avoid all top 40/pop music stations for the next few days and drown it out with Radiohead's The King of Limbs), you may have spotted some problems within the song. Let's discover them together, shall we?
I remember when we broke up the first timeSaying this is it, I've had enough, 'cause likeWe haven't seen each other in a monthWhen you, said you, needed space (what?)
A month? Seriously? I'm no expert on relationships, but if a guy wants space and doesn't see you for a month, chances are he's either moved on from the relationship, or he's playing you like a fiddle, in which case, you had every right to dump his ass and probably don't need him around!
Then you come around again and sayBaby, I miss you and I swear I'm gonna changeTrust me, remember how that lasted for a day?
I'm not sure what I find more sad and pathetic: the fact you still took him back when he basically said 'Sweety, i've changed my ways, for reals this time, and I wanna be with you forever, promise baby!' (or most commonly called, a man's lie), or the fact that it took less than 24 hours for the boy to fall back into old habits. Again, i've never had a girlfriend before, but I doubt that it takes this long for anyone to fall back into old, destructive habits that doom a relationship! This is more of a caricature than a supposed mystery ex from Taylor's love life.
Oooh we called it off again last nightBut Oooh, this time I'm telling you, I'm telling youWe are never ever ever getting back togetherWe are never ever ever getting back togetherYou go talk to your friends talkTo my friends talk to meBut we are never ever ever ever getting back together
Like ever...
Taylor, your valley girl accent doesn't make this song witty, more upbeat, or catty, it makes this song more annoying than it already is. The valley girl accent didn't make Ke$ha any more tolerable, it got really repetitive when Alicia Silverstone played a Cher Horwitz-clone in the animated series Braceface and hearing girls (it wasn't just regulated to white girls, let me tell you) talk in that holier-than-thou, smug sense of superiority over everyone else all through my high school experience reminds me of a person taking a rusty nail and scraping it across the chalkboard. It's not cute, it really makes me want to slit my throat.
I'm really gonna miss you picking fightsAnd me, falling for a screaming that I'm rightAnd you, will hide away and find your piece of mind with some indie record that's much cooler than mine
I'm having a hard time buying Taylor Swift listening to any indie records, unless she's confused  Drake or Nicki Minaj as being apart of the indie scene in music. I'm skipping over the second chorus because you don't want to hear it again, much less see it again in this review. Next part!
I used to think, that we, were forever ever everAnd I used to say never say never
You want to know a good way of making a song even more insufferable? Pour on more aggravating, girly catch phrases that should have died out at the end of the 90's. Hell, the coffin should have been slammed shut and buried six feet under when "reality TV" shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills finally came to a close!
Huh, he calls me up and he's like, I still love youAnd i'm like, i'm just, I mean this is exhausting, you knowWe are never getting back together, like ever

My God, I don't think i've ever encountered a song this terrible, this aggressive in letting the listener know that Taylor Swift, the good country girl who writes optimistic and heartfelt, yet overplayed teenage ballads, has become a shameless sellout with this already-been-chewed pop song that we've heard waaaay too many  times before! And you want to know the really sad part about this song? There's a better song out there that deals with a woman kicking her no-good douchebag of a boyfriend to the curb:

Say what you will about Beyonce, but when she says, "I can have another you in a minute / matter fact, he'll be here in a minute", I believe her. She's got the attitude and the forcefulness this song calls for, and does it fairly easily, too. Taylor Swift's attempts at being peppy, witty and bashing her loser ex come off as "not over it" written all over her face. Her newest single will probably please the fans who like this sort of "boys suck!" anthem, but to everyone else, this cookie-cutter pop song will leave you feeling empty and disappointed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Tonight at midnight, director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy comes to an end with the release of The Dark Knight Rises. I'll be there at the midnight show, waiting to see how it all ends, but before that, I'm going to review the first two chapters in Nolan's series, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Batman Begins - Let's go back a few decades. After Tim Burton released the follow-up to 1989's Batman with Batman Returns, Warner Bros demoted Burton to a producing role due to the dark and violent nature of the 1992 sequel, in hopes to make the Caped Crusader more accessible to mainstream viewers (see: more family friendly). Joel Schumacher was hired as director and already, there was issues with the greenlit sequel. First, Schumacher wanted to adapt Frank Miller's graphic novel of the Batman legend, titled Batman: Year One into a prequel of Bruce Wayne's origins and how he became the costumed vigilante. The studio shot the idea down because they wanted a sequel and because they wanted eight and ten year-old boys watching the movies, along with their parents. Second, Michael Keaton - who played Batman in the first two films, decided not to return for the next installment, claiming he was unhappy with the new direction the series was going. A few days later, Val Kilmer was brought on to play Wayne and his alter ego. Lastly was the in-fighting between the actors and Schumacher; most notably between him and Kilmer. Batman Forever was released in the summer of 1995, and to huge success: Forever made $184 million in North America and $152 million overseas, bringing the total to $336 million globally, surpassing Returns and  was the 2nd highest grossing movie in North America in that year (the highest was Pixar's debut feature, Toy Story). Reviews were mixed, as some critics liked the campy, visual look and feel of Batman's world, while others disliked how the series sold out it's dark, harrowing and haunting nature for something that would be more approachable for younger audiences and their families.

Then came Batman and Robin, the movie that (still) puts a shiver down the spine of every comic book fan, and every movie geek out there, and the movie that i'm certain George Clooney would take back, had he know just how badly he and the rest of the cast would damage the Batman name. I'm going to keep this brief because going into a synopsis of this...thing would drive me mad, so here are the bullet points you need to know:

  • First off, you're probably wondering why I mentioned George Clooney and not Val Kilmer? The beef between Kilmer and returning director Schumacher was so bad that Kilmer refused to return for the fourth installment, with Clooney taking his place.
  • Schumacher wanted to pay homage to the camp value of the 1960's television show starring Adam West as Batman, which explains the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and those terrible ice puns ("What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!").
  • Warner Bros, basking in the success of Batman Forever, demanded that the filmmakers begin immediately on the sequel, which started August of 1996 and ended January of 1997, two weeks ahead of schedule.
  • The fourth installment was released in June of '97, but to abysmal reviews and a very disappointing box office run (it finished with just under $110 million, due to the negative word of mouth after the first week of it's release).
  • Many people involved, including co-star Chris O' Donnell as Robin and the director himself were apologetic for the movie. Clooney himself vowed that he would never play this character again, and for that, we are all very thankful.
After the Batman and Robin fiasco, the studio had been attempting to reboot the series, but with no success. There was plans for a fifth entry, titled Batman Triumphant, but due to the backlash of the fourth, the project was shelved. Had it been green-lit, Clooney, O'Donnell and Schumacher would have been attached to the project (sure dodged a bullet there). Later on, Warner Bros. made another attempt in 2000 with Batman: Year One. the studio hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct the reboot based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, but just two years later, the studio shelved the project.

This (finally) leads us to Christopher Nolan. In 2003, Warner Bros tried yet again to reboot the franchise and this time, it finally took! Nolan was hired to direct and co-write with David S. Goyer. Their aim was a for a more realistic and darker atmosphere and to take the series down to bare basics: the untold story of Bruce Wayne himself. Nolan wanted the audience to care about Mr. Wayne and his alter-ego, and in 2005, he did just that.

Batman Begins, right from the start, doesn't open with Bruce's alter-ego, fighting crime or watching Gotham at night like a hawk. Nolan wisely catches the young Mr. Wayne (a terrific performance by Christian Bale) in the act of exploring the criminal underworld: what makes him or her tick and why does a criminal commit crimes like theft and/or murder. His journey begins the moment he loses his parents, as they were gunned down by a drifter looking to score some money. His journey takes him far way from the mean, gritty streets of Gotham to a remote location in Asia, where he is brought under the tutelage of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and the mysterious League of Shadows, an ancient organization determined to bring about true justice around the world, lead by Ras Al Ghul (Ken Wantanabe). There, Wayne learns how to confront his fear and use it as a weapon to prey on the criminal underworld. Wayne decides to come out of his self-exile and returns to Gotham, a changed man, ready to take on the criminal underworld that has taken over the city. With the assistance of his loyal butler Alfred (a wonderful Michael Cane), the sly hi-tech/gadgets/weapons manufacturer Lucius Fox (a sly Morgan Freeman), the crusading DA assistant and childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) and the city's good cop Sargent Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Bruce becomes The Batman and takes on the head the Falcone crime family (Tom Wilkinson) and Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) a shrink who isn't on the level with Rachel, the law, or his practice.

I have said before in many reviews that character overload usually dooms a movie, and trust me, this film is filled with characters, especially on the villain side. Yet, Nolan gives time for all the players to have their moment in the sun and their onscreen time has weight and it flows within the story. The pacing is just right, allowing characters to come in and out with just the right amount of time and for the story to evolve with them. The set pieces are extraordinary, in particular, the city of Gotham. On the surface, Gotham has the look and feel of a thriving metropolis, but on the inside, the city is rotting and dying. Mobsters, thugs and corrupt bureaucrats take what they want and terrorize the helpless, and no one says a word out of fear. The wealthy and privileged wine and dine and ignore the plights of others, while the rest are left to fend for themselves. It's a world that feels very much like our own, like Nolan is forcing the audience to stare at a mirror image of what we've become.

Probably the film's downside was Katie Holmes as Dawes. I imagine Dawes as a tough, sassy fighter who doesn't scare easy, not the soft-spoken assistant for the city's justice department which Holmes provides. That and the film's third act, which the action sequence with Batman trying to stop the League from poisoning Gotham's water supply basically turns into the standard, yet thrilling race to stop the madman from destroying the city. It's still a nice climax, but it's shorter than I would have liked. Other than those minor complaints, Batman Begins is a dark, compelling and thoroughly satisfying re-imagining of Batman and his quest to save the city from itself. Simply, this is the Batman movie we've been waiting for and deserved to see realized on the big screen......who knew, though, that this reboot was only just the start of what Nolan would deliver?
***1/2 stars out of ****

The Dark Knight - How do you expand upon what was introduced in 2005 with Batman Begins? How does writer/director Christopher Nolan continue Batman's journey in saving Gotham City from itself? The answer lies in a line of dialogue Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) utters at a dinner between playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne (once again played by Bale) and DA assistant Rachel Dawes (now played by Maggie Gyllenhall): "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain." This  statement alone will test Wayne's commitment to being Gotham's watchful protector, and it eventually paints a weary Wayne who wonders if all his efforts are really moving the city toward a better tomorrow. This statement will also test Gotham's new District Attorney as everything he cares about and it will test Jim Gordon (Oldman) and the deals he's willing to make for the greater good. This statement lies at the heart of Nolan's sprawling and epic crime drama/sequel to his Batman trilogy. A criminal mastermind known only as The Joker (Heath Ledger, in his last completed work before his untimely death in 2008) comes into Gotham, just as Batman, Gordon and Dent are on the cusp of delivering a final blow to the Falcone crime family that has long terrorized the city, by hitting them where it hurts: their pocketbooks. At first, this psychotic clown robs from the mob for kicks, but this, as it turns out, was merely done to get their attention. his ultimate goal is anarchy: complete and total anarchy. He kidnaps and kills Gotham's important citizens, such as the Commissioner, a Judge, etc. and blows up hospitals and he hijacks boats for his own amusement.

Behind his trail of death and madness, there is a method and point behind his vile and sadistic nature. The scene where him and Batman square off in a detention facility is as thrilling as any action sequence Nolan conjures up, and that's including where Wayne and CEO Lucius Fox (Freeman) travel to Hong Kong and pick up a key accountant for the mob who holds all their dirty money due to the fact that the city is beyond Dent's jurisdiction, or the chase sequence in Downtown Gotham that's a total showstopper. Despite the action, which is top-notch, The Dark Knight is hunting bigger game. Nolan is out to expand out themes he laid the groundwork in Batman Begins; he's out to show not only the rotting society that we're becoming, but to show to what ends are we willing to take in order to do to save it or, in this case, to stop a lose cannon like the Joker. All of our characters are caught in moral and ethical traps that there are no escape from, and it leaves the audience with questions on whether they did or are doing the right things. All the characters bring their A-game and no performance is wasted. Aaron Eckhart is the unsung hero in this movie, showing his fall from grace as tragic and downright frighting into the lost, revenge-filled monster he succumbs to. Michael Cane is wonderful as Alfred, trying to serve as a father-figure Bruce never really received as a child, and as his faithful advisor on Wayne's journey. I really can't say enough about Christian Bale as Bruce/Batman, other than he is the character we've been waiting to see: a battle-worn man who's nearing his breaking point.

The actor who triumphs in The Dark Knight is, of course, the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. We've seen him in good to terrific roles before (The PatriotMonster's BallA Knight's TaleBrokeback Mountain) but his role as this criminal mastermind is nothing short of astonishing and chilling. His commitment to the role, the way he threw himself into this character - from the voice, to the makeup which made him damn-near unrecognizable, to the bone-chilling cackling laugh - this is a performance that comes around in a blue moon, where an artist leaves everything he has in a performance for all to witness. This is, to me, one of the great performances that I have ever seen in film. The Dark Knight is a movie of the rarest kind: it's a terrific piece of pop entertainment, a haunting and thrilling crime drama that ranks with Scorsese's Mean Streets and Michael Mann's Heat, a thought-provoking social commentary, and a movie that raises every bar - superhero genre, summer film, crime-thriller - and asks every other movie to match it's epic scope. It is simply, a masterpiece.

**** stars out of **** 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cars 2: How Pixar Sold Out

Remember when I compared the wizards at Pixar Animation Studios to the English alternative rock band Radiohead? Remember when I said that neither group could do much wrong? I want to take back my orginal statements. Not for the Oxfort quintet, mind you. Their streak remains a perfect 8 for 8 with The King of Limbs, but that's for another time. I'm talking, sadly, about Pixar. Yeah, i'm shocked i'm writing this, too.

You see, the studio reached an all-time personal best with Toy Story 3, a brilliant, masterful and deeply bittersweet sendoff to Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead, Jesse, and all the rest of Andy's toys that magically come to life whilst Andy is away. The mixture of comedy, breathtaking animation, and the pains of growing up and moving past the days of childhood and care-free innoncence crafted the studio's best movie since 2004's The Incredibles, their second straight Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and their sixth Oscar win for Best Animated Feature. Cut to one year later, and Pixar released Cars 2, the studio's first attempt to make another franchise off of a popular previous release that isn't Toy Story.Before I go further on this review, allow me to talk about why the 2006 flick, Cars, got a sequel to begin with. Simply put, money.

I know, I know: every last movie from Pixar made big money at the box office, so why this one? Unlike previous works underlining more mature themes such as suburban/marriage life (The Incredibles) and dealing with abandonment issues (Toy Story 2), Cars was an ode to the American love affair of the automobile and to the romanticism of Route 66. The story didn't go any deeper than Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) learning to slow down, enjoy what was in front of him and learn a valuable lesson in respecting and valuing tradition instead of going through life as an ego-driven jock, the animation was glossy and as stylistic as any Pixar movie and the voice casting was once again spectacular, in particular, Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, the rusty tow truck/comic relief of the film and the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, in the actor's final role before retiring one year later, then passing on in 2008. The movie hit all the right buttons with the family demographic and Pixar didn't shame itself by resorting to bad slapstick gags to get easy laughs.

In short: it was a piece of nostalgia for the older generation and it didn't scare the tykes or had any deep-meaning message other than the one I just mentioned above. For Pixar, it was a shiny, non-offensive, package that gave tribute to a slice-of-life romanticism of 1950's American culture blended with today's obsession with motorsports, and it just happened to make the Cars brand sell big with younger kids and their families, so logic dictated that there be a sequel that gives the audience more of what they liked the first time.

And that, as the Bard would say, lies the rub: Cars 2 doesn't try to evolve the characters or go beyond the message of be true to yourself and never forget who your friends are. Hell, Cars 2 lacks the Pixar touch of reeling in its audience with emotional storytelling and allowing the sometimes harsh realities of life to enter through. How do I know this? Because ever last Pixar film had some level of deep thought and or meaning into their movies!

Take what writer/director Andrew Stanton said about the theme of WALL-E was as an example:
Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that's not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world's programming. You've got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.
 Another example is co-writer/director Peter Docter and what his movie, Up, was about to him:
"We've described it as a 'coming of old age' story," he said. "It's really like an unfinished love story, is kind of the way we're talking about it. This wonderful romance this guy had with his wife and she passes away and it's the unfinished business of dealing with that. The little kid [also has things he] needs to deal with ... and so the two of them end up really needing each other and helping to finish each other's business."
Those two movies I highlighted had something deeper than just their bizarre, almost vague premises that their respective trailers let show for audiences. Cars 2 doesn't even try to expand on an emotional level, or even a most of the characters. The director of the movie, John Lasseter, admitted as much.
When I was travelling around the world doing interviews for Cars I just had the characters on the brain. I kept looking out thinking, ‘What would Mater do in this situation, you know?’
I could imagine him driving around on the wrong side of the road in the UK, going around in big, giant travelling circles in Paris, on the autobahn in Germany, dealing with the motor scooters in Italy, trying to figure out road signs in Japan...
Yes, the sequel is mostly about Mater. Sure, there's a sub-plot about McQueen racing in the World Grand Prix, a race that spans three continents from Tokyo to Italy, but it's all about Mater and how he's in an adventure of his own, as master spy Finn McMissile (Sir Michael Cane) and his partner Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) convinced his knowledge of "lemon" vehicles (cars that are defective after they are purchased) makes him a spy himself, convince him in helping British Intelligence track down and stopping a master mind from raising oil profits by making a new type of fuel McQueen is helping to promote look defective. Yep, the plot is thin, the character deveopment is even thinner, but hey, the animation and the visuals are still as sleek and easy on the eyes as ever! Seriously, this is the kind of product i'd expect from Dreamworks Animation or Blue Sky Animation, not from the studio who gave us the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bad Boys II: The Worst Film Of the Last Decade

Over the last ten years, i've watched some truly terrible and hideous movies that, somehow, found their way to movie screens. Take the repugnant and cliched My Sister's Keeper, for example. Director Nick Cassavettes took an already heartless and disgusting premise - a family with a terminally-ill daughter conceive another child for the sole purpose of using said child as a one-stop organ shop for Sofia's (Sofia Vassilieva playing the elder daughter) needs - and turned it into an over-dramatic ethical/courtroom/family drama of a mother at war with her youngest daughter, Anna (Abagail Breslin, fire your agent) that threatens to destroy the rest of the family and that demands that you cry, damnit, cry! The only thing it did was make me pray to the movie gods that this tedious melodrama would end.

Another movie, Good Luck Chuck, a rom-com that churns out the same recycled sex gags we've seen in better and funnier films like The 40 Year-Old Virgin and American Pie, but goes one step further: it's premise of a dentist (a never unfunnier Dane Cook) who's cursed with getting laid but never being able to find true love, whist the other partner is, hearkening back to the stereotype that all men want is sex; and women, a relationship and children. The filmmakers go about beating this same drum in mean-spirited ways, from Charlie being raped by his receptionist, to him putting the curse to the test on a grotesque, obese woman, this bad sex comedy never once reaches your funny bone.

How about Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, a sequel to the 1999 movie, Charlie's Angels, which was stunningly lazy in its execution, lame in its action scenes, and filled to the brim with bad writing and terrible acting by everyone involved, including Demi Moore, who we all thought would be her triumphant return to the silver screen. Never had a sequel looked this lazy and joyless.

And what else can I say about the entirety of the The Twilight Saga that I already haven't said before?

These movies are, again, just ghastly and unpleasant films in general. I haven't even mentioned the other bad features, like Men In Black IIPirates of the Caribbean: At World's EndFreddy Got Fingered,Battlefield EarthThe HappeningLittle FockersThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, etc. None of the movies i've mentioned hold a candle to Michael Bay's Bad Boys II, the most unpleasant, mean-spirited, vile, and degrading piece of filmmaking i've seen in quite sometime. Before I get on with this review, allow me to take you back a decade and four year ago.

The year was 1998, and Bay made it big with the sci-fi/disaster flick, Armageddon, grossing over $553 million worldwide. Despite the film recieving a drubbing by the critics, many of them saying his blockbuster feature was filled with many plot holes, a ridiculous premise, underdeveloped characters that would barely be considered one-dimnensonal, and staging overlong, loud and bombastic action scenes for the sake of stretching out the film's 150 minute-runtime, his success at the domestic and international box office signated to Bay that all of his detractors could go fuck themselves: in his mind,  the audience didn't really care about story, character developement or a plot that's logical or has continuity. To him, all that mattered was that he give what his audience wants: carnage and destruction - quick cuts, overlong and head-pummeling action scenes, shit blowing up, stuff about stoping the enemy in the name of freedom, and hot pieces of ass that serve as fan service and to be in love with our main protagonist. 

Little did we know, Bay's style of direction (which can be equated to a 12 year-old riddled with ADHD) was just the beginning. Throught his career, he would go on an almost inturrped streak of blockbuster hits, Bad Boys II  being part of that collection. Now, onto my review, and to do so, i'm going to paraphrase one of my favorite movie critics, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, because it really does sum of this.....thing, in a nutshell (and, mind you, this is what he actually wrote about this paticular film):"Bad Boys 2 has everything: everything loud, dumb, violent, racist, sexist and homophobic director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer can think of puking up onscreen." There is not a single moment in this film's 2 hour, 22 minutes that isn't ugly, that doesn't make you wish you were watching a better, more enjoyable action film.

Our "protagonists" are two Miami police detectives, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Barnett, who are once agian played by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, respectively. I used "protagonists" in quotation marks because these two are, arguably, some of the worst on-screen heroes to come along in ages. The pair open fire in street corners, filled with innocent civilians, to adminsiter their brand of "justice" onto the criminal underworld in South Beach (and, by justice, I mean Will Smith takes out a semi-automatic rifle from the comaprtment of his Ferrari and starts pumping shells into one of the drug dealers trying to escape - not a joke, this actually happens in one of the movie's laundry list of action scenes!); they cause obscene amounts of damage on the freeways of Miami, because it's not a good day at the office (or an action movie, apparently) without getting into a reckless car chase that could serverly injure other drivers and/or pedestrians, and endanger the lives and careeres of those working with the pair. This goes for Mike especially, because his trigger-happy personality constantly ends up putting himself and Marcus in danger. Hell, even Marcus himself admits his partner's shoot-first, ask questions never mentality early in a scene: "He's crazy! He has emotional anger issue problems! He goes to bed early for this sh*t, just to wake up to pop one in a motherfu**er!"  

Seriously, it's a miracle that the Captain of the department (Joe Pantoliano) doesn't strip the pair of their guns and badges and have them kicked off the force for their reckless behavior! In fact, Pantoliano spends about most of his screentime bitching to the Terrible Two about how their latest stunts have landed his character in hot water with higher-ups in the Miami Poliece Department. "I've got so much brass up my a** that I can play the Star Spangled Banner," he yells to the pair at one point during the film. If that's the case, Captain, then why don't you take the logical course of action and have them fired on the spot!? Oh right, I forgot: there wouldn't be a movie if this happned, and, to quote Matthew Buck of That Guy With The Glasses.com, "because the plot says so!"

Speaking of, the "plot" of this movie is almost razor thin and it takes forever to get it going, amidst all the endless shootouts, car chases and "wacky" comedic segments (i'll get to those later): a Cuban drug lord (Jordi MollĂ , in what can only be described as a fourth-rate impersonation of Pacino's iconic role as Tony Montana in Brian De Palma's Scarface) is smuggling hordes of ecstacy from his homeland of Cuba to the shores of Miami, where he's on the verge of becoming the drug kingpin of South Beach. He does this by selling it at nightclubs, which is owned by the Russian mob (yes, the Russian mob cliche is used in this movie). In order to take full control of the drugs and the money, he takes out his partners....key members in the Russian mob, a scene shown in loving, graphic detail as Marcus and Mike infiltrate the home of the Cuban druglord. To quote General Maximus, "Are you not entertained?"

This would have been a standard shoot-em-up action film, if Bay hadn't filled his movie with endless action scenes to pad out the movie's length and actually explored the character dynamics of the two partners. Oh, wait! He does, but in the worst, most offensive and tasteless ways ever concieved, passed off as "comedy". The first scene clocks in about 30 minutes in, where Mike and Marcus find a tape and have to go to an electronics store to watch the footage for clues. What they get is a woman getting fucked in the backseat of a car, the audio and video being transferred to every TV screen in the store. Are you laughing yet? The pair go to the back end of the store and share a buddy-cop moment, as Marcus talks about how hiim getting shot in the ass (yes, that really happens in the film's opening sequence)  and how he isn't able to get an erection because of the incident. By the laws of comic contrivance, that very room they cops are in just happens to have a digital camcorder playing back every word that's being uttered, to the horror of the customers at the store. If you've guessed the punchline to this "joke", then congratulations, you've spotted a cheap and tasteless pratfall the filmmakers use to get the audience to laugh hysterically! To cap off this mean-spirited and homophobic gag, an African-American woman complains to the manager about what she, and her children have seen: "IN FRONT OF MY BABIES, YOU GOT PORNO AND HOMO SHOWS UP IN HERE? WHAT KIND OF FREAK-A** STORE IS THIS? MMmm, and you two motha' f***s need Jesus! Cover your ears baby." 

This is the level of humor you can expect from this steaming turd, and believe me - that's not the worst of it all. There's worse. 

I stated earlier that Bay likes using his female characters as little more than eye candy and fan service for the mostly-male deographic who watch his movies. Apparently, dead females can't escape Bay's glorious and masterful objectifacation of the female anatomy. Mike and Marcus infiltrate a hospital where they think the drugs are being smuggled. The pair find out that Johnny Tapia, the Cuban druglord, is using corpses to smuggle the ecstacy into the country. The pair find the drugs, but not before they get a look of a recently deceased woman with large breasts. What happens next is obvious: Mike leers at her breasts, with Marcus making this comment (and i'm paraphrasing here), "this bitch has some big ol' titties!" Yes, Michael Bay, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are actually going there: objectifying a dead woman's corpse. Funny, right? But wait, this gets better: Marcus, disgusted by the sight of dead bodies and Mike pulling out the organs in one of said dead bodies, accidenally opens the bag of ecstacy, and by the power of contrivance, two of those pills end up in a drinking glass. If you've guessed that Marcus accentally ingests the drugs unknowingly, then contratulations, you've spotted another painfully obvious gag that fails to hit the funny bone later on!  Apparently, no one on the set knows the meaning of the term, showing respect for the dead.

An hour in (this thing runs for almost 2 1/2 hours and already i'm pleading that this fucking thing ends with some mercy) and you've thought there's no way Bay and the crew can scrape the bottom of the barrel even more, that they've (finally) tapped out......if only that were so. This.......i'm not even goign to try and explain what happens when Marcus and Mike grill a 15 year-old boy trying to ask out Marcus' daughter on a date, because this has to be seen in order to be believed. Ladies and gentlemen.....the "Reggie" Scene.

Trust me when I say, this has to be the most painful and exahusting review i've ever had to write, becasue there are so many crimes committed in this one movie alone, that i'm skipping over other tasteless and crude scenes that rightfully deserve my scorn and yours as well. Here's a list of the other "hilarious" scenes that happen in the soul-crushing film:

  • Dead corpses fall out of a moving van, which Marcus and Mike run over....many times.
  • Tapia, pissed off that the two cops infiltrated his home and put his little girl in danger, shoots one of his lakeys in the head in public. Tapia's mother sees this and asks what happened, with his degenerate son lying to hher, claming that he shot himself in the head.
  • Marcus watching two rats fucking. Literally. It's shown thrice, thrusting away.
  • The final car chase in which the Bad Boys, along with a squad named Alpha 7, enter Cuba, start firing on Tapia's men, rescue Marcus's sister (Gabrielle Union) who's acted as a mole to bring down the Cuban druglord, fire on Cuban soldiers, and race to the U.S. Naval base on Guantanamo Bay, going through a shanty town and destroying the shacks in the process. Not a joke, this actually happens.
This is what Michael Bay thinks his audience wants to see, and you know what: He was right! Really.Bad Boys II grossed $46 million opening weeked, was the no.1 movie in North Amercia, and went on to a finish of almost $140 million domestically. This exercise in lowest-common denominator excess made big money at the box office, and now, there's word that Bay wants to make another sequel, Bad Boys III, in the near future. This cynical, hateful, uncarring, loud, long, racist, sexist, homophobic and degrading sack of dogshit was loved by its audience, because Michael Bay knew what they wanted and gave it to them, and then some. If this is what passes as entertainment, then it truly does speak to how effortlessly it takes to entertain the American public. Hell, a James Cameron wannabe hack could do it, it could be the worst movie of the last decade and it very well could be a frontrunner for one of the all-time worst films of the century! Wait, it's already been done, and i've just finished talking about it. Congratulations, Michael Bay. You've done it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


I really haven't a whole lot to say about this video, mostly because i'm stunned it came out of the mouth of a fourteen year-old kid with a radio show. Just...watch this.

Yes, 14 year-old Caiden Cowger really just did say that President Obama was trying to turn kids gay.

I'll try and process this tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Birther Saga Returns!

In 1946, one year after the end of the Second World War, a young, ambitious veteran defeated a three-term sitting senator from his own party, Robert M. La Follete, Jr. of Wisconsin. The reason for his victory? He claimed that La Follete had not only being a coward for not enlisting in the war after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, but for making obscene profits while he was gallantry fighting for his country. The belief that La Follete was a war profiteer damaged his career, and was swiftly defeated. The name of the newly-elected nominee for the state of Wisconsin was Joseph Raymond McCarthy. Ironically enough, Robert was 46 years of age and serving his third term when the attacks took place, and that McCarthy himself, invested money in the stock market whilst serving his country, raking in $42,000 in 1943. Those facts didn't matter in the end. What stuck was the repeated spin that La Follete's very patriotism was suspect. McCarthy's brash, brazen and disgusting attacks on an opponent's character have been apart of his rise to power and prominence, even back to when he was running for local office in his home state, as the internet magazine on law, Legal Affairs, documents:
The 10th Judicial District was largely rural, and McCarthy, in his three-month campaign in 1939, visited farmers and their families. He knew how to talk to them about crops and climate. He sent out thousands of postcards showing a little boy holding a baseball bat, captioned: "Let's Play Ball." But more potent than these Currier & Ives methods was his attack on Werner's weak spot. The standard biographical source for lawyers, the Martindale-Hubbell directory, listed Werner's date of birth as 1866, which would have made him 73. As a candidate in 1916, Werner had added seven years to his age in order to seem more mature. But now the deception, repeated in edition after edition, backfired. Joe ran ads in the local papers accusing Werner of lying about his age. Werner produced a birth certificate that showed he was born on July 24, 1872, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, which made him 66 in February 1939. But he was not as effective in broadcasting his defense as McCarthy was in attacking him. Shortly before the election, Joe ran an ad under the headline: "What About This Age Question?" In April 1939, McCarthy won, by 15,164 votes to Werner's 11,219. Once again, the lesson was: Dirty tricks work. At 30, Joe McCarthy was the youngest man ever elected a circuit judge in Wisconsin. 
McCarthy's bully-boy strategy of destroying an opponent by fabricating the most outrageous and malicious slanders, half-truths and false accusations imaginable without even a hint of remorse or shame, and how repeating said smears ad nauseum  until they become the truth, lives on in our political climate to this day. From Saxby Chambliss tearing down the career of thrice amputated war veteran and then-sitting Senator from Georgia Max Cleland, to Karl Rove using John Kerry's service in the Vietnam War to question his own patriotism, the politics of character assassination serve as a reminder that they work and have gotten others elected.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and the resurgence of the Birther bullshit. Yes, just when you thought this sad and shameful bit of thinly-veiled racism had finally been put to bed by President Obama himself when he released, to the press, his birth certificate, "The Donald" makes his un-inglorious return to the 24-hour cable news circuit whilst shilling for the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

On Tuesday morning, Trump appeared via telephone on CNBC, where he argued that questions about Obama's birthplace have not been adequately answered, despite Obama releasing a copy of his birth certificate over a year ago.
"Nothing has changed my mind," he said.
Trump was skeptical about a recently unearthed promotional booklet from Obama's former literary agency that erroneously reported the president was born in Kenya. After the discovery of the booklet reignited rumors that Obama is not a natural-born American citizen, the author of his biography quickly came forward and said the mistake was a simple fact-checking error.
Trump, however, was not convinced. "Look, a publisher come out last week and had a statement about Obama given to them by Obama when he was doing a book as a young man, a number of years ago, in the 90s," he said. "Now amazingly, the publisher is 'oh we made a mistake.'"
"[Obama was] a young man doing a book, and he said what he believed to be the truth."
Unsatisfied with Obama's birth certificate, the authenticity of which he said many people have "serious doubts" about, he called for Obama to provide his academic transcripts from Columbia, Harvard and Occidental College.
"A lot of people want to see his college transcripts," Trump said. "They're not looking at his marks, his grades. ... They want to see, what does he say about place of birth. Now, those transcripts have disappeared, nobody seems to be able to get them."
I'm not about to re-hash this matter, mostly because i've pointed out the obvious several times before on this blog. What I will say is that if you're looking for Mitt to distance himself from this nonsense, don't waste your time. He won't, and neither will the rest of the Republican Party. In secret, they know this line of attack is reprehensible and ludicrous in almost every conceivable way.  But they're hunting bigger game: the game plan has been to use coded words to paint President Obama as "foreign", or a president "who isn't like us," or "one of us." This line of personal attack is one i'm sure ol' Tailgunner Joe would be proud of.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rick Santorum Doesn't Like Kids Going to College

I know, I know: it's been almost a full year since i've written anything for my own blog. To be fair, I haven't written much over at Banned and Dangerous, but all of that is going to change. I'm back, and I've got some things I want to talk about in my absence. Right now, the reason why i'm back: Republican presidential candidate, Jesus freak, gay-bashing, contraception-hater Rick Santorum.

Now, you know my stance on religion: I have no problem with one's religious beliefs, but when someone tries to shove his beliefs down my throat, or impose their warped view onto the country, I take great offense to that, and i'm going to call people out. While candidate Santorum was speaking at the First Baptist Church of Naples in Florida yesterday, he had a new target in his sights for his latest Two Minutes of Hate rant: College.
"We've lost, unfortunately, our entertainment industry," the candidate explained. "We've lost our higher education. That was the first to go a long time ago. It's no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college. The indoctrination that occurs at American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America -- and it is indoctrination."
Since when is higher education equivalent to indoctrination? And isn't challenging one's beliefs, the way a person thinks and looks at the world a good thing and almost a given when you go to a university? Lastly when Rick added Hollywood into the numerous things good, noble Christ-lovin' folk have lost because of us godless liberals: how can you claim you've lost something you've never fully had control of in the first place?
"If they taught Judeo-Christian ideology, they would be stripped of every dollar. If they teach radical secular ideology, they get all the government support that they can possibly get. As you know, 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it. And I bet you there are people in this room who give money to colleges and universities who are undermining the very principles of our country every single day by indoctrinating kids in left-wing ideology. And you continue to give to these colleges and universities. Let me have a suggestion: Stop it!"
Rick, colleges and universities across the nation do, in fact, teach Judeo-Christian ideology, the beliefs, it's origins and the like. It's called a World Religions course. Oh, and to say that "they" would strip said school of every dollar for teaching religion is bull. First, let's get to the root of what Rick meant when he said, "they". "They," means the ACLU, the non-profit organization that's on the conservatives and evangelical Christian's shit list for, what they see as trying to eradicate Christianity from the United States. Of course, that notion is further from the truth, as the ACLU has helped Christians on numerous occasions when their right to practice their faith was threatened. Even if the government or the state tried to take away funding from said university, the ACLU would probably come to the aid of the faculty and the students.