Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This is the End

Alternate Title:  The Devil and Daniel McBride

One sentence synopsis:   A number of celebrities try to survive the apocalypse at James Franco's Hollywood house.

Things Havoc liked:  My experience with Seth Rogen's work is limited, but has been positive on the whole, with films like The 40-Year-old Virgin, Funny People, and Zach and Miri Make a Porno all representing comedic high points from the last few years. Nevertheless, there has been such a glut of bad comedy around recently (much of it Adam Sandler's), that I was really not looking forward to this one, as the trailers were noncommittal as to what I was going to receive, and I put the film off for several weeks as I watched a series of mediocre action "epics" instead, finally sitting down to see it when I had no other options.

This is why I should stop listening to my inner critic's voice when selecting films.

This is the End is a cross between two genres of film in common currency nowadays, the apocalyptic disaster epic, and the Hollywood-on-Hollywood spoof, and carries a cast that between them comprises three quarters of Hollywood's comedies for the last decade. Alongside Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel, the film involves a massive cast of contemporary Hollywood stars, several of which (Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson) complement the aforementioned duo to form the main cast. Alongside them are smaller or cameo parts by everyone from Emma Watson to Rhianna to Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Platz. Yet every one of this blistering array of Hollywood types is playing not some character but an exaggerated version of themselves, sometimes twisted in some particular fashion, but in every case dripping with self-awareness. Seth Rogan, who wrote the film, has a fan stop him early on and ask him when he's going to play something other than a jackass stoner, while Jonah Hill, in the middle of a drug and alcohol-fueled brainstorm session about which films of his he'd like to make sequels for, mentions, almost offhand "we don't need a Your Highness 2". The best Hollywood-on-Hollywood films are the ones that poke fun at the insanities, egos, and typecasts of our favorite film factory, and this movie is filled with them, from Michael Cera playing a drugged-out asshole, to Emma Watson attacking everyone with an axe, to a Channing Tatum cameo so transcendentally hilarious that I refuse to say another word about it.

The premise of the movie is simple. A large number of Hollywood celebrities attend a party at James Franco's house (a Bauhaus eyesore that is subject of lengthy ridicule, despite being, of course, James Franco's actual house), when the literal apocalypse happens, complete with rapture, demons, and assorted other end-of-the-world shenanigans. After rapidly winnowing the cast down to a half dozen people, the story effectively becomes a lampoon of one of those "trapped in the house together" movies, wherein the real enemy is one another, complete with video-asides to the audience via the gimmick of a confessional camera that Franco has for unknown purposes. Each character is, over the course of this process, revealed as sleazy in his own unique way, drinks far more than is wise, and becomes implicated in a series of sequences of escalating madness ranging from an Exorcism to an ostracism to efforts to located additional supplies of food and water while under attack by demons. The energy level is high, and the ensemble cast keeps the jokes coming constantly, ripping their own personas as well as the tropes of the disaster movie genre. Some sequences seemingly come out of nowhere, such as Jonah Hill's prayer and its answer, or a sudden musical number that seems to have been added into the plot on a dare, yet the comedy is fast and the plot, such as it is, holds together well enough to get us from one ludicrous situation to the next. Standards for such things in comedies are different, and if anything, the film seems simply packed with hilarious ideas, so much so that they stumble over one another once in a while. I'm not complaining.

Things Havoc disliked:  Much of the movie is clearly improvised, and sometimes improv doesn't work. A couple of sequences, such as Jonah Hill playing with the revolver, go on far too long, and more importantly, cross the line from something that an otherwise smart person who is venal and polluted by the Hollywood system would do, into something that only a blithering idiot who needs to be slapped would do. There aren't many of these moments, but those that exist serve to lower the film from a Rogan comedy to the level of a Ferrell or Carell comedy, at least while they're running.

A bigger problem is Danny McBride, another survivor of the apocalypse, who here plays one of the designated antagonists, like the others, an exaggerated version of himself, who in this case is simply a tremendous asshole. McBride is unquestionably good at playing tremendous, grating assholes (30 Minutes or Less proved that much), and is a talented comedic writer in his own right, but his character in this movie is so insufferable that I couldn't stand to watch him for any length of time. The magic in this sort of movie is balancing the characters' actions on the edge of believability, and nobody, for any reason whatsoever, could possibly put up with someone like the character McBride plays here, in this situation, for more than ten seconds. When locked in a house with five other people, and possessing only two bottles of water, how well would you take the antics of a man who, upon being told that the water is to be rationed, responds by insulting you and then upending one of the bottles over his own head?

Final thoughts:    Danny McBride though, is an archetype I simply hate, and I recognize that not everyone else does. Regardless, in a year where I've had to duck and cover to avoid largely every comedy on offer at my local theater, This is the End is one of the best comedies I've seen in a long, long time, raunchy, irreverent, madcap, utterly insane, simply funny from start to finish. I haven't liked every single Seth Rogan comedy ever made, but I've always regarded him as simply "above" the Will Farrells and Steve Carells (to say nothing of the Adam Sandlers) of the world, and at last I have a film I can point to to explain why.

And for those who are beginning to feel that I have become too "highbrow" for this task, I simply invite you to consider what this movie is once more, and then examine the following:

Final Score:  7.5/10

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pacific Rim

Alternate Title:  Godzilla vs. Voltron

One sentence synopsis:   The world turns to enormous battle-robots piloted by pairs of memory-linked pilots to defend the planet against gargantuan aquatic monsters.

Things Havoc liked:  Pacific Rim has one of the best opening sequences I've seen since Watchmen, a rapid-fire series of establishing shots done over narration that effortlessly enmeshes you with the premises of this world. In less than five minutes, the film grounds you in the premise of its world, introducing the alien monsters that come from the sea, as well as the giant robots which fight them. But more importantly, the sequence is studded with wonderfully inventive shots that explain the actual effect these momentous changes have on society, the economy, the government, grounding the audience in the movie's world in less than five minutes, all while giving us snapshots of the awesomeness to come.

Directed and produced by Guillermo del Toro, the great Mexican fantasy filmmaker who last gave us the Hellboy series and the inspired Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim is an unabashed love letter to two staples of Japanese cinema and culture since the end of World War 2: The giant robot movie, and the Kaiju (monster) movie. The premise, a transparent excuse to cause robots and giant monsters to battle one another within major cities, is hardly the first to decide to do so, but it might well have the strongest pedigree behind it. Unlike Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, del Toro has no shrinking archaeologists to clutter up the screen, preferring instead to leap directly into the world of robot pilots and bad motherfuckers, front and center of whom is the incomparable Idris Elba, for once allowed to play a role in his native English accent. Elba plays (I'm not making this up) General Stacker Pentecost, an officer with a name so ridiculous that it is actually awesome. The character is the usual stern commander, yet Elba seems to be channeling Samuel L. Jackson's turn as Nick Fury by blending a role that could easily have been the "pain-in-the-ass CO" with that of the "elder badass", a combination he is exceedingly good at producing. Yet believe it or not, Elba's character does not have the most absurd name in the movie. That award belongs to Ron Perlman's Hannibal Chau (yes, you read that right), a smuggler and black marketeer, who makes his living dealing in monster parts and organs, who despite limited screentime, manages to camp it up in his usual style. His character moreover represents another piece of a larger world, one that was hinted at in the opening credits, a world accustomed to sights as absurd as giant monsters and robots, and making the best of it.

Things Havoc disliked:  Yeah, sorry guys, that's all I got.

Giant robot and Godzilla movies, honestly any sci fi SFX extravaganzas, work not because the effects are awesome, but because they offer a sense of scale. This is the reason why monuments play such a big role in the Emmerich-style disaster movies, and why Godzilla is always smashing up Tokyo in the old Toho films. To tell us that a robot is gigantic is meaningless, we must see that it is gigantic by comparing it with things that we know the scale of. Only then can we properly modulate and gauge what we are looking at by comparing it to our everyday lives. Unfortunately, for all the sturm und drang of the many, many battle sequences in this film, only twice does the movie bother to give us scale. Once is in Hong Kong, midway through the film, where we get to watch a robot beating a monster by using a cargo ship as a club, while the other is a flashback to a battle in Tokyo, seen entirely from the ground-level eyes of a little girl. These two sequences are awesome. The others however, all take place against the backdrop of the open ocean, distant skylines, or indiscriminate ruin, meaning that the robots and monsters in question might as well be five feet tall for all we can tell. This baffling decision robs the fights of any weight, as we might as well be watching guys in suits of armor battling guys in suits of foam and felt, as in the olden days.

And unfortunately, the non-battle parts of the film do not provide succor for the film. The leads here are unknown Charlie Hunnam and Babel's Rinko Kikuchi, playing respectively ace maverick pilot Raleigh and sheltered rookie pilot Mako. The description you just read, unfortunately, covers basically everything you need to know about these characters, and neither one are up to the task of elevating themselves beyond the usual cliches and boring PG-chaste will-they-or-won't-they dance of a thousand other films (to say nothing of the task of acting alongside Idris Elba). I realize that we're here for the giant robots and all, but I cannot fathom for the life of me why these two were even cast. They share no chemistry, elevate their characters not a whit, and provide nothing but padding between action scenes. Though in fairness, their padding is not so blatant as that of the other robot pilots, who are either useless (the Russians and Chinese) or bullshit antagonists in the Iceman-Top-Gun vein, only stupider (the Australians... oh god... the Australians). One would imagine with the fate of the world on the line, that people would have better things to do than get in one anothers' faces and recite clenched-jaw cliches about how someone is "not good enough" or "too reckless". It's enough that one begins to wonder where the homoerotic volleyball montage has gone.

And I'm sorry, I know this is one of those turn-your-brain-off plotless popcorn movies, but the decisions that went into this film make no goddamn sense. A major component of the movie is the fact that the giant robots must be piloted by two pilots synced together via some kind of memory-sharing technology, who then use AR overlays and robotic mimicry to control the bot. Unfortunately, what this means is that unlike in Iron Man, where we can just assume that Tony Stark IS his armor, we are cutting every five seconds to the "cockpit" of the robot, wherein the two pilots are performing synchronized Sentai martial-arts poses while strapped to a gurney. This looks stupid, irrespective of how you frame it, and it makes the actual robot's moves look stupid by association. On top of that, the concept makes no sense. We have robots today who can walk, jump, negotiate terrain, and even dance on anything from two to eight legs, automatically. You're telling me there's no way for the pilots of these robots to simply pilot the damn things without looking like rejected extra footage from Legend of the Rangers? I've piloted virtual mechwarriors from my home PC that had as much range of motion and capability as these robots evidence, for god's sake. Why the synchro-tech?

So much, and I haven't even begun to talk about the stupid scientists' subplot (an overabundance of comic relief is a good barometer of a bad film, I find), one of whom is a blithering idiot and the other of whom is a hyper-British blithering idiot. I haven't talked about the uproariously stupid relationship that this movie has with such concepts as fluid dynamics, nuclear bombs, and general physics. I haven't talked about the terrible score, a boring, visually-detached generic "techno-badass" soundtrack, made all the more baffling by the pedigree of its composer, Ramin Djawadi, a man whose credits include Iron Man and Game of Thrones. So much to talk about, and so little space, and yet every time I sit down to think about the movie, the list just gets longer.

Final thoughts:     Look, I understand how movies like this are supposed to work, and that I'm a critic who hates everything and doesn't understand the masterpiece and can't have any fun and blah blah blah. I'm sorry, but no. This movie is a summer blockbuster like a hundred other summer blockbusters, and judging it purely on those terms, it pales by comparison to even the other blockbusters of this summer like Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel, neither of which, I will remind you, were masterpieces. The movie's bumbling, sleepwalking plot, brainless, placeholder characters, and baffling, momentum-shattering decisions all combine, ultimately, to make a film that is watchable, but only barely. Maybe in a movie that had turned the camp to 11, this would have been less bad, but Pacific Rim is relentlessly serious in tone, except when it's not, except when it really is. After a certain point, you just stop caring what the director was thinking.

Del Toro has made great movies in the past. God willing, he will make great movies in the future. But in the present in which we live, all he has made is a giant mess.

Final Score:  4/10

Monday, July 8, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Alternate Title:  See Above

One sentence synopsis:   Conspiracies abound to to unite and divide pairs of lovers during revelries at a villa owned by a mighty Lord.

Things Havoc liked:  There are a lot of stupidities floating around concerning the career of Joss Whedon. I've heard the most absurd of charges made against him, that he's a hack, or a sexist, or some kind of monster. Where he gets all this hate, I don't pretend to know. Perhaps it's mere backlash against his fans, or perhaps some people are still sore about Alien Resurrection. Whatever the groupthink position is, I've long been a great champion of Whedon's work, particularly after his incredible double-triumph last year of Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. As such, when I discovered that he had decided to turn his hand to, of all things, Shakespeare, I was sufficiently intrigued to give it a shot. You don't want to know my other options.

Whedon, like Werner Herzog, Woody Allen, or Christopher Guest, is one of those directors who has a "stable" of actors he returns to again and again, and like those other directors, he does so for the best of reasons. As such we should not be surprised to find that the two main roles (arguably) of Benedict and Beatrice are here played by Whedonesque regulars Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker (of Buffy and Angel), both of whom, it must be admitted, turn in quite good performances as the two archetypical will-they-or-won't-they rivals/lovers, who spend the first third of the play sniping wittily at one another before spending the last two falling in love. These are not easy roles to play, as the plot demands that they be both sharp, witty people of certain dignity, and also that they fall for one of the most transparent matchmaking schemes in the history of romantic fiction. Yet Acker and Denisof, despite a bit of unnecessary slapstick during their "eavesdropping" scenes, manage to pull it off quite well, delivering the sense of a lengthy history between the two, studded with failed romances and rivalries. The sense is that these two know each other far too well, and so when the plot requires that they fall in love, they know just how to do it.

But this is hardly the end to Whedon's stable-casting, indeed practically every major role is filled by one of his pet actors. Among them are Firefly's Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher, playing respectively Dogberry the Constable (the fool of the play), and Don John the Bastard (the villain of the play). Fillion in particular is awesome (as always), mugging for the camera just enough while retaining a sense of injured pride and displaying manifest, gross incompetence at all times. Maher meanwhile makes the most of a bit part (once played by Keanu Reeves no less), quietly slimy and assholish largely for the sake of being assholish. Also from the stable is Clark Gregg, otherwise known as Agent Coulson, here playing Leonato, Lord of the Manor at which this all takes place. Gregg has a suitably fatherly (and semi-alcoholic) charm to him the whole way through, just the right note for the host of the mad party.

Whedon shot this film at his home in Southern California, shooting in black and white and modern dress, a decision I'll go into later. Most of the film is shot with handheld cameras, giving it a certain rustic, low budget feel, but never cheap, and the film is well-buttressed by a low-key score that knows when to shoulder the weight and when to leave the characters to act by themselves. Whedon's cinematographic instincts have never been in question, not even from his detractors, and so this movie, like all his others, is extremely well-shot, and gets the maximum amount of work from a limited space and set. There are even a few new ideas here that I (who am by no means a Shakespeare expert), noticed and liked enough to laugh at. One particularly problematical line that has bedeviled Much Ado since its inception (involving a racial steriotype no longer acceptable in today's era) is handled beautifully with a single bit of cinematographic winking that acknowledges the line as what it is in context.

Things Havoc disliked:  It's not fair to criticize a movie for its source material, but it's hard to separate the two in the case of a Shakespeare film, as we are not watching an adaptation rewritten by a screenwriter, but an actual performance of the play itself, laid down on celluloid as Shakespeare wrote it. And thus it's impossible to discuss this movie without mentioning that Much Ado About Nothing is a very silly play.

It was a silly play when Kenneth Branaugh did his famous adaptation in 1993, and it is a silly play now, and the problem with Whedon's version is that I don't think he realizes just how silly it is. Yes, I know, Shakespeare is timeless and his stories are the immortal truths of the human condition, etc. The fact remains that Much Ado About Nothing is a play about a number of noble Lords and important men arriving at the villa of an important grandee and immediately reverting to the behavior of 12-year-old girls, playing matchmaker with one another and giggling in a giddy fashion about who they can set up with who, all while the villain, recently captured in rebellion against his brother and liege lord, can think of no better revenge than tricking someone out of their wedding. It also involves such charmingly period concepts as one woman being wooed by proxy and "given" to another man, only to be accused of adultery on her wedding day and disowned by her own father. Perhaps this was normal behavior in the 16th Century, I don't know, but it is not normal behavior now, at least not in Southern California, and by setting the play in modern dress in a modern context (the actors are dressed in business suits and sunglasses, and packing guns), we are apparently expected to just forget this. And that's simply not easy when the actors in question are asking to be taken seriously.

On top of that, not all of Whedon's stable runs the race of their lives this time. Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) sounds and acts like an overgrown manchild in the role of Don Pedro, supposedly the most powerful Lord present, but one who instead acts like a spoiled eleven-year-old trying to buy friends with his new toys. But even he isn't as bad as Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods) and Jillian Morgheze, as Claudio and Hero, our two "lovers" who must be united by trickery, divided by more trickery, and then united again by yet further trickery. I loved Kranz in Cabin in the Woods, but he's grossly miscast here, coming across like a frightened teenager unsure of what to say to anyone, while Hero, a fairly thankless character to begin with, moves through the film like a wilting violet, content to let everyone else make all the decisions. Yes, this is probably as the characters were intended to be played, but if you're going to set the film in modern times, then you have some responsibility to set the film in a modern context as well.

Final thoughts:    I feel bad here, because while Much Ado About Nothing is ultimately a mediocre film, there isn't exactly a lot I can suggest to fix it. Branaugh's version, while no masterpiece, managed to elicit more emotional response by having better actors, period dress, and full, vibrant color, so perhaps there's that. The experience of viewing the movie is not unpleasant, and extreme aficionados of Shakespeare's comedies will probably appreciate the unusual fidelity that Whedon's script retains relative to the source material, but for the rest of us, there simply isn't that much here to warrant a look. Perhaps it's uncouth of me to criticize the movie for flaws that really reside in the play, but the reason that stipulation usually applies is because filmmakers are usually making a different product than the book or play the work is based on. When you make a decision to stick to the source this closely, then we have little else to go on but the source itself, and in this case, that source is not enough to maintain a modern film.

Final Score:  5.5/10

Friday, July 5, 2013

White House Down

Alternate Title:  Roland Emmerich vs. Monuments, Round XIV

One sentence synopsis:   A would-be Secret Service agent must save the President of the United States from an army of mercenaries and an evil conspiracy.

Things Havoc liked:  You really have to take Roland Emmerich as you find him. A lot of people don't care for his films, and sometimes I'm among them, but there's something almost cloyingly appealing about his utter disregard for such things as restraint, good taste, and comprehensible plot. There are those who find his work indistinguishable with Michael Bay's, and yet I feel there's more to him than Bay's shocking, borderline-racist furrows dug through the childhood of my generation (of course given Bay's last film, perhaps that's true of both of them). Though he tends to oscillate between "pretty bad" and "mediocre", there are good films on Emmerich's resume, including Stargate, Independence Day, and Universal Soldier (shut up, I liked that one). And overall, his movies have never had that quality of aggressive, contemptuous spite for their audience that Bay's atrocities have had. Indeed, if anything, Emmerich's films tend to have the opposite problem, sugar-infused doses of America-Rocks patriotism, and sunny faith in the power of "real American heroes" sufficient to make Rush Limbaugh pine for Al Jazeera. A strange thing to see, perhaps, from an extremely left wing, openly-gay German transplant, but there we have it.

In White House Down, Emmerich returns to themes that he clearly is enamored of, specifically lots of explosions involving major national landmarks, strategically placed to cover massive, cavernous plot holes with which the script is liberally well supplied. As movies like this require an everyman-cum-badass to work, this one supplies us with Channing Tatum, an Afghanistan veteran who is looking to join the US Secret Service, and whose daughter Emily (Joey King) is distant from him due to his being an unreliable father. If it sounds like you've heard this all before it's because you have, but Tatum, honestly, handles the material better than it deserves. His Bruce Willis impression isn't perfect, and he seems a bit too milquetoast at the beginning for someone who will be slaying numbers of armed men with knives by the climax, but he carries the action weight well enough, and never stoops to doing things that are overtly stupid or playing the material wrong. A better turn is provided by his counterpart in this action-buddy romp, Jamie Foxx, here playing the President of the United States.

Yes, this is a movie wherein the President of the United States teams up with Channing Tatum to defeat evil, and frankly, this is the best idea the film has. Movies like this usually either star the President as his own action hero (ala Air Force One), or use the President as a Macguffin/hostage occasionally called upon to deliver wise speeches and otherwise await rescue (ala XXX 2). This movie makes the President one half of a buddy action movie, an idea that really shouldn't work, and yet kind of does. Foxx, playing President James Sawyer, stops just short of a Barack Obama impression, and handles the notion of being the President thrown into his own action movie surprisingly well. Some of his wise and forethoughted political speeches fall flat (it's not easy to compete with the real Obama's oratory), but his conversations with Tatum and with the evildoers sound by and large like the kinds of conversations that real Presidents might have with real people. The movie wisely allows Tatum to handle most of the action work, letting the President get his own hands dirty only when absolutely necessary, and lets him make the right decisions throughout the crisis, even when that means leaving the Secret Service Agent behind so that he can escape, or refusing to give in to hostage blackmail when there are nuclear missile codes on the line.

But if you think that a buddy action flick starring Channing Tatum and the President is a ludicrous concept, then boy, you are not ready for some of the shit that happens in this film. A sequence midway through that involves the President being chased around the white house lawn in a bulletproof limousine by armored humvees firing miniguns is so absurd and ridiculous that it actually becomes wickedly funny, something I think was intentional, as it soon results in the President of the United States taking a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher to blow up his pursuers while under minigun fire, all while tanks and RPGs duel in the background. There is no way to play material like this straight, and yet the film doesn't dive into the excesses of stupid, offensive, comic relief crap that comprises half of your average Michael Bay film. Instead we have what feels like an intentional throwback to mid-late 90s action movies, complete with one-liners (some of whom are actually pretty good), hyperkinetic action, and the usual tropes that one comes to expect in these sorts of things (bad guys with wildly varying aiming skills, silencers and missiles working in ways other than reality, etc...).

Things Havoc disliked:  WOW is this movie stupid. Stupid beyond all belief. Stupid to the point wherein you start to wonder if major supporting characters are in on the conspiracy based solely on the fact that they seem unwilling to act with any rational thought. Nothing about this movie makes the slightest shred of sense when even the most basic light of common sense and reason. I started listing nitpicks from the very first line in the film, and never stopped, until at length I was risking death from asphyxiation, being unable to take a breath for all the inanities on display. Not only does nothing in this movie (silencers, rocket launchers, tanks, helicopters, missiles, machine guns, computers, hacking) work the way it does in reality, but every single person in this movie who is not either the President or Channing Tatum is a complete idiot, especially the entirety of the United States' military, police forces, and government. Confronted with a hostage situation wherein terrorists who have stormed the White House have not only begun killing hostages on live television, but are threatening to hack into nuclear codes and end the world, and in possession of assurances that the President of the United States is free, but trapped in the White House, the officials in question decide to pull back their thousands of troops and armored vehicles from the White House in favor of a helicopter-raid with fifteen men into the teeth of the surface-to-air missiles they know for a fact to be emplaced on the roof.

I could go on for hours here about the stupidities in this film. Not only are we graced by "movie hacking", (a hacker manages to use the White House situation room to hack both NORAD and nuclear submarines, things I normally would not assume were connected to the internet), but the men crewing those aforementioned facilities are powerless to stop the hacker from firing nuclear weapons at largely anything he wants to. But not only is the movie's plot stupid, but half the characters are utterly useless. Front and center among the useless people is Maggie Gyllenhaal, an actress I have never liked and continue not to. The reason I do not like Gyllenhaal, here as in other films, is that she cannot act, turning every role she plays into that of an overgrown 15-year old girl throwing a tantrum. Here she is intended to be the Deputy Director of the Secret Service, and yet comes across like a a caricature of an out-of-touch hippie, whining to the men trying to prevent a nuclear apocalypse in the middle of an armed terrorist assault that has killed hundreds that the President "didn't believe in violence". Jason Clarke meanwhile, coming off his excellent performance in Zero Dark Thirty, here plays the exact same character, save without the nuance, wit, intelligence, or... well... character. Instead he's simply an unspecified special forces operative who wants "revenge" for some covert thing that happened... you know it doesn't even matter. The villains are all over the map here, some driven by revenge for wrongs done to them, some by racism and right wing radicalism, some by money, and some by shadowy connections to the evil military-industrial complex, a force that is, of course, at the root of everything evil in the world. Indeed, this movie's sense of politics is so shallow that it renders the President's 'wise speeches' concerning his plans for mid-east peace (plans that the evil terrorists want to destroy, of course), sound like the sort of grade-school analysis about peace that Republicans like to claim Democrats secretly believe. Apparently the only enemy of peace in the Middle East is the evil military-industrial complex, and if those people were prevented from forcing war on the world, the denizens of the Middle East, who have no intrinsic grievances whatsoever, will all join hands in peace and friendship. Automatically.

And don't get me started about the film's ending. Emmerich's movies have always been saccharine exercises in uber-patriotic flag waving (The Patriot was his work), but I've not seen anything this blatant in a long time. The entire end of the movie is a non-stop parade of "I believe in America" cliches, culminating in a literal flag-waving sequence narrated by the national media, who praises, in real time, the "courage" of the flag-waver. I'm a proud American with no sympathy for those who denigrate the country, but there is a hard limit to the levels of diabetic "oo-rah"-ness that I can tolerate, and this movie exceeds those limits with gusto.

Final thoughts:    I wanted to like this movie, as I have long wanted to like both Channing Tatum and Roland Emmerich. Particularly in a year wherein I was forced to praise Michael Bay, I was hoping to like this movie, and yet I could not. There is a level of stupid I am prepared to tolerate, particularly when necessary for the plot premise, but I do not go to movies to turn my brain off, and when the world of the film clashes so egregiously with the worlds of reality or common sense, I just can't take it anymore. It was not an awful movie by any means, nor did I experience great pain in watching it, but in terms of mediocre action flicks long on explosions and short on rational thought, this one is a perfect candidate for the dictionary example.

Final Score:  4.5/10

The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup

Let's get back into the swing of things, shall we? The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup Ant-Man and the Wasp Alternate Ti...