Archive | Unsolicited Reviews RSS for this section

No Disrespect To Antman: A Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston
Directed by Patty Jenkins
2017

The delay in motion picture treatment for Wonder Woman has been criminal. No disrespect to Antman, but can you believe the Antman got a movie before Wonder Woman? Good things come to those who wait, great things to those who wait even longer, and Wonder Woman is massively great, a refreshing piece of heartfelt action centered around a compelling champion that’s easily the best superhero entry in decades. There’s no deadening coursework to do beforehand, no part of it feels ancillary or middling, they never compromise Wonder Woman’s known ethos, and the whole thing will probably leave you feeling better about the world.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta (Gal Gadot) spends her unfettered youth on an idyllic chunk of earth existing in its own magical area apart from the human realm. Just as she reaches maturity, the barrier is broken by ace pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and the Germans chasing him. Diana’s agog to hear of the lethal skirmish (World War I) tearing apart “Man’s World”; she resolves herself to end it so that peace may flourish. Although a strong and fearless warrior, this Wonder Woman’s got her work cut out for her. The Germans have recruited diabolical genius Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) to create the scariest biochemical weapons possible. Poison is also chemically enhancing a ruthless general (Danny Huston) who on the eve of armistice hopes to unleash his hell to take the globe for his country.

Gal Gadot ignited the screen several years ago with the bits they gave her in Batman v Superman and in Wonder Woman she goes the distance, adding dimension and affecting passion to the fun and ferocity already established. Diana wants to save the world with love, for love, and you’ll believe it (she also wants to punish evil with graceful resolute battle, which she does time and time again). Danny Huston’s villain is the heavy we’re meant to focus most of our attention on but underling Doctor Poison steals the nefarious show. Elena Anaya plays Poison possessed of mind and movement, living pulp escaped from page.

Wonder Woman was the dream project of director Patty Jenkins, so she’s said. How often does anyone get to make their dream project and how often does such a thing turn out note perfect at every turn? Jenkins holds the bird without crushing it. Let’s see this spread across a few more rousing outings.

FINAL SCORE: Four golden lassos (out of four).

Unsolicited Raktajino On “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”

– before you even ask, raktajino is klingon coffee; lots of beverage humor on “Deep Space Nine” since one of the main characters is a bartender

– this is the “Star Trek” that broke all the rules: instead of hurtling through the cosmos looking for adventure, “DS9’s” heroes boldly loiter on an intergalactic truck stop (one their Federation bosses consider clutch thanks to its proximity to both the universe’s first documented wormhole and a newly autonomous planet called Bajor they hope to fold into their ranks); the action is serialized, unfolding many intricate plots across numerous episodes / seasons; Gene Roddenberry’s commandment of “no interpersonal conflicts” between crew members also goes out the window, so these folks endure more realistic frictions; craziest of all, there’s money in this final frontier, proving even utopia can only spread so far before being priced out

– would you believe it all works, and works gloriously?; “Deep Space Nine” is bleaker and more cynical than the previous entries (call it “Grunge Trek”) but ultimately the characters, whatever their flaws, are being driven by the same hope and optimism that touched Kirk and Spock and Picard and that guy who merged with V’GER; it’s a potent stew that struggles not to engage; that said, in this gorn’s opinion a few bits are dopey, like the holographic lounge singer and the episode with Rumpelstiltskin

– it is strange in the early seasons to see Avery Brooks, who commands this station as Benjamin Sisko, with hair on his head and not on his face; prior to “DS9,” Brooks starred in “Spenser: For Hire” as the bald, goateed detective Hawk, and apparently there was concern audiences would think Brooks was playing Hawk in space; taking one for the team, Brooks changed his look, but had to revert when he felt the change was affecting his performance; Sisko is definitely more commanding with the tight facial scruff and shiny pate

– they could have made Benjamin Sisko’s son Jake a typical brooding teen who resents his father for trapping him on this floating gas station (mom is deceased, killed in a borg attack) but instead he’s refreshingly upbeat and supportive of his old man; he’s also one of the few characters who can pull off the 24th Century fashion of an earth tone vest over a purple jumpsuit

– some of the major antagonists on “DS9” are these grey, neck-heavy aliens called cardassians but there aren’t very many parallels between them and the Kardashians (aside from the basic “ooh these people drive me nuts but I can’t stop paying attention to their exploits!”)

– if anybody knows anything about this show it’s ferengi bartender Quark, who looks like an elephant leprechaun hybrid possessed by the devil; Quark is absolutely possessed by the quest for profit, as are most if not all Ferengis, and he refuses to grant any human the respect of having their species name pronounced correctly (“HEW-mahns,” he insists), but you’d be surprised how often a sense of morality interrupts his naked thirst for money (excuse me—latinum, the official currency of ferengi)

– if anybody knows anything else about this show it’s the episode where our Deep Space Niners go back in time and board the Kirk / Spock Enterprise via the computer technology made famous by Forest Gump; “DS9” should have won a shit ton of awards for special effects on this one because the way they cut these people into the “Trek ’66” episode is so much more seamless than what’s in Gump (it even fooled some people working on the show, they say); furthermore, it isn’t some throwaway entry in the founding “Trek” series they enter but the friggin’ tribble episode—can you imagine if “Deep Space Nine” had screwed the pooch on that one?

– Terry Farrell, who plays a character on “DS9” that is carrying a 300 year old symbiote in her belly that fuses her personality with all the personalities of its previous hosts, left the program after several years to join “Becker”; this is the all-consuming power of Ted Danson, truly the borg of our universe

– “DS9’s” later seasons are consumed by a war that breaks out between the Federation and these brand new aliens from the other side of the wormhole who want to control the universe; a lot of interesting religious stuff comes into play as several other alien races perceive the new aliens to be infallible gods while the bajorans ramp up their faith in Benjamin Sisko, who they believe is an “emissary” sent by their own gods to deliver them from evil; like any other war, this thing’s got espionage, double crossing, triple crossing, breakdowns in the chain of command, and klingons beating the hell out of each other

– also in the later seasons, Jeffrey Combs turns up at this figurehead who is like the nefarious and withering precursor to Rob Lowe on “Parks & Rec”

– since this is “Star Trek” there are of course a few episodes where the crew visit 20th Century Earth and cannot figure out what the hell is going on; as tired as this trope is within “Star Trek” it is never not entertaining

– the “DS9” series finale could be firmer in its second half but once the dust settles one could argue the narrative is open for reprisal (don’t we deserve a feature film where Avery Brooks is givin’ it to some Cardassians for 90 min?)

– yes, Iggy Pop is in one episode playing an alien and he is fuckin’ good

Unsolicited Whammy Barrin’ On The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years

– yes, this celebrated 1988 rock-umentary boasts several manufactured scenarios, but so does the first (and ostensibly more authentic) Decline of Western Civilization from 1980; in fact, the breakfast Ozzy “cooks” in this chapter is a callback to the breakfast Darby Crash “cooks” in part one

– no, Guns N’ Roses do not appear in Decline II, and while I’m sure they’d like us to believe they were just trying to set themselves apart and/or avoid chagrin let’s not forget this same year they decided to portray Jim Carrey’s backup band in The Dead Pool; I’d call that a draw

– hard rock figureheads like Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Bret Michaels, and Dave Mustaine have become so calcified in their personas (human zebra, sexy Easter Island statue, sexy Botox disaster, and self-defeating chemtrail truther, respectively) that it is easy to forget they were once real people; how endearing to watch Tyler and Perry, a year or so after Aerosmith’s comeback, aware and appreciative of this second act, expressing genuine humility (Tyler mostly targets himself when cracking corny jokes, all of which are followed by an embarrassed chuckle; when asked if Aerosmith reunited for money, Perry can’t say yes quickly enough); same for Bret Michaels, here oozing the kind of jittery enthusiasm you’d expect from a rookie Scientologist

– on the other side of this grime-laden coin are Alice Cooper and Lemmy from Motörhead, evergreen / even-keeled icons who never underwent any bizarre metamorphoses; this is because, one would assume, their art is so impenetrable and they know it (you’d be confident too if you authored all six thousand of those Motörhead albums); what’s the most embarrassing thing Alice Cooper’s ever done, praise Green Day? Meanwhile, you could fill two museums with every dubious move Dave Mustaine’s made over the years

– Chris Hemsworth could play Chris Holmes in a W.A.S.P. biopic

– Margot Kidder could play the one guitarist in a Faster Pussycat biopic

– the Chris Holmes bits in Decline II aren’t as worrysome as they used to be because Holmes has yet to allow alcoholism or anything else defeat him (at least in terms of being above ground); far more depressing are the endless anonymous interviewees barely in their twenties who are convinced they’re gonna make it as heavy metal stars—where these kids are today, no one knows, but I don’t recognize a single one from even the more obscure articles what’s-his-face tacked up on Metal Sludge

– the scene where Odin singer Randy O. Roberg admits he’ll kill himself if his band isn’t successful is the hardest to watch, mostly because this declaration is made as Roberg luxuriates in a hot tub surrounded by adoring women; the girls’ expressions go sour while the singer remains ardent; I hate to suggest an amateur rocker may have been talkin’ dog shit while several beers deep in a hot tub, but (spoiler alert) Randy O. Roberg is still alive

– speaking of using women as props, Kiss clown Paul Stanley looks like he’s trying extremely hard not to laugh every time they cut to him in bed caught in a triangle of gaga-eyed blondes; at another point, Ozzy refers to Kiss as the ultimate in theater, and though he was talking about their stage show by now we all know Kiss is never really offstage

– the je nois se quoi of punk rock outlined in Decline I is only present here during the Megadeth concert footage where carefree stage divers routinely take flight and bassist David Ellefson uses an instrument decorated with a Dead Kennedys sticker; of course, Megadeth incinerated their punk cred around this time by recording that awful epileptic take on “Anarchy in The U.K.”; thank god Rust in Peace was just around the corner

– Riki Rachtman is in this thing and he is deliciously obnoxious

Unsolicited Cobbin’ On Children Of The Corn

Children of The Corn is a film about some kids possessed by another kid possessed by a nebulous farm demon; they’ve expunged every adult from their town and any grownup unlucky enough to cross their path winds up crucified on corn stalks; all of this is more plausible than the scene where two tykes break off from the cult to indulge in a game of Monopoly; an entire town at your disposal and you want to play a real estate simulator?

– the protagonists are Burt and Vicky, an adult-ish couple driving through Nebraska on the way to Burt’s medical internship; problems begin when they accidentally run their giant canary colored 1980s car into a child of the corn; Burt must be at the bottom of his class because he moves the kid from the scene of this accident, wrapping him up and tossing him in the trunk; slowly the child of the trunk is forgotten about as Burt and Vicky’s quest for a doctor gets weirder; by the time the end credits roll, the vehicular manslaughter that set all this shit into motion remains unresolved; the lesson: if you run over a child of the corn, just wait until help arrives or else you’ll wind up fending off gaggles of hollow-eyed baby Satanists with just your wits and a pocket knife

– the nebulous farm demon is never really seen or thoroughly explained, which is disappointing; a 1984 movie about otherworldly energy moving through cornfields and possessing children deserves a big crazy stalk monster that spits creamed corn and vaporizes chickens with laser eyes

– one of the production companies credited with bringing Children of The Corn to life is Hal Roach Studios, who of course also delivered us Alfalfa, Spanky, Buckwheat, and the rest of Our Gang; is that ironic or hilarious, and has anyone considered a dark reboot of Our Gang?

– this film is creepy and unsettling and they could have stopped at one but in the grand tradition of any marginally interesting 1980s horror film there have been seven Children of The Corn sequels and a remake

– if John Franklin’s portrayal of malevolent child preacher Isaac becomes too much to bear, calm yourself by remembering that Franklin also plays Cousin Itt in both Addams Family movies

Unsolicited Ga Ga Goo Goo On Look Who’s Talking

– our collective conscious appears to dismiss Look Who’s Talking as “the talking baby picture Travolta made on his way back up” or “the talking baby picture Alley made on her way back down”; what an extreme surprise it was to learn this is an Amy Heckerling film and not [I was going to make a joke here about whoever directed Air Bud but it turns out Air Bud was directed by Charles Martin Smith—am I expecting too much from this world?]

– the central gimmick of Look Who’s Talking, the thing that got people in the door in October of ’89 after a summer of Batman and the Ghostbusters and “Weird Al,” is Bruce Willis providing the Garfield-esque inner monologue of the infant; there are times this is amusing, but more often are wide swaths where the Willis narration is pointless and asinine and makes you wonder if they tried at first to make a normal comedy hanging on Travolta and Alley’s fun chemistry but something was lacking so they decided “talking baby”

– “talking baby” is a misnomer as the baby is only such for the middle part of the movie; before that, Willis is giving voice to a sperm as it swims toward an egg (the special effects are just as mind-boggling as the Beach Boys music cue) and then an in utero fetus (which bears a striking resemblance to the murderous infant from the 1974 classic It’s Alive); toward the end of Look Who’s Talking, Bruce Willis is cracking wise over a toddler who seems old enough to actually form his own words; this is probably why they brought in another baby for the sequel, who is voiced by Roseanne

– George Segal plays the smarmy, shitty, married businessman who keeps Kirstie Alley’s character as his long-suffering mistress until he impregnates her with the Bruce Willis baby; if you’ve ever wanted to see the old fella from “Just Shoot Me” give it to the lady from “Cheers” you’ll get a little pleasure

– Abe Vigoda plays the somewhat out to lunch grandfather of John Travolta’s character; not Vigoda’s finest hour but the “please help my grandpa get into a better nursing home” subplot does pave the way for a few succulent morsels of humanity (not to mention the climatic white knuckle car chase through what we are meant to believe is Manhattan)

– there is a montage in Look Who’s Talking set to the Talking Heads song “And She Was”; I wonder how David Byrne feels about that today

– this talking baby picture is better today than what I remembered of it yesterday; that said, talking baby, talking sperm, talking sperm partying to Beach Boys, talking fetus, George Segal aardvarking, gratuitous Travolta / baby dance sequence set to “Walking on Sunshine,” gratuitous crossover of Travolta’s personal interests (his lunkheaded Jersey cab driver is also a recreational airplane pilot)

– thank god this is not the Look Who’s Talking movie where Travolta and Alley sing a parody of “Fight For Your Right to Party” about toilet training

Newer Hope: Unsolicited Review Of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One occupies an odd place on the Star Wars timeline; a prequel set just a handful of days before the original 1977 Star Wars, this film follows the exploits of the brave Rebels who capture and curry the Death Star plans to Princess Leia shortly before she slips them into R2-D2. It’s a vital juncture in this decades-long intergalactic fantasy, yet it’s also very compartmentalized with no strong connection to the other seven entries. The heroes of Rogue One have never been identified previously. Their harrowing mission is a blip in the distant future during the other three prequels and by the time we meet troubled rural teen Luke Skywalker their exploits are yesterday’s news.

Rogue One is also occurring at a weird moment in our own world—just a year ago we were hit with The Force Awakens, a continuation of the main Star Wars narrative set 30 years after Return of The Jedi. Why walk us back pre-Hamill already? Where’s the ball droid? Where’s Adam Driver? Where the hell are the singing cats?

The arrival of Rogue One may not make a ton of sense, but the movie is so fantastic and gripping it doesn’t matter. Director Gareth Edwards paints with astonishing visuals, using perspective and scale and rich special effects to inject a “wow” factor absent in many of the previous chapters (it is extremely satisfying to watch a space battle that looks like a space battle, not a video game). Rogue One even makes the unthinkable work—the film resurrects Peter Cushing 22 years after his death (digitally, of course) for another turn as Imperial official Grand Moff Tarkin. As other characters interact with the Moff it is difficult to tell they are acting against a cartoon. We must consider the possibility Gareth Edwards is an occult priest who used black magic to literally raise Peter Cushing from his grave.

Tarkin assumes control of the nearly completed Death Star early in the film, which we learn was the brainchild of a morally conflicted architect named Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). The Empire tears Erso away from his family for the home stretch of this space laser project and that surely motivates his decision to leak compromising intelligence about the Death Star’s reactor to the Rebellion. The Rebellion turns to Erso’s daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones), who is willing to throw in with this galactic coup malarky if there’s a chance her father can be freed. Along the way Jyn builds herself a posse, including a handsome Rebel dude (Diego Luna), an extremely droll robot (Alan Tudyk), a blind holy man who may or may not be Jedi (Donnie Yen), and this sort of space Rambo (Jiang Wen). The group only grows tighter as the game changes around them.

Rogue One’s heroes may lack the radioactive charm of a Han Solo or a Chewbacca but they are resolved and strong and you root for every single one of them in the enormously satisfying (and somewhat heartbreaking) third act. In an era where Hollywood loves nothing more than to hit you with false endings, this venture gives you but one, an audacious and stimulating one, and sews it pretty well to the start of the founding late ’70s passage we all memorized growing up. Rogue One may have single-handedly saved the fate of the word “prequel.”

Also, somewhere in the middle of this adventure, you get to see Darth Vader’s house. It’s not carpeted.

FINAL SCORE: Four fistfuls of ewok fur (out of four).

Sorry Ma, Let Tim Hootenanny: An Unsolicited Ranking Of Replacements Albums

1. Let It Be (1984)

It’s all here: stirring romance (“Androgynous,” “Answering Machine”), exhilarating throttle (“We’re Coming Out,” “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”), utter tomfoolery (“Gary’s Got A Boner”), tremendous production. And that Kiss cover? How dare they move us via the songwriting of Paul Stanley?

2. Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (1981)

You can feel the wood splintering as this album busts through. A triumph of zip gun punk melting into rock n’ roll branded by the nascent Westerberg’s candor and wit. It’ll make you believe again and again and again.

3. Hootenanny (1983)

Chaotic and chicken fried the same way their live act could be (“Lovelines” is just Paul reading the newspaper over the band’s noodling), is this the truest representation of the ‘Mats? A rambling rush glued together by smudges of incredible melody that club soda sure as hell ain’t gonna get out.

4. Pleased To Meet Me (1987)

Stripped to a three piece with mounting pressure to quote-unquote make it and these dude still deliver massive kick. Every song’s a potential FM hit. We can recognize why this didn’t happen. Society at large basically doesn’t give a rip about Big Star or covered bridges.

5. Tim (1985)

Overcomes the handicaps of an enormously ugly album cover and flat soda production with truly monolithic songwriting. “Bastards of Young,” “Left of The Dial,” “Here Comes a Regular”—legends unto themselves.

6. Stink (1982)

A dip into hardcore punk. According to these dizzy Midwesterners, the genre needs harmonica (“White & Lazy”) and power ballads (“Go”). Plenty savage and fun. Bob Stinson’s leads go off like tracer missiles.

7. The Shit Hits The Fans (1985)

Most artists would bury a recording of a bad gig. The Replacements released this one as quickly as possible. Such is their charm. After a few listens you grow accustom to only hearing sixty seconds of every song that strikes the band’s fancy (including hits by Zeppelin, U2, and R.E.M.).

8. Don’t Tell A Soul (1989)

Their most naked stab for chart glory. Desperation doesn’t taste too bad coming from these guys. That said, they should have gone whole hog and asked Paula Abdul to do something.

9. All Shook Down (1990)

This one gets an asterisk since Paul recorded it as his solo debut and the label railroaded him into filing it under Replacements. Lots of acoustic pop not very removed from the ‘Mats DNA…but definitely not the trouble boys.