Bonus Ep. 12 – Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns on Netflix! Our thoughts on the return of the cult classic
MOVIE SIGN! In this bonus episode of The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod talk about the return of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and the new season now streaming on Netflix. What does Cody, a newer fan, think? Does Jerrod, a life-long fan who credits the show with making him the hopeless nerd he is, feel like his Kickstarter funds were well spent? Listen to find out!
Click here to download the episode!
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”)
Written by: Chris Morgan (“Furious 7,” “Fast 5”)
I’ve run out of ways to express my bewilderment for “The Fast and the Furious” series, so, with the latest film, “The Fate of the Furious” fresh in my mind, I’m going to go back two years and re-purpose what I wrote about “Furious 7” because the exact same thoughts crossed my mind. Sue me:
“If nothing else, the evolution of the ‘Fast & Furious’ series over the past decade and a half from low-rent meathead car culture crime movies to globe-hopping meathead action movies is worthy of some gentle introspection. How did we, as moviegoers, let this happen? How did this series go from being the “Scarface” of those guys that put neon, spoilers and Japanese letters on their cars to being Michael Bay’s “Transformers” without the transforming robots? And wait. Is de facto family leader Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) any sort of law enforcement, or is he just a civilian badass called upon by the government to…drive fast cars to get criminals?”
I fully admit, I don’t know how to deal with these movies. They baffle me. But I’ll be damned if the ramped-up cartoonish action of “The Fate of the Furious” didn’t come closer than the shaves on the scalps of the leading men to winning me over than most of the previous entries in the series, “Fast Five” excluded.
While on their honeymoon in Cuba, portrayed here as an eternal, multi-ethnic party where lawlessness is trumped by honor, Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) do the usual American touristy things, like wearing linen and engaging in high-stakes street races with the island nation’s famously old vehicles. During a stroll to a bodega, Dom stumbles up a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who shows Dom something on a cell phone that’s enough to get him to betray his family (be ready to hear that word a lot) and help her execute her confusing world-domination plan.
Reminder: 16 years ago Dom was a street-racing gearhead who ran stolen DVD players. Anyway.
When Special Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) recruits Dom and his team to help swipe an EMP (again?) in an off-the-books mission that could send Hobbs to prison, Dom makes his move and Hobbs gets locked up. While inside he meets up with “Furious 7’s” villain Deckard (Jason Statham) who, while he still hates Hobbs, turns out to be a good guy now so that when they both are inevitably freed, he joins the team. Which seems sudden, but whatever.
Now Hobbs, Deckard, and the rest (including Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, and a “Game of Thrones” actress, Nathalie Emmanuel, who reprises her role as an unconvincing hacker) have to take down Dom before he gathers enough weapons to start World War III on Cipher’s behalf.
Dom’s betrayal, especially as the dull, monosyllabic patriarch of the film’s oft-grunted-about family, is pretty thin gruel that no true fan will buy for a second, and new director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) knows it. Instead, he chooses to showcase things like a ridiculous cartoon prison brawl involving a raging, Hulked-out Johnson (the real star of the franchise now, let’s face it) deflecting rubber bullets and punching guards through walls in his pursuit of a parkour-ing Statham or some batshit lunacy involving hacked cars remotely chasing down a motorcade and driving themselves out of a high rise parking garage to trap a Russian ambassador under piles of burning metal. By the time a few characters blasted their way into frame via jetpacks, I was damn near won over.
By the time Dom’s plot is wrapped up, though, and the movie ends with a rooftop barbecue, the stupidity overwhelms you again, and you forget about the entire franchise for another two years.
Ep. 98 – Ghost in the Shell, The Discovery, Power Rangers, 20th Century Women, and Cody’s tips on choosing the perfect meal from UberEATS
This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Ghost in the Shell,” the new Netflix original film “The Discovery,” circle back to pick up “Power Rangers,” and take another look at “20th Century Women,” now on Blu-ray and DVD. Cody also gives listeners tips on what to order from UberEATS.
[00:00 – 18:21] Intro/Cody chooses his dinner
[18:21 – 30:16] Review – “Ghost in the Shell”
[30:16 – 40:15] Review – “The Discovery”
[40:15 – 54:20] Review – “Power Rangers”
[54:20 – 1:03:47] No Ticket Required – “20th Century Women”
[1:03:47 – 1:07:40] Wrap up/tease
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche
Directed by: Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”)
Written by: Jamie Moss (“Street Kings”) and William Wheeler (“The Hoax”) and Ehren Krueger (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”)
In the ’90s, adolescent me had all kinds of under-the-radar alternate entertainment thrown at me by virtue of being a socially-awkward fat nerd. Some things stuck hard, like comic books, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.” Others even I deflected, like Magic: The Gathering and anime—then only accessible on VHS from higher-end comic book shops, not counting the mass-market, sanitized Japanese exports like “Sailor Moon” and the fledgling days of “Pokemon.”
I feel like I gave anime a fair shake, though, and hyper-violent cartoons with occassional nudity was an easy sell anyway. But still, nothing. As I moved into my 20s, the ubiquitousness of DVDs led to me sampling one of the masterworks of the genre I had long heard about, 1995’s “Ghost in the Shell.” And again, it didn’t take. I shook hands with anime and we went our separate ways.
But, because genre filmmaking is a beast that can’t be satiated, it was only a matter of time before “Ghost in the Shell,” with its cyberpunk-robot storyline easily retrofitted for American audiences, was given the big-budget Hollywood treatment—and the endlessly debated, probably problematic whitewashed casting that goes with it.
Set in a future where humans augment themselves with cybernetic implants and live in cities filled with Golem-like holographic advertising avatars, “Ghost in the Shell” opens with the creation of the Major (Scarlett Johansson), the first synthetic humanoid with a real human brain inside of it under the care of Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche). Major’s real body was damaged in a terrorist bombing, so she is told, and Ouelet saved her life. Since the Major is a product of the probably-evil Hanka robotics corporation, she is of course weaponized and made to hunt down terrorists with a multinational team, including the hulking, dog-friendly muscle with cybernetic eyes Batou (Pilou Asbæk), the closest Major comes to having a partner. They’re on the trail of a super-hacker named Kuze (Michael Pitt) who’s working to assassinate Hanka scientists—but his reasons remain mysterious until the Major is able to get close to him and recover her memories, changing everything.
As a dull amalgam of “Blade Runner,” “The Matrix,” and HBO’s “Westworld,” “Ghost in the Shell” is a beautiful-looking film that proclaims to be about identity, but fails to find one of its own. Its the type of movie that, 15 years ago, cinephiles would have salivated over as showcases for their home audio/video setups—a special-edition DVD in a shiny foil packaging, all gloss with nothing underneath. It’s a shame, too, because Johannson once again proves herself to be a badass female action hero in an industry severely lacking them. After this and the travesty that was “Lucy,” can we stop dicking around and just give her a “Black Widow” movie already?
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by: Dean Israelite (“Earth to Echo”)
Written by: John Gatins (“Real Steel,” “Flight”)
In this, the golden age of movies based on geek-friendly properties, there are still a few outliers that commit the cardinal sin of being ashamed of their source material. Captain America wears his red, white and blue costume on screen and will soon meet up with a talking raccoon and tree-person, for crying out loud. We’re through the looking glass, people, dance with the one that brought you! These comic book-adjacent properties are thriving in an environment that embraces all of the things we might have thought were too silly to put to film 20 years ago.
Nothing quite personifies ‘90s cheese TV as well as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” a show so earnest it makes “Saved By The Bell” look like “Beverly Hills 90210.” Even with it’s corny acting and repurposed Japanese special effects-filled monster battles, it became a sensation that’s still in production in some form today, nearly 25 years after premiering.
The new “Power Rangers,” seemingly borrows more from “Friday Night Lights,” “Chronicle” and even the “Star Trek” reboot. The film follows five bland teens as they meet in a “Breakfast Club” style detention, stumble across some color-coded power coins, gain superhuman strength, and plunge into an underground spaceship where they meet a very dickish Zordon (Bryan Cranston) who tells them they are now the Power Rangers. But before they get to don their helmeted battle armor (no spandex here) and ride in their giant robot dinosaurs, we have to suffer through a patience-testing hour and a half of plodding training montages, several horrible rollover car crashes, and a confusing sexting scandal that threatens to bring down one of the Rangers.
Why in Zordon’s name would anyone think a dour, deathly serious “Power Rangers” movie would be the way to go in 2017? Whatever the reason, it’s here, Morphin fans, so dance.
This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Beauty and the Beast,” circle back to pick up “Kong: Skull Island” from last week, and give their full SXSW recap, including quick reviews of “The Disaster Artist,” “Baby Driver,” and “Mr. Roosevelt.”
[00:00-42:53] Intro/SXSW recap
[42:53-56:37] Review: “Beauty and the Beast”
[56:37-1:06:30] Review: “Kong: Skull Island”
[1:06:30-1:10:20] Wrap up/tease
“The Disaster Artist,” a comedy documenting the creation of the cult-classic film “The Room,” often called “the worst movie ever made,” received a standing ovation from a crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, where the film screened for South By Southwest as a work in progress.
Director and star James Franco, who plays the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, was on hand along with producing partner Seth Rogen (who has a role as an exasperated script supervisor in the film) and Franco’s brother Dave, who plays Wiseau’s best friend and “The Room” co-star Greg Sestero.
(The actual Tommy Wiseau an Greg Sestero were in attendance as well, receiving a standing ovation themselves as they took the stage for a post-show Q&A.)
The film, based on the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever” by Sestero and Tom Bissell, chronicles the meeting of Wiseau, a mysterious man with an inscrutable accent and long black hair who looks much older than he says he is, and Greg, a fresh-faced 19-year-old struggling to make it as an actor San Francisco in the late ’90s.
Tommy and Greg become friends–in Tommy’s case, Greg is really his only friend–and move to Los Angeles to make it big as actors, despite Tommy’s eccentric behavior and his cryptic warnings to Greg to not tell anyone anything about him and his increasing jealousy of seemingly anything Greg gets that he doesn’t, like an agent, or something that steals Greg’s attention, like a girlfriend.
After they both struggle to find work, Tommy vows to write a film for he and Greg to star in and, with Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” as his inspiration, Tommy bangs out the script for “The Room” and digs into what one character calls a “bottomless pit” of money to produce his “All-American” vision his way, including the unorthodox practice of buying film equipment over leasing it and using it to shoot film and HD video side-by-side.
Tommy himself and the script for the film baffle crew members, including the script supervisor and de facto director Sandy (Rogen) and director of photography Raphael (Paul Scheer), who both nearly quit over Tommy’s outrageous behavior, only to be talked out of it by Greg, the checks that are still clearing, and the notion that no one will see the film anyway.
Of course, the film saw the light of day in 2003 and became a midnight sensation thanks to Tommy’s paying to keep it in theaters (to qualify for the Academy Awards) and an infamous, ominous billboard that lorded over Hollywood for more than a decade.
Easily his best film as a director to date (most of them are really weird and terrible), James Franco also disappears incredibly into Tommy, making him more than just a weird accent and greasy black hair, but also leaving the mystery of Tommy effectively intact. Sure, the audience might want to know some simple things like where Tommy came from, where he gets his money, and just how old he is–but the real Wiseau has never publicly revealed that either.
Franco’s wonderful performance, like the film itself, is easily on par with the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton biopic “Ed Wood,” a career-best turn for both, about a delusional, never-give-up director of terrible-yet-sincere movies that share DNA with “The Room.”
The question remains if “The Disaster Artist,” still technically not complete and a little scraggly in the middle, will play to a crowd that isn’t familiar with “The Room” and all of its foibles. The audience at SXSW was certainly made up of devotees (myself included), loudly cheering and laughing at every recreated line and situation (the original film screened right after the Q&A wrapped up…I didn’t stay for that).
Regardless, “The Disaster Artist” is delightfully hilarious and, like the inimitable Tommy Wiseau, has genuine heart.
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”)
Written by: Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) and Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) and Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”)
What if “Apocalypse Now” was remade today, but with a twist: instead of the Viet Cong, you replace them with King Kong? While the movie isn’t shameless enough to title itself “Viet Kong,” instead “Kong: Skull Island” foregoes subtlety—and, damningly, simplicity—to sort of retell Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece with a giant ape and connective tissue to other giant monsters in the pipeline ready to star in their own film franchises. In short, “Kong: Skull Island” is a weird fucking movie, albeit one that squanders that weirdness by bogging it down in a swamp of exposition, an overabundance of characters, and weird shifts in tone.
After a prologue shows us a pair of pilots, one American and one Japanese, crash landing on an island in the South Pacific during World War II and encountering our title character, we’re thrown ahead nearly 30 years to the waning days of the Vietnam War. Satellite photography and mapping is all the rage, and would-be explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) uses the threat of Russian discovery to convince a senator to finance an exploratory mission with a military escort to Skull Island, which is permanently surrounded by storms.
The military enlists Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a career soldier looking for a fight after having to “cut and run” in Vietnam, and his men to facilitate the expedition. Along for the ride is former British special forces tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the latter of which provides the story with its inevitable “Beauty and the Beast” allegory. As soon as the team arrives and sets off bombs for, uh, some reason, they’re met with a fury by Kong himself, swatting helicopters out of the air and leaving Packard with a thirst for revenge.
Cool monster fisticuffs aside, “Kong: Skull Island” ends up a mess as we’re expected to follow too many different poorly-drawn characters (big ape included) as they make their way across the unclear geography of Skull Island, during which moments of would-be or unintentional comic relief mar what comes down to a movie about a crazed Samuel L. Jackson taking on King Kong. I mean, that sounds badass, right? But then what the hell is with Tom Hiddleston tossing on a gas mask and grabbing a katana to knife through a flock of pterodactyls in a poisonous gas cloud in slow motion? Is THAT supposed to be badass? Because it’s just sort of laughable. And the glut of characters leaves fine actors, like Goodman, Brie Larson, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell, either stranded with nothing to do or with so little motivation the whole thing feels like a byproduct of bad editing.
This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the new horror/comedy from Jordan Peele, “Get Out.” They also hand out their Oscar picks, and take look at “Moonlight” as it hits home release on Tuesday.
[00:00-17:45] Intro/inside podcast talk
[17:45-41:29] Oscar picks
[41:29-52:51] Review: “Get Out”
[52:51-1:04:50] No Ticket Required: “Moonlight”
[1:04:50-1:15:46] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!
Ep. 95 – Logan (spoilers start at 53:52), The Great Wall, A Cure For Wellness, and why can’t WB nail down The Batman?
This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody, Jerrod and special guest critic James Roberts review “Logan” (spoilers for the movie start at 53:52, so be wary!), “The Great Wall” and “A Cure For Wellness.” They also wonder just what the hell is going on with Warner Bros. losing yet another director for “The Batman.”
[14:09-38:56] News: Director Matt Reeves might be walking away from “The Batman,” leaving the movie in disarray
[38:56-1:02:50] Review: “Logan” (spoilers run 53:52-1:02:16)
[1:02:50-1:14:31] “The Great Wall”
[1:14:31-1:24:56] “A Cure For Wellness”
[1:24:56-1:36:07] No Ticket Required: “Manchester by the Sea”
[1:36:07-1:43:41] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Directed by: James Mangold (“The Wolverine”)
Written by: Scott Frank (“The Wolverine”) & James Mangold (“Walk The Line”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”)
In the 17 years since Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” birthed the modern comic book movie, there have been a sizable number of really good films in the genre—but transcendent ones are as rare as adamantium. 2008’s “The Dark Knight” obviously makes that list, and many would put 2012’s “The Avengers” right behind it, followed in some circles by last year’s “Deadpool.” And now, nearly two decades after his first, career-making appearance as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold join their company and outdo every film in the X-series—and most comic book movies, period–with the R-rated “Logan.”
Set in 2029 after something mysterious (and blissfully unexplored) left most mutants dead, “Logan” opens with Jackman’s erstwhile berserker X-Man, weak and hungover, sleeping in a limousine. When a group of guys try to steal his rims, Logan can’t muster the strength to take them down—until a shotgun blast to the chest awakens his anger and he cuts them to ribbons. Later, he’s met by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who offers him $50,000 to take her and her young daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota—both of whom are also wanted by a ruthless, robotic-handed mercenary Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). When the shit hits the fan, Logan and an elderly, dementia-addled Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) escape in the limo with Laura, who mysteriously mirrors Logan in both rage and the presence of razor-sharp claws that extend from her appendages.
Clearly owing a debt to the financial success of the brilliantly profane and grisly “Deadpool,” Jackman and Mangold were taken off the PG-13 leash, free to pepper “Logan” (seemingly not beholden to much of the series’ notoriously convoluted timeline) with all of the fucks and gory decapitations that have been missing from the character’s DNA. It pays off, too, allowing the film’s achingly bleak, last-of-its-kind tone to wash over everything without the compromise normally required for something meant to sell action figures and breakfast cereal. 17 years later, after pretty great movies (“X2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) horrible duds (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and underappreciated turns missing just a little something (“The Wolverine”), Jackman—in what he insists is his final performance in a role he 100 percent owns—finally has his comic book movie masterpiece.
Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Andy Lau
Directed by: Yimou Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers,” “Hero”)
Written by: Carlo Bernard (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”), Doug Miro (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) and Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)
For those prematurely concerned with another Hollywood whitewashing of Asian culture when “The Great Wall” was announced with star Matt Damon, rest assured: this is most definitely a Chinese movie with Americans along for the ride. With most of the dialogue in Mandarin (with English subtitles) and some of the Chinese film industry’s biggest stars in actor Andy Lau and acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, “The Great Wall” doesn’t feel culturally compromised (at least to this ugly American), but it doesn’t ever fully embrace its potential for mash-up weirdness either.
When a pair of European men, William (Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), narrowly escape a monstrous creature while on the hunt for black powder in China during the Song dynasty, they stumble across the Great Wall as the color-coded soldiers prepare for an attack by the Tao Tie. The Chinese army, made of up archers, wall-walking infantrymen, and rope-assisted crane fighting women, are defending the capital from the creatures (essentially telepathic monster dogs who came to earth in a meteor and represent greed!). When William proves himself to be an effective warrior, he earns the trust of Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and devises a plan alongside the Chinese soldiers to defeat the dog-monsters once and for all.
While “The Great Wall” isn’t a bad movie, it is mostly a boring one—and one that leaves what could be epic multicultural weirdness on the table. Damon is fine, if not totally committed, to the role of a semi-scoundrel looking for honor, but the trio of screenwriters (including frequent Damon collaborator Tony Gilroy) fail to drum up much internal conflict for William—or anyone else for that matter. “The Great Wall” presents its conflict (the fight against the telepathic dog-monsters from space), the threat they pose (the dog-monsters have breached the Great Wall) and the unlikely secret weapon Damon introduces (a magnet!) that can help take the Tao Tie down and save the planet in the process. If that sounds potentially bananas, especially in the hands of Zhang, you’d be right. But “The Great Wall” never lives up to its batshit crazy potential.