Ep. 103 – Top 5 movies of the year so far, home video reviews of The Circle, Unforgettable, and Kong: Skull Island, and a preview of Fathom Events this week

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod run down their top 5 movies of 2017 so far. They also preview a pair of Fathom Events, “Batman and Harley Quinn” and “Rifftrax Live – Doctor Who: The Five Doctors,” and Cody reviews home video releases for “The Circle,” “Unforgettable,” and “Kong: Skull Island.”

Click here to download the episode!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Colin Firth
Directed by: Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “Lucy”)
Written by: Luc Besson (“Taken,” “The Professional”)

These days, original sci-fi at the movies requires a pretty big buy-in. The stuff with less fantastical elements, like “The Martian” or “Edge of Tomorrow,” tends to satisfy adult audiences with gritty, somewhat-based-in-a-possible-reality plotting, while the more “out there” stuff—think “Jupiter Ascending” or “John Carter”—lands with a thud. That any major studio is still giving money to directors to chase these wild geese into non-profitability is, I suppose, something to applaud, and even though these filmmakers have amazing visions, the fact is that the movies are either achingly bad and/or no one seems to give a shit about them.

As a master of Eurotrash action, Luc Besson is no stranger to ambitious sci-fi. From the delightfully weird “The Fifth Element” from 20 years ago or the godawful “Lucy” from 2014, his movies are at least unique if not always, well, any good. His latest film, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” is clearly a passion project, based on a French-Belgian comic you’ve never heard of called “Valerian et Laureline.” Besson has put together a visually amazing, inventive world—too bad his characters can’t carry the load.

After a prologue featuring the evolution of the International Space Station into an orbiting monstrosity known as Alpha set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” “Valerian” diverts into a dreamy, sun-soaked day-in-the-life of a race of beach-dwelling aliens, who look like albino Na’vi from “Avatar,” wash their faces with pearls, and keep as pets colorful little creatures who eat and reproduce those same pearls. When destruction comes for their world in an intergalactic war they aren’t part of, one of the aliens sends a psychic signal out through the universe, rousing our hero Valerian (a sleepy, Keanu Reeves-sounding Dane DeHaan) from a slumber and some ill-defined almost-sex with his gorgeous partner, Laureline (bland, store-brand Emma Stone substitute Cara Delevingne). They’re both some sort of intergalactic special agents, tasked with stealing some artifacts from a Jabba the Hutt-ish crime lord in an interdimensional flea market and protecting the Commander (Colin Firth) as he tries to figure out just what the heck is going on with a surge of radiation in the core of Alpha.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a wonder of production design and fairly wondrous set pieces—nearly undone entirely by a pair of low-wattage leads and too-frequent diversions into goofy Looney Tunes-style cul de sacs.  The aforementioned heist in the market that spans dimensions—shoppers wander around an empty desert lot wearing goggles and transporter boxes on their hands so they can see and interact with vendors in a parallel dimension—is an amazingly batshit idea that makes me smile just thinking about it, and Besson (as usual) peppers it with weirdo military agents and obnoxious American tourists. But then, at some point, we have to get back to DeHaan and Delevingne and listen to them flatly spar about potentially getting married, despite no clear evidence of chemistry between the two. Later diversions include singer Rihanna as a shape-shifting stripper who helps Valerian rescue Laureline from what might as well be a giant stewpot in a sequence that climaxes with a cartoony eye-cross-only missing tweeting birds—none of which has fuck-all to do with the plot (that feels lifted from “Serenity” anyway). Luc Besson, you madman. If you could focus (and cast better) you’d be a modern-day cinema hero.

Ep. 102 – War For the Planet of the Apes, and home video reviews of CHiPs and Free Fire

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “War For the Planet of the Apes,” while Cody tells us about home video releases of “CHiPs” and “Free Fire.”

[00:00-13:08] Intro/remembering George A. Romero and Martin Landau

[13:08-31:06] Review: “War For the Planet of the Apes”

[31:06-41:31] No Ticket Required: “CHiPs” and “Free Fire”

[41:31-48:13] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 101 – Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Big Sick, Baby Driver, Blu-ray released for 3 Generations and The LEGO Batman Movie, and a recap of Jaws on the Water

July 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Big Sick, Baby Driver, new home video releases for 3 Generations and The LEGO Batman Movie, and talk about the experience that is Jaws on the Water.

[00:00-17:51] Intro/birthday meals/Jaws on the Water

[17:51-31:40] Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

[31:40-44:44] Review –  The Big Sick

[44:44-56:34] Review – Baby Driver

[56:34-1:12:43] No Ticket Required: 3 Generations and The LEGO Batman Movie

[1:12:43-1:18:10] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by: Jon Watts (“Cop Car”)
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein (“Horrbile Bosses”) & John Francis Daley (“Vacation”) and Jon Watts (“Cop Car”) & Christopher Ford (“Cop Car”) and Chris McKenna (“The LEGO Batman Movie”) & Erik Sommers (“The LEGO Batman Movie”)

No one wanted this, the third different Spider-Man film franchise from Sony in 15 years. Most of us liked the first two films starring Tobey Maguire from director Sam Raimi. I guess someone liked enough of Marc Webb’s first film in the 2012 reboot starring Andrew Garfield and a pre-Oscar Emma Stone to warrant the sequel that killed that franchise.

Spider-Man’s origin story, like Batman’s, should be etched in stone somewhere on a list called “Things We Never Need to See Depicted On Screen Again.”

But of course, in this golden age of comic book films, the most popular, kid-friendly hero can’t stay benched. Marvel came a-calling, offering Sony a deal they couldn’t refuse: let Spider-Man (which the studio has the film rights to) join Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and we’ll let you borrow elements for the MCU for stand-alone Spider-Man films, which sputtered out after “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” just as Marvel was kicking things into overdrive. This marriage begat the latest film featuring the wise-cracking web slinger, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Picking up just after the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which is recounted by Peter Parker (Tom Holland) via social media videos, “Homecoming” focuses on Peter’s high school life while he awaits another call from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to join up once again with the Avengers. Meanwhile, Peter dons his Stark-made Spidey suit—filled with tech, natch—to stop petty crime around New York. When Peter runs across some criminals using salvaged Chitauri tech, he inadvertently stumbles into the path of arms dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a once-honest man driven to the underworld when the government and Stark muscle him out of the salvage business. All this while he’s trying to win the affection of cute older girl Liz (Laura Harrier).

I don’t know  that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the best Spider-Man movie—a distinction that still belongs to Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”—but it’s certainly the most fun. The movie is a genuine laugh riot at times, shamelessly aping the ‘80s output of John Hughes to mine hilarity from teenage awkwardness. Holland’s Peter feels like the first real “teenaged” Spider-Man we’ve ever gotten, and his clumsy pining over Liz and his nerdy goings on with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) are fun enough even without the web swinging. Alas, this is Marvel movie, though, and previous viewing of damn near everything that came before it, though not absolutely required, is highly advised. Though not as hefty a presence as marketing may have implied, Tony Stark hangs heavy over the film, especially in the suit, which at times makes Spider-Man seem more like a kid version of Iron Man that swings from webs instead of flying than the webhead everyone loves (also, where’s the spider sense, or the super strength?)

Still, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” almost improbably, delivers an essential, delightful version of a movie no one wanted in the first place.

Transformers: The Last Knight

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) Written by: Art Marcum (“Iron Man”) & Matt Holloway (“Iron Man”) & Ken Nolan (“Black Hawk Down”) Every now and then, I take stock of all the entertainment properties I enjoyed as a child—or still enjoy screen-printed on a t-shirt—that are being made into well-meaning, if not always good, major motion pictures. All the Marvel stuff, some of the DC Comics stuff, Star Wars…it’s a fine time at the movies to be a fan of the geekier stuff. But then there’s Transformers. It just…it breaks my heart. We have well-made, coherent films where utterly ridiculous characters like Ant-Man and Rocket Raccoon are treated with respect and written as real characters. Meanwhile, five films into Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series, every other fucking robot is either a racist stereotype, spends half their screen time robo-farting or some other bullshit. They even got original cartoon voice actor Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime, and seemingly half of his lines in the latest film, “Transformers: The Last Knight” are “I am Optimus Prime!” And I love Optimus Prime. “The Last Knight” opens in the days of King Arthur, where a drunken Merlin (Stanley Tucci!) begs a Transformer (they’ve been here the whole time!) for help in defeating a horde of invaders. He’s given a staff, which calls upon a metal dragon. Flash forward 1,600 years and, in accordance with the rest of this series, the movie picks and chooses which plot points from the previous four films to either embrace or outright ignore. Anyway, this time Chicago stays destroyed after the events of “Age of Extinction,” and the ruins are patrolled by the Transformers Response Force, since Transformers are now illegal. A young girl (Isabella Moner) is saved by Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) after a drone strike kills her Autobot pal. She stows away with him back to his junkyard in South Dakota, where a bunch of annoying Autobots, including Bumblebee and Grimlock, hang out. Meanwhile Optimus Prime continues his journey into deep space to confront his maker, Quintessa, to tell her to leave Earth alone. Like a chump, he immediately fucks that up and is brainwashed into becoming Nemesis Prime, now assisting Quintessa in her plan to bring Cybertron to Earth, which is actually Unicron (see the animated “Transformers: The Movie” from 1986) in order to revive Cybertron. The only thing that can stop this plan is the staff of Merlin, which can only be wielded by his last living ancestor, Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), and she’s being sought by Sir Emund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) and his psychotic robot butler Cogman, the last guard of the Witwiccans (UGH), a brotherhood of humans who have worked alongside Transformers for centuries—you know, because they were here all along. And that’s not even half of the junk shoved into this movie, which is bursting at the seams with so much utter bullshit you won’t even have time to catch your breath—dinosaur Transformers barfing up cars, horns emerging from the earth, a manservant droid shooting himself out of a torpedo tube to catch some fish for a pair of humans on a submarine OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING? If there are some redeeming factors in this garbage fire is that “The Last Knight” is not quite as blatantly racist and sexist as the previous entries, and it’s not quite as punishingly long. Otherwise…I just can’t deal with these anymore.

The Mummy

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman (“People Like Us”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”) & Christopher McQuarrie (“Edge of Tomorrow”) & Dylan Kussman (debut)

I have fond memories of 1999’s “The Mummy” starring Brendan Fraser. As a goofy knock-off Indiana Jones for the CGI age, the film opened weeks before “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” and people were already camped out to buy tickets for that when I left my first screening of “The Mummy.” One of the friends I saw “The Mummy” with ducked out to wait in that very line. Oh, and the movie was fun, too—junky and shallow, sure, but fun. There’s even a pretty fun roller coaster based on it at Universal Studios!

Anyway, here we are 18 years later, and now a reboot/remake/secret sequel(?) of “The Mummy” is here, set in modern times to kick off a Universal Monsters cinematic series—dubbed the Dark Universe—which will allegedly feature an Avengers/Justice League-style team-up featuring the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman. And Universal is bringing the big guns to the fight, casting Tom Cruise as the lead, but unfortunately the movie wrapped around him is a mess.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, who the script would have us believe is a criminal U.S. soldier in Iraq, a tomb-robbing looter, stealing artifacts from historical sites with his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) and selling them on the black market. When they deviate from a mission to check out a potential location to swipe antiquities from, Nick and Chris become pinned down by enemy gunfire. A last-second airstrike saves them, and opens up an ancient Egyptian tomb in the process—which clearly doesn’t belong in Iraq. Enter Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who along with Nick and Chris enter the tomb to explore it and, in the process, reactivate an ancient, too-evil-to-bury-in-Egypt mummy named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), and she’s looking for a mate. Since he’s the one that released her, Nick becomes cursed, able to survive a plane crash and lots of brutal punishment at the hands of Ahmanet’s reanimated goons. He also becomes the target of Prodigium, a sort of magic-focus SHIELD led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), looking to rid the world of monsters.

First things first, this is a Tom Cruise movie, and he’s absolutely the wrong choice. The notion that we buy into Cruise playing a war criminal is ludicrous at first, and the script, credited to three writers and three more with “story by” credits, doesn’t ever seem to be comfortable committing to the notion of Cruise’s Nick being a real shitbag. There are flashes of humor, much of it on Jake Johnson’s capable shoulders, but the film stops dead when Dr. Jekyll (sigh) shows up to exposition the whole thing into a sarcophagus. At least the Brendan Fraser movies were fun. Universal would be wise to remember that.

Ep. 100 – Wonder Woman, RiffTrax Live preview, and a review of Fist Fight on Blu-ray

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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On the landmark 100th episode of The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the equally-historic “Wonder Woman,” preview the next RiffTrax Live event, and Cody catches up with “Fist Fight” on Blu-ray.

[00:00-10:39] Intro/RiffTrax Live Summer Shorts Beach Party preview

[10:39-29:13] Review: “Wonder Woman”

[29:13-35:22] No Ticket Required: “Fist Fight”

[35:22-39:30] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Wonder Woman

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Directed by: Patty Jenkins (“Monster”)
Written by: Allan Heinberg (debut)

It took 76 years for Hollywood to come around to producing and releasing a full-length live-action motion picture featuring DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, easily the most famous female superhero of all—and one that recognizably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Superman, Batman, and cross-company rival Spider-Man in the “everyone on planet Earth knows who this character is” pantheon.

So what the hell took so long? We’re up to six Spider-Man movies, eight Superman movies, and nine Batman movies since Wonder Woman first his comic books—not to mention the one Supergirl and one Catwoman film no one was asking for. Blame it on good old fashioned sexism or misogyny if you like, or waiting for the right cultural or financial climate or whatever other baloney studios use to justify not doing something, but after the entirety of Bob Dylan’s lifetime we finally have “Wonder Woman,” and the film manages to be both worth the wait and the redemption the critically-maligned DC Extended Universe so desperately needs.

Set after the events of 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” we catch up with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as she receives a delivery in her office at the Louvre in Paris: a briefcase containing a vintage photograph of Diana and a team of soldiers which she was seeking in “BvS.” Bruce Wayne tracked it down and returned it to her, triggering a flashback to Diana’s youth on the mystical, all-female island of Themyscira. There she trains to be a warrior under Antiope (Robin Wright) after protestations from her mother, Queen Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). When a WWI-era German plane breaches the island’s protective force field, Diana swims out to sea to save the pilot and British intelligence spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). His rescue, however, brings German soldiers—and the war—to the island. When told of the Great War by Trevor, Diana is convinced Ares, the god of war, is behind it all, and demands Trevor take her to the front to fight—and fulfill her destiny to destroy Ares and bring peace to the world.

Minus a junky, CGI-heavy final battle far too reminiscent of the worst qualities of DCEU steward Zack Snyder, “Wonder Woman” is a refreshingly smaller scale superhero origin story that doesn’t get bogged down in the typical traps of that very specific slice of the genre. Director Patty Jenkins coaxes a winning, badass performance out of Gadot, who wasn’t given much to do except save Batman’s ass in the character’s abridged big-screen debut last year. Diana is strong, sincere, and funny as the fish out of water in the modern world (well, the modern world of 100 years ago). Chris Pine also shines as Steve Trevor, a career soldier and sometimes smartass that’s ready to fall in step when he realizes Diana can more than take care of herself—and everyone around her.

“Wonder Woman” isn’t a perfect movie, but it hopefully marks the righting of the DC ship—and with it already angering dipshit men upset at women’s only screenings, consider me in love with this kick-ass Amazonian princess.

Baywatch

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses,” “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”)
Written by: Damian Shannon (“Freddy vs. Jason”) & Mark Swift (“Friday the 13th”)

Somewhere in the world, there’s someone upset about the state of the industry of turning corny, old TV dramas into theatrical tongue-in-cheek raunchy comedies. A grown man is angry right now because “21 Jump Street” was turned into a hilarious meta-commentary on the ridiculousness of action movies and their sequels instead of a gritty reboot, or that “CHiPs” was made into, well, I don’t know because no one saw “CHiPs,” but it looked like it was supposed to be a comedy, too.

Anyway, now we’ve got a comedic reboot of “Baywatch” on our hands—once certifiably the most popular show in the world—and I imagine there are a few lost souls desiring an existential crisis-filled lifeguard movie highlighting the psychological rigors of saving people while you yourself are lost or some other horse shit, but nope. Instead, it’s kind of just as doofy as a normal “Baywatch” episode caught mid-transformation into a half-baked mess of a comedy drowning in weak dick and boobs jokes and not much else.

Borrowing loose characterizations from the syndicated cleavage- and slo-mo-filled TV show, “Baywatch” focuses on hotshot lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his posse of crime fighting lifeguards, including no-nonsense Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and blonde bombshell CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach). Several spots have opened up on the squad, and just in time, too—the beach (now apparently somewhere other than Los Angeles, for tax reasons I guess) is being overrun with a new drug called Flakka and a ruthless realtor (Priyanka Chopra) is looking to gobble up beachfront real estate. Enter a trio of candidates: sometime dim-bulb disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), sincere, dedicated Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and schlubby-but-determined Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). Will they have what it takes to make the squad and save the beach? Yeah, of course.

Clearly modeled after the “Jump Street” films, “Baywatch” belly flops when it comes to effective satire and face plants into the sand when it comes to raunch. Forgive my crassness here, but some movies demand nudity, and a simple prosthetic penis won’t do the trick. The screenplay, which well-known script doctors of unsalvageable crap Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant have a story credit on, never decides what to do with its willing cast. Is Efron’s Ryan Lochte send-up the dumbest guy in the room, or the only guy who can see how weird it is that a bunch of lifeguards fancy themselves as crime fighters? Is Mitch a bullying alpha male or a too-sincere leader? Is CJ running in literal slow motion absurd humor, or a weak attempt at “Naked Gun” style parody? It’s all these things and more, but mostly it’s an awful misfire.

Ep. 99 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and talk about lesser-known San Antonio Spurs players of the last three decades.

[00:00 – 25:51] Intro/Remembering random Spurs from the last 25 years, from Jaren Jackson to Cherokee Parks.

[25:51- 44:48] Review – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

[44:48-49:01] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

May 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Kurt Russell
Directed by: James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”)
Written by: James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”)

The first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film was a gamble in 2014, and it paid off big for Marvel—even if they were stealthily hedging their bets by releasing it late in the summer and without a firm connection to their already-established Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filled with loveable dirtbag characters, sharp humor and enough classic rock needle drops to make Cameron Crowe jealous, writer/director James Gunn’s sci-fi comedy about a bunch of a-holes was a refreshing change of pace from the Earth-bound heroes Marvel built its franchise on.

Following the financial success of the first film, Marvel allowed Gunn to run with the series, and in the time-honored sequel tradition of “bigger and more” he turned out “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” which still delivers most of the stuff you loved about the first go-round, only this time with a lot more of it and somewhat less satisfaction.

After a prologue in 1980 Missouri featuring yet another old actor digitally de-aged (in this case, Kurt Russell) to fill in some of our heroes’ backstory, we jump ahead 34 years as the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Baustia as Drax, the voice of Bradley Cooper as Rocket, and the heavily-processed voice of Vin Diesel as adorable Baby Groot) are doing some work for hire (their price? Karen Gillen’s Nebula) protecting intergalactic batteries from a space monster for some gold-skinned alien beings called the Sovereign.

After they’ve succeeded, Rocket decides to swipe a few of the priceless batteries for himself, leading to the Sovereign forces giving chase and downing the Guardians’ ship on a remote planet. They’re saved from slaughter by a man riding an egg-shaped ship, named Ego (Russell), who reveals he’s Quill’s long-lost father and wants to show him where he came from. While Gamora and Drax join Quill, Rocket and Groot stay behind to repair the ship and keep watch over Nebula, only to be ambushed by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of Ravagers out to collect a bounty on Rocket for thieving from the Sovereign.

After a mutiny derails Yondu’s original plan, he teams up with Rocket, Baby Groot, and Nebula to save Peter (and the galaxy) from the secret plan Ego has in place for his son.

With a kitchen sink approach to characters, plot turns and yacht rock songs, “GOTG Vol. 2” often feels in danger of collapsing under the bloat, but ends up kept afloat mostly by the enjoyment of hanging out with these characters again and the sheer amount of laughs the screenplay doles out. The comedy MVP trophy for this outing is more than earned by Bautista’s hyper-literal Drax, who punctuates nearly every near-death experience with a hearty, infectious laugh. Like a delicious hamburger with so many toppings they spill out all over your shirt when you take a bite, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is often highly enjoyable, but next time around you’d like it all to hold together a little better.

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