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Pitch Perfect

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***

Wanna do something else? We could re-live my parents’ divorce. Or visit a gynecologist.

So this was Jason Moore’s first time directing a movie. That surprised me because this movie seemed really competently put together. The music was good. The acting was good. I was interested in these college students even, if none looked college aged. The story comes from a Mickey Rapkin book that probably has the same name. I want to know if the jokes in that are as bad as they were here. Reading the movie quotes got pretty painful. Moore’s second movie, Sisters, is funnier, so clearly he has a sense of humor, or at least would eventually grow into having one.

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Rebel Wilson in the original Barton Bellas uniforms, in Pitch Perfect (2012).

Anna Kendrick starred as the first year college woman who hesitates before joining her school’s team and innovating them to victory. Rebel Wilson co-starred in a role, “Fat Amy”, that was both a criticism of Mean Girls culture and a contributor thereto, by having her still go for cheap laughs as an unsexy, big girl. Still, she at times she had sex appeal in the movie, even as it sent up the idea of her being sexy at other times. The most consistently funny part of the movie came from the announcing duo of Gail and John, played as whitely as possible by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Maybe that is why she got an opportunity to direct her first movie with Pitch Perfect 2.

Hail, Caesar!

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**½

Hail, Caesar! is a collection of cute moments from talented actors. Maybe it would be best viewed as an extended episode of “Mr. Show with Bob and David”, but those always made me laugh far more than this did. Still, with a cast this stacked, there were bound to be some highlights. I thought that the kind of “in the Navy” Channing Tatum singing and dancing number was delightful. It fits into the story as a glimpse into the action on the set of Capitol Pictures with its executive and fixer Eddie Mannix—Josh Brolin. Brolin is fine as the slightly exasperated but always within control Mannix. There was also a powerful speech where George Clooney, in character, forgets the final words, which makes for a slight laugh, and skewers the idea of the validity of emotion within film, but for what? I was left with several questions when the film ended.

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Clancy Brown and George Clooney playing actors playing Romans in Hail, Caesar!

By having Clooney’s character agree with his communist abductors—yes, one problem Mannix faces is that Clooney gets drugged and abducted by non-threatening communist screenwriters—I figured that perhaps the directors were presenting them in a positive light, but they became so farcical and inept that I wondered why take this shot at communism?

With the negative portrayals of sniveling screenwriters, condescending directors, cowardly or dimwitted actors, was this an indictment of the film industry? I do not see the self-criticism herein, which makes me wonder if I missed something.

One part of the Hollywood film industry that never seems to make it into movies are the investors. Well in this one Eddie Mannix calls New York every day to give them updates. We, the audience, never get to actually hear “the money” speak. Does this represent the disconnect between financing art and creating it? Without hundreds of millions of dollars our film industry would be nothing like how it is now, nor how it was in the 1950’s. But they get no credit in creating the art, does their perceived financial desire totally remove their connection to the art created? The art that legally they have a greater claim to ownership over than the cast or crew.

But the most important question of them all is why choose Eddie Mannix as the hero, of all people?! Eddie Mannix was a real person who was portrayed as a villain in Hollywoodland. Therein the late Bob Hoskins portrayed him with a tender menace. For those who have not seen this gem, it is a biopic of George Reeves (Superman). Who tries to make a cuddly flic like this about a guy whom many believe is a murderer?

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Channing Tatum as Burt Gurney and co singing that “No Dames” number.

Unfortunately when taken as a whole, this day in the life of Eddie Mannix just does not satisfyingly fit together. Oddly it felt more like a lesser Wes Anderson film than a Coen Brothers movie. I leave you you all with the highlight of the film, the words to that Navy song:

We are heading out to sea and however it will be, it ain’t gonna be the same. cause no matter what we see, when we’re out there on the sea, we ain’t gonna see a dame. we’ll be searching high and low on the deck and down below but it’s a crying shame. Oh, we’ll see a lot of fish but we’ll never clock a dish. We ain’t gonna see a dame. No dames! we might see some octopuses No dames! or a half a dozen clams No dames! we might even see a mermaid But mermaids got no gams! No gams! Have I got a girl for you! out there on the sea! Here’s how it will be i’m gonna dance with you, pal you’re gonna dance with me! When we’re out there on the sea we’ll be happy as can be Or so the Captain claims! But we have to disagree. Cause the only guarantee Is I’ll see a lot of you And you’ll see a lot of me! And it’s absolutely certain That we’ll see a lot of sea. But we ain’t gonna see no dames. No dames! We’re going to sea! No dames! We’re going to sea! No dames! We’re going to sea! We ain’t gonna see no Dames!

Suicide Squad

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***

Ames, If this man shoots me, I want you to kill him and I want you to go clear my browser history.

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Ike Barinholtz as Griggs in the Louisiana super prison in DC’s Suicide Squad.

It is no secret that the critical response to Suicide Squad was just as poor as the one to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While I disagreed with many of the conclusions regarding Man of Steel 2’s criticism, Suicide Squad does have almost everything wrong that you have heard. It looks like a movie that was edited by someone other than the writer/director—David Ayer, Training Day. The Joker/Harley Quinn relationship casts Harley as a sexualized tool of the Joker. There appears to have been an entire Harley/Joker movie filmed that got edited way down upon the realization that this could not be a four hour movie. The movie wastes a ton of time with Viola Davis’s bland Agent Amanda Waller, who boringly narrates the clips of the Suicide Squad she has assembled.

Sorry about that, I started to doze off remembering Davis talking. So how can I give this giant shopping cart rolling down a street surrounded by explosions the same *** I gave Man of Steel 2? Well here are my top 5 things I liked about Suicide Squad that totally redeemed this up to being an okay movie:

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Suicide Squad’s Cara Delevingne in June Moone mode.

      1. I like Ike. Ike Barinholtz has this quality that makes you feel like you have not only seen him in something before, but listened to him talk for hours too. This was crucial to the film since he is the first actor we see. He portrays gambling addict superhero prison guard Griggs. His affable nature lets him come across as extra cruel, while still being funny. It sets the tone that the rest of the film wished it could have lived up to.
      2. Do I like Cara Delevingne? Unlike Ike, Cara seemed totally unrecognizable to me (until I watched part of Paper Towns, which looks like a really good movie). Apparently I have seen her before because she is/was a very successful model. Perhaps I did not recognize her because her dual performances as archeologist1 June Moone and the smoky Enchantress were very convincing and distinct. I would have pegged her as a seasoned actress.Scud.jpg
      3. The movie’s logo (especially the Q) reminds me of Scud the Disposable Assassin.2 
      4. Ben Affleck was in this at Batman! I did not realize they got him for this and assumed that it would be some stunt double, but no, I got more Batfleck! Even though he got little to do, he made the most of it.
      5. Lastly, and most importantly, Will Smith and Margot Robbie totally crushed their roles. Everyone has heard about how Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn were amazing. So I want to highlight Deadshot, who, despite being played by the biggest movie star of my lifetime, Will Smith, got less press. I suppose that Deadshot does wear a mask—think of a laconic, unscarred Deadpool who never misses a shot—and does not look like Margot Robbie, especially not when she is dressed like they had her dress for this movie, but this is Will F’n Smith! They were so good it made me consider watching their previous movie together, Focus, but somehow that one seemed like too much of a waste of time to watch. This one, on the other hand, is only a waste of time compared to better movies.

1 Read: “Indiana Jones”.
2 I do not remember why I liked that comic book, but it was cute and different. Kind of like Cara Delevingne! Okay, she needs to get cast in something again soon. I see she is going to be in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets but Luc Besson or not that sounds just awful. And it stars Dane DeHaan, whose Amazing Spider-man 2 is the only movie of his I have managed to finish watching.

Now You See Me 2

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**½

Have I ever told you about the guy who screwed me over everything? This is my twin brother Chase.

The returning Jack Wilder and J. Daniel Atlas (Dave Franco and Jesse Eisenberg) are joined by Lula (the always charming Lizzy Caplan) and are trying to sneak past Allen Scott-Frank (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) in Now You See Me 2, © 2016 Lionsgate.

The returning Jack Wilder and J. Daniel Atlas (Dave Franco and Jesse Eisenberg) are joined by Lula (the always charming Lizzy Caplan) and are trying to sneak past Allen Scott-Frank (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) in Now You See Me 2, © 2016 Lionsgate.

As the credits rolled on this I decided that this sequel, which returned six of the main characters from the original was surprisingly more engaging than the original.1 The story had me wondering how it would all wrap up and it pretty much pays off, except that the ending retroactively wasted Daniel Radcliffe’s good performance. I blame the director, Jon M. Chu, as sequel specialist, for that. In fact, much like in the first film, this one has lots of arbitrary choices that are presented as ingenious later. When done correctly, this gives us Hercule Poirot with David Suchet, when incorrectly presented you get…well, what is a crappy version of Poirot? “Elementary”? Well this was more in the second camp, but it was a fun ride and I wanted to find out how it all would fit together, so it was still an enjoyable movie.

1 By more engaging I mean that I was more engrossed in the movie. So, while The Empire Strikes Back is a better movie than A New Hope, I am not sure it caught my attention like the original. X-Men 2 hooked me more though, but that was also a better movie. The Bourne Ultimatum (#3) is a good example.