Cheapie Tuesdays! — 23rd August 2016

Who wants to pay full price for a movie? Who doesn’t want a pop and popcorn thrown in for free with their movie ticket? Or, at the very least, who doesn’t want in-flight entertainment to distract them from being in a pressurized metal sausage up in the sky? Here are a few movies freshly on the rental and airplane-viewing scene.

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Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

What a tremendous bag of shit! On the whole, I’m pretty forgiving of action movies, but Zac Snyder has an incredible reputation for making garbage (sleazefest Sucker Punch, 300 with its brave white men fighting off the 8-foot brown-skinned homosexual villain, two Soul Asylum videos, etc.) and does not fail to disappoint here. Casting is surprisingly not terrible, overall, and I can even tolerate Baffleck as Batman, but somebody must have been giving Jesse Eisenberg the absolute worst direction on set (“No, no, Jesse, we need more noodley fingers and goofy voices! There, that’s right! Suck all the humanity out of Lex Luthor!”).

The real offenders are a nonsensical script and an overbearing visuals/editing/score combo. This movie isn’t just dumb; it’s relentlessly dumb. Bruce Wayne’s parents don’t just die (AGAIN; god, stop killing Bruce Wayne’s parents, everybody), but they die in extreme close-up and slow-motion detail, with the goddam pearl necklace (always with the pearls) bafflingly wrapped around the barrel of the gun. And we see this very same scene twice! I have to wonder if, like that recent movie short, this movie was written by a robot that had no concept of human motivations, emotions, or social interaction, but could only emulate things it had been exposed to. The fact that this movie’s plot hinges on a number of men groaning the name Martha, over and over, should say it all. I’m sorry for you, Marthas of the world.

The bizarrely good exception to all this wretchedness is Gal Gadot, who manages to make Wonder Woman charismatic, relatable, and nuanced in just a few moments on screen. Even her flirtations with Baffleck are a lot of fun. I have to wonder if Gadot is so successful precisely because she gets so few lines of dialogue from the horrible script, whereas everybody else barfs out endless word salad for almost three hours. Maybe Snyder should stick to directing silent films?

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Point Break (2015)

I was skeptical that this remake could out-stupid the original, but I think it safely wins by virtue of its sheer verve. Here, extreme athlete Johnny Utah joins the FBI after losing his best bro in a tragic accident. Who would have thought that launching a dirtbike across a gaping desert chasm could end so badly? As the rookie, Johnny stumbles into a case where criminals are trying to complete the “Ozaki 8”, a seriously epic circuit of extreme athlete challenges and bullshit spirituality; meanwhile, the criminals are also giving back to mother earth (how, I’m not sure) and sticking it to the man. The smallest wave (CGI, naturally) is larger than the largest wave in the original Point Break (the one that kills poor Swayze), and through science (!) it manages to be in the middle of the goddam ocean. Flying squirrel suits are flown, snowboards carve their way down mountains, and rocky cliff sides are climbed without harnesses. But it turns out the most extreme challenge of all is love, between Utah and his new crime buds, and between Utah and the only woman in the whole fucking movie (named Samsara, naturally). 10/10 on the regrettable-tattoo rating scale. 10/10 for hilarious, incomprehensible pseudo-philosophy bullshit between bros. 10/10 for Delroy Lindo, who is trying so hard to give this movie any dignity whatsoever. Sorry, Delroy.

And yes, somebody rolls over and shoots a gun into the air.

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Keanu

After those last two stinkers, a new Transformers movie would probably seem like Casablanca. But truly, Keanu is pretty great in its own right! The TV sketch comedians Key & Peele take good advantage of the movie format here. You’ll recognize every arc in this movie (up-tight guy gets loose and cool, thereby wooing his wife; unlucky-in-love guy finds romance in unlikely places; drug deals go violently wrong) and the movie isn’t really trying to subvert these narratives. Instead, it’s hilarious in placing its two average black men, complete with their humdrum diction (“You sound like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white man”) and idiosyncratic love of George Michael, in the company of hard-as-nails (and occasionally dumb-as-dirt) gangsters and drug dealers. Everything about their case of mistaken identities is taken to its extreme conclusion, and it’s in Keanu‘s willingness to push ideas that it largely succeeds. Some scenes, which may have only lasted a beat in a sketch comedy piece, are given space to really unfold, and the results manage to be both very funny and satisfying. And did I mention that the whole premise of the movie is to rescue a kitten? Definitely worth watching.

Post-script: I’m currently trapped in a van-style bus for two and a half hours, and there’s somebody in the seat behind me playing out-of-tune ukulele and singing obnoxiously. I would rather watch BvS or Point Break again than listen to another minute of this auditory hellscape. This hippie moment brought to you by the province of British Columbia!

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