Sorry To Bother You

Sorry to Bother You is one of those films that sort of snuck up on me with a roar. I heard idle mentions of it earlier in the year, but didn’t go out of my way to do further research.

I knew the star. I guessed the theme. And yet none of that would prepare me for the trailer.

The trailer felt very fresh and told me that this. Would be a movie with a lot going on. A sort of extreme satire, maybe very political, but whatever it is it has a message and will be both subliminal and superliminal with that message.

I was excited and ready for this screening, without really knowing what it might give me.

Japan
I am getting a Japan / sumo wrestler headband vibe here.

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is your regular, down on his luck, poor, brother. He is living in a garage in the house of his uncle (Terry Crews), with his long term girlfriend artist (Tessa Thompson), and they aren’t having a lot of luck making money.

But Cassius is able to get a job working as a telemarketer, working for commission. It is better than nothing. And he has the promise that if he does good, he can go to the top floors of the company. He can ride in the special elevator. He can be a “power caller,” and make the big bucks. No one really knows what they sell up there, but it ain’t magazines and book sets.

Cassius is told to just stick to the script, don’t get out of line, and make money. Once he makes money, he can make more money and more and be a success for once. Especially if he taps into his white person voice.

Starring David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Lily James, Forest Whitaker, and Rosario Dawson! Or at least their voices. Also starring Jermaine Fowler, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Armie Hammer, Robert Longstreet, Danny Glover, Kate Berlant. and Michael X. Sommers, that would be their voices and their bodies.

Drinks
This is how white people drink champagne.

Strangely enough, the trailer for Sorry To Bother You only gave you a slice of the whole story, so I tried to do the same with my plot. There is a whole lot more that goes into this story. Topics of slavery (multiple levels) , class warfare, poverty, selling out, and American indifference to clear wrongs in the world. This movie coming out now is extremely well timed given the border problems that keep getting swept away by other media distractions.

It is not a film to use subtle clues to drive the point home. No, these clues are obvious, with a hammer. Fuck, one of the most uncomfortable scenes was the precursor to a “rap” where the chants, the disparity of the cast, made everything all too real and uncomfortable.

Stanfield is amazing in this film as our lead. His senses will probably always align with the audience on the scale of what is right and wrong and when to finally draw the line. Oh yes, you will know when that line is drawn. It was good seeing Yeun in a role very different than his previous work. Thompson was great. Hardwick was as well, despite more limited time, and Hammer was a blast going full crazy CEO for this film.

Unfortunately, areas do feel a bit clunky and jarring. Especially in the end, time seems to go by strangely and not everything seems to have the same attention to detail as earlier on in the film.

Sorry To Bother You will be looked back as an important work, with extreme topics in order to get the point heard loudly.

3 out of 4.

The Post

It is very hard for me to feel unbiased when watching a movie about sexy journalism. Especially if that is a story about real life sexy journalism, not made up who gives a shit journalism (Fake News?). Spotlight was something that felt like a slow burn, but ended so strong, with the good guys (the journalists, always), winning and doing the right thing. All The President´s Men felt very real and told the story about how Watergate was discovered and put into the papers. Another fantastic story.

And now out of nowhere we have The Post. This is a film that didn´t receive hype all year before coming out. It felt like sort of a secret movie, and that is bizarre given that it was directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg loves his period pieces, three of his last four films were Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and War Horse, all of which I have varying opinions on.

Needless to say, given how little I knew about this film (and despite my journalism love), I had very low expectations for this movie. Low yes, despite the people involved. In my eyes, they haven´t necessarily produced the best work over the last few years, and this could be a very mediocre movie overall. (Much like my thoughts of Bridge of Spies).

gROUP
Actual future footage of the cast waiting around to hear Oscar news.

Back in the 1960´s, the US was in a really shitty war in Vietnam. People were dying by alarming numbers, we were not winning the war, it was dreary, miserable, jungles, and what not. It made a lot of people sad and angry, including a point when people began to protest almost constantly the idea of that war.

One man, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), was sent over to record and write and determined that a lot of what was going on was lied about to the American public. Not just current administration, but for decades politicians said one thing and did another. He had access to a private report on the war, of which he slowly made copies of over time. And years later, he was starting to strike.

That is when the New York Times, with several months to comb over the report, began giving details from the report, about how the people were lied to, in their paper, causing quite a ruckus in the US. This in 1971, with Nixon still as president. It caused such a ruckus that Nixon decided to get the Attorney General to put a hold on their articles about these leaked documents, until legal matters could be settled, the first time in American history that the executive branch tried to control a press so overtly.

And that is a big deal.

Enter in the team from The Washington Post. Led by their owner/publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) who has lived her life in her father´s shadow, and husband´s shadow (who took over after her dad), who is never really sure if she is competent to lead a paper. Their main editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) wants to turn their paper into a national paper, to be a leader not a follower of the times, and wants to use this legal battle to fuel their own paper and report on the same report despite what the president says. It is time to stop toeing the line and to start asking the hard questions. The American people deserve that. Can´t stop that first amendment!

Also starring this grand bunch of actors: Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Zach Woods, David Cross, Jesse Plemons, and Pat Healy.

Action SHOT
Don´t worry, we still get sexy shots of people lounging in offices.

On one hand, given my status as a self proclaimed movie buff, I start to assume I k ow directors personally. Since this movie honestly felt like a secret, I assumed it would be a quick piece by Spielberg that doesn’t have a lot of heart around it. But I was pretty wrong.

Now sure, the beginning was a little bit slow, with some necessary Vietnam backstory and death. Spielberg loves his wars. And then we have to introduce the many players at the Post and their conditions at the time. I know I certainly didn’t know they were not a major player in the 1960’s. It is important but it isn’t sexy.

It gdfs sexy eventually, as we see them sort of luck into these documents with a few individuals with some gusto. But really the second half of the film is where the gold was at. As soon as they get the documents, most of the film takes place over the one day as they look for stories, deal with lawyers, have to convince the board and so on. It was incredibly thrilling! Edge of my seat despite knowing the outcome. The heart and soul were there.

On another note, I was originally really angry at Spielberg for having so many passive lame women characters in this movie. Paulson felt wasted! Afterwards, it was still a bit awkward, but it is clear it was done intentionally as a mini theme. In order for Streep’s personal fears to make more sense, Spielberg constructed these roles to really drive home what was still expected of women at this point in history. It is annoying, but on purpose.

Overall, The Post is a very solid film and less obvious piece of history. I cannot wait for them to start adding on to the Investigative Journalism Extended Universe.

3 out of 4.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Animated films can take a long time to make. It takes years to get all of the CGI right, and pretty. It does not take a lot of time to record dialogue, or figure out the plot (Unless you are The Good Dinosaur). But all the technical work making sure every frame is wonderful and all the characters are as you had hoped. Years and hundreds of people at work.

Technically it only takes years if you care about the final product. That is why we had Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue less than a year apart. The animators didn’t care.

There was a five year gap between Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. And you know that is not because the voice actors were too busy for lines. Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011 was the prettiest film of all the CGI movies. Prettier than Rango and Puss In Boots. If they wanted to not just recipricate the second movie but surpass it, you can bet your ass it would take them years of work.

I am rambling. All I am trying to say is I expect this film to shit rainbows and make my eyes bleed in wonder. A sweet villain would also be delightful.

Kai
Creepy and promising! Me likey.

As we know from the end of 2, there is a secret panda village somewhere and Po (Jack Black) doesn’t know about it. He won’t care about it until a mysterious panda, Li (Bryan Cranston) shows up to the valley. He is looking for his lost son. Could it be?! Yes, yes it could be.

Great news! Now Po can show his dad all the cool dragon warrior stuff, and make his Foster Dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong) feel incredibly sad and jealous. Also Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) plans on retiring so he can focus on himself and find his Chi to do even better Kung Fu, leaving Po in charge of training the five (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jackie Chan). But he can’t teach.

Even worse? Well, Kai (J.K. Simmons) has escaped from the Spirit Realm! Who? He used to be a friend of Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) 500 years ago, even saved his life! But he got jealous of Oogway when he was taught to harness Chi from the mystical Panda village and wanted the power for his own, so he had to be put down in a jealous fury. Well, he eventually figured out how to steal Chi in the spirit realm, defeating all former masters and now he is back to the real world to defeat any and all would be challengers.

Jeez. Now Po has to learn Chi to defeat Kai. But it took Oogway 30 years! And Shifu can’t! Time for Po to go to his homeland. To determine how he can be the most Panda he can be, to learn what he has been missing all his life. To really become the Dragon Warrior.

Also featuring Kate Hudson as a ribbon dancing Panda.

Armor
And of course this rhino panda bird metal hybrid warrior! Don’t forget about him!

This part of the review is actually really hard to write. How many times can I say how beautiful this movie is? I don’t want to look in a thesaurus but I believe everything I say about the CGI and art style will just sound repetitive. Gorgeous, detailed, beautiful, wonderful and wunderbar, eye orgasmic. The best part that this Kung Fu movie is animated is they can show amazing fight scenes and nothing gets lost to blur or shaky camera. We can see every punch and kick. Every fantastic movement. And it is awe inspiring. Just like the previous films, the entire thing isn’t just CGI, they have other art styles to show within back stories which give it more traditional feels.

Fuck its so pretty.

Okay. Sorry. I will stop.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is sadly not perfect. A lot of the early film is wasted. Part of the charm of sequels for action films like this is that we don’t have to waste our time with origin stories. But this film has us sit through Po being bad at teaching, then he is has to do the long Panda training. The Panda training in particular, discovering his family and friends, just takes so much time and makes me lose interest in Po. The twists that show up during the village are also quite obvious, so we don’t even get the benefit of a nice shock.

The villain is awesome, although we don’t get to see enough of him doing bad things. The spirit realm was awesome and allowed the film to add more magical components to the franchise. Making “Chi” the big new thing feels a bit strange. I think KFP2 added that he needed Inner Peace and the Chi concept just feels like the same thing again. I don’t want each film to be Po learning something bigger to defeat a new threat. That isn’t original. Although I don’t know if there will be any more films after this one, given the ending.

Oh well. Pretty franchise. Pretty good. Not perfect.

3 out of 4.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

I know I know, why would someone review Chipwrecked when it is in the middle awards caliber movie time? Why something from 2011 at the end of 2015?

Well, I like to review anything I watch that came out within the last 5~ years, that way my recreational viewing isn’t completely “wasted.” And I had to watch a bunch of these movies to prepare for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, coming out soon! I can’t go into that movie without knowing what happened in the first three movies. I’d be missing out on hours of plot!

As a quick recap, I liked the first movie enough because of the Christmas and Witch Doctor songs. Classic, not just new pop music all chipmunky. It had a bad acting love interest though. The second film was bad, it felt like an episode of a TV show and very little happened. And Zachary Levi was downright terribad. Now we have Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which I thought was…oh wait. Yeah. Review.

Alvinnnnn
Hmm. Yeah, review. Let’s get on that. This is what the people want.

The gang all here? Dave (Jason Lee) is actually in this movie and not awkwardly replaced by someone who looks like a younger Dave. That’s good. And they are going on a vacation cruise to then go to some vague foreign country for an International Music festival! Huzzah!

We have Theodore (Jesse McCartney), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), Eleanor (Amy Poehler), Jeanette (Anna Faris), Brittany (Christina Applegate), and of course Alvin Alvin Alvin (Justin Long).

But guess what, they get annoying and bad things happen. Next thing you know, they are all stuck on a kite and headed out to sea! Oh no! Not Dave, he can’t be on a kite. But he does jump in after them to save him, getting himself into a pickle as well.

Next thing you know, they are on a deserted island. Not super deserted, because the chipmunks meet Zoe (Jenny Slate), who apparently is a female version of Cast Away and has been on the island for 8-9 years. She is very clean and has a sweet hut.

Eventually a volcano will happen and some other bad things. Simon gets bit by a poisonous spider, which changes his personality to the outgoing Simone (Alan Tudyk), who yes, apparently needs a new actor to speak for him.

Also David Cross is in this one, again, because they need more boring plot lines I guess.

Sexy
Not to be confused with their sexually confusing plot lines.

The third Alvin and the Chipmunks movie ends up being everything I expected. Which was very little and and bad plot.

But hey, at least some of the songs were good. They packed a bunch in the first half, because they were too busy to sing when “scary” things were occurring. The songs are the only real redemable part.

The villain was lazy and dumb, especially when they already had a volcano. Bringing back Cross was a complete waste, although he ended up having the best lines. I am stoked he isn’t in the next film.

Technically this film seems like it is more about Simon and Jeanette, which is a good change from the Alvin/Brittany show. This makes me hope that the spotlight shifts towards Theodore/Eleanor in the next film, which would make its existence at least a little bit worthwhile.

Hopefully they make it more entertaining than just some catchy song choices and an actual good plot.

1 out of 4.

Obvious Child

I knew something was up when I went to my screening of Obvious Child. Two things were of note.

One, I was invited to a free screening of a film, that technically was already released in theaters the week before. Most of the time free screenings are before they are out, to build hype and stuff, but this could just be an indie movie thing.

Two, the tickets I had were sponsored and given out by a Pro-Choice group. Huh. That is an oddly specific group to sponsor a show time. I guess…this movie…is about abortion?

That isn’t an issue or something. But it is basically all I knew about the movie going into it. Like Citizen Ruth.

Stand Up
Obviously.

This movie is about a few months in the life of Donna Stern (Jenny Slate). She is a stand up comic, works at a hipster book shop in NYC, and isn’t doing too much with her life. Just telling jokes about how it is. Well, her boyfriend doesn’t like this path and doesn’t like to be talked about in front of strangers. So he breaks up with her. And then she finds out her book store that she works at is closing.

So she does what anyone would do, get really drunk and avoid her problems. If by avoid her problems, I mean talk about it on a stage, of course. Either way. She sexes up a guy, Max (Jake Lacy) who is very nice, and apparently the rubber wasn’t used. She gets pregnant, has a few panic attacks to add to her problems, and wants an abortion. The abortion isn’t even the scary part. It is the telling of her mom (Polly Draper) and getting the money together when she is already losing her jobs. At least she has friends (Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman) for support.

But why does that fucker Max have to be such a nice guy?

Richard Kind is in here as her dad and David Cross as an old friend.

Box
I think this scene is a metaphor for birth. But I think that about all boxes.

The main selling point for Obvious Child is its realness, and it really excels at that point. Really.

Everything in this story feels like something that could actually happen. That is where it gets all of is charm and humor from. The humor is pretty funny, both in a “ha ha funny” way, and a “I am uncomfortable by their awkwardness” kind of way.

And really, there isn’t much more to say about it? The film is funny and incredibly awkward. It is about abortion, but doesn’t make it a big life changing event, just turns it into something that has to happen. And hey, it involves that guy who joined The Office for its final season, so that was cool too.

3 out of 4.

Year One

There comes a time in Cinematic History where certain movies seem to leap bounds and fountains over the rest of the movies in that year. Unfortunately, these films are not always recognized for their greatness, and therefore never watched, like Little Shop Of Horrors.

In 2009, with such treasures like Avatar, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, Twilight: New Moon, and 2012, one film was overlooked. One film was passed on the side of the round (or trampled by the lazy). That film of course, was Year One.

Yellin
YES. YEAR ONE. LET ME SHOUT ABOUT IT NOW FOR YOU.

No, I won’t actually shout.

This film is set in history, maybe roughly 1 AD, but that is a rough estimate.

In it, we have Zed (Jack Black), a bad hunter, and Oh (Michael Cera), an okay gatherer. Zed is feeling unloved, so he eats from the forbidden fruit tree to gain all the knowledge of good and evil! Well, that goes badly, and they are kicked out of the tribe. Now he will never get it on with Maya (June Diane Raphael), and Oh won’t be able to impress Eema (Juno Temple).

On their travels, they find that the world is actually a much bigger place than they thought. They run into Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), and things (obviously) escalate from there.

They find themselves on run from an angry village, learn about the wheel, and end up in Sodom and Gomorrah where orgies occur nightly, and lets not forget about the sodomy. They not only join the city guard, but also become trusted slaves and chosen ones of the royalty. Queen Inanna (Olivia Wilde) takes a personal interest in Zed, to figure out just what the priest is up to.

Can the Chosen One and Oh save the day with their now stunning intellect? Or you know, will they just be sacrificed for rain? Also featuring Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, and Hank Azaria.

Cast
Don’t make that face. Vinnie Jones isn’t that bad.

I am agog, I am aghast, that I took this long to see this film. Especially when I bought it about a year ago and have had no real good reason to avoid it (other than, you know, other movies to watch). But this may not only be the finest movie I have seen with Jack Black, but Michael Cera as well, and he was in Superbad! Shit. That is why I had to move up my review o this movie. Originally it would be in two weeks, sine I am behind on posting current theater movies, but I really couldn’t let another day go by.

One major reason to talk about this movie is David Cross, who probably gives an Oscar worthy performance as Cain. He has to live with the guilt of killing his brother, living a life of sin and sadness, while at the same time, dealing with two primitive numbskulls who don’t understand how “modern” society work. I bet the only reason he was overlooked is because it is a comedy, and outside of Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, they usually ignore them.

Wilde
Now I know why she has taken on a lot of bad roles since 2009. She just can’t live up to her past great work in this movie.

Year One reminds me of why I love Olivia Wilde, despite her recent mess ups. What a beautiful creature.

Basically, if you had seen Year One (and statistics show that you probably have not), you would know that every line is an ounce of wit, that popularized Arrested Development back in the day, and currently categories some great comedies like Modern Family and Archer.

Yes, it is historically inaccurate, but that should be a given when it also includes stories from The Bible.

I think I am going to have to forgo going to any future movies until Jack Black and Michael Cera are put in another movie together. Their chemistry (bromance?) seems to have towered over any comedic duo that I have seen before. Yes, even more so than David Spade and Chris Farley.

This movie changed my life in more ways than one (I’d say about four). Hopefully one day it can change your life too.

4 out of 4.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Dreamworks is known as the CGI-animation company that is not Pixar. More or less, everything Pixar does is instantly praised, while everything Dreamworks does is hated on. Sure, Pixar has more good movies, but damn it, Dreamworks has some good ones too.

Like the first
Shrek. And Kung Fu Panda. The first one got about fifty sequels, the latter so far only has Kung Fu Panda 2. And it is more epic than the first.

Chop KICK YEAH
But Kung Fu Panda also lead to the worst rip off in recent years.

The plot of the movie is similar to the first. Someone is kicking a lot of ass and is evil, and needs to be stopped. This time, instead of training montages and noodle shops, Po (Jack Black) starts out as a kick ass warrior. The dragon warrior! Which we all know he became later in the first film. Now we get to ignore all of that, and go straight into lots of fight scenes.

One of the central plots is that Po realizes the goose is not his real dad! Shocking, I know.His parents were killed as a boy and he was orphaned. Killed by who? A peacock. Or at least an evil peacock (Gary Oldman). While they originally thought his threat was dealt with, he has been hiding away, building an army of wolves and gorillas, and making a weapon that renders kung fu and other fighting types useless. (Its based on fireworks, aka pretty).

Speaking of pretty, the CGI in this movie is fantastic on Blu-Ray. Everything was wowable, and noticeably better than the effects in the first movie. In addition to the normal CGI, during flashbacks to Pos youth, they used a more traditional style of Asian cartoon work, and it was pretty damn nifty. I’d have liked it if the beginning had a story similar to the one Po made up in the first to open the film. Had some of the better lines.

The same gang from the first film is also back, Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan) and Tigress (Angelina Jolie). I still don’t like Tigress though.

The end of the movie also does what a lot of movies try to do and fail. Give us both a full story, and set up a possible sequel. I have reviewed numerous movies that have focused more on setting up a sequel than giving a satisfactory ending. But this one does a nice job and I want there to be a Kung Fu Panda 3.

Panda 2
Oh don’t look so shocked Po. I will let you wait at least three years first.

Overall? The fight scenes are pretty great and creative. I am sure Chan had a lot of influence on how they were developed, since he has a knack for that sort of thing. They were also comedic enough to laugh without taking away the seriousness of the fights/plot. Everything was weaved together well, plot, action, backstory, effects. Just the “inner peace” plotline seemed forced. Or Po is just that awesome. Not sure.

3 out of 4.