Well hey there, everybody! Welcome back to another glorious episode of Best Movie Ever!
In case you haven’t noticed, pickin’s have been kinda slim at the theaters the last couple weeks. So in honor of the release of One Direction: This is Us, Sean and I figured we’d run down our picks for the Best Rockumentary/Music Film Ever! Oh yes, it’s a keeper alright, and we even take some time to get all insightful on yo’ asses with our thoughts on the state of cinema through the eyes of Joss Whedon.
Not sure why, but I also sound like a ghost from time to time and say “like” like crazy this episode. Classic Aiden.
Anywho, there ya’ have it, folks. So without further ado, click that banner up there and listen away!
8/10 Animal Houses
More of this, please.
You’re Next is about an Australian gal who drives out to the country for her boyfriend’s family reunion. Everyone’s there and, as expected, no one’s getting along. They try to play nice for the sake of their parents, but things come to a head during the first family dinner. Brothers are yelling, parents are upset and one of the new boyfriends gets an arrow between his eyes. Once everyone realizes that Tariq’s been assassinated, it puts things into perspective right quick. Panic sets in and they batten down the hatches, but as this family tree gets shorter and shorter, this charming girl from a land down under becomes their best hope for survival.
First, it was The Strangers. Then, it was The Purge. Going off that synopsis, it might not sound like You’re Next is doing much to distance itself from such a disappointing lot. Going off that synopsis, it’s another home invasion movie starring dudes in creepy masks. Under someone else’s direction, you’d probably be right and this vicious cycle of mediocrity would continue on. But thanks to Adam Wingard, it’s good be wrong.
If you haven’t been introduced, Adam Wingard is part of this budding horror collective of sorts that’s been giving us winners like The House of the Devil and V/H/S/2 as of late. While his contribution to the latter wasn’t exactly the standout of the bunch (not enough demon births), it was a solid 15 minutes and a fitting precursor to what he brings to You’re Next.
Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned from The Cabin in the Woods and all the folks that I recommended it to last year, it’s that horror comedies aren’t for everyone. It makes me sad, but I get it. Sometimes, when all you want to do is have the crap scared out of you and into your knickers, running gags from start to end can really kill the mood. Even at its best, it can be a hard balance to strike and an even harder one to sell. So if there’s anything I can say to dissuade you bloodthirsty boys and girls from writing this off as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, it’s that You’re Next is a horror movie, no doubt about it.
As I already mentioned and likely didn’t need to, a lot of people bite it in this movie. Oh it’s gnarly alright, but not just because of how these siblings get offed (though that’s certainly a key factor). Usually in situations like these, the people that die are horny-ass teens too stupid to live. The kicker here is that everyone’s family, so when one of their crew dies, it makes for one hell of a ripple effect.
Pretty ballsy move to go down this road, but that’s why the humor works as well as it does. Trust me, watching this family break down as their sibling/child/significant other bleeds out in the foyer is no laughing matter. It’s some pretty heavy shit. It’s not like Wingard cues up the Benny Hill song every time someone gets an ax to the noggin, but if the laughs weren’t there to lighten the mood, this would be a pretty depressing affair. Rest assured, it’s still quite suspenseful and it’s certainly quite brutal. The laughs aren’t here to screw that up, but they sure work wonders to keep the mellows from harshing.
Speaking of dead relatives, another big bonus is that these characters aren’t stupid. The reasons they keep on dying an’t because they always go into That Room when they really shouldn’t go into That Room. Death becomes them because they’re either in panic mode (an understandable reaction) or the bad guys are one step ahead of them. Not only does this make their demises that much more of a bummer, but it saves my eyes having to roll back into my brain. Rough as it may be, using family members as sitting ducks is a surprisingly effective way to make minor characters matter.
But that’s not even the best part. The best part is the one character here who isn’t a sitting duck.
See that ax-toting Australian badass down there? That’s Erin, and someone ought to give Wingard a high-thirty for not making her a dude. Get Sharni Vinson in on that action for playing her, too. She’s cool under pressure, she’s got skills to the kill the Bills (just go with it) and, best of all, she doesn’t need some douchebag guy to protect her. It’s the first time since maybe Scream that I’ve seen a woman beat the marrow out of her would-be killer like this, which is both phenomenal and disappointing. Man, I am such a sucker for strong, confident, smart women in any walk of life, and film is a world that could always use more.
As for the aforementioned would-be killers, how great are those get-ups? Those things speak for themselves. Love it.
You’re Next is just a really fun movie to play along with. It was fun to keep guessing who was masterminding it all, to jump and laugh at all the same parts with everyone else in the theater. It was a beautiful thing, really, which is something given how gory it tends to be.
If you’re the kind of person who sleeps with one eye open and a gun under your pillow, then I imagine You’re Next will be the scariest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. If you’re more in the market for big scares and cheap thrills, you might be better off with something like The Conjuring. Not that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, it did make me yell “JESUS!” once. But the reason my wife and I had such freaking blast with this movie isn’t because of all the times that it goosed us. You’re Next is a blast because I was plugging my ears from one scene to the next, because I didn’t have to yell at the people on the screen, because I was quoting it and chuckling on the whole drive home.
It’s a new-school take on old-school horror that does a lot of things well and isn’t frustrating in the slightest. May not sound like much, but believe you me, it’s one of the best horror movies I’ll see all year.
Hell of a time.
Thank you, internet. Thank you, record collectors. We owe you one.
A Band Called Death is a documentary about three brothers from Detroit who started a band called Death in the early ’70s. You probably haven’t heard of them, but they were punk before punk was punk and, boy, did they do their thing and do it well. Unfortunately for them, record labels weren’t too crazy about signing a band called “Death” and Death wasn’t too crazy about changing their name. As the rejection letters continued to pour in, their dreams of success started slipping away. So they moved out of Detroit and gave it another go only to hit the same road blocks before going their separate ways. Decades go by, Death is all but forgotten. Then, as fate would have it, a record promoter from way back when stumbles upon their old singles. He sends them to some collectors, they make their way online, and as the masses catch on, Death finds new life.
Now that we live in this brave new world where any song by any artist is just a click away and free of charge, bands like Death are the best kinds of bands. Nothing whatsoever against the bands we all know and love, but there’s nothing like discovering a little-known band that’s been hiding in plain sight all this time. I probably sound like the king hipster of music snobs right now, but it’s truly bands like Death that make the search worthwhile. To this day, there are only a couple bands out there that I consider “mine” – the bands that make me want to start a band, yet, for some reason, (almost) no one knows about them. As tragic as it is that they aren’t household names, it’s a special thing just to be in the know, to be part of a club where, for all you know, you might as well be president.
So when I heard about this movie, I naturally wanted in.
Off the synopsis alone, there are a lot of things worth noting about Death. With the exception of Living Colour, Fishbone and Unlocking the Truth, there aren’t a whole lot of African-American rock outfits out there. Always wondered why that is, and if that shortlist is any indication, we could really use more. Nor is it common for a band to invent a genre only to be utterly forgotten by their peers and the masses once that genre hit the mainstream. Throw in a name that’s as metal as Black Sabbath, and one can’t help but wonder why they never hit the big time? Then again, this isn’t first time fame and talent have eluded each other in this industry.
With that said, one can safely put A Band Called Death up there with the likes of Searching for Sugar Man and Anvil! The Story of Anvil. As far as comparisons go, those ones ain’t too shabby any way you slice ‘em. Unfortunately, it’s these very comparisons that are also the catch.
As much as I love me a good rockumentary, there’s definitely a good amount that following the same formula:
Step 1: Find a kickass band that never made it big even though they should have.
Step 2: Have them tell their story and get them back together, preferably for a reunion tour.
Step 3: Make them famous through the power of film.
Step 4: Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.
Again, hell of a formula, but after watching it play out as many times as I have, it was only a matter of time before I started longing for more. Which brings us to what makes A Band Called Death different from the rest.
The surprising thing about this rock doc is that the star of the show isn’t the music. With a lot of rockumentaries, the people in the band are often defined by the band, being that it’s seemingly the most interesting thing about them. Their life stories are told according to the highs and lows of their careers and getting to see their lives offstage is usually a bonus to equation. As interesting as it is to see a band find fame some 30 years after the fact, it’s even more interesting that to see the Hackney brothers take center stage.
Instead of telling the story about a band called Death that was formed by three brothers, it’s the story of three brothers that just so happened to form a band called Death. It’s not like this approach is simply unheard of, but big ups to the film makers for recognizing that the heart of this story lay with the musicians rather than their music. It also happens to be a wild story to boot.
They can tell it better than I can, but this tale is something to hear. As crazy as it is to see their hopes and ambitions come to fruition from an outsider’s perspective, it pales in comparison to how it plays out from their point of view. This isn’t serendipity at work, this here is prophecy, and it’s plain to see that it means everything to them. Oh, it’s a story alright, and a big part of why it makes for such easy listening is because of the men who tell it.
Simply put, the Hackney brothers are good company. I’ve seen some docs with some real buzzkills in front of the camera and the Hackneys ain’t that whatsoever. These are some happy dudes, always smiling, always laughing and always spreading the love. More importantly, they’ve just got so much love for one another, their faith and optimism is a thing to admire given everything that life has thrown their way and it’s their bond as brothers that makes their lives so compelling. Plus, it’s always refreshing to meet musicians who don’t fall into the mold of the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Double plus, their music’s legit.
It’s as touching a headbanger as I’ve ever seen, folks, and it was an awfully nice surprise. But what I really didn’t expect was how this hit home geographically.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Vermont since moving up here last year, it’s that the world has never been smaller. I can’t tell you how many chance run-ins and random connections I’ve made with people I used to know or who somehow know me since I’ve been up here, way more so than when I lived in Manhattan. I feel like I’m on The Truman Show some days, only there’s more hemp. So when Death starts to burn out and the Hackneys move from Detroit on up to Burlington, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of all the places, there they were: walking down the streets that I walk down every day, working the night shift at the college down the block. Hell, the best sandwich in town is even named after the band their kids started. Doesn’t do much to add or detract for the movie, but it was a weird bonus, man. Nexus of the universe here in Burlington, VT.
Anyhow, where was I? Oh, yes, the stuff that doesn’t solely pertain to people in my area code.
As far as rock docs go, A Band Called Death is a pretty sweet find. Face-melting tunes, brotherly love and a wonderful story that comes with the Henry Rollins stamp of approval? That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. It’s not unexpected in the way that Last Days Here or The Devil and Daniel Johnston are, but if Anvil! and Sugar Man hadn’t come first, I’m dead certain that Verdict would have been a point or two higher. Nevertheless, by no means does that take away from everything that makes the Hackneys’ story so special. Might even come as an epiphany for the right set of ears.
Like I said, these kinds of movies are almost always a sure thing, and with a band like this, you can’t go wrong. After all, what’s not to love about a band called Death? So freaking metal.
3/10 Goddamned Americans
If ever there were a time for Bruce to branch out…
A Good Day to Die Hard picks up with our man John McClane heading off to Russia because his estranged son assassinated some guy and got thrown in the Gulag. Worst. Father’s Day. Ever. As his son is about to testify against a political prisoner as part of a plea deal, the proceedings are interrupted by a terrorist attack on behalf the guys who want the political prisoner dead. Lucky for John Jr., daddy-o shows up just in the nick of time and helps him escape with the prisoner in tow. Turns out, the kid’s been working for the CIA all along, which is a big relief for Pops here. But with the terrorists hot on their trail and some good old-fashioned backstabbing to be had, they’re gonna need to work together and put aside their differences if they don’t want to die…HARD.
To answer your question: I was on a seven-hour flight and the pickins were mighty slim. That’s why.
It’s too bad though, I was actually kind of excited for this before the reviews came in. Like many a folk, I have some pretty fond memories with this franchise, and even though things haven’t been the same since it “surfed the jet,” Die Hard‘s always been a safe bet. Even at its worst, it was still pretty fun. It just wasn’t until now that it became a truly mindless affair.
Although if you’ve had your fill of character and switched over to a strict cleanse of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and infinite ammo, well it’s a very good day, indeed.
Speaking of which, the one big complaint that I’d heard about this from my friend Sean was that John McClane is no longer a one-man army who makes the most of what he’s got. John McClane is now a walking, talking God Mode. Being that the guy’s gotten out of his fair share of binds in the past, I thought it would be a good idea to keep a running tally of all the ways he cheats death this time around. So without further ado, the definitive list of why Johnny Boy lives:
- He dodges an RPG.
- He rolls a pickup trick half-a-dozen times…over other cars. Survives.
- He gets hit by a car head-on, then gets up without so much as a limp and chews out the driver like he’s Lieutenant Dan.
- He drives a Mercedes SUV off a bridge, lands on a car below and proceeds to drive that mofo like a monster truck over the other poor bastards that are stuck in traffic…all while on the phone with his daughter. Pretty inconsiderate from top to bottom now that I think of it.
- He survives a full-blown terrorist attack. Bodies everywhere, man, but not John McClane. He’s alright.
- He rolls aforementioned Mercedes another half-dozen times. Survives again. Double bonus: a great endorsement for Mercedes.
- He asks to be shot at, gets shot at, evades every bullet. Amazing.
- He uses an automatic rifle to single-handedly eliminate an entire Russian task force while firing from the hip and standing out of cover…twice.
- He evades gunfire from a helicopter machine gun that’s aimed directly at him…twice
- He jumps through a glass window, crashes through 10 stories of plywood, walks away with cuts and bruises. Son does the same, also walks it off.
- He jumps through a glass ceiling and into liquid fire. Survives.
Reading it all back, it actually doesn’t sound all that bad. Sounds like another day in the life of John McClane. But alas, there’s something missing this time around. That thing, dear readers, is the man himself.
He looks like John McClane and he’s still got that native New Yorker gruff about him, but being a New Yorker myself, the dude comes off as a shit ambassador. There are even a couple characters that are pretty vocal about how he’s everything that’s wrong with America, and the sad thing is that they’re pretty dead-on. Not counting his one amusing conversation with a Russian cabbie, McClane’s gone from an endearing wise-ass to straight-up loud and obnoxious. In a nutshell, it’s because of people like John McClane that everyone outside of the Big Apple thinks everyone inside the Big Apple behaves like John McClane. I don’t know what happened to the pride and joy of the NYPD, but the nuances that once made him such an endearing badass are now gone with the wind.
But that’s not really Bruce’s fault, that one’s on the writers and director John Moore.
The one-liners are corny, the pacing is a drag, the “clever” plot twists are deserving of the quotation marks and it generally takes itself too damn seriously. Case in point: the father/son relationship that keeps getting pushed to the forefront. I get it, John wasn’t exactly around to play daddy since he was walking around Harlem wearing the N-word on a sandwich board (yet, for some reason, gets along swimmingly with his daughter). Anyway, that’s not the case with John, Jr., so for 98 minutes, we get to watch them patch things up and bond over common interests, like being invincible and murdering people. Not only does it feel out of place, not only does it feel forced, but I couldn’t have cared less as they started to become family.
Seriously, who gives a shit?
Also wasn’t expecting the plot to shift to the Chernobyl disaster in the final Act. An interesting choice, for lack of a better word. And how many times is the good guy gonna get away because the cocky bad guy opted for torture over execution? Enough of that already.
Again, it’s really too bad, even more so because Bruce decided to be part of this. I like Bruce, and I get why he signed on being that he’s the face of the franchise and all. I just wish he would quit selling himself short. Nearly every time he signs on for something, he’s lighting up bad guys with a squint and a smirk. Occasionally we’ll get a Looper out of it, but most of the time it’s more of the same. It’s not the worst strategy to have considering that it’s usually not his performance that brings a movie down, although it really would be great if his turn Moonrise Kingdom wasn’t so against-type. The man’s A-list, he’s got nothing to prove and money to burn. Where’s the harm in diversifying your career?
Just saying, Bruce. The world is your oyster.
So from John McClane’s lackluster entrance to the ending that belongs in a Michael Bay movie, A Good Day to Die Hard is not what this series needed. It isn’t fun, it isn’t engaging and it wasn’t long before it all felt like noise. Yeah, Live Free or Die Hard wasn’t doing itself any favors with that PG-13 rating, but going the way of Rambo is no way to make up for past mistakes. Then again, mistakes are made to be learned from, and with Die Hardest coming to a theater near you, lets hope for Uncle Brucie that they do just that.
Can’t we all just get along?
The Shin Bet is an intelligence organization that was formed in the wake of the Six-Day War and was tasked with preventing terrorism on Israeli soil by eliminating threats in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Gatekeepers is a documentary about six men who headed up the organization during their respective tenures from 1974 through 2011. After decades of attacks, retaliations and fledgling peace talks, the six men sound off on why things are the way they are and how each of them played a role in the conflict’s evolution.
I read a lot of fiction in my free time. As much as I enjoy it, I don’t know why that is. I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before the non-fiction fix kicks in since those are the only books that my parents and grandparents seem to read. Not to mention how hard it is to find a bad documentary and how I can’t say the same about almost every other genre. Anyhow, the primary reason why the bug hasn’t bit is because there are only so many moments and figures in history that make me want to pick up a biography or the like. Such is life in the age of Wikipedia, I suppose.
However, there are always exceptions, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being one of them.
From an early age, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict always struck me as something important, something I should really know more about but always seemed out of reach. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly hitting the books to verse myself on the matter, but there was good reason behind why Google wasn’t helping. Hell, I watched half of this movie before I started it over in the hopes of making heads or tails out of this conflict and its roots.
For a documentary that revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I was hoping for a clear-cut explanation. A fair expectation, so I thought, being that’s how these things usually go. I’d like to say that I could hold a halfway intelligent conversation about it now, but I’m not fooling myself. On any other day, I’d usually count that against a documentary. However, it was a naive expectation to begin with.
It kind of makes me think of the way Inside Job tried to explain what derivatives are, how they work and why they led to one of the worst economic crises in history. There’s so much more to this conflict than the history between Israel and Palestine, and while it can be explained, there’s no easy way to break it all down into mere bullet points. The motivations and actions of those involved are by no means black-and-white and the goal of this film is not to simplify the situation so that viewers like myself can be on the level. Even if you are on the level, there’s nothing simple about it; it’s a conflict mired in grey, and therein lies why The Gatekeepers is so effective.
I’ve often thought about what it must be like to hold a position of power such as the one these men once held. Here in the States, everyone grows up wanting to be the President and wanting to make the world a better place. It’s the ultimate job title, a privilege among privileges that’s idolized for good reason. It isn’t until you get older and start voting that you realize the burden that comes with having the final say on national matters. Even if you are trying to make the world a better place, even if you’re saving lives by eliminating a terrorist threat, you’re still the one who has to make those calls and live with the consequences. You may not be the one who drops the bomb or pulls the trigger, but that blood’s still on your hands. I can’t imagine living with a burden like that.
Needless to say, these six men make for some compelling interviewees.
Director Dror Moreh approaches his subjects in the same way that Errol Morris did in The Fog of War. Each individual recounts how they came into their position, reflects back on the tenures of their peers and is challenged by Moreh on decisions each of them made along the way. The results are as harrowing as the ones we got out of McNamara.
It’s fantastic to hear Moreh press these men on matters that I’m guessing they would have pleaded the Fifth to while in office. I’m so used to seeing journalists throw softballs to whoever’s in front of the camera that I almost forgot they could grow a pair. Speaking of which, it’s crazy – if not strangely refreshing – how frank these men are about the realities of what they were up against and the decisions they made along the way. Being that it seems almost impossible to ever get a straight answer out of anyone in the military or politics, I can only imagine how much stuff these guys had to cover up and deny while they were doing their jobs. So the fact that there were only one or two times where a question was avoided – and even then, someone else was always quick to provide an answer – that’s not something I was used to hearing. That’s something the world could really use more of.
But that’s not to say Moreh is trying to pain these men as anyone other than who they present themselves as, or at least that’s how it seems having just met them. Nor does it present itself as a means to point fingers. It’s the kind of thing you’ll wish every military and political leader would have the gumption to participate in, and while they may not come off in the most endearing of lights, it’s hard not to respect them for speaking their mind. Moreover, there’s an air of respect about the whole process and a common understanding that, with a subject like this, there’s nothing to lose by being honest.
Being a lapsed Catholic of sorts and living in the most secular state in the nation (Vermont of all places), I can’t even pretend to understand what life must be like for an Israeli or Palestinian. At the risk of painting with a broad brush, to say that their faith plays a defining role in their being couldn’t be more of an understatement. When you spend so much of your life in one place, it can be easy to forget how different the lives of others can be. Not only are reminders like these important in respect to understanding and accepting cultural differences that may be different from our own, but, given the context we’re dealing with, they’re a huge step towards understanding the “terrorist” mindset through a different set of eyes.
The great thing about The Gatekeepers is that you don’t need a working knowledge of the conflict’s history to appreciate its weight and the testimonies given. While the finer details of the conflict might elude me for the time being, the benefits of watching this certainly weren’t lost.
But as enlightening as it is, The Gatekeepers is a sobering experience. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I can’t help but hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel here, that the fighting will stop, talking will continue and peace will eventually come to the Middle East. But to see the defeat and inexpression in the faces of these men who have long since arrived at the futility of their efforts, there’s a case to be made for there being no end in sight. However, one can hope and those who can make a difference can always try.
Regardless of where you hail from or how familiar you are with the subject matter, there’s a lot to be learned. It’s a testament to the cycle of violence begetting violence, the weight of which has been and will continue to be felt throughout history. And with the US on the verge of attacking Syria any day now, the takeaways are hardly exclusive to those in Israel and Palestine. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to war, but as the words of these six men will show, lending an ear certainly doesn’t hurt.
Badlands alone was enough to win my vote and I still have yet to watch The West Wing. Sacrilege, I know. Doesn’t hurt that he’s a model citizen either. Seriously, what’s not to like about this guy? Gordon Bombay wouldn’t even exist without him! I rest my case.
Swell voting, folks. You done good.
- Martin: 22 votes
- Emilio: 17 votes (think we’ve got some Mighty Ducks/Night at the Roxbury fans in the house)
- Charlie: 5 votes (poor, poor Charlie)
- “Barry”: 1 write-in vote (truly the unsung hero of the Sheen family)
This is just getting ridiculous.
Jack the Giant Slayer is about a peasant boy from England who, on one fateful day, goes into town to sell the family horse. As fate would have it, nothing goes as planned. The horse gets stolen, he nearly gets killed for crossing paths with the princess, and all he has to show for it is a handful of “magic beans.” He goes back home with his head held low and soon finds out that his beans are no joke. In a mere matter of seconds, a huge-ass beanstalk shoots out of the ground and takes his whole damn home along with it. Not only that, but the damn princess is locked inside because she’d run away from home. Realizing that a beanstalk is no place for a princess, the peasant boy teams up with all the king’s men to rescue the girl and bring her back to safety. They reach the top, survey the land that’s floating in the clouds and soon come to realize that the legends are true. This land belongs to giants, and them giants hold a grudge.
Alright, that’s enough of that.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume I wasn’t the only one throwing shade at this nonsense when they first saw the trailer. I understand the logic that comes with Hansel and Gretel becoming witch hunters, but this? This is a bit much. To its credit, it just now dawned on me that it isn’t in fact based on Jack and the Beanstalk like I originally thought. Amazingly enough, someone in the 18th Century actually wrote a folk tale called Jack the Giant Killer that, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t far off from what this is about. And while it sure would have been nice to know that from the start, that doesn’t make this sound any less stupid.
Am I the only one who was unaware of this? My childhood suddenly feels so…deprived. Anyway, the upside to all this is that Jack starts out strong.
I don’t know about you, but is there a better way to start off a movie than with a Warwick Davis cameo? Of course there’s not, don’t bother debating it. And how about that Nicholas Hoult? No matter how many times I say it, I still can’t believe that’s the kid from About a Boy. The novelty hasn’t faded and he’s turned into quite the leading man to boot. Speaking of broken records, I still and always will have all kinds of time for my man Ewan McGregor. Always great to see him play the occasional badass and, boy, is he rocking some awfully sharp duds. Don’t even get me started on the hair. Ain’t no giant gonna mess with that hair.
And let’s not forget about Stanley Tucci. Too bad his character’s such an under-developed, single-minded prick of a bad guy, but hey, it’s Stanley Tucci we’re talking about. The man can do no wrong.
Bonus points for Ian McShane. Someone give that man more work.
Now that I think about it, it doesn’t start off strong as much as it successfully casts some actors that I like. The only real eyebrow-raiser of the bunch being Bryan Singer in the director’s chair, a casting decision that is by and large the most confusing thing about this movie. Please refer back to the title to fully appreciate the gravity of that statement.
Remember when Bryan Singer was doing stuff like The Usual Suspects and the first two X-Men movies? Those were some good times, huh? Dude had his whole career ahead of him, but for reasons that may forever elude me, he takes the check and signs on for this. Poor guy must be hard up these days because this is so far beneath the man who gave us Superman Returns. That’s right, Superman Returns was good. There, I said it.
I really don’t know why he bothered with this. For a special director who’s wowed us all before. there’s really nothing special about it. Maybe he had kids or something and he’s pulling a George Lucas. Whatever the reason, his name is attached and there’s nothing we can do about it now. Single tear.
So, what can we assume he was at least trying to accomplish here? Well if Jack the Giant Slayer was out to achieve anything, face value implies that it was out to entertain. As nice as that would have been, it doesn’t really happen. Not to say that it’s torture by any means, it just isn’t what I was hoping for: that it would somehow rise above my low expectations. I wanted it to make me laugh on occasion, despite my assumption that it most likely wouldn’t. I wanted the cast to live up to their potential, to infuse this thing with some character that didn’t feel stock. Sadly, these things did not happen.
The whole time I was watching, I was waiting for that moment where disbelief would suspend and this war against giants suddenly wouldn’t seem so ridiculous. After all, I’ve seen my fair share of movies that ended up being surprisingly good despite their own premise. If they could do it, so Jack. Unfortunately for Aiden, this too does not happen.
What we have here is not much more than a by-the-books story that follows another unlikely hero in his quest to save another princess in distress. It’s Super Mario Bros. (the game, not the movie), only way less fun and with more 3D (even though that franchise is now full of 3D). The dialogue’s also stale, there’s a surprising amount of it to be had and there’s only so much the cast can do to save it. As for the laughs, well, that all depends. If your problem with, say, Seinfeld, boils down to a serious lack of boogers and farts, then git ‘er done, this one’s for you. For everyone else, there’s always TBS.
On the bright side, the kids’ll love it. Farting giants and PG-13? What’s not to love? And in case I’m coming off harsher than needed, it’s worth reiterating that this isn’t a bad movie. I saw it on a plane, it served its purpose. But if I hadn’t been taking notes to remember all this stuff, I doubt I would have had this much to say. Jack the Giant Slayer could have been better, but given its goddamn premise and title, it definitely could have been worse. It is what it is and it’s oh so forgettable.
PS: What was up with that dumbass, non-twist of an ending? Seriously, who thinks of this stuff?