Sunday, January 5, 2014


We're back!

Direced By: Anthony C. Ferrante (other SyFy Channel movies)
Starring: Ian Ziering, Cassie Scerbo, and Tara Reid
Plot Summary: "I would like to see the screenplay for this. Because it seems like their goal was, 'What can we do to make 'sharks in a tornado' last 90 minutes?'"

There is nothing we can give you for set-up on this one. The poster ("ENOUGH SAID!") and the trailer tell you everything you need to know. So, because SyFy Channel life is an a surreal, nonsensical state of being that punches the "science" half of science-fiction in the crotch, here are the facts:

--There are no hurricanes or tornadoes in Los Angeles, California. That's not a thing. That's why "TORNADOES IN LA?!" was such a big deal in The Day After Tomorrow.
--Wild animals have a tendency to say "DEUCES" to the rest of us in the event of a major storm, and even if they didn't, sharks don't swim far enough inland for any of this to happen.
--Sharks don't travel in packs, so there's no way in hell there'd be this many of them together, at any point, anywhere.

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"On a scale from 1 to 'we should've known because Tara Reid's in it,' how intense do you think this is gonna be?" 
--"Samuel L. Jackson needs to be here screaming about how he doesn't have time for this s***."
--"This guy looks like the gay porn version of a fisherman. Like, is that a Burberry trench coat?"
--"I have stuffed-animal sharks that look more realistic than this."
--"Jasmyn. JASMYN!" / "I... I don't... I can't even..."
--"Whoever's still in the water at this point deserves a shark attack."
--"I'm mad this dude's name is Finn; number one, because that's corny, and number two, because all the other Finns I've seen are either cool or cute."
--"We are really going to need to address the graphics at some point." / "That last shark looked like it was made of Play-Doh."
--"I'm mad about Global Warming because of all the bad movies it has inspired."
--"That dude looked like a Sim getting attacked, f*** these graphics."
--"I'll always remember that Cory Monteith's final two tweets were about Sharknado."
--"They had to do this in LA because East Coast people won't take this s***."
--"I like that no one is asking how this is possible." / "Because they know WE'RE asking how this is possible."
--"That shark just apparated." / "Seriously, where the f*** are they coming from?"
--"Aww, Tara, they let you act!"
--"Was a car explosion really necessary? I mean, you have sharks falling out of the sky."
--"Oh, here we go! Here we go, there it is! SHARKNADO!"
--"Why does this car have a nitro button? This is not Crash Bandicoot Racing."
--"I would sacrifice a child to star in a SyFy Channel movie."

"I know this is a strange comment, but not enough people are dying. For a movie called Sharknado, very few people are actually being eaten by sharks."

Someone exercised an unexpected level of restraint here. We thought we'd see someone randomly get chomped every ten minutes, for all the crazy "SHAAAARKNAAAADOOOOOOO" hype of the trailer and the poster, but after the initial descent of flying sharks, things calmed down a bit. There even came a point where they acknowledged the improbability -- *cough* IMPOSSIBILITY  *cough* -- of the weather situation, when the news anchor stated it was the first hurricane to hit LA. Nobody said anything about the shark part of it, but whatever.

Here's the crew we followed through the movie: bar-owner Finn (Ziering), his employee Nova (Scerbo), their Aussie surfer friend Baz (because that was apparently the first Australian the writers thought of), and Finn's ex-wife and family (Reid, a teenage daughter, and eventually a son). Nova -- my (Jasmyn's) favorite -- was a trigger-happy bartender with a shotgun and a vendetta against sharks because of an attack she survived (with survivor's guilt, after everyone she was with died) some years back. Sarah's favorite was George, an old drunkard who pretty much lived at Finn's bar, but George, unfortunately, didn't make it.

Now, we need to briefly address the real flaw of the movie: the distractingly awful special effects.

Sarah: "GUYS, THAT'S NOT HOW SCARS LOOK! AT LEAST NOT OLD SCARS! I've got old scars, they're not pretty, but they sure as hell don't look like that!"
Jasmyn: "That scar looks like he was supposed to have gangrene ten years ago. That scar looks like it formed an air bubble and, somehow, he got cum stuck in it and it solidified."

This is the scar in question:

You can see the CGI fail in the trailer, but as Sarah said, the movie could have been properly gory if the sharks looked like sharks.

The Best Part: The side characters who ended up dying were hilarious. We loved drunk old George, as well as a funny schoolbus driver and a conspiracy-theorist gas station attendant. We were also really glad that Baz didn't make it out either, because he was annoying.

The Worst Part: For all the money SyFy saved on advertising (all they had to do was say "Sharknado" and Twitter did the rest), we hope that in the rumored sequel, they spend whatever they can on the graphics. Seriously, human-hungry sea creatures falling out of the sky would be a terrifying scenario if we weren't laughing at the animated fish-tank toys they were passing off as sharks.

Regarding the greatest absurdity here, the solution that Nova and Finn's son, Matt, come up with, which is to fly a helicopter around the sharknado and drop explosives in it to blow it up... Why the hell not? The way we see it, if you're living in a reality where a sharknado is possible, you're also living in a reality where throwing dynamite into a tornado to disperse it is possible. So, if we accept the circumstances in which this movie is happening, of course that solution makes sense.

You cannot watch Sharknado with a logical eye. So, once we put the insanity aside, once we embraced the sharknado and all that it was, we weren't too bothered by the fact that Nova gets eaten whole by a shark that later, BY COMPLETE COINCIDENCE, ends up being the shark Finn throws himself into with a chainsaw and then saws his and Nova's way out of. In fact, Sarah's only question at that point was, "How did he do that without cutting Nova?"

Sharknado is fun. Sharknado is the kind of movie that's at the core of why we started Camp or Crap? in the first place. It succeeded in what it set out to do, and it's so hilariously bad it's good, so we give it a B.

Now, for bonus fun, listen to the Sharknado theme song that plays over the end credits, "The Ballad of Sharknado." Yes. This happened.

 (Poster and trailer © The Asylum and Southward Films)

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Directed By: Martin Brest (Meet Joe Black, Beverly Hills Cop)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Bartha
Plot Summary: ""How are there 45 minutes of story left?" / "I don't know, since there haven't been 45 minutes of story YET."


Gigli (Affleck) is a completely inept, low-level gangster. Known all over town as "a f***-up." His boss directs him to kidnap Brian, the mentally-retarded brother (Bartha) of a federal prosecutor, as a threat, so they can stop the big boss from going to prison. However, Gigli sucks at everything, so Ricki (Lopez) is also hired to take charge. Which begs the question, why keep messing around with Gigli in the first place? Whatever. Okay. The two watch Brian, and Gigli falls for Ricki, but Ricki's a lesbian, and nothing else really happens.

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"Jesus f***ing ballsacks, we're really watching this right now."
--"Is this Weather Channel music?"
--"Does he have chest hair, or is there something on my computer?"
--"He looks like a damn Grand Theft Auto character. Like, 'It's Vice City in this bitch!' Except Tommy Vercetti would've f***ed him up."
--"Is this a comedy? This can't be a comedy."
--"IS THAT THE DUDE FROM THE NEW NORMAL?! Oh my God, bless you, Justin Bartha, honey, why are you in this movie?"
--"Bennifer: a pop culture travesty if there ever was one."
--"I don't understand why he's mentally handicapped, story-wise. Like, is that just to get on Gigli's nerves? And, if so, can we not imply things like that about handicapped people, please?"
--"I feel like I'm delirious, like this can't be a movie."
--"Can we write George Clooney a letter about this? I know he had nothing to do with it, but he's friends with Ben, and I think he could help."
--"Who wrote this dialogue, a potato?"
--"This is like a long car ride without a radio." / "With blacked-out windows." / "Through Indiana."
--"I hope Matt Damon saw this and laughed in Ben's face."


You know, back when Sarah and I started this project, this was the one movie that made me second-guess committing to this. I thought, "God, we're going to have to watch Gigli at some point." We still weren't prepared. We spent most of this experience screaming, laughing, or crying as a result of either. It's billed as a romantic comedy, but it was neither romantic, nor funny. At all. The titular character is obnoxious, there's no plot, there are a million pointless monologues, some rando shows up for one scene and slits her wrists in Gigli's kitchen, the score is hideous, the writing is garbage, and we're pretty sure a brick wall and a cactus would have better chemistry than Ben and Jen.

Now, two very important things need to be addressed: the uses of Brian's mental handicap and Ricki's lesbianism. Both of these traits, for want of a better word, seem to only exist as foils for Gigli to overcome, which is downright offensive. Gigli spends most of his time around Brian yelling at him, and calls him names. The whole approach towards Brian -- the most charming character in the entire movie -- reeks of, "Oh, jeez, gotta babysit the retard." Really? REALLY? 

Is that supposed to be Gigli's character development? Learning to act like a human being towards Brian? It must be, since Gigli falling in love with Ricki sure as hell doesn't count. When he first questions Ricki's orientation, in the douchiest, most misogynistic way possible, he tells her how women can never really be satisfied sexually without a penis getting involved. My first thought was, "Oh, he doesn't understand oral at all, does he?" which Ricki then pointed out, and then she explained -- in a stressfully long-winded speech -- the appeal of going down on a vagina. As straight ladies, this was certainly a different perspective for Sarah and I to hear in a mainstream movie, but there were some questions:

1) Ricki's main point was that everyone, man or woman, wants to kiss someone on the lips because that's basically what a vagina looks like. Can anyone who's attracted to vaginas clear this up for us? Because neither of us equates a vagina with a mouth and wants to kiss it...
2) I call shenanigans on that being her main point, because I don't believe there's a woman on this planet, especially not a lesbian, who would wax poetic about labia for ten minutes and completely ignore the clitoris.

Anyway, Gigli's all, "Oh, you just haven't had a guy treat you right!" The fact that they run away together in the end serves to prove him right. We didn't believe their romance for a second, both because of their lack of spark and the fact that the movie presented no reasons in Gigli's character for Ricki to fall for him, other than the fact that he was there. Sure, sexuality can be fluid, but this particular display just fosters that age-old, Frustrated Straight Man Rage towards lesbians with the sexist notion that women only choose women because they never found the right man.

The Best Part: Justin Bartha, Christopher Walken, and Al Pacino are in this movie, and they're great.

The Worst Part: Everything else.

Sarah apologized multiple times for suggesting we do Gigli next. However, it had to be done, and now it never, ever, ever has to happen again.

Ben Affleck, you're an Oscar-winning writer. How could you have read this script and thought this was something you needed to be part of? Shame on you, Ben Affleck. SHAME ON YOU.

It's an F-.

Sarah: "I'm really upset about everything we just watched. I think I need to go to bed."
Jasmyn: "No! We're going to churn out this review. I don't wanna think about this movie past tonight."

(Poster and trailer © Revolution Studios)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Sarah and I have a very specific set of personal biases to get out of the way:
1. Jeremy Renner
2. Jeremy Renner's ass

That being stated, we're fairly certain we're about to embark on the classic tales of "You're Hot, But Not Hot Enough to Excuse This" and "You're An Oscar Nominee, Why Are You Here?"


Directed by: Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, and Norwegian movies we can't pronounce)
Starring: Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton
Plot Summary: "I feel like we're super prepared for life, because we would never in a million years approach the 'free candy' van. And these kids never heard their own story to know the proper decision."

Yes, Renner and Arterton play the grown-up Hansel and Gretel from ye olde "Don't Take Candy From Strangers" fairytale, who famously hunt witches across the European(?) countryside to ensure no one else has to deal with that mess. But, hark! Something extra sinister is afoot! Children keep disappearing mysteriously, and all signs point to witchcraft, so it's up to Hansel and Gretel and their anachronistically complex weapons to save everyone. Evil Grand Witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) is trying to devour hearts in order to keep herself and her witch sisters invulnerable to human methods of killing them (fire), which would, of course, change the whole game. The kicker is that there's only one more heart they need for the ritual, one specific heart, which happens to belong to our dear Gretel. By the way, after being force-gorged on candy in the witch's cottage as a child, Hansel has developed diabetes -- the "sugar sickness" as they refer to it here -- and shoots himself up with insulin on the regular.

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"We're eight minutes in, and I already know this is going to be another edition of 'When Bad Movies Happen to Good Actors.'"
--"Are we pretending to be in Germany? Is that what's up?" / "Gretel just said, 'I'll blow your sheriff's brains all over these f***in' hillibillies,' this cannot be Germany."
--"Of course that girl's not a witch. Real witches would've f***ed them up by now."
--"Shillings? Is this England? Where are they?"
--"Someone needs to be punished for this movie."
--"Is your sugar low, sweetheart? Hansel, eat something! You need food with your shot!" / "He's gonna lose a leg, or at least a toe."
--"From what I figure, the real downfall for everyone is that there are no brains in the H&G company."
--"Gretel needs to learn to shoot bitches on sight. Seriously. Some sketchy a**hole strolls into your inn in the middle of a fiery witch battle? You shoot her. Obviously."
--"I wish this made less sense." / Less sense than what?"
--"I don't think we can trust this woman, but at least she got him half-naked and wet for us."
--"They need him to be Hawkeye right now."
--"Quick poll, do we actually care about any of these people?" / "If your question means, 'Do we give a s*** that she dies,' the answer is no."
--"Hansel, you have done nothing this entire movie to make me believe you can successfully kill a witch."
--"No. This is not how diabetes works. I've seen enough diabetic seizures and meltdowns to know this is really not how the f*** it works."

"It's just kinda dull right now. I want some weird plot twist out of nowhere, like Gretel grows a penis or something."

You'd think that a movie with such an interesting premise -- yes, an interesting premise, because we thought it was a hysterical idea when we first heard about it, and far more sensical than Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires -- would hold our attention better. This is a standard case of dullness resulting from Too Much Crazy and not enough story, which makes the audience numb to the action-crammed sequences. The saving grace here is that the movie is only 88 minutes long, so kudos to the person/people astute enough to realize there was nothing to stretch out here. Sarah counted, and there were six big fight scenes in the span of 80 minutes. Plus, we can't even remember how many bodies straight-up exploded. Not all at once, either, but at some point in every fight, and then some. Hansel states that the ways to kill a witch are to cut off her head and set her on fire, but we only saw two (of at least twenty) witches go down like that.

Let's take a moment to point out that the first insulin shots were not administered until 1922. Hansel and Gretel also have a taser and automatic weaponry. However, this movie takes place in a time period when there was no running electricity, and suspected witches were still getting burned at the stake. Okay, carrying on.

"Why has there not been one single shot of Jeremy's ass?"
"I don't know, but on the plus side, this also means there haven't been any objectifying shots of Gemma. That's a bonus for women in action movies everywhere."

Judging from that movie poster, and the way movies like this usually turn out, we figured we'd have to endure some good old fashioned, there's-no-way-she-can-fight-in-that-outfit displays of Sexy Action Heroine. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that despite the medieval-ish setting, there was only one naked woman, it wasn't Arterton, and the nudity had context (Hansel's love interest, Mina, a good witch, swims with him in a magic healing spring after he's injured.)

Speaking of Mina, here's where an age-old fairytale trope comes in: Good witches are pretty, and bad witches are ugly. Hansel meets Mina because the townspeople are about to drown her for witchcraft without any proof, and Hansel argues her case. You can tell a witch just by looking at her because the dark magic corrupts their features; a witch has black teeth, pale, veiny skin, and jacked-up eyes, he tells the people, so pretty Mina is set free. This is part of why evil Muriel's plan is so dangerous: that invulnerability ritual restores her beauty, so she can infiltrate wherever she likes. Pretty people get nicer treatment, an unfortunate fact.

The Best Part: Like we said, Mina got Hansel's clothes off. Yes, we're hypocrites about the objectification thing. No, we don't care. There's a lot of lost man-ogling time to make up in action cinema.

Also, Hansel and Gretel were trailed by a teenage fanboy who kept a scrapbook of all their adventures -- he'd totally run a "f***yeahhanselandgretel" Tumblr if it were 2013 -- and wanted to become a witch-hunter himself. The boy's enthusiasm was adorable, and Hansel and Gretel took him under their wing without reservations. 

The Worst Part: The story would've benefitted from more development. #actionmovieproblems

We give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a solid D. You might even hear from these fairytale siblings again, if rumors about a sequel are true.

(Poster and trailer © Paramount Pictures)

Saturday, January 19, 2013


That's pretty much all there is to it.

Directed By: John Singleton (2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers)
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, and Alfred Molina
Plot Summary: "This movie was not made for people who have any sort of thought process other than, 'Oh, the pictures are moving!'"

High school senior Nathan (Lautner) lives a pretty comfortable, douchey life. He's a wrestling stud (I've never seen a real high school that gave a crap about wrestling, but whatever), his best friend Token Black Kid makes foolproof fake IDs, and he and all his cohorts live in sick houses with Iron Chef kitchens. But wait! Life is not perfect in affluent suburbia, because Nathan doesn't feel like he belongs. One night while working on a school project with his "randomly assigned" partner, who happens to be his lifelong crush, Karen, the duo discovers, completely by chance, that Nathan isn't who he thinks he is. All the adults in Nathan's life are in on it. Of course, this means s*** violently hits the fan, with Nathan's "parents" (Maria Bello and Jason Issacs) as cold-blooded casualties. Nathan and Karen are now on the run from the CIA.

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"No. He did NOT make it to school on the hood of a car. False."
--"Jason Issacs is in this? AND Sigourney Weaver, what the f***?!"
--"Jasmyn, every time we watch an exceptionally bad movie, I miss Twilight so much." / "Eww, hold your tongue."
--"Hmm, maybe you shouldn't date guys who are gonna be booked on assault charges just because another guy looked at you."
--"What did Jason's agent tell him to get him to do this movie?" / "Probably, 'You get to beat the s*** out of Jacob the Werewolf, you want in?'"
--"We should treasure this moment while it lasts, because I think this is the last time we're going to enjoy anything in this movie."
--"Power Rangers spin-kick! HI-YAAAHHHH!" 
--"Put that swag away. You don't deserve all that swag."
--"You will not find a girl in college who looks like Lily Collins, bro. YOU WON'T."
--"High school boy on a motorcycle wearing aviators. Looks like a priiiick."
--"Why the f*** does Taylor Lautner walk like that? I realize he's swole, but the constipation has got to stop."
--"I hate so much about the things this movie chooses to be."
--"There's a bomb in the oven? Who put a bomb in the oven? WHO PUT A BOMB IN THE OVEN, WHEN WAS THERE TIME FOR THAT?"
--"I could fill in for Lily. I'd put a sweater over Taylor's face and just sleep on his body."
--"Dude, have you never watched a movie? You don't go to the police!"
--"I'm glad she put her hair up. We can't have all that flowing around for somebody to grab like she's a hooker who didn't pay somebody back."
--"How did the token black kid get there? Black Friend, you are in danger! BLACK FRIEND, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!"

"That is a hilariously specific and improbable plot device."

This movie gets brownie points for not being 100% action sequences. We appreciate the fact that the action was used as sparingly as it could have been, to keep things heightened and illuminate the exceptionally thin emotional thread present. That being said, Abduction suffers from the usual action movie failing that is Lack Of Story. Near the beginning, during a visit with Nathan's therapist, Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), we learn that Nathan has rage issues. We expected, because of the setup, that this was something Nathan would have to work through over the course of the movie. Yet we saw no indication in Nathan's character that he was inappropriately angry. In fact, he was relatively calm, for the circumstances, so there was no point to that. At the end of the movie, Nathan, Karen and everyone else were the same as they were at the beginning, except a lot of people had been shot.

The Best Part: At the beginning, after Nathan makes a drunken ass of himself at a party, his dad, Kevin, takes him home and boxes with him (read: kicks his ass) to teach him some lessons. This is a regular thing for them. We later realize that all the sparring Kevin did with Nathan was to keep him sharply trained in combat, for the day Nathan needed to use it against the bad guys who would inevitably come for him. Even before we knew Kevin's odd brand of parenting had context, we enjoyed the hell out of the scene.

After Nathan's parents are killed, and he and Karen realize the CIA is after them, Dr. Bennett helps them escape. Nathan's in tears, justifiably freaking out. Here, Dr. Bennett gets the best line in the whole movie: "I know you need time to deal with this emotionally, but right now, you need to get your s*** together."

Plus, we were treated to a wonderfully offhanded line delivery from the eastern European villain, as he watched baseball: "I don't understand the game, but I like popcorn."

The Worst Part: That nagging absence of character development.

We've got to give it to everyone involved: this is not a good movie, but we could tell they were trying, and did the best with what they had. We didn't even mind Taylor Lautner, and we've got a lot of biases about Taylor Lautner. However, a superficial script is a superficial script, and there's no getting around that. We give Abduction a C-.

(Poster and trailer © Lions Gate Entertainment)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Last Airbender

What Sarah and I knew about the show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, before watching this movie:
1. There are people who can manipulate (or "bend") the elements
2. This kid, Aang, is the last airbender left for some reason, and he's the Avatar, whatever that is

What Sarah and I know now:

M. Night Shyamalan, you are drunk.

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village)
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, and Dev Patel
Plot Summary: "Who edited this?!"

(We came into this so fresh and so clean, and we have to recap partly to make sure we understand what the hell happened.)

The Avatar is the one person who can bend all four elements (air, earth, fire, and water), and as such, the Avatar is the only one who can keep peace and balance amongst the four nations. Now, nobody's seen the Avatar in forever, but he's a Dalai Lama sort of figure in that he reincarnates through the ages, and it's been prophesied that the next Avatar will be an airbender. As you might've figured, there's only one airbender left (because EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE FIRE NATION COMMITTED GENOCIDE ATTACKED), and he's the Avatar. Katara (Peltz), a waterbender, and her brother Sokka (Rathbone), who has no powers but can throw a boomerang, find Aang. And the Fire Nation, spearheaded by Prince Zuko (Patel) of 123 Daddy Issues Lane, is not having any of this, because if Aang defeats them, they lose all their power and conquest. So, they want Aang dead. By the way, he's only mastered air, and can sort of do water, so he's got to get all that down before they pimp-choke the Fire Nation for good.

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"I didn't think I'd ever say this, but I miss Twilight." / "I know, and I know it wouldn't make sense for him to have his Texan accent here, but I wish he did. S***, Jackson is so hot."
--"Oh, that was hella green-screen."
--"Where are they, and why are they all white?"
--"This is the worst acting I've seen from either Jackson or Dev."
--"God damn it, the good guys are white Eskimos and the dark Indian is the evil one?"
--"So, Sokka can't bend anything, and that's why he has that lame-ass weapon?"
--"I feel like this had potential, because everyone says Avatar is an amazing show, but I'm already sad about how silly this seems."
--"I'm actually trying to pay attention, and I am so lost."
--"What is with this marshmallow dragon, for real, though?"
--"Are they dance-fighting? What the f***?"
--"If Sailor Moon taught me anything, it's that water will put out fire sometimes." / "Wait, Sailor Moon taught you that, and not life?"
--"I want out, but I know we can't stop the movie."
--"Oh, s***, Zuko's dad gave him the scar? That's f***ed up, bro."
--"What makes them think they can stop the AVATAR?!"
--"How the hell is a town full of waterbenders on fire? I don't understand how this keeps happening!"

"Haha, okay, Hollywood. You really couldn't help making the villains the dark ones."
"Just like The Lion King!"
"Just like every movie."

There's nothing more we can say about that issue tonight. We'll just show you.

Aang, the hero, pretty much the same as he was:

Katara and Sokka, Aang's friends, definitely white-washed:

Zuko, prince of the villainous Fire Nation, suddenly dark as hell:

This viewing gave us a case of Prince of Persia deja-vu, and not only because of the Hollywood-ized racial problems. Once again, certain physics of video games and cartoons just do not translate well on live-action film. Element bending, as an action, is this really elaborate tai-chi/interpretive dance hybrid, which we're sure was fine in cartoon form, as my roommate has told us the movement was much faster and more fluid on the show. In live-action, however, it looked silly and out of place.

Shyamalan was not the director for this material, which had such grand potential, but was on some sort of leash that never let any of the action get above a four. The fight sequences were ALMOST cool, and Aang and Katara each had some interesting bending moments, but they weren't heightened properly. Near the end, when Aang has mastered waterbending, he goes into Mach 10 Avatar Mode with his eyes and head tattoo glowing, and raises an entire tidal wave over the fleet of attacking Fire Nation soldiers chilling in the harbor, for about three straight minutes. We expected a grand WHOOSH. We expected to see Aang destroy those aggressive mofos and send the survivors swimming away with their tails between their legs. We expected glorious carnage for the destruction and insanity the Fire Nation had rained on everyone's lives, a watery "BITCH, BE COOL" for Zuko & Co.


You know what actually happened? NOTHING. Aang thought about how the Avatar isn't supposed to hurt people, and he stopped glowing, and he put the tidal wave down, and he let them go, and everyone bowed down to him as a powerful and merciful god. Like we said, all the action sequences were dissatisfactory, but that was a massive let-down after three straight minutes of Aang reaching "Jean Grey has unleashed the Phoenix"-level waterbending and the Fire Nation looking as though they'd all just crapped their pants. Especially after my roommate notified us that, on the show, Aang actually did what we thought he was going to do.

Sarah: "Is he just letting them escape?! COME THE F*** ON!"
Jasmyn: "OH, F*** THIS! I'M MAD!"

The Best Part: Ringer, the boy playing Aang in a wonderfully committed performance, seemed like he was having the time of his life. It's how we imagine we would feel if someone told either of us that we were playing Hermione Granger. Also, Oppa, Aang's pet sky bison, the creature I insist upon calling "the marshmallow dragon," was adorable.

The Worst Part: The storytelling in this movie was completely off. It was shot awkwardly, with tons of camera angles that were, frankly, bad choices (wide angles where there should have been close-ups, super close-ups on body parts when someone else was speaking, dolly shots whose movement distracted from what was actually happening in front of us, etc). The whole thing felt silly. We also had a bit of trouble following why certain things were happening, and apparently the story skipped over a lot of important events (according to my roommate) without filling in the blanks. We think we understood most of it, because, like we said, we tried really hard to do so, but a successful adaptation shouldn't require this much processing of the basic plot. Plus, we got weak performances from actors whose work we usually enjoy (Patel and Rathbone, in what we are now calling HICS, or Halle in Catwoman Syndrome).

We give The Last Airbender an F+.

(Poster and trailer © Paramount Pictures)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

What better way to end our hiatus than by saying a special farewell to this s***show once and for all?

For all our coverage on the Twilight series -- because other than the actual movie titles, we refuse to call this insanity a "saga" -- here are links to our previous thoughts:

--Edward Cullen is a fan of breaking-and-entering
--Jacob Black is having a really bizarre time with puberty
--No means no! Bad dog! *swats with newspaper*
--Pro-choice? Pro-life? WHATEVER! Bella's OK with dying, and we're OK with her dying too

Directed By: Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey, Breaking Dawn, Part 1)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and a CGI baby
Plot Summary: "OMG, she should have been a vampire the whole time! This is WAY better than Human Bella and how f***ing pathetic she was!"

When we last saw Bella Cullen, she died in childbirth after a violent pregnancy straight from the anus of Satan's nightmares. Her vampire husband, Edward, tried to save her life by biting the hell out of her and injecting her with his venom. Bella's pet werewolf, Jacob, sat outside on the front porch, howling over her death, until he marched back inside to be angry at someone and imprinted on the newborn baby instead. The rest of her in-laws stood around ominously. Then... Bella's wrecked, malnourished body finally took to Edward's venom, and makeup and hair mousse sprouted out of her, and she awoke, red-eyed and all, as a vampire.

It's about time. Bella's been trying to reach this point since the day she realized Edward wasn't human, and for reasons having to do with saving a soul she clearly doesn't want, and utilizing courting patterns from his Victorian-ish youth, Edward refused to turn her until they were out of school and married. Now that her heart's stopped beating, Bella can't get enough of being undead, and relishes her newfound physical capabilities. We have to admit: we like Bella so much more in this final installment. She's nowhere near a three-dimensional character, of course, as her life's -- death's? -- motivation has never wavered from Edward. But her helplessness was always one of the biggest issues in her character, and now that "protect Bella!" isn't anyone's main concern anymore, we can stop watching her angst and move on.

--"So, becoming a vampire gives you eyeshadow? She looks great!"
--"She did NOT just kill a mountain lion. No. That is not real."
--"What's with the f***ing CGI baby?" / "I'm going to have nightmares about this."
--"The baby's growth rate is accelerated. Like a cancerous tumor."
--"This is the best thing she has ever done to Jacob! BEAT THE S*** OUT OF HIM, BELLA! JUST FOR ME!"
--"I know we've had this conversation before, but how does vampire sex actually work?" / "I don't know. No heartbeat means no bloodflow, no bloodflow means no boners. I can't explain it."
--"No, really, the baby HAD to be CGI?"
--"Oh no, she can smell her human dad and she wants to eat him! This is a bad plan! WHAT IF HE HUGS HER? Charlie, no!" / "Charlie is the only one that has made this series worthwhile!"
--"Who the f*** are all these people?"
--"God, that Magic Mike body on Jacob, though."
--"You can tell RPattz is enjoying this so much more, now that it's the last one."
--"Where's Jane? I wanna see Jane f*** people up."
--"Are these the type of vampires who need permission to enter a house?" / "No, remember how Edward used to climb in her window and stalk her in her sleep?"
--"Where are Jasper and Alice? I miss them."
--"Okay, Rapey-Looking Patriot Guy is definitely that adorable man from Pushing Daisies."
--"What the f*** is up with this Transylvanian Draco Malfoy dude?"
--"I think Aro just jizzed in his cloak. Inexplicably, I hope he lives through all this."


Renesmee Carlie Cullen, Bella and Edward's baby daughter, named for all her grandparents (Renee + Esme, then Carlisle + Charlie), spends her first chunk of screentime with a computerized face. Presumably, this is to ensure that she is preternaturally beautiful, as Stephenie Meyer no doubt described her, and to ensure she looks as close as possible to KStew, RPattz, and the stunning young actress (Mackenzie Foy) who plays her for most of the movie. It's distracting as all hell, and couldn't possibly look right, even if we'd watched this drunk.

Infant Renesmee's weird-ass face isn't the biggest problem in the story, of course. The real issue is that some hater-bitch named Irina, one of Edward's coven-cousins, spots little Renesmee frolicking in the snow and thinks, "Holy roasted balls, the Cullens made a vampire baby!" This is a crime punishable by death, as vampire children have been outlawed by the Volturi due to their uncontrollable nature. (It's hard to teach restraint to a super-powered, bloodthirsty four-year-old, after all.) Irina rats to the Volturi, who decide immediately that the appropriate price must be paid, but here's the catch: Renesmee is NOT an immortal child, as she was born, not turned, and grows every day -- like, really grows, becoming an elementary-age child in a matter of months. Anyway, it's a classic tale of misinformed gossip folks f***ing things up for everybody.

Now that Jacob has imprinted on Renesmee as his soulmate (which he insists isn't weird, and that his imprinting is platonic, like a devoted older brother), he's her chief protector. Initially, Bella's enraged when she finds out he imprinted, because for the first time in this whole series, she finds something as creepy as the audience does. (If you missed the link on imprinting above, check the madness out here, particularly the stages of this process.) Alice and Jasper are nowhere to be found, having run off somewhere to take care of something. So the Volturi show up to murder everybody: Renesmee, all the rest of the Cullens, and all the vampire witnesses they've gathered to attest to the fact that Renesmee isn't what the Volturi think she is. Bella's in protective-mommy mode, which is totally helped by her newly-discovered power: the ability to shield herself and whoever she wants from supernatural influence. (This is why Edward and Aro could never read her mind, and why Jane can't inflict pain on her.)

After the Volturi and their army show up, Alice and Jasper reappear on the battlefield to provide evidence that Renesmee won't be a threat to vampire secrecy. They present another human-vampire hybrid, some dude from Brazil, who stopped aging once he reached physical adulthood and can live off either human food or blood. Here's a special set of reactions from us around this point in the game (and a reminder that this is not a spoiler-free blog), when things escalated into a full-on war and everyone was dying violently:

--"Oh no, not Jasper, not him, nooo..." / "NOOOOO!" / "ARE YOU SERIOUS?! NO F***ING WAY!" / "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON'T UNDERSTAND!"
--"AWW, was that the wolf puppy they killed?!" / "I think so!" / "Why do they keep killing children!? COME THE F*** ON, TWILIGHT!"
--"Bye, Jane!"
--"It's strange that they can just pull off their heads..."
--"I'm less eager for the Volturi to live." / "Me too. Aro's not safe with me now. He can't kill Carlisle like that and get away with it."

But wait! As we were way too relieved to discover, the big battle that the promos have alluded to doesn't actually happen. After this crazy carnage, when Aro's head is off, it flashes back to the semi-calm battle field, before the fighting, when Alice has appeared. It turns out that Alice, with her ability to see the future, was just showing Aro, a mind-reader, what would happen if he didn't let them all go safely. So, having seen his own decapitation at the hands of Bella Cullen, Aro rethinks his judgement and everyone gets to walk away. Edward and Bella go back to the meadow, and since Bella has reached enough proficiency with her shield that she can turn it off, she lets Edward into her head and shows him how much she loves him. Everybody lives happily ever after, and we never have to do this again.

The Best Part: Bella's vampire transformation made her so much more likeable. Her aggravating damsel-in-distress status was gone, nobody had to watch out for her, and she wasn't whining about being human. Vampire Bella was far more rational and proactive. Plus, the hypothetical fight sequence was insane.

Also, Aro unleashes the most outrageous, creepy, crazy laugh when he finally meets Renesmee and discovers she's a natural hybrid, and it is the greatest thing to happen in any Twilight movie, ever. If you thought Voldemort was awkward about expressing delight, here's a grainy comparison we found, because, of course, Summit laid the smackdown on nearly all footage of this hysterical Aro situation:

The Worst Part: That f***ing CGI baby. And you can't tell us that imprinting on a newborn infant isn't disgusting. Stephenie Meyer Jacob, stop trying to rationalize it, because you sound like a pedophile.

We feel fantastic about this being over. While the Twilight series has provided us with more hours -- nay, DAYS of amusement than we ever thought possible, it's best for everyone if this continues no further. With that said, we give Breaking Dawn, Part 2 an A-. So, to recap:

Twilight: B
New Moon: D-
Eclipse: B+
Breaking Dawn, Part 1: D
Breaking Dawn, Part 2: A-

We'll leave you with Robert Pattinson's blatant hatred for the bats*** crazy, pop culture behemoth that has consumed his life since 2007. Bless you, Rob, and may you never lose your existence to anything like this ever again. We like you. Fly free.

(Poster and trailer © Summit Entertainment)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Charlie's Angels

Personal biases to get out of the way: 1) This is a movie based on a 1970s television show, and that rarely, if ever, pans out well. 2) Sarah has an intense dislike for Cameron Diaz.

Directed By: McG (Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall)
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz
Plot Summary: "If some girl is telling you she learned all about bombs from the Internet, maybe you should rethink your relationship."

Dylan, Alex, and Natalie (Barrymore, Liu, and Diaz, respectively) are Charlie's Angels, an elite trio of secret agents. They work for a mysterious, unseen benefactor who delivers their assignments through his right-hand-man, Bosley (an adorable Bill Murray), via a speaker in Bosley's apartment. The Angels have been tasked with recovering Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), a kidnapped software engineer whose technology would end privacy and international security as we know it. BUT WAIT! Knox and his partner, Vivian (Kelly Lynch), aren't the victims at all! In a surprisingly well-thought out plot, they (with the help of their personal assassin, Creepy Thin Man, "played" by Crispin Glover) are just using the Angels to gain access to a another company's tracking software. Knox also thinks Charlie killed his father when they were in Vietnam, so guess who he's trying to trace?

Observations Made As We Watched:
--"Aww, remember when she was with Tom Green?" / "Remember how Tom Green had ball surgery on MTV?"
--"Who is this She-Hulk woman who sounds like a man?" / "Looks like a man, too. S***, that's a severe face."
--"Oh, this is back when palm pilots were a thing."
--"Really? 'Independent Women' playing over a scene featuring fast food and Lucy's ass?" / "Are they independent because they can afford fast food? I ate a burger off the dollar menu today and I'm broke as s***."
--"Crispin Glover will never not be creepy. Has he said anything in this movie, or just laughed and screamed?"
--"I always forget Luke Wilson's face." / "But how can you forget that jaw?"
--"Yes, send the efficient Asian to be the dominatrix stand-in."
--"God damn, I love Sam Rockwell."
--"Bosley, check for a penis!"
--"Okay, I've seen at least three movies where a crowd of black people screams, 'Go, white girl!' or 'Go, white boy!' at someone, and I can tell you, that does NOT happen."
--"I assure you, those wires would not be labeled 'Primary Flight Control Circuits.'"

"I have to say, men look like idiots in this movie, and I'm enjoying that. Because you KNOW this s*** would work. I've done it."

About 98% of action movies feature some piece of female eye candy who closes her eyes and shrieks when she's supposed to be aiming and shooting a gun. If she accomplishes anything, the hero's still got to save her at the last minute from the bad guy using her as collateral. In a refreshing take, Charlie's Angels celebrates the fact that our heroines are women as they take out clueless man after clueless man. At several points throughout the movie, the Angels use their feminine assets to get undercover: a geisha-like masseuse renders an executive unconscious in order to get an important key from his belongings. Belly dancers distract security personnel in an exotic bar while another dancer steals his fingerprints. An absurdly flirty pit-stop worker keeps a driver preoccupied in his own car, while another breaks into the trunk to plant a bug.

Sometimes, the Angels physically beat men like they stole something. (Sarah loves the trio's first, high-octane fight with Creepy Thin Man, and I love when Natalie kicks the absolute s*** out of a hitman who attacks her in a bathroom.) Other times require the soft approach, and they're owning it in either case. People say that if you want to deal with a man, you've got to meet him on his level, but what does that really mean? Fight like a man because being a woman isn't worth anything? Oh, please. "Fighting fire with fire" has never made any sense. When's the last time you saw a firefighter run into a burning building with a flamethrower?

That being said, while the Angels are very clever and good at what they do, it's odd that they're at their most efficient when manipulating men with sex. Personally, I think that fact raises a question more insulting to the location of men's brains than it is to women, but it's still something to think about. They are far more than beautiful women who look good in skintight clothing, so does this cheapen their other abilities? Plus, Jason (Matt LeBlanc), Alex's boyfriend, spends most of the movie thinking she's a bikini waxer, of all things, which is already a sexually-connotated occupation. She couldn't have said she was anything else? His disappointment at discovering that she's not a bikini waxer is not because she lied to him, but because he had thought it was so hot. That says a lot.

The Best Part: Crispin Glover, the eternal freakshow, is perfect in his rather memorable role as Creepy Thin Man. No, the character does not have a name. The Angels call him Creepy Thin Man, so Creepy Thin Man it is, and giving him a name would not have made him any less of a skinny creeper. Glover has made his career being weird -- not "Who's that girl? It's Jess!" weird, but "I've been a storyline on on Criminal Minds" weird -- and this is no exception. After ripping out some of Dylan's hair during their first encounter, he holds onto it, then runs the keepsake over his face and smells it a couple times. The same thing happens in their final meeting, when Alex is the one to lose a lock. What else could they have called him, anyway?

The Worst Part: The opening, a classic Bond-movie intro in its complete non-relation to the rest of the plot, is totally ridiculous. LL Cool J pulling off his own face to reveal that he's a disguise for Drew Barrymore is jarring, to put it lightly. The movie walks a fine line of self-referential, early 2000s camp, but that crosses it.

Charlie's Angels gets a solid B. If nothing else, it's a fun action movie with women who don't suck and have a sense of humor, and it raised a really great feminism debate between Sarah and I.

We'll leave you with the terrible video for Destiny's Child's "Independent Women, Part 1," the movie's promotional theme song. Enjoy!

Jasmyn: "I remember when this song came out. All us 11-year-olds singing, 'All the women who independent!' Cut to: 'MOM, CAN I HAVE $20 DOLLARS?!'"

(Poster and trailer © Columbia Pictures)