The Happytime Murders

I was so excited about this movie. I love the concept of foul mouthed puppets living side by side in a human world. I mean hello, I did direct a production of Avenue Q a few years back. And Lord only knows how many times I’ve binged Greg the Bunny. And let’s not forget my favorite episode of Angel, Smile Time. So then what went wrong here?

The Happytime Murders follows a puppet PI who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when an adult store full of puppets are murdered. He reluctantly teams up with his old partner on the police force, Melissa McCarthy, to investigate as more plush people are killed. The link is the old tv show The Happytime Gang, now heading into syndication and financial security for the cast. Sounds good enough right?

The problem is the filmmakers seemed to settle for good enough. This is one of the laziest screenplays of the year. The mystery is cliche and predictable. The humor is mostly non-existent. Most jokes are built around “hey look at the puppet be lewd and disgusting”. That can only take you so far, and the filmmakers seemed content to just stay there. Again, I’m all for lewd puppets, but I want them to be clever little pervs. Again, Avenue Q.

There were a few moments that worked (I think Maya Rudolph can take credit for at least half of those), and the puppetry was really good. It’s just painfully apparent that all the effort went into the puppetry and they forgot that the script needed to be good too. Bummer.

The Happytime Murders – \m/ \m/

Operation Finale

Some of the ladies of Stardust have recently started a weekly movie club. “What the heck are we watching this week?” I asked our organizer. There was no obvious choice. I ran thru the list of options, and this caught her attention. I’d been on the fence about it, but I do love me some Oscar Isaac, so I was game to go.

Oscar Isaac leads a team of Israeli secret agents, who have finally located Ben Kingsley’s Adolf Eichmann, a high ranking officer of the SS who has been in hiding for 20 years. The mission is to apprehend Eichmann and bring him back to stand trial in Israel. If successful, he’d be the highest ranking SS officer to face an actual trial and justice for his WWII war crimes. They just have to get him there first.

I found the story fascinating. There’s a reason we love spy movies, and seeing a real one play out was captivating. However, the problem with a real spy story is that it isn’t constant suspense and action, like you’d see with James Bond. There’s ebbs and flows in the story, and the ebbs felt very draggy, despite the incredible tension of the flows.

To fill those gaps, there were some moments of dramatic tension between Isaac and Kingsley. For me, this wasn’t quite the so-intense-I-can’t-recognize-the-actor type of performance from Kingsley, but more of the completely-relishing-the-role-with-a-twinkle-of-mischief type. The former is more impressive, but I find the later more fun and interesting. Isaac was all swagger, as we’ve come to know and love him for. I don’t know that there was as much depth as I’d hoped for, but he still commands the screen with confidence and grace.

Speaking of grace, I was also excited to see Melanie Laurent in the mix. I wish Hollywood had found more uses for her in the ten years since Inglorious Basterds, but it is great to see she can still stick it to the Nazi’s with the big boys. Also in the mix, Nick Kroll trying to prove his serious chops while also trying to provide the comic relief. Solid attempt at both.

This film is definitely gonna benefit from the slow release weekend to attract an audience. I don’t think it woulda stood a chance in the heart of Oscar season coming up. It does serve as a nice appetizer tho

Operation Finale – \m/ \m/ \m/

Final Destination Franchise

I love the Final Destination franchise. I know it reaches a special level of ridiculous camp, but for every second of stupidity, there’s something that’s really smart and clever about it too.

A couple weeks ago on Stardust, we were talking about favorite movie endings and twists. Final Destination 5’s ending has to be one of my all time favorites. It got me wanting to rewatch them all. Then I thought, it’d be cool to watch and track the deaths and rank ’em all here. So that’s what I’m doing.

Before I go into the death ranks, let’s go over each of the movies. Now, I usually tap dance as hard as I can to avoid spoilers when I write, but by the nature of this post, I hafta spoiler the heck out of ’em. I do suggest you go binge them and come back (most are only 90 min) rather than find out all the secrets.

Final Destination – Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, and Kerr Smith, it’s the movie that started it all. Sawa’s Alex has a premonition on a plane, showing him the fiery crash that will happen minutes later. He gets off the flight with a few others and BOOM. Everybody dead. The survivors soon follow. They seem to believe that it’s enough to intervene in a death to get skipped, and then you’re okay…

Final Destination 2 – AJ Cook now has the premonitions, and she sees a huge pileup on the highway. She blocks the entrance ramp and spares a few lives, but one by one, they all go too. In one of the best ever sequel tie ins, we find out all that each of these survivors was only alive thus far because actions caused by the first film’s survivors prevented their own deaths. So death really isn’t too happy with them. Here, they seem to think that creating new life (a baby being born, or a resuscitation) will be their salvation…

Final Destination 3- Mary Elizabeth Winstead (?!) freaks out on a rollercoaster and gets thrown off with half her crew, and then, you guessed it. People on the coaster die, and everyone else soon follows. This time around, she’d taken a bunch of photos of the victims that night, and uses clues from the photographs to prevent their deaths. Except we already know intervention isn’t enough…

The Final Destination – Now we’re at the motor speedway, and we really don’t know any names in the cast anymore. Nothing new to their strategy, just deaths that get more and more ridiculous…

Final Destination 5 – Coworkers are on a bus on a bridge and the bridge collapses. Hmm funny how nobody in this movie mentions the earlier events like all the others do. These guys believe they can kill someone else and steal their remaining life, until our sole survivors end up on a very familiar flight…

If I hafta rank the films, I’d say 1>5>2>3>4. But we really wanna talk about ranking the deaths, yeah? A couple of ground rules, because I’m OCD like that. The person has to actually be seen dying (so no car wash from 4), but premonitions count because those are graphic deaths and that’s what we’re judging. At first, I was only gonna look at the death itself, but I realized that context is super important. Some actual deaths aren’t that great, but the build up is. Others are super significant in the franchise, which should give them more weight. Oh and they hafta be killed by death. Nathan pushing that dude into the crane or the gun deaths in 5 don’t count either.
That said, here we gooooo!!

40 – Movie 2 – Friends in the car
Honestly, I primarily ranked this at the bottom because I didn’t even see it or register that it happened until I was checking notes in the recaps I found online. It just kinda happens quickly, and we never cared about those guys anyways.

39 – Movie 4 – George – Ambulance
This was one of the “out of nowhere” deaths (as opposed to the ones that are really dragged out). Problem is, there are so many better and more unexpected ones of these. And this dude was so cool with his fate moments before, you weren’t even surprised that he was next.

38 – Movie 3 – Ian – smushed by cherry picker
Considering that he’s one of the few villains that emerges in the series, his death feels so lame. There are much better crushings.

37 – Movie 2 – Clear and Eugene – hospital explosion
First off, as the only character to survive from one movie to the next, Clear deserves much better than a quick death without buildup, and she deserves better than to be thrown in as a bonus with someone else’s death. Eugene’s suspense coulda gotten him higher up the list, but Clear dragged him down.

36 – Movie 1 – Carter – sign crash
Technically you don’t actually see him die, so maybe it doesn’t count. It’s a fun fakeout, but considering how good all the rest of the 1 deaths are, it feels cheap.

35 – Movie 3 – Perry – impaled by flagpole
Perry, we hardly knew ye. Not two seconds after we’re introduced to her and identify her as the next victim, she’s suddenly impaled. Turnaround quick enough to give you whiplash, but no real satisfaction.

34 – Movie 5 – Dennis – Wrench
This one’s cool for how quick it happens, and how swift the mood change was. The result is a gory image, but it’s just a hair too silly looking.

33 – Movie 2 – Brian – BBQ
Def gets points for being one of the most unexpected. It simultaneously earns and loses points for setting up an entry point for another sequel (+) that never got used (-). It also has a funny payoff after.

32 – Movie 4 – the other Carter – Truck explodes
This is the dude that tried to set a flaming cross in the black guy’s yard, and then his truck explodes. Usually the first deaths in the film build suspense the best, but this one felt a lil half assed. The final death itself wasn’t worthy of the build.

31 – Movie 3 – Julie, Wendy, and Kevin (remaining survivors) – Subway
This might be the one time that someone has a full premonition, but can’t actually do anything about it. The terror of this death is more real than most of the ones on this list, but the sequence itself isn’t too exciting.

30 – Movie 5 – Everyone – Bridge Collapse
By this point, we’ve run out of ideas for the big premonition, so we’re cycling back to a different car crash. It does go on for a bit with some variation in the deaths, but it’s just not as exciting as any of the others.

29 – Movie 4 – Lori, Janet, Nick (remaining survivors) – Car crashes into cafe
It’s not new that our survivors are together and targeted by death as we go into the credits. The only reason I even ranked it as high as I did was that this switches to an Xray view (matching the opening credits that had xray views of all the previous films’ deaths) and that looks pretty cool.

28 – Movie 4 – Andy – oxygen tank pushes him into fence
Anyone else think that really thick fence was a bit weird? Good suspense with a couple fake outs. The final moment actually looked pretty cool.

27 – Movie 3 – Franky – truck
This was a cool, unexpected one. Wendy and Kevin haven’t figured out that they’re not the next targets, and in their rush to get away from the runaway truck, they actually enable Franky to end up with a fan belt in his head in line at the drive thru.

26 – Movie 2 – Everyone – car crash
Now I’m thinking that maybe this one shoulda been lower, but I do like how unique each individual death is in this premonition. It’s not just fireballs and accordions.

25 – Movie 2 – Rory – flying barbed wire
Obeys the laws of physics a little less than some of the others, but for whatever reason, the franchise likes to highlight this as one of its more iconic images (it comes up every time old deaths are shown somewhere). It does look like cool tho

24 – Movie 4 – Jonathan – smushed by bathtub
The survivor they didn’t know about until the last second, lying in a hospital bed with an overflowing bathtub just above. Needless to say, i was a lil freaked out a few days later when there was a leak dripping onto my truck parked at my apt…

23 – Movie 4 – Janet – Movie theater
Yeah it’s totally silly, but of course the 3D movie had to go there. She’s watching a 3D movie and a piece of schrapel flies thru the screen and kills her. Obvious but effective.

22 – Movie 2 – Kat – Airbag into pipe
Haha I liked this one. The firemen are being so careful to pry her out of her car, and with one sudden movement they set off the airbag, sending her head back into the jagged pipe that just happened to be positioned behind her. Whoops.

21 – Movie 4 – Hunt – pool suction
Anyone ever read Guts by Chuck Palahniuk? The movie still gets creativity points for using that one. He gets stuck at the bottom of the pool, and just before he drowns, *slurp*, intestines in the filtration system!

20 – Movie 4 – Samantha – rock in the eye
This one is all about the buildup–the chaos in the beauty salon. So many things that almost go wrong. Then as she walks out the door, a lawn motor kicks up the rock that does it. Death itself, eh. Mayhem before, aw yay!

19 – Movie 3 – Lewis – weights
This one ranks well because of the fakeout. He’s so sure that the swords were supposta kill him, it’s pure arrogance when he lifts the weights whose safety has been unknowingly cut and splat. Wsa there ever more testosterone in a FD death?

18 – Movie 2 – Nora – elevator
If you’ve ever been afraid of elevators closing on you, maybe skip this one. It’s not just that she gets caught, it’s how she gets caught, with her ponytail in the box of hooks. And then…

17 – Movie 5 – Isaac – crushed by Buddha
Another one that isn’t about the death itself, which is just a big splat. It’s the acupuncture bit that makes this one gross and terrifying. Some of those images will really stay with you. There’s fire too. Guess he didn’t get his happy ending…

16 – Movie 3 – Erin – Nail Gun
I just like this one. So many things could go wrong in that hardware store, and just as we skip her boy’s near impaling, *thuck**thuck**thuck**thuck*

15 – Movie 4 – Lori – Escalator
It’s not quite the escalator death that you always fear when your shoe is untied. It’s worse. It’s the escalator opening up and crunching your bones for one of the most graphic deaths. Too bad it was just a premonition.

14 – Movie 4 – Everyone – speedway accident
This one does get creativity points for where they set the big premonition death for the film. More original choice than any of the other films, and offers a lot of variety between structures collapsing and flyaway car parts.

13 – Movie 1 – Billy – Train schrapnel
This is significant because it’s the first unexpected death after a skip. Carter has just survived the train crash, and as Billy screams at him, scrapnel from the car slices his head in half. One of the most sudden and unexpected slices in the franchise, and one that proved the rules had changed.

12 – Movie 2 – Tim – Flattened by glass
I’d originally had this lower, but as I talked to people about this ranking, this is the death that they kept on bringing up–the first big splat of the series. I like this one because it starts with him running after pigeons–the premonition image.

11 – Movie 2 – Evan – Fire Escape
I love how over the top all the suspense is of this one. You’re so sure he’s gonna die in the fire that’s growing and growing and he can’t escape from. He finally gets out, only to slip on noodles and get a ladder thru the eye. Ewww.

10 – Movie 1 – Everyone – Plane Crash
The premonition that started ’em all. It’s wicked intense. Def not somethign to see right before you hafta travel. It was a decade until I could get one a plane without checking the tray table first.

9 – Movie 1 – Ms Lewtin – Knife
This death builds up the suspense better than just about any other sequence in this movie. We follow the drips of the booze in her broken coffee cup (srsly, how does she not notice?). The computer explodes. Glass in the throat. Fire. Knives hidden under the cuptowel. Chair falls and it’s over.

8 – Movie 5 – Nathan – Landing Gear
This is the most poetic death in these films. Nathan believes he’s regained the life of the dude he hooked into the crane, only to find out he had an aneurysm that woulda burst any minute. He’s instantly impaled by the landing gear of the infamous flight that took the lives of characters from two films that somehow found him at the bar. It’s beautiful.

7 – Movie 3 – Everyone – Roller coaster
Something we all fear that we don’t really see on screen much. Who knew that dying in a roller coaster could result in several different kinds of death?

6 – Movie 5 – Olivia – Falls out Window
This isn’t on the list because she falls out the window. It’s on the list because of the mishap with the eye laser just before. That is some imagery that will be burned into your eyes for a long time.

5 – Movie 5 – Candace – Gymnastics incident
Guilty pleasure here. It’s one of the absolute stupidest deaths, but it’s one of the ones I remember most vividly. The build up is fantastic, it just doesn’t quite stick the landing. Oh…

4 – Movie 1 – Terry – Hit by bus
This one is ranked high because of its significance. The premonition was quick and the death sudden. There’ll be a lot more out of nowhere deaths as the series go on, but this was the first and most surprising.

3 – Movie 3 – Ashley and Ashlynn – Tanning beds
I feel like this death represents everythign I love about this franchise. It’s creative and over the top and builds better than most of the suspense sequences. Every little piece fits right into place, from the crashing cd shelf to the sunscreen tube locking the door to the dripping Slurpees.

2 – Movie 1 – Tod – Hanging in the bathtub
This is the one that scared me the most. The way the water follows him establishes the consciousness of death, and shows just how vulnerable we all are when we’re alone. A couple near misses and suddenly he’s got the laundry cord wrapped around his neck. What gets me though, is the spilled shampoo and how that keeps him from getting his footing and he ultimately dies slow and painful. Seeing his struggling feet is what made it tough to sleep that night.

1 – Movie 5 – Sam and Molly – Flight 180 Plane Crash
As far as the visuals of a death itself, Tod wins. But as far as significance and impact, I’ve never been so blown away by an ending I did not see coming. It’s so perfect how it ties in to everything and makes you question all the events you just saw. It makes dealing with the franchise absolutely worth it.

Searching

Anyone remember the Starring John Cho meme? It photoshopped Cho’s face onto popular film posters, as a call for Asian representation. Well, now’s your chance to see Cho in full leading man status, and give it your full support.

Cho stars as a man whose daughter is missing. As he enlists the help of police officer Debra Messing (who was admittedly kinda tough to take serious and she tried to be way too serious to tone down her Grace as opposed to Will persona), he discovers that he may not actually know his daughter as well as he thought. Oh and the whole thing is told over various computer screens.

I am such a sucker for unconventional storytelling, and it was so effective there. This is the movie Unfriended wishes it could be. I feel like without that framework, it wouldn’t stand out from other films in the genre.

At the same time though, it doesn’t use the framework as a gimmick (*cough*cough*Unfriended*cough*). This is an incredibly anxiety-inducing suspenseful thriller. And that’s that I don’t even have a teenage daughter. It’d prolly amp up the stakes for those that do. I was certainly surprised by how it unfolded, but I loved how every detail tracked back once things were revealed.

Oh and in an only in LA story, I went to see this at one of the nicer theaters in town, with some of my Stardust crew. I noticed most of the crowd was particularly excited to be there, and I saw a couple of scattered flower bouquets in the crowd. The movie ends and the credits roll, and I notice a couple people filming the credits. The cast names come up, and the theater erupts with cheers of “Michelle!”. I skim the credits and notice the name of our leading lady daughter is Michelle La. I follow the eyes of the crowd and find that she is sitting two rows behind us, and the place was packed with her family and friends. Walking out, one of my peeps is gushing about the film when this cute little old Asian lady beams to my friend, telling her that it was her niece in the movie. She’s soon joined by another smiling lady who she introduces as Michelle’s Mother.

On top of all that, the Ozark premiere was happening directly across the auditorium, so there’s a non-zero chance Laura Linney and Jason Bateman were nearby. I love this town.

And I loved this movie

Searching – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

I’m sure I’ve talked about this many times before, but I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. Among other things, that meant that there was a long, seemingly arbitrary, list of things that were sinful or evil or whatever. It’s not like it was written down somewhere, but the ideas would get shot down anytime someone brought them up in any context. Halloween, pre-marital sex, Care Bears, tattoos, swear words, the list goes on. There was a lot of fear and guilt that went into it–fear that you were doing something wrong, and extreme guilt when you gave into sin and temptation. If we’re perfectly honest, it’s one of the secondary sources of my anxiety disorder that I battle with every day. However, what I can’t fathom is when that list includes a vital part of who you are. As it is, it breaks my heart the way that homosexuality is still viewed as a sin. The Miseducation of Cameron Post gave a glimpse into what that struggle is truly like.

Chloe Grace Moretz, in her strongest, most substantial, and most important role to date is Cameron. When her conservative family finds out that she has “same sex attraction” (as the film calls it), she’s sent to a conversion camp (the term is never used, but let’s call a spade a spade). There she’s forced to see her sexuality and natural inclinations as something sinful that she has to constantly fight against. We see the emotional and psychological toll that it takes on her and the other youth in the camp, most of whom are there against their will because their families think that’s what’s best for them. It’s utterly heartbreaking, and that’s that I feel like the film may have even held back a bit. These facilities are abusive at their core, no matter how well intentioned they may claim to be.

I don’t know that this is a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen, but it is a movie that needs to be seen. Granted, I’m sure it’ll just be screaming into the void, only being seen by those who agree with the underlying message. But if it can show one victim that they’re not alone, or change one mind to work against these facilities, it will be worth it. This is a movie that got me thinking about things to a point where it was uncomfortable. That’s a good thing.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Mile 22

I literally knew nothing about this movie other than I saw a bunch of billboards around town with Marky Mark holding a gun. Yeah that’s reason enough. Remember, I was a Boston girl for a while. I love and support my Wahlbergs. Turns out, Mark was seemingly channeling another Boston boy, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right so Wahlberg is some sorta savant who works for the CIA, I think, in a really elite and secretive group along with Rhonda Roussey and Lauren Cohan and the dude who played McGrady on Prison Break (I had to IMDB him after because it was driving me nuts that I couldn’t place him–you’re welcome). There’s some unimportant details about a disk and radioactive materials, but the gist is they got a dude they need to transport to the airport on the other side of town. Except there’s a lot of baddies between here and there.

Okay so what’s the Boston connection? This movie felt like Wahlberg saw his buddy Batfleck in The Accountant and thought “Hey I wanna do that movie, but with more guns, more explosions, and less character development!”. And I thought The Accountant was dull. This was much worse.

There were some decent action sequences, many of which made the case for Cohan to one day helm an action franchise, but there was nothing in between. It was so dull and incoherent, just excuses to get to the next explosion, most of which weren’t even worth getting to.

It’s a bummer because this is yet another collab between Wahlberg and Peter Berg. However, this is their first that isn’t based on a true and tragic story (see Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon). Maybe they should go back to what works well for them. Cause this wasn’t it. This was the type of movie that my Daddy woulda picked out at Blockbuster every time, and if one must see it, that would be the most ideal scenario. It’s not worthy of your time at the theater

Mile 22 – \m/ \m/

Crazy Rich Asians

I know. I don’t typically do romances. Especially not on opening night. But you know what I do? I am completely in favor of representation and inclusion and diversity and all this movie represents for the Asian population and their culture. Therefore, I was more than happy to support this film, as a way to signal to Hollywood that YES! We want more of this! And actually, yes, I want more of this specifically. I really ended up loving it.

A Chinese American, Rachel (Constance Wu) has been dating Nick (Henry Golding) for some time. He invites her to Singapore for a close friend’s wedding, and the opportunity to finally meet his family. What he hasn’t told her is that his family is one of the richest on the continent. Basically, he’s Asian Prince Harry, and it’s unclear how accepting his family will be of this American nobody he’s with.

It’s ultimately about family and entitlement and identity. While it has a stylish and whimsical feel, it’s more than just a modern day fairy tale. The romance is only a piece of the puzzle for Rachel, and her struggles are about so much more. Her adversary is Nick’s mother (an icy and imposing Michelle Yeoh), and she is one of the greatest villains of the year.

The movie was unexpectedly hilarious, and the cast was incredible. Awkwafina stole every scene she was in, as I’ve come to expect from her. Wu had a delicate balance of strength and vulnerability. She’s not your fairy tale princess. She’s headstrong and established and doesn’t need anything from her man. And I’ll say once more, Michelle Yeoh. Dang. Incredible.

I’m actually finding myself wanting to watch this again, and I’ve been scoping out the book as I’ve been out and about this weekend. If this is what Asian representation is like in film, then why haven’t we had more? Can we now, please?

Crazy Rich Asians – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Eighth Grade

I have never been more terrified to see a movie. You hear people sometimes say something similar about horror films they’re too scared to see, but I’m not talking about a horror film in the traditional sense. I’m talking about Eighth Grade. I saw the trailer, and thought it was too real for me, and noped out of it. Then the buzz started building. I continued to resist. Then Stardust couldn’t stop raving about it. And we know I wasn’t gonna let myself get left out of a major convo on the Dust.

Why was the idea of this movie so terrifying? Because my own actual eighth grade experience (and the years around it) were the worst of my lift. I actually think 8th was the worst. In 7th, I still had my plucky spirit, but was starting to face rejection at every turn. By 8th, I’d learned to expect rejection, but hadn’t yet figured out how to accept myself. I wouldn’t learn to adopt more of a DGAF attitude for a couple years. But basically, any time I opened my mouth, there was a high probability that somebody would make fun of me, or shoot me down, or laugh, or roll their eyes, or do anything else to make me feel bad. Oh and then there was that time my classmate set my hair on fire. That was fun. So yeah, I was beyond terrified to sit thru a movie that would inevitably stir some shit up and require me to relive that experience.

The movie revolves around Kayla, an 8th grader in her last week of middle school and looking forward to high school. She’s about as awkward and misguided and clueless as we try to forget we all were. It’s cringingly real. For the rest of the audience at my screening, it was apparently hilarious. For me, I kept getting more and more tense and tried desperately not to cry.

I did eventually break during a rather touching scene with her father. The loving words he told her felt so much like it was my Daddy saying them to me. Hell, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.

This was one of the hardest movie watching experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m not entirely sure if it was worth it. I’m happy to have satisfied my curiosity, but I personally didn’t get too much out of it. If anything, I kinda feel jealous of Kayla. The lack of confidence she was expressing isn’t only accurate to what I felt in 8th grade. It’s accurate of how I feel now, mostly because of the experiences I did have in 8th grade. I’m jealous that she started figuring out how to deal with it and present herself proudly in a way that I’m only just now learning (that has also required therapy). Also, while she wasn’t always fully accepted by her peers, she wasn’t as blatantly bullied and rejected. I envy that. I wouldn’t wish my jr high experience on anyone, but part of me was hoping to see it on screen so that it could illustrate to other people how bad that year could be. But this was a movie about hope, and it’s something that may have been helpful to me back in the day. And I truly do hope that some eighth grade girl out there can be inspired by this film and lead a more fulfilling and confident life than I had at that age.

Eighth Grade – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Meg

I have established that I will see Jason Statham in anything. This time, I really just wanted to see him punch a shark in the face.

Does plot really matter for a movie like this? There’s a huge ass prehistoric shark loose in the water because science. There are scientists trying to fight it. Plus there’s Statham. Watery mayhem ensues.

I’m gonna be real with you. This is not a good movie by traditional standards. It’s dumb and predictable, and where it could have gone for a full campy vibe or gory horror story, it plays with safe with a non-committal bland middle ground. These are all things that could have been better.

However, I still really enjoyed myself. What the film gets right is that the sequences are hella suspenseful. And they look pretty good, all things considered. They certainly wanna be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Ultimately, this is one of those movies that you just hafta go with. If you walk in with a critical eye and a cynical view, you’re not gonna be into it. But if you’re expecting some mindless fun with minimal expectations, it can deliver a good time. It’s just never gonna be in the same swimming pool as that first big shark movie…

The Meg – \m/ \m/ \m/

BlacKkKlansman

Did I get the capitalization right in that title? Because Spike Lee got everything so right in this movie, I don’t wanna do anything that’s gonna set him back. Seriously, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, and now BlacKkKlansman, this has been a great summer for black filmmakers, of whom Spike Lee has always been king. But if there’s anything these films are trying to tell us, it’s that there’s still so much work that needs to be done in order to get these voices heard. For me, they’re coming in loud and clear.

Based on a story so absurd it can only be true, John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, a black rookie cop in Colorado trying to head up an undercover investigation. His target? The KKK. He places some calls (eventually reaching as high up as Grand Wizard David Duke, played by Topher Grace) that get him in. But how’s a black guy supposed to meet IRL with Klan? Enter Adam Driver, stepping in for the face to face activities as the rabbit hole goes even deeper than anyone expected.

This is easily Spike Lee’s best film in years. For me, it’ll round out his holy trinity with Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour (totally get that some people might prefer Malcom X over 25th, and that’s cool). The film was expertly crafted around a brilliant screenplay. As we were seeing the Klan events unfold, they were often juxtaposed with Black Panther events, showcasing both sides of the story at once. There were bits of dialog that sounded all too familiar in today’s world, and an epilogue that pulled it all into a current context. Every word and scenario was hard hitting (some may say too heavy handed, but I found it necessary) and so effective.

The cast was also incredible. For someone who I’d never seen on screen before, let alone as a lead, Washington owned that screen (musta picked that up from his daddy Denzel). I think the strongest one though was Adam Driver. I know, I hate to be that (half) white person who calls out accolades for the white dude in the black movie, but his character had a tough arc and he played it out with beautiful subtlety (just as we’ve come to expect from Driver).

I also wanna take a second to talk about Topher Grace. I read some interviews with him, where he discussed his trepidation with the role and his discomfort with the words he said. He approached it all with such reverence and respect, and absolutely trusted his director. He was only able to bring himself to say his hateful words with Spike’s blessing, who told him that saying that dialog ultimately served the message of the movie and was essential. The result was worth it.

I walked out of that film blown away, and even a bit disgusted with humanity. Some scenes (especially that epilogue) just cut right thru my soul, because I hate to believe that people are capable of such hate. I really hope this film starts the conversations it’s trying to initiate because this powerful film is one that this divided world needs right now. I cannot recommend this enough.

BlacKkKlansman – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/