Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Don’t Think Twice

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Don’t Think Twice (The Film Arcade)

Written & Directed by Mike Birbiglia

Starring Keegan-Michael KeyGillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate MicucciChris Gethard & Tami Sagher

It’s been proven that it’s hard to make a successful drama about comedy (or comedians) because the audience doesn’t know what to expect. Don’t Think Twice is a movie about funny people. The situations aren’t comedic but the characters in those situations are. It is a very good movie but as with all dramas about comedy; The King of Comedy, Jo Jo Dancer, Funny People, Obvious Child or Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, it is a hard sell. It is a hard sell because it’s easy to expect a laugh a minute from these movies and be disappointed. Because serious movies about comedians are usually kind of depressing. Show me a comedian who isn’t quietly in pain and I’ll show you someone who only thinks that they’re funny. Don’t Think Twice handles this contradiction beautifully. The director Mike Birbiglia knows the subject well and does an excellent job of bringing it to the screen. Don’t Think Twice is really funny when it’s funny, but still really good when it’s not.

Verdict: SPARED

Don’t Think Twice is a movie about the skill of comedy improv and about a comedy troop of six friends. Each one, dreaming of success. And success for them is presented here as a call up to the show. (The Show is a baseball term for making it to the major leagues). “The Show” is an SNL type comedy called Weekend Live. They all dream about it. They all know someone who made it. And it all feels very real. Don’t Think Twice stars a bunch of funny people. Some stand-up comedians, some sketch comedy veterans, but all of them amazingly good in this as it hits close to home.

Mike Birbiglia plays the elder statesman of a group of twenty something actors. He was their improv teacher and he performs with the six-man crew at a little theater that charges five dollars for a chance to see extremely likable people make it up as they go along. It’s very cool. I wish I could do stuff like that. I love making people laugh.

One of the best things about Don’t Think Twice is that it is scripted. Completely scripted. I hate when directors turn the cameras on and let funny people wing it. As a writer (god I still call myself that), it’s insulting and it’s a continuity killer and stops the story in its tracks. In basketball it’s like passing the ball to a ball hog. You’re not getting the ball back without a fight. (a basketball is the big orange one that makes watching TV in March unbearable). I don’t know how this review became about sports but I’m just going to roll with it (like in bowling).

In Don’t Think Twice the theme is team work, one of the hallmarks of good improv. But as the group begins to compete to impress talent scouts, the idea of “Yes and…” (a central tenet of improv) becomes “No. But…” and the movie becomes a great example of how competition ruins friendships. Just like in sports, there is no I in team (a team is a group of athletes who work together to score points and win the game). Don’t Think Twice also shows us how not to act when a close friend succeeds and we don’t. And also how something like unilateral success can affect romantic relationships as well. Don’t Think Twice is a very good movie about the life of the show-biz adjacent.

Don’t Think Twice is wonderful. Great performances, great writing… and it’s very funny. It can’t help but be funny, it is about and it stars very funny people. But Don’t Think Twice is not a comedy. It is a great drama. There is pain behind the laughter and it’s beautifully performed. Keenan-Michael Key is fantastic, as is Gillian Jacobs as his girlfriend. I really loved Gillian in Community, but honestly everything she’s done since has been fantastic. I loved her on Girls. I love her in this. And the Netflix show Love (two seasons so far) is phenomenal. I love her in Love… love, love, love.

And Mike Birbiglia handles both of his jobs extremely well, directing and acting. I really like his direction here. You can tell it’s personal for him, and for all of them.

When you pull the drama mask from the actor, you find a professional at work. Someone who may be nothing like the characters they play.

When you pull the comedy mask from the fool, you find a comedian in pain. Someone who needs to make people laugh in order to keep from crying.

Don’t Think Twice is a funny drama. But make no mistake it is a drama. And also it’s very funny.  It is a beautiful, low-budget drama about show business and comedy and friendship and improv and varying degrees of success. And I enjoyed it profusely. It’s a really really good movie.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Logan

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

I did not like this movie. I thought it was a child’s idea of what an adult movie would look like. Violence and cursing. “Please daddy can I stay up and watch Logan with you? I won’t get bad dreams honest. No? Why not? Why should I listen to you anyway? You’re not my real father.”

Go to bed. Because I said so and I’M AN ADULT!!!*

“It’s bedtime. Let’s find another nice family to kill.”

(Off topic* For the last several months, whenever I stop myself from doing something stupid or childish, I yell out, “I’m an adult.” in a fake stage voice out of pride and silliness. Which is admittedly stupid and/or childish but it has become my new mantra and the theme of this review for some reason)

Logan (20th Century Fox)

Directed by James Mangold

Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green

Starring Hugh JackmanPatrick StewartRichard E. GrantBoyd HolbrookStephen Merchant & Dafne Keen

I’ll put up my review now. The last post was me being happy with the theme of the movie Logan and what it means for comic book movies. I did not hate the movie as much as you might think. But I did not like it as much as most of you did. I thought the violence was unnecessarily um… violent. I’ve always believed that when it comes to Wolverine the idea of him doing those brutal things to people is sufficiently gruesome enough and not every kill has to be shown in gory HD detail. I thought the writing was sloppy. The plot was non-existent. The performances were good if only the actors were playing other characters. The only thing recognizable about those characters on the screen was the way they looked. I liked the theme though. I really did. Lone Wolf and Cub meets Mad Max meets Tuesdays with Morrie. That’s the reason I can say I didn’t hate the movie. The execution just left a hell of a lot to be desired. And obviously I’m going to spoil the shit out of it. And rant, and rant, and rant.

Verdict: SPOILED

“Are we really going to do this again? The first time was brutal enough.” “Honestly father. I thought at the very least you would see the irony in a Logan review being unnecessarily brutal… father?” “What are you like 60?”

SPOILER ALERT

The 25 Worse Things About The Movie Logan by Mel Rook

I started listing things and just kept going so there’s much more than 25 and they’re in no particular order because honestly I got bored.

To the list…

1) Wolverine’s adamantium does not corrode: I waited for them to say that he had some kind of radioactive substance in his body or that he was being poisoned because his fucking skeleton would not be leaking into his blood stream and affecting his healing. Not even acid would do that.

(Can we get someone in here who’s actually read the source material)

2) Wolverine is not a werewolf: Adamantium bullet? For fuck sake. Maybe it would go through his metal skull and then again maybe it wouldn’t. But Wolverine is not the fucking metal around his bones. Why would shooting him in the head kill him? Wolverine is not a zombie either. He heals after much worse injuries.

(Read the books)

“These are just props. No one actually fucking read them.”

Speaking of adamantium.

3) They put adamantium in the little girl’s body? Well then that means she can never grow any taller. It’s not an organic material. They encased her bones in a metal cage. She’s a human bonsai tree. What the fuck idiots?

(She’ll never be an adult… not like me. I’m an adult!!!)

Let’s move on to the unnecessarily violent action sequences.

4) The bad guys are like cannon fodder: They run right into the line of fire again and again. To the last man. They look like bad ass mercenaries but act like lambs being lead to the killing floor.

And what’s with all the gore? vicious kills of guys who can’t move. Vicious brutal kills by a little girl. It’s way over-the-top. In Deadpool it was necessary and comical. Here it’s just a way of screaming. “I’m a comic book movie for grown-ups!”

But let’s talk about the victims… the endless stream of so called bad guys.

5) Five guys show up for a fight and Wolverine kills twenty guys: Hub-cap thieves or industrial corn farmers or bad-ass mercenaries with cybernetic implants, more people die in the fights than actually show up for the fights. Just count them. I know continuity is an adult film-making concept but come on guys. At one point Bizzarro Wolverine is killing ranchers off camera but you can hear him and there’s like fifteen death screams for like eight rednecks. It’s dumb. The movie is dumb!!!

(I’m an adult!!!)

“The guy behind me knows I’m going to kill him right? Well then what the hell is his motivation?”

The little girl, Laura was made in a lab and yet…

6) She’s incredibly wise for someone so young: She doesn’t speak for half the movie and won’t shut up for the second half. I guess she had to speed learn English or something. She’s a kid. They learn things fast… like driving a car for instance.

7) She knows how to drive a car: For someone who has never left the lab, she parks the truck perfectly her first time behind the wheel.

(We’re all real proud of you Laura)

But how did she get Wolverine’s dense, metal bone having, passed out, grown man’s body into the stolen truck anyway? Never mind… it’s movie magic!!!

9) Shane, the classic western is on TV in the hotel room in the movie that we’re watching. And there is more emotion on the screen than at any time in the actual movie: Shane is not playing in the theater. Logan is not Shane. Logan will never be Shane. Logan… apologize to Shane.

“I can lift a man ten-times my size because… I’m a little adult!!”

10) What’s the bad guy’s motivation? Were they supposed to take Laura back alive? So that they could kill her later? Were they supposed to leave Charles alive. The “weapon of mass destruction” he had become. Were they supposed to keep Wolverine alive? What are the bad guys even doing?

“What’s my motivation? Am I a bad guy in this scene? Does the blade go through the back of my head from underneath the chin or the eye socket or is this yet another beheading? Wait… what’s my motivation again?”

(Grow Up)

Oh yeah let’s talk about this degenerative brain disease that causes people for miles around to have seizures when Charles has one. Then again let’s not it’s just dumb. Take your damn pills Charles.

(He can do as he pleases. He’s an adult!!!)

11) The young mutant clones are all so well-adjusted: Are we sure the corporation was treating them badly? They seem well-educated and healthy for lab experiments that they wanted to become super weapons. They should not have let them watch all those old westerns and read all those comic books.

And yeah…

12) Why are there X-Men comics in the movie? At no time in the X-Men timeline in any of the movies or comics are they accepted as heroes or even anti-heroes. We’re supposed to buy that they’ve been wiped off the face of the Earth. All of them including their children… their entire bloodline, but still the kiddies love to read about them in the comic books.

(I need to calm down before I have a seizure of my own)

“Professor. tell me how Magneto’s helmet works again.” “It works like a Faraday cage.” “Sure but in order to cover his head in all six directions wouldn’t he have to…” “It’s just a comic book you jackass.”

13) Logan is not in some dystopian future even though the film-makers forget and try to make it look like it is. I think they had Mad Max on the brain while filming. It’s the future, sure. You can tell by the tech. The self driving trucks and whatnot. But everything else is business as usual. Kids going to prom. People going to Vegas. Horses on the highway. Just because the last mutants are hiding out in some abandoned factory across the border doesn’t mean the world isn’t still spinning… just spinning without X-Men.

14) If they wanted to do the Old Man Logan story then they should have done that story. A darker, further in the future, story where super-villains divided the world up. They lame-assed it here. They lame-assed it real good.

15) What the fuck’s up with Callaban. I’m guessing the half werewolf, half zombie, Wolverine from Logan needed a vampire servant or some shit. Was Stephen Merchant supposed to be comic relief? because… not funny.

16) So is that tank that they keep Charles in supposed to act like a Faraday cage? Is it to protect others or to protect him. Because it doesn’t work for others. His seizure thing goes right through the tank. And if it’s supposed to hide him, well then they’re doing it wrong. The main mercenary bad guy cannon fodder guy actually says, “Keeping him in the tank. That was smart.”

(PLEASE EXPLAIN!!!!!!!)

“Well it’s obvious someone didn’t think this through.” “Don’t look at me. I’m the not at all funny comic relief. What do I know?” “You know enough to stay out of the sun.”

17) Hi I’m a nurse working for a secret corporation in the future but when I enter their top-secret facility they don’t take away my cell phone because… well because of plot. If you’re watching this then I must be dead… or I showed it to you because it’s evidence of the corporation’s wrong doing or you’re watching it on YouTube. I don’t know. If you’re watching this you must have pressed play. I was recording this when they broke in but I was still able to hide it and leave you note. And also they killed me but didn’t search the room. Whatever… my boyfriend worked there.

Let’s go back to the science behind this adamantium bullet for a second.

18) Did they mean adamantium tipped? That’s what they meant right? Still shouldn’t be able to kill Wolverine but you guys do see the error in your logic don’t you? Indestructible metal and all.

19) The coordinates are in the comic book. The coordinates are in the comic book. Just let that sink in for a second. Precise Longitude and Latitude? Because Stan Lee was thinking ahead and because of… you know plot?

(Excelsior!!!)

“He’s being so cruel.”

So did those kids build that house when they got to the coordinates that are from a fucking comic book or was the house already there? Asking for a friend.

20) The dialogue is crappy, people. The best line in the movie is a quote from another film. And she doesn’t even quote the burial scene in it. She watches Shane’s monologue to the kid and she watches the burial scene as well, so that when she quotes the final monologue during a burial scene it makes sense to us. It doesn’t. It’s fucking stupid.

(Hell I can still hear that kid yelling, “Come back, Shane! Mother wants you!” and it brings a tear to my eye today. They should be ashamed of themselves. That’s film-making. That’s real emotion. How dare they even compare Logan to that)

21) Is she a clone of Wolverine or is she his kid?

“He is NOT the father.” (Thank you Maury).

“Daddy!!!” (Use your words, Laura.) “AAAAARRRRGH!!!”

So they’re kids when it’s convenient. Weapons when it’s necessary. She’s a sweet kid when it’s cute. She’s a trained killer when it’s necessary. Because of plot, is that right?

Back to the seizures one last time… Because of their healing ability the two mutants are not as affected by Charles Xavier’s powerful seizures. Because of healing and… plot. Or is it their metal skulls?

(Tell me!!!)

22) Take your fucking medicine, Charles: “But I’m so sad about killing people, Logan that I can’t take my medicine that stops me from killing people.”

“Logan?” “Yes, Charles.” “When we’re on this boat you’re saving money to buy, how will I get my medication?” “Don’t ask me stupid questions, old man.” “But if we’re just getting on a boat to die then why does it have to be so expensive?” “You always were a pain in the ass, Professor.”

I almost forgot the dumbest part.

23) Let’s stay in this lovely family’s home. It’s not like we’re being chased by killer mercenaries. It’s not like the old man in the wheel chair (let’s take him upstairs by the way) is an out of control weapon of mass destruction or anything. And the feral kid isn’t a ticking time bomb of rage. And Wolverine himself isn’t fucking suicidal. Let’s repay their kindness by getting them all killed. That makes total sense.

Best part of the movie is when the father decides to shoot the real Wolverine knowing that he wasn’t the guy who killed his family directly… Indirectly, though… hell fucking yeah. He killed those nice people. “We almost killed an entire hotel full of tourists in Vegas. Let’s have a sleep over in the country!”

(I’m an adult!!! And I wrote me a comic book movie!!!)

Here’s something else stupid.

24) We’re going to buy a boat: Yeah because a guy with heavy metal bones and an old man who can’t use his legs are a great idea on the open water.

(OH MY GOD!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!!)

If they’re not going out on that boat so that Logan can “Fredo Corleone” the Professor then I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.

“Pay attention Laura. You may have to drive me somewhere… without knowing where you’re going, knowing how to drive, being able to reach the pedals or how to read. And you’re going to have to steal a truck. Are you watching me? You need to watch me.”

Did no one read the script before making this movie???? No one??

Was there not an adult somewhere who could point out how dumb these things were?

What a great idea it was to do an adult comic book movie. Too bad they couldn’t find an adult to make it. Am I being too harsh?

And finally…

25) They tried to pattern Logan after the American western but totally missed the point. Wolverine is not a gunslinger. Wolverine is a fucking samurai. There’s a reason why I think the second Wolverine movie is the best one of the three, because it’s the only one that gets him right.

Wolverine.

Honor. Solitude. Bad-ass.

Not.

Whiny. Little. Bitch.

Okay I’m done.

– Mel

LOGAN: The Death of the Comic Book Movie (The Birth of the Comic Book Genre)

This is not a review, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants of Gods, X-Men, Destiny, Time, Love, Storm, Rogue, Beauty… Comic Books.

Logan: The Death of a the Comic Book Movie (The Birth of the Comic Book Genre)

…Or this is just me rambling on about movies and comic books as usual.

Logan (20th Century Fox)

Directed by James Mangold

Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green

Starring Hugh JackmanPatrick StewartRichard E. GrantBoyd HolbrookStephen Merchant & Dafne Keen

“I get the feeling this review is gonna hurt, kid. The kind of pain that doesn’t heal. You know what I mean?” “Of course I do. I’m extraordinarily wise for a lab experiment… oh yeah and I can drive.”

Make no mistake, people. Logan is not a good film. It’s not a good superhero film or a good western. Even as it tries to compare its own shit writing to the classic western Shane (SACRILEGE!!!), it is not a good movie, period. But what it is, what Logan turns out to be, is the latest in a welcome trend. A regular movie that just happens to star a comic book superhero. Not a superhero movie. Not a comic book movie. There are comic books in the movie. Wolverine waves them around from time to time, if that helps to put the character in context. But that’s about it. And it does not.

“You see, in this reality they made us into comic book superheroes for their kids but still hunted us down like dogs… because that makes total sense.”

Wolverine, everyone’s favorite X-Man, has had three solo movies. The first and the third have been complete bullshit. The second, however, is one of my favorite comic book movies of all-time. The second Wolverine is an homage to his stand alone title. It is a perfect replica. The pacing. The cinematography. This is The Wolverine. This is the comic that I collected from issue ONE. I say this all the time and I will say it here again. “If you do not respect the source material do not take on the job of bringing it to the screen.” But I was about to tell you what this awful movie Logan means for the industry.

“Awful? Well that’s just harsh. Play that Johnny Cash song again. I think I’m gonna cry.””

The first sci-fi genre was a straight space adventure. Trip To The Moon. The second was The vampire Film. Nosferatu. Since those two, we’ve had tons of space adventures and tons of takes on the vampire. These are tried and true genres that once every decade somebody tries to reinvent and breathe new life into. But also there are other types of movies that aren’t as flexible. They come and go from era to era. They disappear and have resurgences. Like the western or the gladiator movie. These are just types of movies not genres. (in this context anyway. Because words can be tricky)

“I will kill you all with my Star Wars Prequel Yoda-like, physics defying, aerial acrobatics because I am a cartoon character in a serious movie!!! ARRRGH!!!”

In the past, the superhero movie was a type. (type vs genre) It was a costumed adventure. Fight the bad guy. Save the girl. Save the world. Period. End of story. There were a few comedy bits thrown in but mostly it was the superhero’s tale. But these types of movies are coming to an end. Their time has passed. Logan is not a comic book movie. It just happens to star a character from a comic book. And that is awesome. (Even while the movie Logan is not that awesome).

“Say my movie is bad one more time. I dare you… Bub.” *snikt

Logan is not a western either, by the way. I read that somewhere. I disagree whole-heartedly. It thinks it’s a western, but it’s not. If anything it’s a post-apocalyptic survival story like Mad Max: Fury Road. But instead of a global apocalypse, Logan is about the mutant apocalypse. The chase to hunt down the last mutants. At the start of this movie all but three mutants are dead. Professor X, Callaban and Wolverine. By the end of this movie… no spoilers but everywhere you look people are saying this is the last Wolverine movie. This is the last Wolverine movie. So you figure it out. And don’t talk to me about the kids. They were made in a lab (*see note). So not a natural mutation. Logan, the end of the Wolverine franchise, is some dark stuff.

*note: Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton was added in a lab but his mutation, his healing factor (Deadpool has the same thing but that too is from a lab) and Wolverine’s heightened senses (smell mostly) are a natural mutation. Of course the movie Logan all but ignores his sense of smell. It’s almost like the writers never read the comic books… but anyway. What was I saying? Oh yes.

“Wolverine, would you please tell Mel to stay on topic.” “He doesn’t listen to me, Professor.”

The comic book superhero is officially a film genre and not a type of movie now. And I know I’m not using the right words but bear with me. Because the word genre can fit for both of these categories of things and it gets confusing. The way I’m differentiating here is in the ways they can be presented. Some film types are the same no matter what. Different plot. Different characters. But you know the beats. Romantic Comedy. You get the gist. International Spy Thriller. You know what you’re going to get. Gladiator films changed from Roman to Martial Arts but they generally stayed the same. The Comic Book Movie was just like that not too long ago. Dark or Light. Marvel or DC. Nolan’s Batman, Donner’s Superman, Whedon’s Avengers and Raimi’s Spiderman are all the same fucking films. Like the western. It was a box. You could throw whatever superhero you wanted into it and the beats would always be generally the same. I’m not saying they are all the same quality because they are not. And there’s nothing wrong with opening up a box, knowing what you’re going to get and still being pleasantly surprised. It’s hard to like movies unless you’re okay with that.

“Wait… Are you the vampire, Callaban? And does that make me the Zombie? I don’t get it.”

But then you have the full on classic genre that’s not beholding to any style. Vampires. Are probably the best example. There are no rules. You can have a space opera with vampires. You can have a rom com with vampires or a western. Most recently Zombies have become the go to for putting them wherever the fuck you want. If you made a section of vampire movies it would make no sense. There would actually be more types of movies than you could shake a stick at under the vampire genre. Comic book superheroes are now officially crossing into that zone. And I’m psyched. The R rated comic book film with no crime to fight, no world to save… fuck yeah.

“Did somebody call for a super-villain? That isn’t really super or necessarily a villain. Just a misguided corporate stooge who blindly follows orders. Did somebody call for a misguided corporate stooge who blindly follows orders?”

And again I’m talking Sherlock Holmes in space type shit. Not just some detective. I’m talking about recognizable comic book superheroes in all kinds of movie boxes. Not just some generic superhero they made up that’s supposed to remind us of stuff from the comics, but the name-brand heroes from the comics. It’s time for a Batman movie where he never puts on the cape. Just a detective story or a revenge tale. One of my favorite aspects of The Hulk movie (still my favorite comic book adaptation) is the romance between Liv Tyler and Ed Norton. And that’s what the Hulk was for me when I was a kid, a romance. Stop trying to make him into a superhero. He’s not a superhero. He’s a monster in love. Spider-man as a teen drama would be nice. Sure he’s still the spider-man but that’s not the movie. The movie is about a kid trying to finish high school. Stop it with the super-villains. Enough already. We get it.

“Logan, do you remember that Star Trek episode where Captain Picard has a full life and grows old in a simulated tribute to an alien species?” “No I didn’t watch that nerd crap.” “I wish that was what this was. Because this movie is depressing as fuck.”

So anyway, what Logan represents to me is the death of the comic book movie. We saw the beginnings in Winter Soldier… that’s more of a spy thriller than comic book. And Deadpool… an R rated fourth wall comedy, a parody of itself. The comic book movie as movie type, is burning itself out. There will still be tons made, because you know how it takes Hollywood a couple of decades before they get the point, but we’re already getting tired of them. Bring on the comic book heroes in regular movies. These are great classic characters. They don’t have to fight The Riddler every week. That’s just their job. It doesn’t have to also be the movie plot.

“Here Lies The Superhero Movie Genre… I mean Movie Type… May It Rest In Peace… I mean Pieces. – Hugh Jackman.”

So Logan, this mediocre, unbelievably corny and poorly written take on The Wolverine, really wasn’t that great of a movie from where I was sitting (seat L10 right behind the wheelchair section because, you know, leg room ftw). Even though Hugh Jackman is great as Wolverine, here he reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back to play the Terminator one last time… nostalgic. And to tell the truth, I didn’t see Wolverine in Logan at all. I saw the actor who plays Wolverine and a character with claws who references the comic books like that’s enough. That’s not enough.

“Daddy?” “Yes Laura… wait. Did you just call me daddy? Damn, maybe Mel is right. This is some corny ass shit.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” “Hold it. We’re almost there.” “AARRRRGH!!” “Really? Again with the screaming?”

But what I also saw, in the theater, and on the screen, is what it means for comic book movies going forward… a whole new set of rules. The possibilities are endless. Creativity run amok. And that shit was better than the movie. That shit was beautiful.

– Mel

The Comic Book Movie is dead.

Long Live the Comic Book Genre.

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Captain Fantastic

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Captain Fantastic (Bleecker StreetUniversal Pictures)

captain-fantastic-poster

Written & Directed by Matt Ross

Starring Viggo MortensenFrank LangellaKathryn Hahn & Steve Zahn

Philosophical and intellectual plot holes in abundance but Captain Fantastic is still a pretty good film. No really it is.

Captain Fantastic is the story of a family that has lived for years off the grid. Self-sufficient. Healthy and happy. Until family tragedy (the mother’s mental illness and death) forces them to rejoin the world, begrudgingly and hysterically. This is a fish out of water family. Who clearly benefit from healthy living and minimized technological distractions. But the children have no experience with modern society and very few social skills while at the same time being capable, confident, and extremely intelligent. It is a great movie. And in between yelling at it for being wrong about so many things, I liked it… I guess.

Verdict: SPARED

captain-fantastic

The kids of Captain Fantastic are all amazing. (great actors and great characters) The idea is… interesting (I use that word a lot). The kids in this movie are all smarter than me (or is that smarter than I?). I really liked how bright the children are. I liked how well-trained they were for survival. But any well-rounded training would also include etiquette and social discourse. So I felt this was a tremendous plot hole. And any reading list would include books about human interaction (at least Dale Carnegie’s How to…). But the most egregious plot hole is that they call the mother a Buddhist throughout the film and yet her children know very little about Buddhist philosophy. I guess that part of the curriculum is forgotten.

captain-fantastic

The “hippie” movement is made fun of quite a lot. And becomes a running joke throughout the film. They make fun of the idea of celebrating Noam Chomsky’s birthday. (HOLES!!!) I did enjoy the joke about not making fun of fat people (Americans are a fat and sickly population and it’s not a joke). But the children are told that it’s okay to make fun of Christians. Then they pretend to be ultra-religious Christian home-schooled kids to scare off police who come snooping around their bus. That was genius. But if you’re strongly Christian you might find that as annoying as I found the fake Buddhism.

captain-fantastic-school-bus

Captain Fantastic is very good from a pure enjoyment stand point but the way it flings around political terms and claims of being morally superior is troubling. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but never taught her kids not to steal. Not to mention that she was wealthy and didn’t have to steal. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but in the first scene they kill a deer. I guess the mother was a pretend Buddhist like most of the 60’s hippie children of rich parents. Not interested enough to do the research.

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Then there’s the nonsense about the mother’s mental disorder and her husband sending her to a facility away from her children and her natural food and her healthy lifestyle. Of course she died. And yes I’m saying 100% healthy living is better than all the antipsychotics that exist or will exist for helping to handle even the most serious mental afflictions. (I know this for a fact) There were so many of these social, economic, philosophical and political plot holes in their upbringing that it became annoying. I liked the ending though. It’s a good movie (really it is). Fantastic writing (everything but the philosophy stuff). Good performances from all the kids. Viggo Mortensen is great once again. It’s just the movie pretends to be smarter than it is.

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But of course, if they did things my way, there wouldn’t be a movie. The mother would still be alive. The kids would be capable of social discourse. They would grow their own food. Not kill animals for selfish reasons. And they surely would not have cut off Sweet Child O’ Mine before the change. That’s the best part of the song. What the hell, Matt?

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Captain Fantastic is a great film about family but a horrible film about philosophy. It’s like they had all of these heady ideas and in trying to find a balance with ignorance (that seems to be a running theme these days. Ignorance gets to have its say, in our schools, in our politics, and in our fucking movies) the film-makers poke fun or completely misinterpret simple ideas about compassion and healthy living.

You know you can entertain and still inform right?

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Captain Fantastic features a fantastic cast and a fantastic story and a fantastic premise, it just has a very tenuous grasp on its own philosophical concepts. But it’s still a delightful story with an excellent cast of fine young actors. So I liked it, I guess.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: The Edge of Seventeen (Obscured by Moonlight)

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

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“Dear Melvin, No matter how hard I try, I will never grow up to be a black man. Love Nadine.”

Wow, talk about not knowing where a review is going when you start writing it.

This one is quite the journey.

"Quite the journey? Doesn't he know I will punch him in the dick?"

“Quite the journey? What the fuck? Doesn’t he know I will punch him in the dick?”

The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment)

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Written & Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring Hailee SteinfeldWoody HarrelsonKyra SedgwickHaley Lu Richardson & Blake Jenner

This is a hard one to review. The movie is good. The Edge of Seventeen is the story of a socially awkward but whip-smart seventeen year old girl. I really liked it. It is cute and funny and smart and all that good stuff. But the reason I find it so hard to review is that I couldn’t identify with it. Not even a little. Which isn’t usually a problem but the last film I watched was so fucking personal and identifiable. Moonlight was also a coming of age tale like Edge but from a totally different cultural, sexual, financial and social POV. I hate it when I’m watching a movie so soon after another and it affects the way I look at the second. That’s what happened here. The Edge of Seventeen was an excellent movie that didn’t deserve to be compared to Moonlight. It is, however. So this is less of a review and more of the tale of how Moonlight screwed up the way I saw The Edge of Seventeen. Film Comparison Alert!!! Don’t watch these movies back to back.

Verdict: SPARED

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“So let me get this straight. He’s going to compare a comedy about a white girl living in the suburbs to a drama about a black boy living in the hood?” “Yes. And I’m going to punch him in the dick.” “Oh no. I got that part.”

Moonlight tells the story of a gay black boy who is secretly in love with his bisexual best friend. The Edge of Seventeen tells the story of a straight white girl whose only friend is secretly in love with her over-achieving twin brother. So I’m reading sexual tension between the friends that wasn’t there, in Edge. While seeing her pain at her brother and best friend’s relationship as more about jealousy than it was meant to be. And that’s not the story. God damn it, Moonlight. You ruin everything.

"Napoleon Dynamite. That's what you compare this teen comedy to. Not some Oscar winning drama. See the comparison? It's not fair."

“Napoleon Dynamite. That’s what you compare this teen comedy to. Not some Oscar-winning drama. See the comparison? See it? Look at it. It’s not fair.”

In The Edge of Seventeen the main character is a socially awkward fast-talking wordsmith. And I think I’m getting a little tired of that. And I get it. Writers write what they know. And these talented women screenwriters are writing these socially awkward but creatively and linguistically skilled little girls because that’s more than likely what they were growing up. It’s the Diablo Cody effect. It’s fun and makes for a likable main character. But I don’t know. I identify with her more when the character’s inner monologue is brilliant but what comes out of her mouth isn’t. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Or maybe it’s because Moonlight featured a main character who said like five words the entire movie. God damn it, Moonlight. You ruin everything.

"Oooh. He's gonna get such a punch."

“Oooh. He’s gonna get such a dick punch.”

Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic. So is Woody Harrelson as her teacher. The Edge of Seventeen is very funny when these two are on-screen together. He handles her tough exterior and brutal honesty with an almost reckless honesty of his own. This mentor relationship is a stark contrast from the one in Moonlight but with tons of similarities as she uses him to hide from bullies and awkwardness at school and goes to his house to escape un-comfortableness at her home with her mom. Similar to Little’s relationship with the drug dealer Juan in Moonlight. A beautiful parallel between the two amazing movies.

"Well then let me ask you this one, smart guy. Where's MY Oscar? Huh? The other guy got an Oscar."

“Well then let me ask you this one, smart guy. Where the fuck’s my Oscar? Huh? The other guy got an Oscar. What’s up with that? A beautiful parallel my ass.”

In The Edge of Seventeen, Kyra Sedgwick plays the mom who is spiraling out of control because of personal tragedy and again I couldn’t help but compare her to the mom in Moonlight. Of course there, the tragedy affects the mother and son’s over-all quality of life a lot more. In The Edge of Seventeen they continue to live in the same nice house and great neighborhood despite her mom’s psychological turmoil. Maybe this is cultural. Maybe it’s the crack cocaine. I can’t say.

"Are you mad because I don't sell crack in the movie? I can do it. Give me the crack. I'll sell it. Give me the crack."

“Are you mad because I don’t sell crack in the movie? I can do it you know. I will sell the hell outta some crack. Give me some crack. I’ll sell it. Give me the crack, you fucking racist.”

Both films, (both wonderful films I might add) feature a sexual awakening but just from drastically different points of view. One male. One female. One straight. One gay. Culturally, racially different. Awkward teenage sexual awakening on film. Hard to watch at times but both films handle it brilliantly. The Edge of Seventeen making us laugh and Moonlight making us cry. (God damn it, Moonlight) But both films making us smile.

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Happy Dance.

Because in the end, they are both love stories. Excellent love stories. Gorgeous cinematic young love stories. Exquisitely similar and painfully different. Beautiful and ugly at the same time. Dynamically and diametrically opposed reflections of each other. And it doesn’t matter if it’s funny or dramatic or something in-between. If they’re gay or straight or somewhat in-between. Male and female or someone in-between. Black and white and everything in-between. Love is love and LOVE is love and love is loooove and LoVe is LOVE!!! and… Love?

"Well that sure took him long enough." "I know, right?"

“Well that sure took him long enough.” “I know, right? And now you won’t have to punch him in the dick.” “Eh. I still might. I haven’t decided.”

I take it back. I take it all back. These two movies compliment each other beautifully. Watch them one after the other. I dare you. I implore you. I’m begging you. The Edge of Seventeen is a fantastically funny film to experience right after watching the emotional and amazing Moonlight. It just took me seven paragraphs to fucking realize it.

My bad.

– Mel