Movie Review – Downsizing

Downsizing (2017)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

In 2017, Alexander Payne had his first official box office bomb. Four years prior, he’d received fairly rave reviews from critics for Nebraska, and before that, The Descendants had also been similarly received. In a decision that can be read as an attempt to expand his creative sphere by making a satirical science fiction film. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor hammered out the details during the director’s hiatus from filmmaking between 2004 and 2011. The film was released on December 22 and proceeded to gross $55 million against a $76 million budget. I only bring up those numbers as that’s mostly how you see Downsizing spoken about. It did not make money therefore it is a failure. Because the film was so poorly thought out, it was a failure. It was the third of Paramount’s bombs that year alongside Mother! and Suburbicon, all high-concept films that feature lousy writing.

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Movie Review – Boo 2: A Madea Halloween

Boo 2: A Madea Halloween (2017)
Written & Directed by Tyler Perry

Boo 2 was released the very next Halloween after the previous entry. It makes sense from a money perspective; the first film made $54.8 million. Boo 2 would not be as financially successful, making around $20 million when it finally left theaters. There’s very little to be found about the production of these movies because they are basically glorified sitcoms or YouTuber movies. That’s one element I didn’t discuss in my previous review, but for the Boo films, Perry has chosen to employ several YouTube celebrities. I guess these people are not members of SAG-AFTRA, and thus he can violate labor laws for actors by having them in prominent roles in his movies. Perry is on record for firing four writers who attempted to unionize in the late 2000s, and there was controversy around his decision to hire five non-union actors for his most recent production. 

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Patron Pick – Let There Be Light (2017)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Let There Be Light (2017)
Written by Dan Gordon and Sam Sorbo
Directed by Kevin Sorbo

When I was a youth, I fondly remember an hour block of syndicated television on Saturday featuring the adventures of Hercules & Xena. Little did I know over twenty years later, Kevin Sorbo, the man playing Hercules, would be revealed to be such a sanctimonious douchebag, grifting on the current fasci-corporate brand of American Christianity. It shouldn’t surprise me as the “top stars” of the American conservatism movement are washed-up actors (Scott Baio, Dean Cain, anyone?). I guess there’s some resentment about not succeeding in the business, but this isn’t some conspiracy theory about Sorbo’s religious belief; he’s not a good actor, so a cheesy show like Hercules was a terminal point for him. Sam Sorbo, his wife, was a recurring character on the show and is also a mediocre performer. I guess that makes them perfect performers for the Jesus film circuit.

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Movies About Consumerism

Robocop (1987, directed by Paul Verhoeven)
As a kid, I thought movies like Robocop and Total Recall were cool for the special effects. As an adult, I’ve learned how subversive the pictures were on so many levels. There’s the over plot about OCP and its take over of the Detroit PD turning them into a private army. But there are some more nuanced points being presented in the film. Robocop represents the changes in industrialization. Once you have humans doing jobs like building cars in factories. Now robots do them more efficiently and at a faster pace. Robocop’s existence is a threat to the human police. However, he is also prophetic in his representation of the police’s militarization, and his counterpart ED-209 shows how this goes even more extreme. The world of Verhoeven’s future Detroit is chock full of commercials that represent different ideas that were present in 1980s America. There’s an advertisement for Nukem, a family board game where everyone engages in playing a nuclear war scenario and has a blast. The energy of these spots is so manic that it reflects the anxiety that comes with mass consumerism and a society moving inhumanely fast.

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Movie Review – Paddington 2

Paddington 2 (2017)
Written by Paul King & Simon Farnaby
Directed by Paul King

I strongly dislike most contemporary children’s movies. Now I will concede this could simply be a case of the grumpy old man saying, “They were better when I was a kid.” When the final week of school rolls around, my grade level team will typically have a Movie Day where students can pick which of the seven 3rd grade classrooms they want to visit based on the movie that the teacher is showing. You’ll often see films like The Secret Life of Pets, Minions, Trolls, Sing!, or whatever wide release pablum is the only thing being offered to kids these days. I try to present something off the beaten path, which usually results in a smaller number of students. Last year, I chose My Neighbor Totoro, and the children who chose my room all seemed to enjoy the picture. I have a feeling that, if the school is back in session this year, I will select Paddington 2 as my offering. It is about as perfect as you can get for a movie aimed at kids.

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Comic Book Review – Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2

Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Jupiter’s Legacy v2 #1-5
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Frank Quitely

Decompressed storytelling in comic books rose to prominence in the 1990s and basically ended the “done in one” style of narratives that had dominated the medium since its inception. The original idea was that you could pick up issues of Superman or Batman and get a complete story, only needing to know the basic concept of the characters. Decompression took those stories and broke them into multi-issue arcs much the same way serialized television popped up in the 2000s with a move away from procedurals.

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Movie Review – World of Tomorrow

World of Tomorrow (2015)
World of Tomorrow – Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2017)
Written & Directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is a revelation in the world of contemporary animation. I thoroughly enjoyed his film It’s Such a Beautiful Day and wasn’t sure what The World of Tomorrow would be like. I was astonished. This is a fantastic animated piece that goes deeper than most live-action films would be willing to do. Profoundly deep thoughts are uttered during both of these short films that should resonate with an audience. Yet, Hertzfeldet was able to balance this with genuinely hilarious moments of comedy.

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Comic Book Review – Seven to Eternity Volumes 1 & 2

Seven to Eternity Volume 1
Reprints Seven to Eternity #1-4
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena

Seven to Eternity Volume 2
Reprints Seven to Eternity #5-9
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena and James Harren

After my year-long read through of Rick Remender’s tenure at Marvel, I was excited to get back to his work. This time it’s his Image work, specifically this fantasy-adventure series Seven to Eternity. Remender reunites with his Uncanny X-Force collaborator Jerome Opena, and the material is just as gorgeous and epic. They don’t hesitate to throw the audience into the deep end of a richly developed world with tons of back history. You might find yourself a little disoriented at first, but once you get your bearings, understand who’s who, the story becomes deeply engrossing.

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Comic Book Review – Doomsday Clock

Doomsday Clock (2017 – 2019)
Reprints Doomsday Clock #1-12
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank

In 2016, when DC Rebirth hit the stands, it became clear that DC Comics was working towards some crossover between their universe of characters and the Watchmen reality. For the next year, the event was teased in smaller stories, but the details remained obscure. What we knew was that Doctor Manhattan has some role in the New 52 reboot of the DCU, a 2011 line-wide decision to try and revitalize the characters. It appeared to be an in-universe way to explain why such drastic changes happened and why certain characters vanished.

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Movie Review – The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower (2017)
Written by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Nikolaj Arcel
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

The Dark Tower is based on a series of novels by Stephen King and existed in development hell for a decade before finally being made. The three phases of development are the JJ Abrams phase, the Ron Howard phase, and the “we give up, just make the damn movie” phase. Because the script went through so many rewrites, it has ended up a continuation of the books instead of an adaptation. Thus the story is incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t read the books. This is one of the strangest decisions I’ve ever seen a studio make when adapting a book.

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