2016 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Elvis & Nixon (2016)

In 1970, Elvis got bored of his wife and father complaining about how much money he was spending, so he decided to go to Washington D.C. to get a Federal Narcotics badge.  Nixon, struggling to connect with the American youth, trusts his aides that this is an okay idea.  Liza Johnson directs Elvis & Nixon, with the screenplay written by Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, and Cary Elwes, and stars Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey.

In addition to providing whichever partisan slant you subscribe to, the major news networks provide the exciting alternative to actual governance.  Watch a few hours of C-SPAN and you'll see that the day-to-day actions of running the government boil down to a lot of bookkeeping.  That's not a bad thing, and while the fistfights in other governments might be good for intrigue they're bad for healthy functioning.  Keeping this in mind, Elvis & Nixon is more accurate to how the government really works than any number of political dramas.

I can't say I was expecting Elvis & Nixon to be so dry I felt the need for an IV drip at one point.  But I can't say it was very entertaining either.  Big surprise all things considered as Michael Shannon, playing the "king of rock and roll", and Kevin Spacey, getting to play the President whose scheming is surely felt in House of Cards, are both actors who often swing for the fences.  The shock relative to Elvis & Nixon is they both play their roles relatively straight and there's little wiggle room to ham it up.


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

The battle over real estate value begins once more as the Radners, looking to move their home out of escrow, take on the new sorority filled with girls who are tired of rules around their partying.  Nicholas Stoller directs Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, with the screenplay written by Nicholas Stoller, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen, and stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Seth Rogen's recent run of socially conscious films has been a disaster.  It's hard to place an exact starting point but I'd have to say it was The Interview, where the satirical potency is rendered toothless by Rogen and company casually glossing over the sexual slavery to get to the yuks about Rogen sticking capsules up his bum.  I thought it wouldn't get worse than that, but little did I suspect Sausage Party was on the horizon with its brazen arrogance on religion.

Now comes Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, where the level of feminist knowledge applied to the plot consists of mostly dry reproduction of facts in the dialogue.  The strongest indicator we're dealing with bargain basement feminism is in one of the last scenes involving women telling other women it's okay to dress how they want.  It's "woke" dialogue 101, taking one of the most easily communicated points about cultural relativism with respect to dress and presenting it as a climactic thought on sisterhood.  Sit with me in stunned silence while we process that five men needed almost an hour and a half to get that across.


Done?  Alright, let's move on to the rest of this disappointment.


Hardcore Henry (2016)

Henry wakes up in a lab with no memories and new cybernetic implants.  Estelle, his wife, said this had to be done to save his life.  Soon the lab is under attack by the telekinetic Akan and Henry, with his battery running low, goes on the run.  Ilya Naishuller wrote the screenplay for and directs Hardcore Henry, and stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, and Haley Bennett, with Henry played by Ilya Naishuller, Sergey Valyaev, and Andrei Dementiev.

My way of coping with the trials of daily existence is to intellectualize things.  That way, I can start sorting my various emotions and people's reactions to them while forming a list of potential reading or research needed to understand the world better.  I do this so naturally that it's sometimes difficult for me to really communicate how something makes me feel.  So, in the interest of pushing myself outside my comfort zone, here's how I feel about Hardcore Henry:

Hardcore Henry made me feel awesome.  So damn awesome.  Just when I thought the ridiculous escalation of violence and camerawork couldn't get any cooler, director/screenwriter Ilya Naishuller found a new way to make my face erupt in joy.  By the time the climactic fight rolled around, I couldn't contain my giggling anymore.  Each punch, each cut, each bit of chemical intake - it all made me so joyful I wanted to stop Hardcore Henry before the credits so I could watch it again.  I immediately started texting my cineaste buddies and folks I thought would appreciate the lunatic aweseomeness of Hardcore Henry - "Watch Hardcore Henry.  Now.  It's more than its gimmick.  It's insane."


Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

College officially starts in three days - just enough time for the baseball team to get comfortable with the freshman, hook up at parties, imbibe some chemicals, and share a little philosophy.  Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay for and directs Everybody Wants Some!!, and stars an ensemble cast led by Blake Jenner and Glen Powell.

When Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson rolled into Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, he condensed all the pleasures and problems with Linklater's writing by uttering, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”  The trick to that line, and how similar Linklater dialogue worked in the interim, is that the speaker is pathetic.  Other boys in the same scene take turns joking around with him, but when he utters the line they all have to avert their gaze and in low volume tell him he's going to jail some day.  Fun is fun until the reality of fun is checking out girls barely half his age.

Cut to twenty-three years later and Linklater has continued making great filmsEverybody Wants Some!! (Everybody moving forward) is not one of them, though not without its charm.  Unfortunately, the charm is attached to a mob of college men who took the lessons of David Wooderson to heart.  They're all bravado to the point of transparent cockiness, many sporting mustaches to varying degrees of success, and chase dream women who want to have sex with them as much as the men want to have sex with the women.  Everybody is the dream Wooderson has when he goes home alone and I spent most of the movie wondering if anyone would wake up.


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Bartholomew Bogues has the town of Rose Creek in the grip of terror.  Either they'll sell him their land, or he'll kill them where they stand.  In desperation, the townsfolk gather what money they can with the aim of hiring help to take out the vicious Bogues.  Sam Chisolm, a drifter with his own past involving Bogues, takes the offer and starts assembling a team to free Rose Creek.  Antoine Fuqua directs The Magnificent Seven, with the screenplay written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, and stars Denzel Washington, Peter Sarsgaard, and Chris Pratt.

Contrary to popular belief, The Civil War is still being fought.  Sure, the violence has scaled down considerably, but with each black church going up in flames or gathering of Confederate flag-waving Klansmen we get stark reminders that the scars of the Confederacy are deep in the DNA of the southern United States.  Then there are more subtle signs I was privy to going to school in South Carolina.  Talks of the "War of Northern Aggression", teasing "Yankees" out of class, and the too-often drop of the n-word from white fellas who have never had cause to use it.

There's nothing so brazen as the n-word in Antoine Fuqua's remake of The Magnificent Seven, which would have surprised me as Fuqua is the director whose action movies are filled with social commentary.  The "good guys" of Olympus Has Fallen would starve thousands of innocent people if they won, and Fuqua's direct stab at the "working class" always being white has a direct challenge in the tool-filled final action scene of The Equalizer.  A passing glance through The Magnificent Seven wouldn't be promising as Joshua (Chris Pratt) mocks his Mexican comrade, Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), in so direct and insulting a way that Joshua might consider running for President.  Throw in Joshua's tendency to refer to The Civil War as, "The War of Northern Aggression," and you'd be forgiven for thinking The Magnificent Seven as timely and kind to the Confederacy as Gone With The Wind.