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

Justice League (2017)

Superman is dead, and with him the hopes that humanity might join him in the stars. Batman, wracked with guilt over his role in Superman's death, feels the rumblings of an invasion and begins assembling a team to confront the horrors of the future.  Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon direct Justice League, with the screenplay written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher.

Zack Snyder started the cinematic superhero renaissance with Watchmen, anticipating and critiquing the blithe indifference of most superhero films.  Warner Brothers initially went all-in on Zack's vision, resulting in the deeply empathetic and triumphant Man of Steel, and following up with the complex interrogation of United States ethics in Batman v Superman.  David Ayer and Patty Jenkins added their stamps with Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, further complicating the ethical pool and questioning the good of heroics for a species prone to perpetual war.

Now, thanks to Joss Whedon, what was once a series of complex and challenging films has been reduced to just another superhero film.  It might seem unfair to place the blame squarely on his shoulders but to say otherwise would mean ignoring the vast changes he made as soon as he took the production over from Zack.  As a director, Joss' vision has not evolved passed the "people standing around talking" visual level that even fellow nerd savant Kevin Smith got bored with.  His involvement tears Justice League to pieces, resulting in a third of a film that puts the best of us on the front lines for a spiritual reckoning, and the other two-thirds where Joss gets to write a joke about how thirsty Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is.


Gerald’s Game (2017)

Looking to revitalize their diminished sex life, Jessie and Gerald take a vacation up to a secluded cabin for a love-in.  When Gerald's tastes threaten Jessie's safety, her decision to fight back leaves her trapped in the cabin with only ghosts and a dog to keep her sanity in check.  Mike Flanagan directs Gerald's Game, with the screenplay written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, and stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood.

When I went to the library my mom had only one rule for me - take out as many books as you want but only if you're sure to read them.  Like many rules there was one exception, I was not allowed to take out Gerald's Game.  The cover of the bedpost and handcuffs wasn't like the usual monsters or psychopaths that graced most Stephen King novels.  This made it a tantalizing prospect and, when I was left alone at the library for once, I pulled it from the shelves and started reading.  The "danger" was real. I read the words and barely understood what they were waking up as I felt aroused by the King's descriptions of the room, flesh, and cuffs against Jessie's skin as she struggled to get herself free.

Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Gerald's Game keeps the illusion of kink with little of the danger, none of the arousal, and a scant whiff of the catharsis.  King's book was dedicated to six of the most important women in his life, and that framework of admiration carries through to the litany of mostly women voices that bring Jessie to freedom.  Flanagan's take makes this catharsis a performance, summoning first an audience of one man for Jessie to perform her pain for, and cramming the entire support network of the book into a mirror image of Jessie.  Adaptations are sometimes able to transcend their written material.  That does not happen with Gerald's Game.


The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Life is good for Dom Toretto.  He's mostly retired, has the love of his life Letty by his side, and is content to race for respect over cash.  His idyllic existence comes to an end with the emergence of a criminal hacker known as Cipher who has information that gets Dom to turn on his team.  F. Gary Gray directs The Fate of the Furious, with the screenplay written by Chris Morgan, and stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, and Jason Statham.

It's a small miracle the Fast and Furious franchise has produced a couple of good films.  The larger miracle is that they've made two excellent films, a handful of good ones, and two snoozers (with respect to Ryan's conversation, Tokyo Drift is way better than the fourth entry.)  The writing was on the wall with the seventh installment and I couldn't help but feel the doubt creeping in that this franchise could last much longer.  After dragging a safe all over Rio and keeping a plane grounded through sheer force of car in the fifth and sixth entries, Dom (Vin Diesel) doing a bit of inter-skyscraper automobile parkour felt like a step back.  Now, with The Fate of the Furious, Dom and his team are outrunning a nuclear submarine and it feels as though this creative endeavor needs a hard reboot after James Bond did something similar in the worst Pierce Brosnan 007 film.

One problem with The Fate of the Furious is unavoidable.  Paul Walker's tragic death left these characters without his heartfelt character work to bounce off of.  The other problem is similar but was written into the fabric of the series with Sung Kang's Han killed off by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in the seventh installment.  Much of the best comedy in the sixth installment - still my favorite - came from Kang and Tyrese Gibson's Roman Pearce flailing in fights way out of their league.  Now Roman's cowardice has less people to bounce off of, and the law of diminishing returns kicks in as there are less fresh ways to frame him.


Ghost in the Shell (2017)

In the future, technology has advanced to the point where a human's consciousness can be transferred to an artificial shell.  Major Mira Killian, after suffering severe wounds in an attack, is transferred to a shell.  As she begins experiencing ghostly glitches, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems behind her existence.  Rupert Sanders directs Ghost in the Shell, with the screenplay written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger, and stars Scarlett Johansson.

As an opening admission, and one of Ghost in the Shell's least weighty problems, I damn near fell asleep watching it.  I'm not proud of these moments as I pride myself on getting through some of the most grueling endurance tests cinema has to offer.  What hampers Ghost in the Shell the most is a lack of cinematic texture.  The production feels like someone half-remembering different aspects of Blade Runner, the original animated Ghost in the Shell, and that Scarlett Johansson is the go-to United States actress for flippy action scenes.

Shame director Rupert Sanders couldn't even get the flippy bits to have much of an impact.  There's an illuminating side-by-side comparison of the water fight Major Killian (Johansson) has toward the middle of both the live-action version and the original animated.  A standard complaint about modern action movies is that they have too many cuts and that's certainly the case here with about 27 for the live-action and 18 for the animated.  That's not an automatic negative though, and what makes the live-action version so unfulfilling is the monotony of the construction.  There's never a moment Killian's target isn't overwhelmed by the city and his momentary feeling of safety is undercut by the long-shot preparing our eyes for something to emerge from the water.


The Belko Experiment (2017)

The employees of Belko Industries are in for a rough day at the office.  Additional security shows up to turn away the local Colombians, a new employee has questions about why a tracking chip was planted in her skull, and a mysterious voice commands the employees to kill each other or more people will be killed in response.  With the office shuttered, the employees divide into camps figuring out how to survive, and bloodshed seems inevitable.  Greg McLean directs The Belko Experiment, with the screenplay written by James Gunn, and stars John Gallagher Jr. Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, and John C. McGinley.

My interest in The Belko Experiment peaked early.  Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) drives to work and is taken aback by the sight of several Colombian children playing innocently on the sidewalk while wearing skeleton masks.  The visuals slow as Mike's eyes narrow to focus on the children, hinting that whatever I'm about to learn about Mike will be tainted by this minor note of aggression to children who don't share his skin color.  I knew The Belko Experiment was going to feature tons of violence in the workplace so I settled in thinking this film may address the United States' exploitation of other countries in the guise of feel-good nonprofits.

Silly me.  The Belko Experiment is another in a sea of genre films where society is arranged to deprive white men of control and the only way to wrest it back is through violence.  I have no issues with the premise, Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin was fantastic in this regard, but Blue Ruin had awareness about the illusion of middle-class prosperity and the desperation of men trying to return to that stability.  The scenario for The Belko Experiment is contrived to the point of leaving its hapless participants with no option outside taking up arms and hacking up their coworkers.