Dislike Archives - Page 3 of 63 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
20Jan/180

Detroit (2017)

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The summer is long, the heat of the day bleeds into the night, and the citizens of Detroit grow restless. After suffering one too many injustices from the police, a riot begins.  In the center of the chaos a small group of police officers hold several men and women hostage, demanding answers for a crime that doesn't exist.  Kathryn Bigelow directs Detroit, with the screenplay written by Mark Boal, and stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, and Algee Smith.

Detroit is a film without sympathy.  Director Kathryn Bigelow displays just enough knowledge of the economic backdrop of the Detroit riots to bring up the question why she did not present those implications visually.  Detroit is a film without empathy.  Time and again, Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal settle for thin stereotypes of characters while finding ways of demeaning or presenting "both sides" as childish adults given too much power with not enough sense to use it without getting people killed.

Detroit is a moral failure so complete that I felt pity for the faces paraded about to be beaten, stripped, cursed at, and treated without mercy for over two hours of oblivious commentary.  This film is beyond shame, it should be taught as an example of white creative authorities stepping far outside their comfort zone without asking if what they were making was of any value.  It reinforces the worst stereotypes of liberal thinking - that a few childish officers are to blame for widespread violence against black Americans while going the extra grotesque step of blaming black Americans for their condition.  There is no systemic analysis, no characters that exist without degradation, no grasp that the conditions of the Detroit riots were brought about in-part by ignorant and hateful white people.

Bigelow steps wrong with the first frame and continues spiraling down.  The economic conditions of Detroit get a cartoon explanation, which suggests Bigelow sees the very real White flight as a fantasy, and never follows up by showing poverty in action.  Boal writes employed characters, on the cusp of breaking out into musical stardom, or otherwise able to provide for families in a way that runs counter to history.  The phrase, "knowing enough to be dangerous," raced to the front of my mind so many times - how could Bigelow and Boal be aware of history without putting it to work creatively?

16Jan/180

Mafia 3 (2016)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Start with his name, "Lincoln Clay."  First name borrowed from the President known for freeing slaves via legislature and the Emancipation Proclamation, last a tip of the hat to Cassius Clay - better known as Muhammad Ali - the greatest sportsman in history with a rich legacy of fighting for Civil Rights.  Neither had it easy, and on name alone the player character of Mafia 3 has mighty expectations to bear on his shoulders.  Whether developers Hangar 13 bothered to think this far with his name or not is irrelevant, this is his name and this is what it invokes.

Had Hangar 13 bothered with nuance in respect to Mafia 3's player character it might have had something interesting on its hands.  Instead, Mafia 3 goes about treating Lincoln and his surroundings with the vaguest understanding of what life was like in the 1960s for black Americans.  Hangar 13 gets the vernacular down just fine with plenty of moments where Lincoln is referred to or calls others the n-word.  But this is like a suburban white kid rapping along with Public Enemy, the energy comes from saying the word instead of understanding the political, social, and economic conditions that make it such a violent slur.

28Dec/170

That Dragon, Edith Finch, and playing through grief

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

My dalmatian, Beau, was the stinky angel of support during the worst years of my life.  He was hit by a car when he was younger, never fixed, and was a constant source of flatulence.  Eventually he needed to lose weight and went to my grandma's for the summer.  When we arrived he was the healthiest I ever saw him, he ran and ran, then collapsed from a heart attack.  I held him, feeling all the warmth leave his frame, and I wanted to hide from my shame.  I couldn't shake the thought I killed him with my presence, and my grandma's prayers for Beau to be okay didn't help as I sat on the bed failing to disassociate myself from that awful feeling running down my arms, chest, and face of Beau's heat fading away.

Playing 2016's That Dragon, Cancer unearthed that feeling of life slipping away.  I got no respite from any of its chapters, and the moments when baby Joel - diagnosed with cancer at barely a year old - wasn't crying were filled with anxious parents, doctors, and other loved ones chiming in with their feelings.  Their words aren't always of despair or helplessness as there are spiritual and emotional comforts communicated in text, voice, or polygonal frames.  But they served as cold comfort to the tears I could not stop as Joel screamed or his parents, Ryan and Amy, let their doubts and faith spill out onto the canvas of the videogame.

16Dec/174

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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The war continues. Both the Resistance and the First Order are reeling after the destruction of the Starkiller Base, and General Leia leads the retreat as Kylo Ren continues his relentless pursuit.  Meanwhile, Rey seeks out Jedi Master Luke Skywalker hoping to understand more about the power that's awakened inside her, and finding out the truth of the Jedi is more complicated than mere light and dark.  Rian Johnson wrote the screenplay for and directs The Last Jedi, and stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the audience surrogate who speaks to me.  While other characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi  (just The Last Jedi from here on) spin their wheels in diversionary plots and meandering dialogue, Kylo openly vents his frustration at a lack of forward momentum.  It's his psychic communion with Rey (Daisy Ridley) which drives her to be the teensiest bit curious about why the powerful Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cut himself off from the universe to stare at vegetation for thirty years.  Kylo is as tired of the wheel-spinning inside The Last Jedi's universe as I am watching it from the outside.

There is nothing new in The Last Jedi, written and directed by the usually phenomenal Rian Johnson, and what few advances in diversity were in The Force Awakens are revealed as the hollowest form of tokenism.  Rey, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are all pawns in a proxy war between the entrenched old white guard and the less snappily dressed opposition.  Never has the distinction between good and bad mattered so little, now it's just about who survives plot points repeated from earlier Star Wars films to be shoved into the same cycle for the upcoming ninth episode.

The Last Jedi shows none of the ideological or creative bravery that punctuated Gareth Edwards' Rogue One.  Of course the films serve separate purposes with The Last Jedi an obvious stop-gap between the seventh to ninth episodes and Rogue One afforded a bit more freedom.   But sacrifices in The Last Jedi are emotional beats and little more, with one phenomenally shot moment showing the weight of pilot Paige Tico's (Veronica Ngo) responsibility weighing her down against a metallic grid.  This is a mere setup to give Paige's sister Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) a reason to join Finn on a mission of dubious result and occasionally broad slapstick.  No reason to think about, or even mention, Paige when Johnson can get to the shot of spherical droid pal BB-8 shooting poker chips.

20Nov/171

Justice League (2017)

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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.