Jackass Forever (2022)

Jackass Forever is critic-proof.

If you like the Jackass franchise, you’ll like this movie. If you love Jackass, you’ll love this movie and, of course, if you hate Jackass, you’ll hate this one as well.

I like Jackass, so I laughed like a hyena at the mostly wall to wall nut punching.

Really, I already wrote most of the review when I reviewed the trailer.

To wit:

“I have a Y Chromosome, I will see this dumb movie.

I have a Y Chromosome, I will laugh like a dumbass at this dumb movie.

I mean, Eric Andre is in it, it’s fucking bulletproof.

I will see this movie and immediately forget about it seconds after it ends.

It is destiny.”

Some other notes:

One of the hidden successes of the film is normalizing male nudity. There’s like a lot–a lot–of dick. These aren’t the most handsome men and they are naked, bruised and proud, completely non-homophobic in their jokes. I am pro-male nudity because sexuality is not just the domain of hot women. And, when we take off our clothes, all of us are naked. Celebrate it. The Jackass crew does and then takes a ping pong paddle to the nuts.

This is also the first Jackass to feature a woman. And she’s just one of the Jackasses, as it should be. And the celebrity guest stars were all good sports, especially Tyler, The Creator.

Although Jackass seems like a throwback to a cruder time, this Jackass weirdly feels more progressive than the others with some new members along with some of the old guys taking brutal punishment. It’s just good, clean nut-punching fun. Wholesome family time with multiple shots of bruised nuts.

The challenges themselves are mostly old ones updated. I won’t say which as the surprise and “oh no” moment right before the stunt are my favorite parts. The most anxious trumps involved animals. Who knows what a vulture or bear or scorpion is going to do?

As always, the real VIP’s of the movie are the cameramen for outstanding cinematography and the guy who does slo-mo.

And the camaraderie of idiots.

Trailer:

Cleopatra Jones and The Casino of Gold (1975) (HBOMax)

Cleopatra Jones is back—Karate-kicking her way up The Hong Kong Drug Syndicate! </End Generic Lede>

The original Cleopatra Jones was a low-budget, sloppy charmer. Successful, the movie made four times its budget back after just four weeks of release. Cleopatra Jones and The Casino of Gold, according to Wikipedia, was a critical and commercial flop as the Blaxplotation Era was ending.

Man, I hate the metric of commercial success and even popular opinion as a guide to the inherent worth of a film. But, I wanted to start with some context, as I just came to the movie as a fan of the first Cleopatra Jones. I liked Casino of Gold, maybe even more than the first. It had everything you want in a sequel: bigger, self-deprecating, and more of everything you liked about the first. And Casino of Gold has all that. Plus, there’s little relationship to the first movie, so you can see it as a stand-alone without any previous knowledge.

There’s:

—Stella Stevens replacing Shelly Winters as The Dragon Lady running the Hong Kong Drug Trade with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. She sword fights and open-mouth kisses naked ladies.

—A new side kick, Mi-Lin Fong who almost out-badasses Cleopatra in the fight scenes. She also brings along a motorcycle crew for some great motorcycle stunts. This makes Casino more of a buddy picture and they both have the charm to pull it off. While some of the banter, and dialogue in general, is groan-worthy, the women commit to the script.

—Norman Fell. The upstairs landlord from Three’s Company plays Cleo’s exasperated, very white handler, a role he’s suited to play.

—More exotic locations: Hong Kong and Macao.

—A Casino destroying final.

—Tamara Dobson’s crazy 1970’s outfits.

Really, the reason to watch Casino is Dobson’s outfits. Sweet 70’s eye candy. Plus, she really rocks the silver/green eyeshadow.

I’m not sure why Dobson didn’t become a bigger star in the neighborhood of Pam Grier. Maybe the failure of Casino torpedoed her career. So sad. She can do the action scenes and is charming and relatable. Only the weak dialogue of this film holding her back.

Trailer:

Scream (2022)

Full Disclosure: I guessed about 60 percent of the plot before I even saw a frame of the film. I didn’t see the trailer, just the poster. I used a rule they didn’t talk about in the film. And jeez, the first half of the film was just one character after another explaining the rules of the movie they’re in. It was relentless, the meta commentary.

Anyway, I solved the mystery with the Murder She Wrote/Columbo rule. I won’t say what it is, but you can look it up. I apply this rule to every mystery I watch and it’s right 90 percent of the time.

When the original, ingenious Scream came out, it set-off a spate of self-aware mediocre horror movies. And the new self-named (as I said so, so meta) requel, the self-awareness and Meta commentary, after a while, drags the film down. Funny thing, the more traditional horror elements—the kill scenes, the red herrings and the tone and pacing—were all solid and created some decent scares. There’s a good straight ahead horror film buried in Scream’s over cleverness. They made fun of jump scares and ‘elevated horror,’ but do deliver on the meat and potatoes horror set-ups. However, the film thinks it’s so clever, they basically tell you who the killer is and wink at it.

One of the characters even announces the beginning of the third act. Ugh. The movie is so self-aware, it became hard to be lost in the movie and, hey, I generally am OK with a movie being somewhat Meta (because the film medium kind of has meta baked-in), but this movie should have been set in Facebook’s Meta-verse it’s so meta.

Thing about horror movies, yes, they may have some rules to survive one, but horror as a genre is designed to break those rules to make genuinely great horror movie.

There’s so much to like in Scream: the pacing, the kill set-pieces, the actors and much of the pre-built world with a sense of legacy. And a lot of the horror movie references are clever Unfortunately, Scream doesn’t have one genuine, non self-aware moment in it’s whole runtime. There are two decent twists I didn’t see coming. Also, apparently land lines still exist and a CGI Skeet Ulrich is the most horrifying element.

And, in horror tradition, most of the high school students remain in their mid-thirties.

Trailer:

Trailer Watch

This year is about two things: The book Capitali$m $uck$ and new movies. In the new budget, I’m allowing myself one new movie a week, preferably at the theater. So, when I’m avoiding working on the book, I’ll write about movies.

And a big part of movie-going are the upcoming trailers. Gosh, these trailers are like little movies in that they show the whole fucking movie. So, I went to the Scream requel last night and let’s take a look at those terrible, movie-ruining trailers.

Seriously, to a one, they each give away 2/3rds the plot of the films they’re promoting.

The Northman

The legacy of Game of Thrones. Another Mid-evil times movie where everyone is cleaner than they should be. Starring translucent actress Anya Taylor-Joy in what appears to be a basic revenge film with some supernatural elements. Directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch), the movie should feature lots of smoke, screaming at the sky and overwhelming in your face ‘Epic-ness.’ I’ll pass.

The Batman

I’ve seen two trailers for The Batman. This one is better focusing on Batman and Catwoman’s relationship and introducing The Riddler as the bad guy. Yes, it’s another gritty Batman reboot that honestly looks like all the other gritty Batman reboots. Guess what? Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered AND turned out to be shady. Yeesh. Maybe I’ll see it on cable, but probably not.

Dog

If not for the next trailer, this would be the worst of the bunch. Channing Tatum plays a ranger who has to transport a German Shepard across country. Shenanigans ensue. They hate each other. They have bonding adventures and grow to love each other. It’s a rom-com with all the predictable beats, just with a dog. The usual end of a rom-com is marriage, I bet this one ends with a puppy. Prove me wrong movie. Pass.

Marry Me

I swear, this trailer was created just to infuriate me. Rich, superstar singer Lopez plays a rich superstar singer who wants to propose to her rich superstar singer boyfriend on stage as a big event. As she’s going onstage, she finds out he’s cheating, so she proposes to some random dude in her audience, Owen Wilson. Shenanigans ensue. At first, they hate each other. Then, they have bonding adventures and grow to love each other. Ugh, so many bad, dumb ideas packed into such a small trailer. I mean, why? And how? And, again, why? Super pass.

Studio 666

So, apparently Dave Grohl is an actor now? And they gave the Foo Fighters money to make a horror movie? Again, why?

The Foo Fighters are in a creative slump, so they rent a haunted house to record their new record. Dave Grohl gets possessed and murders his band mates. Projection much, Dave?

Does it look like a good movie? I don’t know, but the trailer seems like one big spoiler of a mediocre horror film. Maybe I’ll see it on cable.

Not since Danzig’s Verotika has a rock horror movie been so unneeded.

Jackass Forever

I have a Y Chromosome, I will see this dumb movie.

I have a Y Chromosome, I will laugh like a dumbass at this dumb movie.

I mean, Eric Andre is in it, it’s fucking bulletproof.

I will see this movie and immediately forget about it seconds after it ends.

It is destiny.

Licorice Pizza (2021)

Fifteen-year old child actor and entrepreneur Gary Valentine has a love at first sight relationship with 25 year old Alana, a rootless school photographer assistant. She resists, but becomes friends with him because of his persistence and charm. Also, because she’s still searching for a grown-up life.

Licorice Pizza is a hangout movie. There isn’t much of a plot, just various episodes, usually to showcase the bigger stars in the movie. Licorice Pizza’s also a coming-of-age story where choices, both intentional or those rarely imposed from outside, begin to define a life. And like life, the narrative almost seems random from the outside. Life is a combination of choice, reaction and chance. Those with the most control of their life, as Gary thinks he has, usually seem happier. Alana has a harder time finding a place in life, bouncing from one job to another in an effort to find meaning.

This isn’t my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie. But it’s far from the worst. I’m still a sucker for the melodrama Magnolia. While Licorice Pizza still has the sweeping story-telling style of his other movies, fewer characters than his other movies makes this movie feel low-key and a bit of a mismatch, setting an epic soundtrack to lower stakes.

Set mostly in 1973, Licorice Pizza continues the recent trend of mythologizing growing up wild in the seventies. Gary’s mother is mostly in the background and the kids basically do what they want unsupervised. Gary starts a few new businesses with no obstruction from those who should know better. But, in Gary’s defense, he is naturally good at what he tries through effort and showmanship and if the movie has a message, it’s say yes, then figure out what to do.

The movie succeeds or fails on the chemistry between the newish leads. And they knock it out of the park. Almost immediately, you want to know more about Gary and Alana, their lives and their relationships. Newcomers Alana Haim (of the band Haim) and Cooper Hoffman (Phillip Seymore Hoffman’s son) capture the screen and should have great careers ahead. They both do an excellent job navigating the changing levels of their relationship. Not a lot of movies tackle the topic of “What do I want to be when I grow up” because it creates vague, indecisive characters and movies like decisive, bold protagonists to drive the plot. And even harder is the push/pull of youthful arrogance and the unknown of an unset life. Alana Haim certainly does both well. As Hoffman is a natural showman disguising his shortcomings through bluster.

Admittedly, as a fifteen-year-old, I had a lot of the unblinkered arrogance and optimism of Gary’s character, but age has worn that down. Licorice Pizza does an incisive job of recreating those coming-of-age emotions.

The cinematography, simultaneously as the movie goes on, transitions from the cracked, mirrored shots symbolizing the alienation of adulthood to the more straight-ahead close-ups of the concreteness of a young couple falling in love.

Two small complaints. The movie shoehorns in some more famous people to do almost separate, stand-alone stories that only tangentially affects Alana and Gary’s story. There’s really no reason for Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper and Tom Waits to be in the movie. They’re great, of course, but unnecessary. Bradley Cooper stands out as the angry real-life producer Jon Peters. Second, the inevitable ending still seems rushed. Usually, I’m a fan of a quick ending as most movies overstay their welcome. However, there were still a few questions left unanswered. Honestly, maybe the movie did answer them and I am just dumb.

I am just dumb is always an answer.

Trailer:

Playtime (1967)

I will fail at this review.

It’s isn’t that I don’t like this movie. I do. A lot. But convincing you to see it may be difficult. It’s French. It’s an older movie. And there is almost zero plot. But I was riveted.

Full Disclosure: I watched the first half of the film three months ago and turned it off. Why? I was kind of overwhelmed by the film. There isn’t fast editing or any sort of cinematic shenanigans to trick you. And yet, keeping up was mentally exhausting, not knowing what I expected going in.

Most of the shots are medium or wide shots. I saw no close-ups. And director Jacques Tati fills every inch if the screen with something interesting. And almost every shot is Art Museum quality with fantastic framing and composition.

Not to sound arrogant, this movie is why we have movies. It’s freaking gorgeous. See it on the largest screen possible. The amount of detail is amazing. Tati designed and built a a small city and designed it for film.

As I said, there is little plot. Generally, we follow Monsieur Hulot (Tati) as he walks around a very modern Paris during the day. There are many, many Hulot doppelgängers, so we’re not even sure we’re following the lead.

The film, really, has a cast of hundreds, each with their own slightly absurd comedic micro-story. And that’s where the magic comes in. There is always something to look at. Something to figure out or enjoy.

Do you like people watching? Figuring out what everyone is doing and why is the narrative drive. It’s the ultimate people watching movie. Everyone in it is interesting. I didn’t even read or pay much attention to the subtitles precisely because the film was so visually interesting.

I think I’ll end up watching this film many times because it’s so good, it’s like an album. Every time I listen to Beck’s Odelay, I catch something new. I feel like I could see the film a thousand times and still catch something new. I can dip in and out.

This is the first Tati movie I’ve seen, another blind spot in my movie knowledge. Show this movie to the right twelve-year-old and you’ll make a movie-lover out of them. I’m excited to see the other two Hulot movies.

There are themes. The cool, metallic blues and grays represent a modern Paris as windows and mirrors often reflect the Paris of old. And inside the giant, super-clean, sleek modern buildings of a re-invented Paris, the ants scurry about their lives, repeating actions and ideas, with Hulot as the human spoiler.

Reading about the movie, this film completely bankrupted Tati. It was a box office flop. People are dumb. Remastered and re-edited, the Criterion edition is impeccable.

It’s a masterpiece.

The dude even makes traffic interesting.

Watch the trailer:

And here’s a clip:

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Premiered January 25, 2020

Hey guys, don’t rape blackout drunk women. Or, you know, rape at all. Or be a support system for rapists.

Cassie (Mulligan) spends her evenings pretending to be shitfaced so men take her home and take advantage of her. Then, she turns the tables on them. At heart, It’s a revenge film with a new twist. A lot as been said about the movie and it’s certainly a movie most people need to see to spark discussion. So, I don’t want to say too much. I like how visually, the film subverts the male gaze. Hollywood is built on the male gaze. It takes a shot or scene and goes in different directions than what you usually expect from film. There are tropes. The sassy black friend. The one nice guy in a sea of creeps. A too tidy ending.

While The One Nice Guy (Burnam) is needed in the film, both logically and emotionally, there are blind spots in the character’s memory, especially given how much he crushed on Mulligan’s character in the past. Tonally, it was both a relief and weird addition to the film. I mean, there’s a falling-in-love montage to a Paris Hilton song. And Jennifer Coolidge is a brunette and shows no cleavage. So, obviously, a drama. Way to go, movie, subverting Coolidge’s well-crafted image of a blonde bimbo.

The A-List cast of mostly TV actors succeed in bringing to life the slippery and morally ambiguous characters. Carey Mulligan should get an Oscar nod for an amazingly complex performance. I’d describe her actions as both wrong and fair. She gives the people she goes after a chance to repent. I mean, if John Wick can kill a thousand dudes over the death of his puppy, Cassie’s motivation and actions are downright angelic.

My friend Hersh always says most people have justifications for their poor actions, both before and after the act, and this movie certainly hammers that home. Even Cassie says she’s sick of hearing men justify their actions by saying, “We were just kids.”

Rape has been generally underserved topic in mainstream pictures and this film does take a new approach. They never actually show rape, although rape is the blanket that covers the film. The film expands what is generally considered rape in the movie. And that’s where the discussion begins.

On a side note, everyone should see the 2002 film Irreversible. It’s definitely a hard watch and I’ll never watch it again because, Jesus ‘Effin Christ, that 15-minute rape scene is brutal.

Trailer:

Evilspeak (1982)

Premiered August 22, 1982

Last week, on my week-long vacation, I did nuthin. Well, that’s not true, I did catch up on some Joe Bob Briggs movies and commentary on Shudder. This movie holds a special place in my heart. Back in Blockbuster days, I would always pick Evilspeak to watch, based on the awesome cover. But by the time I picked ten other movies, Evilspeak would get cut. And later, it sat on the DVR until I deleted it for space. Not really sure why.

I’m glad I waited because the Joe Bob commentary made me like the movie better. It’s harder to hate something when you learn how much work went into the project. Joe Bob interviewed Clint Howard, the lead and Better Howard Brother. Unlike most mass media interviews, the talk wasn’t really promotional, but focused on the struggle of how the movie got made.

Ok, Evilspeak is about a bullied Military Cadet (Howard) who finds a portal to Satan. He then gets revenge on the bullies. Pretty basic. Man, the stereotype is true: Satanists are big technophiles. Howard uses an Apple 2E to contact the underworld. And it’s a great program. If only the Catholics had a similar computer program, they could be diddling twice the number of boys today. The program was situation-aware, even when the computer was off, it still offered suggestions. Although, you know how phone-dialing in old movies stops the momentum dead, Howard spends ten minutes setting up the evil computer. Also, there’s a Satanic worship area in the basement of the Military Academy, is that a thing?

An average, but watchable, horror movie, Clint Howard is the reason to watch. More subtle than his later work like Ice Cream Man.

Trailer: