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‘Oblivion’: Come Face-to-Face-to-Face with the World’s Worst Nightmare

With a plot as predictable as “Oblivion’s,” telling you that this article contains spoilers is questionable. After all, if you know what’s going to happen, me telling you isn’t really a spoiler, is it? It seems as ridiculous as this movie and its ending. Still, there may be spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Oblivion,” yet. I would suggest avoiding it altogether, and with a domestic gross total of just under $90 million for this 2013 release, it appears that’s what many people did.

That doesn’t mean that “Oblivion” is without merit. Sure, it may leave you wondering how Tom Cruise continues to get acting jobs and why Morgan Freeman decided to get mixed up in this 2-hour sleep pod. The film may even have the same effect on you as a sleep pod.

Still, it does give you cause to ponder and imagine thousands of Tom Cruises coming out of a spaceship on a mission to eradicate humanity from the planet, or at least, destroy enough people to make the planet harvestable. If the idea of thousands of Tom Cruises as an invading army doesn’t give you nightmares, I’m not sure what will.

The stunning visuals and effects were wasted on Cruise and his lack of acting ability. There wasn’t even a good running scene – he does run, but the angle that it’s filmed from doesn’t allow you to make too much fun of it. The movie’s end scene, which was supposed to be touching and beautiful, had me laughing out loud as “Oblivion” slipped into the absurd one final time.

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An ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review Two Weeks Later? Stick it to the MSM! Like, Comment and Share

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

I got fed up with the MSM who decided it was okay to post reviews, articles and spoiler photos on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and throughout the opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame” because it hadn’t been released everywhere, and I had no choice but to look at the headlines (and thus read them) and possibly learn spoilers, which sucks! Thanos demanded their silence, and the stars pleaded their case not to ruin the Endgame. Main stream media went ahead and did so anyway. So, this review has been consciously published two weeks after the Russian release date as a nose thumbing to the unbelievers who think you won’t like, comment or share an “Avengers: Endgame” review after it’s been in the theaters for a little bit.

I have more faith in you, true believer, and I believe that you will like, comment and share this review because you don’t want future movies to be spoiled by fast, first and spoiler MSM. Of course, that means I should write a damn good spoiler-free review… I’m not sure I have that in me… Well, if I can’t protect the sanctity of the spoiler-free review, I might as well avenge it.

First of all, you have to hand it to the people in charge of the marketing campaign; they didn’t give anything away in the trailers. It’s amazing that they were able to mine the first 30 minutes and come up with interesting trailers that kept the movie under wraps.

Starting with Hawkeye was essential. Hawkeye is the easiest way for the average person to engage in a film full of superheroes who are super smart, super strong and generally just fantastic. Showing him at home with his family at the moment of the snap, reminds everyone what’s at stake.

The end battle scene was beautiful, and war shouldn’t be beautiful. It wasn’t the first battle scene of the movie, but it was the least surprising. Still, it brought up all the feels, and somehow didn’t feel like a copout. Maybe because it had been set up over the course for several movies, maybe because the main characters all get their spot in the limelight, maybe because it was just so well done… whatever the reason, that battle was cinematic eye candy for this generation.

The best reveal also had the best character change. The women stand up and out in battle. But where “Avengers: Endgame” excels is where every Marvel movie has excelled when they’ve done it right – in the characters. This story is a character-driven narrative built on special effects rather than special effects with some plot things thrown in. Maybe it’s time to revisit the Endgame again and find out what you missed.

Sock it to those major media outlets that posted spoiler-y reviews, headlines and photos proclaiming the knowledge of what that last scene for the Hulk meant or for Iron Man of for Captain America, or who was that lone kid, or where did Captain Marvel go, or why the “Back to the Future” time theory won’t work for Endgame, all of which couldn’t be avoided because they showed up in Yahoo! News feeds, twitter feeds, Facebook timelines and other social media. Share this post with your friends and show the media that you can be trusted to click on their Avengers articles even a couple weeks after the movie debuts.

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‘Io’s’ Infuriating Ending Defies Character and Logic

Netflix’ “Io” is a minimalistic, quasi-science fiction movie about the end of the world. The CGI and backgrounds are questionable, and the two main characters have a hard time holding viewers’ attention, which is too bad because I like Anthony Mackie. However, what drives me to write this review is the anger I felt at the main character Sam, played by Margaret Qualley, at the end of the film. (Spoilers ahead.)

The Earth is contaminated by ammonia vapors and the entire population has fled to Io, Jupiter’s moon, to find a new planet and build a new life. The entire movie takes place on Earth, so the movie name is a bit of a misnomer, but not so much that it creates cognitive dissonance. Sam, the daughter of a scientist who has claimed that people can adapt to the new atmosphere and urged people not to leave the planet, is the only one left alive as far as she knows. She self-administers some sort of inoculation against the toxic atmosphere.

Her human connection is a man who is already at the Io station. She meets Mackie’s Micah when he lands at her place in a helium balloon. Micah is looking for Sam’s father and headed for the last shuttle off the planet.

In no particular order, she dumps the man on Io, there’s a flashback of her father telling her that the human connection is more important than science, and Micah reinforces that idea when he says people aren’t meant to be alone. Sam acknowledges all of this and agrees to go with Micah to the shuttle. Before that happens though, she seduces Micah overcoming his objections with “we have to.”

And here’s where I get angry. Sam goes to a museum and then tells Micah, she’s not going with him. She sees life on Earth where everyone else sees death. She rips off her mask and survives the toxic atmosphere. Micah leaves the planet. She gives birth to a child, and they go visit the sea. What? Seriously? She’s a scientist working in biology. She should know that women don’t necessarily get pregnant after one session of intercourse. But it can happen, so let’s go ahead and give that to the movie.

Here’s where the movie doesn’t make any sense. When Micah tells Sam that she’s coming with him, she has already gone through the process of convincing herself that’s the only logical plan. She’s lost the bees. She needed help with the windmill. Most importantly, she knows she needs the human connection. She’s accepted that. She says, “Okay,” and that should be that. There is no indication that she has changed her mind about human connection in the rest of the film or that she understands she is pregnant.

There is no sense to her decision, and if she knows she’s pregnant, she makes the most selfish decision available. First, the treatments didn’t work for her father, and administering them to a child would be different. She doesn’t have the expertise or data necessary to insure the survival of the child.

Second, that child is going to grow up, she’s going to die, and the child is going to be alone with no chance for human connection. She is basically sentencing her child to solitary confinement for much of its life – at best, and she’s doing it for no other reason than because she still believes the human species can adapt. Except, the child will not be able to reproduce. He or she (according to the credits, the child is a boy) will be the last person on Earth with no chance to find the human connection beyond the mother-child one. Which brings us to the last point, she cannot on her own establish a new species or a human adaptation to the ammonia with just her child, which begs the question of incest and menopause, if they both survive to his sexual maturity.

I was willing to deal with the long, slow parts of the movie, but to have it conclude so illogically and against the character of the only real characters in the film, was more than disappointing. It was disturbing and enraging.

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“Daddy’s Home 2”: Laughs and Heart

“Daddy’s Home 2” is a sequel that’s better than the original and proves that, in this case, more is better. The premise of old-school, toxic masculinity meeting new-world, kinder, gentler men uses a time-tested winning formula composed of slapstick, the absurd, and a heart-felt change in the characters that makes sense. While the writing sets the film up for success, it’s the casting and the acting that keep the film together.

Brad (Will Ferrell) and Don (John Lithgow) play to type as the uptight, over-emotional dad and granddad. Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) is the tough guy trying to change and adapt to a new reality while his father, Kurt, played by Mel Gibson, is stuck in the 1980s, womanizing and espousing the old values of masculinity that still work for him, but are, at the very least, questionable in the era of #metoo. The confrontation between the two styles of living comes into conflict as Dusty tries to conform to a life his father seemingly disapproves of.

“Daddy’s Home 2” plays to the strengths of its stars. The changes in character are believable, and even in the most absurd cases, the movie is never so far out there as to invoke disbelief, which is odd as a comedy. These qualities make “Daddy’s Home 2” a high-quality movie that isn’t just about getting belly laughs, which it does throughout the film, but it also explores the relationships between family members, especially fathers and their sons. For some, this film may seem like a guilty pleasure, but look closer and you have a film that really finds its meaning in the season. For more about the movies check out my other blog posts.

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Netflix’ ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’ is a masterpiece

Normally, I would write a review about the brilliantly conceived, written and executed Netflix series “Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events.” I would describe how Patrick Warburton’s deadpan and world-weary delivery sets the stage as he narrates the unfortunate events. I would espouse how Neil Patrick Harris cements his legacy as one of the most versatile and amazing actors of his generation with his portrayal of the nefarious Count Olaf, who inspires fear, loathing and dread while also creating an absurd and funny villain. I would wonder how Lucy Punch, portraying the evil Esme Squalor, gets all of these roles that downplay how beautiful she actually is. I would talk about the big-name guest stars, like Joan Cusack, Sara Rue, Nathan Fillion and Cobie Smulders. I might even say something about the social commentary, incompetent adults, wise children and more…

But, dear reader, a review of Netflix’ “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” would inevitably be spoiler-filled or unfinishable. Instead of writing about this amazing adaptation filled with laughs and tragedies, I will only say – The song’s lyrics tell you to look away, but you won’t be able to. Binge watch this masterpiece of story-telling and enjoy. (You can read a review of the first episode here.)

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Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ powerful commentary on America today

In BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee delivers another powerful joint. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs first black police officer, and his infiltration of the KKK in 1979 with the help of his white partner Flip Zimmerman, Lee taps into the past to cast light on the present.

The writing revels in knowledge that the characters can’t possibly have, spitting it out as a foreshadowing of America today. It’s easy enough to catch the references to “America First” and making America great again. Those less steeped in politics may fail to realize that the real David Duke, played by Topher Grace, was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 and a Republican in 1992. Making (movie) Stallworth’s belief that such a thing couldn’t happen all the sadder and more naïve.

Lee’s powerful message is on point and strikes at the heart of his audience. Seamlessly edited cuts race between the KKK ritual David Duke is running and the Black Power meeting where Jerome Turner, played by Harry Belafonte, is describing in detail the torture and death of Jesse Washington, a mentally retarded black teenager in Waco, TX. The tension mounts as Stallworth’s and Zimmerman’s identities are discovered at the KKK meeting. All of the pieces are there to bring about real tragedy, including a bomb and police brutality against one of their own.

BlacKkKlansman, however, stops short of being an indictment against all white people. Instead, it points at those who espouse racist views, those who refuse to stand up to demagogues (in a brilliantly ironic speech given by Duke), those who implement budget cuts for nefarious reasons, and those who passively allow racism to continue unobstructed. If this Lee joint enrages you as being anti-white, maybe you need to take a hard, long look in the mirror and question your beliefs, values, actions and inactions.

For the viewer that isn’t able to keep up with the MAGA and America First references, the ending shows actual news clips to bring the message into focus: Not much has changed in the last 30 years; America is as racist as ever. BlacKkKlansman is clearly a cry to bring America together through the elimination of bigotry and hate. If Stallworth could do it as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, so can we.

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The Apartment (1960): A Christmas/New Year’s Comedy Classic?

The Apartment” (1960) starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray was nominated for 10 Oscars and won five of them, including an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Billy Wilder. It is rated by Rotten Tomatoes as the eighth best Christmas film of all time and by Esquire as the third best New Year’s film. In some ways, it seems like the 1960s version of “Love Actually” (or maybe, it should be the other way around). Whether these rankings indicate a true dearth of good holiday films or something else about the film industry and its rankings, “The Apartment” is no longer a feel-good movie or one with many laughs.

C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is a young executive looking to advance in his company. As such, he loans out his apartment to the executives above him, so that they can cheat on their wives. This leads to late nights on a park bench for Charlie as well as a poor reputation among his fellow apartment dwellers and landlady. Lemmon schedules each of four executives, gives them deadlines to be out of the apartment (which they fail to meet), purchases alcohol and snacks for them to have while they are entertaining the women.

The boss, Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray), learns about the apartment and its shenanigans and manipulates Baxter into allowing him to use it for his dates with Elevator Operator Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), with whom Baxter is in love. Baxter doesn’t know the identity of the woman Sheldrake is dating, and with the promise of promotion and the threat of losing his job, he agrees to the arrangement.

Kubelik makes it clear, on multiple occasions, that she likes Baxter but has absolutely no romantic interest in him. Still, she’s nice enough to him in a friendly way that he keeps his hopes alive for a meaningful relationship with her.

Everyone of the main characters has low morals of some sort. Disney staple MacMurray’s Sheldrake is a liar and manipulator, who serially cheats on his wife. MacLaine’s Kubelik knows Sheldrake is married and still goes out with him while lamenting about the type of men she’s attracted to. While she may seem to be the victim, she is complicit in her decision to continue going out with Sheldrake even after she has ostensibly broken off the relationship. The company itself shows its morals at the Christmas party where co-workers make out in every corner and one of the women does a striptease on a desk. All of this can be taken in context of current and past morals. (When Sheldrake confronts Baxter, Baxter says four bad apples are very little in relation to over 32,000 employees; Sheldrake responds with the fact that even four bad apples can ruin a large barrel.)

Lemmon’s Baxter may be the least objectionable morally; he certainly isn’t as bad as he could be. He never resorts to blackmail to get his promotions. Still, he’s an enabler and a liar, and his need to climb the corporate ladder trumps his better judgement.  His character is the only one with a believable arc. At least, the doctor, his wife and presumedly, the landlady are good people.

Lemmon, MacLaine (until her sudden change of mind/heart), and MacMurray are convincing in their roles. They are sympathetic actors even if their characters don’t offer much in the way of sympathy, and as long as cheating on your wife, attempted suicide, and discussion of another attempted suicide make for funny situations in holiday films for you, “The Apartment” is a decent movie. It’s interesting as a cultural study, especially in view of many people who would like to back to the era when men in power could cheat on their wives with impunity. Though this movie includes a woman who would cheat on her husband, who is in jail in Havana, so maybe this is where the sexual revolution began.