Max Payne Recap

Jamie

Max Payne is a detective with pain deep in his heart due to the pain caused by the painful deaths of his wife and baby. Forever searching for those responsible, can he track down their killers before it’s too late? Find out in… Max Payne.

How?! We are introduced to our titular character May Payne, an unstable detective broken by the murder of his wife and child and relegated to the cold case squad. Convinced that drug addicts were responsible for their deaths he spends his free time kicking ass and taking names of those on the periphery of the drug trade. One night he’s introduced to Natasha, sister of a Russian mobster who is involved in a new street drug Max is investigating. After she leaves his apartment she is brutally murdered, throwing suspicion on Max. Max don’t give a shit because he’s a crazy person and only cares about two things: solving crimes and chewing gum and guess what? Gum doesn’t exist in Max Payne (neither does sunshine and laughter apparently, this film is grim). But when his ex-partner is also killed for investigating Natasha’s murder, he suspects he’s getting close to something explosive. After finding that some work documents of his wife’s have been stolen he tortures one of her coworkers and finds out she was involved in the development of a military drug. Tracing this all back to a homicidal maniac named Lupino, Max confront him and is nearly killed, only to be saved by the real killer of his wife: his good friend BB. BB throws Max into the frozen Hudson River but Max survives by consuming some of the drug. Transformed into a super soldier he goes after BB and kills him… now read all that back and see if it makes any sense. I actually had to rewatch parts of this film because I couldn’t piece together the film’s plot. It’s nonsense. THE END.

Why?! Max Payne mostly just wants to chew bubblegum in peace, but since that doesn’t exist he is obsessed with solving the murders of his wife and child. Pretty boring and straightforward. The bad guy on the other hand is much more interesting. He used to be a police officer, but took over security at the pharmaceutical company Max’s wife worked at. After the failure of the trials of the super soldier drug he started dealing it on the streetz for profit. Max’s wife got wind of it so she had to go. Weirdly the police don’t seem suspicious that a bunch of super soldier drug is being sold. You even see the logo of the pharma company on the vials… now that I think about it Max Payne is a really bad cop. Should have been obvious.

What?! Mila Kunis certainly liked her Maserati in the film, but my favorite by far is from the post credit sequence (setting up a sequel that never came to fruition… yet). In it Max meets up with Mila Kunis’ character at a bar to discuss things. He goes to the bartender and grabs two nice cold refreshing bud lights. Hardly any product placement in the entire film and then this shows up at the end. I’m convinced Wahlberg must have something in his contract requiring it. Seeing how Bud Light will be incorporated into the plot is the best part of his Transformers films.

Who?! Apparently the voice actor for Max Payne appears uncredited as a background actor in a scene… but that’s not confirmed by imdb. Better than that is while scrolling through the cast list I saw that Nelly Furtado, famous singer and bird enthusiast, appears as the wife of Max Payne’s former partner. She appears for one second, says a line, and isn’t visually recognizable for me to have noticed until now. Weird and wild stuff.

Where?! NYC Babbbbyyyyyy! At first I thought maybe we were in Generic Big City, but then the police cars all had NYPD on them and the game is explicitly set there so why wouldn’t they. Pretty obvious but not essential. B-.

When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert! Everything is bleak, cold, and snowy in the film so my setting sense was a-tingling. Could we be looking at an Xmas film. Unfortunately no. But this seems to end on New Years Eve. Right in the beginning we are told that the events of the final showdown occur a week before the start of the film. At some point in the beginning of the film Max’s buddy is reviewing a case file which is listed as being transferred to him on 12/28/2008. This would seem to indicate almost exactly that the we are being treated to a super secret New Year’s Eve film. A wonder we didn’t see Max watch the ball drop after totally murdering a bunch of people. That’s a pretty nice B.

This film is nonsense which seemed to aim squarely at style rather than substance (and succeeded at having almost no substance at all). Felt a little Zach Snyder-ish, with parts that looked good but when you drill down there is just fluff there. In reality if you think about it this film is not too different than Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li other than it looks a lot better. The plot is just as hilariously bad. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Max Payne was what you’ll be in if you watch this movie, aaaaayyyyyyyyyoooooooooo, hit it Jamie! Ah, but I should probably talk about the movie a bit … fine, let’s get into it.

The Good (Sequel, Prequel, Remake) – I like Mark Wahlberg, I can’t help it. I barely even know why at this point given how he has betrayed me with the Transformers franchise. The film kind of looked cool at times. The story was kind of interesting at times. I even kind of liked it at times. Those times were just too few and far between. Obviously I would want a Remake. Video game films are having a moment. People are trying all kind of new things with them. Young directors. Serious stories. Higher budgets. Nothing seems to help, they still kind of suck. I think, and this might be an unpopular opinion, part of the problem is fanservice. With comic books you have limitless material to draw on, thousands upon thousands of pages of Batman has slowly made his character beloved and authentic feeling stories are fairly simple to develop out of the archetype. Max Payne though? You have a few games, and honestly, the stories in video games are rarely good. Just make this a revenge cop drama. Don’t worry about the fanservice. If you make it good the fans will come back to it and it will become Max Payne (not the other way around). Maybe it works, maybe people slam it for not being an “adaptation” as they expect it. But it is better than having stupid goat transformation scenes in Warcraft, I’m telling you that much. Rant over.

The Bad (Sklognalogy) – This film is a little too stylized. The story is very generic, so much so that you sit there and think “well obviously that guy is the bad guy! Haven’t I seen this somewhere else?”. It also, and I’ll get into this a little below, kind of betrays the game it is adapted from. It is kind of fun, but mostly it is drab, dreary, and sad. The Sklognalogy I think has to be Sucker Punch in a way. I feel like it and Sin City 2 and 300 2 (I haven’t seen either of those) all suffer from the same thing: it missed the boat on a style, but went ahead and did it anyways. The style gets boring though after you’ve seen it once or twice. You might think making a Matrix knock-off would be cool, but it probably would just look stupid these days and make people think “ugh, this is a knock off of the Matrix”. Same thing here.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – I do think Max Payne has a legacy, mostly in an unyielding march towards watching all video game adaptations (almost all of them qualify after all). This isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it came out at a time when people were sure video game adaptations were going to happen. They didn’t. The same people are sure this year is the year as well … welp, the new Lara Croft trailer doesn’t look so good to me, but we’ll see. They’ll figure it out someday. There isn’t much for being the worst of 2008, but it fourth on a list of worst Mark Wahlberg films by Rolling Stone. And made a list of the 15 worst video game films by Screen Rant. Pretty solid.

I’ll keep the adaptation analysis short because I haven’t played the game. But, based on the outcry by the developers themselves it is clear that the hallucinations that Mark Wahlberg sees, a major plot point in the movie, either play very little or no part in the film. I wish I had the time to play through the game to give a better analysis, and someday I’m sure I will, but that day is not today. This seems to be mid-level though as far as staying true to the game itself, so let’s give it a C with an option for extra credit later to bump up that grade.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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CHIPS Recap

Jamie

Jon Baker and Ponch are partners on the California Highway Patrol. While Jon sees CHIPS as a way to earn back the love of his estranged wife, Ponch is actually an undercover FBI agent looking for corrupt cops involved in a series of highway robberies. Can they take down the baddies and get the girl(s) before it’s too late? FInd out in… CHIPS.

How?! FBI agent Castillo is a risk-taking super cop who don’t play by nobody’s rule (natch). In the process of breaking rules and taking names, Castillo gets in hot water and is sent undercover as ‘Ponch,’ an officer in the California Highway Patrol. Meanwhile Jon Baker is one of the worst candidates for CHP there is, but with his motorbike racing pedigree and a sob story about his estranged wife he finagles his way onto the force. As a team, they start investigating a series of highway robberies suspected of being an inside job, all the while battling Jon’s addiction to painkillers, Ponch’s addiction to masturbating, and questions about their own sexuality that seem to send them into panic. This is all very upsetting, but apparently is supposed to make me laugh… I guess because it’s funny that Ponch is a step away from being a sex criminal. Hilarious! Through a series of high speed chases Ponch and Jon eventually catch up with the ringleader’s son, who is killed. Due to all his rule-breaking, risk-taking, and name-taking Ponch is fired from the FBI. Unwilling to stop their investigation and goaded by the kidnapping of Jon’s estranged wife, Ponch and Jon confront the ringleader, a fellow CHP officer. With the help of the full CHP force they take down the corrupt cops and save the day. THE END.

Why?! Jon wants to earn back the love and respect of his estranged wife, who by all accounts is a terrible person. Ponch on the other hand seems to have no motivations other than to solve crimes and masturbate while doing so. This combination of buddy cops turns out to be weird, sad, and disturbing. Great! As for the bad guy, he’s trying to get enough money to get his son into rehab… also very sad. A total bummer of a film even without all the gay panic content.

What?! An incredible product placement movie. From the start Ponch is using Dove moisturizer to convey his pretty boy persona and Jon is washing his pain pills down with Red Bull to convey his X-treme persona. These aren’t just product placement, these product placement are being used to define characters. Add on top that throughout the film our hateable heroes are stopping at every LA-centric restaurant under the sun, from Pink’s to Tommy’s Burgers, and we’ve got something special.

Who?! A number of uncredited roles in this one, including Erik Estrada’s cameo. Stark difference from Baywatch where Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson got laughably high billing. Also Josh Duhamel and Maya Rudolph have minor roles that went uncredited. They must have jumped in for funsies.

Where?! A+ Settings Alert! CHIPS stands for California Highway Patrol and that’s enough for me. This is also an early contender for the 2018 Setting as Character Smaddies Baddie as every LA centric restaurant in the city is featured and even Dax gave an interview asserting that the real star of the film was Southern California. Boom. That’s an A+ if I’ve ever seen one.

When?! There are two spots where a date could be found. One is on Ponch’s phone in the opening scene where it seems like it says that it’s November 2nd. However, a few scenes later, when Ponch is being introduced at CHP the blackboard says that “all 415’s have to be in by September 1,” so you would think everything would take place in August or something. Maybe they just don’t erase that blackboard all that often or (hear me out) perhaps they didn’t put as much effort into the exact temporal setting as I do in trying to find it. Disappointing. D.

This film WAS… WHAT WE THOUGHT IT WAS!… AND WE LET IT OFF THE HOOK! Basically, everything that we presumed and feared from the trailer came true. This is a poorly made film rife with jokes that play mostly on sadness. It’s certainly different than Baywatch and the Jump Street films, which is a credit to the creators I guess, but Baywatch is just a better film (which is kinda crazy to say). While I would endure a Baywatch sequel, I wouldn’t even enjoy a CHIPS 2. Even on a Fifty Shades Freed, staring into the abyss kind of a way… I think I’m just realizing that I really didn’t enjoy this film. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Alright, so you’re a producer and maybe your frustration with not getting invited to the 21 Jump Street cast party made you act a bit rashly. Baywatch … was not sweet IP. But this time you definitely got some sweet IP. CHiPs! Everyone liked CHiPs. Erik Estrada and … like motorcycles. Maybe you won’t get to meet The Rock, but Dax Shepard is … pretty close. Sweet IP Money Train here I come! What could go wrong? Let’s get into it.

The Good (Sklog-cabulary Quiz) – The storyline is actually a lot more coherent and focused than you would expect. Also, I tend to enjoy it when characters who would have been incompetent if they were in a film from, say, the 90s, are now written as super competent. What’s that? It sounds like a Sklog-cabulary Quiz!

Gross Competence (n.) – Behavior that appears to be erratic and incompetent, but is nevertheless quite effective at getting a particular job done. Characters exhibiting gross competence often appear to be savants in their particular occupation.

Zac Efron in Baywatch, or Andy Samberg in Brooklyn 99 I think are at least close to this definition as well. Basically the professionals here often come across as foolish or bumbling, but ultimately, against all odds, their actions are exactly what is needed to get the job done. I like this trope in television and film. For me, rooting for a competent hero is far preferable to rooting for an incompetent one. And it was nice to see Dax Shepard’s character not come across as an idiot. Well … not a total idiot at least.

The Bad (Sklognalysis) – The film is gross. They spend a good amount of one scene talking about eating butts … yup. It is upsetting that the gay panic stuff from the trailer was such a big part of the film. And this film has way too much unneeded nudity. Comes across as exploitative. By giving up the bad guy early it makes the mystery basically worthless. And finally, all supporting characters are so undeveloped that when they do occasionally wander into a scene it just doesn’t work because their motivations and abilities are never established. So … yeah, a ton of not so great stuff here. Question for our Sklognalysis: If you lampshade blatant gay panic humor by having the main character state that he thinks someone is homophobic if they don’t want to touch dicks when hugging … does that help or hurt? Answer: neither, trick question. It is still gay panic, and it is still gross.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – I think paired with Baywatch CHIPS could have an interesting legacy. If we further collect more television adaptations in the future we could have quite the expertise on the niche genre. The films got the cred though, number 7 on the AV Club’s worst-of list for 2017. Didn’t make an appearance in Rolling Stone’s or Variety’s lists, but it does get a few shout outs. It has the cred.

I feel a bit like we are dropping the ball on the adaptation cycle by not watching the original sources. Can’t really watch many CHiPs though, and even if I did the early season is different than late season, etc. Thinking back on Baywatch and even 21 Jump Street though I feel like these adaptations aren’t actually very “good”. They are modern action comedies fashioned out of literally the most basic plot elements from 80s television shows. I would be interested to see if/when someone decides to set a movie like this in the 80s and go for the kind of funny nostalgia of it all.  Wait … did I just describe the terrible Starsky & Hutch adaptation? For now I give the adaptation a C+ with the caveat that if I ever do watch some CHiPs (I won’t) I’ll update the grade. Something like 21 Jump Street I think reaches in the B-range. Not a great adaptation, but the quality of the film makes up for it.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The Emoji Movie Recap

Patrick

There is a world within your phone where emoji’s live and work. Each emoji has a job to do and must never deviate. No so for Gene, a ‘meh’ who feels all kinds of complex things. When Gene ruins an important text for his user he runs away trying to find a way to fix his defect. Can he fix the trouble he’s caused before it’s too late? Find out in… The Emoji Movie.

How!? Remember all those other animated films about secret communities of things that us humans think are inanimate objects. Toy Story? Lego Movie? Inside Out? Yup, this is exactly the same except the corporate sellout version of it. Gene is a ‘meh’ emoji. He really wants to start work making emoji magic in Textopolis, but on his very first day he ends up ruining a very important text for his owner Alex! Oh no! He is sentenced to die because he’s defective (naturally) so he runs away with the help of the thumbs up emoji in search of Jailbreak, who knows how to hack the cloud and fix Gene’s defect. Fearing the consequences of his defect the denizens of Textopolis send killer bots in pursuit. At the same time Alex decides he’s going to get his phone wiped and rebooted in order to fix the problem. After finding Jailbreak, Gene and his gang of misfits run through Just Dance, Candy Crush, Instagram, and Spotify in search of the Dropbox app (it actually hurts me to write that sentence) while overcoming some difficulties or whatever. When they get there Gene and Jailbreak decide that they like him just the way he is, but just then Gene is captured by the killer bots. Thumbs up and Jailbreak hop on a Twitter bird (ugh) and race to save him. At the very last moment before the phone is erased Gene uses his special ability to mimic complex feelings to send a unique emoji to Alex’s crush. Thrilled that his phone might lead to him getting paid and laid, Alex stops the phone wipe and Gene becomes a hero. THE END.

Why?! Why did we watch this garbage? Because we had to. Why does anything else happen in the movie? Mostly because Gene feels like an outsider. Everyone in Textopolis is content doing their job and only their job, while Gene likes to smile or cry or laugh and all that jazz. Think the exact same motivations as Lego Movie… and the same characters really. In fact it’s pretty much just the Lego Movie remix… if it was remixed with dog poo.

What?! Not since our last Adam Sandler film did we get so much product placement in a film. And at least in the Sandler film it’s him sitting around a Hooters wearing a Dick’s Sporting Goods shirt and you can laugh at the absurdity. Here it just felt sad. Popping into Instagram and Spotify for a little adventure without the shame to call it InstaPost or MusicSpot to keep it imaginary garbage. When they entered Dropbox as if it was literally fucking heaven I think this officially took the cake for the worst product placement in the history of BMT.

Who?! We had a couple cameos here with singer Christina Aguilera making an appearance along with celebrity chef Rachael Ray. There is also a special thanks credit to Constance Buccafurri. She seems to be an artist but also runs a big data film analytics company… so I wonder if she got her thanks for work in that arena. She has a pretty crazy list of blockbusters on which she got a special thanks credit so I would be interested to know what exactly she does for all of them.

Where?! Textopolis, duh. 95% of the film takes place in a phone, so that’s pretty much the best we can do. Makes me wonder how many fictional settings we’ve encountered in BMT. Ehb in In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Alagaesia in Eragon, Izmir in Dungeons & Dragons, etc. It’s in good company. Good company of getting an Incomplete. “Keep your head out of the clouds and in the real world,” writes Mr. Sklog.

When?! Textopolis obviously has no sense of time. They gotta be popping night and day, 24/7/365. So… F, I guess. You’re in my world now, Emoji Movie. My world is one of pain and ultimate grade deflation. Enjoy your F.

This movie sucks and kinda made me sad watching it. It starts out as a ripoff of Lego Movie and then proceeds into a series of commercials for apps. At least with the Lego Movie you had the idea that Legos help children be creative. This basically had the message that emoji are not good and in fact have to be different in order to better convey the emotions of the user. Only when Gene can do things that no emoji can actually do does Alex successfully talk to the girl he likes… maybe don’t use emojis then dope. In terms of where this places in the world of adaptations (a true BMT favorite), The Emoji Movie is kind of alone in the wilderness here. In fact if we started to see more of these we might have to shut down Hollywood. Imagine if we looked to 2018 and saw The Great SpaceX Adventure or Lyft Life on the schedule… would almost be as terrifying as seeing Fifty Shades Freer. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! It is super tempting to fill this space with a bunch of emojis or whatever, but my emoji game is not great. Not rusty, because that would suggest it was good at some point. My emoji game has always been weak … Anyways, let’s get into it!

The Good (Sklognalogy) – Honestly, the only really good thing I can say about it is that it is mostly an innocuous kids’ movie. It sends a decent message (be yourself!), it gives a decent message to the girls (you can do computer things!), and it looks … fine. The Sklognalogy? I’m sending out a flier: The Wizard of Oz. That’s right. The basic storylines are the same. The protagonist needs something that can only be obtained from a powerful entity, so he/she sets out on the road collecting a rag-tag team of misfits. Travelling through a series of magical places, combating the minions of an evil witch, the team comes together, learns lessons, and realizes what they needed was actually inside them the whole time. Ah, perfection … except for the part where this is a derivative piece of garbage.

The Bad (Sklog-cabulary Quiz) – Too long, unfunny, boring, ugly, you name it it has it. It sets a record for product placements which made me feel a bit ill while watching it … corporate propaganda amirite? The movie is very lazy. I am kind of convinced it is a new paradigm for cheap animated films. Basically the idea is: here are three characters. They will travel from A to B. But to get from A to B they have to go through little areas. These areas are totally independent of one another. The key? Parallelization:

Parallel Plotting (n.) – A plot which can be filmed / produced a piece at a time by many different teams, and then combined together again at the end to get the correct result.

This seems trivial maybe, but while most (all?) movies achieve this to a degree, a film like The Emoji Movie takes it to the next level. They could give a single idea to a animation team: The three protagonists are in Candy Crush. The three protagonists are in Just Dance. Etc. And after each you return to the same place you were before (the wallpaper) with no obvious side effects (they don’t even discuss where they were before!). No wonder it set records for speed in its production.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – I don’t think it has the legacy. It isn’t a shoddily made animated film, not like FoodFight! or Doogal. It is more like … a condemnation of culture in general. But that ain’t our business now is it? I have watched over 400 terrible movies in 7 years, so, that tells you everything you need to know about how I lead my life. Street cred up the wazoo though. It will get countless Razzie nominations this year (it is known). It is number 3 on the AV Club worst of list. It is number 2 on the Variety worst of list. And it is number 10 on the Rolling Stone list. I imagine it will easily get Worst Picture.

Given we are in the adaptations cycle I might as well make a brief note about whether this was a good / bad adaptation. This was a bad one. I think. The only analogue is You’ve Got Mail, but in that case it painted AOL (and the attached messenger / email features) in a charming, even romantic, light. It brought two people together. Emojis … I get them, but I still don’t really get them you know? I don’t think the movie gives a good case for emojis in general is what I’m saying … doesn’t help that the movie is garbage. D+ adaptation.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Table 19 Recap

Just dumped by the Best Man, Eloise decides to go to the wedding of her best friend anyway. Relegated to the far reaches of the reception, she and her table of misfits band together to have the time of their live. Can they find closure to the issues that brought them to this wedding in the first place before it’s too late? Find out in… Table 19.

How?! After a long debate with herself Eloise decides to attend the wedding of her best friend despite having just been dumped by the Best Man. Once the Maid of Honor, she has now been placed at Table 19, the table for those who should have known not to come. This table is full of people with secrets like the bride’s childhood nanny (who also is terminally ill), the bride’s cousin (who is also a white collar criminal), a couple who knows the groom’s father from work (who are also having marital issues), and the son of a family friend (who is skipping his prom to attend). It’s no different for Eloise who has a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. This revelation leads to a fight with her ex which culminates in the destruction of the wedding cake. Totally bummed (much like the audience watching the film) the group goes off to smoke some weed and crash the other wedding happening at the resort. This is a massive failure when Eloise realizes that a guy she was flirting with and kissed earlier in the film is actually the groom of the other wedding. Guys suck, emirite?! They decide to steal the wedding cake from that wedding, thus saving the day, and come to find that Eloise’s ex is actually a sweet guy and their relationship is worth saving. The table rouses Eloise from her melancholia and pushes her to make a grand gesture to her ex, which results in their happily ever after. THE END.

Why?! The motivations in this are all hazy. You get a sense that Eloise and her boyfriend broke up from the stress of the unexpected pregnancy but from there it’s a bit of an unreliable narrator. They both have different stories of what happened. Certainly her motivation for attending the wedding is to get him back… which she does. Everyone else is just kind of sad and finding friends in Table 19 bring them back hope in an otherwise hopeless world. Very much a Duplass film.

 

What?! Not much product placement in this guy. Maybe I’ll just point out the similarity this film has to The Breakfast Club. A group of misfits are thrust together. They have assumptions about each other but also secrets about themselves. They end up finding that these misfits are the first people that they can be honest with and everything turns out peachy. The Breakfast Club for the Millennial generation… so much worse and barely released.

Who?! A bunch of interesting “The producers wish to thank” credits. The obvious one is Helen Mirren who presumably gave the film permission to use her name and image as part of a joke. After that Anthony Jeselnik, Keegan-Michael Key, and Lennon Parham also get special thanks, but for what? It’s anyone’s guess. Maybe they were connected to the film before the Duplass brothers stepped back from directing? Impossible to tell.

Where?! Takes place on an imaginary island in “Lake Alma” in Michigan. You can tell from the address sent for the wedding invites that this is likely the case. They then seem to go to some trouble not to be very specific after that. Probably since it was actually filmed in Atlanta. B-

When?! The only hint we get of when the film takes place is that the high school student Rezno is skipping his spring prom to go to the wedding (because his mom thinks he has a better chance of meeting a girl there than at the dance). So this is probably set in May or something. Not super specific. D+

Overall this is a really tiny film. I thought it was crazy that it got such a big release and that seems even crazier after seeing the film. A bit paint-by-numbers, but not Waiting for Forever crazy weirdness, so overall just a film that exists in the BMTverse. Not much different than something like What Goes Up… you know, except actually released to theaters. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! For those just following along at home you are probably stunned at our ability to pick bad movies. Like … we pick the worst of the worst quite well it would seem. Do we ever miss the mark?! You must be wondering that … well wonder no more! Let’s get into it!

The Good (Sklognalogy) – This film has genuine heart, it has an interesting structure (with the emotional climax occurring in the middle of the film blowing up the relatively uninteresting suitcase plot they were setting up), and has several quality actors involved (Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, and Craig Robinson are all quite good). I’m … actually not sure why people were so hard on the film. Seems like a fairly straightforward mumblecore awkward-fest. What Goes Up would be a perfect analogy maybe (although I didn’t like that as much as this one), but for the Sklognalogy I’m going to look back to our 1986 cycle from last year to the movie No Mercy starring Richard Gere. There are things wrong with it, it is a bit rote and dull at times, but ultimately it is just kind of crazy that people are so hard on the film. There are so many trite cop thrillers (and coming-of-age dramas in this case) it blows my mind when everyone decides to hate one of them for being “standard fare”.

The Bad (Crimes Against BMT-anity) – Mostly it is just dull. And the actor playing opposite of Anna Kendrick lacks context or fleshing out. This is likely intentional (to play up an unreliability to Kendrick’s narration), but it still comes across as kind of lazy. At least one character is totally unnecessary (the kid skipping his prom), and the film would have seems more sincere without him, although I wouldn’t say that is why the film got destroyed by critics. Probably the biggest Crime Against BMT-anity in the film though is the way they ultimately did exposition in the film. Craig Robinson at one point just says that he love detective novels and is very good at spotting things. This is somewhat amusingly contrasted with him not being able to spot that his wife intended on using the wedding to cheat on him with a business associate / old friend (who ultimately no-shows the wedding). But then, throughout the film, every character takes a movie cliche and uses it to deduce major plot points that move everything along briskly. Kendrick vomits at the table? She’s pregnant. The old lady has a bunch of weed? She has cancer. Etc. Lazy lampshading with a dumb detective novel device that is mainly unnecessary.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – A rare dud in the BMT filmography I think. Like What Goes Up or like … Evening, the film just seems destined to be forgotten … well except for being the only film with the number 19 in the title. That is awesome. I’m going to declare no street cred here as well. I can see it on a few lists (like pop sugar), but I think that is because it had a relatively bad Rotten Tomatoes score and those are fake algorithmically derived articles. Given that places like the AV Club included The Space Between Us, somehow this movie managed to be so small that it will fly under the radar completely.

Congrats to us to filling in a new spot on the Periodic Table of Smellements for the first time in quite a while. The number 19 is sufficiently rare that I don’t think there will be another movie for it … ever? Bully for us.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Transformers: The Last Knight Recap

Jamie

Cade Yeager is back, Jack! A final showdown is afoot between Earth and the Transformers planet Cybertron. An ancient staff is the key to either Earth’s destruction or salvation. Can Cade obtain this staff and stop Earth’s demise before it’s too late? Find out in… Transformers: The Last Knight.

How?! I fear that I may have waited too long to write this up and now won’t be able to make heads or tails of the terribly convoluted plot that is the hallmark of all Transformers films. Here it goes: five years after the last movie Transformers are hunted by the US government. Despite this many more arrive from space each day. Why? Turns out that their home planet Cybertron is all kinds of fucked up. The creators that dwell there are angry so they brainwash Optimus and send him in search of a magic MacGuffin… er… staff that will bring life back to their planet. Meanwhile on Earth, Cade Yeager is a Transformer sympathizer hiding out as a fugitive. He finds a powerful talisman in the ruins of Chicago which results in both the US government and Megatron trying to track him down. Cade manages to escape with the help of a British robot who knows that he’s part of a larger prophecy for the final showdown with Cybertron. They team up with a British historian who tracks the magic MacGuffin staff to a submarine, which turns out to be a Transformer, that takes them to an ancient underwater spaceship (you following this? No? Good). Inside they find the staff, but it’s stolen by Optimus, who is temporarily a bad guy. Optimus then has the staff stolen by Megatron and turns back into a good guy (this is real). All our friends and foes head to Stonehenge where Cybertron is using the staff to suck the core out of the Earth. Cade and the historian head up to Cybertron and a bunch of shit happens. People are screaming “Physics!” and “Science!” at the screen and then Cybertron is stopped by our friends. In the end Optimus says that humans and Transformers have to learn to work together… they obviously will not because he says this at the end of every film and no one listens. THE END.

Why?! Did you just read that? It’s impossibly stupid. If you insist on diving into the motivations of Cade it’s mostly about protecting his daughter. He knows that the Transformers are good and the only thing that can save the Earth. If he doesn’t help them the US government will destroy them and doom the Earth. As for the adversaries, they are led by Quintessa, a robot god creator. She is angry at the destruction of her planet Cybertron and plans to use the power within Earth (actually a giant Transformer called Unicron) to rebuild. Gonna sap on that sweet, sweet molten core a la Independence Day 2.

What?! May as well make the MacGuffin Alert a permanent fixture in the Transformers franchise. This is particularly true in The Last Knight which revolves around the recovery of the powerful staff. Hits every possible box of a stereotypical MacGuffin. As for product placement, they really toned it down in this entry. We get a nice shot of Cade drinking a refreshing Bud Light, but that’s about it.

Who?! Jerrod Carmichael is the designated Planchet of this film. He fills the role of comic relief, but is also made fun of constantly and turns out to be more helpful than anyone gives him credit for. Textbook. Also want to point out an uncredited role for Freya, that dog that Michael Bay adopted. Nice touch.

Where?! You can always count on a Transformers film giving you some sweet locations provided by intertitles. In this case I would say the primary setting is England, with a secondary in South Dakota (!). There are also some scenes set in the deserts of Namibia which would be fantastic for a World Mapl.de.map. Overall this is an A-, given the importance of Stonehenge to the climactic battle.

When?! We get a brief glimpse of a universal time clock at CalTech in the beginning of the film that places the start on the 309th day of the year: November 5th. This doesn’t jive super well with everyone prancing about in t-shirts in South Dakota, Chicago, and England, but the UTC clock don’t lie. We can presume this takes place in present day I guess… but that’s pretty hard when every film says it’s been five years since the events of the last film. Would seem like we would have gotten to at least 2022 by this point. But who knows. B.

This movie is truly terrible. I hope they make a sixth one. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! You’re Michael Bay, and you promised the world you wouldn’t direct another Transformers film. But promises are meant to be broken, right? I mean … that’s the saying, right? Let’s get into it!

The Good (Sequel / Prequel / Remake) – This movie is a wasteland. The only good thing is that I’ve now learned there is a Submarine Museum in London. Which, yes, I will be going to at some point in the near future. Thanks Transformers 5! Let’s do a Remake. As a matter of fact, let’s do a remake of the entire “second trilogy” of the Transformers franchise. I think an interesting idea would have been to jump forward in time to after a catastrophic war between the Autobots and Decepticons has devastated humanity (something they explored in this movie to an extent). Introduce the new character (the person Wahlberg was kind of meant to be) as a genius human inventor who could be the edge in the battle between the two sides. Combining the heart and ingenuity of Cade Yeager with the driven leadership of Optimus Prime, can the Autobots turn the tide of war and bring peace to Earth? Come see in … The Transformers Warzone Trilogy.

The Bad (Sklognalysis) – This movie straight up makes no sense. Like, the storyline is so muddled that at times you have to just throw your hands up in the air and be like “whatever, I guess show me some explosions?” They also have way too many characters who are just really bad comic relief. From the kids in the beginning (who are promptly forgotten about) to the grating Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter), none of it works. I’m also glad they are shedding Cade in future installments. The idea of him being an “inventor” doesn’t really work in the context of the film they are trying to make. And don’t get me started with the whole Deus Ex John Turturro they tried to throw into the mix as he used his single day of shooting to lob exposition at the protagonists from Cuba. Uuuuuugh. For the Sklognalysis I feel like I want to just mull on Michael Bay a bit here. Bay must have some motivation for what he does. I recall watching documentaries about The Island and the original Transformers and his claim to fame at the time was attaching cameras to very nice (and fast) cars and shooting crashes and explosions and chases in intense adrenaline-fueled intimacy. He still does this … but why does it feel like that it all he cares about? He’s an odd duck when you think of his pet project Pain and Gain from a few years ago. This is the first time I looked at Transformers and thought “this franchise is irredeemable, they have to start completely over”. It makes me sad, but it also makes sense that they should just part ways and never look back.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – I think Transformers as a series will ultimately hold a strong position as one of the worst franchises we’ve watched. The films are so incoherent. Maybe something like Resident Evil could take the crown, but for some reason I think Transformers, having an original film I actually liked, has an interesting transformation (ha!) across BMT. For StreetCreditReport.com we finally have a fully mature set of lists to consider. I am genuinely shocked to see the A.V. Club lacking delicious Transformer bashing in their list. Luckily Rolling Stone had it as their number one. I would actually say, without seeing Emoji Movie yet, that Fifty Shades Darker and Transformers: The Last Knight are shockingly close together as far as what I think are the worst films of the year. Usually we hate some random film a little more (like Mechanic: Resurrection), but this year the big boys really came to play.

We had the possibility to look at bringing number 2 and 3 into the fold this time around … but they felt like a different series. I didn’t even bother to re-watch the fourth one either. So no homework.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

A Dog’s Purpose Recap

Jamie

Meet Bailey, the loveable dog of a loveable boy in a loveable world full of triumph and tragedy. Reincarnated over the years trying to understand his purpose on Earth, Baily is always looking out for his owners, particularly his original owner Ethan. Can he bring Ethan that ultimate joy he’s been looking for before it’s too late? Find out in… A Dog’s Purpose.

How?! I have a feeling this will be a short one. That’s because the film is not really a film at all but rather a series of vignettes strung together by a continually reincarnated dog named Bailey. As a puppy Bailey is rescued from a hot car by Ethan. Ethan and Bailey grow up together and we see him struggle with his father’s alcoholism and yet have a fulfilling life playing football and hanging with the girl he loves, Hannah. After getting a football scholarship to Michigan State, a jealous rival throws a firecracker through the mail slot of his house. Bailey wakes Ethan and helps him save his mom from the fire but not before Ethan injures his leg, dashing his hopes of a football career. Devastated he breaks it off with Hannah and heads off to agricultural school. We then get a glimpse at Bailey’s slow death (fun!) culminating in him being put down with Ethan at his side (double fun!). Over the ensuing decades we seen Bailey reincarnated as a police dog and a corgi companion for a lonely woman. Through these adventures Bailey learns two things: loneliness is bad and loneliness can be cured by finding a companion to be with. After a couple more heart wrenching dog deaths (I’m have so much goddamned FUN!) Bailey is reincarnated in Michigan and finds his way back to Ethan’s farm. Hooray! Taken in by Ethan he notices that he is lonely. From the lessons of his past life Bailey goes out and find a widowed Hannah. Reunited, Ethan and Hannah fall in love all over again and the film ends with their wedding and Ethan’s realization that his new dog is just his old dog reincarnated… for some reason he doesn’t find this amazing at all and basically shrugs it off. Presumably Bailey dies again after the credits role but the filmmakers spared us that one death at least. THE END.

Why?! Like the title suggests, this film is entirely motivated by the search by Bailey for meaning in his various lives. At first he thinks perhaps playing with Ethan is his purpose. As a police dog he learns that he can have a greater purpose in saving people, but he also sees that his owner is still sad and lonely despite their success at their job. As a corgi companion he sees that this loneliness can be cured by finding a someone to be with. Finally back with Ethan he puts this all together and realizes that life’s purpose is having fun, helping people, being with people you love, and living in the moment. Wait a second… these are all lessons humans can use too! Goddamn it, A Dog’s Purpose. You’ve done it again.

What?! Not much in the way of plot devices, props, or product placement. If anything this is a giant commercial on how a dog might die. Don’t let it get out, it might end up in the pound and DIE. Don’t leave it in a hot car, it might end up overheating and DIE. Don’t love it too much, it might grow old and make you sad when it DIES. Valuable lessons. The more you know.

Who?! I have to admit that I don’t know much about credits for animals but I would have thought this would have been a perfect candidate for IMDb to highlight an animal actor. Alas, not the case. No credits to be seen. Instead there is a plethora of Special Thanks doled out to members of the Manitoba community where the film was made. Even the owners of a local carnival, Wonder Shows, each get a Special Thanks… I’m starting to think these don’t mean much.

Where?! Clearly there are a number of locations in this film for each of the lives of the dog. Fortunately there is still a primary setting as Ethan spends his entire life in Michigan. There are also large portions of the film set in Chicago and Atlanta. A solid B.

When?! Road Trip Film Alert! That’s right, I’m calling an alert for a Road Trip Film in the When?! section. The films skips through time starting around the Cuban Missile Crisis and ending in modern day. We don’t spend a huge amount of time in one era, but get a taste of each decade (as evidenced by the style of clothes, etc.). It’s nice, but not specific most of the time. C+.

I think Patrick’s part touches on my major complaint for the film. I didn’t really understand Josh Gad’s entire role. They took what might would have been a drama and seemingly punched it up with ADR jokes by a dog. I realize this isn’t actually what happened (it’s based on a book after all), but I can’t help not liking it. Just give me the dog being a dog. Everything would be understood by what was shown on the screen. That’s what a movie is supposed to do. Besides that I think the only weird thing was that I didn’t cry during the film. It was basically a dog slaughter and yet nary a tear escaped my eye. That’s a failure in my book. I needs my sweet, sweet pathos. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! After months of meetings, editing, reshoots the film is finally here. The premier is a few weeks away, but you’re going to take the time from the office to relax a bit. The stars can handle the press junket … oh what’s this, my phone is ringing. The office? But … huh, controversy about the treatment of the dogs on your set, well that’ll probably blow over, right? Like 24 hours from now it’ll all be cleared up … right? Let’s get into it!

The Good (Sequel, Prequel, Remake) – The doggies are cute as usual. Can’t avoid that. I actually thought the transition from early 60’s to present day was super cool. Subtle enough that it isn’t really thrown in your face that there are 4 or 5 “periods” being pieced in the movie. The story was interesting at times, at least the parts not involving the main character Ethan. Did I mention the dogs were cute? Let’s see a Sequel. Or at least an idea of a sequel. We’ve completed the story of Ethan, so this thing can be a franchise! A whole universe! The dog’s purpose seemed to just be “stand by your owner no matter what, help them be the best they can be”. Great! That can be done with anyone. Let’s see one that starts now and then goes into the future. Let’s see one that starts in 1910 and goes through the depression and the world wars! It is a fine idea for a kind of “slice of Americana” or slowly shifting time frame. I wouldn’t mind it. Maybe you can try to not get a giant PR disaster to happen right before the movie is released.

The Bad (Sklognalogy) – Josh Gad adds nothing with his voice over work. It almost feels like an add on. Bailey doesn’t really have a personality, unlike Homeward Bound and others which do the same thing, here they go a bit too far into a “realistic” dog mind. In that his mind is rather simple and direct. Considering this is literally the main character and crux of the film this isn’t great. At least it isn’t very amusing. They also suggest his first “life” as a dog was just immediately getting killed, … if you’re going sickly sweet can we not have a puppy get murdered in the opening scene? Weirdly the Sklognalogy for the week is kind of the movie we just watched: The Space Between Us. Both are cloyingly sweet. Both are light, and intended to deliver a family friendly product. But yet I thought The Space Between Us was much better than this guy. This is a shadow of Homeward Bound, as I said, which holds a template on how to do the voice-over pet film (give them interesting personalities, really anthropomorphize them). Whereas The Space Between Us is kind of the be all end all of YA space romance films, which is why it is a bit more acceptable to me.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – There is likely no legacy for the film. This is becoming a trend with the year-end cycle I think. But that is kind of understandable. How many films have an impact on BMT every year? Ten? Twenty? Half of them? Considering we’ve now watched for seven years, that is somewhere in 100-200 films having an impact release between 1980 and now, about 40 years. So you’d think like 2.5-5 films a year. So most of a 9 film cycle won’t have any impact whatsoever I would imagine. We watch around 15 current-year films a year (4 Lives and 9 in the cycle, plus a few more likely) so when we cover those high impact films you’ll know it. This isn’t it. As for Street Cred the Telegraph puts it in the worst of the year (behind a paywall unfortunately, so no link), and Slate puts it in their bottom 20. It’ll get play in end of year lists for sure because of the controversy.

Was there a book? There was, right? Didn’t read it. Someday in the distant future maybe I will. I’ll put an Editor’s note here to tell me to add it to the archive when that happens … which will be never most likely.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The Space Between Us Recap

Jamie

Gardner is a teenager born on Mars and unable to go to Earth for fear his body can’t handle it. When he connects with a girl on Earth, Tulsa, and finds information about his father he insists it’s time to return “home.” Can he fall in love and find his dad before it’s (literally) too late? Find out in… The Space Between Us.

What?! We open on the first mission to populate Mars funded by billionaire Nathaniel Shepard. On the way it’s revealed that the mission leader is pregnant. Fearing PR backlash NASA keeps the pregnancy confidential. Shortly after arrival she gives birth to a healthy child, Gardner, but dies in childbirth. Due to the differences in gravity they fear bringing the child home will kill him so Gardner is left to grow up on Mars. Flash forward 16 years and he is living a happy but isolated life with a robot friend and everything. He’s a total nerd alert, but spends his time chatting it up with an equally isolated girl in Colorado named Tulsa. He really wants to go to Earth to find his father (but we also know he wouldn’t mind finding this girl, wooing her, and getting it in). Finally NASA relents and after a rigorous physical preparation he is flown back to Earth. Hooray. When he arrives it looks like he’ll be sent right back for health reasons so he escapes to meet up with Tulsa. She is totally freaked out by this weirdo saying he’s from Mars (so much for getting it in), but helps him escape when NASA comes a-knocking. Thus begins their road trip together. They track Gardner’s father from New Mexico to Arizona to California. On the way, Tulsa and Gardner fall in love and he actually does get it in. Wow. Took you like five hours on Earth to lose your virginity. He then starts to show symptoms of an enlarged heart. When he finally finds the man he thinks is his dad he is told he was wrong the whole time. The man is actually his uncle. Sad but in love he walks into the ocean to die only to be rescued by Nathaniel Shepard, who turns out to be his real dad (duh, it was pretty obvious). They are able to save his life and get him back to Mars where we see him enjoying time with his dad. We are also treated to a scene of Tulsa preparing for her own trip to Mars. Awwwwwwww. THE END.

Why?! While Gardner is literally from Mars his motivations are primarily typical teen angst. He wants to see Earth, he wants to know what it is to be human, he wants to live, he wants to love, he wants to find belonging, and most importantly he wants to know who he is. And knowing who he is involves knowing who his father is. Thus the road trip from Mars to Florida to Colorado to California and back to Mars. As for Tulsa, while she is born on Earth she also mostly wants to know that she has belonging. She’s shuttled from foster home to foster home and feels like an alien in her own world. Trust me it’s all very deep in a highly predictable and saccharine way.

What?! I was really hoping that Tulsa would introduce Gardner to the beauty of Coca-Cola or something at one point, but alas. Gardner’s journey is mostly product placement free. Same can’t be said for Nathaniel Shepard and the sleek technology he surrounds himself with. He shuttles around in his self-driving Volvo as if it’s the ultimate replacement for his shattered dreams of space travel. Shove it, astronauts! You haven’t experienced adventure till you’ve driven the new Volvo (he says as he cries himself to sleep… don’t worry, the car drives itself. He can weep as hard as he wants without putting himself or others in danger).

Who?! As with many robot friends in cinematic history, Gardner’s robot, Centaur, is basically a Planchet. Gardner is always like “You aren’t even real, stupid robot.” and dismantles him for his own schemes. But the robot still had only unconditional love for him and it’s sad really. Even sadder is when he’s abandoned part way through the movie and never mentioned again. Bring that robot to Earth! Let him in on your kooky adventures. Anyway, I only did a Planchet this week because I didn’t want to mention that Logan Paul, a Youtube star, makes a truly terrible cameo halfway through the film. Fuck. That.

Where?! Road Trip Alert! I would put the primary settings as Mars and Colorado (I love it!), but with some stops in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. It’s an A because of how important Mars is to the plot. You could even argue it’s an A+ with the mention of “Space” in the title. But let’s appreciate it for what it is, not for what it isn’t.

When?! Future Setting Alert! From Gardner’s mother’s grave we know she died on January 25, 2018. The film takes place 16 years later so in 2034. That’s enough for me when it comes to the date of a future film. I’ll give it a C. Funny enough this was a major sticking point for reviewers. The fact that nothing really got updated from the phones to the cars to the slang used by Tulsa. Showed a single robot, a single self-driving car, and some plexiglass computers and that’s apparently all they budgeted for.

When I started watching the film I thought it was going to be terrible. It was slow and extremely predictable. Interestingly once they went a more cliched route for the latter half of the film it actually picked up pace and was pretty enjoyable. Like two films smooshed together. A somewhat boring space adventure at the front, and a typical teen romance road trip on the back half. It all added up to mostly harmless fluff. Interesting that it got hated on so much. Is it so bad that every once in awhile they make a sugar sweet film for the whole family? It’s not like it’s inherently bad just for that reason. That being said I wish it wasn’t laughably predictable. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Space is so in right now, and you want a little piece of the action. You got this weird script about some Moon boy or whatever so … hey, intern, give this a once over and set it on Mars like that Damon one. We’ll rake in that dough, I’ll grab a few drinks with some stars, no problem … Let’s get into it!

The Good (Sklog-nalogy) – The movie actually isn’t all bad. It wasn’t quite It’s-Not-That-Bad level, but it is a lot closer than you would think. The first hour is a little slow but interesting, and the second half picks up even if it is half of a YA road trip film. There are certainly things I disliked, but for a young adult romance that is over two hours long it could have been a lot lot worse. Which is why I’m porting over Sklog-nalogy from the Bad section for the week. In this case the BMT film this reminds me of is possibly the least likeable film we’ve ever done: Waiting for Forever. In both cases you have a weirdo “martian” guy stalking a girl he’s fallen in love with through misadventures. In this case the “martian” is actually a Martian and is innocuous, funny, kind, a hopeless romantic, and genuinely makes a bit of sense. In Waiting for Forever he is a creepy stalker who the lead actress should have been concerned was going to kill her. The movies have a weird core that is similar, but take drastically different turns. This film is an okay example of the genre, although it has its faults. Waiting for Forever shows exactly how such a storyline can go wrong by basically glorifying stalkers as “romantics”. That I think is probably why I liked this film reasonably well in the end, at least it kept it innocent in that regard.

The Bad (Crimes Against BMT-anity) – The film basically turns into a Young Adult road trip movie where they barely mention Mars which isn’t so great. The twist with Gary Oldman is incredibly obvious. The film is, indeed, so sugary sweet that I can understand why it got a ton of bad reviews (although 16% is much much lower than I would have expected). The last bit I’ll run through for a Crime Against BMT-anity. The faux-future stuff is off the chain. Basically everyone uses these weird plexiglass computers, but then everyone has phones that look like a current Samsung. Gary Oldman is in a self-driving car, but yet Tulsa’ Dad drunkenly flies a beat up crop duster, they drive around in a beat up pick up, and at one point Gardner gets a ride in a (driver-ful) crappy Greyhound bus. The mixed messages are crazy! It is basically an exercise in how little one can do while still getting away with setting a film nearly 20 years in the future. Most can be forgiven, it isn’t like cars look alien compared to 2000, but the phones were a very strange oversight considering they updated the computers fairly well.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – I don’t think there is legacy here. It might have at some point, if we decide it is the best bad movie we’ve watched this year. But for some reason I highly doubt that. It has been listed in a few places for worst of already. Looper, and The Playlist specifically. Ultimately I think it’ll fall away without much notice, but we’ll have to wait and see.

This does seem like one of those films that is based on a book … but it wasn’t. So no homework to report on here. I’ll just leave it there then.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs