Thursday, June 21, 2018

Popcorn Kernels: Get To Da Choppa!

In which we review the Predator trilogy, because the forces of my life have conspired to make it a requirement to watch it. Keep an eye out for my Dread Central column and Geek K.O. podcast appearance, both about this franchise, both coming soon!

Predator


Year: 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall 
Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

An elite military squad on a mission in the Central American jungle runs afoul of a bloodthirsty alien creature bent on hunting them down.

Predator sure is a boy movie, innit? This whole franchise has definitely been one of the biggest gaps in my genre film knowledge, and it probably stems all the way back to the fact that I didn't play with toy trucks as a tot. This movie is the cinema equivalent of a blue onesie patterned with footballs, assigning a great deal of meaning to the sheer act of existing as a biological male. We get doting closeups of biceps flexing during arm wrestling (mid-air arm wrestling I might add, the lamest way to go about that particular display), lots of sweaty yelling in sleeveless/fabricless/shameless military vests, and a whopping one female character who has maybe two lines.

You don't hire Arnold Schwarzenegger by accident. Predator knew what it was doing and it sure as hell went and did it. But I do have to say... The man certainly cuts a striking figure onscreen, but he's a liability the second he opens his mouth. And I'm not talking about his accent. Look, I super duper knew the man couldn't act, but watching Predator, it's not so much something you know as something you feel deep in your bones; a primordial, ancestral revulsion that leaves you quivering in your seat.

Simply put, Schwarzenegger is an enormous liability in this movie (in every sense of the word "enormous"). He has way too much dialogue that isn't quippy one liners, which he shoves out through gritted teeth like a constipated school principal. The rest of the cast is fine, although the only reason anybody but Shane Black is here is to wear a vest that shows off their biceps.

Honestly, I found Predator pretty boring. The non-action scenes are numerous and entirely indistinguishable. People mutter nonsense in an endless expanse of green jungle while walking around with machetes. It's not compelling visually or narratively, it just exists, in much wider swaths than one might hope. The action itself is totally fine though, especially when the gore quotient amps up about halfway through.

However, there is no denying that the Predator itself is an unholy triumph of monster-making ingenuity. Stan Winston sure as hell knew what he was doing when he put together the wholly inhuman look of the creature, both masked and unmasked. With the mask on, he cuts the figure of a space-age knight, and with it off he's an unnaturally fleshy collection of organic odds and ends that you just believe. That is the true triumph of Predator, and the reason the movie earned itself (god) five additional movies at this point. You don't get that without a cool monster, no way no how.

Rating: 5/10

Predator 2
Year: 1990
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall 
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

This time, Los Angeles!

Because L.A. is the urban jungle, geddit?

That's about as deep as Predator 2 ever gets, not really utilizing its arbitrary near-future setting to make much commentary other than "things is violent in the cities." Instead, we get a Predator film grafted onto a Lethal Weapon as Danny Glover stalks through the LA streets taking the law into his own hands when the titular extraterrestrial gets in the middle of a gang war that tears through the city streets. This is emphatically not a bad thing.

Sure, Predator 2 is stupid, but so is Predator 1, and at least this movie has a kick-ass lady cop with actual dialogue. This is probably the only time director Stephen Hopkins has actually improved a franchise, but I'll take it. Predator 2 is weirdly demure in its violence (the 90's were a rough time for gorehounds), but the action is varied and fun (an early street shootout has some delightful stunt car work), kicking up the energy with its loony antics. And the dialogue scenes benefit from actors with actual charisma, including the reliably weird Gary Busey and the sniveling worm that is every character Bill Paxton played in late 80's.

The Predator's weaponry has also received an upgrade, and although his invisibility booster is still annoyingly on-the-fritz (I understand he needs to be invisible for a long time because that's expensive as hell otherwise, but the brief glimpses we get of the Predator early on are annoyingly obvious audience pandering), his new space arsenal is a creative expansion of the universe of the first film. Here, the design team turns traditional hunting weapons like nets and spears into alien weapons of mass murderization, combining the primitive with the high tech in a satisfyingly brutal way.

As always, the Predator is the most important element of this film, and they do get it right. Sure, it's an empty 90's action flick, but that's a sweet spot for bad-good cinema, so you won't catch me complaining.

Rating: 6/10

Predators


Year: 2010
Director: Nimród Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace
Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

A group of strangers find themselves fighting for their lives on a Predator hunting reserve.

Is Predator the only trilogy that improves as it goes along? OK, probably nobody would agree with me, but I've finally found an entry in this franchise that I like! Predators is a delightful popcorn thriller, dumping a fistful of character actors (also including Walton Goggins, Mahershala Ali, and Danny Trejo),  into a scenario that's part Cube, part Lost, and full of Predator mayhem. Yes, these folks are also randomly wandering through a jungle, but this time there's actually a mystery to solve outside of "what is shooting us with lasers?"

Predators throws a lot of bizarre, dime-store Annihilation imagery at its characters before it reveals what's actually going on (given the title of the movie, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out), and the dynamics of the characters as they're funneled through a gauntlet of sheer revulsion and terror is a fun way to spend the plotty bits. And the cast really is game for bringing these crude, one-dimensional characters to life. Goggins channels his skills at chaotic evil, Trejo does his Trejo thing, I actually really like Topher Grace and he turns in some solid comic relief, and Adrien Brody gains 25 pounds of muscle and dang if that isn't a good distraction from how boring his character is.

Predators does fall apart somewhere in the middle of the third act, where the plot starts taking twists and turns that come out of nowhere to jostle the movie off its track, then vanish without a trace. But before that it's a tremendously satisfying one-time watch. Its subtext about how all the human beings themselves are "predators" falls flat too, but I can't say I expected much to start with, and at least it's trying something.

Then there's the Predators themselves! The design of the new Super-Predator isn't a particularly inspiring piece of work, but for the most part the film uses improved CGI to smooth out the very few rough edges of the classic design, and this is the first movie where the Predator's heat vision isn't incredibly crude and annoying. You can actually see what the Predator is seeing instead of chunky blobs of red and yellow that you can assume are Arnold Schwarzenegger because the blob has biceps. 

All in all, Predators did it for me, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. At this rate, Predator 6: The Predating is gonna be an out-and-out masterpiece!

Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1337
Reviews In This Series
Predator (McTiernan, 1987)
Predator 2 (Hopkins, 1990)
AvP: Alien vs. Predator (Anderson, 2004)
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (Strause & Strause, 2007)
Predators (Antal, 2010)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Census Flashback: Doing All The Old Bits

On our Fright Flashback/Census Bloodbath crossover, every week this summer we'll be exploring an 80's slasher film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to the weekend's upcoming blockbuster.

In anticipation of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which has hired Jeff Goldblum to recite every line ever spoken in the previous films, I'll be reviewing Boogeyman II, a sequel that is mostly comprised of flashbacks to the original 1980 supernatural slasher.

Year: 1983
Director: Bruce Starr
Cast: Suzanna Love, Ulli Lommel, Shannah Hall
Run Time: 1 hour 19 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

The clip show slasher is a grand tradition of the subgenre, helping out sequels that ran out of money across the board from The Hills Have Eyes Part II to Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. To my knowledge, Boogeyman II AKA Revenge of the Boogeyman, one of Britain's infamous Video Nasties,  is the first of them. This is partially because its original film came out so early in the slasher Golden Age, and partially because arthouse dropout director Ulli Lommel really didn't want to make this movie.

Pictured: Lommel's face during the pitch meeting.

So what did old Lommel do to make a quick buck? He slapped together a ton of old footage from the original, mediocre killer mirror slasher, and whipped up a scathingly meta script with wife/star Suzanna Love. The footage they added was clearly shot as quickly and with as little equipment as possible (my guess is three days, tops), bada bing bada boom.

The story revolves around Lacey (Love), the survivor of the first film, visiting her childhood friend Bonnie Lombard (Shannah Hall, who also shares co-writer credit) in Hollywood, where she lives with her pretentious director husband Mickey (Lommel himself). After telling the story of the killer mirror in excruciating detail for the first fifty minutes or so, she reveals that she has brought a shard of said mirror with her, and it begins wreaking havoc upon the Hollywood hob-knobbers who have gathered at the Lombards' party and want to make a movie out of Lacey's story.

This image returns once more to strike fear into the hearts of men and women alike! Quiver in abject terror! 

Much like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 before it, Boogeyman II actually negates any reason to watch the original film. It cuts out all the boring bits in favor of the showstopping kills, which were by a wiiiiiide margin the only reason to watch. Unfortunately, it also does this to its own narrative, whatever thirty-some minutes of it that we get. It's a nonstop Lazy Susan of murder sequences, strung together with maybe three or four lines like a bad community theater musical revue show. Although honestly, that honestly doesn't disqualify it from being a good slasher movie.

What does disqualify it is that these murder sequences in no way have the creativity or impact of the original film. The kills are always presented in pairs, choppily cutting between the two players in a way that makes it entirely unclear what is happening, and to whom. Not to mention the fact that the cinematography is murky as hell and the gore is practically nonexistent. It's dark, cheap, and unsatisfying, like a can of generic-brand grocery store beer. 

Then there's the fact that every man in the movie is a Harvey Weinstein, with each kill introduced by some producer or other attempting to trade sex for a role in a movie that hasn't even been greenlit yet. That has aged even worse than the practically obligatory regressive sexual politics present in the average 80's slasher.

It must be so fun to be a woman.

So yes. Boogeyman II is almost entirely void of artistic merit. Almost. You see, Ulli Lommel's disenchantment with Hollywood bleeds through every frame, starting with the fact the he cast himself as the reluctant, put-upon director. Every character on this film's platter of Meat is a grotesque caricature of the L.A. lifestyle, spouting hilariously vain, clueless dialogue that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Barry

In the few seconds we're given to breathe between kills, Boogeyman II is a savage satire, frequently funny on its own merits, with enough memorable screenwriting pearls that my shortlist of Champion Dialogue quotes was longer than the body count. The shallow, callous way that these Beverly Hills types treat Lacey and attempt to manipulate her trauma for their own gain is kind of magnetically funny, in a twisted, pitch black kind of way.

Sure, it's still a piece of crap. We're introduced to these characters as they step into frame (lit from below like they're telling a spooky campfire story) and recite their names one by one. They teleport around the party and die while in conversation with people we've never seen them interact with before. They name drop Halloween and Blow Out like they have a snowball's chance in Hell of ever being favorably compared to either. I'm not here to say Boogeyman II is a masterpiece. But for a 75-minute fluffball slasher, I feel like I got more than my money's worth. (It probably doesn't hurt that the soundtrack liberally indulges in the first film's license of tracks from the D.C. New Wave band 4 Out of 5 Doctors, my absolute favorite slasher movie party band.)

Mind you, I didn't actually spend any money to watch this movie, but the sentiment remains. The film would have even dragged itself over the threshold to a positive score if the kills had been any good at all. But I enjoyed spending the time with my favorite parts of the original while indulging in a few genuine chuckles, a privilege that very few slashers can afford a discerning viewer. Not that it encounters many of those.

Killer: The Mirror
Final Girl: Lacey (Suzanna Love)
Sign of the Times: The world was apparently clamoring for a sequel to The Boogeyman.
Best Kill: There's a lot of phallic imagery to choose from here, but I'm partial to the one where a man gets an electric toothbrush shoved down his esophagus.


Scariest Moment: The child's toys come to life all around him while he sleeps.
Weirdest Moment: The dialogue turns all echoey for a poolside conversation about goblins between a child clearly dubbed with an adult's voice and the German servant.
Champion Dialogue: "Without people, there wouldn't be... anybody."
Body Count: 18; 8 of which are from the previous film.
  1. Mom's Lover is stabbed in the back in flashback.
  2. Woman is stabbed in the throat with scissors in flashback.
  3. Boy has his neck crushed in a window in flashback.
  4. Woman is hit in the face with a medicine cabinet in flashback.
  5. Boy is impaled in the back of the neck in flashback.
  6. Girl is impaled on the same spike in flashback.
  7. Lacey's Husband has his face melt in flashback.
  8. Elderly Priest is killed during an exorcism in flashback.
  9. Sally is weed whacked.
  10. Sandor is killed by hedge clippers.
  11. Producer gets choked with an electric toothbrush.
  12. Brunette gets her face covered in shaving cream, which somehow kills her.
  13. Bernie is hung with a garden hose.
  14. Blonde gets spanked by a ladder, which shoves her mouth onto an exhaust pipe.
  15. Priscilla has her neck crushed with barbecue tongs.
  16. Jim is corkscrewed.
  17. Joseph is drowned.
  18. Bonnie dies in a car explosion.
TL;DR: Boogeyman II is almost completely devoid of artistic merit, but as a nuts and bolts body count movie, it's weirdly satisfying.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1250
Reviews In This Series
The Boogeyman (Lommel, 1980)
Boogeyman II (Starr, 1983)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mr. Mom, Who Was Bitten By A Radioactive Mom And Now Has All The Powers Of A Mom

Year: 2018
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

A quick caveat: That epilepsy warning is no joke. I have a photosensitivity, so the strobe effect that dominates three scenes lasting one to two minutes each prevented me from watching a certain portion of the film. Maybe those were the worst scenes in the movie or the best, but at any rate they don't factor into my review except for sound design I guess.

It's been fourteen years since the superhero family The Incredibles first graced cinema screens. It would probably suffice to say that the superhero movie landscape has changed since then, so I was interested in seeing how well the film played against the inundated landscape of the Marvel cinematic universe and its sickly basement-dwelling cousin the DC extended universe. Probably to its advantage, it doesn't change its stylized retro sci-fi gleam one bit. We sure get a lot of superheroes but we're still not getting that.

Angle-wise, there's just SO much going on here.

Incredibles 2 picks up literally the second the previous entry left off, with the Incredible family - superstrong dad Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), stretchy mom Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), force field-creating invisible girl Violet (Sarah Vowell), and super fast Dash (Huck Milner) - stopping an attack by the villainous Underminer (John Ratzenberger). However, the destruction caused by this effort hasn't helped the public perception of "supers," and the law enforcing the illegalization of superpowers is holding fast.

That is, until Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) puts his hat in the ring. The wealthy telecommunications magnate is a fan of supers and has put together a plan with his inventor sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) to hire Elastigirl for an underground PR campaign showing the world just how necessary superheroics are. While she heads off to the nearest metropolis to begin work, Mr. Incredible is left at home with the kids, which would be overwhelming even if the baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) wasn't developing, oh, every power in existence.

Conveniently, this Elastigirl gig is timed with the rise of the Screenslaver, a freaky masked villain who uses screens to hypnotize people and is hellbent on tearing a lazy public away from the television they seem to worship. She sets off to stop the Screenslaver while Bob stays home with the kids. You know, just like the woke cinema classic Mr. Mom!

This is also maybe the freakiest thing ever included in a Pixar movie and they literally made two movies about monsters.

I obviously wasn't super sold on the Mr. Mom angle the trailers made apparent. It still reeks of the mentality that women in the workforce is a bizarre novelty and that men are dumb cavemen idiots who can't parent their own children. The most recent incarnation of this story was that soul-bleachingly mediocre Matt LeBlanc sitcom Man with a Plan, so I can't say I had high hopes.

Luckily, Incredibles 2 doesn't foreground the gender normative elements I was worried it would. It tells a story of the universal struggle to be a parent, with the chaos of having a newborn baby amplified by Jack Jack's powers. He can multiply his body, set the house on fire if he doesn't get a cookie, and his atomic sneezes send him phasing through various walls and ceilings. He's uncontainable and every parent's literal nightmare.

Naturally, he continues to be the best part of the film, and his mini-fight scene with a raccoon is maybe the best superhero moment in cinema this decade. But the other characters are all given a lot to do, with the exception of maybe Dash, whose energy generates a whole lot of fun, but it's all sugar and no substance. But yes, once again the family is at the center of the film, their characters and dynamics being the primary driving force of the story, aided and abetted by all the useful metaphors that superheroics can provide.

I'm not a regular mom. I'm a cool mom.

But although they're certainly not the crux of the story, those crime-fighting sequences really are exciting. They run the gamut from Spider-Man 2 setpieces to James Bond high camp villainy to good ole "capable people work together to prevent a disaster," and it's probably the best choreographed and edited animated action in American cinema, followed far behind by maybe Big Hero 6 and almost nothing else. Incredibles 2 is so fun and splashy that it makes you forget that we've already gotten a Black Panther, an Infinity War, and a Deadpool 2 within the past eight seconds. It's popcorn movie magic at its finest, using the limitless imagination of animation to deliver some impossibly dazzling stunts.

It maybe lacks the depth of the original film's more concrete, well-thought-out storyline, but I'd be hard-pressed to look at this year's slate of summer films and see anything that will be remotely as exciting and fist-pumping as this triumph, the best non-Toy Story Pixar sequel to date, and most likely in perpetuity.

A Note on the Short Film Bao: I'm obviously very glad that Pixar has started to realize that other cultures can and should be represented in animation, and this video about an anthropomorphic dumpling is certainly working Pixar's formula in a unique way - from its soft, stylized character designs to its casually magical, circular narrative. It's certainly very cute and a lively dialogue-free effort in visual storytelling, but I found the central metaphor to be more than a little bit ruined by the narrative turn it takes in the end, which for me undermined the story I thought I was watching. But nevertheless, a worthwhile effort that is no "Piper" but it's certainly no "Lava," so I'll take that middle ground any day. 7/10

TL;DR: Incredibles 2 is the best non-Toy Story sequel Pixar has ever made.
Rating: 8/10
Word Count: 988
Reviews In This Series
Incredibles 2 (Bird, 2018)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reviewing Jane: To Be Fond Of Dancing Is A Certain Step Towards Falling In Love

In which we review (almost) every film adapted from or inspired by the works of Jane Austen, as I read through her extended bibliography for the first time.

Year: 2004
Director: Grinder Chadha
Cast: Martin Henderson, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Nadira Babbar
Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

I was a bit nervous going into Bride & Prejudice, a movie that announces its strict adherence to adapting the Jane Austen novel by only changing one letter in the title. As you may have noticed, I've sat through more than my share of Prides and Prejudices lately, and I wasn't certain I could stomach another straight adaptation right at this moment. But I do it all for you, readers who accidentally stumbled across this review while Googling pornographic videos. And I sure am glad I did. Let's get into it.

My face when pressing play.

Bride & Prejudice transplants Jane Austen's most famous love story from Regency era England to modern (read: mid-2000's) India, specifically the small town of Amritsar. Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) is one of four sisters dominated by a mother (Nadira Babbar) who is obsessed with marrying them off. When a rich American-Indian named Balraj (Naveen Andrews) returns home for a friend's wedding, Lalita's sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) falls head over heels for him.

Along for the ride is Balraj's white friend William Darcy (Martin Henderson of, weirdly, The Strangers: Prey at Night), a pompous hotel magnate who strikes up a tentative flirtation with Lalita despite his evident distaste for the non-American customs of Amritsar and the interference of hot young thang Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), with whom he has a sordid past.

Very distracting interference...

I have made the point before that a Jane Austen movie is only as good as its dance scenes. Balls and dancing are integral to her work and understanding the characters and their dynamics, and any movie that gets this will rise to the top. Bride & Prejudice not only understands this, it translates it into the hypercolored musical world of Bollywood, in which music and dance are just as essential, if not more. Combining these two storytelling modes is a genius fit, and not only does it frame the Pride narrative in a unique and engaging way, it brings Western cinema the best Bollywood numbers it has ever (and probably will ever) received.

The opening dance number, which is set during a traditional Indian wedding, is a glossy spectacle that lasts for a full five minutes, effortlessly introducing you to the characters in the midst of a shimmering, jaw-dropping marathon of choreography that will leave you transfixed. No other number in the film is quite as good as this, but they all maintain its level of fizzy, summertime fun. The design of this movie is exquisite too, really indulging in the brightest fabrics and flowiest garments the nation has to offer.

The Indian setting doesn't just provide the genre, either. Chadha and her co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges utilize the culture to really dig deep and engage with Austen's narrative at its highest level, adding layers about arranged marriage and imperialism that the author wouldn't have dared to tackle so boldly in her time.

And then there's that other thing Austen would never have dared to do, which is the way Chadha wields the female gaze like a broadsword, populating the movie with scantily clad, wide-shouldered men to gaze at in awe and wonder.

As lovingly giffed by the good, thirsty folks who run the Internet.

Sure, Bride & Prejudice has its flaws. A lot of the glossier sequences get all 2004 all over the place and end up looking like the "Stars Are Blind" music video on loop. And the story really loses its dramatic thrust in the first act, its modernization of the source novel's events finally losing its grip and undercutting a key event by muddying up the character motivations and preventing the lovers' final reunion from being particularly satisfying. Even worse, this reunion is presented via the worst, most awkward middle school hug you've ever seen, lovingly plastered across the screen in sloooooow moooooootioooooon.

But who could possibly complain for long when faced with a movie this bright, funny, and thoroughly charming? Bride & Prejudice is a winning update of Jane Austen that blends witty satire with hard-hitting modern truths about culture clash and true love. And that dancing! Slumdog Millionaire might have the most widely known Bollywood number in modern memory, but Bride & Prejudice has "Jai Ho!" beat by a couple dozen country miles. It's an exquisite, uncompromising blend of cinematic traditions that has its cake and swallows it whole, too.

TL;DR: Bride & Prejudice is one page short of a full book, but it's an enormously entertaining translation of Jane Austen's most overplayed novel.
Rating: 8/10
Word Count: 805
Other Films Based on Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice (Leonard, 1940)
Bride & Prejudice (Chadha, 2004)
Pride and Prejudice (Wright, 2005)
Unleashing Mr. Darcy (Winning, 2016)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Steers, 2016)
Before the Fall (Geisler, 2016)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Census Flashback: Toxic Masculinity

On our Fright Flashback/Census Bloodbath crossover, every week this summer we'll be exploring an 80's slasher film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to the weekend's upcoming blockbuster.

In anticipation of The Incredibles, which weirdly seems to be a remake of Mr. Mom featuring superheroes, I'll be reviewing Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy, another sequel with a twisted sense of fatherhood.

Year: 1989
Director: Jeff Burr
Cast: Terry O'Quinn, Meg Foster, Caroline Williams
Run Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

If there's one subgenre and time period in the world that would guarantee a sequel to an even mildly successful film, it was the slasher movie in the 1980's. If we could get a Death Nurse 2 or a Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls, it's certainly not surprising that the 1987 Hitchcockian thriller The Stepfather got a follow-up entry two years later. In fact, nothing is surprising about Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy, except the fact that it's maybe even sorta kinda good.

Also, maybe we should arrange another remake with Stanley Tucci, just sayin'.

You may recall that the previous Stepfather ended with the titular family-stealing slasher dying, but since when has that ever stopped a good horror villain? Terry O'Quinn returns to the franchise with a hand-waving scene that reveals he just got a nasty scar from being stabbed in the heart, 'twas only a flesh wound! Anyway, we catch up with him in a psych ward in Puget Sound (a psych ward which has a buzz saw that they let the patients use, because mental health care competency has apparently taken some huge strides between the 80's and now), a location which he easily escapes to build a new life for himself down in Loma Linda, California.

While he makes moves on Carol (Meg Foster), the lovely divorcée across the street, and attempts to assimilate himself into the lives of her and her son Todd (Jonathan Brandis), he must face obstacles to his new nuclear family. These obstacles include Carol's deadbeat ex-husband Phil (Mitchell Lawrence) and the nosy postal worker neighbor Matty (Caroline Williams of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2). 

And who WOULDN'T want to fill the gap in this holy trinity?

By the very nature of being a sequel, Stepfather 2 inherently subverts the plot of the original. Whereas that film was a thriller of domestic paranoia, following Jill Schoelen's efforts to expose the man in her house whom she suspects is a crazy evil killer man, in this film we sure as hell know he's a crazy evil killer man. Thus it becomes almost Psycho III-esque, where the tension transfers from siding with the victims and worrying about their fates to sympathizing with the killer himself. You watch as he attempts to rebuild his life and tie up any loose ends to his perfect marital bliss, and you're biting your knuckles along with him as various wrinkles threaten that delicate balance.

Plus, since the slasher subgenre had gotten more of its claws into the franchise, this is also accompanied by a bump in the body count, easily doubling the previous effort. You won't catch me complaining about that. Although the original Stepfather is certainly one of the more respectable 80's efforts, it's not one that particularly spoke to me, so I don't mind it being beefed up with some popcorn chills and spills.

Mind you, even the improved kill-pacing of this entry still doesn't provide for many particularly memorable murders. Stepfather 2 is a deeply generic slasher through and through, and the well of blood the genre had to offer had long since dried up by 1989. The film demurely hides its gore behind tasteful pans to pools of blood, as if that was what would get the goat of any audience member sitting in the theater for a movie with the subtitle Make Room for Daddy. Stepfather 2's refusal to cop to being a tawdry B-picture prevents it from rising too far above being merely "good," but for 1989, it was probably the best case scenario if we're being honest.

Though the fact that I can't really find a screenshot more eye-catching than this should speak volumes.

All that said, this is probably the best horror film director Jeff Burr ever made (though with the chopped-to-hell Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III kicking it right there on the CV, there's not a ton of competition). There are fun little moments like the neighborhood group therapy that devolves into a catty gossip session, or the Stepfather's quasi-Freddy quips that are funny yet still grounded enough in his character that they don't break whatever reality this film could conjure.

Plus, in the third act Stepfather 2 becomes an actually good film, depicting a wedding chapel battle that sees every piece of the Stepfather's story falling apart in a massive crescendo of confusion as Carol and Todd (who aren't as fleshed-out as they should have been) really coming into their own as a family unit amid a flurry of exciting, well-staged action.

Stepfather 2 isn't really anything more than a generic slasher, but it's like eating a cookie from a box you got at the grocery store. It isn't delicious, but it hits the spot. It checks all the boxes of what a movie like this needs to have, even if it isn't as bloody or as sexy as it could have been.

Killer: The Stepfather (Terry O'Quinn)
Final Girl: Carol Grayland (Meg Foster)
Best Kill: The doctor who gets a shiv in the back of the neck is the only gore moment that in any way feels even next door to showstopping.
Sign of the Times: The Stepfather scouts potential wives using a videotape dating service.
Scariest Moment: In the heat of the moment, Carol makes out with the Stepfather's giant chest scar.
Weirdest Moment: While eating cereal, the Stepfather takes a moment to lean his ear close to the snapping, crackling, and popping and grin to himself.
Champion Dialogue: "He likes me to hum when I kiss him down below."
Body Count: 6
  1. Dr. Danvers is shivved in the back of the neck.
  2. Smith is bludgeoned with his nightstick.
  3. Random Dude has his hands smashed in a trunk and is killed offscreen.
  4. Phil is slashed to death with a broken bottle.
  5. Matty is strangled with a cloth bathrobe tie.
  6. The Stepfather gets the claw end of a hammer buried in his chest.
TL;DR: Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy is a surprisingly decent late slasher sequel.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 1090
Reviews In This Series
The Stepfather (Ruben, 1987)
Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy (Burr, 1989)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I Took A Pill To Ibiza

Year: 2018
Director: Alex Richanbach
Cast: Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Netflix is swiftly hemorrhaging credibility with a lot of their creative choices lately, but a quick and easy way to cauterize that wound is to stop making feature films. Sure, if we eliminated that department, we wouldn't get Gerald's Game or Okja, but I'd gladly trade those titles if it meant we could stop Adam Sandler's latest string of hate crimes against the art form, or whatever the hell Bright was supposed to be. As you can probably guess from these ruminations, the Netflix original film Ibiza, she was not too good.

For one thing, it should have been titled "Croatia," because ain't nobody got Spain budgets here.

In Ibiza, three best gal friends head to... Ibiza. Stick-in-the-mud Harper (Gillian Jacobs) has been sent on assignment by her boss (Michaela Watkins) at a PR firm to land a sangria account (yeah, sure), and her two roommates have insisted on tagging along: Leah (Phoebe Robinson) is The Black One and Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) is Vanessa Bayer. The girls drag Harper to a club, where they meet Leo West (Richard Madden), a Scottish man who is so hot that it's not even a dealbreaker that he's an EDM DJ.

Some sort of bland hijinks ensue (the only upside of these being that we get to see a shirtless Miguel Ángel Silvestre, who is objectively the most attractive man in the world) which prevent their planned meeting, so the girls conspire to meet him at his concert in Ibiza the next night, even though Harper has an incredibly important meeting the following morning. Can they have their debauchery cake and eat it too?

And does anybody care?

I don't mean to be too harsh on the movie, but it certainly invites it: Ibiza is like a textbook on exactly what's wrong with modern comedy filmmaking. It's abnormally focused on partying as both humor and plot point (it is neither), the script largely doesn't exist because the film is mostly improv, and the title is f**king boring as sh*t. The current films from the Apatow family can sometimes still be strong in spite of these limitations, but let's just say that Ibiza doesn't have the same strong guiding hand at the wheel as a Paul Feig or even a Nicholas Stoller.

In fact, Ibiza might be the closest a comedy has come to not even being a movie at all. It's more like a basic white girl posting a vacation video on YouTube. Let me paint you a picture of almost every scene in the movie: two to three women and maybe (hopefully) a shirtless man babble incoherently at each other for three minutes, the awkward pauses in their improvised dialogue absolutely not being smoothed over by the film's utter lack of score, until an EDM song cranks up and we pan across shots of random revelers jumping up and down for about ninety seconds until the next scene can begin. That's about all we get.

Luckily, one of those improvisers is Vanessa Bayer, the secret weapon of the past several seasons of SNL. Her comedy is of a quieter, subtler sort than her cohort Kate McKinnon, who probably could have saved a movie like this with her surreally manic energy, but it's always pleasant to be around. She at least drags Ibiza onto a track of potentially being redeemed for existing in the first place. 

With great comic power comes great responsibility.

And that's not to say anything bad about Gillian Jacobs or Phoebe Robinson, but the former is forced into a heterosexual comedy of romantic fumblings that the movie assumes we care about because they're hot and white, and the latter has literally not a single character trait to grapple with. They wander through the movie with flashlights, searching desperately for anything that might be funny. They occasionally trip over something charming, and that's exactly where Ibiza finds its almost subliminal thrum of pleasantness.

There is something to praise about the movie, I suppose, though naturally it's faint praise. As a story about women with sex drives, directed by a gay man, there is plenty of male objectification and (possibly) more importantly, a vigorously progressive approach to sex, flirtation, and consent. Those things don't make a masterpiece, but it's like watching a bad movie while wrapped in a warm blanket. It's not good, but it's comfortable, and sometimes that's enough.

TL;DR: Ibiza is a noodly non-movie that's vaguely charming and that's all it has to lean on.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 765

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Census Flashback: More Movies Starring Musicians

On our Fright Flashback/Census Bloodbath crossover, every week this summer we'll be exploring an 80's slasher film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to the weekend's upcoming blockbuster.

In anticipation of Ocean's 8, which stars pop star Rihanna and pop-starlet-I'm-not-totally-convinced-is-a-thing Awkwafina, I'll be reviewing Trick or Treat, a supernatural rock 'n roll thriller that features cameo appearances from rockers Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne (though from the DVD cover, you'd assume they were the leads, maybe even love interests).

Year: 1986
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Cast: Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini
Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

The rock 'n roll horror flick is maybe the most sub-subgenre of them all, but it sure was a potent one in the mid-80's. Plenty of shock-rock bands saw the slasher craze as an opportunity to build their audience, and while I'm pretty sure it only worked for Dokken, that didn't stop a lot of others from trying. Way back when in 1984, we got Sorcery doing their best at a supernatural revenge slasher in Rocktober Blood, but 1986 - when our new friends Fastway got in the game - was a whole two years later. And more importantly, there was an Elm Street or two in the meantime to give them some ideas. Thus, Trick or Treat was born, and boy oh boy does it not star Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne. Not even a little bit.

"I wish I knew how to quit you."

Who it does star is Marc Price as Eddie Weinbauer AKA Ragman, a rock-obsessed teen whose world is torn apart when his idol, rock god and alumnus of Eddie's high school Sammi Curr (Tony Fields, who also appeared in the Michael Jackson videos "Thriller" and "Beat It") perishes in a hotel fire. Eddie has been having some troubles with bullies, especially the Cobra Kai reject Tim (Doug Savant of Desperate Housewives), so when he discovers that his radio DJ friend Nuke (Gene Simmons) has a rare pressing of Sammi Curr's final track, he is delighted to find out that it contains backmasked messages (ooh, spooky) that resurrect Curr's soul into a demonic revenge spirit.

They shoot for Elm Street and end up at Shocker, with Curr zipping around through radios and electrical wires to murder people with the power of sheer thrashing rock 'n roll, but mostly by electrocution. Curr's attempts to poison Eddie's mind are somewhat hampered by Leslie (Lisa Orgolini), a straightedge chick who has sympathy for the boy. Curr's warpath ends at the Halloween dance, where a planned concert of his was cancelled by concerned parents. And... that's pretty much it.

Parents beware, rock 'n roll is here to slay!

Only that isn't it. Trick or Treat has a barbarically simple plot (rock 'n roll is bad and belongs to the Devil), but it's augmented with a whole lot of supernatural tomfoolery that is simply special. This movie is made by the little details, and it's chock full of them, from a spectacular yet not ostentatious moment where flames ignite in two jack-o-lanterns to the balls-to-the-wall effects showstopper where a girl unwittingly hooks up with a rubbery, tongue-lolling demon in the back seat of a car. It's so bonkers at so many points that it more than makes up for the repetitive nature of a lot of its early scenes (Eddie is bullied, he sorta considers killing a bully, he doesn't, rinse, repeat).

Unfortunately, while Trick or Treat is a lot of things, barely any of them is an actual slasher. This really was what I like to call a White Knuckle Census Bloodbath pick, because at every point that it feinted toward being a body count movie, it would pull back with an "oh, I'm alive, don't worry!" and go about its merry business. It wasn't until the Carrie-style carnage at the very end that it could even be considered a verifiable slasher entry, and even then it's dubious at best. But hey, I reviewed Road Games with its 1.5 murders as part of this project, so our parameters can be generous.

Even though it's clearly in the Elm Street vein, the backloaded kills are far from creative, as well. Pretty much everyone gets doled out the same demise: being electrocuted into a puff of smoke. I don't know whether this was due to a lack of budget or a lack of creativity, but either way it's a frustrating noncommittal approach that really hampers a film that already hadn't quite earned that extra fifteen minutes inflating the run time.

I could spend HOURS staring at this outfit though, so maybe it evens out.

But despite its deficiencies as a slasher, Trick or Treat is still a must-see for any fan of 80's cult horror. The effects spectacle is pretty much non-stop (a particular stand-out moment is when Sammi Curr scratches his fingerless gloved-hand across a TV, causing the talking head on screen to scream out in pain), there is a heaping helping of shirtless men for reasons I do not understand but do not question, and this movie has a title song. You can't go wrong with any 80's title track, but Fastway really pulls out all the stops with the demonically catchy track "Trick or Treat," which somehow makes their signature screech rock entirely bearable.

This movie isn't subtle at all, and it in no way explores the villain's motives other than "the Devil is in rock 'n roll," but you honestly don't need much more than that. And to be honest, Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne aren't bad at all, the former as shock jock Nuke and the latter as the buttoned-up evangelist crusading against rock music. Simmons has a naturalism that makes me think he has a second career option up his sleeve, and Osbourne is completely transformed as his ironic opposite, tearing into the role like it's a delicious bat's head.

Overall, Trick or Treat is definitely a treat, even if my justification for including it in Census Bloodbath is wobblier than most. But hey, when people get murdered in droves in act three, you can rest assured that I'll be there. Here's looking at you, Evilspeak.

Killer: Sammi Curr (Tony Fields)
Final Girl: Eddie Weinbauer AKA Ragman (Marc Price)
Best Kill: They're all kind of the same, I love the way the bully Tim explodes when he's getting his electrocution.
Sign of the Times: Eddie's friend Roger is so excited to finally have Call Waiting.
Scariest Moment: One scene opens with Roger contemplatively staring up a girl's skirt and stroking his chin.
Weirdest Moment: While he's being chased by bullies, Eddie knocks over a mop bucket, causing one of the bullies to slip and fly out a doorway and down the stairs like he's Wile E. Coyote.
Champion Dialogue: "Do you think I'm a wussy f**king weaktit?"
Body Count: 11; but it doesn't really feel like it.
  1. Guitar Player gets his face crushed by an arm that bursts from an amp.
  2. Random Student #1 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  3. Random Student #2 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  4. Random Student #3 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  5. Random Student #4 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  6. Random Student #5 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  7. Random Student #6 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  8. Random Student #7 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  9. Random Student #8 gets hit by a lightning bolt.
  10. Tim is electrocuted.
  11. Cop is electrocuted with his own taser.
TL;DR: Trick or Treat is a bit overlong, but a fun crazy 80's B-picture nonetheless.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1269

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Popcorn Kernels: Ladies Doing It For Themselves

In which we review three female-led comedies I saw in theaters, again during a time I didn't have my computer readily available, so we'll do some short ones to catch up.

Life of the Party


Year: 2018
Director: Ben Falcone
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

After her husband leaves her, a suburban mom returns to college to finish her senior year at the same time as her daughter.

So, I can completely understand why, but Ben Falcone keeps making movies with his wife Melissa McCarthy. On paper, that's a really sweet thing to do, but considering the quality of the movies they make together and how unjustly violent the physical humor within them tends to be, I can't help but worry that he might actually hate her with a burning passion.

Although this movie tones down the hardcore slapstick of their previous collaboration The Boss (she isn't falling down concrete flights of stairs in this one), there is a full three minute scene slammed right into the middle of Life of the Party's run time where we're meant to rejoice in her character sweating and flailing through an oral presentation while the camera coldly and impassively judges her every move. It's so uncomfortable and out of tone with the rest of the film that it's frankly repulsive.

That said, Melissa McCarthy is good at what she does, at always, though the material here really isn't serving her. The movie doesn't play with the fish-out-of-water nature of her character archetype nearly as much as it promises, instead packing the corners of this movie with cartoonishly wacky characters that don't really have anything to do with the premise. Don't get me wrong, these people are actually the highlights of the movie, but it's conceptually broken in a way that doesn't lend to it being a satisfying whole (literally, the character of her daughter vanishes for twenty minutes at a time, and we're meant to have any emotional reaction to their drama at the end of the movie).

These aforementioned cartoon characters include the delightful Gillian Jacobs as an older student who has just woken up from a coma and has no small amount of notoriety which she exploits to no end. We also get recent SNL standout Heidi Gardner as a spectacularly ill-conceived character that somehow works because she holds it all together with the duct tape of being f**king hilarious. Her character is named Linor, a name nobody can pronounce because they apparently never had a Poe unit in English class, and she's meant to be emo or goth in some way even though that character type is a decade old and she just dresses like a normal human being. It's confusing but I wouldn't trade her for the world.

And then there's Maya Rudolph as the best friend, who drops in every twenty minutes or so like a neutron bomb of comedy, ripping open the fabric of the movie for some bone-disolvingly hilarious broad humor that doesn't really have anything to do with the story we're actually watching. But honestly, any distraction from the blandness this movie traffics in is very welcome.

Life of the Party vacillates back and forth between decency and mediocrity more times than I can count, but overall I think its net value is positive. McCarthy's too-young love interest Luke Benworth is cute and delightfully earnest, there are more jokes than groans, and it didn't super overstay its welcome like most of the worst vehicles for this particular actress. So... don't go see it I guess. But if it ends up on Netflix and you need to kill time while folding laundry, why not click it on?

Rating: 6/10

Book Club
Year: 2018
Director: Bill Holderman
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Four old ladies read Fifty Shades of Grey and get real horny.

The way Diane Keaton folds the back cover of a book so far back that it wraps almost all the way around to the front again is a crime against nature that makes me wonder if she's ever used her hands to do anything in her entire life, or maybe recently got her bones replaced with adamantium and is having trouble adjusting. Honestly, I could end the review there, but I probably shouldn't.

Book Club is one of those pictures where a bunch of famous people get together for three scenes and then split off to have their own mini romantic stories, Valentine's Day style. It's nice that women of a certain age are being given material like this, but if only the material was any good at all. If I knew I had to choose between Candice Bergen making jokes about Internet dating that were old in 2002, Jane Fonda being a Samantha all over Don Johnson, Mary Steenburgen trying real hard to get railed by Craig T. Nelson mostly by tap dancing, or Diane Keaton pretending that Andy Garcia's character isn't an abusive asshole who literally threatens to crash a plane and murder her if she doesn't agree to go to coffee with him, I'd have chosen to see a different movie. 

The film briefly comes alive when the women get together and sit around preparing heaping piles of hors d'oeuvres that they never eat, but for the most part Book Club is an inglorious train wreck: The light, jazzy score is like an out of control kaiju rampaging through the film and crushing everyone beneath its giant feet. The jokes in the script are so gentle that they avoid having punch-lines, because punching sounds too violent. These veteran actresses perform like they've just taken an Ambien and are impatiently waiting for it to kick in. There's a beleaguered metaphor with a cat that is supposed to represent Candice Bergen's vagina. 

It's pleasant enough to sit through, like watching a mildly raunchy Claritin commercial, but these people deserve better, and that's just that.

Rating: 4/10

Tully
Year: 2018
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass 
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

A downtrodden suburban mom hires a night nanny who changes her perspective on things.

So it turns out this is what happens when Diablo Cody stops making up ludicrous slang terms and starts getting real. A slow, almost neorealist journey through modern motherhood with almost a couple jokes that dissolves into a deeply weird third act that negates all the character development of the first two before tying on a bow that could have happened without any of that nonsense.

Tully seems to want desperately to be an art film, given the abortive mermaid metaphor they keep jamming in at random places that goes absolutely nowhere, but it just ends up being an even more punishing version of the slow, unyielding beats of the previous collaboration between this actress, writer, and director, Young Adult.

Much like Book Club, the only place Tully shines is in the chemistry between its two leads, the consistently powerhouse-y Charlize Theron and the bright young ingenue Mackenzie Davis, who is cropping up more and more in movies and TV series that are very good and right on the fringes of actually being massively popular. But other than that, Tully is too relaxed to find any narrative thrust until it's way too late.

Honestly, the only thing I truly liked about it was that we get to spend a minute listening to snippets from the entire She's So Unusual album from Cyndi Lauper. I guess that makes it a recommend because that album is great, but otherwise don't waste your time on this one.

Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1291

Monday, June 4, 2018

Girls, Interrupted

Year: 2018
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola 
Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

As a gay person, you get pretty used to any major motion picture with gay protagonists being arty awards bait that shows you how Important and Tragic your life is. The straights of the world can see themselves in blockbusters ranging from Titanic to Indiana Jones to Bee Movie, but we're stuck with stuff like Milk (dead gay guy), Brokeback Mountain (dead gay guy featuring sad closeted gay guy), Moonlight (sad closeted gay guy). Sure you get your Priscilla, Queen of the Deserts and your To Wong Foos and whatnot, but let's just say gay movies with happy endings don't have a lot of crossover with worldwide audiences.

It's even worse for lesbians. Because women are so rarely protagonists in mainstream movies, the percentage of gay ones is even lower. But the truly crappy thing is that these movies rarely even commit. Because lesbianism is only important to mainstream culture as it relates to men's interest in it, almost every big lesbian movie has its main character sleep with a man, either primarily or sometimes even exclusively. This might be a shock to you, but this is not how lesbians work. (This is not to discount that there are bisexual people and characters out there - but I dare you to find a single known movie where a lesbian actually only sleeps with women)

Disobedience was always going to be about what it's like to be gay in a straight world. It was never going to be a fun romp about two Rachels cavorting through a field of flowers. But it's maybe the worst example of a straight person (in this case, director and co-writer Sebastián Lelio) making a queer story I've ever seen.

But more on that later, after we've finished spitting into each other's mouths. You know, like lesbians do.

Disobedience wants to have its cake and eat it too, so in addition to being a lesbian movie, it is also an orthodox Jewish movie. When her father, a beloved London rabbi, passes away, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to her childhood home for the first time in over a decade. While she's there, she discovers that her two best friends got married without telling her: Esti (Rachel McAdams) is a schoolteacher and David (Alessandro Nivola, who we just saw in 1999's Mansfield Park) is a rabbi protege of her father's.

Over the course of her stay, the ladies ignite a physical passion that has lain dormant for many years, while Esti chafes against the rules and expectations of her culture. They make out sometimes, but mostly they walk together, heels clicking against the pavement in front of grey, dreary skies. Yadda yadda, Oscar stuff.

This screenshot and the previous one are like an hour apart.

So yes, both characters sleep with men (even the unmarried one, in a scene that has so little to do with the rest of the film that even the soundtrack is intrusively different) in this film, but that's just the tip of the faux-prestige lesbian iceberg. Of course, there's also the complete misunderstanding of lesbian sex that I alluded to earlier, compounded with completely inscrutable shooting and editing that obliterates any hope of eroticism. But let me ask you this: Do you think a lesbian filmmaker would give the film's most crucial narrative arc to Alessandro Nivola?

Look, I can admit the dude looks sexy serving orthodox bearded realness, and he is certainly allowed to have a fleshed-out, rounded character, but the movie almost exclusively traffics in how he's feeling about everything. Esti's role is too subdued and frequently offscreen to draw any real impact from, and Ronit is flat as a board, trapped playing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl part in her own film. She's somehow both the lead and the character who dips in to shake things up and learn nothing from experience. 

I'm honestly surprised THEY didn't sleep together at any point.

Disobedience fails as a lesbian movie, but it also fails as a movie in general, so I guess at least that's fair. Nearly every element competes for the title of Worst Thing in the Movie: The cinematography is drab and oppressively grey, an effect it was certainly going for, but one that in no way fits well with the intense tedium of the story (the Rachels don't have a moment alone together until maybe the hour mark). Then you have the production design, which presents us with interiors as varied and rich as a porno, and the score, which attempts to channel the orchestral grandeur of a John Williams with some supremely ill-timed flute trills that triumphantly clash with every scene they appear in.

Hmmm... This is usually the part in a negative review where I say something nice. I suppose I don't dislike any of the actors, but none of them have the strength to claw out from the deep well of milquetoast drudgery the film has tossed them into. And that spitting scene is certainly thrillingly bonkers, much like the peach sequence in last year's similarly dull prestige queer drama Call Me By Your Name. And there's a scene that uses my favorite Terrible Movie trope to predictably delightful effect (this being the fact that nobody in any movie ever gives the speech they were meant to give, and devolves into a monologue about the lessons they've learned that makes sense to the viewer but must be powerfully perplexing to anyone actually in the audience for the speech).

In short, Disobedience is a massive waste of a grossly extended amount of time. It doesn't breach the two hour mark thankfully, but it sure feels like it does. I'd call it boring as sin, but I wouldn't want to be respectful to Sin, which is something this movie should be full of and is sorely lacking.

TL;DR: Disobedience is a dreary, deeply unerotic slog.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 1000