2016 Movies

‘CinemAbysmal: The Podcast’ – Episode Four

Alright, here’s our brand spanking new episode! In Episode Four, Holly leads Eric and Nick, with our very first special guest, Brian Nils Johnson, in a discussion about this year’s Best Picture Nominees, as well as the 1990 Denzel Washington/Bob Hoskins dud, ‘Heart Condition’ – which was internationally titled, ‘Black Ghost'(!).

You can find the episode on iTunes, Spreaker, and Stitcher, but we’ve included all three links below! Nick definitely had some audio issues, so apologies for the static. If you enjoy, please Rate Us on iTunes, and be sure to SHARE with your friends! 

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La La Land

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La La Land (2016) – Musical | Comedy | Drama

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

How I Watched: Theatres

Best Line: “Alright, I was an asshole. I can admit that! But requesting “I Ran” from a serious musician? Too far!”

Anyone that has truly spent time with me probably knows my lifelong disdain for filmed musicals. When it comes down to it, I don’t even really have a concrete reason for this. My usual explanation involves the practicality of a group of people suddenly smiling like a bunch of stoned clowns and dancing like they’re thrashing in the middle of a choreographed fire, all while attempting to outdo each other so they can beat out the opposing blonde to be an extra in the next run of an off-Broadway Rent. “THAT ISN’T A REAL THING! NO ONE DOES THAT!”

OK, Nick. Let’s get real. Flash Mobs are a thing now, as much as you hate it. And you love horror and sci-fi films, so why can’t you just sit back and appreciate the eccentricities of musicals? Am I softening on musicals? Or was this just a good movie, in spite of the musical elements? Well, after giving it some time, I think my opinion is that this was just a pretty damn good movie.

Anyone that saw director Damien Chazelle’s absolutely spectacular Whiplash knows that they’re probably in for some sort of cinematic treat with La La Land. JK Simmons received an Oscar and Miles Teller damn well should have for the 2014 film. The thrashing of drums and human emotions throughout, while the camera rushes around like a sprinkler that’s lost control, highlight one of the most exciting and in my opinion, underrated films of this decade. Naturally, I was excited for Chazelle’s follow-up. When I learned it was a musical though, I was a bit let down.

Chazelle obviously digs on jazz. Pretty hard. Teller’s character in Whiplash is an aspiring jazz drummer and is dead-set on becoming the next Buddy Rich. For those that have not seen it, the film is a love letter to the mechanics and intricate work it takes to become good enough to play real jazz. Simmons plays his teacher way too excellently and the movie is just too perfect. Well, in La La Land, jazz is back in a big way (so is Simmons, for a bit). In fact, if the movie was not filmed in and about Hollywood, I’d say this whole film is a love letter to, as well as a confirmation that the golden age of jazz is dead. Gosling plays a struggling pianist whose biggest goal in life is to open a jazz club in L.A. to keep even a trace of that age of jazz alive.

Stone plays an aspiring actress that works on a Hollywood lot as a barista, happening accidentally upon Gosling playing a piano in a nearby bar one night. What follows is an often-complicated relationship over the next year, much that we’re privy to as the couple individually navigates their career paths. I won’t give any more than that away as far as the story is concerned, but I personally felt like I do at the end of any mid-70’s Woody Allen movie, in which the characters are presented with adult choices and must make real life decisions. This portion of the film was real and heartfelt, and I appreciated that, even among the smattering of musical bits in which they smiled and danced around like morons.

OK, Nick, calm down. Get back on track.

Listen, my mind has not really changed on musicals. I just don’t appreciate the big numbers or the choreography, and quite often, not even the intricate sets. I know how much work goes into this (Mandy Moore did the choreography for this, by the way – what?), but it just can’t really keep my interest. This movie is pretty cool, though. The “uninterrupted-cut” cinematography is excellent, Stone and Gosling are pretty great, and the storyline is relatable, even when discounting the outlandish musical bits. Will it win Best Picture? I don’t know yet, I haven’t seen enough of the potential contenders; but yeah, probably. It’s about Hollywood and it’s a musical – a deadly Oscar combination.

Final Score: 3/4

 

Sausage Party

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Sausage Party (2016) – Comedy 

Directed by: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon

Starring: A Grocery Store’s Perishables, Non-Perishables and a Douche

How I Watched: Theaters

Best Line: “I’ll tell you who eats shit. Gods do, bro! I’M A FUCKING GOD!”

This is an incredibly difficult movie to review. While the content of the film is not exactly heavy or too cumbersome to tackle thematically, Sausage Party is full of unexpectedly creative ways of presenting religious and existentially deep concepts. Now before you run away from this review, just hang on a second. Sausage Party has enough topical humor to keep the average stoner (and non-stoner) familiar with Rogen and Goldberg’s body of work entertained for its quick, 89-minute running time. The one-liners are great, the animation is hysterical, and the voice actors are just as funny animated as they are acting in movies. This film goes deeper than that, though. I think this is why the review is so hard to write. There is so much buried in this story, that it’s difficult to discuss without spoiling the plot.

So here goes. Those familiar with The LEGO Movie might best understand where I am going with this review. My girlfriend’s Film professor at the time of its release, was giving out extra credit to his students that went and saw it in the theater, so I very hesitantly went along with her. To my surprise, the arcing theme of The LEGO Movie was rife with deep philosophical metaphors meant for the parents of the children they were attending the movie with. What I walked away with was a semi-permanent grin that did not dissipate for about a week. I walked away from Sausage Party with that same grin.

I suppose if you let it hit you that way, Sausage Party could be a very stupid movie; the same way that Toy Story could be. Yeah, they’re seemingly inanimate objects talking amongst themselves when the humans are not looking and that’s absolutely ridiculous, right? Yeah, it is, but only if you let it be you unimaginative dickbag. If you have any sense of wonder, Toy Story caught and tugged at your heart as you watched those toys fight for their place in the universe. Sausage Party is no different.

Actually, it’s way different. I think the animated characters said “Fuck” more times than any movie that’s come out so far this year: 160+ according to pluggedin.com (who also mentions that “God’s name is misused at least 20 times…” *insert eye roll here*). If you’ve seen the Red Band trailer, you’ll know there’s also some vicious mutilations and enough sexual innuendo to make Paul Reubens happy in an empty theater. So yeah, I guess it’s different from Toy Story and The LEGO Movie. Vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake aside, this is a smart and viciously hilarious movie. A lot of the jokes will go over Millennials’ heads, including a very Jewish bagel that sounds like an Annie Hall-era Woody Allen on Freud’s couch, or perhaps even the scientifically philosophical musings of a Stephen Hawking-inspired piece of chewed gum.

If you don’t like Goldberg and Rogen films (SuperbadThe InterviewNeighbors, etc.), chances are you won’t like this one either. It features Rogen’s character, Frank, pretty heavily throughout and yes, he’s guilty of the same style of comedy that he always is (which I find hilarious). There are cheap laughs, but a lot of people might be pleasantly surprised by the voices coming out of these character’s mouths. I think my favorite was that of Nick Kroll’s, as a walking douche. Those familiar with his Comedy Central show (Kroll Show)will immediately recognize one of the voices he uses, and it made me laugh any time he said anything in Sausage Party.

Sausage Party isn’t perfect. It probably isn’t even the funniest movie that I’ve seen this year. It is however, unexpectedly smart and it will probably even make you feel guilty for eating popcorn while watching. It is a great way to spend an hour and a half on a hot summer night, so get your friends, have a few beers and go to this summer’s funniest movie. And for The Gods’ sake, leave your damn kids at home!

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Toy Story, The LEGO Movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Special Correspondents

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Special Correspondents (2016) – Comedy

Directed by: Ricky Gervais

Starring: Eric Bana and Ricky Gervais

How I Watched: Netflix

Best Line: “Kill everybody. Greetings from New York.”

Ricky Gervais is a funny man. Deny it all you want, but really, his projects have influenced comedy in every format over the last decade. He’s had more than his hand in both versions of The OfficeExtrasLife’s Too ShortAn Idiot Abroad, and in my opinion, the critically underappreciated The Invention of Lying. Some of you out there may have seen the extremely British dramedy series Derek on Netflix, which showed Gervais stretching his acting chops into the Forrest Gump-ish, man-child arena and polarized its viewership.

When I read that Gervais was creating a Netflix original movie, I was pretty excited as a fan of his work. The cast was pretty impressive and the premise at least sounded like it could be funny. Ghost Town was alright, and as mentioned above, I thought The Invention of Lying was clever and had some moments that were funny as hell. Since Special Correspondents was produced strictly for Netflix, I knew that Gervais had free reign with the content, leaving him with some really great comedic opportunity. Sadly, the script and the rest of the film really missed that mark.

Let’s start with the cast. Gervais is of course, Ricky Gervais in the film. He has neuroses about everyday issues and is just funny enough to keep the film from drowning as the film’s co-star. Eric Bana coasts through the film, playing the poster-boy, lady-killer and is at times, unbearable. Scottish born Kelly MacDonald, who I know best as Carla Jean Moss in No Country For Old Men, is questionably in the film as Gervais and Bana’s American co-worker and it seems that this role could have gone to anyone that has less acting skill than Macdonald.

Vera Farmiga, though, steals the show from the rest of the cast as Gervais’ greedy wife. I can tell a good amount of the creation of the script was based around her character as she develops a scheme to get money from the everyday American based on a false kidnapping narrative. I think the devout Atheist Gervais was going for a bit of a metaphoric commentary here, as he is never shy on social media concerning American Christianity and its many faults. This was one of the only funny storylines in the film and receives depressingly too little screen time.

I can tell what Ricky Gervais was going for when he developed the idea for Special Correspondents. The two main characters of the film work for New York based news radio and come up with a scheme that will get them listeners. They make up a story about getting kidnapped in Ecuador, which clutches the attention and sympathies of the American public, but the story goes virtually nowhere. I can imagine that Gervais wanted to make the next Stripes or even Tropic Thunder, but instead, this movie is more like a bad Adam Sandler film.

This movie is saved (and I use that term very loosely) by Gervais’ ability to make a conversation uncomfortable. He is much better in Extras and The Office, but there’s just enough from him in Special Correspondents to make you chuckle. He plays off Bana’s mannequin-like character very well, and leaves plenty of opportunity for the rest of the cast to shine. Unfortunately, they just don’t. There is an underwhelming amount of Gervais’ usual cameos in his work, which surprised me since I can imagine Netflix gave him a relatively long leash.

To say Special Correspondents is disappointing is an understatement. There is a wealth of talent on hand and plenty of opportunity for creator Ricky Gervais to run wild. I really don’t know what happened, but this one seemed to be dead on arrival from the opening scene. Those that enjoy Gervais’ work as much as I do won’t find much here to enjoy. In fact, I think if you are one of those that enjoy his work, you will be even more disappointed than those less familiar with the man behind The Office.

Final Score: 1.5/4

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Similar Films: Tropic Thunder, Ghost Town, Stripes