Sunday, June 25, 2017

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Mutual of Omaha Edition

SHADOW: We should cull her.

MOONDOGGIE: We should what to who?

SHADOW: Look at her limping around like that! She's sick and injured! We should totally cull her from the herd.

MOONDOGGIE: What herd? There's only two of them.

SHADOW: And there's two of us! That makes it a fair fight...

MOONDOGGIE: I'm not culling anybody. I don't even know what "cull" means.

SHADOW: It means we're predators, and we do what predators do: we predate! Or maybe we postdate. I'm not sure...Anyway, it has something to do with writing a check.

MOONDOGGIE: I'm confused...

SHADOW: You're confused?! How do you think I feel? I was raised by you! (SIGH) Fine! Just roll over on the remote and change the channel. This episode of Wild Kingdom is making me depressed...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jupiter Ascending Colon


Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Directed by The Wachowskis
Written by The Wachowskis

Let’s meet our heroine (and, if you live on the planet Earth, your new landlady), Jupiter Jones. Her mother was a Russian mathematician, her father was a British professor of astrophysics in St. Petersburg. They had a blissful marriage until Dad somehow got in bad with the Celestial Bratva, a group of Russian loan sharks who apparently work at the local planetarium and will only accept astronomical instruments as collateral. They break in, shoot Dad, and garnish his telescope, and Mom promptly sails for America. Their daughter, Jupiter, is born at sea - the same place I found myself when I tried to figure out this plot.

Jupiter Ascending was heavily promoted for its ooh-and-ahh visuals, and the film pays off with a bravura opening sequence in which Mila Kunis clean toilets in 3-D. (Not to nitpick, but where do you get off naming your lead character “Jupiter Jones” and not have her played by Pam Grier? That shit is just wrong.)

Meanwhile, on Planet Plotpoint in the constellation Exposition, a pair of aristocratic siblings stroll through an eerie, lifeless city. Shopping bags and baby dolls lay forlorn and abandoned, while the entire world appears covered in a light dusting of Blue Berry Blast Kool-Aid. The douchebag aristocrats tut-tut about "the harvest," then Eddie Redmayne suddenly appears, stepping out of an unimpressive special effect that acts like Star Trek's transporter but looks like that pixelation thing your satellite TV does in crappy weather.

The aristobags argue about who gets to inherit Earth from their dead mother, because it's the best planet in the universe, worth more than all others combined. True, the ozone layer is disappearing, the seas are dying, and the climate is changing catastrophically, but it is relatively free of massive powdered drink spills. Eddie suddenly disappears into the transporter again, or maybe it just started to rain, I don't know. Anyway, it’s pretty cool – traveling instantaneously anywhere in the universe – but the alien aristos instantly forget they have this technology, and spend the rest of the film puttering around in space ships, which is kind of like NASA forgetting about the Saturn V halfway through the Apollo program and trying to launch astronauts at the moon in Conestoga wagons.

Back on Earth, that jewel of the galaxy, Jupiter is still scrubbing toilets. We meet three new characters, who – like their counterparts in The Matrix -- challenge our ability to discern between perception and reality. You see, they claim they're badass bounty hunters from outer space, yet they look like cosplayers at the Kennywood Comicon in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania who are holding up the corn dog line, debating whether to get a medium soda because if they get the large they might have to pee during the Manimal symposium.

But they better hurry up and decide, because Channing Tatum suddenly struts on screen like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Channing is a genetically engineered hybrid between a wolf and a male exotic dancer – I think they call his species a “lycan-stripper” -- and he's reputed to be the Imperial Legion’s deadliest hunter-killer, although mostly he just zips around the sky on anti-gravity figure skates, so a good chunk of the movie feels like watching Eddie Munster in the Ice Capades.

Anyway, Channing has come to Earth to kick ass and sneak into Planned Parenthood to smell Jupiter's medical records. Meanwhile, Jupiter's friend is mistaken for her and attacked by a squad of alien Greys. Jupiter saves her, by which I mean she grabs her phone and snaps a picture of the interstellar molestation and then just stands around, because risking your life for a friend is good, but it doesn't feel as good as getting a ton of Likes on Instagram.

After watching her friend receive an unwanted medical exam from a team of nude Space Mengeles, Jupiter goes home, where her cousin talks her into selling her eggs to some shady enterprise that presumably wants to make really tiny omelets.

Channing rescues Jupiter from Planned Parenthood, proving that Operation Rescue would be a lot cooler if they spent less time screaming at women outside clinics, and more time perfecting anti-gravity werewolves. But as soon as they escape the Roswell Greys, they’re attacked by the bounty hunters, so Jupiter clings to Channing’s back like Yoda while he Triple Lutzes and Salchows all over the sky in a scene that temps you with visions of another, better movie, one in which Hans Brinker wins a pair of silver skates for discovering Flubber.

Channing takes Jupiter to see Sean Bean, who's a genetic splice of Boromir and the Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Bee, and like all bees and Beans, will soon be dead. In the meantime, Sean's bees declare Jupiter Queen of Outer Space, because "they've been genetically engineered to recognize royalty" (which explains their tendency to genuflect in the presence of Prince, Dairy Queen, and King Vitamin).

Sean celebrates Jupiter's coronation with some backstory. It turns out that modern humans are actually a billion years old, rather than a hundred thousand or so, and first evolved on a distant planet called Orbitz. But before we can use this information to book the first discount flight out of this movie, the cosplay bounty hunters capture Jupiter and take her to the planet Douchebaggia. There, royal servants drape her in finery fit for the Queen of the Universe, i.e., a dress that looks like it was made from Grandma's chenille bedspread. Eddie's Douchebag Sister explains that Jupiter is a "recurrence", or reincarnation of her mother, who was 91,000 years old, and was either murdered, or fell in the bath and couldn't reach her Life Alert.

Jupiter takes a space ship to planet Orbitz. She also hits on Channing, but he rebuffs her because she's royalty and he has "more in common with a dog than I do with you," meaning he can lick his own balls, which makes her kind of superfluous.

Speaking of the human-animal hybrids, they’re really coming out of the woodwork now, and veering into Island of Dr. Moreau territory (the Marlon Brando one). Eddie's henchmen are monitor lizards with eagle wings, which would be great if this were a video game and I could hit them with a flaming sword. The helmsman who flies the good guy’s star ship is a hybrid of Sulu and Dumbo, Douchebag Brother's Henchwoman seems like she’s on her way to a furry convention and didn’t spend a lot of time on her costume, and Eddie Redmayne, based on those huge rubbery lips, appears to be a genetic cross between a man and a grouper.

Also, may I just say a word about Redmayne’s performance?  Except for one or two shrieks that were so abrupt I thought he’d just stubbed his toe, his whispers his entire part – every damn line – so even when star ships are exploding and monitor lizards are wrestling Eddie Munsters, you get the sense this whole movie must be taking place at the library.

But enough of the Westminster Mutant Show. Time for a whole weird section sequence where Jupiter has to get her pink slip to Earth notarized, and the Wachowskis use the unmistakable visual vocabulary of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (and Terry Gilliam himself in a cameo role) to satirize a day at the DMV. Way to stick it to the Man, ladies!

On the way home, Jupiter tries to get Channing to bite her; but while they're first checking to see if Channing's had all his shots, they’re abducted by Sean, who bee-trays them (sorry, not sorry) and turns them over to Eddie’s Douchebag Brother. Like everyone who meets Jupiter, he immediately dresses her up in a fancy, yet stupid gown, making me suspect the Wachowskis added all the sci-if imagery and monsters and action movie tropes to placate the studio, when what they really wanted to make was Colorforms: The Motion Picture.

Anyway, Douchebag Brother finally reveals the shocking plot twist, which most viewers saw coming as they jockeyed for a parking space outside the Cineplex: It seems the aristobags are basically Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, but rather than bathe in the blood of virgins to preserve their youth, they plant human beings on various worlds (in what really should have been a mid-Fifties TV show, “Johnny Appleseed, Space Cadet!”), and then when we’re ripe, they harvest our skin for lubricating bath beads. So according to this movie, we basically evolved from trilobites to mammals to hominids to Oil of Olay.

Jupiter doesn’t take the news well, so Douchebag Brother decides this is the moment to whip out an engagement ring and ask his dead reincarnated mother to marry him.

While Jupiter mulls over her romantic options — bestiality or incest — D-Bag Bro secretly tosses Channing out an airlock. Fortunately, as we learned from those Mutual of Omaha specials, the only two species that can survive for any length of time in the vacuum of spare are wolves and male strippers.

Jupiter still yearns for Channing to sweep her off her feet and take her to Zootopia, if you know what I mean, but she decides to go with the incest, because even though it’s equally gross, she’s less likely to catch scabies. Meanwhile, Channing is saved by Space Cops (A Quinn Martin Production), and decides to make a suicide attack on D-Bag Bro’s ship to rescue Jupiter. Sean switches sides yet again to join him, because it’s like 90 minutes into the movie and he’s really overdue to die.

Back on Bro’s ship, Jupiter hoverboards into the Norte Dame Cathedral wearing a headdress made from Christmas ornaments and a dress that looks like a repurposed Tournament of Roses float. It’s beginning to feel as if she’s having a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis-style feud with Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala to see who can rule space while looking like the winner of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race.
  
Channing interrupts the wedding, just like in The Graduate, except the social satire and Simon and Garfunkel score is replaced by CGI explosions and lame furries. But Eddie, who hasn’t been in the movie much for the last hour — to what I suspect is our mutual relief — has his  hybrid hench-rabbit kidnap Jupiter’s annoying Russian family and issue an ultimatum: abdicate, or he’ll kill them and steal their telescopes.

Rather than accepting her abdication on the spot, Hench-Rabbit drags her to the planet Jupiter, where the factory that renders humans into hand lotion is located in the Great Red Spot, so Eddie can chew each piece of scenery 32 times.

Channing flies into the Red Spot to rescue Jupiter, but Sean remains on the ship because he notices he’s still alive and likes it that way, and apparently he cares nothing about protecting a streak. It’s just as well there’s no Simon and Garfunkel music, because Sean is clearly no Joe DiMaggio.

Jupiter abruptly decides not to abdicate, because if her family dies she’ll finally get her own room. But Channing ruins that by Dorothy Hamilling in and killing all the iguana-eagles. It’s a sad day in the Raptor/Reptile aisle at Hybrid Petco.

Also, the factory starts blowing up so characters can fall, shinny up pipes, fall again, and get singed by random gouts of flame and white hot plasma. And yet despite these multiple and serious workplace hazards, Donald Trump appoints a CEO from the Human Skin Cream industry to head the EPA.

Channing rescues Jupiter, who is now free to live in a palace and rule the Universe, but she decides to go back home and scrub commodes, because it’s a little late in the movie to start pretending she’s smart. On the bright side, her annoying family unexpectedly turns nice and gives her a telescope so she’ll get murdered by Russian gangsters, and Channing gets his wings, just like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life, and promptly uses them to make out in mid-air with Jupiter, just like Clarence did with George Bailey. So everybody got what their heart's desire, I guess, except me. I wanted a thrilling yet thoughtful science fiction epic in the vein of The Matrix. What I got was the world’s longest commercial for the Chlorox Toilet Wand.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dear Spike And Cronenberg: We're Sorry

Welcome to Season 2, Episode 10: Sickies!

You may have thought Jeff and Scott were abducted by aliens but the truth is much worse. There is tragedy, there is pain, there is discussion that bounces all over the pop culture landscape, including thoughts on Wonder Woman, Marvel vs. DC, MST3K old and new, House of Cards, the Black Panther trailer and most importantly, their mutual love of the classic Universal monster films and Jeff's total hatred of The Mummy.

[Cross-posted to The Slumgullion]

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Whatever Happened to Spanking?

"I...am your father! But do I even get a lousy Hallmark card? No! And I left you one good hand to write with, so don't give me that crap..."

A very happy Fathers Day to all you Dark Side Daddies out there.

Happy Father's Day! (Or...IS IT?)

By Bill S.

Father's Day is upon us, and to celebrate it, here's a list of some movie and TV dads who make us grateful for the dad we had (I hope)

WORST MOVIE DADS

Henry Salt (Roy Kinnear) in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971):

I have a confession to make: I'm actually rather fond of Mr. Salt. It might have to do with the casting of late British funnyman Roy Kinnear, who managed to bring a little bit of warmth to a part that, on paper, surely didn't have any. He seems as aware as everyone else that his daughter Veruca is a pain in the ass (this is also true in the book), and we'd almost feel sorry for him if it wasn't clear that it's his own fault for spoiling her rotten. Which is why he winds up following her down the garbage chute. (Wonka assures Charlie that they, and the rest of the guests, are fine: "They'll be back to their normal, terrible selves. But perhaps a bit wiser." Let's hope so.)

Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) in The Judge (2014): 
When you're on trial for murder, and you appoint your son to defend you, and he's reluctant to do it because he thinks you might be guilty...well, maybe you've made a parenting mistake or two. 

(This is the fourth time Robert Duvall's appeared on the list, which must mean he's the go-to actor for playing questionable fathers. Would that make him the anti-Gregory Peck?)

Mr. Leblanc in Elle (2016): We never actually see the father of protagonist Michelle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert, giving a much better performance here than in Heaven's Gate). But we certainly learn enough about him to know he's a monster. Forty years earlier, he went on a murder spree, killing 27 people. He returned home, covered in blood, and enlisted his then-10 year old daughter to help burn down their house. The press coverage of the story falsely implicated her in the murders, which led to her making a lot of terribly self-destructive choices as an adult.

God (Benoit Poelvoorde) in The Brand New Testament (2015):

In this daring (and very funny) Belgian comedy, God has a wife (a Goddess herself, though she stays out of His way and focuses attention on her baseball card collection), and a 10 year old daughter, Ea, who's as annoyed by her parents as any other 10 year old. (His son, "J.C", has chosen the form of a figurine in the living room, coming to life only to give his sister advice and encouragement.) God is portrayed as a petty, mean-spirited deity who inflicts misery on humans for His own amusement, even going so far as to create thousands of daily annoyances ("Toast with jam always falls jam side down", "When you immerse a body in water, the phone rings") When Ea, fed up with her father, takes off for Earth, He follows her, only to be subjected to the very same annoyances He created. He's also rude and obnoxious to every human he encounters, including a well-meaning priest who ends up beating the crap out of him. 

WORST TV DADS

Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope) on Riverdale:

On this prime-time soap, all the parents are kind of screwy, but none more so than the head of the Blossom family, who murders his son Jason when the boy finds out the Blossom's maple syrup business is a front for a drug smuggling operation. (Leave it to Greg Berlanti to make the "Archie" comics interesting.)

Barry "Baz" Blackwell (Scott Speedman) on Animal Kingdom:
He fathered his eldest child with his adopted sister. What more do you need to know? His mother, Smurf (who made last month's Mother's Day column), puts him second in command of the family business--which is breaking into buildings and robbing them.

Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) on Supernatural:
Kind of a no-brainer to include him on the list, what with him being the personification of evil and all. In the most recent season of the show, he occupied the body of a U.S. president and fathered a child with the president's mistress. And you thought Mr. Salt spawned a monster.

Happy Father's Day everyone. Sing us out, Adrian and Audie--

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We Need a New Motto Around Here

A couple of kind commenters and emailists saw one of my bleating posts and suggested I go ahead and make this shirt available, as a public service or first offence. So here you go.



Let the world know that you will not be intimidated (mostly because you're not really paying attention. And nowadays, who could blame you?) Seems to come in a variety of sexes, sizes, and colors.

Megyn Kelly Interviews Public Nuisance on Tee-Vee, Maybe?

By Keith

Broadcast under cloud of controversy, J.P. Morgan pulls adverts, Comcast/Universal stokes publicity, and an unwelcome Father's Day present for Sandy Hook Massacre families


Megyn Kelly's new gig with NBC returns Sunday with new episode featuring "The Jones."

No, it's not the "Jones" behind the nation's current opioid crisis. And it's not that "Jones" from "Me & Mrs. Jones" either.

Having cleared a hurdle with global A-lister Vladimir Putin in her premiere excursion, Megyn dumpster-dives the D-List for an interview with the sorrowful, morbidly-derelict and preternaturally-nauseating niche podcaster Alex Jones, that guy who keeps on keeping the lovely city of Austin, TX "weird" but perhaps not in the way residents might prefer.

Your correspondent is not questioning Ms. Kelly's judgment, nor her ability to conduct television journalism.

However, I must point out Mr. Jones' earlier encounter with a somewhat legitimate news organization from a few years ago and it's a hoot an' a half. It begs to wonder whether something similar will obtain Sunday night. (Gut feeling is "Yes, of course.")

Gander fellow Crappers (pearl-clutching allowed):

(Total meltdown occurs at approximately 4:38)
Jones said the Kelly interview marks a rare example of his agreeing to a sit-down with a mainstream media figure. He said he has turned down many other recent offers but realized that Kelly will likely have a big platform with “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.” 
“I’d be dumb if I didn’t do some of these interviews,” Jones said.
Scott adds: And we'd be dumb if we watched, so let's all avoid dumbness together, yet each in our own way.

Under normal circumstances, accepting Megyn's invitation would itself be legal grounds for dumbness, since Jones' usual method is to rely upon his mouth's high cyclic rate for bullshit and riddle his interlocutor with 900 to 1,200 Lies Per Minute, But this isn't a live television broadcast that he can dominate through sustained shamelessness and pure shouty aggression. This is going to be taped, then edited by the lesser demons who toil in the sulfur-scented pits of the MSM.

Now I don't for a second doubt Jones' uncanny, flatworm-like survival skills. I am convinced that if you cleaved him in half, an equally repulsive Jones would grow from the severed stump and begin shouting lies the instant it formed a mouth . So Alex might be obliged to bob, weave, and dodge Megyn's more pointed queries, assuming she asks any, which is assuming a lot. He might, as they tool around in his SUV, abruptly bellow like a 19th Century circus strong man rupturing himself on the midway, or tear off his shirt in the Hardee's drive-thru in an effort to distract. But even though he can't filibuster the segment because there's no producer in the booth eyeing the clock and begging the on-air talent to end this tour of Bedlam so they can cut to a Boston Market commercial, Jones is more than a match for a woman who's spent her formative years reciting the produce of a propaganda mill, and -- as we saw with Putin -- hasn't the skills for a truly adversarial interview. Hell, Putin's a dictator who murders his detractors with impunity, he invades and occupies neighboring countries, he launched a cyberwar against the United States in an attempt to put a Manchurian stooge in the White House, and barely cares if you catch him at any of it, and during their encounter Megyn still came off like she was asking Miss South Carolina her opinion of world peace.

So here's my prediction: Megyn will get off one or two mildly skeptical -- perhaps even daringly wry -- comments about Jones in her wrap-up, thus burnishing her brand as the Reasonable Conservative, but during the interview segments, Jones will dance circles around Megyn like she was a maypole and he was a pigtailed girl in a frilly white pinafore.