Watch your cartoons like a real adult

I’m bored of boredom eating so I’m gonna try some boredom writing.

Girlfriend and I got to spend actual face to face time with each other last night. It was great. Living with someone’s all well and good. If you’re just coming and going like ships in the night though, you start forgetting about all the fun you have together. Beacuse instead of hanging out you’re just making sleep more disruptive. She’s been working TIFF for the past week or so. She’s working evenings for the next couple of nights and on Thursday JFL42 starts. Last night was kind of it as far as spending time went. It was swell. We got to chat and eat and watch TV. All the good sorta etc, y’know?

We tried watching Final Space on Netflix. Tried. It was trying. A bunch of people had said pretty positive things. They said it was unexpectedly emotional and really hit home. I figured it’d slot right into the sadegory embodied by Rick & Morty or BoJack Horseman. Unfortunately it lacked the pedigree of either. I’ve never had an issue with violence. I grew up watching all sorts of gruesome stuff. In this case, it felt like the show pushed too far without good punch lines or payoff to justify it. Like, meanness for meanness sake. Unnecessary roughness.

None of the emotional beats feel earned. They just started playing plodding emotional strings while we sat there thinking but they haven’t given us any reason to like or care about these characters yet. The lead character is just plain annoying and manic without redeeming qualities. The humour feels dated, like mid 90s Comedy Central. We kept waiting for a solid tag or punch line, but nothing was forthcoming. There was no extra layer or sophistication. Just the kind of blunt stuff they used to make before audiences let cartoons be poignant. It felt like an exec was all “hey, do one of them crazy space shows that make people sad”, but without understanding the underlying writing that breathes life into them. It made me sad, but for unintentional reasons.

We deserve better.

The Dragon Prince, the Netflix show created by Avatar showrunners Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, was similarly disappointing. I’m willing to give this one a bit more leeway because it’s entirely for kids. The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra were so artfully done. Lighthearted, but with an abundance of heart where it counted. Beautifully animated with smooth fight scenes and gorgeous choreography. Characters were well sculpted without resorting to easy tropes and stereotypes. It’s no wonder the series’ appealed beyond their demographic. The Dragon Prince clearly has a much younger target audience. It’s fantasy trope layered on top of fantasy trope. I’m fine with that, but you’ve gotta at least do something clever with it. From the first episode, nope. No they didn’t.

There’s a weird juxtaposition of themes, with some silly gags revolving around a glowing chameleon and stealing tarts, while another character has to grapple with whether or not she’s gonna murder humans. Feels a little unbalanced. The animation is some kind of CGI cell shaded business, but it’s choppy as shit. I thought there was something wrong with our connection, but we weren’t stalling in our stream. It was seemingly a stylistic choice. One that didn’t jive with us. None of the characters seem to have their own agency outside of broadly drawn outlines. Every line is heavily laden exposition in the place of subtle world building. It’s the total inversion of show, don’t tell. Once again though, it’s a kid’s show. Maybe I’ll leave this one for the kids to enjoy.

Welp, guess it’s time to start BoJack season 5 and stay in my lane.

Advertisements

Please don’t read the cast list, it’s a memorial to wasted talent

You could watch Transformers: The Last Knight, but why would you?

I watched “TTLK” because I was exhausted on a Sunday and friends were doing a movie night. Don’t ask me why this was the chosen film. Maybe it was meant to be a Movie Knight and they’d already watched the unrelated trilogy of A Knight’s Tale, Knight and Day and Knight of Cups. Perhaps it was the fourth Knight in a fortnightly series. Whatever their justification, I would’ve preferred a frontal lobotomy so I could stop fretting over what a waste of money/time the glorified tyre fire was. I could’ve gone to sleep at 7pm instead and it would’ve been a better use of my life.

However long you think the film was, it was longer. I don’t know who decided a CGI orgy of racist robots and Mark Wahlberg running in tank tops needed to be two and a half hours, but they need to be retroactively fired. While we’re here, when did Hollywood decide that the average movie length needed to be over two hours? What was wrong with tightly scripted 90 minute films? If you’re gonna dominate viewers’ attention for that long, at least have the grace to hire a script editor. TTLK clearly didn’t. TTLK was three different movies smooshed together without trying to meld any story elements. Part National Treasure, The Matrix and Braveheart, but without any of the charisma or intriguing plot elements that made those popcorn flicks watchable. This movie has so many ideas. It’s a wonder that none of them are any good. Here are some of the plot points.

  • Firstly, Cybertron (though wasn’t it destroyed in the previous film or something?) is doing some kind of planar overlay with Earth. Mankind was in peril, etc etc. Oh, also Earth is actually Unicron, a transformer.
  • Optimus Prime goes back to Cybertron to see what the deal is. Some transformer god slaps him and he turns evil. Goes by the new moniker of Nemesis Prime (personally I would’ve gone for Pessimus Prime, but there’s a lot I would’ve done differently). Goes back to generally menace.
  • The world has outlawed Transformers. Mark Wahlberg is living in some junkyard taking care of rogue transformers. Oh, and he finds a talisman that’s talked about a bunch, but basically just gives him a sword for one scene. I think Wahlberg just had a dream about wielding a sword in front of robots and was like “hey, write this in.” Since they apparently didn’t hire a script writer, he just wrote it verbatim.
  • There’s some orphan who also fixes transformers or something? She seems like a main character, but stops mattering after the first half.
  • They spend a frustrating amount of time on Bumblebee’s voice box, which doesn’t play by its own mythology.
  • A historical professor who’s the last descendent of Merlin (oh shit, I forgot about the Merlin stuff. I’ll get back there in a minute) is used almost primarily for spinster jokes and to shoehorn in a romantic sub sub sub subplot (they’re even on a submarine at one point) into a movie about fighting robots and King Arthur.
  • Okay, Merlin stuff. Transformers coming to Earth in the first film is retconned and now they helped King Arthur in his battle against the Saxons. Magic is real, but also all the magic wielded is just technology? They kind of characteristically shat the bed on that one.
  • There’s a secret society who’ve aided the transformers throughout history. Also, transformers killed Hitler apparently. Anthony Hopkins is a direct descendant of Shia LaBeouf from the first film. He’s been given a lemon of a role and he juices it for everything he can. He also has a human sized robo butler called Cogman.
  • Megatron is back to destroy the earth. Or Unicron, whatever it is. It’s not clear why he wants to do this, but he starts working with the FBI or something to hunt down Wahlberg and his merry band.
  • There’s a whole kerfuffle about how the Merlin descendant professor is the only one who can wield this staff that’s linked to her DNA, but they sorta abandon it after Megatron steals it.

There are so many scenes in this film. 80% of them didn’t need to happen. The first hour and a half is exposition and backstory to stack up the convoluted plot elements of this CGI clusterfuck, then the last hour just does whatever it wants. There’s no payoff for any of the ideas. They’ll spend 15 minutes on a certain plot point that’ll only lead to one line before it’s dropped. Again and again. They go on unnecessary side chases that could’ve been tightened and cut. There’s no fucking point in the Nemesis Prime plotline beyond selling another toy. He doesn’t even look that different, it’s just one side of his face that turns pink.

I don’t quite understand the demographic of this film. Isn’t it a kids film? I’m no prude, but it felt a bit much for preteen audiences. I can’t help but imagine it only looks good through fratboy Monster Energy Drink coloured glasses. “Shit” is every sixth word. Characters straight up murder people. Lots of flying bodies everywhere. Robots try to outdo each other in being as edgy as possible. Much like the drunk person in an earthquake, you’d have to be borderline alcohol poisoned to make plausible sense of the plot.

I recommend this film for anyone who owns truck nuts. Or has ornamental samurai swords all over their bedroom. Maybe Al Bundy. As someone who intentionally watches poorly composed movies, I can’t in good conscience advise this as an enjoyably bad experience. Nothing about it is enjoyable. It’s not even a good hate watch, you’ll just end up hating yourself for watching it.

If Michael Bay ever dies, I don’t doubt he’ll be spinning in his grave after watching what he’s done here. Expecially because EVERY FUCKING SCENE HAS A SPINNING CAMERA. HAVE SOME FUCKING RESTRAINT.

In short, I’m saying the man should be jailed for his crimes.

Remember keeping your shoes on at the airport?

I was bored and hungry 20 minutes ago, so I ate a stack of plain top crackers that were next to my keyboard.

It’s gonna be one of those entries. Random thoughts for the sake of filling space.

The ability to work remotely must be a godsend for parents. I can only imagine that back in the 90s, if your kid was sick, what an inconvenience that would’ve been. What would parents do aside from take a sick day themselves? If they had to shuffle you off for appointments, etc, what would they do? Was it just that there were, in general, more stay at home parents? Both of my parents worked (well, off and on. At some point my dad worked from home for a while and kind of stay at home dad-ed), so I’ve got no idea what a hassle it was for them. Lots, I imagine.

I had a dream last night that I was at the airport, boarding a plane with my niece. Some dude behind me kept trying to stab me and I was like “oi, dick. I’m carrying my niece. Wait until I put her down at least for fuck’s sake.” I have no idea whether or not he declared the knife at customs. I’m guessing that this dream was set in the 90s. When else could you freely carry a knife through an airport?

The new Dirty Projectors album is really great. Fun dynamics, excellent harmonies and some of the best songwriting they’ve had since Bitte Orca. It’s weird, ’cause I’d kind of given up on the band since the last album. Just when I thought I was out…

In an inexplicable burst of curiousity, I emailed my editor asking if I could cover the Insane Clown Posse gig in late August. Also could I maybe grab them for an interview? Don’t ask me why, because I don’t truly have an answer for you. I don’t like their music. The subculture weirds me out more than a little. Juggalos are some odd people. At the same time, I feel like maybe they’re odd people with big hearts? That despite the violent and graphic imagery in their songs, that they’re probably somewhat on the level? If you look behind their word choice, there’s a lot of body positivity and acceptance. The whole “Miracles” conundrum was inscrutable. Was it actually a feint for finding religion? Did they backtrack and cave to public perception? Who are they as individuals? Plus, my best friend had a juggalo phase that still probably lives somewhere in his heart. I’m sure it’d make his life to get a shout out from the band. Who knows? In any case, I’m willing to peel back the layers and see what lies behind the paint.

While I’m still wielding my Infirmary Gauntlet on my dominant hand (comes off Monday), I’m gonna try to go to the gym tonight. I’m testing the waters to see if I can at least work the left side of my upper body. I’m sure it’ll feel weird and imbalanced, but my body is anyway. Why not try and fix that as best I can? I have the feeling that once the cast comes off, I’m gonna be disappointed that I’ll still need to take it easy. Tough Mudder is two months off, I’m determined to do as much as I can to be ready. It’ll break my heart if I have to pull out, so I’m bulldozing forward as if there’s zero possibility of that ever happening. Maybe my feeble left arm will finally be able to do mundane tasks. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Maybe next time I’ll dream of something other than stabbing attempts at the airport.

Why did he never release an album called Bega is Better?

There’s a lot going on in the world.

Don’t expect a trenchant essay after that general statement. It’s more justification for me blabbing on about assorted unrelated miscellanea. I’ve been fairly housebound over the past week. A little bit o’ stir crazy was always gonna be part of the proceedings. By the way, did anyone else think the “Mambo No. 5” lyrics were “a little bit of Mardi Gras in my life”? As a child I just thought Bega was a party animal. I guess I wasn’t wrong. How exactly did Pitbull corner his market when ol’ Lou dawg has bangers like this up his sleeve? At least old white people still lose their shit over him.

Anyway, there’s a lot more going on too. Did you hear, by chance, of how the U.S. Government is prosecuting asylum seekers as criminals and separating them from their children? This article is a massive, heavy eye opener. Some are merely infants. These kids are all being held in a detention centre with no fucking idea what’s going on. It’s an inhumane action by a heartless government. Trump’s response? ‘This is really the Democrats’ fault since they wouldn’t let me have my wall.’ Right, so if you aren’t able to forcibly impose your xenophobia with a large structure, you’re gonna do it by taking your impotent aggression out on hundreds of families? Super presidential. I wonder how many ardent Right Wingers are re-enacting That Mitchell and Webb skit right now… Or more likely, doing phenomenal contortionist acts in order to justify their continuing support for this administration. How badly must you hate other cultures in order to think that this is the right thing to do? Even if you wanted to stem the influx of migrants, surely you’d rather them be turned around at the border rather than incarcerated, separated and have state funds going towards these camps? How can this be seen as remotely okay by anyone?

In other news, New Zealand continues to push the boundaries of what quality journalism is capable of. Take, for instance, this investigative report into the suspicious erection of two Countdown supermarkets across the road from one another. How? Why? What is it that Big Countdown doesn’t want us to know? They’re asking all the hard questions. Journalism for the people, by the people.

I’m seeing The Incredibles 2 tonight and I’m quite excited. How excited? Incredibly, naturally. It’s been 14 years since the initial film and since then, super heroes are one of the most pop culturally pervasive media juggernauts in existence. The first one preceded all this MCU nonsense and took an interesting tack. The family dynamics and golden day yearnings made it a fantastic blockbuster that lovingly squeezed its subject to bits. All the tropes skewered, but never nastily. A decade and a half later, there’s so much more to work with. Super hero material is (yes) incredibly fertile ground. Times have changed in terms of diversity and representation and it’d be a (sigh) marvel if they could harness that momentum within the film. Honestly, I haven’t been reading up on it ’cause I want to go in blind, but early reviews have been glowing.

I wonder what Lou Bega thinks about the U.S. immigration policies…

If Paddington got a girlfriend, would she be called Lady Marmalade?

News flash folks, Paddington was fucking delightful.

I’ve been harping on about this for some time, so it probably serves to give a token amount of backstory. I remember seeing the trailer for Paddington years ago. I thought nothing much of it. I’d watched the show as a kid. I remembered it being enjoyable enough, but that was about it. He had a hat? Liked marmalade? I think he wore Wellington boots? I had no idea of his personality or the artifice that made Paddington anything more than generic kid’s tv. So when I watched the trailer I thought I guess they’re desperately fishing for the dollars of those parents who loved it as kids. The concept of “it’s not for me and that’s fine” came to mind. I remembered something about delays in bringing it to the screen, but that was the last of it. I ignored the franchise and went on with my life.

Then came Paddington 2. It arrived not with a whimper, but with a roar. Upon hearing of it I was all set to immediately dismiss it. So I did. Then the critical reception came and it was mind-blowing. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, B+ or A reviews from actual legitimate film sources (remember kids, Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregate rating of whether or not a film is terrible. 100% on RT could mean that everyone rated it 6/10). What was going on? How had this harmless but insubstantial film become the darling of the cinematic reviewer society?

I immediately assumed something was afoot. Lady Bird I understood getting a 100% rating. Paddington 2, a sequel no less? It was some kind of joke. A bizarre hoax. This was some Berenstein Bears sort of shit. I already knew we were in some insane parallel universe after the one two punch of Brexit and Trump. The rise and rise of Paddington 2, however, was the icing on a peanut butter and rubber cake. What in sweet fucks was going on? There was no way it was that great. I didn’t have any desire to watch the film, but I’m also incurably curious. So I told myself I’d see it, but when the time came I couldn’t pull that trigger. It was never right. I was never bored enough or in the right mood.

Then I fractured my wrist and had time.

My girlfriend and I had just watched Annihilation. We needed a palette cleanser after the outstanding film shat itself in the last third. I’d been jokingly trying to get my girlfriend on the Paddington train (no pun intended, honestly) for a while and I think she flat out didn’t care enough to dissent. She resolved that if it was shit she could sleep or play on her phone. Within the first minute, we were both hooked. The setting was fun and vibrant. The world they’d explored with these technologically competent bears was goofy and neat. By the time the action got to London, we were already in love with the little guy. The cast was fantastically well rounded, featuring Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi. The Brown family members were all intriguing in their own fashion and Kidman was a gloriously ruthless villain.

The plot made sense and it was a riot getting there. With one of the central tenets being Paddington as some walking disaster, they set up a myriad of Rube Goldberg style scenarios for him to create havoc. The movie was heartfelt without being saccharine. It was genuinely enjoyable to watch without so much as a sagging scene. Some gorgeous large scale set pieces to see, aided by helpful (and not gratuitous) CGI.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m legitimately excited to watch Paddington 2.

Why question my sovereignty? Sometimes pride rocks.

This update coming to you LIVE from the floor of a tiny alcove outside 21 Wellington Street, London. Notable only because we’re 13th and 14th in line for Lion King day tickets. As an aside, I thought it was pretty cool that rather than type “Lyceum Theatre” into Google Maps I typed “Lion King” and Google Maps was all “I got you bro.” Thanks Google Maps. I wish Cambridge Analytica had my back that hard. I don’t see them helping me out with handy instructions. Instead they just tell Wish, Online Shopping that I must want a plethora of wetlook catsuits and fancy lingerie. So I guess they’re more like “I got you bra.” Credit where credit’s due

Oh wait, I was talking about being in line for Lion King. Line King? My girlfriend and I hummed and hawed about whether to rush line Lion King or The Ferryman. We’ve heard fantastic things about the latter, that it’s a moving theatre experience. On the other hand, we were both children of the 90s, so y’know. That. Truthfully, while I’m not a massive musical theatre person, I’ve been low key jiving to see this show for 10+ years now. For ages (and I’m not sure if this is still the case) it wasn’t running in New Zealand. The only way to get tickets was to buy them for Australia, then fly on over. Still cheaper than a ticket to Hamilton, I guess.  Unless we’re talking New Zealand’s Hamilton. “Hamiltron, City of the Future”, Hamilhole or The Tron, as it’s otherwise affectionately known. I don’t know if their politically aware historical rap is quite as up to snuff, being the City of the Future and all.

Oh shit, I digressed again. Though that’s probably contingent on the fallacy that I have any idea where I’m going with this. Part of the day ticket line is standing around doing nothing. We got here at 9.30am (for an 11am Box Office opening). I’ve got time to kill and since I’m going nowhere, I’m gonna see where this goes. So often while I travel it becomes this kind of “Last Time, on The Leon King” recap bollocks. I mean, that’s fine and all, but anything gets trite if it’s done too much. Sometimes it’s nice to ramble on, sing my song and find the queen of all my dreams, right? So I’m sitting in line for The Lion King at the moment. I’m not blowing anyone’s mind by saying that The Lion King was a formative part of my youth. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much. I remember seeing it in the cinema multiple times, as we all did back then. In those days it took a lot longer for any kind of large pop cultural product to reach New Zealand en masse. Like, we’d get films a few months after America instead of day and date like it is now.

You can imagine then, how mindblowing it was for my mum’s friend in the US to send us over a VHS copy of the film to borrow not too long after its NZ cinematic release. I remember being so amazed that it was in NTSC, rather than our local PAL format. In those days, when I had the insane fishy memory of a pre-pre-teen, I’d watch it on repeat ad infinitum. I must’ve seen it 30 odd times over a two week period. Some days I’d watch, rewind and watch again. I identified with Simba and reckoned with his struggle. I dunno, I was a dumb little kid and it may have been as simple as “he’s a lion, my name is Leon and that means lion. We’re basically identical.” I also 100% had the hots for Nala. I honestly don’t know how I never became a furry. I thought Scar was a dingus, loved the hyenas, got a kick out of Timon and Pumba doing the hula and knew all the songs by heart. I also earned my stripes dying hundreds of times playing the Stampede Level in the Mega Drive game. In the 90s we didn’t quite have complex gender and sexual identities to unpack, the Stampede Level was our struggle.

I guess what I’m saying is, if there’s a stampede scene in this musical, I may have ‘Nam style shellshock. Worth it, if it means we get tickets. Wish us luck!

No more Ace in the hole.

Ace Ventura re-he-heally has not aged well.

Let me preface this by triple underlining what a massive Ace Ventura fan I was as a kid. After seeing The Mask, I thought Jim Carrey was a literal embodiment of God among men. For a long time in my life I refused to watch anything that either a) wasn’t a cartoon b) didn’t have puppets or c) wasn’t super hero oriented. The fact that I was willing at all to give Ace and his fine feathered friends a go was a big coup for me. While watching, I realised that Ace Ventura was a cartoon, just depicted by a flesh and blood human. I was in. Ace was goofy, talked through his butt and had so many animal friends. He was my kind of dude. I watched Pet Detective, I watched When Nature Calls, I watched an absurd amount of the Pet Detective cartoon on Saturday mornings. Big fan.

Watching at age 31 in 2018, things have changed. Credit where credit is due, Jim Carrey overcommits to an Olympic extent in every single scene. His neck is always protruding, jaw janked in some odd direction. He’s tossing out a silly voice or doing an imitation maybe 80% of his time onscreen. I don’t know how one directs Jim Carrey because it seems like he’s constantly doing bits. I don’t know how one writes for Jim Carrey because all evidence points to him improvising half of his scenes. I feel like the script is mostly exposition and [Jim will insert something funny here]. The whole film is basically a setup of scenarios in which he can do some kind of impression. His brand of physical comedy is still bloody impressive to watch 24 years later. He’s a talented dude, no doubt.

Egads though, the movie is one big clusterfuck of gay panic, transphobia and obnoxious male posturing. Given how much society has shifted, it’s hard to just turn your brain off and let things slide. The most egregious example is of course the central plot revolving around someone transitioning. The punch line in the climactic scene is not only the gay panic induced vomiting by the entire police squad, but the second beat of her promiscuity. Har har. Also for a character as fey as Ace Ventura, they do a remarkable amount of work to try and fit him in a comfortable box for red blooded American males. He’s still a rough and tumble dude who doesn’t think twice about getting into a physical altercation. He can do car stunts, and LOVES sex. There’s even a scene where he takes a blow job from a busty client in lieu of payment, the punchline being a fourth wall breaking “well, could you say no?” or something of the like. I feel like comedy didn’t have to try as hard back in the 90s. They have to put in SO MUCH WORK to make him a “palatable” representation of masculinity. Stuff that as a kid I probably lapped right up. Ace was the coolest.

In 2018, Ace isn’t quite so cool.

You know what else hasn’t aged gracefully? Sixteen Candles. Holy shit does it ever smack of being a film written about a woman by a man. It’s broad strokes of character all the way through, but really it’s more about the central male characters. If Ace Ventura was egregious, Sixteen Candles is a relic. She’s basically lusting over The Coolest Guy in School, who’s a Sensitive Jock type. But he’s with The Hottest Girl In School (we know this, because we get a naked shower scene that shows basically everything). The Geekiest Dude in School is lusting after her. So what’s the resolution? The Geekiest Dude sexually assaults her a bunch of times. She’s like “ugh. You’re not a bad dude, but that was embarrassing”. The resolution? The Coolest Guy just gives The Geekiest Dude The Hottest Girl as if she’s chattel. She’s drunk out of her skull and the Coolest Guy is all “here, thanks for hooking me up with Molly Ringwald, now go fuck my drunk ex-girlfriend in a parking lot or something.” It’s woeful. Times have changed and thank fuck for that.

I wonder how Blazing Saddles plays in 2018…