Taylor Lautner

The Ridiculous 6

ridiculous 6

Netflix’s recent entry into the Hong Kong market was greeted with much delight, until people discovered the catalog resembled the bargain bin at Walmart. (Still trying to decide if it’s an Aloha or Jackass kind of night.) To be fair, there’s a choice documentary selection, and Ken Burns’s The West turns out to be the best cleanse if you’ve had the misfortune of imbibing The Ridiculous 6, the relentlessly promoted first installment of Netflix’s four picture deal with noted auteur Adam Sandler. It might be aiming for the smallest slice of Blazing Saddles glory, but the unamusing farce about a mismatched gang of robbers is an embarrassment to the western and comedy genres.

Already the subject of controversy during its filming, the finished product does nothing to redeem itself. Native American actors were right to storm off set and divorce themselves from characters with names like Never Wears Bra or Smoking Fox (Julia Jones). When they weren’t being mocked for their physical characteristics, however, they characters were transformed into noble savages, always on hand with a piece of abstract wisdom or a mystical remedy so that Tommy “White Knife” (Sandler), the adopted white son of a Native family and the film’s hero, could save the day. It also shouldn’t surprise that so few women appear in the movie, and those who do are mostly of the painted variety, merely there to be paraded atop men’s shoulders or so that a cowboy might dive headfirst first into her décolletage.

That’s about the sophistication of the humor, par for course for Sandler films. Unless you’re into extended jokes about horses pleasuring mentally challenged teens or equally prolonged decapitation scenes, then you’ll find little to laugh about here. I’m not even sure this plays that well to the frat house crowd. In fact, the antics are suited for a far younger audience, and stripped of its vulgarity, it might be a framework for a passable kids movie.

Like many G-rated adventures, this one revolves around an unlikely group of friends – Tommy, Ramon (Rob Schneider), Chico (Terry Crews), Lil’ Pete (a very un-Team-Jacob-like Taylor Lautner), Herm (Jorge Garcia), and Danny (Luke Wilson) – that embarks on a quest to save a kidnapped man. They soon discover that they are actually brothers and the man they are trying to save is their father (Nick Nolte), and that they must steal the ransom. The Ridiculous 6 is so packed with cameos, however, that not even the brothers turn out anything beyond a one-note performance. Even with its two hour running time, the film makes no room for introspection, leaving most of the main characters as faintly drawn as the minor roles. In fact, Abner Doubleday (John Turturro) shows more flare attempting to invent the game of baseball on the fly than the wordless, grunting Herm, and Vanilla Ice as a hip hop Mark Twain seems oddly appropriate in this age of Hamilton (though as a Hamilton fangirl, I am in no way equating the two). The pleasures are fleeting though, and nothing justifies such abuse of American scenery, the best and only thing going for this movie.

Released: 2015
Prod: Allen Covert, Adam Sandler
Dir: Frank Coraci
Writer: Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler
Cast: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Steve Zahn, Harvey Keitel, Jon Lovitz, Danny Trejo, Julia Jones, Blake Shelton…..and so many more damn cameos
Time: 119 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

Twilight

twilight

When Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) stands in the light of a dewy sunbeam to reveal his sparkling vampire skin, a familiar Rihanna refrain mentally kicked into play. “Shine bright like a diamond….Shine bright like a diamond….You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy….Feel the warmth, we’ll never die.” That’s a nice emo tune for a vampire, I think, certainly a way of de-escalating things considering that Edward had just admitted to his human object of affection, Bella (Kristen Stewart), that he was an immortal, blood-sucking being.

But the conversation doesn’t go the pop chart route. Instead it gets weirdly dark and intense, violating so many rules of what a healthy, romantic relationship should be. Leaving aside for a moment that Edward has just dragged Bella into the remote forest interior in order to better bare his soul, and chest, to her, he repeatedly tells the woman he loves that he’s a killer, a creature designed to murder people. If that’s not enough to get your crush’s heart racing, he then waxes poetic and compares her to his “own personal brand of heroin,” because really, what girl doesn’t think of herself as an illegal substance that can lead to multiple organ failure?

At this point in the movie, I’d had enough of Edward’s abusive behavior and was angry that Bella was being set up as a collaborator. For every one of his condescensions or outright threats, she responds with more emphatic trust in his basic goodness, or sexiness – it’s never made clear. After Edward uses his superhuman speed and strength and saves her from an out-of-control car, she begins to suspect something otherworldly about her pale, moody lab partner. He coolly responds that no one’s going to believe her and suggests that the silly little girl just hit her head. When she won’t give up her suspicions, he basically tells her to fuck off if she values her life. Edward’s not always so abrasive though, swooping in to save Bella from some thugs while she’s wandering alone at night down a dark alley. It would have been chivalric had she not been in another town a hundred miles away. In this case, it’s just stalking.

But I couldn’t turn away, and not because I was captivated by Pattinson’s beauty (Long live Cedric Diggory!). It was because I’d naively promised a friend to watch the whole film and because there was actually a plot to this that didn’t involve the tortured lovers spouting fan fiction dialogue to one another. Bella is a newcomer to Forks, Washington and attempts to re-establish a relationship with her father (Billy Burke). She quickly makes a few friends, including a chatty Anna Kendrick, one of the few spots of sunshine in the whole film.

They aren’t nearly as interesting as the lab partner though. For all Edward’s talk about being a killer, he belongs to a “vegetarian” vampire family, led by the town doctor (Peter Facinelli), that feasts on animal blood. This annoys a group – or coven – of itinerant vampires, who also dislike Edward and Bella’s inter-species affair. (Cue Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”) There’s a showdown and lots of pearly white fangs, but there is also a rush of energy once the vampire battle gets going. Watching people, or vampires, clawing and gnashing at one another is infinitely preferable to watching two people fail at building a healthy relationship.

When the film isn’t setting a bad example for its young audience, however, it takes beautiful advantage of its Pacific Northwest landscape. The movie is saturated in dusky blues and greens and makes living in a place with ancient, towering trees and no sun seem almost dreamy in a supernatural way. At the same time, it weighs down the angsty teen relationship, which may be how high schoolers like it. But for those of us in our mid-thirties and not drawn to vampire films, there are too many overdramatic flourishes that end up being tedious rather than mysterious. There are only so many times we need to see the lovers stare into each other’s soul or try to undress each other with their eyes, whatever they are doing. I’d prefer more Bella and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), her shy admirer who, because he is still human and not yet a werewolf capable of tearing her to pieces, doesn’t get much screentime. Thankfully, there are four more films in this series.

Released: 2008
Prod: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan
Dir: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefèvre, Edi Gathegi, Taylor Lautner, Gil Birmingham, Anna Kendrick, Christian Serratos, Michael Welch, Gregory Tyree Boyce, Justin Chon
Time: 121 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2015

Valentine’s Day

valentines day

Here is the least painful way to review the scattershot film that is Valentine’s Day. I will give you one handful of plotlines and another handful of stars, and you try to match them up.

1) Girl dates doctor, decides to surprise him, but discovers he is married.
2) Teenage boy and girl decide to have sex, and then don’t.
3) Mom loves her little boy.
4) Boy proposes to girl, she accepts, but everyone knows he should really be dating his best friend.
5) Girl meets nice boy and they hit it off, until he learns that she is a phone sex operator.
6) Girl throws anti-Valentine’s Day party every year to bemoan her single status.
7) Boy loves boy.

A) Hector Elizondo
B) Julia Roberts
C) Anne Hathaway
D) Bradley Cooper
E) Topher Grace
F) Jennifer Garner
G) Jamie Foxx
H) Taylor Lautner
I) Shirley MacLaine
J) Ashton Kutcher

If you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t. This is as close as you will come to caring about this movie anyway. It is as if Garry Marshall and his writing team were afraid that no more romantic comedies would ever be made, ever, ever, and therefore they needed to cram every damn scenario and cliche and demographic and movie star and Taylor Swift song they could into one ginormous motion picture. In fact, the only thing they missed was an animal, possibly cross-species romance. Why didn’t they think of that?!

Since the filmmakers didn’t give this film much thought, I’m going to extend the same courtesy and say only these three things. First, it tries so hard to be Love Actually. It’s not. Know your limits, as in limit your storylines and star wattage. Second, the film takes place in L.A. It’s a fact that almost all the non-white people disappear from L.A. on Valentine’s Day. Finally, this movie reminded me of a Korean pop music video. We all have our favorite member, but he or she only solos for 7 seconds. It also reminded me I would rather watch a K-pop video because it’s shorter by 120 minutes. And they dance.

Released: 2010
Prod: Mike Karz; Wayne Allan Rice
Dir: Garry Marshall
Writer: Katherine Fugate
Cast: Ashton Kutcher; Jennifer Garner; Jamie Foxx; George Lopez; Patrick Dempsey; Julia Roberts; Anne Hathaway; Jessica Biel; Queen Latifah; Bradley Cooper; Eric Dane; Bryce Robinson; Hector Elizondo; Shirley MacLaine; Topher Grace; Taylor Lautner; Taylor Swift; Emma Roberts; Jessica Alba; Kathy Bates; Carter Jenkins; Larry Miller; Kristen Schaal; Erin Matthews
Time: 124 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2014