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Entries in dick cheney (146)

Monday
Aug082016

In Which Jared Leto's Existential Crisis Troubles Us All

Swamp Thing

by DICK CHENEY

Suicide Squad
dir. David Ayer
123 minutes

“Were there any that didn’t get cut? I’m asking you, were there any that didn’t get cut? There were so many scenes that got cut from the movie," Jared Leto explained. "We did a lot of experimentation on the set, we explored a lot. There’s so much that we shot that’s not in the film." He slightly massaged his left testicle and took a break to rewatch The Dark Knight. "If I die anytime soon, it’s probably likely that it’ll surface somewhere. That’s the good news about the death of an actor is all that stuff seems to come out."

There is a disease called Jared Leto disease. Once minute you're performing a very emotional scene opposite whatever has become of the rapper Common, and the next you think you have one thirty-fourth the talent of Heath Ledger. This ailment is about believing that you are more than what you seem.

The worst part of Suicide Squad is Jared Leto, which is not surprising since almost every actor involved in this movie besides Jai Courtney is a substantially better performer in every way. Hopefully Leto's comments about how mad he is about watching his scenes get cut gets him replaced by the little kid who disappeared in Stranger Things when it comes to the next Batman movie. In a few they will both look exactly the same: like a teenager who freshly discovered emo.

The Joker had one last card to play in the movies — that was his toxic relationship with Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto are both in their forties now and playing ten years younger. The characters themselves have aged horribly. The Joker is repositioned here as a sort of manipulative mastermind instead of the crazy man he was when Heath Ledger administered the finest acting performance of the last decade. As Leto suggests, Joker disappears for most of Suicide Squad, although he does send his girlfriend Harley (Margot Robbie) text messages.

Because Suicide Squad is PG-13, Joker never even beats his girlfriend up or causes anything except the most mild inconvenience. Sensing how bad this was coming across in early cuts, director David Ayer decided that Leto's performance was probably the worst part of the movie as it existed. Joker was minimized and fast.

Replacing him as the centerpiece of Suicide Squad is Deadshot (Will Smith). The first twenty minutes of the movie consists of a shortened version of his battle with Batman (Ben Affleck). Affleck is more bloated than he appeared when he strolled out of an after party recently looking like he wanted to pull his pants over his head in shame. Say what you want about Smith's Scientologist beliefs, but he is only getting better with age and Suicide Squad is about 1000x better when he was on the screen.

Seeing how audiences reacted to the humor of Suicide Squad's first trailer inspired a litany of reshoots on the project. The result is a mishmash of tone. Christopher Nolan's efforts in this world were almost never funny at all. Sure Christian Bale popped off a one liner using his Patrick Bateman voice from time to time, but the essential core of the movie was completely overserious, the complete opposite of what Marvel attempted to counteract the franchise's critical success.

Ayer's secret weapon of seriousness is a villain so completely absurd that they cast a fashion model to play her. About forty minutes in Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) causes some chaos in a sequence so completely dull Ayer can't wait to play another seventies rock song over it. The atonal music in Suicide Squad is a mess, so clearly is it attempting to steal from the general vibe of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is like copying a plot twist from Fifty Shades of Grey.

Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) spends a lot of time flirting with Will Smith, and the palpable sexual tension explodes while Ayer layers Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" over it. (Just the amount of songs here is mind-numbing.) Before President Obama went onstage to deliver his address to the Democratic National Convention, he also listened to Eminem, and the similarities between that speech and Suicide Squad are quite numerous. Both proclaim the essential fact of self-importance as a basic human right. I think Obama mentioned himself like a billion times.

Given that these characters do not really have a lot in common with another and don't form much in the way of relationships over the course of Suicide Squad, Ayer smartly makes the movie an all action-shootbang. Honestly, the movie probably should have been about Harley Quinn realizing that Jared Leto is an asshole and settling down with Deadshot in the Gotham City suburbs.

Instead, the sheer amount of guns in this shitshow is almost breathtaking. Ayer isn't exactly Stanley Kubrick, but he does create some memorable visuals here — the astonishing flight of a helicopter radiating light, the iridescence of one character's signature flame — when he isn't worried about the audience getting too bored with the utter lack of depth. Overall, though, he seems genuinely unhappy to be working on a project this cynical.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Tuesday
Jul262016

In Which J.J. Abrams Tries To Murder Other Peripheral Franchises

Enterprised

by DICK CHENEY

Star Trek Beyond
dir. Justin Lim
122 minutes

What kind of interest do you have in hearing Idris Elba perform a distinctly racist version of his own voice as a pseudo-alien named Krall as Zoe Saldana, looking like the mom of everyone involved, screams, "You already got what you wanted! Let her go!" I hope the answer is none.

At the beginning of the interminable Star Trek Beyond, Saldana's character Lieutenant Uhura politely informs her boyfriend Spock (Zachary Quinto) that she no longer feels attracted to him and she would like to part ways. She offers back a necklace he gave to her, but he allows her to keep it because it tracks her location. He will always know where she is.

This is the most entertaining scene in the entire movie.

Shortly thereafter screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg entertain us with the worst fucking cliche in all of Star Trek: the destruction of the Enterprise. Director Justin Lim has Idris Elba's ships swarm and destroy the larger the vessel, and what feels like it should take only moments lasts a good half hour. Pretty much everyone survives, and the artifact Elba pursues is luckily safe. It easily might have been destroyed, rendering his tactics somewhat questionable at best and jawdroppingly nonsensical at worst.

But I mean you won't want to be focusing on the plot here, since there really isn't any. The entire crew is marooned on an alien planet, which would be exciting except there is literally nothing to distinguish this world from any other random place the original Star Trek cast set down upon.

The original Star Trek was always shit and the only reason that these movies even exist for J.J. Abrams to torture us with was the tremendous critical and commercial success of the follow-up television serial, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart singlehandedly carried the entire cast, but the writing was also very good at times and LeVar Burton wasn't terrible either. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation realizes a key lesson about the vast boredom of space intoned by Kirk at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond: if you don't have someone to ejaculate inside of, it can get super lonely out there. Kirk is so completely done with space that he applies to become the vice admiral of an orbital installation named Yorktown. I guess if Chris Pine's career gets bad enough, they can spin that off to series.

Pine's enthusiasm is usually his strongest selling point, along with his comedic timing. In Star Trek Beyond you can tell that he was ill during some of the shooting, because many of his line readings are completely off and he sounds like he has a frog in his throat. The end result is the most unprofessional final cut of an actor I have seen in awhile.

In order to compensate, most of the attention is thrown to the Enterprise's engineer, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). Pegg makes himself basically the star of this movie the exact same way he did in the last horrid Mission: Impossible jaunt. In that movie he at least had lots of great lines and a decent foil in the playful wiles of tiny Tom Cruise, but here his partner in crime is a bit more serious: an alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

The thing Star Trek Beyond misses the most is any sense of wonder at all. Even encountering this strange woman on an alien planet who lives in the desiccated shell of a Starfleet ship should be a moment of astonishing vitality and novelty. Instead two seconds later Montgomery Scott is being called a cute nickname by the alien and they are bickering like old friends. In every conceivable way it can, Star Trek Beyond skips the B that comes between A and C.

The rest of the cast is given very little. The supposedly southern accent of Bones (Karl Urban) waves completely from scene-to-scene, and he is paired with Spock for most of the film for in-depth conversations about serious and important topics like fear of death and their respective futures in Starfleet. Elba's Krall is not particularly calculating or fearsome villain, and the reveal of his true identity later on both repeats notes from the previous film and makes you wonder why they waited that long.

At the box office, early returns on Star Trek Beyond were that it was down fourteen percent from the previous film. That isn't so bad, but the previous movie really struggled with its tone as well and it had the benefit of a far better villain and story. At least with Star Wars, Abrams can just remake The Empire Strikes Back like he did A New Hope and at least the story itself won't be absolutely terrible. He seems to have no idea what to do with these characters; or maybe he has just realized they don't have very much potential anyway. 

The real answer is war. Star Trek was at its best when it turned space diplomacy into a canvas for the intersections of different ethics and views. A larger, powerful alien enemy is likely to be the focus of the next film, and there is a way to completely revamp this story into something compelling for a modern audience. First contact always has tremendous potential to make us reimagine our own ideas about what meeting other intelligent species in the universe would be like.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Thursday
Jul212016

In Which Motorbikes Claim So Many Innocent Lives

You Before He

by DICK CHENEY

Me Before You
dir. Thea Sharrock
110 minutes

I only break my post-Game of Thrones semi-retirement for Emilia Clarke movies. Alex started talking up this movie real early, claiming "It wouldn't be like the Terminator movie b/c the Dragon Queen has to play a normal." Boy, was he right. Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) proclaims in the first twenty minutes of Me Before You that she doesn't enjoy watching films with subtitles because it requires too much work and she's too basic to read.

Her dad is Bates (Brendan Coyle) from Downton Abbey because of course he is. When Louisa loses her job at the neighborhood bakery that seems to be giving away most of its food, her dad is like, "We're really screwed now," as the bakery $$$$ was all that was holding his small family together.

Louisa's boyfriend is Neville from Harry Potter because half the excitement of this movie is realizing what other, peripheral movies the cast has been in. Neville is a long-distance runner, and since Louisa can't share his passion for fitness because it is painful to run with her breasts, they start to grow apart.

By the far best part of Me Before You — although there are a lot of best parts since this is the best romantic comedy in awhile, even though there isn't much in the way of comedy but who cares since the Dragon Queen is loving a paraplegic — is the fashion.

The costumes in this disasterpiece/masterpiece are stunning. At one point Louisa's sister Katrina Clark (Jenna Coleman, who is a superstar in the making) wears a yellow shirt that was so perfectly emblematic of her character that I began to sob quietly. Katrina is really supportive of Louisa's relationship with the main antagonist in Me Before You, an ex-corporate stooge named Will Traynor (Sam Claifin).

I was once hit by a motorbike and the bike bounced off of me and everything was absolutely fine. It was a tiny little bike I mean who cares. Will Traynor is hit by a motorbike and he immediately goes down like a sack of potatoes and he never gets back up. Neville suggests maybe he should try a fitness regimen, which would make a lot of sense but Will pooh-poohs that advice since all the information he has from his doctors is that he's pretty much incarcerated from the neck down.

Will immediately gets the idea that since he is in no way as sexually active as he was before the accident, that life is not remotely worth living. His previous girlfriend moves on and his mother hires Louisa to cheer him up between pithy remarks.

Although this setup isn't much and anyone not attending the Republican National Convention can pretty much see where it is going, I have to admit some things that I did not expect and am ultimately not proud to have to say. Emilia Clarke is fantastic in this movie. It turns out that it is actually the shit-tier dialogue of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss holding her back. Me Before You lets her carry the action with her bubbly personality. You know what, Sam Claifin is really good too — he mostly just has to play off the Dragon Queen but she is always knocking things over and making mistakes but she never apologizes for them, she just accepts them as a part of life. I never knew how attractive a person like that can be until this movie.

It also helps that Emilia is a bit funny-looking but not without her charms. By all evidence her sister is the greater catch and we sense that when Will Traynor meets her family at a climatic birthday party at the end of the movie's second act that he is maybe more interested in seeing where things go with her. But instead he gives Louisa these wacky socks that she was really wanting. You can never underestimate the impact of a thoughtful gift on making a woman want to dump her boyfriend.

Me Before You kinda slows to a crawl after that. Louisa and Will can only consummate their romance with chaste kisses. She never even plays around with his dick just to see if maybe there is an involuntary reaction. He likes having her in bed next to him and their lips touch at odd, bizarre intervals. To prevent him from wanting to take his own life she takes him to the horse track; I guess logically thinking that watching animals bred for human amusement would somehow cause him to rise out of his chair like Matthew Crawley.

The one reason that all of this inaction comes across so well is Thea Sharrock's brilliant direction. She is completely spare with all of the varied emotions in Me Before You. To be honest, I was quite confused by the different aspects of love depicted here and Sharrock keeps everything spare and understandable. Will's parents are pretty unhappy with his choices but they treat him as an adult and abide by his wishes, even though it's kind of hard to see why you would want to die living in a castle with Daenerys Targaryen waiting on you hand and foot and giving you soft kisses right before bed.

I won't spoil what happens at the end of Me Before You, even thought my target audience has probably read the novel. I really don't understand the negative reviews this movie got. I was legitimately hard throughout the last third of it, especially in this amazing scene where Will's dad Charles Dance/Tywin Lannister chases after Daenerys at the airport. For a second, I was relatively sure that he was going to murder the poor girl. Instead she just rode away on the bus. From an airport. That girl sure was a normal.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.