Quick-Thoughts: Space Jam 2 A New Legacy

“Gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:23

Idk, I’m not religious, but it sure feels like that line was made to prophesies Space Jam 2: A New Legacy breaking all order for the human race, huh?

You know what? I have no doubt that A.I. has the potential to write better movies than us in the future, but if Space Jam 2: A New Legacy proves anything, it’s that we’re currently living in its developmental stage where if it were to be used in the mainstream, it would be *wrongly* used to draw in tickets rather than to break creative boundaries. It’s kind of sad that even for something following up what I’d call an overrated cult phenomena which already reeked a bit of corporate gimmick to begin with, it had to be the one and only offering generated first from what appears to be some sort of algorithmic machine that manages to calculate up a whole two-hour CRIB TOUR of everything Warner Bros. owns while maintaining it within the confines of their 150-million dollar budget, analyzing each property for if their investment would be worth it in regards to current audience recognizability or whatever other nostalgic fish-bate deviancy they were going for with this steroid of a product. I mean, the amount of DC referencing here says it all.

The best way I can describe this movie is that it’s essentially a two hour conga line that wants to add on a random quick joke or pop culture reference to its back at least every five seconds, but the overbearingness of how much information that requires is ultimately forcing the presumed army of desk job workers (or A.I. bots) to write them all on the spot in whatever constrained time frame they were given to finish everything, and on top of that, were also forced to conspire loopholes that could interweave an actual story into this back and forth mania with themes, plot or character revelations which felt, again, as if they were pressured to be thought up of “on the spot”, no matter the cost of how convenient, cheesy, or ridiculous every single one of them ended up being. Yep, every single one.

So in hindsight, all this movie did for me was just reaffirm that in defiance of even my own ADHD issues, I still manage to have boomer-tendencies because of how frustrated I was with the possible swiftness that a movie’s agenda could get. Godspeed, Warner Bros., and pay your animators extra for wasting their very apparent talent. 

The Come and See (1985) cameo was pretty lit though. 

Verdict: D-

2021 Ranked

“Space Jam 2: A New Legacy” is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (2012)

“Your punishment… is to be you.” 

Strangely enough, I’ve actually written out a premise for a movie I’m planning on making in the near future that happens to be quite similar to Holy Motors’. However, the execution I had in mind wasn’t even… umm… anything remotely like this.

In the industry, our world becomes a movie, lost in its roles. It seems that anybody could easily describe this film as being a vignette of out-of-context sequences that could be in various different types of movies, but for what it’s worth contextually with its themes and messages, I actually think what Leos Carax has done here is often well open (a few times to a fault) about the concerns it wants to make regarding the performer experience. It honestly reminds me of something Jean-Luc Godard would come up with (maybe not edit) but with WAY less talking in it, conforming to its excess and commitments of visual fiction within fiction to insight the burdening complexity that the succeeding artist must put themselves through. Holy Motors is a beautiful, spacious, maybe even sometimes tragic and absurd little waltz basically made for full-time actors who’re going through a midlife crisis, but one with enough sundry insinuation there to suggest that being an “actor” could well be representative of the precise, terminological reflection of what a human being is in general, creatures who behave as if they’re being constantly re-scripted into new characters, commanded to stage acts through predeterminations drafted by perhaps a ruling order such as God or if we go off our more literal actor theory, the mechanical, amalgamated, concealed, and ever so aging yet also victimized state of industry upper-ups themselves. That’s very cram-y, Carax, but I f**k with it. What a riotous capper of a final scene too! Gloomy satire! 

Here’s a fun fact though for those who’ve seen the movie already: right as Ryan Gosling saw Eva Mendes (now wife) get swooped away straight from the hands of a homeless, cannibalistic sewer leprechaun, that’s when he actually knew he had fallen in love.

Verdict: A-

Leos Carax Ranked [Coming Soon]

“Holy Motors” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: John Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

Oh how I’ve missed John Cassavetes and the absolute… dread… that his movies make me feel. Anyways though, this movie should’ve been called “U-Turns and Moskowitz” instead.

Something I’ve come to notice as a frequent custom of Cassavetes regarding his films is that he has his actors willingly repeat a lot of the same lines over and over again, but I can’t help but connect with that myself because these instances usually occur whenever either two strangers are interacting or someone close to another is trying to convince them of something that really isn’t true. It seems to me that in conversations such as these, lines may technically be worded differently but a lot of the times they feel like desperate, ingenuine manipulations to make themselves appear like they care when they really don’t give a s**t or are doing so because they themselves internally wish they were interested enough to the degree of being able to eulogize someone constantly to an obnoxious tea, hence why in full view it’s basically just repetition. Cassavetes to me understands this phony talk we find clashing in ourselves, and decides to cut the bulls**t in his bitterness of it, making characters repeat exact lines over and over again, representing the uncovered form of our blabber and revealing how much reiteration we have to say to others and in a psychological way back to ourselves to convince all which are inclusive that what we’re saying comes from the heart and out of places of assuredness for the world we live in, when in reality, it may just derive from a habit that comes from very human, social insecurities, as if we need these tedious, idealistic claims to keep us from actually using our brains — stay away from mental chaos!

Minnie and Moskowitz deals in characters who are able to easily explode emotionally as if the background of society has been stripped down, a personality trait of character writing and performance that almost seems too rare in the world of cinema. In reality, people aren’t programed to be able to bottle that emotion up to complete mental tranquility, and I love it when movies understand that and showcase characters who are vulnerable enough sometimes to lose their sense of any precaution to what society sees even if just for a couple minutes, whether we’re dealing with complete jackasses of characters that you want to spit at or one’s you feel are true victims to the people that encompass them, fueling desperation.

I mean, Minnie and Moskowitz in general feels like a Woman’s hellhole as well. It’s an outspoken exemplar of a time period’s common male thinking but amplified by psycho characters to really showcase how ugly misogynistic mindsets are compared to if they were presented through the supposedly “normal”, quiet types. But, even like the film’s diss on the inauthenticity of cinema especially when it comes to romances, as much as you may hate having to witness difficult people as your leads in a story, Cassavetes simply doesn’t write Prince Charmings because he knows there aren’t any. In a world so merciless, and when you’re so lonely right in it, you may just be willing enough to resort to opening up with the most selfish and unpleasant of individuals. It’s amazing how the state of what we live in could drive us anywhere at this point, no matter how demeaning the destination may be. Sadly, sometimes we allow ourselves to be imprisoned by others because that’s just how we were taught, to forget about the self and worry about the ironically terrible people that cornered us into this box in the first place. Is this what love is? Jeepers.

Oh, and pass it down to our kids too, why don’t we? Smh.

Verdict: A-

John Cassavetes Ranked

“Minnie and Moskowitz” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Space Jam (1996)

So this is basically just Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters but for Michael Jordan’s career, right? And instead of using mainly the work of his past to heft the film thematically they use mainly Looney Tunes shenanigans to do it instead. Da? 

I guess it’s hard not to at least applaud a film for being this outright weird, let alone one made for a large mainstream audience of 90s children, competitive basketball fans, and nostalgic adults hungry for some Looney Tunes crave. From aliens “talent-extracting” people, steroid references, a suspiciously casual slavery plot point, humans being ball-folded/inflated, and ummm… public masturbation jokes, yeah, Space Jam you could say was a “trip”. For a movie that creatively wants to be a representation of Michael Jordan’s transition from basketball to baseball and his booming revival then back to basketball, however, they sure do shadow his story for the mundane Looney Tunes narrative at hand. 

The beginning of the movie sufficiently explains Michael Jordan’s decision to switch over to baseball, but from there on out it gets loose with its reality-based comparisons. In the second act, Michael Jordan almost instantly decides to play basketball again when asked, leaving the core concept to such wasted potential as the rest of the film becomes your predictable, formulaic sports game flick that happens to have a few blatant allegories here and there. For example, there’s one about ominous contractors who are willing to sell the soul of their players, but it doesn’t do anything with it because of how restricted it is in this children’s narrative that can’t do anything but say said *parallel* exists and then leave it at that. Space Jam is either just a series of tame insinuations or really unfunny references to the familiar Looney Tunes characters’ quirks and pop culture of the 90s. 

The main theme is such a bop though. 

Verdict: C-

“Space Jam” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Hulu.

Quick-Thoughts: Fear Street Part Three: 1666

Yo, these MOFOs were way ahead of their time taking perks in 1666.

The first half of this conclusion to the three-part Fear Street saga is such a run-of-the-mill retread of a Salem’s Witch Trial conundrum that cowers to go beyond the standard story beat of people who don’t fit into popular belief and standards being blamed for natural disasters by easily manipulated religious nuts. The worst part about the first half of all this too is that we know were everybody ends up because of preconceived information disclosed in the first two Fear Street parts, so not only are we waiting through nearly an hour of seeing how surface-level a statement on higher-ups using marginalized groups as targets can go on for, but the only surprises we have to look forward to is how exactly A gets to B, via a predictable false victim plot. Jeez, who else seconds that we should’ve all just watched The VVitch (2015) again instead if we wanted to relearn about how the s****y patriarchy destroys the lives of others? 

What’s interesting about my experience with this movie though was that I inferred based on moments in the plot that this was possibly leading up to a new allegory, one on how past injustices are detrimental enough to counteract centuries of recurring injustices because of how it forces radical self-defense out from those victimized who have no other choice, as if initiating some sort of curse that harms all kin from thereon forth, and I was like well damn that’s unfortunate that you’re using exhausting textbook formula to help paint this picture, but yeah go ahead, that’s better than nothing. Yet instead, it actually ended up being a way cornier commentary that just read along the lines of people who create disasters so that they can be clean-up crew, save the day, and get rewarded amidst false public knowledge — i.e. The Incredibles (2004), Frozen (2013)… should I list any more Disney movies for which do the same thing this R-rated movie does that somehow is also miles more immature than those animated examples I just mentioned and furthermore didn’t require you to go through two mediocre movies to get there?

Lastly, remember when I complimented the previous two parts for being fearless when it came to just killing off characters? Well, Part Three I guess decided to call it quits and order in a huge shipment of plot armor to go around. Plus, the climax was edited like a trailer; I don’t think I could’ve possibly left that obnoxious detail out, let alone how foreseeable every occurrence in it was to top things off. Anyhow… failed experiment, Netflix, but to a degree, I respect the attempt? Try again! 

Verdict: D

2021 Ranked

“Fear Street Part Three: 1666” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Pig

I take it Gordon Ramsay may have a new favorite movie now.

An absolute flip-book of genre subversions; like seriously, the amount of stereotypes Pig is able to avoid is unorthodox. For example: I wasn’t expecting to see, in a supposed Taken-type premise, Nicky Cage to just be someone who goes full-blown psychologist-mode on MOFOs as if he were Freud Wick rather than the latter, deconstructing how socialization has restricted the familiar faces he comes across, all while on his journey to find a truffle pig that was stolen from him. Surprisingly refined in execution, natural and comfortable in its relaxing 3 chapter structure — yeah, it’s just a fancy rewording of the model act structure — Michael Sarnoski smartly does enough with not too much of a reliance on exaggerated thrills but with modest revelations. 

As if the film didn’t feel any more relevant than it does today with characters who are secretly under the pressure of validation at the expectations of thousands of faces, we discover where the breaking point of burden and ambition usually is: when tragedy strikes, awakening rediscovery. Even if you were a celebrity, it seems as if the hole of being known and respected by artistic communities isn’t enough to please the self in light of how minute hobby-based groups are to all humankind; realizations such as this just keeps encouraging many to harmfully impress more people, continuously reaching an egotistical point of striving to be some sort of god. As silly as it sounds, why not have your purpose devoted to sparking a friendship with something as uncomplicated and unconditional as a pig? Why force yourself to be in the minds of so many when it’s already difficult enough to care about just one thing? 

As familiar as these messages may be in the larger scheme of movies that have preached it better before, I’m still nonetheless looking forward to what Sarnoski does next. We also have a fellow “frame within a frame” simp on our hands too so welcome to the club, buddy!

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“Pig” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Leos Carax’s Boy Meets Girl (1984)

This is like if Charlie Brown’s “sad walk” was adapted into an entire feature-length.

I can tell Leos Carax has one serious hard-on (but hey, who doesn’t?) for French New Wave cinema in this pitfall of heartbreak he has subjected to quite excessively in the vein of that style, but not to an utterly tarnishing point where I couldn’t be guzzled into what’s essentially occurring here. 

There’s nothing more to say in terms of plot when I mention that this is just a break-up aftermath colliding with a meet-up inception. After his departure from a partner, our main youthful griever Alex is forced to dial-in and endure steadily both the classic wails of aggression and passionate flauntings of affection from the random lovers that surround the streets in irritating or insensible manners, often gazing mindlessly or ignoring stubbornly at these no-name strangers depending on their situation, all in the name of maintaining his glorification of love as some invincible euphoria. I noticed touches of surrealism in its life-sedated, dreamy atmosphere of stringy dialogue and noises that make the film really easy to sink deep into. Boy Meets Girl may not seem like its to completion with its ideas on the complications of young romance and perhaps a bit too tribute-y to its inspirers, but holy f**k is it a mood that I have no regrets testing out and admittedly relating to.

Lighting and sound direction had me floatin’ too. 

Verdict: B-

Leos Carax Ranked

“Boy Meets Girl” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Double Feature Review: Sean Baker’s Tangerine (2015) and The Florida Project (2017)

Tangerine (2015)

Screened at The Frida Cinema • 2nd Viewing

Los Angeles to me is a bittersweet place that really gives no f**ks, and the amount of f**ks given in this movie accurately represents this “lovely” city of angels. From its shocking subculture dives into the transgender, police, and transportation communities, filmed only on an iPhone 5 — inudatedly auto-lit and all — with DIY bike trackers to rouse out the loony ride, and amplified *literally* by actors who thrash each other around with either their mitts or sassy slurs, I’d consider Tangerine to be one of the greatest comedies of the 2010s. It may be a bit unorthodoxly anxious and even sometimes covertly hopeless with its depiction of how trivial virtue is to the people that mark this holy land’s soil in a Mike Nichols The Graduate (1967) sort of way, but never enough to say, “hey, what happens here will never and should never work out in the end” cause look, at least it currently is working out, it’s just kind of tough s**t to handle for notably lower-classers, spotlighting themselves in the loudest areas where they’ve succumb to the constant shoegazing (no, I will not apologize for using that word) of noise that has simply become the streamline frequencies of everyday life to them. This is LA, baby. Donut Time.

Verdict: B+

“Tangerine” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

The Florida Project (2017)

Screened at The Frida Cinema • 2nd Viewing

There’s a dominating innocence to The Florida Project despite it being set in a mildly dangerous world for children, yet all of it feels so passively wholesome from that engagement of being in this childish mindset of our lead characters. It may feel wrong at times to indulge in immaturity — and adult immaturity for that matter — or praise the simple glimpses of youthful behavior, but instinctively you can’t help but smile and chuckle throughout most of it despite what’s going on behind the scenes; life’s alarming technicalities seem to be background noise to splendor but nonetheless always catching up to us infrequently. Some people have criticized this tropical-street film for it’s rude, vulgar, and self-entitled characters, but the truth is Sean Baker just doesn’t want to be disingenuous in hard-boiling a depiction on the type of people you sometimes find in lower-class, single-parent family holds; that’s life! Amidst the irresponsibility seen at hand, we as an audience are still free enough to celebrate in those moments of oblivion from our adolescent subjects, but at the end of the hour we can see there are both blessings and hitches with setting a childhood experience in a lifestyle of legal, ethical, and parental complication. The movie slowly escalates four-year-old Moonee into tougher and tougher positions of trying to maintain neglect where her duties to face reality are continuously pressured as she gives her own best efforts to preserve innocent fantasies.

Verdict: B

“The Florida Project” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Fear Street Part Two 1978

Shoutout to all the unbiased kills, nonetheless. Every class of individual is on the menu when it comes to Fear Street and I can’t help but respect that. 

Is this movie a paradox? Obviously, it’s a tribute to kitsch cult flicks in the domain of specifically a Friday the 13th feature (duuuh) but instead of having your usual cruddy acting and directing you’d come to expect from that schlock of a franchise, it’s instead pretty competently… well… acted and shot. Yet, that’s what makes it also fail for me? If you’ve, say, been given a considerably goofy premise full of witchcraft and summer camp thrills, you’d expect to compliment it with goofy performances or presentation, right? At least, it would help fit the tone more? However, Part Two isn’t aiming for that, it’s aiming for grounded direness amidst clumsily homaging a genre known for ridiculousness. I’m not necessarily saying that the Friday the 13th movies are better than this, cause frankly they aren’t when it comes to my taste, but I am saying that they are at least more tonally sound than what Leigh Janiak has done here despite the fact that what she has undoubtedly done here is use stronger talents in the scope of execution to make a more watchable, character-driven Jason Voorhees-type film that’s integrated with a “big picture” underlying plot which ties in with those other two Fear Street parts.

If we toggle back to a complaint from my review of Fear Street Part One: 1994, however, I did mention that that film in particular accomplished little in progressing Craven’s 90s breed of slasher crave. Technically though, Part Two: 1978 is doing something more noticeably different for what it’s harkening to by making a shallow Friday the 13th-like movie have that prevalent (but snoozy and mawkish) emotion to its horror. Yet, if you ask me, that’s kind of a f**king bare minimum reach for progressively advancing a 1970s summer-camp slasher genre since it never really needed that “refined” exploration in the first place. Is it something to partially commend Janiak for? Sure, since we now have a mediocrely mundane version of a Friday the 13th movie — no more over-the-top kills cause now we’re aiming for practical GRIT! — but that literally does mere for me in terms of entertainment value. You see, what’s happened here is the creators at hand have sucked the soul out of that classic franchise’s absurdity and replaced it with normalized relational melodrama pitched in appealing visuals and cuts, yet the effort essentially just leads us straight back to square one in terms of quality for this particular era of slasher cinema. If my math is correct, if you sacrifice some *alleged* good from the originals and then add some *alleged* good from the new, the answer would be a profoundly neutral ≈.

Should I even watch Part Three at this point? I mean, I’ve made it this far so I might as well, huh? Welp, Review III coming next week, yaaaaay…

Verdict: C-

2021 Ranked

“Fear Street Part Two: 1978” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar (1978)

Screened at The New York Film Forum

This feels almost like another On the Waterfront (1954) situation where the basic plot and themes of the narrative may not come as that much of a shock to viewers since its blueprint has been countlessly rescanned and res**ted out over the past couple decades, but Blue Collar is so intimately performed and written on its own terms that it actually holds power over most of the work subsequently inspired by it. 

Opening credits don’t usually stick with me, but the disturbingly elongated remix of Mannish Boy paired with the montage of workers in the factory felt so surreal to me in how mechanical it was executed, as if the workers were nothing but parts of the machines themselves. From there on out though the movie is absolutely hilarious with every line speeding off the lips of Richard Pryor being nothing but pure gold, only then for the film to steadily become more of a horror story than a hardy, collaborative “sting” one as the lead characters learn more and more about the company that dictates their livelihood and become newer, scarier people and friends because of it as their social statuses are inflated. The industrial blue collar warehouse begins revealing itself as an allegory for a literal slaughterhouse of our well and moral-beings when in the hands of greedy upper-divisions. The intentional tonal shifts in this are dexterous, leaving harrowing impacts on the audience unlike your usual deconstruction of conventional social corruptions. 

Verdict: B+

Paul Schrader Ranked

“Blue Collar” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.