Rob De Niro, Here to Class Up Your Light Drama – Review

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Anne Hathaway is the character with an arc, but Robert De Niro steals viewer interest, as usual.

The Intern may be forgettable as a light drama with very little actual drama, but one has to also keep in mind that there is a reason for certain genres to exist. Even if you are catering to a specific genre or audience, however, it is important for movies to have that layered feel; that feeling that there is a world beyond the screen, and that the characters are living their lives offscreen while you’re watching different ones.  This movie is not for those who text while watching a movie – which is rude anyway.  This movie is for those that actually watch movies and need a break from having to strain their brains (such as in the Fantastic Four remake, where the viewer is constantly having to go “okay, NOW what just happened and why?”).

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Ben (De Niro) talks about the merits of tucking in your shirt.

This movie is a feel-good drama starring a kind, cheerful old man named Ben Whittaker (De Niro).  He keeps busy, eventually taking an internship to shake up his life.  Ben is a living example of what old people could do if they were still willing to adapt to new things.  His can-do attitude and initiative make him stand out to the founder of the company, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) and become fast friends.

The message that this movie seems to send is that some things in life are timeless, completely immune to the changing dynamics of modern internet business.  I only wish students believed me when I told them that it doesn’t matter what they know or what they study – as long as no matter what they do, they do it with maximum enthusiasm and a commitment to work hard, they’ll get a good recommendation out of any employer.

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There’s nobody to hate in this movie.  Not a bad thing, but some may find it… unsporting.

Interesting characters are flawed characters.  Which is why if you watch a lot of movies, you might get exhausted from seeing all the nasty, unsavory people movies have to offer.  This movie is a nice break from that, as there’s nobody really to hate in this whole thing.  It’s not a movie to watch by yourself, though.  Watch it with your significant other, then return it to RedBox the next morning, whistling.

Rather than hold to a consistent narrative, it seems more like the creators of this movie thought “How can I just make people feel good about the world for like 2 hours?”  The feel-good drama is not a hugely populated genre.  In fact, in college I might have ridiculed such a thing.  However, in a world where Donald Trump might become President, it’s not the most unwelcome thing in my life.

I give this movie a mathemagical score of 7 out of 10.  Single people, I’d tell you to watch the latest Hunger Games, but that movie was awful.  Don’t.  You’re better off just playing a video game and going to bed.

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7-Eleven Pizza (Food Review)

Before I get into this review, I have to divulge some information.  Pizza is one of my favorite foods.  I consider myself a definite pizza expert when it comes to the pizza choices around me, and especially when it comes to the major chains out there.  I’m a major believer in all of the parts needing to be there: The Crust, The Sauce, The Cheese, The Toppings, and The Love.  That said, my expectations were not immense when conducting this review.  I eat Little Caesar’s now and then, and I was expecting about that caliber of a pizza pie.  I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation of the pizza.

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Not too bad.  It also smelled pretty amazing and pretty darn fresh!  So I was excited to get it home and to get into this bad boy.  I was pretty hungry, so I was expecting to enjoy myself regardless of quality.

No Crust

The crust gets a no.  It was soft, with no resistance as I bit into it.  If I have to say it explicitly, I will: The word Lunchable floated through my head.  This is often the part of the pizza that can save an experience.  To its credit, I didn’t taste a huge amount of grease, and the flavor profile was very similar to Papa John’s, which probably meant that the dough and everything was indeed fresh.  But the texture was wrong.  The Crust earns a score of “No.”

No Sauce

The sauce was there.  Well, there was a reddish liquid paste separating the cheese from the crust.  I didn’t taste a lot of grease in there or anything… but the sauce might as well have phoned it in, because there was no flavor in there whatsoever.  It was there to be a liquid in a sea of solids.  It was about as appetizing as it sounds.  The Sauce also earns a score of “No.”

No Cheese

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I know this is starting to sound like some kind of pizza nightmare.  The cheese is this kind of swimmy flavorless layer that separates you from the sauce… which really just separates the cheese from the crust.  I didn’t know you could feel disappointment by the slice.  The cheese stands alone.

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.. oh, I’m sorry, was that joke cheesy?  Good.  Something in this review should be.

No Toppings

The pepperoni had NO CRUNCH and NO SPICE.  WHAT?!

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Pepperoni with no flavor and no crunch?! Toppings are usually the part that gets too much emphasis!  Pepperoni with no flavor and no crunch is just roni.  I got no use for roni.  Roni is gross and disgusting.  Roni is the stuff people put in Subway sandwiches to make it a “spicy Italian.”  Roni causes violence in our streets.  The Roni gets a “No.”

No Love

Pizza is a social food. With each bite I could inexplicably feel myself losing Facebook friends.  Why did somebody approve pizza for 7-Eleven and then pay absolutely no attention to the execution?  I expect this silliness with some gas station offering it by the slice but if you’re going to sell whole pizzas across the street from Little Caesars I expect at least a written apology from you… or at least don’t try to hide the Lunchable logo on the box.

I’m a big guy, so it’s obvious I didn’t get this way by being a food snob.  You want to fool yourself with a pseudo-pizza? Get a Hot Pocket.  I’m going to give this a mathemagical score of 2 out of ten.

Thousand.  Ten-thousand.

Daredevil Season 2: Upstaged – Review (Spoilers)

First of all, I want to say that yes, I am a Daredevil fan.  I am familiar with “the lore” as Sam Winchester would say.  Secondly, I watched the original movie with Ben Affleck, and I thought it was awful.  Thirdly, I then saw the director’s cut of the movie, and thought it was wonderful.  And fourthly I want to say that I did watch the first season, and for the most part, I thought it was great.  With the second season comes more to love… and then more to not love.

We’re going deep into this one, folks.  If you’re the audience that can’t take spoilers, get out now.  This is for people who have either already seen it, or for people who watch things for the experience, not for the surprise.

Matt Murdock – Shaking, But Not Stirring

murdockCharlie Cox returns as Matt Murdock, and some things became quickly apparent.

One immediate problem was that Matt’s got nothing new.  Charlie Cox is struggling to show off in this series but there’s nothing he can do; he’s blind, so facial expressions don’t really make sense.  You can’t look into his eyes.  I don’t envy the acting challenge.  Ironically, it’s when his face is covered that you see him come alive.  The physicality of his role as Daredevil is extremely demanding.  The “life” his character shows when in combat is not just the product of his choreography, you can see which fight scenes were filmed on off days and which weren’t.

The character of Matt is harder to identify with as the people around him start asking for things that he can’t give.  It’s not like Batman or Spider-Man, where you feel like the people would back off if they knew of his secret pasttime.  No, in this case his partner Foggy knows everything, and is asking for things that anybody in the position of business partner and best friend would ask for; namely reliability and the ability to count on him in times of need.  As Matt begins neglecting his day life and going out more as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s hard to agree with his logic.  I began to miss the lawyer scenes.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

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You’re a good man, Foggy Nelson.

Here is where as a character Matt becomes seriously upstaged.  Foggy Nelson is once again played by a cast-out-of-nowhere Elden Henson, who kills it in his role by being likeable, mouthy, yet unashamedly straightforward, decent, and honest.  In the old Ben Affleck movie, Foggy was a comical afterthought.  Here he is a true character.  He struggles to keep Nelson & Murdock afloat and tries his best to understand Matt’s other commitments.  He is also deeply hurt at Matt’s insistence on keeping him excluded from his activities and for never telling him about the darker part of his life, and this shows during the times when he has to tend to Matt’s injuries – from getting him hospital care to one point simply reaching out to wipe some blood from Matt’s head as they walked together in the street.  Matt takes this guy for granted, and it becomes hard to understand why as a viewer when he’s so obviously an asset, being both a fellow lawyer and a good friend.

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Deborah Ann Woll returns as Karen Page, this time with her character being a very obvious reason to explore the Punisher’s past.  Unfortunately, these parts tend to drag, as some things that are very easy to guess seem to take forever for her to figure out.  She is also the only one in many of her scenes to not know who Matt is, which becomes tiresome, especially when she and Matt begin to tentatively date.  In the end, she gets mad at him – pretty understandably, because after days of no-showing she finds him at home with Elektra in his bed… not a lot of explanations she can possibly think of in her head.  In fact, it sort of looks like Stick is her pimp in that scene.  I’ll talk about her later though, because I can’t hold back from this next guy.

Upstaging the Hero

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That’s right – it’s the Punisher.  As promised.  He is completely intact as a character, though I don’t think this version smokes.  Jon Bernthal steals the show in every scene he’s in.  In the beginning he’s believed to actually be a disgruntled army – only later is the threat revealed to be one man.  The trauma not of being at war… but being at peace and then losing his family – and then being forced to relive that trauma again and again due to his brain condition is one that makes it easy to sympathize with this murderer.  His dialogue is so unabashedly fascinating that when he’s out of the picture for a while the series slows to an unbearable crawl.  An awful crawl.  Almost a turn-off-the-TV crawl.  Then…

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Kingpin is baaack!  Oh, welcome back, man!  I was so grateful to see this guy because up until then I was ready to quit the series.  Man, was this guy scary last season.  Calm and cool… then ANGER EXPLOSION!  His scenes with Punisher are some of the most riveting.  The series picks itself back up again here, even though I’m going to talk about the things that hurt the series next, it’s worth it to give Vincent D’Onofrio his dues as the one who saved Season 2 for me.  Especially since the things that hurt Season 2 for me were quite unforgivable.

Awful Things That Make Me Worried About Season 3

Failed Femme Fatale

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Elektra looks like she’s constantly trying to seduce the director into not firing her.

Elektra is in this season, and she’s boring as anything.  She likes Matt, and she likes killing.  She’s sad about Matt not liking killing.  Then she’s sad about liking killing.  So she leaves and then after killing Angelo from Switched at Birth goes after Stick.  Then Matt decides he loves her and wants to leave the country with her.  But everyone knows Elektra dies right?  So she dies.  NOOOOOO! screams Matt.  Nobody cares.  Because the other thing we all know is that Elektra is always resurrected.  ALSO, there’s even a character from the first season, Nobu, that already has been resurrected, so it surprises nobody even so.  She’s boring and not intriguing or interesting.  She’s not exotic, she’s just boring.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.00, just go directly to jail.  Except jail would have Kingpin, which would make it more interesting again, so…

 

Stick

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So the old guy is back, and while he was great in the first season, he’s all over the place here.  Matt can’t seem to decide whether this guy is crazy, deserving of his help, or an awful person.  One second it’s “screw you, Stick!” then it’s “I owe him everything!”  Stick seems similarly confused, as he vacillates between sentences of admiration “You’re the toughest kid I’ve ever met.” and derogatory remarks about how Matt has supposedly “gone soft.”  The end result ended up feeling like an excuse to keep us away from Frank Castle and Kingpin stuff… Unforgiveable!

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So on a scale of 1 to 1o, I give this season a 5.  This is the best version of Kingpin and the Punisher I’ve seen so far, but a lot of this season felt like filler.  The parts with the proper villains shine through wonderfully.  Here’s to more of that next year… you know, after they’re done with all that ninja garbage nobody cares about.

 

 

Fantastic Flop – Review (Spoilers)

Well, well, well, Fox, I gotta say, you’re being pretty gutsy here.  On one hand, you need to cling onto all the Marvel properties you own, because those things are definitely cash cows.  On the other hand, the last time you touched this property, you had this:

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The script for this movie was about half as impressive as this promotional picture.

While I suspect that this movie was more of a way to retain the rights of the Intellectual Property (a la the unnecessary Spider-Man remakes), I still at the very least expected a cash grab of action scenes, posturing, and scientific genius-ing to munch popcorn to.  In fact, the very beginning of the movie was quite promising!

A Promising Beginning

We began with a young Reed Richards befriending an abused yet good-natured boy, Ben Grimm, and then watching as Reed blossoms into a genius with the support of the only one to believe in him – his best friend.

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Miles Teller and Jamie Bell play the young Reed and Ben, respectively.

The young Reed (Miles Teller) is likeable and believable – as is his foil, Ben, played by Jamie Bell, who is talented (though I have yet to see him in a good movie).  However, when half the movie passes and nobody has powers yet, you begin to see what the movie is doing; it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.  You’re telling me this whole movie is going to take place before these people even become a team?  Are you kidding me?  How interesting do you think these characters are?  You do know that you’re not making a Wolverine movie, right?

I’m getting ahead of myself.  But that’s because I’m trying to match the pace of this movie.  I mentioned in my essay about Ender’s Game that movies couldn’t match a book’s ability to slow down time.  I hereby stand corrected.  This movie can slow down time.  This movie made me feel one thousand years old by the time it was over.  One way that it does this is because the whole movie covers their rather simple and rudimentary origin story, which makes it so that it feels like the movie is just getting started even hours into the film.  They might as well have had opening credits run through the entire film.  When the title showed at the end, I don’t know what they wanted me to do… applaud?  Please.  I was trying to figure out whether it was part of an excruciatingly long intro segment, and – more importantly – whether or not I’d have the opportunity to shave my castaway beard before writing this review.

The Villain

The villain is Doom (Toby Kebbel).  Is this a diabolical Doom, known for his long-term schemes and his masterful skills of deception, matched only by genius and raw power?  Nope! Meet Young Zombie Doom!  He looks like a ripoff of the superior Karl Ruprecht Kroenen from the Hellboy series!

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On the left, an awesome warrior, more machine than man, a fearsome asset to Nazis and the occult alike.  On the right, Dr. Doom 2015.  Possibly Mr. Doom, considering I didn’t actually see a degree framed anywhere.

You do know that you already made Doom a villain in the last two farces you made, right?!

How can this happen?  Don’t worry, it gets even better!  You know how Doom doesn’t care about the death of innocent lives, making it so no matter where the final fight takes place, if there are humans, there are high stakes?  Well, the final fight takes place in an alternate dimension.  The movie tells us that the Earth is getting sucked in, and that the whole planet is threatened… but you’re a movie!  Show me, don’t tell me!

Miscellaneous Notes

One Dark Film

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This is one dark film.  I mean, yes, there’s people exploding into blood, but I meant literally dark.  If you’re not watching this in a dark room, you’re going to be squinting trying to figure out what’s going on behind your screen glare

That Thang Thang

If you were attracted by the CG version of the Thing, you still shouldn’t bother.  Years later, and the best they can do is this?

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We all feel the same way about this, Grimm, no worries.

Worse, rather than cash in on some Hulk-like action shots to fuel that hypothetical mental comparison, almost all of the Thing’s action scenes are shot from a weird helicopter-like shot.  You couldn’t feel more distant from the action then if you were half-blind, sitting in the nosebleed seats of a ping-pong match between two mice.

Confusion

Making these characters younger wasn’t some kind of magical portal to our wallets, Fox.  Even children are confused by watching this movie, I’m sure.  One second the government is running experiments on these people, the next second they’re respecting their rights and giving them a secret building to do all their work in – work that they retain the rights to.  Sue Storm is adopted… or possibly part black.  Details are hazy.  Doom’s plan involves him living on Zero – with no food or water yet somehow alive without explanation, then going to Earth so he can go back to Zero and then suck Earth up into Zero so that he’ll be alone and the ruler of nobody.

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So… mathemagically, I’m going to give this disaster a 2 out of 10.  That’s 20%, which roughly matches the amount of this movie that was entertaining.

 

“N-Naruto…-” Get Real.

All heroes have their admirers.  Naruto is of course constantly after Sakura, as she is the heroine that he hangs out with constantly – plus he knows that she’s in love with his rival, Sasuke, which only makes her more attractive to Naruto as a challenge to overcome.  As Naruto’s arc develops, so too does Naruto himself develop in maturity.  His relationship with Sakura also develops too.

So naturally, this means that Naruto eventually winds up with Hinata.

… Wait, what?  Is this some kind of joke? How does a writer as brilliant as Kishimoto – the man who wrote Naruto’s inspiring speeches, developed lovable ensemble characters like Shikamaru and Choji, and cultivated long-standing relationships such as Naruto’s bond with Kurama – know absolutely nothing about writing a proper romance?  Hinata is the worst choice of character for our hero, and there are plenty of reasons why.

A Bad Example

Hinata is an awful role model for girls.  Her entire existence – spanning decades if we’re going to consider her little scarf debacle in the last movie to be canon – has been about Naruto’s approval.  She’s the heir of a wealthy clan, born with a biological advantage (the Byakugan), and apparently a very capable ninja and a master of the Hyuga clan’s signature Gentle Fist style.

I guess you can’t have too many skills in one basket, because she also seems to have some kind of crippling personality disorder.  She never speaks up for herself, never goes for what she wants, and has very stalker-like tendencies when it comes to our hero.  She even deals in creepy stalker absolutes; “I want to stand by your side – forever!” she rehearses at one point.  WHOA.  Forever, girl?  How about you go out for noodles first, then see whether you even like the same things, because I can’t think of someone more different from our hero than you.

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Her dialogue is literally “N-Naruto…!” whenever he does something to vaguely acknowledge her – positively or negatively.  She wilts and blossoms at his syllables.  What this teaches is that girls should be meek little flowers that wait until the object of their affection’s whims lean in their direction.  

Some may say that Naruto is an anime series, not a fable, and that it has no responsibility to teach anything.  If that’s true, why create such an inspirational character as Naruto?  He’s a brat that stays fixated on one goal – stubbornly refusing to be shaken from the morals he grew up with, even when it seems that all above him are ready to do so.  He wins not only the approval but the admiration of his teachers and peers alike because of this.  When it’s time for him to decide his Ninja Way, it’s that he’ll never give up on something once he’s decided to do it.  Naruto is not the best ninja there.  He isn’t the most powerful or the most experienced.  He’s not the first person they call for  an emergency.  He isn’t Goku, the all-powerful hero.  He’s a flawed child with a personality to be infectiously good despite his rough manners, boisterous personality, and tactless rhetoric.  Why go to the trouble to create such a role model for kids – such that they realize they don’t have to be perfect in order to be good people – if you’re going to not teach lessons through what he does?

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Naruto gains the lifelong respect of former adversaries – like Gaara – due to his persistence and strength of character.

Below His Character

While there are plenty of reasons to admire Naruto for the many things he has done for his village and the world – as well as for his winning optimism and eagerness to be the best shinobi his village has ever seen – there are not many reasons for Naruto to see anything to admire in Hinata.  When watching the movie The Last: Naruto the Movie, it became apparent that the biggest factor for Naruto’s reciprocation of her affections was… it was a sure thing.

Ew.  What a seedy way to portray the character that worked so hard to win my respect.  The excuse commonly given for Naruto’s ignorance of Hinata’s love is that he “hasn’t had anyone to express it to him before.”  First of all, lies!  Second of all, he expresses his own affection for Sakura constantly, such that he would definitely understand if Hinata were to talk to him like a human being instead of stuttering his name all the time.

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Naruto: “Wow, Hinata, you sure did a good job eating all that ramen.”

Hinata: [shocked that she was noticed at all] “N-Naruto…!”

Naruto: “I’ll bet that’s how you bulk up to get so strong!”

Hinata: [shocked at being complimented] “N-naruto…”

Naruto: “Well, I’m going to go talk to people that actually talk back.”

Hinata: [sad that their interaction is over] “Naruto…” [Her eyes swell with tears, partly with happiness at the overall tone of their conversation, partly because of the welling of emotion that she feels for him.]

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What is there to admire?!  All of the paragons of awesomeness that Naruto worships are people with real skills, real admirable traits!  He appreciates Kakashi for what he learned about being there for your comrades.  He learns some really neat skills from Jiraiya.  He respects Might Guy for the way he bolsters Lee’s confidence.  He admires Sakura for being a strong person.  He admires Sasuke’s drive to achieve one goal, with the possibility that this might have even been the inspiration for his ninja way.  Sure, Hinata is powerful, and Naruto can respect that, but she shows no initiative in using it.  It might as well have been a secret!  Naruto starts using sickening language like “I’ve been in love with you.”  Do you know what “been” means, kid?  It means that it was an ongoing thing.  You expressed no such thing in the past – not to the audience, not to your own internal monologues, and certainly not to anybody else.

The disappointment I feel in such a poorly written relationship for such a well-written series AND main character is tantamount to what would happen if Luke Skywalker had been killed by Jar Jar Binks seconds before entering Jabba’s Palace.  It’s like if Goku’s death to defeat Raditz had been his exit from the series.  It’s like if the Clone Wars replaced the EU’s Mandalorian warrior race with a race of peace-loving… wait, that one was real.

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One of the saddest retcons in Star Wars history.

Anyway, Naruto’s sudden decision to reciprocate in such a way (“I’ve always loved you, Hinata!”) cheapens Naruto as a character and worse, advocates behavior like this.  Better that he stay single than do this.  There’s no risk here.  There’s no character that puts their feelings on the line for the other – Hinata never even has to admit how she feels.  Naruto ends up reading her mind (via magic water and of course in true Naruto and Naruto Shippuden style: a series of flashbacks), so he knows it’s a sure thing.  There’s no risk at all for him to express his affection, and worse, because it’s the first time he’s ever expressed this affection, it looks manufactured.

Things Matter

This is why even fillers should be vetted carefully by those familiar with the main storyline.  These Hinata fillers are the reason why Hinata is getting such a nasty portrayal.  They’re still canon!  Character development always matters!  Handle your characters with care, or else you might just cheapen the character you worked so hard to create.