Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, or: A Yeti Falls in the Woods

We’ve had some classy period dramas on the blog lately–a phenomenon I greatly enjoy, though it seems high time we got back to our bad B-movie roots. Sam Elliott, Hitler, Bigfoot: it’s like this week’s film was made for us. …Or was it?

The Film:

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

The Premise:

The man who killed Hitler is recruited for a mission to the wilds of Canada in the 1980s. Spoiler: it involves Bigfoot.

The Ramble:

Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott!) is a gentle man who keeps to himself with the exception of the adorable golden retriever always by his side. His only hobbies seem to be drinking alone at the local bar and sitting at home, listening to the hum of voices on the TV. Who would ever guess he’s…the man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot?

An older man with a moustache drives a car, while a dog in the backseat leans forward towards him.

As a young man, Calvin enlisted in the US army to serve in WWII. Gifted with languages, incredibly skilled in carrying out missions, and quite good at remaining calm in oddly intense shaving scenes, it doesn’t take long before Calvin is recruited for the ultimate top secret mission: killing Hitler. Though he recognizes the necessity of his actions, Calvin abhors violence and murder, making him a rather conflicted man.

A young man in a German uniform sits on a freight train, a dog next to him.

When he enlisted, Calvin left behind his schoolteacher girlfriend, Maxine–the love of his life and woman he keeps trying to propose to(!). After the war, Calvin isn’t allowed to communicate with Maxine or his family for…reasons. I wasn’t paying the most attention ever, but it was incredibly unclear to me why Calvin couldn’t return home or write to his loved ones. Either way, it sucks, and Maxine can’t wait around forever when her mother falls ill back home.

A young man and woman dressed formally sit in a dimly lit restaurant, toasting each other with their drinks.

In the present day (some time in the ’80s?), Calvin prefers to be alone and stay out of trouble. His only remaining family is his brother Ed, though the two aren’t particularly close, largely because of Calvin’s standoffish nature. Rather disillusioned with the whole idea of heroism, Calvin rejects FBI agents who want to recruit him for a mission to essentially save the world.

The scenario in which the world needs saving happens when Bigfoot is unleashed on Canada, carrying a disease that stands to wipe out humanity. Unless Bigfoot can be tracked down and killed, the U.S. Army will nuke Canada, taking out a chunk of both countries and probably devastating the world. As the only surviving person immune to the disease, Calvin is Earth’s last hope.

An older man leans against a tree in the woods, holding a walkie-talkie and propping up a rifle with his leg.

Of course, Calvin comes around eventually, but by no means enjoys his role. Though he tracks down Bigfoot fairly easily, his prey is resilient and tricky. Bigfoot manages to do quite a lot of damage to Calvin in a dramatic fight–will the man who killed Bigfoot also be the man killed by Bigfoot?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

As promised in the title, this is indeed the story of the man who killed Hitler and the Bigfoot. However, I feel the title implies a certain level of campy fun, senseless violence, and/or terrible special effects, but it fails to deliver on any of this.

This is more of a character study, which is fine considering the character is played by Sam Elliott (accompanied by the cutest dog). It feels quite a lot like a Western too, given Calvin’s ambivalence towards heroism, status as a legend and rugged loner, and old-fashioned sense of honor. There’s an element of romantic drama here as well–but like all of the other genres this film falls into, it almost gets there but never quite works as any of these stories. It’s rather disjointed and feels like several unrelated stories.

It doesn’t help that the supporting characters are so pointless. Admittedly, it’s virtually impossible to measure up to Sam Elliott, but these characters are so 2-dimensional it hurts. Maxine is ridiculously boring, the FBI agents are aggravating, and even Calvin’s brother Ed isn’t particularly memorable. Standing ovation for that dog, though.

Would my blog wife wander ruggedly around with this one or kill it like it’s Hitler (and Bigfoot)? Find out by reading her review here!

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two shirtless men sleep side by side with arms around each other
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am Michael, or: To Be Gay or Not to Be

What sounds like a more interesting film:  one in which a legendary Chilean poet evades the law and narrowly escapes the cops or one about a man who moves to Canada and leans into Christian fundamentalism?  Subjectivity aside, the latter also features Zachary Quinto’s excellent eyebrow acting and the approach of a Lifetime movie to its subject matter.  And honestly, a film earns a lot of credit from me when it avoids heavy-handed narration.

The Film:

I Am Michael

The Premise:

The story of a gay activist who ultimately rejects his sexuality in favor of Christianity.

The Ramble:

“If you’re a moral person, you’ll choose to be straight.”  Not exactly the opener you’d expect for a film about a gay activist.  Except this activist is Michael Glatze, a man who edited a gay magazine in San Francisco before renouncing his sexuality in favor of Christianity.  That’s a lot to process, no?  Let’s back up a few years.

Before coming out as straight, Michael (played by James Franco) was in a serious relationship with love of my life Spock Zachary Quinto Bennett.  Michael is very much part of the gay community:  attending all-night raves, mourning traumatic events including the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Three men cheer amidst a larger group of people at a club. The men are wearing glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets as accessories.

When Bennett gets a job in Halifax, Michael’s life changes dramatically.  Instead of dedicating his time to the magazine, he gives talks to local schools, writes a lot of blog content, and eventually begins working in a soul-crushing office job.

After a year passes, Michael doesn’t feel any better adjusted to his new life.  When he fights with Bennett, Michael goes off in search of dudes, and picks up a cute young guy named Tyler.  Michael and Bennett begin an open relationship with Tyler, eventually traveling across the country with him to complete a documentary.

Two men walk through a meadow of white wildflowers. The man in front holds a flower and wears a backwards red baseball cap, blue t-shirt and jeans. The man behind him has blond hair, and wears a red t-shirt and jeans.

While filming the documentary about queer youth in the U.S., the three encounter a gay student at Liberty University (I’m sorry, but gross gross gross gross gross; I’m so creeped out by Liberty).  Though he identifies as gay, the student embraces his Christian identity and begins praying with his troubled friend.

Michael begins to wonder if he can have it all, identifying as both a gay man and a Christian.  However, he opts for living quietly with his doubts, going to church and reading the Bible in secret.

A group of people meditate on rugs in a large room with wooden floors and walls. They sit with crossed legs and eyes closed, and a man in a blue tank top and black shorts is the most prominent.

Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly preoccupied with his mortality and fears above all that the afterlife is just nothingness.  After a panic attack, he becomes convinced he has the heart condition that killed his father.

When he insists there’s a lot of love in the Bible, Michael earns some eyebrow raises from Bennett and Tyler.  He explores the Mormon church and Buddhism, drawn to their clear visions of the afterlife and potential to solve his so-called homosexual problem.  After moving out, he claims he is no longer gay.

What’s up with that?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s something about this film that stays with me.  It may not be brilliant, but Zachary Quinto is great as ever and even James Franco gives a decent performance.  Possibly because he plays a character who’s a bit of an asshole?

It makes me sad that Michael broke Bennett’s heart, and it’s disturbing to think about the number of people who still have to lie about who they are in order to have the job and life they want.  To be clear:  I do not sympathize with people who claim they’re persecuted for their Christian beliefs in predominantly Christian nations.  It’s also troubling how Michael buys into the false dichotomy of being part of gay culture or living as the squarest straight dude alive.  I like to think we’re getting better at recognizing the many different ways to identify as LGBTQ, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Narratively, I wish we’d spent a little more time on the impact of Michael’s actions on Bennett and the gay community as a whole.  I don’t really care if someone’s sexual orientation changes (though obv the idea that you can choose this is problematic AF), but the really shitty thing Michael did was perpetuate a horrible culture that tells young people their sexuality is a sin to be corrected.  I also feel we could use some more insight into Michael’s interiority while recognizing that I don’t ever want to know what’s really going on inside this guy’s head.

The only thing certain is that blonde James Franco is the douchiest James Franco.

Would my blog wife accept this one as it is or ditch it faster than a blonde James Franco?  Read her review here to find out!

A room full of police officers seated at tables face the front of a meeting room. Among many humans, one officer is a blue orc.
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bright, or: Just the Two of Orcs

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Christmas programming for what is the greatest Christmas gift of all on the blog:  a terrible Netflix original movie about cops, orcs, prophecies, and CGI creatures completely real mythical beings.

The Film:

Bright

The Premise:

Two members of the LAPD–one orc, one Will Smith–team up to prevent the prophesied return of the generic medieval fantasy-type dark wizard.

The Ramble:

Like any fantasy worth its weight in …unicorn dust(?), this one begins with a vague prophecy that attempts to be intriguing but is really just minorly irritating.  I can’t even remember what it is at this point.  Magic, magic, Dark Lord, orcs, you’re a wizard Harry.  Something along those lines.  Surely these words won’t affect our unsuspecting protagonists in modern day Los Angeles.

Note that modern day Los Angeles is a place where humans coexist with all manner of fantasy creatures:  orcs, elves, centaurs, fairies, dragons, and the like.  As one would expect, there’s an established hierarchy, with orcs as essentially the lowest of the low.  Elves, on the other hand, are akin to the 1% and even have their own district with way nicer cars and cleaner streets.  Humans seem to fall somewhere in the middle of all this.

This includes Will Smith, an officer with the LAPD.  After dramatically being shot by an orc, Will (aka Daryl Ward) is returning for his first day of work in months.  His partner Nick Jakoby is the only orc on the force, and as such is under constant suspicion by the other cops.  The situation for Nick hasn’t improved since an orc shot his partner and then escaped.

a woman in police uniform talks to a police officer
BTW, Margaret Cho is in this.

Though Ward tries to keep things professional, he obviously holds a grudge towards Nick, constantly shutting down his partner and trying to undermine him.  Not cool.  When Internal Affairs gets involved with the investigation of Ward’s shooting, he’s ready to be rid of his partner but would rather do so without any shady schemes.  The Internal Affairs reps persuade him to record his conversations with Nick and draw a career ending confession from him.

Meanwhile, Ward and Nick respond to a disturbance downtown in which a crazy guy with a sword is saying shit about the prophecy and making threats.  After they take him into custody, he tells Nick the Dark Lord is returning to claim orc hearts.  This guy is later interrogated by an elf and humans that are part of the FBI for magic.

a grubby man without a shirt blocks a busy intersection, brandishing a sword
You shall not…park here!

It may also interest you or at least be relevant for you to know that 3 wands are needed to resurrect the Dark Lord.  The catch is that only a bright can wield a wand without dying painfully.  Most brights are elves, but it is possible for a human to be a bright.  Any human, you say?  Even a cynical policeman whose life thus far has shown no indication of any magical tendencies?

Our story doesn’t go along too much further before Ward and Nick encounter a bright with a wand, an elf named Tikka.  Since the wand comes with so much power and is so valuable, the cops decide to kill Nick and take the wand for themselves.  They pressure Ward to go along with this plan, but of course he ends up being just too honorable.

a human and an orc in police uniforms walk into a dark room, guns drawn
Collateral Blue-ty?  That’s the one Will Smith movie pun I’ve got for this post.

Just when Ward and Nick escape the corrupt cops, they encounter members of a gang who make their intentions clear with incredibly painful street talk.  Ah-eh-eh-em:  “Word on the street, there’s a wand in this ‘hood” and “The wand belongs to the barrio” are 2 shining examples.

Basically, the point here is that everyone wants the wand.  Ward, Nick, and Tikka must dodge all of their rivals and prevent their worst enemy from rising in the form of the Dark Lord.

This, of course, leads to a showdown between our 3 heroes and the evil group of elves who want to bring the Dark Lord back to wreak havoc, destruction, etc on the world.  Who will emerge triumphant?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Though it promises a genre-bending thrill ride, this one is sadly forgettable.  Most of the plot feels like a carbon copy of all other police dramas, and it’s too reluctant to fully embrace its weirdness.  The fantasy elements seem tacked on unnecessarily rather than fresh or fun.  That’s one of the biggest disappointments of this film–for such an off-the-wall premise, there’s a distinct lack of fun here.

The social commentary about racism tries really hard, but it doesn’t feel particularly noteworthy, nor half as clever as it thinks it is.  In fact, some of the especially cringeworthy gang stereotypes undermine that message.  I want to give this film props for trying, but it gets a lot wrong and handles things too clumsily for it to succeed.

Additionally, the characters and character relationships fall flat.  I think(?) Ward is supposed to be the grizzled old timer and Nick the wide-eyed rookie cop, but both feel bland and tired.  I guess they’re so boring they deserve each other, but at the same time I didn’t get a sense of a genuine connection between the two.  There’s never a time when the relationship between Ward and Nick shifts, even after facing countless near death experiences together.  Beyond that, the minor characters are pretty uninteresting too, and Ward’s wife and daughter are basically props.

There’s nothing to mark this as a blight to film making; on the other hand, there’s nothing much to remember about this one at all.

Would Christa raise this one from the dead as prophesied or push it down a bottomless pit?  Find out in her review here!

A group of four teenage boys and two teenage girls dressed in 1970s attire stand in front of a football field
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Dazed and Confused: Film Title or Current Emotional State?

This week concludes high school month, which is somewhat bittersweet.  Largely because we don’t have a theme for next month, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Don’t worry—we’ll do some research BEFORE making our minds up unlike some, ahem, recent decisions internationally (sorry, Christa, I’ll cool it with the political asides).

The Film:

Dazed and Confused

Where to Watch:

You’re on your own

The Premise:

Teens celebrate the beginning of the summer of ’76 with the timeless American traditions of beating people up, driving pick-up trucks, and smoking weed.  A lot of weed.

The Uncondensed Version:

This is about teenagers, so of course everyone’s big concern is what they will be doing tonight, the first night of summer.  Will it be another night of hanging with the guys, going to the big party, finding some weed, or just sort of being an asshole for no reason?  Yes.

But that’s not really the point of this film so much as taking a snapshot of what it was like to be in high school in the ‘70s.  Fortunately, remembering all of the characters’ names also not really the point.

You have your jocks, of course, as in every high school movie.  Half of them, including Ben Affleck with the most ‘70s hair in existence, spend the bulk of this film chasing around freshmen and spanking them with a paddle (not a euphemism).  We also follow the freshmen Ben Affleck torments, who continuously outsmart him and manage to make a pretty great night of it.

A man with a feathered haircut wields a cricket bat
What do you mean you didn’t like Batman vs. Superman??!???!

On the other end of the jock spectrum is some dude whose name as a character and as an actor I don’t remember.  Whoever he is, he’s the last holdout on this new policy—all sports ball players must sign an agreement not to smoke a lot of weed, amongst other nefarious activities.  This guy is just one hair’s breadth away from becoming a conscientious objector as he is extremely reluctant to sign the agreement.  Which is pretty admirable, TBH, especially when you consider how many papers I sign without actually reading them.

Anyway, so school ends and the freshman hazing begins.  This means getting the shit beaten out of you if you’re a dude, and for some reason sitting in the back of a pick-up truck with a pacifier if you’re a girl?  Whatever, I didn’t make the rules.  The girls also have to lie on the ground while the upperclassmen pour ketchup, mustard, flour, eggs, etc. on them.  My biggest takeaway from this movie is that kids are mean fuckers (I could’ve told you that for free, man).

Teenage girls lie on the ground while being covered with condiments
Ah, the…good old days?

Yet another part of the hazing involves the freshman girls proposing marriage to various guys, one of whom has sort of a blonde John Lennon vibe.  If that even makes sense.  I know there’s only a 3-4 year age gap at most, but he looks SO much older than this freshman girl.  But I’ll try to be more open-minded.  (No, I won’t.)

This, of course, is all before Matthew McConaughey and his signature “Alright alright alright”s show up.  I feel like 50% of people watch this movie solely for the alrights, so I’ll wrap it up here.

A blonde man with a moustache drives a car with two passengers
Mr. Alright Alright himself looking…er, pretty shady with that ’70s ‘stache.

The Rating:

I just didn’t really get this one honestly, though I confess I wasn’t paying the most attention ever because I was also catching up with GoT this weekend.

But beyond that, I wonder if this is a kind of “You had to be there” thing?  I have no particular objections to being a teenager in the ‘70s, but if everyone was that much of an asshole, I’m really glad I wasn’t.  My general feelings of not giving a fuck about high school and not so much pausing for a backward glance probably don’t contribute in a positive sort of way.

I just felt kind of “eh” about this one and wanted to kick a lot of these kids in the shins.

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Was Christa similarly dazed and confused or…perceptive and…lucid?  Find out by reading her review here!