Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Not Worth The Effort – Paul Blart, Focus, Chronicles of Riddick

Well, this is it, folks.  We have officially hit that season of the year when we’re running on fumes, pulling from reserve posts written over the summer and unpublished until now.  Much though we’d like to keep growing this website on a twice-weekly basis, other obligations will hereby prohibit us from delivering the content you so crave quite as regularly.  You never know what you got till it’s gone.  While we finalize an article explaining with pictures and empirical evidence why Rotten Tomatoes is kind of rotten, here’s a rundown of some 2015 titles that were neither fresh nor gross but merely stale.

Paul Blart Mall Blarb 2 –

I don’t get why everybody hates the Paul Blart movies.  I don’t get why this one in particular has a 6% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter.  It tells me that the Rotten Tomatoes meter is kind of broken.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 may aim really low on the comedic scale but it accomplishes everything it sets out to do.  These are the cinematic equivalent of an America’s Funniest Home Videos highlights reel, and I for one find them hilarious.  If you watch this on cable or get it through Redbox for a dollar and two quarters, you’ll get to see Kevin James run straight into an invisible glass door, fall down a flight of stairs in a suitcase and nail a bad guy on the way, defeat a smaller, nimbler henchman by rolling all over her on his back, dispatch another henchman by swerving madly on his segway, and do a lot of other incredibly stupid things I’ll refrain from spoiling because they really cracked me up when they happened.

Many critics seem to hate this just because they think Kevin James is a fat, talentless Adam Sandler piggybacker (we have another word for this in college) who falls down a lot and exploits his weight as a substitute for real humor, unlike Chris Farley, who did so much more, or something.  Chris Farley is dead. He will never make another movie, skit, or anything.  Will Kevin James ever leave as strong an impact on American culture as Chris Farley?  Probably not.  But is that really a bad thing?  Kevin James doesn’t need to be Chris Farley, and expecting him to be is wildly unfair to him as a professional bumbling idiot.

Yes, the central dramatic arc of Paul Blart accepting his daughter growing up and both learning to trust and respect the other is very cheesy and predictably handled, but those scenes comprise such a small percentage of the movie that I just took them as an opportunity to go make popcorn.  The heterochromic antagonist, who’s reprising basically the same role from Red 2 but with much less charisma, gives away the cause of his later downfall pretty far in advance (oatmeal sunblock lotion, if there is such a thing), but you’re not watching a movie like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 for a twisty, thrill-packed heist-prevention crime drama.  You’re watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 to see Kevin James flop over on his back and lap up strawberry drips from an unobservant patron’s melting ice-cream cone.  I pity the fool who can’t even chuckle at that.

Distraction –

Part of me really wishes that Focus was made solely for the purpose of showcasing Margot Robbie’s stunning beauty. As such it would make a very fine, not that guilty pleasure for dejected males who sit before their computer screens, write about movies, and have no hope of attracting the fairer sex.  Director (… internet loading…) – directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa do an excellent job overall of sexualizing one of the most attractive celebrities alive today without flat-out objectifying her, if that makes sense, which it doesn’t, but props to them for making up a hackneyed Hollywood script just to parade her face in front of a camera.  Heck, if I didn’t follow professional, AP-style rules for my reviews and could recommend the film on the subjective basis of Robbie’s femininity alone, I would do so in a heartbeat.

I guess I will.  Why not?  Why else would a guy burn good time on such a pointless and staggeringly mediocre romantic thriller as this?  It doesn’t mess anything up that royally, but if you’re going to watch Focus, you shouldn’t be doing so for the plot, dialogue, soundtrack, cinematography or acting, all of which are serviceable pillars of the whole but not outstanding on their own.  Robbie and Smith act believably chummy together except when they’re not supposed to be, and it’s interesting how their partnership, criminal camaraderie, and love develop over two major con jobs that are separated by three years.  The second of these scams gets needlessly convoluted with too many players and respective motives to keep track of, so many in fact that I doubt the writers themselves knew who was screwing whom and tried to compensate for the lack of cohesion by throwing in some touching moments between a son and his formerly absent father.  The truth that said father, whose existence has barely been established through dialogue, is indeed Will Smith’s father is blatant from the moment he unexpectedly returns to a scene he just vacated, but just in case the stupid audience doesn’t get it, he calls his boy “Marshmallow” and makes some other chiding, Dr. Jones-ish remarks dispelling any uncertainty over his identity.

Aside from Margot Robbie being gorgeous and the romantic elements functioning relatively smoothly, what does Focus do really well?  Nothing much.  There’s a spattering of fun, engaging scenes throughout, particularly when Nicky Sturgeon (which is more fun to say than Will Smith) is training new recruit Jess Something how to pick valuables off of distracted people, a trick she’s virtually guaranteed to turn against him at least once.  The film also manages some moments of real tension, as in a prolonged gambling standoff at the Super Bowl where Sturgeon repeatedly raises the stakes as we and Robbie beg him to take his money and run.  In general it’s nice to see Will Smith once again playing a character with some charisma and comedic pluck, though it’s also true that I’d accept pretty much anything remotely funny from Mr. Smith after he stoically sat in a pod and barked orders at Jaden all through After Earth.  Even the advertising makes him look a lot more crazy and loudmouthed than he really is; e.g. the main trailer shows him at a party yelling, “Where are the black people!” but in the context of the movie he’s actually trying to fulfill a deal that requires convincing the other guests he’s drunk.

Focus is an acceptably entertaining timekiller that shouldn’t put you to asleep even if you’re drunk like Will Smith.  Trusth me.  I mean, what else are ya going to watch?  Straight Outta Compton?  Sausssage fesht.

I’m tellin’ you, that Harley Quinn movie is going to be amazing.

Riddicking Around

I’m trying to watch The Chronicles of Riddick, but it all looks so cheap and dull and fake that I have to keep hitting the fast-forward button until some shooting happens and I still have no idea who is winning.  Most of the movie is set underground, and whenever the characters venture to the surface everything looks like CG test footage that didn’t receive the proper tuning.  It may just be the fakest-looking sci-fi movie of the 21st century, in the same league as Battlefield Earth, which at least offered some entertainment in its technical ineptitude.  Like Battlefield Earth, Chronicles of Riddick is replete with gratuitous Dutch angles and goofy costumes, but expands upon that film’s atrociousness with annoying zooms, hyperactive cutting, and a drab color palette that almost makes one yearn for Battlefield’s sickly green and purple tints.  It’s a great movie to present to aspiring filmmakers to show them how not to direct action, if they can make it to the action without falling asleep.

Wikipedia says that The Chronicles of Riddick was panned upon release but has since amassed a “cult” following.  Taking what appears on Wikipedia with a grain of salt, I would beseech anyone who admires this film devotedly to find a better sci-fi groupie club to support.  Look at The Fifth Element, look at Bill and Ted, look at the Tron franchise, look at Firefly, look at Star Trek in all its iterations.  Join the cult of any of these universes, join any of the more mainstream nerd communities – Star Wars, The X-Files, Alien, Transformers –, even join the cult of Buckaroo Banzai, but for the love of God, do not allow a Riddick cult to ever become a reality.

Someone else made this.


  1. I want to see Mall Cop 2 because I actually love Kevin James. I think he is hilarious. Or maybe the writers that write his script are hilarious. Either/ Or.

    Gary and I went to see The Gift last weekend while Kaish and his friends went to see The Visit. Here is the Rotten Tomatoes link: I liked it because it made me think. There were some very monotonous parts. Gary liked it even more than I did. The acting was very good. The ending was a surprise.

    1. Thanks for all the nice comments, Rebeckah. I've wanted to see The Gift since it got fairly high praise from just about everybody, but probably won't get around to it until the DVD release.


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