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Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: The Half in the Bag Review

December 20, 2015

For those of us who loathed the soul-draining prequels, the deconstructions crafted over at Red Letter Media — known as the Plinkett reviews — were somewhat cathartic, breaking down our pain and somehow making it very entertaining. So it’s kind of crazy, but like many people I looked forward to hearing what these same people would have to say about The Force Awakens, almost as much as I was looking forward to the movie — a corporate product that sits someplace between the two trilogies on the quality continuum. And we finally have the Half in the Bag review above. Break out the pizza rolls!

[Insert cringe-worthy Force-based pun here] – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 18, 2015


I won’t start this off with some long harangue about what Star Wars means to me personally blah blah blah — I think there’s enough of that floating around the internet already, and I’ll refrain from adding to that pile. I’ll just say this: I had a bet with my college roommate that A) one day there would be Star Wars sequels, and that B) Mark Hamill would be a part of them. Mike, if you’re reading this, you owe me ten dollars. I was right — but just barely, as we’ll get to in a moment.

So, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s here, J.J. Abrams’ and Disney’s continuation of the biggest franchise in movie history. Reviews thus far have been extremely enthusiastic, after the prequels of the last decade dramatically lowered the bar. And, to this movie’s credit, it never sinks to the depths that those entries did, where the whole theater was tittering about how silly things were, and you were flat out embarrassed to be there. No small thing.

But Awakens isn’t up to the originals. It just isn’t, no matter how much we want it to be. Awakens is okay. It’s serviceable. It’s quite good at times. But it never displays the effortless effervescence that captured imaginations so long ago. It tries far too hard to strip-mine all the nostalgia it can, wringing that damp washcloth for all it’s worth. And the story is as bare-bones as you can get, with entire just-because set pieces thrown in to pad out the runtime. And yeah, there’s a Death Star with a trench run. [Insert Red Letter Media “It’s like poetry, it rhymes” jokes here.]

In short, it’s kind of good. Vast swathes of the viewing public will be happily sated. But kind of good isn’t what we came to expect back when Han, Luke and Leia were on the silver screen. That’s all I’m saying.

I get into some spoiler territory on the next page. Read on if you’re so inclined. Read more…

Star Trek: Beyond — because it’s always been about motorcycles and Beastie Boys!

December 14, 2015

Is there a colon in this title? I’m putting a colon in this title. Read more…

Plan ahead for next year’s Independence Day: Resurgence celebration!

December 13, 2015

The above trailer for Independence Day into Darkness, I mean, Independence Day:Resurgence lacks the surprise oomph of the classic tease for the original, but we won’t hold that against it. Read more…

The trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse into Darkness has arrived!

December 11, 2015

2016 is shaping up to be a race to see which comic book movie can cram the most characters into its runtime and thus maybe turn itself into one of the great cluster—-s in the history of cinema. Civil War and Batman v Superman are both aiming high on the goofy scale, and Bryan Singer’s latest edition of the X-franchise is clearly throwing its hat into the ring with this exposition-heavy trailer.

Sophie Turner, perpetually beset, beleaguered and distressed just like in Game of Thrones! Ivan Ooze! Magneto inexplicably having nothing to say! Jennifer Lawrence, playing out her contractual string! Be there!

The new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has arrived, with verbal jousting, punches and Doomsday

December 3, 2015

I’ve never quite understood all the hate for 2013’s Man of Steel, which I quite liked. The biggest of the problems people seem to have with it — the wide-spread destruction and Superman killing Zod — seem easily explainable with a simple second of thought: it was the big blue’s first day on the job, and he was going up against an unhinged maniac of equal/greater power. Our dear Kal-El didn’t have time to perform the (excessive) civilian-saving heroics of Age of Ultron, much less his usual kitten rescues, but instead had to stop this guy who, if he wasn’t put down, was going to kill, you know, everybody. (Would it have been better if when his enemy was at his mercy he simply crushed Zod’s hand and threw him into an icy chasm for laughs? Because that was in a movie that’s mostly beloved.) Plus, from what we’ve seen, these things make up the bone that Batman and Superman are scrapping over in their first cinematic meeting. Payoff! Read more…

The Captain America: Civil War teaser has arrived, rife with Avenger-on-Avenger violence

November 25, 2015

Listen, the Marvel movies are a lot of fun — no argument here on that. But the last big tentpole, this past summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, was a bit underwhelming, heavy on bloat and lacking a concise raison d’être. It had problems. It was fun in many ways — James Spader’s voice! Vision! —  but it didn’t have the “gotta see it again” imperative of its predecessor, and felt more like a cinematic holding pattern as we all wait on the Infinity Gauntlet shenanigans a few years down the line. Read more…

Big Poppa Pump(kin) or Ego the Living Gourd? You decide!

October 31, 2015

Above you see my pumpkin carving effort for the year. I was struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration while watching old pro wrestling clips on YouTube, including some from the infamous “Big Poppa Pump,” Scott Steiner. Read more…

The long-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer stuns? Disappoints?

October 19, 2015

So the Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster was a bit of a Photoshop disappointment, the same boring crap every tentpole movie gets these days. Remember when posters were genuine works of art? Remember when studios trusted audiences to know what actors’ faces look like? Also, remember when Luke Skywalker was supposed to be in this thing? (And, incidentally, is that Mogo the Green Lantern in the upper right-hand corner portraying the Starkiller base, the bigger, badder, unimaginative Death Star 3.0?) Read more…

Let Frank Gorshin impersonating Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Batman and Robin make your day!

August 13, 2015

Not much about the camp 1960s Batman TV show can be regarded as definitive — when Liberace guest stars and is one of the more mundane parts of the ensemble, that’s saying something. But Frank Gorshin’s portrayal of the Riddler is still everyone’s mental image of that character, whether in a book or on a screen. (Jim Carrey’s take, the most recent screen iteration, was pretty much Gorshin’s version thirty years later.) The manic movements and cackling laugh he brought to the table belonged in that outlandish setting, with the written sound effects and relentless alliteration. The Riddler fit right in. More precisely, Gorshin’s Riddler did. And transcended. Read more…

Half in the Bag: Fantastic Four

August 9, 2015


Baleful Bore? – Fantastic Four

August 6, 2015


Few superhero films have ever had as much venom spat their way pre-release as the newest cinematic incarnation of the Fantastic Four. The reasons are many. After two movies in the past decade that were middling at best, Twentieth Century Fox has opted to reboot the franchise so that they can keep their grubby paws on the license, leaving the ever-growing MCU bereft of its most venerable team — not to mention key cosmic character cogs. Director Josh Trank (Chronicle) may or may not have been a complete dick during the filming, requiring studio intervention and extensive re-shoots to salvage whatever could be saved. The Ultimate-esque cast is unspeakably young, and the brother/sister tandem of Sue and Johnny Storm is now biracial, which ignited innumerable Stormfront vs. SJW contretemps in internet comment sections. It became increasingly obvious in the run-up that they had totally befouled Doctor Doom again.

And, last but not least, Fantastic Four is advertised as a “contemporary re-imagining” of the team. Which sounds utterly insufferable. I think we can all agree on one thing: if that phrase was a person, we’d all be lining up to punch it in the face, like it was the hysterical chick in Airplane!.

Now it’s in theaters. And the verdict is? Read more…

Does the Deadpool trailer portend an absolution of Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern sins?

August 5, 2015

I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of Deadpool, a character fallen from the poisonous Rob Liefeld X-tree. And I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of Ryan Reynolds, whose mystifying appeal has baffled since his Van Wilder days. It’s not often that an actor can be part of not one but two botched superhero comic book movies, but his turns in the widely panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern managed to do just that. (We’re all offering up prayers that Affleck doesn’t follow in these footsteps.) So the upcoming Deadpool film is a potential collision course of suck. Read more…

Roddy Piper, RIP

July 31, 2015

A flight of coconuts to the head sing thee to thy rest, Mr. Piper. Accompanied by bagpipes, of course.

Half in the Bag: Pixels

July 27, 2015

I’ve only seen one Adam Sandler movie in a theater, and Punch-Drunk Love was more a movie that Adam Sandler happened to be in. I’d have to be heavily sedated to be dragged to any of his cinematic offerings. So I won’t be seeing Pixels. But thankfully we have the fine gentlemen at Half in the Bag, who watch this crap so we don’t have to. Enjoy. Or not.