Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Happytime Murders

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! This ain't your daddy's puppets...wait, actually, they probably are.



The Happytime Murders – 2 out of 5

Sometimes people equate what constitutes adult entertainment with a rating.  I see people complain all the time that Marvel isn’t catering to adults because they make PG-13 movies and that instantly makes them “kids’ stuff” somehow. Never mind the fact their tales have drama and morals that pretty much any demographic can relate to but there are people who like to show what big boys they are and they do that by watching R-rated movies.  For some reason, hearing swear words, seeing graphic violence and partaking in nudity means they’re more adult than other people.  If that’s all it takes to make a person happy, more power to them but I need some substance with the F-bombs, boobs and blood.  The Happytime Murders might be enough for guys who crave seeing puppets have sex but, for me, the film was a dead horse joke that feels more like an exploration of what a 13 year old thinks is adult entertainment than something that is actually catering to the adult sensibilities.

A down-on-his-luck private investigator...but in puppet form.

Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is a disgraced puppet police officer who is trying to earn a living as a private investigator.  He is hired by another puppet named Sandra (Dorien Davies) to find out who is blackmailing her and the investigation leads to a string of murders.  Someone is killing the cast members of an old 90s sitcom called “The Happytime Gang” and Phil reluctantly agrees to team-up with his old partner; Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy).  However, it’s not long before the trail of bodies leads to Phillips and he becomes the primary suspect.

I absolutely adore McCarthy but sometimes she attaches herself to comedies
that aren't worthy of her talent.

If I was 14, I probably would have liked The Happytime Murders more but since I’m nearing 40 putting puppets in sexual situations, hearing them say “fuck,” seeing them do drugs and having a plot point that literally revolves around a puppet’s vagina isn’t enough for me.  As a preteen (and probably all the way into my late-teens) this would have made me giggle because it would have felt so forbidden but as an adult, this whole movie just felt juvenile.  Immature humor is not something I'm above but there is definitely an art to it.  Just throwing puppets into sexual and ultra-violent scenarios just felt lazy and like it was going for the bottom of the barrel gags.  It’s like when something tries so hard to be mature and gritty that it ends up feeling childish, that was my experience with this film.  It doesn't help matters that this film is basically just repeating this very narrow formula and it doesn't get better the more times you see it.

In case you're curious, you see this puppet's vagina.

Is Michael McDonald good friends with McCarthy?
He always shows up in her films.
There are some things that work very well, however, in The Happytime Murders.  I found most of the jokes got an eye-roll from me but there are definitely times that I found the gags and humor to be amusing.  Additionally, the performances from the human actors are excellent.  Finally, the puppeteering in the film is truly astounding and absolutely impressive.  The material of the story and humor aside, the way they integrated the puppets really helped build the world and make it believable.  They also did movements and character interactions I haven’t previously seen before in the world of puppets and it was extremely impressive.  This work alone was so outstanding that it nearly singlehandedly made me give the film a middle-of-the-road score of 3 out of 5.  However, as great as this aspect is, it isn’t good enough to erase just how unfunny and mediocre I found this viewing experience.

Okay, I will concede that the film having dogs as weapons against puppets because
they look like chew toys is a funny idea.

And if you are familiar with No, You Shut Up!, you'll
recognize this puppet here.
The real killer for the film for me was I just didn’t find it funny.  I’ve seen adult puppet projects work in the past (No, You Shut Up!) and I’ve seen ones that I liked when I was younger and found they didn’t age well when I watched it as an adult (Meet the Feebles) but The Happytime Murders was one that I felt didn’t work from the get-go.  It has its moments but too often the humor feels like it is solely relying on the fact that the events you are seeing is being perpetrated to or done by puppets and too often in this film that wasn’t enough.  To put it simply, a majority of the gags in the film felt like the punchline was just, “It’s a puppet doing it.”  Here’s an orgasm joke…but it’s a puppet doing it.  Here’s a joke about a crackhead ready to exchange sexual favors for drugs…but it’s a puppet doing it.  It feels repetitive and never felt like it was enough to carry a joke on, let alone an entire movie.  Too often the jokes and gags rely on puppets doing indecent things and not enough of them are jokes and gags inspired and derived from the plot and story.  This gives the humor the feeling of beating a dead horse and why I feel the film feels childish rather than funny with its immaturity.

Honestly, the best joke of the film for me didn't even involve puppets.  It was Connie
leaving her job and saying how she should have had sex with this man...
McCarthy's real-life husband.

The Happytime Murders, from a technical standpoint in its puppetry, is astounding and really an amazing feat.  Sadly, though, I didn’t find it funny and it made for an experience that was kinda boring and broken only by moments of occasion chuckles and times of awe as I was amazed by the puppet work.  Ron in Middle School would have found this film hilarious because there are puppets buying porn and doing drugs in this film but Ron in his late 30s finds this piece of entertainment soulless and lazy, not even good enough to be mindless comedy that's nothing but fluff and yet still good for a laugh.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Bird Box

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Gross, boxes made of birds?!?



Bird Box – 2 out of 5

Is it possible that there is a person who has no idea what Bird Box is?  With its months of promotion to all the stories about how many people streamed it to the endless memes that have been created out of it, does the possibility exist that there is at least one person in the world who has no idea what this movie is?  Of course, there is.  Almost all things are possible.  Now, different question:  Is the movie worthy of the hype?  For me?  Nope.

Plot Twist:  The bird was inside us the whole time...because the bird is the
real monster and it kills from within.

Shit, now Louis CK has gone rapid and is attacking
women in boats.
A pregnant artist; Malorie (Sandra Bullock), is escorted to the hospital by her sister (Sarah Paulson) for a checkup as reports of mass suicides and widespread panic spread across Europe.  The reports claim that people are seeing mysterious creatures that drive the people insane.  After the checkup, the occurrence spreads to the U.S., and Malorie loses her sister in the process and is forced to find security in a nearby home.  As the world crumples and dies outside the walls, she tries to survive with the small group she is with and that includes giving birth to her baby.  Inside, they learn that as long as they never look at the monster, they will never succumb to the madness; however, a day comes when she hears of a sanctuary from the unseen monsters and now must risk a long journey with two children at her side and no way to see the horrors that exist in front of her.

I don't have to say anything about John Malkovich's character because whatever
assumptions you are making about who and what he played, there is a
90% chance you are correct.

I really wanted to like Bird Box because it starts great.  As the madness hits the world around Bullock’s character, it really grabbed me.  Additionally, there is a terrific cast.  You got Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, Lil Rel Howery, BD Wong and tons more.  However, I ended not enjoying this film.  In fact, the longer the movie went (and, sadly, this one does not have a reasonable running length for its premise and tale) the more I found I was getting bored and just wanted it to end.  So, despite me really enjoying the beginning, where did it all go wrong for me?

"Run, this movie is essentially a tweaked version of The Happening but with
slightly better acting."

Right off the bat, the story’s antagonistic threat (the unseen monster that has no form or substance) has a major plot hole connected to it that drove me bonkers.  I won’t get into the details of it due to spoilers but let’s say that the longer the film went the more annoying and grating I found it.  The film also has major issues with its characters.  While the cast is filled with tremendously talented people, the characters they are playing aren’t very dimensional and are honestly flat and boring.  They lacked the depth necessary for me to get invested in their plight.  On a basic level I wanted to see Bullock, the children and others survive because they were decent human beings and don’t deserve to go insane and kill themselves but on a more dynamic scale the writing never presents any of them beyond simplistic character traits so they ended up just being faces in a crowd or empty shells that I couldn’t invest emotionally over.  The biggest killer, though, and the thing that ultimately made getting to the credits feel a bit like a chore, is the fact I found nothing thriller or tense within the conflict.

Oh, I get it.  The movie is a metaphor and Malorie represents white people
and the monster represents their white privilege and the blind fold is
how they choose to ignore it and act like it isn't there.


When the madness is going down at the beginning, I was entertained and engaged with all the insanity of the people around Malorie.  While I openly admit I didn’t find this part of the film scary or tense, I did find it entertaining because it promised so much potential for something to happen later.  The major promise this type of scene offers is insanity on a smaller scale—something more personal and threatening than mass mayhem.  This is where the film felt flat for me because the experience felt very passive rather than active.  A film like A Quiet Place spoke to me because the film is crafted to make the viewer feel like they are a part of the action.  With a minimal score and sound design that put the viewer into the same spot as the characters, it created tense and heightened moments of suspense and terror.  Bird Box never accomplishes this, in my opinion.  The main selling point is this threat forces you to abandon your sense of sight but that is only true of the characters.  As a viewer, I see everything that is going on and a sense of the unknown is taken away from me.  This happens despite the fact you never actually get to see the monster but you see enough of its carnage that the mystique is stolen away.  Occasionally, we get a first person POV of the main characters in their blindfolds but these moments are fleeting and hold no impact when they come and go.  When this lack of atmosphere and tension is added to a running length that felt too long and the entire experience feels tedious and overdone before the third act ever arrived.

Maybe the real reason I don't like this film is because of how it wasted
the talents of Lil Rel Howery.

I really wanted to like Bird Box because it does have a lot of potential.  It has small problems like trivial characters that are hard to invest in but its major problems like a story that drags (and honestly feels aimless at points) to its complete lack of atmosphere ended up making the film incredibly forgettable and feeling like it was nothing more than hype.  Sadly, the memes are more entertaining and satisfying than the actual film.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! With a name like Buster Scruggs, I would have thought his song would be a ragtime sort of ditty.



The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – 3 out of 5

I’ve enjoyed the Coen brothers' work for some time now and when I heard that they made an anthology western film for Netflix, I didn’t need to hear anything else.  I was on board with just the basic information.  Due to the holidays and regular run-of-the-mill insanity that comes with everyday living, I wasn’t able to watch this the moment it was uploaded to the streaming site but I finally caught The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and…well, I kinda found it underwhelming.

Not even the presence of Clancy Brown was enough to make me feel anything
more than "meh" towards the film.

Not many can pull off the white cowboy suit but TBN
does it.
This yarn from the Old West covers 6 different tales.  There’s Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a singing outlaw with a blazing fast draw who realizes that there’s always someone faster.  There’s a cowboy (James Franco) who finds himself one-upped by a bank teller (Stephen Root) and now sees the noose in his future.  An Impresario (Liam Neeson) and his quadriplegic artist (Harry Melling) take up the third tale and focuses on how hard it is to make a living as a performer during the era.  In the fourth story, there’s gold in them thar hills and one lonely prospector (Tom Waits) is out to find it.  The fifth story centers around a young woman named Alice (Zoe Kazan) traveling across the plains on a journey to meet the man she is to marry.  Sadly, life out on the range is hard and misfortune is out to find her instead.  Finally, the last tale circles around an Englishman (Jonjo O’Neill), an Irishman (Brendan Gleeson), a Frenchman (Saul Rubinek), a devout Christian woman (Tyne Daly) and a rugged fur trapper (Chelcie Ross) who are all sharing a stagecoach to Colorado.  The share their thoughts and experiences they’ve all had on life but soon things take a turn when they learn who the Englishman and Irishman are and what their business is at their destination.

The noose is a metaphor for a noose that hangs you after you've committed crimes.
I'm not good with metaphors.

Anthology collections can be unique experiences to view and hard to review due to their structure.  Collected stories means finding the overall quality of the sum total of its parts is incredibly difficult.  Even worse, varying quality of the stories can end up having an adverse effect on the entirety.  As it concerns Buster Scruggs, I really wanted to like it more than I found myself liking it but since I found two of the stories to be lacking and impossible for me to engage with, I ended up feeling like the whole product was mediocre.

I'll be honest, I found the product to be mediocre but I still liked it more than
most Westerns I've seen in my life.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs starts out strong as hell.  The first four stories are amazing.  Well-crafted visually, the performances are outstanding and the stories were captivating.  Some were funny, some were engaging and intriguing and some were emotional and dramatic.  All of them, however, were very entertaining.  Sadly, the final two stories were where the film lost me.  The final story had some potential to grab me and I liked aspects of it but it felt like it was just meandering for too much of it.  This wandering feel is also seen in the fifth story and, to make matters worse, the fifth story centers around a woman—a type of character the Coens aren’t so good at writing for.  Having two bad stories in an anthology film isn’t bad in and of itself but these two stories came one right after another and I found them to be dragging and, honestly, incredibly boring.  Having the film end with these two tales tainted the entire product for me and I ended up walking away finding the ending feature to be average and middle-of-the-road.

I can't tell if my favorite story is the one that involves Tom Waits is because
I'm a huge fan of the man's music or because it legitimately is a great
story.

Anthology films can be very fun and wickedly creative.  There’s also a challenge because you need to establish characters, settings, and situations in a short amount of time and do so in a way that doesn’t feel like you are just being told what is happening.  I really wanted to like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs a lot more then I ended up liking it.  Most of it is totally amazing and extremely entertaining but some of it was just bad enough that it left an undesirable aftertaste.  When this movie is great, it’s funny and captivating but when this movie dipped, it dipped so deeply that it was extremely boring.  Even worse, when the product hits this low point it ended up staying there and there was nothing about it that was able to pull me back in.