Thursday, July 13, 2017

Double Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming / Despicable Me 3

Spidey and the Minions once again return to the Silver Screen ...but should they have?


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

Am I the only person out there who is just plum sick of people using the word "community" as if they were real places

You hear this shit all the time on the news. There's the "black community," and the "gay community" and the "Muslim community" and the "transgender community" and "the feminist community" and well, just about every other "community" you can think of. Interestingly, though, you never hear media people refer to right of center interests groups as communities. You'll never flip on the TV and hear Martha Raddatz use the term "the Christian community" and you'll never read anybody on HuffPo refer to "the gun community." And I'm pretty sure no one has EVER used the terms "the white community" or "the male community" or "the straight community" at any point in history. Some in-groups, it appears, are simply beyond representative identity politicking, I take it.

What I can't fathom, however, is how the media keeps getting away with using the term "community" to describe the perceived opinions of millions of people. For example, how many times did your hear CNN and MSNBC and Fox News use the term "black community" during all that Ferguson and Trayvon claptrap? Does that mean that every single black person in America is part of some AARP-like organization? Does every black man, woman and child in the country get a newsletter every month and a plastic card to keep in their wallets as renewable reminders of their own intrinsic blackness? Does it mean blackness alone supersedes all other factors, including socioeconomics and geographical location, in determining one's overall societal value

I mean, is it really a "community" if the members of said "community" have a.) never met 99.999 percent of the people allegedly inside it and b.) don't even have an existential awareness that 99.9998 percent of the people allegedly inside it were ever born and coexist alongside them at the same point in time and space? You know what, let's take a look at Merriam-Webster's entry on "community" and see if the "insert random special interests group here" definition of the word is even technically applicable ... 

What a minute ... doesn't this make people who live in communities, technically, a bunch of no good, stinkin' COMMUNISTS?!?

Strangely enough, the same word keeps popping up - "common." As in, for a community to exist it has to have "common interests," a "common location," a "common history" and "common characteristics." 

Well, right out the gate we can put a big old red "X" over "common interests," because there's no way any group of a million-plus people - let alone one numbering in the hundreds of millions or even billions - can share the exact same interests. Does a multi-billionaire Saudi oil baron have the same interests as some Muslim family bringing in $40,000 a year living in Dearborn, Mich.? Are the interests of Jay-Z and Thomas Sowell identical? Does Peter Thiel have the same interests as some homeless drag queen living in Hell's Kitchen? Not even close, bud. They might share one common trait, but their socioeconomic and political wants - and even existential, day-to-day needs - fluctuate immensely.

Put another big red X over the part about "a common location." So black dudes living in Anchorage have the exact same set of self-preservation interests as black women living in Miami, and transwomen living in San Francisco work under the same conditions as a closeted homosexual living in Riyadh? Sorry, but contemporary circumstances completely outweigh any sense of perceived brotherhood here. Despite that one celebrated communal trait, their divergent surroundings create entirely different existential needs and ideological wants, and that makes any attempts at erecting a pan-cultural identity logically impossible. 

A "common history" doesn't come into play here, either. Does a black guy in Mississippi who comes from a long line of sharecroppers and slaves have the same "common history" as a guy who just moved to New Jersey after working I.T. in Lagos for ten years? Do Muslims in Indonesia have the same "common history" as Iranians? Do gays and transgenders in New York have the same "common history" as gays and transgenders in Moscow? If community is steeped in a sense of shared ancestry, then there's NO WAY the contemporary media definition of "community" is anywhere close to being possible. 

And then there's that stuff about "common characteristics." This one, I suppose, makes a good bit of sense, but at the same time - isn't saying people who share similar physical features have to have the same opinions and outlooks on life just BECAUSE of those features just a teeny, tiny bit prejudiced

Doesn't using such terms belittle individuals and subsume their personal beliefs and character in a giant vacuum of ascribed traits? Don't such collectivist labels thrive on sweeping generalizations about entire groups of people? Aren't such descriptors enforcing an opinion on people and appointing whoever's using it as the legal guardian and spokesperson for millions of individuals without their permission? 

I mean, isn't saying all black people think alike, you know, kind of racist? Isn't saying all homosexuals have the same values systems a bit homophobic? Isn't saying all Muslims share the exact same ideological views the definition of xenophobic and bigoted? And on top of that, don't you think it's plum stupid - and literally impossible - for millions of people to foster the same central beliefs based on just one common characteristic or trait?

You know, let's just come out and say it - "community" ain't nothing but a slightly ritzier way of propagating stereotypes and deriving individuals of their right to represent themselves in the public eye. But that's modern day collectivism for you - an unyielding obsession with identity politics, but only the identity the liberal Wehrmacht wants you to have.

Spider-Man, seen here symbolically giving the white patriarchy what-for by scaling a giant cock-shaped monument to George "Slave-Killer" Washington.

Speaking of things that prolly shouldn't exist, Spider-Man: Homecoming might just be the worst Spider-Man movie yet, and considering how bad the two Andrew Garfield movies were, that's saying something

The really disappointing thing about Homecoming (which, indeed, revolves around an actual homecoming dance at Pete Parker's P-TECH high school) is that the first act is just tremendous. You've got a downright fantastic subplot about Michael Keaton stealing alien technology from the first Avengers movie and using it to sell black market death lasers to low-level hoods and gangbangers and watching Spider-Man run around trying to find criminals to thwart (only to accidentally web up a dude for breaking into his own car and spending the rest of the afternoon blowing up Iron Man's phone talking about churros) is a hoot and a half. Alas, everything after the 40 minute mark gets progressively (regressively?) worse, complete with a third act so bland and by the numbers that they may as well have just spliced in the grand finale from Power Rangers and I don't think anybody in the audience would have been none the wiser. Sheesh, at least Logan and Get Out had the decency to only start sucking in their respective third acts, guys -  meanwhile,this one doesn't even wait until we sneak up on the one hour mark before it starts blowing the proverbial goat.

In case you're wondering how heavy they're laying on the whole hooray for diversity/political correctness is our only true god shtick, we're less than ten seconds in before Michael Keaton's character is criticized for using the term "Indian" instead of "Native American," and for that one linguistic transgression alone we just know he's evil incarnate. Anyhoo, he's your average pissed off old white guy who's mad because the gubberment came in and kicked him off a job cleaning up all the destruction at the end of The Avengers, so naturally, eight years later he's become some kind of weapons kingpin that flies around town in a furry bomber jacket hijacking transfer trucks for the LULZ. 

We watch some cell phone footage of Spider-Man's appearance in Civil War, then Spoon's "The Underdog" starts playing while he walks around his technical high school talking to his morbidly obese Filipino friend about Lego Star Wars toys (so, yeah, this is basically the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, except Miles Morales is a white British kid trying to sound like he's from Queens.) 

Of course, this is Diversity High we're talking about here. Peter's physics teacher is a black woman, Flash Thompson is now a scrawny Indian and we've got not one but two competing love interests retconned from white girls into biracial actresses (including a stand-in for Mary Jane who literally looks more like Dale Gribble's son from King of the Hill than Kirsten Dunst) And just so you can rest you worried little head easy at night, this incarnation of Spider-Man is also a conversationally fluent Spanish speaker, which comes in handy when he accidentally blows up the local Cuban-owned deli. 

So Spidey swings around to "Blitzkrieg Bop" and his fat friend finds out his true identity and convinces him to be his sidekick and all the girls in P.E. play "fuck marry kill" with the cast of The Avengers and Captain America shows up in a detention video and Betty Brant is doing the morning news program at school and Peter goes to a party in the suburbs and realizes his web shooting powers are practically useless there and we encounter a bunch of crooks using anti-gravity weapons and electro-earthquake gloves to jack ATM machines.

Everything up to this point is pretty hunky-dory. In a way, it almost becomes sort of spiritual adaptation of that old '90s comic Astro City, kinda-sorta-somewhat showing us what civilian life is like in an alternate reality where giant space monsters just fall out of the sky and dudes wearing their underwear outside their pants shoot laser death out of their eyeballs to stop purse snatchers. The subplot about the low level criminals becoming super villains by stealing alien technology is absolutely fucking brilliant, giving us great depictions of C-leaguer bad guys like Shocker, The Prowler and even the goddamn fucking Tinkerer and I loved all the little touches that showed how the superhero industrial complex permeates every nook and cranny of "normal human being life" in the MCU. 

And then, the movie starts losing momentum. Aunt May (played by Marissa Tomei) does nothing but squander valuable screen time (although her Tara Tainton-esque looks will undoubtedly inspire a plethora of Rule 34 incest porn on the Netz) and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man shtick (he plays a mentor of sorts to Peter) has become a watered-down self-parody at this point. And then we learn Spider-Man's high-tech suit has a Siri-like voice-activated virtual assistant inside it named Karen, and good gracious, is their interaction boring and unfunny as shit. And hey, wouldn't you know it, a good 15 minute chunk of the movie is dedicated to Spidey and Karen bickering back and forth while stuck in Damage Control's deep storage vault - lucky us. 

By the time Spidey and the local Academic decathalon team make it to the nationals in D.C. (interestingly, the school has no jocks to speak of - then again, why celebrate athletic ability in THIS cinematic universe when technology and experimental liquids can turn you into physical death machines without even once having to hit the gym?) the movie has completely ran out of gas. The elevator collapse in the Washington Monument (which Zendaya's character won't go into because she claims it was built it by slaves) is without drama or intrigue (why the fuck is Spider-Man afraid of heights, anyway?) and the allusion to the first Raimi movie kiss comes off as hokey and even mildly retarded (although I did like one student likening the perilous incident to, of all things, a Bon Jovi concert.)

The last hour of this movie is like having to push a dead car uphill. We watch Spidey monkey around with "enhanced interrogation mode" voice changers and he pulls a barge together in a scene ripping off I mean, homaging Spider-Man 2 and Tony Stark takes his costume away and we learn Liz Allen's dad is actually the Vulture (small world, eh?) and Spidey has to fight Shocker while wearing a crappy homemade suit with ping pong ball eyeballs and, inevitably, Spidey and the Vulture get involved in a poorly lit, abandoned warehouse fight (complete with an ode to The Amazing Spider-Man #33) and there's one more nightvision sky battle and the Vulture is bested in battle and Liz Allen has to leave town while her dad's on trial and Zendaya is appointed the new academic decathlon captain and Tony Stark wants to make Spidey the newest member of the Avengers but he turns it down so he can finish high school and at the very end, Spidey gets his old, cybernetic costume back and Aunt May sees him putting it on and she says the "f-word" and the movie ends. 

Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man movies felt like honest-to-goodness, self-contained stories with a beginning, middle and end. This movie is just one, long, continuous and ultimately, unimportant middle that feels more like a random episode of your favorite sitcom than a standalone feature film. So, yeah - it definitely feels like a real Marvel Cinematic Universe offering, alright

We've got one dead body. No breasts. Multiple heists. One carjacking (committed by Spider-Man, if you can believe it.) Exploding deli. Exploding barge. Gratuitous Ramones. Gratuitous references to larb. Gratuitous overly-complicated hand shakes. Kung fu. Anti-gravity gun fu. Laser cannon fu. School bus fu. And, of course, thing thing more or less responsible for the movie existing in the first place, diversity quota fu.

Starring 21-year-old Tom Holland as the 15-year-old Peter Parker, even though the actor himself looks more like he's 12; Michael Keaton as the Vulture, although it's woefully apparent he'd rather be starring in a Birdman sequel; Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, basically Spider-Man's Avengers-appointed babysitter; Zendaya as a half black version of Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club; Marissa Tomei as the most fuckable version of Aunt May in any form of media; Jacob Batalan as the token fat friend always asking Spider-Man questions about his webbing; and Robert Downey Jr., as the guy phoning it in for another $20 million payday. 

Directed by Jon Watts, whose previous films Clown and Cop Car are actually pretty fucking great, who also co-wrote the script alongside five other credited writers, the bulk of whom sound very, very Hebrew

All I can afford it is one and half stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, but only if you leave at the 40-minute mark and don't pay for the ticket.

I, for one, was shocked by the surprising number of anal rapings throughout the movie.

While we're on the subject of franchise cash cows, we might as well mull over the latest Despicable Me movie while we're at it. Now, I've got no problem saying it, I'm one of the few people out there who unironically adores the Minions. I thought Despicable Me 2 was just peachy and I thought their 2015 spin-off was even better. Hell, I almost came this close to buying a jug of Minion-shaped shampoo that smelled like bananas recently

But this Despicable Me 3 is just a big old disappointment, through and through. It starts off decent enough, with one of them South Park homos playing this mustachioed child actor turned omnicidal Dr. Doom clone whose entire armada of doomsday weapons based on 1980s kitsch using bubble gum to steal a humongous diamond. But since Gru and his wife can't apprehend him, both of 'em get shit-canned by the new head of the international coalition of secret agents or whatever the hell it's called, and I'll be damned if she isn't animated like the most obvious caricature of a Jewess you've ever seen. Seriously - she's *yay* close to being the Happy Merchant's long-lost sister, and it's amazing

So the Minions get sick of Gru's bullshit and they go on strike and then we've got a new subplot about Gru's dad being a hitherto unmentioned super villain himself and what do you know, he also has a twin brother he didn't know about neither living in the faraway kingdom of Freedonia (hmm, does that name sound just a wee bit familiar?) where he pretends to be a pork kingpin but - of course - he secretly wants to be a super-duper villain, too. So we get a lot of long-lost sibling bonding and even MORE subplots about cheese festivals and some fat kid trying to marry one of Gru's daughters and another daughter trying to hunt down a unicorn and the Minions go on Sing and get arrested for breaking into the building and they all get sentenced to prison where they slowly but surely realize Gru isn't that bad of a master, after all. 

You know the ending already. Gru and his brother steal back the diamond from the '80s-flavored villain but they have a falling out over whether to keep it for themselves or take it to the secret agents commission. Sure enough, the villain manages to get his revenge by abducting Gru's daughters in a giant mech, and from there, only the combative siblings and the Minions on a dirigible mostly made out of toilet parts are the only thing that can keep Hollywood from being incinerated by death lasers. 

What a pity it is to see what was the closest thing Hollywood had to a modern day Marx Brothers franchise turn into just another predictable, by-the-numbers "apocalypse porn" summer bummer - I haven't been this disappointed at the local Multiplex since that time I took Nancy Kloppendinger to go see G-Force and my zipper got stuck at the 50-minute mark. 

We've got no dead bodies. No breasts (and for fuck's sake, if you're looking for 'em in a movie like this, you deserve to have Chris Hanson and the po-pop paying you a visit.) Gratuitous Michael Jackson. Gratuitous dance-fighting. Gratuitous shin-kicking. Bubblegum fu. Rubik's Cube fu. Key-tar fu (complete with the opening solos from both Van Halen's "Jump" and Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing.") Tranquilizer dart fu. Giant robot fu. Laser death ray fu. And the thing responsible for the movie existing in the first place - Universal Pictures being totally out of new ideas fu

Starring Steve Carell in a dual role as Gru and Dru (even though their voices are practically identical); Kristen Wiig as Lucy, this time around a much more assertive mom than she was in the last flick; Trey Parker as lead bad guy Balthazar Bratt, who at one point calls another character "a son of a Betmax"; Julie Andrews as Gru's mom, who was paid millions of dollars for about four lines of dialogue; Miranda Cosgrove as the bookish daughter who has to rebuff the marriage proposal of an obese boy at a cheese festival; and Dana Gaier as the precocious middle child, who proposes Gru try online gambling to supplement his income. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (who apparently need a break after churning out stuff like Hop and The Lorax every year or so) and directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, both of whom are so clearly so sick of this shit it's actually kinda' depressing. 

I give it two stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, even though you'd probably have more fun making your hair smell like bananas instead. 

1 comment:

  1. Please!!!! Keep the reviews coming. Another classic! A favorite blog of mine and an upgrade even over the classic Joe-Bob of old!

    ReplyDelete