Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Double Review - 'The Florida Project' / 'Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle'

In which we take a look back at one of 2017's most brilliantly inventive movies - and one of its most soulless. 


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

Yeah, this time of year pickins' are quite slim at the local multiplex, ain't they?

Let's take a quick gander at the sheer shit they're playing at the local multiplex. Let's see - there's Downsizing, a movie that's pretty much destined to go in the Hall of Fame of High Concept Movies That Nobody In Their Right Goddamned Minds Ever Wanted To See In The First Place, which you can tell is catered specifically to the white yuppie asshole demographic 'cause the trailers for the flick uses "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads, which is pretty much the unofficial national anthem for white yuppie assholes

Then you've got Pitch Perfect 3, which is about the worst beating of a dead horse my eyes have laid upon since these angry Indian fellows decided to swing a piece of lumber at this poor, poor pony. And then there are those movies so indistinguishable from one another that I honestly have a hard time telling which is supposed to be which. I mean, if you get a ticket for The Star and accidentally waltz on in to Ferdinand or pay money to see Father Figures and watch Daddy's Home 2 by mistake, would you even really notice?

How about that, one local theater is still showing Greatest Showman and another is still screening Coco. But considering the alternatives is actually doing more than one showing a day of Insidious: The Last Key or - God have mercy on your mortal soul - The Commuter, maybe it's not such a negative after all. 

Now I know January has usually been regarded as a theatrical black hole, but hot shit on a Duralog, is this year's slog one of the worst I've encountered in my lifetime. Proud Mary? Maze Runner? Arctic Justice? No, that's OK, I'd rather pay $10 to watch rats fuck down at the dump, thank you very much. And I'll just let you check out the rest of the mainstream docket for yourself - whatever the literary opposite of a "banner year" is supposed to be, it looks like 2018's going to be precisely that for big budget Hollywood movies.

You know, I'm starting to think - maybe this means movie theaters, as a cultural institution - are probably less than 20 years away from becoming obsolete. I mean, think about it - what's the point of spending $40 for two tickets, two Mr. Pibbs and half a box of Raisinettes to watch something that ain't gonna' be worth a toot, no way? With all of these 4K TVs and shit, we've got to be getting pretty close to having IMAX quality shit in our own living rooms, and when that happens there won't even be a point to go to a movie theater no more to even watch those big ass capeshit "event" movies. That's pretty much the only thing keeping Hollywood trucking along these days - those huge franchise tent-pole movies where nerds dress up like Iron Man and Luke Skywalker and spend an outrageous amount of money to watch the same old shit they've seen a million times already, only this time it's while they're surrounded by other nerds who have spent outrageous amounts of money to watch the same old shit they've seen a million times already. It's a group catharsis thing, I think - nothing says "21st century living" quite like the willful desire to amass one's self into a giant, amorphous blob of halfhearted pop cultural mania.

Besides, movie theaters are more of a third world thing nowadays anyway. Here in the States, we've got Netflix and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we can pretty much stream any and every fucking movie ever FOR FREE just as long as we know which sites to use (and more importantly, not use.) That's why you're already seeing Hollywood trying to make inroads in China, India and Africa, where the locals are just now getting disposable income. To us, watching God Particle and Peter Rabbit sounds about as much fun as sorting out our sock drawers, but if you're some 28-year-old in Rwanda or Bombay, you'll gladly fork over the moolah to watch whatever the hell's showing just so you get to experience air conditioning for an hour and a half. The big-time studios have certainly figured this out; they don't need to make movies anymore, just something they can project on a white screen as vivid foreground imagery while guys named Jean Baptiste and Amit try to figure out what sort of sorcery makes the Coca Cola Freestyle machine work.

Long story short, filmmaking - as both an art form and a lucrative business - is getting pretty close to buying the farm. Sure, it sounds a little outlandish to say movie theaters will be extinct in two decades, but you know what else sounded absurd at the time? Telling the folks at Blockbuster circa 1996 they were just ten years away from becoming technologically obsolete, too

The local cinema is dead, folks - it just don't know it yet, even though the stench of putrid movies ought to be the first giveaway for anybody with a working set of olfactory glands and too much damn sense to shell out $14 for a jumbo bag of popcorn.

You know - this trailer may or may not give you the wrong impression of just how upbeat the film actually is.

Still, as long as you don't mind slummin' your way through some of the indie theaters in the hipster part of town, you might actually be able to watch a movie halfway worth a damn every now and then. Take The Florida Project, for example, which isn't just one of the most unique and aesthetically intriguing flicks of 2017, it's easily one of the five best movies of any variety that came out last year.

Now, the name Sean Baker might not ring a bell to most of you, but he's one of the best up-and-coming directors out there. His last movie was called Tangerine, and it's easily the best pseudo-documentary ever made about trannies in L.A. who give blow jobs to Armenian cab drivers at car washes filmed entirely on an iPhone. Well, with The Florida Project, Baker finally got his hands on some REAL equipment, and the end result is one of the most aesthetically amazing independent movies I've seen in quite some time. This motherfucker absolutely NAILS the kitschy ephemera of Orlando - the strip mall parking lots, the gaudy souvenir shops, the beautiful sunsets and especially the pastel sleaze of the motel industry in the outer Kissimmee, Florida area. As soon as we get that lovely close-up of the anti-abortion billboard - overlooking a Sam's Club, naturally - you just know you're in the hands of a filmmaker who knows his stuff.

This is pretty much the best neo-neo-neorealism flick since Gummo, and probably the best insight into post-Obama America I've yet encountered in narrative fiction form. Basically, it's about all of these unsupervised six-year-olds whose mamas turn tricks for a living and have to stay in crappy motels running around getting into wacky shenanigans and slowly coming to grips with the way the adult world works. Now, I know that makes it sound like some pretentious, hoity-toity class warfare liberal propaganda, but hear me out - this thing is pretty much devoid of any political agenda, and mayhap even reinforce the necessity for traditional family values the same way Spring Breakers subversively did.

So we start off with these feral children spitting off motel balconies on fat Hispanic women smoking cigs and calling her "rat shit" and "a stupid THOT." So motel landlord Willem Dafoe has to go up to their mama's room and tell 'em to clean that shit up and stop getting weed smoke in the curtains. Then the kids get some free pancakes and bacon because their mama will take one of the drive-thru girls out clubbin', and they take turns flipping off helicopters. Then the green-haired mom buys the fast food ratchet some food truck grub then she goes to Family and Children Services and complains about not getting enough TANF gibs. Then the kids talk about what they like and don't like about oranges as they walk across about 20 different gift shops and ice cream stands. Then the kids talk about all their neighbors getting arrested and the elevator smelling like pee and shut off the electricity to the whole complex and then Dafoe (who sounds JUST like Al Pacino in this movie) replays the security monitor footage and realizes the kids are the ones that messed with the power switch.

Then this foreign couple shows up at the scummy hotel because they got scammed out of a Magic Kingdom room online. Then a bunch of church people start handing out free bread and Dafoe tells them to move it to the back because he don't want the tourists to know his motel is ground zero for tramps, whores and indigents. Then there's this great scene where Dafoe lights up a cigarette at dusk and all the lights on the complex come on. In a just world this movie would've gotten a Best Cinematography Oscar nod, but unfortunately, we all know what kinda world we live in here

So after that Dafoe has to chastize an old woman for sunbathing nekkid in the pool and drinking margarita juice right out of a blender. Then the green haired mom buys a bunch of Justin Beiber knockoff cologne from a Chinese wholesaler and she and her kid go to better hotels and try to sell the shit. Then Dafoe evicts a hooker and the kids steal a lighter with a nekkid cartoon woman on it. Then Dafoe has to stop an elderly paedo from trying to kidnap some kids at the park, then the kids decide to throw some rocks through the windows of some abandoned rental units and go spelunking through a buncha' shuttered condominiums and start throwing toilets out of windows and setting entire vacant properties on fire. Naturally, this drives a rift between the green haired mom and the chick at the waffle place. So the green haired mom and her kid do the most adult thing imaginable to solve the problem - they go down to what's her name's place of business, order $50 worth of waffles and have a burping contest right in front of God and everybody. Then they go back to their room and eat cheese pizza and watch potato peeler infomercials. Then Dafoe has to evict them and they go to this motel down the street that charges $45 a night instead of $35 and they can't afford it so they have to couch surf for awhile. 

And to pay rent, she has to start hooking, naturally, and selling counterfeit DisneyWorld tickets. Then they go on a $400 shopping spree at Dollar Tree, which I know sounds absurd, but trust me - I've seen this shit with my own eyes before IRL. And then the mom beats up the waffle place woman and Children's Protective Services gets called on her and they break into a Best Western so they can score a free breakfast. Then the cops book her mom for prostitutin' and the kid is about to be taken away to a foster home, so she and her bestie instead break into DisneyWorld. And then - the end credits doth roll.

Of course, this is one of those movies academic snobs are going to just LOVE deconstructing and analyzing for its subtle undertones about the death of the American dream and how pop culture sells children an unrealistic worldview (but good luck finding one that'll say anything about the film's lack of father figures being the chief driver of the characters' miseries), but really, all that stuff is beside the point. This is just a damn entertaining movie from start to finish, with great acting, a great story and excellent visuals - you know, all the stuff you used to get from the big Hollywood productions. 

Anyhoo, we've got zero dead bodies. Two exposed female breasts. Forced soda chugging. One flaming condo. One subplot about the removal of a cum-splattered mattress. One street fight, with attempted vehicular homicide. One cat fight, with brutal beatdown and uncontrollable vomiting. Gratuitous take-home box kicking. Gratuitous ice cream sharing. Gratuitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich making. Gratuitous spliff smoking. Multiple evictions. Panhandling fu. Bloody tampon fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place, some truly atrocious parenting skills fu.

Starring Willem Defoe as Bobby the landlord, who has to occasionally put child predators in headlocks and do his darnedest to comfort five-year-olds after their mamas get arrested for prostituting themselves online (seriously, he deserves an Oscar for his work in this one); Bria Vinaite as the green-haired single mom who makes her daughter listen to hip-hop while she's getting boned by customers from Backpage.com; Mela Murder as the Waffle House waitress who gives the kids free sausage and maple syrup and winds up getting her left eye socket smashed in because she doesn't want her kid playing with a confirmed arsonist; Rosa Medina Perez as Bertha, the overweight Hispanic single mama who says "I need to lighten up, light up and get laid"; and Brooklyn Prince as Moonee, the ringleader of the kindergarten gang that, among other wholesome activities, pester tourists for free ice cream cones and cause millions of dollars in rental property vandalism.

Written by Chris Beroch and Sean Baker - the latter who also directed the film, who SHOULD at least get a nominee for his work here, but probably won't because the Academy thinks some black dude or white woman who made a film of lesser quality deserves it more because Trump is still president.

Regardless, this is a movie WELL worth going out of your way to catch. It's one of the most innovative flicks in a year filled to the brim with rehashes, in addition to featuring one of the year's best acting performances and what may very well be the best cinematography you'll see in any film from '17. I can easily afford this one four stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, even if it means actually paying for a ticket instead of just bootlegging it online like you do everything else. 

Fun fact: the working title was actually Autism: The Motion Picture.

Changing gears considerably, let's head back to the regular movie theaters for a moment, why don't we? All I can say is that the marketers at Sony really dropped the ball when it came to this newfangled Jumanji movie. Considering the main character is named "Gilpan" and he literally cries "oh vey" when under duress, there's really no excuse for 'em to NOT have named the movie Jew-Manji and released a bunch of branded tie-in yarmulkes to coincide with the Hanukkah season.

Now, believe it or not, this Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie isn't a remake of the 1996 Robin Williams vehicle, it's a direct sequel ... kinda'. It does sorta' pick up where that movie left off, with this one metalhead retard scooping up the titular board game but shucking it aside so he can play more Twisted Metal on his Sony Playstation. But the board game is apparently cognizant of its own existence now, so it morphs overnight into an old ass Atari 2600 cartridge that glows neon green. And since the kid in question wears a Metallica shirt, it's pretty much a given he's too stupid to not plug it into his retro-looking console conveniently laying unused next to a pile of soiled socks and get sucked into the living, breathing virtual world, which effectively makes this the inversion of the 1996 movie, where the game enters the kids' real world and ... eh, like you (or anybody else, for that matter) gives a shit.

What's important for you to know this time around is that we've got an all new crop of precocious teens monkeying around the local high school, committing all sorts of misdeeds to garner themselves some detention time. For example, we've got this one stuck up blonde ho that's always taking selfies and doing FaceTime chats during quizzes and this dorky introverted girl who thinks football is stupid and makes fun of the gym coach for only making $32,000 a year and this one big black jock named Fridge who makes the aforementioned nebbish Jew nerd do his homework for him - so yeah, it's pretty much the EXACT same cast from that atrocious Power Rangers redux, only with slightly less autism and implied Muslim lesbianism. So eventually the wannabe Breakfast Club gets locked inside a basement where they're forced to tear staples out of a ten foot tall mound of U.S. Weeklies and hey, what do you know, they just so happen to find the same retro console from the beginning of the movie and sure as sugar, they get zapped into video game world just like that Megadeth-worshippin' dunderhead at the beginning of the movie.

Except now, all the kids have been transformed into larger than life superhero video game characters. The nerdy Jew kid is now The Rock playing the main character from Uncharted, the dorky girl is now a Lara Croft stand-in, the narcissistic blonde ho is now a fat cartographer played by Jack Black (who is REALLY fascinated by how "his" newfound penis works) and the big angry black jock has been transformed into (what else?) Kevin Hart. After all the usual exposition, the kids eventually figure out they have to place a jewel in the eye of a giant jaguar statue, but of course, there's this one evil dude who can control the game world's animal life who wants the gemstone all for himself, and eventually, they meet up with the kid from 1996 who got sucked into the game (who says stuff like "getting Jiggy with it" even though that song didn't actually come out until 1999) and they make a coordinated, concentrated effort to escape the virtual island without using up all of their lives.

There's pretty much no plot beyond that. It's just the kids learning the power of teamwork and micro-managing their fledgling romances and a whole bunch of crappy looking CGI alligators and cobras attack them for the next hour. Oh, and the final 30 minutes are filmed almost entirely in computer generated darkness, so good luck making out half the shit you see onscreen. 

Anyhoo, we've got 30 dead bodies (virtually, anyway.) One dead snake. One helicopter chase. Multiple karate fights. One exploding character actor. Several deaths by plunging. Gratuitous urination jokes. Gratuitous Peter Frampton cover. Gratuitous '90s slang. Kung fu. Rhinoceros fu. Hippo fu. Cheetah fu. Elephant fu. Cake fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place - shameless PlayStation4 product placement fu.

Starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone, who is pretty much an expy of Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games, except, you know, brown; Jack Black as Professor Sheldon Oberon, a fat, Jack Black-shaped pile of goo possessed by the spirit of a 16-year-old Snapchat skank; Karen Gillan as a very Tomb Raider like character who can only kick people's asses while "Baby I Love Your Way" plays on the radio; Kevin Hart as "Mouse" Finbar, a zoologist who spontaneously combusts if he comes in contact with pastries; and Nick Jonas as "Seaplane" McDonough, the avatar of the Metallica fan who's been stuck in the virtual world since 1996. 

Written by no less than four writers (including Chris McKenna, the same guy who fucked up Spider-Man: Homecoming) and directed by Jake Kasdan, who I think we all believe would be better suited making a Dewey Cox sequel instead of this stuff.

Eh, the best I can give it is a meager two stars out of four. It's not as bad as I was expecting, but it's still a VERY predictable, paint-by-numbers big budget cash grab. Jimbo says check it out, but only if you do so in a manner that doesn't cost you any money (wink, wink.)

1 comment:

  1. Actors of fully Jewish background: Mila Kunis, Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bar Refaeli, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Adam Brody, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Erin Heatherton, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Esti Ginzburg, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Margarita Levieva, James Wolk, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Julian Morris, Debra Winger, Eric Balfour, Dan Hedaya, Emory Cohen, Corey Haim, Scott Mechlowicz, Odeya Rush, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

    Aaron Taylor-Johnson is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers: Timothée Chalamet, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Ryan Potter, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, and Harrison Ford (whose maternal grandparents were both Jewish, despite those Hanukkah Song lyrics).

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Andrew Garfield, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr., Sean Penn, and Ed Skrein were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Armie Hammer, Chris Pine, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar are part Jewish.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism: Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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