Sunday, June 24, 2018

Isle of Dogs

Year 10, Day 175 - 6/24/18 - Movie #2,971 - VIEWED ON 5/2/18          

BEFORE: I made a special effort to get out to the movie theater to see this one in early May, because I believed that it wouldn't be in release for much longer.  I'd kept an eye on the ticket availability through the IMDB, and as of May 1, there were no screenings scheduled past May 3, so I believed it was my last chance, and if I missed it, I'd have to wait for the next Academy screener season.  But since I tend to love Wes Anderson films, I didn't want to let that happen, so I texted my old boss and ex-co-worker to arrange a night out, because it seemed like the kind of film that we would all have gone to see together, back when we worked together, representing stop-motion animators.

I went with just my former co-worker, Gina, because my boss had another commitment, but it was still good to see her and catch up over sandwiches after.  I invited my wife to come along too, but considering how much she loves dogs, I don't know if she could take a film where dogs are being abandoned by their owners, even though that story is in animated form here, and no real dogs are being harmed.

It turns out that the film stayed in theaters at least another week, so I could have (should have) maybe gone out to see "Avengers: Infinity War" on May 2, and held off on this one for another week.  But too late now, the die is/was cast.  And though I had no way to link to this back in early May, I knew I had some movies coming up with Liev Schreiber, the voice of one of the dogs, in them, so I could just sit on the review for a few weeks, and then a way to link to it would present itself naturally.  So, if I've done this right, then Liev Schreiber carries over from "Goon: Last of the Enforcers" on Netflix, and I'm back on track.


THE PLOT: Set in Japan of the near future, a boy's odyssey in search of his lost dog.

AFTER: This film is part of that trend where the natural assumption is that humanity's bad record on the environment will just continue to get worse, and the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that there will be trash everywhere.  I think this may have started with "Wall-E" but it really picked up steam recently with "Blade Runner 2049" and then "Ready Player One".

I think this movie works best if you have a fascination with, or a least a familiarity with Wes Anderson's other movies.  This felt a bit like if "The Darjeeling Limited" and "The Life Acquatic" got married and had a baby, and that baby grew up, moved to Japan and started championing animal rights.  Does that make sense?  God, this is just so quirky and so adorable, this film has about three times the "heart" of most average movies, and it just hits you right where you live, assuming you like dogs - and come on, who doesn't like dogs?  Even though I'm more of a cat person, most dogs still love me, so I must be doing something right.

They didn't go crazy with the animation on the dogs, most of the time they're deadpan and stiff, but I thought that added to the comic timing.  When they move, or attack, they REALLY move and attack, so that stands out more.  Probably a lot of the standing still resulted from the laborious stop-motion process, but it's just as easy to think that the deadpan lack of movement was a stylistic choice.

This is set in a world where dogs talk, and they happen to talk in English, which makes things easier on the audience, and they sound like famous actors, which also helps.  Whatever personality people like Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum have in their voices would therefore, theoretically transfer over to the personalities of their dog characters.  Meanwhile, the Japanese people speak in Japanese, and sometimes the film offers subtitles and sometimes the film offers translations, but other times it does not, but in those times we can probably infer the meaning of what's being said, so it all works out.

In this near-future society, both trash and disease are growing problems, and the dogs are blamed for spreading both "Dog Flu" and "Snout Fever", so the drastic solution is to exile the dogs to the Japanese island that also holds most of the country's trash.  For various reasons, this is easier than curing the diseases, however probably more expensive in the long run - but really, the government plan is the result of one man (or one family's) hatred of dogs.  That man happens to be the mayor of Megasaki City, and the first dog symbolically sent in to exile is Spots, the dog charged with taking care of the mayor's nephew, Atari.  Atari had been in a train accident years before, which killed his parents, and place him in his uncle's care, and the uncle chose to put most of the burden of watching him on Spots.

Atari defies the conventions of society and flies a small plane to Trash Island, to search for Spots.  After the plane crashes, he's tended to by a pack of wild dogs (four former pets and one long-time stray) who help him with the plan to search the island for Spots.  (Admittedly, it's a little unclear how the dogs and boy form and agree on the plan, since they don't seem to speak each other's language.)  But since four of the five dogs understand the unspoken master/assistant agreement between humans and canines, the majority tends to rule.

Yeah, that's the thing about these dogs in a Wes Anderson movie, they question themselves, spread strange rumors, and debate minute details about society and the meaning of life, just like the characters in a film like "The Royal Tenenbaums" or "Moonrise Kingdom" would.  And all true dog lovers already do this, they give their dog voices, or imagine what they would sound like if they could talk.  Right?  I mean, my wife and I do that for our cats, so I just assume that dog lovers do the same thing.

There's a scientist who's convinced that he can cure both snout fever and the dog flu, if only he had a few more months.  But of course the corrupt mayor will never give him that chance.  There was a real danger of verging into some kind of Trump analogy here, with the government being both ineffectual AND having some kind of secret agenda, but considering how long it takes to make a stop-motion film, this film simply HAD to be created before Trump was elected.  Same with the high-school girl who's convinced that a conspiracy is going on, and the Mayor is corrupt - it's very easy to see a reflection of the anti-gun protests going on at the high-school level right now, but it's got to be a coincidence, there's just no way the film could have directly reflected that.

As Atari and the five dogs cross the island, they're separated into two groups, and Atari journeys with Chief, the former stray dog who now is (slowly) learning how to bond with a human for the first time.  When Atari throws a stick for him to fetch, he refuses to do so at first, and then when he reluctantly agrees to fetch the stick, it's only after a lengthy discussion about his long dissociation from society, his apprehension about taking a command from a master, and a definite objection to any possible interpretation that fetching the stick will put him into a continual subservient role.  Just so we're all on the same page, you know, about what it means for this very verbose dog to fetch a stick.  Classic.

I've got a NITPICK POINT about Atari finding his dog's cage, and opening it with his key, but I don't want to give away any spoilers here.  I just don't think the key would have worked, based on other information we get later, but maybe, just maybe, the dogs are all smarter than we think and pulled a switch of their own, but I sort of doubt it.  Maybe he had some kind of master key or skeleton key, but again, this also seems unlikely.

And yet, after everything else, this film is very, very Japanese.  The sushi-making sequence (credited to someone I happen to know from my time working in the stop-motion world) is a thing of beauty, and highlights why if Wes Anderson could open some kind of water-theme park / sushi restaurant / pet adoption center in the real world, it would really be the most eclectic, adorable thing ever, and I would want to go to there.  And Wes Anderson would oversee the entire operation from his personal treehouse, which somehow has an ENIAC computer in it.  I don't know if this is how he really lives, but if he did, I wouldn't be all that surprised.

Also starring the voices of Bryan Cranston (last seen in "Drive"), Edward Norton (last seen in "Collateral Beauty"), Bill Murray (last seen in "Rock the Kasbah"), Jeff Goldblum (last seen in "Independence Day: Resurgence"), Bob Balaban (last seen in "Mascots"), Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig (last seen in "Jackie"), Frances McDormand (last seen in "North Country"), Scarlett Johansson (last seen in "Avengers: Infinity War"), Harvey Keitel (last seen in "Youth"), F. Murray Abraham (last seen in "The Bonfire of the Vanities"), Tilda Swinton (last seen in "War Machine"), Yoko Ono, Fisher Stevens (last seen in "Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds"), Courtney B. Vance (last seen in "Terminator Genisys"), Akira Ito, Ken Watanabe (also last seen in "Godzilla"), Frank Wood, Kara Hayward (last seen in "Manchester by the Sea"), Mari Natsuki, Akira Takayama, and vocal cameos from Roman Coppola, Anjelica Huston (last seen in "The Postman Always Rings Twice")

RATING: 7 out of 10 sumo wrestlers

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Goon: Last of the Enforcers

Year 10, Day 174 - 6/23/18 - Movie #2,970

BEFORE: Between Ryan Reynolds and this film, the Canadians are taking over my blog for a couple of days.  Director and co-star Jay Baruchel was born in Canada, and I'm sure some of the hockey players seen here were too.  "Tusk" and "Yoga Hosers" were also set there, and most of "Deadpool 2" was shot in British Columbia - I'll have to try to remember all this at the end of the year.

This makes four in a row for T.J. Miller, who carries over again from "Deadpool 2".


FOLLOW-UP TO: "Goon" (Movie #1,510)

THE PLOT: A hockey player plagued by injuries is confronted with the possibility of retirement when a tough new player challenges his status as the league's top enforcer.

AFTER: I know what a hockey goon is, after watching the first film with that name, and watching the TV series "The Detour" where Jason Jones played a former goon.  It means a player that can not only give out a beating, but has become good at taking the hits too.  Maybe not so good with the scoring of the goals, a goon's main job would be to skate and fight.  If you see a guy on the ice that's not even wearing gloves (because it's too time-consuming to keep taking them off and putting them back on in between fights) - yeah, that's probably a goon.  A guy who can track how long he's been in the league by how many real teeth he has left.

Since we last saw Doug Glatt in the first film, he's gotten married and is now on the brink of becoming a father, which changes his dynamic a bit, plus he's gotten older (haven't we all) and his body is starting to wear out.  Then a pro hockey lockout brings a bunch of younger, tougher, more psychotic players the minors, and a fight puts him down for the count, and out of the sport.  His transition to working a desk job in an insurance company storeroom brings him no fulfillment, despite offering guaranteed income and a better health plan (namely, fewer blows to the head on an average day).

When his brother brings him to an underground fighting exhibition for retired hockey players - it's just like hockey, apparently, only no puck and sticks - this puts him back in touch with his old teammate/rival, Ross Rhea.  He convinces Ross to teach him to fight with the other hand, plus he finally learns a few techniques like shooting goals in order to get back on the team.  He keeps this secret from his wife, who naturally assumes that he's just been hanging out drinking with his old teammates instead of planning his comeback.

When he returns to the Highlanders, it's a completely different situation from the one he left - for starters, the rival that took him out of the game (and coincidentally, is the son of the Highlanders' owner) has been traded and is now the co-captain of his team.  This points out something unique about hockey - although there are several sports where your old rival can become your teammate, in very few sports would you have to play on a team with someone you once had a bloody fistfight with.  But who really knows what goes on behind the scenes among the alpha males of the NFL?  The thing about hockey is that the fights are out there on the playing field, and are more or less considered part of the sport.

I also liked the conflict between Doug's career and family, his realization that marriage is also a team sport, and also has to be played with integrity, and seeing his teammates congratulate him on the birth of his daughter is not the kind of thing that you see in a lot of sports movies.  Of course we know he's got to have a showdown, eventually, with the guy that took him out of the game, so that part of the plot is predictable, and the story has to sort of bend itself around backwards to make it happen, but there were still a few nice surprises here.  Plus I think there was more blood spilled here than in "Deadpool 2", and that film had entire limbs being chopped off.

Also starring Seann William Scott (last heard in "Ice Age: Collision Course"), Alison Pill (last seen in "Hail, Caesar!"), Wyatt Russell (last seen in "Table 19"), Liev Schreiber (last seen in "Pawn Sacrifice"), Kim Coates (last seen in "Unforgettable"), Jay Baruchel (last seen in "The Art of the Steal"), Jason Jones (ditto), Elisha Cuthbert, Callum Keith Rennie (last seen in "Warcraft"), Marc-André Grondin (last seen in "Goon"), Jonathan Cherry (ditto), George Tchortov (ditto), Richard Clarkin (ditto), Trent Pardy, Karl Graboshas (last seen in "Race"), David Paetkau, Ellen David, Larry C. Woo, Boomer Phillips, James Duthie, Nathan Dales, and real hockey players Tyler Seguin, Michael Del Zotto, Brandon Prust, George Parros, Colton Orr, Georges Laraque.

RATING: 5 out of 10 paramedics

Friday, June 22, 2018

Deadpool 2

Year 10, Day 173 - 6/22/18 - Movie #2,969 - VIEWED on 6/19/18

BEFORE:

T.J. Miller carries over again from "Ready Player One".  His four appearances this week will qualify him for my end-of-year countdown (and there will be 5 if I can work in "Office Christmas Party" in December...) but that's by no means a top-level achievement - not in a year when Basil Rathbone already has 14 "Sherlock Holmes" appearances and is likely to come out on top, tied with Nigel Bruce of course.  Nicole Kidman's been in four films in 2018, but with 7 more on my list she could end up with 11. Same goes for Samuel L. Jackson, who's appeared in 6 films so far, but could also have 11 appearances before year's end.  James McAvoy's another one to watch, with 6 appearances already in 2018, but I think he may only end up with 8 total.  This is why I've got to play out the whole year before counting everything up - Christopher Lee could come on strong in October and be a late contender, or someone like Paul McCartney or Keith Richards could appear in a bunch of rock documentaries in July/August.


FOLLOW-UP TO "Deadpool" (Movie #2,443)

THE PLOT: Foul-mouthed mercenary Wade Wilson brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy with mutant abilities from the brutal time-traveling cyborg, Cable.

AFTER: This may have been placed here on my list due to the presence of T.J. Miller (and the fact that I couldn't get it to line up with another Ryan Reynolds movie, like "Life" or "The Hitman's Bodyguard") but there are so many cameos in this film that another actor ended up carrying over from last night's film, too.  These cameos (and shout-outs to other Marvel Comics movies) are both fun and unexpected, so if you would like to be surprised, then just don't read the cast list below.  I thought about redacting them, but I'm going to need to total this all up at the end of the year, so I have to list them.

When this film starts, Deadpool is in a funk, a real bad one.  He's suicidal in fact, only his super-powers dictate that he can't die, so there's a certain level of irony in an essentially immortal character being suicidal.  He can blow himself to bits, and apparently as long as someone arranges the pieces close together, his body will knit everything back together.  Or if you cut off his arm, or a leg, or slice his torso in half, eventually tiny limbs will grow back and after a few hours, he'll be whole again.  In the comic books, they even had a villain character that was assembled from all the pieces of Deadpool that had been lopped off over the years, I don't know where that character got its head, or if one just kind of grew there once 80% of his spare body parts were assembled.  Hey, that's a great plot idea for "Deadpool 3", Wade faces off against his amputated limbs counterpart.

Now, at first we're led to believe that Deadpool's in a funk because Wolverine is dead, and he never got to appear in a movie with him.  Which doesn't make literal sense in this timeline, because the film "Logan" was set far in the future, and so those events depicted there wouldn't have happened yet from Deadpool's point of view.  (Maybe he's talking about Wolverine being dead in the comics, which he was, up until a few months ago.  Remember, "comic book dead" doesn't last very long.)  But this movie doesn't seem to care much for proper treatment of the timeline, or sticking too close to any one continuity, it just wants to have fun with its characters.  And to be "Nitpick Proof" to sticklers like me.

Now, that being said, once you introduce a time-traveling character like Cable, you still end up opening up a huge can of worms where history is involved.  Cable travels back in time because a young mutant grows up to become an activist/terrorist and kill his family, so he figures if he travels back in time, and kills the terrorist when he's a kid, he can save those lives.  But as we should all know by now, if someone travels back in time to prevent something, and they do manage to change the timeline to prevent that thing, then they create a timeline in which that thing didn't happen, and then the version of them that doesn't encounter the tragic event has no need to travel back to prevent the incident (since it now didn't happen) so they don't.  And then, logically, the bad thing happens anyway, because now they didn't travel back to prevent it. The best you can hope for is a time-loop, or the creation of an alternate reality where that thing didn't happen, but a time traveler cannot change a tragic thing like this.

This movie, however, just doesn't care.  And in some ways that's a good thing, but you know it's going to keep bugging me.  At the end Deadpool "borrows" the time-travel device and goes on a spree, simultaneously cleaning up the timelines while also probably screwing them up worse at the same time.  That version of Deadpool that was seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was by all accounts a complete mistake, and perhaps deserves to be ignored or forgotten, but Deadpool traveling back to kill himself is not the answer - a) because not even Deadpool can kill Deadpool and b) even if he could, killing yourself in the past is another bad time-travel idea, because then you don't have a future. (Same time-loop problem, if the older you kills the younger you, then there IS no older you because the younger you didn't grow up, so now the older you can't kill the younger you, and therefore the whole thing can't happen.)  Funny joke, but bad use of time-travel.

(The other cameos set in the X-Mansion are also impossible, but for different reasons.  I withhold my complaining here because again, it's a funny bit.)

Deadpool brings back all of the characters he interacted with in the first film, both super-powered and non-super-powered, and adds a few more for good measure.  Joining Colossus (and they STILL can't get the CGI on him quite right, his lips just don't sync up with his voice often enough...) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (still probably the worst name for a superhero ever, in movies or comics, it doesn't mean a damn thing, since there's no such word as "negasonic") are new characters Domino, Shatterstar, Bedlam, Zeitgeist and Vanisher.  Not all of these are meant to be taken seriously either, they're either perceived minor characters from the comics, or they're soon turned into visual jokes or killed off very quickly, or both.  Whatever characters remain on this "X-Force" team in the end get the honor of being in the next movie, I suppose.

There's plenty of action here and the good guys win and the bad guys lose, if that's possible when you have characters like Deadpool who ride that fine line in-between - but it's too much of an overused trope to have two characters fight when they meet for the first time, then team up to defeat the evil power.  Haven't we seen this before a thousand times in the comics, and then again in movies like "Batman v. Superman"?  Why not try something different for once, or are we just going to be satisfied with the same old thing, eventually leading to diminishing returns?

NITPICK POINT - So, just down the road from Xavier's School for Gifted Children (aka the X-Mansion) is the Essex Mutant Re-education Center, which is some form of mutant containment facility (prison and torture center)?  How do the X-Men not know about this place, and why haven't they worked to shut this place down?  OK, I get that this place negates the powers of mutants, so maybe they can't be detected - but still, isn't this the kind of thing that the X-Men should be constantly looking for, with their fingers on the pulse of mutant-related issues like enforcement and containment?  Plus, with "Essex" in the name, isn't that a sign that the place is a front, and is run by Mr. Sinister (aka Nathaniel Essex)?  This really needs to tie in with the post-credits scene from "X-Men: Apocalypse" and therefore serve as a lead-in to "Dark Phoenix", and if this happens, then all is forgiven.

Also starring Ryan Reynolds (last seen in "Life"), Josh Brolin (last seen in "Avengers: Infinity War"), Morena Baccarin (last seen in "Deadpool"), Brianna Hildebrand (ditto), Leslie Uggams (ditto), Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Jack Kesy, Karan Soni (last seen in "Ghostbusters"), Terry Crews (last seen in "Sandy Wexler"), Lewis Tan, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan (last seen in "God's Pocket"), Bill Skarsgard (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Shioli Kutsuna, Hayley Sales, Islie Hirvonen, Nikolai Witschl, Thayr Harris, the voice of Stefan Kapicic, and cameos from Matt Damon (last seen in "Downsizing"), Alan Tudyk (last seen in "Trumbo"), Brad Pitt (last seen in "Allied"), Nicholas Hoult (last seen in "Mad Max: Fury Road"), James McAvoy (last seen in "Wimbledon"), Evan Peters (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Alexandra Shipp (ditto), Tye Sheridan (also carrying over from "Ready Player One"), Kodi Smit-McPhee (last seen in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), and archive footage (it counts...) of Hugh Jackman (last seen in "The Greatest Showman").

RATING: 7 out of 10 headshot photos

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ready Player One

Year 10, Day 172 - 6/21/18 - Movie #2,968 - VIEWED ON 4/11/18

BEFORE: I snuck out to the theater in April to catch this film, on the day that I posted my "Black Panther" review.  Since I'd seen "Black Panther" 2 months before that, I essentially had a free day, no movie to watch - so that was a great opportunity to go out and watch another one, stockpiling one up for when I'd need it later on.  Once I created the framework schedule that would take me all the way to July 4, it was easy enough to see an opening where I could slip this one in.  So TJ Miller carries over from "The Emoji Movie", if I've done this right.  Or perhaps wrong.

I was thinking that I'd save this one up for later in 2018, to connect with "X-Men: Dark Phoenix", since Tye Sheridan is also in that one as Cyclops, but now that film's been moved to a release date in February 2019, so there's no need to try and link to it this year.


THE PLOT: When the creator of a virtual-reality world called The OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

AFTER: I've had the novel "Ready Player One" in my stack of books to read for about the last five years, and now I'm glad I didn't read it, because I would have gone into this film knowing too much about the story, and then also perhaps mad that the film didn't stick close enough to the novel.  I just reviewed the plot of the novel on Wikipedia, and this confirms my suspicions - the movie changed quite a bit of the book's plot, which involved references to text-based games like "Zork" and another game I haven't heard of, "Dungeons of Daggorath", and those seem just a little bit too obscure for me, so I imagine that most movie-goers haven't heard of them either.  Instead, there are references here to things seen by many more people, like "The Shining" and "The Iron Giant", not to mention "Back to the Future", "Battlestar Galactica", "Spaceballs" and so on.

Set in the future world of 2044, during an energy crisis caused by the depletion of fossil fuels, overpopulation, global warming and the destruction of the environment (Gee, can we trace these troubles back to the Trump cabinet and the deregulations of the EPA?  Count on it...) most people escape into the virtual world, because there they can be anything/anyone they want, forget their troubles, and the virtual world's economy is more stable than the real one.  (Cough...bitcoin...cough...)

As the film begins, it's been five years since the death of James Halliday, the co-creator of the Oasis, and a recorded message from him that claimed that anyone who could solve the three VR quests and obtain the three keys to the magic gates would find his "Easter Egg" and inherit the kingdom - his fortune and control over the VR world.  But so far nobody has ever been able to beat the first quest, a VR auto race into and around a virtual Manhattan, on the worst day possible, when both King Kong AND a T. Rex are attacking the city.  This race sequence, to me, was the best part of the film - so exciting, so action-packed, so thrilling - and since I saw the movie in 3-D IMAX format, I was really invested.

But with this exciting race sequence comes NITPICK POINT #1: Would all of these gamers run the SAME RACE, day after day, for five years straight, if none of them knew how to win it?  It seems like an exercise in futility, even Parzifal knows that whenever he gets close to the finish line, King Kong's going to pop up and crush his car.  With all the risks of crashing, getting destroyed and therefore losing all of their built-up coins, why would people continue to play the same game, without any visible way to win?  Like, I quit playing "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" as soon as I reached a level that I couldn't beat after about three attempts.  A good video-game that you play again and again should be difficult to beat, but not impossible.

Sure, I get that everybody wants to win the game and own the company, it's the whole "Willy Wonka" thing, but today's Millennials just don't want to work that hard, the stereotype is that they think everything should be just handed to them without them expending much effort.  Just think how bad the teens of 2045 will be if that trend continues.  To be fair, Parzifal and his team DO the work, they research everything about Halliday to try to figure out the quests or gain some kind of advantage, but I think that today's teens are going to walk away from "Ready Player One" with a different kind of message, namely "Someone needs to build that VR world very soon, so I can play these games, figure out the puzzles and then I can be the president of the company."  Umm, kids, that's not how things are usually supposed to work.

Speaking of Willy Wonka, there's a new theory going around that Charlie Buckets didn't get the golden ticket randomly, that the shop-keeper in the candy store was working for Wonka and handed him the candy bar with the golden ticket on purpose, after identifying a child that was poor, so that he would appreciate what it would mean to be rich, and also thought of others before himself - he bought the second candy bar for his starving grandparents, after all.  It's not that crazy, because remember that Wonka also hired someone to impersonate Slugworth so he could test the loyalty of the kids who were visiting his factory.  (This connects to someone in "Ready Player One" keeping an eye on Wade/Parzifal from a safe distance, but no spoilers here...)

Anyway, back to the quests.  I thought the solution to the first quest was unique and very clever - I never would have thought of that myself, not as a gamer, or a movie-goer, or a movie-maker.  It defies everything we think we know about video-games and races, but it still made perfect sense.  This Halliday guy referred to himself as a dreamer, but he was also very clever and tricky - the actor plays him (in the recorded flashbacks) as an obsessive space-cadet, maybe a little not right in the head and rather awkward and anti-social, but that all checks with what we know about programmers, and the actor did a very good job of being a disconnected, overly-creative nerdy type.

I wish the same cleverness could have been applied to the 2nd and 3rd quests, however, which didn't hold up in quality when compared to the car race, in my opinion.  The 2nd quest looks just like the Overlook Hotel from "The Shining", which is a drastic change from the plot of the book, and they added a new room with dancing zombies, which isn't even a thing.  So Part 2 felt a little forced to me, but by Part 3 they were back on track.  Part 3 took place in Castle Anorak on Planet Doom, but the notorious IOI company used an artifact to place a magic shield around the castle, so nobody could play the final quest except for their operatives.  That's just not in the spirit of the Oasis, or the game that should be accessible to all, so Parzifal sends out a call for everyone to send their avatars to Planet Doom in the VR World, to help defeat the evil power.

I'll admit it, when I saw all those thousands of avatars running over the horizon, I got a little emotional, even teared up a little bit.  It's easy to draw a connection to other battles where people put the power of the populace to work, whether it's for gun control or for civil rights, it's heartening to think that when enough people take up your cause and the numbers are on your side, that's when you can enact some change in the world.  OK, maybe the freedoms of the VR world aren't as important in the long run as civil rights are in the real world, but maybe you know what I mean.

NITPICK POINT #2: Will people in the year 2045 still listen to music from the 1970's and 80's?  I very much doubt it.  I get that this music fits in with classic Atari games, "Back to the Future", and all of the other cultural touchstones here, but teens today in 2018 barely know anything about 1980's music - why would it come back again, 30 years from now?  That makes about as much sense as kids today listening to ragtime music or jazz from the 1920's, it just doesn't happen.  Though back in the mid-1990's there was a weird resurgence of not only swing music ("Jump, Jive & Wail") but also Gregorian Chants.  (I swear this is true, you can look it up...)  So anything's possible, but I just think there will be so many new styles of music created between now and 2045 (and I bet I'll hate them all) that I just don't see people in the future circling back to The Bee Gees, Van Halen, and Twisted Sister.

Also starring Tye Sheridan (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn (last seen in "Australia"), Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg (last seen in "For the Love of Spock"), Mark Rylance (last seen in "Bridge of Spies"), Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Susan Lynch, Ralph Ineson, Perdita Weeks (last seen in "The Invisible Woman"), Clare Higgins (last seen in "Cassandra's Dream"), Laurence Spellman, Letitia Wright (last seen in "Avengers: Infinity War").

RATING: 9 out of 10 Atari 2600 cartridges

The Emoji Movie

Year 10, Day 171 - 6/20/18 - Movie #2,967

BEFORE: I know, I can't believe it's come to this, either.  But there's part of me, a very sick part, that's curious - it just can't be as bad as everyone said, right?  I mean, millions of years of human evolution somehow brought us to this time, this place, this movie - surely there must be something redeeming here, some sign of man's great achievement, every movie is part of the great historical record, the fabric of life resonates through this somehow, right?

Eh, it's probably going to suck.  But if it is that bad, then let's get it off my list and out of my Netflix queue as soon as possible, OK?  Honestly, I need the linking as Jennifer Coolidge carries over from "Mascots", and I promise this is setting up something good, OK?  My linking now can take me to THREE films from 2018 this week, one which I'm sneaking out to see in the movie theater tonight, and the other two I saw 2 or 3 months ago, and I've spent all this time just trying to link my way to them.  But we're clearing the books this week of everything I saw this spring, and the road to those films leads right through "The Emoji Movie", as strange as that sounds.

Anyway, a mascot is a symbol for a team, and emojis are all symbols of things, so there is sort of a loose theme developing here...for whatever that's worth.


FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Angry Birds Movie" (Movie 2,694)

THE PLOT: Gene, a multi-expressional "Meh" emoji, sets out on a journey to become a normal emoji.

AFTER: I think the biggest problem here (and mark my words, there are many, MANY problems here...) is that this film has no internal logic, not that makes any sense, anyway.  In this electronic "city" of Tech-polos that's inside a kid's phone, there are emojis that are all each one thing, and object or an emotion.  Those are the rules, everything is only one thing, and for some reason each emoji has a little life in this little world, but always has to be ready to be "scanned" each time the phone-user wants to use it to express an idea or an emotion in a text.  So the smiley face has to ALWAYS be smiling, the sad face ALWAYS has to be crying, the devil is always a devil, and so on.

Except that's somehow not the case - the "Meh" emoji somehow is excited to be on the job for the first day, which means right from the start, the plot doesn't make any sense.  He should be neutral and dismissive about his first day on the job, right?  Because you JUST SAID he's one emotion, he can only be that one emotion, and that's all he can ever be, because programming.  So nervous, excited, thrilled to be a functioning emoji - he should be none of these things.  Plus his parents are both "Meh" emojis - what happened, did they retire?  They got fired for doing a bad job?  How the heck does an emoji reproduce, anyway.  The screenwriter should have stopped right here and quit his job, or at least I'm hoping he took a long, hard look in the mirror to consider the life choices that brought him to this point, where this is now his job.

This is also where I started to realize the similarities to "Wreck-It Ralph", how this is essentially the same exact story.  Ralph lived inside a video-game, which bore a similar resemblance to a tech-based city, and he could go from one video-game in the arcade to another, just as Gene gets to travel from app to app in the phone.  Ralph was programmed to do one thing, and tried to rise above his programming to go from villain to hero, and Gene was similarly programmed to have just one emotion, but once he gets labeled as a "malfunction", he goes on a similar quest to get fixed so he can work again as part of the greater text-message society.

The similarities don't end there - Ralph meets Vanellope, who aids him in his quest, and Gene meets Jailbreak, who travels with him on his quest to get to DropBox so they can be uploaded out of the phone and become whatever they're really meant to be.  Or maybe she's supposed to hack the system to make Gene the one-motioned creature he's supposed to be, this is really unclear.  The motivations kept changing here, which is another sign that the whole endeavor is illogical nonsense. There's no clear path to a resolution here, once the characters start their wandering through this app or that - it's basically just a bunch of shoutouts to kitten videos on YouTube, vacation photos on Instagram, music on Spotify or SnapChat or whatever the filmmakers think might have some resonance with today's kids, as if they're going to get really excited over hearing the names of apps they might use spoken in a movie.  How misguided is that?

The one little germ of story that even exists here has to do with the fact that Gene can't seem to hold one emotion, he's somehow the first multi-emotive emoji, and as stated above, that isn't even a thing - but since Alex (the owner of the phone in the real world) sent this emoji to the girl he's got a crush on (this makes no sense, either, like how was he going to win her over with the "Meh" emoji?) she ends up interpreting this as "This boy has a lot of complex emotions, so he must be really deep and sensitive" when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.  He's what, a 12 -year old boy?  Let's face it, he wants to make out with a girl but he has no idea how to achieve that, or what happens after.   If he has to hide behind an emoji to express his feelings, she's eventually going to figure out that he's just not that complicated.

Let's start the parade of NITPICK POINTS:

Why is the "eggplant" emoji relegated to the "losers lounge"?  We all know what the eggplant really stands for, you'd think that 12-year old boys would be talking/thinking about their own "eggplants" all the time, so they'd probably all use it more often.

For that matter, why are there "internet troll" characters in the phone's trash?  Does anyone who made this film know what an internet troll is?  It's not a character on your phone, or an app, or anything like that, it's another person on the net who says something to rattle you.  Why would any "trolls" be on Alex's phone?  A message from a troll, maybe, but the trolls themselves?  Another thing on a long list of things that don't make any sense.

Who has a "Dance video" app on their phone?  Isn't this something more akin to a video game that you would play on a Nintendo Wii or a Playstation on a large-screen TV?  How is anyone supposed to see the dance moves on a tiny phone screen, especially if there's more than one player?  "Candy Crush" on a phone, sure, but not "Just Dance".

The emojis are already scanned, because you can SEE THEM when you want to pick the right one.  SO there's no reason why every emoji would be "standing by" and waiting to be scanned, because this would just take too long, it's unnecessary work for any phone to do.

Why did Alex take the phone in to tech support?  Why not just delete the operating system or wipe the phone himself, or wait to download the next OS upgrade, which is probably due in like a week or so?  All this just because ONE EMOJI didn't send right?  My phone would have to be horribly malfunctioning for me to take it anywhere near an Apple store - and even then, I wouldn't let those weasels do anything to it without thinking it over for a month or so, trying some other things on my own and then realizing I had no other option.

Also, emojis are a standard set, the same ones appear on every phone that has that OS.  Wiping the phone to correct one emoji would be like burning down your house to find your lost hamster.  If the emoji is not working for one user, chances are that EVERY user is having a problem with that emoji, so it's probably better to wait until enough people complain about it so that the problem gets fixed system-wide.  Remember how people lost their minds because the "cheeseburger" emoji had the cheese UNDER the burger patty and not on top of it?  Enough people applied pressure to the central office, and they changed the art.  Which is silly, because it doesn't matter where you put the cheese on your burger, and it even makes more sense to put the burger on top of the cheese if you want to add ketchup or pickles or onions and not have those things mixed up in the cheese.  If you ask me, the ketchup needs to touch the burger patty, not the cheese, and if you use a hard cheese (like my favorite, horseradish cheddar) the cheese melts better if you put it UNDER the patty.  So there.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of NPs, plus I think I've just proven that I thought about this plot much, much more than any of its screenwriters did.  Which is a shame.  Now, if they REALLY wanted to make an innovative emoji movie, they should have told the entire story IN EMOJIS, like not with characters talking and moving around, just the real emojis from the standard set on the phone.  It could have been done, and then we could have seen kids following the story as the emojis popped up on the movie screen, while every single parent would have been thinking, "What the HELL is this?  I can't follow this story at all!"  Now THAT would have been hilarious.

Also starring the voices of T.J. Miller (last seen in "Deadpool"), James Corden (last heard in "Norm of the North"), Anna Faris (last heard in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip"), Maya Rudolph (last seen in "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping"), Steven Wright (last heard in "The Swan Princess"), Patrick Stewart (last seen in "Logan"), Christina Aguilera (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Sofia Vergara (last seen in "Chef"), Sean Hayes (last heard in "Monsters University"), Rachael Ray, Jeffrey Ross (last seen in "Stuck on You"), Jake T. Austin (last heard in "Rio 2"), Tati Gabrielle, Sean Giambrone, Timothy Durkin, Liam Aiken (last seen in "A Series of Unfortunate Events"), Adam Brown (last seen in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"), Conrad Vernon (last heard in "Sausage Party"), Rob Riggle (last seen in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2").

RATING: 2 out of 10 delete-bots (that should have taken a crack at deleting this whole script)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mascots

Year 10, Day 170 - 6/19/18 - Movie #2,966

BEFORE: Well, there was an appearance by a "furry" last week in "Wish I Was Here", but that was just a teaser, it seems, for a whole film full of people dressed as furry mascots.  What kind of person dresses up in a big fuzzy mascot suit to liven up a crowd at a sporting event?  I have a feeling this mockumentary will have an agenda in showing us what kind of people might do this. 

If only there were some kind of giant, worldwide sporting event going on right now that I could call this a tie-in to, but sadly, there just isn't.  OK, baseball is going on right now, and the MLB has the Phillie Phanatic and those guys that dress up in big-headed Presidents costumes and race around the diamond (I want to say for the Nationals, but I'm not sure...) and then there's Mr. Met and probably a bunch of others.  But really, it's a very quiet time for sports right now, I checked. 

Football doesn't start up for a couple of months, same goes for college football, hockey season ended a couple months ago, same goes for the Winter Olympics, and basketball season JUST ended.  That's it, right?  Those are all the sports.  Again, I apologize for my terrible timing in scheduling this film during this month when there is absolutely nothing of any importance going on in the sports world.

Parker Posey carries over again from "Hemingway & Gellhorn". 


THE PLOT: A look into the world of competitive mascots.

AFTER: Of course, there's no "Golden Fluffy" award - for that matter, there's no organization that controls or sanctions sports mascots - the whole system works for teams everywhere on sort of an ad hoc basis, right?  We're talking about a bunch of freelancers who put on these suits and dance around, because God help us if these people ever got unionized or formed some kind of trade federation.  It would never happen, because any team could just hire someone else to wear each suit, someone not so interested in making a fair wage or getting health benefits, or even some name recognition. 

This has to be a narrative device devised by the filmmaker - Christopher Guest, the man who practically invented the modern mockumentary after starring in "This is Spinal Tap" (directed by Rob Reiner), which was so successful that he essentially gave up hope of making any other kind of film in the future.  Guest went on to direct "Waiting for Guffman", "Best in Show", "A Mighty Wind" and "For Your Consideration", all of which follow the same format, to conduct fake (half-improv) interviews with funny people playing characters, then pretend to follow them around through the rehearsals and performance of something.  Don't get me wrong, I find most of those previous films very funny, but there's something of a law about diminishing returns, and by the time we get to "Mascots", I'm wondering if this format has completely run its course.  But after poking fun at the competitive worlds of community theater, dog shows, folk music and the Oscars, what was left?

And as with those other mockumentaries, everything here seems to follow the unwritten formulas, from the veterans to the newcomers, the stuck-up judges to the weaselly agents, the young man trying to impress his father and the married couple failing to hold their relationship together.  And everyone is sort of left-of-center and nobody is normal at all, which for a bunch of mascots might be spot-on, for all we know.  But you'd think that even in a group of mascots (and the film can't seem to decide if this event is a convention, or a competition, or both) there'd be at least one person with their head screwed on straight (figuratively, not their giant mascot heads...) and this is just not the case.

There are the obligatory "furry" jokes, but it's just one guy trying to sneak into the event, at least there's no implication that nearly everyone in the mascot game is doing it for some bizarre sexual satisfaction, and there are only a few potential hook-ups among the attendees.  Instead there are the super-macho mascot types (the Fist) and some people who seem to genuinely love the art of performing (Sid the Hedgehog) but their routines are all much longer and more elaborate than anything that you'd be likely to see in an arena or stadium.  So, really, we're not supposed to take any of this seriously, I get that, but then once you realize that, what's the point of putting it all on film, if it ultimately bears no resemblance to what takes place in the real world?  I've complained before about the nature of the a cappella competitions seen in "Pitch Perfect", but even though they got many things wrong, at least there ARE a cappella competitions in the real world. 

There are no mascot competitions, right?  Wait, let me check...  OK, I stand corrected, there's the UCA National Mascot Championship, and Goldy the Gopher was the latest champion.  But this event piggy-backs off of the Cheerleading National Championship, so it doesn't seem to be a stand-alone event in this country, not yet.  Anyway, you'd never see a meeting of all the mascots from all the sports from all the countries, so I stand by my original ruling, that a competition like this would never happen.  It's just an excuse for some comedians to play silly loser characters.

Though I will say it's ingenious to have everyone performing in these outfits - the actors could be replaced by professional stuntmen (or stuntwomen) at any time, thanks to movie magic there are no guarantees that the person you see putting on the costume is the same person who does the dancing or the jumping around.  Very crafty.  But cleverness goes out the window once that post-feminist armadillo dance number begins, that was just horrible.  The fact that it was meant to be satirically horrible doesn't excuse how horrible it was.

Also starring Jane Lynch (last heard in "Wreck-It Ralph"), Christopher Guest (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"), Fred Willard (last seen in "Hustle"), Ed Begley Jr. (last seen in "Ghostbusters"), Christopher Moynihan (last seen in "For Your Consideration"), Zach Woods (last seen in "The Post"), Don Lake (last seen in "Downsizing"), Chris O'Dowd (last seen in "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"), Susan Yeagley, Tom Bennett, Kerry Godliman, Bob Balaban (last seen in "No Reservations"), Jennifer Coolidge (last seen in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip"), Michael Hitchcock (last seen in "Serenity"), John Michael Higgins (last seen in "Vampire's Kiss"), Jim Piddock (last heard in "Batman: Under the Red Hood"), Sarah Baker (last seen in "Rock the Kasbah"), Brad Williams, Matt Griesser, Maria Blasucci, Kathreen Khavari, Carrie Aizley, with cameos from Oscar Nuñez (last seen in "The 33"), Wayne Wilderson and the voice of Harry Shearer (last seen in "The Robe"!)

RATING: 5 out of 10 shows on the Gluten Free Network

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hemingway & Gellhorn

Year 10, Day 169 - 6/18/18 - Movie #2,965

BEFORE: Well, I covered the life of Jack Kerouac, so why not Hemingway?  And then I'll try to work in that film about J.D. Salinger this year if there's time.  Might as well keep every theme I'm working on going.  Parker Posey carries over from "Happy Tears" to play one of Hemingway's wives.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Movie #1,870)

THE PLOT: A drama centered on the romance between Ernest Hemingway and World War II correspondent Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway's inspiration for "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and the only woman who ever asked for a divorce from the writer.

AFTER: I made the decision to split this one off from the herd of Nicole Kidman movies on the watchlist - I think she'll probably make out very well at the end of the year when I total things up.  There's no way she can beat Basil Rathbone's 14 appearances as Sherlock Holmes, but she still should do very well. This is her fourth film in Year 10, and there are 7 others on the Watchlist right now.  I'm going to try my best to work them in, late October and/or early November, and maybe clear that category.  It can be tough to know when to move one of those from there to here, in essence I'm treating this film like it's a Parker Posey film, and it's just not, it's 90% Kidman's film.  But I needed one more film to get my U.S. history film to land on July 4, so there you go.  This is why I keep the chains a little fluid at all times.

I'd been waiting for HBO to re-run this, but my recent switchover to a newer DVR means that I can access many more movies On Demand in the living room now than I could before, so that timing is really great - now I didn't have to tape this in the bedroom and watch it on VHS, I could just access more of the HBO On Demand movies with the new DVR, essentially watching this on streaming rather than on tape.  We're getting very close to the point where nearly every movie is available streaming on one platform or another at any given moment, but we're not QUITE there yet.  I'm still glad I've got a backlog of movies burned to DVDs, because you never know when that streaming movie won't be available to stream any more.  One day soon everything will be in the cloud and available all the time, I hope.

But let's get to the story, which focuses on Hemingway's third wife, how they met, what they did together and why they separated.  Umm, yeah, spoiler alert, they didn't go the distance, and Hemingway was on Wife #4 when he committed suicide.  Whoops, spoiler alert again, Hemingway committed suicide with a shotgun.  Hey, it was in all the papers.  Actually, it wasn't, because his fourth wife referred to his death as an accident for years, and only later it was revealed that he was suffering from depression, compounded by alcoholism, and also hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes an accumulation of iron in the body, and can cause liver disease, heart failure, and mental and physical deterioration.  (Please refrain from referring to Hemingway's condition as "ironic"...)

But before there was Hemingway's end there was Hemingway's middle.  And now of course we tend to remember Hemingway how he looked when he was older, with the gray hair and the beard, when he lived in - wait, where did he live near the end of his life?  Idaho?  Geez, this guy got around - in an age where there was only travel by train and boat, this guy managed to live everywhere from Michigan to Paris to Toronto to Cuba to Key West.  Not to mention the trips to Spain and China.  But Gellhorn meets him in Key West, FL, which was a semi-permanent home for him, the place is still something of a shrine in his honor.  At this point he was with his second wife and had fathered three sons, but none of his children are even mentioned in this film, probably for fear of portraying him as an absent father or some kind of deadbeat dad.

I did a whole Hemingway chain a couple of years ago, and I'm afraid I didn't watch the films based on his autobiographical books in the right order - first should have been "A Farewell to Arms" (in which he was a World War I ambulance driver), then "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (reflecting the time he got sick while on safari in Africa) and then "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (which came about from his time in Spain during the Civil War there in the 1930's).  Finally, I understand why Ingrid Bergman was miscast in "For Whom the Bell Tolls", because even though her character was supposed to be Spanish, the character was based on Gellhorn, who was a blonde journalist that he was in love with.

After Spain, Hemingway moved to Cuba and took up residence in a hotel, and Gellhorn soon joined him, later they bought a farm property 15 miles away from Havana and filled it with a ton of stray cats (they later did this in Key West, too, I think).  From Cuba it was on to Wyoming and then Idaho, and they got out of Cuba before World War II started, and at some point got back to Key West, where Hemingway supposedly searched for German U-Boats off the coast of Key West, though this was probably just an excuse to go fishing and drinking with his buddies.

Hemingway and Gellhorn (by now his third wife) were both correspondents during World War II, but separately, not together.  It seems Hemingway preferred to leave all of his women before they could leave him, or so this story would have you believe. To me it appears more like Hemingway only married women so that he could have someone to cheat on the next time he met another pretty young thing who was interested in journalism.  But while Hemingway had many problems getting close to the action (I won't get into all of his health problems here, but they're broken down on Wikipedia) Gellhorn managed to be present at Normandy on D-Day, then she moved on to report from concentration camps such as Dachau and Auschwitz.

So there's a bit of speculation involved in determining whether Hemingway just got restless and bored each time he got married, or whether he was jealous of Gellhorn's eventual success as a war correspondent.  In many ways she seems to be his equal on the reporting front, but of course nobody could match him when it came to writing fiction based on these real events.  Together they represented the best of both worlds, non-fiction reporting and fictional novels set in the real world, but Hemingway probably felt like he had to be the "star" of the relationship, and begrudged Gellhon's success.  In the end, perhaps society is to blame, because it must have been difficult to maintain a two-writer relationship in the 1940's, all that patriarchy to deal with AND the cult of personality that had been built up around Papa Hemingway.

Hemingway shot himself in 1961, while Gellhorn survived to report from both Vietnam and the Arab-Israel conflicts in the 1970's.  I'd say that living well is the best revenge, but she also committed suicide (another fact this film sort of glosses over) at the age of 80 after being diagnosed with cancer and becoming nearly blind after an unsuccessful cataract operation.  Turns out every biography becomes a tragedy near the end, right?

From a filmmaking point of view, some of the effects here are interesting, where scenes appear in sepia tones or without color, to mimic newsreels of the time.  Interesting, yes, but also a bit distracting.  Some outdoor scenes set after the Spanish Civil War are similarly shot in the style of Hollywood films of the 1940's, where the modern actors appear to walk through NYC scenes that match the movie images that remain from that period.  Watch for the Orson Welles appearance as he's fired off the set of "The Spanish Earth" after battling with Hemingway over his narration.

However, Hemingway and Gellhorn's final trip together, to China, not only receives little time, it's not placed in much historical context.  I probably should do some research here, because I barely understand the difference between Chiang Kai Shek and Chou En-Lai.  But there are many, many things that this film manages to either gloss over or not explain properly - like, what was the beef between Hemingway and Max Eastman, what was THAT all about?  And if you're not going to explain it, then why bring it up?  (Ah, it seems Eastman was a critic that claimed that Hemingway's always bragging about his masculinity was an act of over-compensation.  So them Hemingway smacked him in the face with a book, it seems.)

The later shots of Hemingway letting a large marlin go, not reeling it in, I suppose are supposed to earmark Gellhorn as the "one that got away" from him, but I don't know.  Isn't a fishing metaphor an inherently sexist one?  I mean, maybe he didn't reel that fish in one sense, but can't you lay the blame on the relationship failing squarely on his interest in younger, sexier, more easy-to-catch fish?  So the metaphor just doesn't work, or else Hemingway just isn't very self-aware.

Also starring Clive Owen (last seen in "The Pink Panther"), Nicole Kidman (last seen in "The Beguiled"), David Strathairn (last seen in "Dolores Claiborne"), Molly Parker (last seen in "The Road"), Rodrigo Santoro (last seen in "Jane Got a Gun"), Mark Pellegrino (last seen in "Mulholland Drive"), Peter Coyote (last seen in "Unforgettable"), Lars Ulrich (last seen in "Get Him to the Greek"), Robert Duvall (last seen in "The Conversation"), Tony Shalhoub (last heard in "Cars 3"), Jeffrey Jones (last seen in "The Crucible"), Santiago Cabrera, Remy Auberjonois, Anthony Brandon Wong, Joan Chen (last seen in "Judge Dredd"), Leonard Apeltsin, Aitor Inarra, Diane Baker (last seen in "Murder at 1600"), Steven Wiig, Patrick Mapel, Keone Young, Malcolm Brownson, Ivonne Coll, Alfred Rubin Thompson, with cameos from Brooke Adams, Connie Nielsen (last seen in "Justice League").

RATING: 5 out of 10 Tropicana dancers