by Philip Price
Director: Dave Wilson
Starring: Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce & Eiza Gonzalez
Runtime: 1 hour & 49 minutes
In this comic book take on “Groundhog Day” Vin Diesel plays a slain soldier with superpowers who is re-animated time and time again to carry out the nefarious deeds of one, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce).
Going into “Bloodshot” I understood that there was an audience out there for both the film and this character that I simply wasn't a part of. Director Dave Wilson is a storied visual effects guy who makes his feature debut with this film based on a Valiant Comic series that began in 1992 and - from what I can tell - is the small comic book house's most popular character. Again, it's not hard for me to understand why this might be the case given the character's story is largely that of Steve Rogers combined with the aforementioned reliable trope that is throwing your protagonist into a time loop and forcing them to learn a mandatory lesson in order to set things right, but just because I understand it doesn't mean I get it.
This little chestnut of a plot device could easily come off as little more than cliché, but given we've seen it used as recently and to great effect in movies like “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Happy Death Day” there was a sliver of hope that at least one of the film's two major components might be executed effectively. Unfortunately for Sony and Diesel (not to mention Wilson), there will be no “2 Blood 2 Shot” as this thing was doomed even before it delayed its release to the weekend before the world shut down. This is to say that “Bloodshot” utilizes neither the appeal of its titular character nor does it do anything fresh or different with the time loop conceit despite having the hook that this time loop exists only because our villains repeatedly wipe a super hero's brain clean in order to use him to fulfill their own personal agendas. Wilson seemingly decided to try and replicate everything he's seen people do before rather than strike out on his own in any regard as his film doesn't so much seek to set itself apart from the pack as much as it does just try to fit in. It is in this quest for "generic-ness" that viewers might spot blatant rip-offs or "homages" to genre wizards like Sam Raimi and Michael Bay not to mention the fact that-like in his fellow super soldier's film - there is an action sequence that takes place on an elevator. Ironically enough, it's this elevator sequence that contains what feels like the only piece of inventive filmmaking on display. What's not ironic is the fact a movie that largely rests on a cyclical plot does in fact get old pretty quick.
by Kellan Miller
*originally published on WhatCulture!
With the vast improvements in technology over the years, filmmakers have a wealth of sources at their disposal to make movies entertaining. Seeking a large pay day, many directors rely on over-the-top CGI effects and computer design to draw butts into the seats of the local movie theater. Hot leading actress who at some point takes off her clothes? Check. Ridiculous car chase scene in the middle of a heavily populated metropolitan area? Check. Fierce trigger showdowns where the good guy comes out on top? Check. Adhere to the list above, and you've got yourself a movie. But it is the hallmark of a truly talented filmmaker who can take a mundane subject and transform it into a captivating film. Take “Thank You For Smoking” for instance. A film about political lobbying is not something most people think of when they are scrolling through Netflix pondering what movie to watch next, but the film is expertly done without all of the standard movie tropes directors have been using as a crutch for decades. What follows is a list of eight films that make really boring things look awesome.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Comas or Locked-In Syndrome)
Seriously, can you think of anything more boring than a coma? Just getting through a grueling workweek is often a practice in mental and physical fortitude, and you probably have had coma fantasies on more than one occasion. But in reality, comas are not fun, but “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” is an entrancing film. Adapted from the actual 1995 memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. At only age 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed from the neck down. The only form of communication at his disposal were his eyelids, and in the film, a conscious protagonist struggles to learn an entire new form of communication via blinking. Julian Schnabel's film adds a stunning depth during flashback scenes where we see Bauby in his pre-locked-in-syndrome life. Sitting in his hospital bed, Bauby has time to reflect on all of the bad decisions he made in the past, and how little he cherished his esteemed life as the editor of a major fashion magazine. Bauby decides to take his newfound wisdom and put it to good use, employing his blinking-eye technique to pen a memoir with the help of publishing assistant.
Before Sunrise (First Dates)
Richard Linklater has a knack for transforming the mundane aspects of life into a captivating narrative. Think more along the lines of “Slacker,” not “A Scanner Darkly,” because as we all know there is nothing routine about waking up in an animated futuristic dystopia where an entire society is addicted to drugs. However, in “Before Sunrise,” Linklater takes the viewer on a seemingly simple journey of self-discovery. Two strangers meet each other, and after an endless conversation, eventually fall in love. Ladies and gents, we've all been here. First dates are often excruciating experiences, but in the first film of the critically acclaimed three-part series, Linklater provides a realistic portrait of two diverse individuals discussing basically every subject under the sun (no pun intended) to stunning effect. Although Quentin Tarantino is often viewed as the king of dialogue, Linklater is able to keep the viewer glued to the screen without much action at all. Yes, there are no sex scenes, or dramatic arguments in the rain, but the ride up until the final moment when the two decide that they are seriously attracted to one another is thoroughly entertaining. While your next first date might be the result of Match.com rather than a random exchange on a train in Vienna, remember that first dates don't always have to suck.
Little Miss Sunshine (Family Road Trips)
As long as I'm a non-parent, I'll never pretend to identify with the stress that goes along with raising a child, especially a hyperactive little girl who loves to constantly dance and dreams of being in a beauty pageant many miles from my home. I can only imagine that the stress load would improve if your other child is experiencing an awkward teenage phase of Nietzschean non-verbal communication. Additionally, I don't know a person alive who wouldn't want to spend a few hours with the Michael Scott version of Steve Carrell, but not the depressed intellectual version. Sometimes road trips can be fun, but even with a cool cat like Alan Arkin riding passenger, can you imagine being locked in a broken-down minivan with the personalities previously mentioned as you race across the country to California? It's actually an insult to the word "boredom" to call this a boring situation. Nevertheless, “Little Miss Sunshine” is a riot. Although all the characters are suffering through respective hardships, the family is able to achieve a state of harmony and bliss despite enduring an insane road-trip that would cause even the most stable human a Nietzschean nervous breakdown.
The Breakfast Club (Detention)
I'm sure you have many memories of weekend detention, and while you probably never had to write different phrases on a blackboard for over 20 years Bart Simpson style, detention evokes memories of sheer boredom for most people. Especially Saturday morning detention, when instead of sleeping in your comfortable bed you have to go to school during technically non-school hours. However, even Saturday morning detention doesn't seem so bad if it is spent with an 80's version of Molly Ringwald. Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, “The Breakfast Club” is the movie most synonymous with the brat pack because it is just plain awesome from start to finish. Although many films have attempted to mimic the seemingly simplistic nature of the film, none have come close to the brilliant portrait of adolescent angst and anxiety that treads through the entirety of “The Breakfast Club.” I admit, it would be kind of hilarious to see Seth Rogen and the frat pack act in a film where they talk about farts and what not for ninety minutes, but I doubt very seriously the film would be as awesome or poignant as “The Breakfast Club.”
Office Space (9 to 5 Jobs)
OK, OK, maybe this one's a little too obvious. Nonetheless, a list about films that boring things look awesome wouldn't be complete without “Office Space.” Mike Judge's hilarious comedy is a complete fantasy for about 90 percent of the American public. Many working-class Americans spend a great majority of time trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic all en route to a job that they hate, and subsequently spend eight or nine hours trapped inside a stuffy cubicle. The grueling nature of the 9-5 is boredom on steroids, and in “Office Space,” Ron Livingston and a couple co-workers decide to seek revenge on their bosses. The movie is adored by mostly every person in America who didn't have the luck of inheriting Gates or Walton as their last name. Out of all the films in this list, “Office Space” is the most identifiable, as who hasn't lost themselves in daydreams about bringing about the complete and utter downfall of their respective employer? I'm sure it would feel really good to be a gangsta. Shows like “The Office” would capitalize on the idea of cubicle boredom as entertainment, but “Office Space” will always have a special place in the cannon of wildly hilarious films.
Most will agree that political affairs not pertaining to Bill Clinton are boring (see what I did there?). Although any video of a Nixon speech viewed in a high-school U.S. history class will quickly give you the impression that Nixon himself was boring, the fact that he illegally video-taped his political opponents is kind of a big deal. Still, a two hour historical drama about an anchorman interviewing the 37th president of the United States has boredom written all over it based on premise alone. However, Ron Howard's film takes a historical moment and turns it into a dazzlingly intense narrative. Stretching history a wee-bit, “Frost/Nixon” turns a television interview into a heavy weight boxing match. Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (David Frost) are treated the same sort of mythical layering as the athletes on HBO's "24/7" or in NFL Films documentaries. After watching Frost take a pounding in the first couple of rounds with a box of popcorn by your side, it's extremely tempting not to scream "Down goes Nixon! Down goes Nixon!" when Frost lands the final TKO-- getting Nixon to admit to his illegal activity on air for the world to witness.
Wall Street (Finance)
We all love money, but the drudgery of keeping up with stocks, bonds, investments, shares, and trading is something that conjures of migraines for the average person not named Warren Buffet. While it's true that money never sleeps, a quick skim of Yahoo.com finance reports is enough to send me on my way to zzzz land. Despite the perks involved with becoming successful in the field, most will agree that a stockbroker is not the most glamorous career in terms of excitement. Nonetheless, Oliver Stone's “Wall Street” is one of the most beloved films of the American Cannon. Even though the original wolf of wall street (Charlie Sheen) would later go on to live a life completely 180 degrees removed from boredom, his portrayal of Bud Fox as an eager young man #winning and using his full arsenal to ascend to the tops of the corporate world is stellar, and it boggles the mind how such an actor could eventually fall into the likes of mediocre prime-time television. The film is augmented by Michael Douglas' portrayal of the money-hungry Gordon Gekko; one of his most recognizable roles to date. Douglas deservedly went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and Oliver Stone went on to direct a lot of other films that make really boring things look awesome.
12 Angry Men (Jury Duty)
Since the dawn of time, man has gone through great lengths in order to escape jury duty. People always talk about how morally wrong our judicial system is, but they never stop to criticize the fact that no measures are taken to ensure that the jurors themselves have even an ounce of fun while they debate for extended periods of time. It's our duty as citizens to partake in this pain-staking process, even if we would much rather be watching that major league baseball game, we bought tickets for. The brilliance of “12 Angry Men” is that it beautifully encapsulates this idea-- the majority of the film taking place in one room. This is an expert study in dialogue, as the plot revolves around Henry Fonda's attempts to convince an otherwise decided room of angry men that the young defendant is not guilty. At first, Fonda seems like the kid who reminds the teacher to assign homework to the class, but as the film progresses, eleven angry men eventually come to a unanimous verdict of not guilty. As film buffs the world over know already, the story is a fascinating exploration of the human psyche and intellectual competition between competing ideologies. Much credit must be bestowed on Reginald Rose, the late screenwriter who penned the story, because until a director decides to film a movie literally about paint drying, “12 Angry Men” is far and away the greatest example of boredom cloaked in awesomeness.
by Philip Price
Director: Clark Duke
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn & Clark Duke
Runtime: 1 hour & 57 minutes
Right off the bat I'd like to acknowledge the fact I live in Hot Springs, Ark. which is situated about 45 minutes northeast of Glenwood where writer/director and actor Clark Duke was born; his experiences in the area clearly informing his connection to and desire to adapt John Brandon's best-selling book of the same name. And yes, the climactic scene of the movie takes place on historic bathhouse row and was shot about five minutes from my house in downtown Hot Springs National Park. I say all of this not to try and convince you of how cool I am (unless it's working, then yes - I'm very cool), but instead to make it clear there will be no playing favorites here simply because the movie takes its name from the state I've called home for nearly three decades and because I recognized a few locations. In fact, despite the title of the film Duke and his crew shot the majority of his directorial debut in Alabama rather than in or around the Little Rock area as the movie suggests. So while there is certainly a layer of appreciation and affection for some of the sites we see and the accents we hear, there was almost more of an eagerness to see these things serve as a backdrop for what is a genre of movie we're all very familiar with whether from the natural state or not.
“Arkansas” pays plenty of homage to the overall tone of the state, especially in its flashbacks to the mid-to-late ‘80s as we're delivered the backstory of Vince Vaughn's character, Frog, as he belts out the Gatlin Brothers and cruises past open fields and dilapidated barns in his Nissan Fairlady 300ZX Coupé. At one point, Vaughn's Frog asks a couple of his associates what they're up to in which they respond with a generic comment before summarizing the feeling as being, "asleep at the wheel of the American dream." There's almost no better phrasing one could have concocted to define the stagnant air of progress yet fierce commitment to maintaining aged ideals (some good, not all bad). It is in this kind of mentality that we find the best facets of Duke's film as he's not simply telling a story of the "Dixie mafia" and funneling said crime/drama through the lens of the south, but he's utilizing this contradictory air of the south where everything feels ironic without the slightest bit of intent to add specific tone to his crime caper. “Arkansas,” the film, although a story about drug dealers is mostly a story about two generations of men whose aspirations are only limited by the economic options of their environment and whose intelligence is only undermined by their (mostly) unassuming appearances dictated by that same environment.
Duke’s film begins with a Charles Portis quote from The Dog of the South that reads, "A lot of people leave Arkansas and most of them come back sooner or later. They can't quite achieve escape velocity." Though I've never read this Portis selection (I know, I live in Arkansas - what am I doing with my life?) and am only familiar with the story due to having read the Wikipedia page after seeing the quote at the top of this film it doesn't feel like I'm venturing too far a guess that Portis' book was of this particular brand of dark, southern fried humor; one that shows indifference toward things like death and cruelty with a pension for saying poetic things in the most layman's of layman terms (there's that sense of contradiction again). If there was anyone Duke seemingly took inspiration from though, it would be the Coen brothers who directed the 2010 version of Portis' most famous novel, True Grit. It is in this wheelhouse of the neo-noir crime thrillers that Duke and Andrew Boonkrong's screenplay first introduces us to Kyle Ribb (Liam Hemsworth) who in his opening narration describes the term "Dixie Mafia" as being too generous a description as it's more a loose affiliation of scumbags with no real sense of organization. Kyle spouts more philosophies about how it's only people who want things that need such philosophies by which to live their lives (he says this as mindless reality HGTV plays in the background), but while Kyle likes to subscribe to the fact he has no desires or wants in life, and is happy to serve as little more than a dependable cog in a fascinating machine it's inevitable-especially after meeting his new partner Swin Horn (Duke) - that the guy will be able to avoid such natural entanglements and feelings. Swin, on the other hand, has probably never met a person he couldn't talk to and no matter how off-putting his bright clothes, man-bun and the baby caterpillar on his upper lip might be to most southerners, he is more than confident that by the time you get to know him that you'll be the best of buds. After a swift promotion in Louisiana, Kyle makes his way to Little Rock where he meets Swin and is informed the two of them are to live by the orders of an Arkansas-based drug kingpin (Vaughn), with the catch being they've never actually met this elusive "Frog". Posing as junior park rangers our heroes handle the jobs they're given by Frog's close associate, Bright (John Malkovich), by delivering the packages handed off to them via a go-between referred to only as "Her" (Vivica A. Fox). All smells of roses if for only a short time as deals inevitably go wrong, further bad decisions are made, and both Kyle and Swin end up on the very short list of Frog's living enemies.
Where Duke really succeeds in conveying this type of story in this kind of setting is in the definition his and Boonkrong's script bring to the type of people he's exploring these themes and ideas through. If you've seen the trailer for the film or have a sense of the younger Hemsworth's career trajectory then one wouldn't be completely wrong in assuming that “Arkansas” may very well be worthy of little more than the $5 bin at Wal-Mart (the irony all over this thing, right?) or maybe a redbox rental, but fortunately for both Hemsworth and the residents of the Sam Walton state, “Arkansas” is anything but a dismissable piece of genre junk. It is instead a genuinely heartfelt ode to the region known as the "south" if not necessarily Arkansas in particular and a keen study on how a generally intelligent, perceptive, and good-looking guy like Kyle might fall into this world for reasons heavily influenced by the region of the country in which he was born. Kyle is the kind of guy that had he been dealt a different hand with better and more opportunity could have easily been a successful and well-measured individual that might have been conditioned to expect that the things he desires are worth pursuing. Kyle was probably raised in a park-whether it be a trailer or RV, it doesn't really make a difference-and was allowed if not expected to occupy himself in the nature that would become the atmosphere of his youth. Kyle was undoubtedly a smart kid in whom his teachers saw promise despite his low-income, absent parent circumstances. The type that inevitably went on to fall in with the rest of the crowd that was bred around him that offered more instantly gratifying rewards than pursuing the unreal hope of continuing his education or even learning a trade (a trade that's not drug dealing, I mean). Kyle is the guy born and bred in this "real south" that Duke's movie hopes to portray. His arc of going from being mostly satisfied with being more than capable of his grunt work to the point of beginning to wonder what someone in Frog's position might think of him and if they'd consider him someone worthy of taking up the mantle is a major step and one that the film chronicles nicely in its five chapter structure. While Kyle is our main protagonist, our mirror to Vaughn's Frog in this breeding ground that cycles generations through inadvertent lives of violence and crime, Swin is a character who allowed this lifestyle into his existence; where Kyle fell into it, Swin accepted the invitation. Because of this perspective that comes from choice, Swin sometimes shortchanges the severity of the consequences to his actions and is probably the reason he ignores the rules and begins a relationship with a local, Johnna (Eden Brolin, daughter of Josh). This naturally complicates things further once Frog becomes aware of the duos actions that mistakenly paint them as a threat to his empire.
Let's talk about Frog though, as both the story of this man's journey and the portrayal by Vaughn are among the best things this otherwise solidly engaging film has to offer. As stated, “Arkansas” is situated into a five chapter structure with the first chapter introducing us to Kyle and Swin and indoctrinating us into this world of Deep South drug trafficking. The second chapter jumps back to 1985 in West Memphis and introduces us to a young, vibrant Frog whose options are only improved when the opportunity of running drugs is presented to him. This structure, while something of a convention, really aids in the understanding of the plot as there's no structure to the job of a drug dealer in the least. There's no way to tell in which direction the narrative could go given the amount of variables involved in a given deal and so, while the screenplay understands this and gets ahead of it the same could be said for the character of Frog and his relationship with the business that would come to define his life. Frog learns the tricks of the trade from a mentor named Almond (Michael Kenneth Williams), but it doesn't take long for Frog to figure out he's getting the short end of the stick while doing the bulk of the work and that cutting out a few levels of individuals would only result in bigger pay days for himself and so as he ascends to the top of the food chain and re-locates his base of operations he utilizes the mistakes of Almond to shape his methodology for running his own business. It is for these reasons that Frog is both successful in his craft for the many years that he is and also weary when two movers and shakers enter into his pyramid and threaten the chain of command. Frog doesn't much care for who Kyle and/or Swin might be as people, but more so that they might be smart enough to usurp him-something Frog knows a thing or two about but can't allow to happen. Beyond the dynamics at play and the strong ideas Duke is getting at there is much to be said about the aesthetic of the piece overall as well. Sure, Swin may be the obvious point of reference on this topic with his bold colors, vintage t-shirts and unique hair choices, but I bring this up now because it is Frog's wardrobe paired with the intentionally hazy cinematography of Steven Meizler in Frog's segments in the ‘80s and the ace musical cues that really come to define the identity of “Arkansas” as a movie. This whole look and feel that Duke and Meizler have crafted is one that’s easy to define, but almost impossible to describe in terms of the feeling the look is meant to elicit. Yes, nostalgia to an extent, but only for a certain sect of viewers-to the rest of the audience it simply has to be cool and appealing and while I don’t personally find nostalgia in yoke Western shirts and George Jones songs the film is able to convey the fact these things are inherent to what makes these people, this place, and their story so appealing. OK, so maybe there’s a little bias at play, but Duke justifies the use of his home state as the backdrop for this genre story in a directorial debut the rest of Arkansas can be proud of and one we should be happy to call our own.
by Philip Price, Alea Jeremiah & Preston Tolliver
One of the most popular online meme games during the Coronavirus pandemic has been the selection of choosing your favorite teams among a number of movie characters, athletes, etc. and having to do so within a budget. One of the popular ones recently is assembling and Avengers team for $15. I thought it would be fun to get some of The Word contributors who are major Marvel fans to make their selections and let us into their reasoning for doing so. Philip Price and Alea Jeremiah did just that for us, while Preston Tolliver, as usual, was more of a smart-ass.
Here are their selections …
Part of me just wants to just make it kind of easy and go with the core “Guardians of the Galaxy” line-up, including Nebula, Drax, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Star Lord, which coincidentally enough rounds up to a solid 15 bucks, but while the personalities are arguably among the best of the bunch especially if one is looking for a couple of scoundrels with some good (slightly embellished) stories to hang out with, but they probably wouldn't be the crew you'd choose if you're ultimately going to end up facing a Thanos-like force. Although Gamora and Nebula and personal stakes in the fight against their big, purple titan of a stepdad and make for some formidable warrior and opponents the strength of Captain America and Thor easily outweigh Drax's peak physical condition, Hulk could likely out bulk the lumbering Groot while Iron Man/Tony Stark would have no problem outsmarting and out-quipping the capable, but damaged Peter Quill. Granted, Quill AKA Star Lord is part celestial and therefore immensely powerful considering the celestials are some of the oldest entities in the Marvel Comics universe, but we haven't yet seen the full extent of these powers and given the man's penchant for letting emotions override logic and strategy ... he's likely best left off the list.
So, if we're picking a team for the purposes of what I assume are to be a completely indestructible and undefeatable team then one must build it around the most powerful specimen out of the whole bunch-we're talking about Thor, of course-the God of Thunder. Add in Doctor Strange to mesh the worlds of magic and mystical arts brings our total to a whopping $9. Let’s go ahead and throw in Vision for a buck as well given he possesses the power of an INFINITY STONE and then .... you know what, while I appreciate that Thor and Bruce Banner AKA Hulk had a nice camaraderie in Ragnarok and I know I already said Hulk might ultimately outrank Groot in terms of pure strength, but let’s rescind on that comment and spend the final $5 on the combo of Rocket and Groot not only for the ingenuity, strength and humor they'll bring to the team, but due to the fact Rocket seems to truly understand Thor and the two form a unique, but effective bond that leads to breakthroughs like Stormbreaker … which only reinforces the inclusion of Groot as well. So, we have a God, a Sorcerer, an android and the only other known being to be able to wield Mjolnir at this point in time, an extraterrestrial tree monster and his anthropomorphic raccoon. Not too shabby, but you know you guys could have made this easier by just putting Captain Marvel on here for $10 so we could throw her and Thor in the cart and call it a day, right?
Thor - $5
Doctor Strange - $4
Groot - $3
Rocket - $2
Vision - $1
Final Price: $15
Just a disclaimer, this was incredibly hard and the people I’ve chosen are based off being my favorites, not just because of their abilities!
First up on my team for $1 is Bucky because I’ve always just loved him. My second selection is Captain America for a whopping $5 because you can’t have Bucky without his best friend.
It was extremely hard for me to pick between Cap, Iron Man and Thor. Third is Groot for $3 because he’s Groot, I mean come on.
Fourth is Ant-Man for $4 because we’re a team that loves comic relief. And last, but certainly not least, is Scarlet Witch for $2 because she’s an amazing badass! I’m pretty confident in my team, I think I’ve spent my money wisely! Avengers assemble!
Captain American - $5
Ant-Man - $4
Groot - $3
Scarlet Witch - $2
Bucky - $1
Final Price: $15
Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, has the power to alter realities to her liking, which has led to some of the biggest changes in Marvel Comics, including a genocide, and she’s only $2 on here. I’m taking her and we’re going to Taco Bell to spend the remaining $13 on some nacho boxes.
Scarlet Witch - $2
2 Taco Bell Nacho Boxes - $13
Final Price: $15
Most Selected Avenger: Groot and Scarlet Witch (Twice)