A Winter Game Film Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers (dir by Jay Baruchel)


Here at the Shattered Lens, Leonard Wilson is our resident hockey expert.  He can tell you all about the in and outs of the game in general and the New York Rangers in specific.

Myself, I know very little about hockey.  Here’s what I do know:

  1. It’s played on the ice and with a puck.
  2. There are a lot of fights.
  3. All of my Canadian friends love it.
  4. It’s a sport that is mentioned many times on Degrassi.
  5. Two hockey players won the 22nd season of The Amazing Race.
  6. Back in 2011, I followed Arleigh’s suggestion and watched a hockey movie called Goon.  Surprisingly, I really, really liked it.

Six years ago, I started my review of Goon by admitting that I didn’t know anything hockey so not much has changed.  However, while I still may not know much about hockey, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  And, of course, hockey is a big part of the Winter Games.  Since I’m currently watching movies about winter sports, today seemed like the perfect time to watch 2016’s Goon: The Last of The Enforcers and get caught up on the story of Doug Glatt.

Who is Doug Glatt?  As played by Seann William Scott, Doug Glatt is probably one of the nicest guys that you could ever hope to meet.  He’s not particularly smart.  He’s the type who responds to almost comment with a slightly confused smile.  He tend to take things literally.  But he’s a genuinely sweet guy and it’s impossible not to like him.

Except, of course, when he’s on the ice.  Doug is a semi-pro hockey player, playing for the Halifax Highlanders.  Even his biggest fans will admit that Doug isn’t the best hockey player of all time.  However, no one can throw a punch like he can.  Doug’s an enforcer.  His specialty is beating up the opposing team.  When his coach (Kim Coates) needs to intimidate the other team, he sends Doug out with orders to beat someone up.  Doug has no problem breaking someone’s nose but he usually apologizes afterward.  He’s known as The Thug.

Doug is married to Eva (Allison Pill), who loves hockey but, now that she’s pregnant, she worries about Doug getting seriously injured.  These worries come true when Doug gets into a fight with Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), a fearsome enforcer on another team.  (Anders just happens to be the son of the owner of the Highlanders.)  Cain not only leaves Doug crumpled up on the ice but he also injures Doug’s right shoulder, making it difficult for Doug to throw a punch with his right hand.  It appears that Doug’s playing days are over.  Doug ends up working in the storage room of an insurance company while the Highlanders continue on without him.  Adding insult to injury, Anders is soon signed by the Highlanders and given Doug’s old position as team captain.

As much as Doug tries to move on, he keeps finding himself drawn back to hockey.  When he runs into a former rival, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is now making a living as a glorified gladiator, Doug realizes that he can learn how to fight with his left fist.  But with Eva not wanting him to fight anymore, Doug is forced to decide which team he’s going to play for, the Highlanders or his family?

Especially when compared to the first Goon, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is an extremely busy film.  Beyond Doug trying to adjust to life off the ice, the film also deals with Anders Cain’s relationship with his father, the locker room shenanigans of the Highlanders, Ross Rhea’s attempt to make a comeback, and the antics of obnoxious sports reporter Chad Bailey (T.J. Miller).  That’s a lot for one film to deal with and it’s not surprising that the end result is an uneven mishmash of raunchy comedy and sports-themed melodrama.  Whereas the first Goon worked because it kept things simple and sincere, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is way too complicated for its own good.

That said, as played by Seann William Scott, Doug is just as likable as he was in the first film and Scott and Allison Pill still make for an adorable couple.  In fact, the entire cast does a pretty good job, especially Wyatt Russell and Liev Schreiber.  The film doesn’t really work but, for fans of the first film, it’s still enjoyable enough.  If nothing else, it’s nice to see how things work out for Doug Glatt.

Guilty Pleasure No. 31: Hail, Caesar! (dir by the Coen Brothers)


Sometimes, I wonder if I was the only filmgoer who actually enjoyed Hail, Caesar! when it was released in February.

Oh, don’t met wrong.  I know that I’m being a bit overdramatic when I say that.  It got some good reviews from the critics, though the praise was rather muted when compared to the reviews that traditionally greet the latest film from the Coen Brothers.  I know more than a few people who have agreed with me that Hail, Caesar! was an entertaining lark of a film.

But I know a lot more people who absolutely hated Hail, Caesar!  Of course, no film is going to please everyone and the Coen Brothers have always had a tendency to attempt to deliberately alienate their audience.  But what has always struck me is the fact that the people who disliked Hail, Caesar seem to really, really dislike it.  Talk to them and you get the feeling that they view Hail, Caesar as almost being some sort of a crime against both humanity and cinema.

Taking place in a stylized Hollywood in 1951, Hail, Caesar! tells the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).  Eddie is a shadowy figure.  As head of production at Capitol Pictures, Eddie’s job is to keep the “bad” behavior of the stars from getting out into the press.  (The press is represented by Tilda Swinton who, in a typical Coen Brothers twist, plays twin sisters who are rival gossip columnists.  If the thought of that makes you smile, you are potentially a part of the right audience for Hail Caesar.  If it makes you roll your eyes, you should probably avoid the film.)  Eddie is the most powerful man in Hollywood and he will do anything to protect the image of the American film industry.  He will lie.  He will cheat.  He will threaten.  He is so ruthless and so good at his job that even Lockheed Martin is trying to hire him away from Capitol.  And yet, at the same time, Eddie is also a family man and a Catholic who is so devout that he goes to confession on a nearly hourly basis.

(For all you non-Catholics out there, Pope Francis only goes to confession twice a month.)

Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie as he deals with a series of potential problems.  Temperamental director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is upset because he’s been forced to cast Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich, giving the film’s best performance), a good-natured but inarticulate cowboy star, in his sophisticated comedy.  Synchronized swimmer DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansoon) is not only pregnant but unmarried as well!  (It’s the 50s, remember.)

However, the biggest crisis is that Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has vanished from the set of his latest film. A mysterious group known as The Future has taken credit for kidnapping him.  It’s not really much of a spoiler to reveal that The Future is a cell of communist scriptwriters and they are determined to convert the rather dumb Baird to the struggle.  As opposed to most films about Hollywood in the 50s, the communist screenwriters are portrayed as being a bunch of self-righteous and rather cowardly nags, the majority of whom spend more time debating minutiae than actually trying to the overthrow capitalism.  In many ways, Hail, Caesar is the anti-Trumbo.

As you might guess from the plot description, there’s a lot going on in Hail, Caesar but none of it really adds up too much.  Nor is it supposed to.  We’re encouraged to laugh at these frantic characters, as opposed to sympathize with them.  Eddie Mannix and Hobie Doyle both emerge as heroes because they’re the only characters who remain calm and confident, regardless of what strangeness is happening onscreen.  Eddie may be ruthless, the film tells us, but at least he gets results.  Hobie may not be the smartest or most talented guy in Hollywood, we are told, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than who he is.

Hail, Caesar! is a bit of a lark, a celebration of style over substance.  As far as Coen Brother films go, Hail, Caesar has more in common with Burn After Reading than No Country For Old Men.  The film is largely an inside joke aimed at people who know the history of Hollywood, which is perhaps why some viewers reacted so negatively.  Inside jokes are fun when you’re in on the joke.  When you’re not in on it, though, they’re just annoying.

As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed Hail, Caesar!  It may not be the Coens at their best but it’s a lot of fun and it appealed me as both a history nerd and a lover of old movies.  The best parts of Hail, Caesar! are the scenes that parody the largely forgotten, big-budget studio productions of the 1950s.  This is the rare film that acknowledges that not every film made before the 1960s was a masterpiece.  The Coens love movies but that doesn’t keep them from getting a little bit snarky.  For example, check out this production number featuring Channing Tatum:

Is Hail, Caesar self-indulgent?

Yes.

Is it largely an inside joke?

Yes.

Did I absolutely adore it?

You better believe I did.

Hail,_Caesar!_Teaser_poster

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen

This Trailer Has Cooties


Cooties

Every year there’s always a few horror films that seem to come out of nowhere that everyone ends up getting hyped for by word of mouth. Zombieland from several years back was one such horror film that worked both as horror and comedy.

This year it looks like Cooties may just be that one horror-comedy that has a chance to surprise an audience that’s become jaded when it comes to their horror entertainment. It definitely wears it’s comedic side on it’s sleeve in the trailer. Now whether it succeeds as a horror-comedy we shall soon find out when it comes out on Sept. 18, 2015.

Trailer: Snowpiercer (Red Band)


 

Bong Joon-ho is a name that genre fans know well. He has made a name for himself in his home country of South Korea with such critically-acclaimed films as Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother. In 2013, Bong co-wrote and directed the adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. The film is his first English-language film and it has garnered much acclaim when it was released in South Korea in 2013.

Snowpiercer as the film has been titled will now make it’s North American premiere this year and with months of buzz following it’s Asian release many genre fans have been awaiting its arrival. It’s premise is simple enough and involves a train that never stops moving that circles the globe that’s going through a new Ice Age that has killed off most of the planet’s population save those riding on the global train.

It’s a film that explores that ever-popular subject of the “have’s versus the have not’s”. It’ll be interesting to see what new idea Bong Joon-ho brings to an old idea.

Snowpiercer is set for a US release on June 27, 2014.

Quick Review: The Newsroom (S1:E1) – “We Just Decided To.”


Quick story before the review. If you’d like to skip this, just scroll down a bit.

About a month before The Social Network came out, I was able to catch a special sneak preview of the film in Manhattan. The preview was special because after the film, Sony planned to have a Q&A session with some of the stars. While waiting on line and listening to some of the conversations, one person pointed out that they were waiting to see Aaron Sorkin.

“Excuse me, who?” I asked. The name didn’t ring any kind of bells with me. No Ratattouille – light in front of my eyes or anything.

“Sorkin. The West Wing.” She said.

“Ah, I’ve heard of that, but never saw it.” I said.

“A Few Good Men?” she added.

“Ah, I see!” I exclaimed, smiling. My sister and I loved that movie.  She actually memorized the “You can’t Handle the Truth” speech, we liked it so much. Okay, I had a handle who this was.

When the movie ended, we were presented with Armie Hammer, Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Munn, and Aaron Sorkin, seated in front of the audience. Being in the third row, they were all in hitting distance of my soda. The Q&A lasted for about a half hour or so. Walking out of there, my thoughts were that Aaron Sorkin was just a writer. By the time I got home and hit the internet, I found out that opinions on him, however, were polarized. It’s kind of interesting when all you have to do is throw out a person’s last name to start anyone talking. His work was either really revered or spat upon like a leper. I hadn’t seen anything like it since Joss Whedon, who’s writing I never knew of during the Roseanne years, absolutely could not stand during the Buffy years, and who finally won me over after seeing early morning episodes of Angel on TNT as the show was ending its main run.

So, that’s where I stand with Sorkin. He’s not a “Writer That Can Do No Wrong”, but I’ll admit that I like the conversational style he uses for characters. It’s almost similar to David E. Kelley’s work in a way. It’s not always required and can sometimes hinder things – Matthew Weiner is a good example of someone who does just fine without the tommy gun speeches – but it does work when it needs to.

My Thoughts (Where the Review actually begins…): 

The Newsroom starts out with a televised interview where a number of people are arguing politics back and forth. Seated between them is Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), who doesn’t have much to say, but listens. As he does so, he has a moment where he kind of zones out when he notices a woman up in the stands. This gives us a hint to the vertigo issues he supposedly has. When asked why he thinks that America is the greatest country in the world, he notices the same girl who holds up a notepad reading “It’s not, but it could be.” Will chooses to give an even keel answer, but when forced to give ‘a human reaction’, he admits to not feeling that America’s all that. He loses it, stating that even though we proclaim ourselves to be the only free country in the world, there are tons out there. “Canada has freedom! Japan has Freedom. Belgium has freedom!”, he rattles off. He points out that the only thing America really is good at is having a high incarceration rate, for the most part. He then goes on to add the good things the country did over the years. Once the interview ends and he leaves, he turns to his colleagues and asks “What did I say out there?!”

And that was all before the opening credits. I thought that was a good way to start. Definitely a hook, though the responses overall to the scene could be interesting.

Will returns into work the following morning to find most of his staff missing. After a conversation with Maggie (Allison Pill), he finds out he needs to speak with his superior, Charlie (Sam Waterston). I like Allison Pill as an actress. She was great in The Pillars of the Earth, but here is where Sorkin kind of stumbles. Granted, her character is handling being newly promoted to a position she isn’t ready for, but she’s almost too jittery. She’s almost a ball of nerves. It’s the Winifred Burkle / Lexi Grey / Ally McBeal archetype of the “New Girl with a Lot on her Plate”. Before you start in on me, take a look at the first season of Weiner’s Mad Men and you’ll see an example in Elizabeth Moss that’s handled stronger than Pill’s character is here. It’s almost the same situation, but where Moss’ character finds small ways to stand on her own, Maggie’s just a little lost. I’m hoping that in future episodes, she’s able to shake that and come into her own.

We’re also introduced to some of the other characters that run the Newsroom. You have Don (Thomas Sadoski), Will’s former Associate Producer and Neal (Dev Patel), who is the resident tech analyst. We find that Charlie has brought on Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) on as the Executive Producer, who Will has a serious problem with. Most of the episode is spent in Will’s office, arguing over how we can do better, and how he has the opportunity to make the news show stronger than what it was. Personally, I felt there were more interesting things going on outside of Will’s office then in it. At one point, a news blip comes in (courtesy of an iNews like program, which was nice), which touches on the start of the oil spill in Louisiana in 2010. It’s then that we’re told this is the time period we’re in. The show begins to accelerate and by the time that Will is actually on air, we get the notion of what the show could be if they rubbed out a little of conversations in between. That was very cool, like watching a submarine crew at work. The newscast scene is actually the strongest part of the episode overall, and Sorkin’s machine gun style dialogue helps there a lot, I felt. Dialog, he can do.

The only problem is for me is that we’re locked to this one location. It’s like watching a play unfold.  You’re in one location, and all of this information comes in. It’s discussed and action’s taken, but I didn’t get the feeling that the characters were growing or had room to. Let me put it this way. The star of the show isn’t any one person. It’s the News desk. The most important part of the show happened at the News desk, and while that was great, I’m thinking that for the characters involved, where are the subtle changes?

Here’s the thing (and I go to back to Mad Men, which I’ve also started watching from the beginning). By the end of the first episode of that show, you come to find that it’s main character, Don Draper, changes. You’re shown details that shape his attitude and come to find that he’s not the picture perfect fellow you may have thought he was. I didn’t get any of that with this episode of The Newsroom. I’m eager to see where it goes, because I like what’s being said, but I haven’t hit a point where any one of these people – even Will – is someone I feel I could hook on to. There’s always at least one character that stands out in a show for me – whether it’s Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad or Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. I’m hoping that something changes here to help me find that. The only hint of growth or personal reflection seemed to come at the last few minutes between Mac and Will, when he discusses the conversation he had with her father. That, I would love to see more of.

Overall, the Newsroom isn’t a bad show. It kind of moves like a pilot should, a one shot that has to hit the audience with it’s strongest punch to make sure they’re hooked, while at the same time trying to plant seeds for future episodes. It does what it tries to – give the news – but I walked away feeling like I visited this business, watched what went on and then promptly left with only the mildest of introductions to the staff. I don’t really know anyone here.

It can definitely be improved upon, and it’s all the start of something. I’m just not exactly sure I know what that is.