Tag Archives: J.K. Simmons

Zootopia (2016, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush)

Ah, the socially responsible children’s movie, or: the progressive soulless capitalism of the Walt Disney Corporation, twenty-first century iteration. I went into Zootopia waiting for it to be great–I assumed the filmmakers would take responsibility for the big questions they imply–then I waited for it to be good, then I waited for it to be over. It’s a perfectly competent, perfectly satisfactory outing. Girls have a positive role model in Ginnifer Goodwin’s protagonist, the first rabbit cop, and boys will be positively reassured of their superior position in society thanks to Jason Bateman’s rogue sidekick. Watching Zootopia, you can just imagine Disney drones toggling between Buzzfeed and The Toast for concepts.

And not in a bad way, right? I mean, it is just a kid’s movie about anthropomorphized mammals. It’s not going to do any permanent damage, is it? It’s just a movie about how predators and prey can live together as long as predators are okay with the prey thinking they’re socially and morally inferior than the prey. Oh, wait, no, it actually seems like a big question and Zootopia tries to walk back from it immediately after every time it comes up. It flares. Someone who rewrote the screenplay added this occasional flaring up of really gross social commentary. It might be unintentional, but it’s gross. And obvious.

But it’s well-acted and the plotting is fairly strong. Directors Howard, Moore and Bush do better when handling suspense than action. Zootopia is kid’s CG and the animals are stylized not just to be more genially anthropomorphized, they’re also made adorable. It’s manipulative, it’s Disney, it means what could be amazing action set pieces are just passible CG animation instead. There’s great potential in a chase sequence through a “mouse metropolis” and the filmmakers go with plastic-y CG for the setting instead of any realism. It looks like a toy commercial, it’s got limited potential. But when Goodwin and Bateman are doing a James Bond movie action sequence, it’s awesome. It’s a shame everything’s so uneven.

In the supporting roles, Idris Elba and J.K. Simmons do well. There aren’t a lot of good parts. Even Simmons and Elba don’t have good parts. I mean, Goodwin doesn’t even have a good part, not really. Even Bateman has some really weak material–Zootopia’s so confused it can’t even commit to its charismatic antihero love interest dude.

And Jenny Slate’s not great. Her part’s crap, but she’s not great. The part needs some kind of greatness.

Still, it’s a kid’s movie. For me, I just wish it was better directed. But for a kid’s movie, I wish it didn’t fumble with its social message. I wish it comment on real world racial stereotypes with absurd entries in a “Friends Against Humanity” game. I wish the directors and the writers took it seriously, but Disney isn’t even Disney anymore. It’s just progressive soulless capitalist filmmaking, what should one expect from it? It’s not *Animal Farm*, after all, it’s just a kid’s movie.*

* Of course, *Wind in the Willows* is just a kid’s book and it’s thoughtful about how it anthropomorphizes its animals.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush; screenplay by Bush and Phil Johnston, based on a story by Howard, Moore, Bush, Jim Reardon, Josie Trinidad, Johnston and Jennifer Lee; edited by Fabienne Rawley and Jeremy Milton; music by Michael Giacchino; production designers, David Goetz and Dan Cooper; produced by Clark Spencer; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy Hopps), Jason Bateman (Nick Wilde), Idris Elba (Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (Bellwether), Nate Torrence (Clawhauser), Bonnie Hunt (Bonnie Hopps), Don Lake (Stu Hopps), Octavia Spencer (Mrs. Otterton), Alan Tudyk (Duke Weaselton) and J.K. Simmons (Mayor Lionheart).


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Terminator Genisys (2015, Alan Taylor)

Terminator Genisys is an inept attempt at turning the Terminator franchise into a young adult series à la The Hunger Games or Divergent or Twilight or Harry Potter. Only there’s no “literary” source material for Genisys, not even the original Terminator films. Because screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier absolutely refuse to give Emilia Clarke a character. More than anyone else in the film, including Jai Courtney–who’s terrible, but is also ludicrously miscast–or old man Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke doesn’t get a character. Maybe because if the film does acknowledge the importance of Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor, all the other malarky would become even more obvious. It still tries to get away with being a spectacle action movie occasionally.

The first forty or so minutes of the film, which still manages to feel longer at two hours, are a witless reimagining of the first Terminator movie with Terminator 2 technology thrown in. If it weren’t for the terrible acting (Emilia Clarke’s only more likable than Courtney because she gets fewer lines and the script mistreats her something awful), and if director Taylor actually had any regard for the James Cameron’s Terminator films for their filmmaking and not just iconography, this first forty minutes should have been awesome. It wouldn’t have been any good in the long run, since it’s just a preamble to the rest of the film, but it would have been awesome to see.

Well, not with Kramer Morgenthau’s photography or Lorne Balfe’s music. Some of the technical decisions on Genisys suggest a deep hatred for the Terminator franchise, which seems strange because the film has almost no personality otherwise. The entire plot hinges on a failure to understand the importance of not recasting and trying to jump on the cloud computing zeitgeist.

Skynet. There’s an app for that.

I do want to talk about the acting, since almost everyone is aping someone else’s performance. Even J.K. Simmons is sort of aping Earl Boen, just as a different character.

Schwarzenegger’s lousy, but you feel sorry enough for him you almost want to see what he’s going to do. Taylor doesn’t understand what he’s doing, so he doesn’t play up that aspect of it. Schwarzenegger’s the loose third wheel who should be the strongest. But Taylor is terrible at directing fight scenes too.

Jason Clarke is really bad doing an impression of Christian Bale. None of the other characters, not even Schwarzenegger, are written like their previous film versions. Except Jason Clarke’s character, who Bale played in Salvation.

(It’s hilarious how many hands have fumbled the franchise since Cameron stopped doing it).

But Emilia Clarke and Courtney aren’t doing Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn impersonations, which they really should, because neither has anything going for them. Courtney’s always getting these soulful moments and his blank expression–combined with Balfe’s lame score–just drags Genisys down further.

In the end, Terminator Genisys is a movie made by people who don’t care about the Terminator franchise. They aren’t fans. They don’t even pretend to be fans. And, you know what, it would have been fine if they at least cared enough about Genisys to try. It doesn’t even try.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Alan Taylor; screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd; director of photography, Kramer Morgenthau; edited by Roger Barton; music by Lorne Balfe; production designer, Neil Spisak; produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese), Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor), Jason Clarke (John Connor), J.K. Simmons (O’Brien), Dayo Okeniyi (Danny Dyson), Courtney B. Vance (Miles Dyson), Matt Smith (Alex), Michael Gladis (Lt. Matias), Sandrine Holt (Detective Cheung) and Byung-hun Lee (T-1000).


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3 Geezers! (2013, Michelle Schumacher)

It’s frightening, but once 3 Geezers! gets going, it’s an entirely watchable terrible movie.

The setup, which director Michelle Schumacher doesn’t even stick with, is J.K. Simmons playing an unveiled analogue of himself, stuck doing a movie about old people written by his wife’s little brother. Michelle Schumacher is Simmons’s wife. I’m assuming writer Randle Schumacher is some relation to her–and in-law of some kind to Simmons. When you’ve got the lead telling you the movie’s going to be bad… where’s it going to go.

And for a while it doesn’t go anywhere. Tony Cummings is pretty bad as the retirement community events coordinator and Geezers sticks with him way too long at the open. Schumacher’s actually got a really good central cast–for the titular Geezers–but she makes the audience wait. And subjects them instead to the worst material (Simmons is really bad at aping it as himself).

The Geezers are Basil Hoffman, Lou Beatty Jr. and Will Bonaiuto. Hoffman’s got a long filmography, so does Beatty. It’s Bonaiuto’s only credit and he’s sometimes the best of the three. Beatty’s good, but his role’s easy (he’s the funny black guy). Hoffman’s great. He and Beatty have some great back and firths.

Maybe if Simmons seemed sincere, it’d be better. Maybe if Schumacher decided on a style (sometimes Simmons’s character films for research, sometimes not).

The humor’s offensive retirement home potty humor (and it’s often very funny). The cast does deserve more reward for their efforts though.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Edited and directed by Michelle Schumacher; screenplay by Randle Schumacher, Eric Radzan and Tony Cummings, based on a story by Randle Schumacher, Radzan and Michelle Schumacher; director of photography, Peter Villani; music by Randle Schumacher and Rick Amezcua; produced by Randle Schumacher, Radzan and Michelle Schumacher.

Starring J.K. Simmons (J Kimball), Basil Hoffman (Victor), Lou Beatty Jr. (Bernard), Will Bonaiuto (Rex), Beverly Polcyn (Ruth), Pamela Dunlap (Mary) and Courtenay Taylor (Lisa).


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Postal (2007, Uwe Boll)

I went into Postal expecting Boll to be like Ed Wood. He’s not. He doesn’t have any artful composition, but it’s fine. When he’s mocking American action films of the 1980s, he’s showing just as much skill as any of those directors do… it might have helped if he’d shot Panavision.

Boll doesn’t seem to be going for much with Postal in the way of artful film though. All of it, from the first or second scene, is to shock the viewer. Boll’s got some great ideas in the movie–from the racially sensitive black cop to George W. Bush’s specialized (so he can understand it) computer, not to mention the German theme park, complete with Nazis–but he can’t turn any of them into good jokes. None of the jokes work. After a while, it gets kind of incredible. There’s a shootout at the welfare office where protagonist Zack Ward goes from body to body trying to find a lower number for waiting in line. Ought to work. Really doesn’t.

The problem’s a combination of casting and writing. The script’s got real problems, some from being an adaptation of a video game, some from Boll getting more excited about what he’s saying than how he’s saying it. Osama bin Laden being disinterested in terrorist activities–unless the U.S. government is paying him to commit them–is interesting. It’s one hell of a thing to see in a film released in this country (even if Postal only did come out in a hundred theaters). Boll’s got a big gun fight where no one dies but the little kids. Because Postal‘s so distant, so obviously a commentary about media, it’s impossible not to wonder if the kids had fun with the squibs. Not for a moment is it horrific, because it isn’t believable–Boll doing it is singular… but the action of putting a scene in a film because one can doesn’t mean one should. Or, if one should do it better than Boll does it.

The scene at the Starbucks… great commentary on American culture, but not good humor.

Boll’s approach to Postal is actually somewhat solid, it simply lacks a worthwhile script. The movie’s relatively painless to watch and occasionally, dispassionately interesting. As I said before, Boll’s nowhere near as bad as his Internet detractors make him out. He’s a perfectly competent craftsman who could easily make shampoo commercials, which puts him far ahead of most of the directors Jerry Bruckheimer works with.

The acting runs lukewarm and freezing. Zack Ward isn’t very good. He’s somewhat likable, but he isn’t good. Dave Foley’s funny. Chris Coppola’s bad. J.K. Simmons has a great cameo–his presence is a little peculiar, given Postal‘s caliber, but nowhere near as much as David Huddleston and Seymour Cassel. They must have been really bored. Chris Spencer’s terrible–his first appearance kills the initial good vibe Boll’s got going.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend Postal to anyone, but I don’t regret sitting through it either.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Uwe Boll; screenplay by Boll and Bryan C. Knight; director of photography, Mathias Neumann; edited by Julian Clarke; music by Jessica de Rooij; production designer, Tink; produced by Boll, Dan Clarke and Shawn Williamson; released by Kinostar.

Starring Zack Ward (Postal Dude), Dave Foley (Uncle Dave), Chris Coppola (Richard), Jackie Tohn (Faith), J.K. Simmons (Candidate Wells), Ralf Moeller (Officer John), Verne Troyer (Himself), Chris Spencer (Officer Greg), Larry Thomas (Osama bin Laden) and Michael Paré (Panhandler).


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