This Week In Pop Culture (10/20/17)
10/20/2017: An Intervention For Gerard Butler's Bee Venom Addiction
By Luis Prada
I cannot in good conscience stand idly by any longer. I have to speak up, or I'll feel I've contributed to a beloved celebrity's self-destruction. Gerard Butler, star of 300 and probably also some other movies, is addicted to bee venom.
Left with aching muscles after a 12-hour day filled with stunt work on the set of his upcoming film Geostorm, Butler eschewed the traditional remedy of a banana and a couple of Aleve, and instead received ten injections of bee venom. A single shot is the equivalent of 23 bee stings. That's 230 bee stings at once. Some believe the venom acts as an anti-inflammatory, which is just one of a half-dozen claimed medical benefits, even though the scientific community hasn't yet thrown their full support behind a miracle cure-all with the word "venom" in it.
Rather than ease Butler's inflamed muscles, the venom sent him into anaphylactic shock. Four days after being released from the hospital, he took another bee venom injection, which sent him right back to the hospital.
We care about you, Gerry. We don't want to see you succumb to the seductive allure of bee venom. We know that with your hefty Geostorm paycheck and the obscene royalties you'll no doubt reap on the back end of the film's assured wild global success, you will be tempted to reach higher highs of muscle relaxation with more and greater doses of bee venom. It's already a problem. We want to see you put an end to it before things get worse.
We don't want to hear that you were found with your arm tied off trying to inject a bee's butt into your veins in a Los Angeles public restroom. We don't want to hear that your drug dealer / beekeeper ran out of primo bees, so you graduated to the harder wasp venom to get your sick jollies. We don't want to hear that you've spiraled so low that the only way you can feel is if you're wearing a beard of bees. We don't want you to be found naked and tweaking in a shady motel with a scantily clad beehive. We need you sober and alive so that you may deliver us the long-awaited sequel to the guaranteed box office smash hit Geostorm.
10/19/2017: The Trailer For Louis C.K's New Movie Is Aggressively Tone-Deaf And Poorly Timed
Comedian/auteur Louis C.K. has been dogged by rumors of sexual misconduct for the past couple of years. Colleague and ex-collaborator Tig Notaro has pushed him to address the accusations, and when he dragged ass, she essentially reenacted them for a scene in her show, One Mississippi.
But now, the famously unorthodox C.K. has responded! Maybe! He just dropped a trailer for his star-studded feature film which no one knew he was making until like a month ago:
It's called I Love You, Daddy, and it hits theaters November 17. All we have to go on for now is this trailer, and boy howdy do I hope this is an elaborate prank which C.K. enlisted A-list talent and obscene amounts of discretionary income to pull off, because that is how over-the-top problematic it is. Not to mention how this is happening concurrently with the ongoing revelations about Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault by a growing number of women.
Let's absorb this in small doses, starting with the fact that ILYD is clearly a tribute-to-the-point-of-parody to the work of confirmed creep Woody Allen. We open with C.K. in heavy-rimmed glasses, a look that invokes our favorite nebbish alleged rapist. Here is the whip-smart dialogue C.K. wrote for Oscar winner Helen Hunt:
C.K.: "China wants to come and live with me for the rest of her senior year."
Hunt: "Of course she wants to live with you. You have a giant apartment, and you have the Hamptons and the plane."
C.K.: "None of that is my fault. You divorced me while I was a loser, so you lost."
Ah, the tired wish-fulfillment of the divorced man with inadequacy issues. Not only did he win this round professionally and materially, but he also beat the alimony statutes! This "Glen" guy is crushing it! And boy does he win big, because his daughter is Chloe Grace Moretz, and she treats the family hearth like a rooftop pool in Ibiza. (Side note: A quick and informal poll of women at Cracked revealed that none of us referred to our fathers as "daddy" after the training wheels came off, nor have we sat in our father's laps this millennium.)
We mostly see "China" clad in a bikini, which is Hollywood shorthand for "sexually precocious," which must make all the leering OK. Glen appears uncomfortable around his daughter, awkwardly turning on the couch to look over his shoulder to ask the cliche question adults ask kids they barely know. There's distance! And to really drive the Electra complex home, China is mistaken for Glen's girlfriend ... by Glen's future sex partner. We should take note at this point that this movie is a comedy.
But in what can only be described as Inception levels of bullshit, Glen isn't the only Woody Allen manifestation we get, because here comes John Malkovich as Leslie Goodwin, a legendary director known for his "alleged" predilection for underage girls. (You know, geniuses and their eccentricities!) And although China expresses mild revulsion toward the wizened Leslie, she later falls into a relationship with him. Because she has no agency. (I did not take an informal Cracked office poll on this, in deference to our employee handbook, but one generalization I can make is this: John Malkovich? Nah, man. Never. Because physical attraction works both ways, and is not only up to the man.)
We can infer that statutory rape is rearing its head, and Glen -- China's legal guardian -- is somehow powerless to stop it, beyond broaching the subject with Malkovich. And why would this concerned father invoke the law to protect his daughter? It might interrupt the monologuing! At one point in the trailer, Glen fecklessly points out to the creepy Leslie that his daughter is a "minor," to which Leslie replies, "Minor what?" Hahaha! Get it? The joke is that preying on underage girls has become completely normalized in Hollywood. What a barrel of laughs!
Judging by the trailer alone, this isn't a critique of Woody Allen so much as shameful cribbing -- of his style, his personal life -- for fun. See, Glen's neurotic mumblings about the potentially damaging relationship don't reflect a father's moral outrage; they're the sad cries of a man who feels like he's lost. "She's my daughter!" Leslie is an icon whom Glen admires and increasingly envies. And the trailer ends with a woman proclaiming that "everyone" is a pervert, which seems like a weird, glib justification for all the grossness going on in the film, as if to say, "See! It's okay that we have lingering shots of a 17-year-old's bikini-clad body. This other girl says it's normal to be perverted!" Maybe the actual movie treats the subject matter more delicately, but the trailer is so incredibly tone-deaf (and poorly timed) that it inspires little hope.
Final questions: Who is this for? What thoughtful point did C.K. think he was making? Even if the trailer is a tongue-in-cheek misrepresentation of the actual film, this stunt is a pretty twisted "Fuck you!" to his accusers and critics. And is this really the best timing?
10/18/2017: The New Call Of Duty Is Going To Be A Fun Romp Through The Holocaust!
By Mark Hill
The latest Call Of Duty is coming out on November 3rd, and so far, nearly two million people have watched its new "Reassemble" trailer. It instructs you to "get your squad back together" and plays like a fun "introducing the eccentric team" montage from a slick heist movie. One by one, a group of gaming friends are saved from their adult responsibilities while a cool song plays. In reality, the average Call Of Duty squad is a bunch of kids deciding what racial slurs to scream as they teabag your corpse for the 12th time in three minutes, but whatever, it's a clever idea that gets you pumped up. And why are these grown adults so excited for the new COD that they're willing to walk out of work and crash a friend's hot tub? Because, as one of them tells us, "Call Of Duty is going back to World War II, baby!"
Yeah! Whoo! World War II! But you already knew that the game returns to World War II, baby, if you saw the story trailer, which starts with a shot of corpses in the snow, then sees a man agonize over whether to pull the trigger on a helpless enemy. There's also a grim firefight in mud and muck, a narrator who admits that he wasn't prepared for the horrors of war, and a captured soldier telling his comrade to "lose the tags, they're after Jews" right before they're beaten and thrown onto a train which presumably isn't taking them to a water park. Watching the two ads back to back creates such a bizarre shift in tone that you'll need a neck brace for the whiplash.
According to the game's senior creative director, while early Call Of Duty games ignored the Holocaust, this one is going to tackle its atrocities head on. They also intend to address anti-Semitism and racism within American ranks, and all of this is occurring while our lead character evolves from a naive young man with dreams of being a hero to someone who understands the grim reality of warfare. We're told that both games and gamers have matured since their last trip to Normandy, so everyone is ready for a "deeper and more complex" experience.
So Call Of Duty: WWII is going to be a realistic slog through the horrors of war, discrimination, and the Holocaust that's also a fun romp for anyone looking to duck out of work in favor of having some kickass good times. You can't have it both ways, Call Of Duty! You can't promise a realistic, sensitive portrayal of concentration camps and also make jokes about a dude who's so excited to experience it that he ditches his wife and kids. Will there be a followup to the "Reassemble" ad wherein that wacky group of miscreants stare slack-jawed at a stunning 4K rendition of the Bergen-Belsen crematorium, or will the grizzled, shell-shocked heroes of the story get a chance to kick back in a hot tub on the far side of the Ardennes?
Lots of shooters struggle to balance condemnation of violence with the fact that the fun comes from killing hundreds of enemies, but Call Of Duty has always been by far the worst at it. You don't see Borderlands games advertised by promising a haunting, introspective look at the nightmares of human conflict, just like you didn't see Spec Ops: The Line, a game in which you kill civilians with white phosphorous, promise that it would help you escape your nagging family for the weekend. But Call Of Duty is a franchise that shows you antiwar quotes when you die, then lets you commit war crimes when you're alive. It's a franchise in which the plots always vaguely allude to the idea that war is bad, yet it revels in how badass it is to gun down the evil foreigner du jour with mighty American weapons. It wants the credibility of being mature, but doesn't want to actually earn it. So when it promises that it will treat the Holocaust with reverence and then runs and ad like "Reassemble," it's like Sylvester Stallone telling us that the next Expendables will be a sensitive look at how veterans struggle with PTSD before unveiling a preview wherein he stabs 50 dudes in the face.
Call Of Duty: WWII -- No, Not The Other WWII Ones, The 2017 One will probably be fun. But they need to be honest about what kind of game they're trying to sell us. It's disingenuous and exploitative to advertise a mature look at discrimination and genocide that's also the perfect excuse to crack open some Mountain Dew with your bros. You can't promise both crimes against humanity and a rocking good time and expect to be trusted to take the Holocaust seriously. This is why Schindler's List didn't advertise itself as a great excuse to devour a giant bag of popcorn before making out in the back row.
10/17/2017: Is The Snowman A Prank?
By Ian Fortey
Michael Fassbender's latest film, The Snowman, is being advertised as an edge-of-your-seat serial killer thriller on par with The Silence Of The Lambs, guaranteed to leave you chilled to the bone. Get it? "Chilled"? Because the killer turns you into a snowman ... which isn't a joke, apparently? Even though it really seems like it is?
Despite the extreme earnestness of this movie's ad campaign, how is there any chance this is not an elaborate prank? The plot revolves around a killer who literally makes his victims into snowmen, like if Calvin from Calvin And Hobbes grew older and more murdery. Would you seriously be afraid of a guy who builds snowmen? Do you even know how long it takes to build a snowman? How the hell does this man have the time to stalk, murder, and then make a snowman? He might as well jam his victim's corpses full of gingerbread cookies he took hours to bake.
Plenty of movies with dumb plots get pushed through, but The Snowman is really straining credulity. Fassbender's character is named Harry Hole. That's an absolute bullshit flag. The movie is based on a Norwegian book, and the characters have retained their Norwegian names, but his name is Harry Hole. Are there no other names in Norway? Goddamn Harry Hole? You can pretend it's pronounced "holy," but it's not. It's spelled "hole," and everyone's gonna read it as "hole."
The most baffling part of the entire film is its behind-the-scenes development, which doesn't seem to make any sense at all. The movie is based on a popular series of books (naturally called the Harry Hole series), of which The Snowman is the seventh installment. So if you're curious, six is about the number of books you can write before you run out of plausible ideas.
Martin Scorsese was originally signed on to direct, but he backed out for whatever reason -- maybe holephobia -- and in stepped Thomas Alfredson, director of some fairly acclaimed films, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let The Right One In. So far so good, if you ignore the name and plot.
The budget hasn't been fully disclosed, but this movie stars Michael Fassbender, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, and Chloe Sevigny. They paid some money for these actors. And they're good actors. They put effort in. But this is still a movie about a guy who will put your head on a snowman, or vice versa. That's absurd as hell.
Every line of dialogue in the trailer is so cliche -- "You can't force the pieces to fit," "He's completely insane," "The only thing we know for sure is that he's playing games with us," "Be careful, we don't know what we're dealing with," "There's something we're not seeing!" Jesus Christ, Harry Hole, did you watch every police procedural produced in the '90s before making your own? If you recut the trailer with "Yakety Sax" and sped it up 25 percent, it'd play as a perfect parody.
Before the U.S. release of the movie, the director has already gone on record to explain why it sucks, in case you were thinking I'm perhaps being unduly harsh here. As critics rip it apart for being basically a waste of two hours of your life, Alfredson has said they didn't even film the entire script -- it was rushed into production and they didn't have enough time. So basically everything sucks a big hairy hole.
With everything working against this movie, there's no way it was unleashed unintentionally. This is a joke to see who's willing to play along with a goofball direct-to-video thriller plot and a character with the worst porn name since Buck Nekkid.
10/16/2017: The Black Panther Trailer Did Everything Right
Today we received a new Black Panther trailer, and the world exploded into justified applause. It looks awesome. Let's watch it again right now.
You watched it twice, didn't you? It's cool. There are a lot of things to like about it, and I'm going to run through them here, in a more orderly way than my preferred method of showing excitement for Black Panther by screaming at strangers on the sidewalk.
It's a Black Panther solo movie. Sure, we've gotten a lot of superhero solo films and TV series lately which would've confused 2005 Daniel just by existing. "A whole movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy? Ha ha. My dear child, no. We will be getting Spider-Man and X-Men and nothing but Spider-Man and X-Men until we are all skeletons." But this is a Black Panther movie that is totally about Black Panther, and not about Black Panther teaming up with Another Superhero Who's Added In To Appeal To White Audiences.
Black Panther is a complex and powerful black character, but Hollywood history has shown us that more often than not, studios will try to find some way to make things "palatable" for white people. "Look, I know that the main character is black, and historically all of his friends were black, but what if he had, like, a chiseled, good-looking white friend he was super cool with?" Black Panther has none of that, and it will be better for it. The two main white characters are Dr. Watson and Gollum, two guys who look more like museum tour guides than dashing superheroes. Director Ryan Coogler also did this too in his last film, Creed, where the closest thing to a white main character was a Rocky Balboa, and he was literally dying. I applaud him for these decisions. There are so many great stories to be told about white superheroes and their white superfriends, but we need more black heroes who are untempered by some Los Angeles executive's attempts to "soften" things with a white ambassador figure.
This is also a sci-fi/fantasy film, a genre that is not known for having the most diverse casting. Usually the plots of sci-fi movies are about beautiful white people dealing with less-than-beautiful environments. Same goes for fantasy films, except this time the angelic Caucasians must somehow survive in perfect forests and gorgeous plains and wonderful mountains. Oh, the horror of these scenic rivers and flawless tundras. And they're all magical, too? Whatever will they do?
So it's awesome to break that mold.
Also, the Marvel Cinematic Universe desperately needed something to counter Tony Stark's ascension into being the Ultimate Man of Wealth and Science. Tony has the biggest buildings, the most resources, and the largest supply of quips. He's an Inspector Gadget who hits on your mom in front of you. But take a look at Wakanda, nestled deep in Africa, which takes a big ol' dump on Stark Tower and SHIELD helicarriers in terms of grandeur. Yeah, Tony Stark is awesome, but it's good to know that he isn't the only guy in the MCU who has access to nice things.
And despite the fact that it's about an entire secret civilization that is more advanced than anything the world has ever seen, Black Panther is telling a story about humans. It doesn't seem to be about the end of the world, or about being the film "that will change everything you think you know." It's a story about pain and pride and jealousy. And also explosions, but that's to be expected.
Lastly, the trailer is just really well put together. It has a kind of energy that a lot of superhero trailers seem to lack. It doesn't have that "start-stop" timing that a lot of Marvel trailers have, where they can't build any kind of action sequence or momentum because they're constantly cutting back to Thor making jokes. It's fresh and new and feels like a welcome expansion to a superhero universe, rather than an obligatory "Let's explore this guy's background now" movie. I can't wait for February.
Daniel has a Twitter, where he mostly talks about Pokemon. Sorry about that.
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