Month: November 2016

How To Build A Better Boy Has Crummy Morals

In these tough times I thought it might be nice to step aside from the muder, mayhem, and mental illness this column usually covers and take on a Disney Channel movie. This was a terrible idea. Old repeats of Forensic Files and American Justice are more satisfying than reliving high school via the Disney Channel.

How to Build A Better Boy tells the story of two smart, nice, high school girls in Washington, DC who accidentally hack the Pentagon (ha!) and release a sentient weapon. Disney Channel packed this 2014 film with stars from its programs, including Austin & Ally, The Troop, True Jackson, VPA.N.T. Farm. The Better Boyfriend is Glee‘s Marshall Williams, while the brainy girls are Mae, played by Kelli Berglund, and Gabby, portrayed by China Anne McClain.

Gabby is he best character in the film, but is stuck playing Mae’s sidekick. This is too bad. Not only does Gabby successfully code the robot, he creates a robot that (occasionally) appears to displaying feeling and thought. She’s also a driven, kind young woman with a bright future, but no one acknowledges that she’s an asset to the nation. She’s brilliant and unstoppable, but no one praises her for her genius.

The film feels like an attempt at feminism from someone who believes in #NotAllMen. That’s not the fault of screenwriter Jason Mayland though, who calls himself a “dorky Democrat dad.” Look at his Twitter feed:


This is clearly the fault of Disney. Which is a shame, because while the Disney Channel and Disney are separate entities when it comes to film, The Princess Diaries is a series that has a firm grip on girls who are smart, weird, awkward, and want to change the world and kiss cute boys.

Can we, for a moment?

Of course, media aimed at youths rarely reflect how truly terrible it is to be a teenager, and it’s never accurate to the way the social world works. (Freaks & Geeks got it right, though.) I dated a “bad” boy in high school but instead of Jess, he was dumb as shit. (He had blue hair and my family is still bitter about it.) Still, the way high school works is not accurate to Mae and Gabby’s existence. Two brilliant girls in Washington, DC would go to a private school, and they wouldn’t be surrounded by idiots, they’d be up to their eyeballs in the world’s future leaders. Some of their peers would suck (such is life) but they wouldn’t be the only awkwardly dressed smartypants.

And no mean girl has tried to take down her nerdy nemesis at Homecoming (geez, save it for Prom), usually because Mean Girls have their own crew, and they’re busy having fun at Homecoming. At my senior prom a girl stormed off the dance floor because her boyfriend was King (or Prince) and paired with a girl who wasn’t her. But she didn’t take the mic and reveal that the popular girl who won was a robot.

The third act of this film is particularly weird as Mae’s father and the military try to give Mae the perfect night. We spent trillions of dollars in defense for this? And odd subplot is that an Eastern European group of arms dealers are trying to steal the robot boyfriend (oh, right, he’s Albert, from Alaska) but are beaten during a football game. They linger around until they’re suddenly gone. How they’ve learned about Albert so quickly is never revealed, except they’ve attempted to steal secret weapons “every time.”

It’s weird how the film gets so much wrong yet imitated the University of Maryland logo for the high school and used Taxation Without Representation plates on the cars. It’s weirder how easily Disney will Mae fall apart so easily. Maybe this is “only” Disney Channel, but by 2020 Buzzfeed will be dredging this for a post on the Best Disney Channel films of all time. Tween and teen brains hold on to this forever (I love Brink!), and this could have been an opportunity to let Gabby and Mae shine.

Weekend Box Office: November 11, 2016

We have another weekend with a ton of movies. Get you pointer finger ready, there’s a ton of trailers to play.

Rock On 2 is an Indian Hindi musical drama. The first Bollywood musical sequel, it followed Rock On!! and finds that film’s band reuniting with new members.

Kiki, Love to Love features five interconnected stories about love and romance.

USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage is our third Nicholas Cage film in two weeks! It’s going to be a happy day at Red Box next spring for my dad. The film tells the story of the naval ship which delivered an atomic bomb and was later sunk while patrolling the Philippines.

No Pay, Nudity stars Frances Conroy, Nathan Lane, and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne is an aging actor helped through his Wilderness Years by his friends. Should I tell Gabriel Byrne I’ve been hot for him ever since Little Women? Would that help?

Asperger’s Are Us is a documentary about four friends on the autism spectrum and their comedy troupe, Asperger’s Are Us.

Come And Find Me stars Aaron Paul as a man looking for his missing girlfriend.

Chaar Sahibzaade 2 – Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur is an animated Punjabi film. It details sikh history.

The Anthropologist is a documentary about two anthropologists. From the site: “Margaret Mead, who popularized cultural anthropology in America; and Susie Crate, an environmental anthropologist currently studying the impact of climate change. Uniquely revealed from their daughters’ perspectives, Mead and Crate demonstrate a fascination with how societies are forced to negotiate the disruption of their traditional ways of life, whether through encounters with the outside world or the unprecedented change wrought by melting permafrost, receding glaciers and rising tides.”

National Bird is a documentary about drones.

The Drama Club is a drama-comedy with a recurring theme: a bunch of bored adults meet 20 years after their heyday to remember why they don’t hang out anymore.

Dreamland stars Johnny Simmons, Amy Landecker, and Jason Schwartzman. A man wants to open a piano bar but lacks the funds to do so.

The Monster stars Zoe Kazan as a mother who must confront a young monster after her car breaks down on a rural route.

Almost Christmas stars Danny Glover as a widower who invites his grown children home for the holiday. The film also stars Kimberly Elise, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher, Omar Epps, John Michael Higgins, and Romany Malco

Loving stars Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, and Michael Shannon. Edgerton and Negga are the Lovings, whose interracial marriage spurred Loving v. Virginia.

Elle is a thriller from Paul Verhoeven. It is based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. The film stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman who stalks her rapist. Despite Verhoeven’s undeserved reputation in America, it has been well-received by critics, in America and at Cannes.

Arrival is a hotly anticipated sci-fi drama. Aliens arrive and a linguist (Amy Adams) is tasked with communicating with the visitors. She is aided by Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. The film is based on the short story “Story Of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.

Lazy Eye is a drama from Tim Kirkman. I think the description from YouTube is accurate: “Passions ignite and hidden secrets are revealed when a graphic designer in Los Angeles reconnects with an ex-boyfriend he hasn’t seen or heard from in 15 years. Over the course of a weekend at a vacation house in the desert, they must determine whether or not they have a future together.”

The Love Witch is a horror comedy about a witch whose desire is the love of a man. The film is written and directed by Anna Biller, and do you think she would be my friend? The film uses ’60s melodrama and camp AND IT’S FILMED ON 35MM.

Shut In stars Naomi Watts as a widow who must save a young boy despite a raging winter storm.

The Fiancee is a horror film with an absurd premise: a beautiful woman, engaged to an old man, becomes a vicious hellbeast after she’s bitten by Bigfoot. This is why you get a job, buy your own shit, and stay out of the woods.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is the drama I’ll see when Loving isn’t playing in Frederick, Maryland. But it’s directed by Ang Lee, so I have marginally less complaints for a film that is probably good. (People liked the book.) The film is based on the acclaimed novel by Ben Fountain and stars Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, and Vin Diesel.

Disturbing The Peace is a documentary which interviews Israeli and Palestinian soldiers no longer interested in fighting amongst each other.

Weekend Box Office: November 4, 2016

There’s a ton of movies out this weekend (and even more next week!) so let’s jump right in. There’s no time to wait in a weekend with two Nicholas Cage films.

Keep in Touch is an indie film about a man who makes a move on the younger sister of a girl he loved before he screw up his whole life. The sister looks just like the First Girl, and no, he’s not honest about who he is.

The Shelter is a horror film about a homeless alcoholic who takes shelter in a home and can’t get out. The LA Times did hates it.

Army of One is a comedy starring Nicholas Cage, Rainn Wilson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Russell Brand. Cage is a man who believes God needs him to capture Osama Bin Laden. Brand is God.

What Happened Last Night is a college party starring no one, except Amber Rose.

Peter And The Farm is a documentary about a man and his Vermont farm.

Rainbow Time is an indie comedy about a developmentally disabled man who falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend.

My Dead Boyfriend stars Heather Graham as a woman who learns more about her loser boyfriend after his death than she knew during his life.

Trolls is the newest children’s blockbuster about a toy. In this case, a toy that was all the rage around 1991. Dreamworks is calling its film “smart, funny, and irreverent.”

Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson’s later directorial effort, and though it’s getting good reviews I am still refusing to see it for my birthday weekend, mother. Gibson’s film is the story of Desmon Doss, a conscientious objector and Seventh Day Adventist who refused to bear arms yet saved the lives of American soldiers during WWII.

Dog Eat Dog stars Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe. Both men are hired by a mob boss to to kidnap a baby.

Someone to Talk To is based on the book of the same title by Liu Zhenyun. Some people can easily communicate while others can’t.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Presidency is a comedy. An idealistic governor runs for President but needs help to survive the election and media in this film from Spain.

Ventilator is a drama about a man on death’s door. His family visits and there are revelations. It is produced by Priyanka and Madhu Chopra

Doctor Strange is the latest big superhero movie. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and the cast includes Tilda Swinton.

Charnel House is a horror film.

Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story is about a stagecoach robber hunted by a US Marshall. Ooh, another dark western!

The Pickle Recipe, which was released last month is getting a wider release as well.