Sausage Party: Movie Man Jackson

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Don’t play with your food, it plays with each other. In a common grocery store, every single food item fantasizes about being purchased by “Gods,” humans who will whisk them away from shelves, freezers, and the like and into “The Great Beyond.” No food truly knows what happens after leaving the store, but the consensus is that a life of freedom and care by the Gods is given.

For Frank (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog (he’s a hot dog, not a sausage) friends, getting purchased means getting to slide their meat into some plump buns. He has always had eyes on Brenda (Kristen Wiig). His mission is almost achieved by getting a coveted spot in the shopping cart, but an incident from Honey Mustard (Danny McBride), begins to put doubt into Frank as to whether the Great Beyond is heaven, or more akin to hell. The better question may be, does it even exist?

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Let’s call it what it is. Sausage Party, mainly from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End) is Toy Story (or any other inanimate object, for that matter) in edible form. In R-rated edible form. With that said, though, Sausage Party is rather thought-provoking, and may even be adept at leaving its mark on some viewers long after viewing. Is it funny? That depends.

Sausage Party feels most similar to Rogen and Goldberg’s 2013 comedy This is the End, albeit with a different message. Unlike that movie, which didn’t concern itself with the question of the existence of a higher power or whether a stylized Backstreet Boys-led heaven afterlife was real, Sausage Party actually does. The overall mature elements of the screenplay might just be the strongest element of the entire production written by the longtime duo, plus Jonah Hill this time around. What is also surprising is how we as the audience actually begin care for a few of these characters and their well-being, such as a deformed hot dog in Barry (Michael Cera). As far as technical quality goes, this is no high-budget Pixar offering, but it looks well enough, and ends up making some really memorable set pieces. Yes, set pieces, ones that feature action, horror, and something that would be right at home in the infamous 1979 movie Caligula.

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But even with surprising and pretty well handled themes, Sausage Party is a comedy that is 100% Rogen & Goldberg through and through, full of weed love and penis appreciation. Great news for Rogen fans, bad news for non-fans. Yours truly personally falls in the middle. The premise does allow for some good comedic wittiness that didn’t always appear in their other films, but the hardcore raunch does begin to take its toll after a while. The third act may be better enjoyed under the influence of a substance. It is the 50/50 hit/miss rate towards humor that leaves this comedy a little disappointing.

And while one should assume full responsibility for stepping into a R rated comedy, it can be argued that Sausage Party does veer into the very uncomfortable territory here and there, with one character in particular as a literal douche. Voiced by Nick Kroll, Douche is rarely funny, actually disturbing in some of his actions, and doesn’t really add to any of the plot’s proceedings. Gum is pretty hilarious, however as a clear nod to Hawking.

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Love Seth Rogen’s cut of comedic meat? Sausage Party is one that will absolutely be filling, along with some interesting ideas that are actually satisfying to digest. For all others, its comedy doesn’t fill all of the laugh holes on a consistent basis.

C

Photo credits go to nytimes.com, comicbook.com, and moviepilot.com.

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Captain America: Civil War-Movie Man Jackson

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Bob Marley was quoted one day saying that “Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy.” The recent events of the Avengers are going to test that quote to the fullest. Anytime the Avengers protect and serve, they also seem to bring unintended, but significant, collateral damage. First in New York, then with the total collapse of the city in Sokovia, and now the situation in Nigeria that leads to multiple deaths of innocents. Many in the world now do not see the Avengers as superheroes, but vigilantes.

The powers that be determine that these superheroes need to be held accountable via the Sokavia Accords, a document that basically gives power to the government to ascertain when and where the Avengers should be deployed. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a proponent of the Accords, still feeling responsibility for many of the incidents. Joining him on his side is Vision (Paul Bettany), Rhody/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Aligning with Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) on the side of freedom is Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Scott Lang/Ant Man (Paul Rudd). The two viewpoints make a showdown all but a certainty. However, growing underneath the tension is an unforeseen threat, one who wants to make The Avengers pay for their past actions.

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As soon as Captain America: Civil War was announced back in late 2013 and everyone knew what the Civil War would consist of, everything that came before it has really been leading up to this film. And that is for bad and good. Bad, because in a way, other films that would normally be huge events on their own (i.e Avengers: Age of Ultron) kind of lacked the memorability and importance such a film should command. However, it is good because CA:CW is, more or less, what Age of Ultron should have been: Important, memorable, and extremely entertaining. And the build-up throughout that time is a big reason.

The latest entry to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe makes no concessions to those who haven’t followed along over the years. But with the box office returns being so high, most know all about these characters, so why should it? As stated, Marvel has been building to this moment for a while now, especially in the interactions between Stark and Rogers, and as such, it makes it much more easier to fall into the story and buy everything the writers tell us. Compare this to, say, Batman V Superman (it’s just too convenient not to!), where characters, their relationships and plot threads are thrown into one movie instead of allowing them to be gradually introduced to us.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s second superhero feature following The Winter Soldier is written about as well as one could generally hope, especially with the amount of characters making appearances. It isn’t all perfect. There are a few lulls, one in particular being right after the highest point of the movie. This definitely feels a full 136 minutes during the end. The main villain, even with sound motivation and a good performance by the talented Daniel Brühl, suffers simply because he isn’t all that interesting. It would have been nice to see more of Frank Grillo’s Crossbones, but at least he owns it while he’s on the screen.

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But, the lack of a compelling traditional villain isn’t felt as much in Civil War because the true opposition comes from within, obviously from the opposing viewpoints that Captain America and Iron Man support. It’s important to note that neither one, no matter what “team” you may be on, is all that vilified, though Iron Man has always been a guy who possessed heelish tendencies and as such, feels slightly like the bad guy. Both men have good reasons for carrying the ideologies they carry, and a cool extra layer exists under what side they support. Personality-wise, Rogers is as orderly and straight-laced as heroes come, compared to the brash and free-wheeling Stark. So, the fact that Captain America refuses the order and the government and Iron Man readily accepts it despite what their personalities would suggest is something yours truly found intriguing.

With 12 notable characters on the screen, one would think that some characters would naturally get the shaft. While some shine brighter than others, all have their moments, not just in action, but in non-physical interplay with one another, like Vision and Scarlet Witch (dropped accent and all), or Falcon and War Machine to name a few. Sometimes the interplay is emotional, sometimes it is funny, but in all cases, it adds to the characters, which in turn adds to the action.

Once again, though this time assisted by John Wick directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the Russo brothers film action as practical as they possibly can. A little shaky in a few spots, but overall it’s about on par with their work from Winter Soldier. Much like the first Avengers, which has the scene everyone remembers with the panning of our new superhero team, this one has that similar moment as well, setting up an action sequence that could stand as the best of the year when all is said and done.

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Captain America: Civil War achieves where Age of Ultron didn’t. It’s as big but more focused. It’s more emotionally satisfying. There are actual changes that should carry sizable ramifications. And above all, it’s more fun. If every movie in Phase 3 will be this good, in the words of Captain America, “I can do this all day.”

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to collider.com, comicbook.com, and forbes.com.

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Ant-Man: Movie Man Jackson

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 “I think our first move should be calling the Avengers.”

Occasionally, a small package can be a good thing. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just finished serving some time in the San Quentin state penitentiary after doing a Robin Hood-esque hacking job of sorts, returning money that his previous company had more-or-less stolen from their customers. He desperately wants to make an honest living now, and see his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), more frequently.

Meanwhile, in the corporate world, a battle is being waged for an revolutionary piece of technology developed by physicist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). This powerful piece of tech grants the user the ability to shrink to the size of an insect while increasing their strength, making for a devastating weapon. Temporarily hanging in the possession of a shady company he once founded, Pym is willing to give a second chance to a man who desperately needs one. Dr. Pym recruits Lang to don the Ant-Man suit and take back the blueprint of what he created.

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With all of the development problems for a film allegedly in the works since the 1980’s, it is really a victory that Ant-Man, the latest in Marvel’s sizable cinematic universe, is not horrid. As the official end to Phase 2, this doesn’t end the period with a lot of momentum but does give the universe another (lesser) character to intersperse in future installments. From it’s cinematic brethren, it is different in the way it goes about carrying itself, which is good and bad for yours truly.

Ant-Man is a basic origins story, which isn’t all that different from any character’s first movie in Marvel. But this origin tale feels a little lifeless, honestly, especially in the first third in hitting all of the familiar notes of troubled character ultimately misunderstood, family problems, father figure, etc. As ho-hum as that is, what is admittedly cool about this superhero offering is that, it does feel like its own movie that exists separately from the MCU. Take away the few mentions of The Avengers and this could work as its own…work.

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Part of the reason why is because it takes itself so lightly and whimsical in tone, making Guardians of the Galaxy look heavy in comparison. The idea of a man decreasing in stature yet increasing in strength and controlling every variant of the ant colony is ridiculous, but director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man), seems to know this. Ant-Man behaves just as much as a comedy as it does an action, if not more so. Where others in the universe try to inject humor to various and sometimes pathetically forced degrees, the humor in this fits the film better because it is already coming in at a fixed tone. This actually does help the action stand out more. CGI of course it is, but I’ll admit I enjoyed the small-scale battles being treated like humongous clashes , as well as the eye-catching underground ant sequences.

Still, this is a Marvel movie, and as such, it is sort of impossible not to think how this compares to what came before it. The biggest issue that may be had with this latest superhero is simply that it feels like it lacks importance. It is hard to see how more desire can be drummed up for another feature outing. Unlike Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, or the Guardians, Ant-Man feels destined to be a side character, though the credits point to at least one later standalone installment.

For the film’s tone, Paul Rudd is everything one could want in the titular role. He’s comedic but never too much of a joke to not be taken seriously when needed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really get to lose himself in the role, which isn’t his fault. This is probably an unsubstantiated belief by yours truly (I’m not a comic-book nerd), but the Ant-Man character doesn’t feel like it has the requisite backstory like other characters in their own films do. Even those who don’t read comics know about the characters and in some cases personalities of guys like Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, while the same can’t be said for Ant-Man. But that is probably the point, I suppose.

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The rest of the cast does mostly well enough to aid Rudd. Pure comic relief is provided by David Dastmalchian (Prisoners), T.I, and Michael Pena as Scott’s criminal friends, with the latter providing the most laughs everytime out. Evangeline Lilly really provides nothing that a hundred other women couldn’t provide as a love interest. I can’t remember the last time Michael Douglas was in something nationally released that was not targeted to an older crowd, so it is nice to see him playing perhaps the most intriguing character of the whole movie. Corey Stoll gets to be the hero’s opposition, and he is formidable even though he is essentially a guy doing being bad because the script calls for it. His performance is fine, but kind of overacted in spots as well.

Have to end with an obvious size pun, right? Ant-Man stands small when put next to most Marvel works, but it doesn’t get completely squashed either.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to 411mania.com, screenrant.com, and cosmicbooknews.com.

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