Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife

Many of the people reading this review will, at one point, have been annoyed with someone so much that they wanted to kill that someone. Maybe it was a parent, or a spouse, or a teacher. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to plan it out, and think about how you could get away with it. Or maybe you talked with some friends who also have a mutual disdain for the individual. Hey, I don’t know: maybe some of you even went through with it (although I hope not). Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife takes that premise and follows through with it, often to hilarious results.

We have an ensemble cast here, almost all of whom are on-screen at the same time. In all honesty, I can’t even remember most of their names. I know Ward (Donald Faison), because it’s his wife, Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk), who winds up dead. And I know David (Patrick Wilson), because Patrick Wilson is the most famous person in this film. Oh, and there’s Geena (Amy Acker), who is married to Tom (Scott Foley), because Foley also wrote and directed, and Amy Acker is, well, Amy Acker. That’s actually a good chunk of the cast, and really the only important characters.

Everyone hates Stacy, probably because she’s presented as the worst person possible. She says and does the worst and meanest things that you can think of given the situation, and by the time she inevitably dies in this film, you’ll be glad. The male characters talk about killing her, but only one of them goes ahead and does it. It winds up being … kind of an accident, although the accident doesn’t kill her, so he deliberately finishes the job. Now Stacy is dead, and everyone has to figure out what to do with the body.

Nobody in this film reacts like you might expect if someone was murdered and you had to dispose of the body. There’s very little shock, and far more acceptance than one might expect. “Oh, you killed her? Well, I wanted to do that, too, so it’s okay.” I mean, Stacy was an awful person, so it’s understandable, but the complete lack of human compassion is startling.

That doesn’t get in the way of the laughs, though, which come from how the situation is treated. There’s some funny dialogue, too, but most of the humor comes from how the characters react at each turn, as well as some of the situations they get into. The film’s light tone meshes well with its rather morbid subject matter. Sure, some of the laughs are coming from feelings of awkwardness — this is kind of a weird and uncomfortable film, after all — but there are genuine laughs thrown into the mix, too.

Outside of that, Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is a pretty straightforward film whose eventual message is that, yes, this could actually make everyone’s life better. Like I said, it’s a pretty morbid movie once you get past the deadpan way with which everyone treats the situation. Obviously the film isn’t actually telling you to go out and kill someone who makes your life miserable, but perhaps getting away from that person might be a less drastic way to help improve your life. Let’s just assume the “murder” bit is metaphorical, shall we?

Despite not having an A-list cast, the actors in Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife blend well into their characters. Sure, the film doesn’t exactly require a lot of stretching or depth to the performances, but a cast you don’t know particularly well is actually kind of beneficial in making the situation feel more realistic. Patrick Wilson, for example, stands out and almost doesn’t feel like he belongs simply because he’s more recognizable than most of the other cast members.

One half funny, the other half morbid, Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is a movie that takes the premise of “What would happen if we killed someone everyone hates?” and runs with it. The results are unlikely to surprise you, but the complete lack of empathy and human compassion from the cast will. It’s kind of awkward, kind of funny, and kind of depressing, but it never stops being fun, and I wound up having a lot of fun with this film. It proves a success of a feature-length directorial debut for Scott Foley, too, which is good to see.

Share

Hercules

If for no other reasons than Dwayne Johnson is more charismatic than Kellan Lutz, Hercules is a better Hercules movie than The Legend of Hercules earlier in the year. Yes, two theatrical Hercules movies in the same year, one terrible and one mediocre. Johnson’s film is the latter. It’s not good and it’s not really worth seeing, but at least it won’t bore you to death or fill its running time with terrible romantic scenes with an uncharismatic lead.

Instead, it does that with a charismatic lead! I kid (kind of). Hercules (Johnson), begins this film as the leader of a mercenary group. Each of them has a special skill or preferred weapon, because you won’t want to not be able to tell them apart. One can see the future, one’s an amazon archer, one is a storyteller, and one throws knives. I wish I could remember their names, but that’s largely unimportant. They serve their roles, all the while Hercules acts as an impossibly strong guy whose various tales and legends proclaim him a demigod. “Exaggerations,” he tells his friends. Whatever. He’s still our action hero.

So, Hercules and his ragtag band of mercenaries get recruited by Lord Cotys (John Hurt), to stop someone for some reason. It’s not important, and you know that Cotys will eventually become the villain anyway. It’s all action scenes and pointless exposition anyway. Hercules kills some dudes, his team kills some more dudes, and then some nameless and faceless dudes kill some more nameless and faceless dudes. Oh, and Hercules may or may not have killed his wife, even though he has no memory of doing so.

At least the plot isn’t as simple as a straight line. There are a couple of curves and a bit of character depth for Hercules. It’s not a lot, but out of the two theatrical Hercules films of 2014, I know which one I’d prefer. Oh, and you can actually tell what’s going on during the action scenes in this one. It’s amazing what setting lots of your film during the daytime and not butchering it with bad editing can do for you.

Well, it also helps that Dwayne Johnson is infinitely more watchable on-screen than someone like Kellan Lutz. Johnson doesn’t even need to be doing anything particularly interesting and I’d rather watch him. He’s also even more believable as Hercules, if only because he’s simply a larger human being with more muscle. Demigods should look really large, right? I mean, I remember the old Hercules cartoon! That guy was huge! Actually, you should go watch that instead of either of the 2014 Hercules movies. It’ll be more fun.

What do you really expect from Hercules? It stars The Rock and was directed by Brett Ratner. Put those things together and you know more or less exactly what is going to happen. It’s busy, action-y, fast-paced, sometimes funny, and overall pretty stupid. You could probably put the concept art for this film together simply with the words “Hercules” and “Brett Ratner.” It delivers exactly what you expect, which, depending on what you want from a movie, is either good or bad. Yeah, it’s mediocre, but there are lots of people who will be entertained in spite of its mediocrity.

Can that be it? I don’t have any more to say about Hercules. It’s a mediocre action movie that’s pretty much what you would expect fro– Wait a second! Dwayne Johnson puts on an English accent for the role. We haven’t made a big deal about this, but I really feel like we should. Johnson isn’t really a deep actor — he’s been good in some dramatic roles but his strength lies in action-comedies — and the accent isn’t consistent or any good, but it’s an attempt and it’s something we should congratulate and applaud, even if it’s not a success.

Hercules is a mediocre action movie that’s pretty much what you would expect from a movie teaming up Dwayne Johnson and Brett Ratner in an adaptation of a Hercules graphic novel. It’s got lots of action, a few laughs, some strong visuals, and a charismatic lead … all serving a poor story, uninteresting characters, and a whole lot of nothing that functions as the rest of the movie. It’s mediocre, and for some people, that’s enough.

Share

The Legend of Hercules

Can someone please explain to me when we decided Kellan Lutz should be the lead in theatrically released movies? He had a secondary role in some Twilight films and now we’re trusting him to play Hercules? I mean, he’s got the physique, and it’s not like a role like Hercules is one that requires great acting skill, but he’s so lacking in charisma and acting talent that it shines through even in a terrible movie like The Legend of Hercules.

Lutz plays our hero, Hercules, for whom there is a legend, so proclaims the title. Hercules’ mother, Queen Alcemene (Roxanne McKee), is given a baby thanks to Zeus, which angers her husband, King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). That’s how Hercules was conceived. Years later, and he’s grown into a fit young man, and has found true love in Hebe (Gaia Weiss). But, because the King is our villain, he instead declares that Hercules is going to go away and fight a battle, and in three months Iphicles, his real son, will wed Hebe. Hercules proclaims that he’ll be back by then and will slaughter anyone who stands in his way. Or something.

So, he leaves, is ambushed, winds up going through a miniature “be a slave and earn your freedom” storyline, and then begins to rally troops to overthrow his “brother” and “father,” because they’re evil because reasons. Thus is the titular legend of Hercules. It’s stupid, it’s silly, we never have any doubt that Hercules won’t succeed in his quest — it’s called The Legend of Hercules, after all — and it doesn’t provide anything worthwhile for anyone involved.

The Legend of Hercules doesn’t even succeed as a brainless action film. The action scenes have been edited to the point of incoherence, and they’re all bloodless PG-13 anyway. Hercules fighting six “undefeated” warriors should be entertaining, no yawn-inducing. But it winds up being the latter, because we struggle to tell what’s going on and struggle even harder to care. It’s rare that an action movie can bore someone as much as this one does. There’s usually at least the visceral thrill of watching dudes get beat up by other dudes, but even that’s missing.

The romance doesn’t come across as a strong motivator, primarily because it’s poorly written and because Kellan Lutz can’t sell it. Most of the romantic scenes are so cringeworthily bad that you’ll want to stop watching because of them. The action doesn’t balance that out, either. In addition, despite having a $70 million budget and no really expensive stars, The Legend of Hercules looks extremely cheap. I’ve seen direct-to-DVD films that look more expensive than this one.

I suppose I could see how this film could look good on paper. Hercules needs to rally up the people in order to overthrow an evil king. That might not be as interesting as those Labors of Hercules that you hear about every now and then, but at least it’s something. However, The Legend of Hercules comes across as incompetent and dull from its earliest moments, and about the only way one can get enjoyment from it is to watch at home with some friends and make fun of it from start to finish.

I’ve already spoken on how Kellan Lutz should not have been Hercules, or the lead in any movie that requires a little bit of charisma, so let’s move onto the other actors, none of whom show the least bit of talent. You have to wonder if they figured out really early on that The Legend of Hercules was going to be awful, so they just did the bare minimum to get by. That’s what it feels like here. Or perhaps director Renny Harlin, who has been in the business a long time and whose best movie might be a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, just doesn’t know how to direct actors. It’s possible.

The Legend of Hercules is a cheap-looking and meaningless movie with bad action, terrible romance, poor acting, and a story that might work on paper, but as directed by Renny Harlin plays out horribly. There isn’t any reason to watch this movie, except to make fun of it with friends or use it as a sleep aid. There’s no intentional joy to be gained from sitting through it.

Share

Goodbye to All That

Otto Wall is the protagonist of Goodbye to All That. Played by Paul Schneider, he’s a nice enough guy, although he’s a little clumsy, a little dumb, and a little unobservant. Early in the film, he has an accident which renders walking difficult. A scene or two later, and his wife, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), decides that their marriage is over. Poor guy. They share custody of their daughter, Edie (Audrey P. Scott), although it seems like Annie sees her more than he does. What’s a guy to do?

Well, in the case of Otto, you go out and find a bunch of women with whom you can have one-night stands. The first is someone he used to date, Stephanie (Heather Graham). Next, there’s Mildred (Ashley Hinshaw). Finally, there’s Debbie (Anna Camp). Each woman gets one or two scenes, because the focus is on Otto and how he’s dealing with the divorce. That’s really what the film is about. It’s a portrait of a man who had a set plan in life, and now that he’s been forced to deviate from it has no idea what he’s doing.

Outside of the casual sex, Goodbye to All That contains some surprisingly poignant moments. It’s a comedy — although there are only a few laugh-out-loud moments — but because it’s an indie comedy, it is also allowed to be smarter and say more than your average Hollywood rom-com. There are hints at darker issues and bigger stresses, and one almost wished they were explored further, except that would be a different movie altogether. You can’t go down that path while maintaining the spirit and tone that this movie contains in its current form.

Where the film fails is in lacking a distinct direction. What’s ultimately going to happen? Not a whole lot, evidently. There’s some growing and discovery, but it kind of happens arbitrarily. The ending will probably feel like it comes randomly and too soon. It’s easy to enjoy watching Otto, but when there isn’t really that much of a plot, any ending will come across as just a random point to conclude. For Goodbye to All That, it comes more or less after Otto learns a single lesson.

So, it’s a well-meaning, but not entirely successful indie rom-com. Aren’t those kind of a dime a dozen? While you might not have seen a film exactly like Goodbye to All That before, you’ve seen something similar and there really isn’t a whole lot that it’s going to be able to say or make you think about that you haven’t already. It’s not deep or profound enough to overcome that, and its plot doesn’t really do enough to make it worthwhile, either. This is a film that fits into the “good, but not really worth seeing” category.

At least it does serve as a reminder that Paul Schneider is a very good lead, at least for movies like this. He’s charming and deadpan, all while being clumsy and a little aloof. Melanie Lynskey is fun as Annie, although she only really gets a couple of scenes in which to shine. Audrey P. Scott is a better-than-average child actor. Heather Graham, Ashley Hinshaw, and Anna Camp don’t get enough time to do anything other than act as eye candy.

Goodbye to All That marks the directorial debut of Angus MacLachlan, the writer of Junebug and Stone. This might be a better film than the latter, but it doesn’t come across as smart. It’s more enjoyable, but it doesn’t really have a lot to say when it all comes down to it, and it doesn’t get to explore the dark sides of the issues it presents. It can only hint at them, lest it ruin its comedic tone. In some respects, that’s too bad, but it’s probably a more marketable film for that. Does anyone really want to watch the dark sides to a divorce, especially now that more than half of all couples (in North America, at least) will wind up getting divorced?

If one were to ask me if I’d recommend Goodbye to All That, I’d reply with a question of how many indie rom-coms they’d seen. This isn’t much different from many of the other ones they might have seen in the past, and as a result wouldn’t really be worth watching, since it doesn’t excel past its familiarity and doesn’t have enough to say to make it otherwise worthwhile. It’s good, sometimes funny, charming, and has good acting, but it’s very same-y.

Share

Raw Review (December 22, 2014)

Spoilers follow for the December 22nd episode of Raw.

Christmas episodes in WWE always seem to upset the IWC, which means I’m totally okay with them. Yeah, sure, they’re often silly and meaningless, but it’s that time of year, and that’s why we’ve got several weeks to build to the next PPV.

Hulk Hogan opens Raw, brother. He’s “Ho Ho Hogan,” brother. He makes the fans chant that, brother. He’s going to give everyone presents, brother. He tells us about tonight’s “big” matches, like Big Show vs. Roman Reigns, brother. Or Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose in a “Miracle on 34th Street,” brother. John Cena comes out after that. I briefly hoped that we’d get to see Cena and Hogan fight, but then remembered that’ll never happen, brother. Cena sings a couple of lines from “Let it Go,” from Frozen, which is as embarrassing and irrelevant as you’d expect. Eventually, Cena says he wants a match against Seth Rollins tonight, since Brock Lesnar ruined the one last week. Brother.

Cue Seth Rollins, followed by J&J Security, Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, brother. Rollins says things that don’t matter, and that The Authority should be here, not Hogan, brother. Eventually, they go back and forth, Cena welcomes him down to the ring, and Hogan interjects, brother, and tells us that we’re doing Rollins/Cena in our opening match tonight, brother.


John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (with J&J Security)

Noble and Mercury get a bit of distraction in early on, but then Rollins and Cena get to go at it like we know they can. Cena does a rare dropkick, although Rollins dominates early on. Cena finally starts to get momentum, but Noble/Mercury stop him. They continue to interfere, because while they exist, we’re not going to get a clean Cena/Rollins match, apparently.

That doesn’t mean we don’t get a good match, but it just won’t be clean while Noble/Mercury are at ringside. Rollins and Cena put on a good match in spite of the two stooges. A bunch of near-falls, a couple of high-risk moves — it’s fun. Cena locks in an STF, but it gets interrupted by Noble and Mercury. The referee doesn’t call for a DQ at this point, though. Cena hits an AA on both of them. Rollins tries to hit him with the Money in the Bank briefcase, but Cena ducks and hits another AA. Rollins loses.

Match Rating: ***


Jack Swagger vs. Fandango (with Rosa Mendes)

Swagger and Fandango put on a sloppy, uninteresting, and completely pointless match. It’s bad. Like, despite wanting to be good, it’s just not. It’s also really short. Fandango wins with a top-rope leg drop.

Match Rating: *1/2

Dolph Ziggler gets interviewed backstage after the match. He’s asked about his match against Luke Harper later on tonight. So he talks about the match at TLC.


R-Truth vs. Adam Rose

Truth and Rose spend almost as much time dancing as they do wrestling. In fact, they might have spent more time doing that. Truth winds up rolling up Rose for the win.

Match Rating: *

After a couple of weeks of ignoring this storyline, Rose once again snaps at The Bunny. The Bunny, neck brace and all, tries to console Rose afterward, but he gets hit with a spinebuster and then viciously assaulted. Rose even rips off the brace. Does this finally count as a heel turn? It seems pretty definitive.


Big Show vs. Roman Reigns

Reigns impressed in his first match back from injury, and that was against Fandango. Now, in his second match back, he … doesn’t really get to do much. And because Big Show also needs to look strong right now (for some reason), he can’t even get a decisive win. Instead, he gets beat up for most of the match, hits a couple of moves, and eventually hits Big Show over the announcer’s table, which winds up with Show losing via countout.

Match Rating: *1/2

Dean Ambrose is interviewed afterward. Ambrose claims he’s been a good boy this year. He’s going to beat up Bray Wyatt tonight.


Natalya (with Tyson Kidd) vs. Brie Bella (with Nikki Bella)

You know, even though Brie and Nikki have been teaming up again, Brie’s still mostly been seen like a babyface. She doesn’t really act like it in this match. She blows kisses to Kidd, which is a heel move, I guess. She and Natalya put on a good match here. Second best of the night thus far, although that’s not saying much. It’s not something to skip, anyway. Natalya wins with a small package, which came from Brie trying to use a small package to counter a sharpshooter.

Match Rating: **1/2

Nikki gets nocked off the apron after the match and Natalya poses with the title. I guess we’re doing this now.


Goldust and Stardust vs. Los Matadores (Fernando, Diego, and El Torito)

El Torito is actually in the match, and he’s dressed as Rudolph. I feel like that should tell you all you need to know about it. It’s slow, boring, and silly. El Torito winds up pinning Goldust to give his team the win. No, really.

Match Rating: *1/2

Luke Harper cuts a backstage promo talking about how he likes to take things away. And he’s going to take away Ziggler’s championship tonight.


WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper

Harper attacks Ziggler before the match even starts. Harper then continues to dominate the early portion of the match, not letting Ziggler get in any offense. Harper continues to dominate for the vast majority of the match, showing off the numerous amount of moves in his arsenal in the process. Even Michael Cole was impressed, actually calling a michinoku driver by its name.

Eventually, Ziggler does get in some offense, although definitely a disproportional amount. A few superkicks and a Zig Zag leads to Ziggler with a clean victory.

Match Rating: ***1/2

Jerry Lawler interviews Ziggler in the ring after the match. Nothing of importance was said.

Roddy Piper comes out next to host an episode of Piper’s Pit. His guests tonight are Rusev and Lana. Lana makes fun of Christmas and America. Piper tries to interject, but we’re reminded of how Rusev beat up Ryback last week. Piper says he got Lana and Rusev a Christmas gift. It’s Ryback … with a bow on his shirt. Poor Big Guy.

Ryback comes down to the ring and assaults Rusev. Rusev manages to escape before getting hit with a clothesline. Piper and Ryback celebrate in the ring to end the segment.


Alicia Fox, Emma, and Naomi vs. Cameron, Summer Rae, and Paige

They’re all wearing Christmas attires. Paige is the only one who gets anything remotely close to a reaction. The match is slow and bad. Cameron is in it for too long, by which I mean she’s in it at all. Alicia Fox winds up pinning Cameron, after hitting some sort of finisher, for the win.

Match Rating: *1/2


The Miz (with Damien Sandow) vs. Jey Uso (with Jimmy Uso)

Miz gets some cheap heat by almost letting Sandow tag his place in the match, and then almost gets rolled up by Jey Uso, and a mediocre and not particularly interesting match follows. Sandow’s antics at ringside continue to be more enjoyable. A couple of reversals and a roll up with the tights being pulled lets Miz pick up the win. The first heel victory of the night.

Match Rating: **

Bray Wyatt comes down to cut a promo, not start his match like I was hoping. He talks about people being with their loved ones during Christmastime. And then there’s some other stuff that it’s impossible to pay attention to. Then Dean Ambrose comes out, carrying “gifts,” and we’re ready to go.


Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose

After a couple of minutes of wrestling, Wyatt is sent out of the ring and we begin the hardcore/spot aspect of the match. Christmas props get used to great effect, there are chairs and tables and Christmas trees, and it very much becomes a spotfest. A fun spotfest, and a good way to conclude the show, but a spotfest nonetheless.

We eventually do get back into the ring, but only for a little bit. We have to go back to weapons, because it’s a street fight. A candy-cane-colored kendo stick gets involved at one point. This is a fun match, but one in which I find very little interest. The feud will continue, neither man will suffer any consequences, and since it’s the Christmas episode, we’re pretty sure Ambrose is going to win anyway. There are fun spots, some cool hardcore moments, and this is a PPV-quality match, but I just find myself uninterested in it for whatever reason.

A surprise of all surprises comes when Wyatt picks up the victory. He threw Ambrose into a kendo stick that was sticking out and pinned Ambrose for the win.

Match Rating: ***

Ambrose winds up beating up Wyatt after the match, though, putting Wyatt through a table to send the fans home happy.

The Good: Cena/Rollins. Ziggler/Harper. Wyatt/Ambrose.

The Bad: Truth/Rose. 6-Diva match. Show/Reigns.

Match of the Night: Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper.

Share
?>