Doug Jones

Rock Jocks (2012, Paul V. Seetachitt)

Rock Jocks is full of “it’s not racist because” jokes. There’s even a moment early on when Felicia Day tries explaining to Gerry Bednob how he’s actually a racist even though he says he’s not. When he disagrees, Day gives up, which is a fairly good place to give up on Jocks. You’ve hit the peaks worth sitting around for, namely Bednob is funny as the crotchety old White bigot who just happens to be of East Indian descent. It’s real cheap, real easy jokes. All of Rock Jocks is real cheap, real easy, real problematic. Writer and director Paul V. Seetachitt likes teasing racism, sexism, homophobia, whatever, but he never commits to it.

Well, wait. The sexism. There’s some real committal to the sexism.

The movie’s about the night crew at the United States’s secret remote asteroid destroyer program. If you’re good at video games, you get recruited and then you save the world from big asteroids the rubes don’t know about night after night. The captain is burn-out waiting-to-happen divorced bad dad Andrew Bowen. Bowen’s never anywhere near as bad as some of the other actors in the movie, which is the closest his performance gets to deserving a compliment. Day’s his first officer. She’s overly ambitious because she’s a woman and so it’s funny. He’s going to mansplain to her fierce and her other major subplots involve asteroid shooter Kevin Wu trying to humiliate her—his commanding officer—while captain Bowen ignores it to mope.

Part of the joke is supposed to be how all the Jocks are actually just shallow, thinly written assholes, but Seetachitt makes Wu the biggest asshole of all. Wu’s the shooter with the big ego, but Justin Chon’s still got the higher scores. Chon… could be worse. Wu could not be worse, not without supernatural intervention or something. He’s real bad and not funny.

Jocks hits occasionally—almost always in some way thanks to Bednob—but it’s a very low success rate on the jokes working with the acting working with the directing. In some ways, Rock Jocks is impressive. It’s low budget, but Seetachitt knows how to shoot everything in the script, he just doesn’t have a great editor in Adam Varney and for some reason Seetachitt and photographer Polly Morgan really want to do shaky-cam and shaky-zooms. Just, you know, because.

It’s annoying.

And invites you to ignore the performances because the camera’s ignoring them.

Supporting cast. Mark Woolley’s bad as the bean counter who just happens to be there on the night of the biggest, most important asteroid strike on the planet Earth in… at least a couple days. Who knows.

Doug Jones is great as the space alien who just walks around the base. There’s a bunch of nonsense about Jones having a giant Rube Goldberg contraption in his quarters but it’s all time waster. Lots of time wasting in Jocks, which would be fine at twenty-two—as a TV pilot—or maybe seventy as a goofy low budget, independent pop culture reference comedy….

But it’s ninety minutes.

There are subplots.

There are Robert Picardo and Jason Mewes as the security guards who sit and bullshit all night. It is very awkward. Especially since Picardo and Mewes aren’t bad. They’re just not funny. Ptolemy Slocum is bad as Bowen’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, who shouldn’t be in the movie but again, Rock Jocks really wants to hit that ninety minute runtime so let’s do full subplots for these jerks.

Day and Wu both have moments good and bad. Middling would be an accurate descriptor.

Rock Jocks proves you can be not competent while also not being incompetent.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Paul V. Seetachitt; director of photography, Polly Morgan; edited by Adam Varney; music by S. Peace Nistades; production designer, Greg Aronowitz; costume designer, Jenny Green; produced by Sheri Bryant and Craig Lew.

Starring Andrew Bowen (John), Felicia Day (Alison), Justin Chon (Seth), Kevin Wu (Danny), Gerry Bednob (Tom), Mark Woolley (Austin), Zach Callison (Dylan), Ptolemy Slocum (Roger), Robert Picardo (Guard 1), Jason Mewes (Guard 2), and Doug Jones (Smoking Jesus).


Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e06 – The Sound of Thunder

At this point, not even halfway through the second season of “Discovery,” it seems like the only way they’re going to redeem it at all is if they go full absurd. Like the Red Angel, which is actually a time traveling humanoid in an outfit with metal (as in heavy metal) wings. Unless it’s Matt Frewer, it’s not going to be worth it.

This episode gives Doug Jones a lot to do. “Discovery” isn’t just a show set in the 23rd century with aliens and mushrooms and warp drives, it’s also a show where you’re expected to take Doug Jones’s acting seriously. It’s like they made a terrible deal—you get into this makeup, someday we’ll give you a lot to do. And now they have and it’s awful.

And it’s not the makeup, because we meet Jones’s sister, played by Hannah Spear, and Spear is fine. Not great, but fine. No way she’s going to be great with the crappy script, which opens with a nonsense, poorly delivered monologue from Jones. He gets the big plot this episode—going back to his home planet and discovering the big secrets of his people and whatever—then there’s a couple C plots with Wilson Cruz being uncomfortable with his resurrection (and not very good at the acting) and then Anson Mount and Shazad Latif bickering about Starfleet principles versus Sector 31 fascism.

Sonequa Martin-Green is entirely back up for Jones, which is a heck of a slight. Not only is she top-billed, it’s supposed to be her show. It’s not the script lets her shine either. She’s in crappy scenes opposite Jones, who probably commits at least some major Starfleet violations this episode but gets an entire pass because… the show wants to leave us stuck with Jones.

Mount gets a single good scene, when he and Latif are bickering. “Star Trek: Discovery.” The secret recipe for success is the white, cishet captains.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e05 – Saints of Imperfection

They really did forgot Saru was dying last episode, didn’t they? Like, he’s a-okay for his first scene here, which is seemingly moments after the end of last episode. See, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has been sucked into the fungus dimension and Sonequa Martin-Green is really sad so she has a voiceover about duty. It’s so poorly written, you’d think Alan B. McElroy was writing the episode, but no. It’s Kristen Breyer, who—and the following is a friend’s observation—thinks she’s writing “Call the Midwife.”

The episode’s also really poorly directed (by David Barrett) but whatever.

So the Discovery goes on a super dangerous mission halfway into the fungus universe to rescue Wiseman. Meanwhile Wiseman has promised fungus in human form Bahia Watson she’ll help the fungal life forms with some predator out to get them.

What else. Oh, right. Shazad Latif, with his long hair and full beard and an all-black Section 31 outfit (Section 31 is the Starfleet CIA). He’s back. But he doesn’t have anything to do after a scene with Martin-Green, who was more affected by holochatting with him than meeting him again in person. Can you hear me, Clem Fandango?

Along with Latif, Michelle Yeoh’s back, scenery chewing as the Mirror Universe emperor turned regular universe super-spy. She’s vaguely amusing. More than when she played the role straight. Also from Section 31 is boss Alan Van Sprang, who’s got a clean-shaved head and a scruffy beard to show he’s mysterious and damaged. He’s old buddies with Anson Mount but they grew apart when Van Sprang started running assassinations, I guess.

The episode goes on and on and on. The third act is full of lengthy, poorly written monologues from poorly directed actors, when they all have four or seven minutes before they all die. The monologues seemingly take much longer. I’d time it but I never want to see the episode again.

At least the Klingons don’t show up again.

Also—they’re just delaying the arrival of Spock some more. It’s just another filler episode. So bad.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e04 – An Obol for Charon

Wow, what an exceptionally bad episode of television. I noticed Alan B. McElroy (he wrote Spawn, he’s not good) in the titles last episode or maybe the one before, but I didn’t think much of it. Even though last episode was bad. I figured it was just lack of Anson Mount and any Mia Kirshner at all. But McElroy’s got a co-credit on this one too so maybe he’s just sinking the proverbial ship. Mount has a little more to do this episode because it’s an Enterprise—sorry, sorry, sorry—Discovery trapped in a more powerful alien vessel’s “web” episode. Not the Tholians, unfortunately. Something new. Think an organic, friendlier V’Ger. Think something dumb.

There’s a cold open teasing Rebecca Romijn as the first officer from the Enterprise, who was in the original pilot, played by Majel Barrett. Now sure why a tease is necessary. She comes by to dump some exposition to Mount about Spock and then she goes away. Mount takes the ship Spock-hunting only to get caught by V’Ger/Probe/Nomad and then there’s onboard troubles when Saru (Doug Jones) seems like he’s going to die. Because he’s got a strange alien disease and it’s killing him out of nowhere. You know, just like lots of “Next Generation” episodes. Or a lethal pon farr type thing.

“Discovery” is “Star Trek” as written by people who write repetitive fan-pic.

The Saru thing leads to the most humiliating scene for Sonequa Martin-Green in the show this season or last. She’s got to have a heart-to-heart with Jones and he’s so unbearably bad you wish he’d just die. It’s not going to happen because it’s the fourth episode in the season and the writers are just bad, but for every millisecond Jones “acts” in the scene, you’re wishing they’d just kill him and end this terrible scene. Martin-Green’s usually able to keep her head above water but her emotional breakdown stuff?

So bad.

Actually, the only thing in the episode to make things slightly tolerable is Tig Notaro. She’s awesome. She doesn’t build rapport while acting, which is a problem because it leaves Anthony Rapp hanging out like laundry, but she’s still awesome.

Otherwise the episode sucks. Whoever plotted this season—the episode’s all bullshit just delaying having to introduce Spock for another episode or whatever—did a rather bad job. Mount can’t overcome McElroy. I just hope there’s no more of the latter to come.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e03 – Point of Light

There’s that incredibly disappointing “Star Trek: Discovery” I know. Though not exactly. I had no quality expectations going into the first season so I didn’t have any disappointment, just dread of watching the show. But this episode perfectly encapsulates everything the show has done wrong until this point. It’s not really a victory lap of its badness, it’s a bad episode hitting all those points, over and over again.

First off, Anson Mount plays a bit part in this episode. Smaller than Michelle Yeoh who’s a pseudo-surprise cameo but not really because it’s in the “remember the characters from Season One we’ve ignored the last two episodes (and the show’s been better), let’s check in with them” plot. That plot is all about Shazad Latif trying to fit in on the Klingon homeward as sidekick to new leader Mary Chieffo. Chieffo’s already got to deal with the old Klingon men not wanting a woman leader, much less having a human sidekick, even if he is a Klingon grafted onto a Federation officer or some such nonsense. Anyway, the Klingons bickering and plotting is like an old Atari commercial for a “Star Trek” video game but spoofing “Game of Thrones.” Though it gets much worse once there’s action. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi is really bad at the action.

Also it’s going to take a lot to believe Latif can fight off three guys bigger than him, even if they do all have enormous mask-helmets on because the Klingon makeup people have made all bad choices this year, which is impressive since last season’s choices were all bad too. They’re taking it up a (bad) notch.

And it’s hard to be onboard with anything else because the whole Anson Mount takes command, when is Spock showing up subplot has taken a terrible turn in the form of Mia Kirshner as Spock’s mother. Kirshner ain’t no Jane Wyatt. Kirshner ain’t no Majel Barrett, ain’t no Winona Ryder; she probably couldn’t do as good of a job faking Vulcan-birth as Cynthia Blaise either. Kirshner’s really, really, really, really bad. She’s so bad she sucks the life out of “lead” Sonequa Martin-Green. Martin-Green’s entirely support this episode, first for Kirshner, then for Mary Wiseman. Wiseman’s big cliffhanger plot—she’s seeing a ghost—gets resolved super fast here. “Discovery” doesn’t just have bad ideas, it has no commitment to them. Same thing happens, even bigger, in the Latif and Chieffo plot line but I’m trying to stay away from the Klingons. At least on Discovery, Anthony Rapp will amble through like his agent wanted to make sure he got paid for every episode of the season.

But, yeah, it might just be the “Game of Thrones” draining, but I’m currently terrified whatever Martin-Green did to Spock involves pon farr because… the writers are that desperate to be “Game of Thrones”-y.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e02 – New Eden

This episode certainly doesn’t do anything to “solve” the Anson Mount problem—i.e. Mount’s leagues ahead of anyone else on “Discovery,” past and present, as far as commanding the show. He’s a TV show lead. It’s almost depressing to see Sonequa Martin-Green in scenes with him because she’s already had the indignity of being the first potential Black female captain on a “Star Trek” and now she’s just second-fiddle to Mount. Mount’s so good you’re tricked into thinking “Inhumans” might be all right, just because he’s so good on “Discovery.” No wonder people want a Mount-led spin-off.

New Eden feels like “Star Trek” for more reasons than White male captain; it’s got Jonathan Frakes directing, it gives the bridge crew something to do besides look at each other when Martin-Green pisses someone off, it’s got a very “Star Trek” main plot and a very “Star Trek” B plot. The A plot is about the ship finding this far-flung planet in the Beta Quadrant (I used to know everything about “Star Trek” quadrants; not any more) and on this far-flung planet is a human settlement. Now, it’s far enough away from Earth they can’t be settled, but there they are, complete with a church. It feels like a budget conscious “TOS” episode, where they find a civilization dressed in leftover frontier costumes Paramount had laying around. Throw in Mount and Martin-Green gently arguing about whether or not the Prime Directive applies to the people and some religiosity stuff and it’s like a mix of “TOS” and “TNG.” Very cool.

The B plot has Tilly (Mary Wiseman) figuring out a way to save the planet from an impending… asteroid swarm. Something. Lots of tense action, which Frakes does all right with but not exceptional. It’s all about the human adventure for Frakes and he does well with it. It’s taken seventeen episodes but Doug Jones’s Saru finally has a non-obnoxious scene. There might have been one in the first season but I think I’d remember it. Though then there’s the whole thing about alien Saru getting a lot less obnoxious because he’s second-fiddle, rank-wise, to Mount.

Okay stuff for Anthony Rapp—seriously, the show is wasting him so far—and the mysterious “Red Angel” C plot, which is going to bring in Spock and tie everything together. The Red Angel stuff seems a wee contrived for a “Star Trek” show and I really hope it ends with the introduction of Sybok and a trip to the center of the galaxy but I’m not hopeful.

“Discovery”’s much better, two in, this season than last. Though the “up next” teaser at the end threatens the Klingons; they’re always good for dragging the show down.

Also Sheila McCarthy shows up for a bit on the planet. She’s awesome as ever.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017) s02e01 – Brother

There’s a lot going on with the season premiere of “Discovery.” And not just the multiple teases related to the original series. “Discovery” gets out of addressing the time, technology, and costuming discrepancies with the original series and the reboot movies by bringing Captain Pike into the mix. Pike was the captain on the original “Star Trek” pilot, which later got recycled into a two-parter in the regular run. Though he, like Sarek, appeared in the reboot movies. There’s no big “Discovery” deal about recasting supporting players.

So Pike’s a thing for a couple big reasons. First, the show does a bait and switch with Pike bringing his science officer (who is Spock) and his first officer (who was on the original show, played by Majel Barrett) only to have the transporter reveal a couple glorified red shirts. Even if their time doesn’t come this episode, they’re still just disposable stock Starfleet officers. Except the science officer guy; he’s a complete dick because White male privilege is still a thing in “Discovery”’s future. But the more important thing with Pike, played by Anson Mount, is he’s just what the show needs. He’s a fun, caring, White captain guy. More old(er) man Chris Pine than mid-sixties Jeffrey Hunter (who played Pike on the original “Trek” pilot, but not the two-parter). He makes the crew all feel good, which is important since their last White captain guy turned out to be an inter dimensional mass murderer.

The way the season opener deals with last season’s plot threads is… not good. There’s some follow-up with it, but then everything gives way to the new adventure—Pike’s taking over the Discovery because there are these seven flares or something. A message from V’Ger; who knows. But they’re investigating. So instead of worrying about the “regular” cast, “Discovery” becomes Mount’s show, which is fine. It’s kind of shitty for Sonequa Martin-Green because it’s supposed to be her show; instead she gets the subplot fretting over her relationship with so far unseen foster brother Spock only to discover he’s maybe tracking the galactic disturbance too. But on a sabbatical, because it’s “Discovery” and “Discovery” loves its reveals, surprises, and twists. It’s about all the show cares about.

Though this episode has at least two huge sci-fi action set pieces. Both of them are kind of lousy, but they’re huge set pieces.

We’ll see what happens but if it’s just Mount becomes the dynamic lead the show always needed and Martin-Green gets big subplots and lousy material… well, it’d be on par for “Discovery,” which is still an utterly pointless gesture.

Angel of Death (2009, Paul Etheredge)

If you’re going to rip something off, I guess ripping off Jesus’ Son is the way to go. And it does have the best Doug Jones performance I’ve ever seen.

But when the best performance in a film is the twenty-two year-old mob son (Jake Abel) there’s clearly something wrong. Angel of Death was serialized on the web first so maybe Paul Etheredge isn’t the punch line of a director he appears to be, but I’m guessing he is. It’s some of the worst direction I’ve seen since Simon West.

Now, Ed Brubaker writes good comic books, really good comic books, some great comic books, but even if his script is good, which is a stretch I’m not willing to go to–it’s impossible to tell. Etheredge’s direction is awful and there’s this constant, grating music by Darrel Herbert. Angel of Death is a constant assault on the senses.

But the biggest problem is, obviously, Zoe Bell. She’s not an actor. She’s so bad Uwe Boll wouldn’t use her. The only thing giving her any screen presence is her terrible black wig. Even if the wig were a little better, it’s not like Etheredge has any idea how to direct screen performances. Or, frankly, like Brubaker knows how to write dialogue for them.

Angel of Death is abject trash.

Save, of all people, Doug Jones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Etheredge; written by Ed Brubaker; director of photography, Carl Herse; edited by Jochen Kunstler and Jacob Vaughan; music by Darrel Herbert; production designer, Thomas S. Hammock; produced by Etheredge and John Norris; released by Crackle.com.

Starring Zoe Bell (Eve), Jake Abel (Cameron Downes), Vail Bloom (Regina Downes), Justin Huen (Franklin), Doug Jones (Dr. Rankin), Lucy Lawless (Vera), Brian Poth (Graham), Ted Raimi (Jed Norton) and Ingrid Rogers (Agent Danielle Taylor).


Hellboy (2004, Guillermo del Toro)

If I recall correctly, Mike Mignola never had Hellboy and Selma Blair’s firestarter get together (romantically) in the comics, even though Hellboy is flame resistant. That filmic development was all Guillermo del Toro’s. del Toro is responsible for everything successful in Hellboy and, subsequently, everything unsuccessful. Hellboy works, which is probably the film’s greatest achievement–it’s about a goofy, beer-drinking demon who hunts monsters. It’s got lots of humor–from David Hyde Pierce’s Niles-like observations to Hellboy liking cats–not to mention Jeffrey Tambor’s entire role is solely for humor.

Ron Perlman’s Hellboy performance is so unassuming, it’s hard to think of him standing there wearing fifty pounds of make-up or whatever. del Toro and his make-up team don’t just make Hellboy real, but also Doug Jones’s fish-man (who Hyde Pierce voices). These accomplishments are noteworthy, since no one’s really tried doing talking “alien” leads like Hellboy since the proliferation of CG in the mid-1990s. Fantastic characters suddenly became glossy synthetics, instead of tangible figures.

So it’s kind of too bad del Toro doesn’t set Perlman up as the lead until the very end. The rest of the movie is run first by John Hurt as his adoptive father and then Rupert Evans as his assigned caretaker. Hurt does a fine job, even if it’s just stunt casting (Hurt has almost nothing to do, never having a significant scene with Perlman). Evans, on the other hand, is fantastic. Without Evans, Hellboy would not have worked. While everything might happen to Perlman or hinge on the character, it’s Evans who leads the viewer through the film. I understand the narrative reason for this perspective, but it’s a Hollywood cop-out. Having it just be Perlman, in his forty pounds of make-up, doesn’t sell well as a mainstream narrative. Evans’s character is superfluous, but his performance makes him the most important element in the film.

del Toro saturates the viewer in the milieu–the creepy, the exciting–and it works. When Tambor’s stunned at the bad guys, it’s a shock–it’s hard to remember not everyone in the film is used to the oddities, since the viewer has to accept them from the first scene. The Prague shooting doesn’t help the atmosphere. While it all looks great, there’s an unreality to it. It’s clearly not Manhattan or New Jersey… it’s artificial. del Toro’s color schemes work great–director of photography Guillermo Navarro does a wonderful job (except one really jarring, apparently shot on video and cut in, moment)–and, for the first half, Hellboy looks so good, it’s hard to think about anything else. The narrative works, it just doesn’t pay off in the end.

One big problem is the villain–Karel Roden is no good. It’s like he’s out of a TV movie.

But for what del Toro’s going for, Hellboy pretty much does it all.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Guillermo del Toro; screenplay by del Toro, based on a story by del Toro and Peter Briggs and on the Dark Horse comic books by Mike Mignola; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Peter Amundson; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Stephen Scott; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy), John Hurt (Professor Bruttenholm), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Rupert Evans (John Myers), Karel Roden (Rasputin), Jeffrey Tambor (Manning), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Ladislav Beran (Kroenen), Biddy Hodson (Ilsa Haupstein) and Corey Johnson (Clay).


Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Guillermo del Toro)

Pan’s Labyrinth is a pretty film. Gorgeous cinematography, great locations, intricate make-up (bad CG, but it’s only really noticeable once). Guillermo del Toro does a decent job directing the film but has these really annoying transitions–the back of someone’s head frequently becomes a tree in the forest in unending pans. His script is competent and, well, heartless. I was trying to work up some suspense, but since del Toro ruins Pan’s Labyrinth‘s suspense in the opening shot, maybe it’s appropriate. Pan’s Labyrinth could have been a really good war movie, but instead del Toro mucks around in fantasy. Bad fantasy.

I was hoping Pan’s Labyrinth would either use the fantasy elements as a metaphor (it does not) or would be a descendent of Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, it’s neither. Instead, like I said before, it’s heartless. Only one of the characters is at all human and she’s just human by default. The rest are unbelievable, except maybe the bad guy (until the end, anyway). The lead character, the precocious girl, goes from being wise beyond her years to being inconceivably stupid. Del Toro never spends any time figuring the character out in any real sense, so there’s not even a surprise (by the time she got stupid, I’d already given up). There’s also absolutely no suspense in the film, thanks a) to del Toro giving everything away at the beginning and b) just some lame plotting.

The performances are fine, but not worth enumerating. Something does need to be said for the graphic violence, however. Instead of attaching any real emotion to Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro makes it frequently bloody to get the audience interested (Paul Verhoeven talked about this method in regards to Robocop–if you haven’t gotten the audience to care with actual character development, blood and guts can do it).

Pan’s Labyrinth is so artificial it’s hard to be particularly disappointed. While it’s boring and empty, the war aspect is so full of potential, you can just sit and imagine the fantasy thing being gone and the movie being good. Maybe it’s because del Toro doesn’t have any M. Night Shyamalan moments… well, until the end, but who cares by then? It’s almost over.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Bernat Vilaplana; music by Javier Navarrete; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco and Álvaro Augustin; released by Picturehouse.

Starring Sergi López (Vidal), Maribel Verdú (Mercedes), Ivana Baquero (Ofelia), Ariadna Gil (Carmen), Alex Angulo (Doctor) and Doug Jones (Pale Man).


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