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Kill Bill: The Right’s Commitment to Murdering Health Care Reform

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Kill Bill: The Right’s Commitment to Murdering Health Care Reform

I had intended to write a series of blog entries on health care reform this summer focusing not only on already well-documented problems within the system and challenging illogical, boogeyman arguments against a public option, but also on issues that haven’t received enough—or any—mainstream media attention, like the underinsured and the role doctors play in the rising costs of health care. Though perhaps inevitable, but no less unfortunate, the spate of attacks on reform that erupted during Congress’s August recess required those in favor of it to go on the defensive instead, spending time combating misinformation and distortions about public opinion when they should have been touting the progress Congress has made in making reform a real possibility for the first time in decades.

I found myself unwilling, if not unable, to comment on the distractions, partly because it was so downright depressing to me—a reminder of the brief period just after Sarah Palin was announced as the vice presidential candidate for the Republican ticket last fall and before she revealed herself to be a perpetual political punchline. At a Labor Day barbeque, a friend and staunch Barack Obama supporter glibly called me “un-American and un-democratic” for suggesting that hecklers shouting down a congressperson until his or her public forum grinded to a halt is not democracy but the ugly face of corporate-sponsored astroturfing. It’s a tactic used to stifle progress and send a message. That message, of course, is “Kill the bill!,” a slogan brought to you by the same masterminds who crafted last year’s “Drill, baby, drill!” and which was chanted ad nauseam at town halls across the nation during the final week of summer.

The Republican talking point has been to insist that those who showed up at town halls across the country last month were ordinary citizens who are unhappy with the changes they see taking place since Obama took office in January, who don’t want him interfering in their presumably cozy relationships with their health insurance providers. They just want to express their concerns, Republican officials will tell you. You know, like Heather Blish, former vice-chairman of the Kewaunee County GOP, who showed up at her former boss’s opponent’s town hall claiming to be “just a mom with no political affiliation” to protest health care reform.

Many of these people, however, are undoubtedly real, law-abiding citizens, but the groups mobilizing this so-called “grassroots” scare campaign are anything but grassroots. And it wasn’t just right-wing commentators or the fringe activists who listen to them who disseminated and continue to disseminate misinformation. “Death panel”—a term so repugnant and dripping with mischaracterization used to describe a part of the proposed reform bill that would reimburse Americans who choose to seek medical advice regarding end-of-life care—was hatched in the sickened brain of right-wing think tank fellow and Cantel Medical Corp. board member Betsy McCaughey and was propagated via Facebook by Palin like a 15-year-old mean girl spreading rumors about the popular new kid in class.

So it came as no surprise when, during Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night, Republicans behaved exactly like the angry mobs of town hall protesters they encouraged, pandered to, and used like political pawns throughout the recess. By the time I post this, Rep. Joe Wilson will likely have already started making the cable-TV rounds, ratcheting up his public profile in the wake of his outburst of “You lie!” when Obama attempted to debunk the rumor that his health care plan would insure illegal immigrants. It was a moment so profoundly revealing, in terms of both Wilson’s willful ignorance and his party’s cynicism, that it left no doubt about what the Republican strategy (to kill the bill) and the purpose of that strategy (to score political points against the president) has been. Wilson wasn’t the only elected official heckling the president—just the loudest and most red-faced. Whether it’s Sen. Jim DeMint expressing his desire to “break” Obama by stopping health care reform, or Sen. Chuck Grassley engaging in negotiations with Democrats under the guise of a bipartisan solution and then perpetuating myths about “killing Grandma” at town hall meetings and vowing not to vote for the very bill he’s been tasked with helping to form, the Republican Party’s objective has been to stifle any forward momentum.

I often hear the argument by those on the right that calling out this kind of behavior is frivolous because there is bad behavior on both sides of the aisle. And while that might be true, there is simply no parity on the left today. The left hated George W. Bush because he was perceived to be a corrupt warmonger; the right is painting toothbrush ’staches on portraits of Obama because he wants to reform health care. Symbolically dissing the commander in chief by denying him an applause line or twittering away while he speaks in the chamber is nothing new, but there was a palpable outward contempt for Obama last night that’s unprecedented in modern political history. And one that, exemplified by right-wing parents yanking their children from school so as to shield them from the president’s address to K-though-sixth-graders on Tuesday, reeks of something far more dangerous than old-fashioned partisanship.

The party’s opposition to the president (reform in any shape) notwithstanding, Republicans were going to reject any idea that was presented to them simply because it’s the nature of our two-party system. One should always ask for more than what they want or are willing to settle for when sitting down at the negotiating table, and the biggest problem with Obama’s plan has always been that he conceded too much too soon, pitching the compromise (a public option) instead of a single-payer or Medicare-for-all system that would truly represent the kind of universal coverage that has become a pillar of the Democratic platform. A proposal to further dilute the immediate impact of reform by putting a “trigger” on the public option, meaning that that particular part of the bill would only go into effect if and when the insurance industry failed to meet certain coverage criteria laid out by Congress, was even rejected by Republican Governor and likely 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty because, he told CNN’s John King, it “simply kicks the can down the road,” which, like the conflicting GOP talking points that a public option would both provide inferior coverage and simultaneously be too good for private companies to compete against, is essentially an admission that he knows insurance companies—and Republicans—will never step up to the plate.

Obama ended his speech by evoking Ted Kennedy, reading part of a letter the late senator had written following his cancer diagnosis last year and which he asked to be delivered to the president upon his death. Kennedy’s words—“What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country”—are the best and clearest articulation of both broad liberal ideology and the necessity of universal health care I’ve heard to date. Obama’s assessment of those words took Kennedy’s legacy of proud 20th-century liberalism into a new era: “[Our predecessors] understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter—that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.”

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Disney’s Mulan Live-Action Remake, Starring Yifei Liu, Gets Teaser Trailer

The film follows a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a warrior in order to spare her ailing father from war.

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Mulan
Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Today, during the Women’s World Cup final between America and the Netherlands, Disney premiered the first trailer for its live-action remake of the 1998 animated move of the same name. The film follows a young Chinese woman (Yifei Liu) who, after the Emperor of China (Jet Li) issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial army, disguises herself as a warrior in order to spare the life of her ailing father (Tzi Ma). According to Disney’s official description of the film: “Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.”

Mulan features a celebrated international cast that also includes Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan, Yoson An as Cheng Honghui, and Gong Li as Xianniang. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, and Lauren Hynek based on the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”

See the action-packed teaser trailer below:

Disney will release Mulan in March 2020.

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Taylor Swift Drops Star-Studded, Pride-Themed “You Need to Calm Down” Video

The video takes the notion of visibility as a means of acceptance to the extreme.

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Taylor Swift
Photo: YouTube

After years of political agnosticism, Taylor Swift endorsed two Tennessee Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections, prompting a backlash from white supremacists and their dear leader, Donald Trump. In the span of less than a year, the singer went from being the Aryan goddess of the alt-right to being called out as an agent of sodomy in a sermon by a homophobic pastor and sheriff’s deputy in her home state.

Swift’s path to wokeness has been a long one, and while the launch of her new single, “You Need to Calm Down,” during LGBT Pride Month might feel like the equivalent of Google slapping a rainbow flag on their logo, her activism—which included a recent $113,000 donation to a Tennessee LGBT organization—seems like more than just a branding opportunity. “To be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting,” Swift posted on Tumblr after rumors circulated that she kisses former rival Katy Perry in the video for “You Need to Calm Down,” the second single from Swift’s seventh album, Lover.

The clip does, however, take the notion of visibility as a means of acceptance to the extreme, featuring cameos from RuPaul, Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Lambert, Adam Rippon, Laverne Cox, Billy Porter, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (whom she serenaded at a surprise performance at New York’s Stonewall Inn last week), and other queer celebrities, YouTube stars, and allies.

Directed by Swift and Drew Kirsch, the video opens with the pop singer waking up in a pastel-colored trailer home adorned with kitschy paintings and a framed Cher quote (“Mom, I am a rich man”). She makes herself a cotton-candy smoothie, takes a dip the cleanest above-ground pool you’ll ever see, and parades through the trailer park’s pride-themed festivities, which includes a “pop queen pageant” featuring drag versions of Swift, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Adele, Cardi B, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry.

The real Katy pops up for a heartfelt reunion with Swift that makes “You Need to Calm Down”—which seems to strive for, but falls short of, the campy eye candy that Perry has honed in her own videos over the years—feel like a bachelorette party at a gay bar. But just in case you question Swift’s allegiance to the cause, the video ends with a message urging viewers to sign her petition for Senate support of the Equality Act.

Watch below:

Swift’s album, Lover, is due August 23 via Republic Records.

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Mykki Blanco Is a Trans Joan of Arc in Madonna’s “Dark Ballet” Video – Watch

The self-described transfeminine rapper stars in the video from the queen of pop’s upcoming album Madame X.

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Mykki Blanco
Photo: YouTube

While presenting Madonna with GLAAD’s Advocate for Change award last month, Mykki Blanco hinted that a collaboration with the queen of pop might be imminent. Sure enough, the self-described transfeminine rapper stars in the video for “Dark Ballet,” the final track to be released in the lead-up to Madonna’s new album, Madame X.

Directed by Dutch Ghanaian visual artist Emmanuel Adjei, “Dark Ballet” echoes the themes of Madonna’s infamous “Like a Prayer” video, awash with Catholic iconography and a storyline revolving around a persecuted black person. But that’s where the similarities end. The singer only briefly appears in the clip, behind a black veil, and the burning crosses of her 1989 video are traded for a ceremonial burning at the stake.

The video is frenetic and non-linear, opening with Blanco held captive in a stonewalled room, wrapped in a dirty white robe. Wrists bound with rope, he’s led by clergymen to be executed for an undisclosed crime. He’s then seen dancing, first in a cathedral—pleading with the men, who forsake him—and then in the church’s sanctuary, dressed in a gold corset reminiscent of the iconic one designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. Madonna is, in effect, all over the video, but her casting of a queer person of color as the oppressed, rather than herself, spotlights the disproportionate impact of the patriarchy on minorities.

Produced by Madonna and longtime collaborator Mirwais, the song itself is an ambitious electro suite featuring a heavily Auto-Tuned denouncement of gender, lies, and fame, before the track breaks into Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed Pipes” from The Nutcracker accompanied by a robot Joan of Arc proclaiming her faith. (There’s a brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc near the beginning of the video.) The song is a reminder of the wacky magic Madonna and Mirwais are capable of cooking up together.

Watch below:

Madame X will be released on June 14 via Interscope Records.

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James Gray’s Ad Astra, Starring Brad Pitt, Gets Official Trailer

It has been a wild ride to the screen for the film, which Gray announced way back in 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival.

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Ad Astra
Photo: 20th Century Fox

It has been a wild ride to the screen for Ad Astra, which director James Gray announced way back in 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival. Originally it was set to come out in the doldrums of January, then on May 24, but as a trailer had yet to be announced in the leadup to that date, it was inevitable that the release would get bumped again. And it was probably for the best, as a film with the obvious ambition as this one wouldn’t get the attention it deserved from its studio—or is it studios?—had it opened in the midst of the confusing Disney-Fox Hollywood merger continuing to play out at that time.

Anyway, today we’ve been gifted with the official trailer for Ad Astra, and the official announcement that it will be coming out on September 20, which suggests that a world premiere at a fall festival is in order. The film tells the story of an astronaut, Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), who “travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.”

Shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk) and scored by post-minimalist composer Max Richter, Ad Astra has been likened by Gray to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and described as “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie and to basically say, ‘Space is awfully hostile to us.’” In addition to Pitt, who’s also a producer on the film, Ad Astra stars Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Kennedy, John Finn, Kimberly Elise, Bobby Nish, and LisaGay Hamilton.

Watch the official trailer below:

20th Century Fox will release Ad Astra on September 20.

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Terminator: Dark Fate Official Trailer: Going Back to the Well with Sarah Connor

Linda Hamilton at least makes a killer impression as Sarah visits fiery justice upon Gabriel Luna’s terminator.

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Terminator: Dark Fate
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Today, Paramount dropped the trailer for the sixth entry in the Terminator series, Terminator: Dark Fate, which promises to deliver…more of the same? With this film, Deadpool director Tim Miller aims to give the series a reboot: by pretending that none of the films that came after Terminator 2: Judgement Day ever existed (sorry, Rise of the Machines fans), maybe even Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. “Welcome to the day after judgment day,” reads the poster, promising the badass return of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. And on that front, the film looks to deliver, as Hamilton certainly makes a killer impression as Sarah visits fiery justice upon Gabriel Luna’s terminator.

But based on everything else that’s on display throughout the trailer, we’re worried that there’s not anything new that a film in this series stands to bring to the table besides running and gunning, with the occasional wink thrown in for good measure. Cast in point: Mackenzie Davis stars as Grace, an “enhanced human” who looks to fill the hanger-on role to Connor that Edward Furlong’s John Connor did to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800, now apparently living in woodsy retirement, and at the ready to give sage advice. In short, we’re not impressed, and that also holds true of that cover of Björk’s “Hunter” by some zombie man singer.

Watch the official trailer below:

Paramount Pictures will release Terminator Dark Fate on November 1.

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The Nightingale Trailer: Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin Star in Jennifer Kent’s Follow-Up to The Babadook

Today, IFC has released the first trailer for the film, which is set during the colonization of Australia in 1825.

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The Nightingale
Photo: Matt Nettheim

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, the Aussie filmmaker’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Babadook, premiered way back in September at the Venice Film Festival, and to mostly positive notices. Today, ahead of its U.S. theatrical release in August, IFC has released the first trailer for the film, which is set during the colonization of Australia in 1825 and follows a young Irish convict settler, Clare (played by Aisling Franciosi), who, after finishing her seven-year sentence, struggles to be free of her abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). According to the studio’s official description of the film:

Clare’s husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) retaliates and she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of the lieutenant and his cronies. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unable to find compatriots for her journey, she is forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) who grudgingly takes her through the rugged wilderness to track down Hawkins. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and its colonizers plays out in what is now known as “The Black War.” Clare and Billy are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas and mutual distrust, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness, they must learn to find empathy for one another, while weighing the true cost of revenge.

Watch the official trailer below:

IFC Films will release The Nightingale in NY and LA on August 2.

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Downton Abbey Trailer Sees the Crawley Clan Prepping for a Royal Arrival

Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga? Is it St. Swithin’s Day already? No, it ain’t, dear. ‘Tis Downtown Abbey Day.

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Downton Abbey
Photo: Focus Features

Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga? Is it St. Swithin’s Day already? No, it ain’t, dear. ‘Tis Downton Abbey Day—that is, the release of the official trailer for the Downton Abbey movie. It’s been some three years since we’ve gotten to sip tea with the Crawley clan and hang out downstairs with the servants making sure that the biscuits are placed just right on the proper fine bone china tea set. And from the looks of the two-and-a-half-minute trailer, it would appear that nothing has changed at Downton Abbey since the series’s finale.

In the tradition of Mad Men’s episode-ending “next week on AMC’s Mad Men” teasers, it’s just a series of snappy snippets that suggest we’re in for more of the same, from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham snarking up a storm to Robert James-Collier’s Thomas Barrow getting his gay on. And we are here for it. The cherry on top? The king and queen are coming to Downton! And as everything must be in tip-top shape for their arrival, the Crawleys must enlist the help of the one and only Charles Carson (Jim Carter), who is treated here with the reverence of a god, or a superhero from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Downton Abbey is directed by Michael Engler and written by Oscar- and Emmy-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes. And in addition to the aforementioned actors, the film stars Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Imelda Staunton, and Penelope Wilton.

Watch the official trailer below:

Focus Features will release Downton Abbey on September 20.

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Watch the Teaser Trailer for Andy Muschietti’s It Chapter Two, Starring Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader

The teaser seems hell-bent on satisfying those who found the first film to be an over-directed succession of freakouts.

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It Chapter Two
Photo: Warner Bros.

Today, Warner Bros. revealed the teaser trailer for It Chapter Two, Andy Muschietti’s highly anticipated follow-up to his worldwide box-office smash It. The teaser is certainly promising, if only because it seems hell-bent on satisfying above all else those who might have found the first film to be an over-directed succession of freakouts. Indeed, while the trendy retroism of that film is certainly evident across this teaser’s three minutes, there’s something rather impressive about how it forces us to spend so much time stewing in the atmosphere of dread that slowly overcomes the adult Beverly (Jessica Chastain) inside an old woman’s house as she comes to realize that she and other grown-up members of the Losers Club may not have fully shaken off the horror that is Pennywise.

In addition to Chastain, It Chapter Two stars James McAvoy as Bill, Bill Hader as Richie, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, Jay Ryan as Ben, James Ransone as Eddie, and Andy Bean as Stanley. Reprising their roles as the original members of the Losers Club are Jaeden Martell as Bill, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, Finn Wolfhard as Richie, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, and Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben. And, of course, there’s Bill Skarsgård, who reprises his role of Pennywise.

See the teaser trailer below:

Warner Bros. will release It Chapter Two on September 6.

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Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Final Cut Coming to Theaters in August

The film remains as legendary for its artistry as it is for the difficulty of its making.

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Apocalypse Now Final Cut
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is as legendary for its artistry as it is for the difficulty of its making. Some have argued that Coppola became the victim of the film’s legend with the 2001 release of Apocalypse Now Redux, a significant re-edit of the original film put together by the director and editor Walter Murch. The two most famous additions made to the original had its naysayers for being flow-breaking: the second meeting with the Playboy playmates, and the meeting with a family of holdout French colonists on a remote rubber plantation. I recommend you read the responses to this tweet from critic Glenn Kenny to get a sense of what we have in store from the new, never-before-seen restored version of the film, entitled Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, coming our way in August.

According to Lionsgate, the film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, has been remastered from the original negative in 4K Ultra HD.

The Beacon Theatre will be outfitted for this exclusive occasion with Meyer VLFC (Very Low Frequency Control), a ground-breaking loudspeaker system engineered to output audio frequencies below the limits of human hearing, giving the audience a truly visceral experience. In addition, the film has been enhanced with Dolby Vision, delivering spectacular colors and highlights that are up to 40 times brighter and blacks that are 10 times darker, and Dolby Atmos, producing moving audio that flows all around you with breathtaking realism.

Audiences will be able to experience a special NAGRA myCinema theatrical release of Apocalypse Now Final Cut on the giant screen in select theaters nationwide on August 15. Then, on August 27, the film will be available to own on a 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which will include a 4K disc, plus three Blu-ray discs and a digital copy.

Watch the trailer for the film below:

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Sonic the Hedgehog, Starring Jim Carrey, Gets Weird, Teeth-Forward Trailer

Sonic the Hedgehog and Slant’s nine-year relationship has seen its ups and downs.

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Sonic the Hedgehog
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Sonic the Hedgehog and Slant’s nine-year relationship has seen its ups and downs. Outside of a rare rave we extended to Sonic Colors way back in 2010, most of our writers have been mixed about the Sega flagship mascot’s output over the last decade, even as they acknowledge the wily speed demon’s nostalgic appeal. Per our own Jaime N. Christley: “A free agent with no history, no employment, Sonic has no agenda, except one: run like hell.” Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog, though, would appear to want to change that—not by slowing him down but by giving him more of a purpose than just saving a bunch of captive animals at the end of every level and acting all smug about it.

Today, the studio released the trailer for the Jeff Fowler-directed film, a live-action comedy adventure that sees Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) navigating, um, “the complexities of life on Earth” alongside his best human friend, Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden). That unmistakable ring sound that litters the trailer will surely bring a smile to the faces of Sonic fans young and old, but Sonic the Hedgehog feels like it’s going to be a hard sell, given its positioning of Sonic—so full of a sass, not to mention a mouthful of teeth—as a pubescent nuisance. Good luck picking your jaw up from the floor once Sonic takes on Jim Carrey’s villainous Dr. Robotnik to the sounds of “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

For better and worse—okay, just worse—the film looks like it’s straight from 1991, the year that the first Sonic the Hedgehog game was released. See the trailer below and cringe for yourself as the blue speed freak gets his Coolio on:

Paramount Pictures will release Sonic the Hedgehog on November 8.

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