So apparently Ridley Scott is working on a new Blade Runner movie. I can probably say that this is another franchise that doesn’t need a sequell, prequel, remake, or reboot. Really, once they came out with the directors cut you pretty much had a perfect movie all in one two hour segment. Would you really ask Da Vinci to go back and repaint the Last Supper, only this time put clown noses on all the figures? This is pretty much the same concept.
Replicant image from the sci fi t shirts.
The funniest thing about this story is the serious doubt as to whether Harrison Ford is considering doing it or not. There are stories going in both directions. The most recent ones seem to indicate he will not touch it, which I think is the best move. He looked so young and vibrant in Blade Runner. He has no need to look like an old man like he did in the recent Indiana Jones. Besides, there is no way the new script could end up being anything but suck.
Ridley Scott, do your fans a favor and don’t fall for the huge pile of money the studio must be offering you. Prove to the world that you are a better man that George Lucas. Don’t do this movie.
A bad night at the movies, or a mediocre night at home watching a TV pilot.
Yes, I saw this. I will say that this story appeals to a very specific audience, and that audience seems to be middle aged women who like to see men in pain. I was one of four guys in a half full theater and clearly the only one who hadn’t been dragged along by a significant other. One of the major problems this film suffers from is that if you had shown it to me on DVD I would have said it was a TV pilot that failed to go anywhere. I kept waiting for commercial breaks.
My predictions for this movie did not come 100% true. She did have feelings for her ex, but they did not do anything to prevent her from doing her job. She did outdo a more experienced bounty hunter, but only in the most superficial way. My last prediction did indeed come true, although instead of kicking a guy in the nuts it was shooting him in the chest.
I said one of the major problems with this film is the fact that it felt like a TV show, but there are many others. Another huge problem is the fact that the plot runs like a Ruth Goldberg machine that keeps breaking down. You know, the woodpecker breaks the wood pin that causes the iron tied to a string to release, turning the cog that pulls the trigger on the pistol, starting the bowling ball to roll along the tracks eventually turning on the washing machine etc etc? Except in this case none of the separate devices connect properly and you can see the director and the producers (including star Katherine Heigl. More on that later) running around putting the bowling ball back on the track, replacing the woodpecker when it dies, and using the pistol to shoot their agent for getting them involved in this dog. The plot (for lack of a better term) advances only through the most random happenstance and farcical connections.
Another problem this movie suffers from is the incredibly bland supporting characters and the avalanche of otherwise interesting minor characters who vanish off the screen after a couple scenes. Katherine Heigl is the Executive Producer of this thing and it really feels like she is dealing with a massive insecurity issue. In other words, she won’t put anyone on the screen who may overshadow her. Everyone else in the film is a relative nobody. Also, there is not a single scene except for a couple out of focus flashbacks that don’t feature her. The most interesting characters are all the minor ones to literally don’t last past the two minute mark. Her competing bounty hunter gets killed within one minute of meeting her. A goofy Asian pot head with a dragon tattoo on his forehead gets killed in the scene after we meet him. Her best friend only appears on screen in phone calls and then vanishes into the ether, along with the mother and daughter of the hooker she is trying to help. Even the main bad guy has one lousy scene with her and then kind of waits in the wings to do anything.
The last problem, although not as major as the first three, is the stupid voice over monologue. I know this is a movie adapted from a book, but honestly books have expository monologues because they are made of words. Movies are made of pictures and sounds and as such can convey events and feelings without telling us what is going on in the dumbest manner possible. The only genre where the expository voice over works is in noir detective stories. This movie is not noir. Look at Bladerunner. The voice over monologue was forced into the film by the studio, and in the end when they came out with the directors cut it was entirely deleted, making for a much better film (Replicant image courtesy of the Science Fiction T Shirt category).
Anyway, the story. Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked Up, Life as we Know It) plays Stephanie Plum, an ex lingerie salesperson who is desperate for some kind of income. She has dinner with her family, the New Jersey Stereotypes, and gets told that her cousin Vinnie (no joke. Her New Jersey cousin is named Vinnie. My Cousin Vinnie? By the way, he is played by Patrick Fischler-Twister, Old School, Speed, Mulhulland Drive), who owns a bail bond shop, has a job. She ends up, with no training, experience, or equipment, a bounty hunter and is hot on the case of the guy who took her virginity (a fact that we are repeatedly and painfully reminded of over and over again) back in high school, Joe Morelli (Resident Evil Extinction, Life on Mars, Terra Nova). He is a cop who has been accused of shooting a drug dealer or something. By the time we get to what actually happened all the Ruth Goldberg devices had so cluttered up the screen that I couldn’t really tell what was going on. Anyway, she embarks on a wacky adventure to all the worst parts of town and doesn’t seem to get killed. She meets up with another bounty hunter named Ranger (Daniel Sunjata-All My Children, Rescue Me, the Devil Wears Prada) who buys her a gun (in complete disregard for cooling off periods and/or concealed weapon laws) and shows up to back her up occasionally. She meets the very scary and intense villain (Gavin-Keith Umeh-Law and Order SVU, Unforgettable, White Collar) but I guess he was too cool to actually show as he spent most of the movie not on screen. Probably it was felt he would overpower Heigl’s performance. A car gets blown up. Oddball plot twists that add nothing and don’t make a lot of sense crop up. The pilot (I mean movie) ends and retreats to the failed idea shelf.
The stars. I don’t know. There were a couple of entertaining scenes, I guess. One star. I would normally give a star for some interesting minor characters, but they all vanished like free finger food at an open mike poetry reading. Katherine Heigl is definitely easy on the eyes, and seems to have cornered the market on skin tight jeans (and giant purses). One star. She does a partially nude scene that is pretty good, but since she is only half naked I can only give her half a star. Total: Two and a half stars.
The black holes. Disjointed Ruth Goldbergian plot. Two black holes. Making me pay for what in reality should have been a free pilot episode. One black hole. Bland, boring support characters. One black hole. The voice over monolog that made me want to run screaming into the night. One black hole. In addition to being a big, disjointed mess, the end of the movie was at the same time labyrinthine and pat. Basically you couldn’t have wrapped up the story neater if the main character had actually been a producer of the film (oh, wait…). One black hole. A complete disregard of all forms of gun laws. One black hole. Loading the plot with extra characters and then erasing them to make more room for Katherine Heigl. One black hole. Total: eight black holes.
So a grand total of five and a half black holes. Not a great score. I don’t really have anything against Katherine Heigl. I think she has talent and is super hot. I enjoyed her as the stuck up prissy girl in Knocked Up. If she could find the right role I would be happy to give her a good review. This one isn’t it. Worth seeing? Not really. There is nothing in this movie that makes it worth spending your hard earned dollars. It really does feel like you are watching TV. Date movie? Actually yes. This might work as a date movie to a certain extent. You will sit there fuming about having to spend money and 106 minutes of your life on it, but as long as your date doesn’t have to pay for it she might well enjoy it. The chemistry on screen is tepid at best, but could put her in the right mood, if you know what I mean.
Man on a Ledge later today, so look for that review tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. I have some thoughts on the Academy nominations and might blog some about them later this week. Talk to you soon.
This film was kind of out of focus, and I don’t mean by the projectionist.
Meryl Streep is an exceptional performer in every sense of the term, and delivers another great performance. The problem is I can’t figure out if the director (Phyllida Lloyd-Mamma Mia!, Gloriana) actually likes or hates Margaret Thatcher. I went in kind of expecting a tribute to one of the greatest world leaders of the 20th century, with highlights and low points presented in an interesting manner that included contributing personal moments and insights. You know, what a good movie would have. Instead we got a disjointed series of vignettes that seem to gloss over her triumphs and linger lovingly over Lady Thatcher’s mistakes and failures while alternating to the present where we get to see an ailing woman dealing with dementia. It’s like if you made a movie about a family trip to Disneyland but had 2/3rds of the footage be of them looking for their car in the parking lot at the end of the day.
This looks like another chance to use my recently coined term script confusion, but a more colloquial and possibly accurate term might be fence sitting. Growing up in the 80’s Thatcher had a well deserved reputation as a ball busting bitch (I mean that term with enormous respect). As a staunch ally to our country she was always perceived as a good person, but she definitely had her issues. However, this movie takes her triumphs and makes them into miniscule points that bookend long exploration of her failures, including the decline of her career, while completely glossing over the majority of her very serious personality issues (her total contempt for the poor and unemployed, not to mention her attitude towards other women). The director seemed unsure if she wanted to praise or denigrate Margarette Thatcher, and consequently never really committed far enough in either direction.
Interspersed between these vignettes was the story of a lonely old woman dealing with dementia and the death of her husband that was as depressing as possible without actually featuring your ex girlfriend sleeping with someone else on screen. I’m not kidding here. We are talking Leaving Las Vegas depressing. This over story only managed to break up any decent momentum the historical story had going and cast a terrible pall over every scene in the movie. SPOILER ALERT INCOMING. And does the film end with a scene of Margaret Thatcher’s triumph and happiness? No. It ends with her political career ending in ignobility and failure, more or less wandering down a corridor in an Alzheimer haze.
As you may have inferred from my rant so far, the story is of the infamous Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There are two stories going in side by side, but as the main one seems to be a go nowhere plot about her failing years, I will sum that one up with she gets old, deals with the death of her husband, packs up his things for charity, and wanders off. The rest of the movie is a Cliffnotes version of her career, starting as the daughter of a grocer and advancing her politically as she runs for office, gets married, and becomes Prime Minister. The highlight seems to be her actions during the Falklands War, when she kicked the crap out of major world superpower Argentina. The rest of the events all seem to blur together with no real resolution. Somehow she managed to turn the economy around, but there is no real indication how she did it. There are about 1,000 scenes of riots, and the image of rioters beating on the sides of her car recurs several times. When she first gets into office the story seems to be about the trade unions destroying the economy of Great Briton, but then two scenes later the unions are gone and the economy prospering with no word of how it was accomplished. With a few exceptions this story about one of the most powerful and influential women in modern Western politics seems to treat her more like a passenger on a bus than the person behind the wheel.
The other thing that fails miserably in this film is the fact that due to the disconnected pacing and editing at no time do we actually get to connect with Meryl Streeps character. Just as you start to feel something for the crazy old lady hallucinating about her husband it cuts to her bitching out another minister in Parliament, and just as you start to connect to her as a political savvy woman struggling to make her way in the boys club of British government we cut back to her asking about her son visiting when he is in South Africa. There is nothing solid for the audience to latch onto and connect with. Meryl Streep is such a good actress that to treat her performance with such disregard for the continuity of the story is almost a crime. It’s building a house with the best bricks money can buy and assembling them with spit and chewing gum.
The stars. Meryl Streep delivers the best performance possible given the flailing vehicle she was forced to drive. One star. Some of the history was interesting. One star. For such a mediocre script, the dialog was surprisingly good, although that might just be me once again being taken in by British accents. One star. Her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent-Moulin Rouge, Gangs of New York, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) was fun and entertaining, although definitely felt out of place like a clown at a funeral (clown image courtesy of the Science Fiction T Shirts category). I won’t black hole them for that, as I think the movie needed some kind of comic relief. One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes. Really, really depressing to no purpose. Two black holes. Disjointed editing. One black hole. Pacing was awful. The scenes with Thatcher as a decrepit crazy woman dragged on and on, while the scenes with her as an effective and capable leader were rushed through at high speed, almost as if the director resented having to do them and was just trying to get them out of the way. One black hole. Meryl Streep really not given the proper treatment to deliver her normally great performance. One black hole. No sign of character development or anything for the audience to connect to. One black hole. The entirety of Thatcher as a senile old biddy was completely unnecessary and pointless. Normally I would give this one black hole, but since this seems to be the majority of the screen time I will bump it up to two. At the end of the movie I found myself wondering what the entire point of the movie was. I actually have a theory on the directors actual purpose that I will get into in the conclusion. One black hole. Overall I left the theater feeling like I had just wasted my time and money. One black hole. Total: nine black holes.
A total of five black holes. If you are a huge fan of the Devil Wears Prada and/or Meryl Streep see it just to see it, but I don’t think you will come away with anything worthwhile. While writing this review I did a little research and have come up with a theory as to what was really going through the director Phyllida Lloyds cranium on this on. You see, she is best know for directing opera, a genre not really known for its uplifting message. I suspect she was infused with a desire to make a film about a lonely old woman dealing with her dead husband and uncaring children. The scenes I wanted to see of Margaret Thatcher changing the face of Briton were rushed, stilted, and treated as secondary to scenes of her making two eggs, one for her and one for her eight year dead husband. Seems a shame. However, this production was entirely funded by the UK Film Council, and trying to hold a public commission to the same bar as a Hollywood production is an exercise in futility. I’m just surprised that the Britons wouldn’t want to see Thatcher painted in a more positive light. Of course, when we do a movie about an American historical figure we tend to look for all the dirt possible (most recently J. Edgar), so perhaps the attitude here actually reflects the prevailing attitude most Britons have towards her. I don’t know.
Thanks for reading. Not a lot coming out until Friday, so I will probably do more end of the year stuff tomorrow or just blow it off entirely. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu to get announcements of new reviews, or just subscribe to my RSS feed. Talk to you all soon.
Look, I’m about to reveal that I must be some kind of amateur or idiot. Every review I have seen on this film has panned it as unoriginal and lacking tension. While I concede the unoriginal claim (it is the bastard three way love child of Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project, and Alien) I found it scary as hell. (Alien image courtesy of the science fiction t shirt category)
Maybe it’s because I love astronauts, and understand how dangerous what they do really is. Like most guys my age when I was a kid I wanted to be one, and used to get up early to watch the space shuttles launch (until the Challenger blew up. That was a pretty crappy day in a childhood full of crappy days). I also have a good understanding of the dangers of just walking on the moon. You don’t need a creature to die a horrible death out there.
Anyway, maybe I am an idiot and should not be doing reviews, but I will not be dishonest and to be truthful, this movie had me hunched over gripping the arm rests.
It’s 1974 and after NASA announces the scrubbing of Apollo’s 18, 19, and 20 they secretly launch 18 in order to do some kind of secret DoD mission. The entirety of the movie is filmed on home movie super 8 and/or onboard mission recorders. Three guys are sent up with orders to set some kind of secret tracking devices up around the South Pole of the moon. The two guys in the lander land and start working. Weird crap starts happening. They find footprints that they follow back to a Russian lander, and they find the Russian Cosmonaut dead and desiccated. Rock samples keep moving around. You catch a glimpse of weird movement. Alien creature sneak around, and all hell breaks loose.
I don’t want to get to far into the story, as I don’t think a lot of people will actually want to read this review, but I will say the filming effects added a lot to the overall experience. They really made it look like some found footage. Basically everything blows up.
Anyway, the stars. Scary. Two stars. They really made everything as authentic as possible. One star. Good acting. One star. Good camera work. One star. They never really show you a good view of the creatures, and that actually adds a lot to the movie. One star. Astronauts. One star. Decent filming and CGI (although watching this film you gain an understanding of how some people can claim the whole moon landing was a farce cooked up in a film studio). One star. The story made sense, as far as such thing can go. One star. Totol: nine stars.
The black holes. Extremely predictable (when you see a Soviet lander and they determine it has oxygen and fuel it doesn’t exactly strain your brain to figure out that they will be escaping aboard it). One black hole. Sound effects in space (a pet peeve of mine). One black hole. The action was obviously at Moon’s 1/3rd Earth gravity when they were outside the lander but seemed to revert to full Earth normal whenever they were inside the lander on the moon (stuff still falls slower, guys). One black hole. The two astronauts pretty much fell into every bad horror cliche available, starting with the “we just found an abandoned moon lander (farmhouse, amusement park, hospital, campsite) exactly like ours, except the inside is covered with a lot more blood. Instead of bugging the hell out let’s look for more stuff to kill us” thing. One black hole. While the set and everything was as authentic as possible, there were a bunch of dopey technical glitches that bugged me, mostly have to do with the physics of matching orbits with no calculation done whatsoever. One black hole. One of the astronaut, with no training really and no sign of any ability to read Cyrillic, manages to figure out how to operated a Soviet space craft in about two minutes. One black hole.
I would like to mention that most of the other reviews I read had issues with the pacing and found it boring, but I actually didn’t mind. It seemed appropriate for a movie set on the moon to move at a measured pace, and I found the tension buildup to be pretty good.
So a final score of three stars. Not particularly good, but not bad either. I can see a lot of the points the other reviewers raised, but I did indeed find it scary. I’d like to see this movie do OK, but it looks like it has already tanked. Too bad. NetFlix it I guess. You shouldn’t have to wait long.
Invasion of the midnight black bugbears (why doesn’t spell check call me on that word?)
This movie is one that my friend Dave has been asking me to see and review. I kind of regret not doing it sooner. It wasn’t great, but it was a lot better than most of the movies I have reviewed recently (cough cough Conan the Barbarian cough cough) and I enjoyed watching it. Generally a good experience.
There is one issue I have with this movie, and it is one that has plagued me ever since I started watching Guy Ritchie films: I have a very hard time taking gangsters and gang members with British accents, especially Cockney, seriously or at all threatening. A Cockney accent makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy, and having some guy spout out hard core gangster dialog just makes me giggle. The disparity is like learning that your sweet grandmother is a five star general and listen to her order men to their deaths. It’s just funny.
I guess the disparity stems in part from having lived around some actual bad ass guys (did I mention I have lived in Oakland for 10 years now?) and seeing them all the time in American movies. Also, the relative rarity of guns in the UK makes crime over there seem somehow less threatening and more amusing. I know for sure that this is just a messed up perception on my part, and if I were on the wrong street in South London I would probably get my ass handed to me pretty quick by guys who sound a lot like Benny Hill. Nevertheless, there it is.
By the way, I do take Irish accents to be pretty serious, but that might be from some of my older family.
Anyway, Attack the Block. Since it is almost out of theaters and wasn’t in a lot of them in the first place I am going to assume most of you will not see it and feel a little free with spoiler, so you might want to skip this next paragraph if you plan to seek it out. Anyway, a gang of youthful hooligans mugs a young girl. During the course of their crime a meteor crashes into a nearby parked car. It contains a very small (pretty much Gremlin sized) alien who attacks the leader of the hooligans. They chase it, kill it, and walk around London carrying it like a trophy. Turns out the little one they killed was a precursor for a swarm of others, all the size of a black bear with midnight black fur (cough cough easy CGI cough cough) and glowing green teeth. They are after anyone who has had contact with the first alien (there is a reason for this, but I won’t spoil that much). Alien-esque hijinks ensue. Guys get killed. Aliens get killed with a number of improvised weapons. The mugging victim ends up teamed up with the kids. Some annoying pre-teens show up and do annoying stuff. (Alien image courtesy of the science fiction t shirt category)
The stars. Independent film. One star. Nick Frost. One star. Reasonably believable story. One star. The main group of young teenage hooligans rang really true and acted pretty well for young actors, especially the main one, John Boyega. One star. Story conclusion was well done and hardly smacked of deus ex machina at all. The characters worked hard for it. One star. The girl was really cute, but they didn’t try to crowbar in any kind of dumb romance to gum up the story (this is why I love independent films). One star. The dialog, once you got around understanding all the Cockney, was well done and had some really funny lines. One star. Impressive production values for an independent. One star. The one comic relief character was actually comic relief without being freaking annoying or changing the tone of the film. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. Alien invaders without any kind of technology. Basically it was like being invaded by a bunch of bears. One black hole. Two little kids kept surfacing and harshing my buzz by being annoying. One black hole. After a while the fact that the kids managed to kill aliens over and over again with basically kitchen knives and the like gets less and less believable. One black hole. That’s it. Three black holes.
I have a couple things in the irksome category. For one, the CGI wasn’t the best I have seen lately. However, I am not going to ding them on it as it is an independent and I have seen really polished Hollywood CGI delivering total crap to us lately. Also, throughout most of the movie I couldn’t help but think these invaders could only pull this off in England, as if they landed in the USA our glorious nine guns per ten citizens ratio would have put paid to melee dependent aliens toot sweet.
So a total of six stars. Nice film, and it’s always good to see a film come out of something other than the Hollywood orifice. If you can still catch it in a theater I recommend you do so. If not put in on your NetFlix.
Or, I now know which movie from 2011 I most want to own in DvD.
This movie was Smurfing great! (Sorry, I’m still channeling the Smurfs review from a couple days ago). I really can’t say enough good things about it. It’s suspenseful, exciting, well acted, and the apes are unbelievable. I don’t know what kind of pact the animators signed with dark powers to give them the ape visuals, but really stunning.
I don’t mean to gush, but the fact it this is one of the first times in a long time I have been excited by a movie trailer only to find the actual movie exceeds my expectations. Normally I see a really good trailer and am plagued with the thought “That could be decent” only to leave the theater feeling like I vomited in my mouth an hour ago and can still taste a little of it. This film, however, had me leaving the theater just tasting the wholesome goodness of a great movie (and popcorn).
I’m not going to get into the story too much, as most of it can be derived from the trailer alone and also, if you don’t go see this film as soon as possible (like right after reading this review) then you are an idiot of the highest caliber (by the way, I’m still pissed off at movie going America for letting the Smurfs beat out Cowboys and Aliens opening weekend. Really?). Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story without all the origin problems that I have talked about plaguing other origin movies (too focused on the origin of one character, completing the origin in the first half only to have to find a way to fill up the second half, etc.). I actually looked at a couple reviews by other writers (something I really only do for movies that I absolutely love, in case I missed some issue while drifting in my fan boy bliss) and one guy came up with a word that really sums it up nicely: organic. The story is organic and everything that happens seems to happen in a natural order for a completely believable reason.
Anyway, if you have seen the trailer and/or watched Charlton Heston yell at the Statue of Liberty than you know the basic story. Couple minor spoilers coming up so if you get upset at those just skip ahead a little. James Franco plays a biochemist working on an Alzheimer cure in a lab, but the story really isn’t about him. It is about Cesar, the research chimp that he rescues and takes home from his lab. Cesar was infected with the retrovirus the was being worked on to develop the brain cure. He shows unusual intelligence as he grows up. Meanwhile the research continues and gets better. Cesar grows up in a loving home but is smart enough to realize he does not have the same rights or identity as the humans. Eventually he attacks a jerk neighbor (played by David Hewlett, of Stargate Atlantis, who plays a jerk better than pretty much anyone else. Dr. Rodney McKay image from the science fiction t shirt category) and gets locked up in a shelter, where he is more or less mistreated by the local white trash handler. It time he escapes, gets a hold of the newer, improved brain cure, and gives it to his other chimp buddies. It might sound a little far fetched, but it all makes total sense when you see it. Ape hijinks ensues. Stuff gets blown up. The apes go a little nuts.
First the stars. Planet of the Apes. One star. The ape animation was so, absolutely freaking good. One star. The pacing and flow of the movie couldn’t be more perfect. One star. You can actually see the humanization of the apes, particularly Cesar, as the movie progresses. Believe it or not, but towards the end you can literally see subtle nuance in the facial expressions of the apes. One star. Great story. One star. They managed to reference the original movie multiple times (Apes on horseback, a barely mentioned but significant missing manned space flight to Mars, even the famous Charlton Heston phrase) without rubbing our faces in it like certain other, lamer directors like to do (suck it, Lucas). One star. The human acting was good. One star. They guy the got to do the motion capture for Cesar was un-freaking-believable. Also, as a baby and young chimp he is super duper cute. Two stars. Jonathon Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun). One star. James Franco’s vet girlfriend (Frieda Pinto) was so hot she had me channeling my inner primate, if you know what I mean. One star. Somehow the director took a movie about the fall of the human race and made me feel good when the apes won. One star. David Hewlett. One star. And two bonus stars for just a damned good movie. Total: fourteen stars.
As for black holes, I spent a lot of time last night and this morning wracking my brain, but to be honest, can’t seem to find any. I suppose an argument could be made that the apes seemed to go out of their way to try to not kill humans, at least until the end, but that could just be a reflection of Cesar growing up with humans. Another point could be raised out of the fact that, while it was very cool that it was set in San Francisco, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense to a local. We really don’t get mosquitoes, and there is a scene of a guy getting bit by one. We also don’t have a lot of issues with animal cruelty at shelters as there are several hundred thousand animal rights activists who would probably draw and quarter anyone guilty of that. But these are minor and, in a lesser film, would be put in the “irksome but not black hole worthy” category. I won’t disrespect this film with those.
So a grand total of 14 stars, tying for my top score to date. Honestly, see this movie. You will enjoy the hell out of it and hopefully encourage movie makers to keep on doing great films that don’t suck.
On the other hand, for films that I fully expect to suck look for a review for the Change Up later this weekend. This has suck written all over it. Also, I saw another of the Harry Potter movies last night and will continue with my marathon this weekend. Talk to you soon.
Before I get into this review of an excellent movie, I want to mention getting one of my pet peeves kicked in the balls before the start of the movie. I went to the mens room to take care of my business and there saw some dirtbag use the urinal and then leave with nary soap nor water touching his hands. You, sir, are the reason we all get sick every year and I hope you catch a cold a week until you learn to wash your hands.
By the way, I say pet peeve but really, if this doesn’t peeve you then you can join your unwashed dirt bag friend down in the sewer. This should be everyone’s peeve.
Anyway, Cowboys and Aliens. Really, really fun. It’s that simple. I mean, it’s a movie about cowboys and aliens! How could that possible go wrong? Well, any number of ways, but fortunatly for the hapless reviewers who have to sit through every piece of tripe that comes down the pike, it doesn’t. John Favreau manages to forge a great genre film out of two different genre’s. All around a positive experience. (Alien image courtesy of the movie t shirt category)
I really don’t want to get into the story on this one, as everyone needs to see it and I don’t want to send out any spoilers. I’ll talk about the stuff you should have already picked up from the trailer. Daniel Craig wakes up in the Arizona desert with some kind of bracelet on his wrist and amnesia. He is a very stereotypical high desert lone bad ass, and proves it in the first few minutes. He heads into town where he runs into the rest of the Western stereotypical character types. There’s the grizzled sheriff, the grizzled rich rancher who really runs the town (Harrison Ford), his wimpy, obnoxious son, the upscale fish-out-of-water big town guy who runs the saloon and doesn’t know how to use a gun, the hot gunslinger girl, the Native American raised by whites, and the grizzled preacher. In fact the word grizzled can be applied to pretty much every male character in this film. All of them are really stereotypical, but honestly it’s what we expect from a cowboy movie and so actually adds to the enjoyment of the film. Of course, great acting and directing help keep them from becoming annoying.
Aliens show up and start abducting people (anal-probe-a-go-go). Daniel Craig’s bracelet turns out to be a weapon that he uses to shoot down one of them. Other alien/cowboy hijinks ensues. His memory comes back in flashbacks. Native Americans are portrayed as savage killers and then noble warriors. A near inexhaustible supply of cowboys get killed by aliens. Stuff blows up. Other stuff happens. I really don’t want to spoil anything, so I will leave it here. Short review for me, I guess.
The stars. Cowboy movie. One star. Alien movie. One star. Well written story with no visible plot holes. Two stars. Daniel Craig. One star. Harrison Ford. One star. All around great acting. One star. The aliens looked bad ass and their CGI was excellent. One star. Great special effects. One star. Scenery was over the top good. One star. Olivia Wilde was looking pretty good. One star. Generally a fun experience. Two stars. Total: thirteen stars.
Then, because I am a bitter soul who can’t let even a great movie go without dumping on it a little, the black holes. There were a couple of sequences about 1/3 of the way through that kind of dragged. It might be just in comparison to all the other action packed scenes they lagged, but I definitely felt it. One black hole. The aliens motivation for coming to Earth was kind of stupid and childish. One black hole. The writers all obviously had a huge slice of deus ex machine pie before writing the ending. One black hole. Cowboy henchmen who continuously respawn like monsters from a monster generator in Gauntlet. One black holes. Total: 4 black holes.
I don’t have any irksome-but-not-blackhole-worthy items, but I will talk a bit about one limitation from the entirety of the film. It is fun and entertaining, but makes no pretense at being anything more than that. I’m not in the business of telling a great director like John Favreau how to make a movie, but I think that if he had added some plot element to the movie other than the main story it would have made for a deeper meaning. Maybe the aliens might have had a more complex motivation for attacking Earth, or maybe they could have landed in the middle of some big conflict between the cowboys and the Native Americans. Some kind of fight between cow and sheep herders or the like. While the characters were all very good and well developed, it was the story itself that felt 2 dimensional. Very linear with no variance whatsoever. Even the whole “You’re an outlaw we are going to hang you” conflict was resolved in about 30 seconds with hardly any discussion at all. Harrison Ford’s character was portrayed as a brutal hard ass who would destroy anything that got in his way, but after the first 20 minutes never had a chance to display that quality. Again, great movie, but I think it could have been better.
Final score of 10 stars and my hearty recommendation that you all see it in a theater. You will be entirely entertained. Not good date material, but if your girl is a fan of Daniel Craig at all it might work.
Anyway, no posts until Monday. I have a Warhammer tournament I am playing in this weekend. Then I get to watch all the Harry Potter films back to back. At some point I plan to suffer through the new Smurfs film (at the request of my best friend. Thanks a lot, Dave) and review that one, so don’t be surprised if my next movie review has me feeling a little blue (haw!). Also, I need to do my next Star Trek retrospective. Unfortunately I have run out of the good movies to do and am now left with the dregs, starting with Generations. Ugh.
This post I will translate what people claim to do for a living into real language, as well as comment on what you can expect if you date this person. Before I get into this understand that, at least for men, people with high paying jobs or who are wealthy really have no need to go to a dating site to meet women, so if there is someone claiming to be a doctor or stockbroker probably has some serious issues along the lines of lost his fact in a tragic belt sanding accident. If you are looking to meet a doctor, go to a hospital.
Teacher. For some reason I have dated a lot of teachers (what did your mom do for a living, Dave? Thank you, Dr. Freud), although not so much lately. They tend to be pretty stable, with few annoying habits and plenty of free time on weekends and summer. They also have no gray area when it comes to kids; either they love them or hate them. When a teacher posts online it typically means they are sick of dating other teachers, so if you are one best you should move on. For men, this guy usually falls into the hates kids camp. However, they tend to be pretty reliable, loyal, and while they don’t have a lot of money coming in should be able to one day buy a house and retire. For women they also tend to be the same, except they all inevitably “love to travel” and once in a while you will meet one who is a freak in bed. Something about having to be so proper all day, I guess.
Medical Professional. This is a term people use to try to trick you into thinking they are a doctor. They are not. Doctors say doctor. This person is at best a nurse, probably an orderly of some kind or at worse the guy who mops up the bio-hazardous waste or works in the kitchen. Sometimes pharmacy. The thing about being in the medical profession without being a doctor is you tend to get your ego punched in the stomach every day by pretentious, overbearing doctors, so if you are looking for someone you can dominate in a relationship this might be the person for you. Also, most of them hate doctors, so whatever your lame job is it will probably look more appealing. For women this person is usually a nurse, so you can expect to talk a lot about either sex or disgusting work stories involving having to clean up something truly repulsive or changing an adult diaper or bedpan. On the other hand, they tend to be pretty horny. For guys this is more often an orderly, which is the medical equivalent of a pizza deliver guy except they don’t make tips.
Medical examiner. The one exception to the no-doctors-online rule is the medical examiner. I’ve never met a female one, so I will not comment on what it is like to go out with one. From what I have seen second hand male mortician actually tend to know some of the funniest jokes you have ever heard, especially if you like gallows humor. If you have a darker side, love vampires or zombies, and/or want to creep out your friends by all means date this guy.
Lawyer. Lawyers are interesting. Usually they are so busy with work that you will be lucky to see them one evening a week, if that. They also, for the most part, hate their job and life but spent so much money on school that they cannot afford to do anything else. For women this seems especially true, as I have dated a few and they all feel frustration about their life. They also tend to have little interests outside of work and working out, so whenever I date one it tends to be a painful struggle to find something to talk about beyond the whole trying-to-remain-true-to-your-nerd-self-while-talking-to-a-woman thing. For men this never, ever means a rich corporate law guy. This is usually a public defender or ambulance chaser. I don’t date men, so I can’t comment too strongly on this, but from what I have seen these tend to not be the most loyal on the planet. On the other hand even a poor lawyer can afford a nice evening out.
Business owner. Take it from a business owner, this is never a Fortune 500,000 company. For men, the best case scenario is a guy who has his own tech service fixing computers and networks. These guys tend to be pretty geeky and therefore fun to date if you are a geek, but they also tend to work a lot, especially at night. At worst this guy owns a failing Play it Again Sports and is a few months away from going back to work as a sanitation engineer. In either case the problem with these guys is there will be good months and bad months. One month he will be rolling in dough and the next eating Top Ramen. For women this somehow always ends up being owning a bead shop somewhere. Don’t ask me why. They tend to be kind of fun and have more free time than guys who own shops, but they also tend to be pretty uninclined to hit the gym, if you know what I mean.
Of course, it goes without saying that if the business owner happens to be a guy with a website that sells nerd t-shirts and writes a hilarious dating advice blog than he is not only fun and entertaining, but also sexy and virile as hell. You should probably sleep with him as soon as possible.
That’s it for now. More tomorrow. By they way, I just reread my last post and think it’s one of the best I have written, so if you didn’t read it go back and do so.
For the last posts who-would-win, I would have to bet on the half squad of Stormtroopers beating the full squad of Sandmen. Better combat training (although Stormtroopers seem to be missing the part of their training that would teach them to hide behind cover or maybe even duck down), better weapons, and better armor. Not to mention they are about 1,000 times cooler. The numerical superiority of a full squad of Sandmen would not make up for that. (Stormtrooper image courtesy of the Star Wars t shirt category)
For today the question I cross genres to ask who would win, Donkey Kong versus Mecha-Godzilla?
So this girl that I am seeing (I think. Things are a little ill-defined at the moment. I, however, remain ever hopeful) invited me over to play some video games on her 360. She had a pile of choices but what caught my eye was her brand new copy of Halo Reach. On my old Xbox I played the original Halo until my thumbs cramped up. I played Halo 2 as well, but got sidetracked by something else that shall go unnamed but rhymes with Borld of Torecraft and more or less gave up on consul gaming along with most of the rest of my life for a few years.
Anyway, Halo rocked. Amazing first person shooter with a great story that shifted back and forth from alien military sci fi battle to survival horror game depending on if you were fighting the Covenant or the Flood. Controls were always very good and extremely intuitive, and a minimum of quick time events to bog the game down.
Halo Reach more or less continues the fine traditions of all the Halo games, except it is a prequel, set prior to the Terran/Covenant war. Still, you are fighting the Covenant, alien religious fanatics who show up in a variety of shapes and sizes. That actually brings up one of my few complaints about the game. The enemies are still the same Grunts, Elites, Hunters, Brutes, and shield guys. There seems to be some variety in the weapons and there appears to be at least one new Covenant vehicle that is pretty cool, but it’s the same guys all over again. At one point it looked like we had a whole new huge alien to fight, but then we are told by the omniscient narrator (which is either an AI or one of your squad mates. I’m still not sure) is a native creature of the planet and after we kill the two they never show up again. Another complaint is that somehow, while we only finished about 3 and a half chapters, we never once saw a ring world of any kind (the inspiration for the name), so personally I find calling it Halo quite a reach (ha ha me so funny).
Anyway, overall totally fun to play. I’ll let the stars and black holes tell the story.
First the stars. First person game play is seemless and really clean. No clipping or stuttering of any kind. Of course this is what I would have to expect from an Xbox game of any kind, but still really impressive. Three stars. The graphics are are really amazing. Two stars. The sound track is really, really good. Two stars. The story is pretty good too. One star. You can customize the colors of your armor (the girl who I was playing with went, with my encouragement, with all pink, turning into the Pepto-Bizmol warrior) and, if you play enough, buy custom armor. One star. Ghosts are still really fun to drive around in. One star. The enemy AI is really smart. One star. The PvP element (we only played it for a little while, long enough for her to kick the crap out of me. Not that I feel emasculated or anything) seems really clean as well. One star. Lots of cool weapons to play with, with no obvious best choice. One star. Total: 13 stars.
Now the black holes. No Flood. One black hole. The Warthog vehicle still drives like a giant Dachshund (wiener dog) on crystal meth. One black hole. There is a long, mandatory outer space fighter craft battle that seems to go on forever and is both unnecessary and kind of mediocre. One black hole. Somehow I can be shooting guys through the scope of the sniper rifle at max range and they can turn around and hit me with a plasma pistol with hardly any effort. One black hole. Same Covenant mobs. One black hole. Total: 5 black holes.
That gives us a total of 8 stars, an excellent score. They also added an achievement system and game credits that can be used to buy new armor or whatever, but I was torn between calling those a star or a black hole. Basically, if you see someone online who has all the most expensive custom armor options you immediately know two things: (1) he is probably pretty good and will be wearing your skin as a trophy in a few seconds and (2) he has absolutely no life. I would highly recommend buying this game and playing it if you are a fan of FPSs and have a 360.
As for yesterdays question, Sulu with a foil against Worf with a Bat’leth, I think this is honestly would end in a draw with both of them dead (Sorry, Gina. Also Spock would figure out a way to beat Data. Maybe not directly physically, but didn’t you see the episode where he shut down all those androids by purposefully using illogic? Spock’s mind is about 1,000 times more dangerous than his physical prowess). You see, a foil is much, much faster than a Bat’leth, so I believe Sulu would be piercing Worf’s brain in the first second of the fight. However, by that time Worf would have already started the downward killing stroke and Sulu, with his foil firmly embedded in Worf’s cranium, would not be able to deflect it. If Sulu did not go for the killing stroke right away I would bet on Worf, as the foil does not have the strength to parry a Bat’leth stroke. (Sulu image courtesy of the Star Trek T shirts category)
However, what I think would be a more interesting battle also from Star Trek would have to be Worf with his Bet’leth versus Kirk armed with a Vulcan Lirpa. Who would win?
So I thought we were going to see Highlander the Quickening and then a reel of some of the horrible planet Zeist stuff, but it turns out that my friend actually found a laser disk copy of the original release with all the scenes placed properly in it’s correct place. It was an evening of agony, and I have to write about it.
Here’s the deal. I saw Highlander the Quickening it it’s abridged version back in 1991 in a theater and thought it kind of sucked then. Age has not softened my opinion about it. However, it turns out that when the movie was being filmed in Argentina the company that financed it (insurance, I guess) was really worried about losing money on it (a legitimate concern, based on the final edited product) and somehow, in the worst contract in movie history, gained creative control and forced in an entirely different sub plot into the movie involving a failed rebellion on a distant planet called Zeist. Let’s just say the movie, which already sucked like an undertow, took a turn for the stupid surreal. It’s like the plot died a horrible death in its first incarnation and the the evil scientist (played by the insurance company) resurrecting it as a zombie to stumble around the screen spewing bile and embalming fluid all over the screen before stumbling off to suck somewhere else.
Here is how I picture the movie in my role of King of Analogies. Back in high school I used to get a two pack of twinkies. I would take a straw and suck all the filling out of one of them through the holes in the bottom. Then I would fill it back up with ketchup. I would go up to one of my friends and start eating the good one while saying “Hey man, want a twinkie?” This movie is like getting the bad twinkie, but instead of ketchup it’s filled with a mix of Ex-lax and epecac, so you end up spewing chunks out at both ends. Not really so much painful as just disgusting and disappointing.
Sigh. Here is the plot summary. It is the far off year of 1999 and the ozone layer is more or less destroyed. Connor MacLeod, with the help of a guy who looks like an escaped garden gnome without the hat, invent the Shield, which covers the entire earth and protects it from the ultraviolet radiation. Flash forward to 2024. The earth is now super hot and wet all the time for being trapped inside the Shield, which is under the control of a multinational evil company call the Shield Corporation which apparently generates profit just by existing. MacLeod is now a decrepit old man but still has the Fabio-style haircut. He goes to an opera and during a scene falls asleep (or has an acid trip) and suddenly we hear his old headless buddy Ramirez’s voice and see the words “500 Years Ago on Planet Zeist.” No joke. Really, that is what happens. Ramirez and Highlander are the leaders of a revolution against the evil General Katana (wait a minute! Didn’t MacLeod carry a katana in the last movie? Was this an tribute to the first movie or just really lazy writing? I would bet on the latter). They get captured, mainly because they seem to be fighting against an army that has heavy artillery and are themselves carrying swords. The rest of their friends get killed, but for some bizarre reason rather than just executing them Katana allows the local priesthood to transport them to Earth and make them immortal.
Wait a minute. Their “punishment” is to be immortalized and transported to Earth in order to compete from “the Prize?” Also didn’t the first movie start off with MacLeod as a young man with the Clan MacLeod with relatives and everything? Also, at one point Katana calls him Highlander, which in the first movie was pretty clearly a reference to being from the Scottish Highlands. Does that mean he was from the Highlands of Zeist and then coincidentally landed in the only place on earth also called the Highlands with no memory of his extraterrestrial life? Also, he and Ramirez were friends on Zeist but had to reintroduce themselves to each other in Earth? Bear with me, gentle reader. It will all make sense in the end (not).
Anyway, in a move ripped straight from the Evil Villain Handbook of Stupid Moves, Katana sends two morons to try to kill MacLeod, who is more or less content to grow old and die. MacLeod kills one, gets young again, and kills the other in a really stupid battle in spite of the fact that it involves a hoverboard. Meanwhile, there is some sub plot about how the ozone layer is back and the Shield Corporation (with evil CEO played by John McGinley from Scrubs) is just keeping it up to maintain their profits. The romantic love interest is fighting against the Shield Corp (ever heard of a subpoena?), finds MacLeod, and they hook up. Ramirez (yes, played by Sean Connery. I don’t think it coincidence that the two movies that I have despised the most on this blog have both starred him) is resurrected in Scotland through the magic of the Quickening and the Shield, where he steals a prop sword and trades a single pearl earring for something like $40,000 worth of clothing, transportation, and I guess a fake passport. Sword fights happen, security mooks from the Shield Corp prove to be Stormtrooper accurate and die by the bushel, and General Katana (Michael Ironside) appears to be the villain behind a plot that has no reason to exist. He also wrecks a subway car full of children by having it go in excess of 500 mystery units per hour into a brick wall while channeling Ozzy from Crazy Train. It all boils down to a final sword fight that looks like it was actually an edited down version of two different fights, since MacLeod’s sword keeps going from evil looted blade to Ramirez’s old katana and back again. Ramirez also sacrifices himself to save MacLoed and the chick from the operationally critical “Crushing Fan Room” with magic powers(?). Good triumphs over evil (sort of, unless you consider bad writing, direction, filming, and acting evil) and the world is happily released from the prison of the Shield (sorry if that was a spoiler, but if you want to go out and see this garbage after this review you probably enjoy pain and should be thanking me for helping to make the experience worse).
Anyway, the stars. They kept the original main character actors, Connery and Christopher Lambert. One grudging star. The romantic interest girl was kind of cute, in an 80s beehive haircut sort of way. One star. There was a hoverboard. One star. Every scene was at night, so we didn’t have to see how cruddy all the sets probably were. One star (get the feeling I reaching here?). Four stars total.
Now the black holes. The story made absolutely no sense. It couldn’t have been less confusing if it had been in a foreign language and run backwards. Five black holes. The sword fighting was awkward and badly choreographed, although everything else sucked so I don’t know why this wouldn’t suck too. Three black holes. In spite of being 8 years in the future all the cars were somehow from the 60s. One black hole. The acting from everyone, even Connery, sucked. Two black holes. Planet Zeist. Three black holes. Every guy except the corporate CEO had bad Fabio/Meatloaf style long hair. One black hole each, so three black holes. MacLeod’s Scottish accent, which seemed cool in the first movie, made all his painfully long monologues seem even more forced and insincere than they actually were. Two black holes. It more or less ruined my positive memories of the first Highlander. Four black holes. The writers felt they had to create an origin of the Immortals that made zero sense. One black hole. Total: 24 black holes.
Grand total, 20 black holes. Truly awful. Rumor has it that the director walked out of the premier 15 minutes in, which would put it about the time the words 500 years ago on planet Zeist would have appeared on the screen. Also, there is a story that Christopher Lambert had a finger severed during one of the sword fighting scenes and had it reattached. If they had shown that I think I would have given them another star. Michael Ironsides is also supposed to have had his teeth chipped in another scene. Face it. The gods of film did not want to see this thing get done.
As for yesterday’s question of Dwight Scrute versus Egon Spengler, I think it could go either way. Dwight is generally better armed and has studied martial arts, and once maced a guy at work. However, Spengler has faced the undead and other horrors. I think in a regular fight I would have to bet on Dwight, as he seems eager for the violence. I do know I would definitely want to watch this fight. It would be entertaining. (Ghostbusters image courtesy of the science fiction t shirts category).
For today, I need you all the think outside the box a little, as this next one is less a straight up fight and more about a long story. Here it is. Who would win: the Scooby Doo gang investigating the mystery of Freddy Kruegar?