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Watch any good movies lately?



  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Big Short (2015) is a very interesting movie. It attempts to bring the events that caused the Great Recession of recent years into a form that can be understood, through some characters who got a glimmer of just how dangerous the facade on which the economy was standing had become. Adam McKay has primarily directed Will Ferrell comedies prior to this, and the movie is indeed funny in spots. It's also incredibly grim though, and the aftertaste is even more dispiriting than that left by the Revenant, because that movie's events took place nearly 200 years ago and were of limited impact to others, while the events here affected huge chunks of the world and could be replicated. Yes, there's a definite political philosophy at work here. If the institutionalization of the housing market as a means of reaping huge profits is something that you feel very positively about, this movie is likely to trigger some serious anger.
    Most of the movie takes place in 2007 from the perspective of several people who became aware of just how dangerous the subprime mortgage business was becoming, and attempted to benefit (as investors, that was the job of all of them) by buying shorts on the housing market. In case a short is an unknown concept, Margot Robbie explains how it works while in a bubble bath. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is an investment consultant who picks out through mathematical certainty that the housing market, if it continues to accept entrants from poorer and poorer credit risks, will come crashing down. Mark Baum (Steve Carell) runs a small investment group in New York that gets wind of Burry's idea to buy shorts in the housing market, investigates and determines that it's a scarily good idea. Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) is interested in selling Baum's people the shorts because he also knows that the house of cards that is the subprime housing market will eventually come crashing down. Hamish Linklater and Jeremy Strong play Porter Collins and Vinnie Daniel, a pair of hopeful investors from Colorado who don't come anywhere close to the minimum amount necessary to play on Wall Street but hear about the short idea and go with it.
    There is a bit about the personal lives of these guys, but the overarching story of the housing market is what dominates the movie, with an occasional segue to have a financial term explained by a celebrity guest star (Selena Gomez is rather good at defining a synthetic CDO using a Vegas blackjack table and the people watching it). Signs pile up as the narrative proceeds: an investment grader admits that if her company actually gave things the rankings they deserve, all the banks would go to its competitors. An almost-empty housing complex in Florida was recently built and has no one paying its bills. A pair of guys who work at a bank proudly state that they get paid more for higher credit risks and often just palm them off on fresh immigrants who can't understand the paperwork. An employee of the securities & exchange commission openly states that she's working hand in hand with the banks her agency is supposed to monitor.
    Again, it's funny in spots. A securities group meeting in Las Vegas is aptly described as "It's like someone hit a pinata filled with white guys who stink at golf." By the end though, when trillions of dollars in assets are vanishing and the government bailouts have begun, it's not that funny anymore. One of the most useful movies to see, in that it will allow you to understand the recent economic travails rather better than you likely did before. It's not likely to fill you with optimism for the future by the conclusion, but the other choice is simple ignorance.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Phantom of the Opera (1943) should have been a lot better than it is. Claude Rains plays the Phantom, after all, and that man was good in pretty much anything. Plus it's in Technicolor, a rarity for something that falls under the 'horror' banner until many years later. Most of the other characters are played by actors I generally avoid (Nelson Eddy) or haven't heard of (Susanna Foster), but that doesn't have to mean anything bad.
    Except it kind of does. Despite being 90 minutes this movie feels a lot longer than that. The opening third is filled with expansion on the Phantom's life before he became the Phantom: he was a violinist in the Paris Philharmonic who had to leave because his hands were starting to shake and affect his playing. The man had a thing for a young opera star and wanted to see her do well, so all the money he'd saved over his parsimonious life went toward being her secret benefactor in singing lessons, but a man stealing a concerto written in a last-ditch effort to come up with extra money was the Last Straw. Rains strangles this thief right in front of his housemaid, who tosses a pan of paint solvent right into his face, and in flight from the police he goes into the Parisian sewers. From there the outline follows the familiar stuff, although with a lot of opera pieces that aren't long enough to get really involved in and are long enough to irritate those not eager to watch the movie mark time.

    Really, the problem is that aside from the Phantom everyone else is boring, and the Phantom isn't onscreen nearly enough. That was the case with the 1925 version too, but it picked up when the Phantom appeared. All the characters seem to be complete idiots who forget the famed violinist with good reason to be suspected as the Phantom, and the climax is a perfunctory rush job. Rains is great, but he needed to be on the screen a lot more. Too damn bad.
    I also want to cast particular scorn on the scene in which Rains is disfigured, because the actress who tosses the solvent into his face blandly stands there for a long time while he's screaming in agony and her boss lies dead on the floor. Better direction or editing would have removed this issue, but instead we have to stare for quite a long time at this woman's blank expression in a situation where she should have SOME kind of reaction. Terrible.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Taps (1981) is an interesting concept with some VERY early looks at a couple of actors who have become well known over the years. It's also unfortunately a draggy thing that doesn't move quickly enough to stay involving. I'd say it's a welcome candidate for a remake, given that the scenario isn't hard to update.
    Situation: Bunker Hill is a military cadet academy whose graduates typically go on to West Point and similar places. Its top officer (George C. Scott) is indeed former military, and as he puts it has been in uniform ever since enrolling here at age 12. A couple of events alter the school's happy environs though. One is that the commander informs the student body this is the last year of its operation, as the grounds have been sold and will be torn down for new developments. The other is that, outside a school dance where the cadets got into a fracas with angry locals, the commander's gun was pulled from its holster and shot someone. In any standard situation this would make lawyers very happy, but the commander is taken away and has a heart attack, stranding him away from the school. The cadets determine to take the armaments on the campus and use them to demand an audience with the owners who have sold their campus away.
    After that happens, and improbably the owners don't immediately show up to defuse things, a siege mentality sets in and lots of waiting transpires. This waiting feels a lot longer than it actually is, unfortunately. That's my major complaint, that the movie takes its sweet time doing anything and rarely does it feel necessary. Why watch one National Guard vehicle move into position when you can see several, after all?
    Timothy Hutton is the leader of the cadet rebellion, but Sean Penn and Tom Cruise are given prominent screen time. It's neat to see them so young, and they're solid enough even if the roles aren't deep. Ronny Cox is also given a rare non-villain role as the chief negotiator of the troops trying to end the siege.
    It's a disappointment though. Especially the conclusion, which wraps up with a replay of parading footage from early in the movie which I think was supposed to be meaningful and really isn't. Good idea, not great execution.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Best Friends (1982) has been pretty much forgotten despite starring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn, with direction by Norman Jewison. After watching it, I know why - I'm struggling to recall it effectively even now, and soon disconnected images will be all I have left. It's really not that funny, the characters aren't presented very well, and it doesn't have much to say. Since it was written by a husband and wife team that broke up soon thereafter, perhaps its unconvincing depiction of married life was all-too on the nose.
    Burt and Goldie have been living together for a couple of years as a screenwriting team. He wants to get married, she's apprehensive, but eventually they bite the bullet and get hitched in the auspicious venue of a non-Vegas type of quick chapel facility.
    Then they go on a honeymoon to meet the parents. Goldie's dad likes to shoot at pigeons in his back yard, her mom (Jessica Tandy) is foulmouthed, and staying with them doesn't go all that well. Burt's dad (Keenan Wynn) is distracted a lot and his mom absolutely livid that the marriage happened without any pictures (she loves to whip out a Polaroid). Things keep going badly and they try to break up, but the Hollywood producer currently employing them (Ron Silver) locks the pair into a room for script revisions. Do they kind of make up at the end? No points for guessing.
    That clip of the wedding shows that they don't really seem THAT happy with each other. It also shows the weird timing on display throughout the movie, which isn't serious enough to really work and isn't funny enough to make us forget how the drama isn't cutting it. It felt longer than it needed to be as well. Individual scenes are kind of interesting (a father-to-son chat while feeding ducks stands out) but the whole isn't worth remembering.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) is kind of strange to watch now. It feels like the pilot episode for a TV show, laying out several plot points that would be expanded upon throughout the season while a newcomer to the department learns the ropes. Instead it's a one-shot.
    The single largest storyline involves Bette Davis playing an ingenue trying to track down a missing man. There's more to her story, a lot more as it turns out, most of it goofy and improbable but entertaining. She doesn't appear until more than a third of this short (under 70 minute) movie is done though. Before that we get to see a little of the department in action. A new guy has just been assigned to the team, and coming from the homicide department he attempts to use the same methodology, which relies on brute force and tough talk. After finding a missing man who was errant with a woman not his wife (pre-Code!) by trying to break down their hotel door, this guy gets a severe talking-to. After finding a missing kid who just wanted to do something other than play the violin for his strict parents, Bette's plot starts up. There's also a hunt for a missing woman to break things up a bit, it moves fast because of the short running time. Having said those things, it's not an item to show off the best of pre-Code Hollywood. It really would have worked better as some kind of long running format instead of a single short movie.
    Though it's unknown enough that not a thing appears on YouTube. Oh well.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Pink Panther (2006).
    I tried, I really did. A friend enjoyed this rendition of the character, but had not yet seen any of Peter Sellers' installments. Now that I've seen this needless resurrection of Inspector Clouseau, I can say that it did make me smile a few times. Which is more than I expected.
    The few moments I did find amusing were courtesy of Emily Mortimer landing on Clouseau in a pose that could look an awful lot like something sexual. Far more of the movie though, is like this:

    There's a germ of an idea in that sequence, but it never pans out. Steve Martin co-wrote the screenplay, so he's got to take some of the blame here. I guess he got in character enough that I accepted him as Clouseau - to a point. Peter Sellers will always be this character to me though.
    Plenty of ideas are tossed out and then left to die. Sure, knocking a giant globe loose to roll over people off screen could be made amusing. Same with smashing into cars repeatedly while parking, making their bumpers fall off. Or getting one's arm stuck in a vase. All of these things and more COULD BE funny, yet simply don't work here.
    Beyonce is in the movie, playing an internationally famous pop star. What an amazing piece of casting! It is because of her presence in a soundproof recording booth that we get treated to one of the less-impressive fart jokes I've seen in awhile, and that's saying something. Though if you find the sound of someone farting while thinking no one can hear him to be the height of comedy, this will make you ecstatic.
    Kevin Kline is in the movie as Inspector Dreyfus. I hate to say it about Kline, but he stinks here. I'm sure it's partially the writing, but Herbert Lom was the Inspector Dreyfus I'll always remember. Dreyfus in this movie is low-key and his initial enlistment of Clouseau is just a baffling plot point. Lom was one note, but that note was pretty funny as Clouseau riled him. Here he's boring.
    Jean Reno is also in the movie. Not much to say about him, since his character doesn't get to do more than try being Clouseau's nursemaid.
    The movie actually attempts to throw a serious plot beat into the mix at the climax, which perplexed me to no end. I'd long since given up hoping for much, as joke after joke just flopped. It spawned a sequel too. What a world.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). I have no idea where this title came from. It's the first of the Heisei movies to have Mechagodzilla, and the third overall to have it. Doesn't really matter I suppose, except that this is a human-controlled rendition instead of the alien monstrosity bent on world domination of the 70s.
    Now, plot is a very important consideration of a Godzilla movie. Here humanity has taken the severed head of Mecha Ghidorah from two movies prior and rebuilt it as Mechagodzilla, anti-Godzilla weapon #2. Yes, there was a prior anti-Godzilla weapon that looks like a flying space shuttle with laser cannons. Will the weapons built to tackle Godzilla be needed? Gosh, I wonder... that title is very ambiguous...
    Rodan is also in the movie. Godzilla shows up to kick his butt early on, then Rodan gets a second wind about 45 minutes later and shows up in Tokyo to mess with humanity before a touching (?) move on the pterodactyl's part. There's also a big egg found in what looks like one of the Kurile islands, out of which hatches a Godzillasaurus that looks like a pretty decent attempt at making the big G slightly cuter. Of course, no one ever thinks that this Godzillasaurus might be the reason Godzilla shows up again and starts stomping through Japan on a direct course with the thing. Nope, that would be a bit more prescient than humanity turns out in these movies.
    I could try to summarize the stupid parts of the human elements (a soldier who was away from his work station without leave wonders why he gets to guard the parking lot? A school filled with ESP-laden kids? The Godzillasaurus imprinting on an OF COURSE cute young thing who improbably is the only human monitoring the egg?) but it doesn't really matter. Godzilla action is what we come to a Godzilla movie for, and it's here in spades. Things move along at a good clip when the humans have to start nattering back and forth, and save for a dull patch in the middle without Godzilla it stays pretty interesting. Do not watch if you seek a serious film, because this is not one. Then again, I don't think anyone on the planet can claim ignorance of what Godzilla movies entail, not anymore.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited April 2016
    Krull (1983). Mixing sci-fi elements with a fantasy does make this look unique. It's not very good though.
    A giant rock that's supposed to be a spaceship lands on the planet of Krull, where a prince and princess are about to marry in order to make their two perpetually warring lands be at peace. These two have known each other about an hour, but it was love at first sight. Then the Stalkers (or maybe it was Strangers) from the big space rock crash the wedding and kill all the guests. The princess gets abducted, the prince only gets wounded. The Old One (really, he's not that old, not when a much older man is clearly present later on) shows up to fulfill his part of a prophecy. The prince gets a poultice put on his wounded shoulder and is promptly (I think? Time progression is really hard to figure out in this) rock climbing to find the foretold Glaive, which looks like a five-bladed shuriken of gold. Then he and the Old One meet up with a gang of bandits (Liam Neeson among them) who are sweet talked into joining so that the chains they still wear after a breakout can be removed. Later a blind seer and his attendant kid, plus a cyclops, join the group so that a high body count can ensue. Most of the time is spent trying to locate the big space rock which hops to a different place on the planet every day at sunrise, and the Old One sacrifices himself to rekindle a lost love who now lives at the center of a giant spiderweb - and can tell pretty much anything. From there it's a bad special effect of flying horses to the space rock, where entrance is gained and most of the group dies nobly.
    The bad guys use what look like blasters, and when they die a big worm thing explodes from their helmet and burrows into the ground. The head bad guy, the Beast, looks kind of like the aliens in Enemy Mine (a few years away, I know) and wants to marry the princess for some reason. I have no idea why, when he seems pretty damn powerful.
    Special notes for Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack, which strongly recalls Star Trek II's a LOT. It also calls forward to Aliens, though since that movie didn't exist yet it's hard to fault the composer too much.
    Peter Yates directed Bullitt and Breaking Away. This is not at the level of those, though it's less boring than the Dresser. Not a great accomplishment. As fantasies go, I was never interested and only occasionally intrigued. I do still like seeing real things instead of CG on the screen, but I can get that with plenty of other fantasies that are better.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • LassicLassic Member Full Members
    Last night I saw

    Star Wars Episode VII: A Recycled Hope/ The Mary Sue Awakens/ Into Darkness/ The Fast and the Furious/ The Return of Jar Jar Abrams

    Not looking forward to the next one :(
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Stupids (1996) adapts a book series I've never read. It's for the very young audience, and each one takes only a few minutes to go through. So obviously, that means a movie had to be made. A movie directed by John Landis (not at the height of his powers, not even close) and starring Tom Arnold with an ad campaign spouting "Tom Arnold is Stupid."
    Specifically, he's Stanley Stupid, and the film begins with he and wife Jessica Lundy being irate that, once again, the garbage cans they left outside were emptied without their consent. THIS time though, Stanley is going to stay up all night to catch the devious culprits! He does, and the trash men are wearing gas masks to make their vehicle and its occupants look suitably alien to someone with no idea what's going on. Stanley takes off on roller blades (his reasoning? 8 wheels) in pursuit of the truck. Naturally his children think that he's been kidnapped when he's not present the next morning, and the son Buster leaves a message dictated by his sister that puts down the essentials of why they have to go looking for dad: "Police Kidnapped Your Children." Clearly, mom will interpret this as any mother would.

    Going through the contortions of the plot isn't much fun (it involves a weapons deal that Stanley stumbles upon, which he mistakes for something else). I will admit a few moments were amusing. I'll even recount them: Stanley thinking he's a bush and trying to get into character, an imagined vision of the world where Mr. Sender (as played by Christopher Lee for this one scene) maniacally plots the ruination of civilization through stealing its garbage, and Jenny McCarthy being interviewed on a talk show while a couple of Stupids keep hitting the Applause light at the wrong time thinking it's a light switch.
    Really though, a lot of the humor just didn't work for me. Some bits make no sense at all (the parents both forgetting how to drive, despite having driven multiple times earlier), or the inexplicable rendering of the family pets in Claymation for total screen time of maybe two minutes. Apparently Tom Arnold kept asking whether what he was doing was supposed to be funny, and Landis kept assuring him that it was. It's a weird little movie, but most comedies are rough going if you're not laughing, and I wasn't.

    Abrams isn't the director of the next Star Wars - Disney wants to crank these things out super fast and shuffle them between people, so it looks like Rian Johnson (Looper) gets to do the next proper entry. Let alone all these spinoffs: the Rogue Squadron one is only the first, and I know Boba Fett will get tons of screen exposure soon. I never did express my thoughts on The Force Awakens, but many people I work with enjoyed it lots.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Terminator: Genisys (2015) is ... uh... well, it's better than Salvation. That much I can comfortably say.
    The plot is more complicated than any prior Terminator movie, but it's not hard to follow once things get rolling. The events at the beginning of the first Terminator have been redone with a pretty good verisimilitude (except there's no Bill Paxton - dead giveaway) up until things go very differently. Somehow a time displacement engine has been built in 1984. Huh. The bulk of the movie takes place in 2017 and deals with stopping a program called Genisys that is of course a Skynet facade.
    Picking through the entirety of the plot isn't something I want to do - it won't make sense to anyone who hasn't seen a Terminator movie, that's for sure. Aside from Arnold (who is the best character in the movie), everyone does a solid job. Oh, and J.K. Simmons is great. His part is small but the guy is always fun to see. Emilia Clarke even looks a little like Linda Hamilton at times - might just be me. Though the lack of cameos for Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Lance Henrikson, even Edward Furlong - that's odd.
    What I noticed most was how unmemorable the action is. There are a lot of explosions and fireworks and such, but most of it was pretty generic to me. I appreciate the attempts to use practical effects wherever possible, but Terminator 2 could only use limited CG for the T-1000 and nothing else. Here, a bus hanging off of a bridge is obviously CG aided, along with a giant corporate headquarters that was cooked up on some hard drives. A police headquarters gets busted up, a T-1000 is hit with acid, but I'm struggling to remember the particulars.
    Oh yes, and the T-1000 here (which for some reason is NOT played by Robert Patrick) stinks. Kyle Reese has just materialized in the Los Angeles of 1984 and hasn't gotten his bearings yet, but this T-1000 fails to cut him apart. I suppose that's because the REAL villain doesn't appear until later, but it's still a gyp.
    I saw it, and I remember it fairly well, but that's just due to how recently the viewing was. Otherwise I was not impressed.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators

    What's that? You didn't want to have a clear view of Jack Palance's area covered by a snug one-piece and nothing else? TOO BAD. This movie gives it to you!
    Said movie is The Silver Chalice (1954), which bears an unusual distinction. It is the screen debut of Paul Newman, true. It is also a movie Paul Newman thought was horrible, disowned at every chance he got, and took out advertisements to alert people of its lack of quality when television first got the rights to show it. Once he screened it at home, and encouraged everyone in attendance to hoot at it with various household implements he provided for the purpose.
    So what is it? One of those Biblical-era epics that the 50s tossed out regularly. Newman plays Basil, who was adopted by a noted Roman with a mean brother who denies that this (now-grown; the movie's timeline is hard to place) is anything other than a slave. That brother will be pretty much forgotten after half an hour, removing the main villain from the proceedings. Basil instead makes it out of slavery with the help of Joseph - THAT Joseph, one of Jesus' apostles. He's employed to make the eponymous crockery with the faces of each apostle plus Jesus, but he can't sculpt Jesus because he doesn't believe in him. No points for guessing what will happen by the end.
    Who's Simon, the character played by Palance? Well, he's a magician who uses the magic of film editing for most of his tricks. Virginia Mayo assists him for some reason, in makeup and costuming that looks completely inappropriate for this period and more like a drag queen. Eventually Simon has impressed enough people that he gets to meet Nero. Oh, and he has a grudge against Peter (of the apostles) for some reason. I'm sure it's in there, but I just didn't care enough to pay attention closely when all the exposition was being delivered. Pier Angeli is the woman Basil falls in love with and marries offscreen - she's attractive, but has a seemingly-French accent which makes no sense at all for this era.
    What struck me more than anything was the bizarre sets used in this movie. Some of them are flat-out bewildering (why are there igloo-shaped things in the desert? LOTS OF THEM?), and others are cheap tackiness. Many scenes clearly take place against a backdrop which is so badly painted that it ruins any kind of illusion. It's not that hard to make a wall look like it's made of stones, but to have one so hastily done that it looks instead like a bunch of plaster with lines drawn on it - that takes work. Bad work. More bad decorations festoon this movie's sets, and the Roman imperial court is particularly terrible.
    Now, sure, the script isn't good and the message is muddled. Also the acting is inconsistent, miscasting is rife, and the thing needed more editing. Other than those things, I can't see why Paul Newman didn't care for it.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited April 2016
    Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) is a weird movie. Not that Man of Steel wasn't, but this attempts to cram a whole lot more into the mix. Zack Snyder wouldn't be my first choice for bringing the Justice League to the screen.
    I'll give it this, the title delivers. Not so much the Dawn of Justice part, but Batman (Ben Affleck) does fight Superman (Henry Cavill). How that comes to pass is a mess. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is the primary instigator, though the two heroes don't seem to like each other very much based on ineffectual meetings prior. Oh, and this Batman kills people. It's neat to see this rendition of the Batmobile deploy cannons and use a grappling hook to toss cars onto each other, but it means Batman is perfectly fine with killing people he deems bad. Much later he uses the guns of bad guys on them, and clearly has a vindictive streak that lets him exult in visiting pain on the baddies.
    I find it interesting that the opening of the movie, which depicts the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of a movie theater to a random robber just in case anyone didn't know that, is dated 1981. I know this because the theater is playing Excalibur.
    Then again, the killer streak Superman displayed in Man of Steel is here too. When Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is held hostage by a man with a gun to her head, this being Superman there are any number of ways he could have incapacitated the man. Instead he chooses to smash the hostage taker through a wall. Not like any Superman I recall. Sure he saves people too, including (surprise surprise!) Lois.
    Oh yes, and we have Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) with just enough establishment to not be a complete shock when she shows up at the climax. Nothing about Themyscira or any Greek gods though, just a seemingly immortal woman with super powers who got sick of humanity after World War I.

    I kind of liked Eisenberg's take on Luthor as close kin to an internet mogul. To the shock of no one, he doesn't like Superman. He's also a terrorist, or at least employs them. Plus he's seemingly okay with killing just about everyone on Earth if Superman goes down too. Ah well, he's interesting to watch.
    The plot contortions try to set up this version of Batman along with giving him a rivalry against Superman. Well, the bare minimum is done, and no more. I think the major thing that really gets both of them antagonized is dream sequences.
    The fight is resolved (after a victor has been made apparent) by the bizarre screenwriting idea that Martha is the name shared by Bruce and Clark's mother on Earth. This particular Batman just FLIPS OUT when Martha is uttered, and that's something I didn't know was a trigger. No dig against Affleck, he does a good job. I kind of wish he'd directed this thing though, since he's shown himself to know better than Snyder how to treat a script well. Here we get a few elements from The Dark Knight Returns, stripped of the context from that book and just thrown around for the hell of it. Why NOT have Doomsday too? Sure! This being Snyder, a ton of the stuff on the screen is CG. A few moments are needlessly slow motion too.
    Notably, no Green Lantern is set up. I suppose nobody wants to remember that thoroughly disappointing movie, so instead we have 30 second clips showing that Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg exist in this universe. Then a blatant plug for the Justice League endeavor Snyder desperately wants to make.
    My father compared this to Spider-man 3, and I can almost make that comparison. I didn't really dislike the movie, but man did it drop the ball compared to what could have been.

    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969) and Scars of Dracula (1970) are representative of the mixed output from Hammer in this period. Both have Christopher Lee as the Count, and are set in the appropriate time period instead of moving things to the present with AD 1972. Particularly the latter is fairly bloody for the time, though by today's standards it wouldn't merit raising an eyebrow.
    Do they make sense? Not really.
    Taste the Blood... picks up right where Dracula Has Risen from the Grave left off, with the Count bloodily dying impaled on a cross. Naturally some merchant, kicked out of a stagecoach, is there to witness Dracula's demise and pick up what he can for resale. After that we follow a young woman with a strict jerk of a father. He hangs around with two other gentlemen who like to do odd things in what passes for Victorian-era strip clubs, and the trio gets intrigued enough to wind up about to drink the blood of Dracula in the Count's castle at the behest of some psychotic guy who delves into the occult. Instead they kill the psychotic and amscray, but the blood of Dracula has already been drunk. It's enough to revive the Count, who makes it his business to kill the killers of his servant.
    This is solid stuff actually, until the conclusion when Dracula foolishly tries to get rid of a servant he seems to have no use for anymore. Then he gets stuck between two crucifixes on opposite sides of a room, and... is immolated? It's not clear at all.
    Scars of... abandons that loose continuity with preceding Dracula movies, and just has a cheap bat puppet puke out some blood to revive the Count at the beginning. This one revels in more blood and titillation than any preceding entry, to the absurd point of Dracula repeatedly stabbing an unfaithful woman who is his servant. Why would Dracula ever do such a thing? No idea, but Christopher Lee gives it his all. There's a fire set in Dracula's stone castle that doesn't seem to do anything but make the Count mad when fire is in his presence, a hunchback servant, and a whole lot of bad day-for-night shots that make it really hard to suspend disbelief. The conclusion finds Dracula defeated, again, not by the hero (Scars barely has a hero, Taste the Blood kind of managed one even if he wasn't a worthy match) but by mischance. Even here though, crucifixes are a vampire's bane. Scars whips out a bolt of lightning that hits Dracula while he's holding a metal bar, and he catches on fire. How is that a vampire death?
    Oh yes, and that fake bat (Hammer had the budget for just one apparently) gets deployed a lot in Scars. I'm sure I saw the strings several times.
    I'm glad to have seen both to up my Hammer views. The former is a solid Dracula entry, the latter is a mess but kind of interesting in spots.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Mad Dog Time (1996) came out to extremely negative reviews, and is now pretty much forgotten. Having watched it, I can confirm that it deserves to be forgotten, as I soon will succeed in doing. It did make me laugh exactly once, using an exchange that I can't put down here without the swear filter going hyperactive. Mostly though, I was bored stiff. Even at only 88 minutes this felt long and dull.
    The central idea is some kind of spoof/homage to gangster movies and film noir. It's muddled and dull, but that was clearly supposed to be the point. In a parallel planet somewhere across the universe where gangsters seem to make up the entirety of the population, Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) is getting out of a mental institution and looking to reestablish control of his racket. Mick(ey) (Jeff Goldblum) is supposedly assured of not getting killed by a vengeful Vic because he knows where Grace (Diane Lane) is hiding out. That won't help him against a whole lot of other people who seem to want him dead, but Mick is good enough to shoot them first, or take advantage of other people shooting each other. Henry Silva, Burt Reynolds, Gregory Hines, Kyle MacLachlan, Gabriel Byrne, Billy Idol, Rob Reiner and Paul Anka are among the people who show up for varying lengths of time. Most of them also end up dead after a scene or two.

    This movie feels like a vanity project in which everyone wanted to play at being a one-dimensional gangster. That makes all the characters boring, and the dialogue sure doesn't redeem anything. That clip is a pretty fair representation of what you're in for with the movie, especially with the self-important bits where nothing happens for a long time and no tension is generated before someone gets shot. The sets and cinematography aren't interesting either. Hope you like 'My Way,' because several versions of it are heard, including an orchestral one during Richard Dreyfuss's entrance scene that lasts about a minute and a half. Director Larry Bishop is the son of Joey Bishop, who appears in a cameo, which may explain the Rat Pack references that otherwise don't amount to anything.
    I could go into all the personages parading through this movie, but knowing Rob Reiner has one scene as a chauffeur or that Richard Pryor has one brief scene in a wheelchair for some reason with no lines doesn't really add anything. Burt Reynolds (who shaved his mustache!) is indirectly responsible for the one laugh I got, but he's in there for maybe 3 minutes total. Time slowed down while watching this movie, and I couldn't be bothered to focus on it even with the relatively short running time - it was just that dull.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Number 23 (2007) comes from the, to put it kindly, inconsistent vision of Joel Schumacher. I tried the Lost Boys a few years ago and found it not very good, and that's about the best thing he's ever done (Batman & Robin is not something I can stand to watch very often). This is just a pile of awfulness though, and if I watched it with others would probably have been hilarious. Solo, the thing was increasingly silly and preposterous.
    Our setup finds Walter Sparrow, as played by Jim Carrey, an animal control officer distracted by a shiny license tag on a dog and getting a bite because of it. Sure, we hear that this is his first bite on the job, but that's not much of an excuse. What's the dog's name? Ned. It's spelled out for the slow later in the movie, but I figured out real fast that N is the fourteenth letter of the alphabet, E the fifth, and D the fourth. What's 14 plus 5 plus 4? We have a bingo!
    Anyway. The story involves Agatha (Virginia Madsen), Walter's wife, finding a book called The Number 23 and taking it home. He reads it too, and starts envisioning himself as the protagonist detective, Fingerling. He also takes it way too far, and takes a bizarrely long time to read what seems like a fairly short book of maybe 150 pages tops.

    Now, is the number 23 inherently evil? I suppose if you go through the contortions of this movie, it can be made to seem that way. Sure, there are 23 chromosomes each person inherits from each parent, and the earth's axis is tilted at 23 (point 5, but who's counting?) degrees, and - oh my gosh! Two divided by three is .666 - the number of the beast! Plus, when you throw in other randomness like 32 also counting because it's the same number just backwards, or 92 counting because it's 23 times 4, then anything is fair game. Why not 11.5, because it's half of 23? Why not 230? 2.3? 115? Thirteen is just ten less than 23! 7 is just sixteen less!
    So no, I never bought the central premise that 23 is inherently evil. That's fine, because I think Walter's madness isn't supposed to convince me that he's right. I nevertheless did not buy the goofy contortions this thing goes through. The conclusion goes into a higher orbit of craziness, and would have been awesome to see with others while alcohol was involved.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Something made me eager to do a little catching up with Schwarzenegger lately. The Sixth Day (2000) was my first heretofore-unseen Schwarzenegger movie, and if I wasn't blown away I nevertheless had a good time. Sure, the CG representation of a couple of combination jet/helicopters looked AWFUL, and a robotic doll he buys for his daughter looks disturbingly close to Chucky's sister. Sure the internal logic is all kinds of nonsensical (why would you spend 1.2 million dollars on a clone of an inept employee when just hiring a new one is much cheaper?)

    Silly YouTube, that wasn't even my favorite from the movie. It nevertheless provides an example of Arnold in enjoyable one-liner mode.
    The setup is sometime in the future, after cloning has become a practical daily event. Not for people though - Sixth Day legislation has been passed to ban that. Instead, animal cloning is a frequent thing, and the idea of cloning the family pet instead of having a conversation with the kids about death is an interesting one. This movie just kind of ignores the fact that a clone won't have gone through the identical set of circumstances the original did, and thus wouldn't be a complete copy. Or maybe it does, using some bizarre contortions that make clones able to sometimes have the memories of the previous version right up to the moment of death, while others times a scan of the current brain needs to be done in order to record the freshest set of memories.
    By Arnold standards, this isn't too heavy on death and explosions. There are plenty of them though. He gets into the action after a clone of him ends up at home, and he's marked for death by hired goons out to make sure that the violation of Sixth Day legislation isn't revealed. Since these violations have been happening a lot, and indeed one of these goons gets killed multiple times in one night, the question of how no one stumbled upon suspiciously similar corpses before, or ever noticed the factory growing humanoid clones that just need a personality implant to become alive, should not be raised. These hired goons aren't very good at their jobs, and in the future everyone uses blasters that look similar to those from Star Wars but need battery changes. They do set things on fire better than most guns, I'll say that much.
    This is the one and only time Schwarzenegger shares the screen with Robert Duvall, playing a scientist in the employ of the suspiciously evil entrepreneur (he doesn't look like Steve Jobs at all, does he?) who has been the brains behind the specifics of cloning technology. He also has a wife who apparently got cloned multiple times, though she seemed fine with it until this latest one. Duvall's character's exit could be considered a plot hole, as he was going to be cloned against his will. Big explosions follow not much later though, so I guess I wasn't supposed to notice.
    Considering this is now 16 years old, some of its depictions of the future proved highly suspect. Others, like a refrigerator that senses when you're low on a commodity, are actually in the works now.
    Director Roger Spottiswoode has a checkered career. He directed Tomorrow Never Dies, possibly the best Pierce Brosnan Bond... and he also directed Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot!. The action is decent here, the plot silly but also full of ideas, and after a slow start I was invested in the proceedings throughout. It's not Arnold's best sci-fi, but I got more than I was expecting and ended up satisfied.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Another item in the Schwarzenegger catchup, I watched Collateral Damage (2002). This one has a history that is very of-the-time. It was delayed after 9-11 made the studio think people might not want to watch terrorists committing terror (even if Arnold gets to deal with the evil terrorists in his standard way). Of course, these are Colombian terrorists.
    Arnold is an LA firefighter picking up his wife and daughter near the Colombian consulate when a bomb goes off. Being Arnold, he shrugs off the minor detail of being slammed into a car's windshield and tries to put his glimpse of the bomber to use. Told off by those jerks in the US foreign affairs office who could have let him go down to Colombia for personal vengeance, he gets there anyway. Reaching the rebel zone requires getting a pass from John Turturro, playing a Canadian who works for the rebels from time to time. Arnold ends up employed by cocaine dealer (though wannabe rapper) John Leguizamo. So evil are these terrorists that Leguizamo ends up dead, and the climax involves those evil terrorists trying to bomb Washington D.C. before Arnold gets to take them on using the magic of severed gas lines in an underground tunnel.
    Nowadays, the setting feels outmoded. Andrew Davis turned in a superior action movie with The Fugitive, but this isn't in that league. Not that it's bad, and I kind of liked it without ever finding it great. There's a twist near the end that's somewhat interesting without making a whole lot of sense, and I never knew just how much explosive could be packed into a plastic dinosaur model. We're running low on Arnold quips too, unless 'Now!' is a good one (it works in context, but not much without seeing the climax). I can't really recommend it except as an unremarkable but solid example of the kind of action movie we don't see much anymore.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Bat Whispers (1930) is notable for being a source of inspiration to one Bob Kane, who would create a little character called Batman later in the decade. It's also notable for being one of the few movies made before the 50s to have a widescreen version, though it also screened in the standard 4:3 format. Frankly, the widescreen doesn't help it much, as this is an early sound movie most of the time, with the kind of static camera and tinny microphone noise that distinguish the era.
    The movie itself isn't very interesting either, save for its appeal to the audience not to reveal the identity of The Bat at the end.
    I would love to comply, because I can't remember the identity among all the characters who made little impression. Una Merkel was there and notable simply for being the only young woman, and a lady who got to be the stereotypical shriveled biddy type was also around, plus multiple men who all clutter together in my memory.
    Not that the opening scene is bad, displaying The Bat's ability to take advantage of police inability to conceptualize someone coming through a window on a five story building. Sure the police are easily fooled and had no one watching that open window, but come on, it's a window high up - how could ANYONE get through it?
    Then the setting shifts to an old dark estate at night, and becomes pretty static most of the time. The Bat is wandering around thieving occasionally, the lights go out a lot, people scream, people get killed by someone, and I just couldn't be bothered to care at all. Some movies from this era have aged worse than others, and I didn't find anything in the film itself that was worth remembering here.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The BFG (2016) is a solid movie, no question. My own memories of the book are minimal since it goes back to second or third grade when I had a teacher read the thing to the class, but its essence seems to be conveyed here. That doesn't make it Roald Dahl's best for adaptation to a movie. Nor would I call it among Steven Spielberg's best work - though that is setting a pretty high bar. It's alright, but kind of low on thrills.
    Set in an interesting world that mixes the architecture of London in the Victorian era with current technology in many respects, we have a girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) at an orphanage getting grabbed by The BFG (Mark Rylance) because she spotted him on the cobblestone streets at night. She's taken up to Giant Country, an interesting place where The BFC is the runt of the other nine giants. She's initially quite put out at being abducted but seems to get used to it, except for the mild problem of the other giants finding 'beans' (as they pronounce it) absolutely delicious and desiring to devour her if she's found. Resolving this involves using BFG's daytime occupation of finding dreams, and consulting The Queen (Penelope Wilton).
    The language of Dahl is definitely here in spades, and his tendency to use words Dr. Seuss would have approved is in full form. There's some humor also, and while the ample CG never quite fooled me it's well done. John Williams is also back to composing for Spielberg, turning in a soundtrack in keeping with his past work.
    What I never really felt was all that invested in the proceedings. This may be the fault of the book, though I don't remember it structure well at all - or it may be the film's fault. During a sequence in which Sophie has to move around rapidly to stay hidden from the other giants, not once did I feel like she was really at risk. Perhaps it's just too family-friendly to make any real stakes feel raised, I can't say for sure. Without any gravitas, the movie felt a bit aimless at times. Nice effects and likable characters with good performances, but the script didn't really do all it should have done.
    Here's where I mention that Melissa Mathison also scripted E.T. Something tells me this movie won't fare as well as that one did.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Secret Life of Pets (2016) is amiable and pleasant, with some genuinely funny stuff. Having said that, I was not impressed, nor do I really feel the need or desire to watch it again. Its animation isn't great (amazing what only a $75 million budget will buy nowadays), the story isn't very interesting, and action sequences feel included more to keep kids awake and spawn video game adaptations than because this kind of movie needs them.
    The plot deals with Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) trying to accommodate suddenly having Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) be his new roommate in a New York apartment. It isn't going well, but both of them wind up lost by a not-very-good dog walker and caught by animal control. Then they get rescued by Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart) and his gang of anti-human animals, though their anti-human credentials get debunked and escape is necessary. Meanwhile several other pets from the same building are out on the hunt too.
    The most amusing aspects are the pets acting like, well, pets. A cat chasing a laser pointer, and dogs being absolutely entranced by a ball, are arresting. Some of the things pets do while owners are out for the day are kind of interesting too - though I've never seen a dog manipulating a stereo system and having a party, it's a nice conceit. The concept isn't as thoroughly investigated as in Toy Story though, and the script isn't nearly as tight. Plenty of characters exist just for a few gags and don't really go anywhere. Toy Story established what the rules were pretty well - that doesn't happen here. Apparently all owners are so oblivious that whatever happened just before entering the room might as well not exist. Script tangents are dropped too. Duke's former owner is established and then the notion is just completely dropped after it leads to a happy moment between the dogs.
    I didn't dislike the movie, to be sure. It moved along well enough that I didn't feel bored. This is just not really as good as I would like. I suppose as family entertainment options of even moderate quality are somewhat at a premium, this does the job. Keep expectations reasonable.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Ghostbusters (2016) is something I'm still untangling my reaction toward. I didn't hate it. I didn't even really dislike it. For me though, it just wasn't funny very much despite trying a lot. The much-maligned Ghostbusters 2 ranks higher than this one for me, let alone the original.
    The structure is pretty similar to the template we already know, though the villain is an actual human instead of a mythical threat. Ghosts appear, and they honestly look pretty good. It's only during the climax that a few of them start to look not-quite-right due to the CG. A mannequin possessed by a ghost is different, and parade balloons taken over in the same way are also interesting.

    The original version of the theme is already in the movie. Why did we need another one, which isn't very different except that it sounds more generic and electronic? Probably to sell soundtracks. Well, I'm not buying it.
    I accept that it's trying to do more-or-less what was already done, except women are the leads. The problem for me is that I wasn't laughing much. Kristen Wiig is fine, hell, all four of them were fine. Sliming isn't inherently hilarious though. Chinese delivery that arrives with a poor ratio of wonton to broth isn't much for Melissa McCarthy to work with. Leslie Jones has a good screen presence, but I wasn't laughing much at her lines. Kate McKinnon's characters just didn't click with me at all - instead of being a doofus, she came across as a professional prankster. Most of her bits that were intended to be funny irritated me instead. The cameos from the original cast - Bill Murray, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver all show up - were nice but not really amusing to me either. Chris Hemsworth as the hunky moron hired for a secretary is fitfully funny, though some of the things set up with him were never paid off (I'm thinking foremost of his dog, which is the subject of some wordplay and then never actually seen).
    Then there's the CG-heavy action, which is all over the place and functional without being terribly interesting. Things work differently here than in the movies I remember, as ghosts can be shredded to bits by Ghostbusters equipment now. Slimer and Mr. Stay Puft appear, sort of. The climax made no sense to me, though if the friendship between the leads had mattered more I might have forgiven a bit.
    Seeing it with a relative who did indeed find most of the comedy to be funny led to an interesting conversation afterward, but it didn't change my reaction. I'm not even going into where I would have gone with this movie, as that would take awhile. It underwhelmed me, and that was considering I had few expectations.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) is not the best or the worst Godzilla movie. It features goofy science and Japanese civil defense authorities who really don't do a good job despite systems supposedly being in place to deal with Kaiju attacks. It's got some lousy CG and boneheaded human characters. I have to admit that the title bout was better than I anticipated though. Godzilla versus a big dragonfly may not sound that great, but the big G showed off a few moves I hadn't seen before and it was satisfying.
    The beginning is odd. Like most of the Millennium Godzilla movies, it ignores everything but the first movie and comes up with a new timeline in which Osaka became Japan's capital, and after Godzilla attacked Tokyo again in 1966 the country abandoned nuclear power entirely while developing plasma energy. What Godzilla was doing between 1966 and 1996 is never mentioned, but he did pop up again in Osaka for a bit to be fought by ground soldiers with what look like bazookas. Astonishingly, these weapons are ineffective.
    Five years later and Japan has come close to using a mini black hole weapon against Godzilla. A test produces a small wormhole, out of which pops something called a Meganulon, a dragonfly from 350 million years ago that paleontology has done a remarkably good job of researching compared to, well, every other form of life from that period. Somehow a whole lot of Meganulons appear, and a big Meganulon egg dropped into the Shibuya sewer causes the entire area to get flooded. Soon enough a swarm of those big dragonflies accosts Godzilla, even getting in the way of the defense forces trying to guide the satellite-based black hole weapon.

    Later on the big G does battle with the queen of the dragonflies, which is indeed Megaguirus. Their brawl is a pretty good one. I'm not a big fan of this look for Godzilla (the long snout makes him look too close to Gamera), but a good monster brawl is entertaining.
    As for the rest... well, the people overact a lot and act stupid sometimes. It's not boring for the most part at least. I didn't buy much of what happened (did you know that the best way to deal with an unexpected civilian observing a secret weapon test is to just politely ask to keep the secret, then walk away?) but that's nothing new for a Godzilla movie.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    So far Marvel hasn't brought Blade back into its cinematic universe. That leaves the trio of movies starring Wesley Snipes, and many more obscure heroes have had far less cinematic life. This particular trio has its ups and downs (the third one... ugh), but I'm glad to have finally seen them.
    Blade (1998) keeps the story of its hero light. He's a half-vampire with pretty much all the strengths of the undead but not their weaknesses, except a need for a serum to combat his blood seeking tendencies. He's got a mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) helping out and supplying him with weapons. After an opening where he shreds a lot of vampires in a nightclub with the greatest of ease (silver makes them explode into horrid CG!), our plot unfolds. A nasty vampire (Stephen Dorff, trying and failing to come across as menacing instead of jerky) wants to unleash... something. It involves a lot of lightning coming from the sky and making him into some super-vampire that can repair itself almost instantly There's extraneous stuff about Dorff being turned from a human instead of a born vampire, and his relationship with vampire elders being nasty. It takes a long time to get to the climax. Action more or less delivers, except for that lousy CG circa 1998. Decent at best.
    Blade II (2002) is directed by one Guillermo del Toro, a fine action man. Whistler was supposed to have died, but some creative editing makes it so he didn't, and he's back. Ron Perlman is one of a bunch of vampires decked out and trained to fight Blade in particular, but a vampire virus is on the rounds and a team-up happens instead to deal with the ugliness. Betrayals happen, allegiances are questioned, and none of it makes much impression. Action is expected and action is delivered in spades. Not a great movie, but the best of this series no question.
    Blade Trinity (2004) is a complete and utter mess. It's either too long or too short, with too many characters who mean nothing and several pointless scenes. Ryan Reynolds is here cracking wise rather like he would do as Deadpool, except it doesn't fit in here at all. Parker Posey is a vampire villain, and ... well, just picture that. Dracula is also here, although in some weird version that alternately looks like a buff male model and a CG charcoal-colored Predator ripoff. Jessica Biel gets to fight some vampires too. The interesting ideas of Blade being pursued by humans (he freely admits to killing hundreds of people over the years, but they were all familiars so it's okay) via law enforcement is dropped midway through. So is the idea of a blood bank for vampires, where what look like plastic pouches holding people are kept operating for all the blood needs of the undead. Going through everything wrong here would take awhile, and I just don't have the energy at the moment. The CG still looks just as lousy as the stuff from 1998, for crying out loud.
    Snipes is good throughout. That much I'll unhesitatingly say.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Star Trek Beyond (2016) feels like the logical succession of this series reboot. It's even more full of shiny CG stuff and action that defies normal physics than the preceding one, though coming from director Justin Lin that makes sense - he's directed four Fast & Furious movies. This is the thirteenth total movie, and it's even further from the original series sensibility that could still be seen up through about Insurrection and peaked out in the 2009 movie. I didn't dislike it, but neither did it captivate me.

    I continue to like the new cast on the whole. Kirk and Spock have character-building subplots that add up to nothing at all, while even when Simon Pegg co-wrote the screenplay his character doesn't get a lot more depth. When the plot kicks into gear it creates an antagonist named Krall (Idris Elba, buried under makeup most of the time) who wants to introduce the Federation to the idea of conflict propelling development instead of peace. The Enterprise's crew winds up confronting him in an uncharted nebula that seems surprisingly close to a gigantic starbase, and the Enterprise does not survive the encounter in an undoubted nod to the third entry in that earlier Star Trek movie series. There's an alien woman (though Kirk surprisingly does not romance her - perhaps in a nod to Pegg's help with the screenplay, what romantic bits there are come from Scotty) who plays a significant role in the endeavor. We learn that a starship which has been crashed on a planet for over 80 years can be fully renovated to be spaceworthy, that the Federation prefers to make starbases which look rather like gigantic bubbles instead of the designs from the previous series. The villain is somewhat interesting but underdeveloped. The international action market was clearly on the mind of the producers, not that I can really blame them when that's where money is made nowadays.
    Oh yes, and we learn that 'Sabotage' will do just that when played inside a signal coordinating hive ships. I did not expect to hear the Beastie Boys in anything Star Trek.
    The most affecting moment was unearthing a picture of the original cast inside Ambassador Spock's effects, though. Especially now that Anton Yelchin is dead, I have no idea how Chekov will be handled in the future. Walter Koenig probably wouldn't object to being inserted into a future endeavor in some capacity though.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Around the World Under the Sea (1966) deserves to be remade. The idea of scientists planting sensors around the ocean floor to monitor seismic activity is most assuredly relevant today, and would almost definitely be done better than this relic of the 60s. Sure it's competently done for the most part, just competent enough to make the lack of tension and interest that much worse. There isn't much cheese or camp appeal, it's a pretty dull picture.
    Eventually we do reach the point at which a sextet of scientists is cruising around with a submarine at the ocean depths, planting 50 sensors to provide a comprehensive overview of seismic activity and an early-warning earthquake system. It takes a good half hour to get to that point though, as the tedious gathering of the crew must first take place. Lloyd Bridges is the captain of the operation, Keenan Wynn is an antisocial guy who's developed some amazing breathing gas that magically makes everyone able to function at the ocean floor without problem, Shirley Eaton is the token female wearing demeaning outfits (though she at least makes it through the whole movie, where in Goldfinger she didn't last ten minutes), there's a German scientist who's vaguely nefarious, and I can't remember the other two characters well enough. Oh wait, one of them fell in love with Eaton.

    With that title, one could expect lots of underwater footage, and what one expects will take place. Funny thing though, I don't believe the ocean at 30,000 feet down looks like it does around a coral reef. I also didn't know regular scuba gear was plenty to survive at those depths, let alone a yellow submarine with a simple wading pool for letting everyone into the water as a feasible instrument for exploration. There's a lot of yakking by the characters that does little to quicken the pulse, and the conclusion is somehow incredibly stupid and very boring. There is one encounter with a giant eel that theoretically should have been exciting, yet fails utterly to arouse anything except the mildest of interest. Really, how can a giant eel menacing a submarine be made dull? This movie does it somehow.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Purple Rain (1984) isn't necessarily a great movie, though I have excellent reason to believe that it's Prince's best role in a fiction film (unless Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge have more fans than I've ever heard about). The script isn't all that great after another 32 years of this story type. Yet it was fun to watch, and I can kind of see why it got such acclaim at the time.
    The setup is familiar from umpteen other movies starring musicians who aren't asked to stretch themselves much. Prince plays a guy who performs with a band at a local club (I think it's supposed to be Minneapolis since that's where he grew up, and at least that makes the location different). He meets a girl, one whose fashion sense is extremely 80s. He's also got problems at home dealing with a father who abuses his mother, and the abusive tendency shows up in him too. Plus he's kind of a hog for all credit in the band, denying his fellow members the chance to show off potentially fine songwriting. Naturally a rival for the girl also appears, and Prince's behavior makes a pretty good case for her not sticking with the guy. Will things be resolved amicably at the end? Take a wild guess! Though the abuse angle is just dropped - apparently if you realize you're an abusive jerk and want to change, that's all it takes.

    No one is watching this for the intricacies of plot resolution though. Prince may not be a great actor based on this performance, but he's certainly intense and energetic. He wasn't bad enough for me to be taken out of the moment either. His outlandish outfits (and those of most others in the movie - 84 fashions are extremely obtrusive) make it impossible to forget when the thing was made. Then again, Prince always wore outlandish fashions. He's the only guy I remember taking the puffy shirt from Seinfeld and putting it into everyday use.
    Oh yes, and there's some music. Like that song above, and some others people may in fact have happened upon over the years. I don't claim to have heard anything close to all that Prince recorded during his life, and I'm not going to make up that surfeit any time soon. The tunes in this movie are pretty darn catchy though, and some I'd been familiar with for years take on a bit more meaning now that I've seen where they fit into the movie's structure. "Let's Go Crazy" isn't really tied to the narrative at all, but I don't care because it's still a fun tune.
    Also, seeing this last spring in a theater full of Prince fans was the kind of experience impossible to recreate. Women were making noise when he popped up in each new form of attire, and plenty of songs became singalong sessions. The title tune's performance took the prize for audience involvement though. At least a hundred people whipped out lighters and waved them around, prompting frantic action from ushers due to the very significant fire hazard presented. It was an emotional evening, and made clear just how Prince Rogers Nelson affected people.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-out Attack! (2001) probably sets the record for longest Godzilla title. Actually, I know it does - most other titles in the series are just Godzilla vs [insert name].

    As James Rolfe stated in his own series take, why not fit Baragon's name into that title too? Baragon makes the fourth and final monster in the mess after all, and this is a lengthy title by any standards.
    Like most of the Millennium Godzilla movies, this one ignores everything but the first in the series. It does acknowledge the US Godzilla of 1998 in passing (correctly noting that the thing which attacked New York was not the real Godzilla), but otherwise finds a Japan which has been free of Kaiju attacks for 50 years. Until of course, Something Bad Happens. Soon enough the big guy is coming to Japan again, where he fights with Baragon and wins without trying very hard. Poor Baragon, he looks kind of like a big Gizmo in this movie, but that's not enough to compete with Godzilla. Then a showdown happens with Mothra and Ghidorah in Tokyo, many people die, and a lot of stuff gets blowed up real good. Anyone who is surprised by this information has severe memory issues.
    The details are rather interesting in this one though. For one thing, there's a bit more maliciousness than usual in a Godzilla movie. The first onscreen deaths (and there's no doubt that people are getting killed by the monsters, something often ignored in these movies) happen when Baragon smashes through a tunnel while some rowdy and obnoxious Japanese motorcyclists are going through. Later Mothra's larva sinks a boat full of obnoxious teenagers who were about to drown a dog because its barking annoyed them. Later still, flaming wreckage from a jet Godzilla blew up smashes into a house. Godzilla is not inadvertently responsible for deaths this time either - when the military does its usual thing, he takes great pleasure in whipping radioactive breath through everything that was stupid enough to attack him, and incinerating all the crews. Godzilla's look here has clouded eyes with pupils that can barely be seen, probably to indicate that he's nastier than usual.
    We also have some unusual ideas tossed out. Godzilla here is depicted as the spirits of all the people Japan killed in World War II, out for vengeance. Baragon, Mothra and King Ghidorah are the guardians of Japan. They don't mind killing Japanese people who are stupid and deserve it, though. Something else new is that Godzilla's first breath deployment creates a mushroom cloud, seen from afar by a teacher in a classroom.
    The human plot isn't too bad by Godzilla movie standards. It deals with Yuri, a reporter for the Japanese equivalent of Sci Fi Channel original programming. Her dad is in charge of anti-Godzilla operations. She gets to learn the (surprisingly unknown) legend of the guardian beasts, and run around trying to capture footage of Godzilla for her network. How she's managing to transmit such good footage with a handheld camera, held by an operator pedaling on a bicycle, back when there were no wireless signals it could use for delivery is something I'm just not supposed to ask.
    Stupid stuff happens near the end (thanks for the life-saving air deployment, Ghidorah!) but I think I was laughing with the movie instead of at it. Certainly, it's a fun ride.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Son of the Pink Panther (1993).
    Why did I do this to myself? I knew it would be bad, and a bad comedy is ugly no matter what. There was a moment - an isolated moment - when Kato had a Hasidic Jew costume and the son of Clouseau was dressed like an Arab with his robe made from a throw rug - that made me smile. A little bit. That was IT.

    The Bobby McFerrin rendition of the theme isn't necessarily funny, but it is kind of interesting. Shabana Azmi getting such a notable credit makes no sense based on her 3 insignificant minutes of screen time, but ... that just gets into everything else wrong.
    I could spend hours analyzing this thing. Really though, the problem is that it isn't funny. Want more detail? Let's start with a surprisingly large amount of time being devoted to plot developments that no one cares about, and even though the movie is a little under 90 minutes it manages to feel longer due to junk like this. So there's a princess being kidnapped so that her father can try to pay a ransom to the kidnappers - SO WHAT? Plus her mother (Shabana Azmi, who gets just enough screen time to add a subplot that is never resolved) is having an affair on the side. Woo. The kidnappers get enough screen time to have personalities - SO WHAT? The king knows his wife is having an affair - SO WHAT? All this eats up time with no payoff whatsoever. It's not funny and it's not interesting, so why should I care?
    As for the comedy itself, we have to start with Roberto Begnini doing his best funny French accent. Except Begnini already speaks English with an accent, so it comes across as a bizarre Italian/French patois and doesn't work. Fine, he's the son of Clouseau. Fine, that means he's a goofball and a clumsy oaf. He's still aping Peter Sellers, and it sadly doesn't work. Herbert Lom is fine as Dreyfus one more time, Burt Kwouk shows up just to further connect this to the real Clouseau, and that guy who provided a bunch of costumes in Revenge of the Pink Panther is also here. Plus Claudia Cardinale, even though Elke Sommer was the woman Clouseau romanced ... WHATEVER. I'm thinking too hard.
    Then there's the humor itself. Is it funny that the young Clouseau rides his bike into wet cement, trudges through it into hospital, then trudges back through it to ride his bike away again? I fail to see how. Is it funny that the dog in his mother's house keeps humping Dreyfus's leg, even after a bomb has gone off? Is it funny that a man is knocked out a window and has to crawl slowly back up using the phone cord? Or when the injured Dreyfus is dislodged from his hospital bed and slams onto the floor in front of him? If this sounds like comedy gold, please, check it out! Of course this movie has not attracted a cult audience since it was made, leading me to believe that it does indeed have a poor reputation with everyone.
    Oh yes, and one of the most foolish actions a director can take, reminding viewers of a better movie that could be watched instead of this lousy one, is performed. In this case it's A Day at the Races playing on a television, reminding us that the Marx Brothers were a really good comedy team.
    Blake Edwards bowed out of movies after this. He had himself to blame, since in addition to directing he came up with the story. He made a number of really good movies that hold up. This one stank at the time and hasn't gotten any better.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) is a strange one. Large chunks of it don't feel like a Dracula movie at all, more in the vein of a secret agent thing. Remember all those vampire movies where Hell's Angel rejects were riding motorcycles and using silenced rifles to shoot people? No? Probably because that's not a very common thing.

    Look at how cheap that opening is, with a slowly expanding black cutout of something that could be Dracula's image plastered over shots of London circa 1973. For all the goofiness of Dracula AD 1972, I found the theme catchy - not the case here. It's okay, nothing more.
    Still, Christopher Lee took his final turn as Dracula here, and Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing (a descendant, but close enough). The silliness is here in stupid stuff like a sprinkler system taking down vampires (clear running water is a weakness, but since when does a sprinkler system qualify?), or the serious lack of budget leading to things that are mentioned and never shown. Supposedly the bad guys have vast influence in the government and are close to shutting things down, but aside from a couple of lines to that effect no references appear. Peter Cushing has to deliver a ton of exposition at one point, and because it's him I found it tolerable. Lee doesn't get to do much, and the ending is stupid, but seeing him one last time is fun.
    I just don't know. My attention wandered at several points. Supposedly this was Dracula thrown into a plot that already existed, as witness the numerous parts which feel like a Bond knockoff. I wish it had been better, but it wasn't horrendous.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
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