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Watch any good movies lately?



  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Sully (2016) is Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort. As usual with Clint, it's a strong effort. It doesn't assume that everything in this incident from January 2009 has been forgotten by the audience, and comes up with a good means of introducing suspense when the outcome of the crash is known.

    Tom Hanks (with his hair dyed, so he looks older than usual) is Sullenberger, the pilot of a certain flight in January 2009 that had birds enter both of the engines and require a crash landing. Aaron Eckhart is the co-pilot, Laura Linney is Sully's wife (who only gets some scenes on the phone with her husband, but does well at them) and plenty of character actors are around in other capacities. The crash itself is depicted several times from varying vantage points. Sully has a couple of dreams/nightmares regarding how the crash could have gone, which is absolutely justified. We know how the crash turned out though, and the drama comes from the NTSB hearings afterward. Indeed, an expensive plane was ditched in the Hudson River, and several of the passengers got drenched in the freezing water, while a stewardess got cut on the leg. Computer simulations show that the plane could have gotten back to New York or into New Jersey to land on an actual runway. That's the kind of thing which could ruin a career.
    This isn't a biopic, not really. A couple of quick flashbacks show Sully is a veteran pilot who already landed a damaged plane once, back in the military. He has a struggling property business with his wife. Several scenes show that his 'hero' status makes him a bit uncomfortable. Tom Hanks has to work hard to be unlikable, and this kind of role is a natural fit for him. Aaron Eckhart doesn't get as much screen time, but the few moments of levity all belong to him.
    This may seem so recent, and so thoroughly covered in the news at the time, that a movie is redundant. I certainly didn't feel that way though. Knowing the outcome didn't affect the tension of the passengers and crew when an emergency river landing had to be made, and it's not overlong.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Bananas (1971) is an excellent example of the 'early, silly' Woody Allen.

    It features the novelty of Sylvester Stallone (without any dialogue) mugging someone on the subway early on. It also features a Marvin Hamlisch score that didn't make me want to go out and experience more of the man's work. Mostly though, it's pretty darn funny. It comes in at about 80 minutes, not outstaying its welcome.
    Without going into specific scenes it's pretty hard to scrutinize this thing. In addition to the expected lampooning of revolutions in Latin America though, it hits some other notes quite well. There's an amusing scene of attempting to purchase pornographic magazines from a newsstand without unduly flustering other people, and one that would still work spectacularly depicting an exercise apparatus mixed with the typical office setting. Woody is Woody, but he's not as dominant on the screen as sometimes would be the case, and his delivery is ever-so-slightly less of a caricature than it would be later. The sports commentator moments that open and close the movie are pretty darn good - first the assassination of a dictator is depicted in this fashion, then the consummation of marriage. I don't know much about Howard Cosell, but his delivery is quite good for this stuff.
    Of course it's ridiculous. That doesn't matter so long as the result is amusing, which it is.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Apollo 18 (2011) is a fine idea for a movie. Why not explore the idea of an Apollo mission that was scrubbed from the record? It's got fine verisimilitude too - the footage really looks like it was captured in 1974, and the tech is appropriate to the time.
    Unfortunately the idea isn't enough. Execution also needs to occur, and the actual application of this concept isn't very good. Despite coming in at under 80 minutes it feels long in spots (don't believe the official run time, it's padded with a slowly moving credits sequence). The historical record being what it is, we have a pretty good idea of how this mission is going to end, which reduces suspense drastically. The setup isn't good at making these astronauts interesting, and the menace they eventually confront isn't frightening. That's the key element of what's supposed to be a horror movie, and the moments supposed to induce terror elicited no strong reaction of any kind from me.

    It says something that I was thinking around the margins of what a Soviet moon mission program would have been like instead of focusing on the predicament depicted. There was also a moment that made clear this is a found footage piece: when an astronaut explicitly states that the cameras need to be kept going so that documentation exists. At the conclusion, doubt is applied to all the moon rocks brought back by the six Apollo missions that succeeded. I didn't buy 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
    King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) is something I hadn't seen in about 20 years. Lucky me, all I could find was a copy of the American dub, which is just as ridiculous as the stereotypical kaiju dub. There are a few American-filmed scenes (courtesy of some early satellite technology that allows us to talk to people in Japan in real time!), and they kill the momentum. I distinctly remember one particular moment from the American footage that irked me as a child - comparing Godzilla's brain (supposedly the size of a pea) and Kong's (supposedly ten times larger than a gorilla skull). I even learned an amazing fact courtesy of the (horribly dubbed) original Japanese footage - that the way to ingratiate yourself with remote Pacific Islanders is to bring cigarettes, which they will instinctively know how to smoke.

    Does that matter during the smackdown? Not really. I can wonder what the heck Godzilla was doing out in the Bering Sea, or why Kong decided to swim TOWARD Japan, all I want. They get together and fight. The title is accurate.
    King Kong Escapes (1967) was a new experience for me though. I think Kong magically shrank between movies, because part of the showdown takes place on Tokyo Tower, which Godzilla-sized kaiju would simply cause to topple over.

    I think the Kong suit looks stupider than in the previous Toho movie, but some say it looks better. He looks like an idiot savant to me.
    The plot is even sillier than usual with Toho stuff, but I kind of got into it. Paul Frees in the dub voices Dr. Who (at least this is such an outlandish performance that I can spot it through the dub), owner of Mecha Kong. As we all know, a robot in the shape of King Kong is the preferred way to mine radioactive minerals. Poor Mecha Kong can't handle the radiation long enough though, so off to Mondo Island Dr. Who goes to obtain the real Kong. Kong is pretty good at dealing with the cold of the North Pole, I have to admit. Especially when he dives into the Arctic Ocean.
    Maybe both of these hold together a little better if I was able to watch the original Japanese versions. I doubt they'd ever vie with Ozu and Kurosawa for technically arresting moments 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
    Batman (1989) is something I saw either in the theater or on video when it was new, then managed to avoid for all the years in between. My memories of that experience are indistinct, mostly reflecting around how visually dark I remembered many parts being. Watching it now, I admire the visuals more. I cannot rank this anywhere close to Christopher Nolan's work with Batman though, and how it became such a box office bonanza when new baffles me.
    Most people probably remember the gist of this one. It finds Batman (Michael Keaton) battling against first Jack Napier, then the Joker (Jack Nicholson). Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) is there as the only female with significant screen time, though she was apparently a last-minute replacement for Sean Young and doesn't acquit herself very well as far as I can tell. Jack Palance is there as a crime lord whose power is ripe for usurping, Billy Dee Williams is there as Harvey Dent (wouldn't that have been interesting? Too bad he has maybe 5 minutes of screen time and amounts to absolutely nothing here), Pat Hingle and Michael Gough as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred are the only actors to stick with the entirety of this Batman movie cycle, and no one else makes much of an impression.

    Jack Nicholson took a reduced salary in exchange for a cut of the grosses, and it paid off immensely. I have to say, he earned it. Whenever he's on the screen, at least something interesting is taking place. Plenty of his lines are amusing, and the delivery is 100% Nicholson. "Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?" is a good one coming from that character.
    I don't want to come down on Michael Keaton either. He works as Batman, and I appreciated his underplaying (though trying to outdo Jack Nicholson in this movie would have deafened the audience). Batman doesn't get a lot of depth or motivation, but that's the script's fault.
    We also have some excellent production design. Looking at the Batmobile design for this movie, and the arresting matte paintings used to create Gotham (kind of a lost art nowadays) is nifty. Danny Elfman's score is memorable too. The Animated Series picked up this theme and ran with it because it's good stuff.
    On the other hand, we have a few Prince songs. Prince was great, but his songs stick out obtrusively in this movie and jarred me out of the experience. They don't fit with Elfman's work in the slightest. Yes, the soundtrack was a massive hit and the trio of tunes that gets exposure in the film would work fine on a dance floor. They just don't complement the rest of the movie in the slightest.
    The script is kind of sloppy in spots, too. Joker's plot to induce poisoning through various products applied to the human body gets resolved quickly and is never referenced again, Batman cheerfully kills a few people (a big example is deploying the Batmobile to drop explosives among a bunch of henchmen), the whole scenario with gas being sprayed into a parade crowd is dropped for some reason, Vicki Vale learning Batman's identity is astonishingly unheralded, and I can come up with more if necessary. The sloppiness wouldn't bother me as much if scenes without the Joker weren't so enervated. The romantic relationship is dull, and it eats up too much time.
    Something else I remember from watching it as a child was thinking it went on too long. That still occurred to me - some editing in the middle would have been a good idea.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Never Say Never Again (1983) is the unofficial Bond movie. It's the one produced without the input of the Broccoli family which has the rights to everything else, and it doesn't have that famous James Bond theme because of its being made outside the usual process. The score it got instead is not that great, and sometimes sticks out as sounding odd for a Bond movie.

    What it does have though, is Sean Connery. He went head-to-head with Roger Moore in Octopussy that year, and by the standards of Moore's Bond this one is rather good. It's not the best in the series, but neither is it the bore I've heard.
    How it came to be was Thunderball, alone among Ian Fleming work, somehow falling into a loophole and being outside the remit of the Broccoli family. That meant this had to be a remake of Thunderball, though I would call it superior to the original. It's an unofficial movie in the series even now, not part of any Bond collections.
    Since it's remaking Thunderball, certain elements have to be the same: SPECTRE has nabbed two nuclear warheads and is blackmailing the world over them. I was actually interested in the means by which the warheads are grabbed though, which wasn't in Thunderball at all. No 1 is played by Klaus Maria Brandauer here, and I liked him as an antagonist. There is a strangely dated sequence in which he and Bond play an electronic game over countries of the world, and it looks exactly like a top-notch item from 1983 that hasn't aged well at all. Blofeld also appears in the flesh here, and Max von Sydow does his usual fine job of acting. Antagonist Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) is another good opponent. As a Bond girl, Kim Basinger doesn't embarrass herself.
    Oh, there are plenty of ridiculous moments and villains talking too much when they should be shooting. That comes with the territory. Perhaps the pace could have been tightened up a bit, but this one moves a whole lot more than Thunderball did - rather than spending most of the time in the Bahamas underwater, we jaunt about to North African locations too.
    The single biggest element in its favor is Connery though. He knows just how to deliver Bond lines, and numerous moments in the script make a point that he's not a young man anymore. Connery plays it as only Connery can, and is fun to watch throughout.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    I ended up watching several Shane Black titles recently, so let's take them chronologically.
    The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) was only written by Mr. Black, but I happen to find his dialogue highly amusing in the best possible ways. The overall plot is a 90s action item, though having Geena Davis be the lead makes things interesting since women are still under-represented as kickers of butt.

    This particular element of the story, though? It ends up being surprisingly - and disturbingly - relevant today. A major foreign terrorist attack hasn't taken place on US soil for 15 years, and if one did appear to have occurred, security services would have no trouble securing funding.
    The rest is outlandish but now quite pleasant to see. This was back when CG couldn't handle the job and real stunt performers had to do the work. It's nice to see the old style of action movie where cartoons don't take over for the actors when impossible things happen. Geena acquits herself just fine, and comes up with a sizable body count. Samuel L. Jackson is fun to watch - though that's usually the case. I can't repeat much of the most amusing dialogue due to the swear filter here, but entertained by it I was indeed. Sure I can quibble - since when do standard hand grenades produce explosions that fill hallways? Since when was it okay to grab a gun from a flaming corpse without burning your own hand instantly? Since when have children stuffed into carry bins that go on wild rides, tossing and turning violently, been pretty much fine upon release? Since when could a human being stuffed into a meat freezer set to a temperature a great deal below zero, wearing just a tank top on the upper body, been able to keep going long enough to set off an explosion to open the door?
    I'm fine with the amnesia elements though. As amnesia use in films goes, this is relatively okay.
    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) was Shane Black's first directorial effort. How I hadn't seen it for 11 years is a bit of a mystery, but one that's been fixed. Nowadays Robert Downey Jr. is in great demand, but back when this was made his numerous efforts to get off drugs hadn't yet been forgotten. Val Kilmer does better work than I've often seen from him, as a character whose very name is offensive if in the wrong company.

    Unraveling the whole plot would take a long time and I really don't want to either. It involves this mismatched pair constantly bumping into each other even though Kilmer in particular just wants to get away from this trouble source, and bodies start to pile up. I could patch it together if asked, it just doesn't matter too much when watching things unfold is entertaining. Violence packs a punch, it isn't just taken for granted. I especially liked Downey's narration, because it most assuredly is not lazy and cheap - Black didn't use it as a shortcut for patching things together afterward.
    Then we have The Nice Guys (2016), which I kind of wish I'd seen in the theater to support it instead of on the back of an airplane seat. It was an odd way to watch the movie, but I'm glad to have seen it. Russell Crowe does a solid American accent of ... some kind, Ryan Gosling is an interesting foil and eventual partner, the case they get involved with is interesting and takes a few turns I didn't expect, plus that Shane Black dark humor is here in abundance.

    It's set in the 1970s and does a good job capturing the era. There's a bit of unfortunate CG for depicting someone falling onto the ground from a rooftop, and if I could spot its obvious fakeness on a tiny monitor on the back of a seat it's not good. Since it involved Keith David being in the movie, though, I can forgive it a bit.
    Gosling's daughter is also a nice discovery, given that she ends up having quite a bit to do with the adventure and is not irritating while doing so.
    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 Edge of Seventeen (2016) is a current release that deserves some attention. To call it a coming of age story is roughly accurate, but it's extremely well-written and acted. Its characters are individuals and come across that way, instead of caricatures. Much of the material intended to be wryly amusing is indeed so.
    My only quibble at the moment is that the Stevie Nicks song of the same name is not included anywhere in the movie, despite it having a substantial number of tunes mentioned in the credits. That's not much of a problem when the stupid song refused to leave my brain the other day.
    Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a teenager whose introduction comes when she enters the classroom of the one teacher with whom she has a rapport, Max (Woody Harrelson), announcing that she plans to kill herself by jumping into traffic from a bridge. Opening the movie like this is a bit disorienting, so we go into flashback mode and see Nadine as a child where her brother seemed to have it all together and she... didn't. While smashing a baseball bat into a chain link fence, she met Krista (eventually played by Haley Lu Richardson, once the elementary phase is done), and the two became the best of friends. Which is good, because Nadine doesn't relate well to anyone else. Especially not after her dad dies when she's 13, leaving a frazzled mom (Kyra Sedgwick) with whom she never got along that well. Brother Darien (Blake Jenner) continues to have a great life though. It's so great that one night when Krista is at the house with Nadine, who's sleeping off an unwise imbibing of too much alcohol, her brother and best/only friend get together. Nadine doesn't take it well.
    This movie does a great job of getting into its setting. While Nadine takes everything as hard as possible and much of what happens doesn't rate too high on the whole scale of world events, the presentation does a terrific job of putting the viewer into her mindset. This isn't necessarily world-shaking stuff, but it is to her. There's a cute boy she's barely ever spoken to but is constantly in her thoughts, while Erwin (Hayden Szeto) is a classmate who seems genuinely interested in her and she doesn't quite reciprocate. Krista and Darien getting together could probably be coped with under other circumstances, but as Nadine is this puts her into a rotten place. Rotten enough to throw her shoe at the wall in a fast food place when speaking about it to Krista.

    Roger Ebert used to say that it's not what a movie is about, but how it is about it. There are any number of forgettable scripts and settings involving interchangeable teenagers. This is a very specific one, and its characters stand out as individuals.
    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 Ring (2002) is a remake of a Japanese movie that got a sequel, then got its own sequel that wasn't a remake of the Japanese sequel. I see no need to view The Ring 2 though, not when the first one left me unmoved. Perhaps I need to be crippled with fear at the sight of time-lapse photography?
    The setup isn't what I find lacking, to be fair. A pair of teenage girls talk about one having viewed a tape that supposedly kills its viewer exactly 7 days later... and then, Creepy Things Happen until someone dies. Naomi Watts plays the aunt of the dead teenager, and as a reporter for a Seattle paper she learns that three other teenagers died at precisely the same time. Tracking down the story, she makes the perhaps-misguided decision to pop the tape they supposedly watched into a VCR in the same cabin where they stayed. Her reward is a student film of some kind, but after viewing, the cabin gets a telephone call with a voice saying 'seven days.' Uh-oh.

    What strikes me is the junk that follows, and particularly the unraveling of the mystery in a very Japanese-horror way of making it clear that the menace is unstoppable and insatiable. I blame some of this on the screenplay by one Ehren Kruger, who would go on to script things such as Michael Bay's Transformers movies that are even more lame-brained. Minor and major moments alike ring wrongly to me, from someone not noticing that a VHS case is empty until opening it (anyone who ever picked one of those things up knows that the difference between empty and full is immediately noticeable) to Brian Cox being remarkably easy to tempt into suicide. He does it in a gutsy way, having multiple appliances in the bathroom while he stands in a full bathtub, yet wow did it seem dumb.
    I can't deny there are a few memorable moments. It was very stupid of Watts' character to keep investigating a horse when it was clearly upsetting the animal, but the panicked horse jumping off a ferry was unique. Seeing the distorted photographic facial image of anyone who's seen the tape is an interesting and subtly creepy thing. The video itself is just interesting enough to warrant the scrutiny it gets from a couple of lackadaisical investigators who wait far longer into the 7 day timeline than one would expect to get serious about this... anyway.
    It says something when I'm not in love with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that I think Gore Verbinski went on to better things after directing this.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    My Own Private Idaho (1991) is well-regarded by many. I'm starting to think Gus Van Sant isn't for me, not after Drugstore Cowboy left little impression upon me and Good Will Hunting lost a little bit from my memory on a second viewing. Nevertheless, this is a pretty and well-made movie. I just found it interminable and dull, even with a sequence in which the men on various magazine covers start talking to each other.
    The leads are River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, both as male prostitutes in the Pacific Northwest. River's character comes from a broken home and has always wondered about the mother he barely remembers. He also has a problem with narcolepsy that supposedly kicks in during moments of stress, but seems to only do so when it's convenient for the script. Keanu's character is the son of Portland's mayor and only doing the male prostitute thing as a form of rebellion, because he could easily stay in a life of leisure if he chose. Reeves is okay as a character that's not supposed to react much, but a few of his line readings are way too close to Ted 'Theodore' Logan.
    The whole film has a slow pace and dreamy feel that tried my patience early on. Though it's only about 100 minutes, I found it difficult to pay attention when nothing interesting was happening. Indeed, the most noteworthy thing I take away from the project was its prescience in having a clip of the very first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode. 25 years later, and the show is still highly relevant.

    Otherwise... there's a tentative relationship between the two leads, but Reeves falls for an Italian woman and undoes it. Phoenix's narcolepsy seems to have almost killed him a couple of times, such as falling deep asleep on a paved road where his head promptly connects with the surface. Police in Portland go after the male prostitutes in an unsavory apartment building. Some of the trysts these guys have are nominally interesting, such as a woman who wants three guys simultaneously. I still couldn't work up much interest at any time. The YouTube scene is editorialized 'great scene,' so if it rivets you, by all means go for it. I'm not giving this movie any more of my time.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Michael BakerMichael Baker RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    This week was full of Christmas-themed lessons, and so I ended up watching the Smurfs Christmas Special a few too many times. It was short, at least, and did surprisingly well at implying that the big villain (named only as the Wizard in the closed-captioning) was actually Satan without even coming close to the limits of the usual cartoon moral self-policing on language and references in children's shows. Unfortunately, I also have the show's big song and dance number stuck in my head now >_<

    The entire thing is on the Youtube Smurfs Channel.

  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Somehow Top Secret! (1984) has become the forgotten Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie. After finally watching it in one go, I don't know why. It's just as packed with outrageous material as Airplane! or The Naked Gun, and succeeds in being very amusing. Sure some of the jokes don't work, but with this style of movie things just keep blazing along without caring. Most of them do work, and this deserves to be seen by anyone who likes the ZAZ style.

    I'm surprised no one has tried to make skeet surfing an EXTREME sport yet. Just wait, it'll happen. Sure people will probably die in the attempt, but that won't stop EXTREME athletics.
    Aside from cataloguing individual moments that are ridiculous and amusing, there isn't much to say about the movie except that the sight of a young Val Kilmer is surprising and captivating. He's not a bad singer, up there taking on 'Tutti Frutti,' and his Elvis impersonation isn't bad. Numerous other performers show up in bits of varying length, and they're pretty much all solid, but since Val is more or less the lead it would be bad if he was intolerable.
    Do I understand why French Resistance members are in East Germany during the 80s? No. Is it amusing that they're around? Yes.
    This style of comedy is hard to pull off successfully. Give it a shot and see if it's an underappreciated gem like I do though.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Michael BakerMichael Baker RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    edited December 2016
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Once Bitten (1985), on the other hand, is pretty lousy. If anyone remembers it now, it's because Jim Carrey makes an early appearance. He's fairly restrained by Jim Carrey standards, though some energy pops out here and there.

    The scenario could have been funny: Lauren Hutton plays a vampire who needs to sample the blood of a virgin thrice before Halloween in order to retain her youth. There are a few isolated moments that did make me chuckle (a scene in which a rubber glove is proffered as sexual protection spawns a line I actually found amusing).
    Mostly though, it's just kind of sad. I wouldn't wonder about the bizarre mythology of this movie if I was laughing. Is Cleavon Little, portraying Hutton's vampire (?) aide, also a vampire? I THINK so, but it's really hard to be sure. I can definitely say that having her tell him to come out of the closet, and then having him actually come out of a closet, is not so amazingly funny that the movie needed to do it again later - but it does. Is homophobic humor involving the need of Carrey's two friends to look around his crotch for bite marks in the high school shower all that great? No, no it isn't. Since Carrey is supposedly turning into a vampire he does hilarious things like sleep in a trunk instead of a bed, and when he wears all black everyone keeps telling him it's a great costume. Well, unless Johnny Cash was constantly also being mistaken for a vampire, a black wardrobe in and of itself is not a vampire costume. Is turning around and snarling at kids who are buying ice cream funny? It could be, but this movie doesn't make it so.
    The director is one Howard Storm. This is the first and only movie he ever directed, with the rest of his career spent in TV. I wouldn't mention that except that most of his directorial TV gigs were for sitcoms, and later he would helm a number of Full House episodes. Lots of this movie plays as if a laugh track was supposed to be inserted. Without one, we get to observe attempted jokes crash and burn. I wouldn't pick on vampires having a milk jug labeled 'Whole Blood' in the refrigerator if it was amusing.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Flatliners (1990) is another demonstration that Joel Schumacher takes neat concepts and flushes them down the toilet. Sure, it's better than Batman & Robin - but so is a blood draw, in that it's much shorter.
    This is actually an interesting concept, to be sure. Can someone be induced to the state of clinical death, then revived by someone else to report what it's like to come back? Kiefer Sutherland is one of many medical students involved here, but his obsession is the most pathological. Julia Roberts is nearly as pathological about it, William Baldwin is definitely willing, Kevin Bacon is not eager at all, and Oliver Platt helps out without wanting to do it himself.
    So we have a good premise and beginning. Then it goes to hell as things turn into a bizarre fright-fest.

    What the hell is going on? It seems that being taken to the edge and then returning to life makes a possibly-literal (?) ghost of your past start haunting your present. Exactly how this works varies upon whatever your personal ghosts are, but it's a psychological dilemma instead of physical presences. So what is technically self-mutilation is a prevailing theme in here. Blue ultraviolet lighting is used several times in an effort to look frightening. Whatever attempt the movie was making at being frightening is forgotten for the resolution, which is ineffective and overly simplistic.
    A remake is coming. I actually support this because remakes represent an opportunity to try something that wasn't done well the first time, and Flatliners certainly wasn't.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    La La Land (2016) belongs to the rare group of really good musicals. Yes, it's a silly title, but since it was filmed entirely in Los Angeles and is all about the effervescence of Hollywood, it's also fitting. It's filled with songs, and even though I didn't know any at the beginning, I found all of them catchy, effectively used in the movie, well-presented, and entertainingly choreographed.

    I never would have picked Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as legitimate heirs to the Astaire/Rogers mantle, but they do a pretty darn good job of it. Gosling's voice isn't amazing, but he acquits himself well. Stone can sing rather well, something I did not realize. Both of them can also dance.
    Director Damien Chazelle previously made Whiplash, which is tonally very different but features a shared like of long takes and actors actually performing on the instruments they are shown using. Whether Ryan Gosling did all of the piano work attributed to his character is unlikely, but he did a significant portion of it, and did so by actually learning the instrument. Several times jazz groups are shown on the screen, and they are definitely playing their own instruments. It's a seemingly small thing that I appreciate because of the work it takes and the accuracy it portrays. I also noticed that several of the numbers were using on-set singing instead of ADR, which is instantly noticeable because they lack the surround sound usually associated with big-screen numbers. This may not make the opening number, in which multiple drivers on the LA freeway system during a traffic jam get out and burst into a song, any more realistic. It does make for a nice change of pace.
    The story isn't stupendous but is a lot better than the filler that many musicals used. First we meet Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) during the freeway backup at the start. Then we follow her for a little while, seeing a rotten day in the life of an aspiring actress who works in a coffee shop on the Hollywood studio lot while going to repeated auditions and getting nothing out of it. After she reaches a restaurant, we see the day of Sebastian, which is that of someone devoted to jazz and not yet reconciled to the fact that playing jazz all the time is a difficult gig for a nonentity. His night ends at the restaurant, in which manager J.K. Simmons' instruction to play the set list and nothing but the set list is disobeyed. Mia's attempt to praise his playing is rebuffed in an extremely rude fashion, but months later they meet again when he's playing keyboards for a party band that's doing covers of 'Take on Me' and 'I Ran (So Far Away).' Eventually this Meet Cute leads to more.
    I can praise the superb use of montage in this movie, too. Several uses of it condense scenarios that aren't what really happened down into a far more imaginative and interesting sequence than simply being told 'this is how it almost happened.' It's hard to do well, and I appreciate the effort that was required to do so.
    There's a lot of buzz regarding this one as we head into Academy Award nomination time. Unlike some years, I can fully get behind this one. It's deserved.
    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's Revenge (1969), also known as All Monsters Attack, occupies a special place in the Godzilla library for me. It's the movie people would call to tell me was on TV when I was a child, knowing that I couldn't get enough of the guy - and that I would turn off angrily, because I hated it. Things change though. Maybe my childhood sense of hating this thing's guts would be gone if I tried it again as an adult.
    No. I still hate it. Childhood me despised the blatant, horrendous use of scenes from earlier Godzilla movies in lieu of anything new. I still find it a cheap and unconscionable thing to do. Hell, this movie is only 70 minutes long. Take out the stuff from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, and we're down to less than an hour. I understand why it was done now - budgetary reasons, and the death of Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects man at Toho who built those miniatures. I don't cut the movie any slack for these things though. It's a cheap and crappy thing to do.

    I agree wholeheartedly when James says this is the worst of them all. I watched the thing closely though, and learned some things. A critical moment is that Gabara, the 'bully' picking on Godzilla's son, never did anything we saw! This 'bully' was moving around Monster Island and Minya just starts puffing his smoke rings at the guy. Is that a moral we want to encourage, that if you see anyone who might be a bully the proper procedure is to make sure by attacking first?
    Then there's Ichiro and his bullies. Okay, I grant that there are some kids who don't seem to like him. They tell him to get out of a field and ... um... act like they don't care for him. If I'm supposed to buy this as some kind of anti-bullying treatise though, I have to be shown actual bullying. At the conclusion, Ichiro rams one of these kids in the gut and punches him a lot. Really, is this the kind of behavior we want to encourage?
    Then there's the instigation for Ichiro's brave behavior: he's in an abandoned, decrepit building with a couple of bank robbers, and he fights back. This kid is what, 6? 7? Even though these are hardly threatening men (oh no, there's a guy who wears sunglasses at night indoors and has a tiny box cutter of a knife! I'm terrified!), should children be expected to tackle this sort of situation instead of seeking the aid of an adult? Not that I ever heard, but it's the moral of this story.
    The conclusion outright ignores this crap too. You'd think a father, even a busy one operating a locomotive, would perhaps COME HOME for a moment if his son gets into the news for taking on two bank robbers after they abducted him. You'd think his mother (this is 1969 after all - not a whole lot of Japanese mothers get to work all night even now, let alone then) would have a lot to say on the subject. Nope!
    Some people say this is a good movie for children. I know this because I've seen it said. Well, I was a child when I saw this, and I despised the thing without limit. I don't quite hate it as much now that I'm an adult, but boy does it stink.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Hidden Figures (2016) has picked up a lot of acclaim. I know several people who unreservedly adore it. I liked it for the most part, to be sure. This is a story that hasn't been given much attention and is interesting to see. Script-wise it's not the most elegant creature though.
    Three black women: Dorothy (Octavia Spencer), Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) and Mary (Janelle Monae) work in Hampton, Virginia on behalf of NASA in 1961. Deborah is doing the work of a supervisor, but isn't getting that job title or the pay that would go with it. Mary is doing the work of an engineer, but (as the trailer so cleverly highlighted), she isn't one in title or pay. Katherine would seem to be the character with the deepest arc, as we saw her at the movie's beginning displaying college-level mathematics ability while in grammar school. That translates into her being a 'computer,' which is what once upon a time the people doing computations were called before machines came along that worked faster.
    Katherine makes it into the NASA head office to compute things right there for the brains of the program. Mary makes it into a different area, and needs to take higher-level courses in order to do her job. Dorothy runs up against the introduction of an IBM mainframe that promises to do calculations faster than any human - if anyone can learn to make it work. She starts learning FORTRANS to make that happen.
    I appreciated the stuff on the job (although Mary managing to get her heel stuck in a grate while a capsule is about to test its launch seemed uncharacteristically dumb). Seeing the behind-the-scenes work at NASA in this period is fascinating. The pilots who actually launched in the capsules aren't ignored, but the tons of work that had to go into making them go up and come back is a worthy thing to know about.

    On the other hand, racism is ... not glossed over, but not given the due it should be either. Seeing Katherine have to run across the NASA campus to find a colored restroom is effective, but a couple of lines struck me as far too contemporary and nothing like someone in 1961 would actually say. Separate drinking fountains are shown once. Some quick footage of Dr. King is broadcast, the segregation of facilities in NASA is mentioned and given just a little time. Getting harder into this material would have struck down the feel-good nature of things, I suppose.
    The home lives of our protagonists aren't given the going over they warrant, and instead come across as not very interesting. Katherine has three daughters from a previous marriage and is wooed by a colonel, Mary has a husband very much invested in the civil rights struggle, and Dorothy... doesn't seem to have a home life.
    I also dislike Pharell William's choice to compose and play numerous songs that are very contemporary. Hearing Ray Charles on the radio in one scene, and then hearing something with 2016 production values, is disruptive and breaks my immersion.
    On the other hand, the acting is pretty much all good. I concur with the nominations for Octavia Spencer, she deserves it. Taraji Henson is also good. Janelle Monae wavers a bit for me - she seems a bit sassier than would have been tolerated in 1961 - but I seem to be in the minority. Of other players, Kevin Costner does a really good job as the head of the calculation department in NASA. He's aged into a pretty good character actor. Jim Parsons is fine, although not given much to do, as Katherine's immediate supervisor. Kirsten Dunst is also fine, though not given a whole lot to do, as the middle-management person Dorothy butts heads with.
    For me this is a good, not great, movie. Obviously there are a lot of people who feel much more strongly about 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
    Timothy Dalton's tenure as James Bond only lasted two movies, followed by the longest break between installments in the series before Pierce Brosnan took over. I'd never seen Dalton's entries though, and decided to give them a shot.
    The Living Daylights (1987) was an attempt to get back to more relatively grounded endeavors after some of the outlandish goofiness during Roger Moore's tenure. It's also got a fairly complex narrative that requires paying close attention in spots, to the point where outlining everything that occurs would take a very long time. The gist is that a Soviet defector is actually pulling a ruse to get a rival labelled an enemy to peace and assassinated, whereupon he'll be free to procure weapons to aid fighting in Afghanistan. There's a lot more to it than that, and the person from whom the arms will come is actually the top bad guy, but lots of wheeling and dealing between spy agencies is the theme here.
    Dalton as Bond is grimmer and more focused on business than others - even Daniel Craig, I might venture. I liked his intensity though, and some of the one-liners he says have more punch because he's such a focused agent the rest of the time. This tone shift affects most of the rest of the movie too, which makes its outlandish elements stand out more. It's neat to see a laser beam emitted from a tire slice the entire bottom off of another car, but boy does it look silly. It's similarly silly to have an automatic sliding glass door malfunction and slide SO HARD that it kills a man.

    Then we have our villains. John Rhys-Davies as Pushkin, the Soviet general targeted for removal, is fine and I could have seen more of him just because I like the actor. The defector never had enough of a personality for me to root for his destruction. The main muscle, though, actually felt like a threat - even if they're special cords, strangling men with headphone wires is not for the faint of heart. Joe Don Baker as Whitaker, the arms dealer, doesn't get much screen time and isn't much of an opponent even with his amazing display of fully operational arms (who keeps a cannon ready to fire at all times in the office? This guy does!)
    There's only one Bond girl this time around, but I liked Maryam d'Abo. She's relatively intelligent and not annoying, two qualities that Bond girls often lack. She makes some unwise decisions but sticks around and actually tries to help out, successfully in spots! It may be (and is) stupid, but I laughed at Q testing a boom box with heavy artillery inside called a 'ghetto blaster' for the Americans.
    It's definitely too long and the Afghanistan segment should have been edited judiciously. I enjoyed it though.
    License to Kill (1989) is even grimmer, although it did so badly at the box office that it was partly reponsible for the six-year wait until Bond's next adventure. Bond's old CIA pal Felix has the bad fortune to cross a drug kingpin named Sanchez (played by Agent Johnson from Die Hard, Robert Davi), and his new wife gets killed for it while he winds up missing some parts when dunked into a tank with a blood-enlivened shark. Bond takes this badly and goes rogue, actually fighting off MI6 operatives and M to carry out his vendetta. Sanchez is in someplace called Isthmus City, which drew my notice because usually Bond movies have real-world locations and I can only guess Panama did some fancy lobbying to keep its name from being blackened. Bond is helped by Carey Lowell as the last surviving informant within Sanchez's organization, Talisa Soto as Sanchez's mistreated girlfriend, and eventually Q (good old Desmond Llewelyn) but is not in the best graces of the British government at the moment.
    It's funny, for a guy who proclaims loyalty to be more important than money, Sanchez is very quick to inflict gruesome deaths upon those he thinks are disloyal. Poor Anthony Zerbe gets stuck into a high-pressure acclimation chamber which is swiftly decompressed, with explosive results. Yeah, he's outside the zone of countries from which the US can get extraditions, but there have been many times in the past when US agents would go take care of business without caring what the local authorities have to say.
    Not quite Sanchez's right-hand man is a young Benicio Del Toro, who looks a little Johnny Depp-ish at this point in his life and with this slicked hairstyle. He's tenth-billed in the cast, showing how far he had to go.

    Neither of the women this time around is great. Lowell veers from fine to pouty, and Soto's personality never really gels. Neither is a screaming bimbo at least.
    This one is also too long, and could have been trimmed noticeably without losing anything important. The climax, which involves four tanker trucks barreling downhill, is quite good though. I didn't know it was possible for a big rig to drive with one set of wheels in the air, but this was back before CG could magic up such things so all the kudos in the world to the stunt driver. Also a worthwhile movie, though it doesn't feel much like Bond.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    JuMeSyn wrote: »
    The Ring (2002) is a remake of a Japanese movie that got a sequel, then got its own sequel that wasn't a remake of the Japanese sequel. I see no need to view The Ring 2 though, not when the first one left me unmoved. Perhaps I need to be crippled with fear at the sight of time-lapse photography?

    I'll come from the other side of the fence and say time-lapse photography crippled me with fear in this movie, and similar effects caused by slowdown or bugs followed by a rapid speed-up in video games can have an oddly terrifying effect on me as well. The Ring is the only movie that's creeped me out post-childhood, though I don't watch horror films often.

    And Top Secret is a great, ridiculous movie.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    I see it from numerous people, that The Ring is somehow even considered Gore Verbinski's best movie (and considering he's mostly known for a bunch of Pirates of the Caribbean stuff, that's fair). I wasn't frightened and it made little impression on me, except for Brian Cox demonstrating how to commit suicide with multiple appliances in a filled bathtub.
    Top Secret - say on, brother.
    On the other hand, here's a comedy I did NOT enjoy...
    Happy Gilmore (1996) gets ranked as about Adam Sandler's best work. I've never seen Billy Madison, but The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy irritated me even when they were new and I was a teenage male, theoretically the ideal target audience. I figured I would give the guy one more shot though. I smiled a few times, it's true. His ridiculous rhyme spree when Christopher McDonald set him up was amusing, and shaking food onto the front of a car for a crazy woman to take - that wasn't bad. Mostly I was bored though. 'Golf ball camera' got old fast, Happy being a bundle of barely-restrained id didn't work for me, Carl Weathers deserved better, the plot was dull and needless.... While it was nice to see Ben Stiller for a bit as an evil old home employee, this far more amusing scenario was pretty much ignored in favor of more Happy shenanigans.
    So no, I didn't enjoy myself.
    Spanglish (2004) is also not exactly a good movie, but it's much more interesting in small doses. It shows that Adam Sandler, when employed outside of his comfort zone, isn't terrible. The movie as a whole is a basket case of material that doesn't hold together (I accept that someone would need to learn no English whatsoever if closeted in only Spanish-speaking parts of Los Angeles, but the instant that person becomes help at an English-speaking household, being forced to rely upon translators is ridiculous). Let's see, we have Adam Sandler as a top-rated restaurant owner (which doesn't really go anywhere) having problems with his wife Tea Leoni (this DOES go somewhere, if only to prompt various lunatic scenes from a woman whose personality varies with the scene), a child who thinks her mother wants her to lose weight (dropped midway through), Cloris Leachman as a heavy-drinking grandma whose personality also varies depending upon the scene, and more besides. It lurches around haphazardly and quite frankly I stopped caring near the end. It's nevertheless kind of interesting, in a train wreck sort of fashion.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Doomsday (2008) I saw because it's from a director whose previous work I found effective and interesting. Dog Soldiers and The Descent aren't necessarily great horror movies, but both did something interesting and had me caring about what was happening. So I decided to give Neil Marshall's follow-up a shot.
    My reward was preposterous. That's not inherently a problem, except when the preposterous doesn't pay off in any other way. Plus its action scenes are edited in that whiplash-inducing style of too many freaking cuts so that no shot has time to be comprehended before it's over - I blame Michael Bay. I wasn't enjoying the action when it made no sense, the premise is so full of holes it's hilarious, and even the ludicrousness wasn't enough to keep my attention towards the end. Other than that, it's not very good.
    The plot: in 2008 a virus that spreads like the common cold pops up in Glasgow. It's a bit deadlier than the common cold, and in fact kills within hours. The UK's eventual solution is to rebuild Hadrian's Wall along the land border, while mines are placed at sea. Scotland is decreed a no man's land, and everyone who approaches the border is blown away by automated turrets, while planes will be shot down the moment they try to pass over. Fast-forward to 2035, and the virus has reappeared in London. A strike team is ordered to cross into Scotland, because top-secret footage from satellites reveals that there are still people alive in there. There must be a cure of some kind, and if it can be obtained then perhaps the (admittedly drastic) solution of isolating London and leaving all its inhabitants to die will be avoided.
    Indeed, there are people still alive in the heart of Glasgow. They're a bit murderous though, and take out most of the strike team. Its survivors still attempt to carry out their mission, since they have no means of getting out without that cure.

    See, this woman looks freaky, but with maybe 3 lines before this she's not much of a presence. Perhaps if I could understand what was going on in the fight I might be impressed with her abilities, but when it's edited to death like this... blech.
    Now, I could poke holes in the premise all the live long day. Even when this movie was made, the idea that all satellite footage of Scotland would be nonexistent is so laughable I can't take it seriously in the slightest... but whatever. Fine. Our strike team is on the suspiciously CG streets of Glasgow, and boy howdy am I getting an Aliens vibe. Then some Road Warrior rejects attack, and obviously the strike team managing to slaughter about a hundred of them didn't mean a damn thing. Oh yes, and our heroine is in the Snake Plissken mold but that sets up Kurt Russell comparisons that no one can win.
    A bunch of other stuff happens before Malcolm MacDowell shows up in the flesh (he's been narrating since the beginning), but when he does it's as the leader of a genuine medieval castle complete with horse-riding knights and archers. Did I miss something? Technology didn't cease to exist all of a sudden (there was a WORKING TRAIN mere minutes earlier), so why in the hell would ... I dunno, Time Bandits suddenly be referenced?
    The conclusion does indeed go full-on Road Warrior, and Neil Marshall thought a good soundtrack to accompany vehicular mayhem would be Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Two Tribes? I couldn't believe my ears.
    I wouldn't care about all the ripping off that takes place if this was more fun. That damned editing never failed to irritate me though, and while Rhona Mitra is fine in the lead, she also had no particular screen presence. That's no good if we're trying to imitate 80s action where a cool lead gets all the attention. I kept thinking of better movies I could be watching instead of this - and yes I WAS watching the unrated cut with something like 8 minutes of additional footage. It didn't help.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Alright then, I powered through almost all of Roger Moore's Bond output. Let's see here...
    Live and Let Die (1973) is not a very good Bond movie. It feels dated in many respects due to the filming on US locations of the time, with actors wearing very identifiable 1973 fashions. The action sequences are duds for the most part - an early car chase doesn't build to much before it ends, a quick brawl in an alley also ends quickly, and the standout sequence involving a speedboat chase through the Louisiana bayous is more boring than anything else. This once, the action sequence keeps going, far after it ceased to be minimally interesting.

    Yaphet Kotto is a decent Bond villain with a decent Bond plot (taking over the world heroin market by driving other suppliers out of business), but he doesn't get to do a whole lot. Jane Seymour is an okay Bond girl also. The voodoo touches make it distinct from other Bond movies, but not really in a good way. Roger Moore did alright though. He was clearly doing his own action scenes most of the time, and while he's always better at quipping than kicking tail, he doesn't falter when it's time to take care of the villains. This isn't a good Bond movie, but he's an engaging presence.
    The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ups the silliness quotient to ridiculous levels. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) is an intimidating presence, but he really doesn't get to stand out amidst all the silliness. His henchman Nick Nack is a joke, and the eventual defeat of this henchman concludes the movie on a dumb note. Britt Ekland is of the annoying and bothersome Bond girl variety, so of course she has to be there at the stupidly longwinded conclusion to do stupid things (because she's a woman, ha ha ha!) that place Bond in harm's way.

    I still like Christopher Lee, and the duel between Bond and him is actually rather good. Not a whole lot else is very good here, though Roger Moore acquits himself favorably.
    The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is somewhat better. Barbara Bach is not the greatest Bond girl, but at least she has a legitimate personality. We've got some goofy/nifty gadgets here (the car that turns into a submarine is a highlight), some pretty damn good stunts (the one leading into the title theme, with a long shot of a skier plummeting off a cliff before a parachute finally opens, earned $30,000 for the stuntman who performed it), a suitable Bond villain in Curt Jurgens' Stromberg (he wants to kill off most of humanity by starting a nuclear war), and a ridiculous but interesting foe in Richard Kiel's Jaws.

    I can quibble with Marvin Hamlisch's decision to disco-ize the Bond theme, and Jaws is difficult to take seriously. It's definitely worth seeing though.
    Moonraker (1979) is something of a mixed bag. The terrestrial material, depicting such landmarks as Venice, Rio de Janeiro, and the upper Amazon, is pretty good most of the time. Jaws' return is both formidable (such as biting through the cable holding a cable car aloft) and ridiculous (such as falling at terminal velocity to earth and being saved by... a circus net).

    That centrifuge part is pretty good. Having a dove in San Marco plaza double-take Bond's steering a gondola onto dry land is... well... let's just forget about it, shall we?
    Still, 3/4 of the movie is rather good Bond, with a reasonably Bond girl (her name is Dr. Goodhead, and I guess more puns involving her name weren't used because it would take the rating past a PG) with involving action and a charismatic Bond. Then it goes into space for Drax's station in orbit, and things go even more ridiculous. Plus this part feels much more dated - Bond was trying to chase Star Wars, and the effect doesn't work. On balance this one is solid, but the conclusion is not so good.
    Octopussy (1983) is the pits, though.

    I was genuinely bored a lot of the time here, especially in the second hour. Stephen Berkoff is a terrible Bond villain, in that I felt like covering my ears every time his bellowing started up again. The other villain is okay but unmemorable. Maude Adams as the title character, named that way by her loving dad... I guess she's okay. The opening India scenes are decent, but the safari chase in which Bond tells a tiger to sit was just terrible. I grant that a nifty stunt at the conclusion, with two men hanging on outside of a small plane high in the sky, is impressive. It comes way too late though.
    A View to a Kill (1985) isn't all that good, but it's better than Octopussy. Roger Moore was clearly not doing his own stunts by this point, and the obvious blue screen or stuntmen takes away some of the thrill from what could have been a solid chase on a fire engine through the streets of San Francisco. Plus Tanya Roberts is one of the most irritating presences I've seen in a Bond movie, and I kept wishing she would go away. Grace Jones is a decent henchwoman, but doesn't get a very good conclusion.

    Having said all that, Christopher Walken is doing exactly what he'd do time and time again. It's ridiculous, but it works. The action sequences would have been better if Moore could do his own stuntwork (no real knock against him, since he was in his mid-50s here), but the idea of a horse race with someone changing the obstacles as you go is something that should be co-opted by a video game.
    Saying it's better than Octopussy isn't much of a recommendation, but it's true.

    I missed For Your Eyes Only due to a disc that stopped in the middle, so I can't judge it yet.
    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 Battle of Stalingrad (1949-50) is one of the few Soviet movies I've seen. The experience was certainly interesting, but did not create a sudden desire for me to rush out and see more, particularly not from this era.

    You want select clips? Too bad! Frankly I'm surprised this shows up on YouTube at all, but there it is.
    It was made in two parts, thus the odd copyright.
    There are some captivating parts. A determined defense inside the city by a Soviet unit that dwindles in size until all of its soldiers have died in action is pretty good, and something almost out of silent cinema comes when a building with one side removed serves as the ground for a long tracking shot as Soviets go in to kick out the Germans. Then there are odd moments, such as having the initial German advance be accompanied by a version of 'O Tannenbaum.' Not really what I associate with the advance of Nazism, to be frank.
    A LOT of the movie, though, is rather dull. Instead of depicting action in the city, it likes to give us an actor playing Stalin himself. Stalin speaks without any real excitement to several aides, describing the situation in some detail and eventually suggesting actions that are acclaimed by others around. There's a frenetically overacting fellow playing Hitler in a couple of scenes, but most other scenes without Stalin are nevertheless in this mold: several actors portraying various important personalities at the time (such as General von Paulus, the German commander of the 6th army in Stalingrad, or Konstanin Rokossovsky, commander of significant Soviet forces during the counterattack) talk around a table in static shots for long periods. The history they impart is interesting but not wholly accurate (in particular, Georgi Zhukov is mentioned but once and never shown, because at this point Stalin did not want to acknowledge his presence). To be sure, there are some images of large troop formations moving with tanks that were recorded for this movie because wanted it done. At least half of the proceedings are dry talks around tables and meeting rooms though.
    I understand why this was done at the time, at least in part. Stalin is credited with pretty much the entire Soviet strategy and with making all the critical decisions. Not doing so would have resulted in a quick trip to the gulag for whomever disobeyed Stalin's wishes, so there you have it. Did it have to be so dull, 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
    Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), also known as Frankenstein Conquers the World, is one of the weirder kaiju movies out there. Yes, I realize that sets the bar pretty damn high. Apparently its pre-production involved Willis O'Brien of King Kong fame shopping an idea of Kong meeting the Frankenstein monster around, and eventually it ended up in the hands of Toho.
    Let's get our setup out there first: a German submarine ferried the immortal beating heart of Frankenstein's Monster into the Indian ocean, where a Japanese submarine picked it up and took it home, which happened to be Hiroshima in the summer of 1945. Fifteen years after the atomic bomb went off, a wastrel child is wandering the streets grabbing animals and eating them. He's eventually caught and has a physique that is suspiciously similar to that of Boris Karloff in the Universal series. The theory is propagated that the monster will grow endlessly, even if parts of him are severed. Somehow an arm is indeed severed and kept alive for a time, while the child escapes and runs out to rural Japan where he grows to enormous size but tries very hard not to harm humans, only stealing livestock to eat.

    Obviously for the title to make sense, Baragon (NOT Barugon from rival Daiei Studios, and I can't believe such a mistake was even possible due to the names) must appear. Which he does at about the one hour mark, popping out of the earth and razing villages to the ground. Of course, one of those villages was full of rowdy partying teenagers which are much more often seen in American productions of the period, so it's all good. Baragon is a big lizard with a glowing horn and floppy dog ears that shoots lightning. The monster child is... well, in another oddity, he's just a man with makeup instead of a guy in a rubber suit, so his weapons consist of picking up boulders and trees to throw. He also knows some pretty decent wrestling moves.
    Oh, what an odd movie. American Nick Adams is in the cast, and even though I watched the Japanese version he was clearly post-dubbed due to not speaking Japanese. Little things, such as why Germany was not dealing with swarms of ever-growing Frankenstein monsters for decades, are never addressed (it's true that the radiation from Hiroshima was a factor, but since the heart was going to Japan in the first place because it would repair itself and grow new pieces forever, obviously Hitler fell down on the job). Why is the child described as looking Caucasian with blue eyes, when his face clearly shows brown eyes? Why are military units deployed several times to combat the giant Frankenstein monster when they end up doing nothing (apparently this footage was cut for some reason)? Since when has it been so easy for a creature about one hundred feet tall to evade detection in Japan, even rural Japan? Where did the footage of an octopus come from that was spliced into the American version of the movie, yet not the Japanese one? Why is the ending so abrupt and confusing? All mysteries that will likely never be answered, since most of those involved with the production are now dead.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Cassandra RamosCassandra Ramos Eternal Kyoshi Administrators
    edited April 2017
    I actually went to a movie theater two weeks in a row, which is rare for me.

    Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a decent movie, but a poor adaptation. I liked it, but it pales in comparison to the anime films or Stand Alone Complex. The many references and recreations of scenes from the original movies were neat to see, but also got kind of ham-fisted. It largely lacks the philosophy the anime incarnations incorporate and what it does have is confused. And yes, the white-washing bothers me, though not enough to dislike it. I'm not surprised it's not doing so well in the US. I guess it could have been worse (could have been a heck of a lot better, too).

    In contrast, Your Name is utterly fantastic. I've heard so many good things about this movie and I went in as blind as I could, mostly knowing that it was a body-swapping teenage love story. It really is much more than that. I was on the edge of tears multiple times (it takes a lot to make me cry, at least as far as entertainment is concerned) The visuals are stunning and the English voice cast does a wonderful job. I hadn't seen a Makoto Shinkai film before this one, but it looks like I picked a great movie to start with!

    Bravely second...
    The courage to try again...

    Twitter: BerryEggs

  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    I've seen a number of things in the theater lately, but Your Name isn't playing around here and my memories of Ghost in the Shell aren't strong enough for me to want to see Scarlett Johannson stuck in a whole bunch of CG that tries to recreate the animation.
    I guess I'll just run through a couple of the 2017 items.
    John Wick: Chapter 2 definitely delivers more of the same. It's highly stylized and will be of no interest to anyone who doesn't attend action movies. Having said that, by casting Keanu Reeves as a mostly-stoic and emotionless killer, it's playing to his strengths. Wanna see Keanu kill a lot of people? This is your movie. There's a ton of CG blood, just as the first one had, but there really isn't a good practical way to make fountains of blood appear when shooting people in the head. This one makes clear that the international assassin market has a wardrobe with armor built into the fabric of ostensibly-stylish clothes, so head shots are necessary. It's a wild and fun ride.
    Logan is indeed a different kind of superhero movie. Deadpool showed what can happen by going for a devil-may-care attitude, but Logan is much more contemplative. Plenty of action and language, to be sure. What sets it apart most is the idea that mortality cannot be ignored, which is a tough sell to the usual superhero crowd. It's done well though, and I'm happy because it deserves to be remembered.
    Beauty and the Beast is certainly entertaining for the most part, I won't deny that. It's also unnecessary, because it's so obviously a remake of the 1991 movie that didn't need to be remade since it was done extremely well. Most of the material is a faithful recreation of that movie using physical actors and a ton of CG. I mean a TON. During 'Be Our Guest', the few times Emma Watson is on the screen (remember that the castle's inhabitants are singing to her, she just sits back and enjoys the show) it's painfully obvious that she's surrounded by stuff added in post production.
    What's new? Well, the Beast gets a song all to himself that I don't remember, but he had a good voice. We get to see the reason Belle and her father wound up in that provincial life. Stanley Tucci voices a piano in the castle that has enough screen time to make an impression. Belle and her father get a couple of extra minutes together. Gaston gets an extra evil action to cement just what a piece of filth he is. There's some material about the people in the castle actually being from that provincial town, just the magic has made them forgotten.
    The songs you remember from 91 are all here, some with added lyrics. Since they're pretty much the same except for performance, we get to judge that Emma Thompson is not as fine a singer as Angela Lansbury, that Emma Watson acquits herself pretty well, that Ewan MacGregor's French accent slips a few times as Lumiere, and thanks to the enormous amount of Disney's marketing and production muscle behind the product there will be no gaffes of any kind.
    Did this need to be made? No. I don't regret seeing it, but whenever I feel like watching a Disney Beauty and the Beast I'll probably gravitate toward the 1991 version instead of this. Disney has seen its vision of remaking everything that was a previous hit confirmed though. Remakes of Dumbo, Pinocchio, Mulan and The Lion King are all happening. Maybe someday Pocahontas will be remade, but Disney will probably keep after its guaranteed money-makers for a bit.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Speaking of Disney, I gave The Aristocats (1970) a shot for the first time in many years. I don't think anyone would try arguing that this is Disney's finest hour, because it certainly isn't. The laidback pace makes it hard to get deeply involved, but it's a pleasant enough outing.
    Setup: Duchess (voiced by Eva Gabor) and her three kittens (voiced by... child actors who didn't go on to anything else) get tossed out of their comfortable setup in a Parisian house during the first decade of the 20th century. They have to get back home, but since these are coddled cats without any experience in the countryside, doing so will be a challenge. Until Thomas O'Malley (voiced by Phil Harris) enters their lives, takes a shine to Duchess and gets along with the kittens pretty well too. They make their lackadaisical way back, until a conclusion that attempts to put an action beat into a story that really didn't have much.
    Despite being about 70 minutes, it's a third of the movie before the cats are tossed out into the wilderness of rural France. Some of this time is used for human characters, some for setting up the cat personalities. The villain of the movie is pretty darn weak - Edgar isn't a very nefarious name, to start. To continue, he's the butler of the household, and his reason for villainy is that the cats are set to inherit the entire household before he sees a dime. Never mind that I don't believe French law recognizes cats as legal inheritors, he decides to toss them out into the countryside in order to see something come his way a bit sooner. It would have been pretty nasty for him to try killing the cats, but just leaving them out beside a bridge - in the rain, oh my heavens! - isn't very cruel by Disney villain standards. Particularly not when he's chased away by a pair of dogs that are posed as comedy relief.

    That's reputed to be the best part of the movie, featuring Scatman Crothers voicing a cat and leading a band. It's not bad, but I don't think it holds up against the better Disney tunes.
    While I have no real desire to see it again for a great long time, if ever, I don't regret having seen it this time. Amiable and episodic without having much staying power.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Now to talk about a couple of recent big movies that didn't impress me much...
    Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 (2017) is out there right now, hoovering up more moolah for Marvel and Disney to ogle. I accept that I'm in the minority with regard to my stance on the first Guardians - while I didn't hate it or even really dislike it, I continually am baffled by how much love it gets. I didn't care for it, but didn't despise it either.
    So now we've got a sequel, which if anything is even MORE CG heavy. I'll grant that the soundtrack is a nice change of pace (for the most part) from the interchangeable stuff that's all over the radio now. However, given that Kurt Russell plays Chris Pratt's long-lost father, the failure to put this song onto the soundtrack is galling:

    The story is very much more of the same, as should be expected when James Gunn is again directing and the same people are behind the scenes. Peter Quill's long-lost father shows up to help the Guardians make an exit from a situation going badly. It's probably not a recommendation that I can't remember the name of Zoe Saldana's green-skinned character even after seeing her in two movies. I fail to understand why Vin Diesel provided the voice of baby Groot when it was altered to a high pitch, the better to make it a real baby voice. Kurt Russell is at least in the movie a fair amount - how Sylvester Stallone got prominent billing for (at MOST) two minutes of screen time must be chalked up to his agent. Let alone poor Michelle Yeoh, who has less than half that pitiful amount of time.
    I'll grant that a fair amount of this is somewhat amusing, though I wasn't laughing that much. Yes, a little Groot stuff is mildly amusing. That doesn't make a lot of it a lot more amusing, not to me. Some of the dialogue treating Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana just wasn't as amusing to me as it was intended to be - amazingly like the first movie. I won't deny chuckling a few times. I also didn't check the clock to see how much was left, which probably means this is a slight improvement.
    What just numbed me after a while was the overuse of CG. When barely anything on the screen is really there, it's obvious to me. A climactic struggle on a planet coming apart is accomplished entirely with CG, and I just didn't care. Sure it's cute that an alien race uses remote-controlled spacecraft that operate with Atari sound effects, but all the CG made it less amusing to me.

    Then there's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), which for me is not significantly better or worse than the rest of the series. Oh, I'd probably put it a little above the third and fourth entries (not least because it's the shortest of them all), but none of these movies have left a significant impression in my psyche. I guess because I've now spent something like 12 hours of my life watching the antics of Jack Sparrow and the amazingly complicated contortions of plots that started with something based on a Disneyland ride, I understand more Pirates mythology than I ever expected. Wow.
    This one finds the son of Will Turner trying to undo his dad's curse (so help me, I actually remembered how Orlando Bloom became cursed in the third one...) which naturally entails finding Jack Sparrow. Our female lead is under the threat of execution for being a witch, because of course a young woman who understands scientific principles and is smart enough to apply them makes no sense at all in 18th century Caribbean surroundings, so she must be killed. She gets to underscore this silliness through a number of pithy lines that reminded me this movie was released in 2017, when such things must be loudly and repeatedly denied, even though no one in the 18th century would have said such things.
    Credit where it's due, though: Javier Bardem makes a good villain. He's doctored with lots of CG most of the time because he's some kind of undead, yet the man's screen presence still comes through. His crew, unfortunately, reminded me of the undead/zombie crew from the first Pirates - just intensified. Now we have guys with almost nothing left because CG can bring it to life without making me think anything is really there. Hurrah.
    Lots of scenes in the dark, particularly toward the end. Some of the humor is amusing, and seeing Paul McCartney as 'Uncle Jack' is fun. Johnny Depp is doing his thing a fifth time, and I have no doubt that this will rake in enough money worldwide for Disney to offer him another paycheck. It says something that even when it's the shortest of these movies, it's still over two hours and felt longer than necessary.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Mishmash time.
    License to Wed (2007) is a mostly-forgotten example of a high-concept Hollywood script idea (Robin Williams is a priest testing would-be newlyweds!) that fails. Mandy Moore and John Krasinski are alright as the couple, though their communication is absolutely horrible. Williams could have been funny as Father Frank, but even the sight of him trying to egg the couple into an argument for practice just doesn't work. It did have a couple of ex-Seinfeld actors, she who played Susan Ross's mother and he who played the head of NBC. They aren't funny, but it was nice to see them.
    Scorpio (1973) isn't much remembered either. This one depicts Burt Lancaster as an operative for the CIA attempting to get out of the game. It's standard stuff in setup, and probably needed a little better editing since my attention was lost a few times. There are plenty of goof moments though. When action scenes occur, they're captivating. It also has a very 70s type of ending, one that focus groups would complain loudly about today.
    Back to the Beach (1987) offers the unlikely re-teaming of Frankie and Annette. I saw a couple of their beach movies from the 60s and found them unrelentingly stupid, plus not funny. Surprisingly enough, while this isn't a brilliantly scripted movie it's quite entertaining. Plenty of cameos that are actually funny pop up, it doesn't outstay its welcome, and it's pretty good at poking fun at the image of these two from their 60s heyday. Also has Pee-Wee Herman appear out of nowhere to sing a musical number, then vanish again.
    Zombie Night (2013) is my lesson to stay away from Asylum productions. It isn't based on any particular zombie movie, but simply offers another depiction of the old standby - the dead are rising and hungry for the living. Anthony Michael Hall and Daryl Hannah look like they weren't happy during the shooting, and I can't blame them. Shirley Jones and Alan Ruck get turned into zombies, so it does offer that minor trivia note. I didn't find it insulting or offensive, just dull. Wait, I did find the stupid kid's actions worthy of him being put down, but otherwise not much popped out to grab my attention. Blech.
    The Duellists (1977) is Ridley Scott's first movie, made prior to him helming Alien. It's the interesting idea of two officers in Napoleon's army getting off on the wrong foot when they first meet, and then fighting each other every time subsequently. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel play the pair, and while Keitel's amazing speed at taking offense is the instigator of this adversarial relationship, Carradine keeps participating because it's a question of honor. I give Ridley Scott credit for filming each duel in a different method, and I'm glad to have seen it. Not more than a lukewarm recommendation though, just because the central idea isn't very good at sustaining an entire feature.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
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