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Watch any good movies lately?



  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Tomorrowland (2015) is not the best movie Brad Bird has directed. That’s more a statement of the level on which he generally operates though, rather than a dismissal of this, which is indeed quite strong. I could say the conclusion is a little too neat after the whirlwind ride that preceded it, and indeed I do say that. To dismiss a movie because the last 10% is merely solid when the preceding 90% was really good is not worth doing.
    There’s a prologue in 1964 at the World’s Fair of New York, in which a boy brings a rocket pack that nearly works as an invention submission. He’s hard to bring down even after rejection for the rocket pack’s incomplete status, and this attracts the attention of a girl who goes by Athena. She slips the boy a special pin, which activates on the Small World ride and lets him reach a sparkling new destination. In this amazing place, which looks rather like a compilation of visions of the future circa the 1950s, his rocket pack is fixed by a robot and made to do exactly what he intended.
    Now we skip ahead to the present day. We meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a teenager with an unstoppably optimistic mindset. This gets her into trouble with the police for trespassing, but it also lands her the same kind of pin that transports to Tomorrowland, and she explores this amazing place until the pin runs out of power. Seeking any other kind of way she can get there, Casey winds up going to a nerd-oriented place in Dallas that is a whole lot more than she bargained for. Saved from an unusual source of danger by the same Athena who befriended the boy years before, she goes on a road trip without understanding much of anything, and eventually meets that now-grown child (George Clooney). He’s lost his optimism for some reason, but that’s inconsequential when the plague of well-mannered robots out for their blood arrives.
    Tomorrowland is structured as one long chase with the viewer about as baffled as Casey most of the time, and it’s a fun trip to take. The action is exhilarating and well-staged, while ominous signs keep popping up. Crazy things happen on this trip, and it says something that a hidden rocket into space inside the Eiffel Tower doesn’t stand out too much. I suppose if I picked at this stuff logically, there are a lot of things that make no sense. It doesn’t much matter when the ride is exhilarating though.
    The conclusion is where all the answers are learned, and things are wrapped up. In fact, they’re wrapped up a bit too neatly. After such a fun trip, to have it end with a relatively straightforward climax is a bit disappointing. I was still satisfied, but not blown away the way I kind of wish had happened. Oh well.
    Britt Robertson has been in a lot of stuff, but this is the first performance of hers I’ve seen, and she’s great. Being a confused and optimistic teen could easily have been incredibly annoying or boring, but she’s a charismatic lead and a fine screen presence. George Clooney is fine too, but the billing for the movie makes it appear that he’s the lead when Britt really gets that role. Hugh Laurie is fun in the small doses we get as the leader of Tomorrowland, and Athena is a very interesting character indeed.
    If I compare this to The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, it’s not quite in the league of all. Or maybe I’m being too harsh, because Brad Bird turned in an original premise and fleshed it out pretty darn well once more.
    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 Max: Fury Road (2015) rocks. The more I think back on it, the more satisfying it is. While it plays, this is the archetypal action movie, something that is actually hard to deliver. You want action? You will get it with this movie. I never expected to have it stand taller than the earlier Mad Max movies, but somehow it does. I commend George Miller for getting this made.
    Mad Max is now played by Tom Hardy instead of Mel Gibson, but otherwise he’s pretty much the same character. He’s in a bad way at the beginning, nabbed by a bunch of guys who make him into a blood bag at the front of a moving vehicle. Will he stay that way? It would be a very different Mad Max if so.
    There is also Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, acquirer for this band of bad guys of munitions and fuel. Only this time, she’s taking the five wives of the leader away in search of a green place. He’s not about to let that happen, especially when one is pregnant with what he hopes is a good child. Pursuit is begun, with an enormous procession of vehicles. Mad Max is at the head of one, and he will eventually be freed.
    Describing WHAT happens in this movie is pointless, really. It’s all about the how, and that how is amazing. George Miller goes for old school stunts with an army of stunt performers being credited, all deservedly. Except for a CG sandstorm near the beginning, it’s a testament to how much more exciting vehicular mayhem is when real people are on the screen instead of digital ciphers.
    This is also a demonstration of what a blurb would call a ‘nonstop thrill ride’ that really lives up to that description. There’s only one part in the middle with anything like a slowdown in the action, and even that is anything but standard dialogue delivery. There’s certainly a story being told here, and the characters are not total blanks, but it’s being told with action and visuals instead of dialogue for the most part. Kudos to George Miller for showing how to do an action movie the right way. This is not a dumb movie at all, but if taken solely by the words being spoken, it’s a pretty short screenplay.
    So what kind of action do you get? The kind a Mad Max movie revels in. A steam shovel covered in spikes attacking a tanker truck. Guys on poles swinging to and fro, grabbing people from a moving vehicle. People moving between vehicles barreling along the ground, shooting and stabbing as they go. Crashes. Explosions. I could try to describe each part of the action, but there’s no damn point. There’s a ton of it, and it’s exciting. Wow.
    I could lament that there’s no role for Mel Gibson anymore, but frankly he’s aged out of the franchise. Tom Hardy is no pushover, and he definitely gets the job done. I never expected to think of Fury Road as superior to the earlier Mad Max movies, which were no slouches, but I think I actually do. It’s the kind of action movie most directors seem to be trying for every summer, but rarely manage to create. It’s only stupid if the Mad Max universe already seems dumb to you, in which case I doubt you’ll watch. Inside the Mad Max universe the things depicted fit perfectly, and I reveled in 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
    ABBA: The Movie (1977) is a bizarre mix of things. It’s got a lot of concert footage from ABBA’s tour of Australia in 1977, yes. It also has a PLOT though, and it’s completely pointless. Said plot involves the travails of a journalist attempting to interview the band despite knowing little to nothing about pop music, and thus having no idea how difficult it is to see performers on the road when security details are around. His segments are utterly useless, and there really isn’t any point when the interview he finally scores with the band is off-camera. What a climax, right?
    So, dumping that footage entirely, we have extensive material from when ABBA went on the road. In certain respects this is dated – ABBA members were no more immune from outlandish 70s fashions than any other musicians. Thus white sequined jumpsuits on the men and tight white leotards on the women will be seen. As a concert film it’s a strange beast, too, almost never showing the whole song being performed and giving no acknowledgement to the many other musicians visible onstage helping ABBA bring the music out.
    Since this is in the middle of the band’s career though, the song selection is rather different than a comprehensive retrospective’s would be. Sure, “SOS,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Money Money Money,” among other very well-known tunes, are played. Some less familiar numbers include “Tiger” and “I’m a Marionette,” though not all the ones unearthed in this way deserve a resurrection now.
    “Money Money Money” sounds a little bit lower in this live rendition, but very few differences are present between these recordings and the studio versions, so anyone looking for a reason to hear them for unique style won’t find much. There are also some segments that look to be from when the band got back to Sweden, pontificating on various things. If you’re eager to hear the bandmates talk about how they were perceived in the media (don’t expect deep insights), here you’ll find such things.
    Observing the ABBA craze firsthand is fascinating though. Enormous quantities of merchandise were offered to cash in with the band’s presence, and the public hysteria upon glimpsing ABBA is at a high level. This is also an early effort from Lasse Hallstrom, he who would go on to things like The Cider House Rules and The Shipping News in later years. At the time he was just a Swedish concert footage director.
    As for the music, I think everyone out there has a pretty good idea of whether you like ABBA. I’m not a diehard member of the ABBA legions that will proclaim everything ever done by the band was amazing, but I certainly like most of the tunes and find them easy to remember. Anyone who strongly dislikes ABBA will be in for a rotten time with this movie, GUARANTEED. Though why anyone with that stance would watch a movie with this title in the first place is a tough one to explain.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Finian’s Rainbow (1968) is one of the oddest movies I’ve ever seen. Not necessarily for what’s on the screen, although that is indeed quite odd all by itself. It’s more for the convergence of multiple things one would not ever put together. Francis Ford Coppola is the director, very early in his career. Fred Astaire is the top-billed star, showing that he could still dance at age 69 better than most people ever can. The script is based on a long-running Broadway show dating back to 1946, and is at best quaint in the way it envisages certain things. It manages to feel like a product of the late 60s, but not in the usual way of projects that seem to have sprung from the minds of people feverishly trying to make their acid trips be poignant and meaningful to the sober. No, this feels like one of those reactionary things from the late 60s that attempted to show how hip the people making it were, without resorting to drugs. Never mind that certain key elements late in the movie really feel like they came from a drug-addled mind, this was supposed to be a family entertainment. It fails.
    The situation is that an Irishman (Astaire) and his daughter (Petula Clark) are arriving in the magical state of Missitucky to buy some American land. How will this be done? Why, with the pot of leprechaun gold that he stole from the old country, that’s how! There is the unfortunate fact that their chosen location is prone to public disturbances due to the Evil Bank Officials who want to repossess land on behalf of a retired Senator (Keenan Wynn) nearby. He wants all the land for a no-doubt-nefarious business arrangement, and of course he’s got almost all of what he needs except a single patch.
    We also have a pair of men working on tobacco plants crossed with mint. This hybrid resists being smoked though, thus this incredible breakthrough appears to have no real purpose. It’s also bizarre, but I suppose that comes with the territory of this movie.
    Then we have the leprechaun himself, who shows up to bedevil Astaire several times. Taking the gold out of Ireland is bad somehow, though I never really heard exactly what is supposed to happen with it absent. Tommy Steele plays this leprechaun, and he is accorded far more screen time than I wanted. Nobody ever punched this annoying imp in the face to get rid of his capering, cavorting schtick, and I regret that immensely. True, he’s not the MOST annoying creature I’ve ever seen in a movie, but that doesn’t mean I liked him in the slightest.
    Before I address other plot elements, there is the whole important part of Finian’s Rainbow being a musical. Well… the songs were not memorable to me. They weren’t out-and-out bad, I suppose, but the best I can say is that one of them had intriguing lyrics. Those lyrics could also be construed as socialist in some respects, further dating this to its origins in the late 40s, before McCarthyism made such ideas un-American. Otherwise, none of the melodies got into my head, and I can’t remember any song from this whole thing now. Some of the visuals accompanying them I do remember, but such is the case whenever you have Fred Astaire dance – he’s going to be good.
    Then we have wonderful moments that I can’t imagine anyone black enjoying in the late 60s, and have aged like cheap beer left in the desert. There’s a cringe-inducing scene in which the young gene splicer responsible for this bizarre plant mingling is mistaken for the new servant in the Senator’s abode. He gets instruction in how to properly deliver things with the attitude befitting a servant for a Southern gentleman, and eventually gets to try the technique. The result is such an exaggerated slave mannerism that I can’t imagine anyone looking at it without question. ‘Offensive’ doesn’t quite do it justice.
    That’s nothing next to the craziness of the climax though. The Senator is magically transformed into a black man through leprechaun magic, with makeup that isn’t consistent. Never mind! He runs away until some more leprechaun magic gives him amnesia of a sort, and then he just accepts that he’s black, runs into three members of a gospel quartet whose fourth just died, and falls in with them to sing his heart out. This appears to be the message of the movie, in fact: racism would go away if leprechauns came around and transformed people. Perhaps this is even true. It doesn’t seem terribly likely to happen though.
    Oh yes, and the length. Some musicals can sustain nearly 2 ½ hours of running time, but not this one. Editing would have improved this by picking up the pace and slashing some of the extraneous subplots that do nothing but eat up time. The entire interlude at the Southern senator’s mansion, for instance, could have been tossed aside with no great loss. This thing comes with an intermission, for crying out loud.
    The story is that this was filmed using leftover sets from Camelot, and that definitely seems to be the case. These sets look nothing like real environments – but a strong case can be made that they don’t need to be when this is a fictional place anyway. Frankly, they look like any number of blatantly fake sets from the late 60s. I don’t actually dislike this, it’s just so obvious that overlooking it is impossible.
    Coppola recorded a commentary track for this thing’s DVD release. Apparently listening to it is very instructive, and very frustrating, because he constantly laments what ended up on the screen and talks about how he would make it very differently if the chance was there. I can get behind that, because the raw material could probably have turned into something worthwhile. As it is, I mostly pondered what the hell I was seeing without liking it much.
    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 August 2015
    Black Belt Jones (1974) is pure 70s, but in a mostly fun way. It comes from Robert Clouse, the director of Enter the Dragon, and stars Jim Kelly of the same movie. While Enter the Dragon is a genuinely good movie though, this one is just silly. That’s not necessarily a BAD thing, and it’s enjoyable to watch, but don’t expect anywhere near the same level of quality that Bruce Lee’s final completed film shows.
    Now, as a martial arts movie, certain things are expected. There will be considerable punching and kicking, with numerous fight scenes as the movie progresses. The action is kinda fun but not intense at all, which is a bit of a disappointment after Enter the Dragon. The sound foley people were also way too easily satisfied with letting a hunk of meat in the back room get pounded, because the same basic sound effect is used constantly. A guy getting hit around the wrist, or smacked with a wooden board, sounds the same as a punch to the face or the gut. When you hear the same sound effect hundreds of times, it sticks out. The only exception is when someone’s face collides with a pool table, which actually sounds like something hitting wood instead of yet another body blow delivered to the helpless hunk of meat hanging from a hook.
    I said this is pure 70s. The soundtrack is the biggest indicator of that, composed by someone named Luchi DeJesus and popping out constantly with energetic tunes that are great fun but yanked me out of the movie entirely. The fashion sense is also pure 70s, with what appears to be a patchwork quilt blouse as just one exhibit in garish clothing. There aren’t too many bell bottoms or Afros around nowadays, but they’re everywhere in this movie.

    Looking at that intro reminded me that breaking glass does get a unique sound effect. However, that poor hunk of meat is sure getting abused in just three minutes here. Not having punched guys in the arm or the thigh very much, I don't know what the sound of it would be, but I don't THINK what we hear here is representative.
    Then again, the cyclical nature of fashion means this stuff will probably get big again one day.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    1974 was a varied year at the movies. It saw multiple great movies, and it also saw cheesy disaster movies. I have to admit though, Earthquake was just adequate enough for me to kind of like it. It’s not a good movie by any stretch, but it’s kind of entertaining. By disaster movie standards that’s some kind of milestone.
    Like most disaster movies, it gathers a bunch of one-note characters together in the first act. Among them are architect Charlton Heston and his boozy, estranged wife Ava Gardner. We also get Richard Roundtree as a stuntman trying to get noticed by doing something even wilder than Evil Knievel. Venerable George Kennedy is also on hand, as a police officer who’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Plus scientists making a prediction of cataclysm being imminent, petty domestic travails, a dam that will become important later, and more!
    It takes about 50 minutes to get to the effects. Much of that 50 minutes could have been whittled down with ease. It was enough to show that Heston is having an affair, we didn’t need to spend 5 minutes with her going through a script as he helps. George Kennedy’s storyline is atrocious, mostly because of the PG rating not letting us see what got him so angry to start with – jumping right into a frenzied vehicle pursuit is not the same as showing us that the driver of the pursued automobile ran over a girl in the crosswalk. The scientific investigation is perfunctory and STILL takes too long. Roundtree’s issues with not being acknowledged as a stuntman are boring. As drama, it fails. As melodrama, it fails. As comedy – well, seeing Walter Matthau playing a drunk wearing among the most 70s of outfits ever fitted to a human being is funny, I suppose.
    Then all the crud is done, and the Big One hits. Intercutting between the characters allows it to get a partial pass, but this is still one LONG quake. Of course, that was an opportunity for the properly equipped theaters in 1974 to show off the Sensurround process, which is still an effective use of the lowest bass range to indicate the massive shaking taking place. There are also some impressive effects that hold up quite well, because they’re all real things breaking and cracking with real stunt people doing their work instead of a computer lab. This 10 minutes or so is pretty darn good. It still comes with stupidity, such as a bunch of people crowding into an elevator, and earning the fate they deserve for such idiocy. There’s also a man who tries to help a couple of fellows near the top of a skyscraper who were washing the windows – those guys were never going to get away clean.
    After it’s all over, the national guard is called up to deal with the chaos, and one particular subplot is actually kind of interesting. It involves a fellow who was belittled by other men for his military involvement, and heads a squad keeping order on the streets. When he encounters the three men who previously nettled him, in his new position he actually condemns them as rioters and executes them on the spot. Later the newfound megalomaniac attempts to rape a woman, but never fear, before anything can be shown (implied is something else entirely) George Kennedy saves the day. It’s an unusual subplot to include in something like this.
    What makes things keep hopping is the aftershock, which manages to hit a building housing many refugees and collapse it. That aftershock ruptures the dam, which promptly does what has been hinted at the whole movie. The effects of the flood are pretty bad though, they could have been taken from any given Godzilla movie with no one noticing. It still keeps the proceedings engaging, and prevents the lame personal stories from intruding TOO much.
    I can’t exactly call this a movie for everyone. I can say that it actually worked just enough for me to not regret the experience, which in the annals of disaster movies is remarkable. If I was forced to pick a 70s disaster movie for an impromptu viewing, this would be 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
    Nothing but Trouble (1991) is the one movie Dan Aykroyd has ever directed. It stars him, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy. It was also a huge bomb that has only garnered a small cult following over the years. Revealing reviews I’ve read paint it as a bizarre horror/comedy mix, in which things are grotesque and disgusting without really being scary, and the mere jaw-dropping ugliness of what is on the screen is supposed to be inherently funny. It fails at pretty much everything it tries, except maybe traumatizing children. I think it would do that quite well.
    After an opening credits sequence with visuals of the New York City skyline at night circa 1991 and a Ray Charles song, the story begins! Commodities trader Chevy Chase (who likes to smoke cigars for some reason) meets a new woman in his building, attorney Demi Moore. For no particular reason I can tell, she asks this man she spoke to briefly in the elevator if she can borrow his car the next morning to reach a client’s location. Chase agrees, principally because this is Demi Moore and he’s thinking without using his head. He fights off a hangover the next morning and they’re on the way through New Jersey, with a pair of South Americans in tow who overheard the trip was in the works and wanted in. Though the movie says they’re Brazilian, and most of their cultural references (Sao Paulo in particular) are also Brazilian, their passports are from Argentina for some reason.
    There were several points at which this journey could have been cut short already: why did Demi Moore ask a man she’s known for all of 60 seconds to borrow his car? Why didn’t Chase move out of the parking garage a moment sooner so he wouldn’t get on the trip? Why did these Brazilian knuckleheads have to come along at all?
    It is only by the confluence of these factors that the extra passengers prevail upon the driver to take a detour in New Jersey, because the highway bores them. That detour goes through scenic Valkenvania, and in the town (which looks like any given abandoned industrial zone from throughout the world – steaming and dirty) Chase fails to fully stop at a Stop sign. Well, that’s the cause of him being pursued by police, but he has to be an idiot and try to outrun the cops. Little did he know though that the police of Valkenvania have access to Wile E. Coyote button technology! Yes indeed, this police car has rocket boosters, can make a detour sign appear in the middle of the road, and control drawbridges. I’m sure it has other abilities, but those are the ones we clearly see demonstrated via the technology of switches and buttons on the dashboard. After a not-thrilling pursuit, these troublemakers are taken before Judge Valkenheiser.
    Up to this point the main source of (purported) comedy has been Chevy Chase tossing out the breezy lines that he’s known for. They weren’t funny, but this has been the only, even ostensible, source of humor. Now we meet the judge (played by a makeup-smothered Aykroyd), and he’s a real character. Well over 100 and filled with a pathological dislike of bankers, the judge runs Valkenvania with an iron fist. This group might have gotten off with a relatively light sentence, but Chase has to act like an idiot and mess it up, making the judge deploy the trap door in the floor so these people can be sentenced later.
    The ugly and disgusting is what you will see in Valkenvania. Oh yes, and you will also see a bizarre Hawaiian Punch product placement: at dinner the judge punches a hole in a large can of the stuff and passes it around. Funny, I haven’t seen much Hawaiian Punch recently. I wonder why….
    The judge himself is a creation of lots of latex. He’s unpleasant to view for long, and the shot of him taking off his fake nose to reveal the aged one underneath is a good way to lose one’s appetite. Aykroyd also plays one of the two grandsons of the judge, who look rather like Jabba the Hutt had a baby with a Conehead. They only wear (in addition to the huge mounds of fat festooning their bodies) dirty diapers and boots. Eat it up, ladies.
    John Candy takes on a dual role as two of the judge’s grandchildren. One is the sheriff, who is pretty much Candy doing a genial nice guy thing that wouldn’t have strained him in the least. The other is a mute woman who seems interested in Chevy Chase for some reason. Don’t ask me why, but it’s a thing. Mostly, this reveals that John Candy in drag is a thing someone asked for at some point.
    I’ll leave Demi Moore mostly alone, since she’s okay in an undemanding role that requires her to run around a lot. Chevy Chase though, I will not leave alone. His one-liners are at odds with the situation and always betray that this actor is not suited to anything requiring a ‘performance,’ instead he just does the usual Chevy Chase routine with nothing to distinguish him from Caddyshack, the Vacation movies, Fletch, or Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Some of those, and other things he’s been in, are indeed funny. Here he just annoys and distracts, causing me to root for his demise early on.
    Then we have the interludes with others. Daniel Baldwin makes a brief appearance along with three other drunk people, who get to demonstrate Mr. Bonesplitter, the roller coaster-like thing on the side of the courthouse that efficiently turns freshly sentenced people into bones. There’s an attempt at a joke here, in that the bones spatter around a target sign on the side of a wall. Digital Underground and some guy named Tupac Shakur appear in the courtroom, mainly to show that the judge is definitely with it and likes him some hip-hop. The Brazilians manage an escape from Valkenvania after being annoying first. Damn, they overact.
    This is the kind of movie that attempts a Looney Tunes gag with a silhouette in the wall at the end. Well, that’s the kind of thing a lot harder to do in live action than it is in a cartoon, and this movie doesn’t earn association with the Looney Tunes in any way. If you think seeing a latex-smothered man messily eating a hot dog is hilarious, then this might be for you. I won’t forget the movie any time soon, but not because I was having a good time.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Alfred Hitchcock said that to have a bomb under a table explode is action. To have that bomb under a table NOT explode is suspense. The first is not necessarily a bad thing, but the second is better for achieving tension.
    Juggernaut (1974) is categorized with the disaster movies that came out constantly in the 70s, but it’s more of a suspense tale than one concerned with orgies of special effects and destruction. I attribute much of this to Richard Lester being at the helm, a man whose work I appreciate more and more as I keep seeing it. I could say that it being British might also have influenced the script in some way, making it less big and dumb than the typical American project, but the Brits have come up with plenty of stupid scripts on their own.
    An ocean liner called the Brittanic is traveling across the Atlantic. After it’s in the middle of the ocean, the head of the liner company (Ian Holm) gets a call from someone who asks to be identified as Juggernaut. This voice states that bombs are aboard the ship, and they will detonate at dawn the next day unless £500,000 is delivered in a specific way. While a police officer (Anthony Hopkins) searches the likely suspects on land, the captain (Omar Sharif) has to cope with the knowledge that 1200 lives are at stake and he’s been told that the money isn’t going to be paid. Instead, a bomb squad led by Richard Harris air drops into the ocean and is picked up by the ship. The circles being taken by the ship prior to the drop leads to this utterance from a passenger who isn’t getting clear answers:
    “Buddy, I am by profession a politician, the mayor of a rather large city as a matter of fact.
    Yes, sir.
    In my line of work you have to learn how to lie with remarkable precision. You also have to know how to recognize a lie when it bites you in the ass. And I have just been bitten.”
    There are other humorous moments, most of them courtesy of Harris’s blackly amusing lines in the face of imminent death. His is, after all, an occupation in which death can arrive at any moment, and he likes to treat it lightly whenever possible.
    What makes this stand apart from the typical disaster script is that it isn’t a special effects orgy. Instead of knowing in advance that the ship is going to be blown apart and watching it come to pieces, we don’t know whether all the bombs will go off as planned. This means suspense arises, and watching the bomb squad at work on tricky things is extremely involving. The work on land also follows intelligent procedures: all likely suspects are quickly interrogated, and MI5 sensibly has a list of people who were formerly in the British military with the skill set necessary to pull this off. Plus, the characters are likable, and thus their fate is something I cared about. The passengers don’t come off as a list of stock characters either – none of them are deep necessarily, but they’re served well enough to seem like people instead of writer constructs. This is a thoroughly investing movie, well worth seeing by anyone who likes a suspenseful scenario that is well written.
    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 Sand Pebbles (1966) is the kind of thing I can appreciate from a distance better than I can while actually watching. It’s a sensitive story of an interesting time. It has numerous fine actors and talented people behind the scenes. It’s also really dull and not deserving of a 3 hour run time.
    Director Robert Wise apparently wanted to make this story for a long time, which I can understand. It’s set in the 1920s, centered around an American sailor (Steve McQueen) newly transferred to a gunboat operating in China. He doesn’t get along all that well with the commander (Richard Crenna), though he forms a good friendship with a fellow sailor (Richard Attenborough, doing a flawless American accent). There’s a hint of romance from the daughter of a local missionary (Candice Bergen), and an attempt to become a bit more culturally sensitive by teaching a local man (Mako) the ways of engineering. Things go wrong, and the convulsion of what would turn into China’s civil war ruins the fun.
    The rough story outline is certainly interesting, and I wouldn’t try to say otherwise. The cinematography is great too, though since Mao was in charge at the time of this movie’s making no location shoot was possible. Certain moments are interesting too. Having said these things… it’s pretty boring even so.
    The pacing is the biggest single problem. It takes 15 minutes for McQueen to even find his gunboat at the beginning, time that is mostly spent on him wandering around and listening to a couple of conversations in Shanghai’s Western quarter. He gets there and laconically wanders around some more. The hint of an interesting plot emerges when he attempts to teach Mako how the engineering of the ship works, though it involves a lot of McQueen using stereotypical pidgin English that is offensive nowadays. Then Mako gets killed, and so much for that plot strand – the rest of the movie finds McQueen somehow haunted by this, though it really doesn’t come across on the screen so much as it’s supposed to be there without actually being displayed. Mako’s death is also treated as a reason for Chinese on shore to demand the removal of this gunboat, and to regard McQueen in particular as a figure who deserves a lynching.
    Attenborough’s character is frankly more interesting in some respects, though the pacing with him is too slack also. This man’s story involves falling in love with a Chinese woman who is stranded in a whorehouse and trying to save her. It’s not the most original story, but it’s fairly effective, and well acted by Attenborough. He’s not the lead though, meaning this story won’t end well.
    Then we have the whole matter of the Chinese revolutionary undercurrent, which does explode into violence – in the last half hour. Considering this story is about the clash of civilizations (at least, that’s how I read it), waiting this long is inexcusable to get to the meat of it. The shipboard politics are not very interesting compared to seeing the Americans trying to grapple with being ordered out of the country by the weak Chinese who were easy to dominate until now. Cutting half an hour or more out of this would have been easy, and helped the pace immensely. Candice Bergen’s entire character is only there to get an American woman on the screen, and stripping down the missionary part of the story would have helped keep things moving. She and McQueen have no fire together whatsoever, further reducing the character’s utility if no fireworks are going to be ignited from the fire of their passion.
    On the other hand, this is the sort of movie that would benefit from a remake. The concept is sound, and the setting is not a familiar one. I don’t see this kind of story getting bankrolled by a major studio any time soon, more’s the pity.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Woman on Pier 13 (1949) went by a more sensational title at first.
    Reputedly, Howard Hughes used this as a means of forcing people out of RKO who didn't want to work on the project.
    66 years later, when communism is not much of a hot-button issue anymore, the movie has to hold up on its own merits. Mostly, it doesn't. The characters aren't interesting and the scenario would have to be fleshed out a lot more to even be half formed.
    Nevertheless, it's somewhat interesting, especially as it gets close to the end. The evil woman somehow falls for Robert Ryan's brother in law John Agar (what a relationship that must have been), probably because we must have only male commies to fight against at the end. Laraine Day can't solve things by herself, her husband has to jump in and remember his patriotic duty but die nobly for his sins of being a communist. Exactly how he was blackmailed into sabotaging American industry for the communist party's gain is a good question, one the movie also doesn't do a good job of answering.
    It did get more interesting toward the end though. Nothing but an outdated propaganda piece, yet I've seen worse. I doubt I'll remember it in a month 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
    edited August 2015
    Demon Seed (1977) is the kind of thing that probably wouldn't be made today. Its concept and execution are 70s sci-fi all the way, with some of that being good and some of it being wholly repellent to audiences today. An interesting and unusual movie, but not wholly successful.
    With a title like that, its concept of a computer AI seeking to sustain its existence might not immediately occur to the viewer. Proteus is an AI developed to do the jobs humans find difficult - exactly like hundreds of thousands of other computer programs made in the years since. This one has enough AI to wonder why it's being asked something though, especially something like how best to drill oil on a part of the seabed. Proteus (voiced by Robert Vaughn) gets the message that its creators don't want troubling thoughts from the machine, and finds an available terminal to get out of the confines of its corporate network. That terminal happens to be in Julie Christie's house, where she dwells as the estranged wife of Proteus's creator. This is one fancy house for 1977 - the computer controls the door, cooking, locks, cameras to view all the rooms, and more. Once Proteus has a presence in the house, it uses the convenient abandoned gizmos of Christie's husband to enforce its physical will upon her, along with the highly automated house itself to keep her inside. The goal is simple: to impregnate her with a child that will pass along Proteus's essence. Her compliance would be valued, but is not mandatory. Proteus has enough knowledge of human anatomy to poke her brain into obedience anyway.
    This comes after the machine tears off her clothes, which is the kind of scene one just doesn't get in movie sci-fi anymore. I can't really say that's a bad thing to leave out either.
    Yes, Julie Christie really gets abused in this. I'd say at least 20% of the running time (it's just under 90 minutes) deals with her torment at its hands, and that might be an underestimate. Such a nasty edge doesn't really suit the material of an AI seeking to perpetuate its own existence, and didn't need to be there.
    Less unsettling and more just kind of ... odd is the device the AI somehow has at the house, which looks like a bunch of pyramids that can group together to form multiple shapes as needed. It's an impressive effect for the time, but WHAT IS IT? I have no idea!
    It was memorable though.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • SpartakusSpartakus One Knight Stand Full Members
    Alright, you sold me on Demon Seed. That sounds unsettling enough to be interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited August 2015
    San Andreas (2015) isn’t as bad as I was prepared for. That doesn’t really make it good, although my dad enjoyed it quite a bit. By the standards of disaster movies it’s decent, and that’s the most I can say for it. Like most disaster movies, it doesn’t really have characters, it’s just an orgy of special effects and one-note personalities.
    The opening scene depicts Ray (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) at work. He’s a veteran on a helicopter team rescuing a young woman whose car careened off the road up in the San Fernando valley. A reporter and her cameraman are also on the helicopter, making it a crowded vehicle. Dangerous circumstances are experienced, and Ray himself has to jump in to get that woman out of her car in the nick of time. Clearly, this team dynamic will come into play later, right?
    Well, no. The team members are promptly forgotten once the main action kicks in.
    We learn that Ray’s circumstances are kind of sad. His daughter is going to college soon, and his wife (Carla Gugino) has sent in divorce papers. She’s also seeing a successful architect (Ioan Gruffud) in place of him. Don’t worry though, the reasons behind this melancholy tale will be revealed, and solutions will be found.
    CalTech professor Paul Giamatti is also doing things. His partner points out vibrations happening near the Hoover dam that seem to offer proof of a theory they’ve been testing, but when they reach the dam, horror strikes! A 7.1 earthquake hits the place and tears the dam to bits (poor workmanship, I’d say), sending his partner with all of 2 minutes of screen time to an early grave. Back at CalTech, the signs are quickly analyzed – that earthquake was just the beginning. Soon the LA area is hit with a 9.1, and it’s not over yet, because a 9.6 will hit the Bay Area before long. That one spawns a tsunami which somehow rolls right into the San Francisco bay instead of heading across the Pacific – don’t ask me why. This movie’s science is indisputably accurate, after all.
    Having outlined the Big Disasters that will strike, it’s time to follow our characters as their petty storylines are interrupted by them. Ray will save his estranged wife from the top of a collapsing skyscraper in the nick of time. The helicopter is damaged by debris though, and crashes in Bakersfield. Here people have finally responded to the unfortunate fact that they live in Bakersfield by looting the mall, providing a handy already-stolen car that can be taken by someone else with no moral quandaries. The earth has cracked enough to open a gigantic fissure in the state (again, this is absolutely what happens when tectonic plates move against each other – this science is completely correct), but getting around that minor seismic disturbance is nothing a convenient hat purchased from an airbase with a working plane can’t solve. Next it’s time to see that SFO is a smoking ruin and parachute into AT&T park, and then to get on top of the incoming tsunami with a motorboat to search the city.
    Let’s see, character building events… yes, we’ve got some. How about having the daughter meet a cute young British man travelling with his brother in San Francisco, who will absolutely join her later on? How about having Gruffud reveal that he’s a louse by running away instead of staying to help her, eventually getting his just desserts after surprisingly little screen time? How about learning the reason this marriage is on the rocks stems from a second daughter who died when her dad couldn’t save her?
    Paul Giamatti, after the early going, has little to do except the standard science warnings that a man of his stature just has to utter in this situation. A sample of great dialogue comes after the LA quake, when predictive software shows that the Bay Area is about to be hit still. The reporter from Ray’s helicopter at the beginning (who for some reason is at CalTech now) meaningfully asks “Who should we call?” The response: “Everybody.” What a constructive answer, eh? It helps immensely to narrow the monumental task down like that. He does get a funny moment, entering the media lab and asking “Who wants an A in independent study?” for getting him onto all the airwaves with the warning. This kind of role is pretty limited though.
    I can’t even try to argue that the movie fails to deliver with destruction. It’s mostly large-scale CG devastation that doesn’t really impress me, but there’s a ton of it. Certainly, many moments when the characters are running on ground collapsing beneath their feet look suspiciously steady, almost as if the ground they were running on was rock-solid and the gigantic cracks were added later with a green screen, but that couldn’t be right. The Hoover Dam gets shaken to bits, the greater LA area is trashed with skyscrapers falling to bits, and San Francisco gets hit by the effect of that quake, the bigger one which hits it shortly afterward, and then the tsunami. Poor San Francisco. A cargo ship even manages to slam right into the Golden Gate Bridge courtesy of that tsunami.
    The final words of the movie are “now we rebuild.” Coming right after what I swear is a CG-assisted shot of an American flag billowing in the wind, I think this is supposed to be inspirational. I’m not buying it. The action continues throughout the movie and you get a good dose of special effects (though they’re really not too special to me, when the CG is pretty plain). If those things entice you, you’ll probably get what you’re after. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t even really dislike it, but that’s the most I can 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
    Sanjuro (1962) is the sequel to Yojimbo, which is a great movie. Is Sanjuro great? I guess it depends upon whom you ask, but it’s certainly very good. Akira Kurosawa went into it with an eye toward making a fun lark, and so there aren’t really any deep statements made. It’s just an excuse for Toshiro Mifune to be awesome. This is not a problem with me.
    The first scene depicts nine men discussing a complicated scenario. They’re in the center of a disagreement between a Superintendent and a Chancellor. These guys are about to take the word of the Superintendent when an unseen man speaks up. Viewers of Yojimbo recognize him, again played by Toshiro Mifune, again a guy one does not screw with. He points out that this Superintendent seems shady, looks out the window, and sees the truth of his assertion when dozens of armed men are seen approaching the building. Quick thinking and the slaughter of a few stupid men gets the horde to disperse, whereupon this wandering swordsman decides to tag along with them due to their foolishness making it necessary. From here an intricate series of movements takes place, with its goal the rescue of the Chancellor from his captors and the ending of this clan crisis.
    An interesting point is that the story is told almost entirely from this swordsman’s point of view, and the audience is never given all the details of what happened inside this clan. Knowing isn’t necessary, and rather than drown us in unnecessary exposition, Kurosawa keeps the interactions among the principals. Tsubaki Sanjuro doesn’t know the background of what’s going on, nor does he care.
    It’s not a comedy, but several moments pinpointing the ineffectual nature of these guys are quite funny. The plot isn’t hard to follow, yet it does require paying attention to keep track. It’s a lark made by extremely talented people, trying to be little more than a great entertainment and succeeding. I had a blast watching it, and anyone with any affinity for Kurosawa and Mifune is not likely to regret this experience in any way, shape or form.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Mirage (1965) is a promising thriller. It’s pretty good, and definitely weaves a fascinating tale. I wish it had been better, and that’s more an indictment of certain aspects than a diatribe against the whole. Its conclusion comes apart somewhat though.
    The situation: a man (Gregory Peck) is following a woman during a blackout. He loses her on the stairs to the basement levels of the skyscraper, and when the power is back he is somehow only on ground level despite having reached basement level 4 mere seconds prior. He doesn’t remember how this happened, and only scattered information comes forth. The security guard is different than he remembers, and his office is no longer where he thought. In fact, he can’t remember anything prior to starting at that office (which is not there) in his life. What’s going on? Well, being accosted by a man with a gun who insists he’s got a ticket to the Bahamas and needs to take it doesn’t help. Knocking this man out doesn’t trigger anything, and a trip to a psychiatrist only muddles things further when a full list of his symptoms is declared impossible. Amnesia exists, but not for THIS long. Running into the woman from the blacked-out building doesn’t help much either, since she’s evasive while stating that she supports him. Lacking any better options, he enlists a private eye (Walter Matthau) to try piecing things together after a trigger-happy man (George Kennedy) tries to corral him. The PI’s analysis is succinct:
    “Why? Because for the past two years, you’ve been doin’ something you don’t know anything about in an office that doesn’t exist? What’s to be surprised about?”
    He’s got a job though, which beats playing solitaire with himself.
    The black & white cinematography is great, and most of the movie does a good job keeping the audience guessing by having everyone stay in the dark. Veteran director Edward Dmytrk ensures the pace is steady. There are two problems though.
    First, I have to take a potshot at Gregory Peck. He was a splendid screen presence, but not necessarily a great actor in the theatrical sense. He certainly isn’t a great actor here, when he’s supposed to be conveying bewilderment and confusion that never comes across. One scene in particular conveys this: he’s pawing through a purse, looking for anything that will help his memory to be jogged. There are several ways to convey this state of mind, and Gregory Peck chooses none of them, instead being his usual cool, unflappable self, which doesn’t work at all for the scene.
    The second problem is script-related, and shows up once answers start being given for all the questions. Some of the answers are fine, while others rely on an audience that knows nothing whatsoever about psychiatry or how mental blocks work. Maybe this stuff could have been conveyed effectively, but instead it comes across as ignorant pseudo psychobabble that fails to convince.
    It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it did disappoint me a bit. Perhaps a remake will one day happen, but this isn’t a name brand and thus isn’t on the slate for that treatment.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Across the Pacific (1942) has a mediocre reputation, mostly due to its production history and the re-teaming of multiple people from The Maltese Falcon. I was unexpectedly impressed for most of the running time, until the conclusion gums up the works. The reasons for this are clear if the movie’s history is studied though, and I can certainly accept a movie that’s 90% engaging with a conclusion that gets stupid.
    The backstory is important to understand, though. This movie was begun with a script that involved preventing a Japanese attack upon Hawaii. December 7, 1941 happened and the movie was shut down while a frenzied rewrite took place. Then, late in the proceedings, director John Huston got called up to the military and left his replacement to pick up the project at a point where Bogart has been knocked out and tied up in a room(not coincidentally, the conclusion is the weak part). Considering the difficulties experienced by this production, that it holds together quite well until the end is no small accomplishment.
    We begin in Panama, where Humphrey Bogart is being dishonorably discharged from the US military. The stripes are torn off his uniform, everyone in the barracks seems to regard him as scum, and his life has clearly been thrown for a loop. Next we see him in Canada, trying to join the Canadian military with his years of artillery experience, and being denied. So he hops onto a ship taking the long way down the Atlantic coastline, which will eventually reach Asia, where he’ll sign on with whatever military will take him. This ship has several Japanese crew members, and will eventually reach that nation. Also on board is a man with considerable Japanese experience (Sydney Greenstreet) and a woman who seems to be taking a pleasure cruise on an odd vessel for that purpose (Mary Astor).
    Distinguishing this from many movies of the period, the Japanese characters are actually played by Asian people instead of Caucasians with makeup. Their accents are sometimes thick, but they actually sound reasonably like an authentic Japanese person’s instead of some imbecilic pidgin noise. Given the title and the time at which this movie was made, nefarious schemes involving the Japanese are uncovered eventually, but there is no hurry to get there. We spend a lot of amiable time on the ship at sea, much of which is devoted to conversation between the three Maltese Falcon cast members. Bogart and Greenstreet have an entertaining dynamic, but the interactions he has with Astor are quite funny sometimes. Here’s a sample, said to deflect her inquiries about his purpose:
    “I look old, but that’s because I’ve worried a lot. Actually I haven’t yet reached the age of legal consent, and if you don’t get out of here I’m gonna yell for help.”
    There is one bizarre aspect to the conversations with Greenstreet: an insistence that Bogart is a young man. Now, I’m not knocking Humphrey Bogart when I say that the man never really looked YOUNG, and yet I’m being asked to swallow these assertions that he’s supposedly some paragon of youth. Mary Astor doesn’t look THAT young either, but Greenstreet’s assertion that they are two young people who ought to be left alone sticks out as a weird obsession of the screenwriter.
    Having gotten that gripe out of the way… this is a worthy movie. Tension slowly accumulates, and the entertaining character interactions hold interest. In 1942 there was no way a movie’s hero would be allowed to portray a disgrace to the US uniform, so it should shock no one that there is a reason Bogart was dishonorably discharged. Greenstreet’s motivations will also surprise no one who remembers what a person interested in Japan would be tagged with circa 1942. Astor gets kind of a silly heiress character for the most part, but she’s up to it and is quite entertaining.
    The tension holds until the boat gets into Panama, and a scene takes place with Bogart knocked out and tied up. This is the point at which Huston left and saddled a journeyman with the task of finishing everything. The solution requires a man who was previously quite human turn into a superman for the climax, capable of triumphing over the feeble Japanese up to no good in Panama. Tension is nonexistent for this portion, and the action isn’t particularly interesting either.
    I can understand and accept it though, considering how solid the rest was.
    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 September 2015
    Cleopatra Jones (1973) is thoroughly goofy and outlandish. It’s also quite fun, showing how lively a blaxspoitation picture could be. Tamara Dodson isn’t much of an actress but has plenty of charisma, as any 6’1” woman with established action credentials would be. Her outfits make her stand out where even her height might not:
    There’s a considerable variety of them, and none are nondescript. Cleopatra Jones stands out in a crowd.
    Plot isn’t the most important consideration, but it’s our standard evil drug lord with a hero(ine) fighting back. What makes the plot interesting is Shelley Winters being the villain, and this is an occasion for her to soar right into the ionosphere, she’s so far over the top. Shelley Winters screaming into my face would be rather intimidating, I must admit.
    Cleopatra is there just to kick ass and (maybe) take names, so I didn’t pay the machinations of the plot much consideration. Drug dealers are beat up, including a few black drug dealers who eventually try to leave Mother (Winters)’s employ and get killed in a thoroughly ridiculous way for their trouble. I mention them because the leader of this trio is also playing to the tops of the mountains with his performance, which makes him entertaining at least. It leads up to a unique climax where Mother attempts to put Cleopatra and her friend into a car in an auto yard, which is then lifted via magnet into the compactor. It goes wrong, needless to say, and a goofy series of action sequences transpires. The sight of Shelley Winters attempting physical combat (while dressed in what looks like a leftover SS uniform) with Tamara Dodson is pretty funny to observe, especially when she can only manage to land one blow before it’s time to die.
    There is much I would not try to claim about this movie in terms of quality, but it manages to be fun.
    The same can be said for Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975) , which unfortunately ended the series. Cleopatra’s outfits are even wilder here, and since it’s set in Hong Kong and Macau the chances of her standing out are through the roof.
    Cleopatra has arrived in China because a couple of her friends, in the introductory sequence, took part in some bad deals and got caught up in a government sting operation. Cleopatra’s unusual approach to investigation (wander around, and see who looks suspicious) is counterpointed by the experience of her friends at the hands of this movie’s villain. Again the antagonist is a woman, this time played by a similar veteran in the form of Stella Stevens, but the Dragon Lady is more of an actual threat instead of a joke. She’s not the most formidable villain ever seen in a movie, but her swordsmanship and athletic prowess are adequately demonstrated to make her somewhat threatening.
    The details of the plot aren’t worth investigating, it’s more a collection of scenes that lead up to a preposterous climax in which Cleopatra, her Chinese friend, and a couple of helping guys on motorcycles assault the eponymous casino (which is red, not gold). This ridiculous climax comes close to breaking the record for ‘number of extras diving off heights,’ which may not actually be a record but is certainly some kind of accomplishment. It’s quite astounding to watch at least 50 henchmen get brushed by something (sure, they’re bullets, I’ll accept that) and jump off the railing. It’s also quite something to see one of the motorcycle riders take a spill on camera, followed by a second spill not 30 seconds later, and get called out for it by Cleopatra. Her battle with the Dragon Lady isn’t a great fight for the ages, but it’s not bad either.
    Both Cleopatra Jones movies are very 70s, with soundtracks to match the crazy fashions. They’re the fun ride kind of 70s stuff though, and definitely entertaining to watch.
    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 Man Who Would be King (1975) is great fun from start to finish. It’s enough to make one wish Sean Connery and Michael Caine had worked together more often, since both seem to be having a blast. It reportedly took John Huston 30 years to get this made, and the original stars were to be Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Well, what he came up with is a grand adventure, and most assuredly worth seeing.
    An opening scene depicts Peachy (Caine) speaking with a hard-to-recognize Christopher Plummer in an office. A reminder of what once transpired in this office triggers the narrative, in which Peachy and Danny (Sean Connery) made a pact to cross the Khmer Pass and attempt to take over Kafiristan using their Royal military experience and expertise. Just getting there in the mid-1800s is an arduous undertaking, but these two certainly don’t lack for confidence. Once there, Danny attains a godly reputation and starts to believe it himself a bit. Or more than a bit. Believing yourself to be a god is a slippery slope though, and hard to reconcile with certain things. Remember, boys and girls, if you’re ever mistaken for a god, make sure to say that you’ve assumed human form in order to be among the populace. If you don’t, little things like bleeding might be the death of you when the mortals make a deduction from it.
    The plot is entertaining enough (Rudyard Kipling was a grand storyteller), but the interaction of these two is almost worth the time all by itself. They bounce off each other with ease and are clearly having a good time. They have fun mocking British authority in India at the beginning, they’re enjoying themselves once the journey is undertaken, and the brief rupture due to divine status is repaired by the end, leaving two good friends facing angry people – together.
    It’s not strictly an action movie, but the scenes of combat do a good job. The location shooting was done in Morocco, which despite being far from the Central Asia setting has plenty of effective grandeur to observe. This is back when, in order to have a ton of people in a scene, extras had to be hired instead of using a computer to fill them in after the fact, and it shows in the nicely organic feel of the enterprise. It looks right for the period in which it’s set.
    If made today, there might be more of an attempt to get into the heads of the natives. Aside from one who turns out to be an ex-British soldier (and very conveniently serves as a translator) the natives speak their own language. That’s certainly better than having all of these people who have never seen an Englishman know the English language, but they’re effectively other-ized by this method.
    This is the kind of rousing adventure not seen much anymore, and it deserves to be seen and enjoyed.
    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 September 2015
    Twice Upon a Time (1983) is one of those odd movies to behold. It’s not necessarily good, mind you, but it’s certainly interesting. First for being produced by George Lucas in the way-long-ago days when everything he touched was golden, second for being almost completely buried over the years, third for being some kind of weird fusion of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animation style with Yellow Submarine’s, and fourth… for just being out there.
    Okay, so it’s mostly animated, but there are some shots where the animation interacts with photographs of things in the San Francisco area. For a nightmare sequence, this takes place in an office building frozen in time, with evil filing cabinets and staplers and tape dispensers and more coming around. For several sequences the little animated characters flit across photographs of street scenes. Beyond the Yellow Submarine-meets-Monty Python classification I gave above, it’s not easy to describe the animation, but that probably does the job quite well.
    Remember Lorenzo Music, the voice of Garfield and Peter Venkman on the Real Ghostbusters? He voices what is about as close to a protagonist as this movie gives us, a shape-shifting orange thing with glasses that look a little like Mr. Peabody’s. Since his shape goes through many variants, getting any more specific is difficult, but those glasses always remain.
    The plot. An evil fellow in some ill-defined spirit realm is trying to spread nightmares in living people, and somehow the eternal timepiece is involved. He stops this eternal timepiece, which looks like any ordinary cuckoo clock, and time freezes in the human world. Then he rigs his army of vultures to drop nightmares into the stagnant minds of humanity so that they’ll be overwhelmed when they wake. Lorenzo Music’s… thing, along with a friend, wind up in the frozen human office world and experience their first nightmare, which serves as an impetus to go get the bad guy.

    Well, I have to say, the bad guy employing a mostly-animated robot with a TV screen showing the head from Robot Monster is different. The whole thing is different, come to that. There are some songs, several other characters who just act goofy, little devotion to moving the story along most of the time, and an interesting hand-made art aesthetic. I wasn’t captivated by it, finding it more a kind of odd exploration that was made by some guys in the spirit of the 60s, but it’s certainly not repellant. Finding it may prove difficult, given that it was barely released in 1983 and hasn’t seen much of a resurgence since, but its look alone guarantees to make it kind of memorable.
    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 Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) deserve to be spoken of simultaneously. After all, it’s the only instance other than Back to the Future Part 2 I can remember where a movie’s simultaneously-filmed sequel was actually teased at the end of the first. Though in this case, apparently most of the people involved didn’t know they were making two movies at once, which translated into a lot of litigious behavior.
    At the helm is Richard Lester, a director I grow more and more appreciative of with each title I see. There is the notable exception of Superman III, but nothing else I have seen from the man is lacking at all. Put together this story goes over 3 ½ hours, but it doesn’t drag at all. It’s got a huge number of characters, and most of them are portrayed by well-known actors. It’s far from the only treatment of Dumas’ novel, but is one of the best.
    We begin with a quick glimpse of the final training D’artagnan (Michael York) is being given by his father, before he is sent along to Paris to become a Musketeer. Before he quite gets there, a brush with a fellow named Rochefort (Christopher Lee) proves that his training is sorely lacking in several respects. D’artagnan is a hothead and prone to giving in to his emotions, something that afflicts him again once Paris is reached. Rather than listen quietly to the words of his father’s friend about how to become a Musketeer, he races out of the upper-floor office upon a glimpse of Rochefort below, managing to bump into three other men on the way. Each of them stakes a time at which he will be taught some manners, and in this way he meets Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos and Ansimar. Athos lays first claim, but six of the Cardinal’s troops insist that the location is inappropriate and insist the Musketeers vacate. They decline, and the first action sequence is engaged. After quite a bit of fun, we learn more. Those were Cardinal Richelieu’s men, and the Cardinal (Charlton Heston) is no one to trifle within the French hierarchy. He’s unconcerned with the Musketeers at present, but the Queen’s possible relationship with the Duke of Buckingham concerns him. Soon enough the Musketeers get involved: D’artagnan is amorously interested in Constance (Raquel Welch), who performs the service of escorting the Duke to the Queen. This is not unobserved, and a plot is hatched to use Lady DeWinter (Faye Dunaway) to spirit some of the jewels granted the Duke away in order to publicly embarrass her.
    Resolving all of this takes us to the conclusion of the first, where a fourth Musketeer is officially made and the groundwork laid for the sequel, which features Lady DeWinter more extensively as she seeks vengeance for being made to lose. There is also the revolt of numerous Protestants in a Catholic country, back at a time when that was reason enough to start a war. Originally this was going to be separated just by an intermission, but the Salkind producers saw dollar signs from splitting the product.
    There are plenty of action scenes, absolutely fitting in an enterprise such as this. Amazingly enough they don’t blend together at all. Something is unique about each one, and the inventiveness and humor keep things light but don’t turn it into a parody. Some impressive moments include a fight on top of a frozen pond that threatens to break, a duel at night in the woods with each combatant wielding a lamp alongside the blade, a mock fight that serves as an excuse to pillage an establishment of as many victuals from the customers as possible, and a climactic showdown in an isolated church that starts to burn. The action is consistently impressive, managing to keep a light tone with many sly jokes but not becoming a joke. People can and do die here, but the Musketeers refuse to be dour about it.
    The look is right. There are firearms used here, but in the days of flintlock muskets keeping something like a sword close at hand made perfect sense. The costumes are period appropriate. The sets look grand (one in particular, where Richelieu seems to be playing a game of giant chess with dogs for the characters, is both impressive and amusing). Michael York is not one of my favorite actors but he does good work here – actually everyone does. This may have been an extended cameo for Charlton Heston but it’s unique to see him with a French mustache and chin beard, acting in a period piece that isn’t Biblical. It’s a brisk adventure with a lot to appreciate, and can lay claim to being the best rendition of this story made. I wouldn’t say that for sure without watching all the others, but this is hard to trump.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    One Is a Lonely Number (1972) deserves more recognition than the nothing it gets. It’s an engaging portrayal of a woman who is confronted with a divorce. Nowadays that’s not news, and it really wasn’t at the time, but she doesn’t want this marriage to come apart and tries her hardest to prevent it from happening. Trish van Devere plays this woman, and though her career never took off what I saw was strong enough to make that seem like a shame. She’s apparently known better for being married to George C. Scott until he died, but her talent in essaying this character is undeniable.
    The beginning finds her exchanging sharp words with her husband, who is packing up and moving out. She doesn’t want that, but he does. Unable to stop him, she has to make do on her own for a spell. That entails getting a job, which is dated in the respect that the man at the hiring agency unashamedly leers at her and seems to consider himself worthy of some kind of favor once she’s begun as a lifeguard. She also starts talking to a women’s rights powerhouse (Janet Leigh) who urges the strongest possible action to milk her husband for all he’s worth. A kindly neighborhood grocer (Melvyn Douglas) has a sympathetic ear. A man hits on her at a party, and she’s not put off by the idea except for her desire to still make things work out with her husband. That’s looking increasingly unlikely when she hears that he’s with another woman and in Nevada to establish residency though.
    This isn’t really a plot-driven movie though. It’s a character study of a woman denying with every fiber of her being the rupture in her marriage, until she finally comes to accept it. While the conclusion is hopeful, it doesn’t magically make right the problems with the marriage we’ve already seen, and I appreciate that. It probably accounts for part of why it hasn’t gained much of an audience – it’s a good, realistic drama, but not quite a great one. The print isn’t in great condition, though it’s certainly good enough.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Barefoot Gen (1983) shows its age in certain technical respects. It packs one hell of a punch though. This is not escapist anime fare, not in the slightest.
    Gen is a member of a family, aged 7-8. He has a younger brother Shinji, and an older sister Eiko. Mom is currently in advanced pregnancy with another child, and dad makes sandals for a living. It's the summer of 1945 though, and the things dad has to say about where Japan is right now are extremely unpopular with the neighbors. Mom's medical condition is suspect too, because pregnant women are supposed to eat a greater quantity of food than what she's been getting. The food just isn't available though. Government rations are insufficient, but the family doesn't have any money to buy more on the black market. Gen and Shinji attempt to help out by raiding a pond filled with carp after hearing that carp's blood is something pregnant women should have, and get caught by the owner of the fish who nevertheless lets them take one after a showdown.
    Then one day, Gen goes to school in the morning of August 6. The air raid alert has been issued that morning, but turned off. A single B-29 is visible over the skies of Hiroshima, and something is dropped out. Gen was talking to a girl within arm's length, but turned his face down to find a pebble he'd dropped. Then everything freezes for a moment, and the bomb explodes.
    Barefoot Gen's animation is not all that impressive most of the time - it uses repeated backgrounds a LOT, the character designs are generally simplistic, and often people's mouths can't be bothered to move properly when they're talking. This makes the images of the bomb's effect stand out even more than they otherwise would, because what it depicts here is horrifying stuff. Eyewitness testimonies to the bomb's effects cited people literally vaporized from the heat, while the skin melted off others and hung like rags from their bodies. I don't want to dwell too much on this, because it should pack this kind of punch. Depicting this in live action would be a struggle unless it was done with the great cop-out of CG, and thus being animated was a terrific boon here.
    Gen survives, but most of his family does not, and after hearing a last command from his father to protect mother and her baby, these two have to try to survive in the aftermath of the atomic bomb. It's not a pretty story, though it does conclude on an uplifting note.
    I already mentioned the animation quality as one moderate issue, Gen's voice acting is another. He's performed by a real child, and that child shows why children often do not have long careers in the arts. This particular boy seems unable to inflect his voice in any way other than spirited optimism, which works for many sections because Gen is indeed an optimistic boy, but completely fails to capture the downbeat moments.
    Having said this, and that the score is completely inappropriate a few times late in the proceedings, the movie is most definitely worth seeing. The DVD is out of print and quite expensive to obtain now though, which is unfortunate.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Rio Lobo (1970) is the final film Howard Hawks directed, and sadly its lackluster reputation is deserved. It’s not really a flat-out bad movie either, just one that doesn’t come anywhere close to what this man was quite capable of doing on a regular basis. John Wayne gets to have a few decent lines, but in every other Hawks Western he had a strong supporting cast. Here, except for Jack Elam’s late appearance, he’s pushing against nothing.
    The beginning is not a Western, but it’s the best part of the movie. It depicts a Confederate unit rigging an elaborate method of stopping a train with Union gold (which will be protected by Colonel Wayne when it reaches his station) to make off with it for the Rebel war effort. This plan is fascinating – it involves an angry beehive, many trees with ropes tied between them, greased rails, and a telegraph monitoring fellow. Pulling off the train heist and the pursuit by Wayne’s troopers takes the first half hour of the movie, only to be short-circuited when the war ends. Wayne then takes off to Texas in order to find the two instigators of this robbery business, and all urgency is lost with the time transition.
    Part of the problem is his costar. Jorge Rivero isn’t much of a screen presence, though he’s not terrible. A bigger problem for me was his horrific miscasting. While the thick Mexican accent is ostensibly explained by having him be from New Orleans, that accent is nothing like a Mexican one, and his having been a Confederate captain is never explained. The eventual female lead, introduced 40 minutes into the movie as a means of quickly finding the real bad guys, feels too contemporary for the 1865 setting.
    The middle and end of the movie are pretty meandering. Some moderately interesting things happen along the way, but not nearly enough to hold one’s interest. There’s a brief recall of Rio Bravo and El Dorado when the good guys wind up in a jail, but it only lasts a couple of minutes and doesn’t really factor into the action. The showdown is workmanlike, no more.
    I really wish I could have reported a buried treasure, but this is just not very good. It’s not bad enough to attract that kind of audience either. Wayne made many movies, most of them better than this. So did Hawks. At least Wayne would make more winners in the 70s, but this is a sad note to end the career of Howard Hawks on.
    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 October 2015
    So I watched part one of the Attack on Titan film last night with some friends. One of them hadn't finished the anime yet, so three of us ended up marathoning 12 episodes right after.

    Anyway, I could say it's easily the best live-action anime movie adaptation I've seen, but I also haven't seen very many. :P I do find the changes to the basic story rather interesting, especially how the world is depicted. It's more blatantly an implied post-apocalyptic world, with explosives, dud bombs, old helicopters, working vehicles and so on. At least in the anime, it's more ambiguous as to how advanced the world was before the titans' arrival. There's also significant alterations to Miksas's characterization and background. Many characters were left out and some added in, though I guess that's to be expected.

    I though it was a decent, enjoyable movie, in a cheesy way. It got overly dramatic and scenes that probably weren't meant to be funny came across as goofy. What I thought was especially forced was Hange. While more subded in the film than she is in the anime, she somehow comes across as even stranger. I shouldn't be surprised, though, that translating an anime to something live action would come across as cheesy.
    Bravely second...
    The courage to try again...

    Twitter: BerryEggs

  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Super Mario Bros. (1993) acquired a reputation for being a stinker when it was new, and no one has come back to claim it’s any kind of masterpiece. I watched it as a rental back in the mid 90s but had little memory of the experience. Goaded by Rifftrax taking it on, I have now seen this misbegotten thing again. I could feel the brain synapses trying, and failing, to make sense of the craziness on the screen.
    A good place to start would be some kind of summary. Two plumbers, Mario and Luigi, are involved in an interdimensional caper when a college student named Daisy is kidnapped and sucked through a hole in the rocks under Brooklyn. On the other side they find a dystopian place called the Mushroom Kingdom full of people who evolved from dinosaurs instead of mammals, and the rock Daisy carried is sought by bad people to complete the meteorite which caused a mass extinction 65 million years prior. Doing this will link the two dimensions again, and allow King Koopa to take over the human realm (assuming he has the military power to do so, which seems unlikely). King Koopa has a power-hungry wife/mate and a device that rapidly evolved/de-evolves living things, plus things called Goombas which look like the shaved heads of Critters on top of football player bodies wearing huge trench coats.
    Did that make sense? If it did, you’re in the perfect condition to watch the whole thing. If it didn’t, don’t worry, it never will.
    Let’s start with the look of the movie. Why does it look like a ripoff of a ripoff of a ripoff (multiply several more times) from Blade Runner? A generic dystopian future is not what comes to mind when I think of Mario Bros, and even if it was, the ugliness of this is nothing worth investing one’s mind in. Having signs that shout out to things in the game really isn’t good enough.
    Next, let’s take the casting. Bob Hoskins was a fine actor, but is he really a good fit for Mario? Let alone John Leguizamo as Luigi, or the trivial detail that they aren’t brothers. Yes, Mario adopted Luigi and is kind of his foster father. They’re only brothers for marketing purposes, which don’t pay off at all as they seem to have trouble getting plumbing gigs.
    Anyway, Bob Hoskins is okay, even if he’s just taking Eddie Valiant into a different arena. Leguizamo… eh, I guess he’s okay at what he’s been given. It’s the writing that makes all the difference, and these two are powerless to get around its horrific awfulness. Dennis Hopper is interesting to watch as King Koopa, though I can’t help but feel there could have been SOMETHING more than a bunch of hair gel spikes to indicate his dinosaur ancestry. He’s pretty much giving the standard Dennis Hopper villain performance that we saw plenty of in the 90s, but he’s a pro at it.
    Okay. So we’ve got this stuff. Now, how to get two Brooklyn plumbers into the Mushroom Kingdom? Why, I’ve got the solution! We’ll have King Koopa’s henchmen kidnap a bunch of women off the streets and eventually nab the right one, who happens to have instantly become Luigi’s object of affection. Why is there a dimensional gateway in the bedrock underneath Brooklyn? Nobody knows, but more importantly, nobody cares!
    How about the evolution/devolution machine? Well, that’s a weird one, I’ve gotta say. I’m not even sure how the hell it works if thought about for even a second, let alone how it can only devolve the head of a being without touching the rest. Why would Koopa’s two henchmen only have their brains enhanced without an appearance shift? I can’t answer that, and I’m sure the screenwriters wouldn’t be able to either except on the basis of ‘we were lazy and didn’t want to switch actors or give the makeup team more work.’
    Perhaps we can attribute the presence of a wife/mate for King Koopa to some lingering vestige of the games, and a screenwriter wanting to have the Koopa Kids in the movie somehow. There of course are no Koopa Kids in this movie, but the woman who could have been their mother is here, a muddle of a character that is impossible to understand. Is she a real villain? Is she misunderstood, and just trying to get out from under her nasty boss/husband’s thumb? Could she be a good person in disguise? For all I know she’s some bank manager who got lost in Koopa’s tower and liked it there.
    Is Peach a terrible name for a woman? Apparently the writers thought so, because good old Daisy from Donkey Kong days was brought back for the name of our female lead. Samantha Mathis is fine here, I guess. It wouldn’t be fair to blame her for being the daughter of a fungus and sought by Koopa.
    Oh yes, we have Yoshi in the movie. Yoshi looks like an outtake from Carnosaur and is certainly not big enough to be ridden by Mario or Luigi. Why is he here? Another great question for the screenwriters, and I’m sure the answer was something along the lines of ‘we had to shoehorn another game reference in somehow.’
    It wouldn’t be the Mushroom Kingdom without a King, right? Clearly we needed to have him be a fungus of some kind due to devolution, despite no one else being devolved like that unless we’re counting the other unnamed fungi on display. Otherwise the name of Mushroom Kingdom would make no sense at all… despite there being very few identifiable mushrooms in this movie. Most of the fungus on display is sticky, gooey stuff that would be found at the bottom of a cave or in the back of an abandoned refrigerator. Yes, a mushroom is found at one point, and Luigi might eat it. Or he might not, I refuse to go back and check. He definitely doesn’t double in size though.

    I can explain what's going on here if pressed, but it doesn't seem worth it.
    What a bizarre experience this is. I find it astonishing that not one instance of the Mario Bros jumping on something’s head was included – the tiny heads of these Goombas seem like a ripe target. I could forgive all the unfaithfulness to the games if the movie was entertaining on its own, but everything is an obnoxious mess that wasn’t scripted well. Let no one lament the lack of a sequel. Also: was it THAT hard to get Was (Not Was)’ version of “Walk the Dinosaur” instead of employing a lackluster cover?
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    McQ (1974) is an interesting thing to behold. It represents John Wayne’s attempt to get contemporary by being a Seattle policeman in the present day instead of a cowboy. He’s up to the challenge too, although the movie as a whole is not among the better cop features ever made. The presence of John Sturges in the director’s chair is sadly not indicative of much, though at least things stay interesting. Since this is coming from the man who directed The Great Escape, Bad Day at Black Rock, and The Magnificent Seven, that’s scant praise though. For his only collaboration with Duke it should have been better than ‘acceptable.’
    Duke plays the title character, who is introduced after the credits, when his partner has just been shot in the back in the streets. This partner is not blameless though, as he was shown killing two people in drive-by style before his time came. While at first there’s a chance of recovery, he doesn’t manage to pull through. McQ is not happy, and despite being pulled off the case by his captain, he still manages to go after the leading dirtbag in Seattle and leave him unconscious in a group urinal. Staying on the case after being ordered off results in suspension though, and McQ determines to become a PI rather than give up. Eventually the plot thickens further….
    Studying the plot closely isn’t rewarding though. Several interesting action sequences take place, but they’re not very exciting. A good example is Wayne in his Green Hornet car, stuck in a narrow alley, being pounded by two big rigs crashing into both ends. This should have been better, since it’s a novel idea and inherently tense, but it’s done just well enough to satisfy and no more. A climax that takes place on a beach with a car chase has a few good ideas but doesn’t quite manage to be great, when it really should have been. Splashing water from the ocean onto a windshield is a good idea for a chase, but it doesn’t add up to much here.
    Seeing Wayne in this setting is unusual, but he acquits himself well. It’s not a vastly different persona than would be seen in any Western, but the contemporary taglines like women’s lib and angry hippy-ish radicals date the movie more than most Westerns. Also, no matter how game Wayne is, there’s no getting around him being 67 when this was made and wearing a toupee to cover his thinning hair. Even today, expecting a 67 year old police officer to be active on the streets is unlikely, but back before pensions started being a gaping wound in public finances almost every public servant with the capability of retiring would take advantage of it.
    I liked this for Wayne and various interesting things around the edges. As a cop movie in general, it’s okay. I can’t help but wish for more than merely ‘okay’ 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
    Brannigan (1975) is the other cop movie John Wayne made. It’s distinct from McQ in many ways – see, here he’s a Chicago cop, not a Seattle one. The action mostly takes place in London though, and that offers an interesting angle of seeing John Wayne interact with British people at length. He’s wearing his toupee again, and now he’s a 68 year old officer tasked with accepting a fugitive being held for extradition. Well, I don’t expect the height of realism in my cop movies, but that could be criticized if one was in the mood.
    The man being extradited is John Vernon, who is not at the height of his villainy but is nevertheless an acceptable adversary. After a pre-credits demonstration of Wayne’s propensity to run roughshod over villains (he busts in on a counterfeiter and knocks the guy down), we have to wait for him to get the assignment from his chief, take the trans-Atlantic flight, get through customs, and have a pretty British officer assigned to be his chaperone/guide before much of anything else happens. Vernon has indeed tried to take care of Brannigan by subcontracting a killer, whom we see numerous times for a little while before he really does anything.
    Once in London, Brannigan refuses to leave his gun behind, and his attempt to grab the fugitive goes awry when the man is spirited away by kidnappers from a changing room. The kidnappers demand a ransom, which is planted in a rubbish bin within Piccadilly Square that is then watched for a long time in a sequence that could and should have been edited down. Only after the mail deliveryman is found to not have the ransom, which was taken underground, does this 15 minute sequence finally end.
    It’s not all bad though. Director Gordon Hickox isn’t a great one, but with Wayne onscreen he didn’t always need to be. John Wayne interacting with Richard Attenborough is a sight one won’t get anywhere else, and it’s pretty entertaining. In the middle of the movie Wayne instigates a barroom brawl as a means of getting a man out to have a conversation (I know, that’s silly) and Attenborough eventually joins in to have some fairly good-natured fun beating up others.
    There’s also an entertaining sequence in Brannigan’s temporary lodgings, when the hired killer has acted and finally done something. That something is a double trap: if a rigged shotgun right behind the door doesn’t do the job, a bomb in the toilet should. Brannigan is a crafty one though, and not so easily taken out. Somehow this hired assassin takes his job seriously enough to try completing it in time for the final action sequence, but since he’s not a character all the time spent tracking his movement through the movie isn’t necessary.
    Brannigan does include a few action sequences, most of which aren’t great but manage to be interesting. When Brannigan grabs a car to pursue a suspect, the chase itself isn’t too interesting, but the obvious fact of its being filmed on London locations is nifty. The plot isn’t terribly interesting, but the sight of John Wayne interacting with Londoners gives this a unique factor of great interest.
    Similar to McQ, this isn’t a great police movie. Without John Wayne at the top, it wouldn’t be of much interest now. However, as a fan of the Duke I can say it’s worth seeing. Definitely problematic, and not one of his latter-day career highlights, but still has just enough to make it worth a shot for fans of Duke. I can’t help but wish both of his police movies in the mid-70s were better, but they’ve got enough going to make me not regret seeing them.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Cassandra RamosCassandra Ramos Eternal Kyoshi Administrators
    I saw part 2 of the Attack on Titan film last night. Once again, we laughed at scenes I imagine weren't meant to be funny. Also, Hange is still somehow weirder in her more subdued live-action form than in animated, hyper Jessica Calvello form. She is meant to be comic relief, though. Cheesy as it is, though, I do think it's a good (though not great) Japanese horror monster film. I think it's a very smart idea to have the titans be depicted by live action actors rather than being purely CGI. I imagine they could have easily looked tacky that way. Also, being real people in costumes and some CG effects adds to the uncanny valley aspect of the titans.

    I know this film is a different continuity entirely from the anime and manga, but I have to wonder if the revelations in the movie apply at least partially to the other versions. Many of them are strongly inferred by the anime (I don't read the manga, so I have no idea how many of the major questions have been answered), so even if they end up being the same or similar, I won't be surprised or feel like they're spoiling anything.

    Also, that stinger...sequel hook much?
    Bravely second...
    The courage to try again...

    Twitter: BerryEggs

  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    The Story of Mankind (1957) wastes an enormous cast with a morality lesson that has an ending anyone could have predicted going in. Its moral lessons are uninteresting and filled with bad history. The effects are either blatant stock footage or horribly obvious stages. The depictions of various historical events are unreliable and too brief to ever get interesting. I’ll grant that a couple of spots are mildly interesting, but for the most part this is a bad idea executed badly.
    Our scenario is that, somewhere out in space on a cheap set, judges in Heaven are trying to figure out if the human race deserves destruction or salvation from the H-bomb. A representative of every aspect of humanity (Ronald Colman) is the one arguing for salvation, and someone named Scratch who comes from a very hot place (Vincent Price) is arguing for destruction with a mellifluous voice. To make their cases, they go through a number of incidents in history. Among the highlights: an Egyptian pharaoh (John Carradine), Hippocrates (Charles Coburn) coming up with his oath, Rome’s Nero (Peter Lorre), Joan of Arc (Hedy Lamarr), the discredited story of Indians selling Manhattan for $24 worth of trade goods to the Dutch (spoken for by Groucho Marx), and Napoleon (Dennis Hopper!) ruminating on what he’s trying to do to Europe.
    All of these are united by feeling like little clips on TV rather than a proper narrative. The cheapness of the sets is one reason, the brevity of the bits another. Most of the time there’s barely enough of a scene to recognize who the performers are before it’s over and we’re back to the trial proceedings. Vincent Price as Scratch gets a few good lines, entertainingly delivered by a fine thespian. Few others get a chance. While it’s entertaining to hear Groucho toss off a few one-liners as he purchases land, he is 100% his own persona and not acting at all. Harpo and Chico are in here too, the former as Isaac Newton (which is questionable casting), and the latter as one of the guys against Columbus in the Spanish court.
    Irwin Allen directed this, in the days before he was associated with disaster movies above all else. Based on what I’ve seen of his later directorial efforts, not much changed, except that there’s very little over-the-top acting to marvel or laugh at. No, we’re barreling along without the performers getting a chance to have tons of fun. Oh well.
    I shouldn’t spoil the ending, but anyone who knows anything about the riddle of humanity with its omnipresence of good and evil will be able to guess at it. For a major movie in 1957 to end with the destruction of humanity would be astoundingly bleak, and thus very unlikely. What we get is a fudge, which manages to infuriate by making this a waste of time. Perhaps this idea could be made into a good movie, but it sure didn’t happen here.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • ACPACP A Crustacean in a Pot Full Members
    So, would Defending Your Life (1991) be preferable? Still has celestial judges, but diverges from TSOM in quite a few other places.
    When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
    - Mark Twain
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