Category: Movies

Geek Cinema in 2018

Geek Cinema in 2018

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I feel like I might be down a little bit of cinematic geek cred from last year. I really did very few theatrical release movies, either in the theater, or on Netflix or other streams after the fact. I did do a reasonable amount of television, but that’s a whole different discussion. Thinking about all the major releases last year, there really weren’t all that many I got to. Oh, I had a reason for most, but I don’t promise it was always a good reason.

January

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I will be honest I was pretty much tired of the whole dystopian society teenage hero motif by the time I saw the first of the hunger games movies. This sub-genre doesn’t do much for me and unless one of my teenagers wants to see it, increasingly unlikely these days, so I’m going to give pretty much all of these a pass. If you enjoy them, great, I hoped they’re work the price of admission.

February

Annihilation

I didn’t manage to get through the book, finding it ponderous, glacial, and, unfortunately, annoying. I strongly suspect this is one of those rare times where the movie is much better. Cinematic visualization of the strange biological zone that was at the heart book would probably look awesome on screen, but it would also have to rewrite the entire story for me to want to watch it. I need both a story and effects to be worth the big screen so me. Otherwise, I can wait for it to be released to other media so that I can watch it home. Or, in this case, not watch it at all.

Black Panther

I did see this one, and I have seen most of the Marvel moves. I think this is actually my second favorite movie in the cinematic universe so far. Better writing that most and better acting than most, coming together in one film. This is the movie that essentially kept the marble cinematic universe alive for me this year.

The Cloverfield Paradox

This was a sequel, right? I never saw the original Cloverfield, because I don’t typically go in for monster movies unless somebody close to me really wants to see it. Whether the sequel is actually monster movie or not, that’s a question for someone else.

A Wrinkle In Time

I have fond memories the book as a kid, but haven’t read it in literally decades. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. My oldest daughter, however, had heard really good things about it, and was particularly excited to see Mindy Kaling appearing in the film. I was pleasantly surprised, although I did feel like they were big chunks of story missing. That’s the dangerous part about adapting a book and movie, keeping the essential story while still keeping it to a movie time frame.

March

Pacific Rim Uprising

Pass. The first Pacific Rim was fun even while being a bit clunky and underwritten. I know I just said I’m not much for monster flicks, but giant monsters fighting giant robots, well, sometimes that’s entertaining, at least if the CGI is good. There were certain things there were little too telegraphed, but overall it was a satisfying film. That said, I walked out of it after having seen it with my son voicing the thought that it was fun but I really hoped they wouldn’t make the sequel. He assured me they would. Clearly, one of us was right and it wasn’t me.

Prospect

I never even heard about this, which might say something about my general media consumption habits these days, or it might mean say something about how much they tried to actually get people interested in this film the first place. I don’t even remember what it’s about at the moment.

Ready Player One

I’ve long since gotten a point in my life where I’m wary of books being converted into movies. In this case, I more or less enjoyed the book, although I didn’t find it as reasonable as everyone else seemed to. I also didn’t see how they could realistically keep the characters as they were and tell the entire story in a two and a half hour movie. So, I passed.

The Titan

Here’s a movie I only heard about because I found it on a list of Wikipedia.

April

Avengers: Infinity War

I have to admit that I didn’t actually get around seeing this until the very end of the year when it released on Netflix, watching it with my wife and two of my children who wanted to see it. We reach the end and my overarching thought was, well, there were some entertaining fight scenes, and some good lines here and there, but was that supposed to be a good movie? The ensemble cast was little too ensemble, relying on the viewer’s deep familiarity with the entire cinematic universe. Really, the film was pretty much two and a half hours of explosions. There wasn’t an awful lot of story, and the story that was there was actually pretty weak. Depending on the kids I still have living at home when it releases, I may be forced to see the sequel.

May

Anon

Again, a movie I found out about looking at the year’s big screen releases on Wikipedia.

Deadpool 2

I think I’ve made my feelings about dead pool fairly well-known. I’m not really a fan. Take away the superpowers and you’re essentially left with a guy who thinks everything he says is funny and everything that falls it is not the supposed be joke. In that light, I went to high school with Deadpool, I know someone who is married to Deadpool, and I’ve worked with Deadpool more than once. I’m good, thanks. Pass.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

And here’s where everyone cringes. I haven’t seen it yet. Neither of the girls wanted to see it in the theater, my son didn’t come home at the right time, and my wife (who likes Star Wars but only enough to see it because I’d want to see it) and I couldn’t make our schedules work at the time. And then it was gone from theatres. For some reason, I haven’t purchased, downloaded, or pirated it, or even look to see if it was on Netflix. I’m not sure why that is.

June

Ant-Man and the Wasp

It see it. Actually think that Mr. going by the theaters, and honestly wasn’t too worried about it. Antman was kind of fun, but I was pretty sure it is a cinematic sequel.

Hotel Artemis

Ah, good. Another dystopia. Pass. (Am I getting crotchety in my old age?)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Well, add in the fact that I haven’t actually seen the first of the generation later Jurassic Park movies to the fact that I’ve begun to find Chris Pratt kind of annoying since he started using every public opportunity to tell us all we need more God in our lives, and you might see why I gave this a pass, too.

Upgrade

Batman for a new age. AI implant gives man crippled for life super powers to go out and get revenge. I’m good.

The Incredibles 2

I was so ready for this when it came out, but nobody wanted to see it in the theatre with me, and I didn’t want to be that creepy guy in the back of the theatre at something that’s marketed as a kids’ movie. So I waited for the Netflix release, and enjoyed the hell of it. It wasn’t, quite, as good as the first, but as a sequel it should happened a couple of years after the original. For my money, that first Incredibles movie is the best film Pixar has ever made, it should have been a no-brainer for a sequel. Unfortunately, they seemed to get locked into a decade or more long cycle of making Cars and related movies to milk the concept for as many dollars they could

July

Extinction

Rehash of the devastating alien invasion. Missed it.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

While part of me wants to see if Adam Sandler turns in a more emotive performance as a cartoon character than in the last several live-action films he’s appeared in, I haven’t been curious enough to actually pay money to find out.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The original was fun. Not sure if I needed a sequel. Probably why I haven’t seen it yet.

August

Kin

Another movie I found out about long after the fact, but the mixture of premises could be fun. On the list for watching someday.

September

The Predator

I have actually had enough of the Alien/Predator franchises. I’m good, please stop, move on.

Smallfoot

Small foot: while this looked like it might be entertaining, I am way outside the target market for this one. Maybe if I had grandchildren, which I’m not quite ready for yet.

October

Venom

Yeah, I’m good. While redemption is nice, I don’t actually know if I’m interested in seeing a visualization of Venom’s redemption. To cross the streams, this would be like seeing a Joker movie for me. Or Suicide Squad last year. I have no interest in watching the bad guys unless they’re getting what’s coming to them.

November

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

If I were a Harry Potter fan, maybe. But it pretty much only watch the Harry Potter movies because my kids wrenched seen.

December

Aquaman

I thought Aquaman was a fun hero when I was younger, talking silver or bronze age Aquaman, or the super friends on TV when I was small. I thought the movie could be fun, too, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.

Bumblebee: The Movie

A Transformers spin off movie. Really? Give it a rest, already. Pass.

Mortal Engines

See notes under Maze Runners earlier in the year.

So there it is, my cinematic geek representation last year. It’s not a whole lot, is it? Oh, I should mention that my youngest daughter and I went to see The Meg, which I suppose should technically be classed as science-fiction, in several ways. Jason Statham going head-to-head against the shark was kind of fun, but it’s not something that requires another watch.

So, not a terribly impressive year.

Maybe if we were talking about television, there would be more to talk about. I actually did a fair bit of that in the past year, although almost none of it beyond the first season and a bit of The Flash in 2018, currently broadcasting stuff. It’s in season five now, and I’ve only just caught up.

Topic for another day, perhaps.

Be well, everyone.

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Paramount’s Last Chance at a Star Trek Movie

Paramount’s Last Chance at a Star Trek Movie

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feathermaxresdefaultSo it’s actually been several weeks since I watched Star Trek Beyond, and I know everyone is dying to know what I thought of the movie beyond (ha, ha) the brief Facebook post I made after getting home from the theatre with my 17-year-old son. I have a few basic thoughts overall.

First, all of the things that I actually liked about first two movies in the rebooted, alternate timeline sequence stand. The casting is generally awesome, and I think even Chris Pine was a better Kirk this time. The design aesthetic is beautiful, visuals are breathtaking at times, and the soundscape really adds to things.

Second, there were a few weird things here, things that didn’t entirely make sense to me, and three of these spring to mind:

  1. The chain lightning gun that exactly one of the bad guy soldiers used when boarding the Enterprise and took five people out in one shot with. This should clearly have been standard issue, and the boarding action would have been over a lot faster.
  2. The sheer size and scope of Starbase Yorktown was ridiculous. Your biggest and most advanced Starbase, with a population of a couple of million Federation citizens, just completed and on the edge of explored space, is the size of a small moon. Never mind it was commanded by only a Commodore (which seems like outranks an Admiral, for some reason). Yes, it was some pretty impressive CGI, but really, Starbase Yorktown was only that giant so they could have a starship chase scene run through it.
  3. Why was there a motorcycle on a 100-year-old wrecked starship on the edge of explored space? And why did that motorcycle still work?

Third, I stand behind agreeing with my son’s succinct judgment of the film as we walked out: aggressively mediocre. The pacing was okay, the writing was okay (and, honestly, I expected better from Simon Pegg), the overall plot was okay. No opening credits for titles, which I finally stopped waiting for, and not many standout moments. As a matter of fact, I’m not really sure there were any stand out moments. Oh, there were a cute one-liners, and nice characterizations by actors who have learned to live in the roles, but a lot of the good stuff in the film is more tribute, even though the tributes were seamlessly woven in for the most part. And there was a lot of tribute, a lot of call backs. That’s cool. Star Trek has, when this movie released, closing in on 51 years of history, if you count “The Cage”. We are rapidly closing in, next week actually, on the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the show on network television.

Now, if it sounds like I’m not terribly impressed so far, you’re reading things they way I’ve written them, but my last point is the key one: in a way that neither of the first two Abrams films were, this is a Star Trek film.

Some very basic Star Trek themes are built into this movie. There are three points I want to think about here, too.

  1. Inclusiveness, and not wanting to spoil the film if you haven’t seen it, I’ll leave it at saying that inclusiveness in the crew is greater than it’s ever been before, and the theme goes beyond just Starfleet personnel.
  2. Strive to be better than you are, and help the people around you be better than they are. This has always been a big Star Trek theme, and I’m glad to see it return from the ashes of the poorly written action movies we’ve tolerated in the past two releases.
  3. Find the place you make a big difference, and then do everything you can to make as big a difference as you can. In other words, it’s everyone’s job to make the universe a better place.

So, while Star Trek Beyond wasn’t a great film, or even a particularly good one, and while I stand by the “aggressively mediocre” summary, that summary is only that. I’ve seen every Star Trek movie in the theatre, and I said before I saw this one that, based on the last two staggering disappointments, this was Paramount’s last chance for me in the theatre. I wasn’t impressed and I wasn’t thrilled, but they gave me a Star Trek movie. On the strength of that, the franchise gets another shot.

Live long and prosper, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Nine Things I Think About Star Trek: Discovery

Nine Things I Think About Star Trek: Discovery

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather1031Discovery(Note: I drafted this before the announcement this week that Discovery will take place ten years before TOS in the Prime Universe. I didn’t get around to finishing the edit/polish until this morning. I also saw Beyond a few nights ago, contrary to the following text, and I’ll write about that soon.)

 

 

Nine Things I Think About Star Trek: Discovery

So I know everyone is probably desperate to hear what I think about the idea of Star Trek: Discovery.

Yes, I said Star Trek: Discovery. I haven’t seen Beyond yet, but I have time booked with my son to see it tonight. And I have higher hopes for the film than I would have under the previous writing team.

But this is about Discovery.

So, here’s what I think at the moment:

  1. I think that Star Trek, much as I’ve enjoyed some, even most, of the movies, needs to be on television. Common wisdom holds that the theater audiences don’t have the patience for exploration of ideas and concepts but only want action and excitement from their science fiction. I happen to disagree, but I’m not in charge of Hollywood, or even tiny part of it. I do get to vote for what I like with my wallet or my eyeballs. On TV, you have the opportunity to explore ideas and characters in far more detail, and those have always been at the heart of Star Trek. And it’s been off the air for far too long. Syndication doesn’t count.
  2. I think that someone looked at some of the original concept art for Star Trek Phase 2 and updated it pretty heavily, producing what from the teaser (the real teaser, not the one with vague promises and a new logo) is actually a pretty cool looking ship. The design is still clearly Starfleet, still clearly Star Trek, but it’s old and new at the same time.
  3. I think that there has been a lot of misinformation and speculation, and some of them are designed to deliberately muddy the waters and keep us speculating and in suspense. I’m okay with that. Talking about it is fun.
  4. I think the most likely time frame for Discovery is before the original series but long after Enterprise. I’m not a purist, exactly, but it’s my general understanding that hull numbers go up the further into the federation’s history you go. The original Enterprise had a hull number of 1701. The Discovery’s hull number is 1031. If the tiny scene we are seeing is a freshly commission starship, logic dictates that it is taking place before the original series. To geek out a bit for a moment, it was built not too long after the first Constellation class cruisers were built, of which the Enterprise was one. I offer as evidence the episode “The Doomsday Machine”, where we see the near wreck of the USS Constellation, numbered NCC–1017.
  5. I think the second most likely setting is sometime just after The Motion Picture timeframe, probably within a few years. For this, I have no direct reference, only consider that the hall and engine nacelles are a bit of a departure from the original series (although perhaps a little Klingon-like). Consider that the Enterprise herself had a colossal, and keel up refit ending as The Motion Picture began, and she looked the more or less the same, but quite a bit different. In universe, I’d expect other ships had similar upgrades over the coming years. Potentially cheaper for Starfleet then building entirely new vessels, though I expect there was a lot of that to.
  6. I think that discovery will continue the Star Trek tradition of broadening the definition of normal. We will likely see something very close to gender parity in the crew, representations we haven’t had before, and likely some alien crew members as well.
  7. I think will also continue to Star Trek traditions of dealing with the issues of the day in disguised form, where the crew of the Discovery stands in for us.
  8. I think it’s likely that this will not be the traditional 22 to 26 episode television season, but will be more along the lines of the Netflix model (which is a knock off of the European model) of probably 12 to 15 episodes.
  9. I think there’s a good chance that, in keeping with other modern, popular genre shows, the new Star Trek will be less episodic than is traditional. There will probably be only one major story arc. This is both limiting and broadening, and we’ll see how well they do it.

 

Additional Thoughts

Before I say anything else, I will say that I want to be excited. I know I didn’t get excited when I posted a few months ago about the teeny tiny supposed teaser trailer. The reason being that it really wasn’t a teaser or a trailer. It was a logo unveiling with a vague promise. Nothing to get excited about.

Now there might be something to be excited about, and I want to be. I haven’t done an exhaustive analysis of the trailer. I’m not going to. Other people have done that in far more detail than I would ever want to, and there is a very, very deep rabbit hole you can go down speculating on every little detail you might find in one minute of video. I’m sure there’s information in the trailer that can support it every bit of guesswork that someone has done somewhere. Some of it will eventually be proved right, and most of it wrong, and that’s how it works. It will be what it will be, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to affect what will be. I’ve done everything I can to, and I’ve done that by being a fan of Star Trek my entire life through every incarnation.

(Yes, I know I haven’t been a vocal proponent of the reboot universe–kind of the opposite, really–but that’s been solely due to the writing. The acting, the aesthetic, the design, the sound effects, the music are awesome. The writing sucked, and it’s just that simple for me. Mediocre action movies with Star Trek trappings and enough technobabble to try to make the connections. But it has brought people into the Star Trek universe, and that’s a good thing.)

I grew up on The Original Series, watching every episode in syndication every chance I got and eventually being able to quote most of the dialogue and identify the episode by any random line thrown at me (non-generic ones, at least). I love every episode, even the bad ones.

The Next Generation came when I was teenager it became my second Star Trek love, with a brighter future, a longer run, and a broader set of characters and stories. It came when I needed it, and it’s still there when I still do.

I had a harder time with Deep Space Nine, and maybe partly because rumors at the time, subsequently somewhat verified, suggested that TNG ended prematurely to give DS9 a greater viewer base, which didn’t work. But later seasons, with a bigger story arc and an intergalactic war, did get me back to the show in a smaller way.

Voyager came at a time when I didn’t have enough time or inclination to be into television, but I made up for that later, not quite catching up to seeing all the episodes by the time the series ended, but I watched both the first and the last episode the first time they aired.

Enterprise was harder to like, especially the first season, and didn’t find its feet fast enough as an early 21st century television show. I came back to it sometime late in the third season, and enjoying a lot of the fourth, when the writing actually started to get good, actually very good near the end of things, about when the notification came that it had been cancelled.

I have seen every Star Trek movie in the theater, though the case The Motion Picture, not first run, but in a small theater many years later. I’ve found things to like, in all of them, but to different degrees. If I’m not all that fond of the reboot universe, that’s mainly due to what I see as major weaknesses in the writing. But we talked about that already.

But it comes down to the fact that Star Trek needs to be on television. Discovery is the next television incarnation, coming to an Internet or streaming service near you in January 2017.

Works for me. And I want to be excited. So, a shout out to everyone involved in Discovery, if you want me to be excited, promise big and deliver bigger. Promise me Star Trek.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Star Trek Beyond: A New Trailer

Star Trek Beyond: A New Trailer

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherSo I’ve watched the new trailer for Star Trek: Beyond several times now, and I’m still coming away with a far better impression than from the first. The presentation, at least, gives the vision of something more than a mediocre action adventure movie with Star Trek trappings that rips off previous plots without making enough sense to avoid a WTF was that reaction.

I’m not going to do a frame by frame analysis. I’m sure there are a dozen or more of those available already, and the trailer only released 8 or 9 hours ago. But I will make a few general points.

The movie seems to be trying to re-establish the Kirk-Spock-Bones dynamic in a real way, beyond simple off hand comments and cheap laugh jokes.

It looks like we’re getting more emotional depth from the principal characters (though Chekov was notably absent from the trailer, and Sulu had only two very brief flashes of screen time).

Our new enemy isn’t just a mindless big, bad, but seems to have a purpose of some kind that isn’t clear in the trailer.

Kirk has some philosophical conflict, and his bartender, I mean doctor, needs to point out the obvious to remind him of what things are really about.

Spock might just be a little more Vulcan again and trying to figure out humans, in spite of continuing his relationship with Uhura, which I suspect is due at least partially to persistence on her part.

Kirk doesn’t appear to be banging any hot alien babes as a throwaway comment. Corollary: the female lead isn’t someone for him to get into bed, though it won’t surprise me if there’s some flirting going on.

The crew may be coming together as a unit rather than just acting as an extension of Kirk’s will.

In short, it seems just possible that we’re getting a Star Trek movie this time around. I’m more hopeful than I was before discovering the trailer over breakfast, and I’ll probably have lots more to say as the release date gets closer. Actually, I think I’m at the point where I think there’s a possibility I’ll want to see this one more than once, and that’ll be a first in the reboot universe.

Check the trailer out. Maybe you’ll have a little hope too.

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Why Can’t Hollywood Tell New Stories Anymore?

Why Can’t Hollywood Tell New Stories Anymore?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherIt’s not a new idea, and it’s not the first time I’ve said so, but I wish Hollywood could produce new movies instead of remaking things they’ve made before. Most of the big releases in recent years seem to be sequels, reboots, or retellings.

And it’s getting worse. Somehow, we seem to be approaching an event horizon, after which it will only be possible for a movie production company to produce a story we’ve already seen and liked, maybe with a few little twists and some names changed to protect the innocent.

The thing is, I don’t subscribe to the idea that the only way to be successful is to repackage something people have already enjoyed. I think it ignores the intelligence and capability of your audience.

Considering I mostly only watch genre cinema, you might take this with a grain of salt or two, but I think the point is still valid.

Last year actually had more one off films than most years in the last decade. Five of them jump to mind, most of which were better than the blockbuster sequels populating the top ten: Chappie, Ex Machina, Jupiter Ascending, The Martian, Selfless. Yes, there were a couple of duds, too, but Pixels was still at least as good as half of the top 10 money makers for the year.

2016 may be trying hard to make up for 2015, though there might still be a little potential. It’s the one-off films I’m after, because the number of those seems to be dwindling. If we don’t go to see the single films that have that potential then in not much more than another decade, we’ll have to pick between Transformers 15 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Regurgitation.

Stripping out the sequels, reboots, and sequels of reboots, we’re left with a much smaller list of genre films for the year, not counting imports and films in translation.

The basic opinions that follow are based on my reading of advance reviews and trailers. Feel free to fight with me about any of them.

Zero or not much potential: Warcraft, Deadpool, The BFG, Norm of the North, Suicide Squad. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on movies we didn’t need. For the price of most of these, the studios could have made several movies each, with actual stories and actual characters instead of mere special effects extravaganzas or expensive cartoons.

A little potential: Gods of Egypt, The Three-Body Problem, The 5th Wave. But probably not much. Most of these fall into the same category of “why bother”. The two films under Other are based on books, one of which I found only a passable read and the other seeming like a retread of well worn ground.

Some potential: Kubo and the Two Strings, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Moana, A Monster Calls, Zootopia, Henchmen, The Space Between Us. There’s a couple of these I might catch in the theatre, but the rest will probably be on the Netflix list. I’m flexible on this list, though. As I learn more, it’d possible some of these might move up. Or down.

Good potential: Doctor Strange. There’s only one film in this section of the list so far, and it’s an overlooked piece of the Marvel universe. Still a superhero movie, sort of, but not in the same way as most of the rest of them.

But it doesn’t look like I’m spending much time in theatres this year.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Movie Review: The Force Awakens (Spoilers)

Movie Review: The Force Awakens (Spoilers)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherFAI’m writing two reviews for this movie, since it’s only been in theatres for about a week and a half and it is Star Wars after all. This is the Spoiler-Filled review. If you want an opinion without spoilers, that one is here.

So let’s start with what I liked about the film.

The characters showed some cross section and some diversity, which was nice for a Star Wars film, in addition to being a relatively new thing if you don’t count mostly negative stereotypes from the prequel films. Those characters were mostly played by actors who were allowed to act, which was also pretty neat.

I mostly liked the production values, although whoever was in charge of the cinematography spent a lot of time trying to impress me with how big everything was, a little too much really.

The overall aesthetic of the film, visuals, effects, soundscape, were all awesome. The film looked and sounded good, even in 3D, though I think I should have been sitting a little farther back. There were a few moments when there was too much going on for me to be able to take in everything.

Here’s where we get into spoiler territory, mostly with things that didn’t work for me.

In a lot of ways, The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope. All of the basic elements are there: Death Star/Death Planet, Trench Run, Cantina, bad guy in a black plastic mask, young hero(ine) learning to use the force, desert planet, rescue mission, rebellion/resistance, a unit of distance being used as a unit of time, a droid with incredibly important computer files, etc, etc.

Although… Storm Troopers who could actually hit things. That was nice.

I guess I’m saying the writing was weaker than I might have liked, but I should also add that the dialogue was a lot less clunky.

And there were a handful of things that really stretched credulity for me, to the point where I couldn’t suppress my need to make smart ass remarks out loud: a giant laser that could shoot faster than light, Kylo Ren stopping a blaster bolt in mid air and not even needing to concentrate or look at it to hold it there while he held the shooter in place, either one of the two people who picked up Luke’s old lightsaber being able to stand against a mostly-trained Sith for more than a swing or two (especially after one of them got his ass kicked by a Storm Trooper with a shock baton), not to mention said Sith’s temper tantrums, and R2 waking up when it was all over to provide the rest of the map to find Luke instead of when BB8 and friends came by to tell him that they had a piece of the map.

And everything was too close together: the Resistance base, the New Republic Capital, the Death Planet, and the underground Casino all seemed to be practically in the same system.

Did I say the writing was weaker than I’d like?

Not quite done yet, though. The biggest thing that threw me out of the story was the very impressive trench opening up between Kylo and Rey just at the right time to not let her kill him. It would have been a lot better for Rey’s character development to actually make the choice not to kill the bad guy and maybe even try to bring him back.

Speaking of Rey, she figured out too much Force stuff on her own. Jedi mind tricks, focusing ability to suddenly improve her light saber skills, and the art of mental distraction. She’s pretty much got all of the Obi-Wan stuff locked down without having had any training. So why does she need to go find Luke? (Side note, I’m thinking there’s going to be a training montage very early in the next movie.)

I wasn’t invested enough in Poe. He wasn’t more than a plot device in this movie, though he was clearly meant to be a main character. I feel like there are probably a couple of cut scenes focusing around him that would have made me care about him more as a character, and maybe they’ll put those back into a bluray release, but it wasn’t there in the theatre.

That said, I was clearly invested in things near the end of the movie because I remember thinking several times that they needed not to pull another Darth Maul and allow Kylo Ren to die. You know you’re filming a trilogy that makes one big story arc so try not to waste a good villain. The way Kylo’s life didn’t end was a big eye roll, though. The giant trench in the ground I mentioned.

Never really a secret, or at least not for long, that Kylo Ren is actually Han and Leia’s son Ben, but the line, “There’s too much Vader in him,” rang hollow and cheap. And Kylo throwing a temper tantrum every time he got angry and Supreme Leader wasn’t around to see was… let’s go with unfortunate.

And great death scene for Han Solo. Naturally flowing out of the characters and not really surprising, but a definite emotional impact because there’s no way they’d really do that, right?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, and that’s a good thing because most of them came out of the characters and their actions or largely unexplored backstory, and most of them can lead to some great character development in the next film.

Overall, I’ll go with a 7/10, though I feel just a touch generous. Far better than the prequels, but not up to the original trilogy. The potential is there. I liked it, but I probably need to see it again to find some things I missed.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Movie Review: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free)

Movie Review: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherFAStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I’m writing two reviews for this movie, since it’s only been in theatres for about a week and a half and it is Star Wars after all. This is the Spoiler-Free review. If you don’t mind spoilers, or you’ve see the movie, that review is here. This is naturally the shorter review, because I can’t talk about specific things.

I’ll start with what I liked about the film, and this will be in the spoiler-filled review almost word for word, because it’s easy to make the same points either way.

The characters showed some cross section and some diversity, which was nice for a Star Wars film, in addition to being a relatively new thing if you don’t count mostly negative stereotypes from the prequel films. Those characters were mostly played by actors who were allowed to act, which was also pretty neat.

I mostly liked the production values, although whoever was in charge of the cinematography spent a lot of time trying to impress me with how big everything was, a little too much really.

The overall aesthetic of the film, visuals, effects, soundscape, were all awesome. The film looked and sounded good, even in 3D, though I think I should have been sitting a little farther back. There were a few moments when there was too much going on for me to be able to take in everything.

But the writing was weaker than I might have liked, but I should also add that the dialogue was a lot less clunky. Maybe it’s the Abrams connection, but there’s a lot of Star Trek II factor in here. In a lot of ways, The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope. Without listing them, all lot of the same basic plot basic elements are there to make the same basic story.

Although… Storm Troopers who could actually hit things. That was nice.

There were a handful of things, all of them significant events or plot points, that really stretched credulity for me, to the point where I couldn’t suppress my need to make smart ass remarks out loud. One of them was such a completely overused cliché and so completely ridiculous, it threw me completely out of the film.

Everything was too close together, physically and temporally. The second on of those is a traditional Star Wars problem, but you can ignore it if it isn’t too obvious. The first one, though, is previously symptomatic of Abrams Star Trek.

There was a little too much spontaneous character development for one of the main characters and not enough development at all for another. A complete lack of emotional investment in what really amounted to a walking plot device needed to move things along at key moments. I feel like there are probably a couple of cut scenes focusing around the character that would have made me care, and those will hopefully be available in the bluray release, but it wasn’t there in the theatre.

All of that said, I was clearly invested in events near the end of the movie because I remember thinking several times that they {the rest of this paragraph is almost spoilery, but watch the previews, I think I’m okay) needed not to pull another Darth Maul in this film. You know you’re filming a trilogy that makes one big story arc so try not to waste a good villain. However, the way they got around that is the thing that threw me out of the film.

There are emotional moments, funny moments, intense moments, and a really great death scene for a couple of people. There’s also a lot of cheese and weak writing.

And there are a lot of unanswered questions, and that’s a good thing because most of them came out of the characters and their actions or largely unexplored backstory, and most of them can lead to some great character development in the next film.

Overall, I’ll go with a 7/10, though I feel just a touch generous. Far better than the prequels, but not up to the original trilogy. The potential is there. I liked it, but I probably need to see it again to find some things I missed.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Watch Good Movies

Watch Good Movies

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI’m giving the new Mad Max movie a complete miss, and I really don’t care how good it is.

The same goes for the new Terminator, and Fantastic Four films. I’d like to get behind Insurgent, and the last Hunger Games movie since they’re based on books, but the earlier films in both franchises didn’t impress me. At all.

I probably will see Jurassic World, and I’ve been told we’re going to see the new Star Wars, but these are sequels rather than reboots.

Still, I’d like to see fewer sequels, too.

What’s my problem? Hollywood needs to get back to making more new stories not just remaking the same ones over and over again.

Which isn’t an entirely fair statement. There are plenty of original movies still being made, but they’re being made by smaller studios with smaller marketing budgets and frequently with limited releases. They don’t get to stand on even footing with the quarter-billion dollar plus budget blockbusters. And those are mostly reboots, rehashes, and recycles.

The only vote movie watchers get is by buying tickets, but those tickets aren’t often the full slate of what should be available for genre cinema. If things go on, if we don’t support the one-off, original films, or can’t, then by the time I’m thinking about taking my grandchildren to the theatre, my choices are going to be Transformers XVII and TMNT: The Next Reguritation.

Just think about last year. The biggest genre movies were Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a sequel to a reboot), Big Hero 6, Captain America 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (a sequel to a reboot) Divergent, Godzilla (a reboot), Guardians of the Galaxy, Hunger Games 3, Interstellar, Robocop (a reboot), TMNT (a reboot), Transformers 4, and X-Men 5. How many of those were actually worth watching, much less paying for? I count 2.5 (Big Hero 6, Guardians, and half of Interstellar.)

But did you see Earth to Echo, Edge of Tomorrow, Lucy, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, or Transcendence? Not enough of us did for any of them. And at least three of them were good. The other two were better than almost everything in the blockbuster list, most of which have already been scheduled for a sequel.

I think it’s imperative that we mostly skip what Hollywood thinks we want see and instead go for the second tier and indy films with good stories. Or potentially good stories. If they came to a theatre near you early this year, you should have gone to see Vice, Toxin, Robot Overlords, Jupiter Ascending, and Chappie, no matter how good you think they weren’t. And the last two in that list were pretty good. (Yes, my opinion. Your mileage may vary.)

AbsolutelyAnythingMy want-to-see genre film list for the rest of 2015 includes things like Ex Machina, Tomorrow Land, Absolutely Anything, Ant Man, Pixels, Self/less, The Lobster, The Martian, Aimy In a Cage, and Time Lapse. Think I’m most looking forward to Absolutely Anything, but I love Simon Pegg. It doesn’t hurt that the Python crew voice the aliens and Robin Williams voices his dog (no, it’s not an animated film, but there is some CGI).

Be well, everyone. And watch good movies.

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What I’m Watching for Christmas

What I’m Watching for Christmas

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherOn this edition of “What I’m Watching”, we learn what my favourite Christmas movies are.

I love Christmas, although mainly in a Tim Minchin “White Wine in the Sun” sort of way. It’s a secular Christmas and I don’t really care about presents. I want to spend time with my family, nuclear and extended, even the ones I don’t get along with (in fact, a lot of the presents are selected with this in mind). I also want to manage to visit with as many friends as possible, in person, by phone, or virtually.

The decorations are fun, but it’s about decorating as a family. Parties are fun, even when I have to sing. Presents are fun, but unnecessary. Even the music is pretty good, although I have a preference for spoofs and parodies that doesn’t please everyone.

But today, I’m going to talk specifically about movies. More specifically, about my favourite Christmas movies. And by movie, I mean feature length film. So, with apologies, you won’t find the Grinch, Frosty, or Charlie Brown anywhere on this list. Sorry.

If you want to fight about any of these, discussion and reasoned argument is more than welcome, but it’s pretty unlikely you’ll get me to change my mind on any of them.

To make it fun, it’s a top ten list, and I found it surprisingly easy to put them in order. Most of these get watched every single year. The time to do so has been harder to find this year, though.

 

Home Alone

#10 Home Alone (1990)

This is the first thing I remember liking Joe Pesci in and the first time I remember Macaulay Culkin for acting ability. Great writing, great directing, and a lot of fun. The bad guys get what they deserve and there are happy endings for everyone who deserves them.

 

Muppet_christmas_carol

#9 A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Michael Caine is probably the best classic Scrooge since Alistair Sim. No, not probably. And as long as you have decent writing, the Muppets are always fun. Narrated by Gonzo and with appearances by most of the rest of the primaries, I particularly appreciated Statler and Waldorf as the Marleys.

 

NationalLampoonsChristmasVacationPoster

#8 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

So it’s not a secret that I’m a Chevy Chase fan, and he’s done a lot of hilarious work on TV and in movies, but this one stands out for me, and is certainly the best “Vacation” movie. With an array of situations and relatives that we can all relate to (and be thankful we mostly don’t have), you almost feel sorry for Clark, but it’s hard to through the laughing.

 

The_Santa_Clause

#7 The Santa Clause (1994)

I actually saw this in the theatre with my wife (then fiancée) when it first came out. The sequels declined in quality, but that’s not unusual, is it? Tim Allen is a lot of fun learning to be Santa and it’s a great story built on a neat idea.

 

1951poster

#6 A Christmas Carol (1951)

This is the Alastair Sim version, but I like it colourized. Possibly the most true to the original Dickens story, but in any case it’s the best classic version to hit the screen, big or small.

 

gremlins-poster

#5: Gremlins (1984)

Of course this is a Christmas movie. It’s all about the fallout from an early Christmas and Christmas serves as an important backdrop as well as being key to a couple of bits of character development. A comedic horror movie, it’s got a pretty happy ending, plus it’s a lot of fun.

 

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-dvd

#4 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Memories of childhood. This movie wasn’t that old when I first saw it, but you might not have realized that it’s 2014 now, which makes this a 50th anniversary for this Rankin/Bass Christmas classic. Ah, the Island of Lost Toys, Bumbles, and noisy, glowing noses.

 

20131222215032!White_Chrismas_film

#3 White Christmas (1954)

Which also means this is the 60th anniversary of “White Christmas”. This movie was made in a different time. Some might say simpler, but if you were an actor, you had to have far more skills than just looking good on camera. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen all looked great on camera, but they also acted, sang, and danced, and did all of those things well. This is an awesome story about two friends bringing people together to do something awesome for someone they respect. And they happened to fall in love with a pair of awesome ladies along the way.

 

die_hard_xlg

#2 Die Hard

Not everyone agrees, but I’ll argue as long as anyone likes that this is a Christmas movie, in spite of its original July release date. Why? The action all takes place around Christmas as the hero takes a flight to visit his (somewhat estranged) wife and kids for Christmas, and a group of high end thieves impersonating terrorists crash the office Christmas party. And I love Bruce Willis. This is a great action-adventure story with a holiday theme, bad guys you can hate, and a hero who’s just trying to do the right thing and save his wife. Yippee kai yay.

 

scrooged-poster

#1 Scrooged (1988)

It’s not lost on me that there are three versions of “A Christmas Carol” on this list. These are the three best, imho, and most of the rest don’t measure up. And they don’t measure up to the degree that I really wish people would stop. Please, stop.

But Bill Murray brings it in every moment as Frank Cross (Scrooge) and so does every other member of this star-filled cast. This is the same story, except it isn’t, giving the same message and moral against a completely different, and far more bizarre, setting: 1980s television production. A wacky romp with the heartwarming ending you want from a Christmas story, and on multiple levels. Christmas Eve watching every year.

 

Feel free to point out something I’ve missed.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Into Dorkness

Into Dorkness

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherYes, I know that’s been used on any number of internet memes, but it still works. The Star Trek sequel is possibly the biggest genre film release of the year. Sorry Fe Man 3. (Yes, I’m ignoring the second Hunger Games movie. I don’t want to see it. Really.)

I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free.

I think I’ve made my opinion clear in the past on the 2009 Star Trek reboot. The look, feel, sound, overall aesthetic, casting, and acting were all great. So was the writing, for the first half of the movie. The second half, not so much, and to the degree that it spoils the first half for me. But, with a four-year gap between movies, I had some hope that Into Darkness would be better.

My son and I went to see the movie on opening night. I tried to have no expectations to go along with the high hopes. I am, after all, a lifetime Trekkie and I’ve seen every movie in the theatre. (My son has seen every Star Trek movie in the theatre released in his lifetime, which, granted, is only three. But it’s still a tradition.)

It was fun. Not quite enough story for my taste, but a lot of action and a lot of excitement and most of what there was came across pretty solid. Instead of the writing falling apart half way through, I think it actually got stronger overall, with some weaknesses in the last quarter that I can mostly forgive due to what I perceive as the intent behind them. Unnecessary, but forgivable.

The acting was still awesome (note particularly Simon Pegg who wasn’t quite as over the top this time and awesome as Scotty, but everyone was pretty good), as were the audio and visuals. Dynamics between the primary characters were well done. If none of the principals got as much screen time as they deserved, they all served a purpose (although Chekov was a little oddly placed to me, even if it did mostly work). The story worked better this time with a little bit of twistiness this time and no outright stupidities that I caught on first viewing. Most of the issues I had were small ones and there weren’t as many of those as I was afraid of.

Carol Marcus was only vaguely necessary, mostly present for eye candy this time around but also setting up for the next movie.

Did I mention that I loved the new Klingons? They’re a small piece of the movie, but a fun one, and a potential setup for some future conflict.

My ultimate statement after the last Star Trek movie was that the writers needed to do better. They did. From the opening dash through a crimson jungle to the dénouement (always a nice touch when remembered), Into Darkness is worth watching on the big screen and will be getting added to my bluray collection when it comes out.

With JJ taking over the Star Wars resurrection, I wonder what we’ll get for the next edition of Star Trek.

And when.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather