Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tomorrowland (2015)

There are all sorts of source material for movies.  Books are a natural choice, as the plot and structure are already there.  TV shows are also popular for a similar reason.  I’ve always wondered what the most difficult source material would be in terms of pulling a feature-length film.  Battleship is a good candidate for this, as it came from a board game.  I have to admit that I would have pegged Tomorrowland as a close second.  The movie seems to draw its name from the similarly named attraction found at the Disney parks.  You can see the influence in the sets and designs, but the story is largely original.

It begins with Frank Walker and Casey Newton telling their story, ostensibly to the audience.  Frank insists on beginning the story with his trip to the 1964 New York World's Fair.  A young Frank has a jet pack that he invented.  He shows it to an official named David Nix, but Nix dismisses the prototype, as it doesn’t actually seem to work yet.  Frank does draw the attention of a girl named Athena, who gets him passage to the futuristic Tomorrowland.

Cut to the present where Casey’s trying to sabotage some NASA equipment.  Her father works at the base, which is being decommissioned.  Yes, it’s futile.  Yes, it gets her arrested.  However, after being released, she comes into possession of a pin similar to one Athena gave to Frank.  Casey is now obsessed with finding Tomorrowland, even after the pin’s battery runs out.  Her only hope to actually get there (and, possibly, to save the world) is to find a now-grown Frank, who has been expelled from Tomorrowland.

I found the movie to be more of a balance than I expected.  I thought that it would either take place mostly in Tomorrowland or mostly in our world, but the movie made the transition midway through the movie.  Because of this, the movie didn’t drag.  I knew that if the movie relied too heavily on our world, the movie would rely too heavily on suspense.  If too much time was spent in Tomorrowland, there would be a risk of it being all starry-eyed wonder, which could get boring quickly.  (I still would have like to see a little more of Tomorroland.)

On that note, I had also wondered how optimistic the movie would be, since the Tomorrowland attraction is supposed to be about making advancements that benefit mankind.  The movie used that optimism and balanced it with an invention of Frank’s that went too far.  We have the option of building a brighter future, but we have to be careful about it.  Not every invention should see the light of day.

Instead of a good-versus-evil theme, we get a dreaming-versus-apathy theme.  The real world is full of people who just go through the motions.  They worry about paying the rent and taking care of families.  Tomorrowland is shiny and is all about potential and advancing society.  Granted, each world isn’t entirely what it seems, but the question becomes at what point do you give up on your dreams?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Die Hard (1988)

Some movies change with age.  You might view it as a kid and think it’s an action movie only to realize as an adult that it had some deeper meaning.  Movies Like WarGames or Star Wars will look different as a kid than as an adult.  There were aspects of The Shawshank Redemption that I didn’t get as a child.  Even UHF parodied things that I missed the first time simply because I hadn’t seen the movie being referenced.  I had kind of wondered if this was the case with Die Hard.  Eh, not so much.

Primarily, Die Hard is an action movie.  It starts with John McClane, a New York City detective, visiting his wife, Holly, in Los Angeles.  They’re estranged, but hoping to maybe get back together.  Things are going not so well when a group of armed men take Holly and her entire office hostage.  John happens to be in the office, but is unseen by the gunmen, giving him an advantage.

Hans Gruber is the lead gunman.  He takes Holly’s boss, Joseph Takagi, into another room to interrogate him.  You see, Gruber and his goons aren’t terrorists, as one might think.  They’re strictly there for the bearer bonds that Takagi has in his safe.  Gruber has no problem letting the police think he’s a terrorist, though.  When Takagi refuses to cooperate, Gruber kills him.  Gruber then assures his associates that the police will help with Plan B.

Meanwhile, John takes it upon himself to kill Gruber and his henchman one by one.  This isn’t an easy task, considering that John is alone and has no guns.  For that matter, he spends a good part of the movie without shoes, having left them in his wife’s office.  It even takes a few tries to get the police to come out.  (Gruber does want the police to come out, just not too soon.)

Being that it’s an action movie, things don’t end well for Gruber & Co.  Yes, it’s very violent.  Yes, is a lot of blood.  Ask someone about the movie and they will probably remember John McClane walking across broken glass.  If you’re into that sort of stuff, it’s a good movie.  There’s just the right amount of story to tie the abundant violence together.

This is one of those movies that spawned a lot of sequels.  This is interesting in that the movie is based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever.  The first book, called The Detective, was also made into a movie with the same name, starring Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra could have been John McClane, as being offered the part was in his contract, but he turned it down.  (It’s interesting to think of what it would have been like.)

The last time I saw this movie was shortly before the death of Alan Rickman, who played Hans Gruber.  This was his first feature-film role.  (He had previously been in TV series and TV movies.)  It’s hard for me to see him another role without thinking how he’s Hans Gruber.  This isn’t to say that it affects how I view the other movie.  It’s simply a testament to how diverse his roles have been.

Bully (2011)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Someone once said that men had two main theories on women and that both were wrong.  (I want to say Will Rogers, but I’m not certain.)   The same applies for bullies.  As a child, I was told usually one of two things.  One camp held that bullies were looking for someone to push around.  If I stood up, they’d find someone else to push around.  The other camp held that bullies were looking for a reaction.  If I ignored them, they’d get a reaction out of someone else.  Neither one really held true.

Yes, I had problems with bullies as a child, but not so much as the children in Bully did.  The movie follows several children who faced constant bullying.  In one case, a child named Alex was poked, choked, shoved and otherwise harassed on the school bus.  Another girl, Kelby, was ostracized when she came out as a lesbian.  She was even kicked off the basketball team because none of the other players wanted to touch her.  She was even deliberately hit by a minivan.  Two of the children committed suicide because they couldn’t handle it any more.

Here’s the thing.  Not doing anything isn’t solving the problem.  Alex’s mother sees the assistant principal of his school after being shown the footage.  The assistant principal claims that she’s been on his bus and all of the students were perfect little angles, despite what the footage shows and what Alex has said.  The bus driver is shown just driving, not doing anything to stop the children.  (The mother points out that her bus driver would have pulled the bus over.)  Another student is asked why he doesn’t walk away from a kid that torments him.  He does, only to have the tormentor follow him.

Standing up does seem to have limited success.  One student admits that he stood up to some bullies and they backed off.  However, that doesn’t seem to hold true for Kelby.  Her parents offered her the chance to move, but she felt that moving would have handed the town a victory.  She felt that she should stay and try to at least show everyone she wasn’t backing down.  She was eventually pulled out of the school system.  Yes, she does have a few friends that accept her, but most students don’t.

It seems like the biggest problem is that those in a position to do something don’t.  Either they’re ignorant of the problem or they’re unwilling to admit that it is a problem.  The assistant principal at Alex’s school has a bully and the bullied shake hands.  When the bullied kid refuses, the assistant principal tells him that he’s just as bad for not trying to play nice.  The bully is let off the hook because he was so eager to play nice.

The kids don’t always stick up for themselves.  In Alex’s case, he thought that this is just they way kids behave.  It’s also easy to see why the students think that nothing will get done.  In many cases, if anything is done, it may change a very specific behavior, but not get rid of other forms of bullying.

It’s hard to say what to do because each case is different.  There’s no one action that an administrator, child or parent can take that will eliminate bullying every time.  It’s mostly a matter of persistence and knowing that you can have someone to turn to.  Even if it doesn’t stop anything, many of the children either feel that they don’t have friends or don’t really know what it means to have a friend.

I recall hearing about this documentary when it first came out.  It had to be edited to get a lower rating so that children could watch it.  I’d recommend that people watch this documentary as a starting point.  It’s available through Netflix on DVD and streaming, which will make it available to a lot of people.  If you do let your child watch it, I would recommend either watching it with them or watching it before them.  Even if they’re not bullied, you may want to be able to talk about the movie with them. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.
Bruce Nolan is an ordinary guy. That’s the problem, though. Bruce feels that he’s stuck doing the human-interest fluff stories on Channel 7 while rival newscaster Evan Baxter gets all of the hard-hitting, important stories. Bruce gets stories on the city’s biggest cookie while Nolan gets stuff about health hazards. Bruce desperately wants a shot at the big time, but he’s just not cut out for it.

True to comedic films, Bruce has a really bad day. After flipping out on live TV, he’s fired. Then, he tries to protect a homeless guy, but gets beaten up over it. Then, he gets in a fight with his girlfriend, Grace, played by Jennifer Aniston. Plus, the dog keeps urinating on the furniture. To top it off, he gets in an accident that night. Finally, he has it out with God. Why would such a kind and merciful God pick on poor, poor, pitiful Bruce? Why does he have to suffer so much?

That’s when he gets paged. After several attempts, Bruce finally calls the number. He gets a recording. (The recording is actually specific enough to ask if his name is Bruce.) He goes to an address that turns out to be an abandoned building, but he goes in anyway. The outside is old and dingy, but the inside is pure white. There, he finds the janitor mopping. Bruce is directed to Room 7, which happens to be on the seventh floor. (The elevator’s broken, so he has to walk.) Upstairs, he finds the janitor fixing a bulb. Bruce doesn’t like having to walk up the stairs, but he lets it pass. He asks for the boss, which happens to be the janitor. (The janitor is Morgan Freeman; it turns out that God does all of His own work.)

It takes a few minutes for Bruce to accept who he’s dealing with. When he does, God makes a proposal. Since Bruce thinks that God’s not doing a good job, He’ll take a vacation and leave Bruce with all of His powers for a few weeks. (Hence the name of the movie.) There are two rules, though. Bruce can’t claim to be god and he can’t affect free will. (The first rule is more of a warning to avoid that kind of attention; the second is hard and fast.) Bruce accepts and starts by fixing his own problems. For starters, he gets revenge on the gang that beat him up. Then, he gets in good with his girlfriend and eventually embarrasses Evan into quitting.

After a little prodding from God, Bruce starts thinking about others. He hears voices, which turn out to be prayers. Not wanting to go crazy, he sets up a computer to be Prayer Central. Instead of reviewing each prayer, Bruce finds it easier just to say yes to everyone. This leads to problems. Everyone wins the lottery, but each winning ticket is worth $17. Riots ensue and the power grid loses stability. Also, Bruce’s newfound fame leads to other kinds of attention, thus leading him to break up with Grace. Bruce has to figure out how to get her back without affecting free will. In the end, all works out well. I won’t say exactly how, but Bruce learns his lesson.

What I will say is that the message isn’t overt. The movie doesn’t shove proverbs down your throat or try to make you believe. It’s more about Bruce and what he has to learn about himself. Carrey has it toned down a little bit. He plays the role more like The Truman Show than Ace Ventura. He does have a lot of goofy scenes, though.

As I mentioned in this review’s title, Bruce is in the details. Look for details. Some are obvious, as is the case with the Parting of the Soup. Some are subtler. When Channel 7 throws a party for Bruce, notice what’s in the container that Bruce is carrying. Pay special attention to it and what he’s pouring for the people.

Jim Carrey was the perfect actor for the part of Bruce and Morgan Freeman was perfectly cast as God. Morgan Freeman plays the role with all of the seriousness and dignity you’d expect from God whereas Jim Carrey is just this goofball that wants to do things his way.

Carrey also has Jennifer Aniston to play off of. Bruce can’t see past his own career whereas Grace wants a family and a happy life with the man of her dreams. The more Bruce tries to pull her his way, the more she resists.

Then, there’s Evan. Even is all that a serious reporter is supposed to be. Bruce is always the other guy. He’s the one you turn to with a story the city’s biggest cookie. Bruce is exactly where he’s supposed to be. He just doesn’t realize it. All of Bruce’s selfish acts have dire consequences. Even his altruistic ones have dire consequences. Bruce doesn’t realize that there’s a delicate balance to everything.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bowfinger (1999)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Sometimes, it takes a lot of determination to do what you want to do.  Robert K. Bowfinger (played by Steve Martin) wants to produce a movie and he has determination to spare.  What he doesn’t have is a good script, cash, or enough talent to go around.  One day, Bowfinger’s accountant/receptionist, Afrim, comes up with a script for a movie called Chubby Rain.  (The premise is that aliens come down in rain drops, making them bigger than normal.)

Now, Bowfinger has the script, but he still faces all of the other problems.  To add to his troubles, he can only get in with a studio if he gets Kit Ramsey (played by Eddie Murphy) to star in his movie.  Ramsey is the biggest star in Hollywood.  There’s one small catch: Ramsey doesn’t want to do it.  That’s no problem.  They’ll just film Ramsey without his knowledge.  After all, Bowfinger says that Tom Cruise didn’t know he was in Interview with the Vampire for several years.

So, now, Bowfinger has to lie, cheat and steal his way through the movie.  The only other person that knows what’s going on is Dave and that’s primarily because Dave has a small job at a big studio.  Thus, he can ‘borrow’ equipment.  Bowfinger also ‘borrows’ a credit card from one of the actors to rent or buy equipment.  Since no one else knows that Kit Ramsey isn’t actually involved in the project, Bowfinger has to invent a story as to why Ramsey isn’t to be approached for any reason.

The biggest obstacle is getting the shots of Ramsey where his character has to do something that he wouldn’t normally do.  For this, they hire a look-alike named Jiff.  (Jiff is also played by Eddie Murphy.)  Jiff’s primary job will be to do errands, which he says would be a big boost for him.  When the time comes, he’ll have to do several scenes in Ramsey’s place.  (One of the funniest scenes is the highway scene.  This alone is worth getting the movie.)

Since Bowfinger is a comedy, you have to know that the movie will work out in the end.  Yes, there are major hurdles, setbacks and obstacles, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.  When I had seen the movie, I hadn’t yet really heard of Ed Wood, but for those that know about Wood, you may notice some similarities.  Wood was known for making below-par movies with other people’s money and using a lot of stock footage.

The movie is never slow or boring.  There are a lot of jokes and funny scenes.  Kit Ramsey, for instance, seems to have mental issues.  He’s convinced that alien voices in his head want him to flash the Laker Girls.  (Since he’s already paranoid about aliens, unknowingly starring in a movie about alien invaders isn’t the best thing for him.)  Ramsey is also part of a group called Mind Head, which is a thinly veiled substitute for Scientology.

This is the kind of movie you could watch repeatedly.  There are very few movies I’d recommend buying; this is one of them.  (If you rent it, you’ll probably end up buying it anyway.)  There are so many funny scenes in the movie that you’ll probably miss most of the jokes only because you’re laughing so hard.  This is definitely a must-watch film.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Last Starfighter (1984)

I remember a lot of movies from my childhood.  Some hold up pretty well.  Others don’t.  I think in a lot of cases, I was more easily entertained.  Take The Last Starfighter.  I remember liking it.  It wasn’t one of my favorites, but I was entertained by it.  I recently had the chance to rent it from Netflix to see how it held up.

The movie centers on Alex Rogan.  He’s an average kid in a trailer park.  His one hope to get out of there is college, but he can’t seem to secure the funding.  His one distraction is a game called Starfighter.  He’s pretty good at it.  In fact, he beats the game’s high score of 1,000,000 points.  (To give you an idea of how boring it is in this trailer park, everyone gathers around to witness this with great excitement.)

It isn’t long before Alex is visited by a mysterious man calling himself Centauri.  Centauri is the one who designed and placed the games as a test.  He takes Alex for a ride, promising a surprise when they reach their destination.  It turns out that a war is on and the game is testing for those with The Gift.  Those that pass the test on their respective planets are recruited to become actual starfighters.

Alex immediately wants to go home. The game said nothing about being recruited for an actual war.  So, Centauri begrudgingly takes Alex home.  After Centauri leaves, Alex is attacked.  Fortunately, Alex is able to call Centauri back.  They go back to the military base only to find it attacked.  Alex is now the only starfighter left.  It’s up to him and his navigator, Grig, to defend the galaxy.

The movie deals mostly with Alex being recruited and eventually fighting.  There’s no real commentary on war.  The closest thing is Centauri being reprimanded for recruiting on Earth, which is an unaligned planet.  Even the fact that Alex was essentially tricked into fighting is downplayed.  This is something that may have been dealt with if the movie had been made into a TV show or something.  Each week would have been some aspect of war.  It’s also possible that the movie was aimed at kids.  With the exception of one or two scenes, most of the violence is video-game violence.  Even the fighting with real ships is kind of cheesy by today’s standards.

When I first watched the movie, it seemed like a pretty decent story.  (I suppose for a 9-year-old, it was.)  Watching it now, it seems more like it was meant to set up either another movie or a TV show.  (There are rumors of a sequel to the movie, possibly detailing the adventures of Alex’s child.)  Yes, Alex saves the day.  He returns to Earth to get his girlfriend and let everyone know he’s ok.  In this regard, the story seems incomplete.

Had there been a TV show shortly after the release of the movie, I probably would have viewed the movie differently.  The story would have made more sense in that context.  As it is, I’m wondering if a planned sequel was cancelled or if the movie was released unfinished.  (Both scenarios have happened with other movies.)  If a series came to television based on this movie, I’d definitely give it a chance.


I’m always looking for ways to make some extra cash.  When I cam across Ibotta, I was hesitant.  You got rebates for buying stuff, but I’m not the one that does the shopping for the household.  It didn’t seem like I’d be redeeming a lot.  I downloaded the app just to see what it was like.

It’s a fairly simple concept.  When you go shopping at various stores, like your local grocery store or drug store, you go through the app to find items you’ve purchased.  If there is something you purchased, you scan the barcode, photograph the receipt and submit the information.  (You can also get a special link for shopping at certain online retailers.)  If the rebates are accepted, you have the corresponding rebates deposited into your account.  When you reach $10, you can have the money transferred to your PayPal account or you can save up for a gift card from retailers like Amazon or Best Buy.

You can also get bonuses through teamwork.  If you refer someone, that person is automatically on your team.  (You also get a few dollars after they redeem their first rebate.)  If you link your account to Facebook or Twitter, the app will search your accounts for people who have already signed up.  If you and your team meet certain goals, you get a bonus.  Usually, those on your team will have to pass a certain dollar amount in rebates whereas you might have to redeem a certain number.  (Each month, you’ll be given a new set of goals.)

With an app like this, I’d normally recommend just downloading it and trying it out.  However, this is one of the more time-consuming programs that I’ve tried.  First off, you have to unlock rebates.  This may mean watching a video or taking a short survey.  Some products have one task while others might have two.  (This shouldn’t take more than a minute per product.)

Then, scanning products can be difficult.  Some products, like bananas, you just check off and they look for it on the receipt.  If you do have to scan a bar code, you have to line it up within a box almost exactly.  I’ve had cases where I’ve had to stand there for a few minutes trying to get it right only to find out that it didn‘t scan right or that product didn‘t qualify for the rebate.

Some rebates are for specific products.  It might be for a certain brand of deodorant.  In other case, it might be for any brand.  If you tap on a product, it will give the details on what’s included.  Bread might include buns.  Peas may or may not include frozen peas or canned peas.

Dollar amounts vary.  Most products will have rebates around 25¢.  Others can have rebates north of $1.  If you buy a lot of beer or wine, it won’t be unusual to see rebates of $4-$6.  There are also certain stores, like Best Buy or Sephora, that simply give a rebate for total purchases.  American Eagle Outfitters, for instance, has a $5 rebate on a single $50 purchase.  Best Buy has a $5 rebate on $100 that can be across several in-store purchases.

The first few months, I was getting several dollars per week from my parents’ purchases at Publix.  Now, I’m lucky if I get a dollar.  I’ve also noticed that it seems like rebates for products are available on the weeks that my parents don’t buy those products.  I’ve seen them buy milk one week only to see the rebate the next week.  They’ll buy bananas that week and have the rebate two weeks later.  If you’re not buying alcohol or electronics, don’t expect a lot of cash.

The good news is that when you do cash out, the money comes pretty quickly.  Since no gift card allows for payment under $10, I’ve always done PayPal.  It seems like it’s always been at most a day or two to get the payment.  Gift cards may take longer.  I really don’t know.  Also, I’ve never had a rebate rejected.  It may take a while for me to reach the threshold, but I do get the money.

If you do most of the shopping, I’d recommend downloading it and at least trying it.  Right now, I may cash out every month or two and I don’t do a lot of shopping.  If you’re lucky enough to get one or two big rebates per week, you shouldn’t have to go more than a few weeks before cashing out.  At least there doesn’t seem to be any expiration on money earned.

The Pee Wee Herman Show (1981)

I once referred to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as a kid-friendly show.  My mother disagreed.  I had remembered the TV show as being more silly than anything else.  It may have been that I was missing stuff that was intended for adults.  It may also have been that my mother had come across The Pee-Wee Herman Show, which is a different beast altogether.

Before Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Paul Reubens had a stage show called The Pee-Wee Herman Show.  In 1981, HBO recorded and aired one of the performances, which was very similar in appearance and style to the playhouse, except that the humor was more adult oriented.  I had never heard of this, hence my confusion.

The entire show takes place in his playhouse with Pee-Wee interacting with various human and puppet characters.  Captain Carl and Miss Yvonne are two such characters that stop by.  (She has a thing for him, yet he doesn’t seem to reciprocate.)  Also visiting from time to time is Mailman Mike, who doesn’t seem to take his job seriously.  There are even the singing neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Jelly Do-nut.  When Pee-Wee gets a wish from Jambi the Genie, he really wants to wish for the ability to fly.  However, he feels compelled to use it to make Captain Carl fall for Miss Yvonne.

If you’re wondering about the humor, a lot of it would be safe for teenagers and above.  There’s one scene where Pee-Wee and another character use show mirrors to look up a skirt.  In another, Jambi receives a pair of hands he had ordered.  (He’s portrayed as a disembodied head.)  That’s probably on par with the worst of it.  If you’re old enough to watch Beavis and Butt-Head, you’re old enough to watch this.

I got this on DVD from Netflix, but I probably would have gotten it streaming had I been given the option.  The disc had no special features, nor did I see another disc.  I don’t know that this is the kind of thing that would have necessarily supported features.  Those that are watching it are probably more familiar with the other movie and TV show.  I had only gotten this to see what it was like.  I’m not sure what kind of features I would have wanted.  (This isn’t the kind of thing that would lend itself to a director’s cut or anything.)

From what I’ve read, this was supposed to parody kids’ shows of the 1950s and 1960s.  I’m not sure most people would necessarily get the humor.  I found it amusing, but I suspect that there was a lot of stuff that went over my head.  I think part of why I remember liking the TV show was that I was a child and the show was aimed at that age group.  This is probably aimed more ad adults that grew up in the 1950s.  I don’t think kids that were born 50 years later would really like it.  Honestly, I’m not even sure how many of the target audience would like it, as Pee-Wee Herman is one of those hit-or-miss characters.  Either you love it or you’ll never understand how someone else could.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Note:  This review contains spoilers.  If you’re not into that, you might want to skip the review until after you’ve seen the movie.

I remember seeing the coming attraction s for Jupiter Ascending.  It looked like something that was epic.  A woman finds out that she’s an important figure and is thrust into a position of power.  It turns out that I was sort of right.  I was mostly wrong, but I was sort of right.  The movie was visually epic, but wasn’t much on the story.

Jupiter Jones is the woman in question.  Her father was born before she was born.  She was born in the middle of the ocean and finds herself without a nation.  Fast forward a few decades.  Jupiter is cleaning houses with her aunt.  She hates her life, and rightfully so.  She’s always wanting money for something that she doesn’t want.  She wants and advance, but can’t get it.  Her solution?  She lets her cousin talk her in to selling her eggs.  At the last minute, she’s attacked and subsequently rescued by Caine.

Caine explains that Jupiter is genetically identical to the deceased matriarch of the Abrasax family.  Said matriarch left her title and certain possessions to any human that matches her genetic code or something, meaning that Jupiter now owns Earth and that she’s some sort of queen.  One of the kids wants to marry Jupiter, which she agrees to.  It sounds kind of incestuous, since she’s an exact genetic match to his dead mother.  But, it’s ok since he plans to kill her and claim Earth as his own.  Yes, the kids each got planets of their own, but Earth is the mother lode.  It will make its owner rich beyond their wildest dreams.

It turns out that instead of this grand epic I was expecting, it was mostly Caine fighting to save Jupiter.  Yes, we got some nice visuals and stuff, but it wasn’t as strong on the story as I expected.  Jupiter Jones ends up being more of a McGuffin than a hero.  At first, I though that might be a bit harsh, bit it’s not.  She’s only there to move the story along.  She’s something pretty for the antagonists to fight over.

On that note, why would you leave something to someone who happens to end up with your genetic makeup?  Even though there are a lot of planets with humans, it seems hard to believe that we’d end up with that kind of convergence, and that quickly to boot.  Stuff like that always gets my attention.  It seems very improbable.  This isn’t even getting in to the fact that Jupiter has no idea what’s going on.  (Jupiter was supposed to be the reincarnation of the Matriarch.)

This is one of those movies that I ended up finding major flaws with.  As I said, Jupiter is a genetic match to the matriarch.  Ok.  I’ll admit that long shots come through.  It’s not impossible.  Still, why is she not freaked out at marrying her doppelganger’s son?  She seems taken in by the whole thing rather easily?

For that matter, she seems rather at ease selling her eggs during the beginning of the movie.  Yes, it’s a really nice telescope she wants, but this is her chance at having kids.  She’ll be getting $15,000.  Her cousin will be keeping $10,000, which is even more offensive.  When she calls him on it, he offers up a lame excuse, which she accepts.

If you like action films and don’t like thinking much about the plot, this might be your movie.  If you’re expecting something with a story or a reason to think about it afterwards, keep moving.  There’s nothing for you to see here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mindwarp (1992)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Most of the movies I watch, I find through advertisements or coming attractions.  Some, I find while wandering through a store looking at multi-movie packs.  Occasionally, I’ll look through Netflix for movies to watch and review.  I think I found Mindwarp while looking for Bruce Campbell movies.  I had never heard of the movie before and for good reason.

The movie takes place in 2037.  As you might expect from a post-apocalyptic movie, the ozone has been depleted, the Earth’s surface is uninhabitable and humanity is split up into two groups:  Those that live in a biodome hooked up to a virtual reality and those that live outside the biodome, either as a mutant or trying to avoid the mutants.  Judy lives in a biodome, sharing a room with her mother.  She spends most of her time in the VR system, disconnecting to eat and (presumably) perform other necessary biological functions.  She can experience anything she wants, which gets old.  She realizes it’s all fake and longs for something real.

When she accidentally kills her mother, she’s kicked out of paradise and sent to live outside.  She’s nearly attacked by some mutants, but is saved by Stover.  (Stover is played by Bruce Campbell.)  Mutants are unintelligent.  They can’t speak and spend most of their time mining what used to be landfills.  Stover is one of a handful of people left that are still what we would think of as human.  Eventually, both are captured by mutants.  Stover is put to work in the mines while Judy is taken to be sacrificed, but is saved by the Seer.

The Seer’s girlfriend, Cornelia, doesn’t like Judy, mostly because The Seer seems to have a special affection for Judy.  Cornelia tries to infect Judy with these mutant parasite leeches, which the Seer stops.  (If you’re at all squeamish, you don’t want to know what The Seer does as punishment.)  Meanwhile, Stover attempts to escape with Judy, which fails.  The seer puts Stover in a semi-submerged cage, causing him to become infected with several leeches, which is not good for Stover.

It’s also revealed that The Seer is Judy’s father, which isn’t so bad until he reveals that he wants them to have lots of normal little children to lead the mutants.  Another escape attempt is made with similar results.  This time, Judy manages to take find a more permanent solution to her problem.  (Again, those that are squeamish probably won’t want to know the details.)

I’m not going to give away the ending in case your stomach has the fortitude to make it through the entire movie.  However, I think it should be obvious by now that this is not a movie for children.  I think anyone younger than 10 will get nightmares.  Imagine if you took elements from The Matrix and the original Total Recall and tried to make it in the style of Mad Max.  You would end up with something roughly like this.

It’s the kind of movie that you can enjoy if you don’t expect too much.  I had wanted to watch it mostly to see Bruce Campbell in something other than Burn Notice.  Had I not been able to get this streaming, I probably would have held off, though.  There’s a low-budget look to the movie, partly in film quality and partly in the set design.  It was made in 1992, but it looks like something out of the ‘80s.  Also, the biodome sets look kind of generic and basic, which may be the point.  I don’t think that they quite pulled it off, though.  It’s kind of hard to do in this movie without looking like they couldn’t afford anything better.

If you have Netflix and are able to stream movies or you can get this on demand, I’d say give it a try.  It is different and isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen.  However, I wouldn’t recommend getting it on DVD or paying for it on demand.  At least I got a review out of it. 

Stargate (1994)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I was just out of high school when this movie first came out. I don’t remember hearing much about it, but I hadn’t really been to the theaters for a while. Years later, I would catch parts of it (usually the end) on Encore or The Sci-Fi Channel. It wasn’t really until the fifth season of the TV show, Stargate: SG-1, that I really got into it. I knew the basic premise of the movie, so the show wasn’t that hard to follow.

Stargate starts out in Giza, Egypt, in 1928. An archaeologist arrives on a dig site to see this amazing discovery. There’s a big ring with all of these symbols and no one has ever seen anything like it. As far as anyone knows, it’s the only one in existence. 60+ years later, Dr. Daniel Jackson is giving a lecture about ancient Egypt. He has all of these wacky ideas about alien influence. What few people there are walk out and Jackson has no idea why. As he’s leaving the building, he’s approached by a woman who wants him to work on a secret government project. He accepts, seeing as how he has little else to do. He’s being asked in to help decode the Stargate, which is now sitting under a mountain.

Then there’s Colonel Jack O’Neill, played by Kurt Russell. He’s getting over the loss of his son, who accidentally shot himself with the Colonel’s gun. He’s called in to oversee the military aspect of the Stargate program. O’Neill and Jackson don’t hit it off at first. O’Neill is a military officer having to deal with the loss of his son; Jackson is a brainy researcher who isn’t really even accepted in his own field.

Dr. Jackson finally gets the gate working and a probe is sent through. They discover a similar Stargate on the other side, along with a device for controlling it. The Stargate is a means of transporting people across space. The connection doesn’t stay open for very long, so there isn’t much information to go on insofar as the other planet is concerned. The deciding factor is Dr. Jackson’s belief that he could get a team back. He, Colonel O’Neill, and several others go through the gate to the other planet and are told to assess the situation and report back. The trouble is that Dr. Jackson can’t get the team back. He had made the assumption that there would be instructions waiting for him on the other side.

To Dr. Jackson’s amazement, they find pyramids similar to the ones on Earth, which supports Dr. Jackson’s theories. The downside is that if they can’t get back, he won’t be able to tell anyone about it. Things start to look good when they find people living on the planet. Things take a serious turn for the worse, though, when Ra shows up. (For those that don’t know much about Egyptian mythology, Ra is the Egyptian sun god.) Ra is played by Jaye Davidson, who you may remember from The Crying Game. Dr. Jackson discovers that Ra is actually ‘possessing’ a host. Ra has simply taken on the persona of a god and has everyone on the planet worshiping him. Things get much worse when Ra discovers that O’Neill brought a bomb with him; Ra decides to modify the bomb and send it back to Earth. The race is on.

Of Jackson and O’Neill, I felt that Jackson was better developed in the movie. O’Neill came across as a military zombie. He’s made a career in the military and doesn’t seem to plan on making it back. Jackson, on the other hand, tends to be more optimistic. He thinks that there’s a chance of getting home and wants to work towards that end. There is a great deal of naivete in Dr. Jackson, which he’s able to overcome to an extent.

The special effects are going to seem dated . There were times when the effects looked patchy or inconsistent. Some of the lower-budget effects came across pretty well. The movie is driven more by trying to make a coherent story than a vehicle for the special effects. The thing that the story had going for it was its overall simplicity. Get the gate working, go through it, and then get back in one piece. The technical explanations of the gate and what Ra is didn’t really appear until the series began on Showtime.

I got the Ultimate Edition, which has both the director’s cut and the theatrical cut. The difference is that the director’s cut has a few additional minutes of footage. I don’t know that you’d even notice most of it. The real benefit is the other special features. You get the theatrical trailer, audio commentary and some behind-the-scenes stuff, which I found interesting.

Those that have seen the series are going to find some discrepancies. The gate program is housed in Creek Mountain in the movie, but in Cheyenne Mountain in the series. In the movie, Abydos (the planet that the team goes to) is in another galaxy whereas the series has it in our own galaxy.

Despite the inconsistencies and special effects, I’m going to recommend this movie. If you’re looking for a great movie, this is it.

IMDb page