Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Inside Man: Most Wanted (2019)

It’s somewhat rare to find a sequel that captures the magic of the original.  Often, then tend to be seen as cash grabs.  You get the original cast back together and have a somewhat similar story.  By the time anyone realizes what’s happened, you already have their money.  In many cases, the sequels are released straight to video.  Inside Man: Most Wanted is one such case.

I had seen the original Inside Man and liked it.  When our house was being tented, we came across this movie, which I had never heard of, and with good reason.  It had been released directly to video, which is never a good sign.  Add to that the fact that the cast and crew is all new.  There are some tenuous connections, like familial relationships, but there’s almost no connection to the original film.  Even the music is different.

It does have a similar setup, though.  Some people rob the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City.  (Instead of Nazi diamonds, though, they’re after Nazi gold.)  An expert hostage negotiator is brought in.  After a few plot twists, hostages are released and the negotiator doesn’t know who was really a hostage.

I’d go into more detail, but why bother?  The movie is like that Can I Copy Your Homework meme.  A promise was made to change a few of the details, but we all know what really happened.  They took a copycat movie and turned it into a sequel for a movie that didn’t really need a sequel.  I think that anyone involved in the original was smart enough to pass on this one.  You should do the same.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

It would seem that movies based on comic books are popular right now.  DC and Marvel have all sorts of movies lined up.  There’s a new Wonder Woman movie coming out   I saw a coming attraction for a movie featuring Harley Quinn.  Joker is out now.  Yes, we have another Joker origin story.

But have you ever considered the other origin story?  Have you ever wondered how the character of Wonder Woman came to be?  There was a man named William Marston who was in love with two women.  Those women served as the basis for Princess Diana.  This movie tells the story of how that relationship turned into one of DC’s most iconic characters.

It starts with a burning pile of Wonder Woman comic books and flashes back to when William and Elizabeth Marston met Olive Byrne.  She was a student enrolled in his class who would become their life partner.  The movie shows the relationship as being difficult, especially at first.  Elizabeth wasn’t as accepting as William.  However, the three of them went on to have several children together.

It’s hard to tell how accurate the movie is.  Most of the intimate encounters depicted are speculative.  It’s also a major motion picture, which means that liberties are taken, anyway.  I’m sure many parts were glossed over or altered for the sake of the production. (For instance, the movie hypes up the Marstons’ contributions to the lie detector.)

I’d like to say that the movie was informative, but it seemed to be more about the sex than anything else.  Very little of it is about the comic book.  We get to see William talk to  Max Gaines, who would get Wonder Woman accepted for publication at National Periodical Publications.  We also get to see that the comic book wasn’t popular among conservative groups.  But this is very basic.

In fact, I had to look up Wonder Woman to find that Marston’s Wonder Woman isn’t anything like today’s Wonder Woman.  His comics did have more for conservatives to be concerned about.  This is where the movie didn’t really do the story justice.  I would have liked to see more of that.  No, I’m not saying I’m totally disinterested in the polyandrous aspect of it.  It’s just that’s not what I was expecting.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Gemini Man (2019)

I love watching the coming attractions when I go to see the movies.  Some get me excited.  (I’m stoked about seeing the new Terminator movie.)  When I saw the preview for Gemini Man, it looked interesting.  A man is hunted by his own clone.  Little did I know that I had basically seen the entire movie.  I hate to spoil it for everyone, but it’s basically true.

Henry Brogan (The older Will Smith character) is a sniper who realizes that it’s time to quit.  He’s starting to grow a conscience.  His boss hates to seem him go, as Henry is the best.  Shortly after retiring, he realizes something is up.  There’s someone new working at the marina.  A friend gives him information that his last target wasn’t a terrorist.  Suddenly, a guy on a motorcycle starts hunting him.  Who could it be?  Oh, that’s right.  I saw the coming attraction.  It’s Junior, the Will Smith clone.

The two have several engagements and eventually hunt down the people doing this to them.  I was kind of hoping that this might mean some nice action scenes.  It didn’t.  There was some nice scenery.  This made the use of a high frame rate and 3-D worth it.  Being able to see it in Dolby didn’t hurt, either.  But this is basically the only good thing I can say about the movie.  When all a movie has going for it is the visual spectacle, it’s not a particularly good movie.

I kind of felt like the movie put all it’s money into getting a few big names and some good visuals.  There’s very little about the morality of what happened.  Instead, it focuses on the revenge aspect.  Yes, I know it’s difficult to come up with great movies all the time.  I’ve been seeing a few mediocre ones lately.  But this one is like the writer wasn’t even trying.  You know how people complain that cable has 400 channels and most of them are crap?  This isn’t one of the good channels.

There’s nothing really new or exciting about this movie.  Clones aren’t new.  Being replaced isn’t new.  I don’t recall that many witty one-liners.  You’d be better off just watching the coming attractions a few times.  Save yourself the ticket price.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Abominable (2019)

Long ago, I noticed the trend of copycat movies.  I don’t think I was even the first to do so.  One astronaut movie gets released and suddenly, you have three or four more over the next year.  One alien movie gets released and it’s followed by another alien movie or two.

In 2018, we got Smallfoot.  It was an animated movie about yeti that interacted with humans.  That was followed by Missing Link, a Sasquatch who called upon a human to help him find the Yeti.

Do you want to guess what Abominable is about?

The movie starts with a girl named Yi, who finds a yeti living on the roof of her apartment building.  She and two of her neighbors set off on an adventure to return him to his home. The Yeti is even named Everest, as that’s where he’s from.  To put a little pressure on, they’re chased by the seemingly evil businessman, Mr. Burnish.  He wants the yeti so that he might prove that the creature exists.

To be fair, I enjoyed all three movies.  Maybe Smallfoot wasn’t the best.  In fact, it was the weakest of the three so far, which is ironic in that it was the first to be released.  My point is that we do seem to have three distinct movies.  Yes, it’s a little predictable.  You know that the yeti will get home to his family despite a few major setbacks.  It’s a long journey and they will have a few obstacles to overcome.

Each of the three movies I mentioned is at least visually distinct enough that you’ll probably have a favorite.   Of the three movies, this is probably the one I would expect to do the best.  The movie is at least animated well, which is a good thing here.  Yi, Everest and friends visit a few major landmarks which are all rendered in detail.

If you’re looking to watch all of them, I would suggest skipping Smallfoot unless you have children.  Missing Link was done with stop motion, which is going to give it a different look.  (Abominable was done with CGI, as you might have gathered from the posters.)

I do think that this would be a good movie to take children to see.  There are some tense moments where Everest is at risk.  There are maybe one or two scenes that would scare smaller children, like Everest being caged.  Still, it’s one that parents can enjoy as well.  At least it’s a fun movie.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Time Trap (2017)

I’m not really sure what to make of Time Trap.  It’s a fairly simple movie wherein some students and their friends go in search of a missing professor.  The professor had initially gone in search of his parents and sister, who went missing years before.  At the heart of all of this is a system of caves that no one seems to want anything to do with.  Once inside, time slows down.  The further in you go, the slower time gets.  Thus, we have a time trap.

It’s a really good premise.  The problem is that the movie doesn’t do much beyond that.  It’s sort of like The Blair Witch project, which the film does reference.  It’s mostly about a group of people sinking deeper into a problem like quicksand.  The odds of them returning to a normal life seem to go down with each passing discovery.  (Outside light gives the group a clue as to their predicament.)

The ending is a little odd, but not unexpected.  The group is rescued, but finds themselves in a totally alien environment.  I didn’t really get the resolution I wanted.  It’s indicated that they were presumed lost, although we don’t know the exact amount of time that has passed.  All of their loved ones have since perished.  The problem is that we don’t know what will become of them.

Because of this, I’m wondering if this was intended as a backdoor pilot.  It would be the perfect intro to a new series, akin to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  The group would presumably have to adapt to life in the far future.  I can’t find anything online about a TV show or any sequels, although it wouldn’t surprise me to find one later on.

It’s kind of difficult to recommend.  The movie is all buildup with little actual resolve.  I kept waiting for something to happen.  It was available streaming on Netflix and has an 87-minute running time, which are definite advantages.  The movie also doesn’t seem to try to overreach.  It stays within the confines of a simple, coherent story and does it fairly well.  It’s just that it’s kind of a letdown not knowing what kind of world the group entered.  I can only hope that that story is for another movie.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Curvature (2017)

It’s funny how good cover art and an interesting premise can lead nowhere while a basic cover and a seemingly basic plot can be the best movie you ever saw.  I found Curvature on DVD through Netflix, thinking it might be something worth watching.  Helen is sent back in time as part of a top-secret project, but she has amnesia because of it.  She also gets a call from herself telling her to flee her house.

It sounds like it might be exciting.  Right?  The entire movie is the definition of meh.  This is despite being chased by her deceased husband’s business partner and the fact that there’s some sort of secret weapon she left for herself.  It turns out that there’s some sort of time-travel project that Helen’s husband was working on before he committed suicide, except maybe it wasn’t suicide.

It’s also a little confusing.  One of the side effects of time travel is the amnesia.  This makes it somewhat difficult to use in any practical sense.  It’s not clear if the Helen we’re watching is the future or the past Helen.  She has the amnesia associated with time travel, but she’s getting help from her other self, which is supposed to be her past self.  So, how does she know what she needs to know to help our Helen?

Helen also seems to have amnesia from before the time travel.  This, I can at least accept.  There’s no reason that the amnesia should correlate exactly to the time frame of the travel being done.  This just makes it even less useful.  Not only can you not remember what happened during the week you went back, but you’re going to lose a few more days on top of that.  It’s kind of an interesting side effect, if you’re looking for one to make time travel useless.  It doesn’t kill the person, but it does make it harder to change anything.  Even if you send back a note, there’s no way to know if it’s accurate or meaningful.

The entire thing seems like a story you might come up with in a writing class.  It’s a decent story, but there’s not too much to hold your attention.  Part of what makes a good time-travel story is that it uses the time travel aspect as a backdrop.  Terminator, for instance, was about the fate of humanity.  It was about people versus machines.  Going back in time was an interesting way to head off the problem of a great leader:  Make sure the leader was never born.

If you’re looking for a simple time-travel movie that works, go with Timecrimes.  It’s a little more complex, but it gives you that complexity in a way that’s easy to follow.  If you’re looking for something way more complex, go with Primer.  It may get difficult to follow, but it will keep you thinking.  I’d avoid Curvature.  I don’t need an entire week.  I’d settle for getting my 90 minutes back.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

There are some movies that have a timeless feel to them.  I can watch The Princess Bride and it will always be a great movie.  Others tend to feel dated after a while.  Movies like Blazing Saddles were definitely a product of their times.  This isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie, but rather that it hasn’t aged well.  Somewhere in the middle is Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  It’s still a most excellent adventure, but it still has a slight whiff of the late 1980s.

The movie centers around Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire.  They’re two slackers who are about to flunk out of high school.  This is some seriously bad news.  If this happens, Ted will be shipped off to a military school in Alaska.  Without Ted, the band Wyld Stalyns won’t form and serve as the basis for a wonderful future where everyone gets along.  So, the future residents of San Dimas send Rufus back to make sure that Bill and Ted pass an oral report.

Rufus lends the duo a time machine in the form of a phone booth.  They can dial any time and place they want, so Bill and Ted decide to visit a bunch of historical figures, like Socrates and Billy the Kid.  Instead, eight people from history come to the San Dimas of 1989 to tell Bill and Ted’s school about what they think of modern society.

Needless to say, it’s not easy.  Bill and Ted have to bust the people out of jail, for instance.  There’s also the issue of getting Napoleon out of a water park named Waterloo.  Bill and Ted are also not the brightest.  Billy the Kid is referred to as Mr. The Kid.  They also pronounce Socrates more like it’s spelled.  So, yeah.  The future of the world rests on these two.

I remember really liking the movie when I first saw it.  This is probably because I was closer in age to the two main characters.  It’s still a funny movie and would probably get a few laughs on first viewing.  However, it’s not quite as funny when you know the jokes are coming.

The movie doesn’t delve into the paradoxes of time travel too much.  The movie is a comedy and is more focused on the jokes, like Beethoven discovering synthesizers at a mall.  (Like I said, 1980s.)  It does make for a smoother movie and I didn’t find myself finding too many plot holes or inconsistencies.  It is a little odd that no one reacts to modern-day clothing in the past, though.

I was prompted to watch this when I heard news of Bill & Ted Face the Music.  It would seem that Keanu Reeves is destined to be a man of trilogies.  Interestingly, both The Matrix and John Wick franchises each seem to have a new movie coming out.  This would make Mr. Reeves very busy for the next few years.