Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955)

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

Many years ago, I got a bunch of these multi-movie sets distributed by St. Clair Vision.  There was one that had 10 science-fiction movies and boasted over 13 hours!  One of those movies was The Phantom From 10,000 leagues, which accounted for 80 minutes of that amazing running time.  The idea was to write reviews of these movies in the hopes of making my money back.  If you recognize St. Clair Vision from some of my other reviews, you know that I should have been a little more cautious.

Part of the problem is that St. Clair Vision took advantage of public-domain titles, meaning that they could keep costs at a minimum by presumably not paying royalties.  They seemed to also put minimal effort and money into restoring many of the titles that they released in these sets.  You’d think that they’d at least find some decent titles, but they couldn’t even be bothered to do that.  The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues seems to typify everything that St. Clair Vision did wrong with these sets.

The movie takes place in California.  It starts with some bodies washed up on the shore, horribly burned with their rowboat severely damaged.  (Due to poor picture quality, you wouldn’t know except that people keep commenting on it, but more on that later.)  Doctor Ted Stevens is sent in to investigate.  He finds Professor King, who is doing research during his institution’s off season.  It’s so secret that not even his secretary, Ethel, doesn’t know what’s going on.  All Ethel can tell Dr. Stevens is that Prof. King locks himself in his office most of the day.

Dr. Stevens decides to do a little investigating in the ocean.  He uses the same charred rowboat, presumably with a new coat of paint, to see what’s going on.  He finds a guy in a lizard costume guarding some sort of light.  The guy in the costume is supposed to be the phantom from the title and the light is supposed to be some sort of mutant-forming radiation.  (In all honesty, I feel bad for the guy in the lizard suit.  It must be hard enough getting into costume like that, but to have to do all of your scenes underwater must be unbearable.)

Professor King’s assistant, George, does seem to have some idea of what‘s going on.  He’s working for some mysterious woman that wants him to steal King’s research or something.  George’s main interest seems to be killing (or at least trying to kill) people by harpooning them.  You may wonder why he uses a harpoon. I was wondering the same thing.  I don’t think he’s that bright.  He leaves the harpoon out for someone to find, complete with lots of his fingerprints.

Add to the mix Lois, Professor King’s daughter.  Dr. Stevens seems to take an interest in her, which she reciprocates.  When he’s not trying to figure out what’s going on, he’s usually spending time with her.  She doesn’t know what’s going on, either.  Eventually, everything is figured out, sort of, and taken care of, sort of.  The movie was so bad, I’m already trying to block it.

This is one of those movies that just had to be low budget.  (IMDb lists it as $100,000.  Assuming price doubles every 20 years, this would be about $750,000 in today’s money, roughly speaking.)  For instance, the same rowboat is used over and over again.  Also, the acting seemed pretty stiff, even though many of the actors seem to have been in other projects.  (This may be generational.  The movie was made about 60 years ago.) Another thing was that it seemed like a lot of people went diving without any sort of gear.  I don’t know if it was too hard to get, too expensive or just wasn’t common in the 1950’s.  Maybe they had spent all of their prop money on the rowboat.

The visual aspect was really bad.  Saint Clair apparently made no effort to restore the image at all.  The picture would go from very dark to blindingly bright.  This is why it was difficult for me to tell how obvious the burns were on the boat and people.  That’s how bad the film quality was.

The next time I get around to doing a worst-of list, I will probably put this movie on that list.  I would not recommend buying the movie.  I wouldn’t even waste a free Redbox code on it.  The only way I’d recommend watching it is if you get it as part of a set, like I did, or you can get it streaming. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Phantom Planet (1961)

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

Warning:  I’m going to be giving away a lot of details in this review.  If you don’t want to know every last detail, you might want to stop reading now.

In the future, it always seems like we have some sort of space travel.  In some cases, we’ve explored the galaxy.  In others, we’re just starting out.  In the Phantom Planet, the year is 1980 and the United States Air Force has a lunar base and is sending out people to have a look around.  When several ships go missing, the commanding officer pulls Capt. Frank Chapman off the Mars mission to go out looking for answers.

He and his navigator, Lt. Ray Makonnen, follow the flight plan exactly, but Chapman has a feeling that sticking to the exact course won’t do anything.  So, they deviate and are promptly hit by a meteor shower.  When they go out to fix the damage, they don’t use any sort of tether. Makonnen is able to save Chapman, but pays the ultimate price when he’s sent drifting off into space.

Due to an oxygen leak, Chapman passes out.  He awakens to find Makonnen gone and the ship being pulled into a large asteroid.  He makes a recording for posterity as he lands on the surface.  After crashing, he passes out only to awaken to some really small people.  We’re talking smaller than his helmet people.  After breathing in their air, Chapman shrinks to their size.

In an effort to defend himself, Chapman assaults one of the people.  He’s tried and convicted only to be handed down the horrible sentence of being able to walk freely among the native population.  He’s told that he can’t go back.  When he presses the issue, he’s told that his spacecraft has been sent off into space.

Rhetton is the name of the planet and the people of Rhetton are very advanced compared to Earth.  The reason they’re so small is that the atoms in their world have electrons with tighter orbits, meaning that everything is more compressed.  (I think this is supposed to explain why Chapman appears to shed so much mass.)  They have the ability to control gravity, which lets them move the planet around at will.  They also have the ability to synthesize food, which explains how they can live on a barren planet.  (It doesn’t explain how they evolved there, though.)

Chapman is given the choice of two women to marry.  Both Zetha and Liara are attractive women.  Zetha, however, is mute.  Thus, she can’t flirt with him making Liara the seemingly better choice.  Liara’s main drawback is that she’s also the object of affection of Herron.  Herron challenges Chapman to a duel to the death.  Chapman wins, but spares Herron’s life.

As a sign of gratitude, Herron offers to help Chapman to escape.  Yes, his ship is missing, but his suit is still around.  If he breathes in some oxygen from his suit’s tank, he’ll return to normal size.  The real challenge is getting the Rhetton close enough to the lunar base that someone notices and comes to rescue Chapman.  Before that can happen, the Solarites attack.  It seems that they’ve noticed Rhetton’s advanced technology and have wanted it ever since.  Will the people of Rhetton defeat the Solarites?  Will Chapman get back to Earth?  You’ll have to watch to find out.

Overall, the movie was pretty good.  Being a product of 1961, there are a few things that people will notice when watching it today.  First, the project is handled by the Air Force.  From what I understand, the Air Force was a frontrunner for the space program until NASA was formed in 1958.  I’m wondering why the Air Force was used.  Even if it was based on a book or short story, it wouldn’t have been that hard to change a few words.  (I suppose it’s possible that the program is run by NASA and staffed by the Air Force.)

One thing that I found on IMDb is a goof wherein Chapman’s ship, when landing on Rhetton, is pointed sideways and going full blast.  This would normally defy what we know of physics not to mention that a ship probably wouldn’t land this way.  It occurred to me that Chapman didn’t really want to land on the planet.  Instead, the people on Rhetton pulled him in against his will.  The sideways-pointing rocket was probably more of an attempt to escape.  The real question is why the people of Rhetton didn’t just deflect his ship and send him flying off in some other direction.

Another issue, also pointed out on IMDb, is that there’s seemingly normal gravity when Chapman and Makonnen go out to fix the ship.  Either they used magnetic boots (which they didn’t seem to) or they should have used a tether.  I know that they’ve mastered gravity on Rhetton, so I think it’s safe to assume that they can manipulate the planet’s gravity to suit their needs.  As for the lunar base and the ship, I’m assuming that since we’ve mastered space flight, we’ve also managed to create artificial gravity.

The acting was a little wooden throughout most of the movie.  The aliens can get away with it, being that they seem to live in a relatively sterile society.  There’s no mention of what they do for fun.  I didn’t see any night clubs or malls or anything.  You’d think that Chapman would get bored and ask if there was a movie theater or something.

While the Solarite ships looked pretty fake, the Solarite costume looked pretty decent.  It did seem like the actor in the suit was having problems as if his visibility was severely limited.  (Notice that the actor hesitated when walking down a few steps.  I don’t think this was the character being cautious.)  Many of the caves also looked like they were made from Styrofoam.  I have to wonder if people of the time accepted this as cutting-edge special effects.

I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to rent this.  If you get it as part of a larger set, like I did, or if it comes on TV, I’d say watch it.  There are worse ways to spend 82 minutes.  The only thing of any interest here is that clips from the movie were used for a La Quinta advertisement.  You may remember the series of ads where La Quinta took a few clips and dubbed over them.  If you’ve seen the ads, you should recognize the scene they used immediately. 

Green Lantern (2011)

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

Comics tend to serve as source material for movies and TV.  It makes sense.  You have a well-developed universe to draw from and there’s usually name recognition to draw people to the theaters.  Yes, there have been notable failures.  The backing of a big studio doesn’t always mean success.  I’ve liked comic-based movies, such as the Men in Black series and the recent Batman movies.  On the other hand, I do remember some of the less-recent Batman movies and I’ve caught parts of Catwoman.  I’m kind of on the border about Green Lantern.  The production values and acting are good and it’s not over-the top silly, but it just doesn’t seem to come together.

For those that haven’t heard of the comics or seen any of the related TV shows, the Green Lantern Corps protects the universe from various major threats.  The green energy associated with sheer willpower was harnessed and used to form 3600 rings, each given to a different individual in each of 3600 sectors.  At the start of the movie, Abin Sur is the protector for Sector 2814, which includes Earth.

Abin Sur crashes on Earth while fleeing Paralax.  Critically injured, he sends the ring to find a new Green Lantern for Sector 2814.  That man is Hal Jordan.  Hal is brought to the shipwreck and given the ring and accompanying lantern and told to take the oath, which he eventually does.  Hal buries the body of Abin Sur, albeit not very well, and goes home, not realizing what he’s gotten himself into.

Well, he’s taken to the Corps’s home planet/headquarters of Oa.  There, other Green Lanterns fill him in on what the ring is and does.  He begins training, but Sinestro basically sees him for the pathetic loser that he really is.  Sure, he looks good in green.  Yes, he can fly a plane and do things that no one else will do.  However, if some super powerful villain is threatening Earth, that villain isn’t going to cut Hal any slack.

Hal quits the Corps, but keeps the ring and lantern.  It isn’t until his love interest is in danger that Hal realizes what being a Green Lantern is all about.  He’s able to single-handedly defeat the bad guy when others have failed.  The other Green Lanterns realize that Hal Jordan may be worthy of the ring, after all.

Part of my problem with the movie is that there was too much setup.  With other superhero movies, you have some introduction, but not much.  We see Batman lose his parents. We see Superman raised as Clark Kent.  Most of those movies were the good guys dealing with the bad guys.  Here, most of it is Hal Jordan trying to come to terms with being a Green Lantern.  It’s a pretty high bar that’s been set for him.  His being selected as Green Lantern was an act of necessity.

The actual fighting of the enemy seems to take a very short amount of time.  There are a few battles between the enemy, Paralax, and more-established Green Lanterns, mostly to show how bad this guy is.  Then, Hal has to defeat him alone.  (Yes, having the new guy take on such a powerful opponent seemed strange to me.)  The movie seemed more like a vehicle for the CGI to me.  We get to see Hall Jordan turn into a Green Lantern.  We get to see him make a racecar and track to save someone.  Yes, the CGI is good, but it’s not enough to carry the movie.

I remember seeing a sequel on IMDb.  I don't know if it was cancelled or if I'm imagining things.  I was curious to see how it would have turned out.

Official site (Warner Brothers)

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Brother from Another Planet (1984)

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

There are three main reasons I watch a movie these days:  I like the coming attractions, it’s a movie I saw a long time ago or it’s a Z movie that I have to see to believe.  I came across Brother From Another Planet while looking for movies to stream through Netflix.  I had seen it about 20 years ago.  I was in a community-service program called AmeriCorps; One of the things they did for Corps members was having a movie night.  (I recall this movie and The Milagro Beanfield War being two of the selections.  I don’t recall what the criteria were, though.)  The movie had been released about ten years prior to that, in 1984.

The movie is about a humanoid alien that lands on Earth.  He looks like you’re typical African-American male, hence the name of the movie.  His ship crashes and he’s badly injured, but he’s able to make it to the safety of a bar in Brooklyn.  The regulars there start to trust him when he fixes a video game.  They realize that he has a skill, so he gets a job fixing video games.  They also set him up with a place to live.

Things are going pretty well for The Brother until two well-dressed white guys show up asking about him.  The people at the bar claim not to have seen him, but he gets kicked out of his place, as his landlady doesn’t like people asking questions.  The Brother manages to see a good deal of Brooklyn, including an overdosed druggie.  This leads The Brother to hunt down the guy responsible.  (One of the scenes I recalled was a scene in which The Brother uses his eye as a remote-surveillance device.)

This is one of those movies where low budget doesn’t mean low quality.  If you’ve watched a lot of television and movies, you’ll recognize a few of the actors, including Joe Morton.  You have a good, relatable main character played by an actor who shows that you don’t have to speak to get your point across.  It’s not heavy on the science fiction, either.

I will say that it’s a strange movie.  Netflix lists the movie as a comedy, but I don’t think of it as being a comedy in the traditional sense.  (One definition that I heard was that difference between a comedy and a drama is that in a comedy, none of the main characters die at the end.)  It’s not really the kind of movie where you’ll find yourself laughing.

I’m not sure it’s a movie for children.  It’s not gory or anything, but The Brother is called Three Toe by his pursuers for good reason.  It’s not overly disturbing, but it’s the kind of thing that could stick in a child’s mind.  (How is it that no one notices the tree toes, though?)  There’s also the drug scene to worry about.  Primarily, though, the movie does deal with issues of race and other things children probably wouldn’t catch.

It does look dated, but I’m not holding that against the movie.  I don’t think you could really do better with more of a budget here.  I’d recommend watching this movie, especially if you have Netflix and can stream it.  When I first watched it, Netflix didn’t offer an option for DVD.  It does look like it is now available on DVD, although that has a way of changing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thale (2012)

I have to wonder how many movies there are out there that I’ll never come across.  It’s hard enough distinguishing yourself from the countless scripts that never even make it into production, let alone find any sort of release.  With all manner of movies being released, there are so many that I will hear about and get around to watching.  This is why I tend to review a lot of foreign and independent movies.  Maybe I’ll be able to introduce someone to an enjoyable movie that the might not otherwise have come across.  Thale is a movie I came across while looking at movies on Netflix.  I’m not sure if I came across it while browsing titles they have streaming or if it was recommended to me after watching another movie.

The movie is about two guys that clean up crime scenes for a living.  Well, actually, Leo is the professional.  He invites Elvis along to help when his partner needs to take some time off.  This is most evident when we see the two of them working.  Leo is obviously desensitized to it while Elvis spends much of the beginning of the movie vomiting.  (Elvis would probably rather be doing something else, but he’s short on cash.)

This changes one day when they find a woman at one of their job sites.  Elvis wanders into the basement and comes across her in a bath of a milky liquid.    Leo calls it in, but backup won’t arrive for a while.  This leaves the two of them to watch her.  You wouldn’t think this is so hard except that she’s mute.  And they make some unusual discoveries, like audio recordings of a man, presumably the deceased, who was also presumably caring for the woman, named Thale.

It’s not explicitly clear how she came to be in his care or what their situation was.  We don’t get to hear much of the tapes, but Thale is a touch telepath and is able to impart some images to Elvis.  We also have a group of people hunting Thale and others like her.  IMDb lists the leader as Hvittkledd, which translates as White Dressed.  Mr. White is apparently able to track her using biometrics.  He is very interested in taking her with him.  She’s a huldra, but not like the others that the movie shows.  Others of her kind are also apparently in the vicinity, although they don’t appear to be that aggressive towards Elvis and Leo.

The movie reminds me of Timecrimes in that there aren’t many characters and the story is easy to follow.  I’m glad I was able to get this streaming.  It’s a short movie at only 76 minutes, but I think the simplicity worked for the movie.  There were very few parts that dragged and I think the movie would have suffered if it had been stretched out.  It was also not like many other movies that I’ve seen.  This might be because I’m accustomed to American movies.  This may be typical of Norwegian movies.  (Yes, the movie is subtitled.)

In that regard, I’m not sure how much is lost in translation.  I’m not sure that there’s an analog for the creature in American folklore.  Also, the movie listed on Netflix as a horror film, but it’s not really what I’d call horror.  I’m sure if I watched the movie with someone familiar with the background, they could point stuff out that would have gone right over my head.

I could see this movie being hit and miss with a lot of people.  I might have viewed it differently if I had watched it another day.  It’s not a particularly suspenseful or action-packed movie.  It is, however, only 77 minutes.  The movie is able to tell a story in a short amount of time.  With a little tweaking, we could have a viable pilot for a TV series.  IMDb has Thale 2 listed as in production, so the story does go on.  I’d be interested to see what happens next.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Heisei tanuki gassen ponpoko [Pom Poko] (1994)

In Japan, there’s a creature called the tanuki. (According to Wikipedia, there seems to be some variation on what a tanuki is, but the English translation has them incorrectly as raccoons.) The movie starts out in the 1960’s with the tanukis’ habitat slowly being taken over by development. They know that they have to band together to prevent this, but tanuki are basically lazy and playful. Life is just one big party for them.

Once food starts becoming scarce, they know that they have to get their act together and do something. The decide to declare all-out war on humans. Everything they try backfires. The problem stems from the fact that their only real skill is shape shifting. They’re able to scare off construction workers, but it isn’t long before new workers are found and the new workers aren’t as easily scared.

They manage to get help from a far-away colony of tanuki, but even this doesn’t help. They stage a parade that makes a lot of people fearful enough to shut down the construction, but this is undone by the owner of a local theme park that takes credit for it, saying that it’s a publicity stunt. This puts them in a real bind. Tanuki are dying and those that are still around end up in various factions, each having different ideas on how to handle the problem.

In the end, I felt that the movie was too long, even though it ran about two hours. I can’t find any particular point that the movie should have ended or any parts that could have been cut out, but there were several points where I found myself wondering how much of the movie was left. I could have seen the movie being split up into a miniseries or a TV show.

I’ve been watching a lot of Studio Ghibli films. Usually, I can be pretty certain that I’ll like anything with the Studio Ghibli name on it. Pom Poko has been the only one that made me step back and think. The primary reason is that the male tanuki have very obvious testicles, which are translated as ‘pouches’, and the females have breasts. This caught me off guard and may cause parents to question whether or not their children should be watching this. (The male tanuki use there are able to morph their testicles into various things like parachutes.) At first, I was wondering if I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. In retrospect, it wasn’t a big deal. Overall, it didn’t play a major part, but is probably responsible for the PG rating.

It’s hard to let that overshadow the fact that it was still a good movie with a great message. This is a problem going on around the world. The movie shows how animals need their habitat and are often forced to live in a human world. The tanuki are forced to do something while humans basically ignore them. I would recommend this movie, but would advise you to watch it before letting your kids see it. Even though the movie was directed by Isao Takahata, don’t expect a movie like Grave of the Fireflies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wir sind die Nacht [We Are the Night] (2010)

I’ve never hidden the fact that I have a thing for vampires, particularly of the female persuasion.  When I came across We Are the Night on Netflix, I decided to add it to my queue.  Here was a movie about vampires with three attractive women on the cover.  Add to this that it was available streaming and it was just a matter of time before I got around to watching it.

The story goes that Louise, Charlotte and Nora are the three female vampires you see in Netflix’s image.  One night, Lena stumbles upon a rave that they’re throwing.  Louise sees Lena and knows that Lena is the one that she’s been looking for.  Louise turns Lena first chance she gets.  This makes Lena a little nervous.  To have some random woman bite you is strange.  It’s not like she has many people to turn to, though.  She’s out on parole and doesn’t really want to make waves.  So, she goes to sleep and wakes up to discover that she has no reflection.

So, she goes back to try and find Louise.  Louise lets her in on their history.  The three women rock and roll all day and party every night.  Being undead, they can do whatever they want.  Coke?  Won’t kill you.  Sex?  You won’t catch anything.  In fact, the movie starts with Louise, Charlotte and Nora killing everyone on a plane and jumping out the airlock.  That pretty much sets the tone for the movie.

You don’t necessarily see a lot of killing or sex.  Much of it is implied.  This isn’t to say that it’s not an interesting movie.  Louise & Co. don’t turn men.  They feel that men are arrogant pigs and any male tendency is only amplified by being a vampire, making them a pain to have around.  So, yeah.  It’s all about four vampire women having as much fun as they want.  They steal sports cars.  They bribe a security guard to let them into a high-end store.  They do drugs without any regard for consequences.

This does draw the attention of the police.  Lena is sold to a pimp, expecting her to feed off him.  It doesn’t go as planned and they have to kill him and torch the evidence.  The problem is that they leave a living witness, who reports the incident to the police.  The police are able to piece everything together and find the four vampires.  They have a plan to leave town quickly, but it‘s not enough.  The police have them surrounded.  Will they escape or is it the end for the vampires?

One thing that gets me about vampire movies is that they always tend to use a few clichés.  I’ll admit that I expected this coming in to the movie, but I always feel compelled to bring these up.  The most obvious is the use of mirrors.  Yes, I understand that we need a way for someone to either identify themselves or someone else as a vampire and the easiest way to do this is to look in a mirror.  It’s easy and effective.  Still, I could never figure out what it was about a mirror that prevented a vampire from being seen indirectly.  You can see them.  They cast a shadow.  This means that they should also have a reflection.

Bursting into flames in sunlight is another one.  At least this one can be explained as an Achilles’ heel.  You’re given all of these neat powers like quick regeneration and super strength.  There has to be a down side.  I guess combustibility isn’t that hard to believe.  Sunlight is pretty powerful and there does seem to be some variation on this.  (For example, vampires might only be hurt by sunlight or can use sunscreen.)  It also gives the vampires an obstacle.  Then again, the main reason I watched this movie was to see four beautiful female vampires.  Vampire movies end up being horror or soft porn, depending on the male-to-female ratio.

I also got it streaming, so I can forgive a few inconsistencies.  Yes, the constant partying and increasing body count do catch up with them.  I do find it odd, though, that they were so careless suddenly.  Lena is the new addition.  The others have been around long enough to start counting age in centuries.  They should have learned to better control their impulses.

Overall, it was definitely one of the better movies that Netflix has available to watch online.  If you have Netflix, I’d recommend checking it out.

We Are The Night – IFC Entertainment - IFC Films

We Are The Night - Official Trailer [HD]

Transcendence (2014)

I’m usually a good judge of whether or not I’ll like a movie based on the coming attractions.  When I saw the coming attractions for Transcendence, it looked interesting.  A guy is able to upload himself to a computer.  I was thinking it would be about all the horrors that might ensue from having a human mind freed from the constraints of a human brain.  The movie wasn’t anywhere near what I expected.

Dr. Will Castor is said guy.  He’s an expert on AI.  He’s even had success copying the brain of a nonhuman primate to a computer.  Not everyone likes his work.  They fear what they don’t know.  Some are so afraid that they confront and shoot him.  Castor survives the bullet, but not the radioactive material it was laced with.  He’s forced to upload himself to a computer.

But is it really him?  We have no way of knowing if it’s his consciousness or just a program using his memories.  Will’s widow, Evelyn, is convinced it’s him.  Others, not so much.  The group behind the shooting are after her and the AI.  They’re even able to turn his friend to their cause.  Still, Will (in AI form) is able to set up Evelyn with more money than she’d ever need.  She uses the money to build a complex to house Will’s AI, allowing him to make all sorts of medical breakthroughs.

Things turn sinister when it’s revealed that by treating people, Will is able to absorb them into a collective consciousness.  Evelyn can’t stand the thought of losing what remains of Will.  Everyone else sees the inherent danger.  Eventually, she comes around, but the odds of her being able to help don’t look good.

For those of you that don’t like spoilers, I should warn you that the movie starts with the final scene, making it somewhat obvious that things don’t end well.  I’ve always hated this movie because I’m constantly wondering what brought the movie to that point.  I’m always trying to read things into everything.  It doesn’t really work well here.

Also, I know I’m not the first person to point out that the movie is kind of derivative in many respects.  Fear of AI is nothing new.  Could Will help people by curing all manner of problems?  Yes.  Could humanity lose its humanity?  Maybe?  Is it really Will?  As I said, there’s no way to be sure.

Also, the idea of uploading consciousness has been seen in The Lawnmower Man, Max Headroom and Caprica.  The idea of assimilating people has been done with Star Trek’s the Borg and Doctor Who’s Cybermen.  If you are the kind of person that really likes science fiction, you’re going to notice parallels to other movies and TV shows.

That was my big thing here.  I don’t feel like the movie did anything new with any of the ideas.  Actually, I don’t feel that the movie did much of anything with any of the ideas.  Most of the movie is Will in computer form.  The other characters are worried about what this could mean.  The most obvious threat is that he could absorb all of humanity and/or bring about The Singularity.  There isn’t much said about this other than it’s happening.

There are other issues that could be explored here.  Will is a nice guy.  What would happen if a dictator had uploaded himself?  Also, power corrupts.  Will is shown as being a little more aggressive, but at no point does Evelyn ever state that it’s gone to his head, so to speak.  Will is able to do almost anything he can think up.  What would stop him from becoming a dictator?  Is it better to stop him out of fear of him becoming ruler of the world or do you let him help people?

The movie seems like an episode of The Outer Limits stretched too far.  Where does humanity end and technology begin?  How do you stop someone who could easily become unstoppable?  The movie touched on these subjects, but not very well.  It was a 48-minute concept that the writers had to stretch to two hours.  It seemed forced.

Ultimately, the movie fell flat.  I kept waiting for the action to start and it didn’t.  There was no suspense.  There was nothing to make you think or feel for the characters.  Once Will is dead and uploaded, he’s not really shown as being in any danger.  The danger lies with Evelyn, who’s effectively being held hostage.  However, she has a nice-looking place to live and enough food and water to last her indefinitely.  The only problem is that she’s at Will’s mercy.  The movie presents the issue, but doesn’t deal with it.

I had used a free Redbox code to rent the movie.  I’m glad that I didn’t have to pay money for it.  It ended up being a disappointment.  It ended up being a movie in desperate need of a direction.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cherry 2000 (1987)

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

Warning:  I’m going to give out major details about this movie, including the ending.  If you don’t like spoilers, this isn’t a good review to read before seeing the movie.

In my review of Dune, I started by saying that there were three kinds of movies.  You have movies that are easy to understand, movies that require some explanation, and those where no amount of explanation will help.  This is the third kind of movie.

The movie starts off with a man and what appears to be a woman.   They’re having dinner, although she’s not eating.  After dinner, it turns into a Viagra commercial with the two of them getting busy on the kitchen floor.  I don’t know if it’s carelessness or if the dishwasher is jealous, but the dishwasher overflows and shorts out the woman.  Yes, she’s a sexbot known as the Cherry 2000.

The man’s name is Sam Treadwell.  He takes the Cherry 2000 in to be repaired, but that’s an impossibility.  They haven’t made that model in quite a while, so getting parts is out of the question.  Even replacing her outright is going to be difficult.  On the mechanic’s advice, Sam takes her memory chip and sets off to find a tracker.  The tracker should be able to take him in to The Zone to find an abandoned sexbot factory.

Sam finds and hires Edith Johnson, played by Melanie Griffith.  They have to travel a great distance into The Zone, which is inhabited by lawless hooligans that will shoot at you if you come into their territory.  (No one ever said that getting to or inside the warehouse was going to be easy.)   Edith hooks up with Six-Fingered Jake, who happens to be Edith’s uncle or father or something.  He was said to be dead, but he really just wanted out of the business.  He’s now in to selling toasters.

When they set off to find the factory, they’re attacked.  Sam is taken by the group of local crazies led by Lester.  Sam is told that Edith and Jake are dead, but they were able to tow Edith’s car in.  Sam’s ex, Ginger, is there.  (You don’t understand… She changed her name.  Don’t worry; I don’t understand, either.)  The locals live in what appears to be an abandoned motel or something.  Another thing:  Lester apparently really hates trackers.  He hates them so much that when he discovers that they have one among them, he puts the tracker up against a wall and shoots him with an arrow.

The big form of entertainment with them is the Hokey Pokey.  I have no idea why they do this.  Maybe this was the Most Annoying Song in the World before the Macarena became popular.  I guess that really is what it’s all about.  The group allows Sam to stay, but Sam doesn’t want to stay.  He wants his beloved Cherry back.  Lester mentions having several units, but lacks the chip to make them work.  I don’t know if he’s serious or if he’s just testing Sam.  Either way, Sam decides to torch the place and run when he discovers that Edith and Jake aren’t really dead.

Before they can get to the factory, they meet up with some old friends of Jake and Edith.  Like many old friends in a dystopian future, one of them sells the trio out to Lester, who’s now really out for blood.  Sam and Edith are able to escape by plane, but poor Jake is shot in the back.

Sam and Edith finally find the factory.  Somehow, Edith knows exactly where the factory is, how to get into the factory and where in the factory the sexbots are kept.  It takes a few minutes for Sam to find the exact model he needs.  This is just enough time for Lester and his cronies to show up.  Oh, and Ginger is there, too.  She brought sandwiches.

Sam finds the correct model, inserts the memory chip and is happy to see his Cherry returned to him as if nothing happened.  As they escape, Sam begins to realize what a ditz the Cherry 2000 is.  He thought he knew what love was, but would rather have Edith.  Sam starts to leave with Cherry, but comes back for Edith so that they can ride off into the sunset together.

This is one of those movies that you’ll be left wondering what the f__k just happened, even if you’re paying attention.  I’m really wondering if the writers were using LSD.  The Hokey Pokey scene is just so strange that they had to be on something.

Also, sex is apparently heavily litigated.  When you go into a bar for casual sex, you apparently need a contract and a lawyer to look it over.  (Look out for Laurence Fishburne in this scene.  If you blink, you’ll miss him.)  I’ve heard of being screwed over by lawyers, but this is a bit extreme. The fact that you’d need an oral clause should tell you something.  Between this and Ginger, I can see why Sam is dead set on finding a new Cherry 2000.

It always bothers me when a piece of well-crafted machinery breaks down so easily.  You have a female-looking robot who I’m assuming was made to resemble a woman in every detail.  The Cherry 2000 was supposed to be very good -- they just don’t make them like that any more.  So, why is it that she was done in by soapy water?  Even if this were a possibility, why would someone who loves said robot be so careless as to ignore the dishwasher?  You’d think that Sam would realize that Cherry’s about to bite the dust and do something to save her.  I know that this is why we have a movie in the first place, but he could have made an effort.

Speaking of reasons why we have a movie, why is it that the item in question is always so hard to get?  Either it’s in a remote part of the country that has roving bands of rabid idiots or it’s heavily guarded in Fort Knox.  If it seems easy, that’s because the target item isn’t really there.  It was moved someplace or destroyed.  It’s never that easy.

This is a hard movie to recommend.  It’s not at all good.  It looked to me like the producers had to remove entire scenes to make the movie come in under time and/or budget, giving it a rushed and disjointed feeling.  However, it’s not so bad that I’d recommend watching it to see how bad it is.  Yes, it’s listed on  Yes, it deserves to be listed there.  I’m just not sure I can recommend wasting your time on it.  This truly is a movie that will leave you wondering why.

Dune (1984)

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

There are some movies that you watch and you can understand.  There are some movies that require a little explanation or background information.  Then, there are some movies that you watch and have no idea what the f*#$ is going on.  Dune is the third kind of movie.

I had wanted to watch it because it was one of those movies that everyone kept talking about as being so great and everything.  When it came on one of the cable movie channels, I decided to record it.  Now, let me state that I saw the shorter version of the movie.  There is a longer version, which I would assume explains more.  Both versions are based on Frank Herbert’s book of the same name.  This is probably why I didn’t understand most of it and I accept this.

That being said, this incarnation was a bit confusing.  It takes place about 8000-9000 years in the future.  Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and has the ability to travel very quickly.  What makes this possible is a substance called Spice.  (Spice also has mind-altering capabilities, as well.)  Spice is grown on only a planet called Arrakis (a.k.a. Dune) and whoever controls that planet controls pretty much everything.

The movie starts with some worm-like creature confronting the Emperor about something that the Emperor is plotting.  The worm gets the Emperor to admit everything, allowing him to go through with his plan if only he kills Paul for him.  Paul is the son of the Duke and his house is set to take over Dune.  It’s not clear at first why an assassination of Paul would be necessary, but there’s a prophecy that Paul will liberate the people of Dune.

The movie seems to drag at first, with Paul traveling to Dune from his home planet.  There’s a lot going on, including battle training.  There’s also a sisterhood, of which Paul’s mother was a member.  This sisterhood, Bene Gesserit, manipulates bloodlines.  It seems that Paul was supposed to be Paulette, but his mother decided to have a boy.  (Apparently, they can just do that sort of stuff.)  I wasn’t exactly clear on why it was important that Paul be a girl rather than the next child.  I’m assuming that it was covered in more detail in the book.

When Paul gets to Dune, there’s a power struggle.  His house takes over the planet, but the old house manages to get it back.  Paul knows that there’s some connection between the giant worms and Spice, but he can’t put his finger on it.  There were a lot of voiceovers used as exposition.  (I’m wondering if this was an easy way to introduce information from the book.)

At the very least, most of the acting was good.  (You may recognize Sting, Dean Stockewll and Patrick Stewart.)  I wish I could say the same for the rest of the movie.  The film quality looked like something out of the early 80s.  The music and special effects were of similar quality.  In some areas, the plot seemed to drag and in others, it seemed to be rushed.  Some characters were important, but had little screen time or explanation.  It also seemed like the movie bounced around in some places.

I nearly shut it off several times.  I had little idea what was going on most of the time.  Even after reading reviews and going to IMDb, I’m still a little confused.  I don’t really even know how others understood the movie.  I’m wondering if I should look into the longer version or if I should just read the book.