Friday, December 07, 2018

Robin Hood (2018)

Robin Hood and any associated character has long since passed into the public domain, so it’s easy enough to write a new story around them.  (This is the fourth version I’ve seen if you include Robin Hood: Men in Tights.)  Is it too much to ask, though, that someone come up with something a little better?

The basic story is the same.  Robin of Loxley goes off to fight in The Crusades.  He comes back to find that his lands have been seized by The Sheriff of Nottingham.  You see, Mr. Sheriff had Robin declared legally dead.  This means that the lands could be taken to beef up the war fund.  (I‘m not sure how that was supposed to work, as the lands have fallen into ruin.)  Also, Marian gave up on waiting for Robin and has taken up with Will Scarlet.

Robin is stopped by the father of a boy Robin tried to save overseas.  The father’s name proves too difficult to pronounce, so he agrees to go by the anglicized version of John.  The two agree to do what Robin of Loxley is known for:  Take from the rich and give the money to the poor.  Since Robin’s castle is abandoned, they can use it for training.

Do I regret seeing the movie?  Not really.  It was entertaining.  However, it was so anachronistic that I have to wonder what they were trying to do with this movie.  It looks like someone took the Robin Hood story, added a J. Crew catalog, added a pinch of Supercuts and put the whole thing on blend for 30 seconds.  Every time I saw one of the main characters, I couldn’t help but think how nice and neat they looked, as if they had just stepped out of the house.

There’s also nothing particularly new or great about the film.  It seems like it’s supposed to be a vehicle for something, but I’m not sure what.  There aren’t many lines that could be considered quotable.  There are some action scenes, but nothing spectacular.  In fact, it seems to just use familiar names to tell a familiar story.  It looks like no one was really trying.

The story has been redone so many times that you really have to up your game to stand out.  This version seems to have gone in the opposite direction, offering a stripped-down version.  I think that I’ll probably have forgotten about it by this time next year.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Grinch (2018)

There’s a part of me that didn’t want to write this review.  I wasn’t sure I’d have much to contribute that a hundred people haven’t said before.  This is The Grinch, after all.  Between the book and the coming attractions, there won’t be too many surprises in the movie.  Aside from which, it’s not like I get many page views anyway.  I’m not sure this review will be the deciding factor for a lot of people.

There’s also the compulsive part of me that has to write a review.

The Grinch follows Dr. Seuss’s basic story pretty closely, from what I can tell.  (It’s an 86-minute adaptation of a relatively small book, so there are going to be a few embellishments.)  The Grinch doesn’t like Christmas.  He decides to steal Christmas from Whoville by stealing all of the presents and decorations.  In the end, he realizes the true meaning of Christmas.

I’m not sure why we need another adaptation.  There’s the 1996 version, with Boris Karloff.  There’s also the 2000 version with Jim Carrey.  There’s even a 1992 version that I hadn’t heard of.  The problem with calling the movie into question is that I risk seeming a little grinchy myself.  However, it does seem like a pretty safe movie to make, especially right before Christmas.

This version makes the Grinch not so mean.  We even get a little back story as to why he is what he is.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays him as someone who just doesn’t like people, which is understandable to anyone who has had to deal with a lot of people.  He’s the personification of that impulse to just stay away from everyone.  (It’s sort of like that Mark Twain quote, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”)

I went into the theater wondering if it would be a cash grab, but it was a fairly good production.  It might be bearable for most adults, but it’s definitely going to be enjoyed more by the children.  This movie comes across as a viable alternative to the 1966 movie.  I think the older version is going to come across as dated, especially considering that it’s over 50 years old.  I could definitely see a TV station or two playing this version for Christmas next year.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Out of Time (1988)

There are a few TV shows and movies that aren‘t available on DVD or streaming.  In some cases, like Doctor Who, the tapes were wiped.  New episodes are made available as lost tapes are found, but many are still missing.  Other productions don’t have enough demand to be released on DVD.  It’s a shame because many of them were good enough to at least be worthy of streaming.

One made-for-TV movie that I remember watching was called Out of Time.  It was about a police officer from the future who chases a criminal back to what was then the present.  It was exactly what you’d expect of a failed pilot episode, but I remember liking it.  My only option, apparently, was to watch it streaming on Amazon.

The movie starts in the year 2088.  Channing Taylor is a Los Angeles police officer who doesn’t trust a computer to do a human’s job.  He’s after Richard Marcus, who is up to something.  Taylor comes to realize that Marcus might have a time machine.  It’s the only thing that makes sense.  Taylor figures out when and where the time machine will appear.  Marcus shows up just in time to get the machine, himself.  The two end up back in 1988, where Channing Taylor meets his great-grandfather, Max Taylor.

The movie wasn‘t quite as good as I remember it.  (I can see why it wasn’t picked up for a full series.)  Channing is your typical fish out of water.  Even in 2088, he’s a police officer mostly because Max Taylor was such a great police officer. (No mention is made if any other Taylors made the force.)  When Channing tries to navigate 1988 Los Angeles, he seems to know just enough to get what he wants.  He’s able to use future technology to win money in a scratch-off lottery, but has no idea what a tie is.  He also seems ambiguous on what a bank is, even though Marcus is going to rob one.

The movie is somewhat generic and cliché.  Part of this could be attributed to the fact that it was supposed to be a TV series.  The writers may not have wanted to use up all of their good stuff in one episode.  Other things, I can’t let off so easily.

For instance, Channing has to use his last bit of fuel to save Maxwell.  Since the fuel won’t be invented for a while, it’s used to strand Channing in the past.  Couldn’t the writers have found another way?  Maybe have enough to make one trip back, but have Channing decide to stick around.  He was suspended, so I could understand there being no rush to get back to 2088.

I’d say that it could make for a good TV show, but a similar concept was used for Time Trax.  (This is another TV series I’d like to see released on DVD.)  I think Out of Time may have suffered from more than a few setbacks.  Part of it is the writing.  I’d like to think the movie would have made more sense as part of a series, but it just doesn’t work as a standalone release.  Channing and Maxell seem just too goofy to take seriously.

Also, I suspect that there wasn’t enough of a budget to make it work.  There are almost no special effects to speak of.  We see a laser effect maybe two or three times.  When we do see it, it comes across as just this side of obvious.  The props look like rejects for kids toys.  Channing’s gun looks like someone found a piece of acrylic somewhere and found a way to make it vaguely look like a gun.  I’m really not surprised that it didn’t get picked up for a full season.