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.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 10 (Journey to Babel)

Star Trek tended to focus mostly on the stories.  The crew of the Enterprise is made up of people that presumably have families.  Very little is said about these families  We’ve seen that Kirk had a brother.  But we never see Uhura’s family.  I think there was mention of Dr. McCoy being married.  The only notable exception is meeting Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda.  This would be their only appearance in the TV show.  In fact, we’d be surprised to learn in one of the movies that Sarek had another son.  In Star Trek: Discovery, we’d learn that he has a stepsister.  This is how little character development there was.

The episode revolves around the Babel Conference.  The Enterprise is escorting various Federation ambassadors to the location, including Spock’s father.  The purpose is to discuss admission of a system to the Federation.  There’s all sorts of infighting as the various member planets don’t always get along.  When they get to Vulcan, Kirk suggests that Spock beam down to see his parents.  Kirk is surprised to learn that Sarek and his wife are Spock’s parents.  You’d think that Spock would have mentioned who his father was, given that he was supposed to be married at the beginning of the season.  (Spock’s family was curiously absent.)

Well, this planet that they’re discussing is important.  It’s so important that there’s a ship following them.  Kirk is stabbed and Sarek suffers an episode due to heart problems.  This leaves Spock in command when his father suddenly needs a blood transfusion.  Spock could be a donor, but it would be difficult.  Just moments before the operation is to begin, the ship is attacked.  Spock refuses to turn command over to Scotty, saying that he’s not experienced enough to handle the situation.  It seems like a run of bad luck, but there it is.  Kirk has to trick Spock to go down to sickbay and help his father.

I have to wonder if this was done just to get the character development.  I get that Vulcans are logical and all, but the entire thing seemed forced.  To have Spock refuse to go to sickbay to retain command made him seem spiteful.  Kirk thought Scotty could take command.  Why wouldn’t Spock?  Is this his way of spiting his father?

There also seemed to be a lot of fighting among the ambassadors.  One even turns up dead, with Sarek as the likely suspect.  I looked up the definition of federation.   It‘s a group of states with a central government, but still have independence in terms of their own affairs.  This is why they have ambassadors in the first place.  Still, you’d think they’d get along better.  You don’t hear of ambassadors to the UN killing each other.

It’s a shame that the series didn’t have better continuity.  I was never really clear on the structure of The United Federation of Planets.  This was the only episode to give any sort of real insight into that.  We‘d also have to wait for the movies to see Sarek again.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 9 (Metamorphosis)

Star Trek has a lot of history.  There were occasions where the writers saw fit to introduce a character that was from a long time prior to the main action.  In some cases, like Space Seed and The Neutral Zone, suspended animation was used.  Other characters span centuries because they live for centuries.  Guinan was encountered in 19th-century San Francisco, despite still being alive in the 24th century.  That’s how long her species lives.

Metamorphosis was a bit odd, in that the crew of the Enterprise find themselves in the presence of Zefram Cochrane.  Cochrane is important in that he invented warp drive, at least as far as Earth is concerned.  To find him on an otherwise-lifeless planet is a bit strange.  Stranger yet is the fact that he’s 150 years old, yet looks like he’s in his 30s.  (The actor playing him would have been 34 at the time.)

Another oddity is an energy cloud that inhabits the planet with Cochrane.  He has a shelter built from his ship and enough food to last.  However, leaving’s not an option.  The energy field prevents any form of propulsion from working.   This is a problem as Kirk, Spock and McCoy are transporting a sick ambassador back to the Enterprise for further treatment.

It turns out that the energy field is keeping Cochrane alive.  (The energy field would seem to be Cochrane’s companion, and is thus called The Companion.)  Further examination reveals that The Companion is actually in love with Cochrane, which he initially finds revolting.  When The Companion merges with the rather attractive ambassador, it’s not quite that bad.  The episode ends with Cochrane and the ambassador being left on the planet to live out their days, each presumably aging normally from that point on.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy are allowed to leave.

There were a few things that stuck with me on repeated viewings of this episode.  I’ve occasionally wondered why the Enterprise didn’t come to the ambassador, considering that she was on an important mission.  For that matter, why didn’t The Enterprise deliver her outright.  I’m assuming that they were on some other important mission.  Having the ambassador on a vulnerable shuttlecraft allows for the story to progress.

The big thing for me is how Cochrane lasted that long on a planet with no real companionship, other than an energy field that he can’t directly communicate with.  I probably would have gone crazy long ago.  It’s amazing that he seemed rational at all.

It’s also odd that no one recognized Cochrane.  Granted, no one would expect to find Cochrane on a remote planet, as he was lost in space and would be presumed dead by now.  Also, the average person doesn’t know what every historical figure looks like.  Someone like George Washington, sure.  The big hint, though, would have been that Cochrane not only recognized that Spock was Vulcan, but seemed to think that it was relatively significant.

It’s also kind of strange to me that they didn’t really deal directly with the relationship, other than to have Cochrane weirded out.  Maybe it was a way of showing how far we had come over the course of a century.  A human from that time wouldn’t consider making it with something so strange, yet he’s in the presence of a character who is the result of a human/Vulcan union.  Still, to have The Companion assume human form is avoiding the issue, at best.

It’s also not clear to me if there are other energy fields similar to The Companion.  It’s always odd to me that there’s exactly one of a species.  I get it if the species is nearly extinct.  However, are we to assume that there’s only one energy field out there?  Is The Companion an anomaly?

The episode doesn’t really seem that satisfying.  The conclusion basically leaves Cochrane not far from where he started.  He knows what The Companion is, although it had to change form to become palatable to him.  I don’t think we ever find out what happened to them.  I don’t recall any episode dealing with the aftermath of this episode.  It might have been interesting to see what became of them.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Ad Astra (2019)

Space is boring.  It’s mind-numbingly boring.  It’s a whole lot of nothing with a little bit of stuff thrown in here and there.  You might find something worth looking at, but you’ll probably spend most of your time with little or nothing to do.  Maybe you’ll be alone.  Maybe you’ll have someone to pass the time with.  All things considered, though, you have a lot of nothing to look forward to.  Bring a book.

I’m sorry.  Did I say space?  I meant Ad Astra.  When I saw the coming attractions, I thought that it might be some big thing about how a space mission went wrong.  The movie starts with Roy McBride.  He’s supposed to be this legend.  His pulse never goes above 80, which makes him great for dangerous work.  Unfortunately, dangerous work doesn’t lend itself to things like marriage.

One day, he’s called in to a top-secret mission about the Lima Project.  What’s so special about the Lima Project?  It was headed by H. Clifford McBride, Roy’s father.  The mission was lost in the outer reaches of space.  The military thinks that the space ship might be responsible for power surges on Earth.  It’s never explained exactly why this is.  All we know is that Roy is supposed to go to Mars so that he can send a message to his father asking what’s going on.

So, Roy goes to the moon, where he’s attacked by space pirates or something.  He makes it to where he’s supposed to be so that he can get to Mars.  Along the way, the crew of the ship has to stop for another ship in distress.  It turns out that’s a lost cause, so it’s on to Mars, where Roy sends several messages to his father.

I don’t want to go much further, on the off chance that you really want to see the movie.  I will warn you that it is boring.  (Go back and read the first paragraph with Ad Astra standing in for space.)  I spent a good chunk of the movie waiting for something to happen.  It’s one of those movies where you expect some major revelation, yet get something that’s not at all that major.  I suspect it was supposed to be a big revelation, but it wasn’t.

In fact, the only good thing that I can say is that it’s a good movie to watch in IMAX.  The visuals are great, but I think we’re past going to the movies to see pretty pictures of the planets.  I would have preferred a little more substance.  It’s almost like one of those paintings where the artist has a line and a dot.  You know it’s supposed to represent something, but what?  I think the detour to help the stranded ship was supposed to mean something.  I’m not sure if it was just there to liven things up.  Maybe make sure the audience was still awake.

In the end, the movie is like Roy’s pulse.  It never gets above a certain pace.  We might get one or two exciting scenes, but there’s no thrill because we can see it coming.  I’d tell you to see it in IMAX, but I’m not sure it would be worth the extra money.