Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dolittle (2020)

There seem to be a lot of movies lately that are meant to test the waters.  Maybe they’re setting up a TV show.  There might be a sequel planned.  It could be that the movie is an expensive advertisements for toys or dolls.  I don’t think this movie fits into any of those categories.  I think that somewhere along the line, someone had to say to an actor, “Yeah… I know.  I know… But you have one more movie in your contract.”

The story of Dr. Dolittle is fairly well known, even if it’s on a basic level.  It’s about a doctor that can talk to animals.  In this instance, Dr. John Dolittle and his wife are given a plot of land by Queen Victoria.  The two live there and treat all manner of animals until his wife dies.

The story begins years later when Tommy Stubbins accidentally shoots a squirrel.  Polly, a rather intelligent parrot, leads Tommy to Dolittle’s property, where he meets Carmel Laniado.  Carmel has been sent by Queen Victoria to summon Dolittle, as she’s fallen ill.

Carmel and Tommy find the house in disarray.  Dolittle has given up doing much of anything since the death of his wife.  He becomes motivated again when Carmel informs him that the property reverts to the Crown upon the death of The Queen.

So, Dolittle, Tommy and several animals have to find a book that contains the location of a magical fruit that can cure The Queen.  Of course, they’ll have setbacks and save her just in time.  Of course, what else would you expect from a family-friendly story that’s been done already?

“Done already” about sums it up.  There wasn’t anything particularly new or interesting in the movie.  It was sort of like someone took a pilot episode for a TV series and decided to make into a movie without really changing the script.

There’s very little character development and what development there is comes in very small increments.  Dolittle is a recluse who sort of learns to deal with people again after being nudged in that direction.  Chee-Chee is a scared gorilla that eventually manages to find some courage at exactly the right moment.

There’s not a lot of major violence.  In fact, when the squirrel is shot, I don’t remember seeing a lot of blood.  It might have been there, but I honestly don’t recall seeing any.  There are a few tense scenes, but everyone comes out all right.  It’s about as PG as I’ve seen in recent years.

I remember someone talking about the Sears/K-Mart merger, saying that you can’t combine two mediocre companies and get a better company out of it.  You’re just going to get a larger mediocre company out of it.  I find that this is the case with this movie.

I like Robert Downey, Jr.  I like a lot of the actors who voice the animals.  Everything about the movie is adequate.  I just don’t think that there are too many inspired elements to the movie.  It’s like someone was going to great pains to hit the all the marks exactly.  Nothing spectacular.  It’s like the goal was to make the most basic adaptation possible.  This is exactly the kind of movie you might show in middle school or high school if there’s a free day and you need something rather vanilla.


Saturday, February 08, 2020

Star Trek: Picard -- Season 1 Episode 1 (Remembrance)

I know that one show alone isn’t enough for me to subscribe to CBS All Access.  Yes, the second season of Discovery was pretty good.  And yes, I know that they have other series.  However, I can get The Twilight Zone and the first five Star Trek series on Netflix and DVD, at least for the time being.

So, the addition of Star Trek: Picard isn’t going to get me to sign up.  I’m reviewing the pilot episode, but I’ll be waiting for the rest of the first season on DVD.  (For those that are wondering, I was able to get the first episode through YouTube.)

I’ve been curious about the show.  I know that it centers on Jean-Luc Picard, now a retired admiral.  It’s been years since the events of Nemesis.  (In fact, it’s now roughly in the future time frame of All Good Things….)

Picard meets a mysterious woman who feels compelled to find him after she’s attacked and her boyfriend is killed.  Picard is living with two Romulans after he led an aborted evacuation of Romulus.  (It’s not the kind of thing he likes to talk about, though.)

The scenes you see of Picard and Data are Picard’s dreams.  It’s been a while since synthetic life forms, such as Androids, have been banned.  How does Data figure into all of this?  He holds a key to the mysterious woman’s identity.  Also holding a key may be Bruce Maddox, who has gone into hiding.  (There’s no mention of the Holographic Doctor from Voyager…Yet.)

It would seem that Picard misses days gone by.  We get that he has his reasons, and they would seem to be valid ones, but this episode doesn’t go into all the details.  It would seem to be a bridge between Nemesis and the rest of the series.  We learn at the very end that a Borg cube is being studied, but it’s not yet clear who has claimed it or to what end.

The series credits have the show as being based on The Next Generation, rather than the original Star Trek.  There are a lot of references, notably the Captain Picard Day banner you may have seen in the coming attractions.  There will also be appearances from Troi, Riker, 7 of 9 and Hugh.

I was torn as to whether to review this now or to wait for the rest of the season.  I decided to review it now because I wanted to offer a perspective of someone who has decided to wait to continue.  It’s going to be a long wait.

Not much is offered in terms of the overall story line and I know that there’s more to it.  I don’t blame anyone for this.  I’d rather have things spread out so that I have something to look forward to.  I’d rather have it spread out than to have details come out unevenly.

I don’t think any of us wanted the game to end.  It had to.  It looks like this is going to be a whole new game.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Knives Out (2019)

I remember hearing about the TV show Alias.  In it, the main character’s father works for the CIA.  Except he doesn’t.  Except he really does.  Knives out is sort of like that.

Harlan Thrombey is a mystery writer who is found dead in a locked room.  It appears to be suicide.  Except his family hated him, so it had to be murder.  Except it’s impossible to prove who.  Plus, he was found dead in a locked room.  So, the police have plenty of suspects, but no real evidence.

Benoit Blanc, a private detective who was hired anonymously, is convinced it’s murder.  He presses the investigation until he figures out what really happened.

I don’t see a lot of mystery movies.  I tend to find them all very similar.  We have a few plot twists.  Some, we see coming.  Some, we don’t.  We have a lot of people who stood to gain from Thrombey’s death and they all look guilty.

Then, there’s Marta Cabrera, who is acting guilty.  She knows something.  Did she murder him?  Does she know who did?  Why isn’t she saying anything?

We come to find out that guilt isn’t so clear-cut a thing.  It’s almost like that riddle where a man falls off a roof only to be shot on the third floor.  Is the shooter guilty?  Well, it’s more complicated than that.  Yes, mistakes were made.

My biggest complaint about this movie could have easily been the bad decisions made.  It’s always easier to come forward (or at least get a lawyer) first thing.  At least it wasn’t overdone.  We understand that Marta is in a difficult position.

The family also could have been overdone.  Most of them are easy to dislike.  We don’t really want to see any of them get their share of the estate.

It’s an interesting movie that’s got an interesting set of circumstances.  It almost appears to be written by someone who dislikes a lot of the clich├ęs I dislike, but didn’t want to necessarily parody the genre.  I wouldn’t call it wish fulfillment, necessarily.  However, it does play out rather interestingly.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 14 (Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away details, including the ending of the episode.

I’m accustomed to a 26-episode season for Star Trek.  Discovery’s first season was 15 episodes.  Here we are at the end of the 14-episode second season.  I’m also hearing that Star Trek: Picard is going to be 10 episodes.  I’m going to have to get used to a slightly shorter season.

That being said, having fewer episodes does seem to produce a higher quality of episode.  There is a cohesive narrative for this season and we get a decent setup for the third season.

Burnham is going to take Discovery into the far future.  She has a few more things to do.  It takes her a moment to figure out exactly what, but she does it, with an assist from Spock.

Speaking of which, Spock seems to think he’s going with Burnham.  We know he’s not.  If he did, it would mean that there’s a way back from the future.  Instead, he has to go with Captain Pike and be on that spinoff that everyone keeps talking about.

There are two things that I noticed.  Both stem from the fact that control was defeated.  The first is that Burnham goes into the future anyway.  Since Control was defeated, it should be unnecessary for Discovery to make the time jump.  Burnham’s mother should also have come back.

This leads me to my second point.  It’s not stated that she didn’t.  She may have wound up on some distant planet.  However, it’s also not stated that Discovery is going so that they can look for her, either.  Maybe it’s destiny.  Maybe the writers are hearing all the complaints about retcons.  I don’t know.

Part of the finale seems contrived.  There was no reason for Cornwell to put herself in mortal danger, for instance.  Why would the crew even let her?  We also find out that everyone left in the 23rd century agrees never to talk of Burnham or the spore drive ever again.  So, there’s that.

Either way, it was a pretty solid second season.  It was better than other second seasons that I’ve seen.  It will be interesting to see what a third season holds.  We’ve gotten a few glimpses.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a date more solid than sometime this year.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 2 Episode 13 (Such Sweet Sorrow)

I’ve had my complaint about Star Trek: Discovery so far, but I will say this:  I’ve spent the second season wonder what its end game is going to be.  There were seven red signals, a sphere with a vast amount of data and an artificial intelligence bent on getting that information.  We also find out that Burnham’s mother isn’t really dead and that she’s been working against the AI from 930 years in the future.

So, how does this all work out?  The data can’t be erased.  Once it’s in Discovery’s computer, it won’t let Discovery be destroyed.  The only option is to go through with the original plan of sending the information into the future.  The difference here is that Burnham will take the entire ship into the future.  Yes, they’re going to build another angel suit and let Burnham use it.

This raises a lot of questions, some of which I’ve asked before.  Will it work?  Does it even make sense?  Will Burnham’s mother be there or will she even be allowed to leave the future?  Will Discovery make it back to the 23rd century or will Discovery be 930 years in the future for the rest of its run?

However, we now know what the time crystal was for.  A new red signal even leads Discovery to a planet where the inhabitants might be able to help.  We learn that it will probably be a one-way trip for Burnham and Discovery, as the crystal will burn out.  (That doesn’t mean the 32nd century won’t have some other means of time travel.)

The entire episode is buildup.  It’s setting us up for what Burnham has to do to save humanity and all life in the galaxy.  She has a lot of figuring out to do and a need to accept her fate as The One.  Yes, she’ll have help and various characters will vow to go with her.  (I suppose it’s better than assembling a new bridge crew in the future.)  I guess we’ll have to wait for Part II to see how it plays out.