Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Vault (2019)

One thing I hate in movies is when the entire plot is predicated on a bad decision.  I may have said it before.  In the case of Vault, it needs repeating because the main characters can’t seem to make a good decision to save their lives.

I suppose that’s par for the course with Robert ‘Deuce’ Dussult and Charles ‘Chucky’ Flynn.  They’re criminals who get caught because their getaway driver gets smart and bails on them.  So, they spend time in prison and meet Gerry Ouimette, who has a job for them when they get out.

That job happens to be breaking in to the titular vault, which happens to belong to the Mafia.  You’d think they’d be smart enough not to go after organized crime.  What’s Gerry going to do to them that striking at the Mafia wouldn’t be worse?  They do it anyway.

Amazingly, they get away with $30 million in cash and goods.  Anything that isn’t cash, they hand over to Gerry.  Everyone goes their separate ways with Gerry promising everyone their cut from the proceeds of what he was given.

The rest of the film follows Deuce, Chucky and Deuce’s girlfriend, Karyn.  Deuce and Karyn met when Deuce and Chucky robbed a pawn shop.  She was working there when it happened.  They took her purse, bus fare and all, but Deuce promised to come back and give her a ride.

So, in the entire cast of characters, there’s not a likable person.  You’d think that Karyn would be some sort of sympathetic character or a surrogate for the audience.  No.  She sticks with Deuce and is there for him when he gets out.

You may be saying that it’s based on a true story.  That’s not much of an excuse.  It may stick close to the actual events, but the actual events are boring.  There’s not much fun or excitement here.  This is why you embellish a little.  Put in a car chase or an explosion or something.  I’d even settle for a shootout.

In fact, I took a look at the Wikipedia article.  The actual events look more interesting.  Apparently, Karyn was based on Karyne Sponheim, who was a prostitute.  (I imagine that was changed to make the movie a little more family friendly.)

The vault heist led to the longest and costliest trial in Rhode Island history.  Some of the people were convicted while others were found not guilty.  I think the movie could have been better if framed in that context.  Even at 99 minutes, it was slow and uninteresting.

IMDb page

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cyberotica: Computer Escapes (1996)

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

Adult films are like any other genre.  While there are some great titles, you’re bound to come across a few that stink.  Cyberotica is one such title.  I’ve had this one for a while.  I don’t remember how much I paid, but I hope it wasn’t much.

The ‘plot’, or rather the story used to string together scenes of naked women, is that a full-emersion sexual experience is offered by this company.  Women can go in and, by putting on a headset, have a sexual experience.  There are basically seven ‘experiences’ as follows:

I.  Brunette gets massaged poolside
II.  Another woman plays with the same guy at a beach
III.  Lesbian scene
IV.  Tattooed woman gets it on with a guy
V.  Brunette on a jet ski
VI.  Blonde gets it on with a guy
VII.  Brunette does a strip show several times by magically changing clothes

I might have enjoyed this except for two things:  bad acting and bad video quality.  There wasn’t much dialogue.  It was mostly a woman sending customers to a guy that can read newspapers upside down.  The guy would then explain the procedure before plugging the women into the system.

You may have noticed that I didn’t give detailed explanations.  There’s not much to explain.  In the first experience, a woman gets manhandled…er…massaged for a few minutes.  In the fifth scene, it’s a woman riding a jet ski for way more time that I need to see her ride a jet ski, and I do mean ride a jet ski.

It looked like the producers didn’t have much money.  It’s not that I expect good acting or the best video quality, but I’d like someone that can do better than the typical bad-acting choppy delivery.  I’d also like something that looks like it wasn’t filmed on a used VHS tape.

This was the Collectors Edition, which meant some bonus scenes (not really saying much) and had some trailers, which I didn’t bother with.  The movie was 55 minutes, most of which I skipped over.  Some of the women were attractive, but some weren’t.  I’ll admit that it was a matter of preference.  You’ll probably find different women attractive.

I suppose it’s like they say:  No one is a complete waste, as they can at least serve as an example of what not to do.  This is one of those movies that I’d avoid watching if you’re interested in watching an adult film.  If you’re interested in making one and want to see what low production values will get you, this is what you should watch, at least to understand why you should be prepared to spend some money to make your movie.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Evolution (2001)

Sometimes, you have to wonder how a movie got made.  I think Evolution is one of those movies that looked good on paper.  It may have even seemed funny at the time.  However, it’s not one of those movies that holds up to repeated viewings.

It starts with a meteor innocently hitting the ground somewhere in Arizona.  In fact, it lands on Wayne Grey’s car.  When college professor Harry Block hears about it, he heads out, taking fellow professor Ira Kane with him.  At first, it’s innocent enough.  A purple goo oozes out of it, but wouldn’t seem to be anything significant.  Life forms evolve from the goo. Within a few days, multicellular organisms appear.  Within weeks, there’s a rainforest. 

And, of course, the military gets involved.  They even bring along the clumsy Dr. Allison Reed from the CDC.  The military takes Harry and Ira’s research and seal off the site.  Eventually, the Army decides to use napalm on the site to prevent the life forms from taking over North America.  Because that’s what the Army does.  When Harry tosses a match on a sample, he realizes that the napalm would be a horrible idea.  The napalm is used, which creates a giant organism that Harry, Ira, Allison and Wayne have to take care of.

The movie isn’t really big on science.  I’m not sure any of the writers even really cared enough to look something up.  The reaction to fire is said to be survival of the fittest, but that’s not how it works.  Survival isn’t a reactionary process.  Throwing a match at a Petri dish won’t force an evolutionary process any more than any other process.

Ira also deduces that selenium might be harmful to the creatures just because of its position on the periodic table relative to arsenic.  That’s bad for several reasons.  First, there are carbon-based life forms that can live on arsenic.  Second, the problems with arsenic tend to be long-term.  Third, why would it be arsenic just because of its position?  That’s an awfully big risk to take, considering that all life on Earth would seem to depend on it.  For that matter, how is life based on nitrogen in the first place?

My biggest problem is that the nitrogen-based life looks like the carbon-based stuff you’d find here.  There’s no reason to this.  Darwinian evolution proposes that life evolves in response to its environment.  Those that are best suited survive.  Those that aren’t suited don’t make it.  There’s no reason to think that the nitrogen-based creatures would evolve into anything that looked familiar.

I tend to see this as a lack of imagination.  Yes, I know that the creatures are there to pose a threat.  There’s no reason to think that they would spread quickly, either.  It’s just another way to put humans at risk.

I think the movie missed a really big opportunity.  As unrealistic as it is that live would evolver so quickly, what would have happened had the life been allowed to evolve at that rate?  Within a month, we had something looking like a primate.  That’s something that took billions of years on Earth.  The meteor gave us life that did it in weeks.  What would that life have looked like in another month?  The real threat would have come from a life form that would have greatly surpassed our own, both physically and mentally.

IMDb page

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Singularity (2017)

I like a post-apocalyptic movie as much as the next guy.  Humanity has fallen.  There are a few survivors left, but they’re brave in the face of danger.  If done well, it could be a good movie.  Singularity, unfortunately, isn’t a good movie.  I can’t even say that it tries to be a good movie.  It would be more accurate to say that it’s trying to be other good movies.

VA Industries, led by Elias Van Dorne, has created all sorts of robots.  Their ultimate achievement is a line of robots to end all wars, and that’s what happens.  The robots end all wars by killing every human they can find.  Apparently, Elias has never read an Isaac Asimov novel nor has he seen The Terminator.  Maybe this is an alternate timeline where the laws of robotics don’t exist.  I don’t know.

Almost a century later and nearly all the humans are gone.  Calia Davis is one of the few left.  She and her family were looking for a place called Aurora.  It’s supposed to be the last human settlement.  She was separated from her family, but her father had a tracking device that only she can track.

Enter Andrew Davis, a nice boy who cares for his mother.  Only he was alive during the initial robotic attack.  Plus, he doesn’t seem to have any memory of what’s going on currently.  Plus, Elias and his fellow Matrix upload, Damien Walsh, are able to watch Andrew and Celia.

Yeah.  He’s a robot spy that’s so good that he doesn’t even know that he’s a spy.  So, Andrew and Celia run around, evading robots and fighting the bad humans, hoping to get to Aurora before it’s too late.  Elias and Damien watch, hoping to catch a glimpse of where Aurora is or how to get there.

From what Wikipedia says, the movie started without Elias or Damien.  Someone shot the scenes with John Cusack and Carmen Argenziano as additional material.  Through the magic of CGI, the movie was made whole.  I’m not sure it helped.

One big question, regardless of the whole new footage thing, is why someone couldn’t plant a tracker on Celia.  It would have been far easier to design a flying insect to catch up with Celia while she slept and inject her with a tracking device.  Problem solved.

It’s also odd that Celia doesn’t question the fact that Andrew doesn’t know current events.  For that matter, why did Elias use the memories of someone who died 100 years ago?  Why not find someone more contemporary?  You can’t tell me that Andrew was their only option.

It’s not a particularly great or original movie.  It’s like the movie was written by taking bits from other projects.  Take the plot of Terminator, insert a character from The Hunger Games, use a human-form Cylon as a spy, give them a lost city to go to and see if anyone notices.

To boot, it looked like Cusack wasn’t even trying.  He looks like someone who joined the project thinking it was something else, but had to finish it anyway due to the contractual obligation.  This one is definitely one to skip.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Miles App

I’m always looking for a way to make a dollar or two with my iPhone.  Job Spotter was a really good app, earning me thousands of dollars in Amazon gift cards over a few years.  There are others, like Shopkick and ReceiptPal, which require some patience.  I’m not going to get rich, but I might be able to get some snacks once in a while or pay for a birthday gift.

When I came across Miles, it sounded great.  You get miles for any form of travel, with a multiplier based on what kind of travel it is.  Driving a car gets no multiplier, so you earn one mile for each mile you’re travelling.  The exception is if you’re carpooling, in which case you get double miles.  Walking gets the maximum multiplier of ten.  (Walking two miles earns you twenty.)

You might ask what you get for these miles.  Therein lies the problem.  Miles has all sorts of offers, like a discount at a store for new customers.  You might get two free audiobooks to download.  After a while, it becomes obvious that these are similar to the offers that a new customer would get anyway.  There’s no real benefit to redeeming your miles other than the fact that they’re basically advertising the offers.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that you’re redeeming miles so that they can earn a referral bonus off of you.

To be fair, I’m not above using a referral code.  You may have noticed a few in the opening paragraph.  What’s underhanded about it is making you work for it.  You have to earn miles for something that you could do anyway.

From what I’ve read, they did have gift cards for Starbucks and Amazon in the beginning.  Since I signed up, I’ve been able to get exactly one $2 Amazon gift card.  Even if Miles had something that I couldn’t get elsewhere, the offers they have are useless to me.  Some are for luxury car rentals.  Some are for discounts on snack boxes and cakes.  In each case, I have to make a purchase.  Why should I let them track my movements when I still have to pay for something?

The cost of each offer is pretty low.  It doesn’t take long to earn the requisite number of miles.  But that’s meaningless if I’m not interested in it anyway.  I’d rather just get a gift card, even if I have to wait a little longer.

Don’t bother with the app.  If you have downloaded it, the app should be the first to go if you need to clear up some space on your phone.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Si shi qing chun/Flavors of Youth (2018)

A little over two years ago, I visited my brother in China for his wedding.  Over the course of about three weeks, I got to see a lot of the surrounding area and take a lot of pictures.  Imagine my surprise when I recognized one of the buildings in an animated Netflix movie.  I had a little trouble finding the photo, as I thought I had a better picture of it, but I’m pretty sure the building in the middle is featured in the last segment of Flavors of Youth.

That being said, Flavors of Youth is divided into three segments, with people recalling some memory of their respective childhoods.  It might be common or insignificant to most, but the narrators recall some time when they were happy.

In The Rice Noodles, Xiao Ming recalls living with his grandmother.  They had a place not too far from a noodle place that served his favorite San Xian noodles.  People came from all over to eat there.  Other places throughout his life served a similar dish, but no place was as good as the original.

With A Little Fashion Show, Yi Lin is a fashion model.  She recalls taking care of her younger sister, Lulu.  A series of events leads Yi Lin to take a break from modeling.  During this time she comes to realize what’s important.

The final segment is called Love in Shanghai.  It’s told from the perspective of Li Mo, about him and his friend, Xiao Yu.  They have a bit of a romantic interest in each other.  They record messages for each other on a tape, which they pass back and forth at school.  Her parents want her to attend a good university, which she applies for.  He works hard and applies, too, hoping to be with her.  She fails the test, hoping to stay with Li Mo.  He gets in and moves away.  After failing the test, Xiao Yu and her family move away.

Each story is about thirty minutes in length.  Although the animation is the same, the story tends to vary in quality.  I felt that A Little Fashion Show was the weakest.  It seemed to be the most generic of the three segments.  The other two seemed to have better detail.  The Rice Noodles had a nice progression, showing the main character’s development and his various reasons for going to the different noodle places.  Love in Shanghai had an ironic twist that was relatable, even if you’ve never been in that situation.

On Netflix, it’s called Flavors of Youth: International Version.  I’m not sure what that means.  Neither IMDb nor Wikipedia mentions what is international about it, other than it’s shown outside of China and Japan.  I was able to watch it in Japanese with English subtitles.  So far as I know, there’s no additional footage, nor was anything removed.  The only difference might be an English dub.

It’s worth noting that there’s a post-credits scene with all of the main characters, implying that it’s all in the same universe.  This would seem to be the closest that the various characters get to interacting with each other.  I would say that the movie is worth watching if you have Netflix.  It would appear to be hand drawn, but there are a few scenes that seem more like CGI.  None of the stories are overly involved or complex, making for three simple, easy-to-follow narratives.  It’s a great thing to watch if you’re looking for something different while isolated in your house.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Star Trek: Short Treks -- Season 2 Episode 6 (Children of Mars)

It’s somewhat difficult to think of a series like Star Trek: Short Treks as having seasons.  CBS All Access doesn’t seem to group them as such, although IMDb does have a four-episode first season and a six-episode second season.  The final episode of the second season serves as prelude to Star Trek: Picard.

It centers on two girls, Kima and Lil.  They go to the same school and seem to have an adversarial relationship.  Kima is antagonistic towards Lil.  (Lil misses the school bus because Kima tripped her.)  They get into fights and generally don’t seem to like each other.

The one thing they have in common is that each has a parent working on or in orbit of Mars.  Then, the androids revolt.  It serves as a bond between them.  We see them holding hands in support of each other.

It does answer a few questions I’ve always had.  It does look like they have formal schools in the future.  I always wondered what Jake Sisko would have done had Keiko O’Brien not opened the school.  I know starships have teachers, but what did he do for education on Deep Space Nine before the school opened?

It also looks like rivalries still exist in the 24th century.  Like schools, fighting will still exist several hundred years from now.  I do find it odd that they just make up because of the attack.  I know that they each had a parent involved, but I don’t think it would be that easy for me.

Another oddity is that Lil’s father didn’t get a break.  It’s implied that he hasn’t been home for over a year.  Given that Mars is so close, shouldn’t he at least be able to go home on the weekends?  Maybe get a holiday or some vacation time?  It seemed like that was added just for the emotional effect.

It’s an interesting episode.  It has very little dialogue and isn’t necessary to watch Star Trek: Picard.  Granted, you have to have All Access to watch either, but I would imagine that they’ll be coming out on DVD eventually.  If you can get Picard first, don’t worry about this episode.

IMDb page

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Star Trek: Short Treks -- Season 2 Episode 5 (The Girl Who Made the Stars)

Every child is scared of something at some point.  For young Michael Burnham, it was the dark.  So, her father tells her a story of a similar young girl who is not allowed to leave her village at night.  In her case, it’s everyone else who is scared of the dark.  The entire population won’t travel beyond a certain distance because it would mean having to be beyond the communal protection when night falls.

When something bright falls from the sky one night, the young girl sets out to find out what it is.  It turns out to be an alien who gives her the gift of artificial light.  She creates the stars and allows her village to grow beyond their self-imposed confines.

I do think that the narration was a little overdone.  It may have been better to use additional voice actors and simply show the story without any voiceover.  Also, the use of a tardigrade isn’t necessarily anachronistic.  Tardigrades exist on Earth now, albeit in a much smaller form.  Showing Michael with a stuffed Tardigrade doesn’t necessarily imply that the animal is based off of the creature that she’ll later encounter.

It’s an interesting short in line with the other episodes.  It’s not necessarily deep, but it does give some insight to one of Discovery’s main characters.  The story isn’t necessarily as magical as the title might imply.  It’s more about a father caring for his daughter at an important time in her life.  The story within the story is just that.  It’s a parable about how to overcome fear, which gives Michael a tool to deal with her own concerns.