- The forbidden love between Dwarf and Elf. Oh, yeah the female Elf.
- Radagast the Brown and his Magical Bunny Sled. I don’t care if every child on the planet cries for a month there is no excuse for this Jar Jar-esque turd to be on the screen.
- Galadrial, Saruman, Elrond, and an epic battle against Sauron and the Nazgul. Um, if these three fought against Sauron like a mere 40 years before the events in the LOTR why is everyone so shocked in the Fellowship when he rears his ugly head? Image from the movie t shirt category.
- Legolas. Orlando Bloom is all over this film like a fly on fly food and has gone from a minor cameo scene in the last film to pretty much the protagonist. I guess the producers still lie awake at night in terror that we the idiot audience will forget that this film comes from the same people as the LOTR (actually based on quality and story that is a reasonably fair assumption to make) and need to be reminded every three minutes of its origin. In a rare example of artistic integrity Viggo Mortenson refused to do Aragorn for this film based on the fact that having any character in this film from the last series besides Gandalf, Bilbo, and Elrond was stupid but I guess Orlando was sick the day they did story continuity. As an aside they managed to shoehorn in a reference to Aragorn at the end with all the grace and subtlety of an M1 Abrams tank trying to fit into a compact parking space.
Yesterday I talked about what bugged me about the new trailer but today I want to talk about what I loved in it. The opening pan shot with the speeder traveling past a wrecked X-Wing and Star Destroyer was freaking awesome but more importantly showed a major flaw in Lucas’s last three excretions Episodes I-III. (Universe image from our movie t shirt category)
One of the great missed opportunities in the prequel series was actually showing the consequences of a galaxy wide war between the Separatists and the Republic. You know, wrecked buildings from orbital bombardments, hungry refugees desperate for a crust of bread, the steady decline of the infrastructure as more and more resources are diverted into this all encompassing war. However instead life on Couruscant continues as always with everyone living in luxury and enjoying all the food and high brow culture the French aristocracy held onto prior to the Revolution. At no point does it even seem like anyone is remotely inconvenienced by all the robots and clones dying in space.
However by showing the probably result of 30 years of fighting between the Rebellion and the remnants of the Empire the trailer made it look very much like they are going to keep the next film as gritty as possible, something I relish. Remember when Luke met Han in the seediest bar in the universe or how the Rebellion had to freeze their gonads (or what passes for gonads on aliens) on Hoth due to lack or resources? It’s that sort of struggle that makes a movie great, not watching sperm ballet in a lavish box seat. Well done thus far.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Don’t go in there.
I think I have a love/hate relationship with studio marketing departments. I love them in that they always seem to be way smarter than the actual movie director, writers, or producers. They can sniff out a stinker and pick out the few gems like a smuggler who moves diamonds inside his digestive tract in order to compose a trailer that puts asses in theater seats. They are really, really good at that.
But I hate them because they suck me in every time. I have seen a lot of really craptacular movies in my time but I honestly can’t think of a single really bad trailer. Sure you can pick out subtle clues that the film is the movie equivalent of getting your manhood slammed in a car door several times (most of those clues usually rhyme with Bichael May, Cicholas Nage, or Orberto Rorci) but most times trailers are the Judas goat leading you up the ramp.
The point is I have seen the trailer for this film dozens of times and never once got the impression that it was a freaking awful musical. A lot of you might think that I have a thing against musicals but the truth is there are several I like a great deal. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast are all excellent examples of what a musical should be: a fun story with good dialog greatly enhanced by clever inspired original music destined to become iconic (I dare you to tell me you don’t know the words to the Time Warp. Image from the movie t shirt category).
The story. A flimsy pretext is found to connect a bunch of old fairy tales together. A witch curses a baker with infertility unless he can find a white cow, red hood, golden slipper, and blond hair (I hope you have your story decoding glasses on to unravel this plot). We then get mini versions of the stories. I’m going to assume you aren’t idiots and can figure out how the stories all connect at this point. There is a twist that might have added some drama had they not solved the dilemma 30 seconds later and a lady giant attacks who is slain when hit between the eyes with a rock the relative size of an ant from a sling by a young boy (oh yeah. In an attempt to remain as unoriginal as possible they ripped off David and Goliath too. Come to think of it the trap they used on the giant was the exact same trap the Prince used on Cinderella. Lame. Image courtesy of movie t shirt category).
So worth seeing? No, not really unless you are a huge fan of one of the many stars of this film or perhaps the repetitive nature of Stephen Sondheim songs helps sooth you to sleep. It is a rare occasion when I truly regret the time spent watching a film good or bad (I generally find things to enjoy in bad films) but I honestly wish I had my $11 and 125 minutes back. I was so uninspired that it took me almost a week to get around to writing this review. I know that this film has garnered praise by other critics (71% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes but only 59% from audience. America, I love you) but I think this is another Emperors Clothes situation where critics fear looking like an uncultured oaf for not paying tribute to a highly overrated Broadway play. I am an uncultured oaf and don’t care what Broadway thinks of me. 1 of 5 phasers.
I have a couple more 2014 movies to see before I do my annual best and worst lists. Check back soon.
the Infamous Dave Inman
The plot is a rich douchbag with a gambling problem (Mark Wahlberg) owes a ton of money to a Korean gangster. He borrows more money from a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams. He was in the Road and Robocop. Image courtesy of the movie t shirt collection) in order to lose even more. A waitress at the casino is actually the guys student (Brie Larson) in his literature class and according to Professor Bennett a genius of writing. Most of Bennetts classes are him bitching to his students about what untalented losers they all are and how writing at less then a genius level is a waste of time. Everyone within a 300 mile radius tries to bail Bennett out by giving or lending him money but he keeps on gambling it away. He gets another one of his students (Anthony Kelly) to throw a basketball game to pay off his loan shark and make a ton of money. In the end he still owes a ton to the Korean gangster (Alvin Ing) and Johnathon Goodman and bets it all on black on a roulette table like an ass.
So what did you think Dave? Honestly pass. If you are a huge Marky Mark fan you might enjoy seeing him in sunglasses but otherwise this is not a lot to hook you in. Rated R for language, some bizarre artistic drowning flashbacks a la Terrance Malick, and the tension of watching a character you hate throw his life away one card at a time. It is a character movie without any character. Maybe wait for NetFlix and see it on a Sunday morning while hung over. 1.5 of 5 phasers.
the Infamous Dave Inman
However for the hardcore fans of the book there was also a lot of really dumb stuff to annoy the crap out of you. Weirdest of all was the appearance of Shai Hulud for no apparent reason. Azog the Destroyer (another character featured heavily in the book-not) somehow managed to import some sandworms from Dune and have them do…nothing? They were digging tunnels or something but then before they could do anything fell back into the Well of Bad Ideas that Peter Jackson seems to drink from. In fact all the most annoying parts of the last two movies (from a book perspective) are here in force including:
Some new Bad Ideas included flying bats (who joined the sandworms in making like two appearances and then shuffling off the screen like a kid in a 3rd grade play who just wet himself on stage), goblins who are bigger and badder than the baddest Urik-Hai you’ve ever seen, cata-trolls, and a long lost elf treasure.
What came to pass…
Then came Attack of the Clones and I felt like maybe there was hope yet. No more dopey kids, what looked like Stormtroopers, and Natalie Portman’s midriff. I thought perhaps the Phantom Menace was just destined to be the one bad one so that when fans had to make a list of best to worst there would be no drama or nerd rage. I walked into the theater with both hope and fear. Of course Clones sucked as bad if not worse than Phantom Menace and I felt my respect for the entire franchise slip another 8 notches or so. I went back and rewatched the original series and came to the startling conclusion that Return of the Jedi is kind of a mediocre film and the only really good film in the series is the Empire Strikes Back (sorry fan boys. I admit the Vader/Luke/Palpatine scene is super cool but there isn’t enough coolness in the universe to make up for the inclusion of the Ewoks. ESB image from the movie t shirt category).
Finally we got Revenge of the Sith and by this point I was burnt out on hope. I had had my dreams squelched by Lucas too much already and really only went to see the film from some kind of nerd obligation. It’s was like looking for your missing dog and following a blood trail from the freeway to the bush where he died. You really don’t want to see the mangled remains of your dear pet but you have to be sure and take care of it. In this sense Revenge of the Sith did not disappoint. I expected it to suck and it did. I will agree it was the best of the three but winning that contest is like winning a self flagellation contest. Being the best of the worst is not the same as being good.
It could have been worse in so many ways.
Back in 2008 Hollywood conducted a mad science experiment and created the first film based on a crappy teenie bopper pseudo science or fantasy fiction book. Twilight stumbled around the local countryside wreaking up the place, terrorizing the local population, and infesting the world with sizzle chested man/boys, bland emotionless manikins masquerading as lead actresses, dialog that could be considered a crime against the spoken language, and glow-in-the-light vampires. Most thinking humans recoiled in horror at the abomination the film industry had created, but unfortunately a lot of really young, inexperienced, lonely, and/or just plain dumb girls with loads of disposable income fell in love with the creature and gave it money to make continuing the experiment worthwhile.
So the experiments continued in hopes of creating another perfectly horrible/lovable lab creature. Most failed miserably (cough cough the Host, Mortal Instruments cough cough) and ended up as a random slurry of bio-hazardous waste at the bottom of a noxious oubliette. A few proved relatively viable (Divergent) and stumbled around bumping into things and vomiting like the first cloned sheep after six hours in the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was inevitable that eventually Hollywood would come up with a creature stable, easy on the eyes, and capable of not only functioning in society but actually entertaining people who aren’t still wearing braces and that creature is the Hunger Games.
I can’t honestly say I am a fan of the Hunger Games. I appreciate what it is and where it fits in the landscape of the film experience and find the characters engaging and interesting, thus resulting in me caring about the action. Acting is good and the story doesn’t make me want to punch the writer. Production values very high and camera and editing spot on. However if Hollywood were suddenly sucked into a giant sarlacc (fingers crossed) and Part 2 were never made I don’t think I would lose a lot of sleep over it. Based on the fan base and their probably expectations I can use my magnificent brain to figure out how this series is likely to end even without having read the book. No one ever takes a chance in main stream film these days so unless I wake up in Bizarro world tomorrow I fully expect President Snow to have a date with the business end of one of Katniss’s arrows soon.
(As a side note, I know I’m not a teenage girl or even a little into men (all man here baby) but can anyone look at that Twilight poster from the movie t shirt collection and honestly say they don’t want to put their fist into that dudes face? Heck I almost want to punch out the girl just for showing up on the same poster. I think Mother Theresa would (and probably could) happily kick Edwards ass.)
Bad science is the least of this films problems.
I could go on about all the other bad science for the rest of this review but I don’t really need to when I have such campy mediocre dialog and gaping plot holes to party with. Even assuming Christopher Nolan didn’t hire a top scientist to consult with him (which he did incidentally) and learned all he ever need to know about science and astrophysics by watching old Space 1999 reruns I have to believe he knows how to make a decent film and not have the story stumble upon dopey plot holes and story pacing from hell. The dialog was very campy which would have worked brilliantly in a camp film but this film was supposed to be taken seriously (also I know this is my own personal bias but every time I heard Matthew McConaughey speak all I could see was him shirtless in Magic Mike saying “But I think I see a lotta lawbreakers up in this house tonight…”). Of course since this is a Nolan joint the soundtrack has to so overpower the dialog that you miss most of it. Good thing there weren’t about 3 billion different ideas he was trying to transmit with his dialog (oh wait there was…).
For all that if you dropped acid in a theater while watching the “My God! It’s full of stars!” scene from 2001 you will probably enjoy the hell out of the visuals (Image courtesy of the movie t shirt category). If you are not a fan of sci fi but want to be able to at least sound like you know a thing about it when talking to the tech geeks at work (you know, become a poser) this film will probably work very well for you. Like many of Christopher Nolan less than great films you can’t just hate this one completely. He is too talented to make absolute crap and I applaud a film that fails for trying to do too much rather than one that fails for trying to do too little. I can totally see why half the reviews are lauding this movie and the other half are lamenting it (including Jae, there girl who writes on our other blog. She thought it was great).
In spite of those issues the film was definitely several steps above the usual dross foisted upon us by Hollywood, most of whom seem to think we are mouth breathing cow people who are content to chew on whatever cud they send our way. Here is a brief, spoiler free recap:
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is a cruddy husband who comes home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing under suspicious circumstances. She is a minor celebrity and a media storm rapidly builds around her disappearance. A tough police investigator (Kim Dickens) leads the investigation and as it progresses suspicion shifts towards Nick and his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Plot points and twists are revealed and things get freaky as they often do in David Fincher movies.
So worth seeing? Absolutely yes, if only to help educate the rest of Hollywood as to what we the American audiences really want. Story was good for the bulk of the film, acting was great (especially Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. I also really liked Tyler Perry), camera and film work extremely well done, pacing kind of brilliant in the sense that Mr. Fincher wanted to build a story rather than just present one, and overall a great movie going experience. I just don’t think it’s worthy of the tongue bath adulation that most people seem desperate to lather it with. It’s a decent flick swimming in a sea of mediocrity. It’s not the second coming of the Godfather with a script written on paper pulped from a piece of the True Cross (Godfather image courtesy of the movie t shirt category). Go see it and if you can turn off some of your higher brain functions you will love it. Personally I think it would be a better movie if you actually left before it takes it’s left turn into Mundania. At 149 minutes you could cut out 25 minutes early and still feel like you got a quality movie experience. 4 out of 5 Phasers.
The Infamous Dave Inman
Escape from the movie theater.
Based on my general dating success the odds of me every procreating have diminished to the point that if it ever happens it will be a true statistical anomaly. However, if I were ever abducted by aliens and forced to mate with hot green women in some kind of genetic breeding program (fingers crossed) the question may one day arise: would I want my green hybrid alien children to see this movie?
The answer is no. Not because there is some racy reference to something that might be construed as sexual to corrupt their soft super-human brains (quite the opposite in fact. This movie plays it so safe it might as well be a bubble baby). No, just because it is dumb and lazy. I know kid’s movies can get away with not being the Usual Suspects story-wise, but I think a certain amount of complexity in a movie will help stimulate my non-existant child’s brains somewhat. A good kids movie should be filled with bright colors and cute characters for the toddlers, a decent story with fun characters for the preadolescences, and some clever lines and witty jokes to keep the parents from having to fight the urge to beat their children for dragging them to this flick.
Rather than do that this film set it’s sights on the four year old demographic and opted to stop there. All the jokes were lame retreads of other bad kids and alien movies (Plan 9 image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category), the characters had no depth and were so fake sounding that they might as well have been motion captured using the inevitable toys that are most likely already steaming over from China, and the story was simplistic to the point of See Spot Run. I know this is a kids movie and as such expectations need to be lowered, but when compared to other brilliant kids movies such as Wreck It Ralph or Brave it is clearly a waste of effort.
One might accuse me of unfairly comparing a small, independent production to the duel Death Stars of animation Pixar and Disney, but honestly in the areas that huge animation studios have a true advantage (3D and animation technology) this film is right up there. Honestly, it had a $40,000,000 budget and was able to pull in some excellent B level celebrities (Brendon Frasier, Rob Corddry, Rick Gervais, Jessica Alba, and Sarah Jessica Parker) for voice over work so you can’t really call it a small production. However, the area where they lagged was in the writing. I have said this before and will say it again, if you have a multi-tens of millions of dollar budget can you not find a couple mil to hire the greatest writers in the world for your story?
As is my policy I will not judge this kids film using my usual rating system. Normally I rank films by how kids in the audience seem to be enjoying it but thankfully the theater was nigh empty when I saw it. The movie grossly exceeded all box office expectations so I guess it can be counted as successful, but honestly there hasn’t been a kid or family friendly movie all year so I wonder if a lot of the box office success stems from “Oh my God we have to get these kids out of the house before they completely wreck the place” syndrome. The timing was just too good for this movie to fail (I predict next year we will have 10 kids movies at the end of February, each of which will fail due to too many kids movies out there. There is nothing Hollywood likes better than to leach on to a trend. Ever see one of those Three Stooges episodes where all three Stooges try to go through a door at the same time and get in each others way? If not check back in Feb).
The story is of Gary Supernova and his brother Scorch (even the names bug the hell out of me. Buzz Lightyear made sense because he was named by a toy marketing agency. I suppose the same could be said to be true here, but for heavens sake try to be a little original), who are some kind of alien professional adventure team or something. Scorch is the action star while Gary is the brains behind the brawn, directing things from a control station while Scorch does his best to have things go horribly wrong. They have missions like rescuing babies (who puts babies by themselves in a space ship? Also, if six babies were in a ship that crashed and they were surrounded by dangerous aliens wouldn’t they send in like 10,000 battle droids? Very little makes sense). Gary has a wife and son who hang out at work with him. The kid is every bit as annoying as a kid action hero can be, plus 3. They team is given a mission to the “Dark Planet”, the most dangerous planet in the universe.
Ugh. Recounting this story is giving me a headache. Scorch gets captured by the US Army (oh, the most dangerous planet in the universe is Earth. Surprise!). Some cartoonish (yes, I know. He’s a cartoon. Still) general is kidnapping aliens to make his super death ray. Gary goes after him and also gets captured. At that point the movie turns into a typical escape movie mixed with Scooby Doo. There is a twist and sub plot but the motivation for all the characters to do anything is so weak none of it makes sense.
Again, I won’t star and black hole it. It seems to be a commercial success so look forward to Escape from Planet Earth II: Scorch’s Revenge or something soon. I will say it was the weakest of the animated films I watched in the last couple years. I enjoy most animated films but was seriously eying the exit. It will keep your 4-6 year old entertained but I believe most older kids will think it dumb. Kids are smarter than most parent think, and have a very keen sense of the lame. As a parent you will be bored stupid. Spare yourself and just throw something on the NetFlix for your rug rat.
Thanks for reading. I always feel dirty after trashing a kids movie, but even stuff for the little kiddiewinks needs to have some accountability. Otherwise we will end up giant dancing colorful creatures with televisions surgically embedded in their stomachs. I am headed to LA this weekend for another Warhammer tournament (West Coast GT, if you actually care). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to comment on this movie or my review here. If you have off topic questions or comments feel free to email them to me at david@Nerdkungfu.com. Talk to you next week.