The Jacket

I can’t remember why I picked up this movie.  It was probably on a list of “psychological thrillers” and was one of the only ones I hadn’t seen yet, since I am partial to them.  It’s possible it got lumped into a sci-fi category somewhere.  Long story short, we really enjoyed this movie, and then I was surprised to discover it got relatively poor ratings overall.  I guess it got a 7 on IMDB and that’s not really so bad.  I do find it a little ironic that almost all of these poor-scoring reviews claim that all the movie does is copy other popular movies, when it was apparently inspired by stories straight from actual inmates, which in turn also inspired a Jack London novel in 1915.  God damn you humans, never doing anything original anymore.

The story is about a former soldier who survived being shot in the head, although he was left with severe memory problems and periodic amnesia, not to mention severe PTSD.  He goes about his merry way after the war, then wakes up on the side of the road next to a gun and a dead policeman.  Unable to remember the details of what happened to prove he is innocent, he is placed in a prison/medical facility for the criminally insane, and soon discovers he has been chosen by one of the doctors for “reprogramming” experiments.  These experiments involve being strapped into a straight-jacket, injected with a cocktail of drugs, and locked in a morgue drawer for hours at a time.

The movie reveals things in bits and spurts.  The main character’s memory works in bits and spurts, so we get flashbacks to things that happened before, as he remembers them.  We also occasionally flash to the other characters and reveal more about the backstory of the hospital and the history of the “reprogramming” program.

During one of his sessions in the morgue drawer, the main character discovers he is actually speaking to people 15 years in the future.  Convinced that he is now actually time travelling, he starts welcoming his trips to the morgue and starts digging around in the future to find the keys to the past.  As a result, he also learns the date he will die… and it is soon.

It’s a bit of a wild ride from that point.  I spent the whole movie figuring I knew what was going to happen, and then it would do something else and I would have to start guessing again.  Calling it a “thriller” is a bit generous (and the poster displayed on wikipedia apparently has the tagline “TERROR HAS A NEW NAME”, to which I laaaauuuuggghhhhhh)… IMDB has it listed as a Drama/Sci-Fi/Mystery which feels accurate, and it’s definitely a good mysterious story that keeps you wondering where its going.  If you want to sit down with a notepad I’m sure you can pick some huge holes in this thing.  There are plenty of plotlines that don’t really seem to do much in the end, almost as if they’re laid down to act as red herrings as the story unfolds, and I don’t even want to think about things from a plausibility angle.  The ending is probably a little bit unfulfilling, too.  Everything is wrapped up, but there are a some big questions that don’t feel very answered – but they’re questions that you as the viewer most likely came up with while watching, not questions the movie posed directly.

The few minor flaws aside, I think it’s an excellent use of 103 minutes.

Jack the Giant Slayer

This is a terrible movie.  It might even be approaching “Red Dawn” levels of terrible.  … hmmm, no, Red Dawn is still worse.  But this was terrible.  Roughly halfway through I was thinking “Ehh… it’s pretty bad but at least it’s mildly entertaining.” but then… no, it’s just terrible.

It seems odd to bitch about unoriginality in a movie that is based on a god damn fairy tale, but the writing is awful. It doesn’t even retain anything from the fairy tale that made it a classic – not even the spirit behind the tale.  It’s just yet another absolutely generic adventure story with one-dimensional characters.  There is not a single character in this movie that will surprise you.  There is not a single plot point that you won’t see coming.  You already know what happens just by reading me saying that.  There’s no reason to even watch this movie, even if it wasn’t also terrible.

Oh but the pretty CGI! you might argue.  That is not a reason to watch this movie either.  The intro sequence has some sort of CGI animation sequence that literally looks like it was rendered on a Playstation (the first one.)  The rest of the movie is a little more modern, but… eenh.  I’m not one to bitch about CGI usually, but when there’s no other reason to see the movie, I have to point out when the CGI looks like it was done 10 years ago and then pulled off a shelf.  What’s worse, is I’m pretty sure the movie was a victim of “3D syndrome”.  A very large chunk of the movie is consumed by grand sweeping shots of… nothing.  That is, nothing, if you’re not watching it in 3D.  In 3D it might have been a kind of “whoa” flyover sequence, but in non-3D there is absolutely no point to those shots.  It’s just a huge waste of time for the viewer because there is nothing else to watch if there’s no 3D layering going on.  That’s all they wanted – a 3D cash cow, and once it was out of the theater well, I hope someone still buys the non-3D versions because that’s bonus cash, man.

Then we get to the bad writing itself.  Aside from the completely shat-out generic plot that could be written with a fill-in-the-blank form letter, the writing is just bad.  It’s inconsistent.  It doesn’t make sense.  For example, in the beginning, they establish that a drop of water is enough to set off these beans, to the point where it was a little worrisome that all the humidity from the constant and sudden thunderstorms hadn’t caused a beanstalk in the past however many years it took for these beans to turn into legend.  Bean gets a drop of water on it, beanstalk goes *Fwoomph* and then they tuck the beans in a little burlap pouch and climb it.  They then spend the whole rest of the movie getting soaked in about a thousand different ways (including hiding completely underwater for something that felt like 40 minutes), but somehow the remaining beans don’t go off.  Okay maybe the beans only work when you’re on the surface!  …until the end of the movie when they establish that they work in exactly the same way.  I’m usually happy to ignore minor plot nitpicks, but it’s just one of many examples of lazy writing that just tell me they didn’t give a flying fuck about this movie, they just wanted to cash it in.

But they didn’t really seem to know what they were doing with this movie, either.  The bad writing is akin to something you might see in a show designed more for children, and they probably won’t give a shit about things like bean inconsistency because “Cool! Giants!”, right?  There are plenty of immature jokes that seem targetted to younger audiences. Giants are gross and fart a lot, ha ha!  At the same time, this movie is literally about murdering giants and then celebrating their deaths.  It’s even right in the title!  And they kill giants in some absolutely brutal ways in this movie.  Ways that could easily prompt a “fake blood” budget increase.  Which is why it’s just plain bizarre that there is absolutely no blood in this movie.  All of those deaths have been completely sanitized as if they were trying to make rending a giant limb-from-limb into a family friendly affair.  Having limbs and eyeballs fly through the air is perfectly okay if there’s no blood, right?  It’s okay that they violently drove a knife through that guy’s neck and then cheered – They’re the good guys!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for showing gratuitous violence to children (and maybe that is in the spirit of the original fairy tales!), but this movie really needed to make up its mind and either make it family friendly, or go all out on the brutality.  This half-assed stuff makes me visualize the writers fighting with the script in their hands. Then it tore down the middle and they scampered off to write things their own way, then cleaned it up in post.

Don’t watch this.  I don’t want them to make any more money from it.


[UPDATE] Apparently the devs have announced they are officially abandoning the game.  It’s too bad, but in its current state it is not finished and not worth paying money for, and in fact I would discourage you from spending money on something that is officially abandoned, lest we perpetuate the bullshit that is abandoning Early Access games.   You can still read what I used to think of it past the break, though :/[/UPDATE]

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