Into the Forest

(Not to be confused with “Into the Woods” which is a very different sort of movie.)

This is a movie that really makes you think.  But not in a good way…

This review is going to contain a lot of spoilers but it’s okay because if you’re watching this movie, it’s for the acting and emotional impacts. Not the plot.

I picked this one up because I was in the mood for a post-apoc tale (preferably about a virus since we’re dealing with household illnesses right now and it would be thematic) but, alas, it would appear that I have seen literally every post-apocalyptic movie ever made.  Even the bad ones.  But then “Into the Forest” scrolled past and I went “close enough.”

“Into the Forest” is a post-apocalyptic (sort of) tale about two sisters who are staying at a remote forest cabin with their father when a severe power outage strikes the world. Instead of a chilling tale of virus contagion, I got a tale of two teenage girls whining about the internet not working. Which, honestly, was still pretty entertaining, simply because it was so god damn realistic.

We really did enjoy it—for the most part—but it suffers mightily from “stupid decision syndrome”.  Not quite to the degree where you are yelling at the TV like “NO YOU IDIOT DON’T GO IN THERE YOU WILL DIE.  SEE I FUCKING TOLD YOU YOU WOULD DIE YOU FUCKING DESERVE TO DIE YOU FUCKHEAD” but more along the lines of “ALL of these problems could have been solved if you had taken a tiny little precautionary action eight months ago you dipshits >:(“.  Again: it’s pretty realistic!

Except it’s not.  Stupid character decisions aside… it suffers from a fair amount of bad writing.  More specifically, the movie really suffers from scaling issues.  Supposedly the movie is set in Canada, and the girls spend a lot of time talking about surviving the winter.  The movie spans at least 15 months of time, and not one single snowflake is to be seen, and the greenery never goes away.  Instead there are lots of idyllic berry picking scenes.  The cedars and rain suggest it was located on the west coast, where sure there’s less winter than some places in Canada, but you’d definitely have a few more hardships and a lot more issues with cold than were depicted here.  Worse, they’re living in a modern upscale cabin (with all kinds of electronic gadgets that don’t work anymore!) with a few initial shots of a tarp on the roof to establish that there is some patching that needs to be done, and it goes from that to mold infested and literal beams rotting and collapsing in less than a year.  And it didn’t even have to deal with the weight of snow at all! Apparently it was built with paper mache, which was a bad decision for the west coast of Canada. (Meanwhile, they are still driving a 1995 Jeep Cherokee which is as bombproof as ever.  Oh but for the glory days of Jeep to return…)  If the movie had scaled the timeline up a bit this could have been a bit more believable, but it’s even more annoying that the girls take the time to research topics like in-depth nutrition and “DIY abortion” but not flip a few pages over to look under “Carpentry”.  It’s not like they didn’t have enough fucking wood, and even cedar for shingles!

And then there’s the ending.  So the house rots and collapses around them and they decide “let’s waste the last of our gas to burn it down” for… reasons.  Their logic is explained in the movie but I was still kind of like “…what?”  I mean sure don’t live in the mold infested pile of rot but the gas has a lot of value and you could still store the goddamn books and supplies and shit in… nevermind.  Then they move into a hollow tree stump with a shard of plastic for a roof annnnnnd fin.
I think the intent is to suggest they go back to their ancestral roots and live happily ever after, foraging off the land and enjoying each other’s company as they live out the rest of their lives in symbiosis with nature (hence: ‘into the forest’ see?  Get it??).  In reality, there probably should be a footnote after the credits saying “And then they died.”  Because, yeah.  You don’t just burn down your shelter then wander off into the forest and live in a stump at the onset of winter.  Not even the winter that exists in this world where it just rains and then you go pick some blueberries.  I don’t care how fucking resourceful you are.  If you can’t even be bothered to patch your goddamn roof, you’re not going to make it through a winter in a stump with a newborn baby.

Bitching aside, the REST of the movie was pretty decent.  The acting was great, and the two girls really hit off each other for some high emotional notes.  There aren’t many tense moments or suspense like might expect from most post-apoc stuff, and the worldbuilding is pathetic at best (nothing is explained, and seriously, if the entire world can be fucked for over a year if not permanently by a single power grid failure then the future is pretty dumb), but the emotional moments are A+.  So it’s kind of a girly post-apoc film, I guess.  If that appeals to you, by all means check it out, as long as you are wary of stepping in pits of dumb decisions, bad worldbuilding, and lengthy interpretive dance scenes.

The 5th Wave

We watched The 5th Wave last night.  I recalled being mildly interested in it from the previews, but then when I saw the ratings it had garnered I quickly quashed any sort of optimism.  I was still curious though, and we were also mildly drunk, so it seemed like a good time to see what was up.

Rather than create a formal review of this movie, I think it will be more appropriate to transcribe the intoxicated messages I sent to my friend while watching it.  Enjoy.

[Warning: Spoilers.  But you shouldn’t care because this will be more entertaining than the movie.]

————————————-

We are watching the fifth wave which has a whopping 5.2 on IMDb.
So far not bad but she just used her cell phone and typed y o u and it autocorrected to “u”

>:( One star.

Husband asked for a space marine movie before we picked this.
Me: “They’re basically space marines but they’re children is all.”
Him: “Not very good space marines. Also they’re not in space.”
Me: “But they’re fighting aliens!”
Him: “It’s really not the same.”

Female protagonist has been helped/captured by hunky male now. She just did the lip thing that suggests she wants to fuck him. Odds of hunky male being an alien??!?

Husband and I are laying bets on his alienness now

He’s is totes an alien and she’s going to fall in love with him and be horrified by herself and then come around. Book it
(AFTERMATH SPOILERS: I was wrong.  It actually kinda happens the other way around which makes even less goddamn sense)

Husband doesn’t think he’s an alien because he hid her from alien drones. That was the whole point to make her trust him YOU FOOL

Female protagonist shows loving nurturing side while proclaiming “I’m not TOUGH, okay??!?”.  Meanwhile second female character (only other one in movie) is being super badass and beating up all the males and training them to use weapons because she’s a girl but also super badass you see

He is lovingly tending to her wounds. Boning imminent.

Oh man I didn’t even get to hit send before they started shoving tongue down each other’s throats

He’s gonna be an alien he totally is

Husband: “I’m giving this movie a lot more credit than you are. He’s not an alien. They just want you to THINK he’s an alien.”
Me: “There’s a reason this movie has such low ratings.”

“I guess you were right. He’s an alien.”

I WIN.

It was pretty obvious because this is LITERALLY Twilight with aliens now

Female protagonist: “Did you really believe that??!?”
Alien love interest: “I did. But then I saw you.”

*Hurk*

Holy shit this has lost so many stars in like the last 20 seconds

Badass girl is now saving “still badass but deliberately not as badass to still show her feminine side” girl

Yeah.  That was awful.

About Time

My husband wanted to watch a Sci-Fi movie, so I went to all my usual recommendation places and stared at the usual list of movies we’ve already seen, interspersed with the occasional new arrival of an incredibly shitty looking movie with a rating of less than 2.  Of course there won’t be any (good) sci-fi movies that we haven’t already seen!  If there had been, we would have seen it in the theater.  But then, ranked pretty highly on the rating predictions (on TWO sites, no less.  TWO SEPARATE SITES thought I would like it), was “About Time”.

“I found a sci-fi movie we haven’t seen!” I called.
“Great, let’s watch it.”
“But you won’t like it!”
“…”
“Not only is it a rom-com, it’s a british rom-com!”
“I wanted a space movie.”
“You said sci-fi!  Look, it says sci-fi right there.  There’s time travel!”
“…….”

The premise of the movie is that a man discovers he has the ability to go back in time, and he uses it to try to make his life better.  The blurb says that he uses his time travel powers to make a girl love him, and it makes it sound like a comedy of errors where he fucks it up over and over again until he finally hits the right combination of actions to really hit it off romantically.  Which, to start with, is kind of creepy but it has some comedic potential, right??  In reality, that takes like 20 minutes and then the rest of the movie is about his relationship with his father.  So… that was kind of odd and unexpected, but at least it didn’t make the movie bad.

Lemme tell you.  Do not watch this movie if you have no tolerance for plot holes.  That’s sort of a standing rule with time travel movies, I suppose, but damn.  The very first thing his father says to him is “You can’t go forward in time, only back.”  So, not even five minutes later, he goes back in time, tries it out, and then immediately pops back to the moment he was at before.  Dude.  That is TOTALLY GOING FORWARD IN TIME.  You broke the rules ALREADY!  What they meant to say was that you can only travel to a moment you’ve already lived through, up to and including just a few moments ago, I guess.  But it still annoyed me >:(

The one that actually annoyed me, though, was when he tries to go back in time to stop a major event, only to discover that travelling past the birth of his child changes the exact sperm that was used to create the child, therefore changing his baby (unacceptable, after you’ve spent three years bonding with it already, I suppose).  This is the artificial limiter the movie uses to impose some sort of price on time travel.  If you have a baby, you can’t go back anymore because you’ll change it.  But, only that one sperm.  No butterfly effect on all the other shit going on, just the sperm is random.  So, horrified to learn that his child might not be the same child, he undoes what he did and sets everything back to normal.

Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait.  How did you set it back so that the exact sperm to make that exact child happened all over again?  God dammit, movie.  We’re not delving into parallel universes or some shit now, are we?  Don’t make me think about this shit >:(.  *shake fist*

I did actually enjoy the movie, but I feel like I was lied to by the description, which only actually described the exposition for the plot.  The movie didn’t really know what it was or where it was going until about halfway through, and it suffered a bit for it.  And then it lost a few points by going off the rails of preachiness at the end.  Yes, we get it, you don’t need time travel to have a wonderful life and you should enjoy every moment and blah de blah blah, let me go wipe all this sap off.  Like, it wasn’t sappy the whole way through, but it took a big huge cannonball dive into the tank at the end, jesus.

Apart from ALL of that bitching, though, it was pretty okay.  Maybe three stars, right smack in the middle of “okay”.  Which is less than both of those sites seemed to think I would like it.  Hopefully those sites have learned a little more about me, this day.

Wild Tales

I picked “Wild Tales” out of the Netflix lineup mostly at random, by virtue of being the first thing to scroll past that didn’t look awful.  Predicted 5 stars (not that the Netflix rating prediction system ever seems to have any correlation with reality), Oscar nomination, tales of revenge… sounds pretty good!

Now that I’ve watched it I am reading some internet reviews of it and wondering what I missed.  It was certainly entertaining, but I feel like if that was getting award nominations the competition must have been pretty slim.  I ended up awarding it 3 Netflix stars but the heaps of praise it’s getting are leaving me head-scratching.  Maybe it’s an ‘art’ thing.  I’m terrible at ‘art’.

The movie is a foreign anthology of short stories, each revealing a story of revenge.  It’s labelled a dark comedy, and most reviews seem to label it with words like ‘hilarious’ and ‘uproarious’.  I chuckled a few times, but, uh… ‘uproarious’ seems like a bit of hyperbole.  There were some funnier ones for sure, but there were also several stories that, in my opinion, didn’t even really attempt to be funny.

In fact, I wasn’t really sure what the aim was with most of them… which was sort of the problem.  They were each interesting, and they entertained well enough, but when they got to the end it was more like “Oh.  Is that it?” There were no twists (well, the first one was a little clever I guess, though it pops that early) and most of the time you figured out what was going on twenty seconds into the skit and then it would play out predictably.  Like, not even in a “I bet this is the twist” sort of way – there were no twists.  It was like “This guy here is going to get revenge” and then he does.  The end.  I was entertained and also bewildered at the same time.

The “Is that it” problem was compounded by the lack of transitions between stories.  There isn’t even a really noticeably longer pause between the end of one story and the beginning of the next, it’s just like “REVENGE annnnnd who is this guy now?  Oh ohhh new story.  Got it.”  It’s a good thing the description specifically mentions that it’s multiple tales, or you might be very confused.  A little black screen with a title indicating a new story would be nice.

I’m going to attempt a spoiler free overview of the six stories (titles taken from IMDB):
1) “Pasternak”: Great way to open things, setting you up with expectations for the rest of the movie, which are ultimately not fulfilled.
2) “The Rats”: I’m so confused.  When I said the transitions are rough this is a really good example.  I feel like someone badly edited the ending and forgot to include a few closure scenes somewhere…
3) “The Strongest”: Finally something that lives up to the black comedy label!  I chuckled several times during this sequence, although I wasn’t precisely sure who to root for because jesus christ you’re both assholes, and stupid ones to boot.  It all works in the end, though!
4) “Little Bomb”: So incredibly predictable but somewhat satisfying nonetheless.  Kind of an odd message to send to society, though…
5) “The Proposal”: By this point I was just about ready for the movie to end.  I didn’t get much out of this story, I’m afraid.  And then it was another “Is it over?” victim and it left the story feeling flat and lifeless.  There was only like 5 seconds of revenge in this, punctuated by 15 minutes of whining.
6) “Until Death Do Us Part”: The movie ended on a strong note at least, with more black comedy (if anything even remotely resembles “uproarious” it’s probably this one, but it’s still extreme hyperbole), but damn.  wtf.

 

Harbinger Down

Harbinger Down appeared on Netflix and twigged something in my memory.  ‘Wasn’t I really looking forward to that for some reason?’ I thought to myself, and spent a few minutes googling it while the opening screens played through.  I had definitely clicked on the IMDB link at some point in the past!

It took a bit of hunting but I finally discovered that I had been interested in it because it promised full practical effects – a throwback to the horror/suspense movies of our childhood.  One of the very first lines says something like “In the style of classics like Alien and The Thing…” and my husband said “I was just going to say it really has an Alien vibe so far.  Those are both very good movies.  I’m looking forward to this.”

If you grew up watching 80’s suspense/horror movies with 80’s special effects, you might even be tempted to say that the writing isn’t as important as the visuals.  I mean, all those movies have the same damn plot anyway, right?  As long as it looks cool, who cares!  Well, Harbinger Down is here to show you that you are wrong.  It turns out the writing is, in fact, pretty important.  Because hoo boy does this movie have some bad writing.  I mean, it does hit a lot of the same ol’ tropes you’d expect to see, but it also does some about-faces in its plot that make no god damn sense whatsoever, which just reveal how threadbare the writing actually is.  They slapped together the template and filled it with special effects and didn’t put much more thought into it.  “Oh no there are explosives on the ship!  We need to save the ship!  Whew thank goodness we saved it; now we can get down to the business of properly destroying this ship…”  /facepalm.  And the ending… sigh.

Though I will say the steps leading up to biological contamination at least made more sense than the whole “Hey let’s just turn off this sterile forcefield and expose this alien head to our air supply just for shits and giggles!” plot point in Prometheus.

The effects were great though.  It really felt like an Aliens era movie, and that’s something you just don’t feel that much nowadays.  I’m not a big fan of the heavy handed leaning on CGI nowadays, although I’m not sure that 100% practical is the best way to go either.  I feel like CGI enhanced practical effects lead to the best results, but you just have to appreciate the awesomeness of a well executed practical effect and I hope movies like this keep the art alive.

October 31st Movie Reviews

I didn’t want to say ‘Halloween movies’ since none of them were even remotely halloween themed aside from being some sort of attempt at scary, but it’s a halloween tradition here to plunk on the couch and watch ‘scary’ movies after dark, and we made it through three of them last night.  Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last Shift
Rookie cop spends the night alone at an old police station guarding some evidence that still needs to be transported to the new one.

See, the description for this movie was all “She meets the KING OF HELL” and I was like “this is going to be a laugh riot of a movie”, but it ended up being the best one we watched.  It does absolutely nothing new or unique; it’s all standard haunted house tricks.  The protagonist is so god damn stupid that you spend the entire movie yelling at her not to do things (but, y’know, horror movie.)  But the movie itself sets up a good amount of tension and uses sound and visuals well to set the tone.  The King Of Hell thing is not nearly as cheesy as the stupid description might have you believe.

We Are Still Here
An older couple lose their college-age son to a car accident and buy a new house to start a new life as they pick up the pieces.  Once they move in, they start to suspect the ghost of their son is still with them.

Not bad but it suffered a bit because it came after watching the much better first movie, so it paled in comparison.  Another pretty standard haunted house story, but with a few twists to keep it interesting.  I found it a little confusing though, too.  The ghosts really needed to make up their god damn mind about who’s side they were on.

Storage 24
A plane crash nearby traps several people inside a storage facility, and soon they discover the plane was carrying some deadly alien cargo that is now stalking them.

Okay, THIS is the movie I wanted to write bitch about because I spent the whole movie sending snarky texts to my friend, and it’s absolutely not because we watched some better movies first.  Needed MUCH LESS relationship drama and MUCH MORE aliens eating people.  Could you possibly write less sympathetic protagonists?  I was rooting for the alien really early on and it just kept disappointing me.

Here’s an ending spoiler, which you can avoid if you care (you shouldn’t care.  Don’t watch this movie.):
The whiniest fucker takes on a Gary-Stu style survival skills and ends up escaping the alien on, like, three different occasions for no god damn acceptable reason (camera cut!  Oh no he must be dead boo hoo ooohhhh look he lived how could this be!  Fuck off) and then slays the alien with his bare hands and escapes with all of the females.

At this point I sent a message to my friend saying “This movie will get two stars instead of one if the alien resurrects and pops out and kills them all right fucking now and that’s how the movie ends.”  Instead of that, though, he makes some flippant remarks to show how cool he is, and then they pan out to show alien ships landing all around the city.  Which is ALMOST, but not quite, what I asked for.  Okay sure the aliens are probably going to kill everyone but you didn’t show one blowing up this whiny fucker as it buzzed past, so now we can only assume he will run out there and melee all of them to death like the whiny badass he obviously is.  *BZZZT* you fail, collect 0 stars.

So, to summarize:
Last Shift was great and I recommend it, even if the protagonist is as smart as a bag of bricks.
We Are Still Here was passable and worth a look.
Storage 24 is a horror movie for an entirely different reason and thank god Netflix subscriptions essentially mean I watched it for ‘free’.  Bitching about it was highly entertaining, at least!

Terminator Genisys

Dr. Who is Skynet!  It all makes sense now.

When I first saw the previews for Terminator Genisys, I didn’t know what to think.  Another fucking Hollywood remake of a classic favourite because they’re out of ideas, great.  And Arnold will be in it despite being a thousand years old now, great, that will make sense.  And Emilia Clarke is going to try to step into Linda Hamilton’s shoes.  And it’s named Genisys what the fuck.  It’s not happening guys, what the hell are you thinking.

Then we watched it.  You know what?  It was really good.  A few minutes into it my husband said “Isn’t this just the first movie??” and I said “Yes, it’s a remake” and he said “That’s stupid.”  Then I said “It’s a remake, but since there’s time travel the first movie still happened and now they’re going back in time and it’s happening again after the first one happened.  See???” and he said “Oh.  Okay that’s not nearly as bad.”

The explanation for Arnold being old was kind of silly, but it made enough sense to swallow, and the CGI to make him appear different ages was really good I thought.  And Emilia Clarke totally sold herself as Sarah Connor.  And things exploded and there was the same brutal “This heavy metal thing is smacking into that heavy metal thing” feel through all the fight scenes.  It was just all around really good and I enjoyed it.

I can’t be bothered to go get a picture so just imagine there is a picture of Arnold giving a thumbs-up here.

October Gale

I was in the mood for a thriller and the blurb for “October Gale” says something about being stranded on an island with killers.  Sounds like a pretty standard slasher/thriller style movie, right?  I did think it was a little odd that it was classified as “Thriller/Drama” but hey let’s check it out!

The movie starts out slooooooowwwwwwwlllllllllllly going over the loss of her husband and cutting to scenes of her together with her husband, and talking about grief and loss and moving on and… I think somewhere around 40 minutes in I said something like “I hope someone tries to kill her soon.”

Then someone covered in blood shows up!  This is promising!  But then she falls in love with him, which seems a little out of place and maybe a bit odd since he’s roughly half her age.

Oh yeah and then suddenly some guys show up and try to kill them but they win and then fall in love for realsies.

What the fuck…

Apparently on some sites it is classified as “Thriller/Drama/Romance” and I really wish I had spotted that beforehand. It’s just not a good combination.  This movie does not know what it is.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers started out with a crap romance and couldn’t sell it so they tacked on a crap ‘thriller’ plot to try to make it stand out.  In the end, both halves are just lacklustre and half developed.  It’s a shame that good acting was wasted on such a hackneyed plot…

It Follows

And as part two of our “It’s not October yet but it feels like October so bring on the scary movies” a-thon, we watched It Follows.

I found this one pretty interesting.  It’s almost like a take on an old-school zombie movie, with the monster following slowly and relentlessly behind, easy to run away from but never ceasing.  Unlike zombies, though, you can shake it off onto another person by… uh… having sex with someone.  Which is interesting because that’s certainly something that horror protagonists tend to have issues with!  It’s the worst kind of sexually transmitted disease.  Well… maybe not, since most STDs are still with you after you pass them along.  But they also don’t usually eat you, so… hmm.

I really enjoyed this one.  Tons of tension, nothing too over the top, and a lot of really creepy atmospheric hints for you to spot in the backgrounds.  It’s a simple formula and it really works.

Things that detracted from it included: my husband arguing that the monster should be really easy to deal with because all you have to do is create a mathematical formula to calculate how fast it’s walking and then move every 200 days as it starts to catch up to you /facepalm, arguments over whether sexual promiscuity and infidelity is acceptable if it gets rid of ghosts, and that god damn shell e-book reader thing that contrasted with the ’80s electronics and left us arguing for an hour over what time period the movie was taking place in, until I finally googled the damn thing and discovered that literally everyone else was arguing about it because it was deliberately left ambiguous and confusing.  *shake fist*

Honestly the ebook reader was the worst part.  The rest of it was just thoughtful discussion!  Fuck the ebook reader >:( get out of my movie.  Maybe if there were more modern tidbits scattered around it would have been okay but almost everything else was old (and royalty free, I noticed!) so it was just glaringly out of place and distracted from the tension.

Other than the ebook reader though, thumbs up!

Unfriended

Normally we don’t break into the crappy horror movies until October, but it’s been so cold and miserable outside that it feels like October and my husband started craving some cheesy Halloween style movies.  I picked up a few promising looking titles, and Unfriended was on top of the pack.

I was not expecting much from this movie.  A girl dies and then haunts people through Facebook?  What?  But it was surprisingly well done.

The entirety of the movie takes place on a computer screen, which is certainly a novel (and probably very cheap) way to film something, and I hope it doesn’t become the next ‘thing’ and get run down into a trench that’s the size of the Grand Canyon.  It was clearly done by someone who uses computers a lot, and it feels authentic, though there are certainly things that will annoy people who use computers a lot themselves.  For one: why is your internet connection so awful, auuuugghhh.  The video on the Skype connections is constantly blipping out, which is probably supposed to replicate the feel of a found footage shaky cam, but instead of increasing the tension I just found it fucking annoying.  Buy a new wireless card for fuck’s sake.  Also bonus marks for taking like 5 fucking minutes to download a 900kb file and then 2 seconds to download a 1.6MB file immediately afterward [/nerd rage]. There were also some minor errors here and there, which I at least found easy to ignore because there is a ghost in the computer!  But I did find it a little annoying when she shared her screen with everyone to show them that it wasn’t working, then immediately tabbed out and started typing private messages and no one seemed to remember that the screen was shared and they should be able to see it.

The story itself was well done, I thought.  A decent amount of tension and interesting outcomes.  The beginning was a little rough, since it’s basically just teenagers whining to each other and in general being annoying, but once it starts rolling it’s a fun ride.  I’m not sure if it’s a problem or not, since it is a horror movie and it’s basically par for the course, but there are no sympathetic protagonists here.  You will hate everyone and want them all to die.  Fortunately, it’s a horror movie!  So they do.  Oops, spoilers.

Home

I am an unabashed fan of animated movies.  Yes, they are made for children, but I maintain that the best animated movies are the ones that are clever and which give the adults just as much enjoyment as the children when they’re thrust upon the television screen 20 out of 24 hours of the day.

I was perusing for something to watch and came across Dreamworks’ “Home” and decided to give it a try.  Two things immediately came to mind:
I have not heard of this movie before, so it is probably not good.
and, once we got started: The animation on this isn’t precisely up to the “How to Train Your Dragon” level, so this is probably the B team.  Which means it is probably not good.

Boy was it ever not good. We were interrupted by a late night phone call for my husband and I left the movie running as he answered it, then decided to be courteous and asked “Do you want me to pause it?”  He surprised me by saying yes but I thought ‘well maybe he is enjoying this more than I am, then!’.  After his call was done I unpaused it, then said “If you hadn’t asked me to pause it this could be done by now!” and he was like “Yeah.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”

It was hollow.  Soul-less.  It teaches children that bad grammar is good, that little girls should be named ‘Gratuity’, and it was like 1 hour and 20 minutes of music commercials for Rihanna.  It was awful.

After it was done it was midnight and I was like “Fuck this movie.  I am going to watch a REAL movie about interaction between an alien and a little girl.” and I dug deep and found a copy of Lilo and Stitch and put it on right then and there.  I fully expected to fall asleep, but now I am writing this review at 2:20 AM because Lilo and Stitch is a really fucking good movie and ‘Home’ is a really terrible movie and you need to know about it, dammit.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Lilo and Stitch made me laugh almost non-stop until the parts where I welled up with tears and pretended to have allergies.  Yes, it did have the disgustingly improbable ‘Disney’ happy ending.  But ‘Home’ elicited none of those emotions in me.  You may have seen Lilo and Stitch before, but did you realize that in the beginning of the movie she is upset because she wants the proper offering to feed the fish that controls the weather, and then later we discover that her parents died in a car crash due to bad weather?  That is why she wants to control the weather!  This has no bearing on the plot whatsoever but it adds depth and it adds soul.  It is good writing. That scene that seemed like a typical illogical childish whim that you may or may not be familiar with has a bearing on the inner workings of this character.  In Home, they dance involuntarily because Rihanna paid a lot of money to have all of her music showcased in this movie.  It was insulting.

Do not let your children watch ‘Home’.  Make them watch Lilo and Stitch instead.

Whiplash

The fairly simple premise of this movie is that a young man wants to become the best drummer in the world, and he is paired up with a music teacher who wants to produce the best drummer in the world.  The match is not quite as made in heaven as you might expect, and the movie does a good job of drawing out the mental flaws in both characters.

I enjoyed the way the characters were written and fleshed out, but they often made some truly bizarre decisions that leave you scratching your head because of the lack of logic.  These are not exactly logical characters, so it still works, but there is an underlying suspicion that they are behaving illogically because the writers want to subvert tropes and make it surprising.  Their behaviour toes the line of being unrealistically random, but they manage to keep it within the realms of believability.  A few spots could have used more polish to make it easier to swallow, though.

And I’m not really sure what’s going on with the ending.  Was it intentionally ambiguous or just poorly indicated?  It feels like they weren’t sure how to end it, so they just ended it, which is only a good way to end if it no one tries to think about it, which is perhaps not the best strategy for a thought-provoking movie.

I don’t follow the Oscars so I had no idea this movie was so popular, but it makes sense that it was nominated for a bunch of awards since it’s the same movie as Black Swan, but without the lesbian sex.

Take Shelter

I’m not sure how I feel about the movie Take Shelter.  It was entertaining, but I kept watching mostly because I was curious about the way it would go (and I mean, if you boil it down, isn’t that what ALL movies are?).

The premise is that a young man starts having terrifying dreams about a horrible storm and becomes paranoid, building a shelter to protect his family.  Along the way we discover that his family has a history of paranoid schizophrenia, and it’s constantly throwing questions in your face: Is it real?  Are his actions justified?  Is he potentially endangering his family for no reason because of mental illness?  Should they listen to him or should they force him to get help?

Unfortunately I just summed up all the best parts of the movie in a paragraph, and it drags on for two hours.  I liked it, because I like psychology and I wanted to see what they would go with in the end, but it was way longer than it needed to be.  It had tension and it kept your attention, but it didn’t need to be that long when it essentially didn’t really do anything new for about a whole hour in the middle.

Spoilers begin here. Seriously, don’t read this unless you’ve seen it or don’t give a shit.

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Survivor

Survivor is a movie where Pierce Brosnan plays the most notorious and feared assassin the world has ever seen.  He summarily spends the entire film utterly failing to assassinate Milla Jovovich as she bumbles around yelling “What is going on??!??” and wonders why people are trying to kill her.  If this is the best and most effective of all the assassins, assassination is suddenly a much less menacing prospect.

Parallels

We clicked on “Parallels” almost entirely at random, with only Netflix’s flawed prediction algorithm to guide us. Our decision process went something like: “It’s sci-fi, it involves parallel Earths, eh why not.”

The description for the movie literally says “follows a band of people across parallel Earths” and it is named “Parallels”  so imagine my confusion when the movie seemed to spend the first third of its run-time bringing the characters to the realization that, hey, this might be a parallel earth, guys.  Like, fuck the exposition was so fucking slow my god.  This is one of those movies where you’re yelling at the TV because it’s not well written. First we have the obligatory scene where all the characters meet up, but they all know each other, but oops the audience doesn’t know them so let’s throw in some bullshit reason that they all need to explain to each other who they are, just to bring the audience into the loop.  *dust hands* problem solved!  Okay now we know who the characters are, even if that was awkward as fuck.  NOW let’s spend 45 minutes having them figure out the basic plot of the movie.  Good job team!  We only need to fill like, 20 more minutes and we’re done!

I often find the emails I send while in a drunken rage while watching a movie are the best indication of how much I enjoyed the movie. This is literally the email I sent to my friend while watching it:
“The premise of the movie is that they are travelling to other versions of Earth, and then they encounter some graffiti describing alternate earths. Then they accidentally travel to an alternate earth and THEN.  THEN they spend 15 minutes figuring out amongst themselves that this might be an alternate earth.  GOOD JOB GUYS.”

Then I sent this one:
“The rebel loner guy is named “Ronin”.  At least it’s not “Cypher Raige” I guess.”

Then we ran into “obligatory hot Asian chick” and it was facepalms all around.  But, ironically, the plot started getting better after that.

BUT not better enough.  JUST as we got to the part where it was actually getting interesting and telling us something we didn’t know from the god damn movie description, it…………………… ended.

My husband said “That wasn’t a movie, that was a TV series.  You read it wrong when you clicked on it.”  and I said “No, it was DEFINITELY a movie.”  “No, that was DEFINITELY a TV series and you should find the next episode.”

So I did what any reasonable person would do, and I Googled it.  He wasn’t wrong!

Parallels was created as a television pilot, but Fox Digital Studios morphed it into a stand-alone movie”

Mother. Fucking. Fox. Studios.

And then I found this one:
Parallels is a 2015 American science-fiction adventure film and possible pilot”
Which is like… hahahahaha ‘possible pilot’ INDEED.

Anyway.  Long story short: do not waste your time.  It’s only barely interesting as a premise, and you can learn everything you need to know from the description.  If it does make it to full blown TV status it’s probably going to suck anyway.  There are a large number of bad movies on Netflix that I endorse because the monthly fee removes all of the guilt you may incur from having watched it… but they should excise this shit from it immediately.

Upside Down

We’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching all 20 something seasons of Top Gear for the past month or two, and I didn’t feel compelled to write any blog entries about it (it’s good, FYI), but we finally wandered over and clicked on a movie on Netflix.  That movie happened to be “Upside Down”.  And what an odd movie it was.

The movie opens with a long winded intro that explains the situation, and it proceeds to drop scientific inaccuracies all over you before they’ve even gotten a few sentences in, but it’s probably good to get the suspension of disbelief over with early for this one.  He explains how they are the only planetary system with “double gravity”, with two planets so close together that they’re within reach of one another, but the people and objects from each world are only affected by the gravity from their origin planet, which makes traversing to the opposite planet quite difficult, you could imagine.   It also makes life difficult for the writers, because the number of times they screw up what should be affected by which gravity is pretty noticeable… poor writers.

The intro ended with the line “What if love is stronger than gravity?”, which caused both of us to burst into scornful laughter.  I’m still laughing at it, actually.

The world they built for this is pretty cool.  It feels fairly unique, and they do an awesome job creating visuals for it (except everything seems to be cast in blue and I don’t know what’s up with that).  I found myself enjoying the sets a lot while watching the movie.  Which is good because it didn’t have much else going for it…

The story is incredibly generic.  A guy falls in love with a girl from the other planet and spends the entire movie trying to figure out how to be with her.  No one expected that!  Also they are named Adam and Eve.  Errr… sorry, Eden.  Well my mistake, that’s completely original after all.  Also one planet is incredibly poor and one is incredibly rich (for no apparent reason.  It’s not like the rich planet can exploit riches from the poor one… oh wait they can because gravity barriers suddenly don’t matter when it’s important for the plot) and the rich planet hates the poor planet which sets up a cultural/social economic status barrier for the two lovebirds as well, because every time they try to talk to each other the police descend upon them like it’s some sort of fascist police state where you are not free to have a friendly conversation with people from the other side despite the already prohibiting circumstances surrounding it (and despite having actual office buildings designed for both sides to work together…).  And then, because there aren’t enough tropes shoehorned into this, she hits her head and gets Generic-MovieStyle-Improbable-Amnesia and he has to remind her who he is before they can get on with the sexing.  So he devises a way to go to the other planet, involving shoving material from the other world into his clothing so that it weighs him down enough to walk around down there.  Which is problematic because if the material stays in contact with material from the other planet for too long it will burst into flames, giving him a time limit per visit, and opening up a WHOLE NEW BARREL of plot problems (if material from the two worlds are incompatible, how is he wearing clothes from it without being set on fire?  How do they drink/eat things from the other world without their insides exploding?  And most importantly, how are they going to have sex??!??!?)

And then everyone wins.  The end.  Yay.  It was probably the most dissatisfying ending I’ve seen in the past couple of years.  I think the writers literally just ran out of ideas and went “Welp.  I’m done.  Let’s get a beer.”  It left a couple of threads barely tied at the end, in a big rush of “now lets conclude everything annnnnndddd done.” and I feel like a lot of time that was spent on unoriginal bullshit like amnesia subplots could have been spent developing more information about magical anti-gravity bee pollen and the aftermath of events.

I enjoyed it I suppose but I’m glad I found it on Netflix and didn’t waste any sort of effort hunting it down or paying money for it.  Movies like this are why Netflix needs to exist.

Predestination

I will sum up this movie in three words:

What the fuuuuccckkkk.

I’m pretty sure I don’t want to say anything more than that, other than the fact that I recommend checking it out.

Also: You probably shouldn’t watch it while drunk.  Fair warning.

Can I just say too: I had no idea who Sarah Snook was before this movie and damn.  Good job.

The 100

This is cheating because it’s a TV show, not a movie, but it’s technically a “moving picture” right?  And I feel like rambling about it.

I was bored and looking for something to sleep through, so I glanced at my recommendations on Netflix and ultimately clicked on “The 100”, which was recommended to me because I am one of the few dozen people on Earth who enjoyed Terra Nova and all of its campy low-rent glory (come on guys, it’s basically a worse Stargate SG-1, but with dinosaurs.  How can you not like that?!?  Damn you, Fox).  I ended up mocking the terrible writing in the pilot the whole way through, then taking it off my Netflix list as soon as it was done.  And then maybe 15 minutes later I went back and started episode 2.  Now we’ve finished binging the first season and the few episodes currently available for the second, and I am conflicted.  The show was captivating, yet the writing is terrible.  The writing certainly improved as it went along, but it was still pretty awful.  So why was it so interesting?

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Resolution

I’m debating about even writing this entry because I finished watching the movie, thought to myself “That was pretty okay, I should mention it on my blog”, and glanced at some reviews to discover that I must have watched it all wrong.  All of these reviews are gushing about the meta commentary of the film and I’m sort of looking at them going “there was meta commentary?!”  So I guess this will be a review of the movie from the point of view of someone who doesn’t do the whole “movies as art” thing very well.  I do “movies as entertainment”, and Resolution was entertaining… although apparently it is even more entertaining if you like to read into meta commentary.

The premise of Resolution is that Michael gets a video from his junkie friend, along with a map to his current location, and decides he should give it one final try to bring his friend in to rehab before it’s too late.  Things are never as easy as “Let’s go to rehab” “okay”, so he handcuffs him to the wall and settles in for a week of dealing with withdrawal symptoms before he can try his final attempt at reasoning with the guy.

I’m going to pause right there and say that, when I originally decided to queue this one up for watching, the description mentioned a week of withdrawal and a warping of reality.  So I was expecting a “that-scene-from-Trainspotting”-esque sort of series of mindfucks that left the viewer unsure which things were truly happening and which were a result of the withdrawal.  It’s not that at all.

Instead, Michael spends the week trying to appease druggies who are trying to collect, also appease the owners of the shack his friend has been squatting in who want them out, and investigate a series of creepy media messages that are being left for him to find.  The messages get creepier and creepier, until they begin to star the two guys themselves.

The majority of the movie was interesting, but honestly it wasn’t very creepy until the last little bit when shit starts to get real.  A lot of it seemed disjointed, and things that came up never really came up again so it all melded into a big ball of “That was weird; what was that about?” but no real tension.  There was a lack of tension through the whole build-up actually, even though I was curious to see what happened next.  It could have been Michael’s reaction to the whole situation… he approached all the creepiness with a matter-of-fact curiosity that sucked all the creepiness right back out.  Almost every situation played out like “Hey Chris, look at this creepy thing.  I wonder what this is about.”  followed by Chris saying “How the fuck should I know give me some crack.”  Michael was interested to get to the bottom of it, and I was interested to watch him get to the bottom of it, but he never seemed to be unnerved by all the weirdness or have a second thought about investigating a strange noise.  Which might be why the ending has more tension for me – he finally starts reacting to the events with a “holy shit this is fucking weird” and “How can I get out of this alive…” attitude.  It takes looking at images of his own corpse to finally elicit a reaction.

Wait, was that the meta commentary?  That the horror “movies” didn’t scare him until it actually threatened him directly?  Maybe that was meta commentary.

Here’s some actual meta commentary discussion, involving ending spoilers (and I just realized the movie is named “Resolution”, which makes more sense now.  I thought it referred to video media resolution, as opposed to “ending resolution”, and then was confused about video resolution not really being a big deal…) Read more of this post

Oculus

It’s October, which means it is time for our annual search for scary movies that are rated higher than, oh, let’s say 4 on IMDB.  That’s usually the point where a movie stops being scary and just becomes scarily awful.  With any luck I should be able to update this blog with cheers and jeers as we wade through a queue of hopefully-good-but-probably-actually-awful “scary” movies!  One of the recent ones I queued up was “Oculus”.

I don’t ask for much from horror movies. I prefer tension-filled horror movies or mindfuck horror movies, and not so much the “there is blood everywhere gosh isn’t this scary?” sort of horror movies, and I’m pretty forgiving of a ridiculous premise when it’s trying to set up a ghost story, so really all you need to do is display some effort and I will enjoy your stupid horror movie.  I quite enjoyed Oculus.

The premise of Oculus is that a family moves into a new home and the wife invests in some antiques to furnish it.  Among those antiques is a mirror that is so obviously demonic in its design that I’m not really sure why she couldn’t immediately tell that it was going to kill her… but anyway she buys it and hangs it in her husband’s new office.  It proceeds to cause almost everyone to go insane and murder each other, finally ending with the son finishing off his dad while protecting his big sister.  And a decade or so later he gets out of the psych ward and his sister picks him up and says “Now that you’re free, let’s go kill that thing”.

The movie has a decent amount of tension throughout.  It tells the story of the past and present simultaneously, revealing bits as it goes.  It starts out pretty strong with the “Was it all in my head?” theme, but it pretty quickly dispenses of that and goes “Yup, mirror trying to kill us.” which is a bit unfortunate in some ways, but at least it isn’t entirely cliche.  The mirror has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, usually involving a warping of reality that leaves you wondering which thread is true and which is insanity.  I enjoy ‘monster’ movies that don’t shove monsters down your throat, so I liked that the enemy was a largely unseen presence, experienced but not seen. I also liked that the characters started losing grasp of reality and started making little mistakes that indicated as such (like referring to the dog by the name of their childhood pet), and the movie didn’t come running out of the wings to go “SEE.  DID YOU SEE THAT??  I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOU DIDN’T MISS THAT!  Carry on then!”  I felt like the writers actually had some confidence in their audience, which usually results in a better story overall.

I wouldn’t try to claim that it’s entirely fresh and original, but it’s definitely got enough interesting elements that it’s a decent “dim the lights” October style movie, worthy of a watch.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow opens with what is essentially D-Day on Normandy beach, except with Aliens and Mechs.  If you read that and didn’t immediately decide you’d like to see this movie, you can probably just move along to another review now, or go watch a romantic comedy or something.

The premise behind Edge of Tomorrow is that a fairly cowardly man got drafted into the military and managed to slip out of having to do any of that icky combat stuff by using his marketing skills to aid the recruiting efforts.  He’s finally drafted for a big push against the enemy, attempts to weasel out of it, and gets branded as a deserter and busted down to a private on the front line.  He’s pretty much instantly killed, but not before he gets soaked in the blood of one of the aliens. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up at the start of the same day, unscathed, and has to live it all over again.  It turns out the aliens have the ability to reset time in order to perfect their tactics, and now that he’s absorbed some of their blood, he can too.

That actually sounds pretty corny, but it’s done really well.  Cage is a character full of flaws that he irons out with (lots and lots of) practice.  The day repetition isn’t tedious or annoying – I was pretty worried it would be too repetitive but they mix it up enough to keep it fresh.  There’s also a lot of really well placed humour, particularly when portraying some of the trial and error processes that go into his character development.  Some of the other characters could have stood for a bit more developing, but they’re written serviceably enough that it still passes.  The backstory/worldbuilding is good without overstaying its welcome, and they did a good job of establishing an appropriate character and then dropping him into an environment where the viewer can “learn” along with him as a means of exposition.

I have to say this: The CGI was distractingly good.  We kept interrupting scenes to ask each other “So how do you think they did that?  Is that pure CGI or some practical effects or…?”  The aliens look awesome, the mech suits are seamless, it’s all wonderful.

If you hate fun I’m sure you could nitpick all sorts of flaws out of the plot (like how everyone who is “cool” somehow manages to discard their helmets, which is where all the aiming apparatus is supposedly housed…), but it was coherent enough (even WITH time-travel elements!) that it was enjoyable.  Thumbs up.

Bonus review:  the new WordPress editor interface is awful and I hate it.  It doesn’t solve any problems and the oversimplification results in bunches of new problems.  Thumbs down :P

Aftermath (2012)

Upon looking for information about this movie, I discovered there is another movie by the same name from 2013, which has a MUCH MUCH better rating on IMDB.  Now I’m interested in watching that one instead…  But anyway.  We watched this one.  It’s the one with Ed Furlong in it, which may or may not be the only actor name you recognize.  (IMDB lists a couple of actors who I don’t think are actually in it, so even THEY are confused…)

I love post apocalyptic stuff.  I don’t care what the apocalypse is, I will watch/read/play it.  I usually enjoy them, except when they’re really fucking stupid and don’t bother to explain their shit because they’re in too much of a hurry to make some sort of statement which may or may not be actually poignant (looking at you, Perfect Sense).

If I had to sum this movie up into a sentence, it would probably be “Tries way too fucking hard.” The setting was great and I’m glad to see nuclear war creeping back into the media scene.  Zombies are getting old, man, let’s get some good old fashioned bombing back up in here!  I’ve read all the “the world just exploded” classics like On the Beach and Canticle for Leibowitz and so on, and this really reminded me of those, so it got the tone right.

The writing was kind of meh in that it didn’t do anything impressive and was kind of predictable, but not out of place for the genre.  It was really fucking stupid that the desperate people suffering from radiation sickness literally acted like zombies, to the point where they address the fact that they are not actually zombies in the dialogue (which is your cue that you’re writing it wrong.  Did I mention zombies are getting really old and stale?  Pseudo-zombies do not breathe new life into the genre.  Sorry). But otherwise the only major writing crimes were predictability and unlikable, unsympathetic characters (I’m not sure that I could tell you a single difference between the women in this movie). Also possibly a bit of gary-stu-itis with Mr mysterious-background Doctor who knows everything about everything… but that could at least be explained by having enough of a build-up to the war that he spent some time googling everything he could possibly need to know to survive. There are so many little niggling details in the plot to be nitpicked that I won’t even bother (they cover the doors to the cellar with dirt, but leave the windows exposed… /facepalm. Doors everyone can shoot cleanly through like cardboard, but which no one can manage to break down… /facepalm), other than to say if you have OCD you may want to avoid this movie.  They didn’t detract from the overall story other than to annoy, though.

What actually bothered me the most was the way the movie itself was presented.  Understand – I am saying this as someone who has not gone to film school, or any sort of film composition class, and has absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing so:  It did a lot of things that felt like they should get a low grade in film school classes because ugh.  Low budget is one thing (the whole movie is shot in a single room so low budget is probably implied), but this was almost insultingly amateur in places.  It felt like youtube was leaking.

A lot of the angles are off-kilter, probably to do the “dutch angle” thing and try to portray that whole “something is wrong here” feeling.  But I’m not actually certain if it was because of that, or because they really needed to buy the camera guy something to set his camera on. Because god damn it was bobbling all over the fucking place in most scenes, which made it really obviously hand-held.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they set the camera on the ground, noticed it was crooked, then went “Hey, that works!” 

Okay whatever, I can deal with shaky cam when it isn’t bad enough to make me physically ill… but then at the end there’s this incredibly dragged out series of scenes that are just chains of dramatic “zoom frame” shots where it’s all “OH NO GUYS SOMETHING DRAMATIC IS HAPPENING AAAANNNNDDD FREEZEZOOM ON THE FACE.  Okay sweet we just showed everyone how dramatic this is and that the characters are feeling emotions right now.  Wait, we better do this for all of the characters.  Multiple times.  Because it’s really emotional, guys, we don’t want the emotions to be lost.”

No.  Stop that.  Bad.  uggghhh.  This is like this video editing equivalent of telling instead of showing.  Have a little faith in your audience and/or actors to not need to spoon feed the scene.  Christ.  Normally I use this blog to bitch about writing, but nothing in the writing really jumped out at me as something that could tank the movie.  It’s cliche, unoriginal, and a bit meh, but none of that made me fly to my keyboard in anger.  The scene composition totally did.  The movie was sort of hovering in the “This isn’t really good but it’s still pretty okay” zone and that whole sequence just tanked it.  :/

So I guess that’s my review.  “It’s not really good but it’s sort of okay, except for the amateur scene composition especially at the end.”  Now I am in the mood to read some post-apoc nuclear fiction again, though…

The Zero Theorem

My husband said “Hey we should watch this movie, Zero Theorem”.  I looked at the IMDB blurb and found this:

“A computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him.”

hahahaha oh my god this is going to be so bad.

Long story short: It didn’t suck.  I actually quite enjoyed it, and it also validates the existence of my “surprisingly not shitty” tag.  It was bizarre but eminently enjoyable.  I feel like you might need to be drunk to really get the most out of it, though; at any rate you probably shouldn’t try to understand it while sober.

I glanced at some reviews and now I’m confused about all these people complaining that it wasn’t funny enough.  Did they see the name Terry Gilliam and just assume it would be a Monty Python comedy?  It has quirky comedic moments but it is not a comedy, people.  What the hell.  Complaints about the movie being confusing – valid (but not necessarily unwelcome… I liked the convoluted fucked-up-ness of the plot), complaints about the philosophy of the movie being unfulfilling – valid (if you give a shit, which I didn’t), complaints about the movie being “listless” – … valid, sure.  It felt a little flat sometimes, but that sort of complemented the main character I thought.  Complaints about it not being funny enough?  Go away.

It’s a quirky, bizarre, … whimsical?  sure whimsical… journey and it’s decently entertaining enough to spend an hour or so with.

Transcendence

The IMDB blurb for Transcendence was this:

“A scientist’s drive for artificial intelligence, takes on dangerous implications when his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.”

Misplaced comma aside (grr), it sounded like a perfect set-up for an awful movie.  But… Morgan Freeman?!?  He never makes bad movies!  Okay fine we will risk it.  I mean, it’s a sci-fi-ish movie so of course we will risk it.

After we were done, my husband’s review was “I liked that movie, but I can’t think about it or I’ll get angry.”  I should probably just leave that here as my review, too.

It was really much better than I thought it would be, probably because I had pretty low expectations.  There are a lot of stories that are sorta-kinda similar that if you liked those, you’ll probably at least sort of enjoy this too.  Parts of it reminded me of Terminator, maybe RoboCop (with significantly less exploding shit, mind you, and the exploding shit was kind of the point of those movies)… other parts reminded me of Blood Music (novel by Greg Bear)… the Replicators from SG-1 (and every other “grey goo” themed sci-fi story in existence)… there was at least one other popular entertainment media item I thought of while we were watching and now I can’t remember it so… that one too.  It was an interesting story that provided some interesting questions and made you wonder which direction they would take it in the end.

Of course, every direction they could have taken it was pretty predictable, because it’s all been done before.  I’m not sure it’s actually possible to do something innovative with this sort of storyline anymore.  It was more of a “Is the twist going to be THIS, or is it going to be THIS…” sort of thing, which is enjoyable in its own way but… meh.  It’s the sort of thing where if you tried to do something really innovative and shocking it would just be so ridiculously cheesy that it would ruin the whole story.  So the best bet is to try to approach the philosophical questions in a novel manner, and it sort of dropped the ball there.  A lot of the really interesting questions that could have been asked were drowned out by a focus on the Good/Evil aspects.  No real subtleties were explored, which left it feeling hollow and predictable.  Unfortunate.

And there were some big-ass plot holes that you really shouldn’t think about.  Seriously, don’t think about it or you’ll hate this movie.

I don’t think there’s an easy way for me to do spoiler tags if I’m not hosting the blog myself, so warning: potential spoilers ahead that will make you hate this movie:

There was so much focus on the “Is it really him?  Is it just an AI trying to take over and not really him at all?  It’s building a superhuman army!!” aspects that they completely missed exploring the “Would you take clean water, extended/potentially eternal life, no sickness, superhuman strength at the expense of your free will and privacy?” aspect.  What’s odd is they introduce those aspects, and then completely ignore them to follow the “omg an army, get the bombs” route.  I suppose bombs could be one way of saying “no I would not give up my free will”, but it’s not presented that way at all.

[bigger spoiler – seriously] How the hell does it get airborne.  I’m not disputing that it would create the technology, but it’s not explained at all, and it presents so many problems.  How the fuck are you going to do anything about an airborne nanobot invasion.  It’s like the world’s worst virus at that point (a la: Blood Music).  Shit doesn’t need to be networked anymore for it to spread because it is airborne.  Okay so maybe it’s short range airborne but y’know, throw a bone and mention that.

And somewhat related – one of my husband’s biggest complaints (before he stopped thinking about it so that he wouldn’t hate the movie): “My computer doesn’t fucking explode when I unplug it from the network.”  Why do they stop functioning when disconnected from the core?  The nanobots seriously can’t carry out repairs unless they’re on the internet?  That seems like a design flaw he probably should have considered, huh.

And if nothing works if it’s not online, how the fuck do they get into the garden if it’s covered in shields.  Even if you want to claim he pre-planted some nanobots or whatever in there, how would he have gotten her through the shield.  Explain shit, damn you.  I think it’s shoehorned in for an attempt at ambiguity in the name of ~thought provoking~ and it’s not good.

Bullets poisoned with radiation.  hahahaha.

Okay I’m going to stop thinking about it now, while I still like it.

Snowpiercer

What an absolutely ludicrous plot.  Why was it so enjoyable…

I feel like I was actively trying to dislike it, and I kept forgetting why I was trying to dislike it.  I had a laundry list of criticisms and I can barely remember them all the next day.

Here’s the premise:  Global warming is out of control, so someone develops a way to slow it down.  We release shit into the atmosphere and it results in dropping Earth into a deep ice age.  Oops.

Everything living dies, except for a lucky group of people who happened to be on a really large train called the Snowpiercer that traverses the world precisely once per year (or maybe they re-engineered the length of years based on one traversal, I wasn’t entirely clear…).  There was a bit of explanation about the train but not nearly enough to explain how a world-traversing train was engineered to cross oceans and run perpetually with absolutely no external maintenance (of the train OR tracks…) in an atmosphere that is cold enough to completely freeze someone’s arm in 7 minutes… but apparently it runs happily for the next 18 years.  The people on the train develop a dystopian caste system based on their original tickets, with those in first class living in luxury and those in the tail section living in squalor.  First class regularly comes back to the tail to steal children and generally be dicks about everything.  The tail section get pissed and plan an uprising.

There’s a lot of really well done stuff in this movie.  The atmosphere is great, the acting is great, even the premise is interesting despite hurting your brain if you think about it too much.  It’s mostly the brain-hurting that drags the movie down – there are too many things that are convenient or casually brushed over because they cannot possibly be explained.  We’re presuming this train was already in motion before the world ended, right… because that’s how they survived.  It’s got aquarium ceiling-ed cars.   Like, okay so maybe it’s supposed to be super luxurious so they designed a train with that’s entirely an aquarium for both walls and ceiling in 2014, but… no.  I just can’t.  Where did they get the materials to build and maintain this shit?  Where did these translator things come from if the world ended?  Why do they only use the translator things half of the time yet still understand each other?!?? It’s in that uncomfortable sci-fi area where they want to be cool and unique, but it’s not a fantastical enough environment to pull it off comfortably and you need to turn your brain off to enjoy it.  But once you do that, it’s great.  Certainly above Elysium, at any rate.

Her

I’m just going to copy/paste what I sent to my friend while I was watching this:  This movie keeps going from “lol” to “what” back to “lol” and then to “WHAT“.

I thought I enjoyed it, but I… I don’t know.  The only thing I am certain of is that it is unique.  Certainly worth a try, I suppose, but… what.

My husband’s review was “The thing I didn’t like about that movie is that they didn’t die in the end.”  So you might want to consider that, too.  (…spoilers?)

The premise is that a new operating system is invented that learns and tailors itself to become a companion to its user.  We follow the sad little life of a lonely divorcee who upgrades to the OS and, naturally, chooses the female option, only to start spending all his time with “her” (as does pretty much every other person who has one).  The OSes are programmed just a little bit too well, and start to gain autonomy and ask tough questions.

It’s great if you like artsy philosophy scenarios (I don’t…), fairly amusing from a nerd culture perspective (which is what I enjoyed the most, although I have often joked about my computer storming off in a huff and the concept of an OS that can actually do that is awful!), and contains a large number of incredibly awkward “sex” scenes that are kind of like watching someone have fucked up creepy phone sex.  Which is where most of the WHAT comes from.  It also moves pretty slowly and has a lot of talking which may or may not be at all interesting to you.  I actually wasn’t that bothered by it, but apparently my husband thought it came across as really whiny.  Viewer beware.

So I guess that’s a way of summing it up.  If you would like to watch someone whine about being lonely and then have creepy phone sex with a computer, oh boy have we got a movie for you!  If you find the philosophical themes interesting, you’ll probably enjoy it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Good writing.

Good humour.

Great acting.

Great soundtrack.

Still understood it while drunk.

 

Thumbs up.

The Battery

We chose a movie pretty much completely at random and ended up with The Battery.  I sort of glanced at it and thought “It may as well be titled “Yet Another Zombie Movie”, except IMDB says this one won a whole whack of awards, so let’s see what’s up.”

This is a tough one to review.  I simultaneously like it and dislike it.  It is simultaneously cliche and unique.  It is Schrodinger’s movie.

I went into the movie not sure what to expect.  I like post-apocalyptic movies, which zombies fall into, but there are a lot of really bad zombie movies out there and a majority of them tend to lean in that direction lately.  The whole genre is getting a little played out, too, so even if you come across a good one it tends to be a bit ho-hum.  But then the first half of 28 Days Later, where he’s wandering around a desolate landscape trying to piece together what happened, is probably my favourite movie sequence of all time.  I’m usually willing to take a risk if it might mean experiencing something like that again.

The movie started with a notice about all the bands that are featured within the film.  My immediate reaction was “Oh no.”  It wasn’t too bad because they at least tried to weave it into the story with the headphones being a part of the plot, but there were way too many sequences where they did nothing but showcase music for 5 minutes (with wistful cuts to zoomed-in shots of insects on flowers), and it started getting tedious.

The actual story started off fairly well with lots of scavenging through empty neighborhoods for supplies, but I was having a lot of trouble getting a sense of timescale from the movie.  All of the houses were empty, but pristine.  There were no real signs of panic or struggle.  One protagonist had a bushy and unkempt beard like he hadn’t shaved in over a year, but the other didn’t have a hint of stubble around his sculpted facial hair.  Lawns and road-sides were freshly manicured.  I had the idea that the apocalypse had literally just happened, but then the characters started talking about how they’d been moving around for months.

I was disappointed with the lack of worldbuilding.  It’s usually my favourite part of disaster movies – what happened, and why?  There’s absolutely no explanation, not even a glossed-over one.  I guess zombies are just so familiar now that it seems like a waste of time to try to explain them, and I don’t necessarily fault them for just skimming over it, but I still missed it.

Then we had a three minute scene where they enjoyed brushing their teeth after looting toothbrushes and toothpaste from a house.  It started out pretty great and you could feel how awesome it was for them to experience clean teeth again after an extended period of neglect, and it was a powerful scene with good silent acting going on.  But then it kept going.  Okay, we get it, it feels good, and they miss the comforts of their old life.  No, seriously.  Move along now.  Jesus christ they’re still brushing.  …  Oh my god, really?

There were a lot of little moments like that, where there was a good idea behind a scene, and interesting themes to explore behind a scene, but then it was dragged out until all the power behind it was lost.  Even during the dragged out scenes, though, the acting remained good – which becomes very impressive when you discover that the movie had a budget of $6000.  Suddenly the manicured lawns and lack of mess make sense (as does, to some degree, the unnecessary scene padding…).  The movie didn’t remain confined to a single room or cut budget by having wooden actors or a 20 dollar camera that shakes all over the place, and the result is quite watchable and doesn’t even really feel low budget.  It’s really only the writing to blame, which has little to do with budget.

There are decisions like displaying Mickey’s loneliness and longing for female companionship through having him sniff and then pocket some panties.  It’s pretty creepy but it could be a way to display how desperate he is for human contact.  Then he decides the best course of action is to masturbate to a female zombie that is attempting to break into the car to kill him.  What the fuck.   It’s one thing to have him be a whiny twat who constantly puts the group in danger because he wants to pretend everything is the way it used to be.  Masturbating to a female zombie… that’s just a mind boggling character development decision.  It would be one thing if it actually factored into the plot a bit more but nope, it happens, it’s not really considered exceptional (they have a good laugh over it…), and it’s never mentioned again.  Then his reaction to being told to fuck off by the only living female they encounter is to whine about it for the rest of the movie and put them into even more danger by trying to deny it.  This is great character development for a character we’re supposed to hate, but not really all that great for a character we’re supposed to feel sympathy for.  I felt a lot more sympathy for his companion, who had to put up with all the whining as well as deal with all the dangerous situations the whining thrust them into, all for the sake of having any companion at all.  Maybe that was the point and he was the only character we were supposed to root for…

It does have some good moments though and, despite the bizarre character choices, I did enjoy watching it.  I’d like to say that the good moments outweigh the bad… but honestly, it’s probably more accurate to say the good moments outnumber the bad.  The bad moments are so bad that, unfortunately, they end up colouring the whole thing, resulting in the conflicted rating I’m giving it.  I’m just going to give up and give it every single tag, instead of trying to decide on just one… but I decided not to give it the “Kind of shitty” tag, which suggests it wasn’t all that bad!  I like that the zombies were not the main focus of the film, and yet it wasn’t the same old plot of “Humans are the real threat” (well, for the most part).  The focus was on the character development and the progression of relationships under duress.  I’m not even sure I would classify it as “horror”, but I guess there is no category for “Mildly unsettling and thought-provoking disaster movie, with some tension”.  I do think the movie hit on the themes it was attempting to hit, and it did a decent job of it too.

Would I watch it again?  Probably not… but is it worth watching once?  It’s not on the top of my list of recommendations from the zombie genre, but it’s worth checking out if you happen to spot it.

Frozen

I started this blog so I could call attention to lesser known or obscure things that I enjoyed, so I try to avoid doing reviews of things which are obviously popular unless I have bitching to do.  Winning Oscars is kind of a good clue that something is popular… but at the same time I have been utterly obsessed with Frozen since I watched it and I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack.  I can’t even explain why I enjoyed it so much.  I grew up on Disney musicals (I have a Disney soundtrack collection.  Shut up.  It’s probably why I have such good scores in Rock Band so it’s not like it hasn’t paid off!  If only there was a Disney Rock Band edition…).  Frozen just struck a nostalgia chord that nothing else has done in the past 5-10 years.  It could be related to the fact that they apparently started writing this movie in fucking 1990 so it literally is a “Disney renaissance” classic, but as far as I can tell it’s gone through about 80,000 revisions since then and in no way resembles their original scripts, so who knows.

I could even nitpick the fuck out of bits of it because you know what, it wasn’t even that good.  There were story plotholes, character plotholes… if you dig into it it’s really obvious they re-wrote the story eight times.  But it was so good.  I am completely incapable of being coherent right now and that’s okay because I am blissfully happy.

I briefly considered addressing the conspiracy theories surrounding the themes underlying the film but you know what, it’s not even worth it.  From the Lion King spelling “sex” in dust clouds (OMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN) to The Little Mermaid apparently being a metaphor for transgender issues, someone will make a fuss about something.  It’s like Life of Pi with probably significantly less intention in its potential interpretations.  It’s a fucking awesome movie no matter how you choose to interpret it, for so many reasons.

The characters are amazing.  The subversions of tropes are amazing.  The CGI is amazing (holy shit the snow).  This movie is amazing.

I wish the collectors edition had like cool figurines and shit.  I would so buy it.  Lithographs??! meh.  Maybe for the obvious-cash-in 3D edition they release later…

Alright, I still love this movie but I feel like I should weigh in on some common criticisms about the writing.  Because I agree with them, and nagging about the ways writing could have been improved is kind of my thing.  Read more of this post

All is Lost

I don’t know if it’s because we watched Captain Philips recently, or if I just really like sea survival stories.  I didn’t know anything about All is Lost and yet I immediately wanted to see it when I saw “shipwreck” as a theme.  It is the story of a solo yacht owner who gets into distress out in the Indian ocean, and must rely on wits and resourcefulness to survive.

There is almost no dialogue in this film.  There are probably 20 words spoken throughout the whole thing – less if you only count “help” once.  I felt like it was really effective at enhancing the sense of isolation, and it really served to emphasize the despair when he uttered the inevitable “fffffuuuuuuUUUUCCCKKKK”.

My husband’s only critique was “In the beginning he was moving around like an old man and it was really starting to annoy me.”  You know what… I probably agree with that.  The movie starts off with him waking up to realize the yacht drifted into the corner of a lost shipping container (apparently filled with very unhelpful shoes.  Which is better than losing a crate full of illegal immigrants, I guess…). It punches a big hole in the hull.  He tries a few things and finally manages to unstick himself, but then he dodders around doing this and that, and every fifth scene it cuts back and gives us a shot of the gaping hole in the boat.  Over and over again.  Then he finally pulls out his patch kit and does a bit of patching, and then dodders around doing some other stuff like fiddling with completely soaked electronics and setting up the manual pumping mechanism to get the water out of the hull.  Cut to the hole in the boat again!  Yup, still there!  Oh now he’s patching it again!  …and now he’s doddering around again.
I don’t know, maybe he needed the fiberglass to set before we could continue patching?  It really wasn’t clear why fixing the giant hole in the hull seemed to be a lower priority than cracking open the busted radio.  Yes the radio is important because we need to call for help, I agree, but not having a giant hole in the hull seems like it should come first.  He spends a lot of time pumping out water, presumably to keep the boat from sinking too low and putting the hole under the water line… but shouldn’t you patch the hole and solve it that way?  Maybe this is why I do not own a yacht.

All of this patching, and then I’m not really sure what the purpose of that whole sequence was.  Ultimately, it seemed to me that the shipping container wasn’t even what led to his downfall.  He got himself out of that situation quite handily and then it was the storm that did the damage.  Was it that the container let in water which killed his electronics? (and for that matter, why isn’t all this very important shit in waterproof containers?  It is a boat.)  Well, the storm let in water too so they’d be fried anyway wouldn’t they?  Was it that the container used up all his patching supplies so there was nothing left to repair after the storm?  Okay, I’ll buy that.  But I also doubt you can fibreglass together a god damn mast, so it really doesn’t seem like that was the dealbreaker.  I dunno, it just seems like the movie is all focused on SHIPPING CONTAINER KILLS MAN, but then it wasn’t even the villain!  Poor misunderstood shipping container…

Aside from that, it was a pretty good movie.  Quite enjoyable, lots of tension to keep you awake and wondering what will happen next.  If you’re thinking of buying a yacht, this movie might be a good way to talk yourself out of it.

Zombex

There are no reviews of this movie – as of the time of writing, metacritic and rotten tomatoes don’t even know it exists (oh how I envy them).  I feel the internet requires this review deficit to be remedied.  Because it might save someone from watching this horrible god awful piece of shit.

My husband picked this one out because he likes zombies and he said “4.7 is actually a pretty good IMDB score for a horror movie”.  Halfway through watching it (I use the term “watching” loosely because I was trying not to watch, honestly) I went looking for reviews and found it actually had a 2.6 on IMDB, but most things hadn’t hadn’t quite updated to reflect that yet.  I expect that number to continue to fall.

It’s so remarkably bad.  It is a study in bad movie making.  People take pills from some pharmaceutical company and oops it actually makes them into zombies.  Also it makes their eyes glow nuclear green (because that makes sense), and after they fall behind some scenery and stand back up again in a fresh zombie-like state, random body parts have instantly decayed off of them FOR NO GOD DAMN REASON WHATSOEVER.  Then people act like skimpily dressed bad-ass heroes (in extreme slow motion, because that makes it more bad-ass) and randomly break into lesbian sex scenes.  Ignore the fact that they are very obviously shooting their weapons into nothing, and the scenes of the “zombies” collapsing and popping their fake blood packets to create blood spray patterns that in no way match physics were filmed separately, possibly without any other actors present at all.  Also the entire thing was filmed with some sort of 1980’s Kodachrome Instagram filter over the whole thing.  God what the hell is this shit.  Is this what you sit through in film school student film exhibitions?  No, students must produce better films than this or no one would teach film school courses.  We didn’t finish it, but we did skip to the end just in time to see the amateur swipe to credits (I’m pretty sure that’s a Windows Movie Maker feature) that put a cap on the whole thing.  WHY IS MALCOLM MCDOWELL IN THIS. WHAT.

My previous bar for worst film was “The Tomb” which boasts a 1.5 on IMDB.  It still wins, but damn if Zombex didn’t give it a run.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

I must be up front with this review: we had no idea Alan Partridge existed when we picked up this movie. Now that we have seen the movie, I plan on hunting down the earlier works. That should be an indication of how it went. I peeked at a few reviews and saw a lot of negativity surrounding the fact that this movie just wasn’t as good as other Alan Partridge stuff. Good god, if this is an example of him at his worst then we better track down the rest quickly. Reviews seem very mixed at times, sometimes stating that the character is too tired and over-used, or that it’s not funny because its the same-old same-old jokes… and then swinging in the other direction to claim it’s only funny if you’re already familiar with the character which means its a bust for everyone else.
I’m here to say that none of that is true. Well, since I’m not familiar with the character, I suppose I cannot claim that it is NOT an example of same-old same-old, but you also shouldn’t fuck with a formula that is working. We had no problem following who the character is and becoming interested in more stories, so I’m just going to assume those reviews are being bitchy for the sake of trying to find something interesting to say.

I can’t even explain why it was so good. The plot was pretty dumb, really, but it was just so clever. All of the lines were spot-on with good timing. If you’re not interested in low brow British jokes then I suppose you might not like it much, but if you enjoy jokes about awkwardness, nudity, and poop, you should probably give Alan Partridge a peek.

Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies is labelled “Comedy/Drama”.  This is a lie.  Absolutely nothing funny happens in this movie.  It’s an hour and a half of people drinking beer and whining about relationships, with no interesting plot to speak of.

The thing I enjoyed most about this movie was that my husband picked it, so I got to make fun of him for 90 minutes.

Sling Blade

I went through IMDB looking for movies rated above 7 which we had not seen before.  There were surprisingly few.

We tend to avoid watching romances, so I ended up with a pile of those. Two bonus reviews!: We watched 500 Days of Summer, which felt incredibly generic to me, but it was somewhat redeemed by the creative structuring – I guess the animated transitions really appealed to me.  Husband hated it.  Then we watched Before Midnight which is apparently the third movie in a trilogy that we have not seen the other two movies in!  We got 45 minutes into that before I burst out with “What the fuck is the point of this movie?!?” and read the synopsis on Wikipedia, only to discover there is no point.  I turned it off.  I haven’t seen the first one so I guess it’s probably better if you’re already invested in the characters and just want to spend more time with them, but it was a colossal waste of 45 minutes as far as I’m concerned.  I want movies to have a god damn plot.

Going through the list went something like this:  “ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ooh not a romance! … ugh, romance…” so when we unburied Sling Blade I recalled that it was one of the non-romance findings, but I didn’t know much else about it.  I assumed that since it had “blade” in the title that it was some kind of action movie.  It turns out it’s actually a drama, which really makes a lot of sense because if it had been an action movie we would have seen it already.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

I really enjoyed Sling Blade.  It had a plot, which was a good start (seriously, what the fuck why is that movie so highly rated), although I was pretty worried when it opened with 15 minutes of some random guy in a mental hospital rambling about almost having sex with a transvestite.  The movie is the story of Karl, who is a mentally challenged man who has spent the majority of his life in a hospital after killing someone with a “Sling Blade” at the age of 12. He is now “cured” of murderous tendencies, but is completely and obviously not prepared to be turned loose on his own.  They pat him on the head and drive off, leaving him on the curb of the town he was a child in.

The plot itself didn’t really hold any surprises.  The foreshadowing is less of a shadow and more of a neon sign, and I turned to my husband at one point and said “Well, now we know how it ends.”  That’s exactly how it ended. (Although when the guy at the shop tells Karl that once the shop is locked you can’t get out and he’ll get him a key, my husband did predict it would end with him burning to death in a sombre lesson about fire safety regulations.  Now you know that it does not, in fact, end that way.  Sorry for the spoilers.)  Despite knowing what’s going to happen, it’s still gripping somehow, probably because the acting is fantastic.  The characters are all very real (sometimes regrettably so) and they all behave exactly like you expect – which is what makes it both predictable and believable.  That’s good writing and acting.  I recommend checking it out.

Frozen River

We’ve both been really sick, so watching movies has been a popular pass-time this week.  We burned through all the mindless comedies pretty quickly.  Tonight my husband was like “I don’t care, I’ll watch anything” so I wandered around in the drama section for a change.  I came out with Frozen River, partly because it had been nominated for a bunch of awards, and partly because I didn’t want to expend any more energy looking.

The movie was… good.  I think.  It was very realistic with really excellent acting, which I think is what impressed most people and won it awards.  The characters were so believable that I checked to make sure it wasn’t based on a true story… because if it had been based on a true story, it would explain why nothing happens.  I mean, stuff happens, but I don’t see the point.  Why would you write a story that feels this, I dunno… generic?, if not to immortalize something that actually happened?  It feels like the movie should have been a lot more poignant than it was.  Instead, it just felt like “Bad Decisions and Their Consequences: The Movie”, where the characters make bad decisions and then exactly what you would expect to happen goes on to happen.  I gather from some other reviews I peeked at that there was a racial/cultural element that they were going for, so maybe it went right over my head because I live in an area where all of those cultures aren’t nearly as stigmatized as they were maybe expected to be for this movie.

The premise of the movie is that a woman (Ray) is trying to raise her two sons (15 and 5) off of what she earns at her part-time retail job, after her husband runs off with all of their savings in order to feed his gambling addiction – just a few weeks before Christmas, no less.  You know things are rough when all you have to eat is popcorn and orange tang.  To make it worse, they had put money down on a new double-wide trailer which was to be delivered shortly after her husband split with the cash.  Without the savings, the delivery cannot be completed and now she will not have a new home to replace their decaying trailer, AND she’s out the $1500 down payment if she can’t come up with the rest of it before the deadline.

She spots her husband’s car in a parking lot, but it’s being driven by a woman (Lila) from the local Mohawk tribe who claims she found it abandoned at the bus station.  They have some somewhat unfriendly exchanges where they establish that no police are called because apparently it’s legal to steal cars as long as it’s on a reservation where the police have no jurisdiction (wouldn’t the license plate and registration be enough proof of ownership??). Then a hole is casually shot through the door of Lila’s home, to which her reaction is to bitch that she’ll need to have that fixed now.  I know America has a bizarre tolerance to guns but I can’t decide if that was realistic or not.  Lila finally relinquishes the keys, but as Ray is attempting to rig up an incredibly unsafe-looking towing solution to get her two cars home, Lila suggests that she knows someone who will buy the car from her for $2000, which is far more than it’s worth.  Ray agrees to go, and they bounce off down the road with Ray displaying incredibly undisciplined-trigger-discipline as she waves her pistol around to assert her authority while also driving.

Turns out Lila wasn’t actually going to sell the car, she was using the trunk in a smuggling operation to transport illegal immigrants across the border from Canada into the USA.  Since the Mohawk tribe extends across the border, they can cross the frozen river to cross the border and be out of the jurisdiction of the police while doing so.  Each trip nets them $2400.  Lila originally promises to give Ray half, then inexplicably tries to steal the car again (what part of this is going to work out for her, exactly?  Ray knows where she lives, what she does, has a gun, has legal ownership of the vehicle… wtf) before just running off with the cash.  Ray goes home (without picking up her other car…), begs for a promotion to full time at her shitty job and is denied, discovers her TV is about to be repossessed by the Rent-To-Own people (more evidence of bad decision making.  Do not rent-to-own shit, especially not gigantic TVs you can’t afford), then decides to go back to Lila’s house and demand her half of the profits.  Somehow, despite all the backstabbing and shooting, they partner up to do more smuggling runs.

Bad decisions lead to consequences lead to bad decisions lead to consequences, and then the movie ends.  I would not claim the characters learn much of anything through their actions in the movie, which is what made me question why the movie was written.  All I can really find is that there is a theme of “mothers love their children”.  Ray is trying to provide a nice house (and food…) for her children.  Lila is trying to provide money for her son which was taken from her because of a perception that she would be unable to provide for it.  There is a sequence involving an immigrant woman and her baby.  I gather from commentary that the message is that all these women are from different cultures and situations, but they all love and provide for their children… do we really need a movie to tell us that?

It’s not like it wasn’t interesting to watch – it’s incredibly realistic (the bad decisions they make are exactly the kinds of bad decisions you would expect, rather than feeling like an artifact of lazy writing) and the acting is worth a look-see – but it really did feel largely pointless in the end.  I was expecting more from something that won so many awards, but I suppose I just didn’t “get” it.

The Purge

I saw the previews for this movie and immediately scoffed at the premise.  I suppose it’s an interesting thought exercise but as a movie plot… Ennnh.

We were looking for some good Halloween type movies and it turns out we may have seen every not shitty horror movie.  While I was deliberating over whether to risk a movie where a murderous bigfoot terrorizes a town, or the ghost of a shark terrorizes some fishermen, The Purge popped up in the list of horror movies and we decided we may as well see just how bad it is.

It was surprisingly not shitty.  For most of the movie, anyway.  The premise was just as shitty as it seemed like it would be, but they got past it pretty quickly and got right down to the suspense.

The suspense part was good. I actually really enjoyed the way it was shot and the tension was palpable at several points in the movie, which is all I really ask from a horror thriller.  Well that’s not true I also ask that it not be so stupid that I can’t stop laughing the whole time, and it surprised me there too.  The preview clips made it seem like the “purgers” were trying to get into the house kind of at random, but in reality the plot had some plausible explanations for all of it.

In case you didn’t have the opportunity to laugh at the premise if this movie yet, it is set in the future when the United States of America has decided that the best way to solve its issues with violence is to give everyone a period of 12 hours once a year where they can commit any crime they want and just get it out of their system.  Hate your boss? Just wait until the purge and then murder them!  This solution is so very effective that violence no longer exists.
The main character of the movie is a guy who has become rich selling security systems to people who want to lock themselves away safely for 12 hours once a year. Because somehow there aren’t more people taking advantage of that extremely obvious cash cow.

The purge begins and this guy’s young son sees a man running down the street begging for someone to help him.  The son decides to help him, disarming the system and letting the guy into the house. The guy is not only black, but also wearing dog tags to indicate he is a veteran, just to ensure the symbolism is obvious.  They did earn a few points from me for only showing the dog tags in every scene, and not having a character blatantly and repeatedly point it out.

The people participating in the purge are not pleased with this decision and give the family an ultimatum – turn the guy over to be purged, or you die too.

This is when we learn the security systems this guy sells are a very expensive equivalent to The Club. It’s a visual deterrent where they move on to a juicier target, unless they actually want to enter the house, in which case all they need to do is spend about 5 minutes attempting to break in.  Also there is a disturbing lack of copious amounts of guns which could mow down any assholes standing on your lawn while you remain safe inside.  That probably would have been the first feature I asked for when defending against a night of free-for-all murdering, even if I planned to never use it.  They proceed to spend a large amount of time creeping around inside the house and fighting, and it was pretty good for a tense thriller type movie.

Then the ending happened and I discovered why it has such a low rating.  Why.  Ugh.  The premise is so fucking stupid, all you needed to do was spit it out as a setup and then ignore it. Noooo you had to go try to make some kind of social statement. A terrible, stupid social statement.

Sigh.

It was okay but don’t expect any thought provoking social commentary, whatever their original intentions were.

Turbo

We’ve been taking a lot of sinus decongestants and I kinda wanted to do something completely effortless… so I watched some animated movies!  I haven’t really been keeping up with the animation scene, but today I watched two relatively recent ones: Turbo and Despicable Me 2.

Despicable Me lived up to its predecessor in that it had supervillains hatching ridiculous plots, crazy ray guns and gadgets, and low IQ minions.  All the humour was spot-on, and the plot was dumb, but enjoyable mostly because the timing of the writing was excellent.

Turbo was terrible.

The interesting thing about that is that it follows a very familiar “underdog” formula.  A down on it’s luck [blank] falls on hard times and decides to follow its dream of [blank], making new friends and learning valuable moral lessons along the way.  In this case the [blank]s are “snail” and “win the Indy 500”.

I am going to paste this quote out of Wikipedia (without checking to see if it’s properly sourced or anything first. I’m living dangerously!):
“For me, it was less about trying to make a racing movie and more about finding an underdog that I could really latch onto. I think that a snail is inherently an underdog. It’s smashed, eaten by people, the butt of slow jokes around the world. It just seemed loaded with obstacles. Obviously, the opposite of slow is fast, and that’s where racing came into the picture.”

That’s it.  That’s the extent of the writing in this movie.  “People like underdogs.  Snails are slow, and fast is the opposite of slow – let’s have a snail win the Indy 500!”  Usually the writing in these things is clever enough to hide the formula a little bit, but in this case the movie is like “eh, he gets splashed with nitrous oxide and that lets him move at 230mph.  The kids won’t realize how dumb that is, don’t worry.”  It also installed LED lights that leave a trail behind him, his eyes are headlamps, there are blinkers in his butt, a stereo he turns on by banging his eyes together, and an alarm he can’t figure out how to turn off.

It was really dumb, and this is immediately after I praised a movie which contains yellow minions wielding fart guns. It’s all about suspension of disbelief, man.  Of course a supervillain is going to have yellow minions and they’re going to create fart guns!  It’s a natural step in the progression!  Dumping a snail in nitrous is only going to result in a dead snail.  You could at least say it’s some sort of super experimental thing someone was working on in order to create a super car, but they just couldn’t get it working until whoops, a snail fell in and it looks like the formula only works when combined with living tissue!  See, I’ve already written a better movie, and it’s still really stupid.

This is all completely ignoring the fact that once he gains super magic racing powers and sets a world speed record, he is no longer the god damn underdog.

It wasn’t even just that, though.  All of the characters were terribly written, which is probably tied directly to the fact that no real worldbuilding occurs.  The snail colony at the beginning is full of non-characters who do nothing but belittle Turbo for having a hobby.  The only purpose for any of it seems to be to set up a transparent “never give up on your dreams” morality lesson (and maybe hopefully a “don’t bully people like those dicks are doing” lesson), except that in this case the dream is fulfilled by somehow gaining magic powers, which is maybe not the best lesson for the little ones.  The “working at the plant” joke was something that they clearly thought was pretty clever (evidenced by the long pause and camera pull-out to reveal the plant.  ho ho ho it’s a literal plant, get it?), but it was hollow because they didn’t spend any time doing any worldbuilding in the garden.  You realize why worldbuilding is so threadbare when you realize the movie is split between three different locations, none of which are lingered in long enough for any building to occur.  Just as we start to figure out who these characters in the garden are, everything is whisked off to a new location and we lose track of them.  The “racing snails” are hastily introduced about halfway through the movie, not developed whatsoever, then go with Turbo to the race and proceed to do absolutely nothing important or even interesting (my god how did they get Samuel L. Jackson in on this?).  The only character that has any development at all is probably the driver that Turbo idolizes, and that’s only because he turns into the villain so he’s there throughout all of these locations.  Then we have Turbo’s brother who spends the entire movie being negative as shit and completely unproductive (he witnesses his brother moving at 230mph and still does nothing but whine about what a waste of time it is to try to do anything with it), making you want to punch him in the face. Then he makes a crazy about-face at the very very end, just when everything seems bleakest.  Man oh man I did not see that twist coming.  I still want to punch him in the face.

You know what would have helped immensely?  Just cut the whole garden from the plot.  Start at the mini-mall with the racing snails as a diversion in the back.  Suddenly Turbo has a reason to be into NASCAR, he has a reason to want to be faster, it doesn’t take an amazing amount of serendipity for him to be randomly picked up by some guy who happens to race snails, we have more time to develop the supporting cast…. dunking him in Nitrous is still really stupid but the rest of the movie would at least support it better.

There’s a big difference between a plot that’s written to appeal to children, and a plot that’s dumped out because kids won’t notice the difference.  Your kids might like this movie… in fact they probably will like it.  But there are so many cleverly written movies nowadays that appeal to children, teach them things (without being sappy as shit), AND contain humour that still appeals to adults… that’s the standard that movies should be trying to reach.  Turbo is just an unfortunate cash-in attempt.

Mary and Max

I can’t remember how I found this movie.  I think it was when I was picking up random foreign films, since it came from Australia, but somehow we didn’t get around to watching it.  Last night we watched it and I went on a real rollercoaster, from “Wow this is awesome and unique” to “Woah, unexpected” to “I’m not even sure I want to write a review about this because I’m not sure what I think…”.  It was a GOOD MOVIE, don’t get me wrong, but much like “UP” you probably shouldn’t watch it if you’re looking for something to cheer you up, jesus.

The movie is claymation animation, which, according to evidence from some reviews I saw, probably fools some people into thinking it is for children.  It is not for children.  Good god no.  It almost needs its own genre… it’s a black comedy but also a drama and a bit of a social statement at the same time.  There’s a lot of very crude (non-North-American style of crude) humour (all well executed, I might add) layered overtop of a lot of very sombre issues.  The basic premise is that Mary is a lonely little girl who picks a name at random to write to because she wants friends.  She ends up writing to a reclusive man with aspergers, who also has no real friends.  They chat back and forth about the various issues in their lives, spanning many years of time.  Almost nothing good happens to either of them. Maybe that’s a spoiler but I almost feel like you should be prepared before you go into this thing because I sure wasn’t.  The ending was one of those bittersweet “I almost feel like this is a good ending and I’m kind of happy, but at the same time, fuck everything” endings.  I think that means it was a success… I’m not sure.

Probably the only thing I am going to actually bitch about is that the movie starts off saying “This is based on a true story”.  The events near the end of the movie were starting to make me a little skeptical (but then again, truth is almost always stranger than fiction) but it was convincing enough that I scampered over to Wikipedia to discover the origins of the movie.  I had to do a ctrl-f to even find the reference, and it pointed back to an interview where the writer said he had a pen pal once, and that’s pretty much the only thing not fabricated.  Disappointing, and downright false advertising, I say.  If I were giving it stars I would subtract one just for lying to me.

If you can handle the deceit and depression, I definitely recommend trying to find this movie.  It was unique and well orchestrated, and even though it was depressing I wouldn’t say it was trying to be emotionally manipulative, just blunt and raw.

After Earth

We saw the previews for this way back when and said “Hey, that looks like it will be good!”.  Then it came out and it was universally mocked, almost immediately.  And we said “Sweet, we can wait for DvD then!”  The only question left in my mind was “Is it ACTUALLY bad, or is it bad because everyone hates Jaden Smith?”

Now I have watched it.  The answer is: This movie is completely irredeemable.

“After Earth” is the story of Gary Stu, and his son, Gary Stu.  It is one of the most remarkable displays of bad writing that I have seen in a while.  Will Smith’s character (fuck if I remember his name [edit] I looked it up.  It’s “Cypher Raige”.  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahahahaha…[/edit]) is a badass soldier (the best soldier of all soldiers, of course) who is so fucking badass that he feels absolutely no fear, which allows him to “ghost” past the fearsome “Ursa” creatures which track humankind solely by the pheremones we release when scared.  He is so badass that he doesn’t even bother to kill them with fancy ray guns or even pedestrian physical bullet weapons, despite this being the future.  No, he kills them with dual bladed swords.  You can pause to vomit now, if you want.

His son has been working super hard to be the most badass of rangers just like dear old dad, but naturally he hasn’t been able to make the cut (this is a smoke-screen, so you don’t suspect that he is also the most Gary Stu of all Gary Stus.  He is, though.  It’s pretty fucking obvious.  He even has the tragic childhood to go with it)  Some touchy feely shit happens where Dad is all cold and unfeeling to his disappointing son (oh but you can see how much he loves him but cannot display it.  You can pause to vomit again now), and then we finally get on with the fucking movie and they get on a spaceship.

Gary Stu (the older one.  The one we aren’t supposed to expect to be worthless) uses his spidey sense to detect space phenomena that almost certainly doesn’t exist, and goes and warns the pilots who disregard his warnings because they didn’t get the memo that this guy is perfect and knows everything.  Oops, he was right, and the ship explodes and summarily crashes (this is what I mean by Gary Stu, man.  It couldn’t just be that shit happens and the ship fucking crashes, oh no, it has to be mr super fucking soldier who notices the danger while all the oblivious plebeians fumble around uselessly.  He doesn’t even do anything useful after noticing it which makes it ENTIRELY EXTRANEOUS that he is the one who notices.  Fuck).
The two Gary Stus are the only survivors.  Because that’s how good they are.

Conveniently, older Gary Stu is injured and cannot go and just do everything himself, so he sends younger Gary Stu off to save their lives.  He’s guiding every step of the way on the intercom though (which also lets him see everything occurring from multiple camera angles that are in no way attached to his son’s suit, because it’s the future I guess.  A future where they use fucking melee weapons.) and also pauses to emotionlessly belittle his son’s every actions because that will make his son better at stuff (then zoom in on his face to show that he’s actually having emotions he just won’t show them because that would be a weakness you see).

Oh my god it was intolerable… made worse by the fact that absolutely nothing unpredictable happens in this movie.  You’ve read this far – take a wild fucking guess at what happens.  Guess what, you’re right!  It’s actually directed by M. Night Shymalan who is known for his (usually terrible) twist endings.  The twist in this movie is that there is no twist!  He got me pretty good with that one.

The movie is also a grand display of telling instead of showing.  There’s a big (and completely fucking pointless ARRRGHH) scene where little Gary Stu realizes he has broken a couple of his inhalers, which are essential for breathing in EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE (no explanation of why Earth has changed that much, or why it’s primordial now despite that being absolutely not the path a planet ages on…) so he lies about it because he is afraid daddy will call off his mission due to his inevitable death.  Big Gary Stu, however, is perfect, so he looks at the biomedical readouts and can tell little Gary Stu is lying.  Then he calls off the mission because of little Gary Stu’s inevitable death.  Which makes no fucking sense because they’re both going to die anyway if the mission fails.  But amazingly enough that’s not even the reason I started typing this.  Big Gary Stu runs a computer simulation of how to reach the tail section of the ship (the goal of the mission) and it pops up and lists off how many inhalers are needed.  Little Gary Stu has 2 left.  The computer pops up and shows a route that will use 4 inhalers, and one that will use just under 2 inhalers.  There is a short pause and then it pops up and points out the shorter route, and blinks “ONLY SURVIVABLE ROUTE” over and over.  I’m so glad it pointed that out because I almost didn’t understand what the scene was trying to convey.

The entire movie is just scene after scene of Gary Stu-ness, telling instead of showing, bad science, and whiny scenes that are probably supposed to be dramatic and emotional but are just fucking annoying, oh my god shut the fuck up.  The 4 it has on IMDB is too generous, and that’s when considering ONLY the movie, not even delving into the rabbit hole of Scientology tie-ins I spotted on Wikipedia (which may or may not be reaching.  It seemed like pretty generic bad movie writing to me)…
God, it’s even generous before considering the awful acting.  I think Jaden out-acted Will in this movie, but we’re talking about a subterranean bar, here.

Ugh.  Ugh.  At least Red Dawn is entertaining to make fun of.  This has too much whining to even make a good drunken movie night movie.

The Quiet Earth

Sometimes I go on movie binges, looking up lists of recommendations and accumulating a pile of “to watch” movies that look interesting.  And then we don’t get around to watching them for 6 months and I can’t remember if I picked this up because it was Halloween so it’s going to be a cheesy slasher movie, or if it was supposed to be a comedy, or what.  I pulled “The Quiet Earth” out of the pile tonight and went “1985???  Must be sci-fi…” because we tend to avoid anything made pre-2000 unless it either looks really good, or is sci-fi, since we’ve watched every single other good sci-fi movie that exists (and usually for sci-fi we haven’t seen, pre-2000 ends up being not good… but we keep trying.)
The Quiet Earth was good.  It was bizarre, but good.

The movie opened, surprisingly enough, with a penis.  I immediately said “Well, this must be European…” because I don’t think North America acknowledged the existence of penises in the 80s, and they most certainly didn’t show them dangling and bobbing around like this movie was.  Then the guy got into a vehicle (he put clothes on first), and the steering wheel was on the wrong side, so I said “Aha.  I told you.”  Then he spoke and I said “… it’s not England.”  My amazing powers of deduction were correct – the movie is actually from New Zealand, which probably also explains why we hadn’t seen it before.

It was actually a post-apocalyptic style movie, with the whole first bit being this guy wandering around exploring abandoned locations and trying to figure out what the fuck happened.  The opening of 28 Days Later is quite possibly our favourite movie sequence of all time (the whole first half of the movie is our favourite movie.  We turn it off when they get to the soldiers, though.) and it was quite reminiscent of that, so I really enjoyed it.  Nothing like a big mysterious exodus of people to put you on edge.

Then he started going a bit nuts, cabin-fever-The-Shining style, which was also fantastic.

Then it goes downhill a little bit (does EVERY “end of the world” scenario need a fucking love triangle?  Ugh), but it’s still not bad.  It was almost bad, but it had enough “wtf” to save itself from the bad.

The whole movie was quite engaging, as long as you don’t try to figure out what the fuck happened when they actually start trying to explain what happened.  Most of it at least makes some logical sense in that you can put the pieces together and go “Okay, this is not plausible but at least I can follow it and see what they were going for”, but the science behind a network of energy circling the globe that airplanes can tap into so that they never need to refuel… maybe it made some sense in the 80s, but nowadays it’s probably best to just smile and nod.  The ending is a pretty good “what” moment – it’s a decent wrap for the movie but it’s not going to answer any questions for you – and a quote from the director says “it’s intentionally ambiguous” which is usually code for “we couldn’t come up with an ending that didn’t ruin the movie, so we left it ambiguous so you can write your own”.  I’m glad they didn’t try to explain it, really.  When I was looking for info about the movie, I found it on a list of “shock endings”.  The definition of that must have changed since 1985 because I wouldn’t say it was shocking… but it was certainly interesting.  It’s one of those endings where you’re like “Okay, I think this is what happened.” and then you google it and marvel at how many theories the internet can actually generate… there’s not enough information for some of these theories, people.

It’s a really decent addition to my post-apocalyptic library, as well as the “quantum physics mindfuck” library (right alongside “Primer”, although the levels of “wtf” are a mere glimmer next to that movie, jesus), and I would recommend checking it out.

Metropia

Metropia popped up on my recommendation list because it was dystopian and sci-fi (…kinda).  We watched it and the whole time I was thinking “Oh man this is so bizarre and unique, this will be a great blog entry.”  And then we finished it and… I didn’t really know what to say.  I could barely remember what the movie was about, let alone say anything about it.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, and it’s not that it wasn’t unique so there’s definitely some things to talk about… it’s almost like trying to grab on to something incredibly slippery and then it squooshes out of your grasp and out of your line of vision and you can’t remember what you were doing anymore.  I suppose that is appropriate for this movie, though perhaps not intentional.

Metropia is a European movie (Swedish, apparently), set in a future Europe where there is no more oil and vehicles are kaput, so everyone must use the underground rail networks to get around.  The main character finds going into the underground incredibly unsettling, especially since he’s starting to hear voices in his head when he goes there.  Over the course of the movie he discovers that the voices in his head are not imagined, and he sets out to uncover the truth.

That synopsis sounds kind of interesting, but I had to go read the plot on Wikipedia to summarize things because all I can really remember is him jacking off in the shower because of advertising, his wife’s creepy huge eyes, spending entirely too much time establishing his depressing life, his wife almost cheating on him with a huge asshole that was totally not worth her time, and something about a conspiracy involving dandruff shampoo that controls you.

The bit about the shampoo is kind of the whole plot of the movie, and yet it’s the part I remember the least.  I wasn’t even drunk!  Even after reading some synopses to refresh my memory, I’m not exactly sure what the world running out of oil had to do with any of it.  It seemed like it should be a huge part of the plot with how much the blurbs emphasized it, but it was more of a “now everyone uses these tunnels” and that was that. I’m not sure that the plot required them to be in tunnels, though.  And how many people are in this city?  Do they have a single person monitoring each and every one of them?  That seems expensive and impractical.

But anyway, it’s unique and probably worth a look if you like unique things.  The animation is certainly something else.  Wikipedia tells me all of the animation is based off of photographs of random people they recruited off the street.  The result is a highly bizarre and somewhat unsettling “uncanny valley” effect where you’re like “I’m not sure that I like this animation… but I also cannot claim that it is BAD animation…” which probably helps the atmosphere of the movie.  If this were a live action movie I suspect it would be wholly forgettable, really.

In short, I think I liked it?

Elysium

Since it’s so new, I will endeavour to keep this spoiler free… honestly there isn’t much to spoil, but I’ll try anyway.
Sci-Fi movie!!!!  Usually we’re pretty cheap and wait for DVDs, but we loved District 9, and the previews for Elysium looked so good that we went and saw it at the theatre.  It’s not even 3D and we saw it at the theatre!

Elysium was simultaneously really good, and also disappointing. As is typical, my bitching revolves around the writing – the movie was disappointing because it could have been really good, but the writing was just sloppy enough to be distracting in how easily it could have been fixed, god damn it.  I suspect they read the screenplay and were like “Well, we have Matt Damon and Exoskeleton suits, no one will notice.”  I noticed >:(

The premise is that Earth is fucked and super populated and polluted and all those wonderful things we can see in our future right now, so all the rich people built a space station called Elysium and moved there to live in idyllic mansions surrounded by palm trees and swimming pools.

And this is where it starts to fall flat, because the worldbuilding ends there.  All it would have taken is a few more lines of dialogue to tie everything together with a throw-away explanation or two, but instead they leave ambiguous plot ends flapping around and the audience wondering “so… why is that?”.

Elysium residents have access to Med Bays which scan your body and instantly heal each and every thing wrong with it, from split ends in your hair to cancer in your blood cells (how did they design this technology and not solve any of the other problems lying around?  *shrug*).  There was a line somewhere that suggested people are living 200+ years so they also presumably extend your life and keep you young and beautiful forever.  Every single house on Elysium has one of these med bays, and it takes a whole, like, two minutes to cure every single ailment known to man.  For some reason, even though every single house has a med bay and they also have dozens of EMS ships filled with dozens of med bays which are all run by robots so there isn’t even any manpower cost in running them, Elysium refuses to let anyone on Earth use a med bay unless they are promoted to the rank of Elysium Citizen, even pushing it to the degree of needing special identification coded into your DNA before the med bay will activate.

The character development of every single person on Earth is something like this:  “I am sick and will die if I don’t go to Elysium and use a med bay – Therefore I must go to Elysium no matter what the cost.”
The character development of every single person on Elysium is split between “Ew people from Earth are gross” and “I will take over the world.”
That’s as deep as character development gets in this movie.

Unsurprisingly, desperate people are attacking Elysium all the time trying to get to a med bay, which results in things like Elysium launching missiles at them and blowing them all to shit.  Just put a fucking med bay on Earth, and the attacks stop.  WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT??  Jesus.  There is absolutely no worldbuilding development that explains why they’re so stingy with their plentiful med bays, other than “Ew Earth people are gross” (not that you need to touch them or see them if you leave a fucking automated med bay on Earth, mind you… and in fact you would see less of them because they wouldn’t keep trying to come to your station to use your med bays), and “We need a reason for Matt Damon to go to Elysium” (undoubtedly the true reason).  It’s so sloppy that it was distracting for the entire movie.
Are they withholding med bays because………. Of limited resources? (Unlikely when there’s a million med bays lying around and people use them for face lifts… but plausible that they want to withhold those resources for their greedy facelifts?  But they don’t explain what they run on or how they work, so…)
Maybe the life extension benefits are too costly when the world is already packed? (plausible, but again, you think they could have mentioned that.  They’re already sequestered on their little space station, why do they care if the Earth stays crowded and fucked)
Because they’re huge elitist dicks? (This seems to be the only explanation, but there are so many other reasons to just throw a token med bay ship down there, like, NOT BEING ATTACKED ALL THE FUCKING TIME).
It feels like it would have worked a lot better if it were a truly alien race living up there on a spaceship with their super crazy technology we can’t understand, enslaving humans to build their robots, but hey they can cure diseases so let’s try to get to those med bays!  … but no, they’re humans, and they’re dicks with no really well explained reason for being so.  Yes, humans are dicks to lower classes of humans, that is well established.  But THE MED BAYS ARE FULLY AUTOMATED.  If only the med bays took fully trained personnel to run, oh look!  A reason to not have them on Earth!  But nooo.  No explanation provided.
I would have been happy with a bad explanation, like any exposition where they were all “Oh no don’t let them use our med bays because we are comically evil and if they use this the med bays will no longer be special and I want to feel special for having one”, but it doesn’t even give us that.

Slightly less distracting is the plot device that requires Matt Damon to use his brain as a flash drive, which makes absolutely no sense, but conveniently makes it so they can’t just solve the problem by shooting him because they need his brain data and it’s not retrievable if he dies.  (Incidentally – this is probably a good reason why a brain is not a good flash drive.  Among other things, which also happen.)

The rest of the movie is people in exosuits brutally punching each other, which was pretty cool… but it’s got some pretty terrible timing because I think everyone will find it pretty lacklustre coming on the heels of Pacific Rim.  Every fight scene I was distracted by the amount of shaky cam they used to cover up the CGI, and I kept thinking again how impressive it was that Pacific Rim didn’t do that.  If I’m thinking about other movies during your action scenes, there might be improvements to be made.

Oh and don’t forget the obligatory contribution of “We are the bad guys so we are going to threaten to rape the pretty girl” scenes.  Don’t forget those!

I’ve done a lot of bitching, so it’s important to point out that I did enjoy the movie, but almost all of the problems I’ve pointed out could be so easily solved with just a little bit of attention to detail.  It’s really kind of a shame.

Oh and then, of course, there’s the fact that everyone on Earth speaks English and Spanish, while everyone on Elysium speaks English and French.  I am deliberately not going to touch the potential allegories going on this movie (because you see, the English/French have good health care and a beautiful clean place to live above the dirty polluted English/Spanish people, so clearly it is a representation of how everyone wishes they lived in Canada.) (arguing about the allorgies is kind of the point of a movie like this I suppose, but you should probably have decent writing before moving to that stage >:( ), but I do want to mention that Jodie Foster has the most irritating accent going on in this movie… I think it was supposed to be French?  I don’t even know, it kind of faded in and out and was really weird and distracting.  Everyone’s accents were distracting. I think it was intentional to show some sort of melting pot society going on, but I can’t say for sure… and if I can’t say for sure, then something has probably gone wrong in the writing/directing department.  It was either an intentional attempt to show something that was a teeny bit too subtle for me because I was so distracted by all the rest of the sloppy writing, or it was just sloppily handled.

At this point it is probably distracting to think about how many times I have used the word distracting, so that’s probably the focal point of this review – there were too many sloppy distracting things going on, and just a little bit of polish could have really cleaned it up.

God, I hope Gravity doesn’t suck.

Oblivion

This review comes with a disclaimer: We are heavily biased to enjoy space-oriented sci-fi films.  You can take the shittiest most generic plot and put it in space and we will still enjoy it.  We’ll probably mock it, but we will still enjoy it. It’s probably because we’ve watched every single space movie that exists, and some of them are really fucking bad, so movies like Oblivion still feel like a treat.

Very little of Oblivion actually occurs in space, but we still enjoyed it.  It’s sci-fi, it’s post-apocalyptic, and it has decent acting so there are no ridiculously cheesy lines to make you facepalm.  It’s written on greasy onion-skin paper that is so transparent that you can see every single word of the ending from the moment the opening credits roll (Oh a mandatory “security” memory wipe, you say?  Gosh that won’t be an important plot point!  No-sir-ee I bet that’s completely inconsequential and will not be a plot twist at all), but it’s a tried-and-true plot.  Sometimes cliches are cliches because they are good.  It is a little disappointing to walk into a cliche that attempts to hide behind the couch and then jumps out and yells “BOO!” and then you have to pretend to be surprised, but on some level it’s still a little bit fun… provided you go into it with the right frame of mind.

I’m already running out of things to say.  You do not watch Oblivion expecting something new and unique… you watch Oblivion expecting a sci-fi setting with awesomely constructed post-apocalyptic landscapes and a decent (if obvious) plot that also has giant floating death machines.  Tom Cruise doesn’t suck, and Morgan Freeman is always awesome even if he doesn’t really get a whole lot of screen time.  It’s still worth it.

Pacific Rim

TL;DR: I lost count of how many times my eyes rolled, but then giant robots started punching giant monsters and it was awesome.

I’m not sure what I expected when I went into this movie.  I knew it was about giant robots fighting monsters and the fights were supposed to be awesome and didn’t rely on cheap tricks like shaky cam to obscure the action.  That’s exactly what I got!  But it was pretty obvious that 99.99% of their budget went into CGI and cinematography, and possibly 0.000000001% went into the writing. The premise alone got some huge eye rolls, before the characters even started talking!  Then, dear god, the characters started talking…

But let’s be honest here.  You did not go to this movie to see deep character development.  You went to see this movie to see giant robots punching the fuck out of some monsters with rocket fists and hokey samurai swords made out of chainsaw chains, and it totally knocks it out of the park for that!  Which is why it is somewhat unfortunate that it spends so much time on what were apparently supposed to be deep character development moments on characters that have no dimensions.  Every single character in this movie is a cliche cut from cardboard.

The middle of the movie dragged because there were no robots punching things.  Instead we spent a lot of time exploring the feelings and emotions of characters who are all Mary Sue incarnate.  Every single one of them.  Every single one of them.  I don’t know what the record is for number of Mary Sues in a single story, but man.  Everyone in this story has super special talents making them the best at everything, and a tortured past to make them sympathetic (when you’re not rolling your eyes at them, I guess).  Even the fucking robot is a Mary Sue (because it’s analog.  And can I just say: Ahahahahahahaahahahahahaha…).  Everyone is a Mary Sue except the guy who is a dick for no reason.  That guy is a dick.  Except he’s not even a good dick, because we already have a one dimensional evil enemy in the giant fucking monsters who want to take over the world.  So why have this guy being all dickish up in the face of the protagonist?  I don’t even know, because it didn’t even pay off in the end.  Instead they shoehorned in some sort of emotional father-son plot arc out of nowhere.  Make up your mind!

But then robots punched things.  And they punched the fuck out of things.  The CGI is fantastic, the 3D was pretty god damn good (although if I wanted to be all nitpicky I could point out that I was distracted by it a few times, so it was not the best 3D I have seen so far.  So there.)  The only flaw with the robots punching things aspect is that they did not punch things for long enough.  Why did we waste all this screen time on a ridiculous romance story, anyway?  Punch things, dammit!

Pacific Rim is an excellent movie for watching robots punch the everliving fuck out of things.  It is also excellent for making fun of bad writing.  So it’s kind of win/win I guess.

Also: May I point out that it was a terrible mistake to hire Ellen McLain to be GlaDOS as the background computer, and then only have her make one tiny not very insulting jab at someone.  Use your resources properly, people!

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.

Splice

We watched this awhile ago, so my memory of details is probably fuzzy, but I remembered it recently and movies like this are exactly why I decided to start writing blog entries about shit.

Splice is a movie about scientists doing scientisty things and messing with DNA and trying to cure diseases.  Their research has led to the creation of an apparent new species of lifeform created by throwing buckets of animal DNA into a blender, so they’re starting to pick up some speed on the research front.  Then they “accidentally-on-purpose” mix a little human DNA into the recipe (something that is ethically forbidden and they know it) to try to create something that can be better used as a human analogue for testing.  What emerges is……. not human… but more animal like and difficult to control.  The first little bit of the film is spent exploring this thing, trying to gain its trust (apparently it’s a grouchy little thing), and marvelling at how it has an incredibly accelerated growth rate and is quickly growing and changing forms (thank goodness, since the movie is only 104 minutes long!).  Even though they planned to terminate it because they totally just wanted to see what happened and didn’t really plan to let this experiment run, well, whoops we’re kind of attached to it now so let’s let it keep maturing and see what happens!  What could go wrong!  The creature eventually develops into what is essentially a little human girl, except gone horribly wrong and with a tail and stuff.  The scientists then attempt to raise it like they would their child.  The lab/company is appropriately named NERD (I laughed), so they decide to name the creature “DREN” (I facepalmed).

The whole first part of the movie was actually really interesting and enjoyable.  Splice is really a shame because it was almost really good and even had some potential for exploring deep philosophical themes, if you should so desire to write it that way.  But then it was bad.  And it wasn’t just bad, it was really bad.

The movie goes through its paces and addresses a number of interesting scenarios that might arise if you happen to be dealing with a humanoid-thing-made-from-DNA-soup, including the inevitable look into a mirror where the creature realizes “hey, I don’t actually look anything like mom and dad.  What am I??” (well acted out with expressions, I might add, since the thing doesn’t have proper speech).  Sadly, it is at that point the writers either ran out of things to write about, or realized they were actually planning to make a horror movie, and everything just goes to shit.  The biggest shit the movie takes is the point where “Clive”, the male scientist, realizes the human DNA that was chucked into the soup is actually the DNA of his wife, and apparently sees some sort of resemblance to her in Dren.  His natural reaction at this point is, well, what else!  The only thing any rational person would do.  He has sex with it.

I’m pretty sure I yelled “Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME” at the TV.  But anyway, it turns out, when you have sex with a developing creature that’s trying to learn how to behave, it learns that it should rape everything!  So that was great.  Good job, Clive.

It just gets worse from there.  …No, I take that back, that’s definitely the worst part, but it doesn’t get any better from there.  The rest of the movie is your typical cheesy horror slasher movie with dumb “twists”.  Since the creatures have been created with a blend of animal DNA, it gave the writers free license to give them whatever animal abilities they wanted to swipe, at whatever time it was appropriate for the plot (and surprising to the scientists, of course, because you certainly wouldn’t have any way to control or monitor which genes your DNA soup is expressing when you’re at the point of being able to create a new species).  The initial “not made from human DNA” creatures provide the foreshadowing and then “Dren” goes through all the same paces, except much more tragically and deadly, since it is human sized and much stronger and deadlier (and also not in a safe little cage in a lab).  I don’t even remember what else happens.  It was all stupid and I was still reeling from the “It’s my wife’s DNA! I’m totally going to fuck it now” decision.

It was almost such a good movie.  I mean, not like, amazing or anything, but fully enjoyable.  And then…
My brain hurts.

3 Idiots

As a continuation of our “Apparently we have seen every movie except foreign films” adventure, the next movie I pulled from the top list on IMDB was 3 Idiots, the story of three engineering students and their trials and tribulations.   It’s from India and apparently the most successful film that’s been produced over there.  So successful, that apparently it’s being re-made everywhere, including a possible North American version in the works.  Or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.

I have never actually watched a Bollywood film before.  The whole thing was sort of a cultural experience, really – I was surprised that the entire film was a mash of Hindi and English speech.  It was so odd to be reading the subtitles and realize half of the sentence was English, just sort of randomly jammed in.  Wikipedia suggests that all of it is pretty much expected from a Bollywood film, so consider me enlightened, I guess.  When they broke into song, my husband said “That’s kind of what I was afraid of when I saw it was from India.”  I knew song and dance was the norm for Bollywood, and I usually enjoy musical stuff as long as the music is good, but it felt really forced in this one.  I’m not sure if that’s typical or not.  It’s like they were expected to have an average of 3.5 songs so they made sure to plunk a scene or two that led into them, even if it wasn’t necessarily a smooth transition.  I hate to say it but I don’t feel it added anything except running time, and I think the film would have been better without it.

Speaking of running time, the movie was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  Holy crap.  There wasn’t nearly enough plot for that amount of running time, man.

We actually enjoyed it quite a lot, though.  The vast majority of the plot was very cliche.  I sarcastically commented “Wow, what a shocking twist!” on numerous occasions.  The main character was also a huge Mary Sue/Gary Stu, to the degree of almost following the template for one. That said, there was a lot of really good plot buried under all the generic plot.  If it does get a Hollywood release, I’m interested to see how they edit and clean things up (there is no way it will be a 3 hour movie after running through the Hollywood wringer).  The movie is a “comedy-drama” and it does it rather awkwardly: there are some genuinely funny moments, some really forced jokes (oh god, the slide whistle sound effect that accompanied some of them… AHAHAHAhahahaahaha), some jokes that are somewhat inappropriately placed… and a decent amount of dramatic moments that address serious topics.  The overall message of the movie was a good one, and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

I also see that it’s based on a book.  I was tempted to see if I could pick it up, but then I read that the book is more of a string of anecdotes and a lot of the plot had to be invented for the movie (which probably led to the whole Gary Stu thing), and I kind of lost interest.

I guess the bottom line is: I really wish it hadn’t been three hours, and I could have done without the dancing, but I don’t feel like we wasted our time and that’s always a good thing when dealing with entertainment!  I’m interested to see if it gets an American remake and what they will do with it, now.

The Intouchables

We felt like watching a movie last night, and in particular I felt like watching a good movie.  I went to my favourite recommendation site (Movielens… it’s my favourite mostly because I already have like 800 movies rated on it so it’s usually got some reasonable recommendations for us.  I can’t be bothered to rate all those movies on another site, god.) but all the movies at the top of the list seemed to be either war or romance (or both!).  I was not in the mood for either of those.  So I wandered over to IMDB and looked at the list of the top 250 rated movies.  Surprise… we’ve already seen most of them, too.  But there were a few titles I didn’t recognize, so I checked them out and it turned out I didn’t recognize them because they weren’t in English.  We’ve only recently really expanded into foreign films so there are some untapped resources waiting there.  (We’ve already seen the sci-fi ones, of course…).  One of the first ones on the list was The Intouchables, a french film about a wealthy quadriplegic man who hires an ex-con as his caregiver, after he comes in for the job interview merely to get his welfare papers signed to prove he “tried” to get a job.

There’s nothing much unique about the story – it’s pretty much exactly what you expect.  Two very different worlds collide and everyone learns valuable life lessons in the end.  It would be almost insultingly cliche, if it weren’t actually based on a true story.  Well… sort of.  After the movie is over, there is a shot of the real people the movie is based on, and you discover that Philippe is portrayed accurately, but “Driss” is named “Abdel” and he is Arabic, not African.  My eyebrow raised at that change… if you’re portraying a true story about an ex-con arab, why would you feel the need to change it to an ex-con black guy?  Especially since the movie seems to tap into some of the stereotypes of black people in poverty stricken areas and it might have been nice to explore a different nationality attempting to deal with things.  Adding to that, it really felt like the story of Driss’s family was truncated and unfinished, possibly because they had less source material to work with?  It just seemed like the decision to make changes resulted in a lot of awkwardness.  I had to go do some research and sources didn’t exactly pour out of the internet, but it seems as though their explanation is that they simply had an actor in mind already and he happened to be black.  It doesn’t really change the story, and the actor they got is amazing, but it still kind of sets off my OCD.  It’s not accurate dammit!  Of course, it was already sort of bothering me because “intouchable” should not be a word, let alone a title.  >:(

Inaccuracies aside, the movie itself was really, really good.  Any threats of being boring or cliche were buried by amazing writing and excellent pacing.  It seems as though a lot of the situations that are portrayed are based on things that actually happened (in the one interview I found, they only mention two scenes which were fabricated, and a few things that happened but played out slightly differently in reality.  I also highly suspect the scene where Driss is compared to Barack Obama did not happen to Abdel…) and the scenes and lines roll together in an incredibly natural fashion (with the exception of a few that felt very “plunked”.  Like they wanted to include them but didn’t know where, so they just got stuffed in wherever).  The writing is actually quite funny, which is something you may not expect in this sort of movie, but it also plays into the points the movie seems to be trying to make.  At no point did it seem to be inappropriately funny, nor did it ever get so serious that it was oppressive, even when dealing with serious subject matter.  I felt it was really well balanced.

My husband’s review was: “That was really good, but they definitely overused the dramatic piano music.”
So there’s that, I guess.

While looking up the background of the movie, I also discovered it won, like, every award, and was like the second most popular movie of all time in France.  I originally figured I wanted to use this blog to bring attention to things people might miss otherwise (and to bitch about popular things that suck, of course) so I guess this movie doesn’t really fit that criteria, but I do hope the need for subtitles doesn’t prevent people from checking this one out.  Subtitles are actually pretty great because you don’t have to worry about speaker volume imbalance and not being able to hear words over the background music!  Although it does make it infinitely more annoying when the cat walks in front of the TV…

Lockout

Lockout was a rare gem, in that it was a “science fiction” movie that we had not seen before.  I mean specifically my husband and I, because I’m pretty sure we’ve seen every single sci-fi movie that exists, so we jump on every sci-fi-ish movie that staggers out of the box office, even when they suck.  And boy do some most of them suck.

It’s actually kind of hard to tell that Lockout is sci-fi.  It is set in a prison colony that is orbiting the Earth.  The vast majority of the movie is spent inside the colony where absolutely nothing resembles space and everyone uses conventional tools like pipes to hit each other over the head, instead of futuristic laser guns or whatever.  You could alter a small handful of scenes and drop the sci-fi label from it entirely, so it was disappointing in that aspect.

The plot was so thin that I’m not entirely certain I can explain it to you other than “they go to a prison in space and blow shit up”.  That’s just about all you need to know to understand this movie.  It opens with a thing happening and a guy trying to clear his name but the guy who can clear his name is in the prison colony, and meanwhile a completely separate event happens where the president’s daughter goes to the prison colony and proceeds to not make a single good decision for the entire movie, resulting in every single prisoner getting out of stasis and wanting to rape her.  Naturally the president wants his daughter back and who cares about the other hostages, but hey if we storm in there they will almost certainly rape and then kill her, so we better do this covertly by using the guy who has an ulterior motive for wanting to go to the prison colony!  Also this guy is amazing at every single thing he does, is the only character in the entire movie who does anything correctly, and he may as well be superman because he is a pretty terribly written “Gary Stu” style character.

My god, the writing for that character.  The entire movie he attempts to be funny. Every single line – EVERY SINGLE LINE that this guy says is an attempt at a witty one-liner.  Some of them are amusing; I chuckled a lot in the beginning.  It very quickly became obvious that the writers were trying way way too hard.  They tried so hard that they began throwing in self-referential jokes where the other characters start making fun of his one-liners.  When you are writing characters that are making fun of you for writing badly, you should probably step back and reconsider whether you can write less badly instead.

They blow shit up.  Much shit blows up.  If you want exploding shit you will probably enjoy this movie.  I didn’t dislike it enough to give it an “I don’t like it” tag, but the bad writing was just too much for me to give it a like tag.  One thing I noticed while shit was exploding, though… a lot of the action scenes are artificially sped up and intentionally jerky to obscure what’s going on.  The speediness annoyed me and added to the whole “wow look at how fast this guy moves he’s so amazing” bullshit that I was already annoyed with, but then the arbitrary dropping of frames to hide actions just made me suspicious that a lot of corners might have been cut.  The exploding shit is all this movie has going for it, so it didn’t bode well.

I already mentioned the bad decisions on the part of the characters, but seriously.  Does she do anything right?  I think it was intended that we see her as some sort of badass independent-minded and intelligent chick who can take care of herself in the end, but, no.  You got off the fucking escape pod, meaning you completely wasted the fucking escape pod (not to mention all the time it took to escort your ass TO the escape pod) and now no one gets to use it, and all you accomplished by doing that is getting every single other hostage killed and also you got in the way of mister Gary Stu here who clearly does not need any help because he is perfect.  That was probably some kind of spoiler but it’s okay because you’re only watching this for the exploding shit anyway.

So there is your checklist:  Exploding shit – check.  Terribly written characters that will make you want to vomit or stab your eye out in frustration – check.  Snappy one liners that will probably amuse you (especially while drunk!) but get kind of wearisome by the end – check.  Sci-fi… uhh kinda not really but if you close your eyes you can pretend it’s sci-fi.  If the list corresponds to your “things I like in movies”, you should check out Lockout.