Movies

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This
Tickets are cheaper for Date Noon than Date Night, and we don’t have to deal with teenagers and their back-seat behavior, so Lisa and I went to watch Star Wars CVLMXYZ and ½, or The Rise of Skywalker. Never mind the Roman numerals. The whole saga started in the middle, reverted to the beginning, then light-sped its way forward again.

Keeping the thrill of a successful franchise over 45 years is hard to maintain what with cast members growing older and some, unfortunately passing away. But that’s no hindrance when CGI allows the deceased to keep right on going. Along with Princess Leia, the “theology” permits dead characters like Han Solo and the uber-evil emperor Palpatine to make encore appearances. Why not Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi? And Yoda? In the movie he was not. Conspicuously missing he was.

Fifteen minutes in I began to ache for the good old days when that runt Anakin Skywalker and the irritating Jar-Jar Binks graced the screen. After 30 minutes I thought of Roger Ebert who wrote “You know a movie is in trouble when you start looking at your watch. You know it’s in bad trouble when you start shaking your watch because you think it might have stopped.” I haven’t been this bored since the last Star Wars movie. Someone should have pulled the plug after the second one.

If you like sci-fi special effects undiluted by humor or logic, this is more than a five-star movie. Indeed, it’s a galaxy far, far away of stars. - February 21, 2020


1917 in 1.917 Hours
Here it is in a nutshell: Two privates must deliver a general’s order to troops on the other side of No Man’s Land to stand down from a planned assault against the German army because it’s a trap. As added incentive, one them has a brother among them. What little dialogue there is comes to an abrupt end for 15 minutes as one of the two main characters on a mission is killed.
The awesome labyrinthine trench layout reminds viewers of the grim reality faced by soldiers in the so-called Great War. Rocket attacks simply finished the job of burying them. Beyond them lay mile after square mile of mud and craters, embedded with human remains. It’s not for the squeamish, but history isn’t always pretty. - January 20, 2020

Togo Leads the Way

I just finished reading The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by cousins Gay and Laney Salisbury for the third time. After I finished it in three days, I wondered why nobody has ever made this into a movie.

Well, it turns out Disney Plus released Togo just a week ago. And thanks to Timothy and Katie, we have access to the channel. Monday became Movie Night, and Lisa and I sat down to watch the true adventure of one of several dogs and his musher who braved 260 punishing miles of hurricane-force blizzard driving the wind chill to minus 85 degrees!

A statue of Balto stands in Central Park, and an animated movie celebrates the dog that helped carry the serum for diphtheria-stricken children into Nome. This movie gives overdue credit to the lead dog and his owner who carried the lifesaving serum eight times as far. I liked how the movie showed the development of Togo, a mischievous puppy that turned into the greatest lead dog ever. Willem Dafoe portrays the intrepid Leonhard Seppala. The resemblance is uncanny. The human acting is so-so, but the dogs are first-rate!

Every movie based on a true story gets something wrong. The debate over modern technology, in this case air flight, versus old-time dog sledding did not take place in Nome, where the epidemic broke out, but the capital of the territory of Alaska (it joined the Union 24 years later). It could have been better by showing the children suffering from diphtheria to heighten the drama. The mushers knew what was at stake. Why not let the viewers in on it? - December 31, 2019

Beavis and Butthead Go to the Movies

So help me, this is right out of the Houston Chronicle (Zest/August 9). It’s a review of a movie in which a dead body “washes ashore on an island, deserted but for a lone, desperate man. He befriends the corpse, whose flatulence allows the man to ride the cadaver like a Jet Ski.” “Swiss Army Man” premiered in the Sundance Film Festival three years ago. Never heard of it? Evidently, the reaction of otherwise trendy, indie and hipster types was less than enthusiastic. That’s too bad, because Beavis and Butthead gave it two thumbs up.

I’m not surprised that viewers deserted the theater. I AM surprised that whoever conceived this odious work thought it worth recording for, uh, posterity.

A lot of unsuitable movies get released all the time. The Sundance Festival hosts many of them, allowing movie makers with a statement to make, an axe to grind, or a group to offend, to foist their oeuvre on a receptive audience. By receptive, I mean the kind of people with more money than sense. But even they have limits. August 11, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old
“Well, what are we going to do next?”

After enduring the grueling world-wide upheaval of the Great War, a soldier asks a simple question on his way back home. Thousands of tommies from the British Empire faced an uncertain fate along the Western Front in Belgium and France, and later upon returning home.

They Shall Not Grow Old is not your typical popcorn movie fare. It’s an action movie, to be sure. The plot is more like an arc, beginning with footage of recruits signing up; then training exercises; piling onto soggy turf churned and turned by volley after volley of missiles; and finally boarding steamers to return home.

Filmmaker Peter Jackson draws on miles of footage to portray the mundane day-to-day squalid life in the trenches, what they ate, how they slept, how they . . . well, there’s a nice shot of a row of bums overhanging a latrine. An army marches on its stomach, then retreats to take a dump. Say, how did this get past the censors in 1914?

There’s also a lot of carnage. The R rating evidently reflects gory details: piles of corpses, gaping wounds, bloody bandages, men blinded from mustard gas walking in a line holding onto the person in from of him, hordes of rats fattened from the buffet of rotting flesh.

There are no special effects, unless you count the forensic speech experts to give voice to what the soldiers were saying on film. This involved meticulous research on uniforms to ascertain the origin of the soldiers in order to provide a realistic accent. You couldn’t very well have a decorated Royal Officer speaking Scouse.

Black-and-white footage bookends the movie which becomes colorized for the battlefield scenes. Voices of survivors provide the narration. Motion pictures were a novelty in the early 1900s, so most stand immobile as they would for a family portrait. The credits roll with the names of all the voices used. It would seem interminably long but for chorus after chorus of a marching ditty, only slightly less bawdy from the barracks version -

Oh, Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parley-vous!
Oh, Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parley-vous!
She got the palm and the croix de guerre,
For washin' soldiers' underwear.
Hinky-dinky, parley-vous!
February 17, 2019


Nyquil-Man
As comic-book movies go, Aquaman hits all the usual notes: mythical origin, plenty of loud music to accompany the unrelenting CGI action, and man-slamming buddyship. That is, a bar scene with guys downing oversized beer mugs filled with much darker brew than the kind that usually gets served in bars, then slamming them down to demonstrate their manliness. Aquaman is a DC Comics creation, so Stan Lee doesn't appear.
Nicole Kidman, however, appears as the queen of Atlantis who consorted with a land-lubber, giving birth to the man of superhuman strength able to leap tall coral buildings and swim faster than a speeding submarine. Think of Hercules with gills.
Kidman shed about 30 years for the role of the young queen. She put them back on later as the older queen waiting to break out of the exile imposed by the enemy. Also making cameo appearances are Flotsam and Jetsam and King Trident from the Little Mermaid, accompanying the heroine Mera who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ariel with her Kool-Aid cherry-flavored hair dye.
The action is non-stop, although it speeds up and slows down at random moments. They pop out of water like corks launched from a shaken-up bottle of champagne, then float down like seagull feathers. Exotic creatures mix it up with craft adapted from Buck Rogers, ET and Jonny Quest. Overall, the movie put me in mind of an undersea Star Wars. I expected Yoda to suddenly appear and say “The cheese is strong with this one.”

Seven different kingdoms, not including various locations on earth, each require a pitched battle, so don’t plan on leaving early. Hallmark Greeting Cards sponsored the movie, judging from the risible lines. Near the end, Mera says, “Sometimes you have to do what’s right even if your heart aches against it.” The best thing I can say about this is I only paid five dollars. Senior citizenhood has its benefits. – January 3, 2019
The 15:12 to Paris
"The Boring, the Bad and the Ugly" or "Million-Dollar Turkey"
The missus and I finally escaped the house to see a movie. Can’t go wrong with Clint Eastwood, right? The 15:12 to Paris recreates the true-life event in which a heavily-armed terrorist was stopped by four passengers, three of them close friends on a trip through Europe. It promised plenty of righteous action. My first warning should have been the fact we were the only ones in the theater.

Have you ever sat through a neighbor’s home vacation movies? Maybe that’s too Boomer for you Millennials. How about being forced to sit through YouTube vacation videos? The actual action depicted in this movie took up about ten minutes. What do you do with the rest of the hour and twenty minutes? Put them on a bus, a boat, an airplane and a train armed with backpacks and a selfie stick. If this were a college sophomore essay, a generous professor would have printed D-minus with fat red marker for “padding.”

The actual heroes of this true story played themselves. It might have been called a gutsy movie if it turned out all three of the main characters had the chops for acting. But they didn’t, and you wouldn’t need Roger Ebert to tell you that. I took a call in the middle of the movie – I know, I know, I used a cell phone in a movie theater, but like I said, we were the only ones there – and went outside to talk, and when I went back in I hadn’t missed anything.

After the gym class escapades, trips to the principal’s office, boot camp, and an hour of traveling which actually included a stop at an Italian ice cream shop with the heroes-to-be trying to decide what flavor they wanted, we finally get to watch our intrepid travelers take down a terrorist loaded with enough bullets to ballast an aircraft carrier.

Okay, that’s done. Now what? Let’s show them receiving an award from the president of France. They couldn’t find a decent suit to wear for this occasion? Hey, it could’ve been worse. They could have turned this into an opera with Hugh Jackman. - March 2, 2018

The Greatest Showman
I had no one to blame but myself for this. First, I expressed an interest in seeing Les Miserables. My wife had warned me that Les Mis was an opera, not a musical. “No problem,” I assured her. Critics were raving about it. So was I after an hour, but for different reasons. I wanted to fall asleep during the second hour but couldn’t, because everyone was still SINGING.

And then The Greatest Showman emerged in the December flurry of new movies. As it turns out, Hugh Jackman was the lead in both. That should have been a warning. Did I miss the announcement that one opera a year would be issued from now on?

Up until this movie, I’ve never seen choreographed bedsheets. It was a mix of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, without the dead people, the bar scene of Star Wars IV/VIII, and a Boyz II Men video.

Next time I watch an opera, it’ll in Italian or German. That way I’ll at least have a reason for not making any sense out of it. - Jan. 22, 2018

A mother! of a movie!

Have you ever seen a movie you hated so much you wanted to punch the guy in the nose who sold you the ticket? I had that feeling after sitting through American Beauty. I hated it so much I extended my disgust toward everyone in the movie – Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, even Thora Birch. The funny thing is I watched it at home, so instead of punching the ticket-seller, I punched the mailman instead. When I explained why I acted the way I did, he punched ME in the nose and said, “I watched it too, and I never got around to punching anybody. Thanks for reminding me.”

My wife also has such a movie in mind – Night at the Roxbury. Unfortunately, I was responsible for subjecting her to this. Fortunately, her arms don’t have the reach of a professional boxer. I’ve been able to dodge her critical opinion so far, but I think it best to let her pick the movie we’re going to see ever since. No sense in tempting fate.

On the way home from work, I listened to Michael Medved deliver his opinion of a new movie - mothers! (Lower-case, please. It’s on the movie posters.) He hated it. I mean, he really hated it. Interestingly, the same guy who made this movie also made Noah which Medved liked. I hated it.

I was intrigued enough to look it up on the internet this evening. I found one deliciously-written scathing review by Rex Reed. He has been reviewing movies for probably as long as I’ve been able to sit up and watch one. 

Oh, but he hated it! He ripped it apart, and for good measure he ripped the producer a new one, and ripped the pretentious soi disant artistes and reviewers who approve of this kind of shit. Others agreed with Reed. The word “vile” seemed to be a common denominator among them. “Torture porn” was also applied. My wife put it best: “So, basically, it was a two-hour episode of Criminal Minds.” Perhaps. Only not as charming.

I'm reminded of something George Orwell once said: "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.” A movie that appeals to the kind of people I already despise can only have one reaction. You’ve been forewarned. - September 16, 2017

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