Category Archives: Rants

General rants, raves, and manifestos.

The Oscar Experiment

 For the first time in a long time, I’ve been so busy that movie-watching hasn’t been in the cards. As a result, I haven’t seen a single one of the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. I spoke with my friend Crint about our annual wager, and had offered to concede. Crint, of course, has seen all the films.  He would not accept my withdrawal from this year’s wager so….the wager stands.

Here’s the plan. We’ve decided to try a little experiment. Again, Crint has seen all the films. I have decided to not even try to see any while there’s still time. Instead, he will make his picks based on his informed viewings. I, in turn, will make my picks based on pure gut and historical know-how. 

We have until the end of this month to complete and compare our makeshift ballots. I’ll report back with my picks and review of the ceremony.

Let the games begin!

The Crazy Jumping Man of Mars

So I finally got around to watching John Carter. This was supposed to be a HUGE summer blockbuster in 2012 and instead was a critical and financial failure. That said, a few friends insisted that the movie wasn’t that terrible and that I ought to give it a try. 

The movie felt like a mixture of Flash Gordon, Stargate, and prequel-era Star Wars (with a dash of Fringe‘s Observers thrown in). Sort of. Also, our hero leaps around Mars like a flea. A better description would be a flea in a bouncy castle. 

My favorite character is this lizard-dog called Woola that’s just freakin adorable. It sort of has Jabba the Hutt’s face had Jabba been a baby. I know I just used “Jabba the Hutt” and “adorable” in close proximity. It will never happen again.

Anyways, effects-wise, the movie looks really good. Story-wise (and yes, I know this was based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel) it’s a little predictable. At the same time, since I know Star Wars and Flash Gordon  and all the adventure serials spawned from the Burroughs novels, I can’t help but wonder what is echoing what?

During one scene, the green Martian Tharks are in some kind of arena to punish Carter and some other Tharks who helped him. The whole scene reminds me of the big arena climax on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. I half expected a barrage of lightsabers to appear at one point. Did this scene occur in one of Burroughs’ novels? If so, did Lucas base that whole scene after Burroughs or did the moviemakers look to Clones? Chicken or Egg? 

That’s my deep thought for this film which I did mostly enjoy. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again, but I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Afterthought: Both Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy are in this movie. Anytime they were near each other, I kept thinking about how Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were going to get the band back together.  I see it as a sign to re-watch Rome

 

 

 

Baby, it’s warm outside

Dear makers of cheesy holiday films:

I’ve watched a lot of your made-for-tv films this season. Something has been bothering me. It’s not the acting or the totally predictable plotlines. It’s not the constant reuse of plot devices such as “small town saves itself from ruin” or “troubled family comes together” or even “rivals fall in love.” Nope. This is the issue that’s been getting under my skin of late:

Green grass on the ground! Green leaves in the trees! Leaves in the trees at all, actually! 

I know these films are probably shot during the summer months, but come on! This is not Edward Scissorhands!  I felt the need to bring this to your attention after watching the cheerful and very corny All She Wants for Christmas. I won’t go into the plot other than to say it uses the “small town comes together” story route.

The film takes place in Forest City, USA. We are never told the actual state but there are references made to Pigeon Forge, TN and to Athens, GA, so I’m going to assume somewhere in the South.  No one has a southern accent, though. Being from the South myself, I appreciate it when folks just don’t try to mimic one. I’m sure my colleagues in the North and from across the pond have the same appreciation about portrayals of their dialects as well.

Anyways, the setting is between late November and Christmas day. The grass in this movie is really green. The trees are full and leafy. BUT…people are wearing coats and hats and the like.  I know it’s a little warmer in these here parts, but if I look out my window I can see that the grass is brown and all of our deciduous trees are fairly naked.

At one point in the movie, the lead female character actually mentions that it just doesn’t even snow there anymore. By the end of the movie, it’s snowing on that nice June-looking set. It looks so wrong. Did your fellow filmmakers insert that line about no snow as a way to point out the elephant in the room? I wonder…

Anyways, that’s my new beef with these films. Usually the springtime surroundings aren’t quite so noticeable, but in All She Wants…it’s just there. That’s my rant to you for today. Future-going, maybe you should film in a different month or least try to shoot away from pretty parks and trees.

Your devoted viewer, Andrea.

PS: Happy Winter Solstice!

The Worst Christmas Special Ever

Among the plethora of holiday movies there is a vast collection of animated specials. These, like the movies, range in quality from most festive (i.e. A Charlie Brown Christmas) to most horrible.  I think I’ve found the worst of the bunch to date.  May I please warn you against 1996’s animated special, The Story of Santa Claus.

Featuring the voices of Ed Asner, Betty White, and Tim Curry, this feature tells the origin story of how a poor but generous toymaker became everyone’s favorite gift-giver.  I’m sure the writers had an innocent and sweet story all planned out. I’m totally positive that was their intention! But as I was made myself watch this program, I couldn’t help but use my Grinchy skills to remove all the joy and pick everything apart. Allow me to explain:

When Santa and the Mrs. accidentally arrive at the North Pole (there was a storm) they save the life of a precocious elf boy. In doing so Santa is granted his fondest wish. He wishes to be able to deliver a toy to each child on Earth every Christmas. Because the elves are magically bound to granting this wish, they put themselves into a position of indentured servitude to the Clauses. This results in the following:

  • The adult elves don’t help out. So Santa enlists help from the children to gather materials and actually build the workshop and later the toys. This introduces unpaid child labor and deforestation (oh and animal labor) to the North Pole. 
  • The elf children (aside from the 2 main kids) might be on something. They all have big, beady black eyes.
  • Does Santa ever build any toys or pitch in on his workshop? He um…designs it. Might as well give the man a Hardees cup so he can stand around and supervise. Because that’s all I see him do. The elves do the rest of the work.
  • Santa spent his youth growing up in an orphanage. It’s one of his stops on Christmas Eve which is really quite sweet. I don’t think this is an orphanage you’d want any children to stay in. Who puts an orphanage out on a lonely island? It looks more like a prison. Kind of bleak for a children’s special.

And maybe I’m just being over picky, but I could not stop finding problems with the special. There’s a little kid in Santa’s town (pre-North Pole) who has a head wound. He looks like he could use a meal and some medical attention. He looks this way the whole special. This is never addressed. 

I just didn’t like it.  If I’m watching a holiday special (especially an animated one) I want to watch something fun. It’s for the kids! Let’s just watch Rudolph or better yet, The Snowman

Sap: No longer limited to Christmas trees.

 Halloween’s body isn’t even cold yet, but that hasn’t stopped the retailers and networks from reminding you that December 25 is practically upon us. In fact, why not start celebrating now? Poor Mr. Turkey. He never gets his moment to shine.

I had half hoped that last year’s cheesy holiday movie addiction was a temporary thing. I thought my short-lived summer holiday movie relapse was perhaps a wee setback. Nope. All it took was a Hallmark Channel announcement of marathon movies to get my inner elf leaping and fa-la-la-ing away. I won’t decorate until after the turkey is in my belly and the crazy people go shopping. I won’t put Christmas with the Rat Pack into heavy music rotation until December. But movies?

Movie are fair game, and I’m going to watch them all!!! Mwa-hahahahahahaha….. I’ve already made a significant dent. Here’s a few to watch and/or avoid. Or you can be like me and just watch them all. 

Once Upon a Christmas: Kathy Ireland shows off her KMart collection whilst playing Santa’s “nice” daughter Kristin. Kristin goes to the mortal world to save one family from being on the naughty list. In doing so, she falls in love, saves said family and also saves Christmas from being ruined by her naughty sister, Rudolpha.  This was followed-up by Twice Upon a Christmas which unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch as I had to run errands. I’ll be sure to catch it again. From what I gleaned from the first few minutes, Kristin has lost her memory. Suspense!!!! [Honestly, Once was a ridiculous waste of my time. If you want silly, go for this movie. Otherwise, avoid.]

All I Want for Christmas: Gail O’Grady (why isn’t she in more things??) plays a widowed mother whose well-meaning son enters and wins a toy contest for Chistmas. What does he tell the contest sponsors he wants this year? Answer: a husband for his mom. Yeah.  While all the bigwigs and tv folks play The Bachelor with Ms. O’Grady, love turns out to be closer to home. Maybe even next door.  [Predictable? Of course! Sappy? Si. Kind of sweet and worth watching at least once? Go for it.]

Snow Bride: This movie premiered this past Saturday night. A tabloid reporter chases down the story of a possible engagement for some politician’s son and through a series of mistaken identities and spontaneous traditional family/town events, oh you know the drill…. [The whole “snow bride” part of the story was a stretch and really silly. However, despite the cheese, I kept watching. I had to see it through. Yes the sap flowed, but Patricia Richardson from Home Improvement was in this as well as the most wonderful Tom Lenk (sporting a rather perplexing yet fetching stache).  The heartwarming and humor far outweighed the cheese and sap. Therefore, this one goes on the approved to view list.]

More to come folks….more to come. Consider yourselves warned.

 

Holy Hollywood, Batman!

So…Ben Affleck is the new Batman. My brain has been whirring with thoughts on this ever since I found out yesterday morning, but I thought it would be safe to sleep on it before I made any comments. Sleep achieved. Here we go, kids…

Let me first bring out the disclaimer that I really like Ben Affleck. I think he’s an excellent filmmaker and a pretty good actor. Argo  was my favorite movie from last year, so I was overjoyed when it won the Oscar for Best Picture. Despite what I’m calling a “rough patch” of acting choices in the early 2000’s, Affleck’s work of late has been pretty remarkable. 

All that said, I’m having a really tough time wrapping my head around the idea that he’s going to be donning the pointy cowl. Some of you regular readers are already aware of my undying love for the Batman. I think part of the problem here is that I just can’t picture Affleck in the suit. I can see him as a Bruce Wayne type, but that’s as far as I can mentally go at this early stage.

Maybe we’ve been ruined by the perfect casting of Christian Bale as the previous incarnation of our hero. That Christopher Nolan storyline (and the 3 movies) lived in its own separate universe as opposed to the previous Batman films which all sort of latched on to one another. Bale was Batman! 

I think we’re so embedded in Nolan’s universe, that it’s hard to see the other potential Bat universes that are out there. I love the Nolan universe! I really don’t want to leave. But I know that I have to in order to move on.

 I’ve decided that I’m probably underestimating Affleck. After all, when Michael Keaton was cast as the Bat for the 1989 Tim Burton production, people freaked out. Mr. Mom / Beetlejuice was going to be Bruce Wayne??!! It didn’t even compute. And guess who is my favorite Batman after Christian Bale? Yep, Keaton. Maybe we are in the same boat here with Affleck. So, after much thought, I’ve decided that I won’t be one of the naysayers. I’ll lend my meagre support to Mr. Affleck. Good luck to you, sir!

 Besides, this casting decision isn’t for a stand-alone Batman flick. It’s a Batman and Superman movie that will act as the sequel to this summer’s Man of Steel. I confess that I have yet to see MoS. It’s on my Netflix queue. That counts for something, right? I digress.

If Batman and Superman team up in the movie, then okay, cool. That will be interesting to see how the smartest man in the world works with the strongest. However, if they clash…if they find themselves at odds with one another, oh boy! I’ll be the girl cheering for Batman. If Affleck’s the one in the suit, I’ve still got his back.

Television Suicide (Don’t Do It)

I was browsing the interwebs the other day and a headline caught my eye. I can’t remember the exact wording, but let’s just say it was a remark about how Heathers (the TV show) wasn’t going happen.  My understanding is that it would be a sequel of sorts.

Why on earth would anyone want to turn Heathers (the movie) into a television series? Let me count all that goes wrong with that idea. Seriously, TV executives! What’s your damage?

1. Aside from rarities such as M*A*S*H and Friday Night Lights, movies turned TV shows lose something in the translation. They almost always fail. Let’s all remember warnings such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  and My Big Fat Greek Life. The only other time movies to TV seem to work is when the movie was a box office flop or turned into an animated series–thus allowing the show to reinvent the story. I don’t know if this would work for Heathers since the proposed sequel uses the original for its backstory. It’s not a reinvention.

2. Heathers is very much a cult classic. I think any adaptation of it would kill the very thing that made it so special. What if someone announced they wanted to do a TV version of The Breakfast Club? The beauty of movies is that the time and story captured between the credits is all there is. It’s a moment. 

3. I worry that unless Showtime or HBO got hold of the show, it would very much be a CW item and thus all the fun and originality would be sucked out of the show leaving a husk of advertisements for clothing lines and what music one heard in the just-aired episode. I believe Bravo had hold of this project and passed on it. Bravo worries me more than the CW since it seems to spend all its time documenting the lives of spoiled “housewives.” I honest don’t care, Bravo. I wish you understood that.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but come on! Here’s an idea. How about networks try for some original programming! Yes, it’s riskier than bringing something along with a built-in audience. But if it works, they’ve got something truly unique. The risk of a built-in audience comes to play when you offend them. Heathers the TV show? I’m already offended. 

“They’ve just formed Blazing Sword!”

Last weekend, I saw Pacific Rim. Wow. I loved it. Something about ginormous robot types (called jaegers) pummeling even more ginormous alien monsters… Now that’s good cinema. Don’t get me wrong. There is not one ounce of character development in this movie. Characters met at the beginning of the movie are more or less the same if they live to see the ending credits. You can’t have it all, people!

Anyways, one of the things I really liked about Pacific Rim was that this might be the closest I ever come to seeing a live-action version of Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Hands down, Voltron was my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. Commander Keith was the no-nonsense leader of the team. The Princess was pretty and in constant danger of being kidnapped by the evil Prince Lotor who was more conceited and far less evil than his father King Zarkon. And the sexually ambiguous Pidge talked to mice.

Every episode, the king’s witch, Hagar, would send down a Robeast (aka giant alien monster) which would attack and wreak general havoc on the goodly peoples of Planet Arus. I’m sorry. If my planet was being attacked on a regular basis, I’d have give serious consideration to relocation. Just saying.   

So…the Robeast would attack, and then the Voltron team would assemble their individual lion robots into Voltron!! (Which rocked!) The two would fight on the planet and fight in space. Usually, the robeast would gain the upper hand at some point. Then and only then would Voltron use its secret weapon: Blazing Sword. Ah yes. Best part ever. From that point on, the Robeast has no chance. It’s over.

So, during a massive fight in Pacific Rim there was a scene where the jaeger is out of ammo and is about to lose a fight. What to do…. One character mentions they have one weapon left which just happens to be a sword. Right there in the theater, I elbowed my good friend Sabrina and hissed in her ear, “they’ve just formed Blazing Sword!!!!” I might have shouted it. I’m not sure.

Back several years ago. Might have been 2007 or so, I heard many a tale of a live-action Voltron movie. I was eager to learn more. Sadly, nothing has come to pass. I found a report from a year ago saying that the movie was still in development. Maybe if Pacific Rim does really well, the studios will see that yes, there is an audience for this movie! Maybe.

Anyhoo, if the Voltron movie never gets made, at least I’ll have that one scene from Pacific Rim. I can hold on to that for a while.

Technology Corner

You probably aren’t aware, but up until very recently, my entertainment system has been running old school. You’d think with my obsession with films that I would have a 55″ mega flat screen and the latest in Blu-ray goodness. Um no. I tend to use appliances (and clothes and cars and shoes) until they can no longer be repaired. I will use an item up until the point it has died, and even then I will try to salvage it somehow. I think I’ve inherited that from my grandmother. She’ll save three green beans and call them leftovers.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot of teasing from some folks over my ye olde 23″ television. This would be the giant boxy tube tv that had to have a converter box affixed to it a few years back when everything went digital. That’s right. I don’t have cable or satellite either. I have noticed lately that one of the speakers in my tv crackles and hisses and sometimes just plays hooky when it’s supposed to be doing speaker things.

About five months ago, I upgraded my Playstation 2 to the PS3 model. You know…just in time for the PS4 announcement. *sigh* Anyways, I’ve had some difficulties reading text on my wee tv screen when playing my PS3 games such as  Mass Effect 2. Something had to be done. So….a new tv was procured. A fancy flat-screen that’s 32″ and quite nice. Alas, herein lies the problem.

The tv is a bit too nice. My dvd player (with VHS side as well) won’t hook up to it. Everything is HDMI. Crazy new technology!! I now run my movies via the PS3, so that problem is solved. However, it took me 4 hours to set all this up. Four hours and 2 trips to Wallyworld. But it’s done.

I’m all upgraded for now. I have to admit, movies look good on a bigger screen, and I can actually read the text in my video games! Monumental stuff, folks.  I have just one final worry…

I still own the VHS box set of the original Star Wars trilogy. This would be the set that came out in the early/mid-90s with the Leonard Maltin interviews prior to the whole “Special Edition” versions. This is the last known edition of the films as they were—before the changes. We are talking original Ewok song! We are talking about a friendly old man as ghostie Anakin instead of Hayden Christiansen.  HAN SHOOTS FIRST!!!!!.

I need to really research how I can hook up my spare (yes, I keep a spare) VCR to my newfangled set. Ideas, anyone? Is there some sort of converter cable out there? Old school on one end and new style on the other? There’s got to be a Tosche Station somewhere nearby.

Think, think, think…

“I didn’t know he was in this!”

You know what I love? Wait. Don’t answer that. There is a really long list that is always in flux.  Let me start over.  Ahem…

Do you know what I love when I watch an older movie (by older, I mean it has been around for longer than 5 years)? I love seeing a now-popular actor/actress who at the time of said movie only played a small or supporting role. It’s like seeing them before they were them!

Case in point: Cellular. Though this movie came out in 2004, I had yet to see it until this past weekend. What can I say? I just kept putting it off. Anyways, there I was watching Chris Evans (yum) driving all over town trying to stay on the phone with and save a kidnapped Kim Basinger (where is she these days?). And who was the bad guy in the movie? Jason Statham.

I had no idea he was in this film. None at all. He tends to play sort of an antihero role in his films for the most part. He’s the bad boy you just love cause you know he’s not all that bad. Well in this film, he’s a total baddie. His character also had little to no personality. Really, he just looked threatening and used a passable American accent. Kudos for the accent work, btw!

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else who saw Cellular back almost 10 years ago already knew who Statham was. By 2004, he had a number of movie hits already under his belt. Whatever. I enjoyed the surprise casting (well surprise for me apparently).

How about you, fearless readers? Have you ever “discovered” a familiar face in a movie from several years back? If so, who/what?