Beyond the Black Rainbow


2010 sci-fi thriller

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A woman tries to leave some sort of research facility where a guy who may or may not have hair experiments on her.

If this movie's a complete failure, it's at least a very interesting complete failure. This is really moody, surreal, and strange, and folks who prefer their science fiction dramas to actually, you know, make damn sense should probably not bother. It's visually entrancing, and it's paced like one of the goals of Panos Cosmatos was to hypnotize you. Panos, by the way, was the son of a guy who directed at least one Rambo movie, and this is about as far from Rambo as you can possibly get. There are some characters in a later scene in this movie who look like they would enjoy a Rambo movie though. They're listening to a band called Notorious Anus, or at least I think that's what it said on the cassette. Cassette! One of them--Skinny Hesher, played by Gerry South--needs to be the main character in a prequel. Any character who says "Who'd want that two-inch blood bat?" (almost makes sense in context) and "Fuck, my left ball hurts a little" and almost nothing else before being whacked is a good character in my book. There are some other odd, almost funny moments that seemed to clash with the starkness and general malaise. Another line--"Bring home the motherlode, Barry."--actually made me giggle, and I also laughed at the way the antagonist said, "The Devil's Teardrop." It was just so goofy. Or this sequence:

Barry's wife: What are you dong?
Barry: [mumbles}
Then--appliances!

I'm sorry I put that there. It doesn't make any sense without the context. It barely makes sense in context!

Oh, and a scene where Barry is driving, turns and sees himself with the "appliances" and says, "You are doing so good." It's hard during some of this to not see this as a comedy actually. But it really isn't. The creepiness is very artificial but palpable. It's creepy visually, and it's creepy sonically. The score is by Sinfonia Caves, all moogy and mysterious and foreboding. Everything's fucking grainy, like Eraserhead or Begotten rubbed all over it, and the whole thing, with its Tron lights and Arboria infomercial that starts the movie (a scene that hooked me instantly because of the doctor's hairstyle), and all the washed-out blues and reds. The color's off-putting. Or maybe it's the lack of color in a lot of scenes that is off-putting. But it's all off-putting in a good way, at least if you're attracted to off-putting works of art. This is definitely a movie I'm glad I watched (on Josh's recommendation, by the way), but it's definitely the type of thing you have to be in the mood for. It's almost too abstract, kind of like Under the Skin, and therefore very difficult. And there are references to Reagan which, along with a scene where a Speak and Spell calls Barry, makes it even more 80s-ish. And makes me wonder what is going on thematically. I think Reagan's important, but I'm just not real sure how.

Also--there's a William S. Burroughs allusion that made me smile.

I think I'd like to see this one again, but not for a while.

The Babadook


2014 horror movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A creepy pop-up book stalks a widow and her young, misbehaving son. Then, something called The Babadook shows up and terrorizes the pair.

As you might know if you've read stuff I've written about other horror movies, I like when my movie monsters best when they're standing in for something more realistic. It's not that a monster that is just a monster isn't capable of entertaining me, but those symbolic monsters add a depth and a realism. The symbolism here is almost too obvious, but it really works to give the ending of this thing a rewarding philosophical depth. If that Babadook--admittedly, sort of a dopey name--was just a monster, this would still mostly work as the top-hatted, oily creature, whether in children's book for or materialized in the pair's home is creepy and cool, like an Edward Gorey character brought to animated life. I'm not sure if he's nearly as terrifying as the little kid in this though. I'm not sure how effective your horror movie is if a first grader out-scares the title monster. Of course, if you've spent a lot of time with first graders, that probably won't surprise you. But seriously, if I have nightmares about this movie, it'll be because of Noah Wiseman's eyes rather than the Babadook. Throw this kid Samuel in with all those other classic horror movie kids. I like how this manages to creep you out without a lot of tricks. There's a visual style to the storytelling, but nothing's jumping out at you and yelling "Boo!" with a screechy violin noise. It's got that quietly creepy vibe, and that restraint allows it all to sort of seep in. I think my favorite thing about this movie is that while visually, you don't really believe anything that's going on, this still manages to feel very real on an emotional level. I'd recommend it to horror fans especially--William Friedkin said it was the most terrifying film he's ever seen--but probably even to people who don't like horror movies all that much.

Wetlands


2013 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Teenager Helen sees an anal wound as an opportunity to get her parents back together. Meanwhile, she has a friend, and there's a nurse she likes.

This is like artsier gross-out comedy, and I think there's probably something I'm completely missing. I guess you have to call Carla Juri's brave as she trudges through shit in this movie, sometimes literally. I really liked the performance actually. There's a surprising emotional arc with the character who, at least for the first half of the movie, is a skateboarding picture of apathy and angst. For a character so completely eccentric and, well, shockingly disgusting, she kind of feels like a colorful cliche. However, as you piece together her backstory, mostly from flashbacks, there's surprising depth to Helen. Unfortunately, I really didn't like the character--or really any of the characters--at all. These weren't people with whom I wanted to trudge through that shit--again, sometimes literally because this movie's groddy to the max--for over an hour and a half. My brother, who recommended this to me, compared it to Amelie and Run, Lola, Run, and those are probably appropriate comparisons. The style's vibrant enough, definitely creative visual storytelling, but you kind of have to wonder what the point is. This almost bludgeons you with taboos with numerous shots of blood, ejaculate, fecal matters, skateboarding, and pubes. You almost want to hop in the shower after watching this, and although I've never really considered myself a prude, I just didn't get the point of it all unless the point was just to create this shocking character. It's definitely not for the squeamish, climaxing (literally) pornographically in the relayed pizza circle jerk fantasy she shares with Robin the nurse, another character I didn't really understand or like. A sequence that, of course, is accompanied by "The Blue Danube Waltz," which makes sense because most people have trouble masturbating on food unless there's a little Strauss in the background. I think my biggest problem with this was that the storytelling was a little too loose, and I think that hurt any impact the climactic revelation could have delivered. I didn't quite understand a scene on a diving platform or really why any of the scenes with her friend were even in the movie. There's a subplot featuring a scrawny drug dealer that kind of seemed unnecessary, too. Too many loose ends, and I really had trouble connecting with Helen like I did Amelie.

Wilhelm Scream--we hear one while the characters are watching something on television.

Movies A-Go-Go: Armageddon


1998 blockbuster

Rating: 11/20

Plot: An asteroid is heading straight for earth, so a ragtag team of drillers are sent in shuttles to blow the fucking thing up and save humanity.

Ah! I finally settled on a name for my stream-of-conscious type-as-I-watch posts--Movies A-Go-Go! Do you like it?

Before I copy/paste what my thoughts while watching this, I thought I'd share a couple things from the imdb trivia section that amused me.

1) Steve Buscemi was asked why he was even in this movie. One answer--he wanted a bigger house. Another had to do with getting to play a more heroic character rather than the slimy guys he usually plays.

2) Bay says he was aware that there were a lot of science errors in this but left them in because the audience doesn't know any better. And he's right, so who are we going to blame for Armageddon--Bay or the masses?

3) Ben Affleck was talking to Bay about how it would probably be easier to train astronauts how to drill rather than train drillers how to astronaut, and he was told to shut up.

Ok, here we go. Movie A-Go-Go!

This just feels scientifically accurate--a voiceover and you can trust. [Edit: I thought that was Charlton Heston! He IS a guy who can be trusted!]

The title screen explodes! Because if it didn’t, people would wonder if Michael Bay was OK.

Billy Bob Thornton: “I’ll give you a buffalo nickel if you’ll calm down just a little bit.” I was pretty sure a buffalo nickel was fecal matter. Regardless, this is the type of line that can only be spoken by Billy Bob Thornton as a NASA employee.

Random couple, Carl and Dottie [John Mahon and Grace Zabriskie]…”Get me my telephone book!” You should always keep your telephone book by your enormous telescope, by the way. Lesson learned. These two aren't overacting at all, by the way. If they're not in the movie much, I want either a sequel or a prequel that focuses on their relationship.

Now random New York people. Wow, this city seems louder pre-9/11. Glad that dog somehow survived being hit by an asteroid. The narrator at the beginning probably thinks he should have died.

[Edit: Speaking of 9/11:


Yikes.]

That destruction! There goes the Chrysler Building! And that taxi driver keeps saying, "Whoa!" Like, that's all he can say. I wonder if it was scripted or if he was trying to get Michael Bay to slow down.

I’m sorry, but I can’t buy Billy Bob Thornton as a real human being in this. But “It’s a big-ass sky” and “the size of basketballs and Volkswagons and stuff” make him fun.

“We’ve got to come up with something realistic here!” And “This is as real as it gets.” Just keep telling yourself that, script.

This isn’t wasting any time. Even character development involves big music and Bruce Willis shooting at the new Batman.

“Basically the worst parts of the Bible.” I just love how Thornton's taking this all so seriously. I have to say that I do appreciate the humor in this screenplay. It keeps things lively.

“Sir, FBI.” 
“No thanks.” 
I don't know how that line would come from somebody who isn't Steve Buscemi. Loved it there though.

I like this rounding up the crew montage to the Beatles “Come Together,” but why are they all all off the rig? Hasn't it been just a few hours?

“A bunch of retards I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun."

Fichtner, on the scene! And his first line is “Talk about the wrong stuff," a line he delivered like he’s been waiting for years to say it.

Uh oh. A pretty woman astronaut--Bruce Willis is probably going to hit that. Be careful, Bruce, because women astronauts are apparently crazy. [Edit: Totally wrong about this one!]

The shuttle travel might suck Steve Buscemi’s eyes into the back of his head? For Buscemi, that might make his eyes seem normal.

NASA doesn’t take chances? That doesn’t seem historically accurate.

Pervy Bruce Willis watching Ben Affleck suck at his daughter’s back...those sound effects have to be added, and if so, it’s inappropriate. Michael Bay: "I want Affleck's slurping noises to be as loud as my explosions!"

[Edit: But wait! It gets grosser:]


Shot with the crew leaving the NASA place with half of them hanging out the window like dogs. I know they haven’t seen the outside in several months. . .oh, wait. It’s been a few days.

Owen Wilson’s prayer...that's all I have to say about that. [Edit: Man, I did like the cast here. Bruce Willis, action superstar. Michael Clarke Duncan, large black man. Buscemi, weasel. Stormare, badass. Owen Wilson, guy who makes every character he plays seem like a stoner. Fichtner, another badass. Thornton, guy who can get away with talking about buffalo nickels.]

This soundtrack is oppressive, especially when Ben Affleck is on the screen. And now we’re talking about animal crackers. “Baby, do you think anybody else in the world is doing this very same thing at this same moment?” Umm...the answer to that is no. Nobody else is using animal crackers as some kind of weird foreplay. Nobody has EVER done that.

Bruce Willis’s grandpa...hey, it's Laurence Tierney. With something very distracting on his head! Why aren't they sending him up to space? Surely he's not going to be in this movie for just this one scene. [Edit: Yep. One scene.]

South Pacific villlage destruction, I realize, was probably very expensive, but that probably could have been cut. It looked cheap and about as fake as miniatures being annihilated in a Godzilla movie.

Michael Clarke Duncan had a beautiful singing voice. What a wonderful musical moment there. “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” has never hit me that emotionally.

The montage during the president’s speech lays it on so thick. He says the title of the movie and we get shots of regular folk. But wait, I thought they were trying to keep this a secret. I must have missed something while typing this crap.

More laying it on thick: big American flag behind Bruce Willis. And there’s Liv Tyler with a big American flag behind her. America!


“Can you make mine really tight because I don’t want to fall out.” Owen Wilson's got the best lines in here. And his character--obviously high.

Aren’t these space shuttles a little too close together? This could be the end of the movie right here. I don’t know much about the space program, but I think these people just broke the record for most space shuttles launched at once.

Wait, did they just say that a “little off” Peter Stormare has been in a space station for 11 years? “I can feel I’m having gravity!” Oh, boy. This is about to get good!

Space station scene, filmed with camera angles to capture the disorientation. See, Michael Bay knows what he’s doing.

I think Peter Stormare is wearing a t-shirt that says “Cock” on it. [Edit: Never got a good look at that. I did just Google Image "Peter Stormare cock" without thinking and, probably luckily, didn't find anything.] And now he’s only been there for 18 months, so I feel better for the guy. 

“Don’t touch my uncle!”

The hot woman astronaut: Check your hoses. I’ve been checking mine, lady! I check every time you're on the screen. [Jessica Steen, by the way. I don't know her, but I'm still shocked Bruce Willis's character didn't hit that.]

“I’m not leaving without AJ!” Of course, you’re not, Bruce Willis. And this scene is ridiculously stupid. Icicles? That doesn’t quite seem scientific.

Shot of a coffee cup breaking….this montage work is as important as Eisenstein's in Battleship Potemkin. This editing--dizzying.

Well, the asteroid looks silly, covered in a layer of tiny icicles.

Steve Buscemi: “Because I’m a genius!” I love Steve Buscemi, but I’m having trouble buying that his character is a genius in this movie.

A hand reaching through burning debris! Ben Affleck emotionally screaming at the loss of a colleague. Two more cliches I can check off my blockbuster Bingo sheet!

Wait, did they just machine gun the drill car out of the shuttle? Why would they have a giant machine gun with them?

QUIT SHOUTING AT ME, BEN AFFLECK!


“This has turned into a surrealistic nightmare!” Was J.J. Abrams responsible for that line?

"The override--it’s been overridden."

Willis/Fichtner conversation: “Do you swear on your daughter’s life?” says Fitchner, all drooly. Willis answers, "I will make 800 feet. I swear to God I will.” This is a well-written movie when it's trying to be funny. When it's not? Not so much.

Red or blue wires?  Another blockbuster cliche! I'm one away from a Bingo!

Buscemi Slim-Pickening that bomb...if I were a woman, I’d be damp.


They're going to fucking ramp a canyon. And if Stormare's out of this thing, I might be, too!

OK, he survived, but now he’s SCREAMING AT ME, TOO!

Gargoyle watching the Eiffel Tower go--that had to be in the trailer.


When Thornton asks Tyler, if she thinks he can drill 250 feet in an hour, I finally get the subtext! This movie’s all about fathers giving away their daughters to be drilled, proverbially, by the Ben Afflecks of the world. [Edit: Obviously, this idea isn't fully developed here, but this is most definitely what the movie's about. Phallic spaceships, numerous references to drilling, the father character dying, an ending that features a wedding. It's obvious, isn't it?]

God, I hope they find oil on this asteroid! It's the only thing that would make sense at this point.

Second astronaut fist pump from Bruce Willis. How come we didn’t see Buzz Aldrin do that?

Speaking of Buzz, which of these characters do you think was the first to shit on an asteroid? Or, which viewer of Armageddon was the first to shit on his couch while watching this?

More science I don’t understand, possibly showing that I’m just not smart enough to even be watching this movie: Why is everything exploding? Mini-asteroids hitting big asteroids cause explosions? Would there be fires or explosions on an asteroid anyway?

Oh, no! They’re drawing straws! I wonder what’s going to happen!

This father/son moment...pretty God-damned touching.

Stormare eyeroll...he’s got to save the day again. And then his solution is angrily hitting the space shuttle innards with a giant wrench. I’m kind of surprised this depiction of Russians didn’t start up the Cold War again.

There’s another flag.

"Harry doesn’t know how to fail." And neither does America!

Oh, thank God! Will Patton’s son likes him now! 

The Patton son-hugging is touching, and the wedding puts a nice happy cap on this story, but I wanted this to end in the only logical way it could have ended--Peter Stormare having his way with five or six women at once.

What a dumb piece of entertainment. I feel dumber having watched it and even dumber for kind of liking it.

Bad Movie Club: Space Mutiny

1988 science fiction movie

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Josh: 3/5; Fred: 1.5/5; Johnny: 2/5; Kristen: 1/5; Libby: no rating)

Rating: 5/20

Plot: The evil Kalgan is trying to take over a spaceship for reasons that aren't really ever clear, and it's up to a burly hero and Santa Claus's daughter to save everybody.

This one's for John Phillip Law completists only. In a way, it's just not fair for a bad movie to have to follow up Neil Breen. Breen sets impossible standards, and no amount of John Phillip Law evil laughter is going to meet those standards. This movie borrows space battle scenes from Battlestar Gallactica, but most of the action takes place on the interior of the spaceship which sort of looks like an abandoned warehouse or something lots of metal stairs and places where it looks like wares could have been stored. It gives the characters plenty of room to dart around in Enforcers, these cute little scooters.


Seriously, what actor is going to see that on the set and not say, "That's what we're chasing each other around in? Screw it, I'm out of this movie." And check out the glare from those windows in the background. That doesn't seem right. Those Enforcer chase scenes are dull and endless, but not as dull and endless as the laser gun fighting scenes where nobody but hero Dave Ryder and love interest Lea (ahem) Jansen can hit anything. I am impressed with that body count though. Lots of nameless characters die in this movie, and it gets redundant. I mean, you're forced to watch nearly the same stunt--a guy being shot and tumbling forward from a platform--over and over again. There are also some space whores who show up and bring their own plasma globes because the only special effects these people could afford involved a trip to Spencer's Gifts. (That's not my joke, by the way. That's all Johnny.) By the way, here's one of the directors:


Yep, David Winters--A-Rab from West Side Story. The other director was Neal Sundstrom who went on to do loads of things you haven't heard of. An assistant director (because this movie needed lots of direction apparently) was Evan J. Klisser who also played a character named Mohawk who had a mohawk. Oh, and this apparently also happens somewhere in space:


I hope nothing I wrote up there is going to make you think you should run out and see this movie because you shouldn't. I mean, who wants to watch a science fiction movie with these people in it?


And there's that glare again. I'm starting to wonder if this movie was filmed in space at all.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya


2013 cartoon

Rating: 16/20

Plot:  A bamboo cutter finds a miniature little girl in a bamboo stalk, and he and his wife decide to raise her as a princess. She grows rapidly. Unfortunately, in order to be a princess, she has to leave her friends and live in the city. While there, she continues to mature and eventually attracts a bunch of men who are aroused by the sound of the koto.

Well, they don't make princess movies like this anymore! Actually, they probably never did. The storytelling, at times, is tedious. Viewers are required to be a little patient as this all unfolds. The animation is breathtaking, however. It's delicately hand-drawn, and each frame looks like it could be a watercolor hanging in a museum. Although there are some Buddhist themes and a Japanese pace and a length that would probably bore even the most die-hard fan of princess cartoons, it's all so beautiful that it doesn't matter. It's delightfully Japanese. This is Isao Takahata, a guy who shares my birthday. He directed the bleak Grave of the Fireflies, a movie that makes me cry whenever I think about it. This is much lighter, but it's still probably going to make a lot of people cry. Not me though. I'm a man now.


Interstellar


2014 science fiction epic

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Some guy who really likes driving Lincolns leaves his children behind to fly into a wormhole and try to save humanity.

Here's what I'm really happy about: People still might say "Say it; don't spray it" in whatever-the-hell-year-this-takes-place-in. That's a phrase I always assumed would survive.

Seriously, it's impossible to watch this without thinking of those Lincoln commercials since McConaughey is pretty much playing a space cadet in that one, too. He's a man who can't close his mouth when he drives a car or flies a spaceship close to black holes. There's one of those Lincoln commercials where he's talking about "coming back to see where you came from," and I could have sworn that same bunch of pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo was in this movie verbatim. At least he doesn't do that weird thing with his fingers. McConaughey does what McConaughey does and almost passes as a hot-shot pilot, at least as much as Jake Lloyd in Star Wars Episode I. He does pass as an actual human being in this movie--barely--and is about as Everyman as he's ever going to get.

I sometimes wonder if I don't appreciate Christopher Nolan as much as I should. Nolan could make the worst movie ever, and it's still going to be worth watching because of how ambitious he is. He's a guy who doesn't dive into any projects with small ideas, and he doesn't dumb things down for the masses. A Nolan-directed complete failure is going to be more interesting than probably every blockbuster out there. I like the future he created here, one filled with all these subtle but terrifying little differences. The daily sandstorms seem anachronistic, but I dug the stuff about the Apollo space missions and moon landings being as rejected in educational institutions as creationism, the idea that there has to be a very limited number of college students, the need for farmers, the lack of a need for a military. Like Nolan's other movies, I think you could watch this and enjoy it viscerally, but you could also intensely scrutinize the thing, strangle it until more meaning and more ideas start leaking out, bounce ideas about it off your friends. If what ends up happening with McConaughey's character was supposed to be a surprise, I surprisingly saw it about two hours ahead of the big reveal. But that's not an issue because the journey still matters. And what a journey it is! Part-2001/part-Lucas, this movie is a visual thrill. There are things in here that you've never seen before, and while I'm not usually one to be swayed by special effects and all the fixings, the practical effects, surreal imagery, and space swirlies that I in no way understood were, as the kids are saying these days, sick. I was fully convinced that I was actually seeing Saturn. I was fully convinced that McConaughey and his peeps were on a water planet with improbably tall waves. I've got no idea what a black hole looks like, but I was fully convinced that a camera crew had been taken into the farthest reaches of space in McConaughey's magic Lincoln so that they could get footage of one. Earth's pretty in this, too, but space hasn't wowed me since I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. The music fits perfectly and is probably my favorite Hans Zimmer score. It's cold and minimalistic and matches the atmosphere or lack of atmosphere perfectly. At times, I thought I was listening to Philip Glass, and that's never a bad thing. There's one moment in this where Nolan juxtaposes McConaughey's issues on an ice planet with Matt Damon and Matt Damon's head and some stuff on Earth with Jessica Chastain (a pet peeve), and the music there is just so good. So much intensity throughout this, but it's a quiet intensity.

This covers a lot of ground thematically. At first, I wondered to myself about what's love, what's love got to do, got to do with it. Do I need love in my science fiction movies? There's a depth to the physics and scientific stuff that made me feel pretty dumb; this is often a little dense. Or I'm pretty dense. So I guess I should feel lucky that the emotional layer of this was there because I definitely felt that. This sprawls, but it does so majestically, in an epic way. And I'm shocked that it couldn't edge out one of those biopics or that awful movie about that kid getting older to get a best picture nomination. Do the Academy Awards people hate science fiction or something?

Time travel nitpickers and hole-punchers! Eviscerate this one if you want. Everybody else--slurp it like the last of a vanilla milkshake.

The Imitation Game


2014 biopic

Rating: 14/20

Plot: English Mathematician Alan Turing races against the clock to crack the Nazis' Enigma code, but it's enigmatic. Hence, the name. Oh, and he's gay!

For the record, I like the other best-picture-nominated biopic--The Theory of Everything--a little more than I liked this one. And for the record, I don't care for biopics all that much. This has a more intriguing story and a little more drama. It also has a really good performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing although it's not nearly as good as Redmayne's Hawking. The period details are good, there's a little humor, there's some subtle social commentary, and the historical figure is somebody I really knew nothing about who people should know things about. Turing's story is good source material although with the way Hollywood tells these stories, it's kind of hard to know how much you can trust these things. I liked the Turing character created here though. Humorless, direct, ruthlessly literal, he's definitely off-putting but it comes across as charming because he's English. But it's a fun character. He's a poofter, ya know. That's a word I'd love to add to my vocabulary because it's kind of cute, but I know I can't because it's pejorative, probably as offensive as the F-word in America. Or as offensive as the F-word should be. I haven't seen Cumberbatch in much. In fact, I didn't really remember seeing him at all, odd since I see his name all the time. He was apparently in that first Hobbit movie, but I think he may have just been a voice. He was in 12 Years a Slave, and I do remember him in that. And he was in Four Lions, a great movie, but I don't remember him in that either. Anyway, he's good here. I've been meaning to check out his Sherlock Holmes thing.

The problem with this movie is the same as the problem with The Theory of Everything. It's a biopic, and there's apparently some unwritten rule that you have to color-by-numbers when making a biopic. Everything about this is predictable. And I'm not talking about the narrative which, since the subjects of biopics are usually famous, can't really be helped. I'm talking about everything else--the written dialogue, the score, the style. The writers/director try to do a little something with the narrative. It's all disjointed and flashbacky, but that's actually more of a distraction here. The structure of this doesn't really enhance the story or its characters or themes. You could have shown me about then individual frames of this movie, and I could have constructed the whole movie from that. Turing running? Turing hunched over a desk or fiddling with machines? Slam those together with some big orchestral music and have yourself a Turing running/inventing montage! Bam! Oscar time! There's a quote about "imagination" hammered into your head no less than three times and, just as you'd expect, a bunch of stuff you have to read right before the credits. The movie's so by-the-book that you'd think it was made by somebody who couldn't eat from a plate where peas and carrots were touching.

It's not a terrible movie, and I am glad that Hollywood decided to share the story with us.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


2014 sequel

Rating: 16/20

Plot: After a monkey-flu pandemic has destroyed much of the earth's human population, survivors huddled in San Francisco make a trip to try to get a damn dam operational so that they can have power. Unfortunately, that dam is located near the rudimentary society that some intelligent apes have set up. They clash.

Here's a confession that I probably shouldn't make because all two-and-a-half of my readers will not be able to take me seriously anymore as a movie blogger. I popped this in and planned to halfway watch it while writing a blog entry or two. I almost never do that, but I figured this movie could only improve with a more lackadaisical viewing. I didn't like the first movie--Rise of the Planet of the Apes--at all, but I was interested in the narrative and wanted to see how they continued the story here. Anyway, I felt the need to come clean.

It actually didn't take me very long to reconsider, put the laptop aside, and give this my full attention. I was kind of blown away by it, and that doesn't often happen with things that are created to be summertime popcorn flicks. It happened early with a shot of Caesar's eyes and a powerful film score. Michael Giancchino is the guy who did the score, and it's about perfect. It's foreboding. It crunches. It stirs. It buzzes. It's exciting. It's dark. That's true for the entire movie, but this first scene? I was hooked immediately.

Of course, I was almost immediately reminded of why I didn't care for the first movie very much even though I did like the story. There's an opening scene in the forest with the apes, more upright this movie, and a bunch of fake deer. Oh, and a fake bear. It just looks dumb. However, it seems to me that the special effects, especially after that rough start, are better in this than they were in the Franco movie. The expressions feel more appropriate, too. Sure, the monkey talk gets a little tiresome at times, but the motion-capture stuff really works here. And I can't believe how well it works in some scenes, especially whenever there's a shot of an ape riding a horse. I'm not sure I've seen a CGI creation come to life as well as some of these primates since Jar Jar Binks. That's especially true with Caesar. I've poked fun at Andy Serkis's work before, or at least with the amount of praise the guy gets for hunching over and making faces. Here, Caesar is such a sympathetic character. The director really digs into this character's head, and it's not like we've got voiceover narration or internal dialogue or any trickery. It's through the narrative and the work that Serkis does. The ape commands this respect, probably because the other apes are reminded of Vin Diesel whenever Caesar talks about home and family. Kudos on creating a fantastic character. The villain in this is menacing, Caesar's son is conflicted, the main human played by Jason Clarke is likable, and Gary Oldman--in a role that seems smaller than what you'd expect--is electrifying. But it's really Caesar who drives this movie.

Is there another actor who can holler a speech through a megaphone better than Gary Oldman, by the way? I don't think there is.

The storytelling in this is just as good as the first movie, but the visuals are much better. I've already mentioned that the non-human characters feel more real. The shots of those characters against wonderfully-textured backgrounds also are great. The visuals give this a narrative drive. There's power with the way these characters are shot. No, I'm not convinced that ten years is going to make San Francisco that green, but how great is the world building there? The monkey's home, the shots in the woods, and the sadly-neglected Golden Gate Bridge. I like how they've got that landmark as an important fixture in both of these movies. That's this series' Statue of Liberty, I guess. There's also a great shot of a 76 gas station with Robbie Robertson singing "Take a load off, Annie" from "The Weight" that is really cool. This movie just looked so good. Not flawless, and there are scenes where you see through the special effects a little, but it looks good, the kind of thing where you know some care went into the set design and shot set-ups. The most impressive scene might be when the main human character takes off on a dangerous mission to get some medical supplies. There's this great extended shot with stuff busting through walls as Malcolm maneuvers through hallways and attempts to go down a staircase, a shot ending with the menacing image of an ape with a machine gun in the background. Perfect action movie making.

I can think of a lot of examples of movies that I liked a lot that had sequels that were terrible. [Note: A future list maybe?] I can't think of another example of a movie I hated that had a sequel I thought was so much better. It makes me wonder if I was just wrong about the first movie.

Oh, one more thing--I liked the visual bookends this movie had, too. Very nice.

Jodorowsky's Dune


2013 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Details Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempts to rape Frank Herbert, but with love.

Jodorowsky actually says that that's what he wanted to do. I suppose most people watching this documentary are going to come away with one conclusion--Alejandro Jodorowsky is a weirdo. And I can see that. Geniuses, especially the artistic kinds, are often too different to be accepted by non-geniuses. Still, I can't see how anybody can watch this and not fall in love with Alejandro Jodorowsky. This was wall-to-wall fascinating. Here's are ten things I picked up from this movie:

1) "You can't have a masterpiece without madness." That's a thread that runs through this entire thing and, I reckon, Jodorowsky's entire career. There's truth to it. I've tried writing before, and I just can't. There's a required devotion, and I really do think a person's got to be a little crazy to create great art. Of course, somebody could read the 2,500 or so blog entries I've written over the past several years and say, "But you've committed to this crap? Isn't there madness there?" And yes, there probably is. But it takes a special kind of madness to make things that are beautiful. Jodorowsky's got that special kind of madness.

2) Jodorowsky wanted this movie to change the world, duplicate an LSD trip without the drug, and introduce a god. Those are ambitious goals he and his "warriors" had! I do not, by the way, buy everything in this movie about how this film would have changed blockbusters or been some sort of revelation. It is interesting watching some of the career trajectories of people involved with this though. Would Alien have existed without the preproduction work with this movie?

3) Jodorowsky wanted to make Dune without first having read it.

4) David Carradine was going to be in this, and the first time Jodorowsky and Carradine met, the latter saw the former's vitamin E pills, got excited about them, and then ate 60 dollars worth of them.

5) Jodorowsky yelled at the members of Pink Floyd for eating hamburgers when they met. Pink Floyd? Magma? Holy cow, this would have had a bitchin' soundtrack!

6) Son Brontis trained for 6 hours a day for 2 years--karate and acrobatics--for the Kyle MacLachlan role. That's dedication. So many of the people involved with this had a similar dedication. Jodorowsky in the 70's commanded that kind of dedication from the people he worked with, and the shocking thing is that he seemed to get it.

7) Salvador Dali was going to be in this? I don't believe I'd ever heard his speaking voice. It was as strange as his mustache. I would have loved to be a fly in the wall at that first meeting, by the way. Jodorowsky talked about how Dali asked him if he'd ever found clocks in the sand, apparently some sort of surrealist ice-breaker. Jodorowsky answered that he'd never found a clock but that he lost a lot. I want to go back in time and party with those two.

8) Udo Kier, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali. I'm not sure why a studio didn't jump all over this. Welles, by the way, was chosen for a part because he was fat. "A guy who's always in the air because he's too heavy. . .Orson Welles!" The delivery in that part of the interview was awesome.

9) The guy in charge of Carpenter's Dark Star special effects--Dan O'Bannon--was involved with this early on. His first meeting with Jodorowsky involved a special marijuana and Jodorowsky's face turning into some sort of mandala. Does Jodorowsky hypnotize people or is he just hypnotic?

10) "Don't change my dream." That's what separates people who make movies and artists. Jodorowsky doesn't make movies. He makes dreams. And the conviction he has in his ideas just makes you have to appreciate the man. So does hearing him passionately talk about how movies should have heart, mind, power, and ambition. Jodorowsky once said that he makes movies with this testicles. Director Nicolas Winding Refn says in this that studios approached with this Dune were scared of Jodorowsky. It's a shame that studios are scared of directors who make films with their testicles.

Bonus thing: The glee on Jodorowsky's face when he describes seeing Lynch's Dune and finding out it was "awful" and a "failure"? It made me so happy.

"What is the goal of life? It's to create yourself a soul." --Alejandro Jodorowsky

Bad Movie Club: I Am Here....Now


2009 space Jesus movie

Bad Movie Rating: 5/5 (Johnny: 5/5; Fred: 8/5; Libby: 4/5; Kristen: 5/5; Josh: 5/5; Eric: no rating)

Real Movie Rating: 2/20

Plot: Space being Neil Breen lands his grandmother's paperweight in the a baby-doll-head-littered desert near Las Vegas. And he brought his monster mask with him because he's here to teach us lessons about renewable energy. He steals a drug addict's clothing and truck (probably a hybrid) and drives to town to get angry and do a bunch of unrelated things. Then, he shares an awkward moment with a woman who has wings tattooed on her back and leaves, but not before threatening us with a sequel.


There's Neil Breen. Josh found that ad. I guess when you're the #1 realtor in Las Vegas, it gives you certain liberties. You can almost hear him whispering in your ear (probably through the rubber lips of a monster mask) throughout the entire movie: "Selling houses is a cinch. Watch me make a movie." Anyway, I don't want to write about this movie. You just need to see it because it's an incredible work of art and about to become your favorite movie of all time.

Instead, here's a letter that I've written to Neil Breen. I'll follow up with what I guess will be my blog's first-ever interview if he writes back.

Mr. Breen, 

A few of my friends and I watched I Am Here....Now last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it had almost this mystical quality, and I've really never seen anything like it. And I watch a lot of movies! The movie had a little bit of everything--violence, action, spiritualism, romance, humor, environmental awareness, science fiction. Anyway, I have a few questions about your movie: 

1) I'll start with the end--it seems that your character sets things up for a sequel with a promised return. Do you have plans for an 'I Am Here....Again'? Have you started writing a screenplay? 

2) This movie has almost an avant-garde approach, especially with some of the editing and all of those doll heads in the desert. Who are some of your cinematic idols? What films influenced your work? 

3) The following images or ideas from the movie were fascinating, but I'm not sure I understand any of them. I know a lot of artists don't like to explain their creations, but could you elaborate on any of these? 
-- the doll heads in the desert
-- the monster mask
-- the shots of the main character where seems to be part-robot or part-computerized
-- the gas guzzler that the character ends up borrowing from the drug addicts in the desert--is the irony intentional? 

4) "The Being" reminded us of the Biblical Christ. White robe, stigmata, miracles. He also had a compassion for the downtrodden--Jesus did, after all, befriend a prostitute in the Gospels--and a love for the Earth like I imagine the real Jesus would have had. Some of his actions, however, seem to clash a little with what you'd expect from Jesus. He steals a truck, he makes characters' eyes bleed, he has relations with a woman. I don't even know what my question is here. 

5) The decision to crucify the evildoers of the world was an interesting one. Money-hungry capitalists, gang members, those responsible for the destruction of the environment. A small handful of sinners were punished, but I'm not sure that's enough of a warning to persuade humanity to take advantage of the second chance The Being gives them at the end of this movie. What do you think makes this character decide to spare humanity and keep his experiment going? 

6) Why the four dots in the title ellipsis? I'm an English teacher, so I felt that I had to ask. 

I appreciate the time you took to even read any of this. And thanks for making this thought-provoking and endlessly-fascinating film. I watch a lot of movies and have a modest little movie blog, and I Am Here....Now has been one of my favorite movie experiences in a very long time. I'm looking forward to watching your other work. 

Your newest fan, 

Shane

Breen's (quick) response: 

Thanks .There is no sequel . I made FATEFUL FINDINGS ( in theatres for the last 14 mo. ) after NOW in 2012 . I'm now shooting PASS THRU . Have no idols . Influence by many films . You can freely interpret the images . literally or figuratively . They are metaphors . Crosses are metaphors for eliminating many people .

So there you go. Neil Breen either doesn't have any time to waste with bozos, doesn't like the cut of my jib, was offended by my questions about the ellipses, or a combination of 2 or all 3 of those. I'll tell you what though. The way he talks about his own work reminds me of another auteur.

He also said I could share this:

Go see http://igg.me/at/Pass-Thru-film . for a 10 video presentation for Pass Thru .

Fast & Furious 6


2013 furious and fast sequel

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The team is pulled out of their semi-idyllic retirement by The Rock with promises of pardons and home. And because somebody realized that there was a lot more money to squeeze from this franchise. They have to stop a group of bad guys--including somebody who had died in a previous movie because that's the type of movie this is--from stealing a bunch of stuff and doing a bunch of stuff with it.

The Rock eats 7 meals a day and 821 pounds of cod per year. And before you get all excited--no, I did not do any research for this blog post. You should know me better than that by now. That was information that I stumbled upon. Anyway, I think this is further proof that the guy just isn't a real human being.

This movie summed up in three words spoken by one of the characters:

"This is crazy."

It is crazy. Like, crazy of the batshit variety. I've decided that these Fast & Furious movies (or sans ampersand or missing one of the words or whatever) are soap operas for men, only more ludicrous.  The dead character being resurrected is probably enough to make anybody think "soap opera," of course. This replaces the ludicrous relationship dynamics of those afternoon "stories" some women (and I guess some men) enjoy watching with ludicrous action scenes. I was reading the imdb trivia section for this movie because I didn't think I had wasted enough of my life watching three of these movies in a 48 hour period, and I came across this tidbit that made me laugh:

"The scene where the atm is dispensing cash and showering the people with money is technically impossible."

THAT'S technically impossible? Vin Diesel flying off a car he was driving from one side of a highway bridge to the other side while catching a woman who had been tossed from a high-speed tank and then landing safely on another car isn't a problem, but seeing money fly from an atm bothered somebody? The Rock's leap from one level of a parking garage to a racing car below? Nobody had an issue with the technical impossibility of that one? Crazy, indeed!

"How'd you know there would be a car there to break our fall?"
"I didn't. Some things you just have to take on faith."

You have to make a leap of faith right with this movie. Assume that all this high-flying nonsense is going to do the following:

1) Stay on the side of the line that was crossed a long time ago, the line between big dumb movie action ridiculousness and batshit crazy ridiculous. That's where it belongs, and that's where it will entertain the hell out of you.

2) Not cross over a third line somewhere out there, and get just a little too wacky and cartoonish. Because then your head will literally explode.

This is a movie you watch without a net. And by the way, I'd like to see statistics on the movie franchise that has made the most heads explode. I'm willing to bet it's this one. This arguably does number 2 up there. Some people--probably an old guy who had no friends growing up--is going to watch that tank scene and say, "Wait a second, what about physics?" But then Vin Diesel will sit down next to him--because Vin Diesel is always watching you--and put his arm around him and say, "Are you disrespecting my family?" which will cause the old guy to shit himself and have to leave the theater, probably with an escort. I like that these movies seem to be less realistic as they go. The problems are still very real, and the relationships are still very real, but the action sequences are just nuts. It's almost transformed from big explosion-y action car chase crime heist movie into something else--something a little closer to science fiction. It's a wild ride, and although you might want to drink while watching (from bottles, like the characters in the movie), you do not want to play a drinking game where you drink a shot every time a character says "I got this." You'll die. This sixth movie is probably my favorite installment yet. The bad guys are cool, there's a great Scooby Doo reference, and there's a freakin' tank. And you get to learn all about how you shouldn't turn your back on family.

Le Grand Amour


1969 romantic comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Guy gets married, then gets bored, then attempts to woo his much-younger secretary.

This Etaix comedy is more reminiscent of Woody Allen, though more polite, than Buster Keaton. It's got that playful Woody-esque vibe with a whimsical look at marriage and in-laws, but it's also a little darker, though still comical, investigation at domestic ennui and infidelity as well. This is all about the fun little moments, some of them pretty inventive. Most surrealistically--and probably memorably--are a pair of scenes with a rolling bed. It looked like it could be something from a Bunuel movie actually. Slight, fluffy, but nonetheless charmingly satirical. This doesn't feel vital like Yoyo, but it's worth watching if you like this sort of whimsical French comedy or Woody.

Million Dollar Arm


2014 true story movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An aspiring agent travels to India to look for major league pitching talent.

In the excitement of those Fast and Furious movies, I actually forgot that I watched this. The coolest man I've ever met recommended this to me, and I was in the mood for a feel-good baseball movie. Since it's a feel-good baseball movie--on top of that, one from the Disney people--you know exactly how it's going to go. This pretty much takes the trajectory you expect, but if you're looking for lots of baseball, you'll probably be disappointed. Unfortunately, this is more about Jon Hamm's character arc than it is about the two Indian kids trying to crack the big leagues. And Jon Hamm's character is really an unlikable guy, so he's not easy to root for. What I wasn't expecting was that this movie would be so funny. You've got a pair of fish-out-of-water stories here. Hamm's character is in an India he doesn't understand. Almost weirdly, the Disney people make it seem like the Indian people are the oddballs, however, and that white-guy Jon Hamm is the only person who fits in. It's strange. Then, you've got the Indian kids trying to make sense of America, our hotels, and our pizzas. That pair of baseball prospects is likable, and so is the little guy who comes along with him. Funniest of all is Alan Arkin as a scout. I think he was a scout anyway. He's settled into these curmudgeonly roles so well. This throws loud hip hop music, a relationship subplot with Lake Bell, and unfortunately some Bill Paxton. I consider it a minor victory, however, since I didn't really feel like punching Bill Paxton's character even once during this. Jon Hamm, on the other hand? I wouldn't have minded punching him. And I guess that's what keeps this from being a good sports movie. It's so much about a character you don't even like, and the parts that probably sold this movie when it was being pitched aren't in the forefront.

Fast Five


2011 sequel

Rating: 14/20

Plot: After busting Dominic out of prison before he's even in prison, he and Paul Walker and Dominic's sister whom Paul Walker is sleeping retreat to Rio de Janeiro. They're fugitives with no way out until they find themselves millions of dollars ready to be stolen.

One of the characters--one of the black ones, I think--says, "This sounds crazy," while the team of criminals are discussing their plans. "This sounds crazy" is the kind of thing that had to have been said at least a hundred times by the writers as they sat around and made this screenplay. But from the looks of things, it was probably followed with, "Who cares? Let's do it anyway!" more often than not. My friend Rubber Duck tried to tell me about the climax of this movie, a ludicrous action sequence involving a 10-ton safe, but he couldn't adequately prepare me for the amount of stupid that I would witness. And when I say stupid, I mean stupid fresh. Throw all logic out the window with this installment of this franchise. Characters won't really behave in ways that make much sense. Cars will do things that cars aren't supposed to do. People will survive things that no human being--not even ones with the physique of a Vin Diesel or a Dwayne Johnson--should survive. And, in what is probably the biggest bitch slap to your logic, the characters spend a large chunk of time planning and preparing and practicing for this heist before something happens that causes them to move to Plan B which consists of driving a large vehicle through a wall. It's ludicrous, but it's at least ludicrous action done right. Like the fourth movie, this starts with some zippy car choreography and a giant part-CGI crash scene, but it's a mere tease of what you're getting later. The prison break doesn't seem all that well thought out, by the way. It seems like Vin Diesel would have been killed in the first five minutes of this movie. But what do I know? I don't make movies and haven't played with Hot Wheels in years.

I should stop here and remind everybody that this is just a movie with professional stunt drivers and professional special effects people and that you should under no circumstances try any of this at home. The credits for the fourth movie actually say something like that. Like, anybody's going to grab his '96 Tercel and race through busy streets while pursing his lips and flexing his triceps after turning to your competitors and saying, with that cool guy nod that looks much better if you're bald, things like, "Hey, ya ready to do dis, brah?" I should probably advise you similarly. I know that I probably make blogging look safe and easy, but please keep in mind that I am a professional. Don't try to watch this many movies and write about them at home. You'll get carpal tunnel syndrome and your wife and children will resent you.

Oh, and I was so pleased to see Jay Jackson--Perd Hapley from Parks and Recreation--reporting on the prison bus crash. I was thrown off a little when he was just a legitimate news talking head here instead of that guy on the sitcom who made me laugh almost every single time, but it was still good to see him.

This installment disposes with the whole is-Paul-Walker-a-criminal-or-not goofiness and focuses on a simpler crime story that apparently allowed them to put the emphasis on the action scenes. Sure, there's a pregnancy, a touching conversation about fathers that shows the complete lack of range our two stars have, dead girlfriend moping, and some other moments where cliche oozes in, but for most of the 2+ hours here, you just get to watch cars being driven outrageously, high-flying chase acrobatics on Rio de Janeiro rooftops, shoot-outs, explosions, and fisticuffs. Dwayne Johnson is not a good actor at all. He weirdly delivers these strained tough guy lines ("You know I like my desserts first.") and seems at times like a character who's even too much even for a movie like this. But the guy's got presence, and he's definitely a welcome addition to the franchise. The first meeting between Diesel and The Rock (the latter busting out of a window while the former turns his head and notices--like really notices--him) is thrilling, and then you're just anticipating a giant meat-head brawl that you know has to happen. And when it does, you're not disappointed. The editing during that fistfight is the kind of quick thing that might give you a headache, but these are guys who were born to punch other guys on the screen. I was actually a little sore after watching that fight scene. That chase-and-shootout scene on the rooftops didn't make a lot of sense, and it's almost insane how impossible it is to machine-gun shoot any character with a name. But it's frenetic and fun stuff. The two biggest action sequences that bookend this are also both an explosion of stupid fun. You won't believe that the characters survived a train heist unscathed, and that scene with the safe, which I've already mentioned, is something you just don't want to think about because thinking ruins a movie like this. The people making these things aren't taking much of it all that seriously, so why should we?

Fast & Furious

2009 action movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Brian, the cop from the first of these movies, is now somehow working for the FBI, and he teams up with his old buddy Dominic to find a heroin kingpin.

So, I watched and enjoyed the first of these movies several years ago, saw the first movie for a second time immediately followed by the Diesel-less sequel while sitting on the old urine couch, and then really had no interest in any of the others. Part of the reason is because of the titles which confuse me.

The Fast and the Furious--No problem here. It's the title of the original movie Corman-produced movie from the mid-50's and has some nice alliteration. That's a great title!

2 Fast 2 Furious--What? Ok, this isn't confusing at all, but it uses the number instead of the adverb and probably made me lose 2 IQ points 2 Quick just by reading it.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift--The only movie in the franchise with a subtitle. This one is the third in the series but apparently takes place after the sixth in the series. And it doesn't have a 3 in it. Shouldn't it be The Fast 3 and 3 Furious: Tokyo 3 Drift or something? No Diesel or Paul Walker in this one?

Fast & Furious--Now I'm completely thrown off. I wasn't expecting something this simple. Suddenly, Diesel and Walker are back in the picture. And there's an ampersand. Maybe this is a reboot? Maybe the movies that follow are going to have symbols?

Fast Five--And all of a sudden, I'm forced to wonder if things stop getting furious after the fourth movie which is actually chronologically the third movie. There's got to be some reason why the title is suddenly only part of the original title with a number. Are there five characters? Are they indeed not furious anymore?

Fast & Furious 6--See, now they're messing with me. The ampersand returns, along with the word furious, but they're also using a number. They need to make up their minds.

Furious 7--Come on! Like the fifth one, this loses half of the title. And it has a number only it's the symbol for the number instead of the spelled-out word. Furious Seven. It makes it seem like a kung-fu movie or something. And maybe it is a kung-fu movie--but with cars!

I've put a lot of thought into this, and I think I've figured out what the title of the 8th installment will be:

Fast 8 Furious: Infinite Drift


If you don't understand why that's going to be the title, you're not smart enough to watch the movie anyway. And if you can't watch these movies and have a little bit of fun, you probably don't have a pulse. I didn't really have any interest in them, but the trailer for the 7th one looked like the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I was sold though after my buddy Rubber Duck shared his excitement about seeing the new one and waxed poetically about the fifth and sixth movies in the franchise. I was promised something ridiculous, was kind of in the mood for something ridiculous, and I got something ridiculous. I've got to hand it to director Justin Lin--the guy knows how to grab your attention in the opener. This opens with an incredibly intense and CGI stunt-filled gas truck heist with the obligatory blurry hot rods, explosions, and a lizard. Does it make any sense at all? No. Do people and vehicles obey the laws of physics? Nope. Does it freakin' entertain the shit out of you? Absolutely! Sure, there's some obviously fake CGI vehicular tumbling in there, but this is about as well done as an action scene of this magnitude can be. Unfortunately, it turns out that it's all a kind of a cinematic premature ejaculation because I don't think there's anything that happens later in this that matches the adrenaline-pumping action of that sequence. Things quiet down, an actual plot emerges, there's stuff like character development and dialogue that just gets in the way, and there are parts where the music is telling me that I'm supposed to be a little sad. Paul Walker's still nothing more than a pretty face with incredibly pretty eyes, and Vin Diesel is an action figure, all improbable skull and hulking shoulders. When they're sitting behind the wheels of their cars, they're fine. When they have to speak and act more like humans? Ehh, it just doesn't work as well. There are times when Vin Diesel has these lines--or when he's dissin' a ho--that inflates his tough guy image, but it's really not needed. He can be a tough-enough character just by standing there flexing his scalp. The best character in this thing might be a minor character named Dwight, played by Greg Cipes. I'm a sucker for characters who talk about themselves in the third person. This is paced fairly well, but I would have liked to see more of those big action sequences. Some shenanigans in a cave didn't really do much for me, partially because it just didn't look as realistic as the stuff with the lizard in the beginning.