Time Travel Movie Fest: The Final Countdown

1980 historical time travel movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An aircraft carrier from 1980 is transported to December 6, 1941. Apparently, something important happened on December 7th, but I'm not enough of a history buff to know what that would be.

Random things I was distracted by while watching this movie:

1) The title--I couldn't get the Europe song out of my head. Obviously.
2) This reminded me of the game Battleship and how easy it was to cheat. "B3," guesses your opponent. Well, B3 was a hit until I just inconspicuously lifted my aircraft carrier off the board and put it someplace else. So, miss. Anyway, I kept wondering if that was going to be the surprise twist ending with this movie.

Lloyd Kaufman, of Troma infamy, executive-produced this and has a small part. It's not a tongue-in-cheek movie at all though. In fact, it's about as straight as it comes. I wish it would have tackled the ethics a little more. Here are characters who are faced with a moral dilemma about whether to change history and what the implications of that might be. Martin Sheen brings up the grandfather paradox like he knows what he's talking about, and the characters discuss the rights and wrongs of the whole thing a little bit, but there was so much more that could have been done with the idea. And it's hard to take Martin Sheen seriously because he looks a little too much like Charlie Sheen in this one. I really liked the concept here, but it just doesn't go anywhere.

I will say this--this is one of the few time travel movies I've seen during my Time Travel Movie Fest where the characters don't do anything that would create the paradoxes that often sink these types of movies or at least confuse people. For the most part, their little adventure doesn't change anything at all. I had to give it a bonus point for that.

Of course, that might be what makes the movie a little boring. It's a cool concept, but they go nowhere with it. They could have played with alternate time lines and other funky time-travel things. I suppose the budget limited them a bit. There's one scene that shows modern fighter jets and Japanese kamikaze pilots, shots that are almost surreal. I guess in 1980, it would have been hard to pull off a reinvention of Pearl Harbor with all these modern weapons.

Speaking of weapons, there's a lot of military fetishism going on here. This was made with the cooperation of the Navy according to the credits, and about 40% of the movie is just showing off the Navy's toys. With the over-the-top music, it started to feel like an advertisement for our military after a while.

I liked the time warp thing in this even if it was an antiquated special effect. The time travel itself is screechy and warped. It was pretty cool. But even though this movie won't be difficult to remember, it's not really because any of it is especially memorable.

Note: I have never lost a game of Battleship, probably because my little plastic ships frequently time-traveled.

Bad Movie Club: The 5 Kung Fu Kids

1988 kung-fu comedy

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Josh: 1/5; Fred: 3/5; Libby: 3/5; Kristen: gave up; Alicia: gave up)

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Some kids get their marshmallow handbag mixed up with the marshmallow handbag of some criminals, and Nicole Kidman's not around to do anything about it.

Confession: I have no idea what happened in this movie. That happens when you're watching an Asian movie with no subtitles. Of course, it was dubbed. In German. How's that for an interesting experience? A kung-fu comedy dubbed in German. I can't say I'd recommend the experience. Josh, as a matter of fact, told me that this was the worst experience of his entire life. Or something like that. I'm paraphrasing. This is what happens when you put Fred and Libby in charge of Bad Movie Club for a night, I guess.

Actually, I'm not 100% positive that we even watched a movie called The 5 Kung Fu Kids. The title screen said Lucky Kids: The 5 Superfighters, but I can't find anything called that. I looked up the name of the director--Chu Chen Huang--and found this. Fred and Libby actually wanted to watch a kung-fu movie they caught part of at a restaurant called The Five Superfighters, but they mistakenly led us to this one instead.

Of course, it could be this movie:

Do I have a lot to say about this movie? I don't know. A fight sequence that utilizes bicycles isn't half bad, and the lengthy fight-filled climax has a few good moments. And a lot of people flying out of windows. In fact, it might break some sort of record for the most characters who break through windows in one movie. What else does this have to offer? You've got comical costumes; 4 kids who, if you squint and tilt your head to the side, kind of look like Herve Villachaize; some exaggerated sound effects, bicycle braking squeaks and misplayed trombones and Pacman dying sounds; a second BMC outing featuring Japanese hopping vampires; a soundtrack that can't figure out what it wants to be but does impress by lifting parts of the score from Raiders of the Lost Ark; characters dressed like Mario and Luigi; a trio of rectal gags and one fart attack. It's the sort of thing you imagine Japanese people laughing at, but I doubt it would have been any funnier even if it was in English and I could understand what the hell was going on.

Bad Movie Club has reached a new low.

I think I've seen these hopping vampires in four movies now. I can't say I understand what's going on there.

Goodbye to Language

2014 movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Hell if I know.

I want to make it clear that I did not watch this Godard movie in 3D like it was intended to be experienced. From what I've read, it's an even more mind-bending experience where the technology is used to fuck with the audience's heads more than anything. I read a description somewhere (sorry I can't cite the source) that talked about how studios are working hard to make 3D more comfortable for audiences but that Godard seems to be doing everything he can to do the exact opposite. I'm sure, if this alternate poster is any indication, watching this in 3D would have definitely improved things.

Yeah, look at that. I just can't imagine anybody seeing that and saying, "There's a movie I'd like to see." I don't think I've seen anything by Jean-Luc Godard that wasn't made in the 1960s, weird because I really like the stuff he did during that decade. Apparently, he's just as rascally as ever, even in his 80s. This is definitely what you'd call an adventurous endeavor, and Godard isn't doing anything--the storytelling, the cinematography, the music, the utilization of modern technology--traditionally.

The problem is that it doesn't feel like the work of an experienced avant-gardist. It feels like the work of a kid trying to impress his professors in film school. I know I should probably just trust Godard and assume that A) the story about a infidelity and doggies actually does make sense and B) he's saying something really really important, but I just couldn't crack the thing at all and really have no interest in making second or third efforts. If you eat pistachios at all, you know that every once in a while, you find one that is impossible to crack open. You look all around the thing for a tiny opening that you could use another shell or a fingernail to turn into a larger opening, but you can't. It's impenetrable, and eventually, you realize that you don't like pistachios enough to even bother anymore and just throw the whole thing away. That's kind of how I feel about Goodbye to Language.

Part of the problem is that it's just so cheap looking. Most of the movie looks like home video footage except a lot of it has the wrong colors. It has the look of a half-assed effort, and I know saying that is about as fair as me calling this whole thing pretentious because I didn't understand it, but I can't help it. There are individual shots that are artistically beautiful or artistically ugly, but most of what you see in this bloated 70 minute film will just make you wonder why it's there at all. It's the same with the numerous references to literature and history. Musical snippets start and stop abruptly, and it just feels like Godard is dicking around, like the whole thing is some sort of joke.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm probably just not smart enough to get this. But I couldn't take things seriously and even bother trying anymore after a scene where a guy poops. What the hell, Godard?

In the end, I suspected that Godard had nothing at all to say and just wanted to give his dog a starring role in a movie. His dog (Roxy Mieville) is pretty good, and I'm sure it had a stronger grasp on what this movie's about than I did. Here's Roxy, the Jaden Smith of dogs.

Yes, that's what a lot of the movie looked like. If only I could have seen it in 3D!

Horrible Bosses

2011 comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Three friends having trouble with their horrible bosses borrow the idea of the characters from Strangers on a Train.

I don't really have anything to say about this one. It's a Hangover clone. Charlie Day overacts, Jason Sudeikis spouts lines that could probably be spouted by any character he plays, and Jason Bateman does his normal Jason Bateman thing. I'm not sure what Jennifer Aniston thinks she's doing with her career. Kevin Spacey is pretty good. Oh, and there's a character named Motherfucker. There are a few funny moments that might even make the thing worth watching, but it's all kind of the verbal equivalent of characters poking each other in the eyes, Stooges style.

Seriously, Jennifer Aniston needs a new agent.

Arizona Dream

1992 movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A turtle and/or a fish have a dream about people.

When I last mentioned Emir Kusturica on this blog, it was when writing about Underground, a movie that I loved. Here, Kusturica got a chance to direct a Hollywood movie with a Hollywood budget and Hollywood stars. I mean, here's Johnny Depp post-Scissorhands and ready to explode with all those mid-90's roles. Here's Faye Dunaway, stunning at 50-something. And here's Jerry Lewis, taking a break from telethoning to make some funny faces and noises.

I'm sure whatever production company gave Kusturica this money were thrilled with the results--a surreal comedy/drama with a baffling narrative and seemingly no interest in saying much of anything. I don't believe he's worked in Hollywood again, but I'm not sure if he's been banned from Southern California or anything. He's just the type of guy with the type of ideas that clash with what Hollywood usually offers.

I just think this movie, regardless of whether or not it means anything or really makes that much sense, just works. As any reader of this blog knows, I like my avant-garde with a generous helping of humor. You have to appreciate how assured the direction is. Add Kusturica to that list of directors who are capable of creating dreams on film, and with pink balloons over the Yukon wilderness or that fish undulating through the Arizona dry air or a shot of a dog in a movie theater, the imagery is great. There's an attention to detail here that I like a lot here, and you really want to pay attention because you assume there's symbolism at play. Eventually, you kind of decide that this is more like the work of a lunatic with a cast of lunatics playing lunatics and that if you're searching for symbolism, you might be trying to hard. As Gallo's character says here--"Bullshit artist, artist, whatever. Art is art."

A lot of why this works is its unpredictability. The dialogue's offbeat and consistently humorous, and there are all kinds of visual gags--pig snoring, a suicide attempt featuring pantyhose that is a beautiful slice of black comedy. The movie's so funny that you don't even end up thinking the movie's too long even though the movie is probably too long. But it's really that unpredictability that keeps this thing driving forward. You just never really know what's going to happen next. Jerry Lewis might start swinging a broom around in a car graveyard again. Depp, who is mostly a straight man in this one, might act like a rooster as some sort of fowl foreplay. Vincent Gallo might reenact scenes from North By Northwest or The Wizard of Oz. Throw in rainy pinata beating, lots of accordion, chair dancing, flying machines, guns, turtles, faux-Eskimo language, and anything else that Kusturica can think of, and you've got yourself a movie that is undeniably a mess. But it's a mess that more adventurous cinephiles might get a kick out of and even, if they really stretch things, learn from.

Depp's character provides this pseudo-philosophical narration. At one point, he says, "Sometimes you have to crash and hit your head on a tree to know what to do and realize that everything is meaningless." I'm not sure if I hit my head on a tree while watching this movie, but it might be the kind of thing that can help.

The score is provided by Kusturica-regular Goran Bregovic, accordion-heavy gypsy funk that blends with the Django Reinhardt tracks the characters listen and sometimes dance to or the weird Iggy Pop songs that are in this.

Anyway, I'm probably doing a terrible job of selling this movie, but I really did love it. I liked the performances--Depp as the straight man, Jerry Lewis who is doing exactly what you'd expect Jerry Lewis to be doing, Faye Dunaway who looks so good and plays this childish middle-aged mood-swingy part terrifically, a tragic Lilli Taylor, a controlled but still sort-of unhinged Vincent Gallo. They're characters who just shouldn't have been left in the same movie together, but Kusturica throws them all into the pot, stirs it up, sprinkles in some of that gypsy music and adds a pinch or two of surrealism, and then lets the thing simmer.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

2014 spy movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A group of spies has to stop Samuel L. Jackson from taking over the world. Two newly-trained recruits are thrust into the action.

Sometimes, I wish I were English so that I could get away with saying things like "geezer" and "tits up."

This movie irritated me, mostly because it overindulges and fails to reach its potential. And it had some potential as this ultra-modern Bond update complete with gadgets and comic book villains with comic book plots. It's not short on ideas, but writer/director Matthew Vaughn either doesn't seem to know where the lines are or just has no problem crossing into ludicrous and gratuitous territories.

Take the violence, for example. I have no problem with violence in movies. Tarantino, as far as I'm concerned, can take out as many of the bad guys (or even the good guys) as he wants and do it in the most twisted ways imaginable. Generally, we don't see regular folk dying though, and there are a couple scenes here--most gratuitously, a scene in a church--where a bunch of regular people are slaughtered in some of the most vicious ways imaginable. They don't matter to me, they don't matter to the other characters, and they don't matter to the director. After all, they're not real human beings, right? But there's the old rule in movies that characters who do really bad things need to be punished by the end of the movie, and I think the reverse should be true as well. It's unsettling when auxiliary characters are thrown onto the screen only to have their body parts ripped off, their heads bashed in, their stomachs pierced, or their bones cracked. This particular scene pushes the plot forward a tiny bit because we get to see the antagonist's plan in action, but enough was enough. The first stylized fight sequence is pretty cool--modern and elegant with its technological enhancements and creativity. Gradually, I just kind of got tired of seeing the same things over and over. By the final big fight scene, I'd stopped caring at all and didn't even really care what happened. It was all flash and no heart.

Kingsman sickens in other ways, too. Loud techno music accompanying every moment when a character does anything. A mention of Iggy Azalea. An ending featuring, for really no reason at all, a woman's buttocks and suggestions of anal sex. And a McDonalds commercial. That's right--a McDonalds commercial. There's big music, a platter full of McDonalds products, a "happy meal" pun, and a big Samuel L. Jackson grin at the end. Jackson should know better, but by the end of the advertisement-within-a-movie, I actually expected Jackson to look into the camera and say, with a lisp, "I'm lovin' it!" before Grimace and the Hamburglar pop into the scene to reveal that they're Jackson's henchmen.

This movie also carries some of the meta stuff a little too far. Jackson's character keeps referencing action or comic book motifs and then saying stuff like, "This ain't that kind of movie." If it was half as clever as it thought it was, it'd be cute. Mixed in with the rest of the silliness, it just seems kind of dumb.

I wish I liked the characters more. I thought Colin Firth, enhanced by those special effects, was cool--suave badassery. Bald Merlin's underdeveloped, but he's not a bad character. Michael Caine plays the same guy he always plays but with a twist you can see coming from a mile away. I won't even warn you about a spoiler there because the movie doesn't do a good enough job of hiding it. Samuel L. Jackson has a convincing lisp, so convincing that I actually started wondering if he had that lisp in every movie and I just ignored it. The whole bad guy plot is really silly, something you'd expect from an episode of the old Batman television show, and his bodyguard/henchwoman, although she works as eye candy with legs to die for, doesn't add all that much to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the main character (Eggsy) just isn't very likable. He's that cliched troubled young thuggish guy who, through the magic of movies, gets himself a second chance. I just didn't like the guy and was a little annoyed when the movie forcefed me Eggsy as the main character.

But hey! It's Mark Hamill:

Lookin' good, Luke!

Time Travel Movie Fest: Somewhere in Time

1980 Superman sequel

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A playwright gets a gift from an old woman, and while taking a mini-vacation to get away from life's pressures, he figures out that he needs to travel back to the early-1900s because he's got a chance to get some. It's further proof that a man will do almost anything if there's a chance he can get laid.

It's easy to see why this movie didn't do all that well back in 1980. Look at that hideous poster. At first glance, it looks like Christopher Reeve's got his hands straight down the front of his pants while a disembodied Jane Seymour face peeks out from the pink murk. Of course, in other countries, they went with other colors:

En Algun Lugar del Tiempo! I think that make the title Some Day Place in the Time, but my Spanish isn't very good. There's also this poster:

That has a strange vomit-y color, and the humans, thankfully the same size in this one, have a realness that clashes with the background. And there's this dvd case picture:

That one makes this appear to be the dullest movie ever made, but at least it shows off Christopher Reeve's suit which, as you'll see from my thoughts below, I think is the real star of the show.

This one gets the Movies A-Go-Go treatment, so these are my unfiltered thoughts as I watched Somewhere in Time for somewhere around the third or fourth time. I saw it with my dad once because it's one of his favorite movies. I showed it to my wife once because I thought she might like it. (She didnt.) And I think I may have watched it another time before this one, too. Anyway, my thoughts when I watched it this time:

There was a time in my life when I wanted to be Christopher Reeve. Or Harrison Ford. But Reeve would have been a close second. And I still to this day don’t even know if it’s Reeve or Reeves.

My father says this is on the list of his favorite films of all time. He especially likes the score by John Barry.

Ack! Old Rose from Titanic is capable of stopping both music and conversation during a post-play celebration.

So my dad likes the score, but that wouldn’t include that piece by Rachmaninoff which just makes you feel like something’s going to happen. It's just the perfect selection for this movie. Of course, at this point, that "something going to happen" is only a pissed-off Christopher Reeve getting inside an elevator.

Grand Hotel carpet--makes you want to examine the carpet for Kubrickian clues about the moon landing.

A note: I’d love to live in a bungalow someday. And wear a vest. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in that order, of course.

Trivia: In the first draft of Somewhere in Time, they had Christopher Reeve flying around the world really fast and reversing its rotation in order to travel back in time.

Hot damn! Look at the twinkle in Christopher Reeve’s eyes!

Poor guy, lusting after a picture of a possibly-deceased woman in the Hall of History. I can identify though because I remember doing the same thing as a kid, only not in Mackinac Island. Sadly, I had as much of a chance at that stage of my life with the dead black-and-white woman in the framed picture than I did with anybody who happened to be alive.

Perfect librarian glasses there.

Oh, my! He just found an even hotter picture of Elise McKenna in the magazine! I just hope he can restrain from shooting his wad, non-proverbially, right there in the library. I've been there, too, Christopher Reeve. I've been there, too.

A lesson learned: When you’re going to go ask your old philosophy professor about time travel, make sure you’re picking out just the right belt buckle.

Students walking in the hall outside the classroom lumber along like zombies. The desire for extra screen time? I'm guessing that's it.

This is the second time travel movie I’ve watched recently--the first was The Jacket--in which a character is using time travel in order to get laid. You’re Christopher Reeve, man! You don’t have to get an old-timey suit and bowler and practice flirting in the mirror to get a woman!

June 27, 1912. That was a long time ago, but still after the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.

I guess you should have used Maxell cassettes, Christopher Reeve. If any cassette tape can whisk you back to June 27, 1912, it’s the one that blows the guy nearly out of his chair in those old commercials.

The score is really good. It blends very well.

Christopher Reeve’s going to get himself thrown in jail if he keeps smiling at children like that.

If I had directed this, five-year-old Arthur would have had a mustache. This movie would have gotten a lot better reviews if the kid would have had the same facial hair as the guy living in the bungalow.

There are scenes in Superman when Reeve, usually as Clark Kent, just seems huge and clumsy, having doors closed on him in the middle of a sentence or interrupting people who have no interest in anything he’s saying. He’s essentially playing Clark Kent without spectacles here, isn’t he? This is why I thought Christopher Reeve was over seven feet tall when I was a kid.

Before finding Ms. McKenna, I would have given that large pink-haired foreign lady a try.

Our first glimpse of Elise is nice--a reflection in a window at the same time Reeve spots her. And then the music picks up again and tells us how to feel about it all.

So let me answer the question you’re probably asking: Yes, I would definitely go back to 1912 to sleep with Jane Seymour, even if I had to wear a suit like that.

“Is it you?” I’m confused by that question, and I've seen this movie multiple times.

Rhythmic soup eating and a second chance at the pink-haired babe.

So far, almost everything Reeve is saying to Elise is creepy:

“I know everything about you.”
“You’ve no idea how far I’ve come to be with you.”
“There’s no need to be afraid of me, you know.”

That’s stalker talk. It’s a good thing she didn’t see him smiling at young Arthur earlier.

And she goes with him after he’s been thrown out for what reason exactly?

Reeve sleeping on the 1912 version of the Knights Inn Urine Couch. If I had been Arthur’s dad, he would have been chased away with the lot lizards.

“Good morning.” And now here's the part of the movie where she finds out that the guy only has one suit.

“Madam, if you do not walk with me, I shall go mad.” This entire scene could have used a rewrite.

Another scene with Reeve looking lasciviously at Arthur. This time, while holding a sack.

“See you around, Arthur.” Oh, boy.

Richard Matheson, author, in the scene where Reeve emerges after shaving.

"Yes, you can adapt my movie for the screen, but I demand a cameo! And I want a hat taller than Superman's hat!"

And there's Reeve having difficulty with a horse.

This walking scene reminds me of that Seurat painting.

This one--it also reminds me of a shot from Jaws

A guy with one suit who apparently can’t shave--Christopher Reeve better figure out how early-20th Century undergarments work because he’s quite the catch.

That’s not talking! That’s shoulder-grabbin’ and light fondling! And what a strange first kiss--upper lip nibbles. I’m going to have to try that move sometime.

This play scene: I’m all for improvisation and all, but I think she might be confusing everybody in the audience except for the guy with only one suit.

Let’s hear a soliloquy from the pink-haired lady. I bet that would be a lot raunchier.

I do like how that photograph works into their story. Back to the Future stole that move like I'm planning on stealing Christopher Reeve's upper-lip nibbling move.

Robinson’s handwriting seems threatening. And nothing good ever happens in a gazebo, does it? Just finish watching the play, Superman. Stay away from the gazebo.

Christopher Plummer might start taking bites out of the gazebo soon.

Uh oh. Another horse. And great, now Reeve’s only suit is going to smell like horse and hay.

More awkward kissing. Reeve really attacks that top lip, doesn’t he?

Here’s a change I would have made. Seymour lets her hair down and stares, almost at me in the future. The door slowly closes. Then, it fades to the two getting ready to engage in coitus. And there’s a candle. I think I would have either moved directly into the scene where they’re sharing chicken and grapes or shown Jane Seymour naked. The sex scene there was either not enough or too much.

Now, they’re kissing with mouthfuls of chicken. That always boosts the romance.

The slow-motion Christopher Reeve reaching where even his nine-feet-long arms are useless--that’s unintentionally funny.

Next time I hear somebody arguing in favor of keeping the penny around, I’m bringing up this movie. What happens to the poor guy here is enough reason to abolish the penny.

So here’s a question: If he could have successfully traveled back in time again, would that have created a paradox where Elise doesn’t meet him in the future and give him the watch and set in motion his whole trip back to the past? His horniness nearly caused time to implode.

Worst thing about all of this: Did he even get all the parts of his suit?

I don’t think a movie should end with this much moping, but the music is about perfect there.

Oh, I forgot. That’s not the ending. Here’s a much happier ending in which Christopher Reeve is reunited with his suit in some sort of fuzzy white eternity. It’s pretty gross.

I have to go back to the first scene because William H. Macy is in there somewhere. Ahh, there he is, the second actor to appear in this movie.

Now it's time to find out if Jane Seymour ever did a nude scene. Is that wrong of me?

Movie idea! A sequel to Somewhere in Time where somebody watches Somewhere in Time, buys two suits, hypnotizes himself, and then out-suits Christopher Reeve and wins Jane Seymour's heart. Arthur will end up murdering everybody. Working title--Somewhere in Time 2: The Man with Two Suits.

How many suits do you own, Cowboy? 

So where the heck did that watch come from? It's an enigma! 

Terminator Salvation

2009 superfluous sequel and money grab

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Ahh, who cares anymore? John Connor's now in the future, and he's turned into Batman or something. Arnold Schwarzenneger can't be bothered because he's turned into a politician. As long as there are explosions.

Moon Bloodgood, Common, and Jadagrace are all in this. And it's directed by McG, the guy who directed Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" video and two Charlie Angels movies. So you've got a cast made up of the children of Frank Zappa and rappers, and a guy who decided his professional name was going to be McG. The whole thing made me skeptical way before the movie even started.

I'll start with the good. Danny Elfman scored this. It's a departure from what he usually does. It's a dark score, and although he does dark very well, it's a different, more modern darkness. The score is definitely better than the last movie. The sound in general is very good. Techno noise emanated from my television in a way that threw me right into the middle of the action. And the world building here is pretty good. It's all very artificial, but a lot of the scenery just looks so cool. Yeah, it's sort of modern-day video game cool, but I could still appreciate the artistic side of things. I thought they went a little too far with the Holocaust allusions, trying to create sci-fi concentration camp parallels with the prisoner transport and the arrival at their "camps," but now that I think about it, I was probably just reading into things a little too much.

I don't know whose idea it was to make a Terminator movie that didn't involve time travel and one that had very little involvement from Schwarzenegger. That's a little like having an Indiana Jones movie but only putting the title character in it for about ten minutes, isn't it? Sure, there's an "I'll be back" shoved into this because there just has to be, but I needed more Schwarzenegger. And it seems weird to type that.

All these non-Schwarzeneggers failed to grab me at all. Christian Bale, despite being as indestructible as a cartoon character, is genuinely awful in this. It's really a terrible performance, and I'm not sure how he can mess up something that should have been so easy. All he had to do is run around and scream all his lines, and while he does run around and scream all his lines, he somehow still manages to fuck it up. Kyle Reese is played by Anton Yelchin, and we get more bad acting from him. The script does neither of them any favors, of course. It was written with a copy of 1001 Action Cliches You Need to Know or something close by. "Come with me if you want to live." Seriously? "You point a gun at someone, you better be ready to pull the triggers." Yuck. Kyle Reese, the writers felt, needed to announce everything that is going on to the audience. "Aerostat!" he screams at one point, like it has meaning. The Arnold substitute is Sam Worthington, but his Marcus character never really makes any sense to me. And if you can't buy his human/machine hybrid character, this whole movie just isn't going to work. He bored me although during one ten minute chunk of film where he screams "Nooooooo!" about forty times, I did start to feel for him a little bit. The human characters bored me. The half-assed attempt at a romance subplot to capture the attention of women dragged to theaters to see this didn't work. It was all just pretty ugly, and I kind of felt angry at myself for watching it.

I will see the upcoming Terminator movie, just to figure out how they're going to explain Arnold's age. However, this is apparently a franchise that should have stopped before it became a franchise.

Time Travel Movie Fest: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

2003 sequel to a sequel

Rating: 12/20

Plot: John Connor's really become sort of a loser, but the robots still want him dead anyway. At least he doesn't have to be Edward Furlong anymore though. A naked woman robot is sent to kill him and all his friends even though that would create more paradoxes than any one blockbuster movie franchise can possibly survive, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator has to follow her into the past to help save them all. It's pretty close to the plot of the second movie actually and therefore doesn't really advance the story much at all.

Now that I'm caught up on Terminator movies, it seems like they've got a similar trajectory to the Alien movies. The first is a classic. The second is an entertaining but possibly overblown action movie. The third and fourth just tick people off. I did enjoy the 3rd and 4th Alien installments more than these and seemingly more than almost everybody else though.

My intention was to Movie-a-Go-Go this bad boy, but I kind of lost interest and didn't feel like I was making any sense anyway. Regardless, here are my notes:

Here’s what I’m going to be most interested in: Will there be a penis in this movie? The first two had penises, so I have to assume this one’s going to have a penis, too.

A question: Why do Terminators need genitalia at all?

John Connor sounds bored. As he’s riding his motorcycle. And it’s making me sleepy despite an explosion. Nick Stahl's testing some sort of boring vs. annoying theory.

Skulls! Terminators! That looks really cool.

Something tells me this Terminator chick isn’t going to have a penis.

“I like this car.” Snap, crackle, pop! Sleepy from new-Furlong’s narration, I missed what even happened there.

Victoria’s Secret product placement. Is this social commentary of some kind or just a cheap boob joke?

I hope girl-Terminator spends the entire movie talking about things she likes. “I like those shoes.” Crack! “I like that sandwich.” Snap! "I like that watch." Pop!


I think Skynet was my first Internet provider.

Ok, a tree’s on fire, and here comes the penis! Come on! Give it to me! I need this!

Wow. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s upper body looks really good. I’m glad I’m not seeing this in 3-D because those pecs would have knocked me off my couch.

Well, there’s the word “Cocktails,” but I still don’t think I’m getting any penis.

Look! It's Kinky Friedman playing a doorman.

[Ok, that's probably not even close. Regardless, I couldn't get that "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" song out of my head, and it probably distracted me as I watched the rest of this movie.]

These Terminator movies always have the goofiest fringe characters. Here, we get “Bitch, wait your turn” stripper guy.

And with “Macho Man,” I now wish that I was watching Can’t Stop the Music.

Ahh, I liked those sunglasses. He should have spent the whole movie with those.

This movie’s got too much barking.

Girl-Terminator has added people’s names to her vocabulary. So she likes things and can ask people what their names are. The scene where she tastes somebody who isn’t Katherine Brewster’s blood isn’t as cool as this movie thinks it is.

Wait, what? I watched this scene three times:
--Girl-Terminator has a foot on the vet’s throat.
--Arnold bounces into the scene in a pick-up truck and somehow hits Girl-Terminator but not the veterinarian Girl-Terminator is standing on.
--The truck hits a wall and other cars around it explode.

This car chase scene, mostly sans music, is damaging a lot of property. It’s really well done except the CGI people sometimes look fake.

“No, I am not shitting you.”

I’m going to start shopping like Arnold in the gas station. That’s awesome. Unfortunately, “Talk to the Hand” and this song with “funky, funky” in the lyrics may have just ruined the entire movie for me. I think it's time for another 15 minute car chase.

Blood on the framed picture--movie cliche.

Seriously, those sunglasses from earlier. This movie is tons better if Arnold would have just kept those.

“Oh, my God! Oh my dear Jesus God!” I suppose that’s an appropriate reaction to seeing your partner have a hand coming out of his chest.

Wait, coffins are bullet-proof? I’m not sure how that works.

Existential John Connors and Terminator…

“She’ll be back.”

Termi-tank! And look at those post-it notes flying!

A missile into the room they’re standing in...and no injuries at all?

That was one violent swirlie.

These two need to get a room.

Conflicted Terminator...stupid, and Arnold’s worst acting in this whole thing. When you give Arnold a character with human emotions, things fall apart.

I wouldn’t want to fly with somebody who had just sustained a head injury.

“I’m back.” Didn’t the script already play with the “I’ll be back” catchphrase?

[See? It's pretty easy to tell where I lost interest. Sorry about that, Terminator fans.]

Addendum: I've been watching so many time travel movies that it's easy for me to ignore the paradoxes created in them by all the time travel shenanigans. For whatever reason, the ones in these movies make me angrier. I'm not sure why that is.

Also, I accused this movie of not advancing the story much up there in the plot synopsis. It really doesn't do much of anything, does it? Does anybody really care about anything that happens here? Is it that the Terminator story is just wearing thin or is it that they just didn't have enough of a movie? Or does it matter because the special effects are cool?

My apologies to M.C. Gainey.

Donnie Brasco

1997 crime drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: An undercover FBI agent becomes BFF's with a mob underling and starts to play the part a little too well. His wife isn't happy with him.

It's hard to take this "true story" seriously once that lion shows up, doesn't it?

I like this movie, despite the way it hits all the notes it's supposed to and has saccharine score. I like it as a character study of Lefty's character more than the story it tells with Depp's infiltration or his family issues. Pacino really carries this movie. I don't mean that as a barb on what the other characters are doing. Depp's fine even though I think his accent kind of drifts in and out and his mustache, his weightlifting, or his listening to his wife's breathing from a phone booth don't really convince me. Michael Madsen's fine as Sonny Yellow or Pink or Green or whatever color Sonny he is even though he reminds me of Vince Vaughn from certain angles. I also like pretty much everything Bruno Kirby says in this. "This is a fucking deformed Creature from the Black Lagoon claw I got here," for example. I can't watch a Hollywood gangster movie and ever think the dialogue is realistic, but of course, poetry doesn't sound like how people talk either. Excursions in the dialogue--cancer in the prick, John Wayne's death, etc.--are asides that add color to an already colorful story. I think my favorite piece of dialogue is this one:

Lefty (aka Half Cock, aka Horse Cock, aliases he actually seems proud of): Punch of salt.
Donnie: Punch?
Lefty: Punch. Punch of salt.
Donnie: Punch? Or pinch?
Lefty: Punch! Punch! Not pinch! What'd I say? Did I say pinch?
Donnie: Nah, you said, you said punch.
Lefty: Sometimes you don't make no fuckin' sense, Donnie.

It's meaningless dialogue, and somebody who didn't know what he was doing would have cut it from his movie. Here, it somehow manages to help us understand how this relationship is working, how it is going to work, and how it is not going to work. It foreshadows in a way that doesn't even make sense if you put a lot of thought into it. It doesn't quite have the punch (pun intended) of Nicholson's chicken salad sandwich scene in Five Easy Pieces, but it's another food-related bit of dialogue that I think does similar things.

This movie, when the wife subplot doesn't interfere, really is built on that relationship. That's what pulls the story, especially since the FBI people--other than Depp's character--ineptly do their jobs and these mafia dudes seem inconsequential. Donnie and Horse Cock's relationship creates the tension, builds the suspense, and carries the weight. I cared less about whether or not any of these gangsters were going to get busted than I did about what would happen with the friendship Depp and Pacino's characters had created. And I think that's what elevates this story a bit.

And man. Pacino. You almost feel like he could do this character in his sleep, a guy who's "busting his hump" just to be another spoke on a wheel. He's a habitual loser, and somehow, you know how it's all going to end up for the guy. When it happens, you almost feel good for him, like it validates his existence or something. He's like an animated version of a gangster, a loser underneath this nervous crackly shell, and Pacino creates this character not just with that rich voice he was gifted with but with all this terrific body language. Even the way he opens doors in this movie seems calculated and real. Add a ridiculous coat, a few references to shitting his pants, and face drooping, and you've got a memorable character that, even though the movie is named after some other guy, is easily the most interesting thing to see here.

This is a very good movie that I don't hear much about. It kind of gets lost in the flood of similar movies, I guess. That, or the lion and the appearance of Vince Vaughn as Madsen's stunt double throws everybody off.

Bad Movie Club: C Me Dance

2009 Christian movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Amy: 0/5; Kristen: 0/5; Alicia: 1/5; Fred: .5/5; 0/5; Josh: 4/5)

Rating: 4/20

Plot: A "heavy Hispanic John Larroquete" (not my description) raises his daughter on his own following his wife's death-by-trucker. All she wants to do is ballet, but leukemia gets in the way. God decides to use her as a tool to win over non-believers.

And I'm so confused by the metaphor. Is this calling religion a disease? Because that's what it seems to be doing. And I'm not sure why God allows these movies to be made. Fred probably said it best when he asked, "If there's a God, why is this movie not watchable?" Satan had to have been involved in the production of this movie because there is no way this movie is going to win over people to Christianity. In fact, I could see it doing the opposite. I can imagine a person who's been going to church for thirty years saying, "Hold on a second. I'm not sure I want to be a part of an organization that would support something like this!"

I have no idea what the message is supposed to even be here. God uses you, and then you die underneath a Christmas tree? Sorry. That's a spoiler, but you're probably not going to see this anyway. And if you do, you'll thank me for being warned about the death scene. There's spilled eggnog and abysmal acting, and I doubt leukemia has ever been funnier than it is at that moment. You'll want to know it's coming or else you'll end up watching it and being afflicted with stigmata.

You know, I'm sure writer/director/supporting actor Greg Robbins (who played "Motel Customer" in Terminator, by the way) has actually interacted with other human beings. And I just don't understand how somebody who has interacted with human beings can write some of the scenes in this. Take the scene where a high school thug chases after the girl with leukemia, and then, after some of his pals--one armed with a crowbar--joins him, proceeds to. . .well, I'm not sure what they do. The entire scene makes no sense at all. The conversations the high schoolers have throughout this seem like they were written by somebody who read Archie comics while on acid. The dialogue gets especially disgusting every time they talk about the dead mom. It's sentimentality that would cause executives at the Hallmark Channel to lose their lunch. Throw in the weird way the mother is killed off in the first scene (a sequence that gives truckers a bad name), a pastor who announces that he's getting "pissed off," and one of the clumsiest death scenes you're likely to see, and you're going to assume Greg Robbins was raised like Kasper Hauser and didn't emerge from his basement until he was in his twenties.

This movie's got a devil, but he sort of just lurks around with some of those weird contacts you can buy at a place like Hot Topic. He's about the least charismatic Beelzebub I've ever seen in a movie. He's more interesting when he shape-shifts into Leukemia Girl's ballet instructor or, my personal favorite, Ralph the janitor, a Gomer Pyle-esque character who stares right into the camera and quite possibly your soul once his scene has ended. He's played by Gary Crain who hasn't been in any other movies yet but is more than likely on his way to greatness.

You know what's scarier than the devil? The music in this. I don't know where they found the woman who belts out a couple songs in this, but she made my eardrums bleed. Josh wondered if she was yodeling at one point.

One of us found out that this had a budget of 155,000 dollars. I know some of that was spent on a personalized license plate that said "C Me Danc" on it. I know some of it had to be spent on contact lenses to make the devil more menacing. There's an explosion and a car on fire, so maybe they spent some money on that. That explosion, by the way, took place at night (the maleficent truck driver scene) while the firemen are filmed at the scene with the burning car during the day. Maybe they should have paid a guy a couple bucks to watch for continuity errors instead of buying contacts. 155,000 isn't a ton of money or anything, but when you think about what a church could do with that much cash instead of what these people did, it makes you a little sad. And I'm sure it disappoints Jesus.

There might be a special place in hell for the people running Uplifting Entertainment.

The Raid: Redemption

2011 action movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Police raid an apartment complex, and a lot of people get shot and booted in the head. It's a bone-snappin' good time!

As long as you don't pop this in looking for things like character development and story, you'll be just fine. I can't remember anything about the characters in this one actually except that one was ruthless and two were related. And that's about it. But it doesn't matter because this is credits-to-credits action mayhem, and so well choreographed that it almost becomes high art. It's the kind of violence you can feel through the screen, every crack of a radius, every concussive head-against-the-wall, every two or three story stairway drop, every machete or hatchet to the shoulder blade, every stab in the gut. Gareth Evans doesn't screw around here. He doesn't let the story development get in the way of the carnage development, and he doesn't interrupt the proceedings with any one-liners or silly moments. The tone is consistently dark, and the pace is punishing. A lot of that is the appearance of the setting. It all takes place in this dilapidated apartment building which allows for some cool close-quarter fight choreography. It all looks terrific, especially if you're used to watching a lot of frenetic video game action, but after a while, it sort of runs out of new things to show us. This is a movie that I enjoyed watching, or at least the animal inside of me (baby koala) did. It's the kind of thing that can make your intestines twitch.

This movie and a poker game forced me to listen to Linkin Park (possibly for the first time ever?) twice in one week. I thought the guitar-heavy score worked well with the visuals in this one.

I'll watch the sequel the next time I'm in the mood for some Indonesian martial arts or just want a movie with a high body count. The sequel is cleverly titled The Raid 2.

Time Travel Movie Fest: The Jacket

2005 time travel movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A Gulf War and head-wound veteran discovers a very roundabout way to get laid. Obviously, it's based on a Jack London story.

See, that plot synopsis is pretty funny if you've seen the movie. It made me laugh anyway.

There are two people with the initials K.K. in this movie, and one of them is extraordinarily pretty while the other is not. This is the second time travel movie featuring Kris Kristofferson, the pretty one, that I've seen during my popular Time Travel Movie Fest. At this stage in his career, he's the type of actor who doesn't even need lines. He just needs that face, a face with a lifetime of remorse hidden beneath the wrinkles. I just always like seeing Kristofferson's face. Kiera Knightley must have filmed her parts in between Pirate movies. It seems like a different character for her since the movie didn't take place a century and a half ago. Daniel Craig's also got a small role playing a paranoiac who talks about the Organization for the Organized. In a way, I kind of wished that character was more important. Jennifer Jason Leigh is her usual inconspicuous self. Adrien Brody has to carry this thing, and he sometimes is just a little off. There's a range of emotions, probably too many, and some of his dialogue is really goofy. Because of his performance, I kind of figured this was heading for a big Shammalammadingdongian reveal, but apparently his performance was just not very good instead.

I liked the story here, and a time travel story where a guy travels into the future, gets information that helps him in the present, and then changes that future is interesting although I'm never sure how it all works. And naturally, there are paradoxes. A feel-good (depending on your interpretation) denouement, one messed up by a "How much time do we have?" line that nearly sinks the entire film, is satisfying for the most part, and it's refreshing to see a character exist as unselfishly as Brody's character does in this. There's never even an attempt to explain why the character can suddenly travel in time unless I just missed it, but if you just go with it, the narrative isn't all that bad. Some weirdo twitchy special effects kind of nauseated me after a while though.

Brian Eno scored this movie and did it about as passively as you'd guess he would. It also had Iggy Pop and somebody named Andy Tubman and the Jane Doe's during the credits.

Here's a picture of Kris Krisofferson without a shirt:

Oh, there's film version of the Jack London story from 1920 called The Star Rover. Kris Kristofferson might be in that one, too. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can find it, but I'd love to compare the two.

Inside Out

2015 animated movie

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 19/20; Abbey: 17/20; Dylan: 11/20; Buster: 17/20)

Plot: A young girl deals with her emotions following a move from the Midwest to San Francisco.

I'll start the way the theater experience started with the short. "Lava" was cute enough, but it didn't feel like anything new, and I didn't really like the song. Things just seemed too obvious and unoriginal.

Hey, look! Pixar's back! I didn't hate Monster University or anything, but with no Pixar movie at all in 2014 and what seems like a dozen sequels with an underwhelming Brave in the middle, I was getting a little worried about the company. This movie is full of originality and lovable characters, combines humor and pathos in a way that can only be described as Pixar-esque, bursts with color and imaginative imagery, and is just so smart.

A lot of people have probably seen similar ideas in literature, movies, or television shows, but has it ever been this well executed? The voice work captures the emotion characters perfectly. Poehler as Joy brings that infectious enthusiasm that she had with her Parks and Recreation character, the sort of thing that could make her really irritating if you knew her in real life but charming, even through the flaws, here. Phyllis Smith has a voice that I knew I knew while watching but had to look up later to figure it out. She's the older woman from The Office, and she's got the perfect dumpy voice for Sadness. Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling are great as Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Best of all might be Richard Kind as an imaginary friend named Bing Bong. That's a character who should only work in a movie created by the makers of Ice Age or something. You almost want him to be gone as soon as he shows up, but instead of quickly wearing out his welcome, he actually manages to get more lovable as it goes. The human characters are pushed to the side for the most part so that the focus can be on what's happening in the little girl's mind, but when they're on the screen, the people seem like they could actually be people.

As with Pixar's best work--Up, of course; Ratatouille; two of the Toy Story movies; Finding Nemo--there's a great combination of fun humor that doesn't lean on pop culture references or fart jokes and genuinely touching moments. Since you fall in love with the characters, you feel for them. Pixar's model's been copied, but the imitators often pale in comparison because they forget to create characters the audience is going to empathize with and really embrace. These are characters you care about, even when they are goofy-looking imaginary friends. I don't want to give anything away since this movie's been out less than a week, but there's a moment with Bing Bong that yanked at my lacrimal glands like the most touching Pixar moments--the end of Toy Story 3, the first ten minutes of Up, countless other moments because that's what Pixar's all about. That the creators of this are able to accomplish that with a goofy-looking imaginary friend is just amazing to me. This movie's vibrant and has very funny characters saying very funny things. You'll have fun watching the movie, and you'll laugh. But you also might cry, especially you parents once you figure out exactly what this is all about.

I think one thing I really liked about this is that there really wasn't a bad guy. Life was the antagonist in this movie, and life, as most adults know, really is often antagonistic. And the child's realization of that is really what this movie's all about. I did often wonder, especially since I watched this a few seats down from a five-year-old, whether all of this would make sense for a kid. I eventually decided that I think it's going to mean different things for different people with different ages and different experiences, really the way the best art and stories should work. I think this is a movie that might mean one thing for kids, something completely different for older kids, and something else entirely for adults. This is one of those movies that you could watch multiple times at different stages of your life and gain new meaning and wisdom from the experience.

These animated movies have gotten ridiculously realistic. During the first seconds of the "Lava" short, I wondered if Pixar was cheating and actually using shots of real water and sky and island. The realistic parts of this movie--the parts involving San Francisco or human beings--look very realistic. But what I really liked with the animation was the contrast with the way the girl's mind was animated. It still had that computer-animated look, of course, but there was something traditional about it, too. It was cartoony, and a lot of the reason was because of the freedom the animators must have had with the colors and shapes they were allowed to use. The inside of a person's mind doesn't have to look a certain way, and what the animators came up with to show us something we'll never actually see feels spontaneous and free and lively and original. There's a touch of the surreal, there are nods to many animation styles and art forms, and there's just so much to see. Without a doubt, I'll watch this again to catch details that were missed. This really did feel like an adventure inside a child's mind, and even if the idea of spending an hour and a half with an actual child might sound terrifying, I can't imagine somebody not having fun on this trip.

Finally, I just loved how intelligently this was written. There were lots of directions they could have gone with this story, and you can't cover every aspect of the human mind in one feature film. I don't know a lot about psychology or the brain, but I loved how this did explore all over. It touches on random thoughts, long-term and short-term memory, fears, ear worms. It's been a while since I've seen Donald in Mathematical Land, but in a way, this reminded me of a cross between that--or something else by Disney that is more cerebral, and Alice in Wonderland. There's an intelligent whimsy. The themes resonate, even if you're not a preteen girl, and you can just tell that these people didn't just have an idea and spit it at the audience as quickly as they could. This is a rich exploration of that girl's mindset and growth, and it's an investigation of just how all these different emotions play a part in the development of healthy-minded human beings. Something this smart can't be written hastily.

Pixar wonderfully dove into the unknown here. When I first heard about this project, I thought it was risky, the kind of thing that would have to be dumbed-down in order for kids to really enjoy it, one of those sounds-good-on-paper ideas that doesn't really translate to the big screen all that well. I'm so happy with this finished product, and after I see it a few more times, it just might end up being one of Pixar's very best.

Time Travel Movie Fest: About Time

2013 romantic comedy (with time travel)

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A guy who's had no luck with love finds out from his father that the males in his family are capable of time travel. There are rules and all, but it's still a pretty sweet deal. Rather than use his new gift for financial gain, he decides to try to use it to find love.

Look! This movie was directed by a Hobbit:


He's Richard Curtis (who's directed only this, Love Actually, and the underrated Pirate Radio), and I almost avoided his movie because I thought the poster was terrible and don't usually like romantic comedies that much. "From the creators of Love Actually" didn't quite sell this to me like it would most people. Luckily, because of this Time Travel Movie Fest, I gave it a shot, and it's easily the best of the time travel movies I've seen thus far. I laughed; I cried; I thought about masturbating. That's the trifecta. 

Hot damn! I loved this movie! 

Tim, the main character played by Domhnall Gleeson, has an Amelie poster in his room, and with the playfulness of About Time, I think it's appropriate. They have a similar airiness and feel, the kind of movie that sort of washes over you like mist from a waterfall. Fans of Amelie might watch this and wonder what the hell I'm talking about, but I thought this was a less stylish Amelie with all the French sucked out of it. It at least filled me with warmth like Jean-Pierre Jeunet's work. The characters are utterly charming and quirky. I can understand somebody disliking these characters if they're anglophobic or something, but other than that, I can't imagine somebody watching this and disliking any of the characters. Well, maybe the baby. Richard Cordery plays an uncle, completely oblivious to everything that is going on, hilariously. There's Harry the playwright (Tom Hollander) who is humorously misanthropic. I'm not sure that guy had a line in this movie that I didn't think was funny, a lot of it because of that dry British wit and a lot because of Hollander's delivery. Calling somebody a "sarcastic cow," asking Tim if his mother still looks like Andy Warhol, answering the door with a hearty "What the fuck do you want?", telling Tim that he can have sex with his daughter if he wants because "apparently everybody else does." On paper, he's too bitter and sardonic to like, but I wanted to hang with the dude. Well, maybe on the other side of the room. His best line might be after the debut of a play when he claims, "It's the Titanic of play openings, but with no survivors. No women, no children. Not even Kate Winslet. All dead." 

But you'd probably have to be there. 

Bill Nighy plays Tim's dad. You know those tears and laughs I mentioned earlier? A lot of them come from what Nighy does with this character. The guy is just so likable. And what's he use his time travel abilities for? "Books, books, books." You have to respect a guy who uses time travel just to make sure he has a chance to read everything. 

Sidebar: The "rules" in this movie are that you can only travel to a time when you existed. You can relive moments, and you can butterfly-effect the heck out of everything. So what would you use time travel for? Erase mistakes? Find love? Make some money? Read books? I think I'd use it to watch more movies. 

Back to the father. This movie is a romantic comedy, but there's also a touching father/son relationship, too. In fact, there's a moment in this movie where the focus seems to shift to that relationship instead of the romantic one. And the moments they share and the words they share and sometimes the lack of words they share, though existing in this kind of quirky movie world and admittedly manipulative, are just so touching. Nighy's character is the dad you might wish you had even if you really enjoy your own dad. And he's great at table tennis (without the ball) and knows his music, calling Jimmy Fontana's Il Mondo the "greatest album ever recorded by an Italian who looks like he has a dead badger on his head." 

Of course, you don't watch a romantic comedy for father/son relationships. I often have trouble buying movie love. Watching the initials meetings between Gleeson's Tim and Rachel McAdams Mary, their blossoming romance, and all the other stuff that happens is just about the most beautiful relationship I've seen in a movie. It really is. The dad tells Tim earlier in the movie that "all the time travel in the world can't make somebody love you," but that's kind of close to what Tim attempts to do. Tim and Mary's first scene is wonderful, a love-at-first-sight moment that doesn't involve time travel at all. And it actually doesn't involve sight. It's a brave scene taking place in a completely-dark restaurant with blind waiters. For several moments, you've just got a dark screen and you hear their voices. And when you do get to see Rachel McAdams for the first time when Tim gets his first glimpse of her? Well, I can't speak for every man, but I know I fell in love with her at the exact same time he did. This performance alone made me decide that I need to add Woody Allen's time travel movie to the docket even though I've already seen it just because she's in it. I loved her, and I loved this relationship. 

This movie could have gone various directions. There's a moment when I thought Tim was dicking around a little too much, and I thought I knew exactly where things were going. And I was pissed. And then it doesn't go there at all. Then, you figure it's about to go somewhere else, but it doesn't go there either. This movie, unlike any movie I've ever seen, just seems to go exactly where it needs to go. And I'm not going to just ignore the manipulative aspects and tell you that it's all perfect, but I'm not going to talk about them either. So I guess I am going to ignore them. God, I loved these two, and I think I loved this movie just a little more because it refused to go there or there or there. 

The music's pretty good in this, too, including an overly-sentimental use of a Nick Cave song. The Cure's used in a montage at one point, but a lot of the music turns out to be provided by buskers which was kind of cute. I don't know who Paul Buchanan is, but I loved this song "Mid-Air" that was in this somewhere. I don't even know if I liked the song, but I liked how well it fit in this. 

Ok, I've probably gushed enough. This is the type of movie that just nails life. I don't want to spoil anything, but there are all these little moments that just hit you in the gut, make you reevaluate the way you go about your business, the way you love, the way you experience, and the way you see things. The time travel's there, but people allergic to science fiction should not be worried about it. It's there not to be realistic or bend our minds but to teach us about life and love, and it does it wonderfully. Highly recommended. 

Time Travel Movie Fest: Millennium

1989 movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: An airline crash investigator tries to figure out what happened with a mysterious crash during which the co-pilot reported the bodies of the passengers were burned up before the catastrophe. Turns out that time travel is involved.

The premise is intriguing, and there's a real sense of mystery with this story since it's nothing you've really seen before. There are budget concerns which can be forgiven and storytelling concerns which really can't, and there's a goofiness here, like the movie couldn't make up its mind if it wanted to be a 1980's movie or not. There's a weird-looking plane tragedy opener with crash test dummies and lots of explosions. Things then slow down for a bit while Kris Kristofferson tries to decide whether or not he wants a cup of coffee. And then, once we hit the future, we get characters like this robot

which has human mouth and eyeballs and is about as funny as C3PO. For example, this conversation:

Person: Your mother was a cash register.
Creepy Assed Robot: But she turned a tidy profit.

Those lines shouldn't be in any movie. You also have this wheelchaired character

who seemed to be in charge for reasons that either weren't explained very well or were explained when I wasn't paying attention. And then there's a handful of elderly people, who might actually be in charge rather than Gray Wheelchair Man, in these tubes. One of them looks like this

and seems like she should be in an episode of Doctor Who instead of a movie. The future stuff is more strange than interesting, and the body-snatching plot, although it does allow for a nifty visual where bewildered plane passengers watch their doppelgangers walk past them, never made a lot of sense to me. Of course, when you give your goofy robot with a human mouth and eyeballs a last line like "It is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning," then maybe you're not all that interested in making sense anyway.

One thing I did like, probably because I'm a sucker for this when I see it in movies, is when you see the same series of scenes from a different character's perspective. Cheryl Ladd's future person meets up with Kris Kristofferson's present person, and we don't really know what's going on the first time we see it. We're just supposed to buy that Cheryl Ladd and Kris Kristofferson are compatible. I mean, don't get me wrong. If Kris Kristofferson came to my house and asked me to sleep with him, I'd do it. You know, because of Convoy. How could I pass up the chance? But it seems like an odd pairing to me. When we see that series of scenes the second time, more from Ladd's point of view, it all clicks, and there's some humor that works well.

This movie has, perhaps, the finest moment of Kristofferson's career, by the way. It's a scene where he's dicking around with some kind of tool and gets himself zapped. It's good stuff.

Things really get gross at the end. Things turn orange, Kristofferson and Ladd make out in front of a professor, and somebody winds up pregnant. The orange confuses, but maybe not as much as the way this movie tries to deal with paradoxes. If somebody could explain that to me, I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, despite the flaws, this isn't a bad B-movie. It has the feel of a made-for-television movie, but it's got an interesting concept, a handful of neat scenes, and an attractive female lead. And Kris Kristofferson, a guy who wouldn't have starred in a bad movie.

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

2013 dream

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A man comes home from a trip and finds his wife missing. So he investigates.

No, I did not understand what was going on. It all takes place in one apartment building which might represent one human being's psyche or something. And all of the characters might be the same person. or maybe all the characters are one of two characters. If you decide to watch this movie because you want a good story or good characters, you are going to end up disappointed. This is the type of movie that I feel I could watch a hundred times and never really get a grasp on what exactly is going on.

Watch this for the visual flare. I can't think of another movie I've seen recently where the creators have this much command of their visuals. It's unbridled camera trickery, and I'd understand if you watched this and wanted to argue that it's all style and no substance or that directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani are just showing off. But when the style's this stylish, you take notice, you let it happen, and you let your eyes gobble it all up. You've got garish colors, lurid perspectives, black 'n' white touches, split screen tomfoolery. You name the trick, and Cattet and Forzani probably utilize it in painting the screen for us. Masterful visual storytelling even when there's not much of a story at all. It's the cinematic equivalent of looking into a kaleidoscope for a little over an hour and a half. Violence and sex abounds, and although I kind of wish there was a little less of the former, there was still something exquisite about most of that, too.

This is abstract, and for that reason, it's not for everybody. But I can't imagine a lot of people would watch this and not appreciate it as a work of art. I know Cattet and Forzano only from one of the better shorts in that ABC's of Death anthology, but I'm impressed with what they've done here to stretch the medium and use a myriad of tricks we've all seen before to create something that I really haven't seen before.

It's possible that I could watch this again, get a better idea of what the hell it's about, and rate it higher. Regardless, anybody who's spent any time reading my poorly-written thoughts on movies already knows that I don't really need a lot of substance to like or even love a movie. I'm fine with nothing but style, and this movie's about as stylish as it gets.


2015 fairy tale retelling

Rating: 16/20 (Jennifer: 19/20; Buster: 20/20)

Plot: It's the same plot as the Chinese folk tale "Yeh-Shen" except it doesn't have a talking fish in it.

I was on the edge of my seat near the end of this new Disney Cinderella movie because I was really hoping they'd divert from Charles Perrault's French version, the one that Disney made sure we all knew and loved, and end this like the Grimm's version--with mutilated feet and and avalanche of boulders. Unfortunately, those Disney people are a bunch of pussies and thought mangled heels would have clashed with the pretty imagery of the rest of the movie. No little girls want to see that glass slipper smeared with step-sister blood, I guess.

I just gave this movie a bonus point because it wasn't a musical. It's the kind of thing you don't really appreciate while watching the movie, but when you've had a couple days to think about it, it makes a huge difference.

The acting's fine but far from the star of the show. Lily James plays Cinderella, and she's cute throughout without being breathtakingly so until the point when she's supposed to be. Her bosom? Appropriate. I like that there's a vulnerability with James, and when the character's being "kind," you just believe it. Richard Madden is the Prince, and his teeth are perfect. Unless they're CGI teeth which I guess is a possibility these days. The two step-sisters are good without being overly comical. There are funny moments in the script, but those funny bits aren't obvious. Bonham Carter's weird face makes for a good Fairy Godmother although her voice kind of sounds like a lot of other narrator voices. Best of all--probably expected--is Cate Blanchett as the step-mother. I don't think that's a particularly difficult role to play. It's an easy sort of malicious, but I wouldn't want to underestimate the job Blanchett does with the character. She makes evil fun, and pretty much every line she has, no matter how nice it might seem on paper, feels vicious.

But the real star of the show would be the luscious visuals and colors. This is the type of movie where there's just so much to look at. You kind of want to sit there and absorb it all--every color, every movement of a dress, every shadow in an attic, every part of the architecture, every bit of nature. And that's easy to do since the story is so familiar. You can ignore the narrative and just focus on looking at things. And those things are stunning. I loved Cinderella's house even though Cate Blanchett did not. The castle's interior was as beautiful as you'd expect it to be, and the gardens were just as beautiful. The ball? Well, the amount of colors and the costumes--this has to win awards for costuming--make it a feast, a dance sequence that makes Disney animated dance sequences like the famous Beauty and the Beast one look like bullshit. This isn't an animated movie, but it's exquisitely drawn like it's one. Even the CGI doesn't get in the way. There are numerous shots of a quartet of mice as well as some lizards and a duck, and although it's the kind of thing you'd figure would completely ruin a movie like this, it didn't. The CGI, even at its most preposterous, was convincing. All fairy tales should look as good as this movie.

As I said, you know the story going on. The additions--more of Cinderella's parents in the exposition, some stuff with the king, more meanness after the ball--fit fine, and there are some nods to the original Disney animated classic that are nice touches.

I had reservations about this one, not because I don't think the original is some untouchable sacred cow or anything, but because it just seemed like a tired idea. But this is a tired story so lovingly retold that Disney's come close to matching the original which would put this in the running for the best version of this fairy tale. If only it had those mangled feet!

Time Travel Movie Fest: Donnie Darko

2001 drama

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A possibly-schizophrenic teenager escapes death thanks to Harvey, falls in love, and then engages in various shenanigans including lollygagging, whimsy, malarkey, balderdash, gobbledygook, and kerfuffling. Harvey turns out to be a bad influence, he spots bubbles emerging from the rib cages of his family and friends, and he starts reading up on time travel.

I really kind of hate this movie, interesting since I watched it fourteen years ago and thought I liked it. But any movie you need to do this much extensive research to understand and then are completely unsatisfied when you get what might be answers is just not a movie for me. I mean, apparently you need to visit the website that director Richard Kelly created for this and read an imaginary book on time travel philosophy to fully grasp what is going on here, and as a guy who just likes to watching fucking movies, I don't have any interest in making that kind of commitment. I don't like the movie enough to do any of that anyway.

This movie at least ties the record for most Gyllenhaals in one movie.

I like Jake Gyllenhaal, and the guy's been on fire lately. Both he and his sister seem to gravitate toward these interesting, complex roles in these interesting, complex movies. Here, they're not exactly characters with a ton of depth. The boy Gyllenhaal character might fool you into thinking there's depth, but he's more a character constructed of Hollywood craziness cliches. Still, there's an intensity to the performance that makes the character memorable.

Frank, until he takes his costume rabbit head off at least, is a menacing presence, but he sort of becomes less menacing the more you see him. I think the giant rabbit is probably in the movie too much. And I love this bit of dialogue:

Boy Gyllenhaal: Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?
Frank: Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

But you know what? That little conversation really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Seriously, most of what happens in this movie doesn't have to do with the rest of the movie. Things just kind of happen. There's self-help guru pedophilia, the perils of English teaching, some random movie bullies including a odd Seth "I like your boobs" Rogan. The romance, one of the few things in this movie that does seem to matter, never really gels. Donnie makes decisions that, I guess, tell the audience how deep those feelings are, but there's not much we get to see that makes it feel that way. Nothing resonates because nothing, in the end, really matters all that much.

Drew Barrymore is awful in this, and her character is idiotic. She's a movie teacher, very different from a real teacher. "Sit next to the boy you think is the cutest." What? She's so bad, but she needs to be there to remind me more of E.T. And her "fuuuuuuucccccckkkk" in this is epic.

Donnie Darko's got a little bit of style, an 80's grimy glaze with a soundtrack (Echo and the Bunnymen [Bunny! Get it?], Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, The Church, Joy Division), and, as long as you're willing to pay close enough attention, some neat recurrent details. But unless I'm missing a whole lot--and I will note that I very likely am--it just doesn't add up to much of anything.