Friday, October 30, 2015

Christmas Icetastrophe

Best John Quip: Nope, Team Meteor all the way

Never has a movie gone so far out of its way to constantly break the viewer out of engaging with the film as John's pick of Christmas Icetastrophe. A ScyFy turkey, the movie delights in ignoring all laws of physics to a point that was incensing. 

And aspects of the movie that should have been funny, like the death of a best friend that is completely ignored, should have elicited giggles but only incited rage or worse boredom. I think mostly because ScyFy shows their hand too much. My favorite movie disasters are movies that should by all accounts succeed but morph into wondrous meltdowns, but ScyFy is doing this on purpose and it is infuriating. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

National Treasure

So, Left Behind left us wanting to catch a few Nicolas Cage movies wherein he does his crazy schtick, instead of sitting around like a lump. National Treasure was on Netflix, and the rest was history... just not accurate history.

The plot of this movie is some kind of Lovecraftian, non-Euclidean history failure, the sort of thing that a person can't think too closely about without going mad and attempting to end the world in an effort to die first. In the interest of both my own sanity and that of any hypothetical readers, I won't go into it. Instead, I'm going to go over a few of the problems that really stood out with this turkey:

* Failure to kill Sean Bean.
Now, I like Sean Bean. He's totally awesome in everything. It's also a natural law of movie making that he must die. In National Treasure, he is merely incarcerated at the end, despite being the villain. He was the only character that was actually fun to watch, so I don't want to dock the movie too many points for this, but it was still sloppy. There were ample opportunities to just drop him from a high place right at the end, where he could still have had maximum screen time.

* "Shut up, woman!"
After Nick Cage steals the Declaration of Independence - a completely dick move to start with - he manages to rescue Diane Kruger during a ridiculous car chase... and then acts super smug about the theft and insists she shut up repeatedly. It was hammered on enough that later, when working with the villains temporarily, he knows Kruger is really okay because a henchman refers to how she 'won't shut up.'

Bee assures me that Disney thought this was cute, for which they must know the taste of cleansing fire.

(The two of them ending up together is horrid, completely unearned, and horrid. At the time, I objected that it was too soon for Stockholme Syndrome to set in.)

* Emo Riley.
Cage's sidekick, the information expert who spends most of the movie completely clueless and, indeed, only ever knows one important clue, is also a whiny git. Worse, like Sean Bean, he fails to die throughout the entire thing despite many opportunities to do so. There is a point where Bean points a gun at him and demands he shut up, which was probably the high point of the film.

* The treasure itself.
Bee was quick to point out that none of the treasures were actually American in origin - they were all stolen from other countries, and rightfully belonged elsewhere. This point is almost touched on at the end of the film, but Cage's character still feels right about deciding how to divide the spoils.

The thing I noticed about this was that the movie made it feel like the whole point of America itself was merely to store gold coins where no one could get at them, which is a bad lesson for a movie. Unless, perhaps, the movie was made by Glenn Beck.

* The finder's fee.
While this probably could fold into the point about the treasure, I was bothered enough to want to talk about it separately. These were historical artifacts, and there would doubtless be many opportunities to profit from being the people to find them, but no one was going to give these people a percentage of the take as a finder's fee. 

In closing, nothing that happened made sense, not from the standpoint of history, human behavior, economics, physics, police work, nada. I believe Bee summed it up best with this: "TELL ME AN ALIEN DIDNT WRITE THIS MOVIE."

I can't tell you that, Bee. I wish I could, but I can't. I can only theorize that perhaps, rather than an alien, it was Walt Disney's brain in a jar, preserved by the Mi-Go for their own mysterious purposes, and equally mysterious screenwriting.

The only time I truly enjoyed this movie was after the credits rolled, where Netflix assured me that 'people who enjoyed this movie also enjoyed Mission Impossible 2,' and I felt so much gratitude at not seeing that turkey again that I was actually glad I'd seen National Treasure instead. I also feel good about hating this movie because we've actually liked a number of bad movies recently, and I was concerned that I might be going soft. If nothing else, National Treasure is proof that I still have hate in my heart, and that is the greatest treasure of all.

Until next time, hypothetical readers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

America: Imagine the World Without Her

John's Best Quips: 
"We don't want to live in a society where bad things happen to me. We must allow me to go free regardless of my mistakes." 

"In opposing every reform meant to offer human beings dignity, conservatives offer America the chance to demonstrate their greatness!"

   John and I pride ourselves on watching some pretty terrible movies, but those movies are usually just bad because the people involved  just didn't have the chops to make a movie. The script has lacked suitable structure or the budget just doesn't live up to the dream, but tragically today we fell into a truly vile pile of film that was attempting to fill the role of a spiritual flesh light to America's needy ego. Pandering isn't even in the realm of what this movies does for the empathy lacking subset of America. 

  The director Dinesh D'Souza spent the duration of the film contorting American history in any way possible to fit into the self serving rhetoric that America is always the best and has never done anyone any real harm. American tribes complain about the thievery of their land? Those same tribes took that land from someone else, so conquest theory plays out. Slavery has been one of the most horrible institutions that still causes great divide and strife in America today? Well, D'Souza explains, with a note of irritation, that there were black men who owned slaves and that the first American millionaire was a black female, so the civil right movement was a bit overblown. Really, the rich are suffering and struggling because the poor live the grand life of welfare queens while the rich have to build.every.single.item they own from pure scratch. 

  In my favorite part of the movie, D'Souza shows how large corporations are actually saving Americans money by charging them (and I am not kidding about this amount) $1.75 for a hamburger when it would cost them $2.75 to make their own at home. D'Souza's storytelling begins to completely degrade completely, ending on charts that connects any recognizable liberal person in a  Illuminate like conspiracy to bring down America.

  Oh wait, did D'Souza just say he went to jail for a small mistake? D'Souza's mention of his arrest, which involved the very serious charge of helping companies solicit  fraudulent  campaign funds, is mentioned so offhandedly and with no denial over your nana's screensaver. It then cut inexplicably to poorly done reenactments of Lincoln preparing solemnly for a performance at Ford's Theater and the events that transpired therein.
  Sadly, the most horrifying thing for both John and I is that people will watch this and believe it is true. Too often our chat box was quiet as existential horror swelled in both our hearts.  I felt many times through the movie this desire to hold John's hand for some sense of stability as lies upon lies assaulted us. If I had been holding his hand and squeezed it for every mis-truth, I am sure I would have crushed it a thousand times over. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

In the Name of the King 2

Beth: "I will mentally keep the time" is a phrase i have got use in the future

So, this was my idea: Uwe Boll's work is notoriously bad, and Dungeon Siege was the first video game I ever beat because it was pretty, (rather than good). I was curious to see how he'd mess up such bland material. We discovered the original, along with two sequels. Bee thought we should watch all three, so I figured we could watch them in order... but Dolph Lundgren starred in the sequel, and by our calculations Dolph Lundgren > Jason Statham (from the original), and I didn't even recognize the star of the third installment. So we started with the second movie. I figured, if nothing else, that watching Santa Baby 2 without context had been hilarious, and the rule might extend to other horrible franchises.

It was... not good, exactly, but a very solid B-movie. Lundgren is consistently amusing as a fish out of water. He spends a good portion of the movie complaining about all the illnesses he's going to get in the Time Before Pasteurization, going so far as to reject an offer of chicken, try to get out of drinking and avoiding the affection of the first comely wench to throw herself at him. And, speaking of comely wenches, fully half the women in the film come across as well rounded characters. The female lead doesn't - she's probably the weakest link in the film - but it's still pretty amazing for both the genre and the director.

The film's ending features several twists that are internally consistent, and a competently executed CGI dragon. It all hangs together reasonably well. I could actually tell you what was going on at almost any point in the movie.

I don't want to give the impression this is a good movie, of course: the faux-medieval dialogue is right out of a LARP, (and I should know, I've attended some), but it's an order of magnitude better than I expected from Uwe Boll, and it's entirely watchable. All Bee and I could guess was that maybe Mirror Universe Uwe Boll has replaced our original, and seeks to undo the wrongs of his doppelganger. We're going to watch the other two next to see if there's a progression of quality, or if this was just a crazy accident.

Anyway, it's late, and I'm still trying to get over giving this thing 3 stars on Netflix, so I guess that's it for my analysis. More after we watch the others.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Z Nation, S1E01-02

Best Bee quote: "yes but the world zombie is yucky. your grandma says you call them puppies and kittens"
So, we watched the first couple episodes of Z Nation today, the Asylum's answer to The Walking Dead. As I'm sure anybody reading this knows, The Asylum has a long history of low quality knockoffs, but it is my opinion that Z Nation rises somewhat above that and is a genuinely fun experience on its own, rather than a bargain basement trap for people who can't buy or pirate the real thing.

The first detail I noticed was that it avoided the most overused zombie opening: showing the breakdown of society. Z Nation's flashback opening takes place two years later, while the body of the show begins three years after civilization fell. Unfortunately, due to constraints on budget and, frankly, writing talent, this has a very Cosy Catastrophe feel: there's still bullets, people still drive cars. Even so, they explore the ramifications a little bit. Society now practices euthanasia on the sick and dying, and refers to both that and the practice of killing zombies 'giving mercy.' Society has also broken down into small enclaves that appear to be socially stable, which actually puts it ahead of The Walking Dead TV show at the moment. That was all pretty cool.

Also on the good side, a few characters stand out:
  • Warren. Warren is smart, capable and brave, without feeling like a token character. (Her abilities and mindset feel reasonable within the context of the show.)
  • Doc. The old guy is a decent, caring guy, willing to sacrifice himself for his friends... but his first appearance had him offering home cooked meth for bullets. I love the practicality there, and he - like Warren - seems like just the sort of person I'd want to be caught in an apocalypse with.
  • Murphy. Humanity's 'last, best hope' is hilariously cowardly and corrupt. He's very obviously their Gilligan, but the show had the decency to offer an in-universe reason why they can't just shoot him or ditch him.
I'm not really sold on the rest, and certainly not so early in. In particular, 'Citizen Z' is super annoying, and Bee referred to Garnett as 'Bargain Basement John C. Reilly' a lot.

Also, lest I sound like I am heaping praise upon this: the camera work is atrocious. Whoever was doing that couldn't keep the camera steady - it's obvious they were moving around a lot during scenes, on foot, without any kind of stabilization. The intro graphics are ludicrous - in Bee's words, "High school Power Point." The writing is clunky, the SFX are terrible, and the musical choices are extremely questionable.

Even so, it's a big step forward for The Asylum. I liked this way better than Sharknado, for instance. (I think part of that is that the show is pretty dark, while Sharknado was trying to be a feel good movie. Z Nation has the guts to ice a bunch of children in the pilot.)

A few other random observations:
  • The first episode features a zombie baby right out of Minecraft: somehow, being killed gave the baby the speed and strength to pose a serious threat to a whole group of armed people, (including three trained soldiers).
  • Zombies seem to cause radio interference. Between the baby and this, I have concluded that they are radioactive, like Spiderman.
  • This show is better than The Strain, and not by a small margin.

Monday, January 5, 2015

GI Joe:Retaliation

Best John quip: "In killing my babysitter, you've promoted yourself to new babysitter."

We watched GI Joe: Retaliation today, which turned out to be a delightfully bad movie. This movie had all the elements to succeed as a great movie: a huge production budget, well known and talented cast, and most importantly, a culturally embedded brand that had a vague cannon. 

This movie had the same magical combination that allowed Pirates of the Caribbean to flourish, but this installment in the GI Joe series (much to our delight) randomly imploded under the added weight of new characters a third of the way into the movie. The movie had started strong by focusing on the friendship between the wrestler The Rock and his partner. It might seem strange, but I have quite a bit of respect for Dwayne Johnson. It was clear that between this movie and The Scorpion King that the Rock has really advanced in his acting skills. He seems to have tamed the overblown stage acting required for wrestling theater and he is now able to drawn on the same easygoing nature that John Candy or John Goodman possess that is so appealing. Dwayne and his partner Duke, played by Channing Tatum, had a really nice chemistry that made the writing seem better than it was. Sadly, Tatum's character was killed in a sudden attack and the movie's narrative took a turn for the worse. 

The opening credits had summarized the events of the last movie, but suddenly the movie shifted to  a subplot never before discussed.  It became abundantly clear during this plot shift (which was more than borderline racist) in Asian scene that the underlying structure of the writing had dissolved into a wet, balled up tissue. There was this sudden need to flesh out the entire cast of characters was executed very poorly. The scene in which the only female GI Joe- Jayne- discusses her decision to join the military because of her deceased chauvinistic father all takes place while she is undressing in front of another Joe. 


But nothing trumps the Asian sequences in lack of good taste.  The put on accents, the traditional Chinese music that must play if a shot is in Asia, the poor choice of supporting cast... The Old Blind Master is played by a very young man in very terrible makeup with a very heavy American slurring accent. These scenes were clearly an effort to engage us in this feud between the ninja community, but the production value and direction was so forced it felt like someone splicing another movie in . It was at this point as well that the spatial dimensions of the movie also became permanently disjointed for the rest of the movie.  It was difficult, impossible during fight scenes, to understand where anyone was in relation to each other both in scene and in location. No location names were offered. The last 30 minutes of the movie ( I know this exactly because I had an incoming call) dissolved into utter chaos. At least five separate fight scenes raged on, but I could not tell you where they were or who was fighting who. 

And then there was Bruce Willis.

John and I aren't sure what the circumstances where such that Bruce Willis was in the movie, but his every appearance brought peals of laughter from both of us. Willis's entrance is reminiscent of  Woody Harrelson's character in Management. Bruce Willis says his "lines", and I say that loosely because they often seemed out of conflict and inappropriate with whatever conversation was going on at the time while the rest of the cast looked genuinely confused, on auto pilot. 

When the surviving Joes approach the original Joe (Willis) for help, he attacks them first.... then blandly states he knows who they are. Well, he knows all of them except Jayne, who he calls Barbara even after she declares pretty firmly that is not her name. Willis in this scene is just treats her like garbage for no apparent payout or reason. I mean, she is an elite warrior in a group named after him. That should mean she is amazing right? Later, in what really feels like an attempt to right the sins of that scene so audiences don't go home thinking Willis is jerk, the end features a moment in when the Willis is rewarding the Joes with medals and he calls her by her full name. He then explains that he fought with her father and reassures her that her father would be proud. 

We were also very delighted by his house in the movie, which stuffed to the gill with deadly weapons (grenades in the fruit bowl!), and both expressed the hope that it really was his home and he just invited them to a single day shooting of shooting one takes, and they were forced to edit the best they could manage with those shots. 

GI Joe: Retaliation is a pretty great terrible movie in the Frankenstein category. Just as soon as you think you have it figured out- it gets more perplexing because the pieces don't match.  Elements like the movie's showing no blood (a testament to the cartoon?) and Duke is killed by bomb but his corpse looks like he died in his sleep start the movie but by the end of the movie you see the usual bloody, mangled corpses. This disunity keeps it very amusing till about the last 30 minutes when it is just shooting and running and jumping from one unknown location to the next, but that is a minor sin. Honestly- the cast really held the turkey together- John mentioned many of them are now in Agents of Shield (which he says is pretty good).