Thursday, March 26, 2009

Which Mountain?

Sunday the 22nd was the last day of Spring Break for us so as a family we decided to go see Race to Witch Mountain. I know, I can hear you saying “Richard saw a first run movie?!?” Astounding as it is that I paid more than $1. to see a movie in a theater, it’s true.

As we mentioned it to the kiddos earlier in the day I kept wanting to call it Escape to Witch Mountain but was constantly corrected by either "Larry" or "Moe" that it was Race to Witch Mountain. "Curly" was just happy we were going to see a movie. I had never seen the ‘70s version of the movie and all I knew about it was that it starred Eddie Albert as the curmudgeonly old something-or-other that helps a couple of kids that happen to be aliens and ends up learning the true meaning of Christmas… wait… no that was something else. But it did have Eddie Albert in it so the curmudgeonly part is still intact.

Anyway this got me wondering if it was a series of books or movies and each one just represented another chapter in the epic tale that is Witch Mountain! Turns out I was wrong again and they just changed the name for the ’09 version. Just lazy if you ask me.

Our movie opens with a UFO crash in the desert outside Las Vegas and a whole bunch of military types scrambling to find it, neutralize it, and hush it up. Because that's what the military does with all of the UFOs that crash land here. Just ask Art Bell. Now we move on to the lovable loser that is "The Rock" or whatever he's calling himself nowadays. He's a recovering mobster "wheelman" just trying to go legit by driving a cab. The problem is there are two generic mobsters who (quite ineffectively) try to convince him to return to his old criminal ways. Enter two Aryan teenagers who suddenly appear in his cab and refuse to use conjunctions. Their goal is to get to a secret alien underground hideaway, get some alien gadget, and fly back to their planet. The problem is that the government "stole" thier flying saucer.

If one looks at it from a legal standpoint it's more like the government merely towed an abandoned crashed vehicle to a top secret impound lot. However I'm sure Adler & O'Conner (the Tough-Smart Lawyers) would argue differently in a court of law.

From here on in there's a lot of car chases, helecopter chases, jocularity about what humans are like, tough love, environmental disaster, blah blah blah. Oh, mix in one sci-fi convention to hide the "alien assassin" that is chasing them in addition to the clueless mobsters and eeeevil government operatives. Speaking of eeeevil government operatives, they get to throw in a line about the Patriot Act just to show how eeeeeeevil they truly are. Ah, Hollywood.

I guess I forgot to mention the love interest that was foreshadowed earlier in the movie and tags along after the Sci-fi Convention but to me the movie was dragging a safe from that point on so it hardly seemed necessary to highlight her role.

Rating: C-
My rating of the film is based upon the post-movie comments my children had about it. On the way home their conversation revolved around cheese and crackers.

Race to Witch Mountain trailer
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) ending

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feet of Clay

My very first "official" movie review was sent to a few friends on March 14th 2007. Ah, those were the days.

Yesterday afternoon was buy one get one free day at the local $1.50 cinema so we decided to see Happy Feet. Hoss might remember it as the $1.00 cinema in which we saw Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. (We must have been really bored) I also had a coupon for a free 46oz popcorn so we were really "stickin' it to the Man".

Anyway I hadn't heard much about the movie but I kind of expected it to be a message movie of some sort or another. Hoo Boy! Was that ever an understatement. Robin Williams had about three or four voices in the movie and despite his personal hairiness, he was mildly amusing in at least one of his roles.

As the story developed the preachy central themes seemed to be:

1. Man is overfishing the oceans and starving the penguins
2. religion is based on misinformation

And if you weren't on board with either then... well... you're just a knuckle draggin' moron! At least according to the movie creators (who are better than we are).

My favorite line came in what must have been the last 5 or 10 minutes of the film. The main character/penguin had been tagged by humans so as to lead the scientists back to the penguin colony that has an affinity for the performing arts. Video is captured of the penguins in a 1940's-esque massive Hollywood dance number and the scene is then cut to what looks like a control room of some sort with the dancing penguins video being played in the background. The humans watching seem to be in a panic as to what to make of this discovery and one amazingly concludes "We must put an immediate hold on all ocean harvesting."

Hmm. Now to be fair I was taking my nephew out of the theater to go to the bathroom at the time of this quote so I do not know if that particular "scientist" was laughed out of the room, but somehow I doubt it. Even though movies are built on the suspension of disbelief, I found it more feasible that an emperor penguin could dance than discerning that Man should stop fishing because of a thousand dancing penguins. Just what neurons need to fire and in what order to make that correlation?!

On a positive note the computer animation was brilliant and they did have one good scene in which the main female penguin did justice to a little known song by Queen.

p.s.- the "46oz" popcorn was in a 46 fl.oz. bag so there was actually only about 1 oz. of popcorn in it. However there was free re-fills on the large drinks.

Happy Feet trailer, if you dare.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey trailer.

Doomed From The Start

This was the first review I e-mailed of a movie that I did not see in a theater it was on September 30, 2008. I tell ya, I'm multi-faceted.

Saturday night I wasn't feeling very good at all. I think it had something to do with the hamburger grilled at the park in a friend-related picnic incident. Anyway I forced my way through getting kids dinner and getting them ready for bed as my head was swimming. After they finally went to bed I lay down and turned the TV on hoping for something watchable through my delirium. Conversation with a grown-up was out, as my wife had not yet returned from her trip to see her sister and family. Sadly, the best choices available were Doom and Health Inspector with Larry the Cable Guy. I grudgingly hit 'record' for both movies and started to watch Doom against my better judgment to simply put in The Godfather dvd to watch for the 743rd time. I decided to save Health Inspector for later but promised myself I'd actually watch it out of respect for Larry TCG's stand-up comedy expertise.

Doom is based on the popular computer game from a few years ago wherein Marines are sent to a Mars-based colony to rid it of zombies, various other monsters, and finally, demons. It has/had great scenery, visual effects, suspenseful noises, lots of cool guns, and events that jump out at you from all directions. The movie was a little different.

Doom, the movie, does indeed go to Mars but with a squad of marines made up of the typical stereotypes. They were The Commander, The Burly-but-Kind-Hearted Black Guy (usually the second to die in these types of movies), The Kid, The Slimy Jerk (you know that he's goin' down even if everyone else lives), The Reluctant Hero, and various other "filler" marines who may as well be wearing red Star Trek shirts. Surprisingly there was no Tough Female Marine-Who-Always-Has-To-Prove-Herself. I suppose this role was filled by the Smart-But-Uncommonly-Beautiful-Super-Intelligent-Scientist. Believe me when I say names are unimportant.

The movie may have had fantastic Mars vistas, but suspense was at a minimum, gunfire was common but the variety of guns promised didn't happen. Monsters in the game were many and varied, not so in the movie. Well... hold on a second, I may simply be too hasty in my judgment of what was or wasn't in this movie. Because you see, Doom made the bold move of not showing the audience what is going on, on screen. Aside from the occasional half-lit face, dim computer screen, or multiple flash of gunfire, the audience simply cannot see what is happening due to the welding mask that must have been placed over the camera lens.

Was this a bad movie? You betcha! I haven't wanted my hour and a half back this much since I made the mistake of using free movie tickets (won on a radio call-in contest) to see a similarly titled but in no way related Doom Generation back in the early 1990s. I think it was the only movie I ever walked out of. MAN was that a stinker! I actually considered asking for my money back and I didn't even pay for the ticket.

p.s.- The Larry The Cable Guy movie was exactly what you'd expect it to be so if you like that sort of thing, have at it.

Here's the Doom Trailer if you don't believe me.
Health Inspector trailer.
The Godfather trailer.
I refuse to link the Doom Generation trailer.

Alias Smith and Smith

This was the second review I gleaned from satellite TV on November 19, 2008. I think you'll find to was more an act of therapy than interest that made me watch it.

Tuesday night I saw that the Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie "look-how-attractive-we-are" movie known as Mr. & Mrs. Smith was on. It was too busy an evening to watch and I really didn't want to put forth the effort to see it anyway.


Much like reruns of Law and Order, I won't seek them out or look for them on the guide but will usually end up watching them if they're on. The Pitt/Jolie movie was like that. I had no interest in seeing this movie, least of all Jolie's bee-stung lips but somehow it drew me in.

In case you haven't seen it, the movie is about the married couple of Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Smith who are super secret super spies for the government but they don't work for the same government agency. But wait... it doesn't stop there, NEITHER of them knows that the other is also a spy! They both think the other is in the business world doing businessy things and make an enormous amount of money. As evidenced by their house.

John Smith (Pitt) works for an agency that has a low-key construction business as a cover. John is given superspy jobs by his secret spymaster as the hustle and bustle of the office goes on outside his door. It's all very archetypal. Of spy movies. Jane Smith (Jolie) on the other hand is in a high caliber, shiny, sky-scraper, office with secret slidey doors. Her shiny office is populated with super sexy all female spies with shiny desks, shiny lamps, and shiny computers. The boss, I don't know if his name was "Charlie", had the voice of the narrator for City Confidential, which I think is on the A&E channel. All very "Fox Force Five" if you ask me.

The plot complication comes with a misunderstanding that forces the couple not only to blow their cover to each other but also to try to kill one another. Keep in mind this is a romantic comedy. Or maybe it's an action comedy. Or maybe it's an action-romance with a little comedy thrown in... Ah, doesn't really matter.

The middle of the movie is all hide, seek, shootout, then fistfight. This carries over to the team up-against "them" last quarter of the movie. The action is good and the banter is surprisingly well done. There's even a sequence that shows the true value of a Dodge minivan. All you minivan haters out there could learn a thing or two from it. Anyway these two should really get together in real life.

One problem with Mr. and Mrs. Smith was that there were too many Deus Ex Machina moments for my liking. More than a few times I sez to myself, "myself" I sez, "Where did he/she get that gun/vehicle/high-tech device? It wasn't there in the last scene!" And why does she have a bandoleer on if her gun has a clip? Suspension of disbelief, my Aunt Fannie!

Nearing the end I found myself wondering just how they were going to end it because it was a real rock-and-hard-place situation. Apparently I wasn't alone because it looked like the creators of this flick didn't know either. The ending was cheesier than the closing minutes of a Mel Brooks movie.

Throw in a big goofy, wisecracking buddy for John, and make him that guy from Dodgeball and I'll give the movie a C+. They did, he was in the movie.

C+ (If your wife sends you to rent a movie you can feel comfortable getting this instead of something with "endearment", "waiting", "love", or "tourist" in the title.)

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Trailer.
Dodgeball trailer.

See No Evil

This is a previous review of mine but until I publish new material, here's a blast from the past: September 29, 2008

Seeing as how Hurricane Ike inspired our school district to tack on another week (ending today) to the "devistation holliday" the boys and I found ourselves in need of something to do before school started again. The local dollar cinema solved that problem for at least one afternoon.

We went to see Space Chimps because the family with whom we went had already seen Kung Fu Panda and I thought it polite not to ask them to see it again when there was another movie available. Being no fan of Jack Black, I didn't mind so much.

Space Chimps is about astronaut-trained chimpanzees called into duty generations after the first monkey was sent into space. They were chosen because the worm-hole found in space near the moon would be too dangerous to use humans to venture into it. For some reason (which I forget) they decide to use the grandson of the first monkey sent into space as one of the astronauts. That one is currently working as a circus cannonball act and is happy where he is and doesn't really want to go into space.

From this point on the plot complications are predictable to the point where I found myself wondering about the writers of this movie. I wondered if at the writing sessions they simply went around the table and said "write down the FIRST idea you have for the next scene of this movie and that's what we'll use."

Now throw in three NASA-esque scientists taking turns giving straight lines to one another and a grumpy Congressman threatening to cut off funding as soon as the next thing goes wrong and voila! You have a computer animated children's monkey movie.

Was this a bad movie? No. It kept moving and didn't promise much to begin with. At one point it looked like it was about to get preachy but thought better of itself and backed off nicely. Thus instantly giving it a better rating than Happy Feet but then I'd give Once Bitten a better rating than Happy Feet ... wait, maybe that's going too far... well you get the idea. The NASA scientists were kind of funny in their own deadpan way. it was worth the $1.50 ticket price for me and my chillin's.

Space Chimps Trailer.
Once Bitten trailer.