Sunday, September 22, 2019

Ad Astra

Ad Astra is a science fiction movie that works as entertainment.  It is about a man on a personal journey to find himself, and to find his long-missing father who might be endangering planet Earth.  The story is part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Interstellar, part Gravity, part First Man, and part Apocalypse Now.  There is even one scene that reminded me of The Martain.  As such, the movie feels very much recycled, but it is also just original enough to be different, and the drama is just barely good enough to make us care.

There are a few plot elements that don't make logical sense and these are a big problem.  The movie goes off the rails midway through, where the main character does something not believable, and as a result, he gets people killed.  These deaths are more of plot contrivance to show the main character alone, and they are ignored for the rest of the movie.

There is much world-building that could have taken place, but instead the world these people live in is entirely left to our imagination.

Ad Astra has been described as the most realistic space movie ever.  That distinction really belongs to 2001: A Space Odyssey.  When it comes to the laws of physics, there are times when Ad Astra just doesn't care.  For a science fiction movie, it is pretty shaky on the science.  It seems to ignore what we know about orbital mechanics.  The film also portrays communication across billion miles as nearly instantaneous, when it takes hours for the round trip communication.  There is a scene late in the movie where Newton's Third Law of Motion is mostly ignored.

Brad Pitt's performance is really good, and if it wasn't for this the movie might have bombed.  Most of the other actors are pretty forgettable, except for Tommy Lee Jones whose brief appearance is also really good.

So the film seems to care more about the personal story and less about whether it is logical or makes sense.  This can work, but I find myself asking, "Is this the best they can do?"  The film's original budget was 80 million dollars, but test audiences didn't like it, so they did $20 million in reshoots.  A hundred million dollars isn't big for a space movie, but given that they spent that much money, couldn't they have had a story that made a little more sense and gotten the science correct? 

The difference between not getting all the elements right and getting them right is the difference between a movie that we won't remember five years from now and a classic that people will still be watching in 40 years time.

Rating: B+.

Brad Pitt is charming in any role.  If you want to see much better Brad Pitt movies, watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Fury

Brian Blessed On Sebastian Shaw

Just found this.  it is amusing...

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Ideology of the First Order

The original Fascists advocated an economy controlled by the state for the purpose of serving the state.  Nazism also advocated this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Star Wars: The Complete Canon Timeline

This is mostly a complete timeline of Star Wars.  It leaves out the young Boba Fett leading bunch of bounty hunters in an attempt to assassinate Mace Windu.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Jerry Lewis on his split from Dean Martin


With all due respect, I like that Leia could use the force to save herself.

I happen to like Kevin Smith.  My love of Star Wars is only second to his.  I love watching his enthusiasm.

Solo didn't impress me.  It was okay, but it doesn't add anything to the Star Wars story unless we get a sequel, which I would welcome.  Solo felt average and like a recycled western.  I also thought that the ending was overly convoluted and not consistent with the Solo character.  It blows my mind that he can walk up to a bar and order a "brandy", as if an earth drink would exist a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

I don't buy this notion that there was no overall plan.  Sure, Rian Johnson had too much creative control to do his own thing, but I'm certain that Lucasfilm had expectations on what they wanted each movie to accomplish.

I will swear to my dying breath that The Last Jedi is entertaining, because guess what?  I found it entertaining.  Four times.  It was not what I expected, nor exactly what I would have preferred, but that is the problem with the fan reaction; they are going to reject an otherwise entertaining movie because it does not match their preconceived notion of what it should be.  They complain that the character of Luke was disrespected, but it is not our story to tell.  Lucasfilm chose to give us a story that was different than what we expected, likely in order to take the series in a new direction.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thor 4: Love and Thunder: Natalie Portman, female Thor

Natalie Portman is going to play female Thor in Thor 4.

Almost every time they do something like this, they lose money. They give us movies that people don't want to see.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Lion King

The 1994 hand-drawn animated version of The Lion King is nearly perfect.  The animation is beautiful, with most of it having a 3D look.  The characters are great and the voice acting by Matthew Broadrick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan LaneErnie Sabella, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin all give those characters a very distinctive sound.  The music, which effectively pulls at our emotions, is so wonderful that it is like another character in the movie.

The only part of the original film that I did not like as much is the musical number "I just can't wait to become King."  This sequence is drawn in a 2D style like a classic Saturday morning cartoon.  Although it isn't a particularly bad sequence, its target audience seems to be just for kids.

The 2019 remake has many of the qualities that made the original good, but it also is lacking in many areas.  The insistence that everything be photorealistic means that the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it also means that the characters are far less expressive than their hand-drawn counterparts.  For example, the character of Scar had charisma in the original, but in the remake he just comes across as mean.  I don't think that the voices are as stylish either, although Seth Rogan does a good job as Pumbaa.  Why they didn't use the original cast?  Only Jame Earl Jones reprises his role.

The music had a powerful impact on the original.  It is strangely more subdued in the remake.  The star of the new movie, and by far the best reason to see it, is the computer animation.  It is a sight to behold.

Hand-drawn animation is expensive, so the original at 88 minutes feels slightly too short.  It is a very compact movie with scenes and dialog taking no more time than they need to in order to convey the story.  The remake is 30 minutes longer, with extra and more mature dialog everywhere.  Many of the scenes are longer.  Some of this is nice, but parts of it also feel unnecessary.  The final confrontation with Scar is too long and gives the impression of being more violent.

There are little things done in the original that weren't done in the remake, like Pumba picking up Simba with his horns, or Pumba getting stuck under a tree root while being chased by Nala.  I found myself wondering if this was just a technological limitation of the computer animation?

Should you see the 2019 remake of the Lion King?  Absolutely.  It is a wonderful movie to look at.  At times I felt like I was watching a beautiful nature show that just happens to be The Lion King.  However, the original is a better overall experience.


The Lion King (1994):  A.
The Lion King (2019):  B+.

The Lion King (2019) has just a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Spider-Man Far from Home

Spider-Man Far from Home starts out like another teen friendly movie, like Alita Battle Angel, so I'm thinking to myself that I'm sick of this crap. I'm thinking that if this continues I'm going to walk out. But about 1/4 of the way in, the action gets intense. The movie feels like it comes to a conclusion half way through, but then we find out that we have been deceived and the real story starts in the middle of the movie. By the the end the film delivers in a really big way. The two post credit scenes shake things up even further. Overall it is a pretty wild ride.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Friday, June 21, 2019

Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 is more than sufficiently entertaining, but it doesn't cover much ground that we haven't seen before.  What is different is the introduction of the character "Forky", which is a toy made from recycled trash.  Forky suddenly comes alive and is not very comfortable with his new existence as a toy.  He thinks that he is trash, which technically he is.  This raises uncomfortable questions about how life works in the Toy Story universe, such as why are the toys alive at all?  Strangely enough, the movie even asks that question, without giving us an answer.  Is the film trying to get us to think about something?  We could raise this line of thinking to a much higher existential level and wonder why we exist at all?

In the first film, we accepted that the toys are alive as part of the magic.  The Toy Story movie was a new technology that felt magical.  Toy Story 4 is darker, similar to the third film, so somehow the magic isn't quite the same anymore.

Part of the problem is that the story is just not as strong.  The first film gave us great character development that came out of a conflict that really seemed to matter and was resolved in a very satisfying way.  Here, not so much. The movie is mostly an action film with a touch of character development on the side.  Fortunately, the movie also knows how to touch our hearts, but again, this not that different from what we have seen before. 

It feels like the movies have run their course because they have already done everything that they can do.  Despite this, the ending leaves open some questions about what is going to happen to these characters that may require yet another movie to resolve.

Rating:  B.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Rocketman is probably the best movie that I will see this year.  It starts with Elton John checking himself into rehab around 1990, whereupon the film shortly breaks into song.  This is surprising, but it seems appropriate, if not downright brilliant, that a biopic about a musician should be a musical.  The movie has a habit of breaking into elaborate musical numbers when you least expect it, like when Elton John tries to kill himself.  However, for a musician as flashy as Elton John, this is the perfect way to tell the story.  I just kept thinking about how brilliant this all was.

In rehab, Elton John tells everyone just how very screwed up he is, and then he recounts the story of his life telling how he got that way.  This is where the movie shines, showing his boyhood living in public housing and his troubled relationship with an uncaring father and somewhat distant mother.  The young Reginald Dwight (his real name) quickly learns that he has a talent for the piano and is showing great musical prowess by his teens.  In the 1960's he struggled to make a living as a musician, but things begin to improve when he meets and teams up with Bernie Taupin, who was his lifelong collaborator and wrote most of the lyrics to Elton John's songs.   However, in 1970 he makes an appearance at the famous West Hollywood nightclub, the Troubadour, which he was almost too nervous to do.  There Elton becomes a huge hit and his career immediately takes off.  

All this success doesn't make Elton John any less screwed up.  His drug and alcohol problems get worse until finally, his close friends are urging him to get help.

The movie doesn't shy away from Elton John's homosexuality, depicting his relationship with his lover and manager John Reid.

My one complaint is that the end of the movie shows Elton John doing a music video post-rehab.  The movie plays loose with the facts, because the music video, "I'm still standing", is actually from 1983.  The only problem here is that the music video looks fuzzy like we are watching it on a television set.  This takes us out of the moment.

The film fails to tell us very much about Elton John post-rehab.  It is like the rest of his life is encapsulated into a minute of text and pictures at the end of the movie.  This misses out on possible dramatic moments showing how much better his life was after recovery.

Prior to the fuzzy music video, I was going to give the movie an "A+", because it is that brilliant.  In addition, the film could have given us more, if not a great deal more, about Elton John's life.  It is not like his life ended when he got out of rehab.

Rating:  A

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Kathy Kennedy says STAR WARS can't be the MCU...but she's wrong

I don't like the Carie-Poppins comparisons. People complained so much that I watched the scene in Marry Poppins and they look nothing alike. I like that Leia can use the Force to save herself, showing that she has Force powers. What bothered me is the apparent lack of airlock or force field, which I'm sure was there, but the movie doesn't make that obvious.

Follow me on this: The Last Jedi has a number of scenes that take us out of the moment because those scenes were different, or overdid the humor. There are consistency problems, where the movie tries to redefine Star Wars for a new generation. There are also a handful of plot holes and a couple of scenes of bad dialog. However, between these moments, which are all brief, is a very entertaining story that I like very much. I have seen the movie four times and I really enjoy it. I also don't mind the humor, because I was laughing out loud the first time I saw the movie. On repeat viewings, the humor lacks most of the surprise effect, but these scenes go by quickly. 

I know that people didn't like the way Luke was handled, but I have a completely different take on this. I don't think that you can disrespect a fictional character. What you can do is give the audience something different than what they wanted or expected. It is not the story I would have preferred, but if they gave me exactly what I was expecting then it would risk being boring. The story of Luke as given is entertaining. I feel that this is not our story to tell; we aren't the writers. We don't get to decide what the story of Luke should be.

It is not my favorite Star Wars movie. It is close to the bottom. I actually like Solo less. Solo is not a bad movie, but there is a shortage of likable characters and the movie feels very ordinary, like a recycled western. The ending is overly convoluted and the Han Solo character is too altruistic.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Star Wars: Anakin And Padme Theme (Across The Stars)

Oh, man. John Williams can write music. This is the love theme for Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

John Williams - Battle of the Heroes (Official Audio)

John Williams is the bomb. It is hard to listen to this and not be moved.

Just looking at the awards John Williams has gotten, it is amazing the music that this man has produced.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

The trailer for Pokemon Detective Pikachu makes the movie look like a funny videogame adaptation fantasy.  However, the film doesn't come close to living up to the trailer.  If you have seen the trailer then you have seen the best parts.  The actual film is a mess.  A big mess.  

Nothing is developed properly.  There are many cliches recycled from other movies that we are just supposed to accept because the language of film tells us what they are.  The barely coherent story feels like it was written for 12-year-olds by a 12-year-old.  The slightly less coherent action sequences feel designed for 10-year-old Japanese boys.  The simplicity of the dialog bugged the hell out of me.

At times I felt like I was being subjected to something instead of being entertained.  For a brief moment, it reminded me of watching Howard The Duck in 1986, which is really saying something.

This is extremely lazy filmmaking.  Even though the movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, it is too short because the film doesn't come close to realizing its full potential.  There is so much more that should have been explained and explored.

Despite all these problems, the story and character development are almost good enough to make the movie worth watching.  The premise is interesting.  Some of the special effects are fantastic, even though the story behind them is barely passable.  

Rating:  C+.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

3 New Star Wars Films Get Release Dates, But What Are They?

This is an interesting discussion on the future of Disney movies. However, it is a bit long.  I gave it 45 minutes.