Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Star Wars - The Genius of John Williams

I don't know anything about music, but I do know that John Williams's music is pretty incredible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5ysBKUC4-w

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Green Screen special effects

I saw a shorter version of this on Facebook that starts 38 seconds into it.  I found it impressive.

https://youtu.be/FFJ_THGj72U?t=38

Friday, July 9, 2021

Foundation



I saw someplace that the Isaac Asimov Foundation series is getting a television adaptation. I feel the same way about this upcoming show that I do about the upcoming Dune movie based upon a series of books by Frank Herbert, who tended to write very weird books. Some books are just not very cinematic, least of all, Foundation and Dune.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Tomorrow War


The Tomorrow War is a movie just released on Amazon Prime.

It seems that movies about Time Travel have become increasingly illogical. The rules about time travel get bent in weird ways depending upon which story you are watching. The Tomorrow War feels like it might have a few plot holes or pieces that don't quite make sense. It is essentially a 4 act film, making it feel too long, and the entire last act is questionable.

The movie also dwells on personal relationships that the audience will feel mostly indifferent to.

Regardless, The Tomorrow War has some intense sci-fi war action sequences. These do get a bit repetitious, but much of this film is thrilling to watch.

In terms of story, The Tomorrow War reminds me of "World War Z." That film wasn't entirely logical either, but it was a better made movie.

The Tomorrow War has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I give it a "B-".

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Terminator: Dark Fate


On the surface, Terminator: Dark Fate seems like an example of everything wrong with movie-making in the last five years:  Take a 35-year-old franchise and reboot it with new heroes, most of which are female who seem far more capable than they should be, throw in a few subtle political messages and then make the movie with essentially the same plot that we have already seen.  One critic called the movie "garbage" because the female lead takes down two men twice her size simultaneously in hand to hand combat, as if the laws of physics have no meaning.  

Dark Fate is essentially a remake of Terminator II Judgement Day, but not as good.  The movie has heart, but not as much.  It has suspense, but it doesn't achieve the fantastic level of dread that Terminator II did.

However, Terminator: Dark Fate still has much to offer.  It has some of the best action scenes of the entire franchise.  These scenes are not perfect, because they are a bit too frenetic, too dark, and a little over the top, but they kept me riveted to my seat.  The movie also offers a few new twists on the old formula.

It is easier to appreciate this movie if we look at the history of the Terminator movies.

"The Terminator" in 1984 was a great low budget science fiction horror film.  Terminator II took this story to a much higher level and higher budget in 1991.  However, that was the last time the franchise was really great.  

Every movie since then has attempted to continue the story while also serving as a reboot that would allow the franchise to move forward.  In this regard, all the previous films failed.  I like the mostly forgettable Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and the somewhat better Terminator 4 Salvation (2009), but the movies had mixed reviews and the franchise failed to recapture its former glory.  Then came Terminator Genisys in 2015 that completely flopped.  The story was a dud.

Therefore, since these films are based on time travel, Terminator: Dark Fate continues the story after Terminator II in a way that completely throws away the last three movies.  This is actually a good thing because it is entertaining enough to allow the franchise to move forward again.  

The way the movie achieves this reboot might rub some people the wrong way.  There are a number of people who dislike this film.  Therefore, it seems likely to fail as a reboot.  What matters to me is that the movie is plenty entertaining despite a few minor flaws.  This is like Terminator Salvation, which I thought was pretty good, but not everyone liked it as much as I did.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Out of Time


It turns out there are a bunch of movies that have been named, "Out of Time."  This 2019 release is available on Amazon Prime, and it feels like a good made-for-TV movie.  I don't think that it had a theatrical release.  It is not quite on that level, but as a TV movie, it is like a very well-made episode of "The Outer Limits".  It is comparable to the movie, "The Thirteenth Floor", which I enjoyed.

Three people mysteriously appear out of a portal in the desert and make their way to Los Angeles, leaving a trail of bodies along the way.  Another portal opens in the desert, and a detective character emerges who pursues the other three.  He teams up with a Los Angeles policewoman in pursuit of these dangerous characters.

The time travel is similar to The Terminator series except with a twist; these people came from the past, specifically Roswell New Mexico around 1950.  The detective is pursuing three aliens intent on wiping out the human race.  Unfortunately, the aliens can transfer themselves into other people, making the pursuit that much more difficult.

This show kept my interest from beginning to end.  As a low-budget science fiction movie, it works very well.

I was hoping for a Twilight Zone-like twist at the end and I was not disappointed.

Rating:  B.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Soul


"Soul" was scheduled to be released on June 19, 2020, but at that time the only open theaters were a few drive-ins.  It would probably have been one of the top-grossing films of the year, but it got pushed back to November and then pushed back again to December 25th just on the Disney+ streaming service.

In the 1943 movie, "A Guy Named Joe", the main character is a fighter pilot who is killed in his last mission before becoming a flight instructor.  In Heaven, he is told that he must return to Earth to become the spiritual inspiration to a young flight trainee.  This movie was remade in 1989 as Steve Spielberg's "Always", with Richard Dreyfus as the departed pilot.  One critic called "Always" the best movie Steven Speilberg has ever made.  

These films may have been an inspiration for the movie "Soul."  

Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher who is unsatisfied with his lot in life, gets his big break when he gets a chance to perform as a backup musician for a famous jazz singer.  However, before he can play his gig, he accidentally falls into an open manhole.  He finds himself in the soul dimension on a conveyer belt taking him to "The Great Beyond."  However, since Joe didn't get to play his big break, he doesn't want to go.  He escapes the conveyer belt only to fall into "The Great Before", a place where new souls are being prepared for their journey to Earth.  Here he is given the job of inspiring "soul number 22", who is a particularly recalcitrant soul who doesn't want to go to Earth.  For 22 to get to Earth, she first has to find her "spark", which she stubbornly refuses to do.  Joe is more interested in finding a way to cheat the system so that he can return to his body on Earth, which is in a coma in the hospital.  He accidentally falls to Earth with 22, and her soul ends up in his body and his soul ends up in the body of a cat.

I have seen people criticize this body-swapping plot because it has been done before many times in other movies, and even though it is perhaps the weakest part of the movie, it also gives Joe the cat a chance to inspire 22 to want to live.  He almost succeeds, but complications get in the way.

Some of the scenes in the soul dimension are very beautiful, so I would have liked to have seen this movie on the big screen.

"Soul" is a very beautifully made film whose ideas are stronger than their implementation, but as a movie, it is borderline great.  It is very rewatchable and emotionally touching.  It ponders some great ideas about the meaning of life, but it might be a little too deep and too introspective for kids to fully appreciate.

Rating:  A-.



Friday, May 21, 2021

Cloud Atlas: Who was who... in the final credits...

The mind-bending movie "Cloud Atlas" takes place in six time periods: 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144, and 2321. I loved the movie, although it might be a bit long. It tells six different but interconnected stories with mostly the same actors playing different roles.  One theme is reincarnation, but the main theme is about fighting oppression.



Trailer:  

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Tenet

 

Tenet would have likely been one of the biggest blockbuster hits of last year as a science fiction action thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.  However, on the surface, it feels like the wackiest James Bond movie ever made.  The main character, called only "The Protagonist", is a spy sent to track down secrets to ultimately stop the end of the world.  It seems as if everyone else in the movie already knows the answers to these secrets except The Protoganist who has to figure them out one piece at a time.  His journey mirrors the audience who are also learning about these secrets for the first time.

The premise is that in the distant future someone builds a machine that can "reverse the flow of entropy" on matter and people, which means that the matter and people experience time in reverse.  The reversed matter travels backward in time at a normal rate instead of forward at a normal rate.  I am pretty sure that this is and will forever be physically impossible, but science fiction is full of impossible contrivances.  In this sense, the premise is similar to the low-budget mind-bending time-travel film Primer.

The future people are unhappy about Climate Change ruining their world, so they devise a plot to destroy the world in our time thinking that they can still protect themselves in the future, which absolutely makes no sense.  They devise a way to communicate with a dying psychopathic billionaire who agrees to go along with their scheme.  The billionaire and the future people send information and technology back and forth by burying it in designated spots for the other to retrieve in their time.

This leads to some very convoluted scenes of people fighting and scheming against each other while experiencing time in opposite directions.  This includes a great battle that is too confusing for normal minds to follow.

There is an obligatory romantic interest that causes The Protagonist to do things that otherwise might be counter to his mission.  

I am pretty sure that the movie as a whole doesn't make sense, but it doesn't matter.  There are likely people who will analyze every scene and plot it on a graph so as to finally understand the entire story, as was done with the very convoluted aforementioned film Primer.  Except that I am not so enthralled with the movie's excesses that I would do that.  I don't care if the movie makes sense or not.  This film is what I like to call, "A Grand Spectacle", and as such, it is a visual treat to watch whether it makes sense or not.  I don't have to fully understand it to enjoy it.

Despite the absurdity of the whole premise and the overall complexity of the story, the movie is a captivating experience.

Had the film been a major blockbuster last year, instead of experiencing a limited release in theaters due to COVID, I'm sure that people would have talked about it for months.  This is the kind of movie that people make videos on Youtube to explain.

Rating:  A-. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday, April 30, 2021

HBO's Chernobyl


As a riveting drama, it is hard to beat HBO's Chernobyl. The 4 episode miniseries deals with the worst nuclear accident in history, and all the consequences thereof. Thousands of people, such as nuclear workers, firefighters, military, miners, and scientists are in a race against time to contain the nuclear fallout that could affect a large area and contaminate millions of people.  Some of these people lost their lives in the process.

As fantastic as Chernobyl is as a drama, it gets so many facts wrong both historically and scientifically that it has been the subject of much criticism. It repeatedly exaggerates the threat that the nuclear accident poses, going as far as to describe the plant as a nuclear bomb, claiming that it could lead to a 30 megaton explosion, and claiming that it could make half of Europe uninhabitable. According to people in the know, all of this is complete nonsense. The show further states that a large group of spectators on a bridge miles from the accident died from radiation poisoning, calling it the "death bridge." However, according to many sources, this is an urban legend.

Normally I would find these kinds of mistakes unforgivable, but Chernobyl also gets a great many facts right, not the least of which is the human suffering of a terrible nuclear accident. Some scenes might be too graphic for people. Chernobyl does not shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of this disaster.

Soviet politics are a major factor since the government seemed to be in denial. They were slow to realize that the accident is a serious problem.

Early on in the miniseries, many of the nuclear workers and scientists can't fathom how such an accident could happen. The show keeps us in suspense by saving the explanation for last. It was a combination of bad design and poor training leading to incompetent nuclear workers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Why John Carter Failed - How Disney Let Its Biggest Movie Die


Just for the record, I liked this movie.  I think that the movie flopped because the premise is rather silly by modern standards.  Audiences aren't going to accept a swashbuckling story about rival kingdoms on the planet Mars.  When the story was written over a hundred years ago this might have sounded borderline plausible.  

However, take the same general idea and make it a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, and then it becomes more plausible.

Here is a link to my review which I recommend that you read:   http://letsallgotothemovie.blogspot.com/2013/10/stories-where-flash-gordon-rushed.html

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Cloris Leachman

On January 27, 2021, Leachman died in her sleep at her home in Encinitas, California, at the age of 94. The cause of death was a stroke with COVID-19 as a contributing factor.

She played the grandmother in the animated movie "The Croods" that I liked.  I have not yet seen the recently released sequel, in which she also played.  One of her most famous roles was as the snobbish neighbor on the Mary Tyler Moore show.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Vast of the Night


The Vast of the Night was released to drive-in theaters and on Amazon Prime in May of 2020.

When I was reviewing the movie "The Signal", I said that the trouble with low budget science fiction movies is that these types of films might have one good idea, whereas a big-budget movie like "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" is loaded with many good ideas. The Signal kept you in suspense for the whole film, making you think that this story was leading up to something wonderful. There was a payoff in the end, but that payoff was so short that if you had closed your eyes for just a couple of seconds then you would have missed it. Literally. Everything I said about "The Signal" is also true for "The Vast of the Night", except the ending is a little longer. However, both movies are an exercise in prolonged tension to arrive at similar endings. The Vast of the Night feels like a master class in low budget filmmaking. It does a great job with its long camera shots and its unknown actors who give stellar performances. The movie starts by showing an old fashioned television screen like it is playing an episode of the old Twilight Zone. The camera zooms into the screen and now we are following characters in a 1950's small New Mexico town on the night of a high school basketball game. It spends a long 20 minutes introducing its settings and characters, after which the local switchboard operator starts noticing weird things happening. She teams up with her friend, a disk jockey at a one-man radio station to investigate what is going on. Many of the scenes drag on a bit, mostly with conversation. But there is a frantic tension that builds toward the conclusion. Fortunately, the actors really sell this story. We get a sense that these are ordinary people caught up in something big that they don't understand. The minimalist style of this film could be called experimental, but for 85 minutes it works really well. Rating: B+. A reviewer on youtube gave the film an A-. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HEcnacyI_8


Friday, April 2, 2021

Mark Hamill Responds To Sebastian Stan Possibly Playing Luke Skywalker

This is an Internet rumor that has persisted for about a year.  Many fans want to see Sebastian Stan play a young Luke Skywalker, but there is no indication that anything is planned.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League


Superhero movies, in general, seem a little silly to me because the superpowers these characters have are often physically impossible, which makes them fantasy films. Why not instead watch movies about real heroes doing real heroism? However, I'll make an exception for Superman because he is an iconic (American) character that I grew up with.

The 2016 movie Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is entertaining, and even more so the Ultimate Edition that I just streamed on HBOmax. I did not go see the 2017 Justice League movie because the reviews were mostly negative, but the internet mob spent 4 years campaigning for "The Snyder Cut", and seventy million dollars later they got it on HBOmax. Unlike the 2 hour theatrical version, the Snyder Cut is 3 hours and 54 minutes long and it is a blast. It is divided into six parts because reportedly they were considering making it into a miniseries. However, I never got bored with this version. It kept my rapt attention. As soon as one part was done I wanted to see the next part.

Although there are many differences between this version and the original theatrical release, the biggest is tone. It is more serious, darker, and less funny. The longer version also allows for the characters to be better developed.

​My only gripes with this movie are minor. Zack Snyder is a big fan of slow-motion and as others have pointed out, he overdoes it.​ There is also a scene that hits us over the head with a message about poverty, which is okay, but it takes us out of the moment.

Rating: A-.

Justice League Snyder Cut: All Differences From the Theatrical Version

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice "Ultimate Edition"

 


Cutting to the chase, I like this movie much more than the average critic.  It only scores 28% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The biggest problems with the film are that it spends a very long time on setup, you almost need a roadmap to follow its multiple storylines, it is intensely violent, occasionally brooding, and the payoff is overloaded with special effects.  However, I like the payoff, and I think that when the story is not being overly convoluted that there is a richness to it.  There are many emotional moments that go by quickly, but they work if you are paying attention.  Due to the complexity of the film, you really have to focus to keep up, but I like a movie that engages the brain.

Many people did not like Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, because he is not the typical intellectual scheming Lex Luthor.  He is more manic, like a mix of Lex Luthor and the Joker or the Riddler.  However, I think that Eisenberg's manic performance here is fantastic.  Some of his dialog is the best in the movie.  His character is key to the entire film.

Portions of the dialog with the extra characters seem overly simplistic, which is an annoying trend that I have noticed with other superhero movies.

The "Ultimate Edition" adds 30 minutes to the original runtime, making it almost 3 hours long.  However, the Ultimate Edition restored scenes and storylines taken out of the original for time.  The result is less confusing and richer in detail.

Rating:  A-.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

People on the Internet have a remarkable amount of power



People on the Internet have a remarkable amount of power. When the first trailer appeared for Sonic The Hedgehog, the animation of Sonic didn't look quite right. It was kind of creepy. So people complained en masse. The production studio was so affected by this that they spent an extra $10 million over their $90 million budget to fix the animation, and the result was a kid's movie that surprised the critics by actually being good. It wasn't great, but it was passable entertainment.
The 2016 Zack Snyder movie Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice was fairly good, but the follow-up 2017 film, Justice League, was a disaster. Zack Snyder had to leave the project before it was finished due to the death of his daughter. The movie was finished by Joss Whedon, who has done great work on television and in the Marvel films, but his cut of the movie didn't quite work. As a result, there was an Internet campaign to, "Release the Snyder Cut", even though such a thing probably didn't exist. People were saying that it would never happen. However, the campaign never stopped, which lead to $70 million being spent so that Zack Snyder could release his version of the film on the 18nth of this month on HBO Max, an online streaming service. The early reviews are in, and the critics for the most part like the new version.
Gina Carano is a former wrestler who did a fairly good job of playing the character Cara Dune on the Star Wars streaming series, The Mandalorian. (I can't recommend this series enough.) However, she got into it with some fans on Twitter about her posts not being politically correct, which led to a several-month-long campaign to get her fired. I think that Gina Carano did nothing wrong, but Disney eventually gave in and fired her. Now, the same outrage mob is trying to go after Bill Bur and Rosario Dawson, both of which have also played on The Mandalorian. Meanwhile, Josh Whedon has fallen out of favor with the public for alleged bad behavior.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Queen's Gambit


Hollywood tends to make fictional movies about people who are so talented that they quickly rise to the top of some competitive sport without really having to earn it. In reality, a game like chess is immensely difficult to master, and the top-level players spend decades of full-time effort to get to that level. You almost have to be a little bit crazy to be a top tier chess player.

So I resisted at first watching Queen's Gambit, but as a drama about chess, it is good. There is also a major theme about substance abuse. These together make a pretty good story.

Obviously, there is also a theme of female empowerment. This is interesting because during the 1950s and 1960s in which this story takes place, there weren't that many women chess players and none at the higher levels. Things have improved quite a bit since then, first with the Polgar sisters becoming top tier players, and more recently with Chinese star Hou Yifan. Yet, chess is still a game dominated by men, maybe because women find it less interesting. Men more than women prefer competitive sports, especially one as egotistical as chess.

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Best wishes,

John Coffey

http://www.entertainmentjourney.com

Monday, February 22, 2021

James Cameron Vs Ripley's Underwear


The scene is iconic and important to the movie. It also goes by quickly. The film quickly switches from relaxed and sexual to sheer terror as Ripley is surprised by the alien monster. Ripley in her underwear feels more vulnerable, but she finds a way to fight back demonstrating that she is a strong character.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Why the Music in Cats (2019) is Worse than you Thought

I tried to give the movie a chance.  This is far more analysis than most people would want to spend time on, but at least now I know why the movie sucks.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Watchmen (2009) - Was It Really That Bad?



I remember liking Watchmen, but I'm not sure that I would want to sit through it again.  There was a certain novelty to the concept of flawed superheroes, but this no longer seems like a novel concept.