Saturday, August 6, 2022

Andor is doing something very risky

“Outer Range”

You can tell the difference between great science fiction, which has many good ideas, and cheap science fiction that usually has just one good idea. I have seen repeatedly the same pattern where a mystery gets presented early on and this mystery does not get solved until the big reveal at the end of the movie, which is the one good idea. A movie that did this really well was the ultra low budget "Into the Night ". The problem with Amazon's "Outer Range" is that it takes eight episodes to get to the big reveal, although along the way it gets much mileage out of its mystery.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Lightyear

 


My head is "buzzing" after just finishing the Disney Pixar film Lightyear.  A great deal works in this movie, along with scenes that feel weirdly off, plot holes, very questionable physics, time travel shenanigans, and alternate reality.  It is a little too convoluted for a Disney kid's film and I'm pretty sure that I didn't understand all of it.

The first half of the film made me feel like I was watching a B-movie science fiction in an animated kid's film that wasn't funny, which seemed like a half-hearted effort by Pixar.  However, the real meat takes place in the second half, which has enough action to make a Transformers movie proud.  The net result is a somewhat entertaining movie that is messy.

There is no doubt that the movie looks gorgeous.  The level of animation is almost too detailed for objects that are on screen for like 2 seconds, making me want to see more of the things that just fly by.

The movie has one big Twilight-Zone-like twist that doesn't quite make sense.  

The story starts out fairly routine before it eventually ventures into Twilight Zone territory.  Buzz Lightyear is a Space Ranger who accidentally gets his shipmates stranded on a hostile world.  However, the crewmates make the best of their situation, build a habitat that turns into a community, defend themselves from the indigenous life forms, and build an experimental ship in an effort to get off the planet.  Since Lightyear feels bad about that accident that stranded them, he makes multiple failed attempts to break the light barrier in the experimental ship.  Each attempt sends him about four years into the future, which as portrayed in the movie makes no sense.  He watches his shipmates grow old and die as he keeps trying.  When he finally does succeed, he finds himself further into the future than expected, and the community under attack from extraterrestrial robots.  He must band together with the descendants of his former shipmates against this new threat.

Initially, Lightyear does not trust new recruits, trusting only himself, but later feels bad over his own failures.  Circumstances force him to work with a team of pretty inexperienced rookies, which he does not want to do, but he eventually realizes that he cannot do everything on his own.

Rating:  B.

Lightyear is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

The initial reviews for Lightyear said that it was not only a good Pixar film but also a very good science fiction movie.  However, I think that both assertions are debatable.  Nevertheless, with such good reviews, I wanted to see the movie, but I was not quite ready to return to theaters because of COVID.  

The movie did poorly at the Box Office, quickly going to Disney Plus streaming, but not because of COVID.  Many conservative voices tried very hard to organize a boycott against the film, and this effort had some success.  The problem was a "lesbian kiss" in what is presumably a kid's film, even though this scene takes about 1 second of screen time and is handled delicately with a married same-sex couple.  I fail to see why this would be an issue in the year 2022 because it represents the world that we live in now.  Most kids are fully aware of these issues.  Nevertheless, prominent conservative voices were vowing to not let their kids see the movie, which is perhaps their loss.

When it comes to controversial issues, science fiction has often been the first to break new ground.  All the way back in 1995, Star Trek Deep Space Nine had a passionate female-on-female kiss, but this made sense within the science fiction story.  Certain shows, like Deep Space Nine, Star Trek The Next Generation, The Orville, and the animated series Final Space, had alien species with either just one gender or alien species that could change gender.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi as a 2.5 hour movie

I am in the process of watching the Kenobi series for the 2nd time.  This project originally started as a stand-alone movie, but the failure of Solo got it changed to a series instead.

A fan has cut the series down to a 2.5-hour movie.  Presumably, the pacing is better.

https://www.kaipattersonfilms.com/kenobi

I expect that Disney will shut this down as fast as possible.

I was disappointed that an early but important scene with a young Princess Leia got cut.

It would be interesting if the actual director were to turn it into a 2.5 to 3-hour movie.  That is a bit long, but I watched a 4 hour Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max and I loved it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - MODERN TRAILER - 4K || (2022)

The original trailers for the Star Wars movies were hokey by modern standards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urhsYepFqs0

Wow. I'm impressed This is nearly perfect.  Still my favorite movie.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Targeting Computer Was Never Going to Work

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqJbJYViUog

Marcia Lucas, the former wife of George Lucas, is the unsung hero of the original Star Wars movie, along with other editors including Martin Scorsese.  The first cut of the film was not very good, and the movie was saved by re-editing using a combination of four editors who were rushed to get the film out on time.  Marcia Lucas edited the fantastic Death Star assault.

She would later divorce George Lucas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Why Lightyear Bombed At The Box Office


I would like to see both Maverick and Lightyear.  Not ready to go back to the theater.

I liked both "Soul" and "Onward."

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Eye in the Sky


Eye in the Sky is a 2015 war thriller starring Helen Miran, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul.  This was Alan Rickman's last movie before succumbing to pancreatic cancer.

 A military operation uses a Predator UAV to track a group of highly wanted terrorists to a house in Kenya where a couple of suicide bombings are being prepared.  Since the Predator is equipped with a couple of Hellfire missiles, and there is an imminent threat, the logical thing to do is to blow up the house from the air.  

However, there is a problem.  A little girl from the same neighborhood starts selling loaves of bread baked by her mother just outside the house with the terrorists inside.  The conflict of the film is what to do about the little girl?   This is a decision that goes up and down the command chain and gets debated hotly as a moral conundrum.

The movie also uses a couple of micro-drones disguised as animals that may not really exist.  We don't know for sure what secret technology the military may have.

Is this an anti-war film?  Maybe.  But it also debates the morality of fighting a war with drones from thousands of miles away where the participants are safe from the consequences.

The tension in this movie is fantastic.  It also shows how competing political interests might fight over life and death decisions.  Although this is a work of fiction, it is easy to imagine that scenarios like this have played out for real.

Rating:  A.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

No Time to Die

 


If it weren't for its length, No Time To Die might be considered the best Bond Film.  This is a beautifully made movie that stretches out too long.  It has a complex plot that is rich in detail, and it feels more realistic than earlier Bond films.  However, too much is not explained; it is hard to understand the motivation of the villains or how their plans make any sense.

Almost all of the movie's technology feels like science fiction.  The plot revolves around killer nanobots that can assassinate specific people or groups based on their DNA.  We also see a variety of Bond gadgets that don't seem realistic at our current level of technology.   As unrealistic as all this technology is, it will likely seem outdated in a couple of decades.  For example, I think that the future of biotechnology won't be nanobots, which in science fiction are typically presented as all-powerful capable of doing almost anything, but instead will be actual biotechnology using genetics and microorganisms.

There is a scene early in the film where a Bond car is shown to be bulletproof, despite having normal-looking windows.  Real bulletproof glass can be up to 3.5 inches thick.  I would not expect thin car windows to withstand a massive barrage of bullets as they do in this scene.

Daniel Craig is great as Bond.  Christoph Waltz has a really good but all too brief scene as Blofeld.  Lashana Lynch is good as a female 007, but Rami Malek steals the show as the new creepy villain.  He will be playing Robert Oppenheimer in a 2023 film.

I can't count the number of people who get shot in this 160-minute movie.  It might be a hundred or more.  Almost every minute one or more people are getting killed.  Given current events with gun violence, maybe we shouldn't glorify death on such a mass scale.

Rating:  B+.  The movie is streaming on Amazon Prime.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Why Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi Is a Masterpiece

https://www.cbr.com/rian-johnson-the-last-jedi-star-wars-masterpiece/

The Last Jedi has a few annoying flaws:

1.  The movie opens with some silly humor where pilot Poe Dameron taunts The First Order Fleet.  This didn't bother me much and it is the least of the film's problems.  However, it set a nagging tone that maybe this was going to be a slightly different Star Wars movie.

2.  After Genera (Princes) Leia Organa is blown into space, she is able to use the Force to draw her back to the ship where she enters through an airlock that can be barely seen.  Many people missed the airlock so the scene didn't make sense to them, but more importantly, they didn't like the image of Leia flying through space, calling the scene "Carrie Poppins."  However, I really liked the scene because Leia was able to use the Force to save herself.

3.  After Leia is in a coma, the Rebels are commanded by Admiral Holdo, who looks nothing like a Star Wars Rebel, but more like a Professor of Gender Studies.  Later it is mildly implied that she might be in a relationship with Leia.  She gives Poe a dressing down for his heroics, making her a very annoying jerk, but later she becomes a hero.

4. It is revealed that in a moment of weakness, Luke Skywalker saw the evil darkness in his student Kylo Ren, and for a brief moment wanted to kill Kylo in his sleep.  This scene is told from 2 or 3 different perspectives.  From Kylo's perspective, Luke is a mad killer.  From Luke's perspective, he momentarily gave in to temptation.  However, this image of Luke Skywalker as the mad killer caused some people to reject the movie entirely.

5.  Luke Skywalker is portrayed as a broken man who has withdrawn from the fight.  He is no longer a hero, although the ending gives him redemption.

6.  Rose Tiko could have been a great character, but she has a few brief moments of really annoying dialogue, mostly political lecturing.  People hated her more than they should have.

7.  The middle of the film has a detour to a gambling planet called Canto Bight.  Some people claim that this scene drags on forever, like 30 minutes, but the total screen time is only around 12 minutes. I actually don't think that the scene is bad, but the tone of it is all over the place alternating between comedy, social commentary, and an extended chase scene on space horses.

8.  There is a slow-speed chase through space that makes very little sense in a Star Wars context.

For some people, one or more of these flaws is a deal killer. They rejected the movie completely.  However, for me, these are all minor problems because the rest of the movie is terrific.  It has great themes, terrific imagery, plenty of action, and much character drama.  The rest of it is what a Star Wars movie should be.  I was annoyed like everyone else with parts of it, but I was thoroughly entertained nevertheless.

I think that The Last Jedi is the best of the sequel trilogy.  The first film was too much of a repeat of the original Star Wars movie.  The third film, episode 9, although somewhat entertaining, is not very logical and for me the most disappointing of all 9 films.

Friday, June 3, 2022

How Bad Movies Are Made feat. The Rise of Skywalker

I found this fascinating.  I think of "The Rise of Skywalker" as a bit of a failure, even if it is somewhat entertaining, due more to the strength of the characters rather than the strength of its story.

According to the video, the problem with the production was that it was rushed, and they kept changing their minds on what they wanted to do with the story.  The movie also feels rushed, and incoherent.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

How Order 66 Became the Best Scene in Star Wars

The Star Wars spinoff series add much more context to the movies.  Jedi characters only briefly seen in the movies are much more fleshed out.  The clone troopers are also much more fleshed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgISq88coX0

Aningaaq (HD)

This little short film was made as a companion to the movie Gravity which I really loved.  Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is stranded in space.  She picks up a signal from Earth and tries to ask for help.  Unfortunately, they don't speak the same language.  This shows the conversation from the other side.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zcYkuIzzy8

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Netflix customers mad over plan to charge for password sharing

https://nypost.com/2022/03/17/netflix-customers-mad-over-plan-to-charge-for-password-sharing/

This has not yet come to the US.  It is being tried first in other countries.  It sounds like it might cost $3 extra per month.  Maybe it will cost more when it comes to the U.S.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Radioactive

 


In 1898 Pierre and Marie Curie working in a Paris laboratory discovered two radioactive elements, Polonium, named after her native country of Poland, and Radium.  Both are radioactive, and the Curie's showed for the first time that radioactive energy comes from inside atoms and that such radioactive elements decay into other elements.  This refuted the existing notion that atoms were indestructible.  For these discoveries, they won the Nobel Prize together.  After her husband's death, Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize a second time in the field of chemistry.

The Amazon Prime movie Radioactive won me over, but not till the sentimental ending, which is similar to the ending of "Edge of Darkness".   The movie has been criticized for focussing on Marie Curies' sex life, and also for some bizarre and jolting editing choices where the film will switch from the discovery of Radium, suddenly to the dropping of the atomic bomb and the Chernobyl nuclear accident, as if the Curie's should have foreseen the terrible consequences of radioactivity decades into the future.

Also, the movie jumps decades quickly.  This is what happens when you fit a person's entire life, especially one as rich as Marie Curie's, into 100 minutes.

Marie Curie died in 1934 at age 66 from anemia caused by her frequent exposure to radioactive substances.  Her husband, Pierre, died in an accident in 1906, but he was also sick from radiation.

The movie portrays Marie Curie as not the most pleasant person in the world.  She was not the best at personal relationships nor very amicable.  She was a very down to business kind of person who as a woman struggled to get the respect that she deserved.  She would eventually become highly regarded in the scientific community. 

Rosamund Pike's performance as Marie Curie is particularly good.  

Rating:  B+.


Contagion


I rewatched "Contagion" after seeing it in the theater when it came out ten years ago.

I have never seen a more prophetic movie in my entire life.  At least 80% of the film seems applicable to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  The biggest difference is the deadliness of the disease, which instead of being about 2% for known cases is around 25%.  But detail after detail comes up that I only recently learned about during the COVID crisis.

The movie has an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although not all the critics were equally enthusiastic.  The audience score is only 63%, so I suspect that the subject matter might have turned off some people.  Rotten Tomatoes describes it as, "Tense, tightly plotted, and bolstered by a stellar cast.  Contagion is an exceptionally smart -- and scary -- disaster movie."   I agree.  It tells a fantastic story.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives it 5 out of 5 stating, "Contagion" is a brilliantly executed disease outbreak movie."

The film puts much emphasis on how easily disease can spread and this adds to the tension.

The ending is great, giving a nice emotional catharsis followed by a revelation about how the pandemic started.

Rating: A+.

Superman Returns

 


I feel like Superman Returns gets a bad wrap.  Roger Ebert said, "This is a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating."  On the other hand, Richard Roeper said, "... while I can't call it a home run, I'll say it's a solid base hit."    

Perhaps the problem with the 2006 film is that it was an attempt to make a more modern Superman movie.  Something that fits into a post 9-11 world.  It has a more realistic feel to it compared to the 1978 original, although the year 2006 no longer feels modern.  The movie is starting to feel dated.

I like the movie. I like the many themes it touches on. I love Kevin Spacey's performance as Lex Luthor. Somehow the execution is faulty. Its ideas are better than its implementation. Everything rushes by too quickly.

The film really is a bit more glum.  It turns into a well-made soap opera.  There is an extreme emphasis on a love triangle between Superman, Lois Lane, and her new husband, as if dealing with relationships makes the movie more modern.  It is a more emotional take on Superman, but interesting nevertheless.

The movie is essentially a sequel to Superman II.  Brandon Routh looks similar to Christopher Reeve who played in the previous Superman movies, but he doesn't look as muscular as Christopher Reeve did.  He doesn't fit the muscular image of Superman that audiences are used to.

For a movie with a 200 million dollar budget, I would have expected more. It doesn't look as good as it should. Most of the film is too dark or too murky. However, it still makes for passable entertainment.

The movie sets us up for a sequel that never came.  Superman Returns was supposed to be a reboot of the franchise, which got rebooted again in 2013 by Man of Steel.  Apparently, this wasn't the Superman we were looking for.

Rating:  B.

Munich: The Edge of War


In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain along with representatives from other countries went to Munich to negotiate a peace agreement with Adolf Hilter.  As part of this agreement, they conceded part of Czechoslovakia to Germany.  Chamberlain returned to England with agreement in hand claiming victory having secured peace with Germany.  History regards Chamberlain as a naive pacifist who got bamboozled by Hitler, as many people in the British government also regarded Chamberlain at the time.  When war broke out one year later, this lead to him being replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill in May 1940.

Part of my problem with this two-hour Netflix movie is that I was confused by what I was watching.  I thought maybe I was watching a historical reenactment of actual events, but the story is an adaptation of a spy novel, "Munich", by author Robert Harris.  It is about two classmates and friends at Oxford who go on to serve their respective governments in England and Germany.  Paul is part of a plot to overthrow Hitler, and he doesn't want the peace agreement to be signed.  The plan is to arrest Hitler after he aggressively invades Czechoslavakia.  He arranges for his estranged friend, Hugh, to be part of the British delegation to Munich so that he can pass stolen documents to him to dissuade Chamberlain from signing the peace agreement.  The documents outline Germany's plans to invade the rest of Europe.  The conspirators succeed in getting the documents to Chamberlain, but he has no interest in them because he wants to continue the peace process.

 

The two-hour movie covers such a limited time period that I felt shortchanged.  I wanted to know more about these characters and the events that followed, but the movie ends with Chamberlain's return to Great Britain and the failure of the spy plot.  

However, the high production quality and good acting make this movie worth watching.  Jeremy Irons is delightful as Chamberlain.  George MacKay and Jannis Niew√∂hner are good, playing their characters as people a little in over their heads.  Hannes Wegener is great as a sadistic SS officer who is a former classmate of Paul's but suspects him of being part of a cabal.

The movie has been called revisionist because the ending portrays Chamberlain as being more clever than he may have actually been.  According to the film, Chamberlain made the peace agreement with Hitler to buy time for England to prepare for war.

Rating:  B+.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Highlander Doesn't Need A Remake


The first Highlander movie was barely okay.  I enjoyed the TV series, although it was also just barely okay.   I think that both are probably dated by now.

Reportedly all the sequel movies that followed were very bad.  It is a shame because none of this immortal crap makes any sense.  I was hoping for a good resolution that would also explain everything.

Clancy Brown is one of my favorite actors.