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

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.

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.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Upcoming Movie Sequels You Didn't Know Were In The Works

https://www.looper.com/51901/everything-sequels-didnt-know-made/

I looked at this list and thought, "You have to be kidding me?".  I thought maybe this was an April Fool's joke.  Apparently, they will take any movie no matter how crappy it is, and make a sequel to it.

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.

Thursday, January 14, 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, 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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

AMC theater chain

Before the Dark Times, I had an A-List membership at AMC theaters where I could see up to 3 movies per week for $20 per month. Not a bad deal, but I typically saw only about 1 movie each week.

AMC suspended this program back in March when their theaters were forced to close, but they reopened their theaters in the summer at which time they informed me that I had till December 1st to reactivate my membership. They have a weird rule that if you quit the program then you have to wait 6 months to get back in, so I don't necessarily want to quit, but at the same time I don't want to go back to movie theaters until a vaccine is widely available.

Fortunately, they just extended the deadline to March 1st.  I am hoping that things will be much better by then.

For the last eight months, there were rumors that AMC is on the verge of bankruptcy. I imagine that this applies to many businesses. AMC is owned by Wanda Group, which is a Chinese company located in Beijing.

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Best wishes,

John Coffey

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Dead Don't Die


I thought that I might enjoy "The Dead Don't Die", despite the mixed reviews, because I like some zombie movies. I thought maybe with Bill Murray and Adam Driver it would be good. 

The humor is really deadpan. The characters are all lacking in emotion and are stiff like they are walking through some bad dream. The odd humor was maybe going to work for me until they got to the first gory scene which was over the top and too much. Still, the characters remain stiff and deadpan. This never changes, so the joke wears off. The movie gives us no reason to care about these characters.

The film breaks the 4th wall by having the characters reference that they are in a movie. Early on they hear the movie theme song on the radio and refer to it as the theme song. Near the end, they make references to the script in a throwaway joke.

This could have been a good horror movie or a good comedy, but the mix of the two is completely uninspired. It has nothing new to add. There is almost no suspense, which is the point of a horror film. The only thing I liked was the quirky characters and this just wasn't enough.

Better movies like this are "Shawn of the Dead" and "Cockneys vs Zombies", both of which are pretty entertaining and give us interesting characters. Maybe the British know how to mix humor and horror.

Rating: D. Don't waste your time.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

2014 Personality Lecture 06: Carl Jung

I can't seem to get enough of Jordan Peterson. I didn't have time to watch the whole thing, which I might do later.  However, at 51 minutes he gives a very interesting analysis of "The Lion King."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r8ISkQ4exM

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What's inside the Millennium Falcon? (Star Wars)

More than you ever wanted to know about The Millenium Falcon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5-WI7XN6uo

Contrary to what is presented in the video, I would expect redundant systems in any kind of spacecraft.  Nothing is mentioned of heat shielding for re-entry, although if you could slow a craft to a near stop then you wouldn't need it.

Even if we could create and store antimatter, which would be the most compact fuel possible, it would still take an enormous amount of fuel to continuously accelerate a craft all the way to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Reaching anywhere near the speed of light takes several times more mass of antimatter than the mass of the ship.

Cats on HBO

Started watching the movie "Cats" on HBO Max. I'm 26 minutes into it. It was voted by some as the worst movie of last year. There were some problems with the CGI in the original release that was fixed in a later update.

As long as you aren't expecting much in the way of plot, which barely exists in this film, the movie consists almost entirely of energetic singing and dancing. As such it is a visual spectacle. If this were on stage it would seem brilliant, which is why "Cats" was one of the most successful stage musicals ever made, but it is not exactly what you would expect to see in a movie.

I like what I have seen so far, but I'm not sure if another 60 minutes of this will maintain my interest.

--
Best wishes,

John Coffey

http://www.entertainmentjourney.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fatman Trailer #1 (2020)

This is like the weirdest movie ever.  It sort of falls under the category of, "Is nothing sacred?"  

Nine Days Trailer #1 (2021) | Movieclips Trailers

The premise seems pretty questionable to me.  It is possible that this will actually be a beautiful movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LzKeEDael0

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Vast of the Night


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

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


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Sonic The Hedgehog



The first trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog sparked an internet backlash because many people thought that the Sonic character looked kind of creepy.  The production company responded to the backlash by redoing the animation, and the final result looks fairly good.  I noticed some very minor imperfections in the CGI, but nothing too distracting.

Because of the initial backlash, some of the critics expressed great surprise by saying that the movie is actually good.  This is not what they were expecting.  

Sonic is mostly a kid's film that is not intellectually deep at all, but it has enough jokes that connect and fun stuff to make it a good time.  Jim Carrey plays Dr. Robotnik.  He is essentially playing a cartoon villain, which he plays way over the top, so much so that I found him annoying, but Jim Carrey is also the funniest when he is way over the top.  I was laughing out loud several times, which is a good thing.  We get Jim Carrey at his full nuttiness, although it would have been better if he were more restrained.

There is a bar fight scene in the middle of the movie that is mostly gratuitous because it feels like filler.  However, like the rest of the movie, it is mildly amusing.

If we compare Sonic to another videogame adaptation, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, the story is much more coherent and less of a mess.

Rating:  B.



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

1917


The movie 1917 is likely to be one of the best movies I will see this year.  It follows a pair of World War I soldiers on a time-critical mission to get a message to another unit so as to avoid an attack that will end in disaster.  This is based on a real story told to writer and director Sam Mendes by his grandfather.

The movie is filmed in such a way that it appears to be one continuous shot, except for a couple of obvious breaks.  There are continuous shots that last at least 40 minutes.  The camera follows the soldiers through long trenches, across fields, into farmhouses, rivers, underground bunkers, and troop transports.  This is like another character because I spent the whole movie wondering how on earth did they film this?  It is technically very difficult to have everything properly lit while the camera follows the actors through miles of territory. 

The movie creates a suspense that is perfect.  There is not much direct combat, but the horrible aftermath of combat is everywhere in this movie.  On the journey, the soldiers are constantly passing dead bodies and destruction.  The way the movie is filmed gives it an extra sense of realism.

The movie is rated R for war violence and a few swear words.

Rating: A+.