Tag: 2 stars

Movie Review: MegaForce (1982)

Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles‘s computer.

When my boyfriend and I first read about this movie and watched the trailer, we wondered how we’d lived so many years without knowing about it. I mean on paper it is a perfect film. It’s directed by action stuntmaster Hal Needham, is an 80’s movie set in the future, features flying motorcycles, and stars the adorably ridiculous Barry Bostwick. Plus: shiny silver jumpsuits for EVERYBODY! What could be better? The plot is sort of loose… something to do with a terrorist group threatening these made-up countries, so the international secret army known as MEGAFORCE is called in to help. And then… explosions! This movie was the inspiration for Team America, so think about that.

“Wacky” barely begins to describe this awesome flick. The story doesn’t make any sense so we’re left to focus on these great character stereotypes and legitimately impressive action sequences. And the FASHION! There are so many gold and silver jumpsuits and big hairstyles and weird helmets and headbands and oh dear, it’s great. Barry Bostwick is completely out of place in this movie, he’s too jolly and dweeby, but bless him, he doesn’t try and be a badass. He’s the head of a powerful, technologically-advanced secret super force and he’s goofy as hell, laying on the cheese. He falls in love with a lady (Persis Khambatta) because she’s good at skydiving (though she’s not capable enough to join them on their mission, I guess?) and the only way either of them can show their feelings is by kissing their thumbs and giving each other a thumbs up. This is the future of romance. AND I LOVE IT.

The best parts of MegaForce, besides the supercute interactions between Barry Bostwick and Michael Beck, are of course the stupendous action scenes. This is the area Needham can handle, since it’s clear the script and the actors got away from him. There are some pretty cool vehicle designs on display, including these wild armored cares that can rotate themselves. There’s a neat little countdown sequence wherein the Force destroys an enemy base in exactly 4 minutes, but the highlight is the crazy large-scale battle at the end. Everyone’s shooting at everyone else! Tanks vs airplanes! And the money shot, a flying motorcycle! There you have it folks, the most fun movie ever made. I had a MEGA good time.

As a movie: 2/5
As entertainment: 4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Well this was our follow-up to Magic Mike, and both had themes of male bonding, funny outfits, and Southern characters named Dallas so it worked out. Or for more Hal Needham stunt awesomeness there’s Hooper.

Movie Review: Cocoon (1985)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.
95/100 of the Total Sci-Fi List.

So I’ve been working on this sci-fi watchlist for a long time now, and I’m so close to finishing! But that also means the few I have left are ones I’ve put off for whatever reason, so there’s less likelihood they’ll be good. I had some inexplicable bias against Cocoon, I’m not sure why, but it proved completely valid after I actually watched the film. When a group of senior citizens living in a retirement home discover a hidden swimming pool that makes them feel young and energetic, they stumble upon a group of aliens who hang out with Steve Guttenberg. The aliens’ intentions are at first unclear but the old fellows believe their magic pool can help save their friend from a terminal disease.

Ok. Blergh. Let’s just say Cocoon is somehow one of the longest movies I’ve ever seen, taking a fairly simple story (“Old people get rejuvenated. Thanks, Aliens.”) and just dragggggggged it outttttt until I couldn’t believe it wasn’t over yet. Seriously the story ends like half an hour before the movie does, it’s exhausting to watch. There’s barely any story here, and certainly not 117 minutes of it. Yes, the cast is fun, with Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, and Hume Cronyn pal-ing around and having a grand ole’ time as goofy old dudes who like to dance, but that’s about the only redeeming feature. Steve Guttenberg’s character is completely irrelevant and doesn’t fit into the plot at all really, except as an excuse to get Tahnee Welch naked? Whatever dudes. Boring. And the aliens aren’t very interesting, just glowy sometimes. And… very Scandinavian-looking.

Total Sci-Fi describes their choice for the 96th best sci-fi movie of all time thusly:

“A life-affirming movie in more ways than one. Cocoon was a rare genre picture to feature interesting, non-stereotypical elderly characters (played by veterans Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Croyn, Jessica Tandy), along with Tahnee Welch at her sexiest and Steve Guttenberg at his least annoying, and the film manages to be affectionate without descending too far into sentimentality.”

I totally agree that science-fiction doesn’t often feature elderly characters in lead roles, and indeed as much as I love the genre it isn’t exactly known for its diversity in general. I applaud Cocoon for presenting a positive portrayal of senior citizens, never playing their age for laughs or pity. BUT it’s still not a very good movie. It’s so fucking cheesy, I couldn’t take it, and it tries to be equally funny and dramatic and doesn’t adequately achieve either tone. There’s old people break-dancing, which is gross. But also old people boning, which is cool. And the entire film is oozing sentimentality no matter what Total Sci-fi says. I’m sure it appeals to a lot of people, but it wasn’t my thing.

2/5

Pair This Movie With: Ack I don’t know. I just wanted to watch a movie that was good after this. So do that.

Machete Order Double Feature: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Seen: On dvd on my friend Rachel’s tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

Ok, ok, before you question my seeming lack of sane judgment, let me explain! A school chum and I have been watching the Star Wars series in the Machete order, which goes like this: 1) A New Hope, 2) Empire Strikes Back, 3) Attack of the Clones, 4) Revenge of the Sith, and 5) Return of the Jedi. There is no Phantom Menace because it sucks and according to this method it isn’t really imperative to the overall story. We also fit in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars tv series between AotC and RotS, because that show is SO great! Genndy Tartakovsky is SO GREAT you guys, he should be making shit tons of movies. He should have made all the Star Wars prequels. Anyway. So I had already written about the original trilogy which is why I haven’t been talking about this, but now for the first time on this blog here are my thoughts on Lucas’s newest live-action Star Wars offerings.

Um so plot… Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) and Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) are fighting and going on missions for the Jedi Council, Anakin’s grown up to be a whiny asshole, the Trade Federation is seceding from the Republic and starting a war, Padme (Natalie Portman)- now a senator- is almost assassinated so Anakin becomes her protector, Obi Wan stumbles upon a clone army being built for the Jedi to use in war against the separatists, uuuuuuuuuum that’s all I can remember right now.

The main thing I remembered about Attack of the Clones was how goddamned boring Padme and Anakin’s stupid fucking romance is, jesus. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT YOU GUYS. At least she gets to wear some kickass outfits though. This movie is pretty dumb in general, really. The dialogue is the worst thing in the world, and the CG is already showing its age. Hayden Christiansen just sucks so hard, and I do not want to watch him whine for two hours. Sadly this is the only film where Padme gets something vaguely resembling a personality, and it’s nice she gets to use a gun at one point. Obi Wan has the more interesting storyline as he finds the clone making factory and fans learn the origins of Boba Fett, BUT I’m totally distracted by his weird mullet. Without all the awfulness, Attack of the Clones does have some cool world-building and interesting connections to the original trilogy. Plus I like lightsaber fights.

Aside from the tedious romance my main issue with this movie (and all the prequels, really) is that I am incapable of following any of the political subplots. Every time people are talking about the Trade Federation or the Senate or the Republic, I just sort of zone out without meaning to. It’s hard enough to care about most of the characters (aside from Yoda, Mace Windu, and Obi Wan), how the hell am I supposed to care about convoluted trade disputes and an old dude masterminding a war? Just get back to the fighting and flying around!

2/5

Here’s an image from Clone Wars to remind you that this show is awesome! It’s got badass lady Jedi and General Grievous and Mace Windu and lots of fighting and Jedi lore and rat people! The whole thing is only about 2 hours so it’s basically like a bonus Star Wars movie.

Ok back to the actual movies, blegh. Revenge of the Sith is definitely the most watchable of the prequels. Padme is pregnant, Anakin is having scary dreams about her death, the Republic is crumbling under the weight of the Clone Wars. Anakin gradually goes over to the dark side because he believes Sith power will allow him to save Padme from dying. Also because Darth Sidius is mad manipulative, it’s kind of hilarious how stupid Anakin is whenever they talk because it’s SO. OBVIOUS. Alsooo Obi Wan does stuff, I don’t really remember. Leading clones into more battles or whatever. Chillin’ with the Jedi council.

Hayden Christiansen still sucks and Natalie Portman has even less to do than usual, but Obi Wan’s hair gets better so it’s not a total loss. Also Yoda gets to be totally badass, which is everyone’s favorite thing even if I miss the puppet version (the CGI just doesn’t really sell it). Various characters and plot points finally come together in this one, including several things that will lead us into A New Hope. There are still a lot of inconsistencies and half-assed explanations, but for the most part things add up, if you sort of stretch it a little in your head.

The whole things gets better as it goes on, climaxing in very dramatic final battles and an unintentionally ridiculous moment when Darth Vader is unveiled. Watching them in this order I’m definitely able to see more parallels and in-jokes among the films, but mostly I’m looking forward to get getting back to all my old friends from the original trilogy when we watch Return of the Jedi this week!

3/5

The 2012 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part I

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. 24 Hours of Science-Fiction, every year!

Yay it’s my favorite time of year! That’s right, the 37th Annual Boston Science-Fiction Marathon! It’s a film festival too but I didn’t get a chance to go to any of those, so if you want reporting on that check out Jay Seaver’s posts. Anyway, this is a time when a bunch of super geeks gather in the beautiful, historic Somerville Theatre for a full 24 hours of sci-fi. This was my fourth year and I feel like I pretty much have it down, though I’ve never quite made it the full amount of time. Unfortunately this time around I was forced to spend some time away from movies so I could get home work done (I had a class presentation the next day), so I felt like a total nerd sitting in the upstairs lobby reading about West German Pop Art and Herbert Marcuse‘s convoluted cultural theory while badass cinema was playing in the next room. But oh well, the good news is the intense anxiety I was feeling about school kept me awake basically the whole time! Good for me!

Also as far as I could tell the general theme was mad scientists/science gone wrong, which is really neat!

1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
I thought this looked ridiculous from the trailers and my general lack of interest in any of the “Apes” movies kept me from seeking it out in theaters. It’s got James Franco as an oddly gaunt-looking scientist trying to cure Alzheimer’s but with his new drug he accidentally produces a baby ape with an exceptionally high IQ (eventually named Caesar), and raises him in his home. After several years Caesar is taken by animal control and leads a city-wide revolution along with his fellow primates. This starts off as a thoughtful look at experimental medicine and the line between pet and friend, which was interesting, but it’s basically all just a long set-up for the big action-y ending. I felt these two halves didn’t quite come together, and I could have done with it being just one or the other. My biggest issue is that I didn’t care at all about any of the characters (except maybe John Lithgow as Franco’s sick dad), and that made it boring. It did that thing every movie does, where a lady character is added and then given nothing to do and proves totally superfluous- either write a decent female character or don’t put women in your movies, guys, I’m sick of pretty actresses just floating around aimlessly next to their fleshed-out boyfriends. There are some really cool moments and the effects are fantastic (with the help of Andy Serkis, of course), but for the most part I was ambivalent.
3/5

2 Brainstorm (1983)
Now this is more my kind of movie! It’s got Christopher Walken and crazy science and a totally nonsensical plot AND it’s from the 80’s! Sadly, it’s mainly remembered as Natalie Wood’s last movie since she died while it was still filming. Walken stars as an overworked scientist who, along with his totally badass best friend Louise Fletcher, invents a device that can relay sights, sounds, and sensations through a headset, meaning a person can experience a road race or skydiving while sitting in a desk chair. (It’s very Strange Days.) Of course bad people want to do bad things with it because of military vs science problems, etc. Also he wants to get back with his wife (Wood) and there’s sort of a boring romance thing going on. This movie has some awesome ideas but a scattershot execution, leading to a somewhat campy but totally enjoyable experience. Plus Louise Fletcher, come on, she’s so in charge. Also it contains what has become maybe my favorite Christopher Walken moment ever? It’s sort of hard to explain its greatness out of context, but it basically involves a quick shot of Walken carrying a huge bicycle and yelling “SO I WANNA RIDE MY BIKE, BIG DEAL!” You kinda had to be there…
4/5

3 War of the Satellites (1958)
Time for some Corman! There’s always room for Roger Corman at the ‘Thon, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. It’s got familiar face Dick Miller plus a bunch of other stocky white people. The plot revolves around a pioneering space program that is hotly debated once Earth receives messages from an alien race warning them to abandon space travel. The scientist in charge (Richard Devon) is replaced by some menacing self-replicating alien creature who pushes the mission ahead for his own unclear purposes. I kind of lost what his intentions were, but overall I dug the movie. Miller is strong as a suspicious astronaut who tries to figure out what’s happened to his boss. The script is decent, the run time is short, the sets and effects are adorably 50’s, and I had a fun time. Proper Corman action.
3.5/5

4 Endhiran (2010)
Ok. This is the main super WTF movie of the ‘Thon. Seriously, I’m still questioning what is going on and it’s been a week. Known on the internet as the “Bollywood Terminator“, Endhiran is actually a sort of Frankenstein musical mash-up with Terminator imagery, if that makes sense. It’s got wacky inventor Dr Vaseegaran played by Bollywood superstar Rajnikanth, who creates an advanced android in his own image named Chitti. The robot is a hit within his community and especially with Vaseegaran’s medical student girlfriend Sana (Aishwarya Rai), but after he implants a hormonal emotional program to give Chitti feelings, his creation falls in love with Sana and then gets destroyed and then put back together as a crazy megalomaniacal killing machine. There are musical numbers and comedic side-trips and some insane action stunts (I believe this is the most expensive Bollywood film made to date for the effects), but it’s a really bad movie. It’s over 3 hours, the story and characters are incredibly stupid, and several of the musical numbers are unwarranted (and this coming from a person who loves musicals). One of them features uncomfortable ethnic appropriation that I didn’t understand at all. BUT at the same time there is enough weirdness and a few truly fun and catchy dance numbers that I couldn’t look away. I had to see what the fuck else could happen. Because, seriously, what the fuck?
2/5

Stay tuned for Part II of the ‘Thon, it’s got aliens and exploding heads and a new sci-fi movie directed by a lady! A rarity!

Movie Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Seen: On our big screen/projector set-up, streamed from my boyfriend’s hard drive.

Well, we’re psyched for the sequel and Miles had never seen the first one, so a viewing of Ghost Rider has been looming on the horizon for some time now. Based on the Marvel comic series that I’ve been meaning to read forever, the film inexplicably stars Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a profession daredevil who made a deal with the devil (Peter Fonda) in his youth and finally pays for it later on. The devil’s son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is waging a war with his father, attempting to secure a mythical soul contract hidden on earth that would give him the power to bring Hell to earth. Johnny is forced to become the titular superbeing, using his fire powers and “Penance Stare” to take out Blackheart and his gang of fallen angels. Also he has to convince his newly found long-lost love Roxanne (Eva Mendes) that he’s not a crazy person.

Incorporating piss-poor special effects, a clumsy screenplay, and hammy acting, Ghost Rider was doomed to fail from the beginning. It’s too bad, really, since I think the premise is actually really interesting, and some of the flaming motorcycle scenes are pretty cool. Plus it’s got Sam Elliott (Sam Elliott!) and he is perfectly cast as a mysterious “Caretaker” who spouts age-old wisdom and wears a cowboy hat. But Cage is a weird choice for the lead and his hairpiece is distracting, and Eva Mendes is boring, and Peter Fonda seems confused, and Donal Logue does his best as the wisecracking best friend.

The good ideas are there, just poorly executed by writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, and of course the shoddy CGI isn’t helping anything. But I know there is material here for a genuinely cool movie, and I’m actually pretty confident that those wackos Neveldine and Taylor will figure out how to make Ghost Rider 2 oddly, insanely awesome.

2/5

Pair This Movie With: There are a lot of movies in this ilk that I dig, actually, so you have a few choices. Constantine and Hellboy have more heaven/hell comic book fun times, Blade sports some similar anti-hero themes, and Drive Angry also has Nicolas Cage fighting against a hell-on-earth situation (and is a seriously fun movie).