Friday, June 22, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

50% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 246 reviews)

Runtime: 128 minutes

Directed by: J.A. Bayona

Starring: The leads from Jurassic World, plus irritating new characters, although the little girl was fine until an off-putting plot point and a really dumb action she did

From: Universal

You know, maybe the first Jurassic World wasn't so bad after all...

Warning: This will be a very long review from me. It may seem odd that I am starting this off with talk about other films but there is a reason why. I've talked before about my disconnect with Hollywood blockbusters and how I just avoid many of them. To be honest, I also have a disconnect and don't quite get how many 21st century movies are beloved while I think they are mediocre or worse. I don't mean any offense to those mutuals that follow me and how they love certain films that I don't even think are good; I just think differently and am quite odd; I hope that doesn't make me sound like a neckbeard as I am definitely not one of those.

I'll just mention some examples. The Nolan Batman movies I should watch again so I can give them much more in depth reviews on why I don't think Batman Begins or The Dark Knight Rises are too good, and if it wasn't for Heath Ledger as The Joker and the memories I have surrounding all the hype The Dark Knight got a decade ago, I'd probably think that was mediocre due to various plot and logic-related reasons. Then there's The Last Jedi, something I thought was “meh” at the time but in hindsight and realizing just how bad and pointless the “comedy” was and how the story makes zero sense... in the future I'll probably watch and review it again... and the rating will be lower than 2 ½ stars, that is for certain. I know many on Letterboxd will vehemently disagree but I'll never be the type to always excuse the braindead nature of modern Hollywood blockbusters, “just because”. Note, however, that I am NOT one of those clowns that support the harebrained scheme of “fans remaking The Last Jedi” as it's all just laughable; in the off chance those random people actually DO have access to 200 million dollars, why don't they do something more useful with it, like give it to an orphanage or try to help feed the starving children of Africa?

But onto the first Jurassic World. I reviewed that twice and I explained how the story was crap and I did not care about any of the characters, especially those two ogres that were the nephews of Bryce Dallas Howard. The younger of the two was a hyperactive obnoxious nerd while the older was a lame stereotypical horndog teen... who somehow did NOT pitch a tent in his pants because a hot woman like Katie McGrath was the one who escorted him and his brother around the park? That was the least believable part of the picture!

If you're wondering why in the Sam Hill I even went to the cinema to see Fallen Kingdom, good question. Someone I know digs the series in general and they rate Jurassic World pretty highly; for their sake I would tell them what I thought of this even though they knew I hated JW and they strongly disagreed, as they did with my opinion of Fallen Kingdom. I really did go into this hoping for the best; it'd be nice if at least I got more enjoyment out of this. As you can see from the very low rating, no I did not.

Frankly, it wasn't until a few minutes into this that I realized the main plot point is incredibly dumb... why exactly was Isla Nublar chosen as the island to host dinosaurs that were brought back to the Earth via genetic engineering... what sense does it make to select an island that has a long-dormant volcano? The fact that a theme park was later built at a location featuring a long-dormant volcano is even most insulting to my intelligence. The rest of the plot is not worth explaining, as a lot of it is forgettable and in fact I've forgotten sections of it already. Just note that what has said was true... the volcano stuff is only the first part of the film; the rest of it was in a rather dull and drab location, which hosts something that also was intelligence-insulting. Plot devices lifted straight from Jurassic World... sigh.

The characters are still a big yawn for me; Owen Grady is no Starlord by any means and Claire Dearing is just dreadfully dull. Apparently, this movie wanted to punish me for crapping on the nephews from JW, as two new characters who are dragged around... utter bores. One is Tumblr Feminist and the other is Feckless Computer Nerd; for different reasons, each were one note irritants. The villains were total Snidely Whiplash caricatures, total stereotypes whose scheme is just not believable in the universe. I mean, there is a great variety of different dinosaurs on display and I enjoyed looking at all of them, yet they are stuck in a movie with a plot and scene after scene I couldn't care less about.

There is also a little girl character and she was far more tolerable than Tumblr Feminist and Feckless Computer Nerd. While I have questions revolving around the character and especially one thing she does, the performance itself I can't complain. Considering this is the only IMDb credit for young Isabella Sermon, I was impressed. But overall this movie is SO dumb and devoid of logic... as you probably already know by now, Jeff Goldblum's big “return” is him speaking for about 2 minutes in one location, and that's it.

I don't want to belabor this further than I already have; by now I hopefully explained why this fell so flat with me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brazil

Brazil (1985)

Runtime: I saw both the original 142 minute film and a horrid 94 minute version, as I'll explain below

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Michael Palin, Ian Holm, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro

From: Universal, at least in the United States; that led to a rather brutal feud too complex to explain here

Or: Yikes, the “Love Conquers All” cut of the film is even worse than I suspected.

Before last night, this movie belonged in the forever-crowded field of “a film I had seen before, but not in a long time so that's why I never reviewed it here on Letterboxd” and I figured it was both time to see that again in its preferred cut and watch the infamous “Love Conquers All” version; both are included on the Criterion Blu, and I can say the picture for the movie is great. While something this idiosyncratic won't be for everyone (even some film fans) I am glad this eventually got released and seen in the way Terry Gilliam preferred. The movie has some flaws but that gives it personality and it isn't a big deal as the movie works despite (or perhaps) because it is so messy at points.

For me, it was chilling how more prescient this movie is now than when it was released over 30 years ago. Terrorism, fears of technology, the incompetence of bureaucracy due to in part there being too many layers... personally, it is more than a little bit frightening. The story is biting satire as you see sane man-relatively speaking-Sam Lowry in an insane world as incompetence results in him leaving his schlub lifestyle where he prefers to not be noticed to the point he turns down promotions at work... he ventures out from that and deals with a woman who literally is from his high fantasy dream and absurd situation after absurd situation comes his way.

The real highlight of the movie is the bizarre aesthetic of this near-future world; it is a grungy dreary world populated by gadgets that ironically make life less efficient for the user. The movie passes along much information visually and often there are things which are not critical to the plot yet if you notice them you get more of an idea of how totalitarian the world is... order is stressed and boy is it ever uncomfortable today in the United States to see phrases like “Be alert-some terrorists look normal”, “Suspicion breeds confidence”, and “Loose talk is noose talk” like are shown in this movie. That is part of what I meant when I used the word “chilling”. The fact that all those effects were done practically (most of them in camera, as a matter of fact) is still impressive in 2018.

Brazil is pretty weird so no surprise it would not be a commercial success (even for film fans it won't be for all tastes) but the way Universal treated this was pretty shameful and led to a nasty feud until a compromise 132 minute version was created. As the original 142 minute cut was released in other countries by other studios to success, Universal did not come out of this smelling like roses. Thankfully the movie can be seen properly, where many people have fallen in love with this unique piece of work and even if not everything went perfectly during shooting, that is OK. The cast as a whole does fine... Jonathan Pryce was perfect as the lead, and it was nice seeing familiar faces throughout. Now, apparently Gilliam did not like Kim Greist's performance as the dream girl Jill, which is why her role is not too extensive. To me, she was just inexperienced. You do see more of her in the much-reviled other version of the movie...

The 94 minute “Love Conquers All” version that Universal wanted to release instead (but never did on the big screen; it was just edited for content so it could air on commercial TV) was-as I said in the beginning-also included w/ the Criterion Blu and as I only knew of its rotten reputation, I figured I would finally see just how horrid it was. I was not prepared for how much it ruined the original. All the scenes taken out were bad enough, but some new material was included & it was not as good. Too much of the satire being excised is bad enough... the pacing and flow of the movie was completely ruined, AND the beginning and ending were both incredibly dumbed down.

Without going into detail and ruining things for those not having watched the film yet, he original ending is tremendous and is note-perfect for the film. The Love Conquers All ending not only makes zero logical sense, it craps on the main themes of Brazil. I feel awful for those having that be their virgin exposure to what is a great film. No wonder it is so reviled and Gilliam was appalled at the very idea of it being released. It's more than just some actors (like Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins and Derrick O'Connor) hardly being in the truncated version. That cut... as horrifying as it is to broach, I have no trouble imagining that being how a modern Hollywood remake of Brazil would go... it'd be massively disappointing. Let us all hope that day never comes. Even if it does, this movie will always be tremendous to me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

From Hell It Came


Runtime: 71 minutes

Directed by: Dan Milner

Starring: Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer

From: Allied Artists Pictures

Because the world was waiting for me to talk about a TREE MONSTER movie...

This is one of the seemingly millions of films I've known of for years now but never have seen. It should not be confused with 1966's The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, which has a few different tree creatures and I've seen parts of. Once I give it a viewing from beginning to end, I can compare and contrast. This, it is utterly preposterous and yet isn't always as much fun as you'd expect from a cheap 50's B-movie which has the whitest “Polynesians” you'll ever lay eyes on.

The setting is a random island in the South Pacific, where there are white Americans on the island, doing science and military stuff. Of course the natives on the island don't really want them there; at least the movie shows that the Americans were the ones who were dumb and made things worse, irregardless of that idea being the original intent or not. Anyway, it all starts because a tribal member was unjustly put to death and he wished himself to be this ancient tree creature, which has the catchy name Tabonga.

For a movie only 71 minutes long, the first half has plenty of blathering dialogue which usually wasn't too terribly interesting, and of course a romance is shoehorned in, because it's an old motion picture. In addition, the dialogue is usually overly explanatory and sometimes tells us things that have been made crystal clear already. Things become livelier once Tabonga walks around and starts killing people, sometimes by tossing them into quicksand. The creature actually has a face which makes it look quite daffy, but the suit itself is admittedly good.

There are some laughs to be had here-usually unintentional-although the apotheosis for me was a supporting character's “Australian” accent. I know it's been confused for other things-like Cockney-but as she uses "bloomin'" a lot... master thespians are said to struggle with nailing it just right (at least that's what the Aussies like to say) I won't fault her, although she did slip in and out of it and at times was using an accent I don't think ever naturally was used by anyone in the history of humanity. So yeah... at least they did not go with the obvious way to dispatch Tabonga, as fire doesn't work on it; instead something more creative was done. That doesn't make this worthwhile unless you want camp value.

The Stepfather


Runtime: 89 minutes

Directed by: Joseph Ruben

Starring: Terry O'Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Charles Layner, Stephen Shellen

From: ITC

Watching this on Father's Day... a natural move, and a good one to boot: 

I was not the first person to bring up this idea, but watching The Stepfather on Father's Day seemed all too appropriate, so it being for free on Amazon Prime was even more motivation to check this out. While there are some silly moments, I can say this is pretty good overall. 

The cast as a whole is fine and 80's babe Jill Schoelen is good, but Terry O'Quinn as the eponymous stepfather is great. The idea that a guy who looks like a normal adult male is actually a sociopath, and he had some sort of weird childhood only hinted at which caused him to develop a warped, antiquated (even in the 1980's) idea of a perfect family and if the widow and kid(s) don't measure up to those ideals, he slaughters them... but he is smart so he plans for a few weeks to start a new life before the murders... that is pretty terrifying and O'Quinn was perfect for the role. He could be charming, terrifying, or switch between the two at the drop of a hat; just one look from him could be chilling if he was full of menace and rage. As the movie is framed around him and the focus is not as much on his step-daughter trying to figure out the truth about him, it was a stroke of luck in picking him for the role.

There are some fun setpieces and the movie is more on the psychological side rather than seeing graphic kills, or a plethora of kills. It is still enjoyable seeing when and how the lead will crack, and how the family deals with such a psycho. The 80's moments (the soundtrack and some of the clothing) personally delighted me and I will be a judgmental SOB here & presume the remake is as pointless and lame as its reputation says it is. For certain, I can say this was a good thing to watch on Father's Day; it should remind most people that at least their dads are not like Jerry Blake.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Firemen's Ball

The Firemen's Ball (Hori, Ma Panenko) (1967)

Runtime: 73 minutes

Directed by: The late Milos Forman

Starring: Jan Vostrcil, Josef Sebanek, Josef Valnoha, Frantisek Debelka, Jan Stockl

From: Several Czech & Italian companies... and also French directors like Godard and Truffaut, who stepped in when controversy happened and the release was going to be cancelled

This is a movie with an interesting story behind it: 

Yes, it's a little late for me to pay tribute to the late Milos Forman considering he passed away two full months ago, but at least I have finally corrected this error. In addition, While he did not make that many films in his life, I've still only seen a small amount of his filmography and this is the first to be reviewed here; shame on me. As this was on Amazon Prime and was a quick watch at 73 minutes, it was an easy choice for me.

Plus, this was the last film Forman made in his native Czechoslovakia; as this was seen as a satire against Communism in Eastern Europe, the reception there was what you'd expect for a country that had been Communist for almost 2 full decades by that point. There was also much strife going on in Czechoslovakia; I'll spare the details but he thought it was a wise idea to emigrate to the West. Firemen in the country were also not too pleased with how they were portrayed in the movie but it pales in comparison to having your birthplace ban the film, as what happened here.

A volunteer fire department in a small Czech town hold an annual town ball and they are to honor their old former chairman by giving him a gift. The night is a catastrophe, where people steal gifts, the planned beauty pageant is a fiasco and other unexpected moments occur; throughout all that, it's mainly old Czech man arguing with each other and even the simplest tasks become needlessly complex & drawn out. It's absurd, which makes the humor work here as I laughed at how things quickly turned out to be a disaster; pretty impressive for a film where there were only two trained actors and the rest were the natives of the small town they lived in.

The potshots at Communism are obvious, if I haven't expressed it clearly enough already. An old man's house burns down and the main concern with some people was not only sitting him close to the fire so he could be warm, but trying to face him away so he couldn't see the fire. All that plus some slapstick makes up the laughs this picture has and I usually was pretty amused, thus the high rating.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

2010

2010 (1984)

Runtime: 116 minutes

Directed by: Peter Hyams

Starring: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea

From: MGM

Well, at least this wasn't terrible... 

A few weeks ago, I attended the Megacon convention in Orlando. The past few years, I devote a day to being at the comic-con and not only enjoying all the cosplay (only some of which I understand. It's usually the anime ones that leave me bumfuzzled) but seeing what the vendors have for sale. I don't wait in line to visit the celebrities they bring, even though they have always been big names... the past several years they included Stan Lee, Jason Momoa, Norman Reedus, and other individuals you know will get most comic-con attendees all hot and bothered.

However, this year I went and got a picture signed from both Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood; they were together and honestly, I felt bad as the few times I looked over, no one was ever at their table. Those two deserved better as they were key parts of a legendary film celebrating its 50th anniversary now. While many of their other credits are either random films even I know little about or guest starring on old TV shows, it was a shame they did not receive more visitors. I mainly talked to Dullea for a few minutes and the conversation was general and what you'd expect. I did not probe deep on any gossip or secrets about 2001 as who am I to do so? Keir did say seeing the movie on the big screen is the way to go; I doubt I'll be able to see the 70mm print doing the rounds but I can't get too mad as a few years ago I reviewed 2001 after seeing a digital projection of it theatrically... I feel fortunate getting to view a classic in such a big way.

Anyhow, I figured now was finally the time to view a motion picture that had the unenviable task of following up upon something both beloved and groundbreaking... a tremendous achievement still today, let alone the early 80's when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the novel then they decided to make it a film. As is, this is good but it's not a masterpiece like 2001 is. Heywood Floyd (who was played by William Sylvester in 2001, Roy Schieder here) goes into space... he and two other Americans (Bob Balaban and John Lithgow) have to work with the Soviets-including Helen Mirren-to try and figure out why the mission in the original film failed, and there's a rather blunt message about increasing tensions between the Americans and Russians-which sadly is now relevant again.

There's always a Catch-22 of sequels either trying to do their own thing or being a carbon copy of the first film; either will make people mad and in this case, 2010 does its own thing. It does suffer in comparison when 2001 revels in a majestic grandeur; taking its time telling the story and allowing the viewer to be swept away by the still-impressive visuals. 2010 is more a traditional movie and it is interesting, but the film does not rise above being good. The film is less mysterious and in fact tries to explain some of the questions posed by 2001 and I am not sure if that was needed. Plus, I am not quite sure if the event that closes the film would actually be a good thing for Earth... but maybe I am mistaken...

I do not regret seeing this although I am not sure if I'll ever revisit the film, even if I can rate it as good. At least it was not a dumpster fire as it could have been and to be blunt, if modern Hollywood tried making 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey into films, it would be a disaster and make a lot of people upset.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Outland


Runtime: 109 minutes

Directed by: Peter Hyams

Starring: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James B. Sikking, Kika Markham

From: The Ladd Company

For a movie I decided to watch at the last minute, it proved to be a good idea on my part: 

This movie was brought up in a messageboard thread early yesterday afternoon; as it ties to something I plan on watching in the next few days, last night was the right time to check out something I have known of for years now. It's been compared to High Noon and it's apt... yet only ideas were borrowed instead of being a bold-faced remake which takes place in real time. 

Sean Connery is the new Marshal at a mining works which happens to be on Jupiter's moon Io; he is the new sheriff in town. It is mentioned (not in detail) how he's screwed up before so that's how he acquired a job no one aspires to have. He notices some strange deaths happening and he investigates; it's a scandal where the mining company turns the other way as it results in increased profits for them, nevermind the harm it does to its workers.... not that this could ever happen in real life... anyway, it seems like everyone there is against him as he tries to do the right thing by stopping this and trying to save lives.

It is easy to root for the lead; he faces all those pressures plus his marriage crumbling apart, yet he still wishes to do his job right and not be bought out by cash. Overall the movie is pretty good. It was well-filmed by Peter Hyams and the real highlight is a great chase sequence that turns into a fight. I dug how the world looked; it really was a mining camp that had some futuristic touches. Connery was quality as the lead and I was amused by the cantankerous Dr. Lazarus, played by Frances Sternhagen. Plus, there was a very good score from Jerry Goldsmith. In addition, there's some gruesome moments, for those that enjoy such things.

The movie is not just “a High Noon ripoff” and I say it's worthwhile for the sci-fi fans to see regardless of whether or not they have seen High Noon before.