Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to the movies I go

2013 was a banner year for theater-going for me.  I've been keeping my ticket stubs in a book, and it appears I went to the movie theater 38 times in 2013!  I think that's more than the previous 5 years' theater outings combined!  Four of those were to see operas.  Seven were older movies, fourteen were new movies released in 2013.  And if those don't add up to 38, that's because a few of those movies were seen multiple times.  LOL. 

My favorite viewing in 2013 of a classic film was It's a Wonderful Life, which I saw just last weekend.  I had never seen it before on the big screen, and it was perfect, with a great appreciative audience.  It was also I think the only movie of the entire year that had the volume set at a level that didn't require me to wear my earplugs.  That was soooooo nice, I can't even tell you.  (As opposed to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which required two trips to the lobby just to get them to lower the volume to a point where I didn't have to have my hands over my ears WITH earplugs already in.)

I find it interesting that in both 2012 and 2013, I saw both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen.  Wouldn't mind if that became a tradition each year!  Although, I might end up with two Lawrence viewings this year, as it's playing this coming weekend... and in a film print, not a digital.  It's also playing in January, though, so I may just wait for the new year and not try to deal with holiday traffic.

So, what were my favorite new films of 2013?

1. The Lone Ranger (by a long shot)
2. Epic
3. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
4. Jack the Giant Slayer
5. ??

I can't actually pick a fifth favorite movie of the year.  The first four are the ones I bought immediately on DVD when they came out.  I'm not sure I'm going to be buying any of the other movies I saw in 2013, though I will happily watch them whenever they come on.  I liked several movies with about the same level of affection.  They were all very entertaining, but they didn't quite hit my personal sweet spots to push them up into favorites.  Those would include Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, Planes, The Great Gatsby.  But I can't really pick one above another.  Probably the Hobbit out of those, but I need to see it a second time first.

Least favorite movie of 2013, of course, was Star Trek: Into Darkness

And there is so much to look forward in the next year.  The Phoenix Big Cinemas will be showing The Adventures of Robin Hood in January, and I cannot wait to see that on the big screen.  I'm looking forward to finding out what other classic movies they'll select the rest of the year.

As for new movies coming out next year that I'm aware of, I'm looking forward to the new Captain America movie, Transcendence, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Monument's Men, Maleficent, the third Expendables movie, and, of course, the final Hobbit.  I'm sure there will be other films as well.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Favorite Christmas movies

This December is flying by!   I have my tree up and most of my decorations, although it's been raining, so I have not been able to put up the outdoor lights yet.  To celebrate the season, here's a list of my top ten favorite Christmas movies.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - just a perfect movie, regardless of the season.  The whole cast shines, and I bawl every single time I see this movie.  The Phoenix Big Theaters are showing this one all next weekend, and I'm planning on going.  I haven't seen this on the big screen and I can't wait.

2. We're No Angels (1955) - Hamlette introduce me to this film a few years ago and it became an instant favorite.  I'd never seen it previously because it starred Humphey Bogart and my mom was not a fan, so we tended to not watch anything he was in. This movie is very sweet, and very funny.  Another one where the whole cast is perfect.

3. Donovan's Reef (1963) - This movie is definitely a product of its time, but I still love it.  Mostly I just love Lee Marvin and John Wayne together, and not as enemies.  Their traditional birthday brawl cracks me up.  Lee Marvin's train cracks me up.  I love the Hawaiian on-location scenery.  I love Jack Warden, and I love how funny this movie is.

4. Holiday Inn (1942) - I love Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby in this, love the Irving Berlin music, with, of course, the classic "White Christmas" song.

5. Babes in Toyland (1934) - one of the movies I grew up with.  One of my favorite Laurel and Hardy full length films.  Really love Bo Peep and Tom-Tom.  They're so cute together.  And I love the wooden soldiers and how they save the day.  The bogeymen were quite scary when I was young.  Still find them a bit creepy!  We used to make pee wees and smack them around.  They never came back though, like Laurel's does.  Hmph.

6. The Bishop's Wife (1947) - Is there anything more wonderful and Christmas-y then Cary Grant's angel decorating that Christmas tree?  Always one of my favorite Christmas images, and every Christmas, I can't wait to see this movie, just to get to that moment.  This is also one of my favorite Cary Grant movies.

7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) - I saw this movie for the first time last year, and really loved it.  Loved Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, and loved how the trial turned out.

8. White Christmas (1954) - I love this one mostly for the ending, which makes me cry every time.  Great cast here, too.

9. The Polar Express (2004) - this one is on the list more from familiarity than anything else.  Have seen this one a jillion and one time because my nephew loves it, and it's grown on me.  It's got some great parts, and some weird parts, but ends really well.  Watching my nephew sing along with the little girl in one part makes this movie special to me.

10. Joyeux Noel (2005) - the WWI drama of the true story of the truce on Christmas.  A wonderful movie, so touching and beautiful, even more so because it is depicting real events.  One of the few WWI movies that doesn't leave me plunged into despair at the end. 

And no Christmas movie list would be complete without a bonus mention of my favorite non-Christmas movie set during Christmas:  Die Hard.  One of the best action movies ever, and the Christmas setting is integral to the plot and to some of the best parts of the film.  I tend to watch it at least once every Christmas season.  "Oh the weather outside is frightful... da-de-da, de-da delightful."

DVD giveaway at Hamlette's Solioquy

In honor of Pearl Harbor day today, Hamlette is offering a copy of "The Best Years of Our Lives" on her blog.  Go here to enter.  The drawing is open until Dec 13th.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Living Daylights (1987)

This is a very solid movie.  I have no complaints about it, but neither do I have any spectacular enthusiasm for it either, other than I absolutely love Timothy Dalton as Bond.  I’m not quite sure why this film isn’t up on my favorites list, but it never quite hits my personal buttons.  Maybe because it plays it safe?  But I find it, nonetheless, to be one of the better Bond films and highly entertaining.  

Timothy Dalton.  I love Timothy Dalton as Bond.  Let me rephrase that.  I LOVE Timothy Dalton as Bond.  Until Daniel Craig came along, Dalton was pretty much my favorite.  Looks, action, mannerisms... he fulfills my requirements for Bond very nicely.  And he is very easy on the eyes.  I would have been quite happy if he had made a whole slew of Bond movies.  Alas, there are only two.  That’s a shame, in my opinion.  Dalton’s Bond loses the tongue-in-cheek humor of Moore’s Bond.  Nor is his Bond like Connery’s Bond either.  He’s more about the job, a bit colder and professional... all things I personally love.

I like Maryam d’Abo as our lead Bond girl, Kara... but again, no real enthusiasm for her.  She’s does what the movie requires, but nothing more.  Kara’s in that rather rare “nice Bond girl” category, motivated simply by love for Koskov.  She’s not out to kill anyone, or steal anything, or gain anything.  Bond uses her na├»ve love to get what information he can out of her.  I always kind of liked that.  I like when Bond’s doing his job and there are personal costs.  

I like Koskov, played by Jeroen Krabbe, as well.  He’s a rather charming bad guy, who is not one of the typical supervillains who came before him.  I think he suits this movie well, but he is perhaps a bit too nonthreatening, in the long run.

And to make up for his charm, there’s his henchman, Necros, who is loyal, icy, and destructive (what you want in your henchman, really).  He’s pretty cool.  One of my favorite scenes in this movie does not involve Bond at all.  It’s the fight in the kitchen between Necros and another capable British agent who tries to stop Necros.  It’s a darned good fight, and I’m always rather amused that that entire scene has nothing to do with Bond.

I also love Art Malik as Kamran Shah.  My favorite character after Bond in this movie.  He’s very engaging.  I love when we meet him in jail, and I love his laugh when Bond frees him.  And then I love how serious he is after he’s cleaned up and back with his people.

I like the plot (defecting Russian generals, arms dealers, opium... all a bit more normal and nice after the earthquake plot of A View to a Kill), but again, it never quite hits the things I like best.  No complaints, just nothing that knocks my socks off.

Favorite scenes:  The explosive device in Bpnd's key chain activated by the wolf whistle.  Love it!  Koskov’s escape at high speed through the pipeline.  The fight between the agent and Necros in the kitchen.  The fact that Kara is a classical musician.  When Bond gets drugged.  Bond on a horse.  The spectacular no-CGI fight between Bond and Necros on the cargo plane.  Dalton, Dalton, Dalton.

Music:  Love it.  I still play this John Barry score an awful lot, more than probably any other of his
Theme song:  Love it... I was quite fond of A-Ha during that time period, and this is one of my favorite of the Bond theme songs
Credit sequence:  Okay
Bond girl:  No complaints, but no real love for Kara either.
Bad guys:  I’m quite fond of Koskov and Necros.  Not so fond of Whitaker, who just needs to be taken down.
Overall personal rating:  3 of 5 stars

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wrapping up September

My apologies, I am so behind!  I have all kinds of movies to review that I just haven't yet.  Midnight Club with George Raft, The Iron Mistress with Alan Ladd, The Liquidator with Rod Taylor, a bunch of newer movies as well.  And I made the mistake of checking my drafts... wow, do I have quite a few abandoned movie review posts in there.

But it's officially autumn, my favorite season of the year.  It's finally cooling off in the evenings.  The last few days have been the first days since May that it was cool enough outside for me to leave my front door open all day long.  It's cool enough that I can finally walk my dog again in the evening without his paws burning up on the asphalt.  Yay!

It's also the official start of opera season, and I'm too revved up about that to write movie reviews.  The Met kicked off its season a few nights ago with Eugene Onegin, which will be broadcast in the movie theaters on October 5th, and I can't wait.  Handsome baritone Mariusz Kwieicen in the title role, Piotr Beczala as Lensky, and Anna Netrebko as Tatiana.  I saw Eugene Onegin for the first time earlier this year with my favorite baritone, Simon Keenlyside in it, and loved it.  It was neat to discover a new-to-me opera that was that enjoyable.  I'm very curious to see this version.  That's the cool thing about operas.  It's always fascinating to see the different staging and what singers do differently.  Simon plays cold very well, and Mariusz tends to be warmer, so I wonder how that will change Onegin's character?

And here at home, the LA Opera season just got underway with Carmen.  I'll be seeing that live soon and am very much looking forward to seeing Ildebrando D'Arcangelo again.  And bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is coming to Santa Monica for a concert!  Woo!  I would love to hear him sing the catalog song from Don Giovanni live, but unless he does it as an encore, it's not on his program.  Sigh.  Something to look forward to in the future.

So, movie reviews are coming, but as my love for opera trumps my love for movies, it might be another few days.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence

Hamlette from The Edge of the Precipice is hosting a Lord of the Rings blog party and, because I love the Lord of the Rings, I thought it'd be fun to join in!  There are some AMAZING giveaways being offered, so if you are a fan of the books, movies, or both, check it out and join in the fun!  To start things off, there are ten questions to start with:

1.  Have you read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit? If so, how many times?
Twice all the way through the trilogy.  I've read Fellowship by itself, and parts of all three at various times.

2.  Have you seen any movies based on them?
But, of course.  Fellowship was seen fifteen or more times in the theater when it came out.  The other two, only twice each on the big screen.  A couple times each on DVD since then.  It is very difficult for me to watch Fellowship on the small screen.  The other films I'm not that attached to, nor do I have their images memorized big screen, so I'm okay with watching those on DVD.

3.  Who first introduced you to Middle Earth?
A friend, back in college.

4.  Who are your three favorite characters?  (Feel free to elaborate on whys.)
1) Boromir, 2) Aragorn, 3) Sam.  Those were my favorites the first time I read the books, and they stayed my favorites through the movies, in that order.  Eowyn would be my fourth favorite, but only in the books.  She is awesome in the books.  However, I am not a fan of Eowyn in the movies.  I dislike her so much, that she nearly ruins Two Towers and Return of the King movies for me.

5.  What's your favorite Middle Earth location?
Favorite... er... what kind of favorite?  Favorite to visit for a restful vacation?  (Rivendell)  Favorite place I pictured from reading the books?  (Rohan)  Favorite place for sheer beauty that I want to go to every time I see the movie?  That I wait expectantly through the movie for the whole five seconds of viewing?  (That would be the gorgeous above-treeline mountains and stream area Aragorn splashes through, after they leave Moria, right before they get a view of Lothlorien.  In all of the movies, at least, it is my absolute favorite place.  This place:

My second favorite place I want to go to would be to where Aragorn and Brego get that sweeping, panoramic view when he arrives at Helms Deep in The Two Towers.)

6.  If you could belong to one of the races of Free Folk (Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Ents), which would you choose?
Men, specifically I want to be a Ranger.

7.  Would you rather eat lembas or taters? 
Lembas.  Taters I can get any time.  But lembas bread?  Yes, please.

8.  If you lived in Middle Earth, what weapon would you prefer wielding?
Give me my sword and a knife, please, and preferably a bow and arrows as well.  One weapon is simply insufficient in Middle Earth.

9.  What draws you to Tolkien's stories?  (The characters, the quests, the themes, the worlds, etc.)
I like just about everything about the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The characters, the plot, themes, the locations, the adventure and suspense.  I love both books and movies, and the differences between them.  And, of course, I want to be multiple characters in the Lord of the Rings, and that guarantees a book/movie will be a favorite. 

10. List up to five of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.
Only five?  LOL!

"One does not simply walk into Mordor.  Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs.  There is evil there that does not sleep, and the great eye is ever watchful.  It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust.  The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.  Not with ten thousand men could you do this.  It is folly."

"They're taking the hobbits to Isengard." (Mostly because of that cursed video which will now be stuck in my head, yet again, for the next week :-D )

"They have a cave troll."

"Move your feet."

"What is this new devilry?"

Monday, September 02, 2013

With the click of a button

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend about watching movies.  It came up that she likes to put on a DVD of a favorite movie she’s seen a lot and jump to the end, or the "good" parts, (or however you want to refer to those favorite scenes we all have).

I usually cannot do that.  What makes the end or finale or the “good parts” of a movie good, for me, is the build up to get there.  The anticipation.  The emotional journey.  To just jump straight to the end, with no lead in... well, then I have nothing invested, even if I know very well what happens to reach that point.  The scene won’t have any impact if I just jump there with the press of a button on my DVD player.  My friend said she jumps to the end because that is the best part, the part she's most invested in, and it is the part she most wants to repeat.

I’ve tried skipping to the end of various movies... and it just doesn’t work for me.  I guess I’m one of those long-term viewers.  When I watch something, I commit to it.  Which is why I’d always much rather see movies in the theater.  Why I often go alone so I don’t have to deal with someone else’s comments or movements (gigantic pet peeve:  people who put their feet up on the chairs in front of them.  I HATE THAT!!!!) or other such rubbish.  I usually sit fairly close to the screen, for two reasons – 1) I don’t want to see see heads or people getting up and moving around – all that takes me out of the movie, and 2) I want to be in the movie, and sitting closer lets the screen dominate my sight.

When I watch a movie, I am not here any longer.  I’m there, in the movie with the characters.  That’s why I go to the movies in the first place.

I think jumping to a favorite scene on a DVD makes me feel like a viewer not a participant in the film.  And that is not something I enjoy.  It breaks films into bits.  Films are not bits.  They’re one two-hour journey.  They're an arc from start to finish.  The rainbow without the storm that came before it is a pretty enough sight, but it is not earned.

There are exceptions, of course.  If I have no emotional investment in a film, then I'm okay with jumping anywhere in it... but if I have no emotional investment, it's not a favorite anyway.  But I can't think of one movie I truly love where I'd want to jump to the end without watching the entire thing, or where I've tried it and the end worked for me stand-alone.

I'll add that individual movie scenes can be the same way for me.  I was looking for one specific scene on youtube from a movie I recently watched.  (The idea being that if it were there, I wouldn't have to buy the DVD just so I can watch that one scene again.)  I found the last 16 seconds of it.  And gee, it doesn't work for me, not without the two minutes leading up to that last 16 seconds.  Same principle.  I guess I'm just not an end result person.

I figure I must be in the minority on this.  But then, given how many times I will go back to see a movie I love in the theater, this is not a surprise.  LOL!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rango (2011)

I'm sorry I missed this one in the theater, as this is one enjoyable and very funny movie.  Not for little ones.  Even though it's animated, the humor here is more adult, is a bit crude in a few places, and most of what makes this movie so funny would fly right over my nephew's head.  Rather existential searches for self are not exactly on a five-year-old's radar.  Though there is plenty of action that will keep him happy... when he's a few years older. But I loved it and immediately bought a copy after I returned the Neflix DVD.

The plots concerns a sheltered and lonely Chameleon lizard who ends up unexpectedly in the Mojave desert, in the animal-populated town of Dirt.  It's a town that pays homage to the towns of old classic Westerns, complete with the usual complement of Western characters, from good guys to bad guys.  The town is suffering from extreme drought, and if they can't find out what happened to the water soon, they'll all die.  The lizard (who is really on a quest to find his own identity) embraces his sudden shift in his fortune and accepts a position as the new sheriff of the town.  But can he truly become his new identity? 

As a huge Western fan, this movie delighted me with all its references (subtle and overt) to the Western genre.  I love the brief bit of the Magnificent Seven theme that plays through one scene.  I love the mariachi band owls who serve as narrators and Greek chorus.  I love the Spirit of the West, whose appearance made me clap outloud with delight.  Too perfect.

And by far the best part of this movie is simply watching the character of Rango (voiced perfectly by Johnny Depp) as he makes up stories, tries to blend in, has multiple adventures in this animal-version of the Old West on his quest to find himself.  Rango may be just an animated lizard, but he's one of my top favorite Johnny Depp chracters.  Just love him, his crazy dialogue and antics, in this movie.

The first forty minutes are definitely my favorite part of this film, though I love the rest too.  The rest is more plot-driven and serious, the first half is just plain laugh-out-loud fun.

The animation is pretty eye-poppingly amazing.  This one is by ILM, and wow, it is outstanding.  I've had to pause it on certain parts, like the hawk, just to study the details and ooh and ahh over how amazing it looks.  There is so much detail to these characters, to the landscape, to the swirls of dust.  I don't know how they do it, but I'm hoping they do another animated movie, cuz this one was first-rate.

This movie is also extremely quotable. My current most quoted lines are:

"Crunchy creamy cookie candy cupcake."
"I think the metaphor broke my spleen."
"Stay OUT of my peripheral vision!"
"Get your slimy webbed phalanges off my boots!"

I think every one of those gets said at least once a day.  I've watched the whole movie three times already, and the first half at least six times -- and that's just in the last two weeks.  It just doesn't get old.

Just wish I'd caught it in the movie theater!  I'll bet that animation would have looked even more spectacular on the big screen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Tourist (2010)

This is going to be a Very Spoilery review.  Please please please do not read if you want to see this movie, because I'm going to ruin the ending.  Because I'm too angry with this movie not to rant about it, and I can't rant about what I didn't like without spoiling the ending.

You have been warned!

There's quite a few things wrong wth this movie, but there's also quite a few things right.  One of the things wrong is the casting.  Now, I really like Angelina Jolie.  She's one of my favorite current actresses.  I think she's cool, beautiful, and fun to watch.  But she didn't work for me in this film.  I'm not sure what it is, exactly.  She's so busy being aloof and mysterious that I failed to connect with her, or see why Frank, Johnny Depp's character, would fall for her, other than she's beautiful.  Her character either isn't strong enough, or isn't vulnerable enough.  But I know she can be a lot more than a pretty face, so her character's distinct lack of personality in this movie was very disappointing.

But Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton are in it, and they both have personality to spare so they somewhat make up for her.  And Johnny Depp, of course, is always good.  The Venice locale is lovely, though... flat.  As in, this movie could have been set in any city in the world.  They just happened to choose Venice, but it fails to become part of the movie.

And then there's the ending. 

Cardinal rule of writing... don't waste your reader's time.  Same thing applies to movies.  Do not waste your audience's time.  How do you waste their time?  By developing characters they like, giving those characters an arc, letting those characters step beyond their ordinary lives to do something extraordinary... then throwing all that development out the window.  It's cheating.  It's like the "it's only a dream!" ending.  It makes me mad.

And now for the big spoilers.  You see, Johnny Depp's playing a character named Frank.  A math teacher from Wisconsin, on vacation in Venice.  He gets sucked into a dangerous convoluted plot, to be used as bait against his knowledge, basically, to catch a thief.  Cool.  Right on board.  There's a bunch of British, French, Italian agents trying to catch the thief.  There's also a ruthless, brutal gangster who will do anything to get his money back from that thief.  Cool.  still onboard.  So, in our finale, Angelina Jolie is caught by the gangster and threatened if she can't tell him where the hidden money is.  And so, our math teacher from Wisconsin goes in to confront the bad guys when the British agents won't help her.  He goes in to save her cuz he's fallen in love with her.  Dude, this is cool.  This is awesome.  This is an ordinary guy going beyond his ordinary life for the woman he loves.  I am soooooo on board with this. 

But no.  Surprise!  He's not really a math teacher from Wisconsin.  He's actually the thief everyone's been looking for the whole movie... hahah, fooled ya!  Isn't that clever?

Movie... I hate you for taking away what could have been an awesome ending. I wouldn't have cared if Frank had gotten killed trying to save her, or if she was killed because he was in over his head and couldn't save her, or they ended up in jail or lived happily every after.  As long as the movie fulfilled the promise it set up from the very title of the movie -- an ordinary guy willing to do whatever it takes.  But nope, it cheated.  It made it all a dream.  It ended up wasting my time, made me want to bang my head against the wall, and... well, gave me a ranting blog post.

Wasn't that exciting?

I'm sure some people will love the "surprise" ending.  But I am definitely not one of them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A View to a Kill (1985)

I like this one better than Octopussy, and I admit I saw it more than a couple times in the theater when it premiered, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of issues.  However, it has humor and a far more interesting bad guy to offset the lameness.  The fact that I saw it more than once in the theater might also have more to do with the fact that Duran Duran did the theme song than anything else. 

Anyway, A View to a Kill.  Kind of a plot similar to Goldfinger.  Mad industrialist Max Zorin intends to cause a giant earthquake in the Bay Area that will flood Silicon Valley, thereby making him the sole provider of microchips.  Impossible, but fun, and I can go with it.  Christopher Walken plays Zorin, and he amuses me no end.  Of course, when is Walken not amusing?  Some people can chew up the scenery and it’s just normal, not over the top, and he’s one of them.  Zorin makes me laugh just about every time he's on screen, in a good way, and this movie sorely needs that. 


Grace Jones plays May Day, his lead henchman (henchwoman?).  I can’t say I liked her much when I first saw this back in '85, but I quite like her nowadays too.  She’s as impossible as the plot, but a good match for Zorin and the film in general.  They’re all crazy!  And soooooo 1980’s.


What I don’t like.  Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton.  See, you can tell she’s a misstep right off the bat with such an blah name.  Her character just makes me cringe.  She can’t really act, she runs around screaming and crying for James, and I just can’t take it.  So far, she’s definitely my least favorite Bond girl.

This movie does has some nice action sequences.  I love the zeppelin and the fight at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge.  That’s pretty amazing.  There’s a chase up the Eiffel Tower with a character parachuting off, followed by a pretty cool car chase.  And the flooding of Zorin’s bomb site is well done.  However, this movie also has a rather stupid “escape from an elevator in a burning building” sequence followed immediately by an even stupider fire truck chase.  I HATE that fire truck chase. 

Overall, this movie has a few strengths, and it’s more amusing than not, but it’s nothing to rival the great Bond movies either.  And, I admit, I can’t really watch the Eiffel Tower chase without superimposing Duran Duran’s video for A View to a Kill over the movie. 

Favorite parts:  Russian agent Pola Ivanova, played by Fiona Fullerton.  I love her, even if she has a tiny role.  I always wanted to get my hair cut like hers, except in the 80’s my hair was long.  Zorin’s zeppelin.  The fight on top of the Golden Gate.  James Bond with a cat on his lap.  Moneypenny at the horse race.

Music:  Good score, not great
Theme song:  Well, I love it, but I almost love it more as a Duran Duran song than a James Bond theme song.  It’s hard to remember it does go with the movie.
Credit sequence:  Holy neon makeup, Batman! 
Bond girl:  Um, no.  Just no on Stacey Sutton.  But I love Pola Ivanova.  And I’ve grown fond of May Day.
Bad guys:  Love Zorin.  Best part of the movie.
Overall personal rating:  2 out of 5

Monday, July 29, 2013

Octopussy (1983)

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way.  I’ve long considered this my least favorite Bond film.  I didn’t like it when I saw it in the theater when it premiered.  Watching it on television every now and then did nothing to change my mind.  So, how did it fare this viewing?  Well, I will admit it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  That doesn’t mean it was good, or that it still isn’t going to end up at the bottom of my personal list, but, the best thing I can say for it was wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

I couldn’t remember the pre-credit sequence at all when it started.  I finally vaguely remembered the cute little plane Bond escapes in when it appeared, but yeah.  I was VERY hazy on what happens in most of this film.  Actually, I’m still hazy on it.  There’s a renegade Russian colonel who wants to start a war, there’s a fake Faberge egg which contained something he needs, there’s Louis Jordan doing his own thing, and Octopussy doing her own thing, and it all sort of ties together in India and Germany and for someone who love plots, I guess I really sort of tuned out of this one.

But that’s part of the problem with it.  There’s nothing memorable here.  There’s nothing really wrong with this movie, it is just heavy on the blah.  The stunts in this one are far more exciting than the rest of it.  The little plane escape in the beginning, a car chase through Indian streets, Bond gets hunted through the jungle by Louis Jordan on elephant back, there’s a fight on top of a moving train, and a fight on top of an airplane. This movie outdoes itself with the crazy action.

But I don't like any of the characters, and nothing grabs me here.

Favorite parts:  Um... none?  Okay, I like the pre-credits sequence.  And I like the auction scene where Bond bids for the egg.  And the train chase has its moments.

Music:  Good
Theme song:  My least favorite song so far, please make it go away
Credit sequence:  Okay
Bond girl:  I like the woman who helps Bond in the pre-credits sequence, don’t like anybody else
Bad guys:  Do not like any of them
Overall personal rating:  1 out of 5


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)

As I learned a long time ago, what the critics say is totally irrelevant to whether or not a movie is going to hit my personal buttons.  I liked Lone Ranger a lot on the first viewing, loved it by the third viewing.  Yeah, I've been back to see it a few times.  It was much better the second time, as I'd accepted the things that bugged me, and I could just sit back and enjoy it for what it is.  Which is a highly amusing and enjoyable Western, with characters I loved, dialogue that made me laugh out loud, and that all important piece of the puzzle for me -- a very good score.  And considering the composer is Hans Zimmer, that is super high praise from me.  This is the first score of his I've truly liked since... well, since Black Rain.  It works perfectly in the film and I've been listening to it on repeat at home.

If you want to read a great review of this movie, one that is fair and hits the faults as well as the good, this review sums it all up perfectly.  He addresses all the critics' points, and his analysis is fascinating.  There's not much I can say about the good and bad of this film that he didn't say better.  Go read it if you want to see what Lone Ranger is really like.  It's well worth the read.

I should say I come to this film with no Lone Ranger baggage.  I did not watch the old series.  My parents did, avidly, so the Lone Ranger was something I was always familiar with, but not intimately so.  When the 1980 movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, came out, we all went and saw it.  And it stunk.  And that was the only Lone Ranger I ever knew.  (I recently re-watched Legend... and it was pretty much as bad as I remember.  Not terrible, just so cheesy that it was hard to sit through and not continuously roll my eyes.)

I love how the story is told by old Tonto.  For me, it's a great framing device that allows the story to be a little wacky and off.  It's the prerogative of storytellers throughout the ages to make up whatever they want.  And I love that there are questions the boy asks about the story, that Tonto doesn't answer. This is the kind of stuff my writerly half digs to pieces.

And I absolutely love Tonto.  Johnny Depp, for me, is perfect in the role in this particular version.  And I think he looks great.  Even on first viewing, this instantly became my favorite Depp character.  I loved the first Pirates movie, but could do without the sequels.  Tonto is a hundred times more interesting and awesome than Jack Sparrow, with a far more interesting personality.

But I was also impressed with Armie Hammer as John Reid.  Sure his version of the Lone Ranger may not be the ideal strong hero type out the starting gate, but he's so earnest and determined and full of high values and ideals, that I really liked him.  And I thought his growth worked well here.  And he sure does wear that suit, hat, and mask well.

I also loved James Dale Badge as Dan Reid.  I had seen him earlier this summer as the main henchman in Iron Man 3, but I didn't even recognize him in Lone Ranger until after I read his name.  He is so different in this, in looks, voice, actions, and he's perfect as a Texas Ranger and John's older brother. 

The bad guys all work for me too.  Hard to recognize William Fincter under that ugly makeup, but he's there.

And the horse... can't leave without mentioning that the horse is hilarious.

I also love that the script is quite smart, in that it doesn't dumb things down for the audience.  There are many subtle touches and moments in this film that I appreciated immensely. 

A lot of the scenery is Monument Valley, which is beautiful, though I wish the colors weren't so washed out.  That's one of my biggest complaints, which is really a minor thing overall.  I didn't find it too long, and didn't want to leave the theater.  I came out of the movie wanting to look for my horse, not my car... and that's what I want out of my movies... to escape, to immerse in another world, and to come out still in that world.

This one works for me.

For another review, check out Hamlette's take on it.  She comes from a very strong love of the Clayton Moore/Jay Silverheels versions, so I enjoyed reading her perspective.  I admit, the previews for Lone Ranger weren't that good, and I might have passed on this one if she hadn't recommended I go.  I'm so very glad I did.

Monday, July 15, 2013

10 things you might not know about me

Millie at ClassicForever tagged me on this one.  Here's 10 random facts about me you might not know.

1.  If my hair isn't long enough to braid at least sections of, I tend to be unhappy.  I blame this on Lee Marvin and his character of Tully Crow in The Comancheros, whose single random braid was the first I imitated.  I'm thinking of this because I'm wearing one like that right now...

2.  I'd much rather do yardwork than housework.
3.  I love catching snakes.
4.  I am attracted to Men in Scarves.  Seriously.  Show me a bunch of pictures and I am immediately drawn to the ones with a scarf around their neck.  So much so that I have started collecting pictures of my favorite actors in scarves.  Just because.
5.  I am not a very forgiving person.  I'm working on that.
6.  I am a good baseball player.
7.  I am allergic to wheat.
8.  I own and know how to use a bullwhip.
9.  I will run immediately to the grocery store if the cats or dog are out of food, but if I am out of human food, I usually opt to skip dinner instead. 
10. I bought a new sewing machine from Amazon seven years ago.   I have never opened the box it was shipped in.

I'm going to tag Patti, Tom of Motion Picture Gems, Rabia, and Laura, but please feel free to ignore if not inclined to participate.  I know I'm personally terrible about memes and being tagged myself, so just disregard.  And if anyone else wants to join in, by all means, do so!  It's always fun to learn more about the people I "hang out" with the most.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

In lieu of a real post about this movie, we'll just post some delicious pictures of Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian.  

Just look at that last picture.  Yowza!  No, Rhett Butler is most decidedly not my favorite Clark Gable role.  Fletcher Christian is.  Gable should have played a few more swashbuckling pirate/sea captain roles back in the day, he does it so well.  And I'm one who prefers him without the moustache, though he undeniably wears that moustache very well.  But this look right here?  Just can't be beat for sheer attractiveness.

Fletcher Christian has long been one of my all-time favorite characters, from both this movie and from the book, but I realized it was definitely this particular movie that cemented him as a favorite character (and role model) very early on for me.  Christian is darker and moodier and less noble in the book.  In the movie, he's constantly trying to protect the men from Bligh while doing what he can to stay within the law.  As "protection" is one of the most prominent character traits I love, of course, I love this version of Fletcher Christian.  It's perhaps a more "Hollywood" version of Christian than the other later movies present, but that's not a detriment for me.   If I want to watch Mutiny, this is the version I will always turn to.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Night of the Generals (1967)

What an intriguing story concept this one has! It's 1942, in German-occupied Warsaw. A prostitute is brutally murdered, and a frightened witness swears he saw a German general leaving right afterwards. When it turns out the prostitute was also a German agent, intelligence officer, Major Grau (Omar Sharif) dives right into a murder investigation, fully intent on bringing the general to justice. There are three generals in Warsaw that do not have alibis for that night, and they become his chief suspects. The generals are played by Charles Gray, Donald Pleasance, and Peter O'Toole.

Of course, linking generals to murders is risky business, particularly in wartime, and Grau finds himself promoted and summarily shipped off to Paris before his investigation can get anywhere.

Two years later, 1944, another prostitute is murdered. Grau recognizes the MO, and also discovers that all three suspect generals are once again together. He resumes his investigation, but this time the background has shifted to post D-Day invasion, and also the German officer plot to kill Hitler.

I love this idea. I love the murder mystery set against history, from the German point of view. I love the idea that Grau is so intent on justice that he is willing to take down a German general while the war is causing the world to fall down around them.

But this movie doesn't quite reach the level of brilliance it should. It gets a bit derailed by various side plots. There's a whole subplot involving a secondary character's romance, and a very long bit while that secondary character works as Peter O'Toole's orderly and escorts him around Paris. And while I love the whole plot to kill Hitler as background... it takes over a portion of the movie and the murder investigation, the most interesting part, is pushed aside. The movie also jumps time periods, from the 40's to the 60's, with parts of the story told in flashback. It works, but some of the transitions were awkward. And Omar Sharif, who I thought was the lead of the film, disappears for long stretches at a time. It's almost like the movie couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to focus on, and it tries to do everything at once.

But that aside, the cast is great. Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole are fabulous. Charles Gray and Donald Pleasance are both perfect (and it's quite interesting seeing two actors who both played Blofeld in James Bond movies together on screen!). The dialogue in this movie is smart and very good, and I think Donald Pleasance gets the majority of the best dialogue. Phillipe Noiret plays a French Investigator, and I quite liked him as well. And Christopher Plummer has a small role as Rommel, which was most welcome.

I won't spoil the mystery, but I was not surprised when the murderer was finally revealed. It was really the only logical conclusion. However, there was one plot twist in the film that caught me completely off guard, and I LOVE when that happens. It's hard to surprise me, and this was definitely a "whoa! I can't believe they just did that" rather awesome moment.

This is not a movie I need to own, but I'm glad I saw it for its cast and originality.

Monday, July 01, 2013

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

How interesting! I have always thought of this as my favorite Roger Moore Bond film. But this viewing... I was wondering why. I really love a few key scenes, and the rest... I want to skip to the good stuff. I do love quite a few of the characters, though, and as I'm really learning about myself: characters are key.  Overall, though, this is still a very strong film of the Roger Moore Bonds.

This movie has some funny history with me. My parents saw this one in the theater, but my sister and I did not, for some unknown reason. There was a Good Guys store in the local mall. When this movie came out on video, it was playing on their televisions non-stop, so whenever we went to the mall, we’d idle outside the store, and watch another segment (without volume, mind you). Sometimes, we caught the same scenes over and over, and we developed in-jokes about how we always caught the same parts. My mom would explain what part of the film we were at, if it was new. This might be why I like parts of this film, but not the whole. I never saw the whole film until much later. The parts we stood around for in the mall and watched over and over are still my favorite parts to this day.

The plot is simple enough - Bond's trying to recover the lost ATAC device, a British defense communication system, before the Russians get a hold of it.

So, what do I love? Topol as Colombo. Carole Boquet as Melina. Julian Glover as Kristatos. I just love the three of them. Colombo and Kristatos have all kinds of history, and it makes me laugh, because it means my favorite part of the film has nothing to do with Bond! My favorite part is the (glossed over, but still there) betrayed friendship angle and the final (too short) showdown between Colombo and Kristatos. Just never gets old, that theme. Thank you, Ben-Hur and Messala.

I love Melina. I think she’s gorgeous and hello! She carries a crossbow! How can I not love that? I am extremely fond of characters who use arcane weapons.

I particularly like the opening with the helicopter and Blofeld. I love when Bond and Melina get dragged through the water. And I love the final assault on the monastery. I think the whole ski chase is pretty amazing, however, it is a really odd scene. I mean, why does Bond just take off after Kriegler anyway? Because Bibi has a crush on him? He doesn’t know the guy, there should be no reason to suspect he’s working with Kristatos or Locque or anybody, but off Bond goes. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular chase, with some yowza moments. Like the ski jump, and the bobsled run. I also really like the underwater footage. Some of that is pretty spectacular too.

What do I dislike? The ice skater has to be one of the most annoying Bond girls EVER. The movie is rather long and filled with a million unnecessary chases. I always tend to forget about the whole Countess section because, again, it just seems to be random filler and not really relevant to the plot. I also tend to forget about the attack on Kristatos’s warehouse, though it leads into one of my favorite parts, where Bond pushes Locque’s car off the edge. I’m rather fond of Bond’s Italian contact, Ferrara, who Locque has brutally killed, so when Bond tosses the little white dove pin in the car and coldly kicks the car over the edge, I’m ready to cheer. (Yes, I tend to be fond of a lot of Bond’s contacts/other agents... and they always seem to get killed too. Hmph.)

Favorite parts: The pre-credit helicopter scene. Kristatos attempt to feed Bond and Melina to the sharks. The ending at the monastery. Bond dispensing with Locque. Anytime Melina uses her crossbow. When the Citroen flips over and it just takes a couple guys to turn the tiny car right-side up again. General Gogol’s cheerful exit. Columbo knocking out the wounded bad guy when Melina’s not looking.

Music: Lousy lousy and lousy.
Theme song: Yawn. Boring.
Credit sequence: More like a music video than a Bond credit sequence. Not a fan.
Bond girl: Love love love Melina! Bibi is just too annoying for words. The Countess is here and gone before we ever get to know her.
Bad guys: Kristatos is rather laid-back, but he is cool and sly and duplicitous and I like that.
Overall personal rating: 4 out of 5

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Catching up

One of my cats is quite ill right now, and so everything else has fallen to the side.  I have a couple more James Bond movies to review, but just haven't been able to find the desire to write them up right now.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd do a quick catch-up post on everything else I've been unduly ignoring.

Publishing news!  My third Bat Masterson/Wyatt Earp short story, entitled "The Wager," is now out in the Dreamers in Hell anthology, available in Kindle, Nook, or print versions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   Always exciting when a book comes out, and I'm sorry the bad timing in my personnel life has prevented me from enjoying and promoting the book release as I normally would.

Over the last couple months, I caught Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Epic, and Monsters University in the theater.

Iron Man 3 - loved it, found it satisfying and quite humorous, loved Ben Kingsley, can't wait to pick it up on DVD when it comes out.  However, I never had that desire/need to see it multiple times, like Avengers, so only saw it twice.  Iron Man 2 remains my favorite film of the three Iron Man movies, followed by this one, then the first Iron Man movie.

The Great Gatsby - went through lots of mixed emotions watching this one, but by the time it completed, it had won me over, and I quite enjoyed it.  I did not like the use of modern music at the party scenes, but at the same time, it actually worked somehow, which is very strange.  Visually, it was amazing, and everything looked exactly as I pictured it from the book.  I loved the actors.  I'd seen the Robert Redford 1970's version, which fell completely flat for me.  This movie actually helped me understand the book, which I greatly appreciated.  I walked away with a much deeper appreciation of the story.

Epic - old-fashioned good vs. evil story.  Quite fun and very pretty.  I liked the characters, and I was fascinated how the story had at least four single parent/child relationships, each one quite different, but each complementary.  Intriguing.  Loved the character of Ronin and really related to him.  This is one I'll buy for my nephew as soon as it comes out on DVD.  He will love it.

Monsters University - the best part about seeing this one was listening to the three twenty-something young men sitting in the same row react to events in the movie with all their hearts.  You'd have thought they were ten-year-olds, not adults, they were sooooooooo into it.  It was pretty awesome.  Alas, for me, this movie did nothing, and when I was ready for it to be over, there was still another twenty minutes and another adventure left.  If I wore a watch (which I don't) this would have been a clock-watcher.  That doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie, particularly for kids, it's just it hit none of my buttons.  I really didn't want to be the characters, I could not relate to anyone in it, and I am really not a fan of most underdog stories or origin stories.  I do adore Monsters Inc., and it is my fourth favorite of the Pixar film, but all the heart and emotion and charm and suspense in Monsters Inc. was missing in this one.  My nephew enjoyed it (but didn't love it), and the audience clapped heartily at the end, so I suspect I am in the minority on this one.

Other than that, we've truly hit summer and the temp is well over 100 degrees.  I'm longing for fall/winter to get here.  But my tomato plants are gigantic and producing tons of tomatoes.  My apple trees, which gave me fabulous apples last year, are giving me much larger, but not as tasty, apples this year, and my apricot tree gave me at least 300 fabulously wonderful apricots.  I love this apricot tree.  I had to hunt and hunt to find the right variety when I bought it, but it paid off.  All apricots are not equal.  It has been a good year in the garden, at least!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Moonraker (1979)

I was wondering how Moonraker would hold up over time.  I haven’t seen this one in a long time, but it was a favorite when I was young.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, for me at least, it held up just fine.  Oh sure, the space stuff is a bit silly, but it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I feared.  And really, they do a pretty good job with the zero gravity, particularly considering this was made in the late 70’s.

I was pondering why I love this one, and why I don’t love The Spy Who Loved Me, and I think that, once again, it comes down to people.  I don’t like the characters in Spy.  They don’t resonate with me, and I really don’t care about them.  I do like the characters in Moonraker, and I do care about them.  Corrine’s death is one of the few deaths in all of James Bond cinema that gets to me.  I really wish she was the lead actress in this rather than Lois Chiles.  Though I do like the latter’s Dr. Goodhead. I just like Corrine better.  Dr. Goodhead works for the CIA and is a trained astronaut.  Dig it.

I still love Drax as our main bad guy, played by Michael Lonsdale.  He is entertaining, and I rather like his plan.  More sensible than Stromberg’s in the last movie.  While Drax also plans to destroy mankind and repopulate it with his chosen few, at least Drax’s plan only wipes out the people.  He leaves the world, animals, and plants intact and radiation-free.  Much smarter.  I find Drax quite entertaining, and I love his dialogue.  “See that some harm comes to him.”  He does suffer from the usual “why does nobody just shoot Bond when they have the chance and be done with it” syndrome.  Is it so hard?  I know, I know, the creative ways in which bad guys attempt to kill our hero are half the fun, but still.  Why doesn't someone just gun Bond down already when they have the chance?! 

Though I do I love that, for once, Roger Moore’s unflappable Bond is left a bit flapped after his near-death in the centrifuge.  It’s one of my favorite parts in all of Moore’s Bond films.  Look, he’s human after all!  It takes him a fair bit to recover, and I always love the way he pushes Goodhead’s offer of help away. 

Jaws is back as our main henchman, though he ends up being played more for laughs than scares.  This is probably to make it easier for the storyline to ease the audience into accepting his betrayal of Drax and helping of Bond instead.  And as I was always cool with that switch, I guess it worked.

This one has a fair amount of silliness.  I think the only thing that allows me to just shrug it off is there’s not that much of it, and I saw it when I was so young, so I’m used to it.  I think if I saw this film for the first time today, it would probably not be a favorite.   But my childhood affection for it still carries over.

Also, as we know, the musical score is a big factor for me... and this score by John Barry is great.  One of my favorites of the whole series.  It’s such a relief, actually, after The Spy Who Loved Me’s crap music to get back to real music, with the right Bond feel, and the right seriousness.  I think part of what helps me not treat this movie as silly as it is, is because the music is serious and straight-forward.  I love when that space station theme kicks in for the first time.  Impressive, most impressive.  This was a score we owned on LP growing up, and it got a lot of play time.

Favorite parts:  Bond’s escape from the centrifuge.  Corrine’s character.  The fight on the cable car.  Drax gets spaced!  Which might be my all-time favorite end for a Bond villain.  The fight in the room full of priceless glass objects where every single thing gets broken.  The opening aerial footage with the fight over the parachute.  Hang-gliding over Iguazu Falls.  The music!  This really is a prime example of the score being better than the movie and elevating it as a consequence.

Music:  Love it
Theme song:  Love it - Shirley Bassey is back, and she is awesome as always.
Credit sequence:  okay
Bond girl:  Love them all, from Corrine to Dr. Goodhead, to Manuela, even to Dolly.
Bad guys:  love them too
Overall personal rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What I love about opera

I'm guest posting about my passion for opera over at Rabia Gale's Writer at Play website.  Opera is the single thing I love more than anything else, even over movies, books, writing.  It's the one thing I would not want to live without.  Rabia was kind enough to let me ramble on about why I love it so much.

Rabia is an excellent writer I've known for quite awhile now.  She has published some great fantasy stories.  I particularly enjoy reading her fairy tale re-workings, but have really loved every story I've read by her.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Favorite Star Trek Episodes

The good thing about all this Star Trek stuff, is that it put me in a mood to watch the original series.  Along with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it was THE formative television show of my early life.  Perhaps more so, because when my family moved away from Los Angeles, we no longer had a station that showed Voyage, but Star Trek was still on pretty much constantly.

My favorite episodes:

1.  Bread and Circuses
2.  Shore Leave
3.  Mirror, Mirror
4.  Errand of Mercy
5.  Journey to Babel
6.  Balance of Terror
7.  The City on the Edge of Forever
8.  The Trouble with Tribbles
9.  The Enterprise Incident
10.  The Day of the Dove

Bread and Circuses has been my all-time favorite ep for thirty plus years.  Not an ep normally mentioned, but it hits everything I love.  I love the 20th Century Roman planet, with its Jupiter 8 cars and gladiatorial games broadcast on television.  I love Flavius.  I love the despicable Proconsul and his genuine respect for Kirk.  I love Spock and McCoy being particularly snarky with each other.  I love that they got to sword fight.  I love their costumes.  I love Kirk and how he handles everything (and the fact that he gets a machine pistol to wield).  I love Scotty (who, as we all know, really runs the Enterprise).  But most of all, I love Merik.  Merik, played  by William Smithers, is very nearly my favorite guest character on ANY television show.  He has a lovely redemption arc.  But the excellent screenwriting and excellent acting really illuminate his character with remarkably little screen time, when you think about it.  It's all the little things Smithers does that make his character particularly real to me. I don't actually know why Merik appealed to me so strongly when I was a kid.  But appeal he did, and he and his episode have never stopped being my favorite.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Oh happy sigh.  I watched Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan late last night, and the world is right again.  I did not realize how badly I needed to rewatch that to ease the taint of the new movie from my mind.  You know, maybe I’m just too old for these reboots.  These reboot movies clearly aren’t made for someone like me, but I’m really starting to feel like I come from a different era.

I’ve never reviewed Wrath of Khan or any of the ST movies here.  Not because I don’t love them, but because they are big screen movies, and I have a strong aversion to watching them on a television screen.  So I haven’t seen them in years.  Particularly my two favorites of all the ST films:  Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country.  Those just have to be watched big screen.  I saw both a fair number of times on the big screen during their initial theatrical runs, enough that I can still pull up what they should look like.

I love Wrath of Khan.  I can still remember the anticipation when that movie was about to be released.  We’d had the failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but this new one was directed by Nicolas Meyer, who my family already loved for Time After Time.  We were all excited for the new film.  I remember all the news about Leonard Nimoy wanting out of Star Trek, and the suspicions that Spock was going to be killed off.  I remember the theater was sold out,, and my family couldn’t even sit together.  I was in the back on the left.  I remember loud the audience was, cheering and laughing and clapping.  I remember crying during Spock’s funeral.  I remember how awesome the genesis cave looked on the big screen.  Today, it would be all CGI, but it was a gorgeous matte painting that I still adore.  On repeat viewings I couldn’t wait for that moment.  That, and the very end shots tracking through the vegetation of genesis planet to the torpedo.  (Yes, I have this thing for landscapes.  LOL!)

This was the ST movie my family had been waiting for.  It was a return to everything we loved about Star Trek in the first place, but with natural growth and aging, and with a great character arc for Kirk. And Ricardo Montalban was back as Khan, and even better than he was in the series.  I absolutely love how in the confrontation within the nebula, there are no final words spoken between Khan and Kirk.  Khan activates the device, Enterprise figures it out and turns to flee, and Khan just watches them go, grinning, knowing they won't make it.  No dialogue could ever make that better than how it plays out.  This film was also my introduction to composer James Horner, and this score remains my favorite Horner score to this day, despite how many other awesome scores he has written.  This one just hit it out of the park.  And for me, how much I love a movie is often tied to how good the music is.

The only things I didn't like about this film were Carol and David Marcus.  And I like the characters, I simply didn't like the actors portraying them.  They didn't work for me then, and they still don't today.  The actors don't seem to fit in that world. 

And then, after I finished watching Wrath of Khan, I just happened to check Ain't it Cool News (a favorite site), and found this review of Into Darkness that I just love.  This neatly sums up so much of my feelings and what bothered me so much about the new film and why it doesn't work for me.

And after watching Wrath of Khan again, having my love of Star Trek renewed, I can only echo Kirk's last lines... I feel young.

Favorite parts of Wrath of Khan:

“Where’s the override?”
We will!”
The genesis cave
Kirk taunting Khan to get him to follow the Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula.
“Yours is the superior...”
Whole Mutara Nebula and Genesis Countdown finale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

So, I’m still pondering exactly why I wanted to go see the second installment of the Star Trek reboot, considering how much I disliked the first film.  Curiosity, of course, and eternal optimism that they’d actually give me something worthy this time.  I really shouldn’t be surprised, then, that I don't get this one either. It actually makes me think I liked the first movie better.  I also appear to be in the distinct minority on that, as the rest of my family and friends quite liked all or most of the movie.  I'm okay with that.  And I'm okay with being one of the sole people who seems to be missing the appeal of the reboots.

Huge Spoilers follow!!!  You have been warned.

As I’ve figured out, my personal deal with the movies I love is that I have to want to be one of the lead characters.  Now, I grew up on the original Star Trek series.  I love it.  I’ve wanted to be Captain Kirk since I was in single-digits.  I like the rest of the original crew and could relate to them.  I would happily have served on the original Enterprise.

But I don’t want to be this Kirk.  At. All.  I actually like Chris Pine as an actor, but I can’t see anything of what I loved about the character of Kirk in this Kirk.  I don’t want to be any of the other characters either, nor do I relate to any of them, but at least I can recognize them as ST characters.  But I can't find a glimmer of Kirk in there.  They really are in an alternate universe, I guess.  Or I am.

When the characters fail to grab me, all I’m hoping for is an entertaining story.  But, as with the first movie, this one’s plot hinges on plot holes and coincidences and, dude, I can forgive an awful lot of crap in a movie when I like the characters.  But when I don’t like the characters, and there's nothing but story left...

I see this alternate universe is still messing with the physics of the universe.  At least they are consistent in their BS.  The Enterprise can now submerge beneath the ocean.  Never mind the fact that the indigenous race on this planet has barely invented the wheel, so clearly has no telescopes.  Never mind that the Enterprise is there to survey the planet.  They can’t do that from orbit?  Particularly when later in the film they can use their sensors from earth (!) to detect that Khan is alone in a deserted portion of the Klingon home world who knows how many solar systems away?  Nothing makes any sense in this universe. 

And then there’s this whole bizarre thing with the volcano.  It’s going to blow and wipe out the locals, so the Enterprise decides to stop that by killing the volcano.  Spock seems to have no problem with this, even though that would be messing with the prime directive too.  Besides, volcanoes usually provide fertile soil and geothermal pools and various other things that the natives were probably using in their daily life.  Turning off the volcano seems like it would be pretty traumatic for the natives.  I mean, it’s spewing lava one moment, it’s dead the next?  That’s not something that would change the course of their civilization?  (Also, no invention of the wheel, but the natives have a complicated written language?)

But that whole ridiculous opener is just to 1) show off the starship Enterprise rising from the (very deep) coastal waters, 2) get Kirk and Spock arguing so that there is a moral of the story, and 3) get Kirk demoted so we can promptly promote him again, and 4) let me know that if the first ten minutes of the movie make no sense, it wasn't going uphill from there.

Once again, Starfleet appears to have no qualified personnel and no other ships or crews.  And the Enterprise appears to have no other qualified engineers besides Scotty.  And speaking of Scotty, not only is he a genius who invented transwarp transporter technology (which no one but Khan can use), he can just take a shuttle (maybe they have rent-a-shuttle agencies?).. and pilot it all the way to Jupiter to a super-secret space station... that has no radar or detection gear whatsoever and no security protocols... and Scotty can just... fly right in without being challenged, and just waltz onboard this secret ship and stowaway because somehow he knows he'll be needed to sabotage said ship half an hour later?

You know, I hope the Klingons come and wipe earth out in the next movie, cuz Starfleet in this alternate universe remains the biggest bunch of idiots.  Not that the Klingons are much better.  In this alternate universe, the Klingon home world is well less than a day away from earth.  (The Enterprise gets there and back complete with damaged ship and an adventure planetside in under 24 hours.)  I guess they're not patrolling the Neutral Zone yet, but at least, the Klingons are monitoring what lands on their own planet.  That’s something.  Better than Admiral Marcus’s secret unguarded space station.

And then there’s Khan.  He’s at least somewhat interesting, but I found him unbelievably bland.  We’re told to fear him, but other than the fact that he has immortal blood which allows him (and any other being who gets a transfusion, including tribbles, cuz you know tribbles and humans have compatible blood) to heal and not take much physical damage in a fight, and the fact that he moves very fast... what’s to fear?  He was deliciously cold, but hardly intimidating.  Maybe that’s just because this movie gallops along at breakneck speed and never gives us a chance to know him a little better?  I think I liked him best when he was temporarily working with Kirk, just because the way they set him up, he made a far more interesting ambiguous ally than an enemy, and those were some of the better scenes in the movie.  I could almost like some of those parts.

I still like Pike.  And I did like Admiral Marcus.  I sort of liked Carol Marcus, but again with Starfleet being a bunch of morons.  She can change her name and just walk on the Enterprise?  No orders?  No security?  And then turn out to be the only weapons specialist they have?  She wasn’t supposed to be there, so who would Kirk have turned to if she wasn’t there?  (I feel like being Happy in IM3 – “Where’s your badge??”)

And then, there’s the whole “let’s take the climax of Wrath of Khan and reverse characters!” portion.  My sister and I lost it during that scene, we were laughing so hard.  We can’t tell if the filmmakers meant it to be funny, or if that was a completely unintentional side effect. Was it actually supposed to be some kind of loving tribute to the original movie and not a parody?  Because it sure felt like we had slipped into a bad Saturday Night Live skit.

I do find it very amusing that Kirk handles Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan far better than Spock handles Kirk’s death in this one.  This Spock falls apart like a cheap suit. 

Also, the entire end is a WTF moment.  When Khan kills 42 people in the beginning, it’s enough to get a no-holds-barred “go get ‘em” order (granted there’s more to that order, but Admiral Marcus is not the only Admiral in Starfleet still left alive).  When Khan kills possibly thousands at the end of the movie as he deliberately plows his huge ship into San Francisco, demolishing several high rises at least, no one says a blooming thing.  No death toll.  No injuries.  Zero consequences for Khan.  He’s not put on trial, not even for his previous terrorist act, he’s merely put back to sleep.  I simply do not understand how this alternate universe works. 

But, of course, I’m going to be foolishly optimistic about the next film.  They at least appeared to be setting up a war with the Klingons.  I like that.  I can go with that.  Until I find out in a couple years how badly they plot that out too.