Saturday, April 23, 2016

Words of wisdom from Amazon.com

Here is a page from Amazon.com's current list of bestsellers:





A certain sequence of events has taken place.  Have a closer look at numbers 84 and 85.










Wednesday, December 23, 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS--WITH ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!

Just saw it.  LOVED IT!

I would rank this as my third favorite Star Wars movie.  (Yup, I'm placing it higher than the Ewok-infested Return of the Jedi.)

Great seeing the old gang and ALMOST all of the new characters left me impressed.

My favorite new addition is Oscar Isaac, though John Boyega totally won me over.

When I saw the credits at the end, I spotted an untouted return that, in my opinion, was the deciding factor--Lawrence Kasdan is back on the writing team!  Kasdan did the heavy lifting on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and most importantly, was NOT involved in the writing of Episodes I, II, and III.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SUPERHERO LINE

I don't know if Deadpool is going to be a great movie, so this is not an endorsement.  I won't go see Deadpool because I generally avoid R-rated movies, and Deadpool is absolutely of the R-rated persuasion.

It appears to do to do the same thing for superheroes that Ted did for Carebears.

Still, I like what I've seen.

"He's got the brown pants."
So here's this scene on the freeway in which Deadpool is in an overturned SUP surrounded by a gun-wielding horde.  He opens the window and shouts, "WAIT!  You may be wondering why the red suit.  Well, that's so bad guys can't see me bleed.  This guy has the right idea.  He wore the brown pants."

"That guy has the right idea..."
Juvenile!

Sophomoric.
And then the payoff

The kind of humor you'd expect from a middle schooler.

Damn I wish I'd come up with that line!




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I MUST HAVE GONE TO THE WRONG MOVIE

I meant to see Pixels last night, but I think I went to the wrong movie.

This morning, Rotten Tomatoes announced that Pixels was the third worst reviewed film of the summer.

The movie I saw wasn't "great," but it was better than Hot Pursuit, Aloha, Self/Less or Poltergeist.  That still means it could be the fifth worst movie of the summer, I suppose, but it probably isn't.  In fact, while it was mediocre from an artistic point of view, I found it diverting, even entertaining.  It carried me along.

Listen, I'm with the rest of you; Adam Sandler pisses me off.  First he gives us goofy fun schlock  like Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, then all of a sudden everything turns into Little Nicky.

Thw movie that sums up Sandler's career as far as I'm concerned.  It's from Click, a comedy/drama that could have been this generation's It's a Wonderful Life had Sandler not sacrificed a great premise for jokes about a stuffed animal-humping Lab.

Back to Pixels.

The story is pretty simple.  In 1982, NASA sends a satellite into space packed with good old wholesome 1980s culture.  Now, in a weird present day in which Kevin James is the president of the United States (as if Jeb and Hillary weren't scary enough), an alien culture attacks Earth using the "video game warriors" we sent to their planet thirty years earlier.

Hence, you get GalagaCentipede, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Arkanoid, Robotron 2084 and a host of other classic games attacking New York, London, Agra and Washington D.C.

One thing Pixels does right is throw classic games at you.  Watch closely and you'll see cameos by Mario and Dig Dug dragon, Burger Time and many arcade classics,

Faux Iwatani
Speaking of cameos, in an ironic twist, Pixels has an actor playing Toru Iwatani (creator of Pac-Man) and a quick shot of real Iwatani playing an arcade tech.

The real Toru Iwatani as he appears in the film
Okay, so the story is really a gratuitous pat on the back for veterans of the 1980s and retro-gamers.  Taken for what it is, it works.  Look, this is Adam Sandler, folks, he seldom makes make high-concept art.  This is a repackaging of Ghostbusters.  It's not supposed to be smart, just fun.

The cast of Pixels is good.  Checking the IMDB cast list, Pixels appears to be a bit of a family outing.  Along with Adam, four other Sandlers have small roles in this show.

The main Pixelbusters include Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan and Peter Dinklage. Gad is always fun to watch and Monaghan is so likable.  Kevin James is a good comedian, but he's generally too far over the top when he pals around with Sandler.  He succumbs to that urge in Pixels.

Peter Dinkage channeling his inner Billy Mitchell
I want to say a word about Dinklage,; sadly his talents are wasted in this Pixels.  Dinklage is a good actor who refuses to be typecasted because of his short stature.  Unfortunately in this film, he is Sandler-ized and forced to play a miniature version of Billy Mitchell, the Donkey Kong  champion who was so vilified in King of Kong.
Arcade-legend Billy Mitchell

And Sandler's performance... well, on the Wedding Singer--Grown Ups 2 scale, this performance rates about a Waterboy.  I'd give Mr. Sandler a B- because he keeps the screaming to an acceptable level.  Like everything else about this movie, he's generally likable and entertaining.

So consider me among the 18 percent who liked Pixels... sort of.  I give it a solid C+, or a 78 percent for the back to the school crowd.










Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ANT-MAN... Not even vanilla, but likable.

Ever had the Sweet Cream ice cream at Cold Stone?

Sweet Cream is the most basic ice cream batter--just cream, milk, and sugar.  Add banana flavoring and it becomes banana ice cream.  Add chocolate and it becomes chocolate.  You need to add vanilla extract to make it vanilla.

Ant-Man is the Sweet Cream of Marvel superhero movies.  It's got all of base ingredients--a sense of humor, a sympathetic and somewhat vulnerable protagonist, an evil semi-insane villain (who is every bit as bald as Jeff Bridges in Iron Man and Hugo Weaving in Captain America), a bad-ass female love interest (in this case played by Evagneline Lilly), an army of plain-Jane drone enemies, a quirky superpower, an Odin/Dr. Erskine/Yinsen style mentor figure, and the requisite appearance of an established Avenger.

Not every Marvel movie has every one of these ingredients, but they all draw heavily from the cafeteria.

Iron Man had two bald nemesises--Obadiah Stain and Raza, the rebel leader.  All of Thor's enemies had hair, except for the ice giants.  Hulk didn't have a mentor except maybe Rickson Gracie.  I guess Nick Fury has become everybody Avenger's mentor now.
Who says the Hulk never had a mentor?

Look, I'm not complaining about any of these elements; I like 'em all. Really, I do. Maybe I don't like them all the time in every single movie, but I like them.

So Ant-Man  has all of the elements needed to qualify as a Marvel superhero movie.  They're all used well enough and the end result is a likable move that adds a little to the Marvel universe without taking anything away.

Ant-Man, as you may know, is about an ex-con named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who is given a chance to redeem himself by taking on a scientifically provided super power--the ability to become the size of an ant while retaining the strength of a normal human.

He only has three friends in the world--all petty criminals with very colorful personalities--a comic Hispanic man with a knockout punch (), a relatively fearless African American getaway driver (T.I.), and a Russian hacker (David Dastmalchian).

The four of them find their lives turned upside down when Lang comes in contact with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), inventor of ant-man technology among other things.  So what happens next?  These are not spoilers.  If you have seen the trailer, you know this much:

  • Scott trains to become the world's smallest superhero
  • Scott must use his burglarring skills to steal ant-man technology from a really bad guy
  • The bad guy utilizes the technology leading to a final fight
Me, I really like sweet cream sundaes, and I enjoyed Ant-Man as well.  It had all the elements and it used them in a likable way.  I would give this movie a C+ except...

Ant-Man included one homage that took this movie into B-territory for me.  

At one point in the film, Ant-Man falls out of a building and lands on the roof of a car in which sits a forgotten Saturday Night Live talent named Garrett Morris.  
Dan Aykroyd as the Flash, John Belushi as the Hulk, Garrett Morris as Ant-Man.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST!
In 1979, SNL ran a skit in which all of the cast played superheroes gathering together at a cocktail party, and Morris showed up as Ant-Man.  

He is met at the door by Hulk and Flash who ask him about his super power and then ridicule him when he says he can shrink to the size of an ant and still have the strength of a normal man.

You know what, I'm going to give this movie a B for including the great Garrett Morris, the otherwise forgotten man from the early days of SNL.



Saturday, July 04, 2015

SO I CELEBRATED AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE BY WATCHING TERMINATOR GENISYS

Maybe not the best use of my hard-won independence, but it had a bunch of fireworks.

Terminator Genisys is  not the worst movie in the series.  It's got Terminator 3 beat hands-down, but it's no Judgment Day... not for lack of trying.  What stands out most about Genisys is that the director, the screenwriter, the producer, and the actors all took this film very seriously and gave it their best.

Jai Courtney, as the time-traveling Kyle Reese, is tough and vulnerable and believable as the man who travels back in time to save Sarah Connor, the mother of the heroic John Connor--the man who ultimately defeats the "machines."

Emilia Clarke makes a credible Sarah Connor and really does have a certain Linda Hamilton (the original Sarah Connor) charm about her.


Jason Clarke, who may or may not be related to Emilia, makes a great John Connor.  Clarke, with his very distinctive look, is one of the rising stars of Hollywood.  He's found his way into such diverse movies as The Great Gatsby and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a great Arnold Schwarzenegger--reprising his role as a young terminator with the help of a lot of CG and also as an aging terminator.  He was in good form for this movie, lovable, menacing and silly all at the same time.

J.K. Simmons (Jay Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies) is as witty and charismatic (in a quirky way) as ever.

I really liked Byung-hun Lee as a T-1000.  He captured so much of the intensity that Robert Patrick brought to the role twenty-four years ago in Terminator Judgment Day.


The story, well, it has all of the required elements--Kyle coming back in time to save Sarah from a terminator that has come back in time to kill her.  Its got glimpses of an apocalyptic future and chases and lots of things that blow up.

Exploding gas truck?

Check.

Terminator crashing its head through a windshield and menacing a driver?

Check.

Arnold saying, "I'll be back"?

Of course.

Yipee Kay yay, mother... oh, wait, that's Bruce Willis.

Genisys is nothing if not action-packed, and yet the action seemed to drag on after a while.  No one can accuse the scriptwriters or the actors of being asleep at the wheel, but the action just felt too familiar.  Genesis feels more like a class reunion than and adventure.

Look, I'm not going to give away any secrets on this movie--how can I, the coming attractions really do give the story away.  I'll just say that Terminator Genisys is a reasonable summer movie by mid-summer standards and give it a C.






Saturday, June 20, 2015

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

I went to Inside Out kicking and screaming.

Ever since John Lassiter re-added Disney to his resume, Pixar's gone downhill in my book, plus, a touching movie about the intricate workings inside a little girl's head just didn't sound all that exciting, so, yes, I really wasn't interested in seeing Inside Out.

Okay, yeah, it's sitting at 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and yes, it's got a good cast of successful comedians, but a movie about a little girl's emotions?

Inside Out is AMAZING!  It's funny.  It's emotional.  It has so many, many insights into human emotion.  Oh, and it's probably the most creative cartoon I have ever seen.

And here's the big confession: I LIKED IT BETTER THAN WRECK-IT RALPH.  coming from an old-school arcade addict like me, that's a strong endorsement

Here's my spoiler-free synopsis.  Riley is a little girl with the embodiments of five emotions living in her head--Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger, and Fear.  She lives in a world in which everyone has the same personified emotions living in their heads as well.  These emotions interact with each other, and the outcomes of their interactions determine how Riley will react to the world around her.

It's all pretty swell and then things go wrong.

The voice acting in this movie is sensational.  Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) is the voice of Joy.  Phyllis Smith (The Office) is Sadness.  Mindy Kaling (also from The Office) is Disgust.  SNL stud Bill Hader is Fear.  Lewis Black (whom I really don't know) is Anger.   All of these actors played their parts perfectly.

But I want to mention one more voice actor, Richard Kind, possibly the most overlooked man in all of Hollywood by design.  Richard Kind is a character actor who plays the ready-made victim, the BETA male, the guy no one ever notices.  Fortunately, movie and TV producers have been noticing Kind for years and he's popped up in everything from the recurring role of Harvey Corman in Scrubs to Clark in the Alaska Airlines radio ads, to Max Klein in Argo... and he's always perfect.  In Inside Out he plays a strange character named "Bing Bong," and he's perfect.

Anyway, I give Inside Out an A+.  It is my pick for the best movie of the summer so far.  I will be shocked if any other movie comes close this summer or this year.  It's a lock for best animated movie in the Oscars, and I hope it gets nominated for "Best Picture" as well.

Pictures of actors all taken from IMDB.

Picture of Bing Bong taken from Big Shiny Robot.

Picture of Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger taken from Neogaf

Picture of Riley and family taken from Fox3Now

Picture of Inside Out poster taken from IMDB