Sunday, August 7, 2016


Year 8, Day 219 - 8/6/16 - Movie #2,414

BEFORE: After spending two weekends away from home, this weekend is just for catching up on TV shows that I recorded while traveling.  Sorry, Summer Olympics, but I'm going to have to take a pass.  (Four years ago, I was still tracking commercials for work, so I had to scan through many different Olympic events.  Without that job, I'm a lot less interested.)  The best thing about the Olympics is that most of the other networks give up and don't counter-program, so I've got two weeks to catch up on the TV that I didn't watch in May and June, and also the talk shows and comedy news that I didn't watch while in San Diego.  I'm just getting to the Democratic Convention now, so, please, no spoilers.  

Saturday was productive for me, I got to the season finales of "Wayward Pines" and "Angie Tribeca", and I'm now only one week behind on "America's Got Talent" and most other shows.  My DVR went from being 2/3 full to just 1/2 full, so that's some progress.  But I think I'm going to have to take a hard look at the new fall TV line-up and see if there's anything I can drop.  There are just two sci-fi shows that I'll probably allow myself to get roped in to - "Frequency" and "Timeless".  Yep, both are about time travel, so I'll get to enjoy them AND complain about them at the same time.   That should be fun.

Another sci-fi movie tonight, then I'll start changing things up.  I've got a natural dead-end coming up, but it leads into a documentary break, then that will lead into another chain.  I'm still good for another month before I need to find a way to fill the empty spaces in September.  Keegan-Michael Key carries over again from "Pitch Perfect 2" to make it three appearances in a row.

THE PLOT: Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

AFTER: There's a part early in this film, set back during one of those World's Fairs in the 1960's, where the young kid who grows up to be Clooney's character invents a jet-pack - only it doesn't work completely right.  And that seems to be a metaphor for the whole film - it never really gets off the ground, though it was clearly designed to.  And while there's definitely forward movement, there's an appalling lack of control, so it seems to be firing in random directions hoping to get somewhere quickly.  And as another character points out, if it doesn't get you where you want to go, then it's essentially useless. 

Instead we're shown that there's a secret futuristic city - somewhere - that can be glimpsed by a girl holding a T-shaped pin.  Only the pin doesn't really take her there, it just shows her that the city exists via some kind of VR simulation.  She's still in the real world, moving around and bumping into walls and falling down stairs while her attention is on the virtual world.  Kind of like that new Pokemon game, right?  

Somehow, she's not disappointed when she finds out that the vision is just a 3-D commercial, and grown-up Clooney has to tell her that the city she's trying to get to no longer exists, at least, not in that fashion.  It's a little like when a teenager wants to go to DisneyLand, I guess, and their parent has to remind them that the phrase "the happiest place on Earth" is just a marketing slogan, because once you factor in the time it takes to get there, the price of admission, the time spent waiting in lines if you don't have a FastPass, can anyone possibly be happy there?  

Eventually we learn that Clooney's character was kicked out of Tomorrowland, and the girl that he knew there is still somehow a girl (no spoilers, but it isn't hard to figure out why) and she wants the man and the new teen to travel to the futuristic city, because only they can save it.  Only then we find out that's not the real reason for them to go there.

Look, I get that there are plot points and turning points, and a story doesn't always want to give up its secrets in the first reel.  But this story feels like there's no foundation, because of all the constantly shifting sands.  Every time the story moves a little in one direction, it zig-zags back to go another way, so there's no real way to get a handle on it.  There's some nonsense about tachyons that move faster than light, which enables people to see the future - but this presents the same problems as a time machine does.  Namely, what's the point of knowing what's going to happen if you can't (or aren't willing to) change it?  Then we've got the title of the film - "Tomorrowland", that implies that the city is in the future, right?  When we find out that's not the case, that should be something of a letdown.

Even worse, this gets linked to dystopian views about climate change and apocalyptic disasters, suggesting, for example, that while we're all arguing about whether climate change exists, the damage is going to reach a tipping point and we'll be powerless to stop it.  But if a film makes this point about how everyone's talking about it and not DOING anything about it, it might be nice to also suggest a course of action, otherwise that film is ALSO talking about it, without doing anything about it.  Just sayin'.  It's all very hippie-crunchy to suggest that all we have to do is BELIEVE in a better world, and that will make one happen.  Very Disney-like, but just not practical.  

There's also a conversational style that drives me crazy, I see it in comics books, too - mostly those written by Brian Michael Bendis - and it just does NOT represent the way people talk in the real world.  Instead it represents how writers fill up space without a lot of material, they just have everyone interrupt each other, question every little detail of a conversation, so it ends up being said three times.  Example: "Hey, did you know that water is wet?"  "Wait a minute, are you saying that water is wet?" "Yes, I'm telling you that water is wet."  "Wait, how can water be wet?"  "Look, water is wet, OK, just listen to trust me on this point."  This describes EVERY little piece of information transmitted between characters in "Tomorrowland" - and that got annoying after about 2 minutes.

Late in the film, one character uses as "evidence" that the world is going to hell in a handbasket the fact that there is simultaneously a starvation problem AND an obesity epidemic in the world.  I've joked about this myself in the past - but the two aren't really opposite problems.  Heck, if many people are eating enough food to make them obese, quite logically there wouldn't be enough for others to eat.  But you can't mandate how much or how little each person should eat, that's not a valid solution, because that could only come from a level of control that could not exist in a free society.  You might as well wonder how there can be both rich AND poor people in the world at the same time.  The starvation & obesity problems are in fact linked, because it's really just ONE problem centered on distribution - the food just isn't getting to the hungry people.  So my solution would be just to make it legal for the skinny people to take food directly from the fat people.  Boom.

Also starring George Clooney (last seen in "The Peacemaker"), Britt Robertson (last seen in "Delivery Man"), Hugh Laurie (last seen in "Sense and Sensibility"), Raffey Cassidy (last seen in "Dark Shadows"), Tim McGraw (last seen in "The Kingdom"), Kathryn Hahn (last seen in "The Holiday"), Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon, with a cameo from Judy Greer (last seen in "Ant-Man").

RATING: 4 out of 10 emergency protocols

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