Saturday, January 16, 2016

Original Sin

Year 8, Day 16 - 1/16/16 - Movie #2,216

BEFORE: So, they announced the Oscar nominations a few days ago, I finally had some time yesterday to take a look, and just as I thought, for the most part I just don't care.  Maybe some of those films will turn out to be important, but for now I'm going to stick to my chain of NON-Oscar nominated films.  Conversely, today's film and the previous two all garnered Razzie nominations for Angelina Jolie in 2002 and 2004.  Too bad those are given out for the WORST acting performances.  

As the Angelina Jolie chain comes to an end, I'm starting a week's worth of films that are mostly set in Latin America, or the Old West.  It's a sort of South (of the Border) by Southwest (U.S.) festival, and it starts on a plantation in late 1800's Cuba.  

THE PLOT: A woman and her lover plan to con a rich man by marrying him and, after earning his trust, running away with all his money. Everything goes as planned until she actually begins to fall in love with him.

AFTER: A plantation owner sends away for a mail-order bride, but when she shows up, she looks different from her picture.  Oh, there's an explanation, or an excuse, as there seems to be for everything in this situation, but quite possibly we're witnessing the invention of catfishing, pre-internet.  The couple marries quickly but then decides to take things slow, sleeping in separate rooms until she feels comfortable in sharing a bed.  But then she starts stepping out at night, or going backstage to talk with the actors in a play, and you'd think her husband would begin to suspect that she's not what, or even who, she claims to be.  

Rule #1 in marriage, even if you love someone - maintain separate bank accounts.  When "Julia" is given access to her husband's finances, you know, to maintain the household and buy herself pretty things, you can almost hear that clock ticking.  I'm not saying all women are like this, but come on, this guy should have seen it coming.  Before long he's teamed up with the detective who's looking for the real Julia, just to find the woman he married and figure out who she really is. 

Still he maintains that he loves her, but does he love her or the woman she pretended to be?  And if it's the latter, can she become that woman again, or is that no longer an option?  The characters state a few times that this is not a love story, but it's a story about love.  Whether real or imagined, that's to be determined.  There is play-within-the-play that's laughingly described as "cheap melodrama", and I'm afraid that's a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  They also say several times that "you can't walk away from love".  Umm, OK, but people do it all the time.  

Angelina is much nuder here than she was in the "Tomb Raider" films, yet you may find yourself staring at her impressively-sized, very full...lips.  I wonder if you can trace that horrible trend of the overly-pouty "bee-stung" lips back to this film.  They really fill up the frame, they're much, much bigger than they need to be.  

Also starring Antonio Banderas (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Thomas Jane (last seen in "Dreamcatcher"), Jack Thompson (last seen in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), Allison Mackie, Gregory Itzin, and Pedro Armendariz, Jr. (last seen in "Amistad").

RATING: 4 out of 10 empty coat hangers

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Year 8, Day 15 - 1/15/16 - Movie #2,215

BEFORE: OK, let's get this one over with.  It can't be any worse than the first film, right?  RIGHT?  And thank God they got rid of that first colon in the film's title, or at least moved it closer to the end, otherwise it would be "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life", and that's just too many colons.  Angelina Jolie carries over again, and I'm looking forward to getting out of her chain and on to other things.

Adventuress Lara Croft goes on a quest to save the mythical Pandora's Box from an evil scientist and recruits a former Marine turned mercenary to assist her.

AFTER: OK, I guess this is slightly better, because the first "Lara Croft" film was really all about Angelina Jolie's breasts - not that there's anything wrong with that in general, but I think a movie needs more of a plot than that.  Shot after shot, they were always perfectly framed, or bouncing while she was running, or sticking out when she turned to the side.  Damn, there's just no pretense or artistry any more.  

In the sequel, they toned down the focus on boobage, at least a bit.  Sure, there was still the scene where she wore a tight scuba outfit (conveniently silver, not black) and the one where she wore a bikini, but there weren't as many shower scenes, so there's that. 

But still, it's a whole bunch of junk science and junk mysticism - this time, evil people are seeking out Pandora's Box, but that in itself makes no sense.  If the mythical Pandora's Box were real (which it isn't) and if the myths are true (which they aren't), then Pandora's Box already unleashed all of its evils into the world a long time ago.  The only thing that remained inside the box was hope, because there's always hope.  At no point in the myth do the evils go BACK into the box - so why would an evil person seek out the box, because it wouldn't contain anything that he could want or use?

That's a really bad sign, when the entire basic premise of a film just doesn't seem to add up.  In order to find the Box, first Lara had to find an orb, and decode the symbols on the orb, which had something to do with various sounds, but that was all a bit unclear.  Or maybe I was falling asleep again, all these nonsensical plot details tend to put me right to sleep.  

ASIDE: There's something vaguely sexual about all of this, this talk of "boxes" and "orbs" - fellas, if you want to get into the "box", first you have to pay attention to the "orbs", if ya know what I mean.  Or ladies, if you swing that way, the same applies.  I think a lot of people tend to forget that Angelina used to date ladies before she started marrying men. (It's funny how the more famous someone is, the less their bios on IMDB or Wikipedia talk about their sexual history...) Or maybe she still goes both ways, who knows - if that Brangelina marriage isn't an open one, I'll eat my hat.  But whatever floats your boat - some people noticed a lesbian subtext in "Maleficent" too, here the main male hero is an untrustworthy liar, and the male villain deals in killer viruses - so men are either liars or toxic.  Read between the lines, people...

I think the low point for me in this one came where Lara Croft was underwater, cut herself with a knife in order to attract a shark, so she could punch the shark in the nose, and then hold on as it took her exactly where it needed to be.  Umm, don't try this at home, kids, you might find the shark doesn't behave the way you want it to. 

Hey, at least the statues didn't come to life in this one...but once again, the dialogue is horrendous.  Take for example, this quote: "I'm not leaving you because I couldn't kill you.  I'm leaving you because I could."  I've tried over and over to determine just what that means, but I can't figure it out.  Like the majority of the rest of this film, it's just utter nonsense.

Also starring Gerard Butler (last heard in "How to Train Your Dragon 2"), Ciaran Hinds (last seen in "Circle of Friends"), Chris Barrie (also carrying over from "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"), Noah Taylor (ditto), Djimon Hounsou (also last heard in "How to Train Your Dragon 2"), Til Schweiger (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Simon Yam, Robert Cavanah, Ronan Vibert, with a cameo from Graham McTavish (last seen in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies").

RATING: 4 out of 10 terra cotta soldiers

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Year 8, Day 14 - 1/14/16 - Movie #2,214

BEFORE: I had a really good run there, for the first two weeks of 2016 I watched a (relatively) recent film - everything so far has been from 2013-2015.  Well, that ends today, because I've got to start linking back to earlier films - after watching films like "The Exorcist", "Eraserhead" and "Harold and Maude" last year, I don't think there's much left on my list that other people might be shocked to learn that I haven't already seen, but this one might qualify.  Of course, Angelina Jolie carries over from "Maleficent".  

THE PLOT:  Video game adventuress Lara Croft comes to life in a movie where she races against time and villains to recover powerful ancient artifacts.

AFTER: I did mention this was the clean-up year, right?  Because so far this year I've watched films about a NYC club I never went to ("CBGB"), based on the life of a singer I never saw perform ("Get on Up"), based on comic books that I never read ("Big Hero 6" and "Sin City") and tonight's film is based on a video-game that I've never played.  Is it any wonder I'm feeling more and more disconnected from the movies I'm watching?  Maybe it truly is time to wrap this blog up at the end of 2016, because it's really starting to feel like I've covered just about everything I needed to, and now I'm just killing time.  

To me, "Tomb Raider" is just the equivalent of pop-culture nonsense, something akin to cotton candy, with no nutritional value at all.  It might taste good at first, but eat too much of it and you'll start to feel sick - like I am with candy canes, I'm good for about 1/2 of one each December, any more than that and peppermint starts to taste repulsive.  I don't know what's worse here, Angelina Jolie's horrible attempt at speaking with a British accent, or people consistently entering caves and monuments while holding glowsticks, yet the rooms in question all appear to be perfectly lit.  Huh?  

The "story", and I'm using the term very loosely, involves finding some clock thingy, and a group of Illuminati somehow knowing exactly which two ruins to bring it to in order to activate some mechanical devices (which were supposedly constructed eons ago, before man had invented even steam power) in order to obtain two pieces of a triangle.  (Ooh, scary triangle!  Much scarier than a square, because it's all pointy!)  Meanwhile, the planets are lining up, like they do only once every 5,000 years, and something's bound to happen if we can get both pieces of the triangle when they align!

Give me a freakin' break.  First off, the planets don't line up like that, ever.  Some aren't even on the same plane as the others, so bottom line, it just doesn't happen.  Plus those of us who were around in 1987, when the planets were all on the same side of the sun, it was called the "Harmonic Convergence", and rumors spread that it was going to signify a new era of peace and understanding, ushering in the Age of Aquarius, and anyone meditating that day would be able to unlock the secrets of the universe.  Guess what, nothing happened, nothing at all.  So go hug a rainbow, you hippies. 

How many of these events have to happen - Y2K, the end of the Mayan calendar, Mars entering retrograde, for everyone to admit that it's all bullshit?  None of it means anything.  Even when it was 12:34 and 56 seconds on July 8, 2009, that didn't mean jack.  It's just a math trick.  But every year, people think you can balance an egg on the equinox, it's always in the news - guess what, you can balance an egg any day of the year (especially if you shake it first - watch those hands closely...)

Oh, and statues tend to come to life in these temples, did I forget to mention that?  There's no explanation, they never say whether those statues are robots, or somehow animated magically, or contain the souls of deceased sorcerers, it's just taken for granted when stuff starts to go down, the statues are going to start to move.  Ugh, let's add junk science to junk astrology to junk archaeology. 

And then the worst was a giant version of the solar system that started spinning and turned into something from that ABC game show, "Wipeout".  I just couldn't take this one seriously, from start to finish.  I couldn't take it non-seriously either, I couldn't take it on any level.  I think my original instincts in avoiding this film for so long were correct, it's ridiculous from start to finish.

NITPICK POINT: The two pieces of the triangle were supposedly hidden "on opposite ends of the earth".  Yet they're found in temples in Cambodia and Siberia, which are both in Asia.  They may be far away from each other, but that certainly doesn't qualify as opposite ends.  

Also starring Jon Voight (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Iain Glen (last seen in "The Iron Lady"), Daniel Craig (last heard in "The Adventures of TinTin"), Noah Taylor (last seen in "Lawless"), Chris Barrie, Richard Johnson (last seen in "Scoop"), Julian Rhind-Tutt (last seen in "Notting Hill"), Leslie Phillips.

RATING: 3 out of 10 randomly appearing children

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Year 8, Day 13 - 1/13/16 - Movie #2,213

BEFORE:  I'm feeling comfortable with my decision to not follow the Reese Witherspoon link out of "Inherent Vice", now that I know I can link to nearly everything else, and there could be other opportunities to link to the film "Wild" down the road.  Knowing I can hit the next 2016 blockbuster if I just stick to my current plan is very encouraging.  
Tonight, Juno Temple carries over from "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", and I start a 4-day chain of films with Angelina Jolie.  I don't have too many chains of four or more in the works, except one with James Garner this month, one with 7 Samuel L. Jackson films in March, and then ones featuring Liam Neeson and Burt Reynolds some time after that.  I think one might be forming up with Steve Coogan, though, maybe around May.

THE PLOT:  A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

AFTER: This is a take on the "Sleeping Beauty" story, one that sets out to prove that the villain in that story wasn't a villain, for some reason.  Who benefits from this confusion?  Right after I got done watching "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", where it was very easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, along comes this new take on a fairy tale to muddy the waters.  It's like the opening crawl from "Star Wars: Episode III" which described the Clone Wars with the lines "There are heroes on both sides.  Evil is everywhere."  Huh?  You just told me in the last film that "Jedi and clones good, Separatists bad" - how can there be heroes on both sides?  Just who am I supposed to be rooting for?

I'm just not buying this tonight - OK, so maybe fairy tales are simplistic, and villains are often cartoony stereotypes, but they still fulfill a purpose in the story.  They are opportunistic, selfish, they lust for power, and they quickly tell the kids that there's evil in this world, and this is who the hero's going to be up against.  By reducing Maleficent to the status of a crazy ex-girlfriend, I think it belittles her to no small effect.  She casts a curse on Aurora and what, regrets it five minutes later?  That doesn't make her a good fairy, she still did an evil thing, and needs to be judged on her actions.  

And apparently, once a fairy casts a curse, she can't undo it, even if she really really wants to. What kind of magic is that?  And what's the point of working in a back-door solution to the curse, if you're not going to allow that solution to work, in the end?  Someone had an agenda here, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.  As a result, Maleficent ended up being a very confusing character - one day she's this, the next she's that, she curses Aurora but then watches over her from afar. 

True, there are villains who have a shot at redemption - Darth Vader and Ebenezer Scrooge come to mind, but that's probably because of the films I watched at the end of December.  But should we go back and re-make James Bond films and suggest that Blofeld was just misunderstood?   Or Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter?  I guess the Alien and the shark in "Jaws" were just hungry, so they're out, and they already explained away the motivations of the Wicked Witch of the West in "Oz the Great and Powerful", so there just aren't that many great villains left in movies, I'm afraid.  Dracula and the Joker, and that's it - don't even get me started on the Terminator or Ultron.  ASIDE: My wife's reaction upon seeing Kylo Ren in "The Force Awakens" was, "So, the new Darth Vader's just a whiny emo brat?"

And I'm all for turning fairy tales on their side, because that worked so well in "Shrek", but now I think there has to be a valid reason to do so.  And in "Into the Woods" there were questions raised about whether the evil giant was in fact evil, or just a giant.  But I'm not sure there was one here, no one was really calling out to redeem the villain from "Sleeping Beauty".  And now just last week it seems like Disney's going to do a back-story film for Cruella de Vil, most likely giving her a similar tragic past to try and make her more sympathetic.  For god's sake, why?

I'm also going to raise the same point I made yesterday, with the character from "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" that was very, very lucky.  Here one of the fairies blesses Aurora with "eternal happiness" - is that really such a good gift?  Do you want someone to be happy all the time, like even when their life is collapsing around them, or someone broke their heart?  Then they'd really be certifiably crazy, no?  

Also starring Angelina Jolie (last seen in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), Elle Fanning (last seen in "Super 8"), Sharlto Copley (last seen in "Elysium"), Lesley Manville (last heard in "A Christmas Carol (2009)", Imelda Staunton (last seen in "The Girl"), Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Kenneth Cranham, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins and the voice of Janet McTeer (last seen in "Velvet Goldmine").

RATING: 3 out of 10 tree people

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Year 8, Day 12 - 1/12/16 - Movie #2,212

BEFORE: Now, you can see where I was going with this.  There are very few films left on the list that I'm aching to see, this might qualify as one of them.  Really, at this point it's rarely about what I want to see, it's usually about getting a film out of the way and off of my list.

Josh Brolin carries over from "Inherent Vice", and this is also a gritty crime drama like that was, and it's also based on a comic book, like "Big Hero 6" was.  I've been building up to this one without even realizing it.

THE PLOT:  Some of Sin City's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.

AFTER: Sometimes there's a fine line between playing around with the narrative form, like "Pulp Fiction" did, and creating an incoherent mess.  I'm prepared to give this film the benefit of the doubt, because it really flirts with that line.  A little research tells me that two of the films segments take place before the events seen in the first "Sin City" film, and the others take place after.  It really doesn't matter, although multiple viewings could lead to greater insight, like explaining where Marv got such a nice coat (he doesn't remember). 

You see, with a comic book, the time setting doesn't really matter all that much - once you open the cover, that story with Spider-Man is taking place "now", aka "story time", aka "stop worrying about it and read the damn book already".  If you want to, you can get all nitpicky and figure out that since Spider-Man is seen using his new impact webbing, and he's fighting the Lizard, who was captured by the Avengers in another story, and you can work out some kind of timeline that places this story before Captain Marvel issue 12 and after Avengers issue 4, but I guarantee that by doing that, you've already put more thought into it than the author of the story did.  Writers these days just want to tell a gripping story, and leave the details to the fans - the ones with plenty of time on their hands.  

This story is told in black and white (with some splashes of color) which echoes the color scheme of the Dark Horse Comics that it's based on.  But black and white isn't just a color scheme or an homage to the days of film noir, it represents a set of morals, of things being either right or wrong.  The situations here don't have a lot of gray to them, people are either inherently good or evil, even if they're caught up in their stereotypes, like the sensitive brute or the stripper with the heart of gold.  There's no question who we're rooting for, and also against, to come out on top.

The problem is, people in Sin City (hmm, it's really named "Basin City", with many of the highway signs having their first two letters blacked out, who knew?) rarely come out on top, unless they were there to begin with.  The people who hold all the power sure don't want to give it up, while the little guys are just scrambling to get ahead, or at least not fall any further behind.  And nearly everyone comes to an untimely end, because everyone either has it coming, or goes up against someone willing to give it to them.  And that ultimately makes the stories here feel rather hopeless, but hey, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy." 

One of the segments, "The Long Bad Night", was written specifically for this film, and it concerns a young man with incredible luck - he wins on every pull of a slot machine, every hand of cards.  You might think that's a blessing, but instead it turns out to be a curse.  (So...why not just play the slots a few times, and then walk away?)  Definitely something to think about as you're buying your PowerBall tickets tonight.  Do you REALLY want to win the PowerBall?  I mean, sure, it's 1.3 billion dollars, but if you take it as a lump sum, after they take out the taxes, it's really only like $280 million, right?  Geez, it hardly seems worth it.  Do you really want all of the headaches that come with that kind of cash?

So, Josh Brolin is the new Clive Owen, and Dennis Haysbert is the new Michael Clarke Duncan?  Yeah, I guess I'm OK with that.

Also starring Mickey Rourke (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"), Jessica Alba (last seen in "Never Been Kissed"), Bruce Willis (last seen in "Nobody's Fool"), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (last seen in "The Interview"), Rosario Dawson (last seen in "Trance"), Eva Green (last seen in "300: Rise of an Empire"), Powers Boothe (last seen in "The Goodbye Girl"), Ray Liotta (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Dennis Haysbert (last seen in "Jarhead"), Christopher Meloni (last seen in "42"), Jeremy Piven (last seen in "Two for the Money"), Jaime King (ditto), Juno Temple, Christopher Lloyd (last seen in "A Million Ways to Die in the West"), Jamie Chung (last heard in "Big Hero 6"), Marton Csokas (last seen in "Noah"), Julia Garner, with cameos from Stacy Keach (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Lady Gaga, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez.  

RATING: 6 out of 10 crossbow bolts

Monday, January 11, 2016

Inherent Vice

Year 8, Day 11 - 1/11/16 - Movie #2,211

BEFORE: It's amazing how one not-so-great film can make me question a whole chain.  Did I really need to watch "Turbo"?  A great film, on the other hand, will make me feel perfectly justified in following a series of actor links, so I'm really just now looking for the next great film to erase all lingering doubts.  Like, should I have followed the Samuel L. Jackson link out of "Turbo", instead of "Inherent Vice", another film with Maya Rudolph? 

Plus, I only had things scheduled through mid-March, I figured I'd get through February and then re-assess.  But that's just not good enough, so I've been tinkering with the chain again over the last few nights, and early this morning I finally worked out a chain that will get me to the next big tent-pole movie, the next movie I want to see in theaters, which will be "Batman v. Superman".  Now I have a way to get there, so I can sleep more soundly.  Essentially, it's a framework, and it doesn't include everything, because after that film I'll still be watching movies, and I'll have to somehow get to "Captain America: Civil War". But I guess now I'll worry about that in March - maybe getting to "Exodus: God & Kings" in time for Passover is the next challenge.

I still have to go through the new films at the bottom of the list, to see if they need to be added to the framework, but at least I've got a plan now that will take me through to mid-April.  Plus I can put something aside for Mother's Day, 4th of July, back to school, and I even have a couple things for Halloween already.  So it goes.  It's a great metaphor for life, you make a plan you can live with, and then try and stick to it.  Sometimes you have to rebuild everything from square one, but you try to minimize those cases.

But I still have to deal with going from a silly animated kids film to a dark crime film (I'm assuming).  That type of whiplash is going to be par for the course here in the clean-up year, I'm afraid.  The only other animated films I have are about Superman or Batman, and I'd like to save those to go with "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice".  

This essentially means that I'm going to sit out this Oscar season - I got lucky last year and managed to see "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" before the awards were given out, and then at least I felt I had a dog in the fight.  I saw a few 2015 films in theaters 2015, most notably "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", but there's nothing else being talked about as an Oscar contender that I feel I need to rush out and see.  Maybe "The Martian", but that's about it.  So again, I'm just going to try and stick to my plan.  Unless I decide to change it again.  

(Damn, maybe I should have gone to see "The Martian" right after "Interstellar", because that would have worked thematically, and Jessica Chastain would have carried over.  But then I wouldn't have been able to link from "The Wolf of Wall Street" to "The Artist", and my schedule would have been off by one.  C'est la vie. Maybe I can link from "Serenity" to "The Martian" because they both have Chiwetel Ejiofor in them.  Or from "Fantastic Four" because they both have Kate Mara.)

THE PLOT:  In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

AFTER: I guess if I'm looking for a thematic link, I could point out that "Turbo" and "Inherent Vice" both take place in the seedier parts of Los Angeles, just in different years.  And drugs are prominent in both storylines, with TONS of marijuana in this film, and the nitrous oxide essentially being a performance-enhancing drug in "Turbo".  That still seems weird for a film aimed at kids.  

"Inherent Vice" came off to me as kind of a weird mix between "L.A. Confidential" and "The Big Lebowski", only not as funny.  I'm also seeing a similarity to "Harper", a film I watched last August, and that in turn reminded me of Season 2 of "True Detective", which I was watching at the time.  Both of those were set in L.A. and featured a policeman or private detective investigating a rich person's disappearance, and touched on issues of immigration, shady land deals, and strange cults.  I'm starting to get an overall vibe about life in Los Angeles, and when I put these films together, it's a weird place that I sure don't want to live in.  

Speaking of cults, I could sort of see "Inherent Vice" becoming a cult film, especially with all the pot-smoking.  Now that it's legal in a few states, this could really tap in to a pop culture vibe.  Plus it's quirky enough and oblique enough to really catch on with twenty-somethings, the way that films like "The Big Lebowski" and "Pulp Fiction" did.  

But, there are a few problems.  First off, it's a dark mystery/comedy, or at least that's how it pitches itself, but it's not really laugh-out-loud funny like "Lebowski" is.  Secondly, it's based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, and I haven't read any of his books, but I know he had a reputation for being long-winded and hard to understand.  Third problem, the film is two and a half hours long, and there's no real resolution to the mystery plot.  If you're going to have a character wander aimlessly around town and not get to the bottom of things, couldn't you have him do that in under two hours instead?  We all have stuff to do.  

I should point out that the director of this film also made "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" - which were also ensemble filmsThere's a similar feeling to "Magnolia" here, which is a bit of a "WTF?" or "What does it all mean?" feeling.  Well, it means what you want it to mean, not everything has to be resolved - that's one way of looking at it.  But in a mystery, people usually want some answers about who did the crime.  

Looking back, I think maybe there WAS an answer in there somewhere.  I'm thinking of one particular scene, no spoilers here, but it was a character who specifically denied any wrongdoing, like "Why would I kill that guy?  I had no motive, except for this, that, and the other thing."  Am I crazy, or did that sound quite a bit like a confession?  I think maybe that person DID confess, in a roundabout way, and if the lead character weren't so stoned, he might have noticed it, too.  That's my take anyway. 

The lead character is only interesting to me because he was so high, so often.  Which usually means a character is very passive, he just wants to get high all the time and then lay around in his beach house.  But he's also a private investigator, which normally is a very active role - so he's a strange mix of passive and active, he seems to solve his cases almost by default, and in a few key scenes, I'm not sure if I was watching reality, or something like a drug-induced hallucination.

Which leads to an interesting question - did everything we see happen really happen, or are there some things that were part of his drug trips?  People seem to drift into Doc's house while he's stoned - are any of those characters imaginary?  That could also help this film catch on with the kids, if someone wants to go back and check for things that don't really make sense (and there are a few) and try and explain them by saying, "Oh, that character's not real." which would make this resemble a couple of other cult films I could mention.  But until then, I have to judge the film that I watched, which seemed to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

OOH, no, wait, I've got it - Doc and Bigfoot are really the same person.  That's why they say the same thing at the same time in that scene near the end!  Bigfoot is married, but he has this secret beach house, where he goes to get stoned, and hang out with his girlfriend, and then when he's really high, he hallucinates that he's a hippie named Doc, and he goes around L.A. trying to solve crimes while he's baked out of his mind.  There, just spread that one around for me, and that's bound to get some people talking.  

Also starring Joaquin Phoenix (last seen in "Her"), Josh Brolin (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Katherine Waterston (last seen in "Michael Clayton"), Joanna Newsom, Eric Roberts (last seen in "The Expendables"), Martin Short (last heard in "The Pebble and the Penguin"), Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio Del Toro (also last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Owen Wilson (last seen in "The Big Year"), Reese Witherspoon (last seen in "Mud"), Jena Malone (last seen in "Cold Mountain"), Jillian Bell (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Martin Donovan, Jordan Christan Hearn, Michael Kenneth Williams (last seen in "12 Years a Slave"), Keith Jardine, Hong Chau, Peter McRobbie, Jefferson Mays, with cameos from Anders Holm (last seen in "Neighbors"), Stephen Wiig.

RATING: 4 out of 10 panacake-os

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Year 8, Day 10 - 1/10/16 - Movie #2,210

BEFORE:  Ten days in to 2016, and I've managed to decrease my watchlist by 7 films, to 158.  For me that's a really good pace, and if I could keep that up, I could get down to 144 by the end of January, and have a decent chance of finishing this year.  But new films are popping up, and February's going to bring TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" programming, and I'll most likely not be able to keep reducing the watchlist at that rate.  

New films added to the list confuse my linking further, also - I'll face a decision after tonight about whether to stick with my plan for January, the one that gets me safely to the start of the romance chain, or follow the Samuel L. Jackson link, and find a new path.  Because I've tried to create a chain that links everything left on the list, but it can't be done.  I've only programmed to mid-March, and how can I possibly know if what's left at that point, plus the films I add, can be worked into a coherent plan?  I think I'll just have to figure out the next new film I want to see in theaters, and make that the next destination to link to.  Oscar nominations could give me a new direction also, but I don't think there's anything in contention that I want to rush out and see.  

Linking from "Big Hero 6", Maya Rudolph carries over to "Turbo".

THE PLOT:  A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

AFTER:  Yes, I know it's a kids' movie, so perhaps I should cut it some slack, but...I feel that a kids' movie still needs to make some logical sense, even if it's sent in a fantasy world.  In just the last few nights I've watched films set in worlds where people ride dragons, give themselves super-powers with impossible technology, and battle each other with unlikely serums and ray-guns.  You would think something like this would fit right in, but this film is different in one aspect - it seems to be set in the very real world of today's auto racing, and therefore its fantastical nature seems out of step with its own reality.  

Like, I can buy Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining super-strength, spider-sense, and the ability to stick to walls, because he lives in a universe that is not our own, one where there are mutant powers and super-soldier serums and cosmic rays and Terrigen mists - geez, you're something of a freak in the Marvel Universe if you DON'T have a superpower.  After watching the first "Spider-Man" film (with Tobey Maguire) my wife and asked me why Peter Parker didn't need his glasses any more, after being bitten by the spider.  "Really?" I asked, "THAT'S where you draw the line?  The guy gets all these super-powers, and you're OK with that, but you can't believe his vision cleared up?"  

But it shows that we all draw that line that separates believable vs. unbelievable in a different place.  Well, this is where I draw the line tonight.  I can believe that teens can fly on dragons, but I can't believe that a snail can compete in the Indy 500.  For about a hundred different reasons, the first of which is: he's a snail.  Now, he's a snail that got dipped in nitrous oxide, but still, he's a snail.  And he's about a thousand times smaller than an Indy racecar, plus he's all slimy and sticky and he has no experience on a racetrack.  

I should point out that the nitrous oxide doesn't just make Turbo fast, it somehow turns his eyes into headlights and gives him a car horn and allows him to pick up radio signals and on and on.  See what I mean?  It's Peter Parker all over, they've gone over where any rational adult would draw the line - even if you believe that a chemical would make him fast, it wouldn't also grant him powers that replicate various auto parts, because that's not how chemicals work, even if they worked that other way.  It would be like Peter Parker somehow gaining the ability to speak French. 

Then we've got the old "rule book" argument, making the film's plot possible.  This is seen in everything from "Racing Stripes" to all the "Air Bud" movies.  You know, the one where someone argues that because the rule book doesn't explicitly say that a zebra can't run in a horse race, or a dog can't play basketball, that it simply must be allowed.  I think movies have pushed this little sports argument way past the point of being believable.  Because the argument should go like this: "Hey, there's nothing in the rule book that says a snail CAN'T compete in the Indy 500."  "Umm, yes there is, right there on page 2 where it says that all racers must be in a car, with a combustion engine, and then the next 50 pages are all about the technical specs that said car must conform to.  He's not a car, he's a snail, so he's out."  

It turns out the CEO of the Indy 500 folds like a cheap suit, just because there's a viral video of the snail moving very fast (and conveniently leaving a light trail that can be seen, because the snail is so small, there's just no way he'd be visible on phone camera footage.  Or TV footage of the race, so there's another problem...) and somehow the power of a room full of people shouting "Let him race!" is greater than upholding the integrity of a sports organization that's had standards for the last 105 years.  

The film also blatantly ripped off the ending of "Talladega Nights" - I'll say no more about this for fear of spoilers (though if you can't predict the ending of this film, you just haven't seen many movies) but any rational adult, even one forced to watch this with a youngster, would just be shouting "Oh COME ON!" for the majority of the last reel.  

Plus it's a weird message to send out to the kids, and I think films aimed at children have a responsibility to stop and think about this for a second.  The message seems to be, it's OK to use a chemical to enhance your performance, as long as you win in the end.  (Even if you fall for that "rule book" argument, I'm betting there's something in the Indy 500 rule book against using nitrous...)  We're way beyond the old "Tortoise and the Hare" story - which would have been totally different if the tortoise were allowed to be chemically enhanced.  How about a film that teaches kids that not ALL of their dreams are possible?  Something that sets them up to have low expectations for the future, wouldn't that be better for them in the long run?  Then maybe someday we'd have a generation of teens and twenty-somethings that weren't so damn entitled.  Just sayin'. 

NITPICK POINT: Even before the film started to push the envelope of believability, while the snails were seen working in the "plant", I still had problems.  With the set-up, mind you.  Basically, they harvest tomatoes in someone's garden, separating out the overripe ones from the good ones - but doesn't the owner of the garden notice at some point that all of the tomatoes are disappearing?  Who grows tomatoes and then casually doesn't mind that the snails are eating all of the good ones?  At some point, that person would create some kind of defense against the well-organized snail community, that's all.

NITPICK POINT #2: The film also treats the journey from L.A. to Indianapolis like it's no big deal.  The two cities are 1,800 miles apart - do I believe that someone can drive a taco truck that far in what appears to be a few days, without major obstacles to overcome, flat tires, engine trouble, etc.  As I said, we all have to draw that line of believability somewhere.  

Also starring the voices of Ryan Reynolds (last seen in "A Million Ways to Die in the West"), Paul Giamatti (last seen in "12 Years a Slave"), Michael Peña (last seen in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), Luis Guzman (last seen in "We're the Millers"), Samuel L. Jackson (last seen in "The Great White Hype"), Bill Hader (last seen in "The To Do List"), Richard Jenkins (last seen in "White House Down"), Ken Jeong (last heard in "Despicable Me 2"), Snoop Dogg, Michelle Rodriguez (last seen in "Battle Los Angeles"), Ben Schwartz (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Paul Dooley (last seen in "The Out of Towners"), Chris Parnell (last seen in "Down With Love"), Kurtwood Smith (last seen in "Hitchcock")

RATING: 3 out of 10 checkered flags