Saturday, March 26, 2016

Snakes on a Plane

Year 8, Day 86 - 3/26/16 - Movie #2,286

BEFORE: Since it's still the clean-up year, the year where (ideally) I'm going to catch up with all of those films that somehow fell through the cracks before, and this is an ideal candidate.  This film was an internet joke when it first came on the scene, then it became a marketing phenomenon, then a cultural touchstone, then I think it became something of a joke again.  That's bound to happen, I guess - but since I've never seen it, I have no idea whether it works or not as a movie.  Well, I'm all for crossing these things off the list, so let's have at it. 

Linking from "Robocop 3", Jeff Garlin was in "Fat Albert" with Kenan Thompson (last seen in "They Came Together"), and this puts me back on the Samuel L. Jackson track.

THE PLOT:  An FBI agent takes on a plane full of deadly and venomous snakes, deliberately released to kill a witness being flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mob boss.

AFTER: "Ophidiophobia" is the fear of snakes, while it seems like "aviophobia" is the fear of flying - damn those Ancient Greeks, it's almost like they didn't even have a word for "airplane" or something.   Put them together and you've got - well, a great big mess of anxieties rolled into one.  But "phobia" to me implies an irrational fear, and I feel the fear of anything that can kill you is perfectly justified.  If someone were to tell me that my fear of snakes is irrational, I'd be happy to correct them and point out that it's very rational indeed.  Same goes for fear of heights, fear of sharks, fear of drowning, fear of being buried alive.  Fear can be good, fear can keep you out of those situations where you are at risk, and who's to say that can't save your life when it counts?  

OK, so maybe my fear that somehow a snake has gotten into my bathroom, or any public restroom, and slithered its way into a very cool, wet comfortable place like a toilet bowl is a little bit outrageous.  But you know, that ONE TIME that I don't check the bowl for snakes before sitting down on it, there's going to be a snake in it, and then I'll be very embarrassed (or, you know, dead) because I didn't check. Even if I survive that, the ER doctor will say, "Didn't you check for snakes before you sat down, like a sensible person does?"  And I'll say, "Well, I usually do, but the thousands of times I've checked for snakes before, there were no snakes, so I figured I was in the clear."  No, you have to check EVERY time, or else you get a situation like what's seen in this film, where a snake's coiled up in the airport toilet, and you end up peeing on it, and then it bites you in a very sensitive area, you react and smack your head against the bathroom mirror, and you die from a combination snake bite and head wound.  So, great, now I have to worry about all that the next time I fly.  

(I have a powerful bladder, though, from all the hours I've sat in Comic-Con booths with limited bathroom breaks.  As long as I use the restroom just before my flight, I can usually make it across the country without using the bathroom on the plane.  Something I'm proud of, because I don't believe man was meant to relieve himself at 35,000 feet in the air.  Heck, I don't think we're even supposed to be at that altitude at all, I regard flying as a necessary evil for getting to the West Coast - if I could get there by train, I would.  Amtrak bathrooms are much bigger and nicer.  When the airlines can guarantee they can get me somewhere without crashing, which they CAN'T, maybe I'll relax.)  

I should probably discuss the plot, and I was pretty surprised to find out that there even WAS a plot - there's a man who witnessed a murder, and federal agents need to get him to L.A. by plane so he can testify.  The murderer, an apparently well-connected man with access to both snakes and airline security officers, puts thousands of poisonous snakes on a plane, with a device timed to release them.  Essentially, a snake bomb, designed to kill everyone on the plane by either snake-bite or plane crash, and who's going to notice one dead witness among a plane of dead people?  And because it's SO much easier to get boxes and boxes of snakes into a cargo hold instead of one small explosive device.  (Maybe it is, I don't know - it's not like they have dogs trained to smell for snakes.)  

And it's not just the presence of snakes, it's the variety involved - even if the passengers were to somehow survive all of the snakes, and the plane makes it to L.A., there are so many different types of venoms and anti-venoms, and giving the wrong anti-venom to someone could also kill them, so someone really might have put some thought into this plan.  Is it possible, could a screenwriter have done some actual research on this?  On snakes, that is, not on airport security, or the mechanics of flying and landing a plane... 

For the most part, it's falling back on horror-movie conventions, like if someone acts like an asshole, they deserve to die.  If someone has illicit sex, they deserve to die.  If someone disables an airport restroom smoke detector, well, you get the idea.  And there's no shortage of assholish behavior on any given plane, especially after the federal agents take over first-class and make all those entitled people fly coach.  The spoiled rich woman with the handbag chihuahua, the man who can't stand being disturbed by the crying baby, the woman WITH the crying baby.  They all deserve it, right?  But not the large people who encroach upon the personal space of the people seated next to them - trust me, as a large person myself, we can't help it!  They make those damn seats too small, and if I have to get on board early and lift up the armrest between the seats so my neighbor can't find it at first, I'm doing it for their benefit - even though our legs might now touch, which I agree is not ideal, I'll be a little bit more comfortable, I'll be more pleasant, and if I'm not squeezed in, I won't have to disturb them by getting up to use the restroom, which I don't want to do anyway.  

But damn, do I have to start worrying about snakes on my plane now?  Can't the airline do something to relieve my fears?  Heck, I can't even have a package of peanuts now on the plane if there's someone on board who's allergic.  Guess what, airlines, we're ALL allergic to poisonous snakes!  I don't care if this was a cheezy comedy-horror film that was never meant to be taken seriously, now I want to know what steps are being taken to keep snakes off of my plane, now that I've seen what they're capable of.

Also starring Samuel L. Jackson (last seen in "Robocop"), Julianna Margulies (last seen in "The Newton Boys"), Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard (last seen in "Where the Truth Lies"), Flex Alexander, David Koechner (last seen in "Anchorman 2"), Bobby Cannavale (last seen in "Spy"), Todd Louiso, Keith Dallas, Casey Dubois, Sunny Mabrey, Lin Shaye (last seen in "Stuck on You"), Bruce James, Terry Chen, Taylor Kitsch (last seen in "John Carter"), Samantha McLeod, Elsa Pataky, Byron Lawson, Kevin McNulty (last seen in "Narrow Margin").

RATING: 4 out of 10 beverage carts

Friday, March 25, 2016

Robocop 3

Year 8, Day 85 - 3/25/16 - Movie #2,285

BEFORE: What happened to Robocop 2, you might ask?  Well, I've seen that one, as well as the original "Robocop" from 1987.  But I never saw the third one, which is a sequel to the first one and second one, but not the one I watched last night.  Got it?  

But in order to clear this one off the books, I have to resort to indirect linking tonight (and tomorrow) - which is a shame, because I just started Samuel L. Jackson week, and he's not in this one.  Michael Keaton from last night's "Robocop" happens to link to three of tonight's actors, so that's the easiest way to go - let's choose co-starring with Jill Hennessy in "The Paper" to make it simple. 

THE PLOT:  Robocop takes on ruthless developers who want to evict some people on "their" land.

AFTER: I suppose in law enforcement, someone always starts out with the best intentions, then could find that some of the peacekeeping tasks they're required to do could be somewhat questionable - like here Robocop finds himself working for the law in dystopian Detroit (like there's another kind of Detroit...) which is removing people from their homes and relocating them elsewhere to further corporate interests.  Which is ridiculous, that could never happen in an American city.  (cough, Barclays Center, cough cough)  

Until a group of America's greatest character actors - sorry, I mean patriotic residents - takes a rebellious stand and fights back against the guvmint, and eventually Robocop realizes he's fighting for the wrong side.  Anyway, the Urban Rehabilitators, or "Rehabs", have taken over the police department (umm, I think...) so crime is once again out of control.  But this is confusing, why not just let crime run rampant in that part of town, until all the criminals are dead or the non-criminals have chosen to move away?  

Anyway, Robocop is once again reminded that his directive prevent him from arresting or fighting against his employers, the so-called "Fourth Directive", until he tracks down one of the scientists who created him, a Dr. Lazarus (ah, I see what you did there...) and gets that Directive removed.  Damn, why didn't he have that done years ago?  

Then there are some much more high-tech Japanese robots who look completely human, but you know what?  It hardly matters....because by this point the franchise had become a shadow of its former self, because they'd toned the violence down to get a PG rating - and the original actor, Peter Weller, was no longer available - and the production company, Orion, was going bankrupt.  

Also starring Robert John Burke (last seen in "2 Guns"), Nancy Allen, Rip Torn (last seen in "Welcome to Mooseport"), Bradley Whitford (last seen in "CBGB"), CCH Pounder (last seen in "Postcards From the Edge"), John Castle, Stephen Root (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Daniel von Bargen (last seen in "Amistad"), Remy Ryan, Shane Black, Eva LaRue, Robert DoQui, with cameos from Jeff Garlin (last seen in "Bounce"), Mako.    

RATING: 3 out of 10 bullet holes

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Robocop (2014)

Year 8, Day 84 - 3/24/16 - Movie #2,284

BEFORE: My countdown to "Batman v. Superman" has begun, though it's going to take me another 10 days to get there - which should place that film on a Monday, which works perfectly for me - Monday is the least crowded night at the theaters, and by then maybe the excessive crowds will have thinned out a bit.  And my path there goes through a number of other action movies, many of which will star Samuel L. Jackson, before linking to Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon and finally Laurence Fishburne.  And what better way to start the countdown to that DC film but to watch a film with one actor who played Batman twice and another who played Commissioner Gordon thrice?

Tonight, Marianne Jean-Baptiste carries over from "Edge of Tomorrow", into another sci-fi film.

THE PLOT:  In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy - a loving husband, father and good cop - is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.

AFTER: I tried to move this one closer to Easter, because the Robocop story is essentially a tale of resurrection, a sort of Jesus analog (cyborg Jesus, but still...) but this was as close as I could get it.  Anway, it's "Holy Thursday" today and almost Good Friday, so I think I'm safe in making the comparison.  In it's own way, "Deadpool" also qualifies as a similar resurrection-based tale.  (Oh, wait, I forgot, I saw that film but I haven't reviewed it yet...)

It also seems appropriate because this is a superhero film, in its own way.  There was a Robocop comic book years ago, but it came after the film, so even though it's not technically a "comic-book" movie, it's got all the earmarks, so I think it belongs in the same category somehow.  Hero gets into an accident, futuristic science-y stuff happens, he gains powers above those of mortal men - yep, I think this qualifies.  Oh, and the hero with powers is always right, even when he makes mistakes.  

I'm hard-pressed to see the differences between this film and the original "Robocop", except that the suit is mostly black instead of silver, and Murphy has a son as well as a wife. (EDIT: A little research tells me that Murphy DID have a wife and son in the original film, but I think they moved away and we never saw them.  Here the wife sticks around, and serves basically the same narrative purpose as Murphy's female partner in the 1987 film.)   The rest seems pretty much the same, with Murphy's human personality eventually overcoming his programming, and Robocop going rogue to solve his own murder.  Which he does here twice, and that seems like something of a logical contradiction, no?  

I managed to fall asleep several times in the first half-hour, which is not a good sign for an action film.  But then after the transformation to Robocop I was able to stay awake for the remainder.  I'm just thankful they didn't pull that time-tweaking stuff where we first see Robocop in action, then they flash back to recount his whole origin.  At least this is all in correct linear order, but the first part does lag quite a bit.  Footage of the ED-209 peacekeeping robots in cities like Tehran isn't all that engaging. 

Though I guess there are a few more characters, they added a sadistic robot programmer/trainer who doesn't think that a cyborg is any match for his androids (yes, there's a difference), a right-wing talk show host and a marketing genius who's concerned with OCP's image and Robocop's effect on it.  All of those were welcome additions to the narrative.  But from reading the notes section on Wikipedia, it seems like there was so much arguing between the director and the studio over this plot, with so many of the director's proposed ideas rejected, and so many compromises made to obtain a PG rating, the end result is a film that doesn't seem to go strongly in any direction at all, other than to repeat what has gone before.  So the planned reboot of the franchise ended up more like a remake.

Also starring Joel Kinnaman (last seen in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), Gary Oldman (last seen in "Henry & June"), Michael Keaton (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Abbie Cornish (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Jackie Earle Haley (last seen in "London Has Fallen"), Jay Baruchel (last heard in "How to Train Your Dragon 2"), Samuel L. Jackson (last seen in "Betsy's Wedding"), Jennifer Ehle (last seen in "Zero Dark Thirty"), Zach Grenier, Douglas Urbanski, Aimee Garcia, Patrick Garrow.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 rap sheets