Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hudson Hawk

Year 8, Day 212 - 7/30/16 - Movie #2,407

BEFORE: We're off to New Jersey today, to visit with my wife's friends, and attend some kind of hot air balloon festival.  I agreed to this because I figured I'd need a break after Comic-Con, but it's really all the work I've done since arriving back from San Diego that's been wearing me out. At one job I've been frantically typing up the dialogue list for a new animated feature, so the film's French distributor can start the process of translating and subtitling it.  They need this, like, yesterday.  At the other job I've been working on applying for an NEA grant for a different animated feature, and that deadline was on Thursday.  I took my boss to a beer and food tasting event to celebrate the fact that we got the grant application in on time.  But between the script, the grant and the beer, I feel like I've been going a mile a minute for the past few days - and I missed a whole five days for Comic-Con, including a weekend I'll never get back.  So I think I'm due for some down time.  

Bruce Willis carries over again from "Vice", and I know this film has a pretty bad reputation, often referred to as one of the worst films of all time.  Come on, could it really be THAT bad? 

THE PLOT: A cat burglar is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot.

AFTER: Yep, a movie really can be as bad as its reputation - in fact, I think this film exceeded all expectations for being a bad film.  Worse than bad, it's pointless.  Like, I can get if a film is bad, and doesn't really set out to be any good, because sometimes it just is what it is, which is a bad movie.  But a bad movie that thinks it might be a good movie is somehow even worse, because it's struggling to no avail, or someone is delusional about their ability to make a good, coherent film. 

And make no mistake, this film is incoherent, to the point of being nonsense.  It's like someone wanted to cross an art heist film with an adventure film like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" but believed that the problems with those films is that they just didn't have enough slapstick comedy in them.  So by all means, let's add a lot of people getting punched or shot with sedative darts and then losing body control, or falling out of an ambulance and being dragged along on a gurney via a bedsheet.  Because, you know, that happens all the time.  

And let's make the hero vie with both art collectors and the CIA, because those factions are always chasing after the same things, right?  And for good measure let's assume that just because Leonardo Da Vinci proposed rough versions of the helicopter and the parachute, that he was some kind of magical inventor who also could turn lead into gold, and that his journal also contains many other ideas for machines that we haven't even thought of yet.  By my way of thinking, this is a huge NITPICK POINT, because while Da Vinci was ahead of his time, there clearly was a limit - he never could have predicted the internet, cell phones, or tamper-proof voting machines, because he just didn't have the basic mindset to formulate those ideas.  

The most interesting thing about the Hudson Hawk character might be his ability to remember how long every song ever recorded is, but instead of using this talent on, say, a game show, he instead uses it to help with heists - if a robbery is expected to take, say, four and a half minutes, he'll choose a song of that length, and he and his partner will sing it to help maintain their rhythm and pacing while stealing the artifact in question.  Fine, but I've got three problems with this.  1) The estimate of how long the robbery will take is just that, an estimate.  It could be way off, which means that it would be easy to pick the wrong song, and lull themselves into a false sense of security.  2) Any song can be sung in any tempo, which means that unless they've got a metronome handy during the heist, they could easily sing the song too slowly or too fast, and then this defeats the whole purpose.  As someone points out in the film, how is this process superior to wearing a watch?  and 3) During a robbery, a thief is supposed to be QUIET.  Singing during the heist seems very counter-productive. Heck, let's call that NITPICK POINT #2 just for good measure.

ASIDE: I never understood that song "Swinging on a Star" from the 1940's (or whenever) - I mean, I get that the song is sort of instructional, telling kids not to act like greedy pigs or stubborn mules, but it's not phrased metaphorically.  Quite plainly it states, "You might grow up to be a pig" or "You might grow up to be a fish" when those things are, in fact, impossible.  Why suggest to a kid that he can be an animal when he grows up, forcing him to be disappointed in the future?  Or is it some kind of Hindu karmic thing, suggesting that in the next life maybe we can be pigs and mules and fish?  Somehow that doesn't seem right, either. End of ASIDE. 

Of course, since this is a movie, this plan always works like a charm (umm, or not) and Hudson Hawk usually ends up with the thing he was trying to steal.  Except here there are so many factions looking for the same things (which are or contain clues to Da Vinci's lost devices) that there are double-crosses within double-crosses, and by the end I couldn't tell which end was up, or who was working for whom.  

Furthermore, I didn't even understand the point of the villains learning how to make gold, at least not from the way they described it.  If alchemy were possible, and I had a machine that made gold, I would use it only sparingly, the most obvious thing to do would be to sell the gold I made, a little at a time - because too much gold would devalue the gold market, and then it would all be worthless.  The villains here want to make a LOT of gold, thereby collapsing the world's economy, so they can rule the world.  Great, but how are they going to do that, after flooding the market with gold?  If they devalue gold as a currency, won't they be in a terrible financial position, and therefore unable to take over?  From any viewing angle, their plan is just more nonsense in a sea of nonsense. Thus we have NITPICK POINT #3.

Also starring Danny Aiello (last seen in "The Pick-Up Artist"), Andie MacDowell (last seen in "Ruby Cairo"), James Coburn (last seen in "Maverick"), Richard E. Grant (last seen in "About Time"), Sandra Bernhard (last seen in "Nice Dreams"), Don Harvey (also carrying over from "Vice"), David Caruso, Donald Burton, Andrew Bryniarski, Lorraine Toussaint, Frank Stallone, Carmine Zozzora, with the voices of Frank Welker, William Conrad. 

RATING: 2 out of 10 Wong numbers

Friday, July 29, 2016


Year 8, Day 211 - 7/29/16 - Movie #2,406

BEFORE: Welcome back to Comic-Con follow-up week.  Disaster film, exploitation film, zombie film, and now it's time for robots.  Even better, the kind you can have sex with.  Someday, right?  I wonder which we'll get first, flying cars or pleasure-bots.  I think the Japanese are probably pretty close with the latter.  If this concept of a theme park with artificial humans, where you can do anything you want, sounds a bit familiar, it's because there was another film back in the day, called "Westworld", that riffed on the same theme.  And there is a reboot of "Westworld" being planned, but it's an HBO series that's coming in October.  In the meantime, there's tonight's film, with Bruce Willis carrying over from "Planet Terror".  

I'm six films into the final 100 of the year, and I still haven't had time to confirm the chain that will get me to the end, assuming the last film of the year will be "Rogue One".  I've got a loose chain of about 35 films, then 17 horror films scheduled for October, 2 Christmas films, and a 5-film chain that ends with the upcoming "Star Wars" franchise film.  But that only adds up to 59 films, while there are 94 slots, and worse, the small chains aren't linked together.  I've got no time to tear my list apart again and put it back together in a way that jibes with the calendar, so I'm winging it until I do.  I can still move forward, but some time in the next week or two I've got to firm up the plan for the rest of 2016.

THE PLOT: Bruce Willis stars in this Sci-Fi thriller about ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies with artificial inhabitants who look like humans.

AFTER: Turns out my instincts were right - we really DIDN'T need this film, since it's essentially just a re-working of "Westworld".  Maybe with a bit of "Blade Runner" thrown in.   It's very possible that someone got a peek at HBO's 2016 schedule a year in advance, and rushed this knock-off into production.  How else to explain it?  The only other thing I can think of it that it's a knock at Disney, with Bruce Willis playing the architect of this theme park for adults, where they're free to rape, torture or even kill the artificial "residents".  

There's also a cop in the city where this theme park is located, and he doesn't care for the actions taking place there - his belief is that people will come to the resort, get a taste for rape or murder, and then try to recreate those actions in the real world.  But, umm, why would they, when they can do so in the resort, without any fear of prosecution or repercussions?  But if you follow that logic, you might come to believe that the rise of first-person shooter video games would result in fewer mass shootings, but the sad truth is, we've got more of them taking place now than ever.

There's also an attempt to get inside the heads of the robots themselves - they're supposed to have their memories wiped at the end of every day, but just like a computer's hard drive, nothing really gets "erased", it's just the links to those files that get disabled, so unless the storage is needed for something else, those memory files are still there, and eventually they start to seep into the day-to-day consciousness of one resident.  So even though she's supposed to be living the same day over and over, (and some programmer cruelly decided that she's always looking forward to leaving the city "tomorrow") she starts to have memories of her past experiences, particularly getting raped and killed.  

This causes her to break out of her programming cycle, and she finds one of the men who designed her, who modelled her after an ex-girlfriend (gee, what are the odds of that?) and he tries to help her escape.  Because that's what the world needs, a pissed-off female android roaming about, looking for revenge.  And it's a huge NITPICK POINT that this programmer didn't build a sub-routine into her programming so she'd be forced to come and sleep with him every night.  Almost like having his ex-girlfriend back, right?  

And then, when presented with a way out of the city, and the help of this cop, this fembot doesn't leave, but instead returns to the park headquarters, just to stop the out-of-control theme park owner, and (for some reason) enable all the robots to remember their past experiences.  Because why should SHE be the only messed-up robot, looking for revenge on humans?  Why not ALL of them?  This is just a terrible plan, no matter how you look at it.  By all means, try to shut the park down, but don't just make more robots mad at people!

My second NITPICK POINT concerns the safety checks in the system, or lack thereof.  If the robots are so lifelike, and programmed to have these feelings - why, oh, WHY would you program the robots to feel bad about things, if you don't have to do that.  If they're not supposed to remember the bad things that happen to them, why even associate "bad" with those things in the first place?  Things that happen to humans over time are only classified as "good" or "bad" when we compare them to experiences we had before, and this wouldn't apply to the robots!  If they're designed to do "immoral" things, why give them a moral code in the first place?  Not to mention, how would a guest be able to tell the robots from his fellow guests, some of whom are (presumably) female?  What happens if a guy rapes or kills another guest, instead of a robot?  

They also used to have this TV show, back in the day, called "Fantasy Island", where a mysterious character named Mr. Roarke would allow people to come to his island, presumably for a lot of money, where they could live out their fantasies, to be a rock-star or a model or whatever - and they never really said if Roarke had magic powers, or if everything was done with special effects, or if he just drugged or hypnotized everyone, letting them believe they were living out their fantasy, while they were in a deprivation tank or something.  But there was usually a lesson involved, the island's guests would learn that their fantasy wasn't all it was cracked up to be, or that being a Western gunfighter was in fact quite dangerous.  The resort in "Vice" didn't seem interested in providing any lessons, nor did the film seem interested in making any coherent points.  You're probably better off just watching the old "Westworld" again.  Or "Blade Runner", whichever.

Also starring Thomas Jane (last seen in "Under Suspicion"), Ambyr Childers, Bryan Greenberg (last seen in "Prime"), Johnathon Schaech, Charlotte Kirk (last seen in "Non-Stop"), Brett Granstaff, Don Harvey (last seen in "Taken 3"), Ryan O'Nan, Colin Egglesfield (last seen in "Must Love Dogs"), Jesse Pruett, Lydia Hull (last seen in "Escape Plan"), Tyler Jon Olson.

RATING: 2 out of 10 skill sets

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Planet Terror

Year 8, Day 210 - 7/28/16 - Movie #2,405

BEFORE: I've been going about a mile a minute since I got back from San Diego - I've posted my trip photos on Flickr, for example, but I haven't had time to write any captions for them.  I managed to send my sister a birthday gift via Amazon, but I haven't had time to send my niece and nephew the items I picked up for them at the Con.  I got my suitcase full of booth supplies to the office, but I haven't had time to unpack it.  And so it goes - I was away for just a week, but you'd think it was a month by how behind I feel.  

Today's film is the 2nd of the two "Grindhouse" films that Tarantino + Rodriguez teamed up on, or is it the first?  I don't really know, and it doesn't really mattter.  All that counts is that Rose McGowan (and several other actors) carries over, and it stars another actor who kicks off my next chain.  So it's worth paying $2.99 to watch this on iTunes, if it keeps my chain going. 

THE PLOT:  After an experimental bio-weapon is released, turning thousands into zombie-like creatures, it's up to a rag-tag group of survivors to stop the infected and those behind its release.

AFTER: Obviously, with its zombie-themed plot, this probably should have been part of October's horror chain - but I need this here for the linking.  Out of place, perhaps - but then again, maybe not.  The "Grindhouse" theme sort of fits in right with Comic-Con week, even though that was last week.  Disaster film, exploitation film, zombie film - yep, that's Comic-Con in a nutshell, and I'll try to keep that going with tomorrow's film as well.  

This is not really a film in my wheelhouse, even though I've watched zombie films before ("World War Z", "Warm Bodies", "Zombieland") I haven't really warmed up to them, and I don't even watch "The Walking Dead" - who has that kind of time?  But I watched the films so I would be educated about them, and learn the formula and the common elements one can expect to see in them.  

This one's so over the top as to be completely ridiculous - I can't take it seriously, but then, I also feel like I'm not supposed to.  If last night's film was accident porn, then this is sort of medical porn - as the typical American town deals with the zombie invasion, the hospital is overwhelmed with infected bites, people who need limbs amputated, people who ALREADY had limbs amputated by the zombies (cutting out the middleman, very efficient) and then your general bleedings, head wounds and such.  One famous singer makes a cameo, and her entire brain is missing from her skull, generally proving all of her critics correct (sorry, I couldn't resist...).   

In the middle of it all is a stripper (sorry, go-go dancer) and her ex-boyfriend, who's some kind of legendary zombie-killer with zombie-killer skills - where does one develop such skills, anyway?  I mean, how do you learn that you have what it takes to kill a bunch of zombies, before you end up killing a bunch of zombies?  I must remember to investigate.  Plus there's the female doctor who's an expert in sedatives, her father who's the town sheriff, and a guy who runs a barbecue restaurant who wonders why his new clientele doesn't want to eat the ribs he's serving, but his own instead.  

Things get super-ridiculous when the stripper loses her leg and her ex sticks a gun on her stump - the odds of that gun being just the right length for her to walk aside, how come the gun fires without her ever pulling the trigger?  Some kind of muscle control enables her to fire?  That doesn't seem right.  Plus the gun seems to fire whatever she needs it to - bullets, rockets, grenades - that seems pretty unlikely too.  

But, unlike "Death Proof", this seems to all be done in good, non-clean fun.  Even the annoying habit of having scratches in the film and jump-cuts galore seems to be more acceptable when there's a ton more action, and actual story development, not just a guy running over women, just because.  The most egregious "intentional" error comes here when there is supposedly an entire reel missing, and I suspect this covers up the fact that a lazy screenwriter did not know how to get from the love scene to the final showdown scene.  Skipping right to the action is appreciated in some sense, but it's still a cheat. 

Damn, how did I not realize that Cheech Marin was in this film?  He appears in the trailer for "Machete" at the beginning, which was a fake film at the time this was released, but then became a real film later on.  I could have used this film as a lead-out from my Cheech and Chong chain a few weeks ago!  Oh, well, everything happens for a reason, right?  And there are no accidents, provided I can keep the chain going for the rest of the year - that will mean that it was meant to be.  

Also starring Freddy Rodriguez (last seen in "Poseidon"), Josh Brolin (last seen in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), Marley Shelton (last seen in "Death Proof"), Jeff Fahey (last seen in "Wyatt Earp"), Michael Biehn (last seen in "Tombstone"), Bruce Willis (last seen in "Sunset"), Naveen Andrews (last seen in "The Brave One"), Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson (also last seen in "Poseidon"), Nicky Katt (also last seen in "Death Proof"), Quentin Tarantino (ditto), Michael Parks (ditto), Zoe Bell (ditto), Julio Oscar Mechoso, Tom Savini, Carlos Gallardo, Electra & Elise Avellan, Danny Trejo (last seen in "XXX"), Cheech Marin (last seen in "Cheech & Chong's Next Movie").

RATING: 4 out of 10 syringes