Author Archives: Chris

Ship of Destiny

Considering how direly the trilogy started, I am surprised to find myself unequivocally liking the Liveship Traders trilogy better than the Farseer [Assassin] trilogy. The downside being, it will be hard to get into why without spoilers for both trilogies. So I’ll do that below the cut.

The quick and dirty here is that Ship of Destiny was a fine conclusion to a rollicking adventure of a trilogy, even if the titular scene was maybe a little contrived. I look forward to reading more books in this world, though maybe not for a year or so? I really do read them distressingly slowly.

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Fido

First things first: ugh, commercials. Like, I dislike them, sure, that’s fine, so does everyone. But there’s a qualitative difference between a show made with commercial breaks in mind, and a movie. Hell, even old school movies on network television, they had people with talent who selected break points as naturally as possible. Modern streaming services with commercials, though… man. It’s just so bad.

Anyway, though, I did watch a movie, despite the many travails involved. Fido exists in relatively unexplored territory: this is the zombie post-apocalypse. Humans won, at least sort of? According to the instructional film at the beginning of the movie, our species continues in walled safe zones, controlled by ZomCon, who has also developed a collar to keep zombies under control. Upshot: sure, the world’s a mess, but in the places where people are alive, they’re thriving. Zombies keep the houses in order, they keep the factories running, they keep the parks clean, and so on, leaving everyone else free to live out their 1950s utopia.

Enter one lonely neglected boy and one newly acquired zombie manservant, mix in a few hilarious mistakes, and there you have it. Black comedy, with zombies! But seriously, it was pretty funny. It was for sure the funniest Carrie-Anne Moss has ever been.

It Stains the Sands Red

Obviously, they can’t all be winners. But what hurts is when I can see the way to… okay, that’s an unfair claim. It Stains the Sands Red was never going to be a winner. Let me start over.

See, there’s this zombie apocalypse in progress, as usual. And there’s a Vegas stripper who finds herself crossing the desert, trying to reach an airplane to a beach in Mexico, where for some reason things are safe? Best not to dwell on that part, I’m sure. The thing is, there’s a zombie following her across the desert, for the reason zombies do such things.

All of this is the core of a pretty good movie, right? Minimalist cast: one protagonist, two foes (the zombie and the desert), and from there it’s just endurance and determination. Whoever has the most, wins. And if they had made a 70-75 minute movie with that core, I think I would have gotten past my first act eye-rolling and accepted it for what it was.

Instead, they added a pointless plot complication in the second act, and also a pointless third act to resolve the complication. So, on the whole, ugh. And while that’s not my only complaint, it’s the only one that doesn’t have big spoilers. So I’ll leave it here, wishing they’d made the movie I can see in my head instead of the one I could see on the screen.

El Cadáver de Anna Fritz

You know those movies where people make one or two bad decisions, and things spiral irretrievably out of control?

The Corpse of Anna Fritz is just such a movie. See, there’s this really popular young actress, and she dies at a party. Later, a morgue attendant lets his truly douchetastic friends know that her body has arrived at his hospital, and they of course want to see her. Once they do, well, mistakes are made, and then that spiralling out of control thing happens.

It’s difficult to say anything else, because spoilers for the journey really removes any need for this movie to exist, and everything vague I can think of to add is either too clever by half or unintentionally offensive to myself, and therefore probably others. Possibly both at once.

I will say, although this has probably already been covered in paragraph two despite my vagueness toward the end, that if you don’t like things that are disturbing, this is not for you.

Happy Death Day

I haven’t rented a movie in, seriously, I don’t know when. But for some reason that does not appear to be network-related, I cannot stream 4k content from my media server to Plex on the Roku, and Google Play Movie’s rental price for 4k[1] was 99 cents, which is basically at the can’t be beat level. And most importantly, I really wanted to get this in before the sequel.

All of which is to say I saw Happy Death Day last night. This is a movie with a stone simple premise: what if Groundhog Day was a horror movie? Otherwise, it’s got all the standard slasher movie tropes. Creepy mask? Mystery about who the killer is? High body count? Check, check, (sort of) check. There are one or two glaring plot holes, but, well: check, right? It comes with the territory.

I know I just bagged on another movie for being a rip-off, but this worked. Mainly I think because it was a rip-off into a new genre, while Bird Box was a rip-off in the same genre. Either way: worthwhile. Also, I fiddled with the settings a little more, and I think I fixed my 4k Plex stream. So that’s awesome! Plus, new experience, I have now had the movie I was reviewing playing in the background while I was reviewing it. ….which, come to think of it, is particularly apropos for this use case.

[1] Except, haha, not actually 4k because the Roku I have doesn’t support 4k for Google Play, even though it does for other channels. (Or else maybe Google Play doesn’t support the Roku I have. Potato, it’s annoying either way.)

Bird Box

An unfortunate true thing about Bird Box is that it is highly comparable to A Quiet Place. Both are post-apocalyptic, both deal with unknowable, alien(?) menaces that cannot be opposed, both focus on a small number of survivors plus children trying to find a way to improve upon the new circumstances that they have already survived.

The reason this is unfortunate is because A Quiet Place is so much better. I mean, that’s fine for me! But it’s unfortunate for Sandra Bullock and Netflix. Because the thing is, Bird Box isn’t bad. The wrapper story about a woman and two children blindfolded in a rowboat going down a river is creepy as all get out, in part because there’s no way to tell what the hell is going on and in part because Bullock really pulls off her caretaker on the edge of terror role well. You can’t even really tell if she likes the children, only that she’s going to keep them alive if she can, even though there’s no threat the camera can see that would explain why she’s worried. Which adds to the creepiness, like I said.

But where Bird Box really shines is the main sequence, told in flashbacks as they drift downstream, where first the apocalyptic incident is revealed, and then a group of people hunker down in a house to try to wait it out. It is… huh. I just realized that it’s basically an extended homage to[1] Night of the Living Dead. Which is even worse news for Bird Box, because now it’s a mash-up of two superior movies, and it really serves no purpose at all.

I still liked it, but… man. That’s harsh.

[1] or rip-off of, if you prefer
[2] Man, people knew how to write movie taglines in the ’60s.

Night of the Living Deb

I’m not sure how I waited so long to start paying for Shudder.

This is not to say that Night of the Living Deb was some kind of revelation. It really was, just as you would guess from the title, mostly a cheap knockoff of Shaun of the Dead. There’s this cute redhead total spazz[1] out on the town for the night, right? And she meets an engaged hottie in the midst of a break-up, and wakes up the next morning with no real memory of what happened, only now she’s in his house, and it’s super awkward, but also, oops, the zombie apocalypse happened overnight.

The biggest problem, I think, is that every actor who was not one of the two leads was at best phoning it in and more commonly just really bad. Also, the plot took a while to find legs enough to differentiate itself from Shaun beyond the “but with a lady!” twist that is I’m sure what got the investors (and lawyers!) on board. But by the beginning of act three, I actively enjoyed it instead of benignly tolerating, mostly because of Maria Thayer as Deb, who deserves a better career than she apparently has; I guess America gave away the spazzy redhead slot to Ellie Kemper before she knew there was only one such slot available to compete for.

[1] Which is to say, my type. I think this probably helped my overall opinion.

Aquaman

For once, my long delay in seeing a big event movie did not work against me! This is because, as nearly as I can tell, nobody else has actually seen Aquaman yet, so being a month late still gets me first out the gate. Exciting!

And a little sad, because this is probably second best of the, what, six now? DC movies that have come out. If you had asked me to predict that I would consider Aquaman a quality movie, after having considered him lamest of the lame all throughout childhood, well, that is not a prediction I would have made.

I mean, am I claiming it’s a great work of art? I am not. But it’s big, it’s bright, it’s flashy, it has an overstuffed with drama plot full of monologuing villains, lost heirs, fate of the world stakes, an (okay, this is more of a negative) overly-forced romance subplot… in short, it’s everything you want out of a comic book movie. Notably, it is not dark or grim or overwrought or in love with its visual or emotional sense of deep, unfixable misery. Y’know, not unlike the other really good DC movie.

So, yes, I did genuinely enjoy it. But even if I hadn’t, I would have probably rated it the second best DC movie regardless. Because now there’s a much smaller chance that Marvel will make a movie about the goddamned Sub-Mariner[1]. A victory for us all!

[1] Maybe that’s why I found myself actually liking Arthur Curry. Because Namor is a lot closer in tenor and attitude to King Orm than to Aquaman.

Ocean’s Eight

The majority of plane trips beget a second plane trip, wherein you return to where you left from in the first place. As such, I watched a second movie on the way back from Chicago, and it was Ocean’s Eight. Pleasingly, this was a sequel to the Clooney Danny Ocean movies, rather than a remake. It picks up a few years after Gravity left off, with Danny Ocean dead saving his sister from a space walk gone horribly wrong and Sandra Bullock being released from prison (one presumes for an illegal landing?) with the perfect plan to steal a really expensive necklace at the annual Met gala, which is I guess an exclusive museum thing (fundraiser?) in New York that also happens in real life.

I think just to prove she can, Sandra (almost certainly not the character’s actual name) Ocean has decided to make her crew all ladies, and I cannot help thinking that was also the motive of whoever made this movie. Which is fine, because it was every bit as good as any of the previous sequels[1][2], and aside from saying she wants an all lady crew at the beginning of the movie, it’s never really brought up again[3].

After all the characters and marks are established, it’s, you know, a heist movie. I like them. You maybe incorrectly do not? It’s cool, tastes vary as they say. More importantly, it’s not a bad heist movie, so there you are.

[1] I maintain that the Ocean’s Eleven remake (I never saw the original with Sinatra and whoever) is in a class by itself.
[2] And let’s be honest, probably significantly better than 12
[3] I do not at all mind when movies are trying to make A Point, and I mind even less when it’s a point I agree with. I will, however, always mind when the movie is actually chanting to a drumbeat, “Look at this Point I’m Making.”

Tag (2018)

At the end of December, I had a new experience! I have now watched a movie on an airplane. Benefit of not flying Spirit, I suppose.

I remember thinking the previews for Tag looked, well, good isn’t the right word, but entertaining and/or funny. Plus, I like tag. Too bad I didn’t do what they did, I might be more accustomed to necessary cardio. So anyway, there’s this group of friends who, as kids, played an essentially non-stop game of tag. And now as adults, they set aside one month of the year to continue the tradition. This, I think, covers all of (or possibly a little more than that) the “based on a true story” aspects of the film.

What’s left is Ed Helms and the guy from The New Girl and Hannibal Buress (I don’t know who he is) and (somehow) Jon Hamm on a quest to finally tag Hawkeye from the Avengers, who has never been tagged in the entire span of time they have been playing, for what I think are pretty obvious reasons. He’s definitely playing in the wrong league here, is all I’m saying. On the other hand, it’s nice to know what he was up to while absent from Infinity War.

There are a couple of subplots, but the meat of it is watching grown-ass men playing a ridiculously over the top kid game. If that doesn’t work for you, this won’t either. As for me: it was a better way to spend a flight than I’ve spent most of mine, so.