Tag Archives: sci-fi

Elizabeth Harvest

You know the old story of maybe, um, Blackbeard? Bluebeard? Somebeard, anyway, and he marries a young beautiful wife, and tells her “here’s my awesome house, I’ll be out pirating (let’s say) a lot, but this house is yours to wander to your heart’s content, EXCEPT don’t go in this one room. Okay? Cool.”, which is itself basically a retelling of the Garden of Eden? Both are fable-complexity statements on human nature, but for some reason dressed up in misogyny.

Enter Elizabeth Harvest, which is a pretty boilerplate retelling of the Somebeard version, except without the explicit piracy links. At least, it seems that way until Elizabeth goes into the forbidden room on literally her first day alone, maybe ten minutes into the movie. This is the point at which it becomes clear that a different and more complex tale is being told, with more twists in the offing than a Texan rattlesnake metaphor.

Eagle-eyed readers will note my use of the rarely-seen (outside of direct to premium cable movies from the ’90s) erotic thriller tag. I did not expect to ever break that one out, but while this movie doesn’t quite follow the standard template that all such movies hew to, I still think it is the most correct choice here. Horror for sure doesn’t cut it, and unmodified thriller misses an essential piece of the flavor on display.

A Quiet Place Part II

I have it on good authority that the best way to make a horror movie sequel is to make the same movie again. cf Evil Dead II, or Halloween II[1], or Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D, to name a few. I mean, this only works with good horror movies, but it’s okay: I liked A Quiet Place.

But in all sincerity, A Quiet Place Part II really is the same movie, and not only because (a la the aforementioned Halloween II) it starts on the same day that the other one ended. See, part one was about personal growth and overcoming tragedy and unstoppable killing machines. Whereas part two is about personal growth and overcoming tragedy and mostly unstoppable killing machines. And also one more roadblock, but, you know: spoilers.

The larger world beyond just a family trying to survive was, for me, a detraction. The action set-piece prologue could have been as well, but I like a good backstory, you know? And I fundamentally like a movie that isn’t afraid to divest itself of dialogue and sound effects and for that matter soundtrack, and just try to be quiet. The original was better, but Krasinski’s heart is for sure in the right place here.

Oh, also! I saw a movie! In a theater! For the first time in over a year! Holy shit.

[1] The original, not the remake. The remake, unlike the remake of Halloween, is hot garbage.

Far Cry

You know the rule about movies that you can’t make a good adaptation of a video game? It’s not 100% true, but it sure mostly is. I’m pretty sure I played the video game Far Cry since the inception of this blog, a fact which will be confirmed or denied by the link or lack of link just above, at the reference point.

Anyway, I have come here mostly to say that Far Cry (the film) lives down to those expectations. Its sins include: giving away way too much of the plot way too soon – the game was so great about the slow reveal; cartoonishly evil characters – like, at some point, when you’re a mercenary army and someone outside your hierarchy is disciplining your members by shooting them in the head, and you’re all armed and outnumber that person by 20 to 1, you just take the person out and blame it on the insurgent guy who everyone already knows is running around the island; extraneous and unfunny sidekicks; unnecessary to the plot sex scenes; even worse, unnecessary to the plot sex scenes where you skip the actual sex part of the scene.

There are probably more sins than these, but I was working and not being very distracted by the movie from working (which is both good and disappointing at the same time), so I reckon I had plenty of time to miss some. I didn’t even know they made this movie, to be honest, and finding it on Amazon Prime Video definitely feeds my theory about the contents of that service!

The Furies (2019)

Man I’m watching a lot of movies lately. Probably the one I watched last night should have been time spent reading instead? I have a great excuse for reading less while I’m working[1], but not much excuse for reading less while my wife is on the phone with her mother for a couple of hours.

On the bright side, I rather liked The Furies. The trick is, you have to give it fifteen or twenty minutes, because it starts off pretending to be a different movie than it ultimately is. See, there are a bunch of girls in boxes in a creepy eucalyptus (probably) forest, and once they get out of the boxes they’re being hunted by hulking brutes in creepy[2] masks. Which is to say, generic torture-adjacent but full-on misogyny horror. And it’s okay to not want to get past the first fifteen or twenty minutes based on that opening, because believe me, I get it.

But if you did, it quickly turns into a weird puzzlebox mystery with enough answers for both a satisfying conclusion and hooks for a very different, revenge-oriented sequel. Which I doubt will get made, but I’d probably watch if it did. Because I actually want to know more about what was going on.

[1] Although I’m writing this while I’m working, so arguably right now my excuses are sub par.
[2] Not as creepy as the last creepy masks movie, for calibration purposes

Bride of Re-Animator

Sad thing number one: I do not have a review of Re-Animator, since I first watched it in its entirety on Joe Bob’s show, and it seems wrong to write reviews for movies I watched with a commentary track (essentially) by a different reviewer. But suffice it to say it was pretty great.

Bride of Re-Animator is… well, it’s not the world’s greatest sequel. I had a whole rant prepared here about how people keep calling these comedies. And I mean. Jeffrey Combs’ turn as Herbert West, the research doctor who keeps trying to perfect his re-animation formula to defeat death, is reliably hilarious. But a funny character does not a comedy make, when the rest of the movie is so dark and serious and tragic, I would have said.

But then I started thinking about things like how annoyingly extraneous I found the cop who was still trying to solve the mystery of the massacre at Miskatonic University last year, only he gets too close to the truth and ends up dead then not-as-dead, and now he’s just an annoyingly non-funny slapstick obstacle for our heroes(?) to overcome, and… oh, that’s what they mean. It’s comedic, it’s just not funny and fails to match the tone of the rest of the film. And the first movie was like that too!, except the funny things were in better balance and were actually a little funny, whereas this is all, cool plot, but you forgot to make the funny parts, so I’m just going to shoehorn those in now, okay?

All that to say, sad thing number two: If they had let West be funny and left the rest of the movie as the slow devolution into tragedy of the other main character, who had survived his tragedy of the first film mostly intact, this might have been a great sequel. It is perhaps obviously also a re-telling of Bride of Frankenstein, and those parts work until the end, which fell a little flat. But I think I have to blame that on the shoehorned comedy disrupting the tragedy too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it. Almost entirely on the strength of Combs’ West, sure, but that was also true of the much better first movie. Because he’s just such a great character! …but probably don’t be dead or have a potential to be dead anywhere near him. He’s, uh, definitely more into science than morals.

Snowpiercer

There are only two things you actually need to know about Snowpiercer.

  1. What happens in the movie is this: Captain America fights a train. …well, okay, everyone in a train, not the train itself. But I’m not joking. If you want to see a movie where Captain America fights a train from one end to the other, this is that movie.
  2. The premise of the movie is this: What if we actually listened to scientists about global warming and the looming danger to our species, and did something about it, and the thing we did was seed the sky with some kind of science chemical that would lower temperatures, and we did this seeding via the contrails coming out of planes, and the end result was that oops, over-correction, the world is completely frozen now and has been for the past 17 years, and everyone is dead except for this one train full of people.

I’m not even kidding. The premise is don’t listen to the science on global warming, or we’ll all die because of chemtrails. I’m not sure a movie has ever made me this angry this quickly. It was less than two minutes in!

Anyway. If you can get past that (and maybe you shouldn’t be able to), the rest of it with the train-fighting by Steve Rogers[1] is mostly entertaining; I think the highlight is the truly surreal sushi dinner, but there’s also all the fighting and shooting and dark humor about classism and religion. Taken as a whole and with a different initiating event, I might have liked it quite a bit.

Also, though, it doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about how any of it works. Like, nevermind the why of it, if you just accept that the planet froze and there’s a train going around the world with the last survivors of humanity on it? And also there are sharp, militarily enforced divides between the haves and have nots? No part of that survives really any scrutiny at all. So, y’know, turn your brain off.

[1] Okay, I may have exaggerated a few times. It’s not literally Captain America, it’s just Chris Evans in a slightly different role than normal. That said, I didn’t think Knives Out had Captain America as a murder suspect, so.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

I saw the new Spider-Man movie over two weeks ago. You may consider primal scream therapy to be occurring during the paragraph break, because, seriously. I am consistently too busy when at work and too mentally drained when not at work to do almost anything thinky, and yet the further from the movie I get and the more other reactions I see, the harder the thinking part of a review becomes. It’s awesome[1].

So here’s the thing about Peter Parker. My formative experiences with the character (as opposed to Spider-Man, who was a sufficiently popular Marvel character that I was always baseline culturally aware of him) were in the Ultimate Series, where he was the glue that held everything together. Naturally, therefore, a movie that is positioning him for the same role in the MCU, as a result of massive spoilers from Endgame, is going to be my bread and butter.

Things that remain to be said:

  1. Far from Home is a title with very little nuance that I can detect. It’s straight up, Peter goes on a class trip to Europe, where some things that he was hoping to avoid if he wanted to keep his identity a secret occur. It feels like it should have been deeper than that?
  2. This movie does not explore the social and cultural ramifications of another massive spoiler from Endgame. It handwavily acknowledges them, and then ignores them. Which is good! That could be a very dark movie, and if I want to watch grim comics[2], that’s what DC is mostly doing.
  3. What the movie does instead is team up Spider-Man and Nick Fury and a new guy (unless you’ve heard of him elsewhere) against giant elemental creatures who want to devour the world and then move on to other dimensions, just like they did before now. Which is kind of big for a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but least he has the best AI acronym that has ever happened (E.D.I.T.H., and if you have somehow not seen this movie and can figure out the acronym, I’ll buy you a beer) to help him along the way.

It was good. It almost had me tricked on one plot point, which was impressive (but I cannot explain how of course). Another plot point was handled pretty clumsily, to the point where I’m not sure what they were going for, and the most obvious explanation equals truly bad writing. But my point is not that it was great, even by MCU standards. It was good, and it was consistently fun, and that’s the right tone of movie to follow the end of their ten year grand experiment.

[1] On the (haha) bright side, I have managed to spread a Fables graphic novel out over this whole period, and am zero books behind. ….but seriously, send help. This is a nightmare.
[2] But man would I watch a grim Marvel TV show about it. Which is what I thought Agents of SHIELD would do, but no, they had to go and prove complete divergence from the movies instead. Which is dumb and bad and wrong, and the writers are dumb and bad and wrong (or Kevin Feige is for forcing it on them), and grr, argh.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Thanks to punctuation, I don’t need to point out that this is distinct from the 1956 movie where Godzilla and his title are separated by a comma instead of a colon. I guess I did anyway, but these are the things I think about when searching IMDB for the correct link.

Aside from what is admittedly just an assumption that the 1956 version and this one have only the superficial parts you’d expect in common, what I knew about Godzilla: King of the Monsters is that it is set in the same world as Kong: Skull Island and would rather more deeply involve the secret government agency Monarch that they made mention of in the post-credits scene. So when I watched half of the movie thinking, “this is written like it’s a sequel to some movie I never saw,” that was a little confusing. Because it definitely wasn’t a sequel to Kong. I saw the Godzilla remake with Matthew Broderick, which predates this blog by some years, but I completely forgot until I looked up after the credits rolled that there was also a Godzilla remake five years ago, with Bryan Cranston who you may remember from Breaking Bad but who I remember from Malcolm in the Middle. Which it turns out that this movie is a sequel to, or at the least a sequel of sorts. Since I didn’t see it, I’m not really qualified to say? But it seems relevant, if you want to not be as confused as I was.

That confusion aside, it was exactly what you’d expect. There are a lot of monsters with names that you might recognize, and a lot of these monsters fight each other[1], and there’s a lot of discussion of radioactivity, and the title is pretty definitely a spoiler. It’s just that kind of movie. If you like the type, you will like this. It’s a little overwrought even by fate of the world standards, which I think is also as it should be? On the other hand, if you don’t like giant monsters fighting, there is definitely nothing above and beyond that baseline to draw you in.

But it was pretty good, you know? Also, there’s another sequel in the works.

[1] Side note, he said as though digressions were not already his stock in trade: there was a Godzilla-themed monster fighting video game on whatever system existed in 2002, so maybe a Nintendo 64 still? No, that would be at least GameCube. But also it might have been some form of Playstation. Whatever. That is where I recognized most of the names from, with the exception of Mothra and possibly Rodan.

Blade Runner 2049

The other movie I’ve watched lately (because these are both like two weeks old, sigh) is Blade Runner 2049, a long overdue sequel. Or an unnecessary one? The thing is, that is both true (in that Blade Runner told a complete story with a satisfying conclusion that revealed a lot about human nature) and untrue (in that this movie tells a mostly complete story with a conclusion who satisfaction depends on what you believe the movie to be (I’ll get back to this) that reveals at least a little bit more about human nature), and ultimately I will err on the side of it had good effects and a surprising amount of naked people (or not; mostly not, come to think of it) and if it was maybe a little long, I don’t think it was longer than it needed to be, and all in all, apparently my review is a tepid thumbs up?

It was better than that. It was not great, and I think I wanted it to be great as a means of justifying its existence, which is not judging a thing on its merits, so I feel bad about that. Anyway, it is, as advertised, the same movie 32 years later. There’s a Blade Runner, whose job is to get rid of rogue older models of androids, but that is a job whose niche is rapidly closing since the newer androids are programmed better now and always follow orders and never rebel. Except, obviously, there’s more to it than that.

What I like about Blade Runner is that it is a story with a central moral dilemma. The sequel does not have that. It takes a snapshot of a likely future based on its progenitor work, and it lovingly explores every facet of that snapshot. At the end of the movie, maybe two things that matter have happened, but it is important to acknowledge that the things I am talking about do really matter, and the world is a different place than it was when the movie started.

The good news is, a well-told story about a world that once did something amazing is pretty worthwhile, even if it is not in itself as amazing as the last story was. Also, though, I should watch it again. I am pretty sure that there are more layers to be revealed, when my own preconceptions about where the plot is (or should be) going aren’t getting in my way.

Avengers: Endgame

I went to see the fourth Avengers movie on Friday afternoon, right after work and thusly before it was feasible that my on-call duties this weekend would interfere. (As it turns out, it has been non-stop smooth sailing, but I had no way to guess that then.) Obviously I can’t talk about the movie, because, well, you know.

So, the tickets I wanted to buy were sold out before I knew they were on sale. Not literally sold out, but the useful seats were, I mean. So I’ll have to go a second time[1] to see the Alamo’s version. None of this is the point. The point is: after I couldn’t get the tickets I wanted, I sat around for a few weeks waiting for the problem to solve itself, and then ended up not being able to get out of my on-call this weekend as previously referenced. The first time I knew for sure what show I would be able to make was Friday earlier in the afternoon. BUT: there’s this theater a few miles away attached to a mall, only the mall has been closed for years and is in the process of being torn down. Nobody goes to this theater.

So, I was able to get tolerable seats about two hours in advance, and went to a 5:30 show. When we got to the parking lot, it was… well, it’s not a huge lot, most everything beyond the theater’s entrance to the mall is fenced off. Also, what lot there is has not been well taken care of. The upshot of all this is that there are a limited number of spaces, yes, but there are a much more limited number of spaces that have been repainted anytime since the mall died. The upshot of that is that all of the good spaces were already taken, at only 5pm, and man can people not park straight without lines. Some lanes got gradually narrower, eventually dwindling into nothing; some lanes were only a little crooked off into the distance but with one random car blocking half the lane for no good reason. It was a mess and a madhouse. At 5 in the afternoon on a Friday at a mostly dead theater.

Someone not me said that this is plausibly a once-in-a-lifetime (or maybe even a once-in-an-ever) event, where the 22nd film over the course of 11 years tells one complete story. From my anecdotal evidence above, there are a lot of people who know that, even if they don’t have the same words for how weird and rare and wonderful this is.

The big question, then, is will these people be satisfied? Man, I don’t know. I started to say more, but then I realized that it would be by my considerations hugely spoilerish, so I will drop a follow-up comment below the review. Which I haven’t actually done yet; this is just a story about the time I went to see Avengers: Endgame.

And now: my review.

They stuck the landing.

[1] don’t throw me in that briar patch