The Movie Snob riffs on the riffers.
Rifftrax Live: Mothra (C). I thought this was a mediocre effort by the fellows at Rifftrax. They started with an okay short in which a little boy learns lessons about personal hygiene from a bizarre nighttime apparition called “Mr. Soapy.” The main feature was the Japanese monster movie Mothra, about a giant moth who destroys a bunch of Hot Wheels cars and styrofoam buildings after two tiny (like Barbie-doll sized) women get kidnapped from Mothra’s tropical island. The movie was, of course, quite ridiculous, but I didn’t think the riffing was particularly great. Part of the problem was that the movie was so incessantly loud it was occasionally hard to hear the jokes. Also, I thought the riffers used a little more off-color humor than they usually do, and I didn’t think it was very funny. So it was a bit of a let down, on the whole.
A book review from The Movie Snob.
Churchill, by Paul Johnson (2009). This is a biography of Winston Churchill, and it is only 168 pages long. If you think that sounds like an impossible feat of compression, you are correct. It is just too short to give any sort of real flavor of perhaps the greatest man of the twentieth century. I have enjoyed some of Paul Johnson’s other books, especially Modern Times, but this one just didn’t do it for me. On the plus side, though, it is a very quick read….
The Movie Snob goes to the movies. And regrets it.
The Legend of Tarzan (F). If you see only one critically panned action movie starring Margot Robbie this summer . . . see Suicide Squad. I haven’t seen it myself, but it has to be better than this stinkbomb.
As our story begins, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård, Zoolander) has long been civilized into Lord Greystoke and lives in some Downton Abbey looking manor with his wife Jane (Robbie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot). He is persuaded to return to his old ‘hood in the Congo by an American fellow (Samuel L. Jackson, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) who thinks that the colonizing Belgians might be enslaving the locals. But the American is unwittingly part of a trap being set by Belgian King Leopold’s nefarious agent Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, Spectre), who needs to lure Tarzan to the jungle for reasons of his own. So most of the movie consists of Tarzan’s attempts to rescue the hapless Jane (who spends most of the movie in Rom’s clutches, chained to the rail of a Congolese steamboat), some okay flashbacks to Tarzan’s humble origins as an adopted gorilla, and some ridiculous action sequences. I probably would have given this charmless film a D if the director (David Yates, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I) hadn’t thrown in a couple of anti-Catholic bits. The villainous Rom uses a rosary as a murder weapon, and Robbie’s character insinuates that he was abused as a child by a Catholic priest. Wholly unnecessary, and offensive enough to drag this otherwise lame movie completely off the rails into the abyss.
Another book review from The Movie Snob.
A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck, by Roger Ebert (2012). When I read a book of movie reviews, I frequently skip the reviews of good movies I’ve never seen, so as to avoid spoilers. But that wasn’t a problem when I read this one—I read it cover to cover! Actually, this book’s title (which is drawn from Ebert’s review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) overpromises a little bit. This collection covers not only truly terrible movies, but also plenty of movies that my fellow critic gave one and a half or even two full stars. Ebert even admits in the foreword that “[s]ome of the films herein are only fairly bad.” Nevertheless, the reviews are all enjoyable. I can’t resist quoting another line from the book, which I have quoted before. In Ebert’s review of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, he lists off several members of the cast, which included Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, and Harvey Keitel, and concludes, “You could start with a cast like that and make one of the greatest movies of all time, which is not what happened here.”
The Movie Snob has been slacking off at the movies–so here’s a book review:
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (2014). This “National Bestseller,” as the front cover proclaims, is well deserving of its fame. There’s a global pandemic of deadly flu that kills over 99% of humanity, destroying civilization as we know it. Nevertheless, twenty years later, the survivors persevere. Some of them have formed a wandering troupe known as the Traveling Symphony, and they journey from settlement to settlement, performing Shakespeare and classical music. The novel flips back and forth from the time of the pandemic and its immediate aftermath to events years later, but it’s not too hard to follow. It’s exceptionally well written, and the characters come to vivid life. In short, I thought this was a great read. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction or dystopian fiction, I think you ought to give it a try.
The Movie Snob is let down.
Star Trek Beyond (D). Well, I liked the last two Star Trek films (although the last one was a guilty pleasure, with its shameless plundering of Trek history and resurrection of Khan Noonian Singh). But I have no love for this one. There were a few okay moments of camaraderie involving the Kirk–Spock–McCoy trinity, and I liked the spunky new character Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, (Kingsmen: The Secret Service). But it was mostly loud special effects and incomprehensible plot, both flying past at breakneck speed. I had no idea what was going on at several points during the mayhem, and I still have no idea how all these characters knew with pinpoint precision where they needed to run/fly/transport in order to do whatever urgent thing they were trying to do right that second. And is it really believable that Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, Z for Zachariah) would find himself bored just three years into the Enterprise‘s historic five-year mission? Bored?? Come on. Get real.
The Movie Snob reviews a classic.
Five Easy Pieces (C). I caught this 1970 release at the Magnolia this past Tuesday night, knowingly really nothing about it except that it starred Jack Nicholson and featured a famous scene in which his character tries to order toast at a diner. It’s okay, but I didn’t think it was so great. Nicholson (The Shining) plays Bobby Dupea, a malcontent who works on oil rigs somewhere in California and is generally rude to his countrified waitress girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black, Nashville). What’s eating him? Well, you find out about halfway through the movie that he has fled a more genteel life, and he decides to go back to the family home in Washington state and see his father, who has had a debilitating stroke. He doesn’t fit it there any better than he does among the commoners back home. Movies about misfits aren’t really my thing, so I didn’t particularly warm up to this one. Watch for small roles for Sally Struthers (TV’s All in the Family) and Toni Basil (singer of the pop gem “Mickey”). It was nominated for four Oscars®, including best picture, best actor (Nicholson), and best supporting actress (Black), and it’s only 98 minutes long, so check it out and see if you agree with me.