Mystery Science Theater: Volume XXVI

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI.

The Magic Sword.  (C).  I don’t know, somehow this one just should have been funnier.  It’s a lame 1962 swords-and-sorcery flick in which Sir George (Gary Lockwood, 2001:A Space Odyssey) has to defeat an evil wizard (Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles) and rescue a beautiful princess (Anne Helm, Follow That Dream).  There’s so much material to work with, like George’s six assistant knights who get killed faster than bugs in a Raid commercial, and his inept sorceress foster mother, I don’t know why it wasn’t funnier.  The really amazing thing is that director Bert I. Gordon, whose movies were regularly skewered on MST3K, agreed to sit down for a documentary short about his career.  What a good sport!

Alien From L.A.  (D).  Yes, this is the 1988 cheesefest starring Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Ireland (Necessary Roughness).  She plays a clueless loser named Wanda who, through a series of ridiculous events, finds herself playing Indiana Jones in the lost city of Atlantis, far below the earth’s surface.  I think the director made her inhale helium before she read every line, because her voice was impossibly squeaky.  Unfortunately, the MST guys couldn’t do much with this one.  It just wasn’t very funny.

The Mole People.  (B).  This is a pretty good episode.  Some archaeologists (including Hugh Beaumont of Leave It To Beaver fame) find their way into a subterranean world inhabited by an ancient race of albino Sumerians.  The top archaeologist, a square-jawed John-Wayne soundalike, subdues the entire race with his trusty flashlight and courts a comely non-albino lass who happens to be among the mole people.  Pretty entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud riffs.  A decent short documentary about the film also appears on the disc.

Danger!! Death Ray.  (B).  Another pretty good episode.  The movie is a terrible 1967 rip-off of the James Bond movies.  Our “hero” is a pretty-boy spy with the unlikely name of Bart Fargo.  As one of the riffers comments, there is absolutely no tension or suspense at any point during the movie.  But the riffing is the point, and it’s pretty good.  The disc includes a short, choppily edited interview with Mike Nelson as a bonus, but it doesn’t really add much value.

The Bookshop (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald (1978).  I had never heard of Fitzgerald until I recently read a short magazine piece calling her one of Britain’s best writers of the 20th century.  This is a very short novel, only 123 pages, but it packs a punch.  It’s about a youngish widow who decides to invest what money she has into opening a bookshop in her small backwater town.  In doing so, she crosses one of the town’s leading citizens.  It’s a pretty steely view of small-town life, for sure.  I liked it and will look for more of Fitzgerald’s books.


A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Morgan  (D).  Okay, you are probably asking yourself, “Why did The Movie Snob waste his time with this poorly reviewed sci-fi thriller?”  Basically, I saw it because it features Anya Taylor-Joy, who was quite good in the recent spookfest The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and I wanted to see more of her acting chops.  Unfortunately, this movie was not a good showcase for anybody.  Kate Mara (The Martian) stars as Lee Weathers, a corporate honcho sent to investigate an “accident” at a secret research facility under a spooky old backwoods house.  Turns out that genetic experiments have resulted in the creation of Morgan (Taylor-Joy), a freaky smart and strong teenaged girl who is actually only 5 years old.  And we all know how playing God with genetic experiments goes.  There’s very little fun to be had, but it is sort of fun watching notable actors you didn’t know were in the movie pop up unexpectedly.  Hey, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now)!  And Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages)!  And that guy who played Agamemnon in Troy!  But the movie is basically a stale retread of other movies, some better (Ex Machina, Hanna) and some not (Species).  The ending is a real howler.  Skip it.

Voyage to Alpha Centauri (book review)

The Movie Snob hasn’t been getting out to the movies, so here’s another book review:

Voyage to Alpha Centauri, by Michael D. O’Brien (Ignatius Press 2013).  So what is Ignatius Press, reliable publisher of orthodox Catholic books, doing publishing this great big doorstop of a sci-fi novel?  Well, because it has a lot of religion in it (of course).  In the fairly near future, man has figured a way to build a spaceship capable of going more than half the speed of light.  That puts Alpha Centauri, the star nearest to us, within striking distance—if you’re up for a voyage that will take nine years going out and nine years coming back.  Anyhoo, the story is told from the perspective of one passenger on the giant spaceship that is built to make the voyage.  There are lots of religious and philosophical asides, and there is also a lot of commentary on the surveillance state.  It reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength a little bit.  It’s a weird book, but interesting and definitely different.

The Rosie Project (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (2013).  A blurb on the cover calls this novel “a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud.”  Well, I don’t know if I would go that far.  It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as, say, Bridget Jones’s Diary.  It’s a first-person narrative by a middle-aged Australian genetics professor named Don Tillman.  Within a page or two, it is apparent to the reader (if not to Don) that he has Asperger’s.  Nevertheless, he decides that he should get married, and the novel is about the seriocomic events that follow.  You can probably decide from this description whether the book is likely to be your cup of tea.  I got a little tired of experiencing Don’s overly literal and analytical thought processes on almost every page of the book.  And I’m dubious about stories like this and Silver Linings Playbook (the movie) that suggest that love may be able to overcome or break through mental disorders.  But on the whole, I thought it was an enjoyable enough read.

Cafe Society

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Café Society  (B).  I know Woody Allen is a skeezy old moral nihilist who married his lover’s adopted daughter.  Still, I have to say I have enjoyed at least some of his recent movies.  (Irrational Man was a pretty glaring exception.)  I caught a private screening of Café Society the other night and enjoyed it pretty well.  (Okay, it just happened that I was the only person in the theater that night.  Still, I felt special.)

Jesse Eisenberg (To Rome With Love) plays “the Woody Allen character.”  His name is Bobby Dorfman, and he’s a young man at loose ends in 1930s New York.  So he moves to L.A. where his uncle Phil (Steve Carell, Crazy, Stupid, Love) is a hotshot agent to all the top movie stars.  Bobby falls in love with Phil’s secretary Veronica (Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria), but she’s got a boyfriend.  Meanwhile, back in NYC, Bobby’s older brother Ben (Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris) is making a living as a thug and racketeer.  I can’t say more without committing spoilers, but I thought it was an entertaining picture.  Bobby is less loquacious and neurotic then most of the Woody-esque characters in Allen’s films, which is a nice change of pace.  I’m not sure Kristen Stewart is as pretty and interesting as the movie needs her to be, but I could suspend disbelief well enough.


Mom Under Cover is back in action!

Sully  (A).

Tom Hanks embodies Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in much the way he became Walt Disney.  Hanks and Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) as co-pilot Skyles are good partners in this movie.  Eastwood does not develop any of the other characters and did not use Laura Linney’s talent–as Sully’s wife, she is seen mostly tearful and on the phone.  Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), as one of the NTSB investigators, is also pretty one dimensional.  The movie tells a story we know and still manages to create drama and deliver a hero.  Be sure to stay for the credits (surely this goes without saying).