MST3K: Volume XXI

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXI.  This is collection of five episodes rather than the usual four, and it has a clear theme: every episode is a terrible Japanese monster movie starring the giant, fire-breathing turtle named Gamera.  And every episode features guys in rubber monster suits, duking it out over models of Tokyo or wherever.

Gamera  (B-).  Our story begins with Gamera, which introduces our protagonist as a prehistoric leftover who emerges from the Arctic ice after being awakened by some Cold War foolishness.  Unfortunately, Japan pays the price for the superpowers’ misdeeds, as Gamera goes on a traditional rampage of destruction.  (Yet, for some reason he saves the life of a chubby, annoying, turtle-loving little kid named Kenny.)  It’s a pretty decent episode.

Gamera v. Barugon (B) marks Gamera’s switch from villain to hero.  Criminal treasure hunters bring a mysterious egg back to Japan from a tropical island, and when it hatches a giant, frost-spewing lizard, only Gamera can save the day.  I think this is the only Gamera movie that didn’t prominently feature an annoying child telling the military how to handle the crisis.

Gamera v. Gaos (B-) pits Gamera against a humanoid pterodactyl sort of beast that can shoot lasers out of its mouth.  The child-hero is called Itchy, and he’s even more annoying than Kenny was in the first Gamera movie.

Gamera v. Guiron (A-) is the masterpiece of the Gamera series.  The dubbing into English is particularly bad, and the monster is a hilarious-looking beast with a big knife blade coming out of his head.  The two villains are a pair of Japanese women whose dubbed voices are hilariously broad and Midwestern sounding.

Gamera v. Zigra (B+) is almost as good as Guiron, with a fish-alien named Zigra who comes to menace Earth because we humans are polluting it so badly.  Even better, Zigra has a minion, an attractive Japanese woman who accompanies him to Earth and quickly swaps her spacesuit for a bikini in an attempt to fit in with the natives.  As always, it’s up to Gamera to save the day.

The Croods

Nick at Nite sends in this review.

The Croods

Not sure what to say here.  I have a four year old and an eight year old.  If it is a cartoon and it is released to a movie theater, we must go see it.  The best compliment I can give this movie is that it was not terrible.  My children loved it.  I kid you not.  My daughter cried at one point during the movie because she was so moved by the cataclysmic events occurring to this cave dwelling group of Neanderthals, and she cheered as all ended up happily ever after.  The plot – the Croods have survived a nasty, brutish world by living in a cave, but they are forced to venture out as the world around them starts to change – not too complicated.  It has some humor.  It is a little long (the kids did not notice or care).  I give a “B.”  It could have been worse.

Oz the Great and Powerful

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Oz the Great and Powerful  (B-).  I think it helped to go into this movie with low expectations.  Sam Raimi of Spider-Man and Evil Dead fame directed this tale of how the Wizard of Oz actually arrived in that merry old land many years before Dorothy and Toto did.  Oz (James Franco, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is a small-time magician toiling away in a two-bit traveling carnival in nowhere Kansas.  Serendipity and a massive cyclone whisk him off to Oz.  It seems that Oz is plagued by a wicked witch (some things never change), and the people look to Oz to fulfill a prophecy that a great wizard will defeat the witch and return peace and prosperity to the land.  Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Rachel Weisz (About a Boy), and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn) add some interest as Oz’s three resident witches, but I thought the show was stolen by a sweet little china girl (that is, a live figurine made of china) that Oz repairs and becomes a kind of foster father to.  Is it as magical as the original?  Of course not.  But it’s not a bad movie.  The PG rating is for some potentially scary action sequences and a couple of uses of profanity, and that seems about right to me.

House of Shadows (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

House of Shadows, by Rachel Neumeier (2012).  Full disclosure if you’re new to The Movie Court—Rachel Neumeier is my cousin.  That said, I would recommend her fiction to any lover of fantasy tales.  Her Griffin Mage trilogy was superb.  In this novel she leaves the world of griffins behind and introduces us to a whole new realm of swords and sorcery.  The action takes place in the coastal city of Lonne, in the kingdom of Lirionne.  A humble widower has died and left his eight daughters unprovided for.  Bowing to financial necessity, two are sold off: one to be an apprentice to a wizard, and another to become a sort of geisha in the city’s Candlelight District.  Broader geopolitical trouble is also brewing: the king of Lirionne has recently had to execute some of his sons for plotting against him, a fifteen-year truce between his kingdom and a neighboring kingdom is about to expire, and a mysterious foreigner is present in Lonne for possibly nefarious purposes.  I thought it was an enjoyable story, and Rachel has a knack for drawing complex characters that seem one way at first and then quite different as you get to know them better.  I assume there will be a sequel, and I am already looking forward to it.


New review from The Movie Snob.

Stoker (no grade).  It doesn’t happen often, but this movie stumps me as to what grade to give it.  It is well-made, suspenseful, and features a stand-out performance by young star Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland).  But the story is disturbing, even revolting.  So, I will describe the set-up for you, gentle reader, and let you make the call.  Richard Stoker has just died, leaving behind grieving widow Evelyn (Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy) and really weird daughter India (Wasikowska).   Richard’s brother Charlie (Matthew Goode, Leap Year), whom nobody but the elderly housekeeper has apparently ever seen before, shows up and moves into Evelyn and India’s large, creepy house to help them out for a while.  Charlie has all the warmth of an anaconda, but he quickly ingratiates himself with Evelyn.  His relationship with the sneaky, sulky, and generally weird India is more complicated.  The movie is rated R for “disturbing violent and sexual content.”  I’ll say.  You’ve been warned.

Breaking Dawn – Part Two

A lamentation from The Movie Snob.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two  (F).  As it turns out, “because it’s playing at the dollar theater” isn’t always a good enough reason to see a movie.  I know I’m not the target demographic here, but surely even teen and tween girls were bored by this two-hour slab of amateurish dialogue and wooden acting.  Anyway, I missed Part One, but I think I figured out that Edward (Robert Pattinson, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Bella (Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman) got married and had a weird hybrid baby girl who grows up at a phenomenal rate and who is somehow “imprinted” on werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner, Valentine’s Day).  They and Edward’s extended family are in danger because having a vampire baby really makes the bad vampires mad.  (I think Brad Pitt broke a similar rule in Interview With a Vampire.)  So that sets up a final showdown between the good vampires (and their werewolf allies) and the bad vampires.  It’s long.  It’s boring.  The end.  I hope.

On a frightening final note, I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie called The Host, based on some other novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.  It’s going to star Saoirse Ronan, the talented young star of Atonement and Hanna.  I hope it is not as terrible as the Twilight movies and doesn’t destroy young Ronan’s career.

Wreck-It Ralph

New from The Movie Snob.

Wreck-It Ralph (B+).  I managed to catch this Oscar-nominated animated feature before it disappeared from the dollar movie theater, and I was glad I did.  The premise of the movie is that all those characters in video-arcade games–Pac Man, Mario, and the rest–are actually alive, and they can hang out and mingle with each other when the arcade is closed down.  Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly, Walk Hard) is a big mean guy in a Donkey-Kong-like game called Fix-It Felix.  Ralph gets tired of being the villain and heads off to try to become a hero in a sci-fi shoot-em-up game, but he winds up in a cutesy go-cart racing game called Sugar Rush, where he reluctantly befriends a sassy little ragamuffin named Vanellope von Schweets (voice of Sarah Silverman, School of Rock).  The incomparable Jane Lynch (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) voices the tough-as-nails sci-fi battle commander.  The plot is overly complicated, but it was a pretty clever movie with a couple of touching moments.  Also, there was a decent short before the feature about a guy trying to find a girl that he met cute on a subway platform and then let get away.

Side Effects

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Side Effects  (B).  The latest film from Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!) is an interesting and twisty little movie.  I can’t say too much about the plot because of its twistiness, but the set-up is this.  Emily (Rooney Mara, The Social Network) is a depressed young woman patiently awaiting the day her husband Martin (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) will get out of prison for insider trading.  Martin gets out of prison, but Emily’s depression gets worse.  She comes under the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, Hugo), and they begin a trial-and-error search for an anti-depressant drug that will work for her.  That’s about as much as I can say without depriving you of the pleasure of seeing what happens next, and next, and then next after that.  It’s kind of a thriller, but a little too low-key for that label to be really accurate.  Catherine Zeta-Jones (Rock of Ages) also stars as a tightly wound psychiatrist from Emily’s past.  It’s much better than the 2005 film of the same name starring Katherine Heigl (Side Effects), that’s for sure!

Warm Bodies

New from The Movie Snob.

Warm Bodies  (B).  Fans of zombie movies and fans of romantic comedies can rejoice as those two great tastes are brought together in one enjoyable movie.  Okay, that’s not exactly true; hard-core zombie fans probably won’t care for this rather light-hearted twist on the formula.  There’s been a standard-issue zombie apocalypse, but there’s a decidedly non-standard zombie amongst the living dead.  This particular zombie, “R,” has a rich interior life and yearns to be able to communicate with those around him.  And although he does feast on the flesh and especially the brains of the living, at least he has the decency to feel conflicted about it.  Anyhow, some zombies corner some humans and turn most of them into meals, but for some reason R rescues one of them, a Kristen Stewart lookalike named Julie (Teresa Palmer, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).  From then on, the story is more Beauty and the Beast than Dawn of the Dead.  I got a kick out of it, even if the movie ignores conventional zombie wisdom that zombies never ever change.  Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) does a good job as R, and John Malkovich (Burn After Reading) and Analeigh Tipton (Damsels in Distress) have nice supporting roles.  It’s rated PG-13 for some mild profanity and some decently gruesome zombie violence, but I think most 13-year-olds will be fine with it.  In fact, I took my 13-year-old goddaughter, and she gave it an A+.