Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

New movie review from The Movie Snob

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids  (C).  This was my first time to see this 1989 “classic,” so my grade is a little generous to factor in the era in which it was made and the fact that a geezer in his 50s is not the target audience.  That said, it’s really not very good.  Rick Moranis (Little Shop of Horrors) plays an absent-minded scientist type who’s also a suburban father of two.  He’s trying to invent a shrinking machine, which he unwisely keeps in his house’s attic.  Through a mishap, his kids and the two boys who live next door get shrunk down to a size smaller than an ant.  When the tiny kids accidentally get thrown out with the garbage, they have to cross the now-immense back yard to return to the house and then somehow draw their parents’ attention to their plight.  The kids’ adventure part of the story is okay, but throughout the movie the humor is generally terrible.  Extra demerits for the next-door dad character (Matt Frewer, Dawn of the Dead (2004)), a stereotypical boor who hounds his sensitive older son to be a football player and is otherwise generally unpleasant.  The lovely Marcia Strassman (TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) plays Moranis’s wife.  I didn’t recognize any of the child actors, but The Borg Queen informed me that Jared Rushton was in Big.

Star Trek: Voyager (season 3)

The mission continues….

Voyager: Season Three.  Season Three serves up another 26 episodes of the trials and travails of the starship Voyager on its 70-year journey back to the Alpha Quadrant.  I think the show’s batting average was a little higher this season than last; for season three, I dished out 10 B’s, 14 C’s, 1 D, and 1 F for a grade-point average of 2.27.  The F goes to episode 7, “Sacred Ground,” which is, in my view, a poor handling of religion and faith that is unfortunately characteristic of Voyager and maybe all of Star Trek.  The D grade goes to episode 20, “Favorite Son,” in which a planet of alien vampire women set their sights on Ensign Kim (Garrett Wang, Survival Island), of all people.  But there are plenty of good episodes, such as episode 11, in which Q returns for some more hijinks, episode 17, in which Chakotay (Robert Beltran, Bugsy) finds a planet full of emancipated Borg drones, some of whom are trying to build a new, peaceful society, and the cliffhanger season-ender in which the Borg itself makes its first real appearance.  I’m looking forward to season 4.

Big Hero 6

A new DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Big Hero 6  (B).  I finally saw this Disney film the other night, and I thought it was good.  The Borg Queen took me to task for not giving it an A grade of some kind, but there’s no way it compares with Disney’s greatest films.  (A few examples: The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Zootopia, and even Moana, which has risen considerably in my estimation since I reviewed it in these pages.)  Also, I suspect Big Hero 6 would play better on the big screen; its futuristic setting was pretty but not immersive on the TV.  Anyhoo, this is basically a superhero origin story.  Teenaged Hiro is a genius at robots but really comes into his own only after his older brother dies in a mysterious fire and a shadowy villain starts stalking the streets of San Fransokyo.  Hiro teams up with his brother’s nerdy science friends and with Baymax, a big balloony robot that Hiro’s brother had been working on when he died.  With a few modifications, Baymax goes from cuddly nurse robot to high-flying action hero, and eventually it’s time for a showdown with the big bad.  I was entertained.  If you like superhero movies, Big Hero 6 is worth your time.

Star Trek: Voyager (season 2)

A TV review from The Movie Snob.

Voyager: Season Two  (C).  The Borg Queen and I watched every episode of season two in order.  (I joined her in her quest to watch the whole series partway through season one, so I didn’t review it.)  By way of background, I was big Star Trek fan in my younger days—saw every episode of the original series (most of them many times) and pretty much every episode of The Next Generation, but aside from the movies I pretty much dropped out after TNG.  So far, Voyager is a decent enough entertainment.  The premise is that some advanced alien technology has catapulted an advanced Starfleet ship named Voyager clear across the galaxy into the “Delta Quadrant,” and at normal speeds it will take Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew, TVs Orange Is the New Black) and her intrepid crew 70 years to get back home to Federation space.  Moreover, the Delta Quadrant is a fairly lawless place, full of villains like the cliquish, Klingonish Kazon and the ruthless but plague-ridden Vidiians, so it’s tough sledding.  Anyhoo, I dished out Bs, Cs, and Ds to season two’s 26 episodes in roughly equal measure, so there were plenty of average and subpar episodes.  If you just wanted to try the highlights, I’d recommend “Cold Fire” (episode 10), “Prototype” (episode 13), “Death Wish” (episode 18), “Deadlock” (episode 21), “Innocence” (episode 22), “Tuvix” (episode 24), and “Resolutions” (episode 25).  The season ends with a cliffhanger that I found pretty meh.  But if you like Star Trek, you should find season two reasonably tolerable.  The Borg Queen tells me it improves in later seasons, so we’ll see . . . .

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The Movie Snob fulfills an obligation.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker  (C-).  And so we come at last to the end of the nine-movie Skywalker saga, and not a moment too soon for this reviewer.

Spoilers follow!

As at least one critic has observed, in Episode IX director J.J. Abrams does his level best to ignore or undo everything that happened in Episode VIII.  Although the Resistance seemed to be whittled down to about 5 or 6 people by the end of Episode VIII, Episode IX kicks off with General Leia (Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally…) back in charge of a typical, seemingly well-manned rebel base.  Villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Frances Ha) destroyed his Vaderesque mask in the last movie, but he solders it back together for this one.  The painful love story between Finn (John Boyega, Pacific Rim: Uprising) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran, XOXO) is mercifully dropped.  That stuff about Rey (Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express) being the orphaned child of a couple of nobodies? Mm, not exactly.  And so on.

But there is some continuity:  Episode IX continues the recent tradition of strip-mining the original trilogy for material.  Remember how Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, The Return of the Jedi) got killed when Darth Vader hurled him down a bottomless air shaft?  Well, you can’t keep a good Sith Lord down, and fifty years on he is rested up and ready for action.  But before we get to the inevitable showdown with Palpatine, our heroes have to go on a tedious quest looking for the Magic Crystal of BlizzBlazz that will reveal Palpatine’s secret hiding place.  None of the main characters is very interesting.  I think Adam Driver is a terrible villain.  Poe (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina) and Finn are just dull.  Rey is cute and kind of fun to watch if only because her Force powers far outstrip anything we ever thought even a trained Jedi could do, but she spends pretty much the whole movie scowling.  C-3PO is actually kind of entertaining in this outing, and I loved the little muppet guy who has to crack 3PO’s droid head open to get at some secret Sith data.  Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back) pops up for a couple scenes, looking genuinely amused at being in the film.  None of it makes much sense, but I thought the climactic battle between Rey and Palpatine was kind of cool.  And the final scene, when Rey goes to Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home on Tatooine, warmed the heart of this old original-trilogy-loving geezer.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (B).  I saw this 1983 sci-fi B-movie in its theatrical release, and it left such a big impression on my teenaged self that I could still vividly remember certain scenes and lines today.  So you can imagine my glee when I was killing some time at a Fry’s Electronics and found the Blu-ray for around $9.  I watched it last night, and it was just as cheesy as I expected it would be—but I still enjoyed it.  A spaceship blows up out in deep space (an accident caused by something it really seems like they should have anticipated), and three passengers (attractive women all) escape in a lifeboat and crash on a desolate world where a plague decimated a human colony and turned the whole place into a Mad-Max-ish sort of environment.  (I think they filmed the crash scene in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, if I’m not mistaken.)  A scuzzy Han-Solo-ish space jockey named Wolff (Peter Strauss, XXX: State of the Union) is in the neighborhood and could use the reward money, so he lands his ship and starts rolling across the desert in his Mad-Max-ish SUV.  He picks up an orphaned scavenger named Niki (Molly Ringwald, one year before Sixteen Candles came out and two years before The Breakfast Club) and discovers that an old acquaintance named Washington (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters) is also on the planet searching for the lost ladies.  After some encounters with hostile but not especially competent local mutants, Wolff, Niki, and Washington end up at the Thunderdome-like enclave of the villainous cyborg Overdog (Michael Ironside, Starship Troopers), who has captured the lost ladies, and a climactic showdown ensues.  Strauss and Hudson don’t seem to be taking the movie all that seriously, but Ringwald really commits to her role, spewing amusing space slang a mile a minute and generally acting like a petulant American teenager the whole time.   And did I mention it’s only 90 minutes long?

So that’s what you’re in for if you can find this lost gem!  You’ve been warned!

The Sparrow (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob.

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell (1996).  How about a science-fiction novel about first contact with an alien species that is chock full of religious talk?  That’s what The Sparrow is.  In the near future, a radio telescope discovers unmistakable signs of intelligent alien life on a planet in the (relatively) nearby Alpha Centauri solar system.  Remarkably, the Jesuits (a Catholic religious order) are the first to mobilize after this discovery, putting together a team of priests and lay people to pilot an asteroid-turned-starship to this alien world.  The author’s style didn’t really grab me, especially the many scenes that I guess were supposed to be humorous.  Also, the story takes a long time to get going because Russell starts out telling it on two tracks: the story of the discovery and mission preparation, and, some 50 years later, the story of the Jesuits’ attempt to figure out what went wrong by interviewing the mission’s sole survivor and returnee.  But after bouncing between these two narratives for a while we eventually get to the first-contact adventure, and I must admit that part of the story held my attention.  Although I can’t say I loved the book–there’s some fairly gruesome/lurid stuff in the first-contact-adventure part of the story–I sort of want to read the sequel to find out what happened next….

Ad Astra

The Movie Snob sees a current release!

Ad Astra  (C).  This movie has done very well with other critics—currently scoring 80 out of 100 on metacritic.com—but I was underwhelmed.  It’s a sci-fi flick set in the near future.  Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut so unflappably cool he makes Neil Armstrong look like a bowl of quivering jello.  Strange, deadly energy pulses from Neptune start threatening life on Earth (and on the moon and Mars, which have been colonized), and it seems that Roy’s father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman), who disappeared on a scientific mission to Neptune years before, may have something to do with it.  Before you can say “2001,” Roy is blasting off from Earth on a mission to contact dear, old dad and, with luck, save the world(s).  Lots of critics have compared Ad Astra to Apocalypse Now, which is fair, but to me the more obvious comparison is the 2007 space thriller Sunshine.  Anyhoo, I found the movie visually appealing but much lacking in the story and character departments.  Roy is so locked down he is hard to empathize with.  Donald Sutherland (Forsaken) pops up in a small role, and Liv Tyler (That Thing You Do!) has the tiny and thankless task of flashing on the screen a few times as Roy’s estranged wife.

Brave New World (book review)

A book review from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (1932).  I read this classic dystopian novel a long time ago and was inspired to re-read it by an episode of the National Review podcast called “The Great Books.”  It is a weird story, much weirder than I remembered it.  Huxley set his tale in the distant future and predicted a caste-bound society in which people are created in laboratories and subjected to extensive physical and psychological conditioning so that they will be perfectly adjusted to their eventual caste and status in life, whether the lowly, semi-intelligent worker class or the higher classes who do the finer work in the bio-factories and conditioning centers.  (The caste descriptions are, unfortunately, pretty racist.)  Everyone, save only the tiny group of world-governing Controllers, is kept mindlessly content with a feel-good drug called soma, constant entertainments, and endless recreational sex.  But off in the wilds of New Mexico is a reservation of people who still live the old way, and the action of the tale is sparked when a reservation dweller called the Savage makes his way into modern society and questions everything he sees.  Definitely worth a read.  The volume I got also featured a subsequent Huxley essay called “Brave New World Revisited,” but I found it very tiresome and couldn’t finish it.

Bumblebee

A movie review from The Borg Queen.

Bumblebee  (B+).  After the original Transformers movie (2007), this would easily be the next best movie in the bunch. Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings), this movie takes place in the late 80s as Bumblebee first makes his way to Earth. The movie has nostalgia, humor, heart, a little drama, and just the right amount of action. Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen) does a great job carrying this film. Even my mom liked this movie. Check it out.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Solo: A Star Wars Story  (C-).  I saw the original Star Wars when I was about 10 years old, so I should be the perfect audience for an origin story about the coolest dude in a galaxy far, far away: the one and only Han Solo.  Sadly, I was bored.  I think Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) is probably a good actor, but his Han is unfortunately bland.  Emilia Clarke (TV’s Game of Thrones) is pretty but otherwise makes no impression as Solo’s love interest.  Donald Glover (The Martian) does a little better as a suave Lando Calrissian, but I could never forget I was watching Donald Glover, who was so funny on TV’s Community.  Woody Harrelson adds another major franchise to his collection (Hunger Games, Planet of the Apes), but he doesn’t really give the story any juice either.  In sum, Solo is a forgettable movie.  My favorite pop culture podcast, The Weekly Substandard, has devoted two whole episodes to Solo, and I’m looking forward to hearing what those critics have to say about it.

Rifftrax: Space Mutiny

The Movie Snob is back.

Rifftrax: Space Mutiny  (B+).  Ahoy, gentle readers!  I have not blogged in a while, owing to various family-related issues that have kept me out of the theaters.  But my sister was in town last week, and we managed to hit the multiplex for the latest Rifftrax live show.  You can catch a re-broadcast of it this coming Tuesday, June 19, and I give this one a hearty thumbs-up.  The opening short was pretty lackluster, something about a boy and his dad visiting a mysterious magic shop that may actually be magical!  But the main event is Space Mutiny, a 1988 sci-fi cheesefest that was actually riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1997.  The riffers did a fine job, but the movie alone would have provided plenty of laughs.  The plot is largely incomprehensible, but it’s something about a mutiny aboard a giant spaceship that happens to look exactly like the 1978-79 era Battlestar Galactica.  Don’t miss it!

Annihilation

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Annihilation  (B-).  This new sci-fi movie starring Natalie Portman (Thor) is loosely based on a novel from just a few years ago.  I think I liked the book better (see my review here).  As in the novel, a weird phenomenon kind of like a dome has descended on some remote, swampy area (Florida maybe?), and weird stuff is going on inside.  The government occasionally sends a team into the mysterious area to investigate.  (Almost) no one ever comes back.  Portman plays a soldier–biologist named Lena who joins the latest mission, a five-woman expedition led by psychologist Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding).  Once they venture into Area X, it turns into sort of a horror movie, so don’t go if you’re squeamish!  Anyhoo, I didn’t like it as well as director Alex Garland’s previous effort, Ex Machina, but Annihilation still held my attention.

I saw Annihilation at a new Alamo Drafthouse here in Dallas, and I caught most of the pre-show.  It included a couple of old music videos of a children’s rock band that featured . . . a nine-year-old Natalie Portman!  It was pretty entertaining.

Black Panther

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Black Panther (C).  I don’t know, maybe it’s just comic-book-movie fatigue, but this flick left me feeling like I’d just watched a 135-minute-long video game.  Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War) stars as King T’Challa of the poor African nation of Wakanda.  Only it’s not really poor; it’s sitting on a mountain of an alien metal called vibranium and has mastered all sorts of advanced technology, including some sort of cloaking device to conceal it all from the outside world.  But bad guys in the outside world are trying to get a hold of some vibranium, so T’Challa (who is also superhero Black Panther) and a few sidekicks leave Wakanda to stop them.  And then they have to deal with another bad guy after the first bad guys.  It all felt so weightless that I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it.  Also stars Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and features Angela Bassett (How Stella Got Her Groove Back), Forest Whitaker (Rogue One), and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Movie Snob heads for a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  (B-).  Okay, Episode VIII in the ongoing space/soap opera about the Skywalker family is here, and the critics are generally loving it.  Put me down with the small band of dissenting critics.  On the plus side, it is better than the last installment, The Force Awakens, if only because it is not a slavish remake of an earlier movie.  On the down side, it is still somewhat derivative of its predecessor The Empire Strikes Back, with an evil empire on the march, a rebellion on the run, and a would-be Jedi seeking training from a wise mentor.  Worse still, it is a solid two-and-a-half hours long, with as many false endings as The Return of the King from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Still, I appreciated that writer–director Rian Johnson did try to throw some new wrinkles at us.  Mark Hamill (Star Wars: A New Hope) is a surprisingly crotchety Luke Skywalker.  The late Carrie Fisher (When Harry Met Sally) presents a stoic Rebel leader but doesn’t really have that much to do.  And our quartet of new main characters (Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron) gets split up for most of the movie, which means a lot of jumping back and forth.  I think the movie would have been much better if the first half had been trimmed a bunch, and the exciting stuff at the end stretched out a bit.  But it’s already made almost a billion dollars worldwide, so what do I know?

Acceptance (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer (2014).  Well, I thought this final volume of The Southern Reach Trilogy was a bit of a letdown.  The first two books (reviewed here and here) were pretty entertaining, in a mysterious and slightly creepy way.  In the near future, some strange, possibly alien, presence has set up shop on Earth (in an area that sounds like Florida).  Scientific expeditions occasionally go into the zone, known as Area X, but they don’t always come back.  Readers expecting all the weird goings-on around Area X to be explained in Acceptance are bound to be disappointed.  There are hints and flickers of explanations, and there’s lots of backstory fleshing out some of the characters we already met in the first two books, but I didn’t find the “resolution” of the trilogy particularly satisfying.  Oh well, the destination wasn’t great, but the journey wasn’t bad.  And the first book in the series, Annihilation, is being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman as The Biologist.  Check out its IMDB page.

Blade Runner 2049

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Blade Runner 2049  (C).  First, a confession.  Although I know I have seen some scenes from the original Blade Runner, I’m not sure I have ever seen the whole movie from beginning to end.  But I know the gist of it: in a gritty, dystopian future, a cop (Harrison Ford, (The Force Awakens) has to track down and kill some dangerous rogue androids who are trying to pass as humans.  I’ve even read the Philip K. Dick novel on which the movie was loosely based.

In 2049, thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, the future is still gritty and dystopian, and there are still rogue androids (or replicants, as they’re called) needing to be “retired.”  The twist is that our protagonist, android hunter K (Ryan Gosling, La La Land), is a replicant himself–and he knows it.  The opening sequence has him accomplishing an ordinary mission, but further investigation uncovers a mystery that he spends the rest of the movie (a long 2 hours and 44 minutes) unraveling.  The visuals are impressive, the music is deafening, and although I didn’t totally follow the convoluted plot it still mostly held my interest.  I thought Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) was very good as the world-weary police chief that K reports to.  But I thought the most interesting part of the movie concerned K’s “home life,” so to speak.  As a replicant himself, does he have emotions?  It appears he has some emotional response, or tries to, to a holographic digital assistant called Joi (Ana de Armas, War Dogs), but flesh-and-blood human beings don’t seem to interest him.  His connection with Joi called other movies to mind, particularly her, Ex Machina, and even the recent Marjorie Prime.  And it didn’t hurt that Joi herself was stunningly beautiful.  Nevertheless, on the whole, the movie didn’t gel for me.  It’s too long, the final act isn’t great, and I didn’t think the ending made any sense.  And although there are quite a few important female characters, the movie has a misogynistic vibe.  So, there you have it.

Marjorie Prime

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Marjorie Prime  (C).  Hmmm, an independent sci-fi drama starring Geena Davis, Tim Robbins, and Jon Hamm?  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  In fact, you hardly see Geena Davis and Tim Robbins in anything at all, do you?  I’m pretty sure A League of Their Own (1992) was the last movie I saw Davis in.  Anyway, this movie is a close relative of her, the movie in which Siri sounds like Scarlett Johansson and develops artificial intelligence.  In the near future of Marjorie Prime, computer engineers have largely perfected the ability to create a lifelike hologram of your deceased loved one.  Apparently the hologram starts out knowing the basic facts of the original person’s life, and then it learns more and more—and thus becomes more and more realistic—as you talk to it and tell it more things about the dearly departed. When the movie starts, an elderly woman with dementia named Marjorie (Lois Smith, Minority Report) is comforted by a hologram of her beloved husband Walter (Hamm, Baby Driver).  But Marjorie’s daughter (Davis) is not happy about it—envious of the attention Walter gets, perhaps?—and Marjorie’s son-in-law (Robbins, City of Ember) hangs back and observes the proceedings, usually with a strong drink in his hand.  Time goes by; other holograms (or “primes,” as they’re called) come into play.  The concept is an interesting one, but the movie is a little too quiet and slow for my taste.  Rex Reed’s review of this movie starts with this verdict: “Intellectually stimulating yet dramatically stunted.”  That sounds about right to me.

War for the Planet of the Apes

New review from The Movie Snob.

War for the Planet of the Apes  (B).  And so the new Apes trilogy comes to an end.  (Spoilers of the first two films follow.)

My favorite was the first one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which we see how a medical experiment gone wrong makes apes superintelligent and kills most of humanity.  The middle installment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was a solid if grim movie in which the apes and the surviving humans try to co-exist, with middling-at-best results.

The finale turns the grimness up to 11 as a human military band led by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson, The Edge of Seventeen) seems to be intent on wiping out the apes.  Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, Inkheart) decides to send most of his “people” on a quest for a safe haven while he and few trusted lieutenants set out to find and distract the Colonel.  Along the way they pick up a sweet mute human girl, whom they dub Nova (Amiah Miller, Lights Out), and then another talking ape, a not entirely sane chimpanzee who calls himself “Bad Ape” because that’s what his human captors called him before the plague.  As voiced by Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning), Bad Ape provides some much-needed comic relief, because this War is dark dark dark.  But it’s well-made, on the whole.  (I did roll my eyes a little in the middle part when the Colonel momentarily turns into a James Bond villain and gives Caesar a massive lecture/monologue to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing and what’s going to happen for the rest of the movie.)

The Circle

The Borg Queen stops by with a new review.

The Circle  (C-).  When this movie ended, I said to myself, “I thought it was just getting started.” The movie never takes off. It is based on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson, Noah) getting a job at a big brother version of Facebook that basically records and monitors multiple aspects of a person’s life (and physiology) as well as in society. Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) channels his inner Steve Jobs as the leader of the technology and social-media giant, making presentations to his Circlers with a coffee cup in hand showing off his latest technology on a stage. You get the gist that he has some sinister plan, but it was never clear to me what exactly it was, but maybe I just got bored. John Boyega (The Force Awakens) plays Ty, who actually founded the Circle but managed to go “off line” and lurk around the Circle mothership without anyone noticing or even knowing who he is for the most part. Ty befriends Mae rather quickly, but the relationship storyline doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. It appeared to me to be simply a tool used near end of the movie, and then the movie suddenly ends. Overall I found the movie unrealistic and trying way too hard to be cool and mysterious, relying upon its casting over its storyline. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes an appearance as Mae’s father. This was apparently his last role before his unexpected death and I’ve read that there is a dedication to him at the end of the credits. This movie is supposedly based on a book. If you like reading, I’d suggest trying the book instead.

Alien: Covenant

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Alien: Covenant  (C-).  Looking back, I see that I liked Prometheus quite bit and had high hopes for the next Alien prequel.  Alas, those hopes are far from fulfilled in the latest flick about the almost-indestructible critters with a taste for human flesh.  The Covenant is a large spaceship carrying a huge load of people in cryogenic sleep for a 7+ year voyage to a planet they hope will be hospitable enough for them to colonize.  An accident damages the ship and leads to the waking of its small human crew.  They receive a communications signal that lures them off course to a much closer, and previously unknown, habitable planet.  Who could possibly be way out here?  The survivors of the Prometheus expedition, perhaps?  Once they arrive, it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before the humans start getting turned into alien chow, and we don’t know or like them enough to really care that much.  I was annoyed that some of the biological “facts” I thought we knew about the aliens from the earlier films seem to be disregarded in this one.  The humans do all sorts of stupid things to earn their gruesome ends, and despite all the mayhem only one scene struck me as really, memorably horrifying.  Billy Crudup (Big Fish) plays the ineffectual captain of the Covenant, but the real stars are Katherine Waterston (Sleeping with Other People) as the Sigourney Weaveresque heroine and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) playing both android David from Prometheus and android Walter from the Covenant.  I’d say this movie is for diehard Alien fans only.

P.S. The movie has lots of ponderous philosophical window-dressing too; for more on that you can read Steven Greydanus’s review here.

Logan

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Logan  (A-).  Yes, this is an awfully high grade to give a rated-R comic-book movie with all sorts of severed heads and spurting arteries and such.  But what can I say?  I thought this movie was excellent.  Hugh Jackman (Scoop) returns for his millionth turn as Wolverine, the irascible, indestructible mutant with the retractable claws.  Only now he’s not feeling so indestructible.  The year is 2029, and he is old and sick and not regenerating like he used to.  He’s lying low somewhere near the U.S.-Mexico border taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur), who is not only old and sick but also having seizures that cause all sorts of mayhem for everyone around him because of his uncontrolled psychic powers.  All the other mutants we’ve come to know and love in the other X-Men movies are apparently dead, and no new mutants have been born in many years.  Wolverine is just trying to scrape together enough money in his job as a limo driver so he can buy a boat and sail out to sea with Professor Xavier (thereby saving mankind from the effects of Xavier’s seizures, I think).  Then everything goes sideways when a desperate woman finds Wolverine and begs him to transport a young girl to Canada—a girl with mutantly powers awfully reminiscent of Wolverine’s.  Of course, there are bad guys hot on her trail, and the movie quickly turns into a quasi-remake of Children of Men (which is not a bad movie to borrow from, if you’re going to borrow).  Despite all the crazy, bloody fight scenes, the movie really worked for me as a meditation on mortality and the meaning of family.  And newcomer Dafne Keen does a nice job as the mysterious little girl with anger-management issues.

P.S. I forgot to mention this when I initially posted this review–I think this is the first time I have ever seen a movie in the United States that features Spanish subtitles.  Some of the movie was in Spanish, and those parts had no subtitles.  I wonder if those parts were subtitled in English in other showings?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  (D).  The first Guardians movie was a surprisingly fun, comic space opera.  The second, unfortunately, is neither fun nor funny.  The relentless special effects and earsplitting soundtrack add up to, as another critic put it, a “visual and aural assault”—and one that lasts over two hours, for good measure.  There’s a lot going on here, but the main plot involves the encounter between affable space scoundrel Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, The Five-Year Engagement) and his long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell, Big Trouble in Little China).  It’s always great to see Russell doing his amiable big-lug routine, but even he can’t save this bloated trainwreck.  Almost lost in the clutter are nice supporting performances by Michael Rooker (Tombstone) as the blue outlaw who raised Peter and Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) as a beautiful gold alien whose genetically perfect species is remarkably inept at tracking down and blowing up the Guardians.  Skip it.

The Humans (book review)

The Movie Snob is having a little trouble getting out to the cinema lately, so here’s another book review to tide you over:

The Humans, by Matt Haig (2013).  I enjoyed this little science-fiction novel that tackles some big eternal themes.  An extraterrestrial being from an unfathomably advanced race is sent to Earth in human form.  He has a specific and rather grim mission, but he is immediately side-tracked by his horror and disgust at the ugliness of human beings—and by his unfamiliarity with the importance of wearing clothing.  And then he’s baffled by the wife and son of the human whose identity he has assumed.  But mainly the story is in service of the alien’s (and Haig’s?) awe at humanity’s optimism (or self-delusion?) in the face of mortality and at people’s capacity for love and kindness despite all the horror and violence in the world.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a movie out of this book someday.

Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers  (B-).  Well, I didn’t actually see this 2016 show live; I just recently saw it on DVD.  But I was really, really looking forward to it because the guys riffed Time Chasers back in their Mystery Science Theater glory days, and in my mind it was one of the funniest MST episodes of all time.  Time Chasers itself is a hilariously low-budget 1994 time-travel movie about Nick Miller, a nerdy physics professor in Vermont who turns his little single-propeller airplane into a time machine with what looks like a Commodore 64.  Unfortunately Nick’s physics prowess far exceeds his common sense, and he rashly sells his invention to an evil corporation called GenCorp, embodied by its tangibly evil CEO J.K. Robertson.  The scene in which Nick visits the CEO in his “office” – a stairway landing in what I’ve read is the opera house in Rutland, Vermont – is one of the all-time greats.  So, Nick has to do more time traveling to try to stop himself from selling the time machine to GenCorp in the first place.

Unfortunately, the riffers just don’t do as good a job shredding Time Chasers as they did on Mystery Science Theater so many years ago.  While watching the movie, I often remembered the wisecracks from the MST version, and the new jokes just weren’t as good.  Don’t get me wrong—it was still an entertaining experience, if only because the movie itself is such a target-rich environment.  I just thought the Rifftrax version didn’t live up to the MST original.  There’s also a short about a chimpanzee that becomes a fireman, but it was nothing in particular to write home about either.