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.

Passengers

New from The Movie Snob.

Passengers  (B).  The critics haven’t been too kind to this new sci-fi flick, but I liked it pretty well.  For this particular movie it’s kind of hard to know what would count as spoilers, so first I’ll just say what the movie is about based on the first ten minutes:  an awesome starship from Earth is on a 120-year journey to a new world, with 5,000 passengers and a couple hundred crew members all sleeping the voyage away in suspended animation.  But a little problem crops up, and a single passenger—a lowly engineer named Jim (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World)—is woken up 90 years too soon.  There’s no way he can put himself back into hibernation, and communicating with Earth is impossible, so he faces living the rest of his life completely alone.  The movie is about how he deals with that fate.

 

The rest of this review might contain spoilers if you haven’t seen any previews for this movie.

 

As the previews show, and as even the movie’s posters give away, Jim doesn’t stay alone.  Another passenger, the lovely Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook) also wakes up.  How that comes to pass, and how she and Jim get along after she wakes up, are among the most interesting parts of the movie.  Michael Sheen (TRON: Legacy) turns up as Arthur, the robotic bartender.  The movie’s final act gets rather less interesting as coincidences and unbelievable events pile up.  Still, I liked the movie overall.  I thought Pratt and Lawrence were very likable, kind of like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land.  If you like science fiction, I say give Passengers a try.

Rogue One

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (C).  I saw this movie almost a week ago, but I have yet to muster up any enthusiasm for writing a review.  All I can really say is that I liked it better than The Force Awakens, but I still didn’t particularly like it.  Considering the critical and fan love Rogue One has gotten, I wonder if Star Wars and I are just finished as a couple.  I was a kid when the first one came out in 1977, and I loved the first trilogy, but it’s been downhill ever since.  Anyway, everyone knows what this movie is about–how a ragtag rebel band stole the plans to the original Death Star and got them into Princess Leia’s hands just before the events seen in the original Star Wars.  To me, the movie felt like a long, elaborate scavenger hunt, as our gritty heroes Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, Brideshead Revisited) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, Casa de mi Padre) skip from world to world, grittily doing the gritty things that need to be done to steal the plans to the original Death Star and get them into the hands of Princess Leia.  My favorite character: a reprogrammed Imperial droid voiced by Alan Tudyk (Serenity).  Otherwise, I thought this was a pretty forgettable movie.

Arrival

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Arrival  (C).  The critics are giving this cerebral new sci-fi flick a lot of love, but I just can’t join the chorus.  The set-up is one you’ve probably seen before: giant alien spaceships suddenly appear in several different locations around the globe.  They appear to resist or ignore our efforts to communicate with them–at first.  A serious army guy (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland) recruits a top-notch linguist (Amy Adams, Man of Steel) to help with the communication efforts concerning a spaceship in Montana.  She teams up with a physicist (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) who is somehow also supposed to be able to help crack the aliens’ language.  Meanwhile, military guys around the globe are getting really itchy trigger fingers.  Although I agree with the critics who are lauding Adams’s lead performance, the movie as a whole just didn’t really do it for me.  I liked director Denis Villeneuve’s last effort, Sicario, much better.  But maybe I just wasn’t smart enough for this one.

Morgan

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 Book of Strange New Things (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber (2014).  I don’t remember where I read about this sci-fi novel, but the premise grabbed me—in the near future, a Christian preacher is selected to journey to another planet and preach the faith to the humanoid aliens who live there.  So I eventually found it at Half-Price Books, and I have to say it was a really good read.  I won’t say anymore, but if the premise sounds appealing at all, I urge you to check it out.  Incidentally, it was only after I finished the book that I realized that Faber also wrote the novel Under the Skin, on which the indelibly creepy Scarlett Johansson movie was based.  If I had realized that fact earlier, I might have been scared off from reading The Book of Strange New Things.  Glad I wasn’t!