Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review – Believe

I believe I should have watched something else. The box art made this look like something menacing might be afoot, but the story turned out to be some silliness about kids trying to track down a ghost. The “heartwarming” ending was particularly hard to take. This is one for the after-school special crowd. See if desperate

Another 21st century TV casualty

I like watching the Olympics. Or to be more precise, I like watching Olympic venues. Most of the sports don’t do much for me, but I like looking at the elaborate stadiums, pretty swimming pools and the like.

Or to be still more precise, I used to like watching the venues. This is my first once-every-four-years without cable or the dish, so I’m forced to limit my viewing to what the Web can provide. Which turns out to be not much. I tried downloading NBC’s Olympics coverage iPad app, but to no avail. It required a userid and password from my multichannel service provider, which of course I don’t have.

So here’s the latest elaborate corporate relationship: NBC has no problem screwing its broadcast affiliates by allowing viewers to watch directly over the Internet. Yet it still seeks to compel us to remain thralls of Comcast, Time Warner, or DirecTV.

I suspect this will work out okay for the network this time around. But I wonder about the state of the infoscape four years from now. How tempting might it become to pick up five or ten bucks per viewer for an app for people without MSPs? And how much more of key age and income demographics will become unreachable except via the net?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Review – Creature (2011)

This got a wide release? It must have, because apparently it holds the record for worst box office for a movie that opened in more than 1500 theaters. Frankly, I’m surprised they bothered with theaters at all, as this has straight to video written all over it. A carload of nubile city kids ventures into the swamps, where they fall victim to an alligator man. See if desperate

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review – The Innkeepers

Finally an indie horror movie made by people who know and care about what they’re doing. Two desk clerks pass the last weekend before their hotel closes with half-assed attempts to look for ghosts. Needless to say, they end up finding something. The characters are believable, helped in no small part by good writing and good acting. But the best part was the scares. Ghostly appearances were carefully managed to avoid overuse and maintain the what-if-this-was-real feel. In many ways this is the movie The Shining should have been. Worth seeing

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review – The A-Team

This is even more awful than I expected a movie based on The A-Team to be. How is that even possible? This is a goofy, G.I. Joe plus extra violence production, sort of what frat boys must think war is like. If you’re in the mood for a truly mindless action movie, you might be able to do worse. See if desperate

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I’d walk a mile for a Morlock

Awhile back Staban was driving down Kansas Avenue when he happened to see a Morlock driving the car next to him. Or at least he thinks it was a Morlock. It had stringy, white hair. It had a shriveled face. It looked like it had never seen the light of day.

Trouble was, it was smoking a cigarette.

This prompted a discussion about whether or not Morlocks smoked. Certainly we never see them doing so at any time during the George Pal production of The Time Machine. But that doesn’t definitively answer the question, because all the Morlocks we see in the movie are at work. They’re on the Eloi-boiling production line, and of course in the food service business you can’t smoke on the job.

Further, I’ll bet Morlock smoke breaks are short. Eloi boiling seems like the kind of job where if you and your co-workers wander off for even a couple of minutes that you’d have the boiling foreman all up in your business.

“You Morlocks need to keep busy. I can’t have you Morlocks loafing off. If the boss comes up here and sees you loafing off, he ain’t gonna yell at you. He’s going to yell at me. So get back to boiling those Eloi.”

Thus they only get to really bust out the Winstons and relax in the car on the way home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Abandoned – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

For those who’ve read the novel, maybe this is a fun “hey, look who’s playing that character” experience. I haven’t read it, so for me it rapidly became an endurance exercise in watching men in meetings. If this had been about the machine parts industry or the insurance business rather than espionage, it would have been equally as boring but would at least never have made it to the screen. Somewhere around 20 minutes in, I decided I’d had enough of Gary Oldman staring into space.

Disclosing tablet 4

I hate to do disclosing tablets two weeks in a row. But I also hate to let this go so long that the next Mental Floss arrives before this one’s written up (like I did last time).

Clear spots

19-0 – This was a good stream of trivia about Harriet Tubman’s perfect record of slave rescue missions.

The Wu Tang Clan – I had no idea this apparently-silly group had such a profound effect on music marketing.

Pink spots

101 Masterpieces: Jaws – The article made some good points about the importance of this movie to the blockbuster marketing process, but it didn’t do much to justify its inclusion in the canon of world art treasures.

In Praise of Sin – Once again, Mental Floss runs a piece that’s more concept than content.

Complicated Concepts Explained Using Kitchen Items – Sadly, most of the explanations weren’t all that illuminating.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review – Basic

Imagine somebody took Rashomon, drove the hell out of it and dinged it up so badly that it was barely recognizable, and then sold it to the Army. A DEA investigator (John Travolta) tries to get to the heart of the deaths and/or disappearances of Rangers on a training mission. We get version after version of the “facts,” each less interesting than the last. The bad storytelling wasn’t exactly helped by an unusually high dose of whispered dialogue intercut with ear-splitting gun battles. See if desperate

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review – Absentia

See, indie filmmakers? It is possible to make a good movie with a low budget. All you have to do is think “scary” rather than “stupid.” In this delightfully creepy little tale, a woman has her husband declared legally dead only to have him resurface. He’s in bad condition, and all anyone can make out about where he’s been for the last seven years is that he was abducted in a nearby pedestrian tunnel by something monstrous and vaguely insect-like. The characters are believable, the acting is reasonably good, the script is solid and the story is genuinely chilling. I could have done without some of the forcefully arty trappings such as the use of black and white, but otherwise this was an outstanding horror movie, far better than the here’s-some-more-torture-porn box cover implied. Worth seeing

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disclosing tablet 3

The arrival of the July/August issue of Mental Floss should probably have been a good indicator that the disclosing tablet for the May/June issue was a bit overdue. Still, better late than never.

Clear spots

The “Scatterbrained” devoted to bears – Every issue the trivia flood at the start is devoted to a theme object. This time it was bears, a personal favorite subject. I was intrigued to learn that polar bears are invisible to infrared cameras and that the Humane Association has specific rules for handling bears on movie sets. Of course part of it was bear hunters and Berenstains. But for the most part the section was good.

The Easter Island Statues Have Bodies! – And so they do.

10 Shocking Secrets of Flight Attendants – I wouldn’t go as far as “shocking,” but some of these were interesting. The height and clothing restrictions aren’t all that fascinating, but I would have figured stories about sneaking dead bodies onto planes were urban legends until I read this.

Are Dogs Really Man’s Best Friend? – Spoiler: cats win.

Pink spots

Cheat Sheet: The Kentucky Derby – Once again explain to me how doing this with animals is okay while dog and chicken fighting isn’t.

10 Essential Life Pointers from John Hodgman – Who? Or more directly to the point, why?

9 Weapons That Failed Spectacularly – Too much animal suffering. Bad enough we have to come up with new, stupid ways to make people suffer.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review – The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training

This has to be one of the steepest declines from original to sequel in Hollywood history. While the first Bears movie had a certain underdog charm, this one just packs after school special smarm combined with a Happy Days humor level. The foul-mouthed kid with the soft spot is now mostly just the kid with the soft spot. The motorbike-riding rebel (Jackie Earle Haley) gets saddled with a mess of character development in the form of an estranged dad (William Devane) who ends up coaching the team. Some of the old Astrodome footage is sorta fun, but the rest of the picture is thoroughly missable. See if desperate

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review – Eyes of the Woods

For awhile I was holding out hope that the creators of this ultra-low-budget crapfest simply hadn’t seen The Blair Witch Project and thus weren’t aware that they were traveling in thoroughly charted territory. But then one of the characters mentions Blair Witch. Seriously, if they knew that all they were doing was making a cheap rip-off of a movie everyone’s already seen, why bother? They even manage to undo the one thing the earlier movie got right, tossing away the subtle sense of unseen menace and trotting out extensive doses of cheap gore, gratuitous nudity and rubber suit monsters. Wish I’d skipped it

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Quiz answers: Fireworks or Justified?

The fireworks are all shot. I’ve finally got the ash cleaned out of my hair and my left eye. The brush fire has been extinguished. So the final cap for the Independence Day holiday is to post the answers to the Fireworks or Justified quiz.

The first one was a giveaway, as it was both the first episode of the series and also a basic bit of pyrotechnics. The rest, on the other hand, were far trickier.

1. Fire in the Hole – Both

2. Missouri Kicker – Fireworks

3. Bad to the Bone – Fireworks

4. The Lord of War and Thunder – Justified

5. Shock and Awe – Fireworks

6. The Hammer – Justified

7. Cottonmouth – Justified

8. Total Blowout – Fireworks

9. Midnight Rider – Fireworks

10. Blaze of Glory – Justified

11. All Jacked Up – Fireworks

12. The Gunfighter – Justified

Hope you all had a great Fourth of July.