Colony

In 1992 there was a silly little movie called The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag. It was a bit of fluff about a librarian that gets into trouble. Somewhere near the end there is a scene of the bad guy having dinner with a man and his wife. He offers the wife a bit of food on the end of a knife. She take the food into her mouth nervously-and then the bad guy scrapes the blade across her teeth and slices through her cheek. This was one of the most shocking bits of violence I have ever seen in a film, not because it was up there with Bonnie and Clyde or Robocop or Gladiatorr, but because it was so unexpected and out of place.

Colony is a basic bit of mindless sci fi dreck. The Earth has been taken over by mysterious alien forces and the world has been turned into an occupied zone where humans have been forced to play along or die. There is a Resistance that goes about the usual resistance business of killing collaborators and sabotaging whatever they can sabotage. Our story focuses on one man and his family trapped in a bit of former Los Angeles.

In Colony Season 2 Episode 3:Sublimation, there is a shocking bit of business near the end. Colony is a violent show, but it is violent in usually meaningless ways. Billions are dead, so what? Random people who work for the Aliens are killed in every episode. Yawn. Occasional Resistance fighters die here and there. Shrug. To the last, these are deaths that mean nothing. Deaths of faceless, nameless people.

Then we get to Sublimation. In the grand tradition of Game of Thrones, the writers of Colony introduced a new character, Devon, and gave her some backstory, made her a friend of our hero, made her a key player in his escape from his problems-and then they murdered her. Wow. Not only do they kill her, but they drench our hero and his son in her blood. This was just as shocking as that scene with the mobster and the knife. Here was a death of someone we cared about, someone we thought was going to be around for at least the rest of this season. To see her liquefied by an alien drone was a hell of lot more shocking than the deaths of two no names in similar fashion moments earlier.

For the most part, this is still par for the course in Colony. Our hero did commit murder last episode after all. It’s a show about the death of humanity. There has never been even a glimmer of hope that our heroes will win this battle. The Aliens are too advanced, too powerful, too omnipresent to ever be beaten by humans armed with well, nothing. The bulk of the story-lines deal with petty human problems. It’s never been made clear why the Aliens need any humans at all.

I still like Colony, but I’m not a fan of the total downer direction of the story. Not that it was ever exactly happy, but it’s downright grim now.

Posted in sci fi, tv review

La La Land

I grew up watching Musicals. Singing in The Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and My Fair Lady were regular viewing fare. There were plenty of bad musicals as well. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Little Prince didn’t quite measure up for me. The last Musical that I really loved with Julia Andrew’s Victor/Victoria, and it was more of a modern twist on the musical, since all of it’s songs were preformed on a stange, as opposed to everyone just breaking into song for no reason.

La La Land opens with a song and dance number on one of L.A. infamous freeways during a traffic jam. It’s not an esspecially great song and the dancing is not exactly inspired, but it does tell us where this picture is going. An old fashioned Musical with over the top acting and a love story at it’s heart.

La La Land is chock full of cliches, but that’s not a bad thing. A movie that wants to remind us of the good old days needs a fair share of tired old plot devices like Boy Meets Girl, Rags to Riches, and You Can’t Always Get What You Want. In the end it all worked, even though I would have gone ahead and written the happy ending.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are fun to watch, but they are not exactly Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Of course, no one is these days. There was a fun bit in the middle of the film where John Legend tells Ryan that it’s people like him who are killing Jazz, because he can’t give up his love of the greats of the past. It’s easy enough to see that this is a new musical that is not meant to be a classic MGM Musical, but something a little bit different.

I liked La La Land a lot. The music was good, if a bit repetative by the time the credits roll. The singing was not great, but it was good enough. The dancing was often pretty bad and only served to remind me of the great scenes that clearly inspired many of the numbers. Still, it was a good effort.

La La Land is well worth watching.

Posted in movie review

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck has won all kinds of awards for playing the role of Lee Chandler. This was the main reason I decided to watch Manchester by the Sea. As is often the case when I go into a movie expecting to see something great, I was a bit disappointed.

Our hero, such as he is, is lonely loser who has a crappy job as a maintenance man. He lives in the tiny basement apartment that comes with job and has no patience for the people who bitch and moan about life as he tries to repair whatever needs to be fixed. In his spare time he gets drunk and picks fights in bars. Then he gets word that his brother is in the hospital. Now he has to go back to a city he hates for a couple of weeks to deal with his brother’s death. And he has to deal with his horny teenage nephew.

And then a lot of nothing happens. We see flashbacks of a time when something bad happened. We see flashbacks to a time when something fun happened. We see a lot of people muddling through life. We watch as the nephew fumbles around as he tries to have sex with a couple of girls. There are a lot of pretty pictures of water and quaint New England neighborhoods.  I could see that Lee was a moody and often sad fellow, but nothing about his story of self destruction especially touched me.

A couple of minor goals were reached, there was much rejoicing, and life went on about its merry way.

I saw an interview with Jack Lemmon once where he talked about acting. He was working with Billy Wilder. Wilder kept making him do a scene over and over again, asking Jack to take it down a little bit more each time. Jack said:You don’t want me to act at all. Wilder said:Yes, please, don’t act at all. And this, I guess, is what all the critics see as they watch Manchester by the Sea. An actor who is so good he isn’t acting at all.

 

Posted in movie review

Rogue One

Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

Many years ago, when computers were first used in films, someone predicted that one day there would be digital Marilyn Monroes and digital James Deans. But what, he asked, if the CGI actors couldn’t act?

We find out the answer in Rogue One, where several characters from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi make cameo appearances. The most jarring of these was a stiff and emotionless Peter Cushing composite playing Grand Moff Tarkin. It was very good, but still not perfect. Of course, it is only a matter of time til things like this are perfect. The big question is, what then?

For me the biggest problem with Rogue One was the same problem I had with the prequels, how the hell did the Empire ever come into being? Over and over again Empirical Forces are dispatched with ease by a handful of Rebels.

While I liked seeing Darth Vader again, I found his appearance here very strange. It appears that Darth Vader has moved to the planet where Obi-Wan lopped off his arms and legs. Wouldn’t this be like Napoleon moving to Waterloo? And are we to believe he’s been floating in a healing tank for twenty years?

Then there was the annoying bit about HOPE. Hope was mentioned countless times, no doubt in reference to the re-titled first Star Wars. A film I will always call Star Wars.

It was also a bit odd that they used the same bit of business in firing the Death Star and then went so far as to reuse the same footage each time the gun was used, just like in Star Wars.

Ok, so what did I like? Lots of stuff. The effects were, for the most part, damned amazing. The acting was good, if a little over the top in spots. The story was forced and twisted, but the ending was still satisfying. The many, many people who died to bring the Rebels that information were mostly likable and I’m not sure they ALL needed to die.

Rogue One was a fun movie and well worth seeing.

Posted in movie review, sci fi

Annual Dallas Cowboys Rant

“A little too much time on the clock,” Rodgers said of the 35 seconds Dallas left him.

So, what’s worse? A team of complete losers that goes 4-12 and has no chance at all of returning to the Glory Days when the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl on a regular basis? Or a team of posers that go 13-3 only to crash and burn like every other Dallas Cowboys team of the past twenty years or so?

The local sports media are still high from the past season. The loss to the Green Bay Packers viewed as a mere speed bump on the road to the next Great Dallas Football Dynasty. The New Triplets, Dak, Zeke, and Dez, had a great day in their losing effort. Oh, just imagine the future!

Ten years ago Tony Romo took over as Quarterback. We all loved him. He was great. He had a few rough patches, but he was a stats monster. All he needed was a couple of more years, and he would have his own set of Super Bowl rings and his own spot in the Hall of Fame. Only, it didn’t work out that way. Turns out being a hero in the Regular Season doesn’t mean he would win Playoff games.

Of course, no one is comparing Dak to Tony, they’re comparing him to Aikman. Troy had a couple of rough years before he started collecting Super Bowl rings.

So what happened? A couple of odd Penalties. The usual poor decisions and clock management we have come to expect from Head Coach Jason Garrett. A Defense that has never been that good, just good enough. And of course, they played a good team that beat them. Most of the local sports mavens spoke of Arron Rodgers in terms like Living Legend, Football God, Greatest Quarterback to ever play the game, and so on. They didn’t lose, in other words, they were beat by an unstoppable titan. Only, he and his team did lose this year, six times.

One of Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones favorite things to do is point to the team that wins the Super Bowl and say, see? We beat them. That could have been us there. Well, yeah, it could have, but it hasn’t been in twenty years.

I blame the Dallas Cowboys failures on Jerry Jones and his odd ideas about football and his odd ideas about who he needs to be loyal too and who he needs to toss out the nearest window. This was a good season and there is the possibility that the team will be improved with a good draft and a couple of good trades. But I’ll be honest, Dak and Zeke are the first two really great additions to the Dallas Cowboys in a very long time. I don’t trust Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett to do the right things again.

I don’t see this as the start of another team like the one Jimmy Johnson put together. I see it as a continuation of the teams that Jerry Jones has hobbled together every since he fired Jimmy.

Posted in dallas cowboys

Travelers

Kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Terminator. We start off by watching someone die as a clock counts down their death. They fall down and die, only to come back to life as the clock starts counting up again.

As in the brillant and far too short lived Brain Dead, the aliens who take over the bodies continue to pretend they are the bodies they are wearing. Our Cell is made up of five Travelers from the future who, like Kyle Reese, want to save the future. They have cool future tech and of course know things like which horse will win and what numbers are going to come up in the lottery.

Mixed in with the need to change the future is the usual drama that comes from being alive and having to deal with friends and family. One has an abusive husband. One is a drug addict. One has a body with a severly damaged brain. And so on and so forth. The present is a shock to our heroes, all of the things we take for granted are gone, such as milk.

Then our heroes have to fight off other factions from the future. Other Cells of Travelers with different missions. They also spend a good deal of time meeting newly arrived Travelers. The show ends with a fun twist.

One odd thing for me is how they choose the people they hijack in the past. They know when someone is going to die down to the second. They wait until a few seconds before that death and take over the body. Uh, why? In one episode our heroes save a few hundred lives, why are there not a few hundred Travelers waiting to hop into those bodies? If they can hop into any body they choose, why take over after a person has died, or seconds away from dying? And why then pretend to be the person.

Travelers was a fun show and I liked it. A bit of sex, a bit of violence, and a lot of things blowing up. The stories are pretty good as well.

Posted in tv review

The O.A.

Spoilers

In eight episodes we follow the adventures of a woman who may or may not be crazy. Who may or may not have been held captive for seven years. May or may not have died countless times.

It has something to do with a bit of really bad Air Bending or maybe some Tai Chi performed by people who never really saw it performed properly.

The show opens up with a woman jumping off a bridge. When asked why, she says she was trying to get back to her friends. We never find out how she survived this jump or how she thought this was going to help. We later see that our heroine had died many times by drowning and then returns to life. This is an odd bit of business as well. She dies from drowning, but there is never any explanation as to how she comes back to life. When we do see her come back to life after drowning, all it takes for her to begin breathing again is for the water to drain away. Not sure drowning works that way. At least in Flatliners, they had to use a defibrillator.

But then, this is par of the course. The whole show is based on bait and switch. The old shell game and making you think one thing is happening, when maybe something else is happening. The last episode plays the untrustworthy narrator card.

There’s a long standing tradition in speculative fiction of leading the reader/viewer down the garden path and paving that path with plenty of red herrings. There was a very good episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy wakes up in a madhouse and is told, yeah, vampire slayer, right. This was a popular trick on The Twilight Zone as well and at least one or two episodes of Star Trek. And yes, I am Keyser Söze.

The problem with a show that leaves most of the work of imagining the story up to the viewer is that throwing a twist at the end ruins our expectations of where that story is going. We expect Dorthy to get back to Kansas. If the Wicked Witch kills her and takes over OZ, we would rightly feel a bit cheated.

When we get to the end of The O.A. and our group of misfits don’t achieve their impossible goal, or at least don’t achieve the impossible goal we thought they were going to achieve, it seems kind of wrong. But then, they need to leave something to do in the second season.

Posted in tv review

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

im-thinking-of-ending-things Iain Reid’s novel is short. A couple of hundred pages. The story is broken up into small bits. A snippet of a love story. A bit of a horror tale. A little mystery. What is the meaning of the title? What things are they thinking of ending? Who is thinking this? I’m thinking of ending things is a highly stylized book. It reminded me a bit of Flowers for Algernon. It’s not quite as good as Flowers for Algernon. Few stories are.

The stylistic tick here. Is the use of short sentences. Sometimes. Very. Short. Sentences.

A little of this goes a long way. Mixed in with the short, choppy sentences are the occasional obscure word. Near the start of the book, one of our heroes says he is a cruciverbalist. He then uses the word ipseity, which means self-hood. The odd five-dollar word is sprinkled here and there, like the short sentences, designed to trip the reader for a moment and make them pay attention.

And this is the odd bit, for the most part there seems to be nothing to pay attention to. A couple is on a road trip. The women recalls the night they met. It’s a snowy night. Then there are a few strange bits. The woman keeps getting calls from some strange person who has been stalking her. In-between the chapters, we find small dialogue snippets of two people discussing a crime scene of some kind. Now we have to worry a bit, is the stalker going to get the woman? Or is she the one going to commit the crime?

I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It was the kind resolution that was inevitable in this kind of story. Once you are able to put all the pieces together, you find that the picture doesn’t match the one on the box. Maybe it’s just the lonely loser in me that doesn’t like how the story ends.

I enjoyed I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Posted in book review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI thought this was going to be a blatant ripoff of Harry Potter and The X-Men, but turned out to be more of a ripoff of, well, all the terrible movies featuring teen heroes from the past decade or so. Kids are smart, adults are idiots, and the new kid who should be killed right off the bat turns out to be smarter and more powerful than everyone else.

On the plus side, I did kind of like it. This is a Grade A turn off your brain while you watch it film-nothing makes any sense. And I mean, Nothing.

Back in the good old days, during WWII, Brits living in big cities sent their kids off to live in relative safety in the county. Once the war was over, they could bring them come home and carry on with their lives. So that must have been the inspiration for this story.  Only, well, the kids sent to a safe place here, are there FOREVER. So not so much saved, as imprisoned.

The costumes and sets are perfect, I liked all the actors, and the music wasn’t too annoying. A few of endless battle scenes were a bit clever. I enjoyed the bit where the heroes made invisible monsters visible. But even there, I kept expecting there to be someone from the Ministry of Magic showing up and yelling about using magic in front of the Muggles. It seems kind of unlikely that hordes of monsters, both good and bad, wandering around the streets of Blackpool wouldn’t catch someone’s attention.  And there is never any explanation for any of the powers that the Peculiar have, no rhyme or reason why anyone does anything.

It was kind of fun and kind of silly and the handful of menacing folks didn’t see quite as menacing as they could be.  At least not when compared to the superhuman children they are battling. It does make me wonder how these saps won the battles at other Schools.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was not great, but not terrible either.

Posted in movie review

Bridget Jones’s Baby

bridget-joness-baby At first I found Renée Zellweger’s looks and Hugh Grant’s absence a bit distracting. But McDreamy does a good job standing in as Bridget’s other love interest, and Renée still sounds like Bridget. It’s not that she looks old, it’s that she looks so different. We’re talking Darrin 1 and Darrin 2 from Bewitched different here. Anyway…

We find Bridget a bit bummed out about turning 43 and still being alone. One of her younger and hipper friends takes her to a Festival, where she meets a love guru played by Patrick Dempsey. Since it’s a movie, they hook up almost as soon as they run into each other. Then a few days later, she meets the Love of Her Life, Mr. Darcy, played with his usually cold disdain by Colin Firth. A bit later, Bridget discovers that she is preganant.  So who’s the father?

There are a few very funny bits here and it’s good to see the old gang again. There are several touching moments where it looks like the three primaries have found polyamorous paradise. How would that be for a twist in the RomCom universe?

Bridget Jones’s Baby is a little on the long side. It drags here and there as Bridget tries to balance her job and her two baby daddies. The bulk of the jokes come from the job, where Bridget is a TV news Producer who makes a few on-air mistakes.

There is a bit of drama as we watch Bridget decide between a man she just met and had a one night stand with and the man she has been in love with for what feels like her entire life.

There is the obligetory problems getting to the hospital scene and angry mom in labor scene. The ending was good and there was a hint of more to come. These are all people I like spending time with, but you have to wonder what would happen in Bridget Jones 4 that hasn’t already happened.

I like Bridget Jones’s Baby.

Posted in movie review