Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Stargate Atlantis over at Eye of Polyphemus. the current episode is the second season’s “Epiphany,” an episode which features a monster created from the negative emotions of a small settlement. What better time to pull out the Dvd of Forbidden Planet and review the film from which the plot element was likely lifted? Forbidden Planet is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in space. The film follows a military crew set out to discover the fate of the ship Bellerophon, which disappeared twenty years ago. In mythology, Bellerophon killed the monster Chimera. In Forbidden Planet, the monster kills all but two people, Dr. Morbius and his teenage daughter, Altaira. Captain Adams, the allegedly swashbuckling hero of the film, woos Altaira while unraveling the mystery, such that it is, of the id monster’s identity. We cannot forget Morbius’ robot assistant, Robby, who has become a staple of science fiction since his debut here. Watching Forbidden Planet is like taking the World of Tomorrow tour at Disney World wit a vicious, invisible monster on the loose. One minute you are being introduced to a retro idea of a future appliance, and in the next someone is being torn apart by some critter no one can identity. Contemporary audiences would not have the patience for this sort of thing. They would demand a quick set up in order to get to the monster attacks. Even I think the pace could be picked up, but as a history buff, I enjoy the vision of the future filmmakers envisioned back in 1956 enough to not count the instructional video aspects as much of a detriment. Oh, do not get me wrong…Morbius drones on and on about everything from his house to what happened to his ship to Robby to the Kell and all their technology. Forbidden Planet is very much high on exposition rather than visuals. It is an interesting point when you consider the movie was nominated for an oscar in special effects, but lost to The Ten Commandments. Deservedly so, in my opinion. While I will often gripe good science fiction films rarely earn critical recognition beyond their technical aspects, even
special effects were superior. Forbidden Planet was released in the wrong year, folks.
The major flaw with Forbidden Planet is the lack of mystery. There is no possibility anyone could be responsible for the death of every on the Bellerophon but Morbius. Altaira would have been too young. The wife is a possibility for the Bellerophone deaths, Robby was created after Morbius arrived on the planet. It is very clear from the beginning Morbius is responsible. A red herring or two would enhance the mystery greatly. By enhance, I mean actually create some. The revelation the monster is a projection of Morbius’ id is not much of a reveal, but I will grant the climactic sequence with morbius and adams with the id monster banging on the walls is highly effective even today.
I must mention, too, what I suspected might not work, but did. Adams is played by a young Leslie Nielsen. I do not recall exactly when I first saw Forbidden Planet--too young to appreciate it, I am certain--but it was certainly after watching the absurd comedies of Nielsen’s later career. The guy carried around a gag device which simulated flatulence to use during interviews, for heaven’s sake! I am not even certain I made the connection between Adams and The Naked Gun cop back then, but Nielsen was at one time considered a dramatic actor. I assume Viva Knievel! ruined all that. Adams strikes me as too much of a rigid military officer who cannot make any decision without consulting his superiors rather than the pre-James T. Kirk he is supposed to be, but I am too impressed Nielsen can play the role at all to complain.
Forbidden Planet stands the test of time for any true science fiction fan and/or cinema buff who can appreciate the style of films made in various eras. Forbidden Planet is ’50’s science fiction to the core. Could anyone get away with an Earth space ship being a flying saucer these days? Doubtful. The Daleks can pull it off, but who is going to dare question them? Daleks have no concept of elegance.
Rating; *** (out of 5)
Friday, September 7, 2012
my personal blog. We shall mercifully deal with the former reason here. WarGames is my generation’s--that is, the one that grew up in the ’80’s--dire warning of nuclear annihilation. It is our film because it main theme of late col War paranoia and fear of advanced technology running away out of control is wrapped around the conflict of kids versus adults. It is a kid,, David Lightman, (Matthew Broerick) who inadvertently sets the world down the path of nuclear destruction because of adult frailty in decision making it is young Lightman who comes up with a solution to the problem, not the least of which is youthful optimism breaking down a despondent pessimism, and a kid’s game of tic tac toe which saves the day. It is not the adults in charge who save the future. WarGames is about hacker/slacker Lightman. He is a shiftless techno whiz who constantly cuts school, but uses his computer skills to award himself high grades anyway. Lightman believes he has hacked into a software developers batch of unreleased games when he begins playing Global Thermo Nuclear War, but he has actually hscked into a new AI at NORAD called WOPR. Because of his “gameplay,” NORAD believes the Soviet union is mobilizing against the United States and makes preparations for a first strike that will initiate World War III. WOPR was put in place, as is established in a long, tedious opening sequence about the humdrum daily routine at NORAd, when one of the men in charge of launching the missiles refuses to do so when given the order. The decision is then handed over to WOPR in order to take human emotion and doubt out of the equation. But as the film establishes, it is human emotion that eventually saves the day. Lightman is arrested by the FBI. Upon learning what he has inadvertently done, he escapes to fin the creater of WOPR. He is Dr. Stephen Falken, now living under an assuming name as a completely despondent reclusive. His wife and son have recently been killed, and believing the human race is inevitably on the path to killing itself, says the world can burn. Lightman and his girlfriend, played by Ally Sheedy back when she and Molly Ringwald took turns in such roles, convince Falken he can change things. World War III is averted whenWOPR is convinced to play tic tac toe against itself. After numerous draws, WOPR learns the concept of futility. The only way to win the game is to not play. I was afraid with all the advancements in technology over the last 29 years, WarGames would be laughably dated. Maybe a viewer more tech savvy than I am thinks it is. But from my perspective, the technology takesa back seat to the personal themes involved. WarGames is a human drama about how advancing technology created supposedly to better our lives--in this case, eliminate human error to ensure survival in a nuclear war--can get away from us by removing the human factor. In this day and age when everyone everywhere is texting and the average teenager spends four hours a day online, the question of who is really in charge when it comes to technology is still an apt one. I will grant you a lot of my positive feelings towards WarGames have to do with nostalgia. It has left a big impact on my entertainment choices when it comes to science fiction and war stories. WarGames is definitely a product of its time. If you did not grow up in the ’80’s, the Cold War threat of the bomb dropping any day now probably seems silly. Nevertheless, the central message of WarGames is still worth hearing. The film itself stands the test of time. Rating: **** (out of 5)
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Missing in Action. Considering the continuity issues, they do not complement one another. I decided it was an awful movie back then. Flash fordward about twenty years to early this afternoon for the second and final time I will sit through this film. It has not improved with time. Right from the get go, there is trouble. The film opens during the fall of Saigon. Col. James Braddock, who is supposed to be in a POE camp, is trying to find his Vietnamese wife, who ought to be American and living back in the United States. He mistakenly believes her to be killed in a rocket attack, so he leaves Vietnam mourning her loss. Also unbeknownst to him, she is pregnant. Fifteen years later, Braddock discovers through a stereotypically cold CIA dolt named Littlejohn his wife survived and he has a son. His kid suffers along with many other Amerasian kids left behind after the war, so Braddock not only his a personal mission to reunite with his family, but save those outcast kids, too. He has his work cut out for him. The villain of the film, Col. Kwoc, is the most cartoonish, mustache twirling villain I have seen in a while. This guy orders an orphanage full of Amerasian kids killed just to prove he is the villain. He also has some history with Braddock, which is odd considering Braddock has been established to have an ax to grind with two different Vietnamese colonels solely responsible for his torment as a POW. Of course, it does not appear he was ever a POW as far as this movie is concerned. Getting back rto Kwoc..just how evil is he? Even enough to murder Braddock’s wife in front of him in painfully dramatic slow motion, then torture Braddock with the life of his son in the balance. The latter is the most memorable bit of the film, and probably helped establish the Chuck Norris Facts of his unbelievable prowess. Chained with his wrists over his head and the other end hooked to the trigger of a gun pointed at his son, Braddock can stand on his toiptoes forever. Even through electric shock torture, which causes him to merely grunt through gritted teeth. Tough guy, that braddock. If the rat bag over the head torture of Missing in Action II: The Beginning was so inconceivably brutal, one wonders from what depths of a depraved mind the screenwriter must have trolled, this torture seen rockets to the opposite direction, although you are still left wondering what the screenwriter was thinking. After escaping his captors with his son, Braddock frees the children and heads for Vietnam’s non-existent border with Thailand and safety. Yes, this film cannot get geography right, either. Standard action movie fare ensues--gunfire, explosions, an the occasional high kick. The bad guys cannot hit the slow moving truck carrying all the kids, because they all have to reach the end of the film in one piece. Which is also why every last one of them survives a plane crash, too. Or maybe it is because Braddock was flying it. Say, where did he learn to fly a plane? Fret not. The action does not barrel along without heart. Braddock and his son finally bond over the question ‘Are you okay?” and mutual answers of “I’m fine.” I am only reviewing Braddock: Missing in Action III for the sake of completion. It is an awful movie, and everyone knows it. Given the inconsistent back story compared with that presented in the first two films, I remain convinced this was supposed to be another movie altogether, but someone decided it was too terrible to stand on its own merit, so the names were changed to make it part of the franchise. Maybe they would be able to squeeze ot an extra dollar or two that way. I hope someone got something out of this mess. Rating: * (out of 5)
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Missing in Action. It was intended to be released first, but the producers felt like Missing in Action was the better film, so it was shelved for a while to serve as a prequel. But is it a better movie? The characters are certainly more fleshed out. We get to know and empathize with the POW far more than the nameless extras whom chuck Norris as Col. James Braddock rescued in Missing in Action. braddock, too, is a much broader character. He actually has dialogue for one thing. On a more serious note, Braddock is portrayed as an honorable man who resists his captors’ efforts to break him and ultimately escape them altogether. Any serious critique I have of Missing in Action II: the Beginning has to do with how unpleasant the vast majority of it is to watch. I do not generally have a big beef with films depicting torture if it furthers the plot or even slasher horror films if there is enough absurdity in it to be amusing. An entire hour of POW being forced into slave labor, force playing Russian Roulette, being taunted about family back home moving on, watching the relative comfort of a traitor compared to their living conditions, and particularly the famous rat in a bag scene which Braddock coul save himself by biting the rat just go on and on and on. One goes well passed the point of sympathizing with the POW plight to wondering why they have not offed themselves just to get away from the perpetual torment. After I have spent an hour immersed in the misery, I am less than enthusiastic for when the gunfire and explosions begin. I have a lot of confidence many other action fans do not have this problem. That is fine with me. The action sequences are great. Seriously, it is thirty minutes of everything from a flamethrower to karate kicking and C4 explosions. The film even improves on Missing in Action by featuring a man to man battle between Braddock and the main villain. The problem is initial excess. Too much angst is laid on for the first hour for my taste. But okay. This is still a Chuck Norris movie. I cannot hold it to too high a standard. As far as your typical Norris action film goes, Missing in Action II: The Beginning delivers. Perhaps it should have begin delivering a half hour earlier than it does, but that is just my take. Missing in Action, for all its flaws, is a more mature film in spite of less developed characters because it is more interested in telling a story rather than showing us forgotten men tortured to the breaking point going wild on their tormenters. But hey, you are watching a Norris film to watch him do just that, so mileage may vary. For my money, the film is too unbalanced between drama and action to be as enjoyable as many action fans consider it. Rating: ** (out of 5)
Monday, September 3, 2012
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Rambo: First Blood, Part II, so we are not plunging into completely unfamiliar territory. Uncommon Valor certainly is familiar territory. With a cast that includes Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, and a young Patrick Swayze, I was expecting a more serious treatment of the issue. One tends to forget among the many one man army films involving the rescuing of alleged POW from Vietnam that the issue was and still is in many respects, a burning issue for the families of missing servicemen. There is no compelling reason to think the Vietnamese would continue holding prisoners after the war, emotions have run high enough for the government to investigate the possibility and, naturally, scammers to give false hope for families. The cruelty inherent in depicting the plight of POW in this genre of film is tough enough when one does not know anyone Mia from the Vietnam War, as I do not, but it is even more difficult when a genre film I was expecting to have a more serious tone does not rise much above the average Chuck Norris film. Hackman is not the only misleading element. Director Ted Kotcheff’s previous outing was First Blood, the most serious of the Rambo films in dealing with the lingering wounds left by the Vietnam War on those who fought it. I suspect Kotcheff was able to make Uncommon Valor based on the merits of First Blood. The final product does not fly as high as it could. Hack man plays Marine Col. Cal Rhodes, who believe his son was left behind as a POW in Laos long after the war. He reassembles his son’s unit to undergo a mercenary mission to rescue him. The mission is financed by a wealthy businessman named Macgregor whose son is also suspected of being held prisoner in Laos. MacGregor builds a replica of the prison camp for the team to practice, but things still go wrong on the mission. Several main characters die. MacGregor’s son is found alive, but Rhodes’ died of illness shortly after he was captured. Nevertheless, Rhodes now has a melancholy sense of closure. A sense of closure I hasten to remind everyone the film encourages families with Mia loved ones not to have, since they could be suffering in putrid jungle prisons. Uncommon Valor winds up far more on par with the future ninja flicks of co-star Michael Dudikoff than Hackman and Swayze’s other film efforts. It is a mindless action film, and if you go in expecting it to be only that, you will probably like it. I would not call it a classic even within action films or the aforementioned Nercenaries Rescuing American POW Left Behind after the Vietnam War genre for that matter, but Uncommon Valor has slipped through the cracks over the years as far as either is concerned. So if you have not seen it because it has been relatively forgotten, by all means do. It has all the gunfire, explosions, and carnage for which you are looking. Once I settled in on the fact
was as emotionally shallow as your average Saturday morning cartoon, I was further amused by the weird combination of serious actors and b-movie stars fighting side by side. Maybe that will serve as an amusement actor for you, too. Uncommon Valor is a popcorn action flick best left for a night when one wishes to be mindlessly entertained.
Rating: *** (out of 5)