Friday, May 19, 2017

Stuff I Watched Again

More Stuff I Watched...

Coming Through the Rye:  In 1969 a Jewish kid at a prep school decides to do a play of Catcher in the Rye.  His teacher asks if he has the permission of JD Salinger, so the kid decides to go track Salinger down.  During a trip to New York he finds an old magazine article saying Salinger lives in a town in New Hampshire so he goes there with the help of a girl.  Along the way he and the girl make out and have sex.  And then Salinger (Chris Cooper in fake eyebrows) turns him down because Salinger is kind of a jerk if you didn't already know.  It's a good fairly light indie drama that reminds me of a story I wrote about 13 years ago where a would-be author tracks his literary hero down and the moral of the story was:  never meet your heroes.  That's good advice but the kid got a girl out of it so it wasn't all bad, right? (3.5/5)

U-Turn:  A small-time gambler (Sean Penn) breaks down in a small Arizona town called Superior.  He then gets robbed, beat up, and embroiled in a scheme between a husband and wife who want to pay him to kill the other.  It's directed by Oliver Stone but feels more like a film student's homage to David Lynch.  It squanders a lot of acting talent including Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Voigt, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Clare Danes, and Jennifer Lopez. (2/5)

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn:  The late Robin Williams is a man with a brain aneurysm.  His harried doctor (Mila Kunis) tells him he has 90 minutes to live and so he goes running around Brooklyn trying to make amends to his son, wife (Melissa Leo), and brother (Peter Dinklage) while the doctor tries to find him.  What I didn't understand is if the doctor has a cell phone and she has Robin Williams's cell number, couldn't she just text him?  Anyway, it was a good mix of drama and comedy, though the bit with James Earl Jones as a stammering electronics salesman was pretty lame; I remember Night Court did something similar back in the 80s where they were in a big hurry and of course there's some guy who stutters and stammers and talks really slow.  Just saying. (3.5/5) (Depressing Speculation:  Some of Williams's last film credits are this, World's Greatest Dad, and The Final Cut, which all feature death rather heavily.  Could this have helped push him to suicide?)

Predestination:  In time travel stories they often mention the paradox of someone going back and inadvertently being his own grandfather; they even spoofed it on Futurama like 14 years ago.  This movie tops that by having a time traveler be her own mother AND father!  Oh and she/he is also her/his own mentor and enemy too!  It involves a lot of machinations including sex change surgery and plastic surgery, but basically everyone is the same character.  Up until the big reveals it was a fairly interesting drama about a lonely orphaned girl who gets knocked up and during the cesarean, doctors find out she also has boy parts and so start transitioning her into a man.  It probably would have been better off without all the creepy time travel stuff. (2.5/5)

Casino Jack:  I watched this back in 2012 but I watched it again recently on CBC.  In what could be seen as an audition for House of Cards, Kevin Spacey is "superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff who made a name lobbying for Native American casinos.  When he gets embroiled in trying to buy a shady floating casino, it ends up toppling his whole house of cards.  It's kind of sad how cheaply Congressmen and senators can be bought; I mean they do Abramoff favors for rounds of golf and theater tickets.  No wonder we're so fucked.  Something I pointed out on Facebook was at one point Abramoff goes to Paramount to pitch a movie about Moses and the exodus starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott; ironically two years after this movie came out, Ridley Scott made Exodus: Gods and Kings, but with Christian Bale, not Russell Crowe.  Still, pretty close!  At the end of the movie Abramoff sends a letter to Bill Clinton to say he'll use his knowledge of Republicans to help the Democrats...I guess they should have taken him up on it. (3/5)

Silicon Cowboys:  This not-hard-hitting documentary chronicles the startup of Compaq in the early 80s.  Basically 3 Texas Instruments employees quit their jobs to create a "portable" computer that was like a suitcase and weighed 28 pounds.  Yet people went crazy for it and soon Compaq had IBM on their heels.  IBM made their own "portable" that ironically was less compatible with PC software than Compaq's.  Later IBM tried to clear the "clone" field with IBM PC2 that didn't have any backward compatibility--big mistake as businesses weren't keen on buying an entirely new set of computers.  By the early 90s Compaq began to decline thanks to lower-priced competition like neighboring Dell.  The last of the company's founders then was forced out.  In 2002 Compaq was absorbed by Hewlett-Packard.  But they had a great 8 year run or so.  It was interesting though like I said not really hard-hitting journalism.  If you want a dramatized version, AMC's "Halt & Catch Fire" is inspired by this story.  A couple of modern Silicon Valley things Compaq helped popularize:  the "fun" workplace and big showy rollouts for new products. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  I owned a Compaq in the late 90s.  I absolutely hated it.  Worst computer I ever owned.  The two Compaq laptops I bought weren't good either.  The second one had a design flaw with the screen that ended up making it useless except for parts.  So...good riddance to them.)

American Experience:  War of the Worlds:  The Trump campaign popularized "fake news" but one of the best instances of fake news was the 1938 Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds.  The play was hastily written to sound like an actual news broadcast.  Even though there was an introduction, many people missed that to listen to a ventriloquist act (which seems lame since it's radio) and then joined in later to think New Jersey was being invaded by Martians.  A panic ensued in many places.  Welles took his sweet time to tell people it was a hoax even after it was known people were panicking, because Welles was kind of a dick if you didn't know.  Later he apologized publicly but privately wasn't sorry since this really put him on the map.  In a little bit of Welles fakery, the documentary stages interviews that are based on what some people actually said.  Not hard-hitting either but a good reminder that #fakenews has been around for a long time. (3/5)

Art and Craft:  This documentary is about a scrawny old guy named Mark Landry who forges art as a hobby.  A weird legal loophole apparently is that if you donate forged art to a museum it's not a crime.  I guess because you're not profiting off of it the FBI doesn't give a shit.  But to museum curators it's pretty annoying.  One named Matt who first worked in Oklahoma City and then Cincinnati kind of made it his life's work to track the forger's activity and warn museums, though in the process he lost his job and as kind of an FU the Cincinnati museum put on a show of the forger's work.  Apparently the forger is still at it, using several fake names and even dressing as a priest.  Kind of weird that they don't have text on the screen at the end to tell you what happened to the people.  It was a pretty interesting story.  Next time you go to an art museum you might want to look a little closer at the pictures.  (3/5)

Cool as Ice:  This woeful Vanilla Ice vehicle was corny enough before the Rifftrax treatment.  The plot makes little sense.  After an overly long musical number, Vanilla and his 3 black friends get on motorcycles and go...somewhere for...reasons.  I wasn't sure if the people in the town where they stop to get a bike fixed were freaked out more by the motorcycles and 90s clothes or just that three black people to them probably equate to a gang.  Anyway, after spooking a horse and causing it to buck its female rider, ladies man Vanilla Ice doesn't apologize and gets punched by the girl, who he then stalks and steals her planner and "saves" her from a douchey boyfriend before she takes him to a construction site for an extremely lame romantic montage.  Meanwhile the girl is featured on a TV news segment for...reasons and her father (Family Ties's Michael Gross) is spotted by a couple of bad dudes who recognize him as a cop who ratted them out.  So they go there and kidnap the guy's young son while he's playing Tecmo Super Bowl (because it wasn't 90s enough already) and only Vanilla Ice can save the day!  It was as godawful as you'd expect.  It took the movie/music industry a full ten years to make something almost as bad with From Justin to Kelly8 Mile and Purple Rain look like Citizen Kane compared to this. (1/5)

Frankenstein Island:  This early 80s movie doesn't really make a lot of sense.  4 hot air balloonists crash on an island that's populated by hot chicks in leopard print bikinis, salty sailors who can't stop chuckling, a crazy guy quoting Poe, van Helsing's daughter(?), and her ancient husband (?).  And Frankenstein's monster is chained underwater.  And a bunch of stuff happens.  Not even Rifftrax can make this turkey watchable. (1/5)

ROTOR:  I saw the original version of this on late night TV and it was pretty awful.  The Rifftrax version makes it more fun.  This is a cheesy combination of The Terminator and Robocop but far, far worse than either.  Basically a police robot goes around killing people because its standards are too high.  And only a cop/rancher/scientist and his burly skunk-haired lesbian friend can stop him!  With lassos, a Jeep Cherokee, and its car horn.  Epic!  My favorite part is still when they spent five minutes of the  movie checking into a hotel so the skunk-haired lesbian can change into a tank top.  I mean they totally couldn't just go to a rest stop or gas station to do that, right?  Nah, why do that when you can pay $100 for a hotel room you'll occupy for three minutes? That's the kind of thought (or lack thereof) that went into this movie. (1/5)

One Punch Man:  They had a dubbed version on Cartoon Network, but on Netflix it's in Japanese with subtitles.  As with a lot of anime, it's kind of weird, but there's a neat concept:  a superhero is so powerful that he can beat any enemy with one punch.  While you might think that's awesome, for him it makes life kind of boring.  I suppose that's why they had to invent Kryptonite for Superman, right? (3/5)

The Last Samurai:  I fell asleep so I didn't really know why Japanese soldiers were fighting samurai.  What I can tell you is guys with swords on horses are no match for Gatling guns.  Just saying. (Inc)

1 comment:

  1. Coming Through the Rye sounds quite interesting. I think I should look for it.



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