Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Hangover: Part II

Movie: The Hangover: Part II

I was not a big fan of the original, which, while it had its moments, seemed to go out of its way to be crude and socially unacceptable (to the detriment of the film). Perhaps because I knew more what to expect this time, I was surprised by how much I liked this one. It's basically the exact same plot -- drunk guys black out and can't remember their night and have to piece together what happened -- though this time it's set in Bangkok instead of Las Vegas. It's a little slow to get going -- the early workings aren't too funny -- but once the guys wake up with the hangover it starts to get good. Oh yes, it's still full of the socially unacceptable, and there are a several cringe-worthy moments, but except for one or two they are mercifully quick. What I liked far better was the nice blend of characters who are each pushed out of their element by circumstance (and the liberating influence of alcohol and drugs) and the excellent plotting, which never felt contrived or forced and came across as an outrageous but believable series of unfortunate events. The deadpan reactions, the unexpected oddities (I loved the stick attack by the monks, for instance), the way the characters stayed true to their personalities, the solving of the "what the hell did we do last night?" mystery, and, of course, that hilarious (and cute) monkey are all highlights. While the ending (where everything works out fine, of course) was a little too smooth and convenient, the whole thing was a fun, wild ride. While I could do without some of the shock/crude humor, I guess that's part of the whole point of this series (I mean, a hangover without shame and mystery isn't worth the trouble, right?). Not for everyone's taste (to understate it), but if you can handle this kind of thing, this is a quite funny and entertaining movie.


Monday, May 23, 2011


Movie: D.A.R.Y.L.

I heard someone mention this the other day and I realized that thought I'd vaguely heard of this 80s film, I'd never actually seen it. It's about a lost boy with amnesia who shows up in a small mountain town. He's bit strange, really smart but doesn't know obvious things like how to catch ball thrown at him. It turns out (eventually) that he's a robot. The best parts of the film were him bonding with his foster family as they learn to love him, and the sadness when his "real" parents (government scientists) come to take him back. After that things get a little too actiony with the boy having to escape and things feel a little forced and Hollywoody, but it's not a terrible movie. Some of the child acting is terrible, the video game sequence is hilariously dated, and I didn't buy a lot of the boy's absurd robot capabilities (like him somehow retrieving extra dough from an ATM machine without actually doing anything but typing on the numeric keypad), but this film still holds up surprisingly well. Rather neat and sweet. It made me think, "They don't make movies like this any more." Made today, this thing would focus far more on the special effects and kid escaping the government facility, and it would lose out on the best parts, which were the family scenes. Fascinating.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I'll be honest: I'm a bit of a sucker for these kinds of films. I love Johnny Depp and his Captain Sparrow and I could be entertained watching him read a phone book. That's pretty much all he's got to work with here, considering the lame script and feeble plot, but I still had fun. There are several good moments and some unusual ideas, such as the surprisingly vicious mermaids, but the plot -- a tiresome quest after the Fountain of Youth -- is much too direct (they basically get on a ship and go there) to be interesting. The whole thing is a mishmash. They introduce new characters, such a missionary prisoner of the pirates who falls in love with one of the mermaids -- kind of neat, but it felt out of place and awkward, like it was from a different film. On the other hand, I had expected to not like Penelope Cruz's character (I much prefer Keira Knightly), but she grew on me and there were times when I thought it worked (other times her chemistry with Depp fell flat and her strong Spanish accent made her difficult to understand). You'd think at least the swashbuckling action would be a positive in a film like this, but it's predictable and boring. There are too many easy coincidences (like when one of the bad guys sees Depp and runs, conveniently leaving his rifle behind for Depp to use) and outright defiance of physics (such as when tied-up Depp somehow goes backward up a tree). All-in-all, it's a real mess, and it's clear the franchise is running out of steam, but I still liked it better than the last two sequels which were artificially divided into two films. If you don't like Depp's Captain Sparrow there's nothing here for you, though.


Friday, May 13, 2011


Movie: Priest

This was both better and worse than I expected. The better parts were things I didn't know coming into the film (I never read the graphic novel). For instance, the story takes place in an alternate earth history where vampires and humans have been battling for thousands of years. The humans eventually won the war with the aid of warrior priests, and now a totalitarian church rules everything. The priests are feared and shunned, and pretty much useless since the vampire threat has been eliminated. This world is divided into two parts -- cities that look like something out of George Orwell's 1984, and the desert outlands that are just like our Old West (complete with shyster potion salesmen). Unfortunately, little is done with either of these setups. The Big Brother world is in the background, largely ignored, and one or two scenes feel like a Western. I would have much preferred more of that as it was different and interesting. Instead, most of the vampire stuff takes place underground in bleak caves and there's a climatic battle on the top of a moving train. The action was okay, with a few half-hearted attempts at 300-style slow-motion coolness. It's not bad, but nothing extraordinary. In the end, this seems like a waste of potential.


Friday, May 6, 2011


Movie: Thor

Surprisingly good, but not great. There's much to like. I loved the serious take of the film, which doesn't go for camp at all, and I liked the story of rebellious Thor being stripped of his powers and exiled to earth as punishment. In terms of action, there really isn't that much: a CGI battle scene in the first half, and an anti-climatic battle on earth against a strange robot creature at the end. I find such action tedious as there's zero suspense since we know Thor will win. I did like some of the action of his compatriots, a team of his friends who battle with him, but I think Thor's a difficult character to realize as a superhero since his powers are vague and undefined (he's a god and pretty much invincible) and I never did understand the power of his hammer. (What does it do, exactly?) I did like the nice blend of magic and science (the film even quotes Arthur C. Clarke's famous "advanced science appears as magic" line). Overall this is a well-acted, well-scripted piece. It's solid and entertaining, but not ground-breaking in any way. I had fun, but I doubt I'd bother seeing it a second time.


Monday, May 2, 2011


Book: Orion

Though Bova's one of my favorite SF authors, I somehow missed out on his Orion series. It's a difficult story to describe, especially without spoiling it. It involves beings who are described as gods, and they can do supernatural things, which is my biggest problem with the novel. Since none of that is explained very well until the end, the story felt groundless and I just drifted along without any way to frame my opinions. If these really were gods, that felt odd because they have limitations and aren't all-powerful. The actual plot seems to be full of holes as a result, since gods should be able to deal with the obstacles. By the time I understood what was going on I liked the novel a little better, but it still feels awkward and doesn't sit well. I feel manipulated. The plot itself is redundant, but has its interesting moments. The basic story is a man named Orion who discovers he's a creation of a god who has programmed him to hunt down and kill a rival god. The story begins in the modern world, and then moves back through time into different points in history. Each time, Orion's task is the same: find his enemy and defeat him. Their battles are each different and the solutions interesting and not always what you'd expect, but it still felt too much like Sisyphus and his rock, an endless tale of death and rebirth, throughout which Orion must always defeat the same foe over and over and over. What's the point of all that? Though I liked many aspects of the story (there's a love-relationship that's also key and that was intriguing), the very nature of the repetitive story turned me off and I was bored and found reading tedious. I just wanted it to end and it goes on and on and on. There are more in the series, but I'm not certain I want to explore them. It's possible they'll have a different feel to me now that I understand what's going on, so I might give one a try, but right now I'm tired of the Orion universe and want to move on to something else.