Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Future's So Dim, Forget About Wearing Shades

Futureworld (1976)


I think I’ve found the dullest film in the world. It appears that someone simply took a documentary of Peter Fonda walking around various underground power plants (Wow, aren't these futuristic? Well, no.) and spliced that footage together with Blythe Danner to make Futureworld, a sequel of sorts to the far more fun and interesting Westworld (with Michael Crichton nowhere to be found).

Like Westworld, Futureworld takes place in the robot-filled “Disneyland for rich adults who want to bang/kill life-size human sex toys” called Delos, which is pronounced at least 12 different ways, included “De-loss,” “De-lows,” “Day-loss,” and “Woody.” (This reminded me of the Star Trek episode with Frank Gorshin as the half black/half white alien from the planet Charon, pronounced, “Cher-on,” Shu-ron,” and “Lois”.)

Peter Fonda stars as ace apparently drugged-out reporter Chuck. He appears to be on some serious downers as he has pretty much only one expression on his face throughout the whole movie. I think he thought he was going to be working with Yul Brynner the whole time, but that immediately fell through and Fonda became pissed the rest of the production. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Blythe Danner (yeah, Gwyneth Paltrow’s moms) is pretty and all, but she is a pretty terrible actress too; any number of other 1970s era actresses could have played her air-headed anchor woman character.

The movie is basically them stumbling around Delos for nearly two hours, like a couple of drunk college kids looking for their next kegger. Fonda doesn’t even know what he’s looking for, he just knows some dude who claimed to work for Delos was killed and his last words were, what else, “Delos.”

When our intrepid journos arrive at the resort, it looks like nothing so much as Logan’s Run: Part II, meaning it looks like the mall. There’s even a model city under plastic bubbles, like Logan’s Run. Come to think of it, Logan’s Run also had scenes set in underground power plants. Holy crap, this is almost a sequel-remake of Logan’s Run! Michael York would have been a much better choice to play Chuck the newshound, as he has more than one expression.

This is a very stupid movie, produced by the fine folks at cheapie-makers American International Pictures (MGM had made Westworld). Fonda and Danner do make it to Futureworld at one point; they do so by putting on spacesuits that look like giant quilted Snuggies. But unlike the first film, where much of the action centered on Westworld (with the two leads staying there as cowboys), as well as having Brynner's cowboy as a focus, Futureworld is not important to the story. In fact, they spend more time in Undergroundpowerplantworld than anywhere else. That's what they should have called the movie.

They showed some clips from Westworld, which must have been the most expensive single item of the production. Instead of dealing with the robots of Futureworld, Westworld, or any of the other worlds, the plot involves - SPOILERS AHEAD - making replicants of world leaders – “czars, generals, politicians and such” – that are controlled by the board of Delos to keep us from killing each other, blah, blah, blah.They would have been better served to simply make an original movie about replacing the world leaders with clone/replicant duplicates than to have all the Delos/Westworld baggage about the rampaging murderous robots from the first film. That is where the filmmakers went totally worng.

Model Mash Ups

We're big fans of Star Trek and Star Wars around the space station.

One thing we've always wondered about was what would the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek look like if it was detailed like one of the models - say, the Millennium Falcon - in Star Wars.

After about a half hour of doodling, here's what we came up with:

USS Enterprise is Copyright 2010 and a Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whom Demi-gods Destroy

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Minor Spoilers

Greek mythology - with its lusty tales of warring gods, goddesses and demi-gods, the visions of oracles and undertaking of fantastic quests - has fired mankind’s imagination for over 2,500 years.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief would single-handedly extinguish that fire.

Based upon a series of books for ‘tween readers by Rick Riordan and adapted to the big screen by writers Craig Titley and Joe Stillman, the movie plays like a mega-budget episode of Wizards of Waverly Place or, worse, one of those SyFy channel Asylum-produced flicks they run late on Saturday nights.

Logan Lerman is our hero, Percy Jackson, seemingly ordinary high school teen, except that he can hold his breath for, like, 10 minutes while sitting at bottom of the school pool (and he doesn’t find this the least bit odd?). Percy is in reality a demi-god, the son of the god Poseidon (which explains the Aquaman riff) and a human woman. Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen and for reasons the movie never really makes clear, he believes Poseidon’s son Perce took it. If it’s not returned, Zeus will get very angry. And you wouldn’t like the king of the Greek gods when he’s angry.

Percy undertakes his beyond boring cross country quest to save his moms from Hades in the Underworld and recover the lightning bolt with the aid of fellow demi-god Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), whose absentee mother is the goddess Athena, and the movie’s Jar Jar Binks wannabe, Grover the Satyr (played by Tropic Thunder’s Brandon T. Jackson - that’s right Alpa Chino sports goat legs). Grover gets to utter such memorable, original and mythological lines as, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Any movie featuring magic really needs to set some rules down, which Percy Jackson does not do. When Percy is in Camp Half-Blood, the training facility for demi-gods, he gets to play a game of Capture the Flag with real swords, the kind that can cut and slash. Being a normal American teen, Percy has never wielded a sword before except maybe in a Wii game, so when he gets into a clash of the teen titans with Annabeth, she hacks him up good. But, this being more a Canadian lake spa retreat than a more appropriate Greek hills setting, Percy stumbles over to a quaint little stream which not only heals his wounds BUT MAKES HIM INTO A MASTER SWORDSMAN. Come. the fuck. on. I can see water healing Percy, and I can even seem him “bending” (sorry Last Airbender fans) the agua, but the water magically making him LEARN swordsmanship? No fucking way. If just dipping a pinky into the water does all that for him, WHY does he need to go to camp to learn how to do anything? If it could impart that kind of knowledge and wisdom, then why not drink it, bath in it, gargle with it, learn who stole the lightning, and just magically make your mom appear, etc. (The filmmakers apparently didn’t read every page of their own script or they'd have pondered that question. )

Lerman is terrible, with a face that seems to be frozen from too many Botox shots. His mother is (as far as he knows) killed before his eyes while in the clutches of a minotaur (which as far as he know is a giant mythological creature)AND HE BARELY REGISTERS ANY EMOTION. Not surprise, nor anger, not wonder or fear. Nothing at all. Look out Sam Worthington, you’ve got some competition in the Bland Face Acting Department.

Daddario is just as bad, with giant wide blue eyes that rarely blink. She’s pretty, but there is no there there. Jackson is a horny goatboy; the less said about him the better. Uma Thurman resurrects her Poison Ivy routine from Batman and Robin for her turn as Medusa, she who needs some hair straightening product pronto (someone please call Chris Rock).

Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd, two British actors, play Mighty Zeus and Poseidon, respectively (Bean is just a little young to play the almighty god-father). In the original Clash of the Titans, Zeus was assayed by Sir Laurence Olivier, and in the recent remake, Liam Neeson put on the godly backlighting. Which begs the questions: why are Greek gods always played by British actors (Melina Kanakaredes from CSI: NY is Greek and plays Athena, but she even puts on a British accent)?

The books feature a 12 year old Percy Jackson and are aimed at that ‘tween audience, but something was seriously lost in the translation when they made the hero a 16 year old kid. The Harry Potter stories start with Harry as an 11 year old, but as he matures, so do the stories and the stakes. You can’t simply take a story with a 12 year old hero written for 12 year olds and make him 16 years old without updating the story, which they did not do here.

It’s a shame that director Chris Columbus is so ham-handed here. There is no trace of the grace, charm, and fun he brought to the first two Harry Potter films. Perhaps that is also an indication that J.K. Rowling told a much more interesting tale, but also that Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves did a masterful job adapting those stories compared to this movie's screenwriters. Food for thought, along with the lotus leaves and the olive oil.

Come for the review, stay for the snark: Bonus Star Trek Greek-themed fumetti! Pass the ouzo!

Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Someone Needs A Tune Up

Star Trek: TNG is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Time Traveling Hot Tub-Thumpers Trip Up

Hot Tub Time Machine


What happens when three pseudo-BFFs get sent back in time to 1986 to – well - do something (it’s really not too clear)? You get the beyond lame Hot Tub Time Machine, which could easily be called Back to Bill & Ted’s Excellent (But Not in This Case) Future Adventure for how transparently it rips off Back to the Future and Bill & Ted.

The movie stars John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson as late 30-somethings totally unhappy with their adult lives, and Clark Duke as Cusack’s aimless basement-dwelling, Second Life-playing 20-something nephew. This Less-than-Fantastic Four gets sent back in time to a Colorado ski lodge for reasons the script by Josh Heald, Jared Paul and Sean Anders doesn’t make clear. They are all losers in the present day, so you think they’re magically transported back to 1986 to relive a pivotal weekend that set the tone for their adult lives, but that’s really not the case. Cusack broke up with a girlfriend in that time (in the future, his wife has just left him), Corddry is a loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed loser who got beat up that weekend (in the future, he’s a loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed loser who put himself in the hospital at the start of the story) and Robinson wussed out on an open mic night with his band (as a grown-ass man, he works at a dog grooming salon).

When they realize when they are they, at first, party it up, but are still mindful of the “butterfly effect” which might change their future if they trample over some seemingly trivial item, but soon they start to deviate from the details of that night, starting with Cusack whose girlfriend changes history and breaks up with him instead of him dumping her, and he quickly meets a magazine journalist (played by the always great and lovely Lizzy Caplan) in town to cover the band Poison that’s playing the ski lodge’s festival. The events they relive just aren’t major enough to justify where their adult lives end up, so the movie drops the ball there. In Back to the Future Marty's entire existence hinged on getting his parents together at the dance (and he had SEVERAL obstacles to overcome to ensure that outcome). The equivalent here for Cusack's Adam is after getting dumped by his pretty but vapid girlfriend he gets to hang out a little with Caplan and his life will automatically change for the better?

Here’s the major problem with this movie (aside from the fact it’s not that funny - there's only sporadic laughs throughout): I didn’t care about these guys. None of them is very likable. They also never act like true friends, until, of course, the end of the movie demands it. Cusack looked tired and confused through the entire movie (he was great in Grosse Point Blank, another movie featuring some serious 80s music, which was co-written by, among others, Steve Pink, who directed this film). Rob Corddry is NOT funny. Let me say that again, casting directors and filmmakers: ROB CORDDRY IS NOT FUNNY. He always comes across as an abrasive asshole, and that’s the limits of his acting ability. If he was a FUNNY abrasive asshole I might be able to tolerate him, but he is not (John Belushi in Animal House was a foul-mouthed, brain-addled alcoholic and Peeping Tom, but he was also charming and very funny). Craig Robinson is terrific…in The Office where he has a great character to play, but not here, where it seems like he’s just ad-libbing most of the time.

The movie really didn’t make use of its 1986 setting, which was mostly brought to life by the bright, multi-colored ski jackets of the resort goers. The story made no comment about those times versus now – not the music, the attitudes, the mores, nothing. It easily could have been set at their college graduation or ten years ago or last week.

The movie ends in a much undeserved way*, by basically forgetting everything that came before it and giving the guys something they simply did not deserve. If I had a hot tub time machine I’d go back in time and prevent them from making this pointless and not very funny movie.

(*SPOILER: Here's the ending - leave now - Corddry stays in the past and uses his knowledge of the future to set himself up as a multi-millionaire, which somehow gives him the solid family life he never had, and also all his friends are now super-successful. What a big fat cheat.)

Star Trek images (C) 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.