Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: G.I. Joe The Rise of COBRA

Let's get this out of the way - this is one silly film. Silly in the way of '60s era films deconstructed by The Incredibles, played straight. It reminds me strongly of the story lines constructed by seven-year olds when they are playing on the floor with their toys -

"Bang! You're dead!"
"You missed so my guy is still alive!"
"OK, but then the whole place explodes! Whoosh!"

Now some people might say that this is appropriate for a GI Joe film, but with ticket prices what they are, I was hoping for something more. Alas.

Deep silliness. When the ebbil viwans (BWAHAHAHA!) blow up the ice pack over their undersea lair, the huge chunks of ice fall ponderously through the water to crush the base. Falls. Through. The. Water. ICE!!

I have to admit that by the time this happens in the film, you are ready for silliness. So much silliness has preceded it.

  • In the future, Jonathan Pryce will be President.
  • breast accentuating bodysuits
  • decolletage to China for the bad girl
  • kissing (in a film meant for small boys)
  • Dennis Quaid striking poses last seen in green plastic figures


  • Undersea battle as WWII dogfight
  • dialog delivery last seen during the silent film era
  • dodging rocket fire in slo mo
  • Mach 6 aircraft chases down missile over Moscow and then catches missile over Washington DC!
  • trashing Paris

Interestingly, the only intelligent line in the film is delivered by one of the villains, over the issue of human jealousy. Homer did a pretty good job with that, but in this film it just gets blown away. Wait for the DVD, and then don't buy it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

District 9 review

Peter Jackson employs his awesome CGI talent to bring us a wicked satire and cautionary, somber tale about race and discrimination, constructed a very new cast and director. However, the story is told in a mixture of cinema verite clips from the cameras ever present in our society and traditional storytelling that I found to be an uneasy blend.

Twenty years ago, a giant spaceship coasted to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. It did nothing for a month. and humans cut their way in after getting impatient. They found the prawns, slightly more than man sized aliens, mostly dazed, confused, sick, and malnourished. First contact immediately became a disaster relief effort. The million odd prawns were transfered down to a sprawling tent city that quickly became a slum, with an especially nasty Nigerian crime lord preying on the Prawns as they pick over mountains of garbage and squabble over cow heads and cans of cat food. Human/alien tensions are constant and high. Now the relief agency MNU wants to relocate the prawns of District 9 to a new area, further away from Jo'burg.

The public face of the relocation effort is chosen to be a hapless civil servant, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copely), a clueless bureaucrat whose main qualification seems to be his marriage to the daughter of the head of the agency. While he is casually racist and ignorant himself, he seems to be honestly unaware of the darker death squad/concentration camp guard mentality of the armed forces who regularly confront the prawns.

Things never go right as our antihero is filmed going door to door through the slum, knocking on the doors of shanties and trying to get uncomprehending aliens to sign away their civil rights in a forced relocation. For an American, a lot will resonate with our government's repeated treatment native Americans.

He finds gun caches, an illegal egg hatchery (which is casually incinerated), and stumbles finally into the shanty of the only intelligent prawns around, who have been trying to cobble together a repair for their ship for the last twenty years. Wikus confiscates their fuel source, in the process exposing himself to a powerful mutagen that begins to turn him into a prawn.

For Wikus, things go downhill from there. The last half of the film is a lot ordnance exploding, a lot of bodies and heads exploding, as Wikus tries to save himself and make the switch from antihero to hero, which will necessitate the choice to save someone besides himself. There is humor and it is black. The film owes much to our experience of Uprisings, Intifada, and Iraq on TV and in previous movies.

There are issues of course. Aficionados of the X Files will be muttering "Black oil" to themselves before their popcorn is cold. A major plot point is forcing Wikus to fire alien weapons that only respond to prawn DNA, why this never was done with prawns themselves is unexplained. Why the mothership is not full of human scientists is never explained.

As a morality tale, Peter Jackson' team is working the same ground as JK Rowling. His tale is a far more adult, violent, bloodier version, of course. Pureblood and mudblood, wizard and Muggle, human and Prawn, why can't we all just get along? See it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review - I Sell The Dead

My son Daniel and I went see this at the Quad Cinema on 13th St., the only place it was showing in NYC.

This film was a lot of fun!

A real horror/comedy with a good script and many funny moments. The movie is told as a series of flashbacks interspersed with present time dialogue. The dialogue is a bit slow, and had the filmmakers had more money, would have done better and quickened the pace as voice over narration. The take on many tropes of horror is quirky and funny. The ending ties up many story threads in a satisfying way. I was worried while watching the film that the anecdotes would be simply disconnected short stories, but the script brings most of them together by the end.

The main characters are interesting and sympathetic enough, and enough of the cast is still around by the end that a sequel would be doable. If you are in New York, go see it while you can, otherwise look for it on video. A worthwhile diversion.

It's a HYBRID!!!

How time flies. Just yesterday, it seems, I was seeing my son Nathan for the first time, a pudgy five month old straight off the plane from South Korea. Now he's starting college in September.

Since he has to drive to school, I'm giving him my old car, an Altima with over 100,000 miles on it. Still works fine, but definitely old. So I got a new car for myself.

Normally, I would never buy a new car, I'd buy a newer used car. I hate the car buying/selling experience. My father taught me to buy from a fleet owner - the price is fixed, the car is well maintained. No hassle. That's how I got my old car.

But I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint, and after reading The Weathermakers I was convinced that the best way to do that was to make my next car a hybrid. So I bought one.

Softening the blow is that the Altima hybrid still qualifies for a tax credit. It is not sold everywhere, only six states in the US. Since I wasn't trading in, I couldn't get the cash for clunkers incentive also, but that was ok. (I know, a big part of the carbon reduction is supposed to be taking the old car off the road. Ooops.)

Anyway, after 3 weeks of new car ownership, I have to say that I love this car. The hybrid engine is very powerful on acceleration, the regenerative system contributes to powerful braking also. My average MPG is now up to 32. The instantaneous MPG feedback is helping me to learn to drive "greener".

The nice folks at Hackensack Nissan sold me a great car. Thank you!