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Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Not Back To The Future Light
This movie should have been called Losers get Laid. The biggest problem with this movie is that none of the characters are physically or emotionally appealing. The second biggest problem is almost nothing happens until the last few minutes of the movie. I spent the whole movie thinking "Get on with it. Please, get to the point!" It is almost all filler.
This is not Back to the Future Light. You spend no time in the past or the future lovingly recreated.
The time machine is just too ridiculous for words, with spinning propellers and bursts of burning gas.
The movie has one clever plot twist, but that is not enough to carry a movie.
In a normal movie, everything is exaggerated to make it more exciting. In this movie they do the opposite, turn even a heist into something as mundane as going to the corner store for milk.
What on Earth? (2009)
This movie is frustrating. It treats all of the "experts" equally. There are dowsers, psychics, housewives, crop researchers Living in Los Angeles who have never seen a crop circle, sensitives, flakes of every description... They spout their woo about vibrations, emanations, psychic connections with aliens, military conspiracy theories...
It is done in the Erich von Däniken style: could this be a time warp to another dimension? Could crop circles cure AIDS? I tease, but they spin endless bullshit without any evidence.
They talk about there being "electric fields" inside the crop circles. But they never got anyone with any credentials to measure them or say what they meant. They could easily have meant "magnetic fields". Nobody in the whole movie seemed have more than a sixth grade science education.
Because they have so many flakes, and people with crop circle tourism businesses babbling on, you never know who is putting you on. You can't trust a thing anybody in the movie says. The movie intends to hard sell you on woo. It makes no attempt to give a balanced picture.
I consider crop circles a form of art. What puzzles me is the exquisite quality of most of them. Usually public graffiti is dreadful. I am also puzzled that nobody has managed to get photos of a partially complete crop circle. Surely automatic IR cameras should have caught someone. There are claims of various features of the crop circles being of superior quality to clearly man made ones. For me to believe that, I need someone with reliable credentials. Since we don't have that, I suspect that is just nonsense to reel in the tourists.
Unfortunately, there are not that many aerial photos of the crop circles. They are not nearly as impressive from the ground.
Jurassic Park Light
This is a very special effects driven series. You might call it Jurassic Park light. The special effects are excellent. They are not just pasted onto the background. They interact strongly with the live action. The spiders were not quite up to snuff, though.
The effect that puzzled me most was Rex, a baby winged dinosaur that liked to nestle next to the breast of a pretty young woman. It had all the cuteness and intelligence of a Disney creation, yet it seemed completely real. I really wanted to have one as a pet myself.
The science is pretty sloppy: 1. Micro-brained dinosaurs and insects seem to know how to operate a time wormhole.
2. Insects, far larger than ever lived on earth swarm, even though the oxygen today is far too low to support them and they would collapse under their own gravity.
3. Predator dinosaurs chasing prey, stop to give dominance displays of roaring. This is not how predators act.
4. Predator dinosaurs seem to be blind. You can escape them just by lying on the ground.
There was a scene with a young woman just in her underwear. In a series without any romantic content, it seemed overly exploitive and out of place.
It is somewhat corny and clichéd, but is a guilty pleasure. It is entertaining.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
I have always been a great Sherlock Holmes fan. I grew up on Basil Rathbone and later Jeremy Brett. This version is so original in so many ways. I think it is the best ever. First the sets. You get to walk down street after street in 19th century London, streets packed with people and horses. You get to wander about in building after building. You get to travel up and down the Thames river. You get to cross the bridges. It gives the feeling of being a tourist wandering at random in a time warp. It is such a feast for the eyes. There is no stinting ever. Holmes and Watson and young and combative. They complain about each other. Watson is not the traditional all-suffering. He is feisty. There is quite a bit of physical fighting, a bit too much for my taste. However, to make it interesting, they invented a new fighting style, vaguely reminiscent of kung foo, and a whole new way to photograph it. The movie plays with the supernatural. The villain appears to have supernatural powers. You see different degrees of skepticism. You find yourself wondering how they can possibly explain everything without the supernatural. It is all explained at the end, Agatha Christie style. The plot whips along at breakneck pace. It quite hard to keep up trying figure out who is doing what and why. The villain gets his just deserts with unusually poetic justice.
Coming Out Under Fire (1994)
Made Me Angry
The way I came at this documentary is a bit different. I grew up in Canada thinking I was the only gay person in the country. In 1969 I discovered everything I had been told about gays was a lie. I then wrote a book, A Guide For The Naive Homosexual, came out publicly, and then chaired G*A*T*E a gay rights group. I spent endless hours trying to persuade gays not to be afraid and to fight for their rights. I faced 3,200 death threats and 38,000 abusive phone from Christians. Within a couple of years, we had the first gay rights legislation.
When I watched this movie I was furious. How dare the US government throw people in jail with hard labour for 5 years during WWII just for a thought crime -- being gay even without any actual sex. That has to be unconstitutional! How dare the government renege on its pension promise and label gay people as mentally ill so they could never get hired. That is a terrible way to treat young men who risked their lives for the USA, same as anyone else. How dare Eisenhower in 1953 order that all gay federal employees be fired. How dare Senator John Warner (aka Mr. Liz Taylor) ask gay American service people to lie and pretend to be straight, and be kicked out if every the camouflage failed. Would he demand that of any other group, e.g. Christians? I was also furious with the victims. They caved and gave names. They did not launch lawsuits once they were free to. They acted ashamed, and hid what happened to them. What snivelling worms! Anyone who was treated this way should be joining forces to sue and get the pension restored, and the discharge annulled. They bought in totally that they were worthless and ineffectual.
I feel sick to watch black people do a minstrel show, or a Stepin Fetchit routine. They are taking on the mantle of the anti-black stereotype. The gays in the movies did the same thing, calling each other "darling" and "girls", embracing the limp-wristed, empty-headed, female-wannabe stereotype. I found it revolting, though I suppose that is the way it was. Being gay has nothing to do with being a transvestite or a transsexual. That is a straight person's stereotype used to justify gay bashing. They all avoided the civil rights issue, filling their heads with trivial entertainments instead.
The movie is pretty good in that the interviewed people were honest about what they did. They did not pretend they were heroic.
The movie is all in black and white, which makes recent and old footage blend. I wish they had date subtitles to help keep track. The interviewees seem too young for WWII vets. Maybe the interviews were done long ago.
Attenborough for Children
I was expecting this film to have a creationist slant, but it does not. It is a bit like David Attenborough for children. It has first class nature photography, but it is aimed at children with a dumbed-down narration by Oprah Winfrey and somewhat Disneyfied music. It sometimes has an odd prudishness about fish reproduction.
The creatures chosen are each bizarre and entertaining but ones I have seen before.
Some of the principles of evolution are presented, but in a subtle way. The focus is on strange animal behaviour, not how it could have evolved. I learned something new, that the schooling behaviour of anchovies is indeed very effective against predators.
It is not totally prettified. It shows flamingo chicks that died after they fell out of the nest.
I think the insect segment was most interesting with the most material I had not seen before. The jousting tournament with the surprise ending really tickled me.
There are bits of Disneyesque anthropomorphising, for example talking of insects "fighting for their dignity".
This is first rate family entertainment. I am ready to see it again already.
a visual treat
Samsara is a hard film to explain. The closest film to it is Manufactured Landscapes. Samasara was filmed in 70 mm. It is meant for the big screen. It just shows you strange things, without a hint of judgement. It is so visually overwhelming and varied, you do not get bored.
It was filmed all over the world showing dramatic landscapes, architecture or human activity.
It has a sound track, but no dialogue or narration. You are not even told where on earth you are. You have to figure out everything for yourself. It raises so many questions and gives you no way to answer them.
It has a few clichés.
1. showing a scene over a day in stop motion so the shadows race across the ground.
2. showing people just quietly staring at the camera doing nothing. You get to study them.
3. alternately showing opulence and desolation.
What is the point of this movie? Showing you what a mind-blowing place our planet is.
Falling Angels (2003)
Not a comedy
This is billed as a comedy, but it is not. It is a story of a highly dysfunctional family.
The house is decorated in the most ugly 1960s style you could conceive. The furnishings came from a thrift store.
The father is a bully, though he stops just short of beating his family. He threatens them with guns. He is a bit like the Great Santini, pushing his family around as if he were a drill Sargent. He later becomes an alcoholic.
Mom is an alcoholic, barely conscious.
The three daughters are fat, and not very bright. One smokes non-stop. One gets pregnant by a gross older man. They are selfish and unkind to each other.
Only one character is in the least sympathetic, the fattest daughter, a lesbian, with a flair for carpentry.
There are a couple of awkward sex scenes which are funny in their dreadfulness.
The movie opens with mom in a casket. The film winds back in time to explore how that came to be.
It is a bitter film, not a funny one.
Screensaver to Accompany Philip Glass Composition
The movie consists of random video -- very long boring, mostly slow motion, shots of people, buildings, waves, random numbers, maps, equations, all completely without meaning or significance. Then various visual filters and distortion effects are applied. The result might be a training demo video for the features of some video editor. The DVD might best be enjoyed by turning off the video and just letting the Glass minimalism wash over you.
Why did they make this movie? Because the technology make it easy to do. Was someone just being too arty and obscure? Perhaps the makers felt no need to tell any sort of story, just to show a series of images that were supposed to be interesting in themselves, but were not. Visual distortion effects are not very interesting in themselves any more. This movie would have made more sense if it came out in 1968 along with 2001.
Get Low (2009)
Felix attends his own funeral
Get Low I found disappointing. It has expensive cast, Robert Duval, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek. Small town 1920s is lovingly reproduced. The basic plot is a taciturn, rude, gun-toting, bullying, stereotype old codger, Felix Bush wants to have a funeral party while he is still alive. Murray does a good job with the down at the heels funeral director. He is no hero, but he has his dignity. This simple plot drags on and on and on. All the time, town's people make references to Felix's unspeakably notorious past, but no one ever reveals any details. It gets to be really irritating and artificial. At the funeral party, with plenty of extras in costumes and cars, Felix reveals his crime, which it turns out was not that bad after all. What almost made be throw up was when Felix died for real, his girl friend of the deep past came to visit him as a ghost to guide him to heaven. Gag me with a spoon! How dare they throw in such a trite, cheesy Christian infomercial! (I expected a subtitle -- brought to you by Peter Popoff faith healers).