Category Archives: Movies

You call him Doctah Jones


All movie series’ have their strong episodes and their weak ones. Many times the first one is much better than the sequels (The Matrix, Back to the Future, Pirates of the Carribbean, Men In Black, Jurassic Park) but not always. Star Wars was great, but The Empire Strikes Back was better, and I thought Return of the King was the best of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Star Trek movies have the “every other one is great” reputation, and it’s been surprisingly accurate so far (though I wasn’t a huge fan of IV – The Voyage Home). I thought all of the Harry Potter movies were really good, but some are still better than others.

There are lots of series where there is a huge gap between the quality of the good ones and the bad ones (i.e. make a very good movie and then make “whatever 2″ which sucks – Highlander comes to mind), but normally when there has been enough interest to make three or more movies, even the bad movies in the series aren’t terrible. The odd-numbered Star Trek movies weren’t as good as the even numbered ones, but they were still watchable. The Matrix, Pirates, and Men in Black sequels weren’t as good as the first, but still not bad. But the Indiana Jones series is unique among movie series because it has more than one movie that’s really good (Raiders, Last Crusade) and yet still has the huge gap in quality between the good ones and the bad ones (Temple of Doom, Crystal Skull). The good ones are really really good, while the bad ones are terrible.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • OK, the ancient Aztecs build a crazy cave with huge stone doors and stuff to protect this gold idol thing. Not totally out of the realm of possibility. But how did they build a mechanical light sensor? And what happens when it’s cloudy?
  • Anyone who can have that many tarantulas on his back and casually brush them off is, well, not me.
  • Indy jumps in his getaway plane and they fly off. Then he notices Reggie, the pilot’s pet snake. Obviously Indy knew nothing about Reggie, so he didn’t fly down to Peru in that plane. How did Indy get there and how did Reggie and the plane get there? Did Indy really hire an American to fly down to Peru separately to wait for him?
  • When we first see Marion, she’s in a drinking competition with someone in her bar. (To this day, I honestly don’t know if her competitor is a man or a woman.) She takes a shot and almost passes out, but then recovers and finishes the shot. When her competitor passes out, Marion starts cleaning up and is completely sober.
  • The DVD box set we have (of the first three movies) call this “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Great Line: “It’s not the years sweetheart, it’s the mileage.” Sums up Indiana Jones perfectly.
Creepy Scene: I first saw this movie when I was 12, and there are three scenes that I remember creeping me out: the famous face-melting scene at the end (which did more than just creep me out – it scared the crap out of me), the guy getting chopped up by the propeller, and the one shot of a big snake coming out of a skull’s mouth.
Overall: 5/5. Simply one of the best action-adventure movies ever.

Temple of Doom

  • For years, I’ve thought that the only reason Kate Capshaw was in this film was because she was married to Steven Spielberg. But I was wrong – they met on this movie and didn’t get married until later. This is actually worse than I thought, because it means that the casting people put her in the movie on purpose. They actually cast her based on her acting talent and not on nepotism, which calls into question their ability to judge talent. I didn’t think she was great acting-wise, and I hated the character. She just screamed and whined far too much.
  • Short Round was irritating and not funny in the slightest – the Jar Jar Binks of this series. There were parts where I wanted Indy to shoot him and Willie and let the bad guys live.
  • There was one scene where an elephant keeps putting his trunk on Willie’s shoulder and she keeps pushing it off. Then a huge snake slithers onto her shoulder and she grabs it and throws it away, the joke being that she thought it was the elephant again and didn’t know it was a snake. But this makes no sense – if she thought it was the elephant’s trunk, why would she grab it and throw it forward? Was she expecting to throw the entire elephant, or rip its trunk off?
  • Willie doesn’t want the live snakes for dinner, so she asks for “something simple, like soup?” Who asks for soup? Nobody, it’s a contrived plot device so they can give her eyeball soup.
  • They lower a metal cage with a person in it into molten lava and the person is burned away entirely, but the cage is neither damaged nor even hot when they pull it back up. What the heck is the cage made of?
  • Even in this terrible movie, Harrison Ford is really good. The bit in the room with the spiky ceiling where he mashes his face into the little window and enunciates “WE ARE GOING TO DIE” was very funny.

Great Line: When about to escape the clutches of the bad guy in a plane at the beginning, Indy says “Nice try, Lao Che!” right before closing the plane door. We then see that the door says “Lao Che Airways” on it.
Creepy Scene: Willie sticks her hand in a hole filled with every kind of bug imaginable. Bad dude sticks his hand inside the guy’s chest and pulls his heart out. Also, “Ah, dessert. Chilled monkey brains.”
Overall: 2/5. The story was lame, and all the characters except Indy were weak.

Last Crusade

  • As my wife and I say every time we see the beginning of this movie: River Phoenix. (Sigh) Such a waste.
  • Sean Connery was perfectly cast and he and Harrison Ford pulled off some great lines together. “I didn’t know you could fly a plane!” “Fly, yes. Land, no.” The bit where Indy asks him how he knew Elsa was a Nazi and he says “She talks in her sleep” and they look back and forth at each other is brilliant.
  • So the third brother has been living in this cave in Egypt for hundreds of years, drinking from the Holy Grail to keep himself alive that long. But by this time, he’s very frail. Has he stopped drinking from the Grail? Or do you still age and decline in health but never die? What kind of shape would he have been in if nobody had found the cave for another five hundred years? And never being able to leave the cave at all? Who would want to be immortal with those conditions?
  • I always thought that the actor that played Donovan was just not very good; some of his lines sounded really fake. While researching this article, I found out that he is an English actor doing an American accent. And not very well. He should talk to the House guy, or Apollo from Battlestar Galactica.
  • Speaking of fake accents, Indy’s fake Scottish accent at the castle in Germany is terrible. He sounds as Scottish as Dick Van Dyck does English. This may have been intentional.
  • Every time Sallah sees Indy, he tips his hat. Even when riding on a horse next to the tank trying to save his life.

Great Line: “He chose… poorly.”
Creepy Scene: Donovan’s death was a bit creepy, but not as bad as the other movies.
Overall: 4.5/5. Donovan should have been re-cast, but the rest of the film was great. I was glad that John Rhys-Davies returned as Sallah – he’s a great character.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

  • Aliens? Really?
  • When they are in the storage warehouse looking for the ultra-magnetic thing, Indy drops little metal balls on the ground and they roll toward the magnetic thing. Later on, you notice the lights above all shifting towards it. Why haven’t the lights been shifting towards this thing for however long it’s been there? If they have, then every hanging light in the place should point directly at it so there’s no need for the metal balls at all. And if it’s that powerful, the bullets that he pulled the metal balls from should just roll towards it – no need to break them open. Plus once they recover the skull and carry it all over South America, it doesn’t seem to be magnetic anymore.
  • Indiana Jones says “nuclear” as “nucular”.
  • The whole “surviving a nuclear blast in a fridge” scene is silly and unnecessary.
  • The Australian dude that was Indy’s friend, then was working with the Russians, then said he was a double-agent, then was a bad guy again didn’t seem to be necessary either.
  • What  mother would sit back and watch her teenage son swordfight with a Russian spy while standing on a moving jeep?
  • A Peruvian native is about to shoot a blow dart at Mutt when Indy jumps in front of him and blows in the pipe the other way. Wouldn’t the guy get hit in the throat with the back of the dart and thus not be poisoned? It would still hurt, and might still kill him, but he wouldn’t just immediately die.

Great Line: No great line for this one – I haven’t seen the movie often enough to remember any.
Creepy Scene: Ants.
Overall: 3/5. Better than Temple of Doom, but not by much. All of the Indy stories strain credulity and there’s a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, and I’m OK with that. This one, however, went way overboard – to the extent that “nuking the fridge” is a thing now, similar to “jumping the shark”. I like Shia Labeouf, but I didn’t think Cate Blanchett or Karen Allen were all that great.

 

And now they’ve announced Indiana Jones 5. I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to it or not; seems like it will either be fantastic or terrible. Hopefully it follows the “odd-numbered Indy movies are great” rule.

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Movie review: Crooked Arrows


There are lots of sports movies out there, and some are iconic for a particular sport: hockey has Slap Shot; baseball has Major League,The Natural or Field of Dreams; football has Any Given Sunday, Friday Night Lights, and Rudy; boxing has a ton including Raging Bull and the Rocky series; basketball has Hoosiers; and the list goes on. But lacrosse didn’t really have anything; there hasn’t really been a movie that included lacrosse as an integral part of the film. Any mention of lacrosse in movies such as American Pie was generally tangential, and usually involved US prep schools. And there has certainly been no film that looks at lacrosse from a Native American point of view. Until now.Crooked Arrows

The plot of Crooked Arrows isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It follows a relatively tried-and-true formula that has worked in a number of other sports movies, that of the underperforming team that gets a new coach / owner / manager who turns things around and makes them champions. Think Major League with middies. The difference here is that at the beginning, the coach doesn’t particularly want to be there either – so rather than Major League, perhaps A League of their Own might be a more apt comparison. Gradually the players start to adapt to their new playing style and gain confidence in their coach and themselves, and the coach realizes that he needs the team as much as the team needs him.

The coach in this case is Joe Logan (played by Brandon Routh, who has distant Native background), a half-Native whose father is on the tribal council. Logan is a former lacrosse star who is coerced by his father into finding his spirit by returning to his roots and coaching the reservation’s hapless lacrosse team. As you would expect, he encounters resistance and is pessimistic about his chances of success but gradually wins the team over. After that, it’s fairly predictable: most of what you might foresee happening does happen, and nothing really happens that you don’t see coming.

That said, I didn’t care how predictable it was. Even if you know the destination, how you get there can be entertaining and fun. There were a number of funny lines, particularly the stuffy rich mom of one of the prep school players who asked “when did the Indians start playing lacrosse anyway?” or the double-entendre “wisdom” of the coach – “if you don’t go into the forest, you don’t have any balls”. The characters you’re supposed to dislike (opposing team’s coach and players, greedy developer) are sufficiently slimy, and you do like the characters you’re supposed to like (coach’s sister and father, love interest, team benchwarmer). The scenes of lacrosse practices and games are exciting, and though they don’t go over the game in much detail (this is a film about the team and the community, not so much about the game itself), you do get a pretty good idea of how fast and exciting lacrosse can be. You find yourself cheering for the Crooked Arrows and are genuinely happy when they are successful.

When I saw the film, I was curious how accurately the Native issues in the film were portrayed. I have no Native blood in me, and I’m not even sure if I’ve ever set foot on a Native reserve, so I can’t personally speak to that. But I did talk to someone who can, and was assured that the movie was accurate and realistic. The reservation in the film looks like any small town in rural America, so anyone looking for fields of tepees and wigwams may be disappointed, as they would be on a real reservation. But the fact that Natives are featured so prominently in a so-called “Hollywood” film is somewhat unusual in itself. Another recent movie that includes Native Americans in a prominent role is the popular Twilight series, and indeed the actor that plays Joe Logan’s father in Crooked Arrows also plays Jacob Black’s father in Twilight. I did notice that the Native characters in this film seemed a lot more upbeat and generally happy than the grumpy werewolves in Twilight, though I suppose if there were vampires living nearby I might be grumpy too.

One thing I really liked was the juxtaposition of the scenes of Native warriors from 800 years ago playing lacrosse with scenes of the Crooked Arrows team playing now. This was a very effective way to remind the viewer about the history involved with the game and the fact that to the Native community, lacrosse is not just a fun game or a sport that they invented, but an integral and important part of their way of life, and has been for hundreds of years.

Those in the lacrosse community have known this movie was coming for a while now, and the @crookedarrows twitter account was quite active in keeping followers informed on the progress of writing, casting, filming, post-production, and when and where the movie was playing. The filmmakers even managed to squeeze in a few cameos including some of the biggest names in lacrosse: Zack Greer, Brodie Merrill, Paul Rabil, and Gary Gait (though Gait wasn’t mentioned by name as the others were).

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed Crooked Arrows, as did my sons (12 and 10). Lacrosse fans will enjoy the action, but you don’t have to be a lacrosse fan to enjoy the movie.

Mini movie reviews


We saw a few movies over the past week or two; here are some mini-reviews of each. Sorry, no haikus.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Pros:

  • Special effects were excellent, but that’s becoming less of a draw, since lots of movies have effects that are just as good
  • Leonard Nimoy saying “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” was cool. A bit of a Star Trek II homage for those of us old enough to get it.
  • John Malkovich is always good

Cons:

  • The movie was far too long. The robot fight scenes over the last hour or so were long and drawn out and could easily have been cut down. It was amazing that with so much stuff happening on the screen, I was still bored.
  • I find it odd that a movie that stems from a toy (I laughed at the “in association with Hasbro” during the credits) has so much violence, bad language, and even sexual content that I won’t let my kids watch it.
  • There were lots of scenes of robots fighting and transforming all at the same time. I found it overwhelming – I couldn’t tell what was happening half the time.
  • Several blatantly cheesy 3D effects. If you want to see a movie that gets 3D right, see Avatar.
  • I found it hard to tell the bad robots from the good robots, other than Optimus and Bumblebee. And the two little annoying and pointless robots, Comic and Relief.
  • The first Transformers movie was entertaining and while the plot wasn’t brilliant, it was OK. I don’t really remember the second movie. This one was somewhat entertaining at times but the plot was just dumb. Sentinal even says at one point “I created this technology that defies the laws of physics” so they didn’t have to explain anything.
  • WARNING: spoilers below
  • Patrick Dempsey as the bad guy was not believable. At the beginning I could kind of understand it, but once it became obvious that the Decepticons were planning on enslaving the entire human race, why was he still trying to help them? It’s not like they said they’d spare him or he had any reason to believe they might.
  • Similarly, Sentinal’s whole “the only way to save our planet is to join with the Decepticons” thing was not believable either.
  • Optimus’s execution of Sentinal (shooting him in the back of the head) was out of character.

 

Spy Kids: All The Time In The World

Pros:

  • Jessica Alba! Quite possibly the most beautiful actress in Hollywood today. Can she actually act? Who cares?

Cons:

  • I fully agree with the “family is the most important thing” theme, but they pushed it too hard and it ended up being corny.
  • The time-travel stuff. I know that time travel is (very likely) impossible, but some movies that involve time travel at least try to make some sense of the whole paradox thing. Back to the Future did a great job, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure did some neat stuff with it as well. This one didn’t even try, and as a result it made no sense.
  • Too many poop jokes. Then again, it’s possible that “males in their early 40’s” is not the target demographic for this movie.
  • The movie was presented in “Aroma-vision”. When we got our tickets, we were given a card with 8 scratch-and-sniff circles on it, and when a number showed up on the screen, we were supposed to scratch the corresponding number on the card and be surrounded with the aroma of whatever was happening on the screen. This worked perfectly, assuming the aroma for each of the numbers was supposed to be “cardboard”.
  • The kids who starred in the original Spy Kids movies haven’t had many significant acting roles since. Their performances in this movie help to explain why.

 

Knight And Day

Pros:

  • Cameron Diaz in a bikini! She’s no Jessica Alba, but still, wow.
  • Sure he’s a wacko, but I really like Tom Cruise.
  • Lots of chemistry between Diaz and Cruise

Cons:

  • During the movie, I couldn’t help wondering about the movie’s budget for Tom Cruise’s platform shoes.
  • The idea of a battery that never runs out of power is not possible. It sounded like the writers needed some small yet extremely valuable thing for the bad guys to chase after, and precious gems have been done to death, so they picked this without giving it much thought.

 

The Adjustment Bureau

Pros:

  • I really enjoyed this movie. The concept was interesting and made you think – sort of Matrix-y that way.
  • Matt Damon. I think I’ve enjoyed every movie I’ve seen him in.
  • In a way, I wanted them to explain more about the Bureau and the Chairman and so on, but I’m sort of glad they didn’t. The fact that they didn’t is what makes you think.

Cons:

  • Can’t say I’m a fan of Emily Blunt. She was OK, but she just doesn’t do it for me.  I’m not talking looks here, I just didn’t connect with her character.

The Lord of the Rings / There’s so much to talk about / Two haikus for each


I had enough fun writing the haikus for the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies that I decided to keep going. Presenting: The Lord of the Rings.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Aragorn, Gimli 
Legolas and the hobbits
Galdalf, Boromir

The fellowship is
taking the Ring to Mordor 
Chuck it in the fire 

The Two Towers

Gollum is creepy 
He wants his precious back from
Nasty hobbitses

Battle at Helm’s Deep
Elves and Men fight together
Against Uruk-hai

The Return of the King

Despite Denethor,
Minas Tirith calls for help
Rohan will answer

Gollum and the Ring
Both are destroyed in Mount Doom
Two birds with one stone

More movie haikus / The Harry Potter series / But what will be next?


Continuing on from my recent Star Wars haiku posting, here are some for the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with two different ones for the first movie. Not sure what to do next – Lord of the Rings? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? James Bond? No, that would take too long and most of the Bond movies blur together for me anyway. Toy Story? Shrek? Spy Kids? Ooooh, I know – High School Musical!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

He’s the boy who lived 
And a thumpin’ good wizard 
Wow, he can fly too

or

Fluffy guards the Stone 
You-know-who wants to steal it
We don’t say his name

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Is Harry the heir? 
They both can speak parseltongue 
That’s a big-ass snake

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A powerful spell 
“Expecto Patronum” works
If you think happy 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry’s name comes out 
Cedric’s, Fleur’s, and Krum’s do too 
They all fight dragons 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Occlumency fails
Voldemort plants a vision
Sirius is toast

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Thanks to his textbook 
Harry wins some liquid luck 
Who’s the half-blood prince? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The final battle 
Voldemort and Harry fight 
One of them will die 

Movie review: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage


I am a huge Rush fan, and have been since the early ’80s. I had heard some of their songs on the radio, but my real introduction was the first side of Moving Pictures, which someone copied onto a tape for me. Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, and Limelight. Four unbelievably fantastic songs, which I played over and over again. Imagine my surprise when, at least a year or two later, I realized that there were more songs on that album! And they were really good too! I eventually got most of their older albums as well, and I remember Signals being one of the most popular albums when I was in grade nine. Hearing the opening of New World Man still reminds me of early high school. I started to lose interest with the Grace Under Pressure album, and wasn’t too thrilled with the next couple of albums. It wasn’t so much that they started using more keyboards (Signals had lots of keyboards and I love that album), for me it was more that the keyboards seemed to replace the guitar rather than complementing it. I didn’t even buy Hold Your Fire (or Test for Echo) for many years, which meant that Rush had been removed from my list of auto-purchase bands – when a new album was released by bands on this list, I would immediately go and buy it, even if I hadn’t heard anything from it. Dream Theater has been on this list for years, and Linkin Park was, up until the most recent album A Thousand Suns, and now I’m not so sure about the next one. But I digress. Presto was pretty good, and rekindled my interest in the band. For Christmas, Gail bought me the DVD of the new movie Beyond The Lighted Stage, a documentary about the history of Rush. I have heard (on the radio and twitter) that even people who aren’t Rush fans are really liking this film, so I figured I would love it, since I am a Rush fan. I wasn’t disappointed.

There was lot more footage and pictures from the very early years of the band than I would have expected, including video of early concerts at local high schools and such. There was even video of a teenage Alex Lifeson sitting at the dinner table at his house, arguing about why he should be going to school when music is what he really wanted to do. Why someone in his family was recording that conversation, I have no idea. I found it funny that to this day, Geddy and Alex still refer to Neil Peart (who joined Rush in 1974) as “the new guy” because he wasn’t there for the beginning of the band and didn’t appear on their first album. There was a fair bit of discussion on each album up to and including Signals. After that, they mentioned that Rush entered a period where they used lots of synths which nobody but Geddy seemed excited about, including many fans. They squashed the Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, and Presto albums into fairly one short segment, and I don’t think they even mentioned the names Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, or Presto. Roll The Bones and Counterparts were touched on briefly and Test For Echo was almost ignored before a section focussed on Neil Peart and the tragedies that befell him in 1997 and 1998.

Within a year of each other, Peart’s daughter and wife both passed away, and Peart took several years off from the band to ride his motorcycle around North and Central America. (He wrote a book about this trip called “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” which is now on my must-read list.) After returning, he had doubts as to whether he would be able to continue in Rush because he’d been away from the drum kit for so long. It seems amazing that someone as talented as Peart (widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers there is) could have such doubts about his own ability. A couple of people in the film described Peart as a perfectionist, so he’d likely be unhappy performing at 80% of what he used to be able to do – even though 80% of Neil Peart is still better than a large percentage of other drummers. They also talked about how private a man Peart is, and how he really doesn’t like meeting with fans who gush or fawn over him, and is uncomfortable with his fame (for reference, see the lyrics of the aforementioned “Limelight”). Neil, if you happen to read this, just know that I think you are an extremely talented drummer and lyricist and your music has meant a lot to me over the last thirty years. And I promise that if I happen to see you at a restaurant or store or something, I will leave you the hell alone.

Funniest scene: Alex and Geddy are sitting in a diner (the scene looks pretty recent, i.e. 2005-2010 time frame), and the waitress recognizes Geddy. She said that her son or nephew or something is a big fan, and asks if he can give her an autograph. He says sure, and she basically elbows Alex (who she obviously does not recognize) out of the way to give Geddy something to sign. Geddy asks if she wants Alex to sign it as well, and she just says “Thanks a lot” and walks away. Alex is laughing the whole time.

A number of prominent musicians were interviewed throughout the movie, including members of Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, Metallica, and Kiss, as well as musician / actor Jack Black. Sometimes Jack Black can be really funny while other times a little goes a long way, and I kind of found that here. A few interviews with him were fine, but I almost wanted to fast-forward over a couple.

I guess it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed this movie, since I am such a fan of the band. But as I said, I have heard a couple of different people talk about how much they enjoyed the movie despite not being Rush fans. At least, they weren’t Rush fans when they started the movie.

Need a good blog post / Maybe some movie haikus? / I’ll start with Star Wars


I hated English class in high school. And the part of English class that I hated the most was poetry. But I always liked doing haikus. Why? Because they didn’t have to rhyme! The only real rule was the syllables, and I can count as well as anyone. Sure, you sometimes had to work a little to pack as much “information” into seventeen syllables as you could, but hey, I’m on twitter now – seventeen syllables, 140 characters, same idea.

I recently began posting Star Wars haikus to my facebook status as well as twitter. Both trilogies (in the order the movies were released) in a total of 102 syllables. They are summarized here. The Harry Potter saga is next.

Star Wars

Alderaan destroyed
Great disturbance in the Force
Death Star is no moon

The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda in a swamp
Trap is set on Cloud City
Vader is Luke’s dad

Return of the Jedi

Yoda dies and fades
Vader has some good in him
Ewoks save the day

The Phantom Menace

Droid army invades
Ani and Obi-Wan meet
Jar Jar ruins it

Attack of the Clones

Grievous coughs a lot
Ani and Padme get hitched
But it’s a secret

Revenge of the Sith

Dooku bites the dust
Anakin fights Obi-Wan
Darth Vader is born