Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon (2014) TV-PG

Not to be confused with the motion picture dramatization from 2016, this documentary takes a nostalgic look back with Gene Cernan, the last man to step foot on the moon during the Apollo missions.

Like any documentary, it has its good points and bad points.  I loved the Apollo era footage, the party photos, and Cernan's reminiscing with his pilot buddy.  I could have done without the long, mournful shots of the now run-down space center in Houston.  Yes, nobody wants to fund the space program anymore, and it sucks.  I loved the real life footage and photos of Jim Lovell after watching Apollo 13 yesterday.

As a maker's movie, this is great.  Narration and conversation are always good for me to knit to, and this movie had plenty of that.  Be sure to pop your head up once in a while, especially for the '60s era party photos, because those folks sure seemed to have fun while keeping it G rated.

Three laugh out loud moments, especially when he's ribbing his buddy about their old test-pilot days, or the old pilot who said the only reason to fly a helicopter that low was to check out some bikinis.  One eye-roll moment where the director seemed to emphasize a sad moment unnecessarily.  It was exploitative.

Three out of five stars.  I started to get sleepy towards the last half hour which is never good.  Check it out on Netflix if you have an interest in the space program.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Apollo 13 (1995) PG

A dramatization of the real-life events of the Apollo 13 moon mission.  Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell, Bill Paxton as Fred Haise, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, and Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly.

I guess it's theme week again here on Knitter's Media Reviews... this time it's space.   It was almost going to be a Kubrick filled week, since I have the triple feature version of "2001", but as you might remember from yesterday's review, I am not a fan.  I decided to be kind to myself in 2017.

It's an exciting movie to be sure... how much of it is fact, and how much of it is fiction or exaggeration is for you to decide.  I know having lived in and around Houston for several years, it's highly plausible when the whole region is steeped in the space center culture.  You drive by the massive building, or take the tour, and watching films like this one take on a whole new meaning.

Despite having seen this before, there were a few "holy crap" moments when explosions take you by surprise.  Not a lot of laughs in this one, and only a borderline eye roll when they had to work in the daughter being despondent over the breakup of the Beatles.  Yes, we get that it was 1970, can we move on?

As a maker's movie, it satisfies.  There are stretches of conversation or waiting that don't require your eyes if you need to watch your hands.

Definitely one for the action film lover, or anyone who's fascinated by the space program.  Again, DVD prices are so low lately that adding to your collection (if you have the... space... no pun intended) seems like a no-brainer.  Four out of five stars.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) G

An otherworldly strange black monolith influences Earth's sentient development.

This is not the first time I've seen this movie, but it is the first time I stayed awake through the whole thing.  Let's face it, Kubrick is in love with himself and his own work and refuses to edit.  I can think of at least an hour of footage that could have been cut from this movie without affecting its story or its impact except for the better.  I mean, once you see primitive ape/man figure out how to use his first tool, do we really need to see gobbets of meat hanging from his jaws?  Did the panning through space need to be quite so slow?  And what about that psychedelic trip near the end?  THAT could have been at least two minutes shorter.

For knitters, this is a dream movie.  You can get a lot done through these interminably long glamor shots, and I even knitted through the intro, intermission, and exit music.  Yes, the blu-ray version includes the blank, black screens played in theaters with a provided classical score.

Zero reaction counts, unless you count the OMG moment I had when I realized the actor who played Frank was the same actor in the original Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before".  His voice was bugging me from the beginning, and then I made the connection to the character Gary Mitchell.  You know, typecast, because he has a background in space acting.

Overall, I give this a three out of five stars.  I really, really should ding it more as a movie because of his long-windedness, but since it's such a good movie to craft to, I'll be generous.  Single disc blu-ray transfer here, but it's also available in a blu-ray Kubrick triple feature pack that includes "A Clockwork Orange" (once Rick Springfield's favorite movie) and "The Shining", which even Stephen King detested.  Allegedly.  Add it to your collection if you're ready to see what the sixties thought the future would be like, puffy-helmeted stewardesses and all.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas (2005) TV-PG

Tasked with Selling the Hollygrove Inn before the New Year, lawyer Kate (Jen Lilley) runs into problems when she meets the Inn's dashing and reclusive ninety-five year old ghost (Thomas Beaudoin) who is confined to the Inn and cursed to be corporeal during the twelve days of Christmas.

Overall this ended up being an adorable supernatural love story with a dash of murder mystery built in.  Unfortunately, I found Lilley to be too soft and adorable to portray the tough and savvy lawyer she was supposed to be, and Beaudoin seemed stiff and stilted trying to act like a gentleman from the twenties, and not because of culture differences.  It was like he had trouble speaking formally.  And the actors portraying the other ghosts were terrible, like... high-school theater terrible.  Thankfully we do not see them often.

However, in the end it is a story worth seeing if you like romance.

As a maker's movie, it depends on what you're working on.  I got quite a bit done on the Christmas gift I've been knitting on.  It's a dialogue-rich movie, and the snowy countryside is not very distracting.  The period costumes in the flashbacks were bland.

Four out of five stars.  The acting needed work, even though the story was adorable and interesting.  Three laugh out loud moments; especially noteworthy was the break-up scene at the beginning.  One eyeroll when even I thought the romance was a little treacly.  At this price point, however, if you want to add to your holiday movies and round out your romance section, this is certainly a fine choice.  Available on Netflix, as a DVD, or on Amazon video.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Netflix Original: Spectral (2016) TV-14

A unit of soldiers in a war-torn country start falling prey to an enemy they can't see and can't combat with conventional weapons.  It takes a scientist from DARPA (James Badge Dale, Rubicon) and a CIA analyst (Emily Mortimer, Shutter Island) to go in and assess the situation, identify the enemy, and stop it before it spreads beyond the confines of the battlefield.

Soldiers just keeping the peace for America start getting wiped out by what appears to be ghosts of the dead.  They can't fight them, they can't run from them, and can't hide from something that can walk through walls.  So they bring in the scientist that helped them create the technology that allowed them to see this spectral enemy in the first place in an attempt to isolate and contain the threat.  They ended up facing a force that they were not ready to combat by conventional means.

This is a beautifully shot and produced movie.  The costuming, acting, and effects are all top-notch, and it's stunning to watch.  Unfortunately in the last half hour, I found my interest fading.  Even the cinematography couldn't keep me watching, which was actually great for my knitting... I got several inches of my hat done for a Christmas gift.

I think the problem was that we just kept hitting high points, climaxes, with characters falling left and right, and by the time you get down to the last twenty minutes, you just really don't care anymore what happens with these people, or what's causing the specters.  Like shell shock, you're just numb and waiting for it to be over.

One eyeroll at the end.  These two people suddenly have these big emotions that seem to come from nowhere.  Two holy crap moments because the specters are badass killing machines.  I dropped my needles twice in the middle for combat scenes that were frenetic and stylistic, but brutal.  Not a lot of blood, though, if that's a concern.

Three and a half stars.  It would have been higher but like I said, by the last half hour I was saying "Why aren't we done with this yet?". 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Shakespeare In Love (1998) R

In this wild imagining of Shakespeare's (Joseph Fiennes) days writing "Romeo and Juliet", William falls in love with Viola DeLesseppes  (Gwyneth Paltrow), a shop-keeper's daughter destined to wed Lord Wessex (Colin Firth).

Can a play show us the true nature of love?  That is the bet in this movie between the Queen and Lord Wessex.  Set in Shakespearean England, this tale takes us on a romantic journey between The Bard and Lady Viola.  She comes to him dressed as a boy, but her true nature is revealed, and thus begins the romance.

If you know Shakespeare, you will still be fascinated by the screen.  The costumes are amazing.  The twists between the everyday words, and his poetic translation into the play, are magical.

You know what?  Fuck it, it's a great movie.  Paltrow's accent doesn't even make me cringe, and that's saying something.

For makers, it depends on your discipline.  If you're a costume geek, you're going to be transfixed.  If you're a fan of the written word, you may still struggle, but it's easier to watch your hands.

Just watch it ladies.  And if your man has half a brain, he'll follow right along with you and love it, because that's what it's all about.  Love, and a journey.

At least seven laugh out loud moments.  You may drop your knitting needles during the fight scenes, especially towards the end.  Five stars.  Don't ask me to define them, but they're there.  And if you don't add this to your rom-com collection, you're fortune's fool.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Rebound (2009) R

When she catches her husband cheating on her with a neighbor, a newly divorced Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones) finds herself in New York with two kids and no help.  She hires coffee shop clerk Aram (Justin Bartha) to be her nanny, but a romance soon develops and things get complicated.

I expected this to be either one of two things... that it would focus on the steamy sex, or be a treacly, preachy exploration of why a May-December romance with the woman being the older party is wrong.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was neither.  Instead it was an exploration of a love story that starts out with bad timing.

Another pleasant surprise is that there were many, many laugh out loud moments.  More than ten for me.  Sandy's first date after her divorce with the chiropractor (John Schneider) was hilariously cringe-worthy.  A couple of holy crap moments too, mostly related to her precocious and slightly outspoken children.

Four and a half out of five stars.  A movie is seldom perfect, but I could really relate to this one at this time in my life, and it comes darn close to being perfect.  Some comedic moments were slightly over the top, so I dinged it half a star.   If you want to add it to your shelf of Rom-Coms, the price point is pretty good and it's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Michael Che Matters (2016) TV-MA

Michael Che offers up his views on a wide variety of subjects, most of which are hilarious.

As a Netflix original show, this has the production value I've come to expect.  I went into this having never before heard of this particular comic, but I was not disappointed.

There are some topics he covers that some people will find offensive.  Jesus in particular, and religion in general.  Maybe the discussion of the N-word.  You can either let it roll off your back and relax and enjoy the rest, or you can take great offense and grumble.  Your choice.  But why go through life angry?

Just watch for that gorilla rapture.  And speculate as to whether Michael, Nick, and Paul ever went to that strip club.

Four out of five stars.  Way too many laugh out loud moments to tally up.  The bit about carpentry and Jesus was pretty good, but I didn't care for the rest of the religion content.  The parts about cat-calling, porn, and your children were spot-on.  For makers, standup comedy is always great because there's rarely any visuals you need to pay attention to.  However I did enjoy spotting the reactions of the warmup band behind him when he said something particularly good.  That, and poor Nick's face when asking what kind of porn he watches.  Good thing he was not on a date.

Fire this up if you need a serious hour to devote to your crafting, it will keep your brain amused.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sliding Doors (1998) PG-13

Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) has been fired from her job at a swanky PR firm in London.  The simple closing of a train door determines her future, and we see both timelines play out.  Will she make it home in time to catch her cheating boyfriend Gerry?  Or will she be late, get mugged, and come home to a sympathetic Gerry who tries to turn over a new leaf?

Let's get the biggest problem out of the way first.  I don't like Paltrow's accent in this, at all.  I've heard her do it beautifully before in Shakespeare in Love, I just don't get why she sounds so awkward here.  Maybe it's modern vs. Shakespearean language, who knows?  It's off-putting at first, but once you get past it, this is a lovely film, especially for fans of time travel and stories about the effects of one random choice.

In both of Helen's timelines she crosses paths with James (John Hannah), a kind and funny man who seems to have a secret of his own.  I really can't say much more because the two timelines are so intertwined with similar events, that to spoil one is to spoil the other.

As a romantic comedy, it satisfies.  The two timelines are easily distinguished as we flip between them, so even a newbie would be able to follow.  As a maker's movie, it is also satisfactory, with swaths of witty dialogue that don't need to be seen to be appreciated.

Four out of five stars.  Maybe if Helen didn't say "bollocks" quite so often, Paltrow's accent wouldn't be nearly so off-putting.  As it stands, that's what dinged it one star for me.  An excellent film to add to your shelf of date movies at this price point.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) PG-13

Connor Mead  (Matthew McConaughy) is a fashion photographer who breaks hearts in the manner he was taught by his uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), a now-deceased famous international playboy and ladies' man.  When he meets up with his childhood sweetheart Jenny (Jennifer Garner) at his little brother's wedding, and he ruins everything, he is visited by three ghosts... girlfriends past, present, and future.

I didn't intend for this to be a theme this week, yet thanks to a roommate, once again we are revisiting the classic Charles Dickens tale, but this time with a romantic twist.  Instead of chastising him for his treatment of all mankind, he's being taught a lesson for how he treats women and the value of true love.

As a crafter's movie, it's excellent.  Dialogue-rich, you can pay plenty of attention to your current project.  The humor, and the well-researched trips back to the 80's and 90's make it interesting and amusing.  The only problem I had with it was that this man was so deeply, unashamedly using women for his own hedonistic desires, I found his sudden turnaround very unbelievable.  Not all that behavior can be explained by a broken heart at a seventh grade dance and a debauched father figure.

Well, it's entertainment.  Maybe I should just try to let it go.  Four out of five stars.  Their extended love story is cute, and ultimately endearing.  I just wish they hadn't blamed a young girl for his lifetime spent on the crappy treatment of women.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Scrooged (1988) PG-13

Bill Murray is a lonely, bitter TV executive who schedules a live version of Dicken's A Christmas Carol on Christmas eve.  He is visited by three brutally honest ghosts who show him the true meaning of Christmas.

If you can't watch Sir Patrick Stewart in the classic-style enactment of the original A Christmas Carol, then this is an excellent substitute.  I say watch both, but you may not have the time.  Filled with slapstick comedy and Bill Murray's usual surreal improvised bits, this is an hilarious re-imagining of the classic with an upbeat ending.

For the knitters out there, it's not bad if you're struggling to get your knitted gifts finished before the big day.  While there are some action sequences and tender moments that should be watched, there are some dialogue-heavy scenes that are helpful if you need to watch your hands while you work.

Plenty of laugh out loud moments, especially when Carole Kane makes her appearance as the ghost of Christmas Present.  You may drop your needles for the action when Elliot takes a shotgun into the office, but otherwise this is an excellent film.  The effects may be a bit dated, but the sentiment behind the story is real, and fitting with the holiday season.

Available on Netflix for right now, or you can add it to your holiday film collection for a decent price point.

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 NaNoWriMo Hiatus

I forgot to mention today that from now until the end of November I will be taking a brief hiatus to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it's a one-month dash to finish a 50k word manuscript, which works out to 1,667 words per day.  Since American Thanksgiving falls right before the deadline, I round up my daily word count goals to 2,000 so I can hopefully finish before I have to start prepping for the holiday.  It's hard work and I don't want to dilute my efforts, so I'll be taking a short break from the movie reviews.

Have a wonderful November, and I'll see you December 1st!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Resident Evil (2002) R

A militarized corporate security squad enter a secret underground facility to shut down a malfunctioning AI computer system after a lab accident that exposes hundreds of scientists to a reanimation virus.

The word "zombie" is never used in conjunction with the Resident Evil films, and yet I still consider the franchise to contain my favorite zombie films of all time.  We have a strong female protagonist who (at least in this film) owes her abilities to nothing more than training and intelligence... as far as we know.  We get a concise plot that has depth but is still easy to follow.  Frankly I find the films more enjoyable than the games they are based on, and I've played a lot of zombie games.  My dislike of the games isn't distaste for the genre, but we're not here to review the games.

The first in the quintet of Resident Evil films can be a bit clunky.  I can't tell if the atrocious computer graphics are to pay homage to the original game, or if they were on a seriously tight budget, but the Red Queen and any computer maps look seriously dated.  Like early '90s dated.  This is fine as an homage to the original game, but does not hold up well on film.

The first twenty or so minutes of the movie also seems slow and pointless... it's only at the end where memories are regained and the cause of events becomes clear that the necessity of the beginning being the way it is makes sense.  After that, it picks up.

This movie is not terribly heavy with gloppy gore, but there is some.  The reanimated scientists are sufficiently creepy on their own, and the addition later of the reanimated dobermans and experimental mutating beings just adds to the creep factor.

Good for the later hours of an all-night Halloween fright fest, when the pre-teens have gone to bed, you'll find that crafting during this movie works pretty well... you can drop your needles when you want to pay attention to the screen, and concentrate furiously on your hands if you don't like looking at gore.

Four and a half out of five stars.  The CGI tongues of the creatures look pretty bad, considering the era it was made, and the setup for the second film deflates the ending somewhat, otherwise this is a great action horror flick for older viewers.  There are several series sets out there now with three, four, and five films in them, so be sure to check carefully if you're deciding to purchase them as a set instead of individually, or use my links below.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tremors (1990) PG

The isolated town of Perfection just found out that the humans living thereare not alone in the valley.

Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire (in her acting debut) star in this story about a small, isolated town in the desert named Perfection that suddenly finds itself the center of monster activity.  These creatures they named "graboids" listen for the slightest vibration, chase it down, and eat it.  Can the handful of residents survive?

As I was watching this mild horror flick for the umpteenth time my daughter asked "Why do we love this movie so much?"  It's been our favorite go-to late-night movie for many years, and one I wasn't afraid to show her even when she was a pre-teen (F-bombs and gloppy deaths not withstanding).  For one thing, it's funny.  Kevin Bacon has always been adorably charming in nearly everything he's in, and this movie is no exception.  Ward, Gross, and McEntire play quintessential small-town characters, but they're not complete caricatures, just real.  Okay, Burt Gummer (Gross) is a bit over the top, but in this case that adds to the humor.

For another thing, this story is original.  It's not a remake, it's not a re-imagining of some 19th century literary bugaboo, and it's like nothing we've seen before.  That alone earns it a lot of points in my book.

I've watched this over twenty times, but it still earned five laugh out loud moments from me today.  If this is your first viewing, it might earn you even more.

Five stars.  I might have dinged it down to four and a half for Gross' slightly over-the-top survivalist portrayal and the almost audible statement by the actress that plays Valentine's (Bacon) love interest that she will only do nudity if it's integral to the plot, but these things are minor and I can find no other faults.  It's family friendly, if you don't mind the language, and perfect for a Halloween fright-fest with the older kids who are too young for slasher flicks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spies Like Us (1985) PG

Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd star in this screwball comedy about two government spies who are really, really bad at their job... but still manage to avert WWIII.

It's been a while since I've seen a Chevy Chase comedy (not counting Community), and I'd forgotten how idiotic his films can sometimes be... but idiotic in a good way.  The scene where he's taking the GS-20 exam with the eye patch is nonsensical and hilarious.  It's too bad I always get the feeling he's visually measuring every female cast member for the casting couch, which gives him a smarmy, raunchy aftertaste that sometimes puts me off.

Dan Ackroyd is, as always, a gem... managing to make intelligent, technical dialogue funny.

For makers, this is an excellent film, as the humor translates very well if you're only listening (with the exception of the early test scene that is essentially 85% slapstick).  There are also long dry stretches involving convoluted cloak and dagger with the bureaucrats back home, which frankly don't need to be followed very closely.

Several laugh out loud moments, and only one eye roll as the hapless spies try to perform an appendectomy using a book.  Three and a half stars, but only because the Reagan jokes aren't really funny anymore, and those long stretches focusing on the bureaucrats back in the states are rather dull and oh so serious.

Fire this up if it's an old favorite and you want something you don't have to think too hard about.  At this price point, it's worth adding a cultish-classic to your '80s collection.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) PG-13

Twenty years to the day after their first incursion, the aliens are back, and this time they've brought their queen.

As a sequel this movie did a lot of things it was supposed to do... it retained the spirit and emotional resonance of the first, it included as many of the previous actors as was feasible, and did call-backs to memorable moments.  They even included another scene with a dog in peril.

The problem with this is that the original was also glossy and skimmed the surface.  With so many characters and sequences of events, there is no depth.  The script does a fantastic job with imparting a lot of details about these people and their lives, but I challenge you to care about just one of them in anything more than just a superficial way.  The guy gets a date with the Chinese pilot.  The bureaucrat learns to fight.  The two pilots reunite at the end, and Levinson's dad gets to kvetch.  Do we care?  Meh.

If you enjoyed the first movie, you will enjoy the second movie... there is no question.  However if you're looking for a movie that makes you think, or might change or inspire the world, this isn't it... and sometimes that's okay.

Ten laugh out loud moments mostly from snappy comebacks, one holy crap moment, and a ground-breaking combination eyeroll and lol moment when Jake takes a piss on the aliens' deck.  As a diversion, I guess it worked.

It has stunning visuals reminiscent of the first film, and even after twenty years the aliens are as creepy as ever.  I just wish I cared about the people that populate the film just a tad more.  Four stars, eh... three and a half.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Major League (1989) R

The new former-showgirl owner of the Cleveland Indians wants to move the team to Miami, but has a contract with the city that states she can't break it until attendance drops below a certain level, so she puts together a team of has-beens and misfits she thinks is sure to lose.  They set out to show her they've got what it takes to win.

Following our sports theme this week, this is a cast of steady stars and then up-and-comers, much like the baseball lineup they portray.  Corbin Bernsen, Renee Russo, and Tom Berenger who were all steadily working names in that era contrasted by Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes, both of whom went on to steady careers (and troubles) later, but who were just getting started then.

It is said that this film captures the essence of the interior workings of America's pastime in a solid comedy, and while I can agree with that, I also feel it flags in the third act.  Maybe because I know how it ends, by the final game scenes I just couldn't muster up the excitement of "will they or won't they win?"

As a background for makers, this is a solid choice.  You might miss some amusing facial expressions and good-luck gestures, but it's largely follow-able without needing to study the screen every second.  If you can craft to a regular baseball game and know the score, you'll do just fine with this film.

However, as a film itself I give it only three stars.  I found the romance between Russo and Berenger lukewarm at best, and didn't really feel it added to the film at all except as padding.  The rest was macho posturing and a glimpse at the effects of sudden fame, when I would have rather watched them on the field.  What can I say?  I like baseball.  If I want to see girls throwing themselves at guys in a bar, I've got three within walking distance.

But there are many solid laugh out loud moments, and the athleticism is fun to watch.  Enough to make this an excellent choice to add to your sports collection at this price point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

xXx (2002) PG-13

An extreme athlete with a bad habit of punishing senators by stealing their cars and jumping them off bridges gets shanghaied into infiltrating a Czech anarchist group bent on demolishing the world's governments with bio-weapons.

This movie is what the James Bond franchise would be if he started out as a disrespectful tattooed thug.  Um, wait...

The first time I saw this movie back in 2005 I wasn't terribly impressed.  The humor was a little weak, the villains just a bit too stereotypical, and it really wasn't apparent what a threat this group was until very late into the picture.  It's grown on me, however, since the introduction of Daniel Craig's version of Bond.  There's a definite feel to this film, and you get the sense that we were making a bid for our own American Bond knock-off.  It was just a touch too early, and promoted poorly.

In any event, as a background movie for makers, it rocks if you like action pictures.  We have gadgets, explosions, Samuel L. Jackson, and classic cars.  Not a lot of exposition, and a smidge of romance added in, although I could do without the skanky stripper chicks, and prefer the angry Czech intelligence woman who looks like she could have been an extra vampire in Blade.

Two generic laugh out loud moments (probably when someone was being extra snarky) and one holy crap moment when someone dies a surprisingly sudden death.  Three and a half stars, and that's after I warmed up to it.  This originally came out when we were just getting to know Vin Diesel, and I don't think he'd really gotten the acting thing down just yet.  His love for pictures involving American muscle cars is very evident, though, and you can just see the glimmer of what's to come.

It's on Netflix for a short time longer, otherwise you can add the disc to your action collection at a very reasonable price point.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Point Break (2015) PG-13

A pro dirt-bike daredevil quits the circuit after the death of his riding partner and joins the FBI just in time to catch a batch of eco-terrorist criminals who rob and pillage American companies around the globe.

They kept all the character names, and tried to preserve the adrenaline junkie spirit of the original film (and the scene where Utah shoots his gun in the air in frustration.  Why?  Who knows?) but in the end this film left me feeling flat and uninterested most of the time.  Maybe it's because the actors are younger, but I had a hard time telling most of Bohdi's crew apart.  They kept all the nicknames... Roach, Grommet, Chowder... but all played by Venezualans.  What?

Pappas was reduced from Gary Busey's amusing sidekick role in the original to a mere prop with a french accent in this remake, which I found annoying.  Utah's floppy hair and extreme ink made me struggle to take him seriously as an agent in law enforcement, and the only highlights for me really were some of the gorgeous scenery and the appearance of Teresa Palmer who I recently enjoyed in Warm Bodies.

As a crafter's movie, however, this was pretty good.  I found my knitting energized during the extreme sports sequences, although the chase and gunplay scenes tended to make me pause.  Try to do your crafting without looking at your hands, or you'll miss some amazing vistas.  As a film I give this about three stars.  Not terrible, but definitely not the best... and certainly no replacement for the original.  But if you enjoy sports films or extreme sports in general, this is not a bad thing to have running in the background while you make something.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Point Break (1991) R

An up and coming FBI hotshot is tasked with infiltrating a bank robbery crew comprised of surfers, and he gets a lot more than he bargained for.

A baby-faced Keanu Reeves (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, John Wick) and hirsute Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) star in this undercover action flick that seems to have been written for adrenaline junkies. You've got your stereo-typical screaming cop-boss, the aging partner (Gary Busey) who does things the old way and is close to retirement, and the pair of agents who share your stakeout that hate your guts.  Throw in the 80's/90's near-seeming requirement to flash boobs for an R rating, and it's your classic cop movie from my era.  Pair it up with Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop and Richard Dreyfuss' Stakeout and you've got a classic triple feature.

For makers this is an okay film, as there are stretches of dialogue and research that don't need your eyes to be enjoyed, but you will drop your needles for the skydiving and car chase scenes.  Possibly also the surfing, as the water is beautiful.

One eye roll when Reeves is earnestly trying to win over Lori Petty and a laugh out loud moment when he tells his boss he takes the skin off chicken.  Four and a half stars, but that may be nostalgia talking.  When this movie was new in theaters and dinosaurs roamed the earth I always felt it was written for adrenaline junkie thrill seekers and not meant to be enjoyed by a larger audience.  I've warmed to it in recent years.

Fantastic if you want to craft to something that reminds you of your glory days, or want some pretty scenery to look at.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Paycheck (2003) PG-13

What would you do to see the future?  And what would you do to change or protect it?

A reverse-engineering expert routinely takes jobs and his memory is erased afterward... the ultimate non-disclosure guarantee... but on his latest job, instead of a paycheck, he received an envelope of mysterious everyday items.  Now he has to use these items to figure out why people are trying to kill him.

Perhaps it's inevitable that I will continually compare and contrast Ben Affleck and Matt Damon... no matter how hard they try they will be forever linked in the memories of those of us old enough to remember "Good Will Hunting" and the Oscars.  Unfortunately in such a comparison, Affleck continually comes off as smug, smarmy, and arrogant, in contrast to Damon's sincere earnestness, and this film is no exception.  Pair that with Uma Thurman being constantly pushed into our face as some kind of epitome of beauty, and this should be a movie I cannot stand.

The concept, however, manages to overcome all that... mostly.

A laugh out loud moment with Affleck's crossed fingers, and an eye roll moment at the question mark, but otherwise this is a straight-up mystery action flick with a futuristic twist.  This is a great film for makers provided you don't get distracted too often by hand to hand combat and gun play.

Four out of five stars... those smug faces at the cocktail party are just enough to ruin it for me, but enjoyable as background filler if you're into tech or second chances.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Iliza: Confirmed Kills (2016) TV-MA

Iliza Shlesinger's standup Chicago special about millennials, grandpa's war stories, feminism, and the stupidity of a grown adult wanting to be a mermaid.

If feminism pisses you off, don't watch this unless you like getting pissed off.  I found her show to be a wonderful mixture of humor, TED talk, and Shark Tank review.  Liberally peppered with hashtags.  Hilarious hashtags.

So tell your party goblin to go read her Teen Beat, this is fantastic for crafting to, although you might drop your needles once or twice while laughing too hard.  Ten counted laugh out loud moments, and one was a hearty belly laugh that lasted a good ten or fifteen seconds.

Four and a half stars.  Since I don't watch Shark Tank, the last bit was over my head, but she's a terrific actress who flows in and out of her characters well.  Fire this up on Netflix if you have an hour to knit and laugh.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trading Places (1983) R

A managing stock broker and street-hustling con-man end up trading lives on a bet set up by two rich men.  Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis

If this wasn't already filmed in the '80s, it would be the perfect farcical representation of the decade, right down to the framed picture of Reagan on the Dukes' desk and Curtis' chunky geometric earrings.  By all means, go topless to go to bed, but never, ever remove the earrings.  It's not like they're uncomfortable or anything.

You will either love, or hate, this movie.  You will either love the screwball comedy, or get angry at the machinations of two rich, bored, old white guys.  It is, however, completely chock-full of funny moments, and featured a lot of talent that went on to become famous in their own right.

Younger viewers who missed the '80s may be shocked at Eddie Murphy's then less squeaky clean performance, and it does show how much he cleaned up his act after becoming a parent. 

Eight laugh out loud moments, but a stretch of boredom in the middle where it sags.  An eyeroll at the fate of Clarence Beeks (Paul Gleason, The Breakfast Club) and another at the typical antics of Jim Belushi.  Does he ever not play a drunken frat boy?

As a movie for makers, this is excellent, as you can concentrate on your work during that sluggish middle act, and the only sight gags come near the end (although Ackroyd eating salmon through his Santa beard on the train is an indicator of how far he's fallen by that point).  Four stars (the relentless topless-ness was unnecessary and probably to secure their R rating, which was considered a financial money-recouping requirement during that era).  Put this on when you're in the mood for funny, but don't want to have to concentrate every minute.

Monday, October 10, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) PG-13

When the first mutant is awoken from his stone prison deep beneath a pyramid in Cairo, the X-men fight to stop him from cleansing the earth of its human inhabitants.

As a fan of the Marvel universe, I enjoyed this film immensely.  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it as bad as other critics have made it out to be?  No.  It's a difficult job to balance a huge arch-villain, four or five core heroes, four or five villains (some of whom switch sides later on) and make them all engaging and at the very least, people you can empathize with and understand.  I feel they accomplished this with very few errors.

As a crafter's movie, it depends on what distracts you.  I am constantly mesmerized by the battle scenes, especially Quicksilver's sequences, and I am constantly missing tiny, humorous bits that happen when I briefly look down.  Ultimately, if you're like me, save the knitting until your second or subsequent watch-throughs so you can catch all the moments the first time.

Four out of five stars.  While I enjoyed the film a lot, especially some more back story on Jean, Scott, and Logan's relationships, plus Erik's history, this movie just wasn't as deeply satisfying to me overall as some in the past.  I couldn't take the villain seriously, since he was mostly just manipulating others.  We knew he couldn't ultimately defeat Charles in an intellectual battle of wills, not with all of his friends around, and so I never really felt the danger.

By all means add this to your X-men collection, but maybe wait for the price point to fall down a bit before you bite.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

TV Review - Timeless - Season 1: Pilot

A history professor (Abigail Spencer), a Special Forces soldier (Matt Lanter), and a computer programmer (Malcolm Barrett) travel back in time to stop a terrorist from changing life as we know it.

A new time-travel series from producers Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield) attempts to explore American history and the events that shaped our country.  It's not as technologically deep as Continnuum, but it's also not as preachy about big corporations, so it's a trade-off.  I found the pilot to be a bit bland, although there were some funny moments.  Big eye-roll moment with the insertion of modern pop-culture references (a bit too Back to the Future) but I enjoyed exploring the events of the Hindenburg, and only wish they'd gone more into depth on that, and less into the fictional characters they populated the era with.

After the initial scenes with a bit of German and subtitles, this is an excellent show to knit to, as the time-travel aspects (so far) aren't too complex to track.  It feels more like an excuse to do period action scenes than an actual exploration of history.

As I am a sucker for all things time-travel, I will give this a few episodes to get going.  Right now it's sitting at a solid three and a half stars.  A hand-to-hand combat scene in the kitchen of the Hindenburg is all well and good, but it doesn't make up for the rather banal beginning.  At $20 for a pre-order of the season though, you're hard-pressed to find that many future hours of entertainment at that price.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ARQ (2016) TV-MA

Robbie Amell (The Tomorrow People), Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)  A weapons engineer is reliving the same terrible day over and over in this Neflix original film set in a future apocalypse where a mega-corporation has taken over and a group of resistance fighters known as The Bloc are fighting for human freedom.

I'm a sucker for good time-travel or time-loop stories, although they can sometimes be tedious.  This was gritty and down to earth, with no slick white futuristic lab... just a guy and his garage.  It was way easier to understand than Primer but not nearly as much fun to watch as Retroactive.  I found ARQ to be ultimately depressing, leaving me with a sense of futility.  And there was a lot of blood in the meantime.

Not a lot of reactionary counts on this one... one LOL moment when the couple pops up out of bed cursing, and a couple of holy crap moments when people died unexpectedly or in extra hideous ways.  It's not that it's terribly bland, just not that surprising.  If you're a fan of this type of story, then you've seen it before... it's just the science that's different.

Ultimately, if you like time-loop stories and they don't distract you, you'll find this one a good one to craft to.  It doesn't condescend, but neither is it too obscure that you feel like you have to study every moment to follow the story.  Just make sure you have something light and funny handy as a palate cleanser after, because it's a bit on the grim side.

Four and a half stars.  I don't always need a happy ending, but the specifics of this tale ending in such a depressing manner hit a little too close to home.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) PG-13

 Four women who are passionate about the science behind ghosts band together to stop a maniacal fanatic bent on breaking through the veil and releasing ghosts into our plane.

The '80s classic Ghostbusters gets a facelift in this re-imagined version that pays fair tribute to the spirit of the original.  When I heard about the gender swap, I was skeptical.  When I heard Chris Hemsworth was going to be the receptionist, I rolled my eyes, and while some parts of his role were certainly cringe-worthy, in the end the whole amalgamation of parts came together in a fun, enjoyable film.

The spirits themselves were very reminiscent of those in the original film, but the graphics were of course up to date.  The general design continually called back to the source, but still had its own spin on everything.  And when Zuul was mentioned at the very, very, very end, I cheered.

So many laugh out loud moments I lost count.  A few holy crap moments for some jump scares and rather gross possession scenes.  I didn't even try to knit, as I was engaged from the very beginning.

And honestly ladies, it was worth the purchase just to see Hemsworth lead a choreographed group dance scene.  Yum.

If you're nostalgic about the original, you will not be disappointed in this remake.  Between the cameos by the original cast and the clever shout-outs (such as Slimer emerging with a mouth full of hot dogs) fans of the original should be whooping with recognition at every turn.  And at this price point it's a great addition to place on a shelf next to the others.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Superfast! (2015) PG-13

An undercover cop joins a street-racing thievery ring and gets more than he bargained for in this fast-paced spoof.

This is not normally my type of movie... I'm drawn to a more cerebral type of humor.  I do have to admit though, I laughed a lot at this movie, even it if it was laughter of the "OMG this is so stupid" variety.

If you don't mind gross-out humor, fast cars, and appreciate Airplane!-type movies, then this is for you.  For knitters, there might be a few things you miss if you don't watch the screen the whole time, but it's still slightly enjoyable background noise.

Many, many laugh out loud moments (over ten) sprinkled with a few needle-dropping moments, eye-rolls, and holy crap moments.  It's slightly racist at times, and you get assaulted with T&A in the first thirty seconds, but if you're looking for fluff you can forget when it's done, this will fit the bill.

Three stars.  I liked it a little, but funny as it is I don't think I'll purchase it, not even at this price point.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Clue (1985) PG

Six strangers with blackmail-able secrets are invited to a mansion dinner party by the mysterious Mr. Boddy.  When people start dying, it's a matter of wits to find out who the killer is.

If this isn't considered a classic, it should be.  The comedic lineup is stellar with Martin Mull (WKRP), Madeline Kahn (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles), Christopher Lloyd (Taxi, Back to the Future), Eileen Brennan (The Sting, Will & Grace), Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap, Laverne and Shirly), and Tim Curry (IT, Rocky Horror Picture Show).

The movie is so iconic that it was paid homage as an episode of Psych, with several of the surviving cast members in re-imagined roles.

When released in theaters, there were three possible endings (and sets of killers), each locale (divided by time zone) receiving a different one.  When released on DVD, thankfully, all three endings were included.

This movie is rich with sharp, witty dialogue, but there are hilarious visual gags too numerous to mention here.  If this is your first viewing, I recommend putting the knitting needles down and taking it all in.  If you've seen it before, or like me have used this as a go-to background movie for several years (or decades) then by all means craft away.  You'll know when to look up.  Five stars, cannot be improved upon, and at $10 for the blu-ray, a must-have for any comedic collection.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last Days on Mars (2013) R

During the last two days of an extended tour in the dome complex on Mars, the crew of the Aurora 2 discover a deep-dwelling bacteria under the crust of the surface.

If you've ever argued with your buddies at a drunken 2 am about who would win, astronauts or zombies, this movie answers that question.  I avoided watching this movie, passing it by on my Netflix list for several months, after the pain and disappointment of Stranded, which gave birth to my eye roll count category it was so bad.  Thankfully I was very pleasantly surprised by this film.

Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Elias Koteas (Collateral Damage) and Olivia Williams (Dollhouse, Man Up) make up half of the crew.  Their days are short, their tour is almost up, they're two weeks from retirement... blah blah blah you know the trope.  Then of course someone does something boneheaded and screws it up for everybody.

There is a reason why the space program weeds out people who break rules and don't follow protocols, people... because one guy screws it up and everybody has a very, very bad day.

One laugh out loud moment, and the rest of the time I was pretty much glued to the screen.  There is a bit of a slump when there's half an hour to go.  I don't know if it's because it's been non-stop tense from the beginning and that's the limit for me before I stop paying attention because I can't take the tension anymore, or if things truly slowed down.  I will say that despite my talking to the screen ("Why don't you headbutt him, you have a helmet on?!?") and the usual horror movie moments of "Don't go in there!  Don't split up!" there were no true eye roll moments for me.

If you loved Aliens or have a soft spot for zombie movies, you might find it hard to craft to this one.  It's not as intense as Gravity, but it's certainly a step up from Ghosts of Mars, which I enjoyed but found a bit campy.  Four and a half stars on this one, and the only improvement that would make it better would be to explain Schreiber's character's constant panic attacks throughout the film. They're represented by surreal visions of his time on the space station before coming on assignment from what I can gather, but early on in the film you're left wondering if he's seeing visions of the past, future, or being contacted by the as yet not revealed enemy via psychic means.

Solid viewing choice, and a nice addition to any sci-fi or zombie collection.