Monthly Archives: August 2012

Bigger Is Better!

In this continuing series, DVD Critics Corner looks at some really big things featured in some of cinema’s greatest movies. Your opinion of what is big will differ of course, but this isn’t about you. This is my thing. Can you let me have this please?

Part One – Huge Spaceships from Huge Movies!

A wise old Jedi Master once said “Size matters not.”

Poppycock. You heard me Yoda. Poppycock.

Face it, if you want humans to tremble at your feet, you don’t dispatch one itty bitty TIE fighter to hover menacingly over Washington D.C. And if you’re travelling halfway across the universe on a mission of peace, one of those compact Day the Earth Stood Still flying saucers might get better gas mileage, but they’re kinda boring to look at and I hear the headroom sucks.

When it comes to spacecrafts, you either go big or you go back to your weirdly named home planet.

Let’s take a look at some big spaceships from some big sci-fi movies.

Name: The Mothership

As Seen In: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Key Features: Tons of space, window shattering sound system.

The Skinny: Those little alien guys from Steven Spielberg’s classic film really knew how to travel in style!  This ginormous ship is a wonder to behold, but be sure to keep your sunblock and shades nearby because this ship is brighter than an M.I.T. valedictorian. And keep your distance from the occupants of this Mothership, because they like to kidnap humans and take them for really long rides.

Name: Huge Unnamed Spaceships

As Seen In: Independence Day (1996)

Key Features: Superior defense shields, frickin laser beams, no firewall.

The Skinny: While the happy aliens from Close Encounters came bearing gifts, the hugely pissed off aliens from Independence Day come bearing Armageddon in the form of a 15 mile wide ship with a death ray guaranteed to erase all of those unsightly blemishes from your skin and the skin of everyone else in your city. And state. Fortunately for the human race, these big skulled buggers didn’t count on two things; Jeff Goldblum’s amazing hacking skills and a flying Fresh Prince.

Name: Spaceball One

As Seen In: Spaceballs (1987)

Key Features: Ludicrous speed capabilities, Shopping Mall, Zoo.

The Skinny: Taking over 90 seconds to enter the frame at the beginning of the movie, Spaceball One is big. Seriously big. Perhaps President Skroob (Mel Brooks) and Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) are trying to overcompensate for something? I really can’t say, but I for one am happy with the size of the ship that God gave me.  Spaceball One’s greatest feature is its ability to transform into a robot maid, which marked the first time a giant transforming robot made an audience laugh. Then 20 years later, Michael Bay unleashed Transformers on the world, and we laughed even harder.

Name: V’Ger

As Seen In: Star Trek-The Motion Picture (1979)

Key Features: Twelfth-power energy shields, plasma discharge weapons, really big memory card.

The Skinny: Do you like your spaceships big and brainy? Well then have I got a craft for you! When it comes to big, V’Ger wrote the book. In fact, if V’Ger was a book, it would be a 32 volume set of the Encyclopedia Britanica sandwiched between a large print Websters Dictionary and a copy of the United States Tax Code. V-Ger is essentially a giant hard drive, storing tons of info on its quest to return to earth and report back to “the creator.”  And when V’Ger finds out the creator is William Shatner, it freaks out and explodes. That’s probably what will happen to me if I ever meet Shatner. He’s freakin’ awesome.

Name: The Executor

As Seen In: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983)

Key Features: 5,000 turboblasters, room for 38,000 ground troops, meditation chambers for chillaxin’.

The Skinny: Boo-yah! When it comes to hugeness, nobody tops the Galactic Empire.  The Executor was the flagship of the Imperial Navy, and Darth Vader spared no expense in making sure his personal Star Destroyer was loaded with every factory option in the book. You want turbo blasters? It’s got em. You want ion cannons? It’s got em. You want a powerful deflector shield that protects the bridge from being destroyed by a dinky little rebel fighter? Um, I’m not sure, but I’ll get back to you on that. Regardless of it’s design flaws, The Executor is one bad-ass bucket. If I was going to enslave a galaxy, it would be my choice of ride hands down. Never try to enslave a galaxy in a 1984 Datsun 210. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know.

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Denzel in the House!

SAFE HOUSE (2012) Director: Daniel Espinosa  Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga  Rating: R for violence, language, and espionage type stuff. 

I don’t know much about the Central Intelligence Agency (or CIA) aside from what I’ve learned from years of watching movies. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up:

– CIA headquarters is in Langley, Virginia. I know this because every spy movie has at least one establishing shot of the CIA building with a graphic that reads CIA Headquarters: Langley, Virginia.  Now I would think a top secret outfit would want to keep their location on the down low, but heck what do I know? I wasn’t much for fancy book learnin’.

– The CIA is headed by a veteran character actor (usually with a southern accent) who barks orders to a room full of analysts and other office type people who immediately pick up phones or run out of the room carrying folders.

– The CIA has the coolest cell phones, GPS gizmos, and memory card reader thingees. Yes, “thingee” is an actual CIA term.

– The CIA spends every waking hour trying to recover ultra top secret files that are stolen by bad guys who have no trouble hacking into the supposedly impregnable CIA computer network. Me thinks they should change the computer passwords more often down there at Langley, but heck what do I know? I’m just a simple country doctor.

– Pretty much every CIA agent is a “rogue agent” who is either in league with shady foreign bad guys to steal CIA secrets or conducting his or her own private spy thing under the noses of their bosses. But that’s okay because the CIA bosses are usually in on all of this rogue stuff too.

So when you’re one of the very few upstanding and honest CIA agents like Ryan Reynold’s character in Safe House, the odds are greatly stacked against you that you’ll live to see retirement. Heck, you’ll be lucky to make it to the end of the year holiday party at the Langley Marriott. Which is a shame because I hear their seafood buffet is outstanding.

Matt Weston (Reynolds) is an ambitious rookie CIA agent, but he’s bored to tears working guard duty at a rarely used CIA safe house in Cape Town South Africa. One day as Matt is finishing his millionth soduku puzzle, a team of agents bring in former CIA super spy turned criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who may have a very important computer file that will royally screw over every intelligence agency in the world.

Before the CIA guys can interrogate Frost, a skilled mercenary team attacks the safe house and kills everyone except Weston and Frost, who escape into the city with killers on their tail and a huge mess left for the CIA housekeeping squad to clean up.

While Weston’s superiors (Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga) try to figure out what the heck is going on, Weston has his hands full with Frost, a stone cold badass who knows every CIA trick in the book and doesn’t want to be taken down by the guy who couldn’t sell Green Lantern to millions of comic book fans. Can Weston bring the CIA’s most wanted criminal to justice and unravel the vast conspiracy we’ve seen so many times before in these government spy thrillers?

Ryan Reynolds leaves his trademark smarmy wiseass guy at home this time to play an inexperienced man in way over his head. Denzel brings the right amount of Denzelness to his role: it’s not quite Book of Eli Denzelness, but much more Denzelness than that crappy Taking of Pelham 123 remake.

Your scale of Denzelness will differ of course.

To sum up, Safe House is loaded with car chases, gunplay, and that close quarter kung fu fighting that all the action movies have nowadays. But if you’ve seen Matt Damon in any of the Jason Bourne movies, you’ve seen Safe House.

And if you’ve seen Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo, you’ve seen a level of Hell no one can possibly imagine, and you have my deepest sympathies.

This week DVD Critics Corner celebrates its first anniversary. Thank you very much  for reading, commenting, and subscribing. More reviews coming soon.

 – T. Levier

 

Mars Needs Pants!

John Carter (2012) Director: Andrew Stanton  Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Defoe, Mark Strong  Rating: PG-13 for sci fi violence and hunky shirtless guys doing stuff…

Hey everybody!

It’s Tom, your DVD Critics Corner pal. You’re looking well. How’s the family? Good.

The summer is drawing to a close, and that means the kids will soon be returning to school for another fun filled year of getting up early and sitting in a classroom. Since sitting in a classroom means taking tons of tests, I thought it would be a hoot if we took a pop quiz featuring questions based on the latest movie I watched – the Disney sci fi adventure John Carter!

So take out a piece of paper and a number two pencil and we’ll get started. Eyes on your own papers please. Lousy cheaters.

Let’s begin!

1. Tom watched the John Carter DVD because:

A) He enjoys sci-fi and fantasy films.

B) Critics and audiences disliked the movie when it was released earlier this year, so Tom wanted to see for himself if the negative reviews were justified.

C) He couldn’t find his copy of Treasure Buddies.

2. Taylor Kitsch:

A) Plays the title character John Carter, a former civil war soldier turned intergalactic adventurer.

B) Also starred in Battleship, another box office bomb released earlier this year.

C) Should stop using a magic eight ball to help him pick what movies to star in.

3. When John Carter is sucked through an intergalactic portal to Mars he:

A) Discovers he can jump very high because of the planet’s low gravity.

B) Becomes entangled in a centuries old war between two Martian empires.

C) Realizes that pants and shirts are for squares!

D) All of the above.

4. Carter encounters giant warriors known as Tharks who:

A) Have four arms, green skin, and a proud heritage.

B) Are wary of the strange humanoid from another planet, but eventually befriend him.

C) Hate the blue guys from Avatar because they were in a popular movie.

5. Lynn Collins plays Dejah Thoris of the kingdom of Helium:

A) A strong willed Princess who wants her people to live in peace.

B) Who convinces John Carter to fight for a just cause.

C) A chick who buys her clothes from the Xena Warrior Princess collection.

6. While Tom watched John Carter he learned: 

A) The movie is based on a series of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created Tarzan.

B) The John Carter books have been around for nearly a century, and movie studios have been trying for decades to bring the story to the big screen.

C) The jar of salsa he consumed while watching the movie was in the fridge since Bush was in office, and he should have his stomach pumped immediately.

7. To sum up, Disney’s John Carter:

A) Is full of exciting action sequences and impressive special effects.

B) Was a noble effort by Andrew Stanton and Disney, but a disappointment.

C) Makes you wonder how an entire civilization built massive walking cities and solar powered flying machines, yet never got around to inventing pants.

Send your answers to DVD Critics Corner and your test score will be mailed back to you somewhere between 3 weeks and never. Most likely never.