Tag Archives: Movie Review

This is NOT a Movie


enders_game_ver12Budge and I went to see Ender’s Game Saturday afternoon. I read the book eons ago and Budge knew enough that we both expected the “twist” at the end. I sat through the movie, which was beautifully shot and orchestrated, but after it ended, Budge and I walked back to the car in depressed silence.

This movie is not — let me repeat that to be clear — NOT a faithful representation of the source material in Orson Scott Card’s novel. What it is, and in spades I’ll add, is a blatant and scathing indictment of America’s actions towards foreign countries over the last two Presidential administrations.

It doesn’t bother me that the movie could have been a Michael Moore rag; what bothers me is how spot on it was in its satire in places AND how simple it was for me and Budge (who abhors politics) to pick out the director’s theme.

I don’t usually put spoilers in my movie posts, but I’m making an exception in this one, so if you’re planning to see it 1) don’t say I didn’t warn you and 2) don’t read any further down this post.

In the BOOK, Earth is attacked TWICE by “Buggers” who show every intention of returning again, which establishes a pretty good case for some type of preemptive action on the three NATIONS of the Earth. The BOOK has two important sub-plots that involve Ender Wiggins’ psychopathic brother Peter and his beloved sister Valentine. In the BOOK, we look like a species trying to defend ourselves from another eminent attack from space.

In the MOVIE, we look like bullying, Nazi-esque douchebags.

Our planet is attacked one time. The “Buggers” show no sign of coming back, propaganda to the contrary, and the globe is depicted as a single New World Order type unified one-nation entity, thereby discarding the three warring “mega-nations” that gave purpose and tension to the novel. The book is subtle in it’s Cold War political message; the movie isn’t subtle at all. Instead, the movie invokes the old saw that, “If the only tool in your box is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Children are taken from their homes at ridiculously tender ages and sent to “Battle School” where they are pitted against each other in a series of Darwinian tasks that make The Hunger Games look like an afternoon of croquet.

The book has those elements as well, BUT in the movie, everything is stripped down. NO allowance is made for the fact THESE ARE CHILDREN, and in the end, one of those children — the eponymous main character — becomes the architect and executor of a genocide Hitler, Stalin, and Mao couldn’t have imagined in their collectively most coked out acid trips. In the movie, our wonderfully united species spends 50 years building a space-faring fleet with one purpose in mind — eradicating the “Buggers.” We don’t try to communicate with them because the bodies we discovered after the “invasion” show no vocal cords so naturally a species capable of interstellar flight couldn’t POSSIBLY have some other way of communication than spoken words.

Nope, they are different from us, they apparently don’t like us — but we don’t bother to ask them, so obviously, we have to kill every single one of them in order for our world to be safe. Does any of this sound the slightest bit familiar? If it doesn’t, turn off Rush Limburger and Sean Hennessy and think about it for a minute. If you do, you’ll see it’s a perfect picture of American foreign policy for the last 12 years.

The USA was attacked on 9-11-2001 by elements of Al-Qaeda under the influence and command of Osama Bin Laden. Quite predictably — and I think appropriately — we flipped our collective lids and beat our pruning hooks into swords overnight. All of our intelligence, indeed all of the WORLD’S intelligence, pointed to Bin Laden hiding out in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, with revenge on our minds, we gear up for a massive beat-down such as the world has never seen. We load up the transports and carriers with men and weapons and we head across the waters to kick the everloving sh . . . I mean poop out of — wait for it — IRAQ!?

W.T.F? Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda people are in Afghanistan / Pakistan. Why are we invading Iraq? Bin Laden is not in Iraq. Bin Laden is in Afghanistan / Pakistan somewhere. Yet for reasons NO ONE can adequately explain, we roll in to a sovereign nation, shoot the place up, destabilize the entire region, and ultimately kill Bin Laden? NO. BECAUSE BIN LADEN ISN’T IN IRAQ!! No, we kill Saddam Hussein, who, yes, is a raging asshole who killed his own people (with a lot of weapons he got from us in America) and turned the country from something resembling a nation into a festering bed of warring sects who hate each other AND, incidentally, HATE US TOO.

Only after we tidy up the loose ends that Dubya’s daddy left hanging in the family closet do we go flounder around in the deserts and badlands of Afghanistan for ten years and finally manage to kill the ONE GUY we’ve been looking for as he was kicked back and relaxing in our supposed “ally’s” backyard.

The 9/11 attacks changed everything. I know that. I sat and bawled like a baby for six hours watching the news after I got home from teaching classes that day. Unfortunately, they destroyed our country and no one seems to mind. The best estimate I can find is 2,996 people died in the attacks. In the Iraq War that followed — tell me why did that happen again — 4,486 American soldiers died. That doesn’t include the 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed because when everyone looks the same and there is no real front line, you kill them all and let God and Allah fight it out.

Despite all those casualties, the worst face of the Iraq War / “Global War on Terror” is the face of the soldiers who are coming home. It’s bad enough for our regular forces to have to face combat, but so many of the troops who’ve fought this war AREN’T regular forces. They’re National Guard troops who signed up for some extra money and to help fill sandbags during floods or look for missing people during a hurricane. They were never trained to go to a foreign country, meet interesting people, and kill them.

Now they are back and they are broken inside and from what I can see, no one gives a really good damn about it. THAT is what saddens me most about what our country has become and that is what’s brought to the fore so painfully in this mockery of Ender’s Game: the movie. One line in the movie says it best of all. The psych officer is confronting the main training colonel about his harsh training tactics and the line she delivers is one for the ages:

“You are turning these children into KILLERS and when it’s over and they finally get to come home you want ME to try to fix them. Well, they can’t BE FIXED!”

I lost my daddy in Vietnam . . . another war eerily similar to the Iraq War. Oh, he’s alive and probably sitting in his recliner watching westerns on tv as I’m writing this, but he went to Vietnam a 19 year old kid from Fountain Inn, SC who’d never been on a plane and he came back 13 months later and 100 years older. I never got the chance to know the man my mama and Granny Wham talked about.

And now, it’s happening again.

Love y’all. Keep your feet clean and I’m sorry I don’t know the answers or what else to say.

Don’t Do Number 2 During World War Z

Very good book that is NOT transferred to the big screen totally.

Very good book that is NOT transferred to the big screen totally.

World War Z is a suspenseful action movie pitting Brad Pitt as a smart ex-UN operative against a planet killing zombie apocalypse. Oh, and these aren’t your parents’ shuffling, slow, and dim-witted undead. These are leaner, meaner, and — most frightening — faster zombies who “turn” within seconds of being “infected,”  run in groups, which turn in to packs, which grow in to hordes, which are basically city-spanning swirling fuzzballs of toothy, decaying death drawn to anything living and seemingly tasked with ONE major function — eating people’s faces off.

Now, let me tell you what happened to me when I saw World War Z yesterday afternoon.

Budge and I went to see WWZ  with Deuce, Cam, and Jake after a big Mexican meal at El Tejanos. Three fourths into the movie, the salsa and nacho cheese demanded my immediate attention. So, I did the “Cornholio walk” from theater 13 to the opposite end of the multiplex where the little boy’s room resides at The Simpsonville Regal 14. Sitting pondering the lack of interesting graffiti to read, I suddenly noticed the silence.  JUST like in the movie before a zombie ate someone’s face off.

I found the stillness unnerving. Anyone acquainted with me can tell I am extremely high-strung and jumpy. I make coffee nervous. Put me on a bomb squad; we all die. Mama used to wake me by throwing things at me to avoid my blind flailing. If I hadn’t been so enamored with the World War Z novel, I wouldn’t even be in the same building as a zombie flick. I don’t do suspense or horror movies. They tear my stomach up, and my fits are dangerous to bystanders.

Also very good, but in another way entirely.

Also very good, but in another way entirely.

I sat freaking myself out when I heard the water slowly dripping. JUST like in the movie before a zombie ate someone’s face off. Now I shift into turbo-hypermatic nervous mode. I managed to finish the business at hand, rearranged my attire and headed for the door, BUT like a good little boy, I stopped to wash my hands because you never know if something from the toilet will mutate into a pathogen which will spark the zombie apocalypse. So I’m trying to wash my hands, but they are shaking so badly the water kept missing them. Finally, les mains passably clean, I looked up at which point shtuff got real!

A wall to wall mirror adorns the wall in front of the sinks in the men’s room of the Regal. Now, I’m already on uber hair-trigger when I glance up and this random guy just APPEARS in the doorway. JUST like in the movie before a zombie ate someone’s face off. One second I’m in a terrified state trying my darndest to get clean and get out; the next, I’m face to face with someone about to eat my face off.

I like to think of myself as a warrior. I have guns. I’ve shot at people . . . in video games, but still. I believe I’ll be a man of action if the proverbial “S” ever “HTF.” Since I carry myself like such a badass at all times, I whirled to face this threat and — just as ancient martial arts texts teach — screamed like an eleven year old girl at a One Direction concert. I caught myself before hurling the only weapon I had — my Galaxy S3 — at dude’s head. Incidents like this are one reason Budge is foursquare against me ever getting my concealed carry permit.

I think the poor guy soiled himself.

I pulled myself together sufficiently for a quick “bro-ish” nod before squeaking, “World War Z, Man. Zombies. Thought you were going to eat my face off.” He treated me like we teach children to treat people driving nondescript white vans and offering free candy to “just come inside.” Fully deserving “The Cone of Shame,” I stumbled out of the men’s room and back to my seat just in time for the last of the movie with my face (if not my dignity) intact.

On the plus side, I can still go to that movie theater.

I loved the book, and I really enjoyed the movie — at least what I saw through the fingers I was constantly throwing in front of my face whenever someone was about to get his face eaten off. If you’ve read the book, you do need to understand one important thing: they DID NOT bring the book to life on the big screen. The book is a well done faux non-fictional account of “The Zombie War” told in a series of interviews with various survivors. The MOVIE is about what was going on BEFORE anyone had time to worry about interviews because they were too occupied with keeping their faces from being eaten off. This is one instance of a book appearing on film where I really feel no comparison for good or bad need be made. Each is an enjoyable escapism fodder in its own right. If you read Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides then saw the Nick Nolte and Barbara Streisand movie made from the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The bottom line is, if you liked the book, the movie is different but enjoyable fun; just don’t go looking to see an exact transfer from one medium to another. Besides, if you stop to think about it, a movie of a guy doing interview after interview would eventually get boring. I liked the movie and I typically avoid any HINT of “horror” like a tax audit.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean.

Avengers Assemble!


If you are wondering whether or not to see The Avengers, whether or not the movie could possibly live up to the hype, wonder no more. Go see the freaking movie as soon as you finish reading this review because it ROCKS.

If you look at it logically, how could this movie NOT rock? You have a demi-god, a living legend (who does an awesome job holding up the legend part), a brilliant doctor with a massive anger management problem, the world’s greatest archer (sorry DC and Green Arrow), the world’s greatest spy, AND the icing on the cake — a billionaire philanthropist playboy genius inventor who happens to own some really cool suits of armor.

Not impressed? How about Samuel L. Jackson? In a freaking EYEPATCH! Yes! Jules Winnfield / Jedi Master Mace Windu is the man behind getting this superhero buffet together.

Oh, before I forget, one other thing.  Joss Whedon wrote the script and directed the movie. What’s that? You don’t know who Joss Whedon is? Crap, dude, you live under a rock? He’s ONLY a guy who “plain and simple wakes up in the morning to piss excellence” — to paraphrase Ricky Bobby. I mean, come on, the guy made a hugely successful and long running TV show out of a vampire chasing cheerleader. If he can turn that chicken sh. . . . um feathers, yeah, chicken feathers (sorry mama) premise into chicken salad, how could a fanboy like him miss with the kind of material The Avengers bring to the table?

Seriously, the script is very well written. The first half of the movie gets everyone in place without resorting to an over abundance of deus ex machina and the second half of the film lets the newly assembled, torn apart, and reassembled-with-resolute-purpose team loose to take care of the bad guys. The pacing just doesn’t lag. You aren’t sitting in the seats going “When is something important going to happen?” Important stuff is happening all the time, but in an easily followed fashion . . . . sort of like — and I’m really going fishing here — A COMIC BOOK!

What makes this movie work is it never takes itself too seriously. This is a fantastic action film that will make everyone involved with it a tandem-axle dump truck load of money. It is NOT an Oscar vehicle. The witty one-liners and sight gags abound, but they aren’t all dumped on one character. Everyone has a great line or scene or two — even the guy playing Galaga on his terminal while the SHIELD ship is under attack.

With all the huge stars in this film the potential for someone to want to hog the screen had to be overbearing, but everyone gets plenty of screen time. That brings up another point of excellence in the movie — all the casting was spot on. I think casting Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man is probably the most underrated but important move a director has made since someone picked a collie to play Lassie. Downey IS Tony Stark. He doesn’t even have to act. Mark Ruffalo, meanwhile, is the best Dr. David Banner since Bill Bixby famously said, “Don’t make me angry, sir. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!”  Jeremy Renner and the ever lovely ScarJo play their roles as physically perfect but non-superpowered members of the team to perfection as well. One piece of bad news though, girls, Chris Helmsworth / Thor never takes his shirt off in this film. In short, it’s an ensemble cast of established and rising starts who interact extremely well and make the movie a huge success and a ton of fun to watch.

Watching the movie is like reading a comic book complete with the same breathlessness and desire to turn the page. It also stays in the ballpark with established comic book canon. Not every little detail matches up, but enough stays behind from the Lee and Kirby days to make us purists happy. All in all, The Avengers gives viewers all the excitement and value for our entertainment dollar that a really good comic book movie ought to give and for longtime Marvel fanboys like me, that’s all we ask for.

So, love y’all, keep those feet clean, aaaannnnddd

Bring on Iron Man 3!

John Carter is a Fun Flick


Before a curious hacker took a red pill; before a xenomorph wiped out a bunch of Colonial Marines; before a farm boy, a crazy Corellian smuggler (who shot first), and a walking carpet saved a Rebellion; before NCC-1701’s five-year mission; before a deposed duke tamed his first sandworm; even before the 3 Laws of Robotics were graven into a Foundation; a disillusioned  and haunted Confederate war hero went looking for gold and ended up on Mars.

Watching Disney’s John Carter in a cool, dark theater is a good, exciting, and not terribly educational (not that that’s a bad thing) way to spend a cloudy afternoon with someone you love. That is precisely how my beloved Budge and I spent yesterday afternoon. In the end, she liked the movie more than I did, although I did like it a great deal. It is pure escapism at its finest and the cinematography isn’t too shabby either.

I must admit when I saw the first posters announcing John Carter’s pending arrival back at the end of summer last year, I had absolutely no idea who the character was, who created him, or what the whole mess was all about. None of that proved the slightest impediment to my enjoyment of the film.

For those who have not checked out Wikipedia for themselves, John Carter is the creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs — yes, THAT Edgar Rice Burroughs — the guy whose OTHER major character made Johnny Weismueller famous. Carter is the central character of Burroughs’ Barsoom novels, which give the history not only of John Carter, but also of Mars — known to the natives of the books as “Barsoom.” Their publication in 1912, first in serial form and later as pulp novels stands as a seminal moment in the entire genre of science fiction. Fittingly, the movie came out on the same date as the first book.

Before I go any farther, let me caution anyone sucked in by the “Disney” nameplate. The movie is PG and with good reason. Limbs are hacked off, creatures are branded with hot iron, and copious amounts of blood — blue though it may be — splashes across the screen. In fact I was nearly certain the adorable little six-legged dog/lizard creature  was going to get killed and I was fully prepared to storm out of the theater as soon as that happened. Thankfully, to ease the minds of the other animal lovers in the house, the little  fellow survives the entire movie and plays the hero on one or two occasions.

The movie plays true to most of the source material, from what I can gather anyway. However, even if you know nothing about the background works — I certainly didn’t — the movie is still fun to watch. Much like Dorothy steps from black and white into Technicolor in The Wizard of Oz, we get cued in that John isn’t in Kansas anymore when the picture goes starkly desaturated. Most of the blue tint comes out and what is left is a light, slightly yellowish haze that captures fairly accurately the look of the Martian landscape sent back to us by  the Mars Viking probe and its 21st century descendents.

One knock some people have made against the film is its abuse of scientific knowledge. First of all, it IS a science FICTION film so a little suspension of disbelief is necessary — just as it requires a huge dose of disbelief in traction to think that every alien race in the cosmos is not only bipedal and at least passingly humanoid, but also that every one of those aliens speaks the Queen’s English better than my former students did. However, if one realizes that the science of the film FITS FAIRLY WELL with the science of the times of the novels, it becomes much easier to give the directors a pass.

The movie is worth seeing and it does have all the elements required of a great action flick. The damsel is in distress and fleeing an arranged marriage, the evil general turns out to be merely the puppet of an even viler overlord, and the little (if 12′ tall can be considered little) green men end up saving the day. There’s even a slight twist at the end that those with more knowledge of the source material than me might have seen coming.

Taken as a whole, John Carter wasn’t the very best sci-fi movie I’ve seen, but it is far superior to many of the worse ones I’ve endured. It is worth seeing and I give it three and a half of five stars.

Sherlock Holmes 2 is Exceedingly Well Done


If you haven’t been to see Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows, by all means go see it before it leaves the theaters. Budge and I went to see it yesterday with one of the many movie gift cards we acquired at Christmas and I was completely pleased with the movie as a whole. I realize some people — particularly movie snobs — will think I’m daft, but this film was crafted well enough and cast well enough to be considered for an Oscar. Now I have no delusions of it even being nominated, but if it does get on the slate, it will be the biggest Hollywood coup since Shakespeare in Love topped Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture.

As far as the cast, no one in Hollywood plays a manic dissolute independently wealthy hero as well as Robert Downey, Jr. I am somewhat biased in favor of Mr. Downey, I must confess, because I love to root for the underdog and not very long ago, RDJ was considered, rightly, by many in Hollywood as a washed up has been whose taste for alcohol and drugs had derailed a promising career. I think he has channeled some of that real world skid row gutter experience into characters like the alcoholic Tony Stark and the cocaine addicted Sherlock Holmes to bring a dimension to the screen other actors would be hard pressed to duplicate.

Jude Law as Watson comes across as anything but a sidekick second banana. Far from just a sober baseline foil for Holmes’ mania, Law plays the retired army surgeon as a concerned friend and worthy successor to Holmes’ masterful detective work. He also shows an audience how to help an addict but avoid the pitfalls of co-dependence. Jared Harris also gives a masterful performance as the brilliant but depraved Professor Moriarty — the one man whose intellect and powers of planning are a match, if not quite superior to Holmes’ own skills. When Harris and Downey share the screen, the air fairly crackles with the tension of two brilliant narcissistic geniuses crossing razor sharp intellects.

One particularly good part of this movie that I noticed and I hope others do as well is the marvelous music played throughout the film. From the somber strains of Don Giovanni to the lively wailing of an Irish fiddle, the music is ever-present and ever-changing but always maintaining a goal of helping move the action forward. I don’t know if the studio will release a soundtrack, but I for one would welcome it.

To sum up, this sequel is every bit as good as the first film and for my part attains the rare pedestal held by other second runs like Terminator 2 as even a measure superior to the original. It is more than just an action flick. It is a thinking person’s movie and it is loaded with great lines, great performances, and great music.

Wikipedia: Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a 1991 science fiction action film directed by James Cameron and written by Cameron and William Wisher Jr.

Movie Review: “The Box”


The Box Movie PosterThis is a VERY simple movie for me to review. If you were one of the students who adored Sartre’ and “got” Albert Camus’ book “The Stranger”, you’ll love “The Box”. If you understand “Waiting for Godot”, you’ll sop this movie up with a biscuit. It is an existential masterpiece.

I hated it.

Sure, Budge loved it. She’s even seen it twice. Of course, Budge also had a crisis of conscience when she was in AP English because she thought she was becoming an Existentialist, which, in the South, is the same as thinking you are becoming an Atheist.

Just in terms of “moviespeak” the acting was horrible. Cameron Diaz tries to affect a Southern accent and doesn’t get close, and nothing is worse to the ear of a good ol’ wild eyed Southern boy than a fake Southern accent.

The movie DOES have one redeeming quality . . . it showcases decor from the 1970s that I haven’t seen since I was a child. Remember avocado colored appliances anyone?