Sunday, November 17, 2019

This Is A Joke, Right?

Welp, this happened today. Joker has officially grossed $1 BILLION DOLLARS worldwide. Just as I predicted it would in my review a couple weeks ago.

Once again, I absolutely DO NOT GET IT.

Why do people seem to love this film so much? I thought it was passable at best. Sure, it features a brilliant and fearless performance by star Joaquin Phoenix, but it was all in service of nothing. The story was extreeeeemely predictable, as it was little more than a remake of Taxi Driver and The King Of Comedy melded together. In fact the moment I saw the trailer I "wrote" the movie's plot in my head, and my version was virtually identical to the real thing.

Even more puzzling, it's a superhero movie without any superheroes or comic book elements in it. You could remove all the handful of DC references and it wouldn't change the movie one bit. Heck, you could take out all the clown stuff too, and again, the story would remain virtually unchanged. So why do comic book fans love it so?

More power to Warner Bros. and DCEU fans, I guess. But I remain honestly baffled by this movie's popularity and success.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Mandalorian, Season 1: Chapter One

It's finally here! Yet another attempt by Disney to drain the last drops of milk from the dried up, withered teats of the Star Wars franchise. The ONLY reason to sign up for the Disney+ streaming service, and then cancel it once it's over. It's The Mandalorian!

As long-time readers of Bob Canada's BlogWorld know by now, there was a time when I was a HUGE Star Wars fan. From the moment I saw the original movie in the theater first run, mind you! I ate, slept and breathed the property. It had a major impact on my life and even influenced my choice in my so-called career. 

That was in the Before Time though. Things have changed.

The lame Prequel Trilogy dealt my Star Wars enthusiasm a mortal blow, and it lay on life support for many years. Then the Sequels (I guess that's what we're calling the new trilogy?) came along, and pulled the plug altogether. After the debacle that was The Last Jedi (which I've seen only once and refuse to see ever again or review), Star Wars was dead to me. It became a distant memory of something I once loved, but no longer thought or cared about.

So with all that said, I had absolutely ZERO expectations for The Mandalorian. None whatsoever. In fact I wasn't even planning to watch the thing. That's how little I cared for Star Wars anymore.

But then a funny thing happened— I started hearing good things about it. Things like, "It didn't suck," and "It feels like Star Wars again." I was intrigued by the people involved with the show as well. The series was created by writer/director/actor Jon Favreau, who helmed such films as Elf, Zathura, Iron Man and The Jungle Book

Plus the first episode was directed by Dave Filoni, who created the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels. I've never seen Rebels, but I did catch a few episodes of The Clone Wars and liked what I saw. In fact I thought they were miles better than the live action Prequels!

With all that talent behind the scenes, I decided to give the series a look. Boy, am I glad I did! I absolutely LOVED The Mandalorian! Loved it, I tell you! For the first time since 1999, I actually give a sh*t about Star Wars again!

As stated by others, The Mandalorian feels like proper, old school Star Wars— before the Dark Times. Before the Prequels and Sequels. It's set five years after The Return Of The Jedi, which is probably why it feels so much like the original films.

I think the thing I liked most about the show is that it's extremely simple. The entire first episode revolves around the taciturn titular character as he attempts to collect a lucrative bounty. That's it! That's all there is to it! No Jedis, not blowing up Death Stars, no galaxy-spanning wars, no senses-shattering secrets. There's not even so much as a lightsaber on display!

That definitely sold me on the show. The Star Wars franchise was starting to feel extreeeemely limited, as if it was impossible to do anything that didn't involve the Skywalker clan. It was refreshing to see another corner of the Universe that involved a completely new set of characters.

See, Disney? It's not that hard to do something good with this franchise. You CAN make decent Star Wars material if you hire the right people who understand the property and have actual talent.

Even better, the show's kind of about one of my favorite characters! I've always been a big Boba Fett fan, and although this series isn't about him per se, it's about one of his kinsmen, so it's right up my alley. 

It's only been one episode, but so far the series seems to be restraining itself when it comes to annoying fan service. Yeah, there're quite a few Easter eggs and references to the Original Trilogy, but I felt that most of them were there just as atmosphere. If you're gonna set a series in the Star Wars Universe, it's only natural to see familiar alien races and ships, right? There were a couple blatant "Hey, Remember This?" moments, but they didn't overwhelm the episode or piss me off.


The Plot:
It's five years after The Return Of The Jedi. On an ice planet that absolutely isn't meant to remind us of Hoth, the Mandalorian (played by Pedro Pascal, though you never see his face) enters a cantina. Inside, two alien thugs are planning to kill a Mythrol (a blue, fishy-looking gent) and steal his credits. The thugs aren't 
happy to see the Mandalorian, and pick a fight with him. He easily kills them both, and the Mythrol thanks him profusely for saving his life. The Mandolorian shows him a bounty puck, and the Mythrol realizes he's there for him.

OK, I'm getting tired of writing "Mandalorian" every time, so I'm just gonna call him "Manny" from now on.

Manny leads the Mythrol out of the cantina, where he charters a landspeeder to take him across the ice back to his ship. So I guess that's how he got there the first time, right? The speeder drops them off at Manny's ship. As if drives off, it's attacked by some creature living under the ice. Manny takes off, but the creature grabs one of the landing gear and threatens to pull the ship under the ice. He leans out the hatch and blasts it, causing it to let go. The ship heads for open space.

The Mythrol tries making small talk with the sullen Manny, but is met with icy silence. The Mythrol excuses himself and goes to the cargo hold, on the pretense of using the facilities. There he discovers several other bounties in a storage unit, all encased in carbonite. He backs up in surprise and bumps into Manny. He throws the Mythrol into a carbon chamber and freezes him like the others.

Manny lands on a planet and enters yet another cantina, where he meets with his "agent" Greef Carga (played by Carl Weathers). Carga pays him with Imperial credits, but Manny refuses them, saying they're no good now that the Empire's fallen. Carga says fine, pays him in Calamari "flan"and offers him a lucrative bounty job that's off the books. Manny accepts.

He goes to the address Carga gave him, where he meets The Client (played by Werner Herzog). The Client, who may have once been an Imperial Regional Governor, still has a squad of Stormtroopers hanging around, and is working with a Dr. Pershing. They want Manny to locate a fifty year old asset and bring it back alive. As payment, The Client offers Manny a bar of rare and precious Beskar steel. Again, Manny accepts.

Manny then pays a visit to a Mandalorian base or temple or something, which is populated by others of his clan. He hands the Beskar bar to a Blacksmith, who says it'll be enough to make him a new shoulder pauldron to replace the mismatched one he now wears. She says the excess metal can be used to support the many "foundlings" in their base. As she forges the new armor piece, Manny has flashbacks to his childhood, in which his parents were attacked by someone and seemingly sacrificed themselves to protect him.

The Blacksmith attaches the new pauldron to Manny's shoulder. He then flies to a desert planet that absolutely isn't meant to look like Tattooine, looking for his next target. As he walks along, he's attacked by a couple of blurrgs— dinosaur-like creatures that can be ridden like horses. One grabs his arm and pins him to the ground as the second charges toward him.

Suddenly the blurggs are hit by a couple of tranq darts and fall to the ground. Manny turns and sees he was rescued by an Ugnaught named Kuiil. He asks why he helped him, and Kuiil replies that his planet was once peaceful, until various bounty hunters arrived to attempt to take the asset from its heavily-fortified compound. He says Manny looks like he could succeed where all the others failed. He figures if he helps him obtain the asset, then everyone will get the hell off his planet and it'll be peaceful again.

Kuiil tells Manny the compound's too far to reach on foot, and says he'll have to learn how to ride a blurgg. He tries and is thrown off several times, before relaxing and calming the beast. Manny and Kuiil ride through the barren landscape, and eventually arrive at the compound. Kuiil takes his leave, refusing to accept any of Manny's credits for his help.

Manny hides behind a ridge and observes the compound, which is crawling with alien guards. Suddenly an IG-11 Bounty Hunter Droid storms into the compound, apparently on the same mission. Many intercepts IG and suggests they work together and split the bounty. IG agrees. Between the two of them, they manage to take out the dozens of guards. The two of them then stare at the compound's impenetrable door.

Manny jumps on a mobile cannon and blasts open the door. Inside they locate the asset— a tiny green baby of the same species as Yoda. Manny wonders how a baby can be fifty years old, and IG reminds him that all species age differently. IG wants to kill the asset, but Manny's reluctant to do so. He shoots IG in the head, and stares down at the baby. He holds out his finger, and the baby reaches up and grabs it.

• Let's start with a disclaimer— I only know Star Wars from the movies. I'm not well-versed in the Expanded Universe, and know little or nothing about the novels, videogames and various animated series like Star Wars Rebels. So a lot of the questions I have about this episode may very well have answers in those other properties.

• As I said in the intro, Disney FINALLY pumped out a series that feels like real, proper Star Wars. The Mandalorian uses the same sound effects as heard in the Original Trilogy, the planets are populated with familiar alien races, and they even use the traditional Star Wars "wipes" during scene transitions! Well done!

• The original Star Wars was always sort of an old school Western— just set in outer space. The good guys wore white, the bad ones black (OK, with the exception of the Stormtroopers), there were shootouts and bar fights, people used animals for transportation and it was good versus evil.

The Mandalorian continues this theme, although this time it's more of a Spaghetti Western grittier and more realistic, with morally ambiguous antiheroes.

• The Mandalorian is played by actor Pedro Pascal, who's probably best known as Oberyn Martell on Game Of Thrones. Note that at no time does Pascal ever show his face in this episode. I'm assuming at some point in the season he'll give us a look under his helmet, else why bother casting a reasonably well-known actor?

Rounding out the cast is Carl Weathers as Greef Carga, and actor/director Werner Herzog as The Client. Actor/director Taika Waititi voices IG-11.

According to the official cast list, Nick Nolte stars as Kuiil. I'm pretty sure someone else physically played him though, while Nolte just voiced the character. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't imagine Nolte agreeing to sit in a makeup chair for four hours to transform him into an Ugnaught. Plus, Kuiil looked to be well under five feet tall, and I'm pretty sure Nolte's taller than that.

SNL alum Horatio Sanz plays the Mythrol. Despite the fact that I know it's him, I just can't see any trace of Sanz under all those prosthetics.

All in all, it's a pretty impressive cast for a TV show!

• For some reason, none of the planets visited in the episode are ever identified. Two of them look suspiciously like Hoth and Tattooine, although I don't think they're supposed to be. Who knows, though? 

Would it have killed them to have added some onscreen location captions?

• The second I saw that irising door in the cantina, I knew someone was gonna get cut in half by it! Sorry about the black bars, by the way. I can't get rid of 'em.

The Mandalorian features a ton of aliens from the original series, which all self-respecting Star Wars fans will instantly recognize. I spotted Rodians, Quarren, Trandoshans, Off-World Jawas, Niktos, the aforementioned Ugnaught and of course a Kubaz (pictured above).

By the way, I laughed when I saw the Kubaz play a flute to summon a landspeeder taxi. His elongated snout is already basically a flute! Why didn't he just play his nose?

• Brian Posehn makes a brief appearance as a landspeeder taxi driver, who drives Manny and his catch back to his ship. Meh. I'm not a fan of these celebrity cameos. Whenever I see a star make an appearance like this, it takes me right out of the episode as I try to figure out who I'm looking at.

Hey, Brian Posehn, just because you've been a Star Wars fan since childhood and are probably friends with Jon Favreau, that doesn't mean you should make a distracting appearance here.

Some might point out that Horatio Sanz's appearance amounted to a cameo as well. Eh, I disagree. His role was much larger, and he actually helped further the plot. Posehn's inclusion was unnecessary and superfluous.

• I liked Manny's ship— the Razor Crest— quite a bit. It's high time we got some more cool-looking ships in the Star Wars Universe! I'm especially glad he has a NEW looking vessel, and not another variation of the Slave-1!

• In the hold of the Mandalorian's ship, the Mythrol discovers several previous bounties encased in carbonite for easy transport. Whoops!

In The Empire Strikes Back, carbonite was used in Cloud City as a way to preserve and transport Tibanna Gas to other worlds. It was never meant to be used on lifeforms. In fact when Vader announced he wanted to freeze Luke in carbonite to safely ship him to the Emperor, Lando warned him of the danger:

Lando: "Lord Vader, we only use this facility for carbon freezing. It might kill him."

Vader: "I do not want the Emperor's prize damaged. We will test it on Captain Solo."

Apparently after Han survived the process, the news spread among the bounty hunting community, and the carbon-freezing of perps became SOP. Maybe a lot of bounty hunters passed through Jabba's palace, saw Han displayed on his wall and decided to use the method themselves.

• In this episode we learn that Mandalorians never remove their helmets— at least around others. That was a surprise to me, as it seems to contradict what we saw in the Prequels. Hell, Jango Fett could barely keep his helmet on for more than a few minutes at a time.

This is one of those seeming plot holes that may have an answer in the cartoons, which I know heavily features the Mandalorian race.

• By far the best 
thing about The Mandalorian is the fact that it retroactively makes the Star Wars Holiday Special part of the official canon! For example:

Early in the episode, the Mythrol says he hopes to make it home in time for Life Day (!). That particular holiday drove the plot of the Special, as Han Solo was trying to get Chewie back to Kashyyyk (when one "Y" just isn't enough) to celebrate it with his previously-unseen family.

Additionally, all through the episode, Manny carries a blaster rifle with a forked end.

Which is nearly identical to the one Boba Fett had in the animated segment of the Special (which was his official Star Wars debut, by the way!).

Also, when Manny attempts and fails to ride the blurgg, Kuiil says, "You are Mandalorian! Your ancestors rode the great Mythosaur! Surely you can ride this young foal."

I'm assuming the Mythosaur may be the dinosaur-like creature that Boba Fett rode in the Special?

Hilariously, this episode also just made Gormaanda (the four-armed alien Julia Child knockoff played by Harvey Korman in drag) part of the official canon as well! That means she could have theoretically been Grand Moff Tarkin's personal chef!

And this touching scene of Ackmena (as played by Bea Arthur) singing to a giant alien rat in her Cantina on Tattooine is also now an official part of the Star Wars Universe. Oh, Jon Favreau... what have you done?

• If you look closely, The Client is wearing a medallion featuring the spoked symbol of the Empire around his neck. He's also got his own personal squad of Stormtroopers, whose armor looks like it's seen better days.

I'm betting The Client was one of the Regional Governors that Grand Moff Tarkin spoke of in A New Hope— one who's still tenuously clinging to power on this backwater world, despite the fact that the Empire's fallen. 

My theories are usually hilariously wrong, so future episodes will prove if I'm right this time or not.

The Mandalorian features a ton of Easter eggs and callbacks to the Original Trilogy. I'm not gonna list 'em all here, as I'd have to type an additional 50,000 words. There are numerous comprehensive lists on other sites. I will point out a couple that jumped out at me though:

As Manny walks through a street market on the second planet he visits, we see a vendor selling roasted Kowakian Monkey-Lizard on a spit! Jabba the Hutt's pal Salacious Crumb was a Monkey-Lizard, and one of the most annoying-ass characters in the entire franchise. That made it extra sweet to see his species is apparently considered a foodstuff in the Star Wars Universe!

Also, when Manny visits The Client, he's confronted by a gatekeeper droid. Note that this droid is IDENTICAL to the one seen in Jabba's Palace in The Return Of The Jedi. It even says the exact same lines!

• I appreciated all the world building in the episode, especially the bits relating to Mandalorian er, lore. This week we learn that the Mandalorians are a secretive race that constantly hides their faces, there was some sort of Great Purge of their planet and Beskar steel is the most valuable substance in the galaxy to them. According to Star Wars lore, Beskar steel can block even a lightsaber blade! No wonder they love the stuff so much!

I didn't understand a lot of it yet, but I'm assuming they'll fill in the gaps in upcoming episodes.

I liked the Blacksmith's cool Spartan-looking helmet, proving that Mandalorians don't all look like clones (heh) of Boba Fett.

Speaking of Beskar steel, this week Manny gets a new shoulder pauldron made of the stuff, to replace his old one. Note that Manny's current look consists of lots of mismatched pieces scavenged from various other armors.

I would not be surprised if he gets more Beskar pieces over the course of the season, until he's fully outfitted in the stuff in the series finale.

• This week we get a couple of VERY brief glimpses of Manny's past, as he flashes back inside the Blacksmith's foundry. It's impossible to tell what exactly's happening here, other than it appears his parents sacrificed themselves to save him. I'm sure we'll eventually find out what's going on in a future episode.

Note that Young Manny looks Hispanic, just like Pedro Pascal (who's of Chilean descent). That reinforces my theory that we'll eventually see Manny unmasked at some point in the series. Else why match the ethnicity of the young and old versions of the character?

• I thought the blurggs were fun, even though I can't imagine how their bodies would work in real life. 

I'm trying to figure out just how much of them was CGI and how much, if any, was practical. Obviously when they're walking around or being ridden they're CGI. But I'm betting they build at least a partial blurgg for the scenes in which Manny's wrestling with one. If not, then that was some damned fine CGI!

By the way, the blurggs reminded me a lot of the pig lizard from Galaxy Quest.

• After more than three decades, we FINALLY got to see an IG unit in action! Awesome! 

We saw IG-88 back in Empire of course, but he never actually did anything, and stood motionless for his entire scene. I don't think he even moved his head! This IG unit is VERY animated, as his various sections can swivel 360 degrees to take potshots at perps all around him!

• So it turns out that the asset Manny's after is a baby of Yoda's species. GASP! A couple things here:

Manny seems puzzled by the baby, since The Client said his quarry was fifty years old. IG-11 reminds him that different species age at different rates.

Yeah, that may be, but do they really expect us to believe that this baby's half a century old? What kind of a life cycle is that? Can you imagine the poor parents of this thing having to change its sh*tty diapers for fifty goddamned years? I don't think so.

Secondly, it's been almost forty years, Lucasfilm. it's high time you stopped playing coy and gave Yoda's species a freakin' name. Why the secrecy?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

R.I.P. Jan In The Pan

R.I.P. to actress Virginia Leith, who died November 4th at age 94. Although Leith had quite a few credits to her name, she was most famous for her role in the 1962 horror film The Brain That Wouldn't Die. Leith played Jan (aka Jan In The Pan), a hapless woman who was kept alive by her fiance after a horrific car accident. 

I made an Xmas card starring Jan many years ago, and actually mailed it out to friends & family. Of course most of them became former friends afterward.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

One Year Ago Today...

It seems impossible, but Stan Lee died a year ago today on November 12, 2018. I swear it feels more like three or four months ago.

However long it's been, I still miss him. R.I.P. Stan.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Future Is Now, NOW!

Everyone and their dog has already pointed this out by now, but why not jump on the bandwagon as well? As of this month we are now living in the incredibly far-off "future" of November 2019, as seen in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

Longtime readers of Bob Canada's BlogWorld (all six of you) know all too well that this is one of my biggest cinematic pet peeves. I absolutely hate it when a movie features a radically different future filled with impossibly-advanced technology, but takes place just twenty years from now.

Blade Runner's a favorite of mine, and one of the best thoughtful sci-fi movies ever made. That said, it's definitely marred by its far-too-close-to-the present-day setting. It premiered in 1982 and its story takes place a mere thirty seven years in the future. Even when it first came out I knew that was far too short a time for any of the movie's technological advances to come to pass. Would it have killed them to have set it in 2119, for corn's sake?

Even though I hate it, I understand why filmmakers do this. Films set centuries from now require hundreds of futuristic costumes, props, vehicles and locations. All those things need to be designed and built from scratch, which costs millions. Setting a sci-fi movie a couple decades is exponentially cheaper, as most things won't have changed all that much in twenty or thirty years.

Just because I understand it though doesn't mean I have to like it. 

Let's take a look at the various advanced technology we should have by now, according to Blade Runner:

Androids/replicants: Artificial beings (not robots) that are nearly indistinguishable from actual humans. These androids are basically a slave race, designed to perform jobs too dangerous for humans. They also have a built-in life expectancy of three years, to prevent them from organizing.

These androids are so advanced that the only way to detect one is by use of a bone marrow test (!) or a Voigt-Kampff machine, a device that measures empathy.

To make matters even worse, the replicants seen in Blade Runner are described as Nexus 6 models. That implies there've been FIVE previous versions in the series. We are WAY behind schedule!

This may be the movie's biggest blunder— the entire movie revolves around these replicants, but it'll be centuries before we're capable of developing such technology. If ever.

Animoids: According to the movie, by 2019 most of the world's animal species have become extinct. Owning live animals is against the law, so we'll replace them with robotic replicas that are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Again, nothing even remotely similar to this in the real world. Unless you count Sony's AIBO dog.

Blasters: Deckard's weapon of choice looks like an ordinary handgun, but it appears to fire some sort of high-energy blast.

The Army's been doing R&D on energy weapons, but of course they're nothing like the ones seen in the film.

Advertising Blimps: We already have airships of course, and some of them— like the Goodyear Blimp— are even used for advertising. But not to the extent seen in the movie. So far I've not noticed any obnoxious neon-lit blimps hovering over my house, blasting out loud music and commercials.

In this case I'm actually glad our tech is behind that of the movie!

Flying cars: The dream of every rush hour commuter, and another of the fim's biggest misses. Compact flying automobiles are still decades away, if they ever happen at all.

The main question is SHOULD they ever happen? We can't even keep from crashing into each other here on the ground— imagine the collateral damage that would occur from a mid-air auto crash.

• Mega Buildings: Again, we have plenty of large buildings here in 2019 (Burj Khalifa, anyone?). But nothing as massive as the city-sized Tyrell Corporation Pyramids seen in the movie. According to online sources, the building contains over eight hundred floors, and is 8,172 feet tall! That's 1.5 miles high! Now that's a building!

Mega Cities: Yeah, we have large cities, but nothing like the vast megalopolises seen in Blade Runner. According to director Ridley Scott, the film takes place in San Angeles— a city formed from the merger of San Francisco and LA, that's four hundred miles long and takes up most of the California coast.

It'll be a long time before anything remotely close to that happens in our world. Again, if ever.

Offworld Colonies: Next to the replicants, this is easily the second worst of the film's miscalculations. The movie features numerous ads and billboards urging the populace to start their lives over on the offworld colonies. HAW!

We couldn't even get back to the Moon today if we had to, much less set up a self-sufficient colony on another planet. And there don't seem to be very many other hospitable worlds in our solar system, so these colonies would have to orbit other stars light years away. There's no way a project of this magnitude will happen in the next 100 years, much less 10.

To make it even worse, at the end of the movie, replicant Roy Batty monologues, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."

That little speech implies that the colonies— as well as routine space travel and interstellar war— have been around for decades! 

• One thing that's conspicuously absent from the movie— cell phones and the internet. Whoops! Those two things seem to have been consistently overlooked by virtually EVERY sci-fi movie of the last two or three decades.

A Red Letter Day

A couple years ago I wrote a post about how I made replica Lightning Fast VCR Repair shirts (as seen on Red Letter Media's Half In The Bag show) and gave 'em to my nephews for Xmas. I also made one for myself.

There's actually more to the story that I forgot to mention. Occasionally on the show, Mike will wear a navy blue jacket emblazoned with a Lightning Fast VCR patch. In addition to making a couple of the shirts for myself, I also made a replica of his jacket.

I had an extra patch left, so I went online and bought a men's Dickies work jacket (the same brand Mike wears). I sewed the patch onto the left breast, and viola! Instant Half In The Bag cosplay jacket!

Oddly enough I bought the jacket as a goof, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. Even though it's fairly thin, it's surprisingly warm! I've been wearing it out a lot lately as our temps drop. I highly recommend Dickies brand jackets!

It Came From The Cineplex: Countdown (2019)

Countdown, not to be confused with Countdown (2017)Countdown (2016)Countdown (2012)Countdown (2011), Countdown (2008), Countdown (2004), Countdown (1998), Countdown (1996), Countdown (1990) and Countdown (1967), was written and directed by Justin Dec. 

Dec previously wrote and directed a series of video shorts. Countdown appears to be his first theatrical work.

Where the hell did this movie come from? Usually I see trailers for upcoming films every week for months before they're released. I didn't see a single one for Countdown, as the film just sort of appeared fully formed out of nowhere. Not a hint of a trailer or advance poster to be seen anywhere. I assume they must not have had any money for marketing.

Take the basic concept of the Final Destination franchise, strip it of all the convoluted and gory deaths, throw in a technological element, then execute the whole thing very poorly and you'll end up with this film. It's not the worst thing I've ever seen, but I definitely wouldn't call it good. If I had to describe it in a word, I'd say it's "watchable."

Countdown actually features some genuinely interesting concepts. For example, it points out how smart phones and apps have taken over every aspect of our lives, as well as how some people literally live for notifications and "likes." And the idea of a user agreement serving as a literal deal with the devil is pretty darned clever.

Too bad none of these concepts are ever explored to any extent. All the ideas in the film are vague and barely touched upon, as the movie races from one dull setpiece to the next.

The components are all just sitting there, but the director didn't have the skill or interest to assemble them into a compelling whole.

So far the movie's grossed a surprisingly strong $27 million worldwide against its minute $6.5 million budget. That's a pretty good return on the studio's investment, so you know what that means! Look for Countdown: Update in a year or two!


The Plot:
We open at a party, where a group of teens are discussing the most important thing in the world to them
 their phones. One of them mentions Countdown, a new app that supposedly tells you how many days you have left until you die. 

The others quickly download the app, and are pleased to see they still have decades in which to live. One of the teens, Courtney, refuses to download the app as she thinks it's ghoulish and morbid. Her friends eventually peer-pressure her into downloading it. When she opens the app, she's unnerved to see she has just three hours to live. Sucks to be her!

Courtney leaves the party with her boyfriend Evan. When she sees he's drunk, she suggests they walk to her house (I guess it never occurs to her that SHE could simply drive his car). Evan refuses to walk, insisting that he's OK to drive. Courtney refuses to ride with him, and Evan roars off in a huff. As she walks home, Courtney receives a notification on her phone that she's somehow violated the Countdown user agreement. She begins seeing terrifying figures in the dark, and runs to her home in a panic.

Once inside, the Countdown timer reaches zero. Suddenly she's attacked by a demonic entity, which picks her up and hurls her to the floor. At the same instant, Evan drunkenly crashes his car into a tree, and a branch goes through the seat where Courtney would have been sitting. So... either way she would have died, right?

We're then introduced to our main character Quinn Harris, a young nursing resident at a local hospital. Her boss, Dr. Sullivan (no first names, please) is a sleazy jerk who's always sexually harassing her. Unfortunately Quinn's afraid to speak out against him, as she's afraid she'll lose her new position.

Quinn finds a worried Evan vaping (I think?) in a restricted area of the hospital that's under construction. He's going in for some sort of vague but routine surgery after his accident, and is worried he's going to die. Quinn tells him there's no cause for alarm, but he shows her the Countdown app on his phone, which indicates he only has a few more hours to live. She's initially dismissive of his claims until he tells her about Courtney's death.

Quinn mentions the app to her co-workers, including Dr. Sullivan. They all download it and find they'll live to ripe old ages. Against her better judgement, she downloads it as well, and is horrified to see it tells her she only has three days to live.

Just then a junkie drags his unconscious girlfriend into the ward (rather than to the E.R.) and tells them she O.D.ed. Quinn quickly injects the woman with Narcan, which miraculously revives her. As you can probably tell, this seemingly superfluous scene is pure setup for the third act.

Meanwhile, Evan sneaks out of his room to avoid his surgery (I think?). Suddenly his phone dweedles, saying he's also violated the Countdown user agreement. He's attacked by a ghastly demonic version of Courtney, who throws him down a stairwell to his death.

Quinn visits her father's house to pick up her birth certificate for work. While there she encounters her younger sister Jordan, who's been resentful of Quinn since their mother died. Her father Charlie invites her to pay a visit to her mother's grave on Saturday. Quinn reluctantly accepts. 

The next day at work, Quinn's shocked to hear of Evan's death. She checks the Countdown app, which now says she has two days left to live. She calls Charlie and cancels the cemetery outing. Right on cue, she gets a message saying she's violated the Countdown user agreement. Dr. Sullivan makes another hard pass at her, and she barely manages to escape him. She tries to tell her superior Nurse Amy about the attack, but she's too busy to listen.

That night in her apartment, Quinn researches the Countdown app. Just as she comes to the conclusion it's fake, she sees a demonic Evan lunge at her. She then spends the night in her car outside her building. The next day she's awakened by Jordan, who ridicules her when she finds out Quinn's taking the app seriously.

A frazzled Quinn then buys a brand new phone from a salesman named Derek. She activates the phone, but is horrified to see the Countdown app has somehow already installed itself. She's then approached by Matt, who was also in the store to buy a new phone. He shows her his Countdown, which says he's scheduled to die a couple hours before her. What a coincidence.

Quinn's convinced something supernatural is happening, and returns to the hospital to consult with the staff priest. While there, she's blindsided by Nurse Amy, who leads her into an HR meeting. There she's informed that Dr. Sullivan has accused her of sexual harassment, and she's being formally suspended. Meanwhile, Matt visits the restroom, where he sees a demonic version of his little brother who died years ago.

Quinn & Matt both recall the user agreement notification, and how they both received it after changing their plans. Quinn theorizes that if you prevent your death, you trigger a demon who... kills you anyway. That doesn't make the least bit of sense, but this is the plot, guys. They hope maybe there's some loophole in the user agreement they can use to their advantage.

They return to Derek, and Quinn pays him to hack into the Countdown app on her phone. He discovers Latin phrases hidden within the code, which also doesn't make any sense but let's just move on. He finds Quinn and Matt's names within the code, and manages to fudge their numbers so they both have decades left to live. 

Quinn somehow spots Jordan's name within the code (good eye!) and realizes she must have downloaded the app as well. She's doomed to die right before Quinn (what is it with this family and the dying?) so Derek ups her numbers too. Quinn & Matt are quite pleased with themselves, thinking they've bested the app and the movie's over. Alas, we're not that lucky.

Meanwhile, Jordan's at home and sees a vision of her late mother, which of course turns into a demon. She flees to Quinn's apartment, and the three of them pay a visit to Father John— a local priest who's into demonology. He says the Countdown app is similar to a Gypsy curse, and theorizes that it can be broken if any one of them lives even one second past their scheduled death.

To that end, Father John has them form a large pentagram symbol out of salt and stand in the center of it. As Matt's timer runs down, the Demon appears and tries to break through the circle, but can't. Father John's amazed that his half-baked idea is working. Unfortunately Matt sees his little brother again, and he lures him out of the circle. Quinn follows after Matt, and Jordan runs after her. Did none of these idiots understand the rules here?

Matt runs outside and is hit by a passing car and killed. Jordan's injured by the Demon, and Quinn rushes her to the hospital. While there, one of the other nurses approaches Quinn, and feels this is the absolute best time to admit that Sullivan harassed her as well. She says if Quinn decides to press charges against him, she'll back her up.

Quinn then devises a plan, hoping to break the curse by killing someone before they're destined to die. She then starts coming on to Dr. Sullivan, and lures him into the unfinished wing where she tries to kill him. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Quinn beats Sullivan with a tire iron (not sure where she found that), but he manages to escape. The Demon then targets Jordan, who's timer has just about run out. Right as it's about to kill her, Quinn appears and goes all "Get Away From Her, You Bitch!" She then injects herself with an overdose of morphine and dies— ahead of schedule. This breaks the curse, and for some reason the Demon freezes and then dissolves into dust.

Jordan crawls over to Quinn and sobs over her lifeless body. She then notices the word "Narcan" written on Quinn's arm, next to an X. She feels around in Quinn's pocket and finds a syringe and a vial of the drug. Putting two & two together, she injects Quinn with the Narcan, which counteracts the morphine (I guess?) and revives her.

Sometime later, Charlie takes Quinn & Jordan to visit their mother's grave. As they leave, Quinn's phone bleeps and she sees Countdown Version 2.0 has updated itself on her phone. Here we go again!

In the mid-credit scene, Derek's on a Tinder date with an unlucky woman. Suddenly the lights go out, and he checks his Countdown app and sees it's at zero. He screams as he's dragged off.

Countdown doesn't waste any time getting started, as it introduces the titular app within the first minute of its runtime!

• All horror movies need a set of consistent internal rules that the characters all have to follow. That way the audience knows just how the hero can kill the monster. Think Frankenstein's aversion to fire, the Wolfman's allergy to silver or the fact that Freddy Krueger can only kill you in your dreams.

Countdown features one major rule, but it's vague, murky and makes little or no sense. Once downloaded, the Countdown app tells you exactly when you're going to die. But if you do anything at all to change your fate, you violate the app's user agreement. As punishment, a demon will then come and drag you to Hell at the exact time of your predicted death. 

Wait, what? That... that doesn't make any sense. If you do nothing, you die. If you try to prevent your death, you also die. You have the choice of marching face first to your death and going to Heaven (I guess?), or cheating and being dragged painfully to Hell by a Demon. You're screwed no matter what you do, which makes for a very unsatisfying movie experience.

I get the distinct impression the screenwriter didn't think his plot all the way through, and by the time someone pointed out the flaw in his logic the movie was half done and it was too late to do anything about it.

I guess technically the same exact thing happened in every entry of the Final Destination franchise. The plot didn't seem so pointless and "damned if you do" in those films though.

• Part of the problem with Countdown is the dullness of the various deaths. Let's face it, the only reason people see movies like this is for the kills. The aforementioned Final Destination films all featured inventive and elaborate Goldbergian death scenes. Compare that to Countdown, in which victims are briefly menaced by fleeting demonic visions of their loved ones, right before they're thrown down a flight of stairs or hit by a car. Yawn.

We do manage to get a few very quick cuts of some scary monster hands grabbing at the characters, but there's nowhere near enough of it.

• The hospital in which Quinn works features a restricted wing that's currently under construction. 
Why does every horror movie hospital seem to have one of these areas? I assume it's so there's a dark, scary place for the villain to chase the Final Girl.

• Quinn clearly works on an upper floor of her hospital, as seen when Evan gazes out the window in the restricted area. So why then does the drug addict drag his half-dead girlfriend all the way up to her floor, rather than to the ER (which is on the ground floor, as in every hospital in the world)?

Answer: Because Quinn didn't work in the ER, and they needed to establish to somehow establish how Narcan works. Hence the junkie who doesn't seem to understand how hospitals are laid out.

• At one point Quinn tends to a patient in Room 237. Oy. All good horror fans will recognize that room number from the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. It's the room Danny Torrance was warned to steer clear of.

Once again, let me offer a piece of advice to any and all directors out there— it's always a bad idea to remind the audience of other, BETTER movies they could be watching besides your own.

• Quinn's boss Dr. Sullivan is played by Peter Facinelli, who you may remember as the head of Edward's vampire clan in the Twilight movies. I guess he's contractually obligated to play doctors in every movie he's in.

Quinn's father Charlie is played by Matt Letscher. Fans of The Flash will recognize him as Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash.

• I get that this is a horror movie, and as such I shouldn't expect much in the way of legal accuracy. T
hat said, there's no way in hell that Quinn's sexual harassment inquiry would have happened the way it did.

First of all, they sprang the meeting on her with no advance notice, leaving her totally unprepared. That meant she had no legal counsel of her own to protect her or advise her of her rights. Pretty sure that'd be against the law, and she could easily countersue the hospital.

Even worse, they had her sit right next to her accuser Dr. Sullivan! Jesus Christ! Who thought THAT would be a good idea! Again, I get that this isn't a courtroom drama. But it doesn't make for good storytelling in any genre!

• By far the funniest thing about this film is the fact that it features a technologically savvy Demon— one that uses an app user agreement as a means to collect souls.

I can just picture the Demon sitting in front of a computer, writing the code for this program, and then uploading it to the Google Play Store.

• Quinn & Matt seek out Derek, to hack into the Countdown app and see if there's any loophole in the agreement. A couple things here.

First of all, Derek manages to get a look at the app's code, and sees it's filled with Latin phrases. Wha...? I'm assuming it's like part of a spell that the Demon placed in the contract? I'm also assuming the Latin has been commented out of the code with the tag, else it's gonna wreak havoc with the program!

Secondly, embedded in the code are the names and death dates of EVERYONE who's ever downloaded the app. That must be a hell of a list! I'm betting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people downloaded the thing! Somehow Derek finds the names of Quinn, Matt and Jordan in all those names, and boosts their life clocks.

I guess the thousands of other users with little time left can all just go f*ck themselves. At no point does Quinn or anyone else ever suggest helping them out.

• Welcome to the Post #MeToo World. Quinn's boss Dr. Sullivan is a world class asshole, who forces himself on her and tries to get her fired when she refuses his slimy advances. Apparently that makes it perfectly OK for Quinn to try and kill him in order to break the Countdown curse! Jesus Christ!

OK, no one's arguing the fact that Sullivan's a rapey bastard. But does that really justify Quinn attempting to outright murder him? He's no longer even a person in her eyes— she sees him merely as a tool or object to use against the curse. Whatever happened to due process? 

Remember, Quinn's ostensibly the hero of the movie. We're supposed to be rooting for her— even when she's trying to kill a guy she doesn't like.

I have a feeling this is one of those divisive issues in which men have a problem with Quinn's actions, while women see it as perfectly reasonable.

• I can't find a good photo of it online, but the Demon's design was pretty cool— what we could see of it, that is.

• At the end of the movie, Quinn figures out that if she dies before she's supposed to, the curse will be lifted and everyone will be in the clear. Sure enough, that's exactly what happens. She injects herself with a fatal dose of morphine and promptly dies. This nullifies the user agreement, and for some reason the Demon turns to dust and vanishes.

OK, it's stupid, but I could understand why dying early would violate Quinn's own personal contract with the Demon. But why would her death nullify EVERYONE ELSE'S contracts? And why would it kill the Demon? See what I mean? No matter how you figure it, it just doesn't make any sense.

Again, taking an extra pass at the script would likely have helped this movie immensely.

• During the end credits, I wondered if there was an actual Countdown app available to download. I pulled out my phone to check, and sure enough, there are at least a dozen different ones available. None of them appear to be officially associated with the movie though.

Countdown is a mildly entertaining technological horror film that actually has some interesting ideas at its core. Too bad they're all so poorly realized. It desperately wants to be Final Destination, but doesn't seem to understand that the appeal of those films were the elaborate death scenes. I'd describe it as watchable, but I wouldn't suggest rushing out to the cineplex to see it. I give it a middling C.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter