Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 was written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and Sylvester Stallone. It was directed by Patrick Hughes (who's mostly directed commercials and short films).

I didn't care much for the first Expendables film. Let's face it, the casting is the real star of these movies, and even though Sly tried to get every 1980s action hero to star in the film, he didn't quite succeed and had to fill in the slots with wrestlers and other lesser luminaries. The blink-and-you'll miss 'em cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were disappointing as well.

The Expendables 2 was a big improvement, fixing most of the problems of the first and greatly expanding Schwarzenegger's screen time. It was much more fun than the first outing as well.

The Expendables 3 tries to shake up the formula a bit by throwing a group of younger mercenaries into the mix. It's better than the first, but not quite as good as the second. I'm thinking this might be a good time to retire the franchise.

The Plot:
After a disastrous mission, Barney Ross (played by Sylvester Stallone), the leader of the Expendables, believes his team is getting too long in the tooth to be an effective fighting force. He tells them they're services are no longer needed and recruits a team of younger, tech-savvy mercenaries. 

The new team is easily captured by evil arms trader Conrad Stonebanks (played by Mel Gibson). Stonebanks co-founded the Expendables, but betrayed the team for profit. Stonebanks knows Barney will try to rescue the new team and sets up a trap for him.

In the end, the old school Expendables join Barney to help rescue the youngins. Lots of bullets fly and lots of things explode.

Thoughts:
• Is Stallone secretly a fan of the G.I. Joe cartoon? Listen to these character names: Lee Christmas, Doctor Death, Gunner, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, Luna, Thorn, Mars, Drummer, Trench and Yin Yang. If those aren't Joe names, I don't know what are.

• At my screening, 99% of the audience was at least 50 years old. It makes me sad, but it appears that younger audiences just don't care about these "mature" action heroes.

• Jason Statham narrowly avoided injury during filming when the brakes failed on the truck he was driving and it plunged into the Black Sea. Statham's skills as an ex-Olympic diver reportedly saved his life.

• For the first time in this franchise, Barney doesn't sport a mustache and goatee. Maybe Sly got tired of coloring it black every morning and just shaved it all off? What? Don't look at me like that! The guy's 68! Every hair on his body's gray by now. It happens to the best of us.

• Wondering why Caesar gets sidelined early in the film and disappears? Because actor Terry Crews is currently starring in the TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

• There are several pretty obvious in-jokes peppered throughout the film. After rescuing Doctor Death (played by Wesley Snipes), the other Expendables ask why he was in prison. Doc glowers at them and hisses, "Tax evasion." In real life Snipes recently served three years in prison for that very crime.

Later Barney walks outside a bar and approaches several men, saying, "I'm looking for a guy named Church." CIA operative Max Drummer (played by Harrison Ford) then appears and says, "Church is out of the picture."

Bruce Willis played Church in the first two films. Stallone offered Willis $3 million dollars (for four days' work) to reprise his role but Willis balked, demanding $4 million. Stallone responded by writing him out of the film.

In the final act Drummer flies the copter that rescues the Expendables from an exploding building. In real life Harrison Ford is a skilled helicopter pilot and has participated in many search and rescue operations.

• The whole point of these films is that they're packed full of old school action stars. So of course it only makes sense that Kelsey Grammer would be in the picture. Remember all those great 1980s action films he was in? No? Yeah, neither do I.

Nicholas Cage was offered the role of Bonaparte but turned it down, prompting Grammer to accept.

• Egos ahoy! Stallone wanted to cast Jackie Chan in the film, but he refused because he wanted to be the star. Steven Seagal was also offered a part, but turned it down (too busy being a lawman?).

• The previous two films were rated R, but this one was PG-13. Obviously this was done in an effort to reach a wider audience and punch up the box office, but it seems to have backfired. To date the film has grossed less than $50 million.

• As in the previous two films, there are a ton of cast reunions here. Stallone starred with Dolph Lungren in Rocky IV, and with Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man. Jason Statham and Jet Li were both in The One. Mel Gibson and Jet Li were in Lethal Weapon 4. Stallone starred with Antonio Banderas in Assassins. Banderas and Mel Gibson were both in Machete Kills. Stallone and Terry Crews both starred in The 6th Day. And Stallone and Schwarzenegger were both recently in Escape Plan.

• Just like last time, Trench (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) spouts a couple of his famous one liners. Near the end of the film he shouts, "Get to da choppa!", which of course is from Predator. He also says, "I lied," which he said in Commando.

• Drummer tells Barney to capture Stonebanks alive, so he can stand trial at the Hague. Of course at the end of the film Barney and Stonebanks have an intense one-on-one battle. The fight is pretty much a draw until Barney manages to grab a weapon. Stonebanks taunts Barney, saying he can't kill him because he has to deliver him to the Hague.

Barney then shouts, "I AM THE HAGUE!" Was that a shout out to Judge Dredd, where Stallone bellowed, "I am the LAW!"

After lots of shots of stuntmen, er, I mean the two actors punching one another, Barney dispatches Stonebanks and kills him. He then escapes in the nick of time before the building explodes. I have to admit I was totally expecting Stonebanks to somehow rise from the rubble in a post credits scene, but alas, it didn't happen.

• Right before the building they're in explodes, the entire cast piles into the escape chopper. By my count there are thirteen people crammed in there. Is that possible? Just how much weight can a helicopter carry?

• In the obligatory "Winding Down At The Bar" scene at the end of the film, Barney is talking to Trench and his pal Yin Yang (played by Jet Li). Barney notices the two of them seem particularly chummy, and jokingly says, "You guys want to get a room?" Trench coyly giggles, "We don't need a room!" as he and Yang appear to snuggle.

The way the scene is shot I honestly can't tell if Trench is just yanking Barney's chain (so to speak), or if we're supposed to believe he and Yang are a gay couple. I could practically hear the brains exploding all over the theater.

It's like the filmmakers wanted to be progressive here but were afraid of offending anyone. By being vague they can have it both ways. 
You can't play it that way, guys. Trench is gay or he's not. And playing someone's sexuality for laughs– are we still doing that? Didn't such things go out a long time ago?

The Expendables 3 once again trots out its old school action heroes for "one last mission," with mixed results. It's better than the first one, but not as good as the second. I give it a B-.

Fashion That's To Die For

This week Spanish clothing retailer Zara landed in hot water over their latest child's t-shirt design. Critics say the shirt in question bears an unfortunate resemblance to the coarse jackets worn by concentration camp prisoners in WWII, right down to the Star of David-like design on the left breast.

Zara quickly pulled the shirt from their website and apologized, saying the shirt and star, which reads "Sherrif," was inspired by "Classic Western Films."

Because of course the lawman in every western film ever made wore a horizontally striped, long sleeved t-shirt, right? Right?

This isn't the first time Zara has been in hot water this year. Just last month they were blasted for selling a shirt emblazoned with the ill-advised slogan, "White Is The New Black." Many thought the shirt to be in poor taste in light of the recent racial tensions in Missouri.

Of course these kinds of imbroglios are nothing new to the beleaguered company. Two years ago they caused a world-wide uproar with their controversial Swastika Onesie.

Seems like these days Zara just can't win!

Cover Up

Take a look at this new Blu-ray cover for the 1997 film The Full Monty

Confession time: I've never seen The Full Monty. It's one of those films that for one reason or another I've never got around to watching, so I have no idea what it's about. Judging from this cover though, I'd say it's a horror movie about a deranged doctor who decapitates his victims and grafts their heads onto new bodies. Think Frankenstein crossed with The Human Centipede.

Hold on... what's that now? OK, I'm being told that's not what happens. Apparently the film is about a group of unemployed working class British men who decide to become Chippendale-type dancers. Are you flippin' kidding me?

Welp, you certainly could have fooled me with this cover. Look at that thing! Just look at that horrible, horrible paste up job. You couldn't make a worse looking cover on purpose. None of those actors were anywhere near those bodies when this photo was taken. 


Apparently the graphic design department at Fox has decided to stop using Photoshop and has resorted to cutting out photos of heads and crudely pasting them onto stock shots of nude men. Definitely a questionable move in this age of desktop publishing and digital manipulation, but kudos to them for bucking the trend and trying something different. Even if it is a dismal failure that should be buried deep underground and the earth above it salted.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 1: Deep Breath

• Huzzah! After a long, long, long absence, Doctor Who is finally back!

I've whined about it many times before, but Jesus, I hate these interminable breaks between seasons. Season 7 of Doctor Who ended in May of 2013. May! Yes, we got the 50th Anniversary Special and the Christmas Special in November and December, but still, there hasn't been a regular episode in 15 months. You could carry a child to term in that length of time and it would be six months old and sitting up by itself by now! 

I don't pretend to know exactly how the BBC works, but I do know that that's just way too long between seasons. It seems like the Beeb is running the very real risk of the audience losing interest in the show as they find better uses for their time in the long void between episodes.

I doubt there's any good solution to the problem– you've only got 12 episodes and there're 52 weeks in a year– but they need to address it somehow.

The Plot: 
In Victorian London, a gigantic dinosaur appears near the Thames, and it suddenly coughs up the TARDIS. The newly regenerated and disorientated Doctor steps out of it. Before the dinosaur can be returned to its proper time, it bursts into flames. The Doctor wonders if there've been other instances of spontaneous combustion in the area. A surprised Madame Vastra says yes, there have been.

The Doctor eventually discovers that Clockwork Men from the 51st Century are responsible for the fiery deaths, as they harvest human organs from people– to replace their own faulty parts– and then burn the evidence.

Meanwhile, Clara struggles to accept the Doctor's new appearance and personality.

Thoughts:
• We've got a brand new Doctor! Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor had a wee cameo in the 50th Anniversary Special, and we saw him for less than a minute in the Christmas Special, so this is our best look yet at him.

So far I like what I see of Twelve. He's got the cantankerous and curmudgeonly attitude of some of the early Doctors, especially the First one.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were both seen as heartthrobs, and had legions of female fans devoted to them. I'm curious to see how that demographic is going to react to a Doctor played by an actor old enough to be a grandfather.

• Clara spends a good amount of the episode being confused by the Doctor's new appearance. She wonders how his face can be lined and his hair gray when "he's just now got them."

It's a fair question. I know we've had mature Doctors in the past, but it's something I've always wondered about. When the Doctor regenerates, one would think that he'd end up looking younger than he was, not older, right? I know I'd feel gypped if I exchanged my current body for an even older model!

• Not only do we have a new Doctor, but a new title sequence as well! The new opening was based on a concept created by Doctor Who fan Billy Hanshaw from Leeds. His video went viral shortly after he uploaded it and caught the eye of show runner Stephen Moffat. He liked it so much he used the concept as the new opening, with a few tweaks. Hopefully Hanshaw was paid for his work. Or offered a job!

I love the new sequence, but after seeing them both, I think I like Hanshaw's original a bit more. The music I don't like quite as much– it's a bit too shrill for my tastes, but I suppose I'll get used to it.

• The Post-Regeneration Episode is possibly my least favorite thing about Doctor Who. Every time the Doctor regenerates, he generally spends the majority of his first episode disoriented and babbling 
until he gets his bearings in the third act and his new personality takes hold. The Tenth Doctor even spent three fourths of his first episode asleep in bed!

I am not a fan of this trope. When a new actor steps into the role, I want to see what he's going to be like now, in his first episode. It's a tradition at this point and unlikely to ever change, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

• Despite what Madame Vastra says, no dinosaur was ever as tall as Big Ben (316 feet!). It's the same reason why Godzilla could never exist in reality– a life form that enormous would collapse into a pile of steaming meat the first time it so much as took a step.

• So now the population of Victorian London has witnessed a gigantic dinosaur AND the massive Cyber King. Funny how there doesn't seem to be a historical record of these events...


• When the Doctor passes out on the banks of the Thames, we hear a loud gong from the TARDIS cloister bell, which was a nice touch. The bell only sounds during times of extreme peril.

• When Madame Vastra realizes this mysterious older man is the newly regenerated Doctor, she says, "Well then. Here we go again."

Wayyyyyy back in 1974 the Brigadier said the exact same thing when the Third Doctor regenerated into the Fourth.

• Madame Vastra's exploits seem to closely parallel those of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. At one point she says, "The game is afoot!" which or course was one of Holmes' catchphrases. 


She also mentions that the Paternoster Irregulars are out scouring the city for information. Holmes had a band of youths who helped him search London for clues, called the Baker Street Irregulars.

• Wondering why Vastra and her associates are called the Paternoster Gang? They're named after Paternoster Row, the street on which their headquarters are (was?) located. Paternoster, by the way, is another name for the Lord's Prayer (!).

• C'mon, BBC! Give the Paternoster Gang their own spin-off series already! If Torchwood can get its own series, surely Vastra and Co. deserve one.

• Stephen Moffat's plots are generally ridiculously convoluted and collapse if you think about them for even five seconds (I'm lookin' at you, The Angels Take Manhattan). Credit where credit's due: this is one of his more coherent plot lines.

• Moffat's plots and monsters very often involve the suppression of a bodily function in order to survive. For example, in Blink, one had to refrain from blinking to keep the Weeping Angels at bay. Here Clara had to hold her breath to escape the clockwork cyborgs (hence the title).


• This week's villain is the Half-Face Man, who is just that– a cyborg with a face that's half human, half exposed machinery (and a very good effect it is, too!). Yet somehow he walks the streets of Victorian London without ever calling attention to himself.

Late in the episode we find he's built a freakin' hot air balloon out of human skin (ew...), but apparently he couldn't spare a handkerchief-sized piece to cover the gaping hole in his face. Priorities!

By the way, something I learned the hard way while gathering photos for this review– do yourself a favor and do NOT ever google "half-face man."


• The Half-Face Man and his cyborg cronies are cousins of the Clockwork Men from The Girl In The Fireplace (which was also written by Moffat).

• The Doctor says, "
I need, um, I need clothes. That's what I need. And a big long scarf. No. I've moved on from that. Looks stupid."

An affectionate shout out from Moffat to Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor? Or a big middle finger to fans of the old series? You decide.


• Way back in episode The Fires Of Pompeii, Peter Capaldi played Caecilius Iucundus, a Roman citizen threatened by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. This is nothing new; actors play multiple roles in TV series all the time. In fact Karen Gillan, otherwise known as Amy Pond, also had a small part in The Fires Of Pompeii. And Colin Baker guest starred in an episode before he became the Sixth Doctor.

Despite the fact that absolutely no one in the audience is bothered by this, Moffat is bound and determined to explain why the Doctor has the same face as someone in ancient Rome. The Doctor apparently believes he chose this face during his regeneration for a reason, and is sending himself some sort of subconscious message.

This is an issue that doesn't need to be addressed. By trying to explain it, Moffat is only calling undue attention to it. Next he'll be trying to explain why the Doctor just happens to have an adventure at the same time every week, or why we see him clearly framed on the screen when he speaks, as if a camera is being focused on him.


• Favorite bits from the episode:

Inspector Gregson: It's just laid an egg. 
Madame Vastra: It dropped a blue box marked “Police” out of its mouth. Your grasp of biology troubles me.

––––––––––––––––

The Doctor: So you've got a whole room for not being awake in? But what's the point? You're just wasting the room. And don't look in that mirror. It's absolutely furious!

––––––––––––––––


Strax: Ah! Miss Clara. You look better now you're up.
Clara: Thank you Strax.
Strax: Oh. Sorry. Trick of the light. You still look terrible.

––––––––––––––––


Clara: (after an elaborate routine to activate the sonic screwdriver while incapacitated) You should make that thing voice-activated. 

The Doctor: (silent)
Clara: Oh for God's sake it is, isn't it?
The Doctor: I don't want to talk about it. 


• The Doctor confronts the Half-Face Man and tells him that he has to die. The Doctor says it's against his programming to murder (unless it's the Time War!), and the Half-Face Man says it's against his programming to self-terminate.

Somehow the Half-Face Man ends up impaled on a building's spire. So how'd he die? Was he pushed or did he jump? We may never find out.

• At the end of the episode, a prim and proper Victorian woman named Missy welcomes the Half-Face Man to "the promised land." She seems to know everything about the Doctor, and even suggests he's her boyfriend. 

We also find out that she was the woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor's number in last season's The Bells Of St. John, and in this episode she's the one who placed the ad in the newspaper that brought Clara and the Doctor together.

So who's Missy? She better not be River Flippin' Song. This is a Stephen Moffat episode though, and he's been in love with the character ever since he created her, so odds are high. I hope not though. Could she be the Rani? Possibly, but I'm hopeful she's someone new.


• At the end of the episode Clara enters the TARDIS and says, "You've redecorated!" At first I wondered why she said that, as the interior looked the same as it has since the 2012 Christmas Special. On closer inspection I see that there are a few changes. The lighting is a big warmer and it appears the Doctor's added a couple of bookcases into the walls.

• Clara receives a time-travelling message from the Eleventh Doctor, telling her that Twelve will need her help. It was nice to see Matt Smith as the Doctor one last time.

• The Doctor tells Clara that he's not her boyfriend. She says, "I never thought you were," to which he replies, "I never said it was your mistake."


This is apparently Moffat's way of telling us that we're going back to the old days of the show, when the Doctor and his female companions were nothing more than acquaintances. Good! I was getting a bit tired of the Doctor constantly mooning over Rose and Amy.

• The Doctor then shows off his new duds, including his dark blue Crombie coat with a bright red lining. So far just about every publicity photo of this new Doctor has shown him with the coat flung wide open to expose the lining. I will admit it adds a much-needed touch of color to his ensemble, but why not just give him a small red scarf, instead of having him constantly walk around with his coat awkwardly splayed open.

I learned a surprising fact this week– TV Guide apparently still exists. Why, I have no idea, since the vast majority of viewers have onscreen channel guides, but it appears to still be a thing.

Next week: Another Dalek episode. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

That's Unpossible! Twelve Other Things You Could Do In The Time It Would Take To Watch The Simpsons Marathon

On Thursday, August 29, the FXXX Network, whatever the hell that is, will be running an epic marathon of all 552 episodes of The Simpsons. Oy gevalt! That works out to about 276 hours, or 16,560 minutes. That's almost TWELVE days!

If you decide to watch, and frankly, what the hell else do have on your hectic schedule, be sure and have someone come in and turn you periodically to avoid bedsores.

Any way you put it, 276 hours is a lot of time. Here are Twelve Other Things You Could Do In The Time It Would Take You To Watch The Simpsons Marathon:

• Boil 5,520 three minute eggs.

• Run 662 twenty minute miles (let's face it, no one reading this is capable of running a four minute mile).

• Play Chopin's The Minute Waltz 16,560 times (or alternately, listen to John Cage's experimental composition Four Minutes, Thirty Three Seconds 3,824 times).

• Watch 75% of the Doctor Who Marathon (to date there are approximately 372 hours of Doctor Who).

• Drive between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana 276 times (highway and traffic conditions permitting).

• Watch ten straight hours of Mama's Family, then sit on the edge of your bed and stare at the floor for 266 hours, wondering where your life went wrong.

• Wait for your wife or girlfriend to finish getting ready for a night out after she says it'll just be "another fifteen minutes."
 
• Download a single episode of Game Of Thrones (Time Warner Cable customers only).

• Watch Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook once. What's that? It only lasts 124 minutes? That can't be right. Seriously? I guess it just seemed like it lasted twelve days.

• Fill out the IRS 1040-EZ Form four times. "E-Z" my ass!

• Watch Aunt Irma and Uncle Ira's slideshow of their trip to Eastern Schenectady. 

• Stand in line to renew your driver's license at the BMV. BOOYA! IN YOUR FACE, STATE GOVERNMENT! (drops microphone and walks out)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This Week In Horrifying Movie Theater News

This week several major movie chains in China announced that they're experimenting with a system that will allow real-time commentary– during the film. Audiences can now text their opinions about the movie they're watching and they'll be flashed on the screen for everyone to read. 

These "Bullet Screens" are meant to appeal to younger audiences "who can't spend five minutes away from their phones." Apparently most people in China watch movies on their phones and are already texting their opinions to everyone they know, so theaters have apparently thrown up their hands in defeat and have begun catering to them.

The new screens are already in use in select theaters in Beijing and Shanghai.

On the other side of the globe, a Lodi Stadium 12 movie theater in LA was temporarily closed after moviegoers complained they were bitten by bedbugs during a film. A pest control company was called in, and found "small pockets of bedbugs in limited areas of the theater." The theater was fumigated and management plans to perform regular inspections from now on.

Jesus wept


Honest to god, I'm having trouble deciding which of these stories is more horrifying.

What kind of self-important asshole thinks that anyone else in the audience cares what they think about a film? And who would pay to have half the screen covered up by some idiot's texts? 


It's bad enough that you have to endure people talking, babies screaming and idiots kicking the back of your seat while you're trying to watch a movie. Now they want us to have to deal with audience members' "hilarious" texts? If this trend ever reaches our shores, I'm afraid it'll have to happen without me. I'll be home watching movies on DVD and blu ray in peace and quiet.

I blame Mystery Science Theater 3000 for this unholy trend. As much as I love that show, it's had the unfortunate side effect of making everyone think they're a world class comedian whose every utterance is comedy gold. The cold hard truth is that few if any audience members are at the level of Joel, Mike and the bots, and their "funny" comments thud to the floor like bricks. Keep your goddamned texts to yourself, please and thank you.

As for bedbugs in theaters– how the hell is this happening? I've lived my entire life without ever hearing a peep about bedbugs, and suddenly in the last five years they've become an epidemic. 


I could understand it if this was the 1800s, but it's the goddamned 21st Century! We should have moved past this kind of thing hundreds of years ago. What's next, smallpox? Consumption? Spanish flu?

Excuse me while I board up the windows and refuse to ever leave my house again.

Looking For Mr. Batman

Saw this today on Yahoo.

The number one thing you never knew about Diane Keaton: in 1989 she starred as the Caped Crusader in Tim Burton's Batman! Fascinating!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Lucy

Lucy was written and directed by Luc Besson, whose impressive resume also includes La Femme Nikita, Leon The Professional, The Fifth Element, District 13 and the Taken films.

Lucy is typical of Besson's films, which are generally visually impressive and filled with over the top action sequences, along with strong female characters (often with superhuman powers).

The entire plot of the film hinges around the theory that humans only use 10% of their brain power, and that we would all be supermen if we could only access the other 90%. Of course this is a completely erroneous and boneheaded concept that for some reason just will not die. No matter how many times this cockamamie idea is debunked, it keeps on rising from the dead in "Mind Blowing Facts" lists on the internet every few weeks. It's the Jason Voorhees of bogus theories.

So how did the 10% idea ever get started? Some believe it started way back in the 1890s, when Harvard psychologists studied a child prodigy named WIlliam Sidis, who had an IQ of between 250 and 300. From this they posited that most people don't meet their full mental potential. Then in 1929, an ad in the World Almanac proclaimed that humans use only 10% of their brain power (the writer having apparently pulled the figure right out of his ass) and claimed that were we to use the other 90%, there would be no limit as to what we could accomplish. Others simply blame the origin of the myth on poorly understood early studies of neurological science.

However it started, it is most definitely false. Modern brain scans have shown that no matter what we're doing, our brains are always active. There's never any part of our brains that is not functioning. Even during sleep, all parts of the brain show some level of activity.

Plus, the brain consumes up to 20% of the body's energy, despite making up only 2% of its mass. If 90% of the brain was dormant, there'd be no reason for it to be so large and natural selection would have caused us to evolve smaller ones long ago.

In the end I'm not really bothered by the film's laughable premise. 
It's not like this is the first time a movie's plot has centered around absurd science. Peter Parker gained arachnoid powers from a radioactive spider bite and everyone was fine with it, so why can't Lucy use the 10% theory?

Despite the ridiculous science, somehow it all manages to work. The film sets up its own set of rules and then plays by them, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies.

BRAIN-EXPANDING SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman studying abroad in Taiwan, who is coerced into delivering a briefcase full of an experimental drug to Mr. Jang, a Korean drug lord. Jang (played by Choi Min-sik of Oldboy and I Saw The Devil fame) captures Lucy and has a bag of the drug sewn into her gut, so she can smuggle it into Europe. During her recovery she's attacked by one of  Jang's thugs, which causes the bag to burst inside her, and she absorbs the experimental drug.

The drug, a synthetic form of CPH4, allows Lucy to access all of her brain, which gives her superhuman powers. She then exacts revenge on Mr. Jang, and tracks down the other bags of CPH4 in order to ingest them and develop her brain even further. She contacts Professor Norman (played by Morgan Freeman), an expert in neuroscience, who tries to guide her as her brainpower increases exponentially. 

When Lucy reaches 100% of her brain capacity, she travels throughout the space time continuum, becoming like unto a god as she tells Professor Norman and his colleagues that she is now everywhere.

Thoughts:
• The film is filled with dozens of fast-cut visual metaphor shots, apparently included to help those of us in the audience who aren't accessing 100% of our brains to understand what's happening. 


For example, at the beginning of the movie, Lucy nervously delivers a briefcase to Mr. Jang's penthouse. She's quite obviously in danger here, as Jang's black-suited goons converge ominously around her.

Besson needlessly hammers this point home though by splicing in shots of a cheetah stealthily sneaking up on an unsuspecting gazelle.

These kinds of shots pop up all through the movie, and become grating after a while. We get it, Luc, you don't have to draw us a picture.

• When the CPH4 is first absorbed into Lucy's bloodstream, she reacts by recreating Lionel Richie's Dancing On The Ceiling video. She writhes around in agony, eventually rolling up the wall and then squirming around on the ceiling. Apparently one of CHP4's side effects is anti-gravity

• As Lucy begins accessing more of her brain's potential, she gains more and more powers, becoming virtually invincible. Note to future filmmakers: Invincible characters are dull. When a character can't be hurt, then there's no tension, and they become boring. This is why Superman has kryptonite.

They tried to introduce a bit of vulnerability by mentioning that Lucy's powers would cause her to die within a set number of hours, but it was too little, too late.

• When Lucy escapes her cell, she approaches two Taiwanese cab drivers. She asks one if he speaks English. When he says no, she coldly and nonchalantly shoots him. She then asks the other, who nervously exclaims that indeed he does speak English and agrees to drive her. 

As they get into the cab, a voice on the soundtrack moans, "My leg..." Apparently this was supposed to be the voice of the first cab driver. 

A couple of things here. First of all, if he didn't speak English, how is he saying, "My leg?" Secondly, his voice was obviously dubbed in after the fact, as he's not even onscreen when he says it. I'm thinking they crudely dubbed this line in to make Lucy seem less cold-blooded, and imply that she just incapacitated the driver instead of killing him for no good reason. It reminds me for all the world of the G.I. Joe cartoon. Every time the Joes would shoot down an enemy Cobra plane, they always had to show the pilot parachuting to safety to prove he hadn't been killed.

I honestly don't know why they bothered to dub this line in though. At this point Lucy had already killed at least four of her captors, and would go on to kill dozens more. I don't see how sparing this one man made any difference one way or the other in our perception of her character.

• Lucy goes to a hospital to have the bag of CPH4 removed from her abdomen. She walks briskly through the hospital corridors while carrying a handgun in plain sight. She makes absolutely no attempt at hiding it, but no one pays the least bit of attention to her. Is she mind controlling everyone there so they don't see her gun?

She then barges into an operating room in the middle of a surgery. She gives the patient's X-ray a quick once-over, then shoots him dead and shoves him off the table (he didn't even get a chance to groan, "My leg!"). She tells the stunned surgeons that they wouldn't have been able to save the patient anyway, because his tumor had spread too far.

That may well have been, but I'm sure he had at least a little bit of time left. Time he could have used to say goodbye to his family and make his peace with whatever god he worshipped.

• Lucy forces the surgeon to remove the leaky bad of drugs from her gut. The surgeon does so and tells her the drug is a synthetic form of a naturally occurring drug called CPH4. He says it's normally produced by pregnant women in small quantities and "jolts" fetuses into growing brain tissue or something.

So is CPH4 a real thing? According to Luc Besson, yes. He claims there is a hormone that pregnant women produce that affects developing fetuses like an "atomic bomb." But he says he changed the name because he doesn't want people taking it to try and increase their brain power. So who knows if any of it is true or not.

• I don't get why Lucy was so determined to have the leaking bag of CPH4 removed from her abdomen in the first place. At this point she knew it was responsible for the changes in her, which she seemed OK with. So why remove it? Why not continue to absorb the rest? Did she just want the vinyl bag out of her gut?

• Throughout the film Lucy has several opportunities to kill the evil Mr. Jang and his gang, but doesn't. In fact she goes out of her way not to kill them. She shows no hesitation killing anyone else; so why spare them?

The ONLY reason for sparing them is because the script says so. The story needs a big shootout at the end, so she seemingly saves them only so they can show up and cause trouble in the third act.

• When Lucy first contacts Professor Norman, her face appears on his TV screen. She explains that her newfound powers allow her to control and manipulate simple electronic devices. Oddly enough, the image on Norman's flatscreen includes very visible scan lines, like it's a video monitor from the 1970s. Scan lines aren't visible on modern TVs.

I suppose I could be generous here and say that Lucy's control of TV waves hasn't yet reached 1080p levels yet. I suppose I could say that, but...

• During Lucy's flight to Paris, her body begins to disintegrate for some reason. Why this happens is never explained. Maybe her brain is cannibalizing the rest of her for fuel? That doesn't seem very logical, as a brain without a body isn't going to be much use, no matter how smart it is. Anyhow, she locks herself in the lavatory, which greatly agitates the stewardesses.


Airline employees should know that a lavatory door can easily be opened from the outside, even if it's locked from the inside. All you have to do is lift up the "Lavatory" sign on the door and pull the latch under it.

• When Lucy first contacts Paris policeman Pierre Del Rio by phone, she proves she's legit by identifying him by name and describing what's on his desk. How she does this is not explained. There are no cameras in the office. Is her brain power somehow allowing her to see through the phone lines? Or is she accessing Del Rio's brain and seeing through his eyes?

• Lucy tells Del Rio where he can find the various drug mules who are also carrying CPH4 in their guts. When he asks her for details about the drug, she tells him it's in powdered form. It looked a lot like crystals to me.

• Speaking of Del Rio, he's a bit of an odd character. He speaks French, his name is Del Rio and he's played by an Egyptian actor (Amr Waked). In a similar vein, the first half of the movie is set in Taiwan, but Mr. Jang and his gang are Korean. It's A Small World After All!


• As Lucy's powers grow, she begins manipulating the world by swiping at everything she sees with her hand, exactly the way one controls an iPad or iPhone. Funny how the best way to control the world exactly mimics Apple's interface design. Steve Jobs was right!

• When Lucy reaches 100% of her brain capacity, she begins traveling through time. She goes far back into the past, eventually confronting the oldest recorded ancestor of humanity, who was coincidentally nicknamed Lucy. The two touch fingertips, and the shot perfectly mimics the pose from Michelangelo's The Creation Of Adam, because of course it does.

Lucy is based on a ridiculous and debunked premise, but if you can get past that it's a decent sci-fi action film. I give it a B.

Rejected Lay's Potato Chip Flavors

This week Lay's® Potato Chips announced the four finalists in their second annual Lay's® Do Us A Flavor™ contest, in which you, the general public, are asked to come up with brand new flavor concoctions for their consideration. 

This is no penny-ante little contest– the winning entrant not only gets to see their flavor put into production, but will also receive a cool one million bucks!

The four finalists are Cappuccino, Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger, Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese and Wavy Mango Salsa. Really? That's not a mistake, those were really the winners? Dear lord... Whatever happened to a plain chip with salt on it?

The staff here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld has managed to get ahold of a partial list of some of the flavors that didn't win. We proudly present the Top 15 Rejected Lay's® Potato Chip Flavors:
• Black Licorice Blast

• Wavy Wax Lips

• Liver & Onion Taste-Sation

• Colored Chalk Concussion

• Ketchup Water Rumble

• Coppery Blood Conniption

• Quince Combustion

• Grilled Durian Blast

• Brackish Pond Water Gust

• Tin Foil & Mercury Filling Fling

• Vulcanized Rubber Wail

• Licked Battery Taste-Splosion

• Rhubarb-Radish Roar


• Mashed Potato & Gravy Grind

• Pencil Lead Percussion

Looks like we all dodged 15 bullets!

Monday, August 18, 2014

George Carlin Was Right

Saw this on the internet superhighway today. Facebook is considering labeling posts from The Onion as satire, so as not to confuse and bamboozle their dimmer readers.

Please tell me this is an article from The Onion.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It's All In The Title UPDATE!

A while back I wrote about Edge Of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise's recent scifi action opus and its horrible, horrible title. 

In brief, I thought the title was bland and told you absolutely nothing about the story and predicted it would hurt the film's box office. It ended up making $370 million worldwide, which sounds like a lot to you and me, but isn't all that much in the movie biz. Just think how much more it could have made if people knew what it was about.

The film was based on a popular manga called All You Need Is Kill. So why didn't they use that odd, but much better title? Supposedly they were going to, but Warner Bros. president Sue Kroll gets icky bad feelings when she sees or hears the word "kill," hence the change to incredibly bland and vanilla Edge Of Tomorrow moniker. Sadly, I'm not kidding.

It's beginning to look like I'm not the only one who hated the title. This week Warner Bros. revealed the DVD/Blu Ray art for the movie, and it looks for all the world like they've changed the title again.

It appears to have retroactively been renamed Live, Die, Repeat. This was formerly the film's tagline, but it now seems to have been promoted to the full title. It's still not a particularly good name, but at least it gives you a vague idea of what the movie's about, and it's a thousand times better than the previous one.

Note that Edge Of Tomorrow is still on the cover, but it's been relegated to the very bottom, after the stars' names. Confusing!

The spine would seem to indicate that the official title is now Live, Die, Repeat / Edge Of Tomorrow. I guess Live, Die, Repeat / Edge Of Tomorrow / Being A Fictional Moving Photoplay In Which Tom Cruise, Favorite Actor Of The Masses And The Ostensible Star Of The Opus, Battles Strange Beings Of An Unsavory Sort From Another World And Is Tragically Killed Over And Over, Only To Find Himself Resurrected The Next Day, Much Like Our Lord And Savior, And Uses His Knowledge Of Coming Events To Defeat The Godless Hordes And Drive Them From Our Fair Republic was too much.

I can think of only one other time that a movie title has been changed after the fact– when George Lucas, the king of retroactive tampering, changed Raiders Of The Lost Ark to Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark (so all the films would have Indiana Jones in the title).

Anyway, make sure you pre-order the film today, before Warner changes the title yet again!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Into The Storm

Into The Storm was written by John Swetnam and directed by Steven Quale. 

Swetnam also wrote the classic 2014 film Step Up All In. Quale previously directed Final Destination 5: Even Finaler. What's that? I'm being told the title is just Final Destination 5.

The movie was filmed back in 2012, which seems like an oddly long lead time. It was originally titled Black Sky, but New Line eventually changed it to Into The Storm. The film was shot in Michagan, including two weeks of filming in Detroit. Insert your own "Detroit looks like the aftermath of a tornado" joke here.

Into The Storm is a virtual remake of 1996's Twister. Pretty much everything from that film has an analogue here. There's a group of life-risking storm chasers, endless scenes of tornadoes disintegrating barns and an experimental vehicle that will allow them to see what's inside a vortex. 


Even the pattern of the tornadoes is the same; it starts out with a small one, then a larger one, then several at once, finally culminating in a pants-soiling mile wide F5. There's even a brief glimpse of a flying cow! The storm chasers are even "in it for the money," just like in Twister! At least this time none of the tornadoes roared like tigers.

I'm betting the only reason this film isn't called Twister 2 is because hiring Bill Paxton would have strained the budget too much.

SPOILERS AHEAD, ALTHOUGH THERE'S HONESTLY NOT MUCH TO SPOIL!

The Plot:
A suspiciously improbable rash of tornadoes breaks out in the town of Silverton (I don't think they ever specify a state), endangering the small hamlet. A group of storm chasers cross paths with an assistant high school principal who's searching for his teenaged son. They team up in order to survive the deadly tornadoes. That's pretty much it!

Thoughts:
• This film feels a lot like a Siffy Channel movie but with a bigger budget and better effects. It even features mostly TV actors, with the exception of Richard Armitage (of The Hobbit films).

• It's no secret that I am not a fan of "found footage" films. My main beef with them, apart from the shaky camera work, is that the filmmakers have to bend over backwards to think of reasons as to why the characters are filming the events instead of running for their lives as a sane person would.

The movie begins with a found footage scene of a tornado encounter, causing me to let out an exasperated moan as I thought the entire thing would be filmed that way. Fortunately that wasn't the case. It's an odd combo of found footage and a regular narrative. 


Funny thing is, in the found footage scenes the camera predictably shakes and wanders all over the place. But as soon as a tornado appears, the camera work suddenly becomes rock solid so we can get a good look at the expensive effects.

• I'll admit the tornado scenes were very well done, and one of the film's few highlights. 
I'm guessing most of the events aren't scientifically accurate, but it all looks nice. With the theater's sound cranked up it was all very immersive. As close as I ever want to come to a real tornado.

• Sarah Wayne Callies stars as tornado hunter Allison Stone, and proves she can actually be likable when she wants to. This is in stark contrast to the years she spent annoying the hell out of the world as Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead.

• Some have complained about the film's paper-thin characters. Eh, that's been par for the course in disaster movies since the 1970s. People go to these movies to see disasters. If you want compelling human drama, look elsewhere.


• The film touches ever so briefly on the subject of climate change, saying that giant storms used to happen once a century, but now seem to pop up several times a year, and we need to do something about it before they start touching down in large cities.

It's like the filmmakers want to make a statement about climate change, but either don't know how or don't want to alienate the deniers in the audience. In the end the matter was given so little lip service they might as well not have bothered to include it at all.

• Vice Principal Gary (played by Richard Armitage) has an argument with his teen son Trey (played by Nathan Kress of iCarly fame). Hilariously the only reason the writer can think of for all the friction is that Trey is secretly carrying a pocket knife, of which his father disapproves.

Do teens even carry pocket knives these days? You can't make a call, text or take selfies with a knife, so I wouldn't think so.

This knife ends up becoming the Most Important Item In The Universe. Gary angrily confiscates it from Trey, then later on uses it to cut through a strap and rescue his other son Donnie from a watery death. At the end of the film Gary solemnly gives the knife back to Trey, with all the reverence and importance of a general presenting a purple heart to a wounded soldier.

• Donnie and his crush Kaitlyn (oy, one of those "clever" spellings) are filming a video in an abandoned factory when a tornado hits, trapping them under tons of rubble. Every time the movie cuts to them and their plight, it absolutely grinds to a halt.

• Jeremy Sumpter (of 2003's Peter Pan) plays Jacob (does anyone in this film have a last name?), a twitchy and inexperienced storm-chasing intern.

Jacob is deathly afraid of tornadoes, which of course seals his doom from the start. He might as well have been wearing a red shirt or had a target painted on his back.

• Well into the film, probably around the 3/4 mark, a man named Lucas suddenly emerges from the back of the storm chasers' van. Where the hell did he come from? I swear he wasn't in the film up to that point. He must have been ducking just out of camera range for most of the movie.

In a similar vein, around this same time Daryl, the driver of the van, walks off the screen and completely disappears from the rest of the film.

• Watch for the flying cow, which of course is a shout out to Twister. This time though it's a fiberglass cow from a billboard, and not a real one.

• Scott Lawrence plays high school principal Thomas Walker (Hey! A last name!) and looks a lot like President Obama. In fact for a few seconds I wondered if he was supposed to be Obama visiting a high school graduation for some reason.

• As happened in Twister, the characters don't seem to be all that affected by tornadoes that are virtually right next to them. Unless the script calls for it, that is.

At one point Gary and Allison are almost sucked into the air by a tornado that's a block or so away. A few minutes later they and their group are surrounded by four or five tornadoes, and they're able to run unimpeded into a church. 

So which is it, guys? Do tornadoes suck you into the air or can you casually stroll away from one?


• The F5 heads toward a nearby airport, causing the planes on the runway to slowly lift into the air and spin around the vortex. Not just prop planes mind you, but giant 737s. It's an awesome scene, but I don't know... can a tornado really lift a commercial airliner into the sky?

• Pete (played by Matt Walsh) is the film's Designated Asshole, whose sole trait is that he places storm chasing above people. He's also the inventor of the Titus, an indestructible tank-like vehicle that can anchor itself to the ground and survive being mowed over by a tornado.

At the end of the film he decides to redeem himself by positioning the Titus so it will protect the rest of the cast, who are cowering from the massive F5 twister in a convenient storm drain. He anchors the Titus to the ground with metal spikes and even a winch. 


Unfortunately for him the tornado sucks the top half of the tank into the air, leaving the chassis (complete with spikes and winch) on the ground. I guess he must have forgotten to tighten the screws?

• The F5 tornado lifts Pete (inside what's left of the Titus) high into the atmosphere and above the storm clouds, into the peaceful, sun-filled skies for a few seconds before he comes crashing back to earth. Again, awesome scene, but I have a feeling it's not very scientifically accurate.


• The most cringe-worthy part of the film were the two amateur redneck storm chasers, Donk and Reevis (sigh... yeah, those are their names). They were ostensibly the movie's comedy relief, but their antics were nothing but grating and their "jokes" thudded to the floor like sacks of sour laundry.

At the risk of sounding like a jittery Soccer Mom, not only were these scenes irksome, they seem ill-advised and dangerous. Somebody out there's going to watch these two morons survive a tornado plowing over them and think they could do the same.

Into The Storm is mindless, action-packed storm porn in which the tornadoes upstage the humans. Honestly if you've already seen Twister, there's really not much reason to see this one. I give it a B-.
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