An old Twilight Zone episode depicted three soldiers on National Guard duty in Montana who went back in time and found themselves spectators to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. They struggled with the implications of intervention, essentially foreshadowing Star Trek and violation of the “prime directive” (i.e., never mess with history when time traveling lest you step on a bug and forever alter what is meant to be). They eventually jumped into the fray. This flick is essentially the same concept, but with a modern aircraft carrier being time-portaled back to the day before Pearl Harbor. Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and James Farentino have to contend with the same conundrum.
It’s fun. A little discordant, alternating between whimsy (the commander of the modern USS Nimitz, Douglas, has a certain Disney movie mien to him, but then there are very bloody scenes that punctuate the film). But solid.
It is also clearly a joint effort with the Navy. There is so much aerial footage and extended scenes of flying and taking off that it feels like a recruiting ad, Top Gun sans the volleyball. Curious sidenote. The Department of Defense actually sued the producers for reimbursement, alleging fraud on the reporting of actual flying time. My father’s law firm represented the producers, including Kirk Douglas’ son.
P.S. There was a big to do in the last several years over a Reddit discussion: “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?”
A short story followed. Hollywood then bought the short story. Good rundown below. Stay tuned.
George Clooney’s overly meditative, end of the world film makes the initial mistake of not quite telling us what happened to the planet. Something about radiation, and since he is alone in the Arctic, we are alone with him and his flashbacks and perhaps his hallucinations as he dies of cancer. But once you get a sense of the kind of ridiculous, ass-backward people living in the future, the cause of their extinction is of no great moment. They say chickens are so stupid they’ll drown in the rain. That’s us forty years hence.
But Clooney has one last task before he perishes. He must get word to an incoming space vessel from Jupiter that the world has gone to pieces. They have been on a two year mission and soon, they will be “in range” and Clooney can tell them, “Go back to the habitable moon near Jupiter. Great danger here.”
This film is set in 2049.
Now, imagine I am Peter Finch. I want you all to stop reading, and go Google, “How long does it take to send a message to jupiter”.
Result: “approximately 35 minutes. Radio waves travelling at 300,000 km/second would take approximately 35 minutes to reach a satellite orbiting Jupiter depending on alignment, and the same time to travel back to Earth, equaling about 1.2 hours.”
But filmvetter, you might say, the radiation threat just came on so quick there was no time!!! THERE WAS NO TIME!!!!!!
Nonsense. When the ship does get “in range” of Clooney and they establish contact, a message is downloaded (ha!!!) from the wife of crew member Kyle Chandler.
In it, she states that she is being evacuated and their sons are sick.
So, this calamity took some time. Indeed, the opening scene shows continued evacuations and there is a later reference to survivors underground.
I guess in all the panic, however, no one thought, “Hey, let’s send a raven to the incoming ship from the potentially habitable moon off of Jupiter.” It’s like the president was George Costanza and someone yelled, “Fire!”
It gets worse.
In The Martian, I raved about Matt Damon’s intrepid skills when he was stranded, and I also nit-bitched about the hip slackers on the ground (“the people who work at NASA have a certain blasé “I worked in a Blockbuster and I will never wear a uniform again” mien”)
I owe the NASA staff in The Martian an apology. They were the cream of the crop compared to this lot. And while Damon was dexterous and tough, here, the crew presents as a mixture of incurious and frivolous. When they learn that life on our planet has not only changed, but that the planet is lethal, half of them somberly insist on going to their homes to face certain death. They literally abandon ship. The other half head off back to Jupiter with a badly damaged vessel minus two critical team members. But all four seem unperturbed. Where is Chuck Heston and “You maniacs! You blew it up!” when you need him?
Oh, and the two who are Jupiter-bound are Captain Daniel Oyewelo and Felicity Jones. It appears the good captain has been at it with the crew, because she is pregnant with his child! Another crew member, Tiffany Boone, throws up several times because she has to make her first space walk. And she’s not even the one who is knocked up.
Or is she?
Mind you, this was not a 20 year voyage.
It was two!!!!!!!
(A good friend did note that at least the movie progeny will be something special, as the offspring of a filmic Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.)
Alas, NASA, apparently, becomes the DMV in the future.
Ultimately, the film is not only stupid, it is depressing. In the future, we supplant bravery and common cause and sense with uber-narcissism.
The schmaltzy, arty ending is insufferable.
Adding insult to injury, there’s a crew sing-a-long to Sweet Caroline.
Futuristic flicks from the 70s are a guilty pleasure of mine and I watched a bunch of them with my father growing up. Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Death Race 2000. You could count us in.
This one is meh. The world is run by a few corporations. The executive class is the aristocracy, and they entertain themselves with luxury and regular ingestion of what seems to be a mix of ecstasy and LSD. The sport of the global masses is Rollerball, a violent and deadly mixture of roller derby, lacrosse, hockey and maul ball. James Caan is its biggest star, but for reasons unknown to us, he is being forced out of the game at his peak by corporate titan John Houseman, at a moment when the sport is moving to a “no penalty” phase, which will up the murders and further endanger his teammates. Caan resists and delves deeper.
The picture mixes futurism and corporate skullduggery, but the latter is simplistic, and Caan’s attempt to get to the bottom of things is haphazard and a little dull. Caan also can’t convey the emerging intellect that could drive his lummox of a character to ask deeper questions. He seems as if he senses the silliness of the endeavor, and appears to be wincing at his own involvement. Also, Houseman is really not a very good actor, pretty much at the level of his old Smith Barney commercials.
But the flick has its fun moments. And even though one doesn’t equate director Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night, And Justice for All) and “action,” the Rollerball itself is good, clean, bloody fun.
Brad Pitt is an astronaut at an undetermined time in the future (we have commercial flights to the Moon and manned installations in Mars). He’s cool as a cucumber and as revealed in voice over and daily psych evaluations, disconnected in a manner that barely registers physically but gnaws at him emotionally. Oh, and he has the mother of all Daddy issues, as he is sent out to space on a mission to stop his father (Tommy Lee Jones), a Colonel Kurtz-like figure whose own journey to Neptune 25 years earlier went bad. Jones abandoned Pitt and Pitt’s dying mother to command the endeavor. The assumption was that Jones and crew had perished, but in fact, he’s alive and he’s causing quite a bit of trouble.
The film has one flaw, but it isn’t insignificant. The Pitt voice overs – personal observations as to his own emotional state – are often distracting and unnecessary. Pitt is a fine enough actor that a lot of stuff he says just becomes superfluous, and a lot of other stuff he says borders on the clumsy. An example: “I always wanted to become an astronaut, for the future of mankind and all. At least, that’s what I always told myself. I see myself from the outside. Smile, present a side. It’s a performance, with my eye on the exit. Always on the exit. Just don’t touch me.” When you see Pitt, you know this or you will glean it. When it’s explicated, it loses force. Pitt is fantastic but hobbled by the overt inner dialogue.
That said, the film is transfixing and true to its world, offering a not fully-explained but logical future for space travel, sterility meshed with utility. It’s also visually stunning. James Gray’s (We Own the Night) world is beautiful, haunting and as evidenced in a few action sequences, lethal.
So, put the IPhone down and enjoy while you can, because they won’t be making these sorts of personal epics for much longer.
Other than some nice, genuine moments between Rey (Daisey Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), pretty terrible. Perfunctory, inconsistent, soulless and enslaved to JJ Abrams’ zealous desire to wrap everything up. But it’s Christmas. Let’s focus on the good things.
This guy (Greg Grunberg). He plays an overweight X-Wing pilot who looks like a sitcom character. The only thing he’s missing is a pastrami sandwich in his hand. Reportedly, the Star Wars folks were all over Carrie Fisher to drop a few pounds for the role, yet this lard ass catches a pass? I don’t know the other guy. Without arms, I can’t imagine he/she/it/they are of much value.
This guy (Mark Hamill). He appears as a ghost to set Rey straight. He has an uncanny resemblance to Jesus, until he speaks, and then . . . well. Not exactly commanding.
They’re baaaack. Just in time for Christmas.
Lando Calrissian and Jannah. While the chatter suggests she may be his daughter, their final scene has more a creepy, “Hey, baby, where you been all my life?” vibe.
This guy. Who jumps from a great height onto rock and says, “Ouch!” No lie.
These guys. Who follow our heroes everywhere, fortunate in the fact that they never encounter stairs.
These guys. Strategery continues to remain a weakness, as the entire fleet is a) lined up like planes at Pearl Harbor; b) wholly reliant on one communications device that allows them to maneuver during attack; c) leaden with exposed weapons in their underbelly that can be detonated with a few grenades, leading to destruction of the entire ship.
Very, very long (6 hours in total for the two films), but not altogether terrible and without giving anything away, at least they put some bodies on the block, thus limiting later franchise movies solely to origin stories. Quippy, and visually much more satisfying than a lot of these movies. Also, Thor in a fat suit is pretty funny, and melding The Hulk and Bruce Banner (now, he can wear the right size pants all the time)? Inspired.
Still, when all is said and done, the whole things turns on Superman reverse circling the earth to go back in time. They just couldn’t use him because he’s not a Marvel character. Also, the concept for the second film is the same as HBO’s The Leftovers.
The crossover movie that speaks to kids and adults is a tough trick. Guardians of the Galaxy is the model. The characters have to be winning, It has to be smart but not obtuse, and what can be mutually enjoyed (action, wise-crackery) must be primo.
Solo fails all of these prerequisites. At the outset, we get “Long ago, in a galaxy far far away . . . “ Followed by several more paragraphs setting the scene and presenting the quest, which in this case, is the obtainment of everlasting life and power enough to challenge evil in the galaxy.
I’m fucking with you. The quest is for fuel. Yup. Fuel. I mean, not as bad as one of the Lucas pictures (1, or 4, who knows?), where, if memory serves, the primary issue was taxes. But still, pretty bad.
The dull goal is matched by duller characters. Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) apes the original via the sole utilization of a smirk. He’s a better choice for a young Paul Rudd, not Harrison Ford. He’s not as bad as Hayden Christenson as Darth Vader the teen, but he’s close. After him, bad guy Paul Bettany, well, his thing is that he gets angry. And then there is Woody Harrelson, the grizzled smuggler and thief, who keeps telling Han, “Don’t trust anybody.” Then he pulls him close, points to his own head, snaps a Polaroid, waves it, blows on it, shoves it in Han’s pocket, and says “Anybody!”
After these dolts, it’s just a bunch of facsimiles of all the weird variations one can find in the galaxy. “Hey look, it’s clarinet head!” “And there’s suckhole face!” “And does he have 5 arms?” “Ah, I get it! That’s why they called him ‘handy’ a minute ago.”
And then there are the droids. In the first picture, we had the gold guy who spoke with a British accent and was amusing, like having a character from Downton Abbey in the future. He said things like “Goodness! Oh my!” and “My heavens!” whenever someone shot a laser near him. I could see a droid maker coming up with such a program, a little pizzazz in the automaton that normally performs light-dusting and household repairs.
Now, however, all droids have been imbued with feelings and opinions and agency. Who the hell wants a droid that may start a wage strike? The writers, that’s who. It’s too ridiculous, even for this pretty ridiculous vehicle.
The script itself is similarly idiotic. The characters just bounce from place to place for small and uninteresting reasons. “Who is that?” Is generally followed by a long definitional response. “That was close!” elicits “Not as close as the parseck gleep glop on Miki Roo Roo!” Characters say banal things to Solo throughout, followed by or including “kid”, as in “You got moxie, kid!” Or “I’ll give you this. The kid’s got guts.”
That leaves the action sequences, which are required to dazzle. They don’t. They’re rote and uninspired, delivered in a look dark as dishwater. Worse, the soundtrack is phoned in, as if the John Williams score was presented as Muzak on an AM radio in Harrelson’s pocket.
This entire picture feels like a 4-D Disney ride that would be fun for 7 minutes.
But trapped in it for over 2 hours? Excruciating.
And you know Han and Chewy make it. They have to. So, there’s no drama. Nothing hangs in the balance.
Donald Glover does a decent young Billy Dee Williams and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) lends some gravitas to the endeavor.
I loved Ex Machinabut Alex Garland’s follow-up falls short. Given the film’s ambition, however, it is a noble failure. Natalie Portman is an ex-military, now-professor whose Special Ops boyfriend (Oscar Isaac) goes missing after a clandestine mission. When he returns, in very bad shape, she is drawn to the mission herself, and soon finds herself part of a five person team entering “The Shimmer”, a disorienting, disturbing, inexorably expanding mass of acreage that started when something from the sky hit the ground. As the team enters to get to the source, they are transformed by their environment, and I’ll leave it at that.
It’s pretty damn cool. But ultimately, Garland relies so much on the visual for his message that the picture serves as more of an aesthetic treat than a compelling story. The ideas are boffo, but the execution is a bit dreary and drawn out, and frankly, like Arrival, this film may just be over my head.
There are other problems. Portman’s harkening back to her transgressions in her relationship with Isaac seems silly given the gravity of her situation. I was reminded of a stupid movie I saw years back about a group of gals who decided to have a bachelorette weekend spelunking, as most women do, and as hideous mole people chased them through caves, the fact that one of the women slept with the fiancée of another actually loomed large. “Okay, okay. I slept with your boyfriend. Not cool. Now, can we get back to the mole people?”
One last note – I’m down with 5 women on a military/scientific exercise, but one should be aware of the Ghostbusters re-make and maybe switch up the uniforms. I half expected
The orgasmic acclaim is a little much, but this is mostly good fun. A little Lion King, a little James Bond (they have their own Q, who shows off the technological gizmos, and a CIA operative Felix Lighter) and even a Millennium Falcon. There’s also some simplistic politics thrown in. Should Wakanda, a magical African kingdom powered by vibranium (a kick ass metal that provides strength, power and wealth) stay hidden in its borders or should it come out from shadows and take on the world struggle for the black and dispossessed?
I dunno. Who cares? Let’s cut the high-minded chatter about what happens when vibranium becomes plentiful and get to clever quips and fisticuffs.
As with most of these movies, it is weakened by the need to have comic book characters in silly suits address weighty matters (guess what? Vibranium is going to revitalize Oakland!) but as these things go, it’s a solid popcorn flick, and the action is first rate.
This is what a superhero movie is supposed to be. Consistently clever, mainly for young people but with crossover to adults, and devoid of all the dreary seriousness of Gotham city and world politics and ethical dilemmas for people dressed up for Mardis Gras. Add the fact that the characters are almost impossible not to enjoy, the CGI is nifty rather than a blaring assault, and there are some really funny bits. And the finale is a blast (rather than a dark, dull, crashing snorefest ala’ Wonder Woman). The film also has a proper villain, the sleek, sultry, campy goddess of death Cate Blanchett.