Friday, May 18, 2012

It produces a pile of DVDs and yet I still call it taping

For quite some time I've had a growing pile of DVDs, mostly unmarked, sitting unprotected on top of my satellite box.  A couple of days ago I decided to mark and case them.  So here, mostly for the sake of randomness, is a list of the things I'd recorded to DVD that were sitting on top of my satellite box:

Alpha and Omega - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you want an adventure romance between computer generated wolves in which the heroes rebel against class hierarchy after human intervention and an angry and scary/violent if not actually evil Denis-Hopper-wolf force them to make an international journey against time... this is probably the movie for you.  Otherwise, it's not actually what I'd call a good movie.  It has moments, but not enough to sustain it.  I am told that kids really enjoy it, but I don't have any kids to test it on.

The A-Team (2010) - This is an origin story for a rebooted A-Team.  Which is interesting because, so far as I remember, the original A-Team never really had an onscreen origin story.  They had an opening narration that explained their origin* and occasional things referring back to the crime they didn't commit, but the actual non-crime--arrest--escape sequence was never shown.  Nor was how the team originally got together.
     This movie begins with the team working together for the first time, skips forward to the non-crime (moved from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War), and then focuses on their response to it.  Since the movie didn't make enough money to warrant a sequel, this new A-Team will never be seen acting as the A-Team.  I think that's too bad because I liked the movie.
     I would have liked it more if we'd seen them post-origin though.  Where the series has them already set established as a smoothly operating fugitive team of people who could help when no one else could, this movie is much more of them trying to figure things out.  It's also about them helping themselves (and in the process doing good) rather than specifically trying to help others.

The Avengers (1998) - Not the superhero team.  This is based on an old series I know nothing about, though people have occasionally mentioned it and I think they have good taste.  The movie is... strange.  The acting is stylized in a way that brings a bizarre calm to every situation and leaves you feeling that every actor is doing their best Zooey Deschanel impression.  It really is quite odd and yet, for me at least, it works.  Plus Sean Connery is an evil guy who controls the weather and holds the world hostage.  So there is that.

Battle: Los Angeles - I don't have a lot to say about this one.  I thought that it was very good, I liked it much.  Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez are each nine kinds of awesome.

Blade II - Not as good as Blade, not as bad as Blade: Trinity.  The daywalker returns to walk during the day.  The vampires appearing in this film are too stupid to live**, and the evil mutant who will destroy the world may be one of the most interesting and sympathetic characters in spite of having relatively little in the way of characterization.  A more interesting movie might have been if he and Whistler teamed up to kill all vampires.

Conan the Barbarian (2011) - I know someone who is writing or has written a paper on the concept of the barbarian as it exists in our culture.  The primary argument being that our concept is much more based around the Roman idea than the Greek one.  When we think of a barbarian we don't think of opulent Persians we think of brutal tribes of the sort of people that might have sacked Rome.
     My way of thinking of this theory is that when one things Barbarian the thought is Conan rather than Xerxes or Darius.
    Anyway, if you're in the mood to watch someone brutally kill a lot of people, most of whom probably deserve it, this might be a movie for you.  On reflection, I have no idea why I thought I'd want a recording of this because I don't know that I've ever really been in that mood.  Action movies, yes, but when it gets into the brutal and the torture not so much.

D.E.B.S. - At some point I think I probably want to write up my thoughts on this because they're fairly complex. It's a lighthearted comedy romance action thing in which a secret agent falls in love with the (female) super-villain she's theoretically against while doubting whether she wants to be a secret agent.
     I think that the main relationship was done pretty well, at least if I believed in the affection between Edward and Bella half as much as I believe in the affection between Lucy and Amy I'd be able to forgive a lot more of what goes on in Twilight.  And that's part of the complexity of how I feel about the movie, some pretty key parts of it have to be rationalized or forgiven because if you think about them too much they're not exactly good, in an almost Edwardian way.
    Also, with one exception, every other relationship in the movie doesn't ring true to me.  Which is kind of a drawback because it means that the movie is asking me to believe in, for example, several friendships that I simply don't believe in.

The Eagle - Most movies about Rome sugarcoat the Roman Empire because the Roman Empire kind of sort of sucked for everyone who was not a part of the Roman Empire.  Given that, if you're not watching Spartacus, your protagonist is probably a Roman, drawing attention to the fact that Rome was the evil empire of its day is probably not the best idea.  And yet, this movie doesn't do that.
     The Eagle is about a Roman who wants to recover a lost object (the titular eagle, a standard from the lost legion his father led) in Britain and thus restore his family's honor and win happy honor points.  He has the help of a slave who may or may not want to kill him on this journey.
     On the one hand, there is action and adventure and bonding and redemption and whatnot.  On the other hand it's hard not to agree with the slave when he points out that none of this makes any sense, Rome sucks, and all of this suffering and death is for a lump of metal.  Romans Go Home.
     So, I don't know.  I think it's a good movie, but I also think that movies with Roman protagonists tend to use a non-existent very-fictional not-as-sucky Rome for a reason.  It's hard to feel triumphant when your rooting for the evil empire.  Or, in the case of this movie, someone whose entire sense of worth is tied up in the culture of the evil empire.

G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra - On the one hand, this movie sucks.  On the other hand, this movie can actually be kind of fun.  How those two things go together is probably something that has to be decided on a case by case basis.  Probably even a day by day or a moment by moment basis.  Sometimes one may be in the right frame of mind for this, other times it might be like stopping off in the Total Perspective Vortex for a couple of hours.
     Also, for the record, ice floats.  I know, I know.  It's supposed to be riddled with heavy metal passageways and whatnot, but the thing about heavy metal passageways is that they're mostly composed of air, and they're embedded in ice, which floats.

Iron Man II - I have this twice.  That's probably a good argument in favor of keeping track of what one has. The first one actually was labeled, possibly months before I recorded the second, but I didn't check and I think I might have thought that the one I already had was the first Iron Man, which it wasn't.
     I don't think it was as good as the first, I don't think it was as good as Avengers.  I'm overall not very impressed with it really.  Still, if you want a superhero movie, why not?
     Also, because repeated promos, I may never be able to think of this movie without the phrase, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to exit the donut," entering my mind.

The Losers - It's like the A-Team but with with a badder bad guy and much more sexual innuendo.  And a lot more death.  For that matter, there's also more actual sex.
     On the one hand, there are parts of the movie that I did really like, for example one member of the team fleeing through a building while Don't Stop Believing dominates the soundtrack (a reference to earlier when he sang both obnoxiously and badly to get people to choose not to take the same elevator as him) but those parts are intermingled with parts I'd rather do without (for example what happened in the elevator, the speech he gave while cornered.)

Megamind - This I also have twice, though this time on purpose.  Generally I don't care that much about quality, but the first recording of Megamind wasn't that good and so when, much later, I got the opportunity to record again I took it.
     I think I like Will Ferrell in movies where he doesn't remind me of Will Ferrell.  Consider Stranger than Fiction for example, it was a good movie.  Will Ferrell played the main character.  But he didn't play a character reminiscent of Will Ferrell.  In Megamind Will Ferrell also plays the main character, and there are times where bits of Will Ferrellness seep through, but for the most part it doesn't feel like a Will Ferrell movie.  It feels like its own movie, and a good movie, and I'm glad that I encountered it.
     My, failed, NaNoWriMo project came out of thoughts kicked off by seeing this movie.

Megashark vs Crocasaurus - This has commercials, the only of the DVDs listed here which does†, as it came from the Sci-Fi channel.  Except it's not called the Sci-Fi channel anymore, it's the SyFy channel which looks for all the world like it should be pronounced the SeeFee channel.  Anyway, this is a sequel to Megashark vs. Giant Octopus which was surprisingly good for a movie with bad writing, acting, and effects.
     I'd say that this movie isn't as good as its predecessor, though not nearly as bad as some of the other things SeeFee has produced.  To even consider watching a movie like this you have to be looking for crap, and on that front it delivers.  I'm less convinced that it delivers in a good way.

† I forgot about Riverworld, which I also taped off of the Sci-Fi Channel

The Mod Squad (1999) - I've never seen the series on which this is based.  As far as the movie went, it was more or less what you can expect from such things.  Outsider squad is framed for the murder of the only person who ever trusted them, stuff happens, there are guns.

Ninja Assassin - My mother and I saw this together in theaters when it came out***.  We liked it.  The title is not actually redundant.  Predictable, but I don't think it really suffers for it.  Rather high bodycount, lots of blood, about what you'd expect from a movie called Ninja Assassin.

Rango - I still haven't seen this whole movie, and thus can't say a lot about beyond it being about Johnny Depp being a previously sheltered chameleon in a water starved desert.  Which, most deserts are water starved.

RED - I've heard it said that RED is what The Expendables should have been.  I don't know if that's true, but RED is definitely better than The Expendables.  Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren were great as the Retired and Extremely Dangerous agents, Brian Cox was enough fun as Ivan that whenever I see him I think of Ivan.  I definitely liked it.  On the other hand, the romance in the movie starts with kidnapping.  In fact, in general, the romance was the weakest part of the movie.

Riverworld (2010) - This is the second time the Sci-Fi Channel tried to do a Riverworld thing.  It is thus the second time that I've seen them try to start this story.  If they continue at their current pace they should produce another, completely different, beginning in about five years.  As for a middle or an end, I doubt they'll ever make it that far.

Robin Hood (2010) - The one with Russell Crowe.  Robin Hood legends changed over time.  Some of the weirdness in this is that the makers apparently wanted to stay true to all of them even though that happens to be impossible.  How can one have a character be a yeoman and a nobleman at the same time?  Well apparently he becomes a late 12th/early 13th century identity thief with the help of the dead man's father who is only helping because he remembers how Robin's father tried to bring about the Magna Carta a generation early, except Robin's father's version had pretty pictures.
     You know, simple.
     Also this is, like the A-Team above, basically an origin story.  The Robin Hooding will happen after the movie ends.

Tangled - This is almost certainly the movie that got me to respond to computer generated movies for children with something along the lines of, "Maybe I should watch that."  I almost certainly wouldn't have given Alpha and Omega (remember the beginning of the list?) a try if not for Tangled.
     Tangled is a very fun movie.  It's not at all what the previews of it indicated it would be (no hair ninja) but it has love and funny and frying pans and an extremely motivated horse and ... stuff.  It's just a fun movie.

Torchwood: Miracle Day - Not the complete series.  It ought to have been because there was a marathon, but I didn't get it all.  I still haven't seen the beginning and thus have no idea how it starts.
     I don't know.  On the one hand, it's the only Whovian stuff I've seen in a long time, and it does have triumph and hope and whatnot, on the other hand it seems to be soul crushing soul crushiness pretty consistiently for a very sustained period.  On the one hand it has the guy who played Q being mostly good and kind of awesome (and who doesn't want that?) on the other hand there's the way that arc ends.

The Tourist - It reminded me of Cypher in spite of obvious differences (not set in the future, no memory alteration, corporate espionage is not part of it, no Lucy Liu, and so forth.)  That won't steer you wrong because, spoiler I suppose, The Tourist really is that predictable.  Still, as random crimeish things in Venice go, it's not bad.  Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are good at what they do, the guy who played Chaucer in A Knight's Tale was a convincing asshole, and I've just learned he also plays JARVIS both Iron Mans and Avengers.
     Apparently there is some debate over whether the movie is comedy or drama with the director saying neither but leaning toward comedy when forced to take a position.  I... probably wouldn't have thought of it that way.

True Grit (2010) - I find I'm running out of things to say.  It's True Grit.  The story of two men and a girl who take on an outlaw gang in spite of all of them having flaws in one form or another.

Unstoppable - Do you want an action packed tension filled story of a train that doesn't particularly want to stop?  Then this is the movie for you.  Otherwise it's probably not.  I saw this first in theaters and it is a very good movie.  It really was gripping, and the actors are all very good.  It's a shame that, as far as I know, Denzel Washington's sidekick has never had another opportunity to shine.  I know of only one other big movie he's been in, and I generally try not to think about it.
     That said, I honestly think that the movie might have tried to give him too much story.  Strange thing to say, but the movie really is just about a big fracking train which is dangerous and needs to be stopped.  That doesn't sound very interesting, and my understanding is that the real life story that inspired it wasn't very interesting, but the movie makes it extremely engaging and the family drama it invented for the character didn't seem necessary in any way.

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story - No link for this one, it was a TV special.  And nothing to say about it either because I haven't actually watched it yet.  No idea whether it's the most amazing documentary ever or a complete waste of a DVD.

Also five DVDs which were used to record various episodes of The Daily Show because I had difficulty locating VHSs onto which I might records such things.


Not on that list is Thor, which is odd because I know that I recorded it.  Around the same time that I got the second copy of Iron Man II I recorded Thor as well.  It should be in about the same place.  It is not.

I was supposed to record Captain America: The First Avenger**** that same day, but didn't because I messed up the timer on the DVD/VCR thingy.  But Thor I definitely got and yet I can't locate the DVD I got it on.  That is, as you might expect, extremely irritating.

Thor was a good movie, though some parts of it are kind of thin.  (Like how fast he fell in love and how fast he completely changed his personality.)  Loki is one of the most sympathetic genocidal maniacs I have ever encountered, quite possibly the single most sympathetic genocidal maniac.


* Specifically:
In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team. 
** The introduction of the vampires Blade would eventually ally with had two of them completely covered because they knew that Blade made use of UV lights which would cause them spontaneously combust.  This is a good idea.  If having exposed skin could kill you, don't have exposed skin.

Later on it comes to pass that the vampires themselves will me making use of UV because their enemy's only weakness is daylight and the artificial daylight created by UV lights.  Thus armed with UV lights and hunting during the day, they go.  Having been warned to cover themselves so as not to accidentally be lit on fire and die as a result of stray photons, they proceed to leave their faces and heads entirely uncovered.

As one might expect, they do not last long.  Attacking somewhere at night when there might be UV light in operation they covered their faces in order to survive.  Attacking somewhere in the day when UV light will definitely be used as a weapon they left themselves exposed and burst into flames.

As I said, too stupid to live.

*** That's actually true of several of these, yet this seems to be the only one where it feels worth saying.

**** I actually have three Captain America movies recorded.  When the current Captain America came out the Sci-Fi Channel dusted off previous versions.  Two made for TV versions from the 70s, and one from 1990.  But those are not in the pile I'm discussing today.


  1. As for a middle or an end, I doubt they'll ever make it that far.

    Mom was very disappointed about that, but it did inspire her to read the books. She wondered how she managed to never hear about them before in their forty or so years of existence. (I gather nine years old would be a little young to read them, but it wouldn't have had to be that long after their release if she'd known.)

    On the one hand, it's the only Whovian stuff I've seen in a long time, and it does have triumph and hope and whatnot, on the other hand it seems to be soul crushing soul crushiness pretty consistiently for a very sustained period.

    And then there are the parts where I just can't get over the not-sense-making. I've spent enough time reading about autism snake-oil cures to know that EDTA is not a good choice for acute arsenic poisoning, even if they really could obtain it. EDTA isn't a quick fix. It works on a scale of months. It's only for things that kill you very slowly or just make you non-fatally sick.

    Also, haven't we already decided that if your brain is non-functional, you're dead, even if your heart's beating? Why do they have to invent Category 1 to say that?

  2. The Avengers, the series, is usually fun with moments of excellence. The film... is not. It suffered hugely from script changes and desperate editing, but I don't think it would have been any good eve without that.

    Torchwood Miracle Day was also despised by almost everyone. It's not just you.

    1. The Avengers, the series, is usually fun with moments of excellence. The film... is not. It suffered hugely from script changes and desperate editing, but I don't think it would have been any good eve without that.

      It's definitely not something I would call good, mostly I just found it interesting that the acting style seemed to work in the movie. Put acting like that in most movies and it would immediately become the worst thing about the movie, yet in The Avengers it fit into the surrealistic tone.