Tag Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review: Gravity

The trailer for Gravity had me hooked. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are doing a spacewalk on the ISS when some sort of debris storm destroys everything. We see both of them floating away, spinning, totally adrift in space. Gravity: the words crash down on the screen, plain white text on a black background.


My palms were sweaty after only twenty seconds. I mean, I don’t have much astronaut experience, no zero-g training or anything like that, but here’s something I’ve given considerable thought to. This whole concept taps into something universal, whether lost at sea or buried alive, what would it feel like knowing that certain death is all but imminent, but you still have to be awake and struggling for a while until whatever it is that’s keeping you alive stops working?

And that feeling, not being able to unclench my fists, squirming in my seat, the movie doesn’t waste any time taking you from a routine Hubble telescope repair job to, “Astronauts: This is Houston. Get out of there now!”

Unfortunately, the movie never unclenches to allow even a little bit of blood back in once in a while. After only a quarter of the way through, I was in physical discomfort, my body and soul overwhelmed by pins and needles. I guess there wouldn’t be a lot of time for pause or reflection if you really were running out of oxygen and spinning untethered away from your only means of escape, but man, it was really hard to sit still through all of that.

And it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. In each moment, there’s really only one action to be taken care of at a time. Because everything’s taking place in the unforgiving void of outer space, each action is a zero-sum game, live or die. So it’s like ten excruciating minutes of getting a hold of a rope. Do it or die. Then it’s ten painful minutes of tying a knot. You better tie that knot, or you’ll die.

There’s a very clear goal, somehow not dying and finding your way back to Earth, but there’s no direct path to success. And so there’s really no pace, it’s just calm for about two seconds, and then everything gets ratcheted up to eleven, and that’s where it stays, the needle constantly threatening to bust through the red.

It was a little too much. Like, I’m sure the story would have been enough to evoke those grand ideas of life, the fear of death, what it means to be without hope, or eventually to be able to let go. But everything is spelled out. Let’s zoom in on this miniature statue of the Buddha to convey an image of serenity amongst chaos. Or the little dialogue that peppers the film will be random statements about life being a wild ride. George Clooney throughout the entire movie is half The Fonz (“Now that we’ve got some distance between us, you think I’m attractive, right?”) and half wise philosopher (“You need to let go!”)

Parts of it were cool. The concept is definitely scary, especially considering how this is all within the realm of like actual science. You know, I’m saying that from a non-scientist’s point of view. Maybe a real scientist would watch Gravity and be able to spot several gaping plot holes. But I was looking for them, and I couldn’t see anything. Russian lettering on the escape pod, check. Tears are cried outward and away from the face in the absence of gravity, check. Yep, everything made sense.

Except, and this was a pretty glaring error, at least I thought it was, but there are several scenes in which the astronauts either have to screw something in, or screw something out. Each time, I noticed that the screws and levers and knobs, everybody turned them left to tighten and right to loosen them up. Doesn’t this go against the whole “lefty loosey, righty tighty” rule? Or does this for some reason not apply in outer space? Was everything designed backward to prevent regular people from someday hijacking the equipment?

I don’t know. But other than that, it was a cool movie. A little two-dimensional, but cool. And short. I’m a lot more forgiving with movies that don’t knock my socks off if they’re under an hour and a half long. Whatever, I can allow myself to not be one hundred percent entertained for under an hour and a half. But that’s it. Any longer than that and I’m pissed, like, “Oh my God, this was so boring, and so long.” But not Gravity. It was short and sweet. Or short and just a tad sweet. Let’s go with short and OK.

Movie Review: Elysium

It’s the end of the twenty-first century. All of the big problems that kind of threaten us in a vague maybe-ish someday way today have blossomed into a full-scale dusty global cloud of sepia toned urban smog. There’s overpopulation, pollution, and poverty on a mass scale. It’s an authoritarian state, everything enforced by robot police officers. You can’t even talk sarcastically to the droids or they’ll beat you up and maybe send you to jail.


But if you’re rich, everything’s fine. You live on Elysium, this giant Halo-like space colony orbiting the earth. Not only is the scenery lush and green, the citizens well-dressed and manicured, but health care has reached its apex: the elites lay down on these medical beds where everything from cancer to radiation poisoning can be almost instantly cured.

Elysium, to me, is the reason why we elect Democrats to office. All of the current social and political debates of today are embellished, exaggerated to such effect that the world in which this film takes place is at times totally alien, yet sometimes hauntingly a reflection of the present day. The disdain that the upper class exudes toward everyone else boils the blood, “Don’t breathe on me,” a corporate executive interrupts an underling for talking to his superior without covering his mouth.

The rich relax in the skies with their “I’ve got mine” security separated comfortably by the planet’s own atmosphere. Everyone else on the ground is a means to an end, to higher profits and revenues. I think about all of the fast-food workers holding these one-day strikes for a livable wage and I see the factory workers in Elysium get bossed around, threatened with their jobs, exploited for as much work with as little compensation. Profit, profit, profit.

Everyone’s desperate to get to Elysium, to use the medical beds, to escape what the previous generations – our generation – have left of the earth. We hear the words “illegals” a lot, “security,” “liberty,” it’s all of the same issues that we debate about now, how much to give to what people, do people truly deserve anything in this life?

Matt Damon’s character, Max, grew up in Los Angeles, and due not so much to character defects than the simple fact that the circumstances of his life suck, he’s in and out of jail, getting beat up by robot cops for no reason, working on the line at a factory that manufactures the same robot cops that then patrol the streets looking to beat him up again.

When he’s involved in an accident at work leaving him with just five days to live, his yearning turns to desperation as he agrees to wear a surgically attached robot exoskeleton with orders to fight his way to survival. Fortune winds up turning a simple heist into a political battle for control of Elysium, and Max finds himself being hunted down by Kruger, Sharlto Copley, the same South African guy from District 9 (also written and directed by Neill Blomkamp.) He’s traded in his bureaucratic government shirt and tie for a beard, cloak, and a giant sword. Kruger is a highlight of the film. I don’t know if it was his relentless cannot-be-stopped character or his creepy almost unintelligible accent, but his very presence on the screen made my skin tingle with static-like charge.

Elysium is over the top, but it’s everything that true sci-fi aspires to be. Like Alien, like his previous District 9, Blomkamp has taken all of the negative aspects of modern society and imagined them to run their course for about two hundred more years totally uninhibited. The result is everything that us liberals are afraid of: corporate supremacy, misery, dystopia, the haves and the have-nots on an extreme scale. It made me think about justice, about distribution, about the fact that we currently have the means to feed the world’s population, but we lack the political will to spread the wealth. How is this all going to sort itself out? In which direction are we headed as a species? I certainly hope that our future resembles nothing like the world of Elysium.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Throughout the entirety of Pacific Rim, all I could think about was stuff like, wow, this is such an awesome movie. It keeps getting better and better. Not once am I finding myself even remotely bored. I cannot wait to go home and write about how much I loved this movie.


And I did love the movie. But I saw it with my wife and the first thing she said upon exiting the theater was, “Wow, that was dumb.” How could we have arrived at two dramatically differing opinions after sitting next to each other for the exact same two and a half hours? Worse, why couldn’t I really mount a defense?

Because, look, I know when I’m defending movies that shouldn’t be defended. Like when I write about how much I loved Iron Man 3 or Thor, yeah, it’s probably because I’ve spent over fifty percent of my life reading comic books, that it’d have to be a really bad comic book movie for me to admit that I didn’t at some level at least enjoy a little bit what I just saw.

Like Daredevil, or Spider Man 3. Go ahead and start throwing eggs, I know that I’m broaching a very sensitive subject here, but were those movies really that bad? I haven’t watched them in a while, but I remember enjoying them. I liked the first Hulk movie. I always default back to the twelve year old me growing up on Long Island, no Internet, no cable TV, I used to get a thrill just from watching Fantastic Four cartoons on Sunday mornings. Never in my wildest imagination would I picture myself as an adult presented with dozens upon dozens of full-length comic book motion pictures featuring B-list superheroes.

I’m getting a little sidetracked from Pacific Rim, yes, but this is all adding up to a huge disclaimer, that in an attempt to review movies, I’m trying to go for an unbiased reaction after having seen one. I don’t know what the opening weekend numbers are, and I’ve yet to read any professional reviewers. I just want to go see a movie, and try as best I can to call it like I see it.

But it’s often the case that something cool like this will come out, a superhero movie, or in this case, a robots vs. alien monsters movie, and I can already picture exactly how the naysayers will react, similar to how my wife put it, that it was dumb. That it was just a bunch of fight scenes linked together by a pretty cheap plot.

And yeah, I guess, if you want to get all cynical and scientific about the movie, I suppose there really isn’t a whole lot more to it than that, alien monsters invade the earth through a portal deep in the Pacific. In response, we build a bunch of rock-em, sock-em robots to beat them all up.

But whatever, those feelings I was experiencing in that theater were real. It was pure joy. And I’ve sat through movies that should have been catered to me, like the new Superman, and I’ve been put to sleep. There was seriously no down time in the fun and excitement here. The score was a movie length fight song. The battle scenes were pure chaotic euphoria.

Did I mention that the pilots of the robots have to link their minds via something called a neural handshake? And that’s not like a colloquialism, the scientists say stuff like, “Neural handshake complete.” That’s what I’m looking for in a big action robot movie, people maintaining a straight face while talking about a neural handshake. The side characters, the almost unnecessary plots and asides and conveniently placed toilets that made up the caulk to this movie’s tiles, everything was fun, ridiculous, everything was insane.

And it’s a good concept. When was the last time we’ve had a really crazy monster movie? All I can think of are the old Godzilla films from decades ago. I know that the series has been rebooted several times in recent years, but nothing sticks, because everything tries too hard to be serious, to depict a modern world where big monsters wreak havoc.

This isn’t that world. It’s just further enough in the future to where the world resembles the one we live in, but all of the backstory is explained in the first ten or fifteen minutes, so everything is alien, fresh, reminiscent of the real but not even close to anything we’d be able to mistake for reality.

It’s just, my heart is still pumping, there’s still a surplus of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I really did love this movie. It’s fun, it’s pretense-free, they laid out some very simple rules that guide the course of the film and they rarely stray from the formula. It works. It’s pure hyper energy, it’s like an amusement park, one built entirely out of crazy roller coasters, and there are no lines, and they just let you keep riding everything over and over again for as long as you want. For like two and a half hours, anyway.

Movie Review: The Internship

What happens when you make a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy? You get something that resembles the original, kind of, but there’s a definite degradation of quality. You look at your end result, say to yourself, well, everything is where it should be, but it just doesn’t look right. That about sums up The Internship, the wacky summer comedy movie starring two of America’s favorite funny actors, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

The Internship

We’ve all seen the trailers, there’s nothing that I could possibly spoil for you, even if I wrote out the entire plot of the movie. It’s derivative comedy at its most basic. It’s two guys that don’t know anything about computers that wind up at Google as interns, competing for a handful of full-time jobs.

Get it? Because they’re old. Right? They’re so old. That’s the joke. They keep telling us over and over. “But you guys are so old!” And so Vince Vaughn has a flip phone. And they don’t know how to use computers. It’s like, come on, even my grandfather knows how to use a computer. This trope might have been slightly more believable maybe ten years ago, but by now it’s growing ever more unlikely that there exist a couple of forty year olds living in California that are really this inept in modern technology.

The movie actually starts out funny enough. There are a couple of ridiculous back-and-forths that evoke those old feelings of seeing these two guys in a movie and not automatically assuming that it’s going to suck. But they play their trump card way too early, a signature over-the-top cameo by Will Ferrell, and after that’s come and gone, the movie limps toward the finish line, realizes that it’s way too far away, and decides, whatever, they’ve already paid for the tickets, let’s just call it a day.

These sort-of comedy movies always follow such a formulaic approach to story telling. Characters find themselves in unlikely scenarios, they decide to give it their all, after one or two comical false starts, they rally together, work really hard, and start turning some heads. Of course there’s a bad guy, and of course he winds up getting under the good guys’ skin. There’s self-doubt. Vince Vaughn winds up quitting. But of course he comes back. And of course they rally again just in time.

It was the same in Dodge Ball. It was the same in Old School. It was the same in Wedding Crashers. It’s just over and over and over and over again. Throw in some really cheesy romance. Sprinkle in a scene where everybody goes out to a strip club. I’m sitting there in the theater, not really laughing at all, and I’m just thinking, this is so boring. I can’t believe I’m sitting in this seat being spoon fed the same completely unimaginative garbage summer after summer. Who’s making the money at the end of this gravy train?

To make things even lamer, it’s all a big Google commercial. They talk about Gmail and there’s the Android logo everywhere. Nobody has an iPhone. There’s an almost imperceptible walk-on role by one of the two Google cofounders. When they’re not making funny faces or acting out premature ejaculation jokes, they’re having serious conversations about Google connecting people to people, people to information, making the world a better place.

What else? I’m seriously out of stuff to say about this movie. It was so boring. I can’t believe I actually spent money to go see it. This is something that normally I’d only ever watch if I were on a really long vacation with my entire extended family, and during one of those weird in-between points, when everybody’s asleep or waiting for dinner, and we’re all just kind of hanging around the one TV wherever we’re at, and TBS is playing a “very funny!” movie, and we’re all like, The Internship, huh, we all forgot that this movie ever even came out. And we watch it, it’s terrible, but nobody makes a move to turn it off, and everybody’s a little bit more tired having had to sit through such unfunny two hours of their life.

Man, I’m so tired. I hate having to so thoroughly bash something. But what a joke. An unfunny joke. There’s nothing else to say. I’m really sad and tired now.

Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

What can I say? Star Trek: Into Darkness is a great movie. Sure, I’m totally biased. I love the Star Trek franchise. One of my earliest memories is watching a Next Generation episode when I was four years old. I think I can safely say that I’ve seen every episode of every series in the canon. I’ve read countless lame Star Trek novels. If a madman pun a gun to my wife’s head and said, “Never watch Star Trek ever again, or your wife gets it,” well, sorry babe, but you having to exist with me unable to watch Star Trek, that’s not a life that you’re going to want to live. I’d be doing you a favor.


Having said all of that, I think that I’m even more qualified to judge this film, because my standards for Star Trek are so high. I used to watch brand new Star Trek, or some incarnation of it, every single week from when I was a little kid, with The Next Generation continuing into Deep Space Nine, to Voyager, and then finally to Enterprise. If the powers-that-be are going to make me wait three years for one two-and-a-half hour dose of Trek, it had better be fantastic.

And it is. It’s great. I don’t want to say anything about anything. Do what I did. Don’t read anything about the plot, nothing. If you see a commercial on TV, turn it off. If you’re out and the trailer starts playing on some screen in the background, close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and start screaming, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening! Lalalalalalaaaa!” Just go see the movie and let the story carry you past light speed, all the way to warp nine point three.

I’m not even exaggerating. Sitting there in the theater watching everything play out, I felt like my circulatory system had been replaced with a series of warp coils, that instead of a heart everything was running on a dilithium-based matter-antimatter reaction. You know that feeling when you see something really cool or moving and you get goose bumps across your entire body? That’s what the whole film was for me. The previews ended, Into Darkness started rolling, and it was just all goose bumps, unrelenting, beginning to end. My skin actually kind of hurts still.

But it was worth it. In fact, I’d sacrifice far more than some mild dermal discomfort to enjoy such a work of brilliance. That’s cheesy, but what else can I call it? It was brilliant. The sound effects alone, how does something at once sound so modern while maintaining its distinctly retro theme? It’s the same with the scenery, the lighting, the tech. It’s how I imagine the future to look like, not like something cooked up from scratch, but a century or two of constant addition to our existing society.

And this movie isn’t just cool, it’s really cool, it’s poignant, it’s relevant. It tackles big issues, without an ounce of subtlety, of course, but that’s what Star Trek has always been about. It’s taking large societal problems and saying something about them with aliens and sci-fi. Like who can forget that original series episode where the two guys are half-black, half-white? It’s the 1960s, so here’s an alien racism themed story.

There’s nothing I can say negative about Into Darkness. My only observation would be that Zachary Quinto, in an effort to channel Mr. Spock, missed the mark slightly and wound up embodying Tuvok, the Vulcan chief of security on Voyager. Anybody with me on that one?

Also, again, go see the movie, but be prepared to sit in a theater full of guys and girls that, based on appearance alone, clearly love Star Trek. (Obviously I’m not talking about me. I was the exception. When I tell people I love Star Trek they’re like, no way Rob, how is that possible? You’re so cool!”)

Finally, and this has nothing to do with the movie, but I got really thirsty right before the previews started rolling, so I snuck out to the concession area to buy a drink. The line was long and the employees don’t get paid enough to do their job fast, so I had to watch the same disinterested routine over and over again.

“Medium soda please.”

“Would you like to buy a large soda for fifty cents extra?”


“Six fifty.”

Hands over seven bucks.

“Would you like to donate one dollar to cancer?”


Makes change.

“Would you like to donate these two quarters to cancer?”


Every single customer, every single time. I have nothing against donating money, whatever. But seriously, why don’t you give a dollar to cancer, Regal Theaters? The movie was like fifteen bucks. You just charged me another seven for a bucket of sugar water. And you want my spare change? You want even more money? Stop harassing me! Call of your dogs! This is extortion!