Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Watch the Movie When You Can Watch the Trailer?

Sometimes I think that Hollywood believes that we're stupid.  Do they really believe they can put the whole movie into the trailer, and expect us to forget what we saw?  Unfortunately for us, this can kill the suspense when we actually go to see the movie.

For example, consider the classic What About Bob?  This annoyingly funny movie builds to great climax.  Bob places explosives around the doctor's house, which no one expects to ever go off ... that is unless you happened to see the trailers.  If you were one of the unfortunate, then you knew the house was going to explode the whole time.  So those hilarious ten minutes building to the climax? ... All ruined, because you already saw what happens in the trailer!

And a more recent example?  <beware ... minor spoilers ... you might want to skip this paragraph>  Consider Oblivion ... a visually stunning movie, while a little light on plot.  I avoided the previews like the plague, knowing that one day I'd watch the movie.  And I'm glad I did.  Most of the trailers reveal that Sally is evil (not just a lying bureaucrat, but plain evil).  Seeing how this is a main plot twist, what are you, the viewer, supposed to do for the first hour of the movie before this is "revealed?"  Suspense ruined!

And I hate movies where ALL the good parts are in the trailer.  When it's over, it feels like none of the movie is fun.

Well, I suppose there is one use for a "good" trailer.  Sometimes if it's a movie you know you'll never pay money to see, the trailer will let you watch the whole plot for free, and it's all over in a matter of minutes.  I'll close with this trailer that gets my vote for Most Revealed Plot...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oblivion - Blew Me Away

Oblivion with Tom Cruise was a crazy fun movie.  Filled with action, suspense, mystery, wonderful sci-fi ambiance, and real three dimensional characters, this movie is worth forking over the bucks to watch in the theater.

The ambiance pulls in the viewer immediately.  The sets, the music, the clothing, and the cinematography all work together to create a believable world with a futuristic feel.

Tom Cruise plays Jack, a technician assigned to repair drones on Earth.  In a war against an extraterrestrial invader, Earth is pretty much laid to waste.  The drones help to fight remnant scavengers.  In another two weeks the mission will be done, but yet, Jack has these strange memories and comes to learn that things aren't what they seem.

At the very beginning of the movie, Jack, in a voice-over, explains how he and his teammate have had their memories wiped clean for their own protection.  Right away, this tells the viewer that something's not right.  For at least the first half of the movie, I kept trying to guess what the catch was.  I had no idea what was coming, and it was pretty cool.

The drones, themselves, are almost their own character in the story.  You get to learn a lot about how they work, and my verdict ... very well designed.  The drones are programmed to destroy scavengers, and they are very efficient at what they do.  The night I watched this movie, I had nightmares of trying to escape and fight one of these drones.

The plot is both simple and complex at the same time.  That is, it's very easy to follow, but be prepared to spend time after the movie trying to put all the pieces together.  At first I thought the plot relied too much on coincidences, but when you think about it, there are certain events and planning that occur "off stage" and are left for the viewer to discover on their own.  After reanalyzing, only a couple of coincidences remain.

There are however, a couple of plot holes.  The biggest one involving a certain artifact.  When you think about it, you'll realize, "Wait a minute.  How exactly did that artifact get to Point B?"  No biggie, but worth mentioning.

There are also a couple of "bad science" instances.  For one, I'm not sure how torn up the Earth would get if our moon was blown into pieces.  Though, I love how they showed the moon, with pieces of it already forming a ring around the planet.  Another thing is the idea of sucking up water for energy when there is much more water available in the solar system that's easier to get to.  Think about how heavy water is and how much energy would be required just to push that water up the gravity well.

But bad science and a couple of plot holes aside, I recommend this movie for ages 14 and higher.  Catch this one in the theater.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oz - The Great and Powerful Movie

Since I grew up telling everyone that my favorite movie of all time was The Wizard of Oz (1939), I thoroughly enjoyed watching this prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful, and I'm happy that I caught it on the big screen.

This movie tells the story of how the Wizard made it to Oz.  If you know the original 1939 version, then you can probably guess how this movie ends.  That is, you know beforehand that the Wizard is going to be stuck there.

As the trailer shows, the director, Raimi, went to great lengths to match the feel of its predecessor.  The sets look similar.  The music is similar.  Even the plot lines are mostly consistent.  As such, I would expect most 1939 fans to enjoy this film the same as I did.

Just like in the original, the first part is in black and white, and in the original 4:3 aspect ratio.  But when they hit Oz ... watch out!  The color fades in and the screen moves to widescreen.  It was a pretty cool effect.  And as expected, "minor" characters in the beginning reappear as "major" characters later on.  So, this movie also has the possible interpretation of "the Wizard just bonked his head and went crazy cuckoo."  Only, in this version he doesn't wake up!  Oh no!

I missed seeing it in 3-D.  The reason is that when I checked Real or Fake 3D, I saw "The Wizard of Oz" listed as being "fake," but that's a totally different movie.  Oz the Great and Powerful is actually in real 3-D.  If you can still catch the movie in 3-D, it may be worth it.

The only complaint is that I'm not sure how well this movie can stand on its own.  Without its connections to the 1939 original, it's really some good eye-candy with an average plot.  It relies heavily in duping the audience, but then makes the mistake of having the characters duped as well, when ... if you think about it ... they must be really stupid, because how on earth could they not know that stuff?  Watch the movie, and then think about it.  There's even one revelation where a certain character acts one way before ... as if not knowing what's going on, and then immediately after the revelation, acts as if he knew the whole time.  Ooops.

Still, it's worth watching.  I recommend it for the whole family.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Host - Not That Bad

I liked The Host.  My wife didn't.  She read the book, while I didn't.

Even though the movie feels like a low budget feature, I thought it was well written and was all around good sci-fi.  Be prepared for a major chick flick, though.

In The Host, the invasion has already happened.  Only a few humans remain unturned.  Near the beginning of the movie, Melanie is captured and is invaded by the persona called Wanderer.  Since Melanie is so strong willed, she resists and talks with Wanderer, and sometimes regains partial control of her body.

At first, Melanie's voice-over, as she "speaks" to Wanderer, is strange and borders on cheesy, but I got used to it quickly.  Though, there was one love scene later that used the voice-over technique, which didn't quite work for me. 

As you can guess with Stephanie Meyer's work, Melanie is in love with one guy, while Wanderer falls in love with another.  Too bad there's just one body!

The movie does have some pretty good moments and explores some areas I've never seen before.  Kudos to Stephanie.  The acting was decent.  The special effects were decent, though sometimes on the cheesy side.

My wife tells me the book was much better.  She says that it's almost as if the producers took the more "adult" novel and intentionally inserted the feel of the tweener Twilight series.  I can see that through the music they chose and their decisions to play up the love triangle aspect.  Perhaps one day I'll read the book and then hate the movie, but until that happens, I thought it was a good experience.  It was at least much better than the first two Twilight movies that I saw.

My recommendation: This would be a good movie to rent and watch with the honey when it comes out on DVD.  Though there are a few scenes that look cool on the big screen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Quiet Celebration

A couple of weeks ago, I announced my big stepping-stone event ... I earned my first paycheck through winning second place in the Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest.  Despite how groundbreaking this is, I couldn't help but notice how quiet the celebrations were. 

Yeah ... it was very quiet.  Not that it's at all upsetting ... but where were all the trumpets and the heavens opening up and all that good stuff?

I suppose part of it was realizing how few of my friends even realize that I'm writing.  I think I told two people at work about my big win, and they both said, "That's nice," and we moved on to something else.

My gut tells me that's what it's going to be like with every award or paycheck I receive.  Here's a hypothetical situation I can imagine at work after I win a Nebula award...

"Hey Frank!  Guess what!  Did you hear the news?  I just won the Freakin Nebula award!  Come on ... do the dance with me!"

"Huh?  What's a Nebula?"

"You know ... sci fi books.  Like Ender's Game.  I'm in the same league as Orson Scott Card!"

"You're playing video games?  What kind of card did you win?"

"You never heard of Ender's Game?  There's a movie coming out."

"Oh ... like TRON?  Hey, have you finished up that TPS Report, yet?"

" ... "

Well, at least I got you guys.  I'm just letting you know that the celebrations don't last very long.  But the happiness ... yeah ... I still got that.  My writing is re-energized.  I finally have some real validation of the talent that I was wondering if I really had (as is evidenced in that wonderful last sentence I just wrote).  I may not be doing the dance, but I got my smile on.