Film Review of “The Abyss: Special Edition” (1989)

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© James Pyles – DVD cover for the 1989 film “The Abyss”

I hadn’t intended to watch a film on Sunday evening, but saw a DVD of the 1989 film The Abyss and said, “why not?”

Actually, this is the special edition, so it’s expanded quite a bit from what folks saw in the original theatrical production.

The movie opens aboard the USS Montana, an Ohio-class U.S. Navy sub. The sub encounters some strange light apparition near the Cayman Trough and, caught in its wake, is dragged across a rock formation, fatally damaging the sub.

With Soviet ships closing in to salvage the nuclear submarine, the Navy commandeers a private, underwater drilling platform operating near the Trough that’s led by Foreman Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) and crewed by a bunch of roughneck oil drillers.

Brigman’s estranged wife Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who designed the drilling rig, accompanies a group of Navy SEALs commanded by Lieutenant Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn) down to the rig just before a hurricane hits, in an attempt to reach the Montana and search for survivors.

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Film Review: “Escape from L.A.” (1996)

© James Pyles – photo of DVD case for the movie “Escape from L.A.”

I saw John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Adrienne Barbeau when it was first in the theaters and then a few times on disc later. It’s what I consider a “high functioning B movie.” That means it’s a lot of fun, but in spite of the quality actors in the movie, it would attain no higher level than “cult classic.” It’s a good way to waste two hours.

I’ve been aware of the 1996 sequel Escape from L.A. for years, but never had the desire to see it. However, yesterday at my local public library, I found it on disc and figured “what the heck.”

Actually, given the quality of the story of the original, and that sequels almost never live up to the original, I expected to either be bored or to hate it.

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Film Review of “Alita: Battle Angel” (2019)

When I reviewed Captain Marvel, I mentioned that one of the competing films released at the same time was Alita: Battle Angel. It’s not a movie I’d ordinarily watch, but because Brie Larson was such a pain in the butt about “Oh, look at me, I’m a powerful female warrior with a lot of victim issues,” I decided to view and compare the two works of art. In my view, Alita wins by a huge margin.

The really big issue is that Alita (voiced by Rosa Salazar) doesn’t have to rise to power by tearing men down the way “Captain Marvel” does. Her “father” Dr. Dyson Ido (voiced by the amazing Christoph Waltz), was a wonderful and flawed father figure. I would have loved a Dad like him, but he’s only a couple of years older than I am.

Everyone in the movie is complex and sometimes difficult to understand, especially Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) and Alita’s love interest Hugo (Keean Johnson), unlike in “Captain Marvel” where we’re playing to very specific progressive stereotypes (all women good, all men bad or at least silly, even Nick Fury).

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Film Review of “Star Trek” (2009)

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Promotional image for the movie “Star Trek” (2009)

Just for giggles, the other night I re-watched J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek (2009). Yes, I saw it in the theater ten years ago with one of my sons, and what I pointed out was wrong with the movie then, is still wrong with it now.

Oh, it’s a fun romp. There’s great action, poignant moments, and some good (and not so good) acting, but let’s face it. This isn’t your Dad’s (or Granddad’s) Star Trek.

Of course Abrams, who was selected to relaunch the franchise, went on record that he always felt like (Star Trek was) a silly, campy thing. I remember appreciating it, but feeling like I didn’t get it. Roddenberry must have been spinning in his grave.

The franchise deserved a director who grew up loving Star Trek, but it got Abrams instead. Go figure.

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Film Review of “Solo, A Star Wars Story” (2018)

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Promotional image for the 2018 movie “Solo, A Star Wars Story”

So I finally got around to watching last year’s Star Wars story Solo starring Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding it.

Actually, last February, when I wrote my commentary Jason Reitman and the new Ghostbusters: Respecting the Fans isn’t Misogynistic, I made the mistake of calling out critics of Reitman by tagging them on twitter. I also mentioned that I’d not only avoided the 2016 Ghostbusters remake, but had also never seen Solo for similar reasons.

I was immediately attacked, but fortunately being “small fry” on social media, the twitteratti just as quickly lost interest in me.

However, some of what they said stuck with me including how I probably shouldn’t judge a movie I’ve never seen. I’m still avoiding the Ghostbusters remake, but when I saw that Solo was available as a DVD at my local public library, I figured it wouldn’t cost me anything (except 135 minutes of my life) to watch it.

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Film Review of “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970)

Promotional image for the 1970 movie “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” featuring James Franciscus and Linda Harrison

I’m a huge fan of the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowell. Unfortunately, my local branch of the public library doesn’t have the film available in DVD, so I’d have to request it from a different branch. It does have three copies of the 1970 sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes starring James Franciscus and Kim Hunter. It’s a horrible movie.

Okay, good things first. James Franciscus is heroic as hell. He’s a great looking guy, especially with his shirt off. Interesting side note. In the film’s beginning, his character Brent is seen nursing his skipper (no name given but played by Tod Andrews) outside their crashed spaceship. The skipper dies subsequently after having been blinded in the accident. The following year, Franciscus starred in a television show called Longstreet. The title character is a blind insurance investigator in New Orleans. No, I’m not kidding.

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Review of “Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut” (1982)

 

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Promotional image for the film “Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut

Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (1982) is the only version of this film I’ve seen, so I have no real idea what the original theatrical movie was like. On Amazon, I found this explanation:

When Ridley Scott’s cut of Blade Runner was finally released in 1993, one had to wonder why the studio hadn’t done it right the first time–11 years earlier. This version is so much better, mostly because of what’s been eliminated (the ludicrous and redundant voice-over narration and the phony happy ending) rather than what’s been added (a bit more character development and a brief unicorn dream). Star Harrison Ford originally recorded the narration under duress at the insistence of Warner Bros. executives who thought the story needed further “explanation”; he later confessed that he thought if he did it badly they wouldn’t use it. (Moral: Never overestimate the taste of movie executives.) The movie’s spectacular futuristic vision of Los Angeles–a perpetually dark and rainy metropolis that’s the nightmare antithesis of “Sunny Southern California”–is still its most seductive feature, an otherworldly atmosphere in which you can immerse yourself. The movie’s shadowy visual style, along with its classic private-detective/murder-mystery plot line (with Ford on the trail of a murderous android, or “replicant”), makes Blade Runner one of the few science fiction pictures to legitimately claim a place in the film noir tradition. And, as in the best noir, the sleuth discovers a whole lot more (about himself and the people he encounters) than he anticipates…. With Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, and M. Emmet Walsh. –Jim Emerson

I first watched this DVD (the director’s cut, as explained above, was released eleven years after the original) years ago, and found certain sequences so violent, that I haven’t had the nerve to view it since. However with the recent death of actor Rutger Hauer (who was so good in so many different roles) who played replicant Roy Batty, I felt compelled to borrow the disc back from my son.

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Film Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

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@James Pyles

I finally got around to watching Captain Marvel (2019) last night. I said previously, I probably wouldn’t view this film until it came out on DVD, which is exactly what happened. I reserved it at my local public library but had to wait until over 100 other people, who also had it held, watched it before it was my turn.

Even before I saw the movie, when it was still out in theaters, I wrote commentaries about the controversy surrounding the film thanks to actress Brie Larson’s (who stars in the title role) injecting her personal issues into the public marketing of both this movie and Avengers: Endgame (2019). I’ve tried to the best of my ability to be objective in my review, but unfortunately, Larson’s “personality” sometimes got in the way. As it turned out, so did Disney’s/Marvel’s apparent viewpoint.

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Film Review: Men in Black International (2019)

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Promotional Poster for the 2019 film “Men in Black International”

The other day, my wife suggested that “the guys” should go see a movie together, so a few hours ago, my two sons, my grandson, and I saw Men in Black International (2019). I’m a huge fan of the 1997 original starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, though I’ve shied away from the sequels. I probably wouldn’t have seen “International,” at least in the theater, but that was my grandson Landon’s choice, and it was nice for we “guys” to get together the day before Father’s Day.

In a word, the movie was “okay”. It was a decent way to kill a couple of hours (running time is 1 hour, 38 minutes, but there were a ton of trailers beforehand) but nothing spectacular. In fact, I had a tough time getting into the film in spite of action, shooting, explosions, and aliens.

This is a story that starts with a little girl named Molly (Fandeiya Flory) whose parents encounter an alien and are “neuralized” by two MIB agents when she’s about eight. Molly, whose memory remains intact, helps a cute little alien escape, which turns out to be important later in the story. She spends the next twenty years trying to find out about the mysterious agency the men came from so she can join.

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Film Review of Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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Promotional poster for “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

Warning: Spoiler Alert

I was unprepared for how Avengers: Endgame (2019) hit me emotionally. I knew all the spoilers (or most of them) ahead of time, both from talking with my son Michael who had already seen the film, and from subsequently reading them online. I knew Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) would die, I knew everything.

Yet, near the end of the movie, when we were at Tony’s memorial service, I didn’t just tear up, I actually cried. I don’t think my son and grandson noticed, but it was an intensely emotional sequence in the film. I’d recovered by the time Clint/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) were talking about the loved ones they’d never get back, and when Steve/Captain America (Chris Evans), aged over 100 after he went back to 1945 and stayed in the past, gave his shield to Sam/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) with Bucky’s (Sebastian Stan) approval so he could become the new Cap.

I lost it again during the credits when the core Avengers actors literally signed off, which is something I haven’t seen since the end of the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) nearly thirty years ago. I realized I was saying one last goodbye to my friends and my heroes, not just their film incarnations, but the Avengers I had grown up reading about in the comic books back in the 1960s. My childhood ended all over again.

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