Category Archives: Movies

Movie review – Rogue One – A Star Wars story

Spoiler alert

Normally I would go heavily into the details of a film in a review.  While I will include some spoilers of the film, this is going to be more a discussion of certain aspects of the film which I feel are important to bring up.

So, this post will go into details about the movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars story“. I am also drawing material from the Rogue One novelization and details from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


I, along with most fans of the Star Wars universe, was very excited and a little nervous when I heard that Disney was going to produce the last 3 films of the Star Wars film series. The Force Awakens was a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane and while I did enjoy the film it really did not break any new ground in the Star Wars universe.  We were basically still discussing the Skywalker family and their relationship to “The Force”.

I first heard only sketchy details about Rogue One a couple of months after The Force awakens.  The concept that the producers pitched to Disney was that the Star Wars universe would be fleshed out in a series of semi-related stand alone stories.  Follow on stories will discuss Han Solo and Boba Fett in their own movies.

Rogue One however is unique in that it does not focus on any of the popular characters from previous films.  The characters involved are at best mentioned in passing but never explored and most of them in fact have never been discussed previously.  The story deals with events just prior to episode 4 filmed in 1977.

Films, they say, are a product of their times.  Rogue one reflects this sentiment perfectly.  In the old Star Wars universe everything was well-groomed and things were generally tidy.  Even the smugglers and gangsters seemed to be neat as a pin.  Everyone seems focused on “the mission” and the story line.  This movie moves the focus more onto the smaller supporting cast of characters that make the main players seem that much more heroic and grandiose.  This also focuses more on the more unsavory aspects of wars and rebellion.

The lead character is a young woman, Jyn Erso, whose father is designing the Death Star for the Empire.  Her father sent her off at a young age to be safe and she has grown up under the tutelage of her father’s friend, Saw Gerrera, a revolutionary.  Saw trains her as a revolutionary but she leaves him to become a petty thief and criminal.  She has grown up with  deep-seated anger towards her father for abandoning her and for being a pawn to the evil empire.  As the film progresses she works through her feelings about her father and slowly comes to appreciate her father’s position at the time when he sent her away.

Cassian Andor is the other main lead.  He has grown up in the rebellion and has never known life without being opposed to the Empire.  In the name of rebellion he has had to do several unsavory things.  In the film itself he murders a friendly informant to keep him from divulging secrets to the Empire.  But as the film progresses you can sense the turmoil within him.  He finds himself less and less capable of justifying the terrible things he must do for the rebellion and he seeks redemption by following Jyn on a suicide mission into the heart of the Empire.

Saw Gerrera is the most interesting and best developed character in the film.  Saw is perhaps the first rebel.  He fought the separatists before the Empire and then when he saw what the Empire was becoming he began fighting again.  Most of his time has been spent waging a very cruel and dirty terrorist insurrection.  He has set off bombs in busy places and murdered people in dark corners.  In the film he tortures a defector to make sure that he is being truthful.  Two decades of continual conflict have damaged not just his body but his mind.  He has become paranoid and a little unhinged.  The casting director that brought in Forest Whitaker made an inspired choice.  Whitaker had previously played Idi Amin in “The last king of Scotland” and you can see traces of that performance in Saw.

Most of the film takes place not in air-conditioned settings and well-lit and clean cities but in dingy dark alleys or dusty worn down towns in the middle of nowhere.  Most of the people in the Empire live in less than ideal worlds and must work hard to make a living.  The Empire itself makes life difficult and unpleasant for the majority of the population.

You get a sense of gloom and doom from the film.  One of the preview trailers for the film had a great line that captured this feeling, “The world is coming undone, Imperial flags reign across the galaxy”. The common everyday people are giving up and accepting their position in the Empire and soon nobody will be able to stand up to them.

The Empire itself is finishing up the Death Star and we are approaching a moment when the rebellion will either have to stand up and fight or lose all hope of overthrowing the Empire.  People like Jyn and Cassian must ask themselves if they are willing to stand up for what they believe.  Jyn’s father provides hope in the form of a flaw in the Death Star and Jyn and her friends must hurry to find the plans of the Death Star and get them to the rebellion.

The film also presents us with the less than savory aspect of war in that people die in wars and not just “the bad guys”.  One of the big spoilers is of course that all the main characters die by the end of the film.  Disney had the option of going with a happy ending but allowed the director to film it as he wished.  He wanted to stress the sacrifices made by the characters in order for Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star later on.  In this way Rogue One is a much more honest film than any of the other Star War films.

One of the other details I found refreshing was returning the magic and mysticism to “The Force”.  In the prequel films it was explained that The Force was nothing more than an energy field generated by microbes.  Most fans were less than pleased by this.  Rogue One presents The Force in more mystical terms.  Chirrut Imwe, one of the other characters, believes in The Force.  Although not a Jedi he is sensitive to The Force and has studied and uses The Force to compensate for his blindness.  More than that he treats The Force as a religion which I think is the way that Lucas originally intended The Force to be portrayed.

Overall it is the best film since “The Empire Strikes back“.  I was a little sad that we won’t see any more of these characters or see their stories develop any further but really the film says everything that needs to be said and is practically perfect.


Star Wars – The Force awakens – Movie review

Non-standard spoiler alert here

Normally I place a standard spoiler alert here because I usually go into a lot of detail about the movies that I review.  This time things are a bit different.  I feel that even 6 months after the movie comes out that if I divulge any secrets that I will get a ton of hate mail.  So with that in mind I am going to review the movie in a fairly roundabout way and discuss the whole of the Star Wars universe and how the new movie fits in.  Even so some details may leak out.

This post will go into details about the movie “The Force awakens“. If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


Back in 1977 I was 6 years old.  My sister’s boyfriend at the time took her and of course her little brother to the movies in the Galleria to see this sci-fi movie called Star Wars.  She had already seen it and advised me not to be scared of the space battles and alien monsters.

I sat goggled eyed for the next hour and a half.  My perspective had been broadened way beyond the horizon.  Any thoughts about growing up to be a cowboy or a fireman or whatever were replaced with being a space faring Jedi knight.

In many ways this was the first “adult” movie that I ever watched.  No simple cartoons, or parables.  This was something complex for a kid to handle.  Please understand, it wasn’t so much the special effects, though they were jaw dropping for the time, it was more a matter of having such a fleshed out and complete story line framing and structuring the entire movie and setting the stage for future movies.

Lucas had been working on and off since the early seventies and possibly since his college days to come up with the basic story.  He borrowed heavily from myth, from the action movies of the 1930’s, and from a wide range of science fiction sources.  What he put together was a complete story package that had a clearly defined arc from beginning to end and it was a story that was very relatable to a wide audience but also contained nuggets of religion and philosophy for the hard-core sci-fi fans to consider.

When the next installments of the story were released, Lucas kept building the basic story line and kept it moving to the climax in the third installment (or what was the third installment back in the 80’s). When Return of the Jedi ended and it seemed that Lucas was finished with the entire story, many fans were left clamoring for more and with a whole lot of unanswered questions.

During the 90’s, Lucas set to work on the prequel series and decided to focus on the roots of the story with the rise of the Empire and in particular, Darth Vader.  The prequels answered many of the fan questions but were generally badly received.

Why?  Some criticisms focus on the story line which was perceived to be badly scripted, clumsy, and un-even.  Others said that Lucas had fallen in love with special effects and neglected the story and others said that he not so much made a movie but made a video game instead.

The story itself wasn’t bad and as I said it answered many of the origin questions in the Star Wars universe but personally I did feel that it lacked the completed feel of the original series and clumsily steered its way to connect up to what was now referred to as Episode 4 from 1977.

After the rebukes that he received, Lucas vowed that he would never again direct another Star Wars movie.  So it was a great shock and somewhat disheartening when the news broke that Lucas had sold the rights to the movie series to Disney for 4 Billion dollars.

At first most fans were horrified that the studio would ruin and “Disney-fy” the series for the sake of making money.  The studio immediately moved to install JJ Abrams as the director and we fans waited with bated breath to see what would happen.

This is where I would give away plot details but I won’t.  Instead I will mention that some movie plot points have been speculated on since back in the 80’s.  Points like, what happened to the Empire after the Battle of Endor in the sixth movie?  Did Han and Leia live happily ever after?  Did the Sith ever return?

The new movie builds a bridge from Return of the Jedi and the future.  The story tellers are not hampered as they were in the prequel series to connect one series to another and having to “artificially” steer the story.  Old cast members are there to reprise their roles but also clear the way for the new cast that will take over.

Storytelling once again takes center stage over special effects.  Overall it is a satisfactory effort.  Not original of course as it was back in 1977.  But overall it is a good starting point for this series to begin with.


Mad Max: Fury Road – Movie review

Standard Spoiler – This discusses details of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road.  If you don’t want to know what happens then stop here.


This review if fairly late.  I actually watched this movie on opening weekend and never really meant to review it but since then there has been some controversy stirred up around the movie and I felt compelled to address it as well.

Fury Road is the fourth in the Mad Max franchise and follows the adventures of former police officer, Max Rockatansky or “Mad Max”, as he struggles to survive in post-apocalyptic Australia.

It’s unclear where in the franchise continuity this film falls in but from what I can piece together this comes in somewhere between films 1 and 2 though that’s not definite and some have suggested that this doesn’t fit in at all in the original trilogy continuity.

Max has run afoul of a group of desert scavengers led by Immortan Joe, a cult like leader living in the only town for hundreds of miles.  Immortan Joe captures Max and plans to use him as an involuntary blood donor for his army, the War boys.  However just as Max’s fate seems sealed one of Joe’s Generals, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), stages a rebellion and runs off with Joe’s wives.  Max suddenly has a chance to escape by joining forces with Furiosa.

Although people know the franchise due to Max, Furiosa is actually the protagonist of this story.  Furiosa’s life has been patterned and altered by Joe since she was kidnapped as a child and forced to do his bidding.  Now she has the perfect opportunity to gain revenge on Joe by helping his unwilling captive wives to escape with her.

This is where the alleged controversy comes into play.  A blogger writing for a “Men’s rights” movement called for a boycott on the film claiming that the film was “feminizing America” by portraying strong female characters and that the film makers had ruined a good film property by “forcing an agenda” on the storyline.

My response to this is that it’s a patently ridiculous argument.  It’s such a ridiculous argument that at first I thought this was an Onion article or from another spoof website but as it turned out it was real.

If you think that this is true then go see the movie for yourself and see if this storyline is in any way forced.  As to strong female characters in a post apocalyptic setting?  What other sorts of characters are supposed inhabit a post apocalyptic setting if not strong?

Like I said ridiculous arguments.

The movie itself is a lot of great eye candy.  The car designers went above and beyond to create a lot of weird and working car contraptions that got used and wrecked in the movies.  The only real and pleasant surprise is that director George Miller opted to use mainly live stunts and pyrotechnics in the film’s most exciting scenes instead of CGI effects.  Moviegoers have become somewhat jaded by the constant stream of CGI special effects in modern blockbuster movies and it was refreshing to see the live stunt work done by professional stuntmen and Cirque du Soleil performers.

So is it worth seeing?  For the eye candy?  Yes, very impressive.  For the storyline?  It’s a good strong storyline.  A few holes here and there but solid.  For the controversy?  What controversy?

Dark and Stormy Night – Movie review

Standard Spoiler – This discusses details of the movie Dark and Stormy Night.  If you don’t want to know what happens then stop here

I usually review movies that I see in theaters but with the advent of internet streaming services, people can distribute movies directly to audiences without having to go through movie theaters in the first place.  Dark and Stormy Night was brought to my attention on Google Play as something I might be interested in.  For once they got it right.

Dark and Stormy Night was written by Larry Blamire who had previously directed the successful low-budget sci-fi film, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, a film that spoofs low-budget b-movies from the 1950s and 1960s.  Instead of tackling science fiction, Dark and Stormy Night tackles haunted house movies and adds a healthy dose of 1930s screwball comedies.

The film stars Daniel Roebuck as 8 o’clock Farraday, a crusty big city reporter and Jennifer Blaire as Billie Tuesday, a wisecracking reporter trying to “outscoop” Farraday.  The two reporters show up at a spooky mansion in the middle of a rainstorm for the reading of a Will and instead find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery with elements of ghosts, escaped mental patients, a serial killer, and a gorilla to complicate matters.

Just to make things even more interesting a motley assortment of characters shows up for the Will reading.  Each one of these individuals seems to have a shady past and may be the murderer but they keep dropping dead at the most inopportune moments.

The fun aspect of the film is seeing all the standard mystery and horror clichés trotted out and made fun of over the course of the movie.  It’s by no means a cerebral film and it’s not meant to be.  Rather it’s meant to be a way to pass a dark and stormy evening at home, and at $1.99 rental fee, it’s well worth it.


The Star Wars trailer came out the other day. Don’t know if it will be a good movie or not but the initial signs are positive.  Movie trailers are not a huge event to most people but to devotees of the series, it was highly anticipated.

Nowadays trailers usually come out on YouTube and people on YouTube will film what’s called reaction videos.  Basically videos of their initial and genuine reaction to the trailer.  I could waste hours watching these. I find it somewhat fascinating to watch these. I was also shocked that so many people made these videos already.

I like watching not only the reactions but in particular I also like to note the diversity of the fan base.  Not all Star Wars fans are pasty skinned, fat, glass wearing nerds.  The phenomena that is the Star Wars series runs the gamut through all races, genders, and economic backgrounds and is worldwide.

It’s somewhat difficult to explain the appeal of this series.  I mean it’s one thing to say that it all has to do with cool special effects and space movies and fighting but I feel that there must be more here.  These are a series of movies that people have memorized all the lines and regularly quote these lines to one another during conversations.  I don’t mean that they quote just memorable lines but they will quite literally quote each and every line to one another no matter how innocuous  the line.

I don’t think that happens with any other series, even with venerated series like Star Trek.  Something about the themes, the ideas behind the story reaches out and touches individuals no matter what their background or situation.  They can relate to a character in the story, they can relate to the feeling of struggling against a system that feels oppressive, they can relate something of their own particular situation to what they see up on the screen.

Something else I noted watching all these reaction videos was the number of female fans that posted reaction videos.  Nerd and science fiction culture has had to take a long and hard look at itself with regards to the ingrained discrimination towards female fans this last year.  It has been a painful but most necessary process.  We who have proclaimed ourselves to be the oppressed underdogs fighting against a system that discriminates against us.  We have been guilty of the same sort of oppression against female fans.  A lot of the old guard nerds have asserted that female fans are not as passionate about science fiction or that they just “don’t get it”.  I think this puts that argument to rest.

Just one more to make the point.



Out of ideas

Reading the Facebook feed and someone was quite excited about a remake of the movie “Poltergeist“.  I mentally groaned.

I’ve been mentally groaning for the past 30 or so years since the remake craze began in earnest and started making 2nd rate remakes, or homages as some would term them, of older movies.  Every year brings some updated version of a classic movie or TV show that someone thought that they could do better.  One of the few things that I dislike about movies is that any producer or director with enough money or influence can come around and make a terrible version of a movie classic.

Some directors add lines, take out lines, even whole scenes.  It’s rare, make that very rare, that a remake can surpass let alone equal the original in terms of quality.  All these remakes offer is a chance for a studio to make more money on an old property.

Does that mean that there should never be remakes?  Of course not.  Some stories have to be retold from time to time.  Culture and civilization change and the old stories need to be re-interpreted to suit new audiences.  But remaking a movie or TV show 30 or even 50 years after the fact?  No, that’s just greed and arrogance talking.

Someone argued that remakes don’t take away from the original productions.  I would agree that would be true if people got to see the original first.  But this rarely happens these days. Inevitably the focus is always kept on the new version and the richness and vibrancy of the original is often lost.  People may end up with a bad impression of what could be a great story because they had not seen the original version.

The other thing that is harmed by remakes is originality.  Producers blinded by the lure of possible easy money may eschew original scripts and ideas and choose instead the path to “easy” money.

Some of the innovative, original, and even lucrative film properties have been speculative, and risky ventures that were unproven but given the green light by studio executives.

The Jazz Singer, the first talking picture, was a huge risk.  Seems silly nowadays that someone would doubt the power of talking pictures, but it’s true.  Gone with the wind, burning down an entire movie set for one scene and using highly expensive color film?  They must be mad!  Star Wars, made by a young director using all sorts of new special effects features and delving deeply into the space opera genre.  A huge risk.  But all of these were not just financial but dramatic successes.

Imagine if they had instead opted for the quick dollar instead?

Instead of just focusing on the monetary aspect of film production or making a film just to make a film why not let the ideas people develop their ideas freely and take a risk on something new rather than rehashing what has already been done.

American Sniper – Movie review

Standard spoiler alert here.  This post will go into details about the movieAmerican Sniper“. If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


Growing up in a conservative family I’ve watched my fair share of war movies.  Everything from old-time classics like “The longest day” and “Stalag 17” to modern war pictures like “Platoon” and Saving Private Ryan so I think I know a thing or two about war pictures.

The essence of a good war movie involves a large dose of violence, a personal storyline, and a clear story arc that guides the viewer from one end of the picture to the other resolving all the issues brought up during the movie.

But of course war movies have evolved in the last 50 years and are now more complex and less clear-cut.  As the viewing public has changed its collective opinion about war, movie makers have had to adapt their stories to suit the general public.  Stories are no longer as simple as they once were.  Plots are more nuanced and they often take multiple points of view in order to be more balanced and not make war look so idealized.

That’s why American Sniper was a bit of a surprise to me as it seems to return to the model of a fairly straightforward and simple narrative.  The movie is based on the novel by Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.  The story follows Kyle as he grows up in Texas and has a somewhat aimless existence as a rodeo cowboy.  One day after hearing a news report about a terrorist attack Kyle decides to join the military.

After successfully completing SEAL training he meets his future wife, Taya, in a bar and after a brief courtship they decide to get married.  During their courtship 9/11 occurs and the happy couple realize that their lives have just become more complicated.  On the day of the wedding they receive word that Kyle will be deploying to Iraq.

Once in Iraq, Kyle has to use his skills as a sniper to stop threats to the common foot soldiers patrolling the streets.  Sometimes this involve shooting women and children carrying bombs or grenades.  He returns home from his first tour and seems to be more withdrawn from his wife and son.  He watches YouTube videos posted by terrorist snipers shooting American soldiers and calls them “savages”.

On his second tour he becomes involved in the search for a terrorist leader called “The Butcher”.  He finds an informant with a possible lead on the Butcher.  He reports this to an intelligence officer and on their way to question the informant they run afoul of a terrorist sniper called Mustafa who has built his own impressive reputation.  While Kyle and his team are pinned down by the Mustafa, the Butcher murders the informant in public and drives off.

After his second tour he returns home to see his daughter being born in the hospital.  He becomes quite agitated and angry that the natal nurse is not paying sufficient attention to his newborn daughter.

Chris returns for a third tour.  As he arrives he runs across his brother as he is shipping out back home.  His brother tells Chris that Iraq is the worst place on earth and he’s glad to be going home.

During another mission to find the Butcher, Mustafa badly injures one SEAL and kills another.  Kyle finally manages to kill the Butcher.  The injured SEAL later dies during an operation.  Kyle deploys back home and Taya and Chris attend the funeral.  Taya doesn’t want Chris to return for a fourth tour but he says he has to.  He believes that it is his obligation to his fellow soldiers to continue fighting.  She tells him that she may not be around if he goes back again.

When Kyle returns to Iraq he finds that Mustafa has been shooting engineers at a construction site.  Kyle and a team of snipers set up on a roof top to find and kill him.  Mustafa predictably shows up and Kyle makes an impossibly long shot with his sniper rifle and kills Mustafa but this draws a small army of terrorists to attack the snipers on the roof.  During the ensuing battle, Kyle finally decides that he has had enough of war and that if he survives he will go home for good.

Back home things don’t improve.  Kyle has problems keeping his anger in check and is totally withdrawn from his family.  He meets with a psychiatrist who encourages him to meet with wounded veterans and to address his own issues as he helps them.  The therapy seems to help Kyle deal with his problems.  In the last scene of the movie Kyle meets with another troubled veteran at a gun range.  For an unknown reason the veteran murders Kyle.

The story itself comes from Chris Kyle’s point of view and how he saw the war as it unfolded around him.  but Directors regularly take scripts and expand out stories to give the viewer more context and to help them understand what’s going on.  I find it difficult to understand why Eastwood didn’t do that here.  He certainly did this for his movies “Flags of our fathers” and the companion piece “Letters from Iwo Jima“.  The two movies provided viewers with context and helped them understand not just what soldiers on the American side felt like but also on the Japanese side.

The thing that bothers me is that everything in “American Sniper” is told from one side.  The “bad guys” are amalgamations of different real life people.  They have few to no lines at all, and all of them wear black. The terrorists, or insurgents, or whatever you want to call them are all portrayed and called “animals” or “savages”.  No thought is given to examining what these people are thinking or why they may have been driven to do such terrible things.

The political situation that led up to the war in Iraq is never explored and the course of the invasion is never really discussed.  The Chris Kyle character remains steadfastly in support of the war and never questions whether they should be at war in Iraq or what the purpose of the war really is.

The home front is barely touched upon except when Kyle is home between tours, which I find odd as Chris Kyle’s widow was heavily involved in the movie.

Overall I find that Eastwood could have done a much better job on this movie.  He has certainly directed much more involved and complex films in the past and in war pictures as well.  So I find this to be a somewhat unsatisfactory effort from a great Director.

“The Hobbit: Battle of the five armies” review

[Author’s note:  As always with any review, if you don’t want to know then this is where you should look away.]



I went to this movie reluctantly.  I had already caught the first two installments of the series and was not pleased at all with the results. As with Lord of the rings (LotR), Peter Jackson, the director, divided up the book into three movies. Whereas in LotR the formula fit fairly well, in The Hobbit this division was extremely forced and obviously didn’t work.  The studio or Jackson himself tried to squeeze way too much out of the book and the added on story lines were ill thought out and served no real purpose.

So when I went to see this installment on Christmas Eve night I wasn’t hopeful at all.  I wasn’t wrong.  The dragon Smaug, who had been the main focus of dread for the first two movies, gets killed by Bard in the first 10 minutes of the film.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t have died but honestly that kind of deflated the movie before it really even got started.

In the meantime Gandalf has been captured by Sauron’s forces and is being held in a tower.  He is about to be killed when he is rescued by Galadriel, Saruman, and Elrond.  A love affair is hinted at between Gandalf and Galadriel which wasn’t in the books and never goes anywhere in any case, and Saruman is left to “take care” of Sauron, portending Saruman’s corruption in LotR.  Kind of a pointless scene but I suppose this is meant to link to the previous series of movies.

Back at the lonely mountain the human survivors of Smaug’s attack choose Bard as their leader and try to rebuild. Tauriel and Legolas go north to investigate sightings of an Orc army from the north.  The love affair between Tauriel the elf and Kili the dwarf is declared impossible.

Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf king, begins to grow paranoid and demands that his dwarves find the Arkenstone, a mystical jewel of power somewhere inside the mountain.  He begins to get very greedy about his gold and decides to renege on his promise to repay the humans for their aid.

Azog, the Orc leader, marches out with an Orc army to attack the dwarves.

Meanwhile Thranduil, the elf king, arrives with an elf army.  He has some claims on the treasure in the mountain and forms an alliance with Bard against the dwarves.

Bilbo Baggins has found the Arkenstone and sneaks out to meet Thranduil and Bard.  He hopes to barter the Arkenstone to settle the conflict but Thorin won’t hear of it. A dwarf army arrives to bolster Thorin.

In the north, Legolas and Tauriel discover a second Orc army on its way to the mountain and race back to warn everyone.

Gandalf arrives on the battlefield warning about an orc army but no one listens to him. As the elf-human army and dwarf army begin to get ready to fight each other, Azog arrives with his orc army and attacks everyone.

The dwarves, elves, and humans put aside their differences and begin to cooperate but Thorin will not join in the fight.  His greed blinds him and he hides in the mountain.  Finally after a long delirious fit, he realizes his folly and joins the fight.

Thorin chases after Azog and finally kills him but not before Fili and Kili die and Thorin receives a mortal wound.  Tauriel mourns Kili.

The second orc army arrives but is destroyed by the arrival of giant eagles.

Bilbo Baggins returns home to find he has been declared dead and his home and goods are being auctioned off.  He proves his identity and reclaims his home.  The scene flashes forward 60 years and links up to LotR.

As a movie buff and a reader I understand that certain liberties must sometimes be taken with books.  I appreciate how hard it is to turn written descriptions into something that will appeal visually to a general audience.

In this case however I find the liberties taken to be too much. Not just one but several characters were made up.  Scenes were excised and other scenes were added, and every fight scene cliché was tossed in resulting in a battle scene well over 30 minutes long.  On top of that the new filming process makes the characters look cartoon like.

I watched this last movie for the sake of completeness.  I wanted to give it a fair chance but the new series of movies just didn’t capture the magic of the first series.  This may be a matter of just having too high an expectation or perhaps it’s that The Hobbit is really a kid’s book and really didn’t translate well into a movie for more mature audiences.  Perhaps it’s also that my tastes have matured in the last few years and that eye candy alone doesn’t satisfy anymore.  I am finding more and more that the new movies coming out of Hollywood are focusing too much on stunning visuals and almost ignoring story lines completely.

Whatever the case may be, I would not recommend this movie for anyone over 18 years of age or expecting something that is faithful to the book.  See it if you want to see some mindless action but don’t expect to draw too much deep wisdom from it.

Your Halloween viewing guide

I sometimes listen to a program on NPR called The Dinner party Download. They sometimes give suggestions for food, music, and other details for dinner parties as well as cover all sorts of topics.

In that spirit I thought I would put together a list of Halloween movies appropriate for the season in case you find yourself alone or with friends one of these October nights and have a yearning for something seasonal.  I have mixed in some comedies as well as horror movies.  Halloween is meant to be fun after all.  Probably should watch these at night with the lights out for maximum effect


 The Walking dead – Incredibly this is in its fifth season.  I mean, I thought the whole zombie premise was barely plausible enough for one 90-minute movie but these folks have managed to squeeze out years of TV revolving around a small band of survivors stuck in a zombie world.  This features the latest in gory special effects.  The plot deals more with character interactions than with the zombie apocalypse.  The stories are solid enough to keep you hooked and the writers aren’t scared of killing off fan favorite characters just to keep things fresh.

Kolchak: The Nightstalker – One of those forgotten gems of 70s television.  Revolves around a reporter who gets drawn into all sorts of strange and spooky situations.  Pretty basic special effects but the writing and acting is solid.  The direct ancestor of the X-files.  You can probably find it online.  More campy than scary.

Salem’s lot – One of the first adaptations of a Stephen King novel.  Follows a writer that returns to his home town as a mysterious plague begins turning the citizens into vampires.  If you expect sparkly vampires then this isn’t for you.  These vampires tend more towards the gruesome.

Ed Wood – Homage to the worst director ever.  Johnny Depp’s portrayal of this pioneer of bad horror movies is hilarious and probably dead on.

The Ninth gate – Speaking of Johnny Depp he does a brilliant job of portraying an antique books collector obsessed with recovering a satanic bible from the clutches of an occult group.

Ghostbusters – A well made comedy.  Excellent special effects for the mid 1980s.  Thoroughly researched and put together.  I wish scriptwriters could still turn out work of this caliber.

The legend of Hell House – I don’t know if I can say that this was based (even indirectly) on Shirley Jackson’s House on haunted hill.  Both movies are quite similar.  Though I find Legend to be more horrifying than its predecessor.

Beetlejuice – Michael Keaton shows his comedic talents in this comedy about a pair of ghosts trying to reclaim their home from the new tenants; a pair of yuppies from New York City.

The Exorcist – I will be frank.  I am not a fan of gory movies or over the top so-called horror movies.  They really aren’t horror movies.  They are shocking movies with lots of blood.  To me horror is something more subdued and malevolent.  This is why I like this movie.  The evil and horror sneaks up on you little by little.  It is still the only movie that scares me.  Everyone talks about the infamous pea soup scene but they tend to forget (perhaps on purpose) the horror built up to that point.  It’s the little things you don’t see off camera that allow the imagination to run wild and scare you more.

The Exorcist III – The Exorcist series was widely panned and I guess with some good reason but I find III did a good job of tying back to the original story.  Brad Dourif does an over the top job as a demonic serial killer


The Rover – movie review

Standard Spoiler – This discusses details of the movie The Rover.  If you don’t want to know what happens then stop here


Last week I posted on Facebook that “The rover is the Australian version of The road and makes the Mad Max movies seem quaint by comparison“.  The more I think about it, the more apt the comparison is.

The movie is set in the near future after what is described as “an economic collapse”.  Most people will immediately equate this with the Mad Max movies but really this comparison isn’t too accurate.  The Mad Max franchise is set after a nuclear war and a total collapse of civilization.  The Rover is set after what might be termed a great depression.  Although things are bad, they haven’t totally collapsed.

But don’t kid yourself, things are terrible.  The film was shot to make the barren outback terrain look even more bleak and desolate and to give the viewer a feel for a world that has taken a serious wrong turn.

Eric, the main character, has just pulled into what passes as a bar in the middle of nowhere and is having a drink.  He says nothing to anyone in the bar and drinks quietly.  He seems quite detached and apart from everyone around him.  All of a sudden, three men in a truck crash nearby.  Eric takes no notice.

The 3 men pile out of the truck.  They appear to be thieves or robbers.  They break into Eric’s car and take off with it.  Eric rushes out to see his car drive off and gets into the smashed truck.  Somehow he starts it and takes off after the men.  He catches up to the robbers and confronts them, demanding his car back.  The robbers beat him savagely and leave.

When he comes to, Eric continues his pursuit.

Meanwhile at the scene of the robbery a young man is shown getting up.  He is the 4th robber that was left behind.  He has been shot but is still alive.  He appropriates a police truck and takes off.

Eric comes across a roadside market and asks if anyone saw the robbers.  No one has.  He asks if anyone has a gun for sale.  A midget does and offers him a pistol for a large sum of money that Eric doesn’t have so Eric casually murders the midget and takes the gun.

At this time the 4th robber, Rey, shows up barely alive.  Eric takes him to a doctor in the outback and gets him patched up.  The doctor is really a veterinarian.  She keeps dogs in her surgery and Eric is oddly fascinated by this.  Some of the midget’s friends arrive and are looking for revenge.  Eric kills all 3 of them and he and Rey continue on looking for the robbers.

They stop for the night in a small town.  Rey sees a soldier on the street and hides in a hotel room.  He hears a knock on the door and shoots his gun.  He finds he has accidentally killed a little girl. The shots draw the real soldier and a firefight ensues.  Eric hears the gunfire.  He casually strolls up behind the soldier and murders him.

Eric has no empathy at all for anyone.  All he is focused on is getting his car back.

Rey on the other hand has softened and has come to accept Eric as his leader.  He tells Eric where to go and together they set out to find the robber’s hideout.  They spend the night in an abandoned factory where Eric is found by soldiers and arrested for the murders he has committed.

Rey could easily leave him behind but decides to rescue Eric.  At  the soldier’s camp Eric admits to other murders that he has committed and that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies only that he find his car.  Rey bursts in and kills the soldiers and saves Eric.

Finally they find the robber’s hide out.  Eric surprises 2 of the robbers while Rey holds his brother at bay.  The two brothers pull guns on each other and argue.  Finally Rey’s brother shoots him.  Eric kills the two men he had captured and proceeds to kill Rey’s brother.

In an act of remorse he takes all the bodies and douses them in gasoline and burns them as a sort of funeral pyre.

Eric drives off in his car. He goes out into the deep desert and opens the trunk of the car.  Inside is the reason why he was so obsessed with the car.  Inside is a blanket with a body.  A dog.  He takes out a shovel and buries it.

I found the film’s stark and brutal exterior shots fit perfectly with the grim and gritty reality of a world that was meaner and more vicious than the one we live in.  The movie violence is understated and nowhere near as spectacular as the Mad Max movies but somehow that makes the scenes seem that much more intense.

Eric is this brutalized and disconnected character that doesn’t care about anything at all except burying his only friend and he is determined to do that no matter what happens.

I found that this stark reality and determination made this film much more powerful than any of the dystopian movies I have previously seen.  Not a happy movie but something I would recommend seeing.