What do you do when you’re stuck in bed with a cold? Why not catch up on some classic horror and sci-fi and then send in the reviews to ROBSERVATIONS? Plus more letters from other viewers.
How to spend your sick leave … reviewing favorite genre movies for The Burnettwork, of course!
Greetings from northern Germany’s beautiful city of Hamburg.
This is Manuel writing – I’ve written in a couple of times before, you might remember my two-part-letter about “to-be-looked-at-ness” or my reply to Willow Yang’s discussion of the Tuvix-Problem.
I am glad to see how you channel has grown over time and enjoy the spin-offs, especially Midnight Metal. Some day I will try and join the on-screen conversation, yet it starts early in the morning for me, so I can only watch it occasionally. So much stuff to watch, so little time… I wonder: How do you manage to do all this and still watch movies and TV and have a social life off-screen – do you have a clone for that?
I sure don’t, which is why I have about 1,000 videos in my watchlist on YouTube alone, and also have a list of movies old and new that I never got to watch, including some classics.
So, as I catched a cold last week I had to stay in bed for a couple of days (plus, I was home alone for the weekend) and finally got the chance and mood to binge away some of those movies I’ve had on my watchlist. I would like to share the experience and a couple of thoughts on just four of those movies that are, of course, a parade of fun science fiction and also horror both old and new.
So, after years – decades even – I did watch the following movies, among others:
The Last Starfighter
Star Trek: Beyond
And below, I’m offering not in-depth reviews or full discussion but a my impressions and thoughts written down quick and dirty in an actual fever. In case you read this on the show, there will be spoilers for people who have not seen these. So here we go!
Believe it or not, Rob, I never watched The Fly. My lame excuse: I’m not a horror guy, so… So The Fly: Surely a Cronenberg classic, a story about an ambitious scientist, a journalist, a romance and a teleportation experiment gone terribly wrong. I don’t know where to start since there is a lot to say about this movie, but I’ll try to make it short.
I guess it is impossible nowadays to not know what The Fly is about, yet even though I knew major plot points in advance watching it now, in 2021, was a wildly entertaining and also unsettling experience. I totally get now why I wasn’t allowed to watch it as a kid and my Mom said no when I wanted to….
Why is it so good? Many reasons. It has great pacing, a great cast and set of characters, and I particularly liked Jeff Goldblum’s performance. He had the task to portray the character of Seth Brundle who turns into a human-fly chimera over the course of the movie. It must have been hard to act in that kind of costume and make-up and deliver a convincing performance.
From a movie-making standpoint, I find the slow transformation of Brundle to Brundlefly excellently executed within the movie, and even though the makeup and special effects (like Brundle walking on the ceiling and walls or his mean acid attack on Stathis Borans) are not super convincing by today’s standards of photorealistic CGI, this doesn’t diminish the quality of the movie in the slightest.
I really loved the intense and characteristic score and overall vibe of the movie, and that it is not just body horror but also a drama based on the characters’ development and interplay. And there is also a lot of funny detail and original ideas too, like the „insect politician“ speech or Brundlefly’s body part collection in the bathroom cabinet (was that his penis in there?), and also the baboon is hilarious in a way I can not explain.
Favorite scene: after the teleporter accident, the film takes its time to show how Seth Brundle gets up and does some physical exercise topless, which is such a subtle and surprising way to play into the slowly evolving weirdness and horror theme of The Fly. Love that movie! Just one mean question: why did Stathis Borans, having the intent to kill Brundlefly, go to the lab with his disassembled Browning shotgun in a case and then went on to assemble it there? Instead of assembling it in the car or at home and enter the lab well-prepared. Shall we leave it at “Well, he’s probably not hitman material…”?
I don’t know man – what do you think?
I watched the original Predator movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger as kid at the age of 13, you know, when I really wasn’t supposed to be watching a movie like that. I’ve loved it ever since, and it sure was great in many ways, some of which I couldn’t grasp at a younger age.
I always knew that there was a less popular sequel with an urban setting that I never got to watch, even though I saw all the Alien- and later Alien Vs. Predator movies.
So now I found it on Disney+ and went for it. It was clear from the start that this was something else. I liked the premise of the movie, the Predator creature messing with drug cartel wars in L.A. – going from an actual jungle to the big city. But I could not take it seriously because the gangs are portrayed in a very comicbook-like way, using racial stereotypes and showing them as evil maniacs and mystics.
The whole first act with the shootout was so far out there I had to pause and laugh it off with my sore throat and hoarse voice. Not in a mean way, it surely was fun but it also made clear how this movie should be enjoyed: ironically, I guess. For anyone interested, go ahead and watch just the first ten minutes. What cracked me up the most was when Detective Mike Harrigan enters the rooftop with his gun trying to secure the area, pointing in different directions, almost tripping over his own feet in the process. It would make a great gif.
Turns out, that all characters are more or less standard for a movie like this and there is little to nothing in it that one wouldn’t expect. The pacing and overall plot development is good, with the final act wrapping up everything quite well.
Arguably the best sequence in the movie is the subway scene, when the predator attacks the wagon, the lights go out and the claustrophobic shootout starts in the dark. Nice action and visual execution there, loved that.
Another remarkable scene: The predator creature taking its time using the bathroom of some apartment to do some first aid on itself after it crashed in through the wall cracked me up. It is a little silly, but it is cool that the film just does something like this. I don’t think a contemporary movie of that kind would have a scene like that.
I also liked the whole concept of a top secret agency trying to capture the creature in an attempt to study and possibly weaponize it. While this is a common trope we also saw in the Alien trilogy (Weyland-Yutani, anyone?) it really felt in the right place here, probably because the film is from 1990. And altogether this film is probably as early 90s sci fi action as it gets.
I like how movies like that are fun by integrating some silly stuff like the bathroom scene. The gags are often more implicit than explicit jokes, if you know what I mean. I feel like they dare doing some stuff that is ridiculous and admitting to it openly.
Final thought to come to a close on this one: The major plot point of there being an alien creature behind the brutal attacks is no surprise since it is a sequel to Predator, and the movie also doesn’t try to repeat the whole mid-film genre switch. I wonder if such a switch could have worked in this setting, if it hadn’t been a sequel to Predator and came out first instead.
What do you think, Rob?
The Last Starfighter
I asked my peers for recommendations and one of them sent me the link to this one, which is on youtube in HD and full length (wink wink). I went on an watched it with zero expectations and it got me in a very feel-good-nostalgia kind of way. A movie about a young man from a poor background who gets recruited to fight against evil forces in an interstellar war – where have I heard that before…?
Wow, what an amazing movie!
Simple 80s sci fi goodness like I never expected to experience again. It’s fun, decent action, a little drama, and a hero’s journey of a sympathetic guy named Alex. Sure, you might say it rips off Star Wars in some ways, but it does its own and much simpler thing I guess, and it does it well.
The production design and some of the dialogue is cheesy and many things in the movie are certainly goofy, but what can you do? Also the movie is full with things that break verisimilitude yet it managed to keep me aboard regardless. The CGI ist amazing for the time and though it is lacking in realism it nicely connects with the arcade gaming theme of the whole thing. Especially the first space travel scene where the flying car of Centauri (played by Robert Preston) accelerates through space still looks pretty good today, if you ask me!
On the other hand, some of the practical special effects are absolutely great too, like when the beta unit, Alex’s robotic Doppelgänger, is shown briefly in a state of pulsating metamorphosis. Reminded me of myself laying in bed and watching the movie.
All in all, I can’t really pin down why I liked The Last Starfigher as much as I did. Maybe it was just nostalgia? I read that it has a lot of fans and is kind of a cult movie. And given that, I can totally imagine someone making a terrible and soulless remake of it today – and I hope this won’t happen.
What a joy that movie was!
Favorite moments that cracked me up:
- At one point in the first act the whole trailer park community gets excited and gathers to watch the Alex Rogan break the record on the arcade videogame. Yeah, right… it is so silly, yet so touching!
- The starfighter recruits turn around all at once when Alex is introduced to them. Why is this funny?
- The reptiloid alien navigator called Grig shows a picture of his reptiloid alien „wifeoid“ that looks exactly like him, except that she’s wearing a feminine dress. I almost fell out of my bed laughing.
- You could easily miss this: in the final scene the protagonist says goodbye to the trailer park community right before taking off and heading back into space. While doing that he also says goodbye to his mother so casually that I laughed out loud. Like she’s just someone from the community he knew. „Hey Mom, good to see you, I am leaving forever to join this interstellar starfighter unit as a combat pilot, quick hug, ok bye!“ This was so silly, but still, the final scene had me in tears.
What I find so special about The Last Starfighter: Everything that you might say sucks about this movie is so easily forgiven, and it is just great, no matter what the irritating element is. I find it interesting how it manages to do that.
What do you think, Rob?
I suspect that the awesome score by Craig Safan might play a big role in holding it all together. It is so good that I would recommend this movie for the score alone. It is on Youtube in full length and good quality as well, by the way.
Star Trek: Beyond
Oh my… I have been a huge Star Trek fan since I was a kid, but I can’t stand the new shows at all, for many reasons most of which you, have pointed out so well several times on Robservations. Like you, I didn’t like Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, which is why I never even bothered watching this third installment of the re-imagined Star Trek universe.
But then I heard several times that it is the best of the three and that it is the one that is the most likely to appeal to traditional fans. Which might be just another way of saying that it sucks the least of the three, but OK.
I kind of liked it but wow, it still has all the issues that most of the New-Trek has: It wants all the visuals and big moments without building up anything to get there, it relies on spectacular violence and action and some sort of evil opponent. Everything is over the top and just too much, everything is so “in your face” all the time.
By that I don’t mean just the fast-paced action scenes where you can’t really tell what’s going on. I also mean things like the Yorktown station design, which is too out there for me, and it doesn’t seem very functional or necessary to me either. It doesn’t look like a futuristic Star Trek design for me, more like something taken out of the MCU or Valerian.
I hate this “anything goes” approach that is inherent in modern Trek, if you know what I mean, but I digress.
At several points during the first act I hat an impulse to switch the movie off. Like this one: Hostile vessel swarm approaches, Kirk gives the order to raise shields and go on red alert – doesn’t the red alert imply that shields are raised? Don’t know where I got that from, should be standard protocol, but OK, maybe that wasn’t always the case.
A minute later the Enterprise is, of course once again, spectacularly destroyed, and I already pointed out above what I think of those things. Kirk is then informed that they lost the navigational deflector dish and he then gives orders to warp-jump the Enterprise out of the situation.
You probably know what I’m getting at, Rob…
After I left the die-hard Trekkie in me behind I got over those things, and as the movie approached its second half, I enjoyed it much more. I didn’t even mind the motorcycle and Beastie Boys stuff.
Seeing the crew working together to solve problems creatively was nice, and the villain turned out to be much more interesting than it seemed initially, but I have to admit I did not understand why he turned into an evil guy, what his rationale was. Whatever.
I think the re-imagined Enterprise-A we see at the end of Star Trek Beyond was an improvement over the reimagined NCC-1701, but no match for the original Constitution Class refit design we saw in the old movies.
What did you think of it, Rob?
I loved all ships from that old Trek movie era: the Oberth and Miranda class, and maaaaaaaaan do I love the Excelsior class! – I think the Excelsior is the most aesthetically pleasing and graceful starfleet ship design of all time. I hope they never go and redesign it in future movies or shows.
It already went wrong once in Star Trek: Generations and it can only go wrong – why change something that is already perfect? Just teasing you, Rob. I know you don’t like the design, which is something I will never get. Maybe that’s a topic for another letter.
To come to a conclusion: I thought that the movie was fun to watch and I totally share the view expressed by some people, that it is the most watchable and likeable of the new ones, but I probably will never watch it again. It was almost a good, satisfying and authentic Star Trek film for me.
The difference is only about 25 percent here, if you know what I mean. Also: Rest in peace, Anton Yelchin, to whom the movie is dedicated. Such a shame this actor had to go in such a tragic way.
So that’s it, Rob. Thanks for reading my letter and sorry for throwing that much stuff at you at once. It was a fun experience watching those movies for the first time and writing it all down to kill some time while being sick.
Best regards to you and the PGS – stay healthy!
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JOKER is a troubled, but enjoyable movie.
Rob, i have been thinking.
I recently came across REDLETTERMEDIA’s review of Joker from 2019. And I really liked their take. I do like the Joker movie but I have been trying to figure out why and what about it is that draws me to it. I mean, it was pretty much a rip-off from Taxi Driver, and I get people complaining that it’s sort of empty and meaningless.
Another fascinating but puzzling question is also how the movie was protested by the left, but still had some pretty lefty political undertones, which seems sort of paradoxical. However, if I made a story, and I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, and it was supposed to be similar to the Joker movie by Todd Philipps, I think this is how it would be.
And I think my desire for this type of story is the reason I like the Phoenix movie which I don’t think is better than the Dark Knight but still something that offered something I do like within the nice box of comic book adaptations or at least loosely that.
There is a philosophical issue, that I did not come up with but basically, it’s the question of what is a person supposed to do if this person can not sustains his/her own lifestyle? Basically what if your IQ level is lower than what even the military accepts, and so you are incapable of working and making a living wage.
Some people might say you can be trained, which others don’t think is possible, other people might ignore you and ignore this problem.
I think the humane most obvious solution would be to take care of these people. Help them, but this is not as easy as it sounds. Can you if you are in this position make people help you and still be a “good” person?
If they are forced or guilt-tripped, then you fail at being humane, and so the entire premise fails.
Can you argue that you deserve this help? How?
Through taxation of the wealthy? What makes you think their money is yours to take? Can you argue that this help is beneficial for other people in society? Or does it only benefit you? And then comes the scarier part, which is what if you are not a “good” person?
Will people still see you as a victim? Or will the fact that you are horrible and vile, bitter and obnoxious overshadow the pressing situation that you are potentially in? If they do help you, doesn’t that make you the one that lives an unfair life? You get free money. Without doing anything for it.
Of course, people have various different political motivations and opinions about this, but I don’t want to tell people what I think is right and what I think they should believe through pop culture.
The reason this issue matters, is to make the villain relevant. Instead of making fun of the villain, as if part of the protagonist’s agenda is also the important part of being a bully, I want to make villains matter. They have something to say. DESPITE BEING VILLAINS.
So what is the conclusion to draw? When a villain speaks with words that haunt you, but is still not anything else than despicable?
Well, that’s the real practical joke, because, there is no punchline.
I do have political opinions, and this story that I’m pretending to craft might touch on political issues but I do not believe it is my job to tell people right from wrong through popular culture. And I don’t need to reflect my own opinions through it either.
That’s why I think I like the Joker movie because it can be interpreted as incredibly political but it doesn’t really make sense.
The villain has a point. But that’s only his side of the story, and what does it say about humanity if as soon as we see a purpose to something, we want to justify that guy? Perhaps Batman has a different point?
By touching on real political issues, the villain suddenly has a voice and is more relevant to the story than ever. But by still being a villain it does not portray this point as something that you should tag along with. Because it is not the purpose of at least some fiction to tell people right from wrong.
There, that’s my defense for liking the Joker movie. I hope you found it interesting.
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Omar enjoyed A QUIET PLACE 2, but not going to the movies.
Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,
This is something I came to the realization of, over the weekend.
I saw A Quiet Place 2 in theaters this weekend, and I liked it. However, I didn’t really find myself enjoying the theater experience. It was not because of wearing masks, less people being in theaters, and social distancing, but because I did not find myself missing the theater experience.
I started noticing this when I saw Tenet, back in September. Tenet was the first movie I saw in theaters, since covid closed everything, as the last film I saw in theaters, before that, was Rise Of Skywalker back in December 2019.
After covid closed everything, I did miss going in the beginning, since I really wanted to see new movies. However, by the time Tenet came out, I wanted to see it, but there was something bothering me which I couldn’t quite get a grasp of. It kept going when I saw other films in theaters after that, like Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla Vs Kong, and it finally came to me with A Quiet Place 2. I realized I didn’t really miss it. I had not been in a theater in 9 months, from Rise Of Skywalker to Tenet, so I think that gap caused that, since I had grown used to not going to the movies.
Back before covid, I enjoyed going to the movies, since I went regularly, as the movies I saw came out in close proximity to each other, even if I didn’t end up enjoying the movie. In 2019, I saw 17 movies in theaters: Glass, Lego Movie 2, Alita: Battle Angel, Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Shazam, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3, Aladdin, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, Dark Phoenix, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lion King, Joker, Knives Out, and Rise Of Skywalker.
Because of the big gaps between movies now, I don’t really find myself enjoying it. I still want to see new movies, since they are coming out in theaters, so maybe I will enjoy going again somewhere down the line. The more often I will go, hopefully the enjoyment I once had will return. This is just me, as I’m sure others feel differently, especially you Rob, since you mentioned how you miss being in a theater.
Thanks, live long and prosper.
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