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ThisTV Movie Review: The Crow-Salvation

1347697681To start off I think it is important to admit that this movie was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. While definitely not as good as the first one, it wasn’t close to as dumb as the fourth one (you can read my review of that crow-shaped turkey here). Eric Mabius was fun in the role of back-from-the-dead vengeance-seeking hero-type, and the story (while basically the same as the first film) had some good moments of its own. I’d go so far as to say I’d even watch this again voluntarily … if it was on TV and nothing else was on and I’d had a drink or three and wanted a nice eyeful of Eric Mabius.

The plot of The Crow(3)-Salvation basically breaks down like this: Alex has a date with the electric chair after being convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Lauren. He maintains he didn’t do it (and we kinda know he’s telling the truth since he’s the hero and all) but no one believes him and soon he’s off to meet his maker. Only a magical little birdy swoops in to change his destiny instead. Soon undead Alex is out to destroy the lives of those that destroyed HIS life. Turns out it was all part of a conspiracy full of crooked cops, twisted taxidermists, and … I’m out of alliterative things to say. Between flashbacks of his lost love, run-ins with his lost love’s sister, and taking the time for some art therapy (crows in glass! crows in blood! we’ve got crows in every format you can think of!), Alex eventually carves his bloody path to vengeance.

moviescrow302Remember how when I reviewed The Crow (didn’t read that review? check it out here) I said part of what helped keep it from getting campy was the sparse dialogue and lack of obvious exposition? Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Crow:Salvation. Exposition is pretty much hurled at the audience in the first few minutes of the movie, as if filmmakers were worried no one would care about anything if they didn’t shove as much back-story and explanation down your throat as possible. And the way the epic romance between Alex and Lauren is presented – in flashbacks just like the first film – is downright cheesy. Lots of spinning and swooping camera motions and kissing for long periods of time in a junkyard. You see one almost conversation, one ugly fight, and more spinny kissing, and you are supposed to believe that it is a love powerful enough to bring someone back from the dead to avenge it when it’s taken away? Hrm, not quite.

I did quite enjoy Eric Mabius’ take on Alex/The Crow (though I would never call the character that cause it sounds silly), and not just because I think the actor is adorable. Alex is a young man with a hard life who was convicted of something he’d never do. He is brutally executed (and I like the way they use his electrocution to mess up his face, instead of using more mime makeup) and comes back angry and crazed and also more than a little bit sad. He has no problem killing those that have done him and his girlfriend wrong BUT also takes time out to make a few jokes, play a little chess, and help Lauren’s sister come to grips with all the crap life has thrown at her (and boy is she gonna need therapy after finding out her dad was a crook, her sister’s boyfriend was wrongfully accused, her family friend is a psychopath, and she was horribly miscast with Kirsten Dunst).

kinopoisk.ruI did NOT enjoy the way the baddies seemed to catch on to the fact that Alex was back via crow/vengeance magic. Why would it ever occur to anyone that such a thing was even possible? Where are these myths that everyone seems to be reading that explain this stuff to them? And if that dang bird is so important and necessary to keeping the magic going, WHY does it keep hanging out where it is so easy to injure or kill? Seems like poor planning on the crow’s part. I also got a little annoyed with Alex’s swanky new super powers. At one point he pretty much flies (in the shape of the arty crow he keeps leaving all over his murder scenes) off a building and I just laughed. Why would he need super powers when he is already a walking, talking, dead guy who can bounce back from shooting himself in the head?

Anyway, so to wrap up let’s take a moment to consider who wore their soundtrack better, as the soundtrack is an important component to any film in The Crow franchise. I think the one for Crow:Salvation is pretty on par as that from the first film. Filter, Stabbing Westward, The Flys, Crystal Method, and even a little Danzig help set the tone for this graphic and violent trip through nightmare land. I especially liked Rob Zombie’s ‘Living Dead Girl’ during the car chase scene. It was fun. Dark and twisted, but fun just the same.

– Mia V.

 

The Crow:Salvation, 2000
Starring Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Ward
Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Written by James O’Barr (original comic series), Chip Johannessen

*Watch The Crow-Salvation on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 9p and Saturday 10/25 at 7p!

 

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ThisTV Movie Review: TheCrow-Wicked Prayer

The-Crow-Wicked-Prayer-dvdTara Reid as a satanic priestess, ya’ll.

I am not making this up.

The Crow:Wicked Prayer has Tara Reid as a satanic priestess, and Eddie Furlong (Terminator 2 was a LONG time ago) as an ex-con named after a beer, and David Boreanaz (really Agent Booth, come on now, was it necessary to take this role?) as Death because who knows why, and Danny Trejo which should automatically make this film awesome but doesn’t.

You heard that right. Danny Trejo can not help this film.

Expository text all over the screen in the first few minutes can’t help it either. Nice try movie, but no. Just no.

The plot to the The Crow(4)-Wicked Prayer basically breaks down like this: Lily and Jimmy are in love. Lily is a shaman of her Native American tribe, Jimmy is a loser who lives in a trailer full of feathers and scorpions and talks too much to his dog. Not surprisingly they both end up dead (this is a Crow film, after all). Luc and Lola are Satanists on a mission to bring about hell on earth (or something). They steal Lily’s eyes and Jimmy’s heart and then take themselves on a murder spree full of leather pants and silly masks and lots of moments where they look a little bit unsure of their nefarious plans. Within an hour or so of being offed, Jimmy is up-and-at-em again, donning his own goth outfit to fit in with the cool kids and going on a murder spree of his own.

crowefIt’s pretty much the same plot as all the other Crow movies, though with its desert setting and magical/mystical undercurrent, it does feel different than the other movies in the series. There is sunshine – SUNSHINE – of all things, and a lot more backstory and plot development – or at least a lot more attempts at them. There is actually quite a bit less graphic violence and gore and boobs (Crow:Salvation has a lot of boobs for boobs’ sake) so I’m thinking this was a direct-to-TV flick. Not that I NEEDED to see Tara Reid cut out some chick’s eyes, but considering how bloody Crow:Salvation got, I was expecting a higher body count and a bit more blood.

I was kind of expecting a better story as well, though I don’t know why when the quality of films in this franchise has been going down since the second one (though City of Angels would be my fave of the later movies). Part of what makes the very first Crow film and story so good is the lack of excess nonsense. It’s a story about a dead guy who comes back with the help of a magic bird to wreak vengeance on those that have done him wrong. A dark fairytale and ghost story wrapped into one, by explaining things too much it loses some of (or in the case of Crow:Wicked Prayer most of) its magic. Jimmy doesn’t come back just because he lost the love of his life. He comes back because a butthole in tight pants with a chip on his shoulder literally stole his heart. He comes back because dark magic is afoot and mystical business is taking place and he didn’t have much else to do on a Friday night. I’m not saying being strung up and watching your girl killed and then being killed yourself doesn’t give you a reason to go on a vengeance kick. I’m just saying there is too much going on around it to make it seem as intense as it could have been.

crowick1And speaking of ruining the intensity of the story, now some quick thoughts on the wardrobe. David Boreanaz is not a bad lookin’ fella, but fish net shirts are flattering to no one. And Edward Furlong all tricked out as The Crow, with his long hair and delicate features and black choker, just looks like a goth chick who got lost on her way to the Hot Topic.

We’ll end with which Crow film wore the soundtrack better! This installment in The Crow franchise doesn’t seem to rely much on an actual soundtrack. The score is pretty dang good though. Lots of Latin influence, and a similar ‘love theme’ to that found in the first and third film. I dug it. At least until the end credits. The song that plays during those is just awful. I wish I could wash the memory of that right out of my ears. Almost as bad as that from Rambo:First Blood but not quite (few end themes can rival that for worst song ever to finish a movie on).

– Mia V.

The Crow:Wicked Prayer, 2005
Starring Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid
Directed by Lance Muniga
Written by James O’Barr (original comic series), Norman Partridge (novel), Lance Muniga (screenplay)

*Watch The Crow-Wicked Prayer on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 11p and Saturday 10/25 at 9p!

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ThisTV Movie Review: The Crow

thecrowBack in the 90’s The Crow was THE romantic movie to beat all romantic movies. Though it was dark and bloody and violent and rainy (so rainy) and though the only really romantic stuff happened in flashbacks and visions, it still caused a generation of girls to swoon. How could they not, when the heart of the story was a man pulled from death to wreak graphically violent vengeance on those that had killed him and his one true love?

The plot of The Crow basically breaks down like this: Shelly and Eric are madly in love and going to get married on Halloween, which makes perfect sense when you see the dark gothic world they seem to live in. But not everyone is all about their happily-ever-after, and a gang of dirty thugs with stupid names take it upon themselves to leave the young couple dead dead dead before they ever get to say “I do.” One year later Eric pops out of the ground like a spring flower, only much paler and crazier. Led by a magic bird (because why not) he picks off the dirty thugs one by one, while also taking a bit of time to himself so he can play the guitar, dispense advice, hang out with a cop, and do some thematic art.

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This is a film that could easily fall to campiness and silliness (the main character is running around in leather pants and electrical tape with his face painted up like a mime, after all, and spawned a billion Halloween and cosplay costumes) and what may save it is sparse dialogue with little Big Bad monologue-ing or unnecessary exposition and a great 90’s soundtrack. Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Rollins Band, and a haunting score by Graeme Revell elevate scenes (even the almost goofy ones) to more memorable and emotionally profound levels. The music matches the mood. It matches the main character’s anger and pain and longing. It matches the rainy city and the dirty buildings and the ugly people who populate this world.

thecrow2The Crow is a dark movie, and not just in content. Most of the action takes place at night, in the rain, in a city that could beat Gotham for being gritty and crime-ridden and sunless. This is not a film for happy endings or happy characters or even happy music BUT it knows that about itself and it runs with it. It doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is – a tale of love and death and vengeance. The main character is not a super hero, even though he’s a walking talking dead man who bounces back from getting shot or stabbed or blown up. He isn’t looking for redemption and he isn’t taking out the bad guys to make the world a better place. He’s in it for revenge, pure and simple, and once he gets it he’s done.

It’s really such a simple premise. It’s really such a simple film. It starts with death (and Ernie Hudson) and it ends with death (and Ernie Hudson). Maybe that’s what makes this film work. As I said before it could so easily fall to campiness. It is a love story with all of the love bits taking place in flashbacks. You know that love story is important because the film tells you it is important. You see the main character’s pain when he first comes back from the dead. You see it when he touches other characters and gets flashes of his love’s last moments. You see it when he wails on his guitar in the rain on a roof and then smashes the instrument into tiny pieces. By the time Shelley and Eric have been properly avenged and the end credits begin to roll you know you have witnessed a great love and a great romance … even if you really just spent the last hour and a half watching people die in ever more violent and creative ways.

 

– Mia V.

The Crow, 1994
Starring Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis
Directed by Alex Proyas
Written by James O’Barr (original comic book series), David J Schow (screenplay)

 

*Watch The Crow on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 7p and Saturday 10/25 at 5p!

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ThisTV Movie Review: Murders in the Rue Morgue

ruemorgue3Not a fan of Edgar Allan Poe? Never read Murders in the Rue Morgue before? That may actually be for the best if you want to enjoy this film. Not that the film itself is terrible BUT its connection to the source material is rather flimsy at best.

The short story is actually a clever little mystery, with a shut-in detective and a gruesome murder and an ‘ourang-outang’ cause why the heck not. It isn’t Poe’s creepiest story (I’m going with The Pit and the Pendulum for that one) but it’s an interesting read and certainly has enough plot to make a movie.

So why does the 1971 film version of Murders in the Rue Morgue have so much else going on?

ruemorgueThe plot of Murders in the Rue Morgue basically breaks down like this: It’s Paris at the turn of the century and everything is decadent and frilly and kicky and there’s lots of wine and fishnet stockings and champagne. Cesar (Jason Robards) runs a theater troupe performing a murder play at the Rue Morgue (I see what you did there movie) and – surprise surprise – real murders start happening. Bodies start turning up with acid burned faces, a guy that looks a lot like that fella from Phantom of the Opera flits around the city, swishing his cape and causing mayhem wherever he goes, and Cesar soon comes under suspicion of offing his ex-lovers and the ex -members of his troupe. Could a dead man be behind the deaths? Could a young woman’s dreams be more than just the stressed out nightmares of a stalking victim? Could the wardrobe department have possibly found any floatier, rufflier dresses?

So the original short story had a couple of murders, and a detective, and an ape. The film version has a theater and a bunch of acid and dead people all over the place and a pissed off crazy person and some long dream sequences and an ax and a guy in a monkey suit and another guy in a monkey suit and a sinister plot twist you kind of see coming about a mile away. Obviously if you’re looking for a spot-on adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story this is not the movie for you.

ruemorgue2IF, however, you’re looking for a very 70’s horror film with lots of splashy red/orange blood and poofy 70’s hair and bright colors even in dark dungeons and a hint of synthesizer music in inappropriate places, this is definitely the movie for you.

As I said before, Murders in the Rue Morgue isn’t a terrible film. It has a definite creepy vibe and a good who-dunnit undertone. It works very hard to make you believe you know who is behind all the badness and why they’re on a rampage of violent murdery destruction. If you’ve watched enough thriller/horror/mystery films you’ll have a good idea what is really going on well before you get to the end (which is definitely a good bit of horror fun) BUT you’ll still applaud the filmmakers for their effort.

– Mia V.

Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1971
Starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Christopher Wicking (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (story)

*Watch Murders in the Rue Morgue on ThisTV: Tuesday 10/7 at 11am and Sunday 10/12 at 1pm!

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ThisTV Movie Review: Swamp Thing

swampthing“Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of the unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another’s evil dream and a monster was born.”
“Say hello to your boyfriend baby!” – famous last words from bandana wearing guy

Not all superheroes are created equal. Some can fly and turn back time and force the truth from liars and build super suits and destroy crime rings from the top down. And then some are green and rubbery and growly and spend most of their time punching and throwing guys around. They only hang out in the swamp and are only effective against very specific bad guys, BUT they can at least heal wounds with green glowy magic AND regrow their own limbs JUST LIKE A PLANT!

I’m not sure the Swamp Thing even really counts as a ‘superhero’ but as he does have a dramatic backstory that gave him his powers and he fights bad guys on a regular basis AND he has terrible relationship luck, he seems pretty superhero-ish to me. So I’m gonna go ahead and categorize him that way.

swampthing2The plot of Swamp Thing basically breaks down like this: Sexy but tough government agent Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) travels down to the swamps to help out with security on a secret government project where sexy and kind of ADHD scientist Holland (Ray Wise) is inventing … something green and glowy. Unfortunately Holland’s nemesis Arcane (Louis Jourdan) will stop at nothing to get his hands on that green glowy … whatever it is (some kind of plant/animal hybrid goo I think?) It isn’t long after Cable’s arrival that things go seriously pear-shaped. People die, science labs blow up, Holland seems to die a flame-y awful death, and Cable begins a long series of chases and getting captured and escaping and chases and getting captured and on and on. Seriously this chasing through the swamp business goes on FOREVER. Eventually Arcane gets his hands on the glowy green formula, Cable, AND the mysterious hero-monster-Holland-shaped-viney thing that has popped up and been fighting off his henchmen. The climax boils down to a less than epic battle of monster versus monster where only one silly rubbery creature can survive.

Honestly the plot of the first Swamp Thing movie is (wafer) thin. Not that the plot of the sequel film is that much better but it does have mutants and Heather Locklear and teenagers with dirty magazines and even more chasing and some kind of mysterious backstory so even though it is campy and ridiculous it still has more going for it than this movie. ALL this one has is running and driving and boating and running and getting captured and escaping and getting captured and escaping. Oh and Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts, which I believe was a pretty big draw in 1982 when this movie came out.

swampthing4Unfortunately Swamp Thing (at least in this movie adaptation) is a silly super hero and he’s fighting against a silly super villain. Arcane spends so much time hunting down Holland’s super ‘formula’ and for what? Turns out he is just looking for the secret to immortality and he thinks the green glowy stuff is going to give it to him. And by the way, can I just say that I spent a lot of years thinking scientists spent all their time on important ‘formulas’ specifically because of the importance placed on that word in this movie. He takes the ‘formula’ even after finding out the truth of how it works (which actually doesn’t make any sense AT ALL but I guess we can overlook the believability of the science involved when it is coming from a giant talking plant) and then is the only one surprised that it turns him into a rubbery, furry, man-bear-pig* kind of beast. Then he proceeds to have the most old school video game looking fight EVER with Swamp Thing and any intent to take this film seriously that may have been left just flies right out the window.

– Mia V.

Swamp Thing, 1982
Starring Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jordan
Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Wes Craven (screenplay), Len Wein (comic book)

*Watch Swamp Thing on ThisTV: Tuesday 10/21 at 3p and Saturday 10/25 at 9a!

ThisTV Movie Review: Hannibal

Hannibal_movie_posterNot all thrillers are created equal. Sometimes they just aren’t as thrilling, or scary, or complex, or dark, or thought-provoking as you hope they will be. Sometimes they are based on a book that is good, but not quite as good as the book that came before in the series, and sometimes they lose a lot from page to screen that doesn’t keep them from becoming kind of … campy. Sometimes even though the cast is awesome and trying the hardest they can to make the material better, it just doesn’t happen.

Sometimes a thriller is Hannibal, the sequel film (and book) to classic thriller/horror/drama film (and book) Silence of the Lambs.

The plot of Hannibal basically breaks down like this: It’s been a decade since the events of Silence of the Lambs and in that time a lot has changed. Clarice Starling has not only grown to be a hardened veteran of the FBI, she’s managed to transform into Julianne Moore! Hannibal Lecter is still gallivanting around the world played by Anthony Hopkins, but he’s left his asylum garb behind for swanky hats and dapper jackets, and his pre-incarceration life as a psychiatrist behind for the life of a curator to an Italian document library. Just how will these two crazy kids find each other again? Well…after some hard knocks hannibal-645-75come to Clarice’s career she finds herself back on the Lecter case and trying to hunt him down on the other side of the world. Hannibal is being chased by nosey Italian policemen who want a giant reward, as well as creepy former victims who are still smarting at the loss of their innocence – and face. Soon bloody violence, man-eating pig mayhem, and the dinner to end all dinners work to throw Clarice and Hannibal “The Cannibal” back together.

I hate to be THAT person and say a book was better than its movie, and really the Hannibal film isn’t terrible (especially compared to Hannibal Rising, which is so awful I completely forgot I paid to see it in a theater when it first came out). It’s just … not as good. So much had to be left out to make it all fit within a couple of hours. The loss is obvious. And the ending. Grrrr. The ending is completely different. I know a lot of people were angered by the ending of the book, but personally I found it a lot creepier and more fitting with the tone of the story. It is a rough ending to accept but the whole premise is rough to begin with. And maybe it seems to detract from the strength of the main character BUT I never found her to be that strong of a heroine to begin with.

Hannibal_2001_movie_picture_6Clarice Starling is a damaged individual who wants to paint the world in blacks and whites and stop bad guys because once upon a time she lost the person she loved most to a bad guy. She is broken before the story ever begins, even when she puts on her Game Face and meets Hannibal Lecter for the first time. She’s all naïve self-righteousness in Silence of the Lambs, and ten years later in Hannibal she’s hard and bitter and tired and still self-righteous but that self-righteousness is breaking down. It isn’t such a jump of logic to believe that she’d do what she ends up doing at the end of the book (which I will be good and not spoiler because I think everyone should just go out and read the book and then come back and let me know what you thought).

– Mia V.

Hannibal, 2001
Starring Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Mamet (screenplay), Thomas Harris (novel)

*Watch Hannibal on ThisTV: Saturday October 11th at 7:30pm and Friday October 31st at 9:30pm!

ThisTV Movie Review: Silence of the Lambs

MV5BMTQ2NzkzMDI4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA0NzE1NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_“It rubs the lotion on Its skin or else It gets the hose again.” – Buffalo Bill
“Here sir, use mine.” – (famous last words) Lt. Boyle

The first time I saw Silence of the Lambs I was about 10 years old and my mother wasn’t home so I was sneaking in a viewing. The only way my little sister would let me get away with it was if I fast-forwarded through a lot of the scenes (fast forward – for all you youngins out there – is something you’d do with video tapes to skip ahead, and since I don’t have time to explain obsolete media formats for you all we are just gonna move on now).

I’ll admit, you miss a lot of the important stuff when you fast forward through a movie. And when you have to deal with a nagging younger sister who keeps threatening to tattle on you if you watch more than about five minutes of the movie at a time (I’ll also admit that it is AWESOME when said nagging sister gets grossed out because you stop fast forwarding at the exact moment someone is graphically murdered – timing is everything girls and boys!).

I could tell that Silence of the Lambs was creepy, and that people died in it, and that people in suits were very intense, but that was about the gist of what my 10-year-old brain understood. It was some years later, when I finally saw the movie in its entirety, that the full impact of the story, acting, and direction really got to me.

the_silence_of_the_lambsThe plot of Silence of the Lambs basically breaks down like this: Young comely FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling (played by Jodi Foster) is chosen to try and weed out information on a notorious new serial killer from previous notorious serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). She’s all fresh-faced innocence trying to be steely and tough, he’s all classy intensity with a psychotic edge. It’s basically a match made in horror movie heaven! Clarice bares her soul, Hannibal bares his teeth, the serial killer dances about in a suit made of human skin, and eventually an epic showdown in a dark and creepy basement leads to a less than happily-ever-after ending.

So what can I saw about this film that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? Well probably not a whole lot. But I’ll lay down a few thoughts anyway.

I think that Silence of the Lambs is a practically perfect thriller. And one of the main reasons I think that is because I’ve seen it at least two dozen times now and yet it never gets old. I never get bored. I try to watch it as background noise while doing something else and find myself sucked in every time. I notice new things about it every time. It is just that freaking good.

silence2Buffalo Bill is a creepy serial killer. He blew my mind the first time I saw the movie all the way through, but he blew my mind even more when I was older and had done some reading up on real-life serial killers and realized he was based on people that actually existed (Ted Bundy and Ed Gein in case you don’t have the extensive serial killer knowledge that I have somehow ended up with). That adds a whole new dimension to my emotional response to watching him. It’s one thing to watch a Big Bad safely in the knowledge that no one that awful could exist in real life. It is quite another to watch him and know that someone (two someones even!) in real life did exist and did do those horrible things.

I am a big fan of Manhunter, the first film version of Red Dragon, which also features Hannibal Lecter in all his sauve and sadistic glory. His seemingly weak and naïve foil in that story is Will Graham, a former FBI profiler with the distinct honor (if you can call it that) of being the man that caught (almost accidentally) – and was almost killed by – Hannibal Lecter. Watching Silence of the Lambs again after Manhunter it is very obvious how similar the Clarice Starling and Will Graham characters are. They are both so empathetic, both so desirous of catching Big Bads because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. They both want to SAVE LIVES and MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. And they are both incredibly damaged individuals who fall right into Hannibal’s eagerly waiting hands. He wants something to play with, something to pull apart and inspect under a mental microscope. Something he can build up and then damage even further than it already was. With all his cultured knowledge and air of politeness and love of beauty and art, as well as his taste for human flesh and his sudden outbreaks of extreme and graphic violence, he is a much scarier entity than crazy ol’ Buffalo Bill – even with Bill’s skin suit.

– Mia V.

 

Silence of the Lambs, 1991
Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Brooke Smith
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ted Tally (screenplay), Thomas Harris (novel)

*Watch Silence of the Lambs on ThisTV: Saturday October 11th at 5p and Friday October 31st at 7p!

 

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ThisTV Movie Review: Star Trek The Motion Picture

star_trek_the_motion_pictureI have a friend who calls Star Trek The Motion Picture a ‘very long tea party in space.’ Jokes on him, though, because they don’t even DRINK tea in this movie. And jokes on me, because even with the lack of tea drinking I understand the point he’s making (in his very snarky manner).

The plot for the first Star Trek movie breaks down basically like this: Some giant space anomaly type thing comes along and starts sucking up Klingons and space stations and common sense. Starfleet gets a bit freaked out when it realizes the anomaly is headed toward Earth so they decide to send the Enterprise out to intercept it. Of course Admiral James T. Kirk HAS to lead the mission, even though he’s spent the last few years working a desk at Starfleet headquarters AND the Enterprise has been almost completely rebuilt with a new Captain at the helm. Tensions rise (very slowly) as Admiral and Captain clash, Captain is re-introduced to an old love interest, friends are re-united to less than bromance level excitement, and EVENTUALLY the Big Bad at the heart of the anomaly is revealed to be someone(thing?) no one could have really expected because wow that was kind of a cool and surprising reveal.

startrek2Star Trek The Motion Picture is a big, long, strange mess. It feels nothing like an episode of the show, and nothing like any of the other movies in the franchise. The costumes don’t look right, the characters don’t really act right, and the story just doesn’t FEEL right. It isn’t that this movie is BAD, it’s that it is so WEIRD. Long scenes with people staring at things. Crazy effects and graphics just for the sake of having crazy effects and graphics (“look guys, we have a huge budget and we’re gonna spend it ALL on computer images and models and anything else we can think up!”). The inside of V-ger’s (the Big Bad’s) ship is cool and all, but it goes on FOREVER and traveling through it is just a lot of staring and making faces and staring and gasping in wonder and on and on and ON. The thing is I actually quite like the whole V-ger thing. It’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately it’s buried in all the weirdness of the rest of the movie.

And is it just me, or does it seem like the creators/costumers on Star Trek can’t ever figure out what exactly future fashion will look like? It changes almost every film and sometimes it is way more bizarre than others. In this first film in the series they’ve settled on a future/ancient Grecian … style? … I guess? Lots of short tunics and short dresses and short sandals and, yeah, lots of shortness going on. Except when people pop up in 70’s leisure suits with swanky medallions and bushy beards (Bones was into bushy beards BEFORE they were cool).

startrekAnyway, so yeah, Star Trek The Motion Picture, kind of a mess BUT like I mentioned before, the reveal of the Big Bad is pretty cool and raises all these great questions about robots and artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and questioning existence and who may have created that existence. And while much of the cast is left in the background, miling around and getting randomly electrocuted from their work consoles, some good depth is given to Spock (quit trying to grow out of your emotions there buddy, it never works out well in the end for you) and Admiral/Captain/WhateverHeIsToday Kirk. From the second he catches sight of the Enterprise you can see in his eyes that he will never love anyone as much as he loves that ship. He’ll never fight as hard for a human relationship as he will for his right to sit in that Captain’s chair. In an incredibly d-bag-like maneuver first thing in the movie he steals the Enterprise from the guy who he told Starfleet to hand the ship to. Poor Captain Will Decker, he never really stood a chance, in his less-than-flattering gray unitard and righteous indignation. Decker wants to be Captain because that’s the next step in his Starfleet career. Kirk wants to be Captain because he’s married to his ship and doesn’t know any other way to be.

star-trek-MP_lIn addendum, some things I noticed and kept track of in this, my dozenth (is that a word? cause I’m using it whether it is or not) viewing of this film: Dr. McCoy walks on and off the bridge of the Enterprise six times for no particularly good reason (he’s the head of medical, why is he ALWAYS up on the dang bridge? doesn’t he have medical stuff to be doing?), there are six costume changes between the main characters of the film and most of those do not seem like they need to happen (though I do find the white short sleeved shirt uniform Kirk sports for a while quite fetching), and the scene that shows off the Enterprise for the first time in the movie takes a whopping five minutes. Five minutes of nothing but showing off the ship from every conceivable angle – to a rendition of the Star Trek theme done on harp, no less. Quick sidenote on that ‘five minutes,’ however, as I think that scene used to be longer. In fact I think several scenes in this film used to be longer, so maybe I had a special edition of the movie OR someone realized along the way that all the staring and gasping and watching scenes did nothing for the flow of the film and cut them down a bit.

– Mia V.

Star Trek The Motion Picture, 1979
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Stephen Collins
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harlod Livingston

*Watch Star Trek The Motion Picture on ThisTV: Tuesday September 23rd at 7pm, Thursday September 25th at 8am, Monday September 29th at 7pm!

 

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ThisTV Movie Review: Star Trek II-Wrath of Khan

star-trek-ii-the-wrath-of-khan-poster-star-trek-movies-8475612-1707-2560“Jim Kirk was many things, but he was NEVER a boy scout.” Dr. Carol Marcus
“I don’t believe in a no-win scenario.” Admiral James T. Kirk

Once upon a time James T. Kirk was a captain. Then he was an admiral. Then he was a captain again. And then an admiral. And then he was dead, but not really. And how did all this ridiculous yo-yo-ing start?

Well …

Once upon a time there was a planet where a Big Bad with fabulous hair and a Latin accent was marooned by Captain Kirk and then forgotten. It left him feeling a bit … bitter.

Ok VERY bitter.

So when StarFleet returns to his crappy desert planet and starts poking around at things, this bitter Big Bad is quite ready to bring on an extreme level of vengeance to the universe.

And especially on James T. Kirk.

ST2_1The plot of Wrath of Khan basically breaks down like this: The Starship Reliant is tooling about the galaxy looking for a dead planet to do some science-y business on. Unfortunately the planet they come up with is less lifeless than it at first seems. Khan Noonien Singh, an old nemesis of Admiral Kirk’s from back in his original Captain-y run on television, has been living it up on this desolate wasteland and he’s ready to branch out and explore some new worlds. Within just a short period of time he’s taken control of the Reliant, stolen some swanky life-creating future-tech, and harassed the Enterprise and Kirk in an explosive and nearly life-taking way. Soon Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the jolly Enterprise crew must find a way to retake the future-tech, destroy Khan, and deal with some sudden and surprising family issues (surprise Kirk, it’s a boy!).

movies-star-trek-wrath-of-khanStar Trek 2: Wrath of Khan is not the first film in the Star Trek film series, but it is the first one many fans want to acknowledge exists. It’s the one with the great story, scene-chewing Big Bad, epically quotable dialogue, and wonderful, emotional, tragic ending. It’s the one that combines classic literature including Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, and King Lear with the powered-up version of a 60’s campy scifi show. It’s the one that leads into the next one, and the next one, and the next one, where Admiral Kirk will find himself demoted, promoted, imprisoned, and sucked into a time vortex-y thing.

It’s the one where for a moment, a brief little hiccup of time, James T. Kirk admits he’s old and tired and worn out around the edges and maybe ready for all of the space adventuring to be over.

It’s a tiny little moment, a bit of quiet after Khan has stolen the life-creating future-tech and (supposedly) stranded Kirk and company inside a dead planet and Kirk has screamed Khan’s name in an iconic fashion. Kirk and his lost love interest Dr. Carol Marcus are having a heart-to-heart about life, the universe, and every secret child-shaped thing, when for just a minute – just a tiny little minute – he gives up.

Khan!!!Admiral Kirk, once the most infamous captain of the most infamous ship in StarFleet, has had enough. His ship is a mess, his crew is injured or dead, he’s stranded in a planet with his ex and his surprise son, his enemy from 15 years ago is out to get him, and he’s just had a birthday reminding him that his time in this crazy galaxy is running out.

It is such a brief moment really, and within minutes he’s off and running on another hair-brained scheme to save the day. BUT. But. That doesn’t make it any less of a profound look into the heart of this great man.

James T. Kirk is a legend. A hero. A rebel and a scoundrel and a bit of a man whore.

He’s larger than life. He’s the only one to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru no-win-scenario – because he totally cheated. He’s an idea, a concept, an ascendant point to aspire to.

But he’s also a man. A man with deep weariness who has been around the universe and back and isn’t sure he has it in himself to do it all again.

– Mia V.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, PG, 1982
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ricardo Montalban
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harve Bennet

*Watch Wratch of Khan on ThisTV: Friday 9/19 11:30pm, Tuesday 9/23 at 9:30pm, and Thursday 9/25 at 10:30am!

 

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ThisTV Movie Review: She’s Having a Baby

she_s_having_baby“People don’t mature anymore. They stay jackasses all their lives.” Grandpa Briggs

Before Kevin Bacon obsessed over horrible serial killers. Before Elizabeth McGovern was a high lady in England. Before Alec Baldwin was funny. Before any of them were famous for being serious actors, they were just a bunch of 80’s kids starring in a John Hughes movie (because that’s what kids in the 80s did).

The plot of She’s Having a Baby basically breaks down like this: Jefferson Briggs (Kevin Bacon) is young and confused and in love and adorable. He marries his sweetheart Kristie (Elizabeth McGovern) even though his handsome but somewhat skeazy bestie (Alec Baldwin) tells him not to. Jefferson wants to write novels and be happy and spends a lot of time worrying that it isn’t happening for him the way he wants it to. He lies his way into an advertising job (makes sense), buys a house, mows his lawn, tells everyone he’ll be a novelist someday, and keeps waiting for happiness to smack him in the face. Of course that isn’t how happiness in life works, but it takes him pretty much the whole film to figure that out.

She_s_Having_A_Baby_231790sPersonally I love She’s Having a Baby. It’s a very sweet, rather witty, somewhat more grown-up version of a John Hughes story. Of course even with that slightly more grown-up vibe, it is still littered liberally with John Hughes’ film fixtures: someone drives a ridiculous sporty 80’s car, parents/grandparents are bossy and clueless, dialogue is quick and pithy and a little sarcastic, Paul Gleason makes an appearance, much of the story takes place in the middle of Everywhere, Illinois, the main character spends the majority of the time questioning everything around them, and the soundtrack is rockin’ (I dare anyone to not tear up during This Woman’s Work at the end).

It’s a solid, good-natured dramedy that proves a point without being so in-your-face about it that you want to scream and throw things at the TV. Which is good, cause my roommate would be pissed if I messed up her giant swanky LED TV. It’s not as silly as Weird Science, not as overly dramatic as Pretty in Pink, but that nice middle of the road between funny and serious (it actually swings between a fully choreographed singing dancing lawnmowing number to a very intense birthing scene) like Breakfast Club.

bacon-mcgovern-shes-havingThere are, of course, some flaws. Like the great 80’s scifi features of yesteryear such as Space Mutiny and (original) Battlestar Galactica, She’s Having a Baby is extremely dated. The hair and the shoulderpads are too poofy, the walls are too pastel-washed, and the idea that a woman can get married, give up her job, and stay home with the kids forever cause the husband is working is an idea of a bygone era. It’s a perfect little time capsule of suburban, middle class, 80’s life, wrapped up in a sentimental John Hughes-shaped bow. Even the silly end credit scene, with the characters trying to figure out a baby name and lineup of big name stars of the 1980s (Wil Wheaton! Bill Murray! Dan Ackroyd!) throwing in an idea, is so dated it hurts.

Does this detract from the overall enjoyment you can experience watching this film? I don’t particularly think so BUT I am a product of those wonderful 80s and I love watching those old movies and laughing about just how much has changed – and how much has stayed the same – since then. Sure we’ve replaced typewriters with tablet computers, sweaters and long skirts with skinny jeans and hipster vests, and lifelong careers for the jobs of the moment, but deep down we want the same things now that they wanted back then – family, friends, happiness, and a sense of our place in the grand scheme of things.

– Mia V.

She’s Having a Baby, Rated PG-13, 1988
Starring Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin
Directed by John Hughes
Written by John Hughes

*Watch She’s Having a Baby on ThisTV: Thursday 9/11 at 3pm and Tuesday 9/30 at 9am!

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