Tag Archives: movie reviews

BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979)

Woo hoo! Star Trek on the big screen! Good for you for following this blog. When you do, you get news like this over 40 years late.

BQB here with a review.

I saved the first Shatner-centric Star Trek movie review for last for a simple reason. I literally have never seen it before.

I know. Gasp! Gasps all around. A man who professes to be a nerd having never seen this movie before. What can I say? It came out before my time while I saw the others either in the theater as a little kid (The whole trio of Spock dies, is reborn and gets delivered home arc) or on VHS (the last two.)

At any rate, I’d seen bits and pieces of it but never the entire thing at once.

So let’s dive in.

At the outset, you can tell that this film was released at a time when Star Wars unleashed a wave of space flicks, all the studios thinking there is gold in them thar space movie hills. I don’t think any of these space flicks matched up to Star Wars, though the Star Trek films were at least profitable and memorable.

You can tell though that the producers, writers, special effects team, etc. are all trying to do things with the franchise that would have never been possible in the original 1960s TV show.

It all begins with now Admiral James T. Kirk arriving at the Enterprise, where it is being worked on in space dock. In an early scene, Scotty pilots a shuttle craft, bringing Kirk to the ship and the scene is dragged out, going out of its way to show the sheer size and magnitude of The Enterprise in all its glory, whereas the best they could do in the old TV show was show a teensy model that we were supposed to pretend was big.

The special effects are amateurish compared to today’s CGI, but at the time surely wowed audiences. Smaller craft fly by the Enterprise. There are dudes in astronaut gear flying around it, though they don’t seem to serve any purpose other than some technician wanted to prove he could put a little astronaut guy out there flying around the ship. If you can forgive the bad effects, you do get a sense of awe as you picture what it might be like for a person in the 2300s seeing an enormous spaceship.

And now to the story. A bizarre entity, some sort of large energy field is headed on a path to Earth. Dum-dum Klingons try to intercept it only to be instantly vaporized. Kirk arrives to take control of the Enterprise from Captain Decker (Stephen Collins who would join the actress who plays the lady whale scientist in ST5 to play the other half of a couple with a lot of kids in 7th Heaven.)

A pissing match between Decker and Kirk ensues. The old Enterprise is no more. This is an all new Enterprise, complete with computers and bells and whistles that Kirk has never trained on. Decker knows all the changes. Kirk doesn’t. Decker presumes Kirk is just using the crisis to take over the Enterprise because that’s what he really wants. There is truth to this as Kirk hates being behind a desk and wants to be out on the open space road, living a life of adventure, punching out alien d-bags and getting jiggy with fine ass green space hotties.

It’s the late 70s, so Kirk and the original cast aren’t as old but they are all in middle age range. Shatner is actually kinda buff and studly in this one, so they go out of their way to put him in a muscle shirt. The film’s overall tone is quite serious, perhaps a bit more serious than we are used to in ST films. In Khan and later films, we really see the storyline embrace equal parts humor and seriousness. Kirk, Bones and McCoy find their niche as a quasi-Marx brothers routine as space explorers who get on each others’ nerves but at the end of the day, love each other.

Here, the trio comes out of mothballs. Kirk has been riding a desk. Spock and Bones, to my shock, have quit Starfleet only to reenlist (be drafted?) for this flick. McCoy returns with a bushy beard, greatly offended to have been forced back into service. Spock was on Vulcan, learning a process that would truly rid him of the little emotion he had so he can be a full blown logical mofo and not have to deal with emotions from his human side when he senses the entity’s presence and leaves to help his old Starfleet homies. Alas, he’ll never be considered 100 hundred percent logical by Vulcan’s exacting logic standards, though his human friends will always consider him absurdly logical. Dude just can’t win.

Long story short, the crew investigates, even flying through the entity, unraveling the mystery of what this presence is. All that is revealed early is that it calls itself V’Ger. Sadly, and in a rather creepy move, it kills then takes control of the body of Ilia, a Deltan navigator played by the late, great Persis Khambatta. We never see Deltans before or after this movie and all we know is that Ilia is a bald lady who blurts out to Kirk that she has taken an oath of celibacy upon her arrival on deck. The line seems strangely timed and I can’t tell if it is just a fact the writers wanted us to know or if Kirk is such a notorious space-poon hound that she felt she had to launch a preeemptive strike to let him know her lady parts are closed for bidness.

The Ilia-bot scenes are scary indeed. The late 70s/early 80s saw a lot of movies where humans end up controlled by machines and this might be the most disturbing. Her computerized voice, the way she stares coldly at the crew as they realize she is recording info and sending it back to V-Ger, all strange indeed. Decker, who once had a romance with Ilyia, is crushed.

Sidenote: If you look her up online, Persis Khambatta’s story is inspiring yet sad. She was somewhat of a Cinderella story. Born and raised in India, her father abandoned the family at a young age but her mother and siblings scraped by. She gets model work in her teens, gains national Indian notoriety in soap commercials. Becomes a Bollywood star. Gets recognized by U.S. Hollywood. Lands this role. Gets steady work in US movies in the 1980s. Sadly, develops heart problems in the 90s and dies young at 49 in 1999. I always hate to see people die young but at least her star was able to burn bright in her youth.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. The colors are drab and it is definitely trying hard, perhaps too hard, to be very serious. One might argue that when a giant, strange entity is on approach to destroy earth, there is no time for humor, but then again, something is always trying to destroy earth in the other films yet the writers manage to strike a balance between humor and high stakes. There is a scene where the transporter malfunctions and you get to see the horrifying dark side of what happens to people when the transporter shits the bed, making you wonder why anyone would get into the transporter beam field at all. It is a bit of a plot hole that there are no safety protocols, i.e. no one calls and asks ahead like “Hey is your transporter working?” before they start beaming people aboard but oh well. It’s all part of the film’s attempt to say, “Hey, this is grown up adult Star Trek” before someone at the studio apparently advised to make things a little lighter, which I’m glad they did so little kids like me back in the day could have fun watching these flicks.

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BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier (1989)

Space! The Final Frontier!

Ha! They made a movie about the line, you know, from the show. Get it?

BQB here with a review.

Star Trek 5 has the dubious honor of being considered the worst of the 6 Shatner-centric OG Enterprise crew films. I haven’t seen this flick since I was a kid, but as I watched it, it’s funny how a lot of the scenes come back to me and I can remember where the movie is going.

Ultimately, I think it’s a good film that just got a bad rap for a few reasons:

#1 – It was the first film outside of the “find Spock and bring him home arc” that occupied 2, 3 and 4. Those 3 films all tie together so now the producers/writers/director had the difficult task of beginning a new tale.

#2 – It came out in 1989 and if we consider Star Wars of the late 1970s as bringing kick ass special effects to the forefront, the late 1980s and 1990s saw a whole slew of action films that brought the genre to the next level. The film came out in a summer filled with blockbusters and sequels. So many freaking sequels. Lethal Weapon 2. Ghostbusters 2. A few more I can’t think of. Also Batman. How do you compete against Batman 89? You can’t.

#3 – Because moviegoers were demanding action, I think it was a hard sell for a movie where the three main protagonists – Kirk, Bones and Spock, were getting up there. After rewatching it – on one hand, yeah I can’t think of another modern movie with so many oldsters running around fighting bad guys. On the other hand, they make so many movies today where we are expected to believe that 20 year olds are geniuses and super intelligent and know exactly what to do. I think Star Trek handles the age of their stars well, namely, that these are people who have been around the block, have seen some shit, and as they get closer to the end, they have less shits to give. How many times do Kirk and crew tell Starfleet to stick it as they go do their own thing? This isn’t something a young person can do easily but an old person? If you’ve got the skills and experience of a 50 something Capt Kirk, you too would probably find it easier to tell your boss to stick it in the name of doing what is right vs. what is politically expedient.

Alright. Now that we settled that hash.

Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), the black sheep of Spock’s family, rejects his Vulcan ways, embracing emotion and encouraging his followers to do the same. Vulcans once held emotions like any other species, but they developed a quasi-religion around logic itself, embracing only what is practical.

The mad vulcan kidnaps three ambassadors – a Klingon, a Romulan and a Terran (human), each representing their species on the desolate planet of Nimbus III. Said planet was supposed to be a profit sharing business as all three races were supposed to join forces in building up the world and reaping the rewards but alas, it sucked so bad no one bought in.

Capt. Kirk and crew charge in and save the day in a daring raid. Alas, they’ve fallen into Sybok’s trap. He wanted them to come so he could hijack the Enterprise (they really should put a lojack on that ship because someone is always stealing it) and fly it to Sha Ka Ree, the fabled planet where all life supposedly began and is said to be where God Almighty himself lives.

The humorous relationship between Kirk, Bones and Spock save the film. They are taken prisoner and must break free. As usual, Bones is a pain in the ass naysayer. Spock is a genius who points out options but rarely sees the the emotional toll those options will take on others, much to Bones’ ire. In the end, Kirk is Mr. Let’s Kick Ass, Take Names, and Think About What We Did Later.

As if this weren’t enough, Kirk is once again being hunted by rogue Klingons. Apparently, there isn’t a lot of order in the Klingon military. Klingon ship captains just hear that Kirk is milling about and decide it would be a fun opportunity to built their space street cred and blow him the heck up. There’s never any radioing in to HQ to ask if this would be cool or anything.

Long story short, there’s a lot of suspense as the Enterprise crosses a so-called forbidden barrier and the crew touches down on the planet. Critics argue the ending is a bit of a let down. I won’t spoil it by revealing what they find but I mean, come on. The premise of the film is that space travelers are trying to find God in space. If they do find God, do you think his greatness could be expressed well on film? If they don’t, isn’t that a let down? Then again, if they did, is that blasphemous? If God wanted to be found, he’d invite us all over for tea and cookies, after all.

There is a scene at the end that is often considered silly. The Enterprise crew, Klingons, and even Sybok’s dumb followers join together in peace in a cocktail party. I mean, yeah, that kind of sounds stupid but the message seems to be they were all thrown together by one idiot’s treachery and in the end they all figured out how they did wrong and made amends. If only enemies becomes friends like that in real life.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Ultimately, I think the Star Trek OG Crew just struggled to find a place in a newer era where action reigned supreme, blockbuster flicks demanded a younger cast, and Star Trek tends to be more of a thinking sci-fi fan’s choice, so it became harder to mix the philosophy with all of the ass kicking.

Sidenote: Spock’s rocket boots are cool.

Double sidenote: I doubt you’ll believe this story but I’ll tell you anyway. I was on a ST binge last week, culminating in me watching this movie last Sunday. There is a scene where Sybok’s dimwitted henchmen are lured into abandoning their posts when they spot a voluptuous hot babe doing a scantily clad song and dance routine on the horizon. The pervs run to the babe, only to find Uhura. As she removes her veil, Kirk and crew whip out their phasers and take the bad guys prisoner.

“I always wanted to play for a captive audience,” Uhura quips. She must have been in her 50s at that point but damn, if she still didn’t have all the right moves.

At any rate, I paused the film. I wondered if Nichelle Nichols was still alive. Then I started wondering who else was alive and who had shuffled off this mortal coil. I knew DeForest Kelley and James Doohan had passed. I knew Shatner and Takei are still alive. I knew Nimoy had passed.

I saw Koenig (Chekov) was alive and then I was pleased to see Nichols was still alive. For some reason, I thought she had passed so I was happy to see she was still here.

Then literally an hour later the news popped up on my phone that groundbreaking actress Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura had died.

I don’t know if there is any point to that story other than I got to be happy that Nichols was still alive but then my happiness only lasted an hour.

RIP Nichelle Nichols

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BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home (1986)

Beware the Whale Probe!

BQB here with a review of this fine flick.

3.5 readers. Let me lay the following contradictory statements on you:

#1 – Plot-wise, this should have been the dumbest, shittiest movie ever made that by all rights, should have murdered the franchise.

#2 – It’s pretty awesome and I think most fans would agree, it’s the second best of the 6 films starring the OG Shatner and friends cast, and a very close almost photo finish with Khan at that.

OK. The plot.

A big stupid looking probe that looks like a giant turd appears over Earth. It emits what sounds like a whale call. When it receives no response, it plays the call louder, causing ecological devastation. The tides rise, waves bash the continents, all incoming ships are warned that the earth is screwed so they should fly elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Capt. Kirk and crew are living in exile on Vulcan, having become wanted fugitives for disobeying Starfleet orders and stealing the Enterprise and (SPOILER ALERT) blowing it the eff up so as to gank the dastardly Klingons who invaded the ship sans permission.

Brave souls that they are, they decide to return to earth, stand trial and accept the consequences of their actions. Frankly, this is stupid and I would have just stayed on Vulcan but I guess this is why I’m not Starfleet material and also the movie needs to happen.

While returning to Earth in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey ship no less, the crew receive the distress call. Spock, big brained mofo that he is, theorizes that the signal sounds like whale calls. Apparently, some species out there in the universe, perhaps space whales, really gives a lot of shits about earth whales, to the point they sent a giant probe to check on them. Your goal, noble reader, should be to find someone who loves you as much as the space whales who sent this probe love earth whales.

Ah but alas, whales are extinct by the 2300s when the film takes place. The movie does become one great big advertisement for environmentalism and ecological conversation but it is done in an entertaining way.

Anyway, the probe needs to hear some mother humping whale calls or else it is going to continue to eff up Earth’s shit. So, Kirk and crew perform a “slingshot maneuver” which means they fly the ship really, really fast and really, really close to the sun and if they are lucky, they don’t get burned up as they travel back in time.

At no time is there any recognition of how this slingshot move is pretty awesome in and of itself and how there should be an entire movie devoted just to it. There is very little attempt at an explanation as to how travel around the sun leads to time travel and I know there is no explanation because it can’t be done yet most of this things in this franchise cant be done but that doesn’t stop the crew from offering the audience a BS explanation for purposes of nerd placation.

SIDENOTE: I recall the crew has time traveled before in the original series. I will have to look up whether travel around the sun at fast speed was involved.

OK. The crew winds up in 1986 San Francisco. They go on a mission to locate a male and a female whale and bring them back to the 2300s so the whales will fornicate and repopulate the seas with whales so the whales will respond to the whale probe and the probe will be happy the whales are still alive and will stop trying to destroy the earth and will go away.

Kirk and Spock meet up with a 1980s lady whale scientist Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Taylor who would later go on to play mother of a shit ton of kids on Seventh Heaven) and after ridiculous efforts, finally convince her that they are from the motherhumping future and that she should help them whale-nap the whales in residence at the whale museum she works at. To Kirk’s credit, he doesn’t pork her, which I want to say means Kirk has grown and matured as a character, having realized he doesn’t need to seek coitus with every female he meets but truthfully, it’s probably just because he never finds the time. The movie moves that fast. It is a mad dash to snag the jumbo sea mammals and get back to save the day, so there’s no time for fornication.

The rule about not interfering with the past to preserve the future is acknowledged by Bones and Scotty, but then pretty much universally thrown out the window by the whole crew. There are fun scenes where the future people are confused about life in the 1980s. In Star Trek’s future, Earthlings have evolved past needing money, they don’t swear unnecessarily (aside from Bones’ “Damn it, Jim!”) and Spock uses a Vulcan neck pinch to stop an obnoxious punk rocker from blasting his boom box on a public bus, thus fully demonstrating that the needs of the many bus riders to enjoy a ride in peace outweigh this mohawked dipstick’s need to crank up his tunes.

It’s well done. It is a lot of fun. Nary a second is wasted as it is quite fast paced, yet it still has beginning and ending scenes in the future that tie it all up in a nice bow. We never do learn who sent the whale probe and can only assume there are some highly evolved space whales out there keeping tabs on earth whales and are ready to declare intergalactic war if humans don’t start being nicer to our whale pals.

Sidenote: You’ll learn more about whales than you ever thought you could know, especially how the whaling industry devastated the whale population. Someone who wrote this movie really, really, really cared about whales because after you see it, you’ll almost want to rush out and donate to a whale preservation charity. I say almost because I didn’t because I am a cheap SOB. You totally can if you want to though.

Double sidenote: There is an eerily predictive scene that gets new meaning when you watch it today. It involves Scotty, who is disgusted when he has to use a primitive 1980s computer. He bemoans having to use such archaic tools as a keyboard and mouse and is surprised that the computer won’t talk back to him or obey his verbal commands. If only the Scotsman had visited today. He might gab with Siri or Alexa and have them get about half the commands right.

I can picture it now.

SCOTTY: “Alexa, put up the shields on the Entreprise.”

ALEXA: “Ordering you a burger with fries.”

SCOTTY: “No, we need to stop the Klingons!”

ALEXA: “Opening your account on Amazon.”

SCOTTY: “Alexa! Fire photon torpedos!”

ALEXA: “Ordering you a burrito. Do you want green sauce or red?”

Yeah, maybe Scotty was better off with a mouse and a keyboard.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I remember seeing this with the rents as a little kid like it was yesterday, and I’m pretty sure my recent viewing was only the second time I’d seen it. All in all, it has the kind of plot that most writers would be afraid to pitch, that would get most writers laughed out of the profession and though it is quite silly, it is done in such a way that it is a lot of fun. Even though the other films and shows have more serious plots with murderous alien fiends and destructive devices and intricate plots, this movie where Kirk tries to explain to a 1980s scientist over pizza how he is from the future and needs whales to save the day will likely remain one of the best films the franchise has to offer for years to come.

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BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock

Spock! Where you at, son?

BQB here with a review of the third installment of the 1980s era ST franchise.

RIP Uhura, you foxy mama, you.

In Wrath of Khan, Spock freaking dies. I’m sorry if this comes as a spoiler to you, but holy crap. You had like 40 some odd years to watch the movie, so get over it. Spock doesn’t just die, he dies heroically, running into a radioactive chamber to do some science stuff to keep the Enterprise operational. There was no time to put on an anti-radiation suit, so he croaks. Ah, but this scene also gives rise to his well-known catchphrase – “The good of the many outweighs the needs of the few or the one.”

Freaking pointy eared communist.

As if this movie didn’t add enough to the vernacular, it also gave us the “Kobayashi Maru” i.e. a simulator Starfleet Officers have to go through and the catch is there is literally no way to solve the problem. The test isn’t so much designed to educate as to what or what not to do in a sticky situation but rather to get the officer acquainted with the fact that sometimes, you can make the best decision possible and shit will still hit the fan and go flying everywhere. (Sidenote: Who came up with the phrase “When shit hits the fan” anyway? Because it totally describes something that must be avoided to prevent something really bad from happening, namely shit hits the fan blades then gets propelled so far and wide that no matter how hard you clean and scrub you’ll still be finding little shit clumps hiding around your room years later. I can only assume at some point in history, someone literally must have taken a dump on a fan only for everyone in the room to experience the fallout and realize this is good shorthand for explaining how something catastrophic yet avoidable must be avoided.)

EDIT: I just realized the Kobayashi Maru is in Star Trek 2 and not this film. I confused my Saaviks. Kirstie Alley played the She-Vulcan in 2 while Robin Curtis took the role in 3. Alley was afraid of being typecast which is sad because in her makeup and with her voice she really did make for an impressive Vulcan, though Curtis wasn’t chopped liver.

Wow, what a digression! Moving on.

Anyway, this is a pretty great flick. The plot? The Enterprise officers held a funeral for the late Spock and shot his body at the Genesis planet in a torpedo coffin, which frankly, sounds kind of disrespectful but maybe space folk are into that sort of thing. This happened at the end of the Khan film.

In this go-around, Dr. Bones McCoy, literally the crankiest old man in space who, if he had a lawn, would constantly be yelling at kids to get off it, always despised Spock’s incessant logic at the expense of emotion. Thus, it’s torture for Bones when he starts feeling Spock’s logic and worse, starts talking like a vulcan.

The diagnosis? The Spockster transferred his consciousness into Dr. McCoy just before he died. As Spock’s father Sarek informs Kirk, Vulcans can do that shit. And how convenient! Spock’s body, now on a planet where everything grows and renews and nothing is ever dead for long, has been reborn, now as a little Vulcan boy who is rapidly aging and must suffer the painful ramifications of pom far or as the layman might call it, Vulcan puberty.

Alas, Starfleet Command has nixed any attempts to reclaim Spock’s bod. Official consensus is the Genesis planet sucks the big one and no one knows what to make of it other than no one should be allowed to visit it. Thus, Kirk and crew pull off a pretty sweet and daring heist of the Enterprise and go rogue.

Veteran character actor Christopher Lloyd, always made up in some way or another on film, plays the rogue Klingon Kruge who wants to snatch the Genesis info for himself so he can recreate the women and rule the galaxy in the name of all Klingons because Klingons firmly believe that humans stink like butts.

That’s pretty much it. The theft of the Enterprise is pretty cool and what happens to it at the end in the name of taking out the Klingons, well, you’ll just have to watch it. Stupid Klingons.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. If you have no life, you can binge watch Star Trek just like me on Paramount Plus.

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Lee Marvin and Benedict Cumberbatch – Time Travel Twins?

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

Every once in a blue moon, I check out that old classic, The Dirty Dozen. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a 1960s flick where the unorthodox yet results achieving Major Reisman is assigned by the top brass to take on the wildest of suicide missions, that being training and commanding a group of psycho degenerate criminally convicted ex-soldiers (yet technically still military property as they are serving time in military jail and sentenced for execution) on an absurdly dangerous mission to blow up the mother of all Nazi targets during WWII. If they survive, they’ll get a pardon and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I saw this years ago, but as I watched it again recently, I was like, “Holy shit. Did Benedict Cumberbatch travel back to the 1960s and assume the guise of Lee Marvin?” These two have similar faces, similar voices, the resemblance, speech, tone, all very similar.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where if you notice something, chances are others have too and sure enough, there are posts about the uncanny similarities.

You be the judge. Here’s a clip of the Lee-ster in action. Tell me you don’t see traces of our beloved modern-day Dr. Strange.

The movie itself is 3/4 a lot of fun whereas the last 1/4, well, I hate to give a spoiler but it’s action and explosions that were quite spectacular for its day plus, well, horror, as in Nazis at a party retreat are murdered with ruthless efficiency and like I get the irony of the inventors of ruthlessly efficient murder being murdered with ruthless efficiency but still, many of the casualties of war here are women who were just there to be Nazi arm candy and ok, serves them right for cavorting with Nazis but look all I’m saying is the way in which they are killed – i.e. locked in a tight space and knowing it’s coming and having to wait for it, all the screams and tortured cries, if you have a heart you’ll be like, yikes.

OK, I know they are Nazis. Could they have released the lady Nazis and put them in lady Nazi jail? I think most of them were there as prostitutes so like, do we even know for sure if they agreed with Nazi dogma? A working girl has to get her dough any way she can get it after all.

The first 3/4 we see many legendary actors at a young age. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Donald Sutherland any younger, or Charles Bronson. And while you probably only know Telly Savalas as good guy, tough cop Kojak, he plays a psycho rapist pervert who believes God has enlisted him to punish women and well, you can’t help but hope maybe he’ll be taken out along with the Nazis by the end.

Typical action movie tropes i.e. the brass berate Reisman for taking so many risks yet they are bureaucrats who sit on their butts all day and have no idea what it is like out in the field. Come to think of it, this movie probably invented a lot of the action movie tropes we see in action films today.

Sidenote 1: This movie is one of the last times Hollywood allowed a man with gray hair to be a kick-ass tough guy.

Sidenote 2: Throughout the film, whenever Reisman wants to get his soldiers’ attention, he blasts at their feet with a machine gun, which seems like it should totally violate several OSHA standards.

I lost track! Tell me if you think maybe Lee Marvin is Benedict’s secret grandfather or something.

Oh, if you need a Benedict clip for reference, not sure if this is the best one but I found this recent performance on SNL as one half of an experimental Chuck E Cheese band was pretty funny:

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Movie Review – Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)

Banana, 3.5 readers.

Very banana, indeed.

I gotta be honest, the last few installments of this franchise were rather lackluster, IMO. I found that sad because the original, about professional supervillain Gru who, with the assistance of his little yellow goofball minions, learns he has a heart of gold, despite being encrusted in an evil layer, is a pretty great flick.

Then you had Despicable Me 2 and 3 and Minions and eh, though they had their moments, they were by and large forgettable cash grabs.

And while this film is, as all films are, about sucking up more moolah, it does have the heart of the original.

It’s the 1970s and young Gru (Steve Carrell) dreams of becoming a great supervillain. By accident, he is invited to interview with evil villain group, the Vicious Six. Shenanigans ensue and low and behold, Little Gru ends up taking his favorite villain band on with the assistance of his all time favorite villain, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin in perhaps the voice over role he was born to play).

Oh, and the little yellow schmucks are forever in the background, moving the story forward.

I could stop this review here, but I feel a need to comment on the whole Lightyear fiasco. I probably shouldn’t because I haven’t seen Lightyear but apparently, no one else did either (rimshot – too soon?)

All I can comment on is the Lightyear trailer seemed rather serious for a kid’s movie. Conservative commentators have been lambasting it as an example of “go woke, go broke” but I have a hunch Disney just went way too serious with this one. Buzz Lightyear, after all, is part of the Toy Story franchise. The running joke is that he is a very serious spaceman with a big ego who takes himself way too seriously and thus suffers big time mental anguish throughout the franchise as he comes to grips with the fact that he isn’t a super awesome astronaut but in fact, just a piece of plastic. His lasers are just little lights. His rockets are just easily lost plastic projectiles. He yearns to explore the greatest reaches of the galaxy but alas, just exists to chill in Andy’s toy box.

There was a Lightyear cartoon show that lampooned Buzz’s egotism and bumbling “I’m so awesome I don’t realize I accidentally trip over everything and luck my way into awesomeness” style and a modern day film that captured this style might have been better received. So going serious with a gritty, spaceman having to save the day with an interstellar twist where all his friends grow old while he goes on missions, eh. Too dark for this usually jovial character.

Compare it with this Minions movie that raked in boku cash while Lightyear tanked. From the opening scene where a young Gru clears out a sold out theater by detonating a fart gas bomb so he can get a better seat at a 1970s showing of Jaws (in a gas mask), you know this is a movie designed to make kids laugh, heck, to even make adults laugh.

I’m not saying there isn’t room for serious kids’ film. Frozen, for example, is a kids’ movie with serious themes that was done well and left room for silliness along the way.

All in all, this is me predicting that Dreamworks is on the way to eating Disney’s lunch if Disney keeps going on this serious, no room for fun path. Gru includes a preview for an upcoming Puss in Boots flick which also seems quite hysterical and as it plays up jokes about Puss having to break out of a horrible life of being one of a crazed cat lady’s hundreds of pets to resume a life of adventuring, you just get a sense that Dreamworks understands the first rule of a kids movie is make ’em laugh. No one at Disney seems to understand that these days.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Jerry and Marge Go Large (2022)

Well, it’s official. I’m a Paramount Plus subscriber now.

How did that happen? This freaking movie.

Let’s discuss, 3.5 readers.

I love Bryan Cranston and have been binging Breaking Bad as of late. Somehow, the internet oompa loompas who feed tailored ads to my computer must know this because they have been peppering me with ads for this film. Frankly, the best description of it is if the Hallmark Channel made a sweet, charming version of Breaking Bad that old ladies can enjoy, but still has enough humor for everyone else too.

Based on a true story, retired cereal factory worker Jerry Selbee has had a lifelong gift for number crunching that no one has ever appreciated. Adjusting to retired life, he feels useless and unproductive until he finds a flaw in a lotto game. After performing some calculations (and trust me, the film tries to explain it but you might be mentally better off if you just nod and politely agree that the math works and means the things that the characters say it means) Jerry figures out a way to game the system.

Alas, when his home state of Michigan discontinues his favorite lotto game, he and wife Marge (Anette Bening) spice up their stale marriage by making monthly trips to the Bay State, purchasing tens of thousands of lotto tickets at a time, to the point where they become BFFs with rural MA convenience store owner Bill (Rainn Wilson.)

Ahh, but the Selbees are altruists at heart. Noticing that their little town of Evart is down in the dumps of an economic downturn, they convince their friends and neighbors to pool their resources, creating a corporation that does nothing but buy lotto tickets, pays taxes on the winnings and distributes profits amongst the shareholding townsfolk. In the process, the newly rich Evartians are able to invest boku buckaroos in their fair burg, opening up shops and fixing up locations that had been rotting away unused.

Steve (Larry Wilmore) serves as the Selbees’ co-conspirating accountant, the joke being that no one else in town prior to the lotto wins had much money so he had to take on a second job because no one in town had any money to account for.

Naturally, any decent film needs a point of contention right? That’s where a group of smarmy Harvard students come in. These whiz kids have also figured out how to game the lotto. The Michigan townsfolk and Cambridge brainiacs butt heads, for if one side drops out, then that increases the winnings for the other and all’s fair in love, war, and playing the lotto, right?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though this is the oldest I’ve seen Bryan Cranston. He plays a grandfather here, an old who is having a hard time adjusting to the so-called golden years. I’m not knocking old age it’s just it seems like yesterday Bryan was cooking meth with Jesse as Walt and now he’s playing grandpas who have to wrestle snacks away from their grandkids to prevent them from finding out said snacks are a secret cash stash.

Hey, it convinced me to sign up for Paramount Plus and I felt it was worth it after seeing it, so if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is. Chalk up another role for Cranston as a older person looking back on life, feeling like they missed out by not taking this or that shot, and finding some unique way to make big bucks before time runs out. At least Jerry did something legal here. Walt? Not so much.

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Movie Review – Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Roar!

People spend so much time thinking about how to do it they never stopped to think about if they should do it, that is to say, to make this movie, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the latest installment to the ongoing prehistoric monsters meet modern times saga.

At the outset, let me say this: I didn’t think it was as bad as the critics are saying, but I do think the concept of modern day dinos is played out and it’s going to be a long time, if ever, when writers think of a new setting to put our giant scaly predecessors in to make them interesting. The previous film stunk the big one, making me think that was all she wrote to this franchise, but by God, they managed to make one last flick that is passable.

The plot? Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) are hiding out from the law and dinos with their clone kid who set the dinos free in an act of defiance against the villains of the last picture and don’t ask me to explain it any better than that because if I try, my eyes will glaze over.

Somehow, they go down the rabbit hole of uncovering a plot to control the world’s food supply courtesy of Dodgson (I always thought he was Dobson) the dude that Wayne Knight aka Newman aka Dennis Nedry sold the shaving cream can full of dino dna samples to in the last one. It was never mentioned in any of the other movies, but apparently this evildoer spent the last 30 some odd years starting and running his own evil biological company, though to the outsider, he comes across as a typical Tim Cook-esque Silicon Valley mogul.

Yes, these bad dudes have managed to use dino DNA tech to create prehistoric bugs designed to devour all the world’s crops except the bad guys’ crops and ergo, yadda yadda yadda, the villain will control all the food and you’ll have to sell your right testicle to get a damn candy bar.

One source of criticism might be that, you know, if there’s a villainous plot afoot, it should involve killer dinos instead of killer bugs, but the dinos are still present. Another source of criticism is that the last film ended with a teaser of a new world where dinosaurs have run amuck. I thought we’d see more of that and we do, just not in the ways we thought. Here, dinos do cross paths with and endanger humans but in most cases, it’s kind of like when a bear gets lost and wanders around a suburban neighborhood, “Damn it! That brontosaurus is getting too close to the city! Better call the cops!”

To be sure, there are evil dino breeders, underground dino black market clubs, and the evil corporation’s dino sanctuary to give you the visual dino feast you crave, but yeah, I thought based on the last film, this one would be all about a world destroyed by T-Rexes wreaking havoc on major metropolitan areas, chomping up everything in sight.

Then again, I mean, dinos being released into the world would be dangerous, but in reality I suppose we have the army, police, national guard and enough gun toting rednecks to take these beasts out and the remaining stragglers would be an annoyance and/or relegated to the black market. So I guess kudos to this flick for embracing that reality but then again this film is the last place I go to for reality. I wanted to see T-Rexes stomping all over downtown, damn it!

Bonus points for bringing the original cast back together. Laura Dern, Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum all reprise their roles as Doctors Ellie Satler, Grant and Malcolm and much to the film’s credit, these aren’t brief cameos. While many franchises trot out their older stars for a quick walk-on, this trio is very integral to the plot. They get a lot of lines/scenes and have screentime for well over half the movie so if you’re nostalgic for the first film, look no further.

DeWanda Wise and Mamoudou Athie round out the cast as a pilot whose plane gets turned into pyterodactyl lunch and a whistleblower who fights the evil corporation, respectively.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It seems this will be it for Jurassic films for a while and that’s probably for the best. I applaud the film for its overall message of “while scientific breakthroughs are awesome, let’s be careful while we’re playing God” but seriously, how many times can some idiot mess with dino dna before the government steps in and bans everyone from starting dino dna labs?

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Movie Review – Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Ba na na na na na na na na ba na na na na na na na na na….highway to the danger zone! Highway to the danger zone!

Welcome to the danger zone, 3.5 readers. BQB here with a review of this long-awaited sequel to everyone’s favorite fighter jet movie.

Ah, where does the time go? I remember being a little kid just yesterday, my parents taking me to see the original Top Gun. They bought me GI Joes afterwards. Then I blinked and suddenly I am a decrepit old bastard running a blog that is only read by 3.5 readers. I forgot to do a lot of stuff I wanted to do between the original and the sequel but oh well. This isn’t about me, right?

As we return to the world of Top Gun, we find Maverick as a test pilot, pushing the envelope, still taking unnecessary risks that infuriate his superiors. As they note, anyone with his long record of service should be an admiral or a statesman by now, but Maverick being the mavericky maverick that he is, just can’t follow the rules.

However, the brass admit that Maverick is the most awesome and badass fighter pilot at the Navy’s disposal, so they dispatch him back to Top Gun school to train a new generation of volleyball playing fighter pilots to take out an unsanctioned uranium enriching facility operated by an unspecified rogue nation. As a viewer, you are required to ignore a) the wimpiness of the film for not specifying which nation this is, for the enemy fighter jets have no specific markings and their helmet visors are kept shut at all times so you can’t guess their ethnicity and b) let’s be honest. If a rogue country is operating a uranium enrichment facility in this day and age, it’s probably because America paid for it in the wimpy hope that by buying them off they’d promise to only use the uranium for energy purposes. If anything, the mission in real life would be for Maverick to drop pallets of cash into the rogue nation’s airspace with his trusty F-15 Tomcat.

Alright, I digress. Besides, I give the film credit for at least admitting that blowing up an illegal nuke operation in the hands of evildoers is a good idea and something to promote through film in this age of wokesterism.

Moving on, Maverick’s new recruits include Phoenix, a lady pilot because you gotta have one. Bob, a nerd because they allow nerds to fly planes now. Back in the 1980s, nerds were only allowed to play with calculators and polish their pocket protectors in movies so they have progressed since Mav’s heyday. There’s the token jerk Hangman and a few others with cool call signs. I forget their kickass fighter pilot names. Lenny and Squiggy and Dopey and Sleepy and Sneezy and Doc, I think. Long story short, Rooster (Miles Teller made up to look like a young Anthony Edwards) is following in the footsteps of his late father as a fighter pilot. This leads to tension between the two as Rooster still blames Mav for the death of his BFF Goose so many years ago. Meanwhile, Mav blames himself and the fear of being responsible for the deaths of two generations of the same family of fighter pilots is too much for him to bear, such that he is crushed by the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to go on if he allows something bad to happen to the R-man.

Truth be told, even the flick admits that fighter jets are somewhat obsolete as drones and guided missiles typically take care of a lot of the work they used to do. Even so, Top Gun school continues in real life just in case the world needs aerial dog fighters to save the day. You have to suspend a bit of disbelief and just enjoy the sights and sounds. The flying stunts and tricks are a lot of fun and must be watched on the big screen.

Oh, and Jennifer Connelly stops by as Mav’s love interest while Jon Hamm takes the role of the stereotypical superior whose main job is to tell Maverick he is an asshole who is going to get everyone killed but then never offer any constructive alternatives.

Touching cameo from Val Kilmer who played Maverick’s frenemy Ice-Man in the original. It’s sad what time can do to a man but the cameo is tasteful. Honestly, even the whole movie is respectful, straddling the line between going its own way and not just being a cash grab rehash of the original.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. In all seriousness, this film as well as the original captured a sentiment lost on the public, namely that the ability to create, build, maintain, fly and use fighter craft is nothing short of magic. All the resources, manpower, time, effort, money and yes, skill and talent in keeping this metal birds in the sky is a marvel of modern science that seems like it should be impossible yet somehow it is. It really is a testament to a nation’s greatness when they are able to operate fighter jets and movies that celebrate US awesomeness are few and far between as of late, so kudos for Hollywood for making it.

Double kudos for Tom Cruise who really proves he is one of the last true movie stars. Yeah, he had his weird little freak out when he jumped on Oprah’s couch years back but he really does make a good flick and even comes out as himself before the film to thank you for watching it (oops, spoiler) so that’s awesome.

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Movie Review – The Lost City (2022)

Romance! Treasure! Adventure!

BQB here with a review of The Lost City.

Let me say off the bat this movie is OK. It is an acceptable way to pass your downtime. I am disappointed in that everyone kept telling me this flick is awesome and I’m missing out if I didn’t check it out, but honestly, I found it more or less “meh.”

Loretta Sage and her late husband once traveled the world as archaeology scholars, unlocking the secrets of past civilizations. Alas, after her husband’s untimely demise, she cloistered herself and earned her living writing cheesy romance novels about an adventurous lady archaeologist and her hunky sidekick who go on treasure hunting exploits, a far cry from the academic treatises she wanted to publish, a dream denied due to lack of sales.

Years later, the novels are a smash success, too popular in fact. When billionaire Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps Loretta in the hopes that she’ll be able to translate the key to a long-lost treasure, it’s up to her handsome yet incompetent, Fabio-esque cover model Alan (the hunky sidekick inspiration from the novels) to come to Loretta’s rescue.

A fine setup but the execution leaves something to be desired. Treasure hunting movies have been DOA for a long time. One might argue it’s because we’ve grown as a society and come to realize that all Western treasure hunters ever really did was just um, you know, locate and steal treasures belonging to other countries, cultures, civilizations etc. That’s part of it, though honestly, no one ever did the treasure hunting genre as well as Indiana Jones. The Romancing the Stone movies might be a distant second but ultimately, Indy was never topped. Tomb Raider and Uncharted? Yes, in video game form. No in movie form.

At any rate, you don’t really see a lot of stuff you’d expect in a treasure hunting film. There aren’t any puzzles, riddles or clues. There’s not even sufficient danger. To the heroes? Yes. To the world? I mean basically, if the evil billionaire gets the treasure, he’ll be more rich and if he doesn’t then he’ll be less rich. A far cry from the Indy stakes where an artifact falling into the wrong hands equals Nazi rule of the globe forever and ever and ever.

Even so, Loretta is in peril and Alan (Channing Tatum) is an unlikely hero. He screws up the rescue early and often to great comedic effect and there’s probably a fresh angle in that in real life, people who do things for the first time often screw them up royally. We never learn or grow without those screwups.

A different dynamic than we are used to seeing. Alan often bungles his way into becoming the “damsel in distress” that Loretta has to save and there is a 20 something year age disparity between Tatum and Bullock, though movies often feature an older, sophisticated man with a hot younger babe. Here it’s the other way around with smart Loretta and her man-bimbo Allan.

There are a lot of side characters we learn little about. They might have been interesting if allowed more time to shine. A side plot sees Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Beth as Loretta’s publisher who travels the world in search of her abducted writer. It feels like there was a budding romance between her and goofy pilot Oscar (Oscar of The Office fame) that was cut short, possibly for time. A quick line at the end will make you raise an eyebrow.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I wouldn’t rent it but wait for when it streams. It’s billed as a treasure hunting movie but it’s more of a chase movie through an exotic jungle location where the heroes have to out run the pursuing villains. A lot of CGI and the whole lady author falling in love with the real life Fabio from her covers might have been funnier in the 1990s when Fabio was at his peak, musclebound wind in the hair glory. Bonus points for some insights into the publishing industry, what sells, what doesn’t, the lengths that authors have to go through to sell some books.

Double Bonus Points for a surprise cameo that is fun though it made me wonder if the movie wouldn’t have benefitted from the cameo lasting longer.

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