Monday, December 30, 1996

Movie Comments

A few comments on some movies I've seen recently...

Star Trek: First Contact When the previous Star Trek film (Generations) opened with the champagne bottle tumbling thru space before smashing against the hull of the newest Enterprise I felt the movie had earned my price of admission right there. It was a terrific bit of special effects. (And the rest of the movie was okay.) First Contact also opens with an extended special effects bit...We see stars against the black of space... the camera pulls back and we realize that we are looking at the reflections of stars in a human eye... the camera continues to pull back and it is Piccard's eye... when he was a prisoner of the Borg... the camera is still moving rapidly back and we see that he is restrained in some giant Borg complex (a Borg ship?) in space, as our point of view moves back and back Piccard shrinks to insignificant size inside this monstrously huge artifact...and once again I felt that they had earned my admission money. The rest of the movie? It's okay. It's like a feature length version of a Star Trek: Next Generation show with some feature film sized special effects.

Mars Attacks My 11-year old thought it was wicked cool, but I think my wife summed it up best when she said "It's one of those films where all of the good bits are in the preview." It was amusing. That was its problem... it was amusing but not really funny. Think of all those spoof movies that Leslie Nielson has starred in. The original Airplane made me laugh so hard that my sides hurt. Even seeing it again as a rental tape brought genuine laughter. All of his subsequent spoof movies, even the really dreadful ones that got really silly & did not hold together, even they had parts that made me laught out loud. Even the original Police Academy movie had scenes that made me laugh out loud. The best Mars Attacks could do was chuckles, no belly laughs....but it should have been a belly laugh movie. The best line (Jack Nicholson as the president wanting to reassure the American people that they still had "two out of the three branches of government left--and that ain't bad!' ) had been featured in the preview. So if you feel like a night at the movies and Mars Attacks is what's playing, don't worry, it will provide some amusement...what it won't provide is outrageously funny entertainment. And if you miss it at the theatre, well, I'm sure it will be out on video this spring & it is certainly worth a three dollar rental.

Beavis and ButtHead Do America Yes, I actually paid money to see this. Hey, I have an eleven year old son... and this movie is aimed at males in the 11 to 15 age range... Now I will admit that I have seen a a handful of things in the B&B show on MTV that have made me laugh. (In poor taste, yes, but nevertheless, funny.) The same is true of this film. There were several amusing (& crude & vulgar) moments. There were also gag lines used over and over endlessly... On the brighter side, this is a fairly short movie. If you are an 11 to 15 year old male, rush to your nearest multiplex.... otherwise, rent it and gather with some friends for a bad taste evening spent drinking beer, pretending to be in junior high, and watching B & B do America. (Build up your supply of bathroom jokes ahead of time.)

His Majesty O'Keefe No, I didn't just see this one at the nearest twelve-plex; it was on AMC Sunday night. This is a vintage 1953 South Seas flick. Burt Lancaster is the dashing captain seeking his fortune in the copra trade. As he says repeatedly throughout the film "There's a million dollars worth of copra on this island and I intend to get it all." My son had channel-surfed into it a few minutes after it began, so we missed the opening credits. I had never seen it but had heard of it and eventually I was able to figure out the title without resorting to checking the tv listings in the newspaper. Given that it was a 43 year old film, it was not as racist as it might have been although there were certainly enough racial and sexual stereotyping, not to mention a lack of ecological awareness, etc., but I was fascinated by imagining it as a contemporary film. Certainly the islanders would have worn skimpier costumes, much skimpier. And Captain O'Keefe would surely have done a bit of skinny-dipping with his lady love and their romance would not have been as chaste (no pre-marital hanky-panky allowed in those days). The big cause of jealousy for his wife was his tossing his captain's cap to a sexy island maiden who was giving him a come-hither look. When the island girl returned the cap his wife slapped her, causing my son to break up laughing: "But it was only a hat! Why's she so worked up about a stupid hat?" I didn't bother to discuss the use of symbolism with him. (And, in fact, you would have had to depend on symbolism to see anything going on here. An audience looking only at the surface would not have seen any overt indication of infidelity...after all, he was the Hero!) But surely a contemporary remake of this film would have had O'Keefe and the island girl enjoying a lascivious roll in the sand. And the battle scenes... basically special effects technology would have splattered blood and body parts near and far. This was not one of the greatest films of all times. In fact, when I did look it up in the tv listing to find out what year it had been made, I found it was rated as a D+. But think about the changes over these four decades. Burt Lancaster sometimes removed his shirt. Whoever would play that role today (Kevin Costner or Mel Gibson?) would surely have to play nude scenes, although no full frontal nudity, of course (but I can hear my wife cheering for Mel to take it off). And we would have lots of bare breasted island women, etc., plus at least two very passionate sex scenes, plus some very realistic gore and violence. You know, I think it could be a hit. Hey, Hollywood, if you do a remake I want a cut of the boxoffice for suggesting it!

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