Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Get Lost

When I was a kid I watched reruns of Lost In Space, but it didn't take long for me to outgrow it.  Sure, it offered some campy fun, and Marta Kristen was pretty sexy, but by my teens I was into Star Trek and never looked back.

In 1998, there was a big budget film version of Lost In Space, starring William Hurt and Gary Oldman, but it was awful.  Now Netflix is offering an updated Lost In Space series. Is it worth it?  I watched the pilot yesterday, and my answer is...I don't know.

The reboot takes us a few decades into the future. (The original series was set in the late 1990s, I believe.) Earth is threatened--is there any genre more pessimistic than sci-fi?--so certain families have been selected to colonize space.

The first hour mostly concentrates on the Space Family Robinson.  They've got the same names as in the original, and the kids are about the same age, but it's a different sort of family.  Husband and wife John and Maureen have had marital problems, and their oldest daughter Judy comes from Maureen's previous marriage.

Also, the females are far more accomplished this time around.  Sure, John's a former Navy SEAL, but Maureen is an accomplished aerospace engineer who's in charge of their mission.  Also, teenage daughter Judy appears to be the doctor of the group.

Needless to say, things go horribly wrong--right from the start the family crash lands on a new planet and everyone is in mortal danger.  (The entire mission involves numerous colonists, and they're in trouble, too.)  Most of the action deals with the family just trying to stay alive.

Along the way youngest child Will Robinson gets lost and runs into an alien robot.  He saves him (it?) and ends up saving the family.  Also, before the hour is over, we meet engineer Don West and "Dr. Smith"--a woman (played by Parkery Posey--the only regular on the show I know well) who appears to be some criminal or psychopath who steels the uniform of the real Dr. Smith (a cameo by Bill Mumy of the original series).  Presumably, these two will meet up with the Robinsons and join in their adventures.

I thought the pilot was okay.  If it had a problem, it was that they leaned too hard on action.  You want conflict, but they dialed it up a bit much. The family is about to land when everything goes nuts.  Fine, but once they land, it's one thing after another.  Maureen has broken her leg.  Judy, diving down to the capsized Jupiter ship that crash-landed, gets stuck in the quick-freezing ice.  Will, on a trip with dad to find magnesium, gets lost and then almost perishes in a fire.  And the whole family has to worry if they'll freeze to death once night falls.  Piling on one thing after another doesn't necessarily make for great drama--more likely it just tires you out.

The bigger question is do I want to follow this family through their adventures.  I watch too much TV already, so to make my rotation, I need to be invested.  All 10 episodes of the first season are available to binge. I suppose I'll wait until there's not much on and check out the second episode--then it better be going somewhere or I'm out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mac Attack

Shirley MacLaine celebrates her birthday today.  Or does she?

She's been starring in movies since the mid 1950s, and has been nominated for six Oscars, winning one, so her fame seems to go far back.  But to someone like her, who believes in past lives, perhaps it's not such a big deal.  How exciting is it to be a movie star compared to the thrill of living in Atlantis thousands of years ago?

At least she apparently remember her past lives.  I can't remember a thing.  Which raises a point--what's the difference between having past lives that you don't remember and not having past lives at all.  Seems about the same.

Anyway, happy birthday, Shirley, though I guess at this point you've been born into this world on pretty much ever day of the calendar (if you measure dates with such a modern device).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Name That Tune

I was watching Family Guy last night, the episode entitled "'Family Guy' Through The Years." I had the CC on, as is my wont.

During one bit, they parodied the end of the movie Hair, but instead of Berger taking Claude's place in Vietnam, Peter was taking the place of his son, Chris.  In the movie, this is when they play "Let The Sunshine In" (properly known as "The Flesh Failures (Let The Sunshine In).")  They used the same tune in Family Guy, except Peter is singing "Let my son die."

Except on the CC, they identified the song as "Aquarius." This is a pretty big difference.  "Aquarius" opens the show and the movie, "Let The Sunshine In" closes it.

I think I understand where the mistake comes from.  The medley "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" (also known as "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)") was a #1 hit for The 5th Dimension--many think of the songs as being one piece.

But still, two different songs.  Don't even sound anything like each other.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hey Good Lookin'

Amy Schumer has found herself in a controversy with I Feel Pretty.  The plot has her character getting knocked on the head and then believing she's a beautiful model-type.  Because she believes she's hot, she acts with confidence and good things happen.

Some in the #MeToo movement claim the film puts out a message of body shaming, and says that most women need brain damage to feel good about their looks.

Beauty is a ticklish issue.  We say it's only skin deep, but women still want to look beautiful, and men are still attracted to beautiful women.  Certainly everyone understands there are far more important things than looks, but biological urges can't just be wished away.

(I'm reminded of this exchange in The Importance Of Being Earnest--
Algernon:  You are the prettiest girl I ever saw.
Cecily:  Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare.
Algernon:  They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.)

So movies and TV tend to use beautiful women for leading roles.  Yes, it's not just looks--personality and talent are still pretty important--but it's undeniable good-looking people have an advantage.  And yes, most entertainment is made by men, but they're doing what they believe appeals to the audience in general. And they didn't make it up out of nothing.  Tales told centuries before cinema often feature handsome heroes and beautiful heroines.

So I Feel Pretty, dealing with such a raw issue--in a fairly direct manner by its star, Amy Schumer--touches a nerve.  I'm reminded of a similar issue in Shallow Hal, which is sort of a male version of I Feel Pretty. Jack Black plays a guy who is obsessed with looks, and is hypnotized into believing the most beautiful women are those with the most beautiful inner souls (though how he knows at first glance who these are I'm not sure).

Both films end with the predictable message:  looks don't really matter.  I guess they have to say that, or there'd be real trouble.  Forget that everything else Hollywood does is telling you that's not true.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Give It A Spin

Today is Record Store Day.  As the people behind it explain:

Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally.  The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008.

So this is the tenth anniversary, I guess.  I've spent a lot of happy hours in record stores, and I'm happy to celebrate them.

But a lot has changed since the concept of this day was born.  Back then, megastores ruled the roost, but the warning signs were already there. Technology allowed people to download music (often without paying) and Amazon was killing brick and mortar.

Maybe a decade ago indie record stores needed a little boost, but now all record stores need help.  The big chains that were everywhere are gone.  In Los Angles, I used to go to Tower or Virgin, but now there's hardly a single major record store outside Amoeba (which is always rumored to be on the verge of closing).

So let's celebrate the record store today.  While we still can.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Not Quite Infinity, But Almost

Avengers: Infinity War will open next week.  Perhaps you've heard about it.  With all the publicity, it would be harder not to notice.  There's tremendous anticipation.  It's got a shot at being the biggest hit of the year, though thanks to Black Panther it's got its work cut out.

Looks like it could be fun, and Marvel superhero films have a pretty good percentage, but I can't help but wonder if it's too much of a good thing.

The film will be a bit over two and a half hours (with the audience remaining in the seats till the end).  And the cast will include Iron Man, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, Loki, Black Panther, Star-Lord, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Hulk, Falcon and a fair number of others.  This means we get maybe ten minutes per superhero.

Wouldn't you prefer a little more time with your favorites?  A movie should have a good hero and a good villain (and maybe a good love interest), but if you keep adding to the scorecard, after a while enough is enough.

If your idea of a great comedy is It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, maybe this film is for you.  Too bad that's not my idea of a great comedy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wise Child

Hollywood likes to put geniuses in their films.  They're like magicians--they can magically fix any plot holes by doing whatever it is they're allegedly expert at.  It's easy enough to ignore, I suppose, except when they're front and center.  It's even worse when they're kids. Which is what I was thinking while recently watching two 2017 films about brilliant kids.

First there's Gifted, which features a girl who seems to be around eight years old.  She's a math whiz. I don't mean she can operate at a high school level, I mean she can solve problems that stump people with graduate degrees.

The story is more about her relationship with her father, and a custody fight, but the genius part of the story is insane.  I don't care what kind of brain a kid has--no eight-year-old, or nine-, ten-, or eleven-year-old, is that brilliant, sort of in the same way no ten-year-old is ready to play college football.

The filmmakers don't care, of course.  The girl being a genius makes her interesting to them.  But unbelievable to me.

Then there's The Book Of Henry.  This one was much worse---both as a film and as a portrayal of genius.  In fact, the film was such a disaster that director Colin Trevorrow was fired from directing the next Star Wars film. (Well, some people believe it's due to The Book Of Henry, though others claim it was over creative differences.)

The movie is a mess, top to bottom.  Not even the talented Naomi Watts can make her dialogue and character (mom of the genius) work.  Henry is an eleven-year-old who lives with his brother and his mother, who's a waitress.  Henry is such as whiz at the stock market that he's built up enough money (starting with what?) to make the family financially secure.

Henry can also build about anything.  And is able to come up with complex plans for tricky situations taking into account every real-life permutation. Also, when he has some medical problem, he know as much about the condition as the specialist who treats him.  He's also amazing at reading people's psychology.

Many geniuses are good at a particular subject, but can't do much else any better than the average person.  But Henry is one of those movies geniuses who knows everything about anything.

The filmmakers then go on to make a bigger mistake.  At least the girl in Gifted was taught not to show up adults.  Henry is an obnoxious jerk who doesn't just treat adults as equals, he talks down to them.

Ridiculous kid geniuses are bad enough, but obnoxious ones are worse.

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