Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Blade Runners

The Cutting Edge
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Cast: Moria Kelly, D.B. Sweeney, Terry O'Quinn, Roy Dotrice
Released: March 27, 1992

This is a movie I've only seen once before and that was a long time ago, so I really didn't remember anything about it. Well, I did remember that it's about a figure skater who gets paired with a hockey player and they hate each other at first, then fall in love. So, basically, I remembered everything! I just didn't remember, you know, the little details. 

When the movie starts it is 1988 and we see Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly), a figure skater at the Calgary Olympics with her partner. Her partner drops her and any chance of a medal is gone. Meanwhile, Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) is on the Olympic hockey team and takes a bashing to the head during a game resulting in an injury where he loses eighteen degrees of his peripheral vision and therefore will never be able to play hockey professionally again. Tough break. 

However, Kate needs a new partner and her coach, Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice) seeks out Doug because he is impressed with his skating. Are you kidding me? Just the fact that a hockey player becomes a pairs figure skater is the most ridiculous thing. Just because he can skate, doesn't mean he can learn all the twists and turns and ariel moves that are required of a professional skater. Even the skates are different as we will learn later in the movie (there's a toe pick on figure skates). Being a hockey player and being a figure skater are two totally different things. Even Kristi Yamaguchi said it was very unrealistic.

This all happens two years later, but they had actually met once before at the '88 Winter Olympics. They literally run into each other when Kate was coming off from the ice and Doug had woken up late on the day he was supposed to play at the Olympics. What kind of idiot is late to the Olympics? 

You know how AFI has a list of the 50 greatest villains? Well, Kate Moseley is missing from that list because she is the absolute worst. Okay, maybe I'm being hyperbolic, but I don't find any redeeming qualities in her, even at the end when we're supposed to be rooting for her and Doug to end up together.  She's just a spoiled rich girl who bitches and whines about everything and everyone. The reason she can never keep a skating partner is because nobody can stand her snooty ass! (Why she just doesn't skate as a single, I don't understand). She lives in a huge house (complete with her own ice skating rink) with her father, Jack (Terry O'Quinn). This was when he still had hair. You could almost say that this is a prequel to Lost and he just changed his name to John Locke and was thanking God when that plane went down so he would never have to see his terrible spoiler daughter ever again. Although, in the film he always seems to be on his daughter's side, I suppose he feels bad for her because her mother died when she was younger. Still can't stand her, though. I guess she has to keep the moniker of Ice Queen and she does it very well. 

Not surprisingly, Kate and Doug hate each other within the first few minutes of their introduction. I can't really blame Doug for disliking her because she's a complete bitch to him. Their first practice together is terrible, and, of course it is, because he is a hockey player, NOT a figure skater! The fact that he does learn to be a good enough figure skater to compete in the '92 Winter Olympics two years later is just sheer ridiculousness. Pamchenko has Doug pick up Kate and when she orders him to put her down, he just drops her and she lands on her butt really hard on the ice. It looked painful. Totallly uncalled for, but can you blame him? He does get plenty of cheap shots in at her which only makes her more angry and more bitchy. These two really do deserve each other. 

There's another scene where they're practicing and the song playing is the most early '90s music you can imagine. I didn't even know the song, but I'm sure it was popular in 1992. Doing some quick research, I found out it's called "Street of Dreams" by Nia Peeples. You know this song was jammin' on the radio in '92. It's totally awful, but also kinda catchy. If you heard it (and you can if you look it up on Spotify!) it will totally take you to the era of the early '90s. You know what I'm talking about if you're familiar with that era. Doug keeps falling (again, because he's NOT a figure skater) and Kate keeps saying, "Toe pick!" because figure skates have toe picks that help them on the ice while hockey skates do not. Because, once again, the two sports are totally different even if both are on the ice! 

There's a scene where Doug and Kate play a game of one-on-one hockey. Kate gets pissed because Doug keeps making all the goals. Insert major eye roll here. Good Lord, girl, are you serious? He's a professional hockey player for crying out loud! That's his job to be good at hockey! And she's getting angry because he's making all the goals and she can't get one? Doug is nowhere near as talented a figure skater as she is (because, DUH!), but he doesn't complain about it! I hate this bitch so much! She also tells Doug she has a boyfriend named Hale who went to Harvard and works at her father's office in London. I totally thought she was making him up, because, really, what person would want to be romantically involved with such a horrid person? But, nope, he really does exist and we see him when he comes to visit for Christmas. At a New Year's Party, Doug is clearly jealous of Hale and we see Kate look jealous when women are throwing themselves at Doug. Hmmmmm....makes you wonder if those two crazy kids actually like each other. When they do the countdown to the New Year, people not only kiss their dates, but pretty much just start kissing everybody around them. You know how you go to church and they do that thing where you greet people with a handshake? That was totally what this was, but only with kissing. Just kiss everyone in your vicinity. Thanks, but no thanks. I would not want to swap spit with so many different people. That is disgusting. You KNOW someone (more than one someone!) got sick a few days later, you KNOW IT! There is a funny moment where an older woman kisses a stunned Doug and looks like she's having the time of your life. So, uh, you get it, older lady! Then we get a moment where Doug and Kate come across each other in the kissing frenzy and we are held with a moment of suspense as they stare into each other's eyes...and are they gonna kiss? And the answer is...no! At least not yet! We still gotta hold on to that sexual tension for at least a few more scenes. Well, she does give him a peck on the cheek.

Kate and Doug have made it to the 1992 Figure Skating Championships in Chicago. So I looked this up, and uh, it was actually held in Orlando that year. Fail, movie, fail. Before their performance the first night, Doug is really nervous and throws up behind a curtain (lovely). I'm thinking, Okay, it makes sense that he's nervous since this his first time doing his routine in front of a live audience, but then he tells Kate that before hockey games he had two helmets: one to wear and one to puke in! WTF? He got nervous before hockey games too? But why if he's this so-called great hockey player? He tells an irritated Kate that he usually relaxes after ten minutes and Kate snaps back, telling him their program is only two and a half minutes. They do well enough to get in third place.

During their long program the second night, they skate well again, but their scores are not high enough to secure them a place at the Olympics. However, another team messes up and Doug and Kate are back in. They go out to celebrate and Kate, who's not a drinker, has, like, twenty shots. It almost made me throw up. She becomes totally smashed and wants to sleep with Doug. He could have easily taken advantage of her, but takes the noble route and turns her down. Or maybe he didn't find her attractive as a drunk because she was super annoying and kept laughing every five seconds. Can you tell I really hate Kate? Oh, I forgot to mention that Kate and Hale were engaged for a hot second, but got unengaged off screen. Hale, you don't know how lucky you are. Kate gets mad and screams at Doug to leave.

Doug does like Kate, but doesn't do himself any favors when he ends up sleeping with (now bear with me, please) Kate's old partner's new partner. Of course Kate finds out and of course she's pissed, which I can't blame her.

Doug and Kate have five weeks before the Winter Olympics in Albertville and Pamchenko tells them a Russian couple has won the European Championships and are the favorites to win the gold. They're Russian, of course they're the favorites! He has a solution for them to beat them. He has created his own totally absurd move that is dubbed the Pamchenko twist. It's described as a bounce twist into a throw twist and then Doug catches her. Kate tells him they can't do it because it's illegal and she's totally right. There's no way this move would ever be allowed in competition because it could KILL the female skater if it went wrong and this movie could EASILY go wrong. The move has Doug holding Kate by the ankles and spinning her around. He has to make sure he keeps her at a certain height because if her head hits the ice at that speed she is looking at a serious brain injury or worse. The bounce spin is (not surprisingly) illegal in competition because of how dangerous it is, but is performed in exhibitions because I guess people love seeing near death experiences? If I were a pairs figure skater, you could not pay me enough money to do that even if I trusted my partner. Hell. No! As you can see in the gif beflow, Doug throws her in the air where she does a twist spin and then he catches her. 

Nothing could go wrong with this move!
Doug says she probably wouldn't be able to do the move and Kate screams at him, "NOBODY CAN TELL ME WHAT I CAN OR CANNOT DO!" so we see a montage of them working on the difficult move. However, the day before the long program where they're going to put in that move, Kate has decided that the dangerous move is out, and I can't blame her as she's the one risking her life by doing it. The first night with the short program, they are bickering about a button on Doug's costume just seconds before going on and are angry with each other as they skate. The commentators can tell they they seem very cold to each other and don't look like they're having fun. The next night at their long program, right before they're about to skate, Doug chooses this time to profess his love for Kate. :::MAJOREYEROLL:::: Everyone's trying to usher them on the ice, but he keeps snapping, "Will you wait a minute?" Uh, this is the Olympics! They don't have a minute! Kate starts crying and says they are putting in the Pamchenko. The way they cut it where they go from the bounce twist to the throw twist is obviously edited together because IT'S PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THAT! Everyone cheers and the movie ends. Wait, did they win the gold medal? I'll tell you what happened: they were disqualified from winning any medal or even placing at all because they did an illegal move! 

Throughout the movie we see an empty glass box where Kate's gold medal will go when she wins one. You think we would see a shot of that at the end since they keep shoving it in our face, but nope. We just assumed they won the gold medal since doing that move would ensure them of that. This is one of the most unrealistic movies about the Olympics, probably even about figure skating. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Nerd Alert

Ready Player One
Director: Steven Spielberg 
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg
Released: March 29, 2018
Viewed in theaters: April 10, 2018

I will be spoiling both the movie AND the book, so you have been warned! And there are things that happen in the book that don't happen in the movie and vice versa.

I remember when the book by Ernest Cline came out in 2011 because I had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and I first found about it when it was reviewed in that magazine. I thought the premise sounded interesting, about a teen living in the year 2045 who has an obsession with pop culture from the '80s. However, when I realized that most of the pop culture references were from video games, I decided this book wasn't for me since I knew I wouldn't get any of the references, no matter what decade they were from! Fast forward six years later when I saw a trailer for this movie. I was impressed it was directed by Steven Spielberg (imagine writing a book and having the movie adaptation being directed by SPIELBERG, yeah, I'm jealous!) and thought it looked visually interesting. However, I still wasn't interested in reading/seeing it, but then I decided to check out the book from the library and give it a shot. I really thought I would be bored reading it and wouldn't understand the references. Well, while I mostly didn't understand ALL the references, I ended up really enjoying it and had a lot of fun reading it. The premise of the book (and the movie) is that everybody is obsessed with this virtual world called the Oasis created by a man named James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and his friend Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) who were born in 1972 and have an obsession with '80s culture since they were teenagers then and that's when they discovered their love for all things film, video games, music, and anything pop culture. I should also point out that the author was born in 1972. 

The Oasis is this virtual world where you can literally spend your entire day interacting with other people, going to school or work, and traveling to different places all without ever leaving your home. The only thing you still need the real world for is to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. Naturally, there are a lot of rules in the Oasis and while they touch on some of them in the movie, it's much more thoroughly explained in the book. I think the reason why I enjoyed the book more than the movie is because of this. I feel like I would have been a bit confused if I had seen the movie without reading the book because it seems like you can do anything and go anywhere, but that's not necessarily true. There are levels and points you need to acquire before your avatar can go to certain places; do certain things. 

Our protagonist is eighteen-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who goes by the name Parzival in the Oasis. Everyone has an avatar they can control and give their own name and looks. Most of the time they are better looking versions of themselves in real life, but some are well known pop culture characters. In the book, he goes to school in the Oasis, but they skip this detail in the movie. I understand that they don't have time to show everything even if the movie is two hours and twenty minutes! Wade lives in Columbus, Ohio with his aunt and jerk boyfriend because his parents died when he was young. They live in "The Stacks" which are trailer homes stacked on top of one another to save room. Things are looking bleak in 2045 and that's why everyone escapes to the Oasis. 

We find out that five years ago Halliday passed away, but left a message for everyone in the Oasis. He has left a series of clues to find keys and whoever finds all three keys will win his inheritance of 47 billion dollars and complete control of the Oasis. (Keep in mind Morrow is still alive, but he and Halliday had a falling out before his death). Everyone will have to go through a series of challenges based on their knowledge of pop culture, specifically '80s pop culture. Now the least believable thing about the book is a teenager from the 2040s being obsessed with the '80s. I understand that everyone in this world is obsessed with the '80s because it will help the win a crapload of money, but still. Teenagers today don't care about the '80s and why should they? (Even though the '80s IS an amazing decade!) Wade even mentions he's seen Blade Runner a ridiculous amount of times, like 37. Gimme a break. I've never seen any movie that amount of times! But whatever, you just have to go with it and enjoy the ride.

I actually thought the book was going to be ALL '80s references, and while that is the decade where most of the references come from, they also mention pop culture from different decades like The Iron Giant (which makes an appearance in the movie)) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I assume they were talking about the Peter Jackson films, though I know there is an animated version from 1978...that would be hilarious is they were talking about those, but I'm pretty sure it was the Jackson ones). There's even a scene where the characters are discussing the Indiana Jones movies and how awful Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was. This made me chuckle since Steven Spielberg would end up directing the film adaptation of Ready Player One. I'm guessing that didn't hurt his feelings too much! The movie is just all about pop culture references, not necessarily those from the '80s. 

Wade doesn't have any friends in the real world (except in the book he's friends with an old woman who lives in The Stacks who grew up in the '80s and she tells him stories of what that was like, but she's not in the movie), but he has a couple in the Oasis. There's Aech (Lena Waithe) and Artemis (excuse, me, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke)). I was spoiled that Lena Waithe played Aech in the real world, who is actually a male in the Oasis so I figured that was a twist in the book, or Spielberg wanted to make it a twist for the movie, but she does reveal herself to be an African-American woman who is playing as a caucasian male in the Oasis. Aech is very different in the movie because he's described as looking like your everyday high school student, but in the movie he's made to have the physique of The Hulk or The Thing from The Fantastic Four. Artemis plays Parzival's love interest and there's even a scene where he says, "I love you" even though he doesn't even know her in the real world and has never met her. It's pretty cringe-y. There's also two young Japanese boys named Daito and Sho who have nothing much to do in the movie and there's a huge plot in the book that is completely scrapped in the movie where the older one is killed by IOI, the evil corporation led by Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who will stop at nothing to obtain the keys and acquire the fortune and to be able to run the Oasis. These five characters are called the High Five (although that's only mentioned once in the movie) because they were the first five avatars to beat the first challenge and obtain the first key. 

There are three challenges and this is where the movie and book deviate significantly because they are totally different. I can only assume they do this because of licensing rights and because it might be super boring watching someone play Joust against Anorak, the avatar of Halliday. (Even though he's dead, he's still able to access his avatar, but it's better explained in the book). In the movie, the first challenge is a car race (and Parzival drives the DeLorean from Back to the Future) which is a lot more visually fun and also incorporates a lot of pop culture references such as King Kong and the T-rex from Jurassic Park and they even pass a movie marquee which is featuring the newest Jack Slater movie, so that was a deep cut with The Last Action Hero reference!

In the book, even though it may take him more than one try, Parzival is able to beat the challenges because he has spent hours upon hours studying video games and movies and knows every move to make or every line from a movie that he's watched more than 30 times. (Has he seen every '80s movie that many times? That's a little ridiculous!) But in the movie, he gets his answer by going to a museum of Halliday's inner most thoughts where you can access any memory from his life. Don't ask me how that was done, but remember, this IS 2045 so a lot of technical advancements have been put into place to do that kind of thing, apparently. This is where Parzival gets a clue on how to win the first challenge and becomes the first person on the scoreboard.

The second challenge both deals with movies in both forms of media. In the book, all he has to do is play Matthew Broderick in War Games and recite all his lines and he'll win the key. You know, even with a move I've seen many times, I still don't think I would be able to remember every single line of the main character, but he states he's seen War Games several times because he's a nerd. I've seen War Games zero times. I've also seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail zero times which is the last challenge he has to beat in the book. There is mention of The Goonies which excited me but it's only one sentence and is not involved as a challenge, but just as something he does to get more points. There is also mention of several more video games which I have never heard of and I kept crossing my fingers we would get a Super Mario Bros. mention, but, alas, that never happens. He does play Pac-Man (finally! something I have heard of!) where he gets a special coin that will come in handy later on. The movie has them being in the world of The Shining and instead of acting out the entire movie (because that would be a bit much), they have to find Kira, the woman Halliday loved, but she ended up marrying Morrow, so you could say that had something to do with their falling out. I have never seen The Shining (no, thank you!), but I knew about the creepy twins. That was about the only reference from that movie I got. Aech had never seen The Shining either, so when he goes into room 237, everyone in my audience who was familiar with the movie, laughed knowingly. 

There's a huge subplot of the book where Parzival gets captured by IOI on purpose in order to hack in their system and acquire some codes. They give this plot to Artemis in the movie. They also completely wipe away the plot where Morrow offers to help the High Five (well, four, at this point), who are all in danger from IOI (they've already killed the older Japanese boy and killed everyone living in The Stacks because they thought Wade was there, but he wasn't) and offers to fly them to his home in Oregon. He does not offer any help in the movie, but instead the High Five (who all conveniently live in the same city) end up together in the real world. Wade ends up meeting Samantha (Artemis) in the middle of the movie and I think this works better than in the book where he literally meets her for the first time on the penultimate page. It's pretty late when they meet each other face to face. However, while I like his interaction with Samantha better in the movie than in the book, I think his interaction with Helen (Aech) is better in the book. He is shocked at first to see that not only is Aech a woman, but she's also African-American, but he realizes it's still Aech and is very happy to meet her and you hear her story and why she chose her avatar. In the movie, she's just like, yep, this is me. Surprise! 

The third key involves him having to enter a castle that's been blocked by the IOI. Parzival enlists a bunch of avatars to help them and a huge battle ensues. I had to go to the bathroom during this part, so I know I missed a lot of pop culture references with different characters fighting in the battle. I heard Chucky was there...seriously, who would want to make their avatar a murdering doll? And an ugly one at that? That is one sick individual. I looked at a website that listed all the pop culture references in the movie and I know I missed a lot. Not just the ones that went over my head, but also ones that I would be familiar with, but there are some that go by so fast that it's easy to miss them if you blink. I heard there was gremlins in this movie, but I totally missed them! There's also other famous pop culture cars in the first challenge that I didn't register seeing. This might actually be a better movie to rent or stream so you can pause your DVD or device or rewind if necessary. So this movie if a lot of fun if you want to see all of those. 

The movie ends with Wade beating the last challenge, which is some early video games and everyone is happy. He gets a crapload of money and complete access to the Oasis and his first rule is that nobody will have access to the Oasis on Tuesday and Thursday so they can experience the real world. Insert eye roll here. 

While the movie has some fun scenes, I would recommend the book over it. I just had more fun reading the book than I did seeing the movie. I think you have to be a real nerd to appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Treasure Hunters

National Treasure
Director John Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Plummer
Released: November 19, 2004
Viewed in theaters: November 27, 2004

Picture it: Lincoln, Thanksgiving 2004. My family is debating over which movie we should see one evening. I want to see National Treasure. My brother wants to see Alexander. I don't know what my parents voted for, but one or both of them must have wanted to see Alexander (the Oliver Stone movie with Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie...I have a feeling most people have forgotten about the existence of that movie!) because we ended up seeing that. I was so mad because that movie looked like a total snooze fest and I was right! I was so bored during the three plus hours I sat through it. (It could have been only a little over two hours for all I know, but it definitely felt LONG!) Even my family agreed it was a terrible and boring movie and pretty much admitted we chose the wrong movie. Now, National Treasure isn't the best movie in the world, but at least it's a hell of a lot more entertaining and fun than some long drawn out historical movie. (There's a good bet I will never review Alexander for this blog!) Now I did end up seeing this movie with my mom (she must have either voted with me or didn't care which movie we saw or maybe she just felt bad for me) the next day, but it still infuriates me that I wasted three hours of my life watching Alexander!

This is probably the only family friendly movie Nicolas Cage has ever made. This and its sequel, which I've only seen once (I've seen this one a handful of times). Oh, and that Christmas movie he did with Tea Leoni. There's probably a few others he's made too, but they seem to be very rare for the actor who is mostly known for R-rated action movies. See Rock, The. Or Con Air. Or Face/Off. In this Indiana Jones/Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/The Goonies hybrid, he plays Ben Gates whose ancestors were part of some secret society who hid a bunch of treasure. He's had his eye on the prize since his great grandfather (played by Christopher Plummer) told him the story as a young boy, but it isn't until "current day" 2004 when he gets anywhere finding it. 

With a clue that the treasure "lies with Charlotte", he leads an expedition to the Arctic which includes his right-hand man, Riley (Justin Bartha) who's pretty much in the movie to be the comic relief and a post-Boromir, pre-Ned Stark Sean Bean who plays his partner turned arch nemesis, Ian, and then some other guy who's Ian's crony. Not only do they find the ship in the ice, after, like, five seconds of chipping away, but they find the most important part of the ship which provides a clue. They figure out the clue pertains to the Declaration of Independence that will lead them to the treasure. Now that I think about it, this movie is a precursor to The DaVinci Code. Ian wants to steal the DoI, but Ben puts his foot down and says absolutely not. We then learn that Ian and his crony are bad guys as they try to kill Ben and Riley, and while they escape, they don't succeed in killing the two good guys.

When they return to D.C., Ben tries to warn anyone who will listen that the DoI is in danger of being stolen, but no one takes them seriously because there is no possible way for the DoI to be stolen because it is perfectly safe and secure. "The Declaration of Independence" is uttered many times during the film. It wasn't until halfway through the movie when I realized I should have been keeping count of how many times it was said, but by then, it was too late. I'm pretty sure if there was a category in The Guinness Book of World Records for the most times the phrase "The Declaration of Independence " is uttered in a movie, National Treasure would be victorious. Since the FBI won't listen to them, they go to the National Archives and warn Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) who also dismisses them and assures them the artifact is very safe.

Ben believes the only way to keep the DoI safe is to steal it himself. At least he will make sure its returned while Ian and his cronies won't care if it gets mucked up in the process of stealing it and using it to find the treasure. Plus, let's be honest, Ben wants that sweet treasure for himself. Riley tells Ben there is no possible way for them to steal the DoI because it's protected by security beyond measure, but Ben has found a loophole and plans to steal it when it's being treated in the preservation room, the only place where it won't be under (so much) lock and key. He and Riley devise this big plan that, of course, goes without a hitch. First, they have to make sure the DoI will be sent to the preservation room so Riley goes to the National Archives and surreptitiously points a laser light at it or something so a warning goes off to indicate that something has been tampered with it. No idea if this is a real thing or not. You know, I have been to D.C. a handful of times (maybe four) and I have never seen the DoI.

They plan to have the DoI in the preservation room the same night a big gala will be going on at the National Archives building. Ben will be the one doing the stealing while Riley stays in the van to direct him and warn him if there's any problems. Ben goes in as a maintenance man (he stole the identity of another maintenance man so he would be on the list...or something...I don't know...this whole plan is so convoluted) and is able to get through, no questions asked. I did think it was funny when Riley and Ben pull up at the building right before they're about to pull off the heist and as Ben is getting out of the van, Riley asks him, "Are you sure this is a good idea?" and Ben just slams the door, totally ignoring him.

Once Ben is in, he changes into a tuxedo in the restroom. He does this right in the open, and not in a stall. I at least hoped he locked the door so nobody would see him changing out of a maintenance outfit in a tuxedo because that wouldn't look suspicious! He enters the party where he chats with Abigail, taking her glass of champagne so she can take another glass for her date. You see, this is all part of the plan because they need her fingerprints to get into the preservation room. Ben will use a black light to see which keys she has pressed for the password and they figure out it's "Valley Forge".

Nobody is in the preservation room at all, so Ben is able to get the DoI. However, he's not alone for long as Ian and his cronies have the same idea to steal it that night and they're about to enter the room. Ben takes the whole thing, bullet proof glass and all that the DoI is surrounded in. It's a good thing he has it because once he's on the elevator and the bad guys enter, they start shooting at him and he uses it as a shield. He takes out the DoI and rolls it up like a poster. My favorite part of the movie is when he goes into the gift shop and the cashier sees it on his person and asks him if he's trying to steal that. She tells it's $35 and he says, "For this? That's a lot." Haha, for the real DoI? I would say that's a steal! He ends up paying $70 because he buys that and then gets a replica to throw off Ian later.

Abigail figure out what's going on and she gets involved in a car chase and this is when Ben gives Ian the fake DoI. Ben, Riley, and Abigail end up at Ben's father's (Jon Voight) house. Since Ben used a credit card to pay for the DoI poster he can't go back to his own house. The DoI goes through a lot of duress during its time out in the real world and it's truly amazing it made it back in one piece. With using lemon juice and heat, the find some clues on the back. But instead of a map like they thought they would find, it's a bunch of numbers that pertain to some letters written by Benjamin Franklin that are important to the case. The letters, which Ben's father used to own, have now been donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

The clues and many different cities they visit (D.C., Philly, New York, Boston) reminds me of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, only the version where you're trying to find her in the U.S., which isn't as fun. There's a scene where they go to an Urban Outfitters in Philly to buy new clothes so they won't look so conspicuous in their fancy gala clothes. Right out in the open, when they're buying their clothes, they're talking about the clues. I'm surprised nobody gave them any odd looks. I mean, if you were in an Urban Outfitters and heard three adults talking about going to the Liberty Bell to find the next clue that will lead to long-lost treasure, wouldn't you be a little suspicious?

The clue leads them to a brick in the wall where Ben finds these old-fashioned spectacles used to look at the map and find the next clue. I can't remember exactly where in the movie Nicolas Cage says this, but there's a scene where he finds a clue and he says, "Can it really be that simple?" Everything leading to the clue is just so ridiculously easy, it's almost laughable. But it is a Disney family film, so the best thing is to just enjoy the ride.

Right on their heels is Ian and his cronies. Ben wants them to split up so Ian can't have the DoI and glasses at the same time because they need both to decipher the next clue. He takes the glasses and Riley and Abigail take the DoI. This thing gets drug through the streets of Philly and into a meat market. True, it's in a protective tube, but still. Ian apprehends the DoI and he also kidnaps Ben's father as a hostage in order to get the glasses.

An FBI agent played by Harvey Keitel has captured Ben and tells him he has two options: he can either go to jail or he can tell them where they can find the DoI and go to jail, knowing he did the right thing. Ben escapes and ends up in New York to join the search for the treasure which Ian and his cronies have now joined. The next clue is underneath the Trinity Church and they are all on this rickety makeshift elevator and one of the no-name bad guys falls off and plunges into this never ending abyss of darkness. Where did this chasm come from? All the characters are trying to jump to safety and there's a moment where Ben, holding on to the arm of a dangling Abigail, has to decide between saving her or saving the DoI which is now starting to slip from his shoulder. (Oh yeah, I should mention, Ben got it back). He asks Abigail if she trusts him and lets go of her once he's sure she'll land on a platform a few feet below them. He apologizes later for dropping her and she assures him it's okay and that she would have done the same thing. Can you imagine how much sh*t he would have been in if he had let the Declaration of Independence fall into a deep abyss of darkness? History would be lost forever! FOR-EV-ER!

Ben and his father tell Ian and his cronies that the next clue is in Boston because of the lantern they see. Leaving Ben, Ben's father, Abigail, and Riley, Ian and his cronies start to go back up on the makeshift elevator, leaving the others without any way to get back up. They start protesting, but it's really a non-issue, because surprise! Ben gave them a decoy answer and the next clue is actually right where they are! Who didn't see that coming? They find a huge room (seriously, this thing must have been five football fields long!)  filled with treasure after treasure after treasure. There are mummies! Scrolls from the Library of Alexandria! An important looking medallion! And lots of other stuff! And, most importantly, there are stairs to an exit.

Ben calls the police and hands back the DoI to Keitel, who, in return tells him that someone has to go to jail. Ben offers him a bribe of ten billion dollars and tells him he can get him the real bad guy who's in Boston where they arrest Ian and his cronies. Poor Sean Bean. But at least he didn't die this time!

The priceless artifacts have been donated to museums all over the world. There's a joke that Ben and Riley, who are credited with finding the treasure, only got one percent of the profits and Riley is complaining about that while driving a fancy convertible and tells Ben he could have bought a bigger house and the camera pans back to show a huge mansion. Haha, even with only one percent, they still got a ton of money. Bring on National Treasure 3! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Dive to Remember

47 Meters Down
Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine
Released: June 16, 2017

Let's play a quick game of Would You Rather? Would you rather be Blake Lively in The Shallows or would you rather be Mandy Moore in this movie? Obviously, any rational human being would choose to be neither as both young women are attacked by huge great white sharks, but that's not a choice! You have to choose one or the others, that's how the game works! I would, one hundred percent, rather be in Blake Lively's scenario. True, she has a nasty fight with a huge shark, but at least she is above water at all times. If memory serves right, she gets attacked by a shark while surfing, then swims to an island and has to make it back to the shore while going from a big rock to a buoy in the process. True, she is by herself while at least Mandy Moore is with her sister, but they have the added disadvantage of worrying about running out of air. I feel like most people would rather be in the Blake Lively situation from The Shallows for that reason, but if you disagree with me, let me know!

The movie begins with older sister Lisa (Mandy Moore) and younger sister Kate (Claire Holt) on vacation in Mexico. Lisa was supposed to go with her boyfriend, but she later reveals to her sister that he left her because she was too boring. Nice guy. They meet two local guys who tell them about a boat that will take them out and they can get into cages to watch sharks. Seriously, who the f**k would want to do that? Lisa isn't too crazy about the idea, but Kate tells her it will prove to her ex that she isn't boring and it will show him. Are they thinking this will make him come running back to Mandy Moore? Why does she want to get back with this loser jerk, anyway? But Lisa agrees and they head out to their adventure the next day. I thought for sure the two guys they meet were going to die, and, well, I'll get to that when I get to my spoiler section. The boat captain is played by Matthew Modine and he assures the girls (especially Lisa) that everything is safe and uh-huh, sure, right. While Kate has been scuba diving before and knows a lot about it, this is Lisa's first time, but they lie and say she's experienced so she can go. However, when the captain is explaining to them some very basic things, shouldn't he be suspicious that Lisa doesn't seem to know what he's talking about?  I guess he just thinks she's nervous because of the sharks. When they get situated in their scuba gear, he tells them they should begin with 200 bar and once they reach 100 bar, they need to let him know and at 50 bar he will pull them up. Now as someone who's never scuba dived in her life and doesn't plan on ever scuba diving (I know for a fact I would drown if I ever went scuba diving because I would just freak out and use up all my air, so no scuba diving for me!), this means absolutely nothing to me. All I know is the lower the number is, the less time for air you have. He tells them they'll be going down five meters (which is 16 feet) and I'm thinking, Wait a minute...this movie is called 47 Meters Down...something is gonna happen here! He also tells them, "Once you're down there, you're not going to want to come back up." Uh-huh, sure! 

The two guys have already gotten in one cage already and I  don't know if this is a spoiler or not, but we really don't see or hear from them for quite a while. I had just assumed, when they told the two sisters about the shark cages, the four of them would be in one together, but nope, the two guys are in one cage and the two girls are in another one. I guess the only point of having them there is that they are the ones who tell the sisters about this adventure. 

Lisa and Kate are lowered into the water and once they get settled in, they feel fine and are excited by how much they can see around them. Kate asks her sister how deep does she think the ocean floor is, and, if only, they knew they would soon find out the answer in a matter of minutes. An answer they probably didn't want to know that bad! Kate has borrowed a water camera from someone who works on the boat and, in like, ten seconds, she drops it. Nice going. I guess Lisa's scummy ex will never see the proof of what she did! From the bottom of the cage, we see a shark swoop up and swallow the camera. It's at the moment I think I would want to get the hell out of there. The bars of the cage aren't wide enough for the shark to get through, obviously, but they do seem wide enough they could get their jaw through...and I would be freaked out a shark could come up from the bottom and grab my foot or leg. In fact, in a later scene, a shark does get its nose pretty far into the cage and almost snaps it open! The cage, which looks pretty rusty and old, and is hanging by a thin rope attached to a cable, drops a few feet and freaks out the girls, especially Lisa. She has voiced her concern about the safety of this, but her sister and the captain reassure her it's perfectly safe. Sure, right. Lisa wants to come up, but Kate doesn't. I'm on Mandy Moore's side here. I would want to come up right away too if the cable started to drop the cage. They do start to bring up the cage, but alas, the cable snaps and the cage plummets to the bottom of the ocean floor and it is no longer attached to the boat. Not good. Not good at all. That would be my worst nightmare. The girls scream for help, but their transmitters are cracking and they can only hear about every third word the boat captain is telling them so they know they are out or range. Their depth gauge tells them they are at 47 meters which is about 154 feet. Kate tries to get out of the top of the cage to swim a little further up to get into range to contact the captain, but the cage door is stuck and she can't open it. She tries to get out of a wide portion of the cage, but has to take her oxygen pack off to do so. She still can't fit through because of her mask and against Lisa's protests, takes it off so she can fit through the bar and puts the mask and tank back on, though it was probably easier to put them on when she was on the boat. If I were in that situation, my first instinct would just be to swim to the surface, sharks be damned! But the girls are told by the captain, once they are able to communicate with him, that the safest thing for them to do is stay in the cage. Even if there were no sharks around, it would be dangerous for them to come up to the surface because they could get "the bends" or decompression sickness, which is when if you ascend rapidly to the surface, nitrogen comes out of your blood quickly forming bubbles. The only way to safely get get to the surface is to take five minute breaks (called decompression stops) every certain meters until they safely reach the surface. Kate explains the bends as having nitrogen bubbles in your brain to her sister who wants to swim up.

When Kate communicates with Taylor at 40 meters, he tells her that Javier (I think the same guy who gave her the camera) is coming down with a spare winch to hook the cage up to the boat and pull them up. She tells him she's at 55 bar which means nothing to me other than that it is significantly lower than the 200 bar she had started with. I have no idea how many minutes of air she has left, although I guess that depends on how fast you're using the air. The more you panic (like Mandy Moore did when she realized they were trapped) or the more you exert yourself (like Kate did when she was using a lot of energy to try to get out of the cage) the more air you're going to use up. 

We have a few scary moments with sharks around the cage to remind the audience that they are still a real threat. I mean, it's bad enough you're at the bottom of the ocean with a very low amount of air, but let's just thrown in two or three huge 28-feet great white sharks. Because why not, right? Kate goes out to contact the captain again and she gets nearly attacked by a shark. She is fine, but she is a bit injured. She tries to contact them again because they hear the boat motor and think the boat has left them. I was confused by this scene because, as we later find out, the boat hasn't left them. So what were they hearing? 

Lisa has 80 bar of air left which means at that depth she has about 20 minutes of air. It's even bleaker for Kate who only has 30 bars, so what's that? Like seven minutes? Pretty sure we have more than seven minutes (and twenty, for that matter!) of this movie left! They see a light in the distance and figure it must be Javier with the extra winch cable to hook up the cage. They bang on the cage with rocks, but Javier can't hear it. (I'm surprised it didn't attract more sharks).  I thought for sure he was dead and the flashlight was just (somehow) floating in the water. Since Kate is injured, Lisa goes out to swim towards the light and keeps to the ground since sharks attack from below. This works out fine until she reaches the edge of a cliff and has to swim over a deep abyss which would be terrifying with sharks all around you. She does reach Javier who is alive (at least for the next three seconds) and he tells her to get back to her cage because a shark swoops by and grabs him. She is very disoriented because everything is pitch black and she doesn't know where she came from. She takes the flashlight and the cable winch and has to hide from the shark in a cave and we see huge crushing jaws trying to get her in the cave, blocking her exit. She manages to get back to the cage, though, with Kate helping her know where she is by banging on the bars. So if Javier was alive during the time the girls were trying to get his attention, what the hell was he doing? Did he not hear them banging on the cage. This and the hearing the boat motor confused me. 

The flashlight drove me absolutely crazy because Mandy Moore would wave it around wildly. Look, I understand why they need a flashlight because it came in handy when she was in the dark and needed to find her way back, but, my God, must she wave it around like a spotlight so much? She's only attracting the sharks to them! Have these girls never seen Jurassic Park?? You NEVER shine a bright light when a large blood-thirsty animal with many sharp teeth is in the vicinity! Oh, and not to mention both girls are bleeding from their wounds they've acquired so far, so a bright light AND blood, what a great combination for the sharks to find them! 

Lisa is able to get in contact with the captain (who is still there, so apparently they never left...maybe they just moved the boat a little?) and hook up the cable and the cage starts to be lifted from the ocean floor and the girls are elated as they see they are moving up. (Wait...do you still need to make a decompression stop even if you're in a cage?) However, I know something's up because there's still half an hour of the movie left and what are they going to do with that extra half hour once they are rescued? Is Lisa going to go back to the States and make her loser ex take her back? However, when it reaches 27 meters, the cable breaks AGAIN and down they go. What the f**k, what kind of sh***y company is this where they have the worst gear? Like, what are the odds that they would have TWO cables that would snap in half? When the cage falls, one of Lisa's legs gets pinned between one of the bars and the ocean floor. Kate makes contact again with the captain to tell him that Lisa is trapped and that she (Kate) only has five bar left on her gauge...which is probably like two minutes of air left. Taylor tells her he's going to send down a couple more oxygen tanks. I have no idea how they could be so accurate when they threw them down because how can they know exactly where they are? They don't end up right next to the cage, but they're pretty close. He also tells them he's notified the Coast Guard and that they should be arriving within the hour to do a deep dive rescue. Uh, why didn't he notify the professionals as soon as they knew there was a problem? Unless he did, but from the way it sounds, I think he just notified them a few minutes ago. 

Kate gets her new oxygen tank on, but is quickly snatched up by a shark. It happens so quickly that you're not really sure what happened. Lisa uses a spear gun to grab the other oxygen tank and manages to get it on just as her old one has run out. She is ecstatic when she hears her sister on the radio because she thought she has died. However, Kate tells her she's bleeding a lot and is attracting more sharks and she's running low on oxygen because her tank has been punctured. Lisa manages to unpin her leg and finds her sister. She knows the only way to save her is to come to the top and tells this to the captain who doesn't bring up too much of a fight with her and just tells her to make sure she makes a decompression stop.

Okay, I think now is a good time to tell people to stop reading right here if they don't want to be spoiled by the movie if they do want to watch it. I will be telling the fates of the main characters and if you don't want to be spoiled, I advise you to stop reading now! But first, check out this video I made of my ten favorite Mandy Moore songs:


Okay, so the girls start heading towards the surface and they have flare guns to scare the sharks off. They get a point to where they need to make a decompression stop and they're just surrounded by sharks. I'm pretty sure they didn't stay there the whole five minutes! They make it to the surface and everyone on the boat (which includes the two guys they met the night before, so I guess we know they didn't become shark bait) start screaming for them to swim and throw them a life preserver. The girls reach the boat and they're being helped up, but then a shark comes up and snatches them again. They do manage to get on the boat, but both of them are badly mangled. Their wounds are being treated as they lie next to each other. Lisa puts her hand up where she has a nasty gash and notices the blood is just floating in the air and thinks that's weird. She also starts to hear the captain's voice coming in and out, almost like it's coming from the transmitter and tells him that he sounds funny. Well, guess what? Turns out the whole thing was a hallucination! Well, not the WHOLE thing, just everything that happened after she got the second tank. You see, there's something I didn't mention before I started my spoilers because, well, I thought it might be considered a spoiler. The captain warns Kate that he didn't give them an extra tank before because going from one to another could cause severe nitrogen narcosis and he wanted the girls to watch each other closely so they could see if the other was behaving strangely or having hallucinations which was likely to happen. Well, after Kate was snatched by a shark (and if she wasn't killed by that shark, then she definitely drowned), Lisa started having hallucinations when she got her new air. She never heard her sister on the radio, she never got her leg unpinned, she and her sister never came to the surface and were never on the boat. The deep sea divers do come and are able to rescue her and take her back to the surface and this is when she realizes that her sister is long gone. Poor Mandy Moore. She loses her husband in a fire, she loses her sister in scuba diving accident, can't the poor girl just stop losing family members! I will say the movie did get me and I was not expecting the ending at all, even though they as plain as day tell the audience that hallucinations were likely to happen, so good job for fooling me, movie!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Game Boy

The Wizard
Director: Todd Holland
Cast: Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Beau Bridges, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis
Released: December 15, 1989

I had totally forgotten about the existence of this movie (and with good reason!), but was reminded of it when I binged watched a TV show late last year. You're probably thinking it was when I watched The Wonder Years, but it was actually watching The Goldbergs (which, if you think about it, is this generation's Wonder Years) as they had an episode dedicated to this movie. It was more dedicated to the Power Glove ("I love the Power Glove!"), but this movie gets a shout out in that episode when Adam goes to see it. When I watched it, I was like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that terrible movie! I should review it for my blog". And so here we are. Now it's been a long time since I've seen this movie. I may have seen it in the theater; I may have seen it at school (you know, when you had those "free" days, so the teacher just plopped you down in front of some PG-rated movie?); or I may have seen it at home on video or TV. All I know is that this is a terrible movie. Defintely the low point to Fred Savage's other wise impressive young career. (I believe he filmed this between the second and third seasons of The Wonder Years, but don't quote me on that).  Let's see, all before the age of fourteen, he was nominated for an Emmy, hosted SNL, was on Oprah, had a cameo on Seinfeld, and starred in The Wizard. It's like, Which of these things don't belong with the others? 

In case you're not familiar with this movie (and how could you not be familiar with such a classic?!), it's about three kids who hitch hike from Middle of Nowhere, Utah to Los Angeles to attend a video game competition at Universal Studios. It's basically a commercial for Nintendo (including the Power Glove and Super Mario Bros. 3) and Universal Studios mixed into a movie that's Rain Man for children.

Half the time, I literally didn't know what was going on. Okay, I knew what was going on, I just didn't understand how any of this was possible. It absolutely made no sense how three kids (two thirteen-year-olds and one nine-year-old) traveled from Utah to California all by themselves without getting murdered or kidnapped or taken advantage of and the fact that NOBODY seemed concerned that these three young kids were always by themselves. Actually, they were taken advantage of when they hitch a ride with some cattle drivers and they see the kids counting their cash (which is literally less than $30) and pull over so they can rob the kids and leave them on the side of the road.

So I should probably set up the backstory: the nine-year-old is an autistic boy named Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards) and he's the younger brother to Corey (Fred Savage) and Nick (Christian Slater). Their parents are divorced and the two older boys live with their father, Sam (Beau Bridges) while Jimmy is in the custody of his mother and stepfather, though he lives in a special home for children with mental disabilities. He spends most of his time alone, playing with building blocks and he barely talks, only to utter single words occasionally. (Like "California"). Apparently he had a twin sister who drowned in a river a few years earlier while he was right there and watched it before his very eyes. Eesh, for a movie that is basically a commercial for Nintendo, that is a very bleak backstory! However, for some strange reason, the movie decides to keep this information hush hush until the middle of the movie when it is revealed. Maybe if we had known it right from the beginning, we would understand why Jimmy acts the way he does. Oh, and he's also a video game aficionado and has some mad gamer skillz.

Corey (by the way, everytime someone called Fred Savage "Corey", I would think, Corey is the one from Boy Meets World; this is Kevin!) decides he's going to get Jimmy and they're going to take a little trip to California, for really, no reason at all! And it is quite easy and convenient for him to break his little brother out of a place that really should have better security (in fact, it seems to have no security at all!) They hop into a Hostess truck and get out at a gas station. There are a lot of stupid montages of the two boys (and later three kids) traveling to Los Angeles. One of these is even set to "Send Me an Angel" when they get a ride from the Hell's Angels. I did laugh when the two brothers are spending the night in a place called Goblin Valley and they hear a wolf howl and Corey sarcastically says, "Great."

It's 16 miles to the Promise Land...
When they get to the train station and try to purchase two tickets to L.A. (which is laughable because they only have $27 dollars and it costs over $200) they come across a girl named Haley (Jenny Lewis) who is traveling to Reno, where she lives. No idea why a thirteen-year-old girl is traveling by herself, but she decides to butt her way in with the two boys after she sees how good Jimmy is at Double Dragon and thinks they should travel to the video game tournament at Universal Studios since the grand prize is $50,000 and they can split the prize if he wins. Never mind that you think you would have to sign up for a competition like that. Apparently you can just show up and enter. Which is exactly what happens later in the film. So stupid. Along the way they con people out of money by betting them that the young boy can beat their score at whatever video game is at the diner/gas station/restaurant they come across. So here's a fun fact: while I'm not familiar with Jenny Lewis, I am familiar with Rilo Kiley and she was the lead singer of that band (I guess they're no longer together...I only know one of their songs, to be honest, which is "With Arms Outstretched").

Also traveling towards California to look for the kids are Sam and Nick and a bounty hunter named Putman hired by the mother and stepfather (uh, why aren't they calling in the police for help?) who doesn't want the boys' father and older brother searching for them since he only gets paid if he brings them back. Don't you think more people searching for these kids would make more sense? There's a running gag throughout the movie that whenever they come across each other in the same small town, they slash the other's tires or they take a shovel to the other's car and smash out the headlights.

You're right, Lucas, it IS bad!
One of the best scenes of the movie (and when I say "best", I really mean "worst") is when the three kids come across a kid named Lucas. Oh, yes. If you've seen this movie, you know all about Lucas. Lucas is like the teen idol of the video gaming world. He is the only person that Jimmy is too scared to play against when Corey and Haley try to make a bet that Jimmy can beat them. You see, Lucas has a secret weapon known as the Power Glove. In an extremely horrible line delivery, after he straps on the glove, he says, "I love the Power Glove...it's so bad!" Bwahahaha! He then proceeds to play a car racing game (I believe it was called Rad Racer?) with the glove. I was really confused because the glove has a numeric keypad on it, but he never uses it. So, what's the point of that, anyway? Now I never had the Power Glove, nor did I know anybody who had it so I've never had the fortune (misfortune?) to ever see it in its glory. However, I heard it was absolutely awful and didn't even work or just barely worked. Doing some research on Wikipedia, I discovered it came out in 1989 (makes sense since the movie came out the same year) and was discontinued in 1990...one year later! It cost $75, which is equivalent to $148 in today's currency. No way I am paying nearly $150 for something that doesn't even work! Think of all the poor parents of the late '80s who were duped by this thing! I really thought the Power Glove was going to appear again during the tournament, but this is the only scene in the movie where it makes an appearance.

How did these kids
get into a casino?
Haley is a real piece of work. Know why? When they get to Reno, she finds her dad's trucker friend named Spanky and enlists him to play a game of craps (she's familiar with the game because her mother is (was?) a gambler). He listens to her instructions and wins them $400. Guess how much Haley gives Spanky as a thank you? TEN DOLLARS! Yes, ten freaking dollars! WTF, you little snot? I would think $100 would be a more reasonable payment. Also, how the hell did three children get to enter a casino? Were the rules a lot more lax in 1989 Reno? I did learn something from this movie which is that Reno is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World". It really makes no sense that she's from Reno because that is way out of the way on their way to L.A. They should have made her from Vegas, at least that would have made more sense, geographically. Also, Haley falsely accuses a man of touching her breasts, but I can forgive her for that because the man she accuses is Putman and she screams this in the middle of the arcade as he is grabbing Jimmy. He is escorted out of the building, but gets his chance to kidnap Jimmy later when he finds Haley's address and grabs him there. Haley gets her dad's trucker friends to block off the road and stop Putnam from going anywhere and they are able to get Jimmy back and Spanky drives them the way of the rest to Los Angeles. (Though if I were Spanky, I wouldn't drive them anywhere until I got the rest of my deserved money!)

To get ready for the tournament, while they were staying at the hotel in Reno (which they were able to afford with their $390), Haley calls a Nintendo Hotline to ask questions about specific video games that they need help with. I don't know how this Video Armageddon works, but apparently they are getting Jimmy prepared for all 97 (!!!!!) video games that could possibly be played at the tournament. Holy shnikeys, can you image if you had to prepare and study for 97 video games? Even if you LIKED playing video games, I think that would suck majorly! Of course, Lucas has all 97 games and knows them like the inside of his Power Glove (haha, see what I did there?) So what I want to know was there ever an actual Nintendo Hotline kids could call and ask questions to beat certain aspects of a game? I remember there were little cheat books you could buy to help you beat a game and gave you clues of what to do. My brother bought the cheatbook for the PC game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (shout out to anyone else who had that game!) and it was really a godsend and helped immensely. I assume the Nintendo Hotline was a real thing since everything else in the movie pertaining to Nintendo was real and they were just advertising it. I am surprised that they didn't have Haley saying the phone number out loud as she dialed it so it would get more advertisement!

We arrive at Universal Studios where apparently you don't need to purchase a ticket to get into! Spanky just drops them off literally right inside of the theme park and they just walk up to the building where Video Armageddon is taking place and Jimmy is given a number. They go inside where about fifty kids are playing video games on small monitors while the people in the audience (mostly kids) cheer them on. I remember the monitors the games being played on are much bigger, but those will come later in the movie. Right now there's just a bunch of kids playing Ninja Gaiden (whatever that is) on small TV screens. I can't imagine anything more boring than watching that. Well, I can, but that has to be on the bottom of my list of things I would most want to watch! You hear the announcer before you see him and at first I thought it was Christopher Lloyd because it sounded a lot like Doc Brown, but it wasn't him. The kids have ten minutes to play the game and the three with the highest scores will go on to be the final three in the ultimate championship to determine who will be the winner of FITY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! This includes Jimmy, Lucas, and some random girl with braids and glasses

Hey, there, l'il Tobey Maguire
(front left)
The host tells them they will be playing a brand new game and they will convene back in fifteen minutes to start. Haley is angry about a new game being played, but I think that's fair. At least everyone is starting on equal ground. Not only are the kids at Universal Studios, but so are Jimmy's mother and stepdad and Sam and Nick and Putnam. Lucas sees him and points the kids out to him. He's with a posse of his friends which include a young Tobey Maguire with a mullet. He has no lines, though. I guess you got to start somewhere! The kids are chased around Universal Studios and they sort of just run into the undergrounds of one of the rides with King Kong which I'm pretty sure is illegal and anyone doing that would be stopped in a nanosecond, but during this time apparently there was no security at all at Universal Studios. (Why should there be when you can just pop in there without purchasing a ticket?) There's even a scene where the kids are hopping from tram to tram while being pursued by the bounty hunter and nobody blinks an eye or realizes how dangerous this is. However, there is one sensible woman who asks the children, "Where is your mother?"

It's T minus two minutes until the finals are about to start and Lucas and the girl with braids and glasses are ready to take their places. The countdown clock gets down to ten seconds and there's still
no Jimmy which makes Lucas happy, but of course, he makes it at the last second and all three kids are about to play the new game...which is...wait for it.....WAIT FOR IT......SUPER MARIO BROS. 3!!!! WHAT?!??! I LOVE THAT GAME! OMG, can you imagine how excited kids were when they saw this? This was a preview for the game because it actually was't released until two months later in February 1990. When I watched them playing this game, it bought back a lot of nostalgia because I totally remember playing it. And this is when they play it on the huge monitors which is where I remembered that from. You know what I really hated? Those plants that heaved the fireballs at you and the only way you could stop them was if you got the flower power and got your own fireballs to heave back at them. The kids have ten minutes and whoever has the highest score at the end, wins. It looks bad for Jimmy when he loses two of his lives quite quickly, but he makes a quick comeback. Haley keeps yelling at him to, "Get the star, Jimmy, the star!" In the last ten seconds of the game, he gets like, ten thousand points (okay I may be exaggerating a little!) and wins the championship. Yippee.

The movie ends with a sappy scene of the family reuniting and Jimmy going to live with his two older brothers and dad. I have no idea what happened to Haley, though. I guess they just dropped her off in Reno on their way back to Utah. I wasn't sure about how family life. It sounded like her dad was always out on the road being a trucker and her mother was a gambler. Wonder if they split the money with her and she was able to buy a house like she wanted to? Though I don't know if $25,000 would be enough for a house even in 1989?

Yeah, this movie is just absolutely awful. However, I did re-live certain parts of my childhood when I heard Zelda get a shoutout or watched them play Super Mario Bros. 3 or heard two (yes, TWO) New Kids on the Block songs played in the background. Oh, and I loved Haley's wardrobe as it was so '80s.

A couple years ago I did a video review of five of my favorite video/PC (mostly PC) games, so if you haven't heard that, you can listen to it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Is Written

Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor,  Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
Released in theaters: December 25, 2008
Viewed in theaters: January 20, 2009

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Danny Boyle (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy (won)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Sound (won)
Best Editing (won)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Dark Knight)
Best Original Song - Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman (won)
Best Original Score - A.R. Rahman (won)

What movie won the Oscar for the Best Picture of 2008?

a. The Dark Knight                b. Wall-e
c. Frost/Nixon                       d. Slumdog Millionaire

If you chose d, you are correct. And hopefully you didn't need to phone a friend to find out the answer! (Even though I literally just wrote it did win the Oscar right above the question!) Slumdog Millionaire takes a popular game show (Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?) and sets it in India where a young man gets on the show and does very well as the questions seem to correlate with his own (very harrowing) life. Not only that, but the questions are also asked in chronological order of the events that happened in his life.

When the movie starts, we get three different timelines. The first is the introduction of Jamal Malik (Del Patel), the eighteen-year Indian Muslim boy on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? with the charismatic host (Anil Kapoor) who pronounces the show's title with an enthusiastic, "Who wants to be a milla-naire!" The second timeline is after the show where he's being smacked around and accused of cheating because he knew all the answers. Being a poor, uneducated kid from the slums, nobody is buying that he could have gotten all the answers right. And the third timeline is any flashback to Jamal when he was younger and how he knew the answers.

The show begins innocently enough. The questions always start out easy, increasing with difficulty with each one. The first question asked is who is the star of a 1973 hit film? Jamal should know this answer regardless because the actor, Amitabh Bachchan is super famous, but we get a flashback of when he was a young kid (around five) and how his favorite actor was filming nearby where he lived. Unfortunately for Jamal, his older brother, Salim, has locked him in a makeshift port-a-potty (which is just a wooden stall sitting atop stilts with a hole in the middle where you do your business) after Jamal cost his a customer (they charged people to use the toilet). In one of the more disgusting scenes of the film, the young Jamal holds his nose (like that's going to work!) and jumps into the lake of crap and swims his way out. He is just covered head to toe in crap and I can only imagine how awful the stench must be. To his credit, Amitabh signs the photo of himself Jamal gives to him
without being grossed out by the sight or smell. It is now Jamal's most prized possession and we will later find out that Salim soon after sold it for money, establishing the rocky relationship between the two bothers.

So here's a fun fact: Amitabh Bachchan is the actual host of the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millioniare? (at least for the majority of its run), so I guess that question about him was a shoutout.

The second question is also very easy and should be one that every Indian should know since it's a question asking what it reads on their national emblem. However, Jamal doesn't know it and needs to ask the audience. The two police questioning him find it odd that he needed help with such an easy question while he knew the answers to more difficult questions. The police officer played by Irrfan Khan tells him that his five-year-old daughter could answer that question. Jamal replies by asking them if they know how much a plate of pani puri cost or who stole someone's bike last Thursday. The officers don't know even though Jamal knows both those answers. I guess this is to show up that some questions that are obvious to some, may not be the case for others. However, I think Jamal wasted his "ask the audience" card and should have saved it for another questions (like the last one!) Even if you didn't know the answer, you could probably guess it correctly just by using common sense. The options given were "Truth alone triumphs"; "Fashion alone triumphs", "Lies alone triumph"; and "Money alone triumphs." C'mon, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that one (which is exactly what Jamal tells them in reference to the first question). Total waste of a lifeline, Jamal! You're lucky you did so well.

The show continues and as the questions become more difficult, Jamal's life is about to as well. His mother is killed by a mob of Hindus who are rioting against Muslims. Jamal and his brother run for their lives through the chaos and call for a girl in their age range to join them. The girl's name is Latika and the three of them call themselves the Three Musketeers, the book they've been reading in school. The three youngsters think they've ben rescued when a well dressed man finds them in a junkyard and gives them each a bottle of ice cold Coke. We next see them in a bus being driven somewhere with other young children. At first the "Three Musketeers" are happy as they are eating plenty of food and have lots of equipment to play with (like tire swings) so it looks like an amusement park to these kids from the slums. The looks on their faces when they see their new home is that of pure joy. They conclude that Maman, the man who rescued them from poverty and malnourishment is "a saint". However, that's not the case and Maman is actually training homeless kids to be beggars in order to make money. Not only that, but in the most harrowing scene, he pours acid in some of the childrens' eyes after they've been drugged and sedated to blind them. He does this to the kids with the more beautiful singing voices because blind kids make more money because of the sympathy factor. Jamal finds this out and he and Salim and Latika escape. The two brothers make it onto a train, but Latika is not quick enough and her captors catch up to her which devastates Jamal, but Salim assures him that she'll be fine because she always is.

The movie takes a little break from all its bleakness and horrific moments and gives us a reprieve with some more lighthearted scenes including a montage of the brothers stealing food while traveling on trains through India set to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes. (Remember that song? It only seems like yesterday it was everywhere on the radio). During the montage, as you do, the brothers age so Salim is now a teenager and Jamal is probably eleven or twelve. They end up in Agra by way up Mumbai and pretend to be private tour guides for people visiting the Taj Mahal. Now I have no doubt the Taj Mahal is a sight to behold, but that attraction has to be infested with tourists all the time. They don't get the idea until Jamal is just standing around and a British couple comes up to him and asks him if they can give him a private tour and they'll pay him extra. (I guess they didn't notice he wasn't wearing a name tag like the other tour guides). Seeing the money, Jamal is glad to oblige, although I question his knowledge of the Taj Mahal because he claims it was supposed to be a five-star hotel but the emperor who built it for his wife died before any of the rooms were built and he calls the reflection pool the swimming pool. He tells the couple that the emperor's wife died in a road accident and when they question him and say they thought she died in childbirth, he tells them that she was on the way to the hospital when it happened. The boys also make money by taking photos of tourists in front of the Taj Mahal and also stealing and selling nice shoes that are required to be taken off before entering the premises.

After that nice little interlude, the movie goes back to being grim. They have returned to Mumbai and Jamal finds the boy with the beautiful singing voice who was blinded and finds out that Latika is in training to be a prostitute (at least she got to keep her eye sight!) and is known as "Cherry" on Pilar Street. It's a little disturbing because she can't be more than thirteen years old. By this time Salim has already perfected his thieving skills, but he can now add murder to his criminal record because he kills Maman when they retrieve Latika. He didn't even kill him in defense; it was just cold-blood murder.

The brothers have a falling out, and, to be honest, I didn't quite understand why Salim wanted to kick out his brother, I guess he just wanted Latika for himself. There's another time jump and Jamal is now being played by Dev Patel in the flashblacks, so I'm not sure what happened to Jamal in between those years. He's now working as a chaiwala (someone who serves and sells tea) at a call center (which we learn earlier in the movie when he tells the game show host what he does for a living) and when he covers for someone who needs to use the bathroom, he tries to find Latika and Salim by using the database. Unfortunately, he doesn't know Latika's last name, so he gets thousands of entries when he just types in her first name. Even typing in his brother's full name, he gets fifteen results and calls all the numbers until he reaches Salim. We find out that Salim now works for a crime boss named Javed (who was an enemy of Maman, so he admired Salim for killing him) and Latika is living with Javed in his posh house as his in-house whore, so to speak. She and Jamal have a sweet reunion before Javed returns and Latkia puts an apron on Jamal and tells Javed that Jamal is the new cook so as not to raise any suspicions. Jamal notices that she is watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? before Javed comes in and makes her switch the channel to the cricket match. He is such a jerk because he doesn't even watch the television in the kitchen; he goes to the living room to watch the game, so he wasn't even watching it on the TV in the kitchen! In a very low voice, Jamal tells Latika that he will wait everyday at the local train station at five o'clock until she comes, but she says it is too late for that. However, she does attempt to meet him there not that long after only to be found out and captured by Salim and is taken away.

There is an interesting part during the game where they are taking a break after a question about a cricket player has been asked and when Jamal comes out of the bathroom, he sees that the host has written "B" with the condensation on the mirror in an attempt to fool him. When they return from a commercial break, Jamal chooses the 50/50 lifeline for the question and only B and D remain as choices (the Indian Regis Philbin must know which choices get knocked off if the 50/50 is chosen). I have to give the host credit for remaining calm and acting excited for Jamal when he (after a very dramatic pause) chooses D, which is, indeed the correct answer when you know he was furious on the inside. I'm not sure why he wanted to sabotage Jamal and make him choose the wrong answer; is it because he doesn't want to pay him all that money? Do most game shows not want their contestants to win so they don't have to shell out the money? But wouldn't they want that because it's more dramatic when they do win? Hmm, we need an investigative report on this, stat! I know he thinks he's cheating, but I feel like you could find out if someone was being fed answers from an outside source.

That was the penultimate question and they have ran out of time and have to wait until the next evening to continue. I remember when Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? premiered and it was on every weeknight and you would have to wait until the next night if they ran out of time with one contestant. I suppose that makes sense because you don't know how far a contestant will get...they could get all the answers like Jamal or they could flame out by the third question (God, that would be embarrassing). I remember I had the PC game version of it. I probably won it, like once!

Remember how Latkia was watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? So now we know why Jamal went on the game show (which he was able to obtain a spot through his job at the call center) since he knows she watches it often. He tells the police officer that he went on the show because he thought she'd be watching. The officer tells him he is free to go. By this time, we are in current time with the timeline and all of India has been watching this young "slumdog" making a killing on the show and are cheering him on. A TV reporter claims that "an estimated 90 million people" will tune in tonight to see if he will win the grand prize of twenty million rupees. Ninety million people; that is insane! I don't think even that many people tuned in to watch the finale of M*A*S*H which is supposed to be one of the most watched shows in American history. Granted, India does have a population of a billion people, but still! Ok, so I just looked at a chart and the finale of M*A*S*H is the most watched episode of American TV and it actually had 125 million people, so okay, I was wrong! That's crazy. But this was back in the day (1983) when there were only, like, five channels, so what else were people supposed to watch? I also looked up the conversion rate for twenty million rupees and it is roughly equal to $308,000. What? That's nowhere near a million dollars! I feel like Jamal is getting gypped here.

Salim knows that Jamal will never give up, so he lets Latika escape by giving her his car keys and cell phone and tells her he'll take care of Javed if he finds out. She is trying to get to the WWTBAM? studios, but the streets are jammed with traffic and people. She ends up getting out of the car and watching the show in a display store window with a crowd.

The last question Jamal has to answer is "What is the name of the third Musketeer?" (The one that isn't Athos or Porthos). Keep in mind that this has been an ongoing theme throughout the film. When we first see Jamal and his brother, they are reading The Three Musketeers in school (or at least, supposed to be reading). When they meet Latika, Jamal says that she can be the third Musketeer and Salim points out they don't even know the name of that one. I definitely wouldn't know the answer to
this question either! I love Jamal's reaction where he laughs to himself and smiles because you know he's thinking, Of course this is the question I would get. The one question he's never known or thought he would ever have to know. He even admits to the host he doesn't know the answer, but wants to continue to play and chooses to phone a friend. See, this is where the ask the audience lifeline would come in handy. True, they may not always give you the correct answer, but I would feel confident that this is a popular book that most people would know the right answer. The host reminds him that if he gets the wrong answer, then he will lose everything he's won so far, which is ten million rupees.

Salim's number is dialed and the audience (both in the movie and in actual theaters when the movie was released, I'm sure!) are on pins and needles as the phone rings and rings. When Jamal tells the host that it's his brother's number he's dialing, Latika hightails it back to the car where she's left the phone and answers right before they're about to hang up. Jamal is glad to hear from her and know that she's okay. He asks her the question and she admits she doesn't know the answer either. Jamal ends up taking an educated guess..and of course he's right. (The answer is Aramis, by the way). The audience just explodes into cheers as well as everyone else in the country who is watching. This is juxtaposed with a scene of Salim killing Javed and his men killing him in return. We all know that Salim wasn't long for this world with the life he chose for himself.

The movie ends happily, though, for Jamal and Latika who are reunited at the train station. And with the twenty million rupees he's just won, he is no longer a slumdog...just a slumdog millionaire! (Wouldn't that be an oxymoron?)

The end credits are one of my favorite end credits along with Return of the King and Kill Bill: Vol 2. The main actors and a bunch of dancers behind them are doing a flashmob dance at the train station to a song composed by A.R. Rahman called Jai Ho, with some very heavy Indian influences. I also love how they show the three actors who played the characters of Jamal, Latika, and Salim. I refer to them as Young (the characters at their oldest!), Younger (the characters as young teens or almost teens) and Youngest (the characters as kids). It is just very cool how the credits are unraveled.

And I'll cap this review with another fun fact: exactly nine years ago today, Slumdog Millionaire won its Oscar for Best Picture (not to mention the seven other Oscars it won) when the Academy Awards aired on February 22, 2009.