I could make any number of excuses why it's been a month and a half since the last post. Too many little things to do? Nah, that's always the case around here. A trip? Can't count, 'cause it was only for two days. Steve took my power adapter to the dorm? Well, he did, but that only accounts for the last week. Too much killing time with unimportant things? Now we might be getting somewhere. One quilt down and at least two to go in the near future? Okay, we're getting closer now. Whatever the reasons, I'm back, with the first order of business being three quick movie reviews for the 42 Challenge I'm doing. I do have some science fiction books set aside to read, but movies seem to be so much easier to watch, typically while I multi-task and do something else at the same time. And it's not as though we've been watching highbrow or cerebral movies here this summer either, as you can see from the reviews below.
Escape from New York
This movie was made in the early 1980s but was set in the late 1990s, which was a good thing because laughing at the way the (now) past was foreseen was one of the more entertaining things about this movie. In the movie, the government has turned Manhatten into a maximum security prison where the most brutal criminals are locked away for life. There is a wall around the island, the bridges onto the island have been mined, and troops patrol the opposite shore to deal with anyone who tries to escape across the water.
The President in en route to a conference to unveil a new advance in nuclear fission when his plane is hijacked and crashed into a building (one thing the filmmakers, regrettably, in a way foresaw correctly). He escapes the crash by ejecting in a pod, but then is stranded in the middle of the island prison. On the mainland, Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) is awaiting transport to the island. A special forces war hero before starting a second career robbing banks, Snake is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president and retrieve the cassette (one thing the filmmakers got wrong about the late 1990s) containing the fission information within 24 hours. To ensure cooperation, he is injected with two microscopic explosives that will only be deactivated if he returns with the president and the cassette. If he doesn't, they will explode when the 24-hour clock runs out.
I won’t spoil the movie (should you elect to watch it) by revealing the ending except to say that there is a plot twist or two along the way. The saving grace of the movie was, as suggested above, seeing what the filmmakers hit and what they missed about their near future and our near past. The rival to the continued reliance on cassette tapes in terms of sheer hilarity was the larger-than-a-brick wireless phones used in the command center. On its own, the movie probably doesn’t merit a close look; the redeming value is comparing what really was in the late 1990s to the film’s vision.
Night of the Comet
It’s hard to imagine 1980s Valley Girl sisters, a comet, and zombies combining into something worth watching, but I actually enjoyed this movie. A comet passes by the Earth, turning anyone who wasn’t properly shielded to dust, and turning those who were only partially shielded into zombies. With the help of a hunky truck driver who also survived the comet’s passing, the girls battle both zombies and a think tank of scientists at risk of becoming zombies and who want the girls’ blood to help find a vaccine. Viewed as a comedy and with a nod to the 1980s and all things Valley, this movie is well worth watching, though I’m not sure I’d recommend it for kids. It will also help you know why, if I’m a bit disappointed in something, I might let out with “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis!” in my best Valley Girl voice.
Disclaimer, nay, Warning: This movie is so politically incorrect that even Fox, its maker, ended up truly embarrassed by it and put it into very limited release before hiding it on DVD and/or HBO. It makes the current controversy over the use of the term “retarded” in Tropic Thunder look like an ice cube beside an ice cap. This was not just a dumb movie; it was a very dumb movie. But, much as I shouldn’t admit it, parts were laugh-out-loud funny. If that makes me a bad person, well, so be it. The movie was made by Mike Judge (of King of the Hill and Office Space fame), and parts were downright funny.
In the present, several volunteers, chosen to be about as average as they come, are placed in frozen hibernation to test the idea that the best soldiers, if not needed to fight a war today, could be stored to fight in a future one. Unfortunately, the people running the experiment are arrested, and the hibernation capsules are forgotten. Fast forward 500 years, and the country has turned into a bastion of stupidity thanks to people with lower IQs having had more children than people with higher IQs. When two of the capsules are unearthed and come open, Joe and Rita, two of the most average people to be found in the 2000s, become the two smartest people in the world in the 2500s. Of course, they aren’t seen that way at first, and get accepted only after they save the world’s plant population. Parts of this movie are extremely tasteless and juvenile, but other parts are quite funny. I’m not sure I’d spend money to rent this one, but I wasn’t sorry I switched to this on one HBO channel when the season finale of Generation Kill ended on another.