Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #89: "Fantastic Voyage" (1966)

Movie Stats:
Released 1966 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Richard Fleischer
Stars - Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, Arthur Kennedy, Raquel Welch, William Redfield

Plot Summary:
When a defector (they never say he’s a Soviet but it’s implied) is brain damaged in an attempt on his life - before he can reveal his secrets naturally - a crack team is assembled on a sub that is miniaturized and sent into the defector’s blood stream. Their mission? Repair the brain damage. Boyd stars as the team’s muscle, Grant; Pleasence as team leader/navigator Dr. Michaels; Kennedy as surgeon Dr. Duval; Welch as Duval’s assistant, Cora Peterson; and Redfield as the sub’s captain, Bill Owens.

Minor violence.

Bad Stuff:
Very slow start.


I don’t like that the motivation of the traitor is never explored. The implication is that the person works for “the other side,” but why? How was that person recruited? Was he/she a traitor all along? It’s not discussed at all. Not even a, “Hey, what happened to that person?” when the rest of the crew returns without him/her.

Good Stuff:
It was clever. I particularly enjoyed the characters’ ability to problem solve, especially since, for the most part, people didn’t freak out. Problem arises, characters brainstorm how to overcome it. It was nice to see competency and resolve.

I liked how Grant was a reluctant hero. Here’s this very Bond-like character, and when he’s faced with the prospect of being miniaturized and injected into someone’s bloodstream, he’s like, “Can we not?” Amusing.

Pleasence’s performance is very compelling. There’s something about his mannerisms and voice that always gives me the creeps. Yet, I can’t look away.

The Verdict:
Mostly I think this movie is just really, really boring. There’s a whole half hour before they even get injected into the guy, but then once they’re in, it’s not exactly a thrill ride. I mean, stuff happens, but it all felt pretty tame to me. Although, they did avoid one of my biggest action movie pet peeves, the old “we have ten minutes to stop the bad thing from happening but it will take half an hour of the movie to show that.” They had 60 minutes to get in, fix the brain damage, and get out, and that portion of the film was approximately 60 minutes long. So I liked that. On the flip side, there was no resolution. [SPOILER-y] They accomplish their mission but does it do anything? Does the guy wake up and spill his secrets? We’ll never know. [SPOILER] Ultimately, I think this is another “meh” for me.

I give it 2.75 stars.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Music Love: "Something More Than Free" by Jason Isbell

I don't much care for country music, and what little of it I do like tends to be of the more old school variety (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, etc.). However, a few years ago I used to listen to the podcast "Welcome to Nightvale," which features a song at the end of each episode. That was the first time I heard of Jason Isbell - specifically, his song "Cover Me Up."

I fell in love with that song & downloaded it. After that, I began to see him mentioned on several different forums that I read. Personally, I still only own two of his songs, but I like them both so much that I had a difficult time choosing which one to feature here. Ultimately, while I find "Cover Me Up" really beautiful & romantic, I decided it was too slow.

What I like most about Isbell is his voice. The word "smoky" comes to mind. I like how his music tends to be very simple, allowing his voice to shine. (While the above is a live concert, the studio version of the song is nearly as simplistic.)

Also, I really enjoy him thematically. I don't happen to be religious and yet this song has religious undertones. I don't mind it. I like the sentiment anyway:

And I don't think on why I'm here or where it hurts
I'm just lucky to have the work
Sunday morning I'm too tired to go to church
But I thank God for the work

It's a song about a man living his life, going to work, looking for meaning, and recognizing that he needs to be grateful for what he has, whatever that is. It has a hint of sadness, as most great country songs do, but it also rings true, and, in the end, it's hopeful. I think it's lovely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #90: "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" (1984)

Movie Stats:
Released 1984 (USA)
American, in English
Director - W.D. Richter
Stars - Peter Weller, Lewis Smith, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, and many others

Plot Summary:
After crossing over into the eighth dimension, surgeon/rock star/modern-day superhero Buckaroo Banzai (Weller) and his crew face an alien invasion. Smith co-stars as Buckaroo’s right-hand man, Perfect Tommy; Goldblum as fellow surgeon/crew member, New Jersey; and Lithgow as their antagonist, Doctor Emilio Lizardo.

Violence; very minor gore; minor blue language.

Bad Stuff:
It’s one of those movies that acts like there’s backstory that the viewer already knows, perhaps a previous film, or maybe a book or comic book series. So I spent the whole film feeling like I was missing out on something. I hate that. It made it very difficult to concentrate on what was going on; I kept wondering if I should hit pause and do a quick internet search to sate my curiosity. (Note: It’s a standalone story.)

It’s not exactly coherent.

It suffers terribly from 1980s soundtrack syndrome.

Good Stuff:
I like that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s supposed to be weird and chaotic and light-hearted. It’s almost, but not quite, a satire.

I liked Buckaroo’s crew members, specifically Perfect Tommy, New Jersey, and Rawhide (Clancy Brown). Whenever something needed to be done, they got to business, cool as cucumbers.

It’s certainly not lacking inventive ideas.

The Verdict:
I really thought I was going to hate this one. Like, begrudgingly giving it any stars levels of hate. In the end, that’s not how I felt. While I wouldn’t say that I’m a fan, I admire its good qualities. It’s not selling a message or trying to break new ground. It’s just trying to entertain you. I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone - unless I knew the person liked super whacky comedies - but if someone told me they were going to watch it, I wouldn’t try to dissuade them, I’d probably say, “Let me know what you think.” So make of that what you will. Not a movie to loathe, but not one to love; what you feel about it would be entirely dependent upon your sense of humor.

I give it 2.75 stars.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #91: "Attack the Block" (2011)

Movie Stats:
Released 2011 (USA)
British & French, in English
Director - Joe Cornish
Stars - John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and many others

Plot Summary:
An alien invasion lands near a council estate in South London, smack into the path of a group of teenaged hoodlums. Violence ensues. Boyega stars as Moses, the leader of the hoodlums, and Whittaker as Sam, the boys’ neighbor.

Unrelenting blue language; major violence; major gore; drug use.

Bad Stuff:
The long shots of the aliens, especially when they move, looked bad enough to make me cringe in embarrassment.

It doesn’t have much substance. It does try to shoehorn in a message about the boys seeing the error of their way, but it comes across feeling a bit after school special, and I didn’t find it particularly believable.

The scene where Brewis (Luke Treadway) postulates a theory on how/why the aliens ended up on earth had a very strong tone of “this makes sense to the character because it makes sense to the writer.” Like, I don’t think a real person in that situation would make those leaps in logic.

Good Stuff:
The boys aren’t “good,” the neighborhood that the aliens land in is rough, and the aliens aren’t mentally/technologically superior to humans. That gives the film a much different landscape than the vast majority of alien invasion stories. How the boys view the aliens and react to them is not the way most people in these sorts of films would react. It’s a nice change of pace.

I really liked the cinematography.

It’s got a lot of humor, particularly whenever trust-funder-trying-to-be-hardcore Brewis is on-screen. The conversation between him and pot dealer Ron (Nick Frost) about how difficult Brewis’s life is, during which Brewis is completely unaware of how ridiculous he sounds, had me rolling.

The Verdict:
I saw this when it came out in the theater. I remember being extremely excited to do so, having heard a lot of good things about it, and then coming away feeling slightly disappointed. I think I hyped myself up too much. I felt a lot more warm fuzzies about it this time, although I just saw that it gets boatloads of hate on IMDB (apparently IMDB reviewers aren’t hip to the idea of having unlikeable protagonists; they’re more friendly over on Rotten Tomatoes). Personally, I like that the heroes aren’t “good.” Life has nuance. Sometimes bad people do good things and good people do bad things. I thought the movie did well at humanizing the boys despite their flaws - I empathized with them. So to me, this is a fresh take on an old trope. It’s fun, mindless, funny, and, coming in just under an hour and a half, blessedly short.

I give it 3.75 stars.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Family Keepsakes Fun, Part 4

I've been through most of the boxes at this point, so I think this may be the last post in the series, unless I decide to post some of my (and my husband's) baby photos. All poetry, quotes, and pictures this time. Hope you enjoy!

This was on the front page of my grandma's 1932 scrapbook. I couldn't figure out if it came with this inscribed on it, or if she wrote it herself:

I thought this was a very odd collection of quotations. It was especially perplexing to see Gandhi and Al Capone quoted in the same article:

Most of the poems my grandma pasted in her scrapbooks are cringe-inducingly bad (lots of 1930s over-sentimentality), but I really liked this one:

I included this because I enjoy these men's old timey names, especially Streeter Stuart and Oral Clemens:

My whole life, until I opened up this box, I had no idea that my great aunt had a baby that died at 7 months. This was the great aunt I grew up with, the only one I ever really knew (she died in 2003). Ugh, I just found her obit online and she also lost an infant son. That's heartbreaking. (Note: she did have 3 children that lived.)

I gather that the baby was either born premature, or that she was somehow otherwise born underweight, because, as you can see below the obit, she was placed on an incubator 4 days after she was born. Poor thing never thrived. 

I'm going to assume that "Ruuth" is a typo and her name was actually Ruth. In my great grandmother's obituary, the same newspaper listed my grandma as "Lester" (her name was Esther), which made me feel awful for her. Obviously, I've edited out last names/street names in the below article to protect my privacy.

According to the hand writing on the back of this pic, these vaguely creepy little girls are my grandma (on the right) and her elder sister (not the same one as above, who was her younger sister).

I love, love, love this adorable photo of three friends who clearly adore one another, Swoosh, Pop & Boots. I believe Boots is my grandma. I wonder how all of them got their nicknames?

I also love this candid family shot. Other than my grandma, in the middle on the couch, and my uncle next to her, I don't recognize anyone, but everyone seems to be having such a great time. Also, it's like a time capsule of 1950s interior design.

Now for some super old timey pics! I'm guessing these are late 1800s/early 1900s. I don't know who any of them are.

I like how fantastically fresh-off-the-boat this guy looks. Also, his amazing unibrow.

This dapper gent is my favorite:

I included this because I liked the how the small, photo booth-like pictures were tucked into the frame. I wonder if they were all related or if whoever stuck the smaller photos in there did so arbitrarily?

Not so old timey. This is another great aunt, my grandpa's sister. I never met her because she lived in another state. Isn't she pretty? Also, I really like her blazer. Tucked in with this photo, I found a program to her college graduation in 1946. So that means I'm not the first female in my family to get a BA!

My mom, around eight months old. We had that swan rocking chair thingie around our house when I was a kid:

My mom at her high school graduation. I included this photo because I'm absolutely astounded by her hair. How did she get it to poof up so high? I have the same hair as her. My hair does NOT do that! Not that I want it to, but still, I'm fascinated. I wish she was still around to ask.

And here's little me! Unfortunately, it's horribly faded, in that way that only late 1970s/early 1980s film faded, so that it looks like we spent a decade surrounded by red air (Well, it was the Cold War!). I have a vague recollection that my mom was annoyed that I chuckled so hard. I think she thought it was a waste of a professional photo session.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #92: "Solaris" (2002)

Movie Stats:
Released 2002 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Steven Soderbergh
Stars - George Clooney, Natacha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies

Plot Summary:
When a research station outside the distant planet of Solaris begins to experience strange goings-on, psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is asked to visit it. McElhone co-stars as Kelvin’s wife, Rheya; Davis as one of the station’s scientists, Dr. Gordon; and Davies as one of the other scientists, Snow.

Blue language; sexy times; male nudity (butt only); brief female nudity (breast and side butt); minor gore.

Bad Stuff:
It’s definitely not the most coherent or easy-to-follow film I’ve ever seen. I feel like a lot of sci fi writers/directors think that the only way for something to be mysterious is to wait forever to explain it (if they even explain it at all). At one point, two of the characters had a discussion that implied that they both understood what was going on and I turned to my husband, confused, and said, “Have they actually explained what’s going on?” and he said no.

Honestly, not much happens.

I don’t think I liked the ending.

Good Stuff:
The acting. I particularly enjoyed Clooney, Davis, and Davies. At the opening of the film, you can tell that Kelvin is grieving, even though you don’t know why, because Clooney emotes it with every fiber of his being. Davis is amazing at conveying a woman who is thoroughly freaked out, but determined to do something about it. And Davies, as always, makes a very good annoying-yet-lovable crazy person.

Not only have the special effects held up well, some of them are really impressive. For example, I love the way that they did Solaris.

I liked its exploration of memory, the (entirely accurate) idea that how we remember things and how they actually were are two different things. I don’t see that addressed much in film.

The Verdict:
I don’t think it’s a mind-blowing film, but I liked it a lot better than I expected to. The acting carries a lot of it. The ideas are interesting as well. IMO, it’s hampered by being a bit too artsy fartsy, and by trying too hard to be suspenseful. I was actually much more interested in the mystery itself - and the moral questions that it raised - than I was during the portion of the film when they were dancing around what the mystery was. I’m looking forward to seeing the earlier version of the film (also on the list) to see the differences between the two.

I give it 3.25 stars.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #93: "THX 1138" (1971)

Movie Stats:
Released 1971 (USA)
American, in English
Director - George Lucas
Stars - Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance

Plot Summary:
In a dystopian future where individuality, free thought, and love have been abolished, and the population is controlled with drugs, THX 1138 (Duvall) begins to feel strange and soon finds himself an unwilling rebel. Pleasance co-stars as SEN 5241.

Violence; minor gore; sexy times; female nudity (breasts and butt only); drug use.

Bad Stuff:
It’s very weird.

I guess I need to stop reading the blurb on the DVD case. This one waxed poetic about “THX 1138” being a great romantic movie. I have to admit I was skeptical because this is George Lucas we’re talking about, a man who I think couldn’t recognize romance if his life depended on it. Even so, I was still disappointed when [SPOILER] THX’s roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), having gone off the mind-numbing drugs of her own accord, selfishly replaced his drugs with a placebo without his knowledge/consent so he would feel what she felt, leading to their ultimate doom. I can’t say that I find that particularly romantic. [SPOILER] Honestly, I really disliked her character.

It’s dull.

Good Stuff:
Duvall and Pleasance were very good. It’s minor, but I loved the scene where THX 1138 asked LUH 3417 why she did what she did and his voice was so soft and small as he said, “I was happy.”

Just like “Alphaville,” I liked the ideas of it while disliking the execution. There was quite a bit of clever stuff that I haven’t seen in other films about the future. My favorite was the “religion booth” with it’s recording that’s set to say encouraging things at intervals, no matter what the human inside is saying. I thought that was funny. I also liked the concept of human worth, that they were only kept alive so long as they didn’t exceed the cost of creating them.

I liked the uncertain ending, which also had an element of surprise.

The Verdict:
I feel distinctly uncharmed by this film. When it first started, I thought to myself, “Well, this is all kind of strange, but I think I may end up liking it more than I expected.” And then it dragged on … and on … and on. By the end of the weird prison sequence (WTF was up with that little person?), I was so turned off that I just didn’t care anymore. Even the action-packed final segment (which, despite all the action, somehow managed to be boring) did nothing for me. What happened to LUH? Don’t care. What are THX’s and SEN’s respective fates? Not my concern. It’s just a big fat ball of “meh.”

I give it 2.5 stars.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Up with Geography: Chad





African continent. Chad outlined in
dark ink & shaded.

A close-up of Chad & its neighbors.

Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger

Water Borders:
Lake Chad

Total Area:
495,753 square miles

Five Largest Cities:
N'Djamena, Moundou, Sarh, Abeche, Kelo

Famous Geographical Point:
Tibetsi Mountains

Famous Person:
Louis Gidrol, musician (he co-wrote the Chadian national anthem)

Book Set In/About:
Rain School by James Rumford

This is a children's book about a school in Chad. It's (allegedly) filled with lovely illustrations and sparse prose to show how difficult it is for many children to get an education in Chad.

Movie Set In/About:
"Daratt (Dry Season)" (2006), directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

At the end of a decades-long civil war, a teenaged boy is sent by his grandfather to kill the man who killed the boy's father. However, as the boy grows to know the man and become involved in his life, he finds himself conflicted about his murderous task.

Headline of the Day:
"Tensions in Chad as Deby Sworn in for Fifth Term" in Times LIVE.

It was depressingly difficult to find an actual headline about Chad, rather than about Michael Phelps' rival Chad Le Clos.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #94: "Alphaville" (1965)

Movie Stats:
Released 1965 (France)
French & Italian, in French (subtitles available)
Director - Jean-Luc Godard
Stars - Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina

Plot Summary:
Secret agent Lemmy Caution (Constantine) arrives in the futuristic city of Alphaville on a mission to assassinate the exiled scientist Von Braun (Howard Vernon) but things get complicated after he meets Von Braun’s daughter Natacha (Karina).

Violence; mild gore; blue language; heavily implied sexy times; brief female nudity (breasts and butt, although the breasts are in a magazine ad).

Bad Stuff:
What in the blue hell did I just watch? I spent a large portion of the film completely clueless as to what was going on. I don’t like that. I shouldn’t have to wait an hour for a movie to explain to me what happened in its thoroughly bewildering opening scene.

Women only exist in this film to be the object of desire of men. Gross.

I didn’t like Caution. He was rude, angry, quick to commit violence [SPOILER] He beats a guy up to steal his car and very intentionally runs over his head! It’s not shown on screen but geeeeezzzzzz [SPOILER], and generally just about the least, um, cautious secret agent I’ve ever seen.

If you have a seizure disorder, proceed with caution. Lots of random, flashing lights.

Good Stuff:
I liked the ideas of it, this exploration of what could go wrong if we were to rely too much on machines/logic. And it seems pretty French to imagine that a dystopian future would lack the concept of love.

There’s some unexpected humor, like the engineers who are named Heckell and Jeckell. Or, my favorite scene, where Caution passes a vending machine that says, “please insert coin” on it, he stops to do so, and gets a small box that says, “Merci,” which he then tosses away in disgust. That made me laugh out loud.

The weird camera angles were kind of fun.

The Verdict:
I think I may not be a fan of French New Wave cinema, because I thought this was very weird with few redeeming qualities. The DVD sleeve assured me that it’s a sci fi classic that informed many films to follow, but if this is the case, I have to wonder why I’ve never heard of it before. I think it must be its ideas that landed it on the list. It’s a thinking man’s sci fi, coming in after decades of sci fi films that were mostly about action and special effects. For myself, I have a difficult time getting over the 1960s weirdness of it, that sense I had during the whole thing that I would need to be on drugs to truly enjoy it. Definitely not to my taste.

I give it 2.5 stars.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #95: "Serenity" (2005)

Movie Stats:
Released 2005 (UK)
American, in English (some non-translated Mandarin)
Director - Joss Whedon
Stars - Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Summer Glau, and many others

Plot Summary:
A ragtag band of outlaws, led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion), find themselves in the hot seat when the government sends an assassin (Ejiofor) to kill crew member River (Glau), who holds a dark secret.

Violence; gore; blue language (but most of it’s in non-translated Mandarin).

Bad Stuff:
If you haven’t seen the show, I feel that the movie doesn’t do the best job of explaining Shepherd Book’s (Ron Glass) importance to the rest of the crew.

The “big secret” treads a fine line. I'm willing to accept it, but can see where some might find it silly or absurd.

Good Stuff:
I love the universe that Whedon (who wrote as well as directed) created. IMO, it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of the potential future I’ve seen. He’s also excellent at creating complex, flawed characters who you can’t help but adore.

I’ve always been deeply touched by the sibling relationship between River and Simon (Sean Maher). The idea that Simon gave up everything to protect/save his little sister simply moves me.

Everything else: costuming, score, dialogue, cinematography, and acting. It’s all spot on.

It’s funny.

The Verdict:
I’ve seen this movie numerous times*, but it had been at least six years since the last. My biggest fear was that it wouldn’t play well as a standalone film, i.e. that it wouldn’t make sense outside the context of the show, so I tried to watch it with an eye to that. To my surprise, I found that it does a great job at setting the stage and explaining the characters with very little exposition. The only point where it failed in this, I feel, is with Shepherd Book. Other than that, I think it’s a really excellent film, much better than I remembered. Whedon always does a great job of blending humor, action, and gravitas with a good story. With “Serenity,” I think he got close to perfection.

I give it 4.5 stars.

* The first time I saw it was at a special screening in Portland, OR, before the film was fully edited. It was a test audience sort of situation. In that edit, it was missing most of the sound effects. That was a bit surreal.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Up with U.S. Geography: Virginia

State Name:


Date of Entry:
June 25, 1788


Map of USA. Virginia outlined in dark ink, shaded &
with name written on it.

A close-up of Virginia & its neighbors.

West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky

Water Borders:
Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean

Total Area:
42,774 square miles

Five Largest Cities:
Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News

Famous Geographical Point:
Blue Ridge Mountains

State Nickname:
Old Dominion. This nickname dates back all the way to the 1600s and the explanation is rather long. I'm too lazy to condense it, so here's a source for you to READ.

Famous Person:
Patton Oswalt, comedian & actor

Book Set In/About:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I'm selfishly choosing this one because I love this book, which is the first in a series (The Raven Cycle). Set in a fictional town in Virginia, it's about a group of private school boys, and their local girl friend, who are searching for an ancient Welsh king who, kept alive in suspended animation for centuries, will grant the person who wakes him a wish. There are a lot of nice details about small-town Virginia life.

Movie Set In/About:
"Gods and Generals" (2003), directed by Ronald F. Maxwell

It's about Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

Headline of the Day:
"In Battleground Virginia, Kaine May Give Democrats an Edge" on

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #96: "Pitch Black" (2000)

Movie Stats:
Released 2000 (USA)
American, in English (tiny amount of non-translated Arabic)
Director - David Twohy
Stars - Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Plot Summary:
When a transport ship crashes on a desert planet, the survivors face a deadly enemy and are forced to rely on the skills of a dangerous criminal to save them. Diesel stars as the criminal, Richard B. Riddick; Hauser as the man trying to bring him back to prison, William J. Johns; and Mitchell as one of the transport’s pilots, Carolyn Fry.

Graphic violence; gore; blue language.

Bad Stuff:
The special effects haven’t aged well at all.

Good Stuff:
I was going to complain about Riddick as a character because he’s supposed to be this hardcore bad-ass (which he is) but he’s also an annoying shit (never answers a question straight) and a total creeper. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that it was really excellent, complex character development, and that’s a good thing.

Unlike a lot of horror/sci fi, it did a good job of answering questions I had. For example, [SPOILER] “Since they’ve already eaten everything on the planet, what do the aliens eat if they come out and there’s nothing there?” I asked out loud. Twenty minutes later, cue a scene of them eating each other. [SPOILER] The only thing it didn’t answer was why the transport crashed to begin with, but I suppose that’s not terribly relevant to the story.

Sure, a lot of it is a pretty standard monster movie, but most of the tension comes from the survivors interacting with each other. It’s an interesting character study.

The Verdict:
The first time I saw this movie, it wasn’t very long after 9/11/01, and I remember being terribly upset by it (especially by a particular thing that happens toward the end). It’s funny to me to think of now. The movie has nothing to do with 9/11, but the violence of it simply wasn’t what I needed so soon after the violence of 9/11. Even so, I recalled liking it. I was happy to discover, upon a second viewing, that it’s even better than I remembered, a great deal more complex and layered. It’s not about the monsters. It’s about the people and how they find redemption (or don’t). It falls a little more toward horror than sci fi for me, but I still think it’s an excellent choice for this list.

I give it 4.25 stars.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #97: "Superman" (1978)

Movie Stats:
Released 1978 (USA)
American & British, in English
Director - Richard Donner
Stars - Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman

Plot Summary:
Upon the destruction of his planet, baby Kal-El is sent to Earth by his parents. On Earth, his different physiology gives him powers far greater than those of humans, and he eventually becomes a superhero named Superman (Reeve). Kidder co-stars as Lois Lane, a reporter/love interest who works with Clark Kent (Superman’s secret identity) and Hackman as Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch-nemesis.

Violence; full male child nudity; very mild blue language.

Bad Stuff:
It’s much longer than it needs to be.

A lot of the special effects are very, very bad (but some are kind of cool).

There are some huge plot problems. [SPOILER] I’m no scientist but I’m pretty sure if you get the Earth turning the other direction on its axis, it won’t turn back time. Also, I’m not convinced that nuking the San Andreas fault will send California tumbling into the ocean. [SPOILER]

Good Stuff:
It’s funny. I wasn’t expecting that.

The acting was surprisingly good. Hackman was hilarious. I also enjoyed Ned Beatty, as Lex Luthor’s bumbling henchman Otis, who was quite funny. Marlon Brando shone (literally and figuratively) as Jor-El, Superman’s birth father. But the biggest surprise for me was Kidder. For some reason I had this impression I didn’t like her (don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else), but I really enjoyed her portrayal of Lois Lane.

I loved Lex Luthor’s ridiculous, evil plot. A lot of villains are like, “I want to destroy the world!” And I’m like, “The world that you live on? Then where will you go?” But he just wants land. Valuable land. Are there easier ways he could get that land? For sure. But he’s evil, so he can’t just do things the easy way.

The Verdict:
If you can believe it, the only other Superman movie I’ve seen is “Man of Steel” (which I loathed). I’ve never been particularly keen on the Superman character. I avoided this movie my whole life because of that, and because the few clips I’d seen looked pretty cheesy. I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I expected, and also that it’s fun and funny. Overall, it’s pretty enjoyable. However, it’s way, way too long (2.5 hours). Some scenes were so boring that I completely tuned out. It occasionally felt like a chore to watch, which is not what I’m looking for in a fun action movie.

I give it 3.5 stars.