action, movie, movie review, sci-fi, thriller, western

May 24th, 2018 Movie – Westworld

westworld

Now this is going to be a fun movie to watch, especially since it probably has a lot more name recognition with most people thanks to the show on HBO. Now way back in the video store days, I remember seeing the video case for this movie as a kid and it always seemed to draw me in. I mean, you have a robot cowboy that goes around killing people. What about that wouldn’t be interesting to a kid. I did eventually rent it and thought it was a great movie, made even better years later when I learned that Michael Crichton didn’t just write this but also directed it. So let’s introduce some people who have only watched the recent show, today’s movie, Westworld.

The plot: In the year 1983, a company called Delos offers a brand new theme park, where guests can enter three themed areas (Westworld, Medievalworld, and Romanworld) and interact with life-like robots. Peter Martin and his friend John Blaine are heading to Westworld, and Peter is asking John all sorts of questions about it, as it is his first time there and John has been there before. When the arrival at the main terminal, the board a cart to take them to their assigned world, stopping at the outfitters to get dressed in clothing from the time period. When they arrive in Westworld, Peter starts feeling silly over the whole idea but John convinces him to try and have some fun. The two head to the saloon and as they are having a drink, one of the robots starts insulting Peter, as it is programmed to instigate a fight. John convinces Peter to engage it and when Peter does, the robot challenges him to a duel and Peter manages to draw his gun first and kill it. Later, Peter wonders if  he might accidentally shoot another guest with the gun and John has him try to shoot him, then explains that there is a sensor in the gun that prevents them from firing on anything warm blooded. After having dinner at the hotel they are staying in, the pair head to the local brothel and pick up two women. As they are about to head upstairs with them, they hear a commotion outside and are told some men are robbing the bank. Peter wants to go help fend off the robbers but John tells him that it’s some other tourists that are robbing the bank. As night falls, the Delos clean up crew arrives and carries off all of the dead robots from the day’s adventures and takes them to the repair bay. In the repair shop, the chief supervisor notices an increase in malfunctions among the robots, starting in Medieval and Romanworld and has since spread to Westworld. when he mentions it is like an infectious disease, one of the scientists scoffs at the suggestion but the supervisor tells him that these are complex machines, some of which were built by computers, they don’t know exactly how they work. The next morning, the repaired gunslinger shows up at the hotel, holding John at gunpoint, but Peter manages to kill him again. Peter ends up being arrested but John helps him break out of the prison, shooting the sheriff in the process, and they ride out of town. As they lounge about in the desert outside of town, a rattlesnake approaches them and they try to shoot it and eventually kill it but not before it bites John. Peter asks if it is real but John says no, then gets upset as it shouldn’t have happened. In the control room, the chief supervisor learns of what happened and has his team go pick up the snake immediately so they can examine it. Meanwhile, in Medievalworld, one of the guests, who is acting as a king, attempts to seduce a chambermaid but is rebuffed. The supervisor has the robot brought to the repair bay and so they can examine her. The next morning, the king goes to get some breakfast but ends up being challenged by the Black Knight in the dining hall. As the two men fight, the Black Knight deviates from it’s programming and starts winning the fight, then wounds the king. In the control room, the chief supervisor yells for them to cut the knight’s power but are unable to stop it from killing the king. Meanwhile, in Westworld, Peter and John wake up, having taken part in a drunken barroom brawl the night before, and encounter the gunslinger again. Peter jokingly tells John it is his turn to deal with him and as John turns to face him, the Gunslinger shoots him. John reacts in shock to being shot just as the Gunslinger shoots again, killing him. The Gunslinger then challenges Peter, who quickly runs and grabs a horse to leave town but the Gunslinger chases after him. In the control room, the chief supervisor orders the power to be cut for the whole park, hoping to shut the robots down but the robots continue attacking guests all over the park. When they can’t restore back-up power to the room, the chief supervisor tells them to get the doors open or else they will suffocate in there, as the ventilation system isn’t operating. Back in the desert, Peter encounters a worker out in the field, who is frightened by Peter at first until he has Peter show him his hands to prove he is a guest. The worker tells him the robots are malfunctioning and Peter asks him what he can do. The worker tells him some options to destroy the robots, like acid, or wait till it runs out of power but says he doesn’t have a chance and Peter rides off, just as the Gunslinger kills the worker. Peter keeps running and eventually reaches Romanworld, where he finds a courtyard full of dead guests and robots. Making his way through the courtyard, he finds a manhole cover and moves the manhole to enter the sewer system, which is actually the service tunnels for the workers. Making his way through the tunnels, he comes across the control room but finds all of the people inside dead, as they were unable to get the doors opened before they suffocated. Meanwhile, the Gunslinger has followed Peter’s trail to Romanworld and made it’s way into the tunnels. Peter reaches the repair bay and, hearing the Gunslinger coming down the tunnel, lays on one of the tables to pretend like he is a robot needing repairs. The Gunslinger enters the room and looks around but doesn’t see Peter at first, allowing Peter to throw some acid in it’s face. Peter leaves the room, with the damaged Gunslinger following him but after firing and missing him, it is unable to shoot anymore as it’s gun has run out of power. Peter makes his way to the Medievalworld’s dining room, and attempts to avoid the Gunslinger when it follows him. As Peter ducks underneath some of the torches, he realizes that the gunslinger can’t see him, as the torches confuse it’s infrared sensors. The Gunslinger can still hear him and as he makes a slight noise, Peter grabs one of the torches and sets it on fire. Peter leaves the dining room and ,finding a woman chained to a dungeon wall, frees her and attempts to help her only to discover she is a robot as well when he accidentally shorts circuits her. As Peter backs away from her, he encounters the Gunslinger, whose body is completely charred, and it attempts to grab him one last time but ends up falling and finally short circuits due to all the damage it sustained. An exhausted Peter then sits on the dungeon steps to rest as the Delos slogan “Boy, have we got a vacation for you.” goes through his head.

Westworld met with high praise from the critics, holding an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Yul Brynner gives a memorable performance as a robotic cowboy in this amusing sci-fi/western hybrid.” While Yul Brynner’s character of the Gunslinger was iconic in it’s own right, but served as the inspiration for John Carpenter’s Michael Myers character as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of the Terminator. The movie was a box office success, earning $10 million off of a $1.25 million budget and spawned one sequel and two TV series, one in 1980 and the more recent one now airing on HBO.

This is such a great movie to watch and definitely indicative of Crichton’s theme in his writings. The acting was great, with Yul Brynner doing an amazing job as the Gunslinger and you could definitely tell how other movie characters would come to be patterned after his consistent and dogged pursuit of Peter. James Brolin (Josh) and Richard Benjamin (Peter) were also good in their roles as well, but I honestly liked Alan Oppenheimer’s performance as the chief supervisor a little better and wished that he had a bigger role. The story was great, which is not really surprising considering the writer, and I liked the theme of technology eventually turning on it’s owners, which admittedly is a common sci-fi theme but it was well written in this movie. The idea of the robots all malfunctioning and the malfunctions spreading like a virus through the park was actually a great plot line and I wish they could have gone a little deeper into that aspect but there wasn’t enough time for it. The special effects were pretty good for the most part, especially since this was the first time computer digitized images was used in a feature film (not counting computer monitor graphics), but I did think they could have done a better job with the blood, as it really just looked like red paint. The blood is honestly my only real complaint about the movie as I think that this is definitely a great movie and one that I highly recommend people watch.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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adventure, comedy, movie, movie review, sci-fi

October 21st, 2017 Movie – Spaceballs

spaceballs

There is no better way to start a Saturday than with some laughs. Ok, there might be one or two better ways but starting with a laugh does make the rest of the day seem better. Now this right here happens to be one of, if not my absolute favorite, Mel Brooks movie. I think part of that is because it was the first one of his movies I ever saw in theaters. The other part is the subject that it parodies, Star Wars. Either way, it took quite a while before I ended up buying this movie on DVD. Not entirely sure why but I did decide to rectify that decision as soon as I could. So let’s have some laughs with today’s movie, Spaceballs.

The plot: The evil Spaceballs have squandered all of the clean air on their planet and come up with a plan to steal all of the air from the nearby planet Druidia. Dark Helmet, on board the massive starship Spaceball One, arrives at Druidia with the intention of kidnapping the Princess Vespa when she leaves for her honeymoon and ransoming her for the combination to Druidia’s air shield. On Druidia, Vespa doesn’t want to marry Prince Valium but King Roland says she has too; as he is the last prince and she must marry someone of noble blood. After walking down the aisle, Vespa races past the altar and heads to her car and leaves Druidia, taking Dot Matrix, her droid-of-honor, with her. On planet Spaceball, President Skroob denies reports about that planet’s limited air supply when he gets word that Helmet has spotted Princess Vespa. Skroob heads to the control room, choosing to walk after a transporter accident put his head on backwards, and after seeing Vespa’s position on the radar, orders Helmet to continue with the plan. Spaceball One begins firing on Vespa’s Mercedes and Vespa calls her father for help, while Helmet chastises the gunner and learns that he is surrounded by assholes. Roland contacts a mercenary called Lone Starr and his sidekick Barf, a Mog (half-man, half-dog), and begs them to save Vespa, offering them anything. Lone Starr asks for $1 million space bucks, which he needs to payback the notorious gangster Pizza the Hutt, and Roland agrees. Lone Starr and Barf locate Vespa, who has been caught in Spaceball One’s magna-beam, and they jam Spaceball One’s radar so they can approach the Mercedes undetected. Barf then climbs down a ladder to get Vespa and Dot but Vespa refuses to leave her matched luggage and so Barf is forced to carry it onto their Winnebago and they fly off just as the Mercedes is brought aboard Spaceball One. In the hangar, Helmet approaches the Mercedes only to find it empty and when the radar technician says the radar is repaired and they picked up a Winnebago, Helmet realizes that Lone Starr had saved her. The Spaceballs give chase and when Lone Starr tries to get away by going to light speed, Helmet orders Colonel Sandurz to go to “ludicrous speed”, which causes them to overshoot Lone Starr and when Sandurz pulls the emergency brake, Helmet goes flying into a control panel. Meanwhile, Lone Starr and Barf drop their Winnebago out of light speed only to find that the used up all of their fuel and are forced to crash onto the desert moon of Vega. Lone Starr and Vespa, who had been arguing over the intercom during their escape, finally come face to face and, after a brief hesitation, begin arguing again until Barf reminds them that Helmet will be coming back to look for them. Lone Starr says they should take only what they need to survive but Vespa insists they take all of her luggage. As Lone Starr and Barf carry the bulk of her bags, they stop and open up the giant trunk they are carrying to find a giant hair dryer inside and after arguing with Vespa about it, leaves it in the sand, as he and Barf pick up the now lighter trunk and continue carrying it. Back on Spaceball One, Dark Helmet and Sandurz can’t find any sign of Lone Starr or the others on their scanners so Sandurz tells a crew member to get a copy of Spaceballs. Helmet voices his confusion to Sandurz, as they are in the middle of filming it, but Sanderz tells him it is the latest in home video marketing. They watch the tape fast forwarding through everything that has already happened and, after a confusing moment where they are watching what is being filmed right that second, they soon find out where Lone Starr and Vespa are. On Vega, the group is camping for the night and Lone Starr and Vespa are talking about why Vespa ran from her wedding and the mystery surrounding Lone Starr’s parents, as his only clue is the medallion around his neck. As they get closer, the two are about to kiss when Dot Matrix’s “Virgin Alarm” goes off and she quickly breaks them apart. The next day, the group continues moving through the desert and end up passing out from dehydration (or lack of oil in Dot’s case) but they are rescued by the Dinks, a race of hooded desert dwellers, and taken to their home, the Temple of Yogurt, the Everlasting Know-It-All. Yogurt explains that he is the guardian of the Schwartz, while he and the Dinks sell Spacsballs merchandise from his temple. Later, Yogurt takes a look at Lone Starr’s medallion and is able to read the inscription but tells Lone Starr he can’t reveal what it says until the proper time. He then trains Lone Starr in using the Schwartz, having him lift up the giant statue, which Lone Starr succeeds in doing but then accidentally drops it on Barf’s foot. Outside, Helmet and Sandurz have their men combing the desert, literally, when Helmet senses the presence of the Schwartz. Sandurz locates the temple doorway and Helmet is upset to see the sign of Yogurt on the door, telling Sandurz that Yogurt has the upside of the Schwartz while he has the down side. Unable to go inside, Helmet disguises himself as King Roland and calls out to Vespa. Vespa runs out to her father only to find that it is really Helmet and both Vespa and Dot are captured. Yogurt gives Lone Starr some gas so he and Barf can go after them and as they say goodbye, he gives Lone Starr the Ring of the Schwartz and a fortune cookie, telling him to open it before he eats it. Meanwhile, Helmet takes Vespa to Spaceball City, where he contacts King Roland and threatens to have plastic surgery performed on Vespa to give her back her old nose unless Roland gives them the combination to the air shield. When Vespa faints, Roland agrees to give them the combination and once he does, Helmet comments on how “1,2,3,4,5” is the combination an idiot would use for his luggage. Skroob shows up and after hearing the combination, which he says is the same as his luggage, he orders Spaceball One prepped to leave and tells them to change the combination on his luggage. Lone Starr and Barf arrive at Spaceball City and knock out some guards so they can steal their uniforms and sneak inside. Once inside, they locate the Vespa and Dot but run into some more guards and are forced to fight their way out. As they run for it, the Spaceballs believe they have them captured but ended up capturing their stunt doubles instead. Outside, the group heads for the Winnebago only to have one of the Spaceballs fuse the lock with an errant blast. Lone Starr gives Vespa the gun while he works with Barf on getting the door open and Vespa quickly shoots the remaining guards after they singe her hair with a laser blast. They head to Druidia to find that Spaceball One has transformed into a giant robot maid and is using a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the air from Druidia. Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to flip the vacuum’s switch to reverse the air flow, restoring the air to Druidia, then flies inside the robot’s head to search for a self destruct button. After locating it, he heads outside to activate it, knocking out the guards along the way, but before he can press the button, he is confronted by Helmet. The two use their Schwartz rings to fashion lightsabers and begin fighting, with Helmet killing a cameraman and the two of them getting their Schwartz’s twisted, Helmet manages to trick Lone Starr and steal the ring then throw it down the drain. As Lone Starr dodges the blasts from Helmet’s ring, he is contacted telepathically by Yogurt, who tells him the ring was a fake and the Schwartz is within him. Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to grab a  mirror and uses it to reflect Helmet’s blast into Helmet’s groin, causing him to stumble back in pain and accidentally press the self destruct button. As the self destruct countsdown, Lone Starr races back to the Winnebago and they race out of there just before it explodes, while Helmet, Skroob, and Sandurz end up trapped on the robot after everyone else uses all of the escape pods and they are blasted into space inside the head. The group cheers over the robot’s destruction and head down towards Druidia and as they are landing, Lone Starr and Barf see a news report that Pizza the Hutt is dead and Barf gets excited at the thought of keeping all of the money. Landing at the palace, Roland is happy to see his daughter back and shows her that Valium is there waiting for her as well, which upsets Lone Starr and he quickly leaves with Barf. The two head to a Space fueling station and as they refuel, head into the diner to get some food but when a xenomorph bursts out of the chest of a nearby space traveler, then starts singing “Hello, My Baby” (ala Michigan J. Frog), they quickly leave. Barf complains about being hungry so Lone Starr gives him the fortune cookie Yogurt gave him but when Barf opens it, the image of Yogurt appears. Yogurt tells Lone Starr that the medallion is a royal birth certificate, making him a prince, then tells him to use the special fuel in the glove compartment in order to make it back to Druidia in time to stop Vespa from marrying Valium. Meanwhile, Vespa is upset that Lone Starr took the money and left but when Roland tells her he only took $248 dollars for “lunch, gas, and tolls”, she realizes that Lone Starr loved her. Just as the minister asks her if she takes Valium as her husband, Lone Starr and Barf appears and when she learns that Lone Starr is a prince, she shoves Valium aside and agrees to marry Lone Starr. The two are wed and fly off in the Winnebago while on a distant planet, the robot maid’s head and arm land on a remote beach, where two Chimpanzees from the Planet Of The Apes witness the three Spaceballs climbing out of her nose and one of them remarks, “Oh, shit. There goes the planet.”

Spaceballs met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, several critics enjoyed the movie but felt it was a far cry from some of Brook’s earlier works. Mel Brooks got George Lucas’ permission to parody any and all things Star Wars related on the condition that no merchandise be produced for the movie. George Lucas did love the script and had his special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, help with making the film, had the Millennium Falcon appear in a cameo at the diner, and also allowed Brooks to use an unused escape pod clip from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $38.1 million off of a $22.7 million budget but received even more success when it hit home video, becoming one of Mel Brooks most popular movies.

This is such a funny, and quotable, movie to watch. The acting was really good, with Rick Moranis (Helmet), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr), John Candy (Barf), and Mel Brooks (Skroob/Yogurt) all doing great jobs in their roles. The story was well written and did a good job of parodying Star Wars, while also ripping briefly on Star Trek, Transformers, and Planet Of The Apes as well. I have to admit that, after learning about the deal Brooks and Lucas made about no merchandising from the film being produced, it makes that whole merchandising scene with Yogurt that much funnier (side note, I loved how the “Spaceballs coloring book and lunch box” were actually a Transformers coloring book and lunch box with a Spaceballs sticker slapped on them (also, I totally had that Transformers lunch box as a kid)). I will admit, some of the comedic timing and pacing didn’t seem as good as his previous movies but there were still a lot of laughs to be had, with the pairing of Candy and Pullman, as well as Moranis with George Wyner (Sandurz) and Brooks (Skroob) making for most of the laughs involved. A really funny movie that has me geared up for some movies coming down the road.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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