Rewatching the MCU Phase 3

Before watching Avengers: Infinity War last year, Julie and I rewatched the previous movies to get ready for the ultimate team-up. Along the way, I wrote short reviews on the MCU Phase 1 and Phase 2. With Phase 3 coming to an end in Avengers: End Game, we decided to finish our rewatch, and I have a whole new set of review.

Of course, there are spoilers abound. Let’s go!

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A Perfectly Useless Amount of Chinese

Like many other Asian Americans, I went to see Crazy Rich Asians. And like many others, I had some typical takeaways like wanting to make dumplings with my family and . However, I also had one realization that I think is somewhat unusual.

Continue reading “A Perfectly Useless Amount of Chinese”

Avengers: Infinity War Reaction

I had originally planned to write a movie review, but frankly, my opinion doesn’t really matter. You were either stoked and already saw it, or you don’t care and will not be convinced by me to go. Instead, I will provide my spoiler-filled thoughts to the movie covering morality, death, and cinematic determinism, but mostly just random thoughts Continue reading “Avengers: Infinity War Reaction”

Rewatching the MCU Phase 2

The marathon continues! Here are my hot takes on Phase 2 of the MCU. Of course, there are spoilers everywhere, not only for the movie mentioned but also for other MCU movies. Beware.

Iron Man 3 (2013) – 5/5

I like this movie more than consensus, though I’m not sure why. I liked the twists in this movie. I like Tony having to go MacGyver and the glorification of the engineer. I like Ben Kingsley‘s role. I like seeing Tony have to work through things after the Battle of New York. And it is still funny and appropriately over-the-top to be fun.

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Rewatching the MCU Phase 1

In anticipation of Avengers: Infinity War, Julie and I have been rewatching all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Since we started late, we started by needing to watch a movie roughly every two or three days, which is way faster than my typical screen viewing, which is probably a movie every two or three weeks and a TV episode maybe once or twice a week. Although we love Agents of Shield as well, there’s no way we are going to watch all MCU TV shows in time. Continue reading “Rewatching the MCU Phase 1”

Rewatching Star Wars as Movies

(Author’s note: there are really minor spoilers of the original and prequel trilogy, but there are no spoilers for Rogue One in the blog post ahead)

I was a huge Star Wars as a kid. I first encountered it in 1st or 2nd grade when I checked out a Star Wars juvenile paperback from the library and subsequently mispronounced “Jedi” when raving about it to my mom. Ultimately, my mom was the gateway to my soon-to-be obsession when she borrowed the VHS tapes for the original trilogy from the library, and we watched them as a family. Other than being very scared of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and needing my parents to cover my eyes, I was fully engrossed in every moment.

Many years and extended universe (now known as “Legends”) novels later, my Star Wars fandom has waned. However, it was given that I would see Rogue One. We ended up seeing it with Julie’s parents, and overall, I enjoyed it. I thought it was better than The Force Awakens, though seeing the gritty side of the Rebellion made me somewhat uneasy. I also was weirdly confused with the Michael Giacchino soundtrack sounding just like Star Trek, but that’s a minor issue. Continue reading “Rewatching Star Wars as Movies”

“The Martian” Review

Last November, I saw Interstellar in theaters and was surprisingly pleased by the use of physics to drive the plot. It takes creativity to turn time dilation into an interesting part of human relationships, and it takes even more to make it meaningful and compelling on-screen. The Martian, based on the novel by Andy Weir, goes further in creating suspense with plausible, basic science and making space travel look really fun.

The Martian is set roughly in the present time with technology seemingly not so different from our own. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is part of a 6 man crew on a manned mission to Mars when a storm hits. As the crew goes for an emergency takeoff, Watney is hit by debris and presumed dead as Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) takes off without him. Watney comes to shortly afterwards and realizes that he’s stranded alone on Mars with limited rations and no way to communicate with Earth and needs to find a way to survive. Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, and more) discover he is still alive and work to figure out how to bring him home.

The movie largely follows the plot of the book and retains both the commitment to science and the humor along the way. Early on, Watney needs to create water: he figures out that he can burn hydrazine from rocket fuel, but it of course blows up and leaves him singed in a typical mad scientist sort of way. Watney himself is a bit of a wise guy, and much of the humor comes through the characters and their reactions to their situation. Although the plot is obviously geeky, each step is explained clearly and visually to make it accessible to a wide audience. Perhaps experts in particular fields may be more critical, but general consensus seems to be that the science is pretty good, the solutions are plausible, and the dangers are real, which makes it all the more inspiring to watch.

I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at pictures from Curiosity or other Mars missions, and assuming that the graphics are roughly accurate, the movie provided striking landscapes of Mars. From a story perspective, they certainly emphasizes how isolated Watney is, but I enjoyed it just as a way for me to visualize what Mars is like. Most hard science fiction comes as books, and even with the best descriptions, it can be hard to imagine alien planets, spaceships, and Mars habitats.

I will be “that guy” who points out that the book was better: I think that largely comes from how similar the book is to the movie. In some ways, the plot almost reads like a series of mystery stories, where each survival problem needs to be solved using science of some sort. Knowing what those solutions are and how they’re going to turn out took away much of the suspense, but as I mentioned above, it was still very entertaining to see live.

I opened by comparing the movie to Interstellar, and I will close with the same. There are many similarities such as cast, timing, and genre, but the two movies definitely have distinct characteristics. Interstellar is set further ahead in the future and uses science to motivate the story about the characters and their relationships, and those relationships are the heart of the movie. The Martian is, at its core, about solving problems with science and engineering, and it actually really works.

My Top 5 Funniest Movie Scenes

I once read that lists are a cheap way to write blog posts. They are easy to write because instead of composing 1000 words that flow together, you just have to write, say, 5 200 word snippets that fit together.

From a writing perspective, this is true, but I have been thinking about this blog post for a very long time. I have laughed hard at many scenes in movies, but these are the most enduring ones in my mind. Without further ado (or unnecessary effort writing, here’s the list of my top 5 funniest movie scenes.

Honorable Mention: Hot Tub Time Machine – “Crispin Glover’s arm”

This was one of the best running jokes I have seen in a movie, but sadly, a running joke doesn’t count because it isn’t a single scene. Even so, I find it worthy because it integrates suspense really well: after the first time, you never quite know how any scene is going to turn out.

5. Kung Pow – “Radio Shack”

Kung Pow is a dumb movie. The jokes are absurd, but at least the concept of redubbing and working into an old movie with green scene is executed well enough. Some of the movie is too much for me, but some jokes just really stand out. This scene is a one-liner that I find really funny for no particular reason

4. Dodgeball – “The Bar Scene”

There are 2 jokes in this scene that I like a lot: the player introduction at the beginning and Ben Stiller’s comebacks at the end. Sadly, they are split over 2 videos on YouTube. Oddly, I don’t think the jokes play off each other, and independently, they wouldn’t make it into my top 5. It doesn’t really make sense in my mind why they should work together, but they do.

3. Mystery Men – Superhero Training

Just before this scene is the training montage with “All Star” playing over it, and I like that scene, too. Mystery Men is just a strange, strange movie that feels like the 90s, and I really enjoy the self-aware, ridiculous humor in it. Although Ben Stiller usually plays the joker, he happens to be the straight man in this scene, and he pulls it off really well. Humor usually depends a lot on unpredictably, but the over-predictability of this scene build an awkwardness that brings the humor through for me.

2. The Big Lebowski – “We? I!”

Another quick hit of a joke. The feeling of a poor cover-up is very relatable. Overall, I’m only so-so on The Big Lebowski, but there are a few jokes that really work for me, and this is the winner.

1. Men in Black – “Written Exam”

I enjoy physical humor. I enjoy awkward humor. The pacing of this scene just feels right once the written exam starts.

Hopefully you guys enjoy these clips as well. I would be curious to hear what the favorites in the crowd are as well.

“Interstellar” Review

Christopher Nolan has directed and written a lot of enjoyable movies: Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and all of the new Batman movies. If you have loved his previous movies but are skeptical about him making a space movie, I can assure you that Interstellar has that same Nolan touch should you know and love it.

Interstellar is set in the not so far future where the “Blight” has destroyed many crops on Earth, and it seems that the planet can no longer support human life. Matthew McConaughey is a former pilot and farmer who comes across an opportunity to explore other planets for a new home for humanity. Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway are in supporting roles (along with a few robots offering some levity in an otherwise serious film), and Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain play the young and older versions of McConaughey’s daughter. Sorry, I can’t offer more details: I’m not sure what might count as a spoiler because I knew close to nothing going in.

Although we’re seeing a second wind of geeky genres with superhero movies, more Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek, I think they have relied heavily on action, whereas Interstellar is some hard science fiction. They are a few strange moments when the script is obviously explaining topics to the audience, but the physics involved are about as good as fiction gets, and they’re used effectively in the story. Particularly, time dilation is a major plot device: due to the influence of gravity, time can move at different speeds for different people, and the characters have to both reason given this fact and react to its effects.

The effects are the most interesting in a personal realm because the story hinges on the relationship between McConaughey and his daughter and love overall. Although it may seem hokey, the story effectively uses the physics and action as a vehicle for exploring human relationships, which gets quite intense. Despite the sometimes far-flung premises for science fiction, much of the best work manages to tie the themes back to something more visceral for us mundane viewers.

Overall, I thought the cast performed quite well. I can’t say I’m that critical, both McConaughey and Hathaway bring a lot of emotion to their roles, and I didn’t have any issues fitting them into their respective roles (despite the fact that I can’t remember any characters names). Visually, Nolan used both great special effects as well as actual locations to make everything believable. From sandy cornfields to outer space to exotic planets, there was a good mix of environments, which he certainly provides time to enjoy. The soundtrack included epic music appropriate for the moment, with an organ adding depth and suspense at the right moments.

My critiques are few but should also be familiar for a Nolan movie. The movie is long at almost 3 hours, and when you fact in my earlier point about a shift from action sci-fi to hard sci-fi, you can imagine how that might feel. And although I enjoyed the music, the dialogue was a bit difficult to make out at times, though I think better than Bane’s from The Dark Knight Rises.

I hadn’t seen the Rotten Tomatoes score beforehand, and looking at it, I can see that it wasn’t as universally beloved as other Nolan movies. If you think you’re into the premise and director, however, don’t let the score dissuade you. Remember, it’s a measure of consensus, not absolute quality. Interstellar is entirely representative of both Nolan’s style and hard sci-fi with just the right personal touch to make it enjoyable on intellectual, dramatic, and emotional levels.

 

Beware: Spoilers Ahead as I share a few of my thoughts on the plot!

 

 

Can someone remind me why they leave Romilly and the Endurance outside of the influence of Gargantua on the tidal planet? When he had explicit instructions to stay for them, I think it would have made more sense for him to go in as well.

So for their time travel version, everything has already happened on a single timeline and can’t be changed. I think it’s interesting that they don’t explore the lack of free will that this model of free will entails. It probably would be a distraction given the real themes of the movie, but it felt lacking in retrospect.

At the end, was humanity headed towards Edmunds’s world? McConaughey is presumably headed there, but since he had to escape to do it, I’m not sure if that was the game plan for everyone else, too.

The speech that Anne Hathaway gives to Matthew McConaughey about the power of love to transcend everything seemed hokey to me. I can see how that comes back around in the movie, but I think the emotion and presentation (which was quite good) doesn’t really match the hedge I would like to give it from a scientific perspective. That part felt more new-agey to me than any other.

Well, I guess there was the whole thing about the power of connection over generations and something about how that was the only thing to persist past death. I’m not really sure I buy that either. As Matt Damon was talking through it, I didn’t have any counter-examples, but it felt like an argument that was driven by force of will rather than a reasonable opportunity to argue against it. I would have to watch it again to come up with something.

And does CASE or TARS stand for anything?