Week 11 of 2019 (3/11 – 3/17)

3/11Rewind This!2013
3/12The Lost Arcade2015
3/132 Fast 2 Furious2003
3/14Flight of the Intruder1991
3/15Stargate Origins: Catherine2018
3/16Transmorphers: Fall of Man2009

March 11

Day 70 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s film is the 2013 documentary Rewind This!, about the impact of VHS (and a little about Betamax) on society and the transition to watching more movies at home.

This was kind of a cool film. The first 15 minutes felt like the movie was just going to be about a few folks who still have enormous VHS collections, but then they started really diving into the history and things got interesting. The documentary mainly focused on the opportunities home video and the subsequent rental market created for independent film, especially the direct-to-video market. A lot of the films they show clips of are terrible (some shot directly on video, others on film) and they even get into the tape trading and bootlegging markets that sprang up over the years as well.

I will confess that I myself saw several movies via bootleg in my younger days, especially two terrible attempts for Marvel films: New World’s 1989 take on The Punisher* with Dolph Lundgren, and the dreadful 1990 version of Captain America*. (Cap co-star Bill Mumy said at a convention that after screening the film, even star Matt Salinger thought it was terrible.) So, if you miss tracking errors or are just feeling nostalgic for the heyday of home video, check this documentary out!

*I’m not going to say you can find either of these films on YouTube… but I’m also not NOT going to say that you can find them on YouTube.

March 12

Day 71 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Another documentary today, one that kind of dovetails nicely with Rewind This!, which I watched yesterday. This one, 2015’s The Lost Arcade, profiles Chinatown Fair, one of the last original video game arcades left in New York City until it closed in 2011. The doc talks about the location and the impact that it has on the community.

This was an okay movie, but I didn’t connect to it as well as Rewind This!, because it was so focused on one place. They did touch a little on the general history of arcades, but not as much as they could have. I suspect this documentary is better for folks who grew up in NYC and remember Chinatown Fair or some of the other small arcades that were around the city in the 80s and early 90s.

Additionally, it ended up not being the last, as a few of the CF regulars eventually opened a new place called Next Level that same year. CF itself was reopened in 2012, but under new ownership as a more casual, family-friendly place.

March 13

Day 72 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s movie is 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second in the ever-expanding franchise and, oddly until now, the only one I haven’t yet seen in its entirety.

I genuinely get a kick out of this franchise, for no other reason than it is ridiculous fun. Vin Diesel’s not in this one and that’s okay, because Paul Walker (RIP) is backed up by Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris in this one and that’s more than enough. This one is also the film that starts the franchise trend of more and more insane car chases and stunts that culminate in… well, just watch the entire franchise and you’ll know. Seriously, I expect that if they do another full Fast & Furious movie, they’ll be driving cars… in SPAAAAAACE!!!

These movies are absolutely popcorn fare, but it’s also nice to see how the relationships strengthen and they become a serious family through the years. If you’re looking to pretty much shut your brain off for a couple of hours and watch something, take up one of these movies. Quick tip: if you still want to see these in some sort of chronological order, skip the third movie (Tokyo Drift) until you’ve watched through Fast & Furious 6 (but skip the mid-credits sequence at the end… SPOILER ALERT!), then resume the normal order.

March 14

Day 73 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s film is 1991’s Flight of the Intruder, about pilots during Vietnam, specifically those flying the A-6 Intruder bomber during that era.

I was inspired by watching 2 Fast 2 Furious yesterday, which I hadn’t seen in its entirety. Today’s film, by contrast has a rare distinction in my movie watching history. It is still the only film to date — the ONLY film — I went to see in the theatre and expressly walked out on it in the middle of the movie. I’m pushing right up against the rules I set for myself for this challenge, but it still qualifies as I’ve never watched the whole thing in its entirety until today.

In retrospect, my high school self was right. I wasn’t missing much by skipping the rest of the film. Much of the acting was pretty flat… even Willem Dafoe, who’s great in everything, seemed to almost be phoning it in, which makes sense as it was the fourth Vietnam-era film he was in within a 5-6 year span. As for the plot, it was pretty bland and didn’t really present the pilots with real consequences for their actions. Even the romance for the lead was sort a throwaway bit that didn’t matter to anything.

It says something that director John Milius stopped directing feature films after this, preferring to stick to writing instead. (That’s not a slam on him; he also wrote & directed the original versions of Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn before this.) While I am fascinated by the A-6 itself as a flying craft, this movie just wasn’t for me. Maybe it will be entertaining or moving for someone else.

March 15

Day 74 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s film is 2018’s Stargate Origins, which was originally released as a web series. (Technically, the feature-length title is Stargate Origins: Catherine, but’s that a bit too confusing for our purposes today. this adventure is set before in the late 1930s before the movie and subsequent multiple series take place. A young Catherine Langford travels through the Stargate to rescue her father from a crazed Nazi scientist bent on bringing the power of the gods back to Earth.

(WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS if you haven’t seen the original 1994 Stargate movie or the first season of the Stargate SG-1 TV series.)

Okay, so this wasn’t… terrible. The acting performance, by and large, were good and most of the dialogue worked. The problem this movie has is one that almost all prequels* have — in an attempt to keep a firm fit in the over 20-year continuity they already have in the franchise, they also minimize the impact that the discoveries of the original movie have on everything else. (see: Star Wars). The planet they travel to is the same as in the original movie (Abydos), but no one explains how the Nazi scientist got the necessary address symbols or how he knew how to power the gate without a Dial Home Device (DHD).

Additionally, it conveniently wraps up everything by either killing everyone who doesn’t show up in later canon material or having Ra wipe their memories of the whole incident. This was a near-perfect deus ex machina that resets continuity so that Catherine (a major inciting character in the original movie) is driven to her subsequent actions and discoveries by some alien-induced suggestion implanted in her subconcious. Ultimately, although I know it was absolutely necessary for the franchise as a whole, it kind of feels insulting that they did it at all. It makes the whole movie seem worthless.

Nevertheless, taken on its own, it was kind of fun. There were some really good moments of humor (and some that were really, REALLY forced), and I never felt like I couldn’t or didn’t want to root for the good guys. There are also a few nods to the movie that I didn’t catch immediately that didn’t feel shoehorned in for continuity’s sake. That said, if you’ve never seen any of the Stargate franchise and want to see this one, I’d watch it before even the original 1994 film. Watching this stuff in continuity order always makes it hurt less, especially if you don’t know what’s coming.

*An example of a good prequel? Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Doom, of course. Yeah, I always forget it’s a prequel, too!

March 16

Day 75 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s movie definitely lives up to the word “challenge”. Much like yesterday’s movie, it’s a prequel… but one to a really bad movie.

2009’s Transmorphers: Fall of Man is a followup to the 2007 mockbuster from The Asylum. So if you read my piece for that one, you’ll understand why I’m groaning a bit. This prequel sets up the apocalypse of the original, which saves The Asylum even more money by setting it in the present day(ish). And I hope Bruce Boxleitner got a good chunk of that for being in this movie, because he’s the biggest name in it. I really don’t have a lot else to say about this one… it exists.

Oh, I will mention the movie also stars & was written by Shane Van Dyke, who got his start working with his father & grandfather on Diagnosis: Murder. (Not a criticism… just an observation.)

March 17

Day 76 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Naturally, because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, today’s film is the 1998 Disney film Mulan. Based on a Chinese legend, a young woman masquerades as a boy and goes to serve in the army in place of her father.

This was a nice film. I kind of blanked out during the musical numbers (as I often do w/ animated musicals), but the story was kind of neat and the voice acting was solid. I really enjoyed Eddie Murphy as Mushu, the tiny dragon sidekick (“travel-sized for your convenience!”), and it provides nice forecasting of his work in the Shrek franchise and his claymation TV series The PJs.

Interesting bit of trivia: the film is rated PG not for the war scenes or violence, but because they used the word “cross-dresser” in the movie.

I’m sure that all my friends that are Disney fans have already seen this, and possibly its direct-to-video sequel Mulan II, released in 2004, but if you haven’t seen it yet or are just feeling nostalgic for hand-drawn animation*, it’s a good choice to watch.

*I remember visiting what was then Disney MGM Studios in Florida circa 1996 and, during the studio tour, seeing the animators working on this film. Definitely something you lose when it’s all computer-generated…