Sunday, May 24, 2015

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Tomorrowland, The Room at the Drafthouse, Age of Ultron and more

So much... so much to talk about... wow.

Yeah, I've been kinda bad about posting lately. My mom was visiting again, and I also am dealing with some extreme disappointment in the romance department, not that that's really unusual. But this time it was really bad. Imagine having just turned 40, really never having even had a makeout session yet, and this girl who you were... are... in love with, who moved far away 2 years ago, finally shows a returned interest in you and starts promising big things... Then disappears after months of visit-planning and lovey-dovey discussions. Well, Craig T. Nelson said it best...


So, I fell behind with a lot of stuff. Especially movies. Tonight, I'm gonna talk about some stuff I saw in theaters recently, from actually pretty new releases like Tomorrowland, to some that are not so new but aren't on Blu-Ray YET, to stuff I intended to review quite a while ago and just didn't get around to it, if I can remember any of that last stuff. But, I'm gonna start with a Drafthouse special engagement.

Friday night, I took in two films at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin's new South Lamar location. The second film I'll get to later. It was a pretty major release. This film, however, was a 12 year old release, one more people are probably familiar with from its April Fool's Day marathon airings on Cartoon Network years ago. That's where I first saw it, anyway. The film I'm talking about is the cult-classic "Citizen Kane of bad movies," Tommy Wiseau's The Room.

The room is the story of Johnny, a thick-accented, Mr. Nice Guy banker whose fiancée, Lisa, is a bit of a sociopath. She is cheating on Johnny with his best friend, Mark, and much of the film is spent on discussing this with her family and friends, who all advise against it. The rest of the runtime is chock full of not very sexy love scenes, Johnny tossing a football around and being clueless, hilariously bad acting and insane writing, and, well, I don't know what to say. As others have said before me, it must be seen to be believed. It is truly enjoyable in its awfulness. There's a reason the film has a cult following. This is great stuff! Some of the most fascinating things about it are the subplots that go nowhere, the baffling fact that everyone finds Lisa so damn beautiful and sexy, and the completely bizarre writer, director, producer and star, Tommy Wiseau.

Ah, Tommy Wiseau. That brings me to what made Friday night so special. See, the Alamo Drafthouse has finally caught on and started running screenings of The Room on a monthly basis (like they do with Rocky Horror Show, except that one they do weekly, I believe). And this particular weekend, there were multiple screenings with a special guest. None other than Johnny himself, Tommy Wiseau. Of course, I had to be there for this. Ever since Rifftrax did an edition on "The Room", I've become a bigger fan than ever. It really is an amazing viewing experience! So, here are my highlight photos from the night...

As you can see, I picked up a Blu Ray of the film at the event. Before and after screenings, Tommy and his crew were in the lobby with a fully stocked merchandise selection and photo op. Man, does he have a lot of merchandise! Not just DVDs and t-shirts, but plush "doggies" (if you've seen the movie, you know about the doggy), boxers, footballs, belts, jackets and more! Good prices too! I got the blu-ray for 10, and as you can see, Tommy signed the insert for me and posed for a selfie. Of course, it's anyone's guess what he wrote on there. My turn came up right when he was getting super rushed to finish up before the screening began.

As for that screening, whoa, ha. The Alamo host had his hands full with Tommy! Before the film, we screened his new Hulu show, "Neighbors", which is the most bizarre thing you'll ever see. Not unlike The Room though, it is excellent in its awfulness. One has to wonder, again, like with The Room, if any of this badness (or how much) was actually intentional. Funny enough if it was on accident, but if it WAS intentional, heck, that's just as impressive! Anyway, after the pilot episode (I'd swear that thing was two hours long, but it probably was only half an hour, ha), there was a Q&A session with Tommy that was the most absurd thing ever. Folks with questions were brought out of the audience to line up at one side of the screen and ask Tommy whatever was on their minds. Almost everything was answered with, "Dumb question! Moving on!" Followed by an interlude in which Tommy sorta would give his answer to the audience in a bit of a sarcastic way. It was awful... and wonderful! Everyone had a great time wondering if this was all a Rock Star act or if Tommy really thinks he's Hollywood's greatest gift! Well, whichever the case, he certainly has earned a place in Tinseltown history, even if he fits in more with the likes of Ed Wood. The Q&A was followed with a hilariously befuddled host introducing the film itself, which was a hoot to watch, because not only were plastic spoons and movie quotes thrown out frequently, but open riffing of the movie was allowed too. Usually, I am ON for some riffing, but I admit, I was a bit quiet that night. Got in one or two good ones, but, man, I was the only person alone at the Drafthouse on date night. I HATE that. Especially at South Lamar.

Oh, as I segway into the next movie I saw that night, let me say, the thing about South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse on Date Night for a single guy, well, ugh... it's bad anywhere on date night, but South Lamar is the worst place to be, because that area is where the hottest people in Austin live. Most of them are crazy fit, crazy rich, and naturally quite thrilled about it, and the endless flow of gorgeous, accompanied ladies are scantily clad enough to drive one quite mad. Oh, trust me, it's the worst. So many. So gorgeous. So taken. And I just keep thinking back on you-know-who, who topped all of 'em. At least, for me. I mean, she always wore short dresses and pigtails. Perfection. I have to confess though, I think I relate a bit to Johnny in The Room after all I've been through, and that's probably another reason I love the movie so much. Hopefully, I won't end up like he did one day. Don't worry, no spoilers.

Und, for ze next movie, ve vear our special pinsk!

Yeah, for the next film, I met up with my younger sis and our visiting mom, and I presented them with the pins I picked up for them. Incidentally, I went to the Lakeline Mall Disney Store looking for these. They didn't have any (they had nothing from the film, just that new Tomorrowland preschool show, and I wonder if that's still the case), but the girl behind the register was so sweet and offered me these for free, so props for that...

Woulda done in a pinch. Luckily though, I thought F.Y.E. (the entertainment store) at the same mall might be worth checking too, and they had the real thing for only 5 bucks! Now, the ones we got there aren't the pin you see in the trailer for Tomorrowland, but they ARE in the film. As you can see on the promo pin, the more often featured one has a blue "T" on orange, and there are a couple of versions of that color combo too. The different versions of the pin represent different decades, but that one that the female lead picks up at the police station is currently only available on Ebay, best I can tell. It was either given away or sold at some car show in New York. The other versions are available from Funko at places like F.Y.E. or, and the one we got is the original 1964 version George Clooney's character is presented with as a child in the beginning of the film. So, still pretty cool. But, enough about all that. How about the film?

We got settled in for this one, ordered milkshakes since we had all already eaten pizza (I ate during The Room, my mom and sis ate while attended a screening of the Poltergeist remake, which they didn't care for), and some guy's gorgeous girlfriend sat next to me... and shortly after, switched places with him. I now assume I smell awful or something. Milk was a bad choice. Anyways, while waiting on dessert, we sat back and enjoyed the customary Drafthouse preshow delights.

And then, the feature film, which was, in one word, AMAZING.

Yeah, I've been hearing a lot of mixed reviews about this one. Or, well, a lot of folks are calling it just "okay", and while I can agree with a few of the nitpicks brought up, I'm a Disney fanatic who is generally pretty objective with their films. Sure,I might like a lot that are generally disliked, but that's a thing I do with films in general, because I won't usually flat out hate a movie based on just a couple of negatives, even big ones. I like to look at the good and bad of every film and sorta weigh it out that way. Or, rather, I decide, "Did I enjoy viewing it, despite its flaws?" Because if there's enough other good stuff, I totally can. I still might be mad (like with what they did to Dark Shadows), but I still might find it entertaining, which is what this stuff is supposed to be more than anything. Other stuff is fantastic, but the entertainment value is what movies are about. Now, Tomorrowland isn't perfect, but it IS highly entertaining to me, and it's far more than that. I'll say this though. When talking about "Saving Mr. Banks," I don't mind admitting that I probably got a lot more out of the film due to my being a Disney fanatic. Same with "Escape from Tomorrow", and same with this new film. Tomorrowland is probably far more enjoyable and meaningful to the hardcore Disney fanatic whose as into Disney's parks and oldschool live-action stuff as the current, musical, computer-animated features.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself here, let me give a brief synopsis before saying anything else. Tomorrowland is a film primarily about two dreamers and a fantastical utopia created by likeminded people and set in a parallel dimension for the purpose of designing new technology for an idealic future. These geniuses who have set up this Land of Tomorrow send robots called Audio Animatronics back regularly to recruit more brilliant minds, which is what happened, sort of, with Frank Walker (George Clooney) when he was just a kid at the 1964 World's Fair. Unfortunately, at some point, things went horribly wrong, and in modern day, a teenage girl named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is recruited by the same android that once recruited Frank, this time to try to save our world. With the help of the robot, called Athena, Casey must unite with the much older Frank and go back to Tomorrowland to find a way to stop whatever is destroying the Earth before it is too late, and without getting killed by the other robots sent by Tomorrowland's jaded Governor Nix first. 

Okay, before I get back to how good the film is while pointing out some of the weaker aspects too, I wanna say this. The cast of this film was excellent. Great performances by great actors. Here they are, minus Hugh Laurie, who was also awesome, duh.

Everyone was so good. I still say George Clooney could have been an excellent Batman. That movie was just badly written/directed. He was so good here, and there are some awesome action scenes. He's also really jaded here, and it's fantastic to watch him that way, performing with these much younger actors and biting their heads off all the time, ha. Young Clooney, I mean young Frank, (Thomas Robinson) was so well cast too. Britt Robertson was beautifully optimistic and quite lovely most of the time too. She's a 25 year old playing a 16 or so year-old, and some folks have said that's too obvious. I think she pulls it off. There are a few shots where she does look older (in the poster above, she looks older than 25, ha), but most of the time, nah, I think it totally works. And then there's Raffey Cassidy, who plays the audio animatronic 11 year-old girl, Athena. This robot kicks ass! For real! And her performance is the best in the film! Amazing job! Now, there's a thing in the film that some folks have said is too creepy. The fact that Clooney's character, was sorta in love with her when he was a kid, and he hasn't really gotten over it, though he also hasn't really seen her since then, I think, and it just happens that she turned out to be a robot, so she hasn't aged. So, basically, Clooney's character has this weird romantic thing with Athena. Yeah, some reviewers have said that was a bit creepy. Honestly, within the context of the film, it just adds a very interesting issue the characters have to deal with. The performance of Raffey Cassidy is sooo good that you never really think of her as a real 11-year-old. She's too mature. So, really, I didn't have a problem with it. The people I was with didn't have a problem with it. It's not like they ever kiss or anything, ha. "Interview with the Vampire" was creepier in that respect, and everyone ate it up!

So, the film has awesome action, acting, effects and visuals. Gorgeous music and I personally feel it does an excellent job being a movie about the theme park Tomorrowland too. It creates this fantastic and totally true to the spirit idea of what Tomorrowland is. Plus, yeah, space mountain is there in the cityscape! It's right there for everyone to see! The film even gives a sense of riding some of the classic rides sometimes, like the old rocket to the moon! It's brilliantly done. I mean, this beautiful and wholly original sci-fi film could have been very cookie cutter basic, like "Haunted Mansion" or something. Not that I dislike Haunted Mansion as much as everyone else, but it surely could have been better (and Country Bears, that was just awful). This one, for me, was highly enjoyable, engaging, and impressive! I loved its optimistic futurist message! That's what Walt Disney's Tomorrowland was all about! So,... what were the negative points of this movie?

Well, admittedly, the movie has an odd tone when it comes to the villains. For one thing, boy, they kill innocent bystanders like nothing. The movie doesn't miss a beat when it does, and this admittedly feels weird in a film that otherwise seems like a wonderfully classic Disney fantasy sci-fi flick. I can live with it, but it does feel a bit off. Then, you have the main villain, Hugh Laurie, who doesn't feel that villainous really, so much as jaded dick. To justify his just desserts, you really have to remember all that thoughtless killing of innocents his robots do under his orders. The Cinema Snob made a good point in his review that redeeming this character (and maybe losing the flat out disintegrations of innocents) might have made more sense with the tone of the overall film. Still, I didn't have as much of an issue with this stuff as Snob did. My only other nitpick would be that some of the details of the climax could have been a bit clearer. By that I mean the explanation of the device Frank invented (which caused him to be exiled from Tomorrowland) and how it works, and how they planned to destroy it. This might have been clearer on a second viewing, but it all seemed very fast and confusing as it was happening. In retrospect though, I don't think it was all that much, and a bigger issue might have been that I was watching this very late on a work night AFTER that big "The Room" event. 

I can't really say these few issues were a big deal to me though. After all, I for the most part was thrilled with this movie. I hope Disney makes more stuff like this (and Saving Mr. Banks, which feels like something in the same vein, Disney movies for Disney fans, so to speak). I WILL say that probably the thing I would wish to change the most is the slightly cheesy way the film begins. I mean, with the two leads sorta telling the story with some very cheesy banter between them as they argue about the tone the story should be told with. However, I "get" this too. It was cheesy and cartoony, while the rest of the film is not, but, yeah, it's showing the conflicting attitudes of the two leads, one still being a bit jaded while the other is very optimistic. I think it plays out okay, but initially, it's hard to take while Casey is just a disembodied voice. Once she is onscreen though, it all feels less like you're about to watch PIXAR's "Inside Out". Have I mentioned I'm not totally confident in Inside Out? Well, PIXAR always surprises me when I feel that way, so no big worry.

Anyway, overall, I found Tomorrowland wonderful! Truly beautiful and inspirational, and I can't wait to see it again. Sadly, I don't think it's doing anywhere near as well as it needed to, even to break even, so... that sucks. Go out and see this one, guys, it really is great! Especially if you're a Disney fan at all! If you're a Disney fan at all, and you like 60's Disney and classic Disney theme park stuff, you'll really appreciate this one A LOT! This felt like Flight of the Navigator combined with Saving Mr. Banks, The Black Hole, The Absent Minded Professor, Merlin Jones, Dexter Riley, National Treasure, TRON, TRON Legacy, Rocketeer, The Incredibles (same director, actually, Brad Bird), Race to Witch Mountain Natty Gann, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Wall-E, Up and any episodes of the Disney anthology show in which Walt discussed Tomorrowland and the World's Fair!

Okay, that took a lot longer than I expected it to. I'm super short on time now, so for anything else, I guess I gotta do the ten peso version. Here we go, some other stuff I saw recently and never got around to talking about....

Okay, so, quick thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron. I prepared well for this. Made sure I was caught up with all the MCU series and everything first. I saw it the weekend it came out, so sorry this is late, but I also came down with bronchitis. Forgot all about that, yet another reason I'm behind on this stuff. Truth is, I haven't shaken the cough yet. It is something fierce, even now, but I finished my meds days ago. Ugh. And I have a sore throat right now. But, I digress...

So, Iron man and Hulk are toying with artificial intelligence, it gets out of hand and tries to take over the world. Hulk and Black Widow have a thing. Cap is Cap. Hawkeye's been secretive about having a family/home life. Thor is Thor. The baddie is Ultron, who is a robot that wants to get rid of humans to save the world from them. Some folks thought Ultron was a weak villain. I didn't feel that, and I loved Spader voicing him. I also loved the incorporation of "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio. I thought that was just gonna be a trailer thing, but no, they went with it. Bold choice. Could have been silly, but I didn't feel that. I just Disney-geeked out over it, ha ha. Ultron recruits a couple of superhuman twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I don't like accents, but dang, Scarlet Witch was totally hot. Luckily, they turn good, but I did not expect what happened with Quicksilver, and that was a little disappointing. I mean, it was fine storywise, but while I haven't read the comics, I feel like... that isn't true to the comics... but I don't really know, ha. I don't mean to give spoilers, but heck, this has been out for a while, so I'll just say this: Did they just not want to deal with the fact that Fox is using Quicksilver too? Also sad that Coulson didn't get brought back here. C'mon, are they just never going to do that in the films? And, what the hell, Whedon? Nothing after the credits? Other than that, guys, I LOVED this movie! I truly hope I can catch it again while it's still in theaters, though these movies come and go fast these days, and I'll be broke for the next two weeks (rent time and all that; some kind reader here in Austin, please offer me a job that pays better, ha). Anyway, I thought this was another great Marvel flick. I don't know what the general consensus is on it, but I loved it. I might give more detail if it hadn't been a while since I saw it. Oh, there was some Asian girl in the beginning, right? Yeah, she was hot too. But, man, she and Falcon and War Machine were barely in it. I didn't expect their roles to be so brief. Also, I get the reasons for not bringing in Portman and Paltrow, but the acknowledgements of the lady-friends is getting a bit cheesy. Get Portman in for the next one or something (Paltrow was in the last one), if you can't get both. Or, bring Coulson back! Ha

Didn't expect to see this one, but I got free movie cash for it in a "How to Train Your Dragon" Blu-Ray I bought recently (still haven't watched it, but I will soon; everyone tells me it's so good; never seen "Kung Fu Panda either"; really need to get that one also). I knew next to nothing about Home before going to see it. I hadn't realized when I first saw the short prequel that preceded... "Peabody and Sherman" I think, that it was about an upcoming film. I wasn't too impressed with that short though. Not at all. It's the kind you tack onto the blu-ray post release, not very good as a teaser for the film. And, there were times when this movie reminded me too much of that underwhelming short. At other times, it was pretty enjoyable enough. Home does have a very interesting premise. It begins with aliens invading Earth and putting all humans on Australia in a pretty creepy concentration camp/fake neighborhood setup. I suppose you could relate it more to an Indian Reservation than a concentration camp, but still, yeah. The cities are cleaned out for the aliens to move in, and they do. They're an interesting lot though. They are cowardly and always on the run from another race chasing them through the galaxy. The film focuses on one alien called Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, who tries to make friends with others but has no luck. He runs into a stray human teen called Tip who is voiced by Rihanna, and she forces him to take her to her mother in Australia. Is Australia big enough to hold all humans? Perhaps there were other camps like this elsewhere. Or a lot of folks just got zapped for resisting or something. Anyways, bottom line, Home is a showcase for Jim Parson's voice. That's what it is. It's basically the Sheldon Cooper movie, if Sheldon Cooper were an alien. He talks nonstop and that's what he sounds like. You know it, you've heard it. I love Big Bang Theory, but by the end of this one, you won't feel like putting on Big bang Theory for a while. Nevertheless, it's a cute movie. Yeah, I enjoyed it really. It has interesting ideas and visuals, cute character designs, It's sort of a buddy road trip/fugitive movie, but it still feels original and it's a cute little film. That's what I'm calling this one, a cute little film. I wasn't blown away, but I liked it.

Okay, I might be forgetting some stuff, guys, but it's well past my bedtime. Really quick, saw two retroactive films at the Drafthouse recently too. If you haven't been paying attention, ha, ever since moving to Austin, I see nearly everything at the Drafthouse. Only make very rare exceptions. One of the great things about them is they show a lot of old stuff too. They showed two faves of my sister and myself recently, and we didn't dare miss them!

On one Terror Tuesday, we were thrilled to get to see Waxwork. It had a great bit of hosting too. Loved the anecdote about the comic book! I didn't even know that existed! Gotta hit up ebay for that one! Waxwork is a longtime fave of ours here at the Moonlight Motel. If you haven't seen this 1988 classic, drop everything and do it now! It is brilliantly cheesy, scary, hilarious, gory and awesome! 

As for Escape from New York, yep, also a classic you just gotta see! Snake Plissken, Kurt Russell at his most badass! 1981 John Carpenter, y'all! set in the future, 1997. So awesome! This one was pretty recently and at the closest Drafthouse to my place, The Village. And I couldn't believe some of the awesome selections for the preshow to this one! Even a clip from an all-time fave Disney episode of ours, "Disneyland Showtime"! 

Oh, I forgot! We also saw I Drink Your Blood on a different Terror Tuesday! It was so amazing! A first viewing for both of us! I highly recommend it! The title tells you nothing about this film, guys! It's fantastic!

Okay, gang, I have GOT to go to bed. Still have that day job. I leave you with a few quick pics I snapped at the Lakeline Mall here in North Austin as I searched for those Tomorrowland pins. Catch ya next time!

Love the Food Court ceiling at this mall. 

Oh, man. I got a cinnamon pretzel at this Auntie Anne's with Kiki once.

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