Friday, July 26, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Tossed Salads & Scrambled Eggs

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

So much action, Cody has to call a shrink.


In 2013, a strange fissure opened up between two tectonic plates beneath the Pacific Ocean - a portal into another dimension, through which emerged a massive, monstrous creature. A kaiju.

That kaiju made its way to the mainland, where it laid siege to San Francisco. Eventually, military forces were able to take the monster down. It was assumed that this was just a one-off occurrence. But then another kaiju entered our world... and after a while, another...

An international coalition came up with a unique way to fight off this kaiju onslaught: the creation of jaegers (hunters), robots the size of kaiju, operated by two pilots through a neural interface. One pilot controls half of the jaeger with the right hemisphere of their brain, the other with their left hemisphere. These jaegers engage kaiju in one-on-one combat, and they're very effective.

But as the window of time between kaiju arrivals grows smaller and smaller, the decision is made that fighting the creatures with the jaegers is no longer worthwhile. Humanity will give up the oceans, continents will be protected by anti-kaiju coastal walls.

The shutting down of the jaeger program doesn't sit well with its leader, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, so while the remaining jaegers are commissioned for one last job, a security gig in Hong Kong, Stacker begins to formulate a plan of his own. With the aid of his surrogate daughter Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a scientific duo prone to disagreements (Burn Gorman and Charlie Day), and an assist from a black market wheeler dealer played by Ron Perlman, Stacker intends to take the fight directly to the portal below the ocean and destroy the source of the kaijus once and for all.

Pacific Rim was directed by popular and prolific genre filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and is exactly the "airy and light" sort of fun popcorn movie he was aiming to make. It's not a deep film, there's not much to it, but there are interesting ideas in it and it provides plenty of entertainment through its big action sequences and its character interactions.

For me, the most fun aspect of the film was Charlie Day's amusing performance as driven and idealistic scientist Newton Geiszler.

Thanks to the colorfully lit cinematography by Guillermo Navarro, the movie also provides the viewer with some gorgeous eye candy along with the chuckles and the slam bang explodo.

Combining monsters and mecha, Pacific Rim is a great fresh installment in the subgenres that include movies like Godzilla and Robot Jox.

I saw the movie at a drive-in, paired with The Conjuring. It would've been a perfect double feature to see with a good friend of mine, but she couldn't make it. Still, she was there in spirit... and via text messages. I don't usually text during movies, but this was a special circumstance, and seemed to be the right venue. Glowing phone screens don't bother others at drive-ins. The bonuses go beyond getting to see two movies for the price of one there. Support your nearest drive-in! The costly switch to digital projection is really taking a toll on them.

FRASIER (1993 - 2004)

When I finished watching the entire 11 season run of Cheers on Netflix back in February, I hadn't seen very many episodes of its spin off focusing on psychiatrist Frasier Crane. I had caught stray episodes of it here and there throughout my youth, but it wasn't a show that really pulled me in like its predecessor had. But since I had watched all of Cheers, the episodes of its short-lived 1987 spin off The Tortellis (which is hard to believe ever even existed, Carla's ex Nick Tortelli is such a creep) aren't available, but all 11 seasons of Frasier were on streaming on Netflix, I decided to dive right into it. Given that I got through all 264 episodes so quickly, it's clear that I got slightly addicted to watching it.

It was rough going at first, as I found Frasier to be insufferable on his own show. His arrogance and stuck up tastes were amplified, it was hard to imagine that the character as presented here would have ever even deigned to set foot inside the Cheers bar. But I liked John Mahoney as his former police officer father Martin, Martin's love for and pride in his dog Eddie, and Jane Leeves as Daphne Moon, the working class English girl who is hired to be Martin's physical therapist/the Cranes' maid. Frasier's brother Niles, played by David Hyde Pierce, was as horribly stuck up as Frasier, but entertaining, and his completely understandable crush on Daphne was a fun element.

As episodes went on, I acclimated to Frasier's snobbishness and began to get more enjoyment out of the storylines dealing with his messy love life and his disastrous attempts at hobnobbing with high society. He has lofty aspirations, but he always manages to make himself look like a lunatic or fool somehow. And he never learns that taking a girl back to his apartment or hosting a party there is just asking for trouble.

During this viewing spree, I discovered that there was someone in the cast who I had underappreciated when I had caught episodes previously - Peri Gilpin as Roz Doyle, producer of Frasier's call-in radio show. Gilpin was wonderful in the role and made her character very endearing.

Most nights in the last few months, I would rather watch Frasier than anything else. It was amusing and became quite comforting to watch.

Since Cheers had run for 11 seasons, Frasier also called it quits at 11, a good choice I think. Highly respectable runs for both. I'd love to have more to watch set in this world, but I'm very glad to have had these 22 seasons of great television.

RED (2010)

Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, who was once a highly skilled black ops agent for the CIA, but is now retired and awkwardly trying to assimilate into a quiet, normal civilian life in a quaint Ohio suburb. Lonely, he comes up with excuses to make regular calls to his pension services representative in Kansas City, a younger woman named Sarah, who is desperate for romance. Over the course of their long distance interactions, they have developed crushes on each other. Frank puts forth the idea of coming to visit Sarah.

Then things get disrupted and complicated, as Frank's home is raided in the night by a heavily armed hit team. Frank manages to escape, and knowing that whoever wants him dead has been listening in on his conversations, he goes to Kansas City to protect Sarah before she can be used as leverage against him... And due to a botched first meeting, getting Sarah to come with him involves kidnapping her. Not the ideal start to their in person relationship.

With people trying to kill him at every turn, Frank sets out on a cross country mission to get to the bottom of what's going on, uncovering a major conspiracy in the process, while convincing Sarah that he really is a good guy along the way. Gathering aid from some other former operatives who match the description "Retired, Extremely Dangerous", Frank is back in action to a degree he never expected to be, and he and his cohorts prove they are still very capable.

Bruce Willis disappoints me more often than not these days and he brings the same "sleepwalk through the movie" energy to this film as he usually employs now, but what really saves the day is the supporting cast around him - Mary Louise Parker as his sweet and game but totally out of her element love interest, John Malkovich as an extremely paranoid and eccentric ally whose mind has been scrambled by eleven years of daily LSD doses, Morgan Freeman as a terminally ill master of disguise, and Dame Helen Mirren as a trigger happy ass-kicker who does freelance hits on the side since her retirement. They all came to play and seem to be enjoying themselves, which is what makes the movie fun to watch.

Other notable cast members include Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, and Karl Urban as a younger CIA hot shot on Frank's trail.

With a good sense of humor and some cool sequences of fistfights, shootouts, and vehicular damage, Red is a silly action/comedy that provides a decently entertaining couple hours.
Currently in theatres is a sequel that I haven't been to see yet, but will be checking out at some point.

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