Spaceballs to the Walls


Ah, Spaceballs, a Mel Brooks classic. What’s not to like about it? The sci-fi satire, the silly characters, and the whimsical effects just make you want to buy the sequel, don’t they? In this fine little slice of cinema, you’ll see a lone wolf bounty hunter save an entire planet from the clutches of en evil empire, using a mysterious power called the Schwartz that he learns from a little green midget named Yogurt. If that doesn’t cover the tone of the movie, I don’t know what will.

SpaceballsThe Spaceballs are a race of humanoids living on a planet with dwindling air. Their President Skroob (Mel Brooks) orders Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to fly the Spaceball 1 over to the planet Druidia, kidnap their princess, and ransom her for the planet’s air. After running from her wedding and right into the clutches of the evil Dark Helmet, the princess calls her father in a bother. King Roland (Dick Van Patten) offers Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) one million “space bucks” if he can rescue Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). He needs the money to pay off their debt to the notorious Pizza the Hut, so he and his half-man half-dog buddy Barf (John Candy) set off to save the princess. That was a lot of names.

On his journey to return the princess to Druidia, Lone Starr and the lot wind up stranded on a desert planet, wandering from dune to dune with dwindling hope. Once everyone has passed out, a group of singing dinkers rescues them and brings them to the lair of Yogurt the Wise, the master of the Schwartz. He inspects the mysterious pendant Lone Starr has held onto since his days as an orphan raised by silent monks in the Ford Galaxy, and gives him a fortune cookie and a fancy Schwartz ring. What mysteries could Yogurt reveal? And why is he breaking the fourth wall by talking about merchandising and Spaceballs 2: The Quest for More Money? You’ll only find an answer to the former.

SpaceballsA lot of the humor is spur of the moment, having nothing to do with the continuity of the movie, but you’re really not meant to care about Lone Starr’s secret past, or the fate of planet Druidia. Rather, you’re meant to have a laugh when Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz rent Spaceballs and fast forward to see where Lone Starr and the princess are. Or when the Spaceball 1 goes past light speed and goes plaid as they enter… Ludicrous Speed! Mel Brooks: success. An excellent, silly movie.

Sandy Maynard of CinemaBlend is right when she says it’s hard to rate. Whether you like it or not depends on your sense of humor. If you’re bothered by cheaps sets and lame effects, then you probably have a stick up your bum and should look somewhere else, because Spaceballs is hilarious. Stunt actors captured instead of the main characters? Genius. Take a peek at her review here:

RoboCop, Big Bad Business

RoboCop is a classic of sci-fi corporate/criminal warfare. With a greater plot and cluster of subplots to direct the audience’s attention, the odds are you’ll have a lot to catch up with if you miss a part. Mixing stop-motion, spiffy makeup and badass outfits, RoboCop is as much about the flash and flair of the cybernetic age as it is about the complex sequence of events that lead up to the death of the a member of Omni Consumer Products.

Dick Jones presents to the chairman of OCP a new line of mechanical law enforcers, the ED-209. During its exhibition, it murders an executive attempting to perform a disarming procedure. Thus, Bob Morton steps in and offers up RoboCop, the revolutionary cyborg police officer. Since nobody is quite willing to sacrifice their body for the sake of this project, Bob turns to the Detroit police. He keeps tabs on high-risk operations, eventually nabbing Alex Murphy as his candidate.

Murphy has a bad run when trying to take down notorious crime lord Clarence Boddicker at an abandoned warehouse, and is shot to death. Bob’s crew claims the corpse and builds it into RoboCop! Crime gradually begins to taper off with this big guy on duty. Only, despite his memory wipe, he’s starting to flash back to his past, little by little.

RoboCopOff on the side, Bob makes some unpleasant remarks about Dick, which earns him an assassination by none other than Clarence himself. Apparently, Dick is in deep with several crime families, and he’s looking to lead the company after the old CEO dies. Ruling with an iron fist, likely enough. Unfortunately for Dick, Murphy’s memories lead RoboCop back to Clarence, which could expose the entire operation.

When RoboCop tries to reveal the video he recorded that documented Clarence’s admission of working with Dick, the secret fourth protocol disables him. Dick then activates ED-209 in an attempt to destroy RoboCop, which fails miserably. But with this protocol in place, how can RoboCop arrest the man who set all the loopholes in place?

That about covers the almost non-spoiler synopsis, anyway. As for the quality of the actors, props, effects… It’s about on-par with what you’d expect from a late 80’s sci-fi movie. Stop-motion, borderline silly lines from the robo-cop, criminals with enough spunk to do stand-up comedy. You get the concept. In this particular movie, however, these things blend and flow; no sudden stops to realize how stupid something is. It’s a classic for a reason, kay?

RoboCopThe final bit of commentary I have for RoboCop is: Doin’ it right. If you don’t know how to go about making a cyborg, do it in as vague a way as possible. That way people can’t say you did it wrong. How clever, says this observer.

For those who are more aware of corporate and political matters, James Berardinelli’s review is the one for you. He describes the movie as a “biting satire of big business practices.” Looking back after having viewed RoboCop again, I certainly do agree. But that hardly matters, since I’m about as aware of business crap as I am of how Mark Wahlberg keeps getting acting jobs. Non sequitur zing! Here’s the link, before I get too distracted:

What’s with the Matrix?

MatrixReally, though. It’s so black and white. Either you like it or you hate it, which sort of makes sense considering the nature of the film. Personally, I like it, so I’ll be going from that angle for the most part. I won’t gush, I’ll touch all bases, for better or for worse. First of all, Matrix is a futuristic, philosophical statement about the nature of man and machine. That much is vague, but relatively certain. It is set in a world where the prime of humankind is trapped within a digital world known as (I wonder) the Matrix.

Humanity realized the dream of a sentient artificial intelligence. It grew strong, and powerful, thriving off of solar energy. As the course of causality would have it, humanity came to fear their creation, and began to develop weapons against it. The A.I. detected this threat and responded accordingly, forcing the humans to shroud the skies, cutting off the energy source of the machines. Again, as causality would have it, the machines found another power source. Bioelectricity, the source of which was human beings. Crap, right? But how would they harvest the energy from unwilling humans? Growing them without allowing consciousness would not permit the development required to produce the optimal energy.

MatrixThe Matrix was born as a method of control. It was made to be a virtual world to allow the mind to develop without real experience, a world with programmed rules. Rules, rigid as they were, were meant to be broken. That’s where The One comes in. Thomas Anderson in his false life, Neo in the real world.  His purpose is to defy the system and lead humanity to freedom through a series of rule-defiant “miracles.”

Now you see, that’s where the overbearingly philosophical aspect comes into play. I mean, hell, Matrix could be an allegory for humanity’s dependence on machines, a plight against the development of A.I., a comparison between those with power and those without… There are a whole lot of ways to interpret the movie. Or, you can not look deep at all and just accept everything at face-value. In that case, it would be a robots and guns action movie with lots of special effects that lacks meaning. Hence, black and white.

MatrixThat’s a fair amount of positive and neutral stuff, so I’ll focus on the negatives now, just to keep it fair. I think characterization is a good place to start, so let’s bash on Keanu Reeves a little bit. Thomas Anderson starts off as an everyday, cynical sort of guy with no real aspirations aside from meeting the enigma Morpheus. In the end, he is sought by Morpheus and recognized as Neo, his hacker alias. After Neo’s rescued from the Matrix, he begins a steady spiral into the stoic, combat philosopher badass. Fortunately, he spends most of the movie learning how to be a badass while screwing it up most of the time. Y’know, that’s actually not so negative.

To be fair, Matrix is good movie. They keep everything pretty on-the-level the first time around, but when come the sequels… Yeah. I loathe to admit, but I’ll have to side with the popular opinion to a fault. The first movie was fantastic, original, visually appealing, and the sequels were less satisfactory. I believe the other movies came off as less appealing because they dramatically altered the tone and feel of the series. What was once centralized within the Matrix, the digital prison, soon grew to focus more on the underground, high-grade steampunk city and all the robe-wearing inhabitants. It’s like trying to mix ancient history with far future. It just feels wrong. Everyone lives like a tribe, yet in a world where so many non-sentient machines are readily available? Eh.

That’s all I’ve got. Overall, it’s a good movie with great effects and a great message or three. It doesn’t get pretentious until the sequels, so you can feel free to like the first one without fear of being judged. Enjoy!

Doing Science with Westworld

WestworldYou know what was a wonderfully bad movie? Westworld. I know there’s not much to be gained from bashing on the plot holes of old sci-fi movies, but I never really spoke up when I first began to notice just how much they had done wrong. I’ll assume that most readers haven’t seen Westworld before, and I would like to provide said readers with an opportunity to enjoy a movie that’ll have you saying, “Wait, what?” so many times your head will explode. And then robot cowboys will come out.

That’s what Westworld is all about, you see. It’s a movie about a theme park designed to “accurately” replicate the societies of medieval Europe, the Wild West, and ancient Rome… Only all of the actors in the theme park are high-function robots! And it only costs one thousands dollars a day to stay. I’ll point out all the horrific fallacies in a moment, after I discuss the plot.

The two protagonists (whose names escape me) begin their journey to Westworld by taking a hovercar as scientists in front of beeping monitors and flashing lights call out random numbers. Are you impressed? Dazzled? Hah, of course you are. They’re doing science. After they get settled in, they discover that the hands of the robots look funny, which is how you tell them apart from humans. Got that? That’s important. They meet an unfriendly cowboy robot who really doesn’t like them, which is also equally important, seeing as he stalks them after they “kill” him in a duel the first time around.

WestworldHere’s where the plot holes start up. The scientists are walking around, talking all science-y, when somebody says, “These are robots built by robots. We don’t know how they work.” So let’s use them as theme park attractions! They even say in the advert for the movie, “Nothing can go worng.” How did that typo slip past editorial? … Uh oh.

As you may have guessed, everything goes wrong as this point. I mean EVERYTHING. Even the script-writing. Even the acting! Everything goes worng. The robots begin to attack and kill guests, so the scientists shut down the park’s power, and for some reason, the operation room is airtight. Their electrically opened doors are sealed shut, and they all end up dying of asphyxiation. Science made that room. Also, remember the stalker robot mentioned earlier? Now that he’s gone berserk, he can actually kill people. Which he does. A lot. In fact, he kills one of the two main protagonists, the one without the moustache. It’s no spoiler. The movie spoiled itself when the survivor meets a scientist who’s attempting to drive away from the park, and they have a small exchange of words, which reveals another plot hole. Science-man says that the robot that’s chasing mustache is the latest model, equipped with long-range tracking capabilities, extended battery life, thermal vision, and extreme firearm accuracy. Why would he need that if he’s not supposed to kill guests…? Science is the answer.

WestworldAnyways, the main guy finds a random vial of acid and throws it at the robot, which burns his normal vision and sets it to thermal. Mustache is chased for a bit before he lights evil cowboy robot on fire and saves the day, not before he tries to rescue a lovely damsel trapped in the Medieval World dungeon. He tries to give her a drink, but it turns out she’s a robot, so her head explodes. Gosh darn it.

So, to sum things up, Westworld is an old-fashioned movie that mixes science with the wild west and leaves no plot holes, logical fallacies, deus ex machina, anything of that sort to be criticized! It’s literally the best movie ever. Go watch it and enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling it brings you as you realize just how full of crap most of this last paragraph is.