Tag Archives: Tim Robbins

Howard The Duck

Last month I struggled to rein myself in after watching a forgotten Tom Hanks movie from 1986 called Nothing In Common. I consoled myself by reciting other, better movies that were released that year. Reasons why the year didn’t suck completely. Some of you contributed: Labyrinth, from Widdershins, was a particularly good one; it’s a darkly wonderful movie that I loved before I even knew who David Bowie was. Imagine growing up knowing Bowie as that guy from the weird Muppets movie. And realizing years later that that’s a young Jennifer Connelly starring alongside him. I still know all the words by heart. Not just the songs: ALL the words. But one of you has a delightful cruel streak that I can’t help but admire. One of you, not naming any names, suggested that Sean and I watch Howard The Duck. Howard The Duck! Also from the garbage year 1986, it’s a movie I’d never seen and never wanted to – not when he made a brief appearance at the end of a Guardians movie, and not even when Sean’s buddy contributed to his comic book revival.

Anyway, somewhere in this or another galaxy (not too sure about the geography – another dimension, maybe?), Duckworld is a planet where intelligent life evolved from waterfowl. Duckword is a lot like Earth; the ducks are humanoid, they walk on two feet and speak English and they’ve made movies like Splashdance and Breeders of the Lost Stork.

Anyway, one day Howard gets home and sits back in his lazy-boy with a beer and a cigar when a hole rips through the galaxy and swallows him up, depositing him on Earth where he meets a surprisingly amenable punk rocker named Beverly (Lea MV5BZjM2NzA2NTYtNTkwYy00MzY0LWIwOTQtZTgzMjQ1NDZjNGI1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_Thompson). I mean, her look is early Madonna but her name is Beverly, which implies Mom jeans and shapeless sweaters, and her sound is more 80s power ballad, and she’s played by Lea Thompson, and it’s hard to sit here in 2019 and see how exactly she was ever considered an It Girl. Beautiful? Hot? She’s mousy and thin-lipped and mostly whiny. But anyway, let’s pretend she’s a hot as shit punk rock girl who somehow befriends a duck – and finds him sexually attractive.

Howard’s main concern is getting back home but the few scientists who could help him generally don’t. In fact, when they come close to opening that hole in the universe back up, Dr. Jenning (played by the creepy principal from Ferris Bueller, Jeffrey Jones, who turns out to be an actual sex offender and child pornographer in real life) accidentally infects himself with Evil Overlord. Which, you know, is not good. And quite sweaty. Not quite as repugnant as his real-life situation, but close.

In short, the movie’s a real shit show. If Howard The Ducks is fun at all in the comics, he’s a chore in the movies – it’s easier to imagine Lea Thompson being a sexpot than Howard T. Duck being at all interesting or fun to read about. Howard is a little person in a 2 million dollar duck suit walking around in an otherwise very CGI-heavy movie and none of it looks good, not now in 2019 and I bet not in 1986 either. At some point, near the end of the movie, I turned to Sean and said “Doesn’t this guy remind you a bit of Tim Robbins?” Apparently it was Tim Robbins, and had been the whole time. Apparently I am not familiar with 1986 Tim Robbins. He’s doughier and pastier than I would have guessed. I’m surprised he was able to defibrillate his career after this.

George Lucas has just finished building Skywalker Ranch to the tune of 50 MILLION DOLLARS and counted on this film to get him solvent again. Needless to say: it didn’t. Poor guy had to start selling off assets in order to not go belly up. Apple CEO Steve Jobs bought LucasFilm’s CGI animation division for a hefty sum, and so I guess two good things came out of Howard The Duck: what would eventually become Pixar, and also that every other Marvel movie from 1987 until time immemorial would positively glow in comparison.

…You’re welcome?

Advertisements

Marjorie Prime

In the future, grief will be obsolete. If you are missing your partner of 50 years, all you’ll have to do is invest in a good hologram, tell it some personal stories, and all of a sudden you’ll have a spouse 2.0 sitting on your plastic-encased sofa, reminiscing about all the good times you shared. Is it a little creepy? Depends who you ask. Certainly when elderly Marjorie (Lois Smith) chooses to see her departed husband Walter as the handsome, middle-aged man she first met (Jon Hamm), her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) thinks it’s a little weird. Tess doesn’t want anything to do with her hologram Daddy but Marjorie is quite enamoured with him.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-7-29-47-pmThe film makes you think about memory, and what that means, and how it is shared, and if it is real. And it makes you think about humanity and what makes us truly ourselves, and if we can separate ourselves from memory, or if indeed that’s all we are is our memories. And it makes you think about love: can it be recreated, does it live on after death, does it exist independently outside a couple, is it found in the details or does it truly live in our hearts? So if you’re in the mood for a talky, thinky piece with very little action, Marjorie Prime may just be the film for you. Based on a play, most of the film takes place within just one room. But within that room, the acting is superb. Lois Smith is a phenom. Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins orbit around her, fueling her sun.

The movie feels haunting and intriguing, and maybe it isn’t fair to say this, but it raises such interesting ethics that I almost wanted more from it, more cud to chew on. At times the film feels a little redundant: you have to feed the hologram in order to make it more believable, more “real.” But no matter how many perspectives you feed it, it will always be missing its own. These “primes” strikes me as an excellent opportunity for Sean to finally construct a Jay he’s always dreamed of: one that doesn’t talk back, who doesn’t know sarcasm, who doesn’t remember the time he told a naughty story about her in front of his mother. But the thing is, if Sean invested in this Jay Prime because he missed her, what good would she be if she didn’t roll her eyes at him?

Even with its faults, I enjoyed Marjorie Prime, for the watching and the thinking it inspired afterward. Watch it, and tell us what you think: would you be comforted by a hologram of your mother or your spouse or even your dead dog?

Mission to Mars

It was the year 2000: my skirts were short. Practically microscopic. And the little shirts I wore hardly bridged the gap. I thought I was hot shit, and presumably so did the two boys treating me to a Sunday night movie (a school night!). Notably, we’d hit up the hip new restaurant in town, Wendy’s, just minutes before. Oh, you’ve heard of it? Well I grew up in a teeny little town that celebrated the coup of a luxurious chain restaurant. It was glamorous to eat at a place we’d seen commercials for on American cable! So I ate the meal that a real foodie had recommended: the spicy chicken sandwich. And then the guy I was currently fucking and the guy I’d fucked roughly 2 months before at the New Year’s party to end all New Year’s parties (remember, it’s the year 2000) decided we’d see Mission To Mars.

I’ll get to the “review” part of the movie in a minute, although caveat: I’ve never seen it. Why haven’t I seen it, despite having been to the movie, as it played in theatres? Shut up. I wasn’t making out. Or not much. The truth is, I feel asleep. Which has happened to me approximately never. I’m a crazed insomniac who struggled to achieve sleep in her own comfy bed. I never sleep anywhere else. Except this one time I fell asleep while sitting between two men who were each touching various parts of my body suggestively under the cover of darkness in a dingy small town cinema. Later I went home and threw up undigested spicy chicken sandwich. I’ve never attempted to eat Wendy’s again, nor have I revisited Mission to Mars. Turns out I had mono. Yes, the dreaded kissing disease.

Anyway, in 2000 we were apparently obsessed with Mars, this being the first of two movies about that particular planet released that year (Red Planet is the other – I haven’t seen it either. co12Probably). Neither did well commercially or critically. Mission to Mars is set in the distant future – 2020. Oh wait, that’s only a few years away? Fuck me. Well anyway it seemed like the very distant future at the time. A future in which I’d be so improbably old that I might even wear skirts that entirely covered my snatch. Hard to imagine, I know. And in this future, there’s a mission, and it’s to Mars. Don Cheadle goes on this mission along with, you know, other, expendable astronauts, and weirdly enough, Don Cheadle is the only one to survive it when a “freak” storm hits. So then his real buddies, who had stayed back due to grief and whatnot, come to rescue him. And they learn that there’s a “face” on Mars that’s causing some weird shit. So as you can tell from this brief, befuddling synopsis, you really haven’t missed much.

The movie cost a lot of money and didn’t make it back. I’d like to know the exact dollar amount Brian De Palma okayed on the  14,000 gallons of paint used to spray the soil of a Vancouver sand pit “Mars red.” I’m guessing $toomuch. The actors wore $100K space suits for filming (Tim Robbins complained that he could always hear  himself breathing) which seems like a lot of money on outfits, except the real NASA space suits actually cost more like $12M. Maybe NASA should talk to them about this knock-off version? Well, maybe not. De Palma wanted Cheadle’s space suit to look dirty after the storm, so the costumers eschewed real space suit material – teflon – because it never looks dirty.  They used 10 massive 350-horsepower wind machines to blow dust on the poor guy, forcing the crew into gas masks, even though we all know THERE’S NO WIND IN SPACE.

Anyway. Fast forward a dozen years or so. Now I’m at Disney World with a husband who is neither of the men from the movie theatre, two thirds of my sisters, one third of my brothers-in-law, and my one-year-old nephew. The sisters have stayed at our rented home to swim with the baby. The brothers-in-law were out playing golf. And I was for some reason at EPCOT standing in line for a ride I did not want to go on. Gary Sinise was welcoming us to Mission-space-epcotMission: Space, an attraction that needs several strongly-worded warnings. Just when you get your courage up, Gary Sinise starts talking you out of it. Not that I needed any help from Gary Sinise. I am a chicken shit. I knew damn well this ride wasn’t for me. It simulates an actual spacecraft launch, complete with g-force, and a pretty rough landing. There are barf bags in this ride AND THEY GET USED. Each spacecraft holds 4 “astronauts” and we’re each given a specific role – navigator, pilot, commander, or engineer – and tasks to perform during the mission. This is a hilarious example of misplaced optimism. I don’t think I pushed a single button the entire ride because I was too busy TRYING NOT TO DIE. The thing about simulations is that your brain (not to mention your stomach) doesn’t know the difference. It believes! Lots of props from this movie are in display in the queuing area for this ride. I didn’t really appreciate them because I was busy sweating through my socks. I lived through this ride but I cannot and will not say that I enjoyed it. I bore it. Almost stoically. But you know what’s funny? I didn’t need the barf bag. I didn’t throw up, not even a little, not even just in my mouth, which as we all know, is more than I can say for the movie Mission To Mars.