Vulcan Stev's Database

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Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: Big Trouble in Little China

big_trouble_in_little_chinaStarring:

Kurt Russell …  Jack Burton
Kim Cattrall …  Gracie Law
Dennis Dun …  Wang Chi
James Hong …  David Lo Pan
Victor Wong …  Egg Shen
Kate Burton …  Margo
Donald Li …  Eddie Lee
Carter Wong …  Thunder
Peter Kwong …  Rain
James Pax …  Lightning
Suzee Pai …  Miao Yin

Synopsis from IMDb: When Jack Burton wins a card game against his long time friend Wang, Wang explains that he doesn’t have Jack’s earnings on him, and he’ll pay Jack later, due to the fact that he has pick up his girlfriend at the airport. Seeing as how Jack wants his money as soon as possible, he offers to give Wang a ride to the airport. Unfortunately for the both of them, Wang’s girlfriend is kidnapped, due to the fact that she is a Chinese woman with green eyes, and in order for an immortal creature named David Lo Pan to turn back into a mortal human, he must marry her. Now it’s up to Jack Burton, Wang, and their friends to save her before it’s too late.

Reviewers: Vulcan Stev, PIT #1, PIT #2, PIT #3

VS: 1.5 pointed ears
This movie would be unbearable if it attempted to take itself seriously.  It’s a send-up and it knows it.  This is one of those movies that is watchable over-and-over.  I really enjoy this movie with one exception, the music.  I’ve never really liked John Carpenter’s music.  Carpenter’s music in my opinion suffers from the fact that he’s the director and if he thinks it’s cool then in it stays.  Every Carpenter movie I’ve seen has had his music in the score and the music has always seemed over the top.

The other thing that has ALWAYS bugged me, the movie starts off with Egg Shen meeting with his lawyer.  That sort of plot foreshadowing is an established format, that’s not my problem.  The cops arrive after the group leaves in the Porkchop Express.  We never see Egg Shen arrested, so why does he need to meet with a lawyer?

PIT #1 – 1.75 pointed ears
I enjoyed this movie so much I had to mirror some of the martial arts stances.  Unfortunately I mirrored the stances near the refrigerator.  I ended up in the ER after I severely bruised the knuckles on my right hand when I hit the fridge.  This is another one of those movies Daddy has in his collection that requires multiple viewings to appreciate.  The more times I watch this movie the better I like it.

PIT #2 – 1.3 pointed ears
This might have been a better movie if it had been shot as the sequel to Buckaroo Banzai.  I was left with a lot of “What the heck is going on” moments.

PIT #3 – .75 pointed ears
This is a confusing movie.  Why does Jack need to kiss the lawyer in the sewer and then again in the elevator?  Cool martial arts fighting at the end of the movie saves this from being a complete waste of time.

5.3 pointed ears out of 8 – This is a movie that you’ll either find watchable or find incomprehensible.  It’s not a bad movie.  It’s also not a great movie.  A cult classic? yes.  It’s not Carpenter’s best film but it’s far from his worst.  Worthwhile viewing while sitting at home.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

adventures_of_buckaroo_banzaiStarring:

Peter Weller …  Buckaroo Banzai
John Lithgow …  Lord John Whorfin / Dr. Emilio Lizardo
Ellen Barkin …  Penny Priddy
Jeff Goldblum …  New Jersey
Christopher Lloyd …  John Bigboote
Lewis Smith …  Perfect Tommy
Rosalind Cash …  John Emdall
Robert Ito …  Professor Hikita
Pepe Serna …  Reno Nevada
Ronald Lacey …  President Widmark
Matt Clark …  Secretary of Defense
Clancy Brown …  Rawhide
William Traylor …  General Catburd
Carl Lumbly …  John Parker
Vincent Schiavelli …  John O’Connor

Synopsis from IMDb:  Neurosurgeon/Rock Star/Superhero Buckaroo has perfected the oscillation overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter by using the eighth dimension. The Red Lectroids from Planet 10 are after this device for their own evil ends, and it’s up to Buckaroo and his band and crime-fighting team The Hong Kong Cavaliers to stop them.

Reviewers: VS, PIT #1, PIT #2, PIT #3

VS – 1.75 pointed ears
Aside from veiled refernces to the cold war, stone-age computer terminals, and definite 80’s music, this 25-year old movie holds up surprisingly well.  I can understand though, why it didn’t fair to well at the box office.  This movie requires multiple viewing just to understand what’s going on.  That and a limited theatrical release may be what doomed this flick.  In 1984 this movie played on one screen at one theater in my hometown.  That same year, Ghostbusters played on three screens at two theaters. 

Does any of that make this movie less watchable? No.  Once you’ve seen it enough times to get an idea of who’s who and can actually follow the characters this quite a watchable movie.  Though the story is a pretty standard save the world from aliens who used Orson Wells Halloween broadcast of “War of the Worlds” as cover for their invasion.  That Buckaroo Banzai also seems to take its inspiration from the Doc Savage pulps doesn’t change the fact that it’s an enjoyable movie.  The fact that this film is full of quotes that have entertained geeks for decades is just bonus.

In my opinon, the movie would’ve been much better if there had been a few more minutes of character development and if the supporting characters would’ve been more visually distinctive.

PIT #1 – 1.5 pointed ears
The story was interesting.  It seemed short to me.  It’s easier to follow the story the more times I watch it.

PIT #2 – 1.25 pointed ears
Interesting visuals.  The SFX still hold up rather well.  Just what is the watermelon for?  Dad won’t tell me.  I’m still not following the story completely.

PIT #3 – .5 pointed ears
This the FIRST time I’ve ever seen this movie.  It didn’t make ANY sense at all.  Why do the aliens talk with Jamaican accents.  Why was Doc Brown an evil alien in this movie?  Daddy says it’ll be a better movie the next time I see it.  I hope we don’t see it again.  The only reason I gave it .5 ears is because there was no kissing.

5 pointed ears out of 8
If you’re a fan of “geek culture” I highly recommend buying this movie on DVD.  Repeated viewings are a must.  This is definitely a cult classic.  If your a fan of SF, pulp, or action adventure, this movie comes highly recommended.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: Robin Hood Men in Tights

robin_hood_men_in_tights2Starring:
Cary Elwes …  Robin Hood
Richard Lewis …  Prince John
Roger Rees …  Sheriff of Rottingham
Amy Yasbeck …  Marian
Mark Blankfield …  Blinkin
Dave Chappelle …  Ahchoo
Isaac Hayes …  Asneeze
Megan Cavanagh …  Broomhilde
Eric Allan Kramer …  Little John
Matthew Porretta …  Will Scarlet O’Hara
Tracey Ullman …  Latrine
Patrick Stewart …  King Richard
Dom DeLuise …  Don Giovanni
Dick Van Patten …  The Abbot
Robert Ridgely …  The Hangman

Synopsis from IMDb:  A Mel Brooks spoof of Robin Hood in general and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves specifically.  The standard story of Robin Hood: Evil Prince John is oppressing the people while good King Richard is away on the Crusades. Robin steals from the tax collectors, wins an archery contest, defeats the Sheriff, and rescues Maid Marian. In this version, however, Mel Brooks adds his own personal touch, parodying traditional adventure films, romance films, and the whole idea of men running around the woods in tights.

Reviewers: VS, PIT #1, PIT #2

VS – 1.25 pointed ears
This is not one of Mel Brooks better films (Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs were much better).  Of course that may have a lot to do with the fact that his other films are spoofing entire genres, while this movie relies too much on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  Sight gags abound (look for the moving mole on Prince John), but it seems to me that Mel tries to hard to force the humor at times.

I enjoyed this movie.  I just don’t believe that it is the best example of Mel Brooks work.  It seemed that this movie was rushed into production due the popularity of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. 

PIT #1 – 2 pointed ears
This movie was laugh-out-loud funny all the way through.  Spaceballs is the only other Mel Brooks movie I’ve ever seen.

PIT #2 – 2 pointed ears
This and Spaceballs are the only Mel Brooks movies I’ve ever seen.  This movie was hilarious from start to finish.

5.25 pointed ears out of 6
Definitely a must have for a complete Mel Brooks collection.  It’s not an unwatchable movie and I’m not recommending against watching this film.  However, if you’re really wanting to watch a Brooks film there are better choices.  Brooks aficionados will probably find better examples of his humor in some of his other movies.  Initiates to Mel Brooks unique perspective will enjoy this movie.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: X-Files Fight the Future

x_files_ver51Starring:
David Duchovny …  Special Agent Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson …  Special Agent Dana Scully
John Neville …  The Well-Manicured Man
William B. Davis …  Cigarette Smoking Man / CGB Spender
Martin Landau …  Alvin Kurtzweil, MD
Mitch Pileggi …  Assistant Director Walter Skinner
Jeffrey DeMunn …  Ben Bronschweig, M.D. (as Jeffrey De Munn)
Blythe Danner …  Jana Cassidy
Terry O’Quinn …  Darius Michaud
Armin Mueller-Stahl …  Conrad Strughold
Lucas Black …  Stevie

Synopsis from IMDb: Thirty-seven thousand years ago, a deadly secret was buried in a cave in Texas. Now the secret has been unleashed. And its discovery may mean the end of all humanity. When a terrorist bomb destroys a building in Dallas, Texas, FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy surpassing anything they’ve ever encountered. With the dubious assistance of a paranoid doctor, Mulder and Scully risk their careers and their lives to hunt down a deadly virus which may be extraterrestrial in origin – and could destroy all life on earth. Their pursuit of the truth pits them against the mysterious Syndicate, powerful men who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets safe, leading the agents from a cave in Texas, to the halls of the FBI, and finally to a secret installation in Antarctica which holds the greatest secret of all.

Reviewers VS, PIT#1, PIT#2, PIT#3

VS – 1.25 pointed ears.
Cheap shot, dirty pool, 20th Century Fox made millions of loyal viewers pay for the privilege of seeing season 5.5.  Season 5 left off with Mulder’s officer being burned and the X-Files shut down.  Season 6 begins with Mulder and Scully back on the job tracking down the aliens introduced in this movie.

There were lots of nice touches for the fans, the Lone Gunmen cameo was priceless.  The movie did a great job of furthering the mythos.  However, as a standalone story this movie failed.  I’m not going to second guess the producers here, but wouldn’t it have been better to have a standalone movie that introduced the characters to a broader audience rather than one that relied to heavily on the established mythos?  My youngest (PIT #3) has never seen any of the X-Files.  This movie confused the heck out of him, but I digress.

What Chris Carter should’ve done was have a two-hour standalone that didn’t rely so heavily on the established backstory.  Had he done this, 20th Century Fox could easily have had an X-Files movie every summer for the remainder of the series.  For fans of the series this movie was a welcome sight.  For X-files neophytes, this movie wasn’t enough to make you want to stay home and watch the show.

PIT #1 – 2 pointed ears
I don’t remember the series much at all.  This movie was very interesting.  I do not agree with Dad on this one.  I believe that the movie holds up well on its own merit.

PIT #2 – 1.5 pointed ears
I live in Iowa.  Corn is NOT pollinated by bees.  Having corn grow in the desert would require way to much irrigation not to mention the fact that roots wouldn’t hold well in sand.  Those inconsistencies took me right out of the movie.

PIT #3 – .5 pointed ears
This movie didn’t make any sense.  Daddy says that there’s lots of stuff that you need to have seen the TV show to understand.  Why didn’t they make this part of the TV show.  Daddy isn’t buying the X-Files TV show right now because we haven’t finished watching Stargate season 9.

5.25 pointed ears out 8
This movie is a must have if you have the X-Files series on DVD.  If you’re just wanting to watch Mulder and Scully find some reruns or start buying the series.  Don’t bother with this movie as a starting point into the X-Files universe.  Seriously, seeing only this movie would be like watching only The Matrix Reloaded or only The Empire Strikes Back.  However PIT #1 seems to think that if you can find this film for a reasonable purchase price, it’s worth the money.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trek Wars

treklogo1Star Trek versus Star Wars.  In my own unscientific background data search I have discovered an animosity between fans of Star Trek and fans of Star Wars.  “Star Trek versus Star Wars: generated over 3,500,000 pages on Google.  “Star Trek is better that Star Wars” had over 800,000 different sites.  Slightly less but still over 800,000 sites for the reverse.  I’m curious as to why.

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I saw the first one in the theaters for my 10th birthday.  I have enjoyed all six movies, the comic books, novels, The Clone Wars cartoon from the Cartoon Network.  I even enjoyed the malaigned recent Clone Wars movie.  I can remember sitting in line for tickets for Jedi.  I hauled my kids out of school so we could go the first showing of Revenge of the Sith.  Am I a Star Wars fan? Yes.

I remember sitting down with my father in the early 70’s to watch Star Trek.  The episode was Catspaw.  The opening sequence scared me silly.  I didn’t watch Star Trek again until TMP came out instarwarslogo 1979.  I was intrigued.  This didn’t happen a long time ago in a galaxy far far away; these were humans and their friends just 300 years from now.  I came home from that (admittedly bad) movie hooked.  Was this the show Dad had tried to share with me?  I devoured reruns of the original series whenever I could.  I eagerly anticipated every new movie.  I subscribed to Starlog to get behind the scenes info on the next movie and discovered a whole new world of Science Fiction.  Star Trek was my door to a whole new world of discovery.  When TNG premiered on TV I called in sick to work to see the first episode.  My daughter grew up watching Star Trek with her Daddy.  I joined a creative writing club, Starships of the Third Fleet.  My online identity comes from this club.  Am I fan of Star Trek?  Yes.

What I don’t understand is how some fans of either claim that the other is no good.  Star Trek and Star Wars are (to be cliche) apples and oranges in the big fruit basket of Science Fiction.  The each have their good points and an honest fan will admit that each have their faults as well.  I for one cannot understand we a person cannot be a fan of both.  I am sure I’m not the only one who likes both. but I welcome any fan to explain to me why one is better than the other.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Science Fiction, SS3F, Star Trek | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Vulcan Stev’s LCARS database DVD review…. Daredevil

Originally posted at the Dire Cafe January 18, 2009daredevil_ver2

Starring:
Ben Affleck … Matt Murdock / Daredevil
Jennifer Garner … Elektra Natchios
Colin Farrell … Bullseye
Michael Clarke Duncan … Wilson Fisk / The Kingpin
Jon Favreau … Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson

Synopsis from IMDb: Blinded by toxic waster when he was a young boy, Matt Murdock (Affleck) has gained enhancements in the remaining senses. With his father murdered, he sees this as a perfect opportunity to fight crime and help the New York City. He becomes Daredevil, and every night risks life to stop those escaping prison. One person who is still free is the biggest crime lord in New York, the Kingpin (Duncan). Whilst working as a lawyer, Matt becomes the masked hero to track down the Kingpin before anyone else he loves is taken out.

Reviewers VS, Mrs. VS, PITs 1,2, & 3

VS 1.75 pointed ears
My only complaint with this movie was the changes made by the studio. Ben Urich works for the Daily Bugle, not the New York Post. The costumes are different. The Kingpin is not black. I can forgive the last one as Micheal Clarke Duncan played the Kingpin to perfection.

The other cheif complaint I had is that 20th Century Fox never made a sequel. The whole storyline in the comics of Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil and every crook he put behind bars is released would’ve been a wonderfully fresh take on the superhero movie.

The special features offer some wonderful insight into the Daredevil universe.

Mrs. VS .5 pointed ears.
This is typical hubby movie. The scene where Elektra gets killed is gonna give me nightmares.

PIT #1 2 pointed ears
I’ve never read a Daredevil comic book. But it rocks. Elektra would’ve been a MUCH better movie if they’d kept the Daredevil cameo. I loved the mustard/coffee scene.

PIT #2 2 pointed ears
This a good superhero movie. It did a good job of introducing the character. Elektra did NOT count as a sequel to this movie. 20th Century Fox really needs to make a sequel or turn the motion picture rights back over to Marvel

PIT #3 1.95 pointed ears
They didn’t need the kissing/sex scene. I want a collapsible billy club/nunchuk/walking stick.

8.2 pointed ears out of 10. We do not own the Special Director’s edition. If you have a chance to see the Special Director’s edition I’d recommend it. According to the deleted scenes and director’s commentary there was a lot of good stuff cut out to make the time constraints laid out by the studio.

Buyable

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvel, Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vulcan Stev’s LCARS database DVD review… Babylon AD

Review originally posted at the Dire Cafe January 15, 2009.  Article re-written with game stats as a guest blog at Uncle Bear.com January 30, 2009

Game stats at the endbabylon_ad_ver2 of the review

Starring:
Vin Diesel … Toorop
Michelle Yeoh … Sister Rebeka
Mélanie Thierry … Aurora
Gérard Depardieu … Gorsky
Charlotte Rampling … High Priestess
Mark Strong … Finn

A few decades in the future, a mercenary named Toorop (Vin Diesel) accepts a contract from a Russian mobster, Gorsky, who instructs him to bring a young woman only known as Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to New York. In order to reach his goal, Gorsky gave Toorop a variety of weapons as well as a UN passport that has to be injected under the skin of the neck. Toorop, along with the girl and her guardian nun Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), travel from the Noelite Convent where they lived across Russia to reach America.

Reviewers VS, PITs #1, 2, & 3

VS 1 pointed ear.

I actually “watched” this twice. The first time through I fell asleep just after Toorop picked up Aurora. I chalked it up to stress relating to all that is going on in my life (see recent blog posts for more info). After watching it a second time and getting all the way through, I noticed a very marked cynicism towards organized religion. This I expect from Hollywood so that isn’t enough turn me off of a movie. There is an overall cynical worldview throughout the film.

What turned me off was that this film had too many questions that needed answering; Why can’t Toorop go to America? Why does an organized religion need to manufacture miracles? What caused Sister Rebeka to swear off violence since she seems to be so good at it? The ending seemed to be awfully convenient.

The director’s cut, according to IMDb, is 161 mins. The version on DVD is 90 mins. Maybe the missing 71 minutes answers some of these questions maybe it doesn’t. I wasn’t sufficiently impressed with this flick to buy an eventual Director’s Cut edition DVD.

Note to Vin Diesel fans, he sports stubble throughout most of the flick and proves that he NEEDS the bald head. Vin Diesel with hair is just another gravelly voiced actor.

PIT #1 .75 pointed ears
There was a plot? Great cinematography does not justify watching this movie.

PIT #2 no pointed ears.
I lost interest in this flick early on and went to play Motorcycle Madness on Facebook

PIT #3 .5 pointed ears.
At least there was no kissing.

Overall rating 2.25 pointed ears (out of 8). Rent-able, don’t bother purchasing this until it hits the discount bin

The film may have been an abysmal failure but the setting is quite usable.  The near future of Babylon AD assumes that the corporations have taken over, advertising is everywhere.  A little extrapolation of current events, the collapse of the global economy and a bit more high tech is all that’s needed. 

The concept of the Toorop’s Character can be plopped into nearly any setting.  He’s a pirate and can dropped into any Pirate adventure with just a change of weapons.  Play Toorop as a disillusioned Browncoat, looking for profit wherever he can find it and desperately avoiding The Alliance and again the character can be played as is in a Firefly game.  The Stargate SG1 season 3 episode “Dead Man’s Switch” dealt with an intergalactic bounty hunter after SG1.  Toorop would fit nicely into a campaign based on this episode.  Toorop as a bounty hunter and he slides right into any Star Wars campaign.

Toorop:  Heroic
Agility: d8, Smarts: d6, Spirit: d6, Strength: d8, Vigor: d8
Pace 6, Parry 8, Toughness 6
Edges: Combat Reflexes, First Strike, Nerves of Steel
Hindrances: Code of Honor, Enemy of the Major Power in your campaign, Outsider
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d10, Shooting d12, Streetwise d8, Driving d8, Guts d6, Survival d6, Riding d4
Gear determined by setting, but be sure to include lots of weapons

The character of Sister Rebeka, a woman with obvious training in the martial arts, who has dedicated her life to her religious beliefs, is also transportable into most settings.

Sister Rebeka: Veteran (due to her time being cloistered)
Agility: d10, Smarts: d8, Spirit: d8, Strength: d4, Vigor: d4
Pace 6, Parry 7, Toughness 4
Edges: Danger Sense, Strong Willed
Hindrances: Heroic, Pacifist, Loyal
Skills: Persuasion d12, Fighting d10, Notice d12, Streetwise d6, Survival d10, Riding d6

Aurora is more and less problematic as she is basically a Macguffin with lines.  She’s the Governor’s daughter in a Pirates game.  She could easily be from the same Alliance program that turned out River Tam in Firefly.  She’s a young girl with the knowledge of the Ancients in Stargate SG1. *note* in the movie she is pregnant, this does not necessarily need to figure into your campaign

Aurora: Novice
Agility: d6, Smarts: d8, Spirit: d8, Strength: d4, Vigor: d4
Pace 6, Parry 2, Toughness 4
Edges: Arcane Background (ability to read minds), Attractive
Hindrances: Clueless, Curious, Quirk (asks inappropriate questions at inappropriate times)
Skills: Healing d8, Persuasion d10, Notice d8, Investigation d8

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Gaming in the Universe of..., Gaming Notes, Movie Reviews, RPG | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vulcan Stev’s month late movie review “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

Originally posted at the Dire Cafe January 9, 2009

Starring:dtess

Keanu Reeves … Klaatu
Jennifer Connelly … Helen Benson
Kathy Bates … Regina Jackson
Jaden Smith … Jacob Benson
John Cleese … Professor Barnhardt
Jon Hamm … Michael Granier
Kyle Chandler … John Driscoll

I didn’t go into this movie with high expectations as remakes are not known for their originality. That said, this was a very well done movie. Having seen (and owning) the original on DVD, I can say that the spirit of the original exists in this remake. However with the Cold War emphasis of the 1951 version replaced with a more environmental theme, this new imagining definitely captures the current zeitgeist of Hollywood. I had but one reservation with this film and will detail that below.

Reviewers: Mrs. VS, PIT’s # 2&3

VS: 1.75 pointed ears. Gort is here and much more menacing. The ship is not a saucer but something that is more plausible for traveling through space. Klaatu again learns about humanity’s potential through the eyes of a child. My only quibble is the highly ambiguous ending. Did Klaatu leave the Earth in that condition?

Mrs. VS 1.5 pointed ears. I went to see this movie with my family. I was expecting to have a nap. I was expecting the standard “hubby” movie with car chases and explosions. I was not expecting a drama with Sci Fi overtones. I actually began paying attention about a third of the way through.

PIT #2 2 pointed ears. I actually understood what was going on in this movie. When Dad sat down to watch the original, I couldn’t figure out why it was supposed to be SF. This movie is only SF because it has an alien.

PIT #3 1 pointed ear. Very few explosions. No car chases. At least there was no kissing. This was a boring movie. I did spot the guy from “Early Edition” and “King Kong”.

Overall 6.25 pointed ears out of 8

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment