Blog » Posts about Movies

On Criticism

A critic’s job is not to reflect the public opinion, but to inform it.

Art may be judged by how well it achieves what it sets out to do.

Ratings should be meaningful and distinct. The difference between each rank of the rating system should be obvious to the reviewer and the reader.

The Best Jurassic Park Sequel

Jurassic Park failed because Dennis Nedry was underpaid.

As a bidding contractor he shares the blame, but in the tech world we’d call him a bad hire. John Hammond says so himself through spoonfuls of ice cream in the Visitor’s Center. There are more specific lessons:

  • Invest in a build server so compile jobs can’t be expected to take down the security cameras
  • Use a source control system to track when your developers install backdoors
  • Upgrade every workstation’s graphics cards so your 3D fly-though Unix systems scroll at a reasonable pace.

Jurassic World has more than one point of failure. I’m going to discuss them all now, in detail, so beware of spoilers for the entire movie.

I can do anything better than you!

The Amazing Spider-dope

I was amazed that I liked the first Amazing Spider-man. The subplot with the construction workers and the cranes was unbearably cheesy and Dr. Connors’ underground lab made no sense, but the action was good, the stakes were clear, and Peter and Gwen had a great dynamic and some real chemistry. The high school fight was authentic, I’m told, given the way Spider-man moves, improvises, and cracks wise.

Now for the sequel to ruin everything.

Warning: spoilers. But they’re all dumb, so you might be better off knowing this nonsense in advance.

Who was Peter's mother? You never hear her name.

The Desolation of Smaug

FACT: The expression “the desolation of Smaug” refers to the lands burned by the dragon when he took the dwarven kingdom of Erebor, specifically the city of Dale.

OTHER FACT: This movie spends no time in Dale.

The first Hobbit movie felt like a remix of the original Fellowship of the Ring: panoramic shots of people running, orc fights, and the exact same chase music when escaping from underground. But I loved it for the opening in Erebor, which felt like Dwarf Fortress as rendered by Square Enix. I also loved the high frame rate technology Peter Jackson used to bring the world to life. 3D movies are a gimmick, but HFR is the real future of cinema. Go see it in that format. It’s worth it.

Not shown: Scrooge McDuck, swimming offscreen

Thor: The Dark World

Thor 2 is an odd movie. It’s mostly given up the fish out of water comedy of the first Thor and now feels more like a puzzle piece in Disney’s Avengers movie continuum. You hear references to the Tesseract, how the Bifrost was destroyed and rebuilt, and the events of The Avengers movie that happened in New York. I’m caught up with the movies, but I pity someone walking into this blind. How much worse will it get by the time The Avengers 2 or 3 comes out?

Right now it’s acceptable. Thor’s mopping up the galactic instability that occurred after The Avengers movie, which mostly involves his smug grin and other absurd facial expressions while smashing something in slow motion. Jane Foster and her equally hot intern are on Earth playing with portals because hey, science.

And now they kiss!

Apocalypse cancelled

Very little in Pacific Rim makes sense. I’ll allow the giant monsters and giant robots their existence, as the movie has nothing to offer without them. We learn that, on some vaguely predictable schedule, giant monsters (“kaiju”) emerge from a rift in the Pacific Ocean and attack coastal cities. When a monster pops up, one of the giant robots is dispatched to punch it back down. Sounds simple?

Let’s start with the simple questions.

I'm really surprised no monster ever damages the spinning engine in the middle of Gipsy Danger


Pixar's Brave

Brave is an odd movie for Pixar. It’s so traditional! Girl doesn’t want to get married, runs away, magic curse, makes peace with mom, happy ending. About the only surprise is that she doesn’t find some other boy to marry.

It has some odd discrepancies too, weird loops that I wouldn’t expect from Pixar. How is Merida able to sew anything on the back of a charging horse? Why is her final speech to the three clans so passionate and moving when she’s delivering it in such a halting fashion, glancing at her mother every few seconds? And why didn’t the kooky witch and her raven return for the ending? They were the best part of the movie!

I’m disappointed that I didn’t feel challenged by this movie. WALL-E induced guilt at our consumerist culture. Up fought the notion of old age being a handicap to adventure. Brave shows… uh, that parents and children sometimes have trouble talking to each other.


With thanks to Jason Smith and apologies to the true believers.

J. Jonah Jameson: Unbelievable! Impossible! A new Spider-man without the Daily Bugle? Without ME?

Betty Brant: Sir, the gift basket from Sony Pictures is here.

JJJ: Rrrgh, lemme see that. Cigar cutters, Lonsdales, Toros, Presidentes, bah!

Betty: They also included some Bics and Zippos…

JJJ: I don’t want lighters, I want SPOTLIGHTS! I’m the one protecting this city from that red menace, where’s my RED CARPET?