Saturday, June 20, 2015

My Vegas Vacation, and 3 More (Awful) Film Reviews

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wisdom tooth's wacky, painful hijinks came at a pretty bad time.  I hate calling off work, and the surgery to remove the tooth (along with its new friend, Root Abscess), forced me to take a week off, due to pain, fever, and medicine side-effects (like the sudden urge to watch and review movies).

But I felt especially bad about taking off because, only two or so weeks prior, I had taken a week of vacation off.  This is the first time I properly used my vacation time because I don't get out much.  But Andrew and I had a travel voucher and we had to use it or lose it.

A quick word on the voucher: Last year, we went to a timeshare presentation because they promised a trip to Hawai'i.  We thought, eh, let's try it.  There's no risk of losing anything, right?  Right!  After ninety minutes of enthusiastic salesmanship and complimentary coffee and cookies, we declined and got our voucher.  So yes, those timeshare things are legit.

...sort of.

They'll promise you 1,000 "doll hairs," but they will follow through and give you the doll hairs.

See, they make you jump through every possible hoop to redeem your voucher.  There are letters and phone calls and refundable deposits, and it's a nightmare of redtape.  When we finally were given our departure date, it was completely different than the dates we'd requested; when we got the flight information, we discovered that the "three day, two night" trip included air travel time, and that each flight had two or three layovers, and that we would arrive in Hawai'i at 2 AM and have to leave at 4 AM, and spend only about 12 hours there, and our "hotel" was actually a shitty hostel one or two hours away from the airport and no, rental car was not included.

So while they technically give you the trip, they go out of their way to make you cancel so they don't have to spend the money.  We did cancel, but after much arguing, I got us a $300 refund and a voucher for a hotel stay in Vegas. 

So we went to Vegas.

We stayed in a suite.

 Here's a view of the strip from our car.

 Early morning Bellagio.

 As always, my favourite attraction was Statue at the Venetian.

  I'm fond of statues, apparently.  Here's me with Wax Johnny Depp.  

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm.

 I got pulled onstage at a magic show.  Andrew was delighted.  I was mostly embarrassed.

 Good times.

My hope was that the trip would boost me up a little, out of my depression, but it failed to in the long run.  Some things just can't be fixed by all-you-can-eat buffets, although I'm certainly willing to try again.

 Sometimes, even "OMG PUPPIES" slot machines don't help.

I'm trying my hardest to stay positive, though.  For example, trying to update my blog more, and trying to get out of the house more, and trying to watch more cheery animated movies.

Incidentally, my last blog post I reviewed some movies I saw while high on pain-killers.  A couple were cheery animated movies (like "Hotel Transylvania" and "Guardians").  But I didn't bother to review three movies that are so bad I couldn't see straight.  Yet, the more I think about it, the more I realise that the world needs to know.

Without further ado, here's...

Julie's Reviews of Recent, Terrible Animated Films 
that are an Affront to the Dignity of Man

1) Big Hero 6

This movie won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and is the only movie on the list I was able to watch in full.  (Although I had one false start where I started to watch it and then turned it off.)

Here's my problems with it.  First, the characters.  Each are painful caricatures and nearly unbearable.


The whole thing is set in San Francisco that's also Tokyo, and it's so "kawaii" it makes me want to kick Pikachu in the teeth.

The dialogue is cheeky and supposed to be funny, but with all the characters spouting off constant one-liners that are just playing up their unbearably shallow, one-dimensional personalities, it's predictable at best and insultingly flat at worst.

This whole movie feels like some 13-yr-old gamer's wet dream.

Side annoyance: The six heroes are an early 90's style team of minorities.  There's the token black guy, and the token perky girl (who, according to the animators, is Latina, but is clearly not Latina, unless "Latina" now means "white"), and the token foolish slacker, and on and on.  And they all have retarded nicknames.

Side annoyance #2:  "Boy genius" trope needs retired ten years ago.

Redeeming feature: The conflicts (death of close family members) were real ones.  No shying away from death in this movie.

2) Home

I first started seeing billboards for this all over Los Angeles.  The billboards said, merely, "HOME," and showed a purple alien on them, sometimes with a cat.  No other information was given, but you could guess the plot.  An alien is on Earth and either wants to go home or wants to make Earth his home, with hilarious consequences.  A fish out of water story.  I sort of wanted to see it.

Then I saw the trailer.

Dear God, no.

The highlights of this movie were tired, drawn-out jokes that were cringe-inducing in their laziness.  This was the trailer and I could barely sit through it; image what a train-wreck the feature film must be.

Among the awful things featured were the alien's "accent," which was just him speaking in shitty grammar.  There's a thing about accents that I've noticed after watching "After Earth," and the "Home" trailer.  Don't try to invent your own.  Just rip off an existing one, okay?  "New" accents always sound stupid.  And don't do the whole "retarded ebonics" grammar thing for your aliens.  Want to see a list of aliens that bad grammar has worked for?  Yoda and E.T.  That's it.  The "Home" alien says things like, "I do not dancing," which don't make him endearing... they just make him seem mentally handicapped.

Even the other aliens think the "cute" alien is irritating as hell.

At one point he hears music and starts dancing because he just can't control himself and he declares that, quote, "What happening?  My hands are in the air like I just do not care!"  Har-har-har.  That would have been hilarious, like in the 90s.  It might be funny to a 3-yr-old.  You featured that joke in your trailer?  Can we please stop with the "music taking over the body" sequences in kids' movies?

Another "joke" was that he eats a urinal cake.  Toilet humour, Dreamworks?  Really?  That's the best thing this movie has to offer?

Side annoyance:  It looks like they created the aliens based on the question, "What's the easiest thing we can animate?"  Look at that picture up there.  Ten or twenty years ago, that CGI would have been incredible, but it's 2015 and people expect better.  There's such a cheap, cartoony look to it.

Redeeming feature: The protagonist, conspicuosly absent from the billboards, is a black woman (or girl?  Her age is unclear; she drives a car but seems like she's 12.)  Good for them, I guess, for picking a minority protagonist and not having them be a raging stereotype.

Anti-redeeming feature: So the movie's about an awkward, on-the-run alien being chased by galactic forces who teams up with a girl who teaches him about belonging?

Hey, wait, that sounds familiar.

3 ) Minions

This shit with the minions needs to stop, okay?

Despicable Me was a classic tale about a cranky guy who adopts some precocious little girls and learns about love.  It was a typical Daddy-Warbucks-meets-Annie plot that tests well with audiences.  And the characters were fun and it was a great movie.  The minions were secondary characters there for comic relief.

Despicable Me 2 was a story about the cranky guy, Gru, having settled into the life of a single dad, and his conflicts with raising the kids and seeking out a mate for himself.  This is a new plot that hasn't been explored much.  I think this movie had so many new dynamics to explore, and so much more to offer.  And the conflict centered around... the minions.  They were a little more oopsy-daisy than in the first movie; they were awkward, bumbling morons, but they were still Gru's workforce.

Now, look.  Everyone likes comic relief.  But comic-relief spin-offs are almost always dreadful.  And with each new movie, the minions have gotten more unbearably cutesy.  In Despicable Me 1, they were workers.  They hung out at the water cooler, and Gru asked about their wives and kids.  Now they're just helpless, cooing infants.

The marketing has gotten to a point of frenzied insanity.  Am I the only one who thinks they're not cute, but annoying as hell, and that their baby talk and "uh-oh!" style shenanigans are getting out of hand?

From my FaceBook feed, these two things were posted in the last 24 hours:

I did not make these up.  These are actual things my friends thought should be shared.

Despicable.  (See what I did there?)

The "Minions" movie raises more questions than it answers.  Are they immortal beings?  If they weren't genetically engineered by Gru (as assumed in the first movie), where did they come from?  What, exactly, is there place in society?  Are they endangered?  Are they aliens?  Why does it seem like they're animated so shittily?  Who green-lighted the idea of an infantile, babbling Tic-Tac getting its own movie?  Do the writers have no shame?  Can no one but I tell that this is nothing more than a desperate and obvious cash-grab?

Side annoyance: "Supervillian conventions" are a funny premise for an SNL short, but nothing more.  They need to stop appearing in films.  They joke's dead... let it lie in peace.

Side annoyance #2: I hate it when there's a bumbling character that frustrates the straight-laced villain character.  If they're a villain, why wouldn't they just shoot the bumbling character and be done with it?  Why would a villain put up with this nonsense?  Why do they constantly express exasperation but never take measures to stop the thing that's irritating them... and why do they constantly play into the bumbling character's antics?  At one point in the trailer, it shows the villain reading the minions a story in bed, and all I could think of was, "This is embarrassing and I wish I weren't here right now."

Side plot hole: If the minions gravitate toward bad guys and are immortal beings that have done so throughout history, doesn't that mean that they have been directly involved with a large numbers of genocides, including the Holocaust?

Redeeming feature: None whatsoever.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wisdom Tooth Medical Adventures! Related: 5 Films Reviewed on Percocet!

Well, blog, it's been a rough, rough, rough, rough week.  The short and sweet of it is that one of Andrew's old chums visited us and I made a royal ass of myself.  I feel guilty and embarrassed and frustrated because I'm so helpless to fix the situation.  I apologised to her for being less than welcoming and she accepted it, but I sort of doubt her sincerity and also, this isn't about her and I, but about Andrew and her.  I want to be able to have relationships with those with whom Andrew has relationships, but my natural anxiety prevents me from easily doing so, and often, I feel forced into the situation when I'm not quite ready, which is exactly what happened this weekend. I feel like her and I could have been friends if we'd met under other circumstances, but now I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

The usual, I suppose.

The whole weekend was further compounded by a rather odd extenuating circumstance.  My bottom left wisdom tooth (#17, for those of you who are dentally-inclined), has been impacted and aching for about ten years now.  Why haven't I had impacted tooth removed, you ask? ask, attention riveted on the screen as you read this.

Well, when I went to get my wisdom teeth removed initially, the doctor broke my jaw upon removal of the very first tooth.  (#32, for those of you who are dentally-inclined)  What followed was a malpractice nightmare; he failed to contact my emergency contacts, wired it shut without consent, failed to take an X-Ray, and ended up doing more damage than if he'd left the damn thing alone in the first place.  I needed reconstructive surgery, two plates, eight screws, and ten weeks of my jaw wired shut to repair the badly misaligned bone; I have lasting joint and nerve damage.

Check out this wicked cool scar.  I asked the surgeon to cut vertically instead of horizontally 
so I could live my life as a Disney villain, but he said no.

So naturally I opted to leave in the remaining teeth.  But last Monday (almost two weeks ago), my remaining lower wisdom tooth began paining abnormally bad.  My speech grew slurred and my face swelled up.  By Tuesday it was bad enough that I called my dental insurance company and requested the names of some oral surgeons. They gave me some cheap, less-that-reputable clinics on the south side. (I live in southern Los Angeles.)  I gave up my search.

You can cheap out on a lot of things, but some things, like dentists, just aren't worth it.

Wednesday, I called my regular dentist and said I needed a referral to any clinic at all, insurance be damned.  He gave me one to a 5-star clinic in Beverly Hills, called the surgeon, and set up an appointment on the 15th.

Thursday rolled around, and possibly so did my tooth.  I called back and said I couldn't wait that long. It was excruciating.  They got me in Friday and removed the tooth immediately following the X-Ray.  There was a small abscess at the root of the tooth. My surgeon told me I was "lucky" that we got it out so early because if we'd waited, the infection would have gotten worse and maybe gone into my jaw.

I could have had all the majephty that is Phteven'ph.

Thus began the weekend with Andrew's friend.  Nothing says "good impression" like "previously traumatised person with anxiety loopy with delirium and high as fuck on painkillers."

The best part was probably when she insisted on bringing Jack's roommate, the one who won't stop smoking around me, who managed to blow marijuana smoke in my face for the 5 minutes I was in Jack's house.

Look, I don't like weed, but I support its legalisation.  But don't be a dick about it.  Blowing smoke in an asthmatic's face is a shitty move.  She didn't even apologise when she was called out on it.  I'm being tolerant, and you're being a dick.

But back to my medical story.  The surgery itself was fine, only about 45 minutes under general anesthetic, and the doctor was great.  He even numbed my arm so I wouldn't feel the IV go in.  I felt fine for about 24 hours afterwards, and even managed to go to one of the West Adams History Tours and give a speech on the Beckett mansion.

I'm sure my speech was inspiring as well as thought-provoking, though I don't recall most of it at present.

Then came the fever.  I've been in semi-unbearable pain since then, I'm hopped up on enough painkillers to down a mule, and my face is swollen to impressive proportions. I've spent most of the weekend feverish and in bed.   We went back to the surgeon sometime during the week and he upped both my painkillers and my antibiotics.  I haven't been able to eat at all, have lost about 10 pounds, haven't shit in a week, and some of the painkillers prompt vivid hallucination dreams of pure nightmare fuel.

I had a vision of one of Jack's roommates being a selfish, drugged-out jerk who passive-aggressively attacks me for not sharing her values system.  No wait, that was real life.

So what do you do when you're wrecked like this?

The usual, I suppose.


It turns out if you search "Full Movie" you can find a ton of copyright infringement.

Without further ado, I present 5 movies I only vaguely remember watching on YouTube while high on oxycodone, along with my reviews, which were written while a little less high on oxycodone.

Julie's Post-Surgery Movie Reviews

1) Tomorrowland (2015)
  • What I remember (the plot?): There's a girl named Kaycee who has an awesome NASA dad who is out of work.  She gets a pin and hooks up with a robot who actually just a British child.  British Child Bot tells her the pins are to recruit geniuses to a utopian paradise for geniuses where there aren't rules.  They go see George Clooney, who is an exiled genius.  He takes them back to Tomorrowland.  In Tomorrowland, they discover that Clooney was exiled for creating a ham radio that sends "really bad vibes" to earth and is going to cause its destruction.  I don't remember what they do about the radio, but they restart the recruitment program at the end.  I think maybe the British Child Bot dies but I can't really remember.
  • What I liked: There were a lot of YouTube complaints about Clooney, whose dialogue was definitely trying too hard to be Tony Stark of Avenger fame.  But I thought he pulled it off okay.  I thought it was pleasant and none of the characters were unbearable.  I liked the female lead; it's nice to see a strong female character who isn't overly sexualised.
  • What I didn't like: British Child Bot is such an overdone trope it's not even funny anymore.  Please stop making humanoid robots that are tiny British children.  Also, I thought the conflict was pretty weak.  "Stop sending bad vibes to earth, man."  What flower-child hippe dipshit thought that was a good problem for geniuses to have?
  • What I might have imagined in a fever state: Edison and Tesla have a rocket ship to the moon that's hidden in the Eiffel Tower.

2) After Earth (2013)
  • What I remember (the plot?): Will Smith's son is trying to become a ranger.  I think he doesn't get it.  He loves his dad but hasn't seen his dad in a long time so it's important that he becomes a ranger to show his dad before seeing his dad.  Cut to, he and his dad are in a space ship.  It crashes on a planet that was destroyed by bad vibes... why, it's Earth!  There are weird spider-lizard-bat things that can taste fear and if you get scared, they can "see" you and eat you.  If you don't feel fear you're invisible and that's called "ghosting."  Will Smith's son wanders around post-crash, does some stuff, and then he and his dad fly off into space again.
  • What I liked: Lovely scenery.  Every time I turned my face to the screen I saw a great CGI world with blessedly little dialogue from Jayden.
  • What I didn't like: If I recall correctly, Jayden wanders around, finds a weapon in some cache, and then I guess they repair the ship and fly off.  Not really a conflict.  Sort of an intergalactic tire change, really.  Also I remember the monsters looked dumb.  They should have kept them to the shadows.  Also everyone appeared to be mentally impaired and they talked like Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder for some reason.
  • What I might have imagined in a fever state:  Jayden falls asleep and frost grows on his face, and you think he's a goner.  Then he wakes up in a weird leaf nest.  When he comes out of it he finds someone (or something) has built the nest around him and he's in a hollowed out dinosaur ship cleverly covered in strangely symmetric leaves.
3) Rise of the Guardians (2012)
  • What I remember (the plot?): Jack Frost is sad that, unlike Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, children don't think he's real, but think of him as a metaphor even though he brings them the Joy of Snow Days.  There's a nightmare character named Pitch who gives kids nightmares, and the Moon tells Jack he must join the Guardians to keep Pitch under control and to keep children's hopes and dreams alive.  There's a big showdown at the end and Jack is appreciated by children who Believe.
  • What I liked: Honestly, not a bad movie.  Really interesting take on each of the characters... Santa's sort of Serbian, the Easter Bunny is Australian, the Tooth Fairy is a Hummingbird, and the Sand Man is just damned adorable.  It's a really unique concept and even Jack's character, which could be annoying at times as a hormonal teenage boy, is actually pretty sympathetic.  His back story is deliciously dark.
  • What I didn't like:  A bit cloying, especially the "children must believe" bits.  The kids rallying together at the end was nausea-inducing, although full disclosure, I was on a lot of nausea-inducing drugs, so maybe it was just me.
  • What I might have imagined in a fever state:  There's a greyhound named Harriet owned by a little girl whose role isn't really clear in the movie, but at some point hunts the Easter Bunny and also is ridden around and made to look like a unicorn by the Sandman.
4) Hotel Transylvania (2012)
  • What I remember (the plot?): Count Dracula builds a secluded hotel for monsters to protect his daughter from being hurt/hunted by humans.  She is turning 118 years old and wants to leave the castle and see the world.  Dracula is trying to put together a party with all of his friends for her and it's looking like a dud.  Then a 21-yr-old pot-head backpacker who is human wanders into the castle, fearless.  He and Dracula Jr. fall in love, and Dracula begrudgingly gives his approval, coming to terms with the idea that not all humans hate monsters.
  • What I liked: Again, like Guardians, it was surprisingly tolerable.  The characters had complex backstories, were sympathetic, and were mostly pretty multi-faceted.  I found the backpacker to be a bit annoying and some of Dracula's friends obnoxious, but Dracula and his daughter were both endearing and their relationship was well worth exploring.
  • What I didn't like: First, Dracula has, at times, an overly-cutesy Count Chocula sort of thing going on.  Second, I feel like the whole "teen love" thing is sort of bleh.  I mean, going from "daughter leaving the castle" to "backpacking the world with a guy she just met" is a big leap.  Maybe it's just because I'm an adult now, but the whole "BUT DADDY I LOVE HIM!" plots are pretty flimsy to me, and I wish they had had more of a compromise ending instead of the "girl falls in love, is happy ever after" sort of thing.  It's just not realistic.  Also, Frankenstein's Monster was called Frankenstein.
  • What I might have imagined in a fever state: A bunch of Draculas rally together and use their capes to... I don't remember but I feel like there were like 100 Draculas with capes and they were all waving their capes at Dracula.  Maybe he duplicated himself and was waving the capes at his daughter's wedding.  I dunno.  So many capes.
5) Divergent?  (2014)
  • What I remember (the plot?): I saved this one for last.  There was a fifth movie I saw.  It was not animated; it was a live-action movie, I think.  It might have been sci-fi.  I saw it between "Tomorrowland" and "After Earth," and it has since been removed for copyright infringement, so I can't look it up anymore.  I suspect it was Divergent, but it could have also been "Jupiter Ascending."  Honestly, no idea.  There was stuff in space and people running around in tight pleather suits.  There was definitely a female lead.
  • What I liked: I remember it had some great action sequences and, like "After Earth," fantastic scenery and effects.  It had dialogue but I don't think I absorbed any of it.
  • What I didn't like: Super loud and very confusing.  I might have also lost a lot since it was wedged between two other action sci-fi movies.  I think there was a part with someone dangling over a bridge and someone being all "take my hand!!"  Another trope we really need to retire.
  • What I might have imagined in a fever state: I think someone exploded underwater, but no idea.  It might have been a spaceship.