Symptom 125: Tremors, Graboids With A Side of Bacon

Tremors. Undeniably the first movie is the best of them all. It is an action/horror/.comedy. Oh sure it has contrivances and the Graboid makes zero evolutionary sense. It is a creature that can’t possibly exist, let alone be one of the oldest life forms on the planet. The thing is as the viewer you never care. The movie has phenomenal character acting and chemistry between the actors. It carries this story and creates a film that is as enjoyable on the 50th watch as the first. It also introduces to Burt and is as quotable as any movie out there. Unfortunately, it just goes downhill from here.

Symptom 124: Evacuate Earth, Apocalypse Soon

We wrap our discussion of Apocalypse stories with a review of a National Geographic documentary called Evacuate Earth. It is a generally well done and scientifically accurate. They do a good job of presenting a reasonable world killing event and the doc becomes though experiment in how society would respond to that event. It briefly touches on social issues and the questions if raises but does not dwell on are the interesting lacunae in this one. All in all a good break from the last two crap fests.

Symptom 122: Geostorm, To The Extreme

Welcome to GeoStorm, The crappiest craptastic crapfest ever crapping crapped. Also known as GeoStorm.

You may think I am being harsh. If you are, watch the movie. Seriously, don’t watch the movie and thank me. This is a film about climate change written by people who don’t truly understand what climate change is. Some movies are so bad they are good. This is so bad that it is just bad. It is a standard apocalypse action drama with needless explosives, a horrific assault on science, a plot that depends in contrivance after contrivance and a resolution that is pointless. The hook or high concept for this story is weather control satellites that if used to activate a series of storms in the correct sequence can create a world destroying global super storm known as a Geostorm. It is also kind enough to have a countdown clock which as long as we reactivate the controls before it hits zero, well, everything will be fine, to quote Doc Brown.

Symptom 123: 2012 The Worst Ending Ever

2012 - An action movie that pits mankind in a desperate race to save the world from the certain destruction that awaited us when the Mayan calendar ended. It’s the opposite of Smuckers, with a pitch like that is has to be a crap sandwich. Well it isn’t, it is worse. Calling this movie a crap sandwich insults crap sandwiches. It has all the standard go too’s in a bad apocalypse movie, horrible science, too much drama, no plot, action ramping upon action ramping and it is utterly forgettable. This week, we review a terrible movie.

***Producers Note - You’ll notice Symptom 122 is missing. This was Symptom 123 in production. Due me, Scott, being busy, it has become Symptom 122 in air date. Symptom 122: Geostorm, will be uploaded later this week. I have also corrected the error in Symptom 121, where I initially uploaded the raw and unedited/mixed cut. Apologies for the out of order airing***

Symptom 121: Look! In The Sky, A Super Volcano!

Fact: Yellowstone National Park contains a Super Volcano

Fact: Super Volcanoes are many times more deadly than a Volcano

Fact: Yellowstone has had super eruptions before.

Fact: It is overdue and will happen again.

Not so fast Dwight Schrute. The first three are facts. The last one, not so much. But don’t tell the writers of what is now available on Netflix - Super Volcano. They assert it is just a mater or time and then try to convince you that the worst possible scenario will also happen. The result is, well, Super Volcano.

Fact: I like The Office way too much.

Symptom 120: Solaris, Not Love In Space

We conclude James Cameron July with a discussion of the film Solaris. If you like slow, heady, philosophical looks at the human condition, the criteria of life, love and mental realities we create, this is the film for you. If you like action, this is certainly not it. Solaris asks questions about the reliability of memory, the filtering impact time has, how well do we truly know our friends, family and spouses, do we love and remember the real person or a stylized version of that person, as well as dabbling in the criteria of what is and is not sapient life and what rights it has. Solaris is slow, but if like movies that ask big questions and let you draw your own answers, this is science fiction at its best.

Symptom 119: Cameron Under The Sea

James Cameron July continues as we discuss The Abyss. This movie isn’t dated at all. Fears of Russian military attacks, nuclear submarines, it doesn’t scream 1980’s at all. That aside, this film is a testament to old school film making, with a focus on character, tension and score that is epic and on point. While there are clearly plot holes and this isn’t his best work, The Abyss is a quality film. The problem with this film is that it is not memorable. It simply exists. It is the Vanilla Ice cream of the movie world. No matter how high quality vanilla ice cream is, it is still just vanilla ice cream.

Symptom 118: Avatar, Lakota In Space

We kick off James Cameron July by discussing the blockbuster hit Avatar. You can blast this movie for many things, ripping of Dances With Wolves, a weak plot, average acting, boring and under developed characters, but it was undeniably a financial and artistic success. Avatar set records at the box office and revolutionized film making with innovative use of CGI and 3D. This movie is a decade old and is of higher quality in those areas than films made today. It is also a tremendous achievement in world building. It is a shame that this master class in the usage of CGI, 3D, score and world building was not paired with a more fully developed and original script.

Symptom 115: Next Stop, The Wandering Earth

Explosions. Bad science. An idiotic premise. Generic, repetitive score. Bad acting. A weak, clunky plot. The Wandering Earth has it ALL. Or nothing. I guess it depends on what you are looking for in a movie. The Wandering Earth starts off with the premise that the sun will have a helium flash and turn into a red giant, a couple billion years early. To avoid certain death the Earth will be turned in a generational star ship by putting engines all over the surface. It will then fly to Alpha Centauri over 2500 years. The rest of the movie is downhill from.

While there some nice notes about how humanity might unify in the face of a crisis, far to little time is spent on that and far to much time on pointless action. This movie sucks and is the modern Armageddon, with less believable science.

Symptom 113: Avengers Endgame

A little late, but we wanted to give everyone time to see the movie so that we could do what we do and give spoilers. Ok, if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading, seriously, stop reading now, because fat Thor was amazing!.

Enggame was a masterclass for wrapping up multiple storylines while setting up the playing field for whatever phase 4 of the MCU will be. Tony Stark received one of the all time greatest death scenes a character can hope for. Steve Rogers finally does what makes Steve Rogers happy, Thor teaming up with The Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic pairing that should make for a wonderful movie. Doctor Strange’s lines at the end of Infinity War and to Tony before battle nor carry more gravitas than ever, and the writers set up a perfect pitch for what Captain Marvel will be doing in her sequel.

Avengers Endgame is a three hour movie that never felt like a three hour movie. it was enjoyable, well paced and had an ending that made many cry, as well as one of the greatest climactic battle scenes ever in film. It was a cultural event and it will be decades before something like this comes around again. The last time something did was probably Empire Strikes Back. It wasn’t a perfect, it has flaws that we will discuss, it was essentially a time travel reset button flick that jumped five years ahead. The time jump led to world building and significant character developments that occurred off screen, which is always bad. Professor Hulk was cool but ham fisted and we miss what we should have seen in Phase, Bruce Banner’s journey to becoming professor Hulk. Tony Stark changes from rogue, billionaire genius playboy philanthropist to family man, off screen, Captain America learns to deal with failure, Thor gives up and becomes fat., Black Widow is running the Avengers. All this occurs off screen. The reset button eliminates all consequences save Black Widow’s death. However, none of these flaws matter as Endgame is fun, entertaining and story that always remembers to focus on the central characters that we have come to love. Endgame focuses on completing the stories of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers and rightfully makes them the biggest heroes in a story about Earth’s biggest heroes. For all these reasons it is an excellent film and precisely because it does these things can overcome being a time travel reset button film that leaps forward in time five years.

Symptom 112: Captain Controversy

Captain Marvel. Its, not bad. Its not great. Scott thinks it is above average, Mark calls it average and Thomas says, meh. Considering the pre-release hype, that it was either the worst thing the MCU would ever see or the greatest thing ever, that’s interesting. In this symptom we review the movie and have discussion as to WHY there was so much controversy over a film that really doesn’t warrant controversy. Captain Marvel is a fun film. Yes, the hero is a woman. Yes, it has a female empowerment vibe. WHY DOES THAT BOTHER ANYONE? Yes, Brie Larson is unabashedly and apologetically a feminist who values diversity? Why shouldn’t she be? What do comments made about A Wrinkle In Time have to do with the MCU? Nothing, honestly. Maybe the real problem is that Larson. perhaps unintentionally, just comes across aloof and always appears to be talking down to people as if she is innately superior to the combined sum of humanity? Or maybe it is just that Brie is trying make jokes and be sarcastic/funny and she just isn’t good at it. If you look at what she says in a vacuum, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her statements or actions. However, she says things in ways that make is so easy for right wing trolls to twist her words into easily digestible chunks guaranteed to ignite the mobs of angry dudes.

Well, the timing is off. We were supposed to release the Captain Marvel Review around April 18th and this was supposed to be Avengers Endgame. We got busy. So what happened was 20 minutes of my thoughts on Endgame, this Captain Marvel review and then later, a long form Endgame review…sorry.

Supplemental: Avengers Endgame Reaction

Due to a hectic schedule it will be potentially a month before the whole crew is together to discuss Endgame. The good news is that we will have time to unpack all that we saw and have a reasoned discussion about the movie. The bad news - its a month. So, I wanted to get something recorded and released discussing Endgame. The result is a short supplemental where I cover my general feelings about the movie, the great job closing Tony Stark and Steve Roger’s arc, resolving the problems created in Infinity War and clearing the field for the new characters. I also discuss how clearing the field for the characters could backfire on Marvel and potential problems that lie ahead for Marvel in phase 4.

Symptom 111: Alita Boring Angel

Well, anything April is running behind. See, we told you were out of ideas.

Actually, it has just been a busy time for the Sci-Fi Malady crew and will continue to be so. However this week we discuss Alita Battle Angel, which is more is more difficult than one might think. There’s nothing movie breaking wrong with Alita. It is not full of J.J Abramsesque plot holes or mystery boxes, it stays mostly true to the source material and is absolutely brilliantly and painstakingly visually rendered. The score is wonderful and the acting is mostly fantastic with an exception or the two. The movie is a quantum leap forward in CGI rendering, producing a computer generated person that can realistically emote and move.

The problem is that story wise there isn’t much here. Alita regains her memory, or some of it, Ido comes to terms with his daughter’s death, Alita’s boyfriend is doing terrible things to get to Zalem, and Vector and Nova are going to kill Alita because they know she has the power to maybe kill them? Although even this doesn’t make sense because Zalem prevailed against and army of Alita’s. How is one actually a threat? We some motorball games, which really serves the same roll as the pod racing scene in a Phantom Menace - add some badly needed action to a dull film - and some pretty cool fight scenes, which again, serve as the lightsaber battles in Phantom Menace.

Alita is an origin story. The problem is origin stories come later, after you develop a character people care about in other movies. Even Phantom Menace was an origin story, telling how Vader, The Emperor and the Empire came to be. The story we should have seen is whatever Alita 2 and maybe 3 will be. After watching Alita fight an epic war to save Iron City from the clutches of Zalem and uplift an entire population of the oppressed, we might care more about a slow, boring origin story.

Again, from a technical film making point of view, Alita is a fine movie. it was just released in the wrong order.