The Silent Side Seat Watch

Previews. Reviews. Poster. Stars. Plot. Genre.

So many things that can help you decide if a movie is worth your time. But on airplanes, there is another category of movie decision-maker: The silent side seat watch.

We’ve been doing it for decades. A movie will show in the main cabin on overhead screens. You don’t plug in your headphones or watch it. But every now and then you look up and check out a few moments. For an unfamiliar movie, you have to supply your own explanation on the plot, characters, and dialogue. Sometimes you find yourself watching huge chunks of the movie even though you really don’t know whats going on. Often the more inscrutable, the more you watch. You almost NEVER take out you headphones because you are not watching the movie, of course. But when it is all over you have a decided review of the film from the silent chunks you observed.

Nowadays, there are even more options to silent side seat watch: Inflight entertainment at your seat, laptops, iPads all provide chances to follow along on someone else’s film – silently, occasionally, and perplexingly.

On a recent pair of long flights, I saw a big chunk of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. While I might eventually watch the film, there was nothing in this silent pseudo-historical slayer flick that drew me in despite watching the 16th president take out an occasional vampire. Perhaps hearing Abe talk – a man of excellent words – as he battles the undead will improve the film. Even The Godfather is likely unappealing for a first time viewer too if you lose the dialogue and plot.

Then I watched some scenes from Men in Black III. I’ve seen this film and thought it was lacking plot, dialogue, and interesting characters. So removing all those might improve the movie. But watching selected scenes again from spots in the movie, I was reminded of all the other things I really really didn’t like about it. Same thing with Rock of Ages. On my return flight that was on a seat ahead of me, right in my eye line. The silliness of the movies was only simplified without the singing – all overacting and costumes without the marginal covers of the rock hits.

I wonder if all movies fail in silent side seat watching. Some scenes from People Like Us with Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks looked dreadful. But the movie on has a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, so my brief watching may be accurate.

What films have you side seat watched? Did you think any of them were good? Good enough to watch regularly at  later date? Share in the comments.

Happy Birthday to the Worst Star Wars thing ever

Star Wars fans tend to be harsh. We love the franchise and characters so much that when near misses (Ewoks), true misses (most of the edits on the original trilogy by Mr Can’t-Leave-Well-Enough-Alone) and total abominations (Jar Jar Binks) show up we are vocal and even manic. Many are panicked over the Disney take-over of Star Wars and the coming episodes VII-IX. I’m not. I bet they surpass Episodes I-III and lead to great rides in the theme parks. But maybe that’s because I’ve already seen the lowest Star Wars can sink.

As an 8-year-old boy, a year removed from seeing Star Wars when it was first released into the theaters, I discovered true hell. On this day, November 17, in 1978, my family gathered to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special. The variety special that unfolded was so terrible, so ridiculous that I couldn’t even bring myself to watch it all again today for this post. I appreciated the YouTube commentator who said he was too high to watch this. That’s how bad it is.

Let’s share just a few lowlights of what’s been called “the worst two-hours of television.”

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Cloud Atlas: You’ll Keep Meeting Tom Hanks

I know you’re strapped for time. So watching movies comes at premium. And I have the solution for you. If you have 3 hours or so, you can see:

  1. an adventure at sea (with freed slaves!)
  2. a period piece music story (with gay lovers!)
  3. a 70s environmental mystery (with sexy African-American female journalist!)
  4. a contemporary comedy (with old people!)
  5. a sci-fi liberation story (with Korean clones!)
  6. a post-apocalyptic future meets primitives (with unintelligible future folksy dialogue!)

And somehow…it works.

Cloud Atlas is a film that probably benefits from multiple watchings, not to mention frequents readings of the acclaimed book. It intersperses seven different timelines (the 7th is a prologue/epilogue for story telling needs). Do not go in to trying to understand the actual film. It jumps regularly between the time periods and has so many characters that the best choice is just to let it wash over you. Continue reading

PIP and SKOW – Seeing Teen Movies Too Late

Although I was a teen in the 80s, it doesn’t mean I saw every teen movie released then. Especially teen romantic comedies. Although I adore the quartet of John Hughes initial directorial efforts (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), I never saw the two teen movies he wrote and produced (but let Howard Deutch direct) around the same time: Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.

Having recently watched both films for the first time as an adult, I sadly found both films lacking sympathetic characters or reasonable conclusions. Most of all, I saw how much they are exactly the same film.

Pretty in Pink (PIP) has the benefit of the better cast and being the better film. Beyond the 3 leads (Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer) is the top notch cast of Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts, and James Spader as well as cameos from Gina Gershon, Kristy Swanson, and Andrew “Dice” Clay. Some Kind of Wonderful (SKOW) has the lighter weight trio (Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson) and a less interesting supporting and cameo cast of Elias Koteas, John Ashton, Candace Cameron, and Chynna Philips. Otherwise the differences are minimal.

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Is James Bond still relevant? That’s the very obvious subtext of the newest Bond film Skyfall. Methodology, age, changing nature of villainy, and the rise of technology all imply that James Bond is no longer needed. For the filmmakers, they care less about making a statement on secret agents and more on secret agent movies. Can a Bond film still make money? Given the box office of  the film in England, they need not worry.

I fell in love with James Bond films as a kid growing up in the Roger Moore era. His Bond was a little older (Moore was already 46 when he made his 1st Bond, 56 when he made his last) with a bit more camp, goofy secret gadgets, and ridiculous villains I loved it as a kid. Then I came across Ian Fleming’s novels and read every one of them. By then, the Bonds were available on VHS and I immersed myself in Sean Connery’s tougher and sexier Bond with more original Fleming stories. (And there was that one good movie with George Lazenby)

The Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan eras did little for me. I was thrilled that reboot came with Daniel Craig and Casino Royale. The movie was really good, but not the best. But I thought Craig’s portrayal was the truest to the Fleming novels. The follow-up didn’t do much for me and has the worst name of any Bond film. At least Octopussy let us say something dirty without getting in trouble. Quantum of Solace was just someone showing off dictionary skills (even if Fleming originated it).

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