Archive for October, 2008

Week Four: #48 – Night at the Museum

October 17, 2008
The Nitpicker Guide to the Movies
“See the films you love in a whole new way!”
“I’m made of wax.  What are you made of?” 
After the horror that was Armageddon, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed–maybe this idea, writing an average of 5,000 words a week every week for a year is too much.  (This blog only has a fifth of what I write up–more on that later)
Interesting that I got to watch a movie about a man deciding whether or not he’s going to stick to his guns.  Night At the Museum is an absolutely fabulous film that I had never seen before last Saturday.  I watched it through the first time just for enjoyment–and did the nitpicking Monday/Tuesday.  Triumph Over Adversity, Believing in Yourself and a side order of Don’t Give Up.  This was a movie worth watching twice in a week.  Sure, I found nits–but it was a joy to go looking!
-0:06:48            Amazing disappearing people!  At this moment the shot cuts from a wide shot of the lakeside, with people beside and behind our hero, to a closeup–and those people vanish.
-0:09:12       Larry explains to the Unemployment Agency lady how the invention of the Clapper stole some thunder from his invention, the Snapper.  This movie takes place in 2006.  (I know because Roosevelt says the tablet arrived in ’52, and that the pharaoh has been trying to get out of his case for 54 years.)  Larry is thirtysomething, yet the Clapper stole his thunder?  The Clapper has been around since, like, the dawn of time.
-0:21:36      Funny visual, but why is the all-bone t-rex getting a drink of water?  And where is that water going?  He’s certainly not swallowing it–but there isn’t any sound or evidence of a huge puddle on the floor
-0:26:26      Here’s a puzzler: why are Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea the only museum residents encased in glass?  The cavemen roam freely, as do the American Indians, Vikings, Huns, animals…  Why are Lewis and Clark and Sacky trapped?            
-0:26:47      According to Wikipedia, the ultimate source of all wisdom, it’s okay to spell her name Sacajawea, Sacagawea, and even Sakakawea, but not Sakagawea as it is on the museum’s display.  (The display also says she was born in 1787, but the actual year of her birth is supposedly unknown.)
-0:29:58      “Double check your belt.  The monkey probably stole your keys.”  It’s like the former security team knew Larry wouldn’t read the instructions through right away!  Otherwise it would read: “Careful going into the African section, Dexter likes stealing things!”
-0:35:25      I don’t care that the Romans are firing miniatures, they’re still flaming arrows.  Lucky that Larry doesn’t catch a couple in the eyes!  He shrugs off the flaming cannonballs pretty easily, too.
-0:41:24      It’s nice and accommodating of all these wax figures (animals included…heck, animals especially) to get back into position as the sun rises, and not just freeze wherever they happen to be in the museum.
-0:44:02      The museum director, Dr. McPhee, is very particular about his museum.  Very particular.  So particular that he walks through all four floors checking every exhibit every morning, and therefore discovers one teensy thing wrong with the Old West diorama.  It’s not like one of the wax figurines was on the wrong floor!
          -0:51:36      Larry gives the cavemen fire?  A–he obviously didn’t think much of Roosevelt’s talk of self-sufficiency, and 2–that’s like giving a ten year-old the keys to a sports car.  Just cause it’s what they want doesn’t mean they know how to handle it…
           -0:56:50    Larry encourages Roosevelt to talk to Sacajawea.  He walks away, and in front of the Lewis/Clark diorama are a bench and a bunch of creepy Civil War mannequins.  Cut to Roosevelt, all choked up with fear over talking to Sacky, then back to the diorama–gasp!  Bench, Civil War guys, cannon, everything’s gone!  Then once Roosevelt walks up and we cut to a shot of him from inside the glass, it’s all back again!  (Crazy museum magic!)
         -1:07:14     Here’s a puzzler: Dr. McPhee is (with due reason) upset about the foam all over the caveman exhibit, but he doesn’t seem to notice that one of the cavemen mannequins is missing.  (This is the guy who noticed one teeny detail out of place in the Old West yesterday morning!)
        -1:13:46     Larry brings little Nicky to work with him, show him the amazing magic.  Isn’t there a chance the kid could be pulled in half by a Hun, or eaten by a lion?  Child endangerment!
          -1:15:11            Somebody’s stolen the tablet.  Something is very wrong at the museum.  So Larry walks down to the loading dock where the suspicious activity is taking place, bringing his son with him.  Child endangerment!
         -1:18:34          It’s time for the Will Award.  Larry begs the Roosevelt statue for help, reminding him of the wonderful things Teddy did in his life.  Roosevelt: “I never did any of those things.  Teddy Roosevelt did.  I was made in a mannequin factory in Poughkeepsie.” 
          All along, this film’s rules have indicated that the magic Egyptian tablet brings everything to life–and these figures become what they represent.  That’s why Attila runs around screaming at people, Lewis and Clark argue over their map, and Teddy rides around saying “Bully!”  Now Roosevelt spills the beans–he knows he’s a mannequin. 
         This raises a number of questions.  Why does Copper Columbus know Italian?  Was he made in Italy?  Why does Teddy say “Bully”?  Yes, the actual Roosevelt was known for saying so, but who told the mannequin?  Who told Attila that the original Hun liked sorcery?  Who told the cavemen to go crazy over fire, and “ook, ook” all night long? 
         -1:25:48        “Jed and Octavius.  Their van’s parked out back.  Go take care of it.”  Because it makes any sense to send these teeny guys–even if all their teeny buddies come along–to disable a full size automobile. 
          -1:30:46            Roosevelt gets cut in half saving Sacajawea from the runaway stagecoach.  (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)  He looks down at himself–and somehow his top half is facing up, while his bottom half is facing down.
            -1:31:00         Larry’s RC truck is a truly amazing toy.  You can also control it from inside!  You know, in case you happen to be three inches tall!  The steering wheel and pedals work and everything! 
             -1:36:52         Larry introduces Rebecca to Sacajawea, telling Sacky, “I think she has a few questions for you.”  Rebecca was going to give up on her dissertation because she couldn’t learn anything more about Sacajawea.  What’s she going to learn now?  A lot about being a wax figure from Poughkeepsie?
              Come back next week, for our first superhero movie!  Strap on your repulsors and throw some fire-engine red in the mix–but watch that Bernoulli principle! 
              See you in seven…

Week Three: #49 – Armageddon

October 10, 2008
The Nitpicker Guide to the Movies

“See the films you love in a whole new way!”

So I hadn’t seen this movie since 1998, when I saw it in the theater.  Which surprised me, when I thought about it.  Deep Impact, the other asteroid-destroying-the-Earth movie that came out that year, has long been in my collection.  I like action movies–why had I skipped owning Armageddon?

Now I remember–because this movie is so stupid we need a word that goes beyond ridiculous!  I’m not just talking about the horribly broken science-geek stuff like shuttles turning in space.  How about the fully-functional machine gun mounted on the lunar roving Armadillos?  The Dukes of Hazzard style jump over the asteroid canyon?  The fact that somehow this roughneck drilling crew can handle themselves in the most adverse, dangerous space conditions after two weeks of training?  (Did I mention the fershlugginer machine guns??)

Strap in if you dare.  It’s a dangerously stupefying journey we’re on…


            -0:02:43 This is one of those nits that crosses a wide range of movies.  The only film I can think of that has space elements and doesn’t screw this up is Serenity.  The meteorites that destroy the shuttle make a lot of noise.  Space is a vacuum.  Sound cannot travel in a vacuum!!! 

            -0:06:37 Okay, you’ve gotta put in your DVD and check this one out–it made me laugh out loud.  Eddie Griffin’s dog attacks an eight-inch Godzilla toy.  The shot cuts to a closeup of the seller for a second, then back to the fight–and in that split second the eight-inch toy has mutated into a six-foot inflatable Godzilla!  Enormous continuity error!!

            -0:11:53 Wormy science guy runs down the hall, panting, breaks into the conference room and exclaims, “We have eighteen days before it hits earth!”  Wouldn’t a telephone have been faster than the sprint down the hall?  (Not that he doesn’t need the exercise…)

            -0:24:56 So the very hour the comet was discovered, they say we have eighteen days to brace ourselves or figure out a way to save Earth.  Cut to the oil rig, and the government asking Harry Stamper to save the day.  Let’s say it took six whole hours to remember this man and get to him.  When Harry reaches NASA, he refers to eighteen hours of travel time.  So we’ve lost one day.  But as Harry learns of the problem and looks at the countdown clock, it’s at 15 days 3 hours.  What has been going on for the past two days??? 

            -0:27:16    “I’m only the best because I work with the best.”  This scene, where Stamper rejects the astronaut team and demands his own guys go into space, is inserted to establish why it makes sense to take the two weeks we have left to save the Earth and prep a bunch of oil drillers to go into space.  I’m not buying.  In fact…this premise wins the coveted Will Award for outstanding ridiculousness!

-1:02:50    The heroic walk to the shuttles.  The driller “astronauts” are in their orange suits.  All the NASA techs have clean-room type plasticwear on.  Why is Gracie standing there in a dress and heels?  (I’m not saying I want her to be in a clean-room type suit, mind you…)

-1:07:55    Interior shuts of the shuttles show this incredibly bright light glaring into the cockpit through the front windscreen.  What is the purpose of this light?  I’m not saying it isn’t dramatic, but I am saying it’s useless and ridiculous–and it continues throughout the movie.

-1:11:04    I can’t believe I’m watching this.  Both shuttles turn in space, lining up their approach to the space station.  You can’t turn in a vacuum, there’s no air pressure to turn against.  (Am I getting too technical here?)

-1:27:30 The Freedom landing and the Independence crash are awfully loud, considering there is no atmosphere for sound to travel through.

-1:36:05   I had completely forgotten about the moment when A.J. decides to get the Armadillo out of the crashed shuttle bay by firing the forward mounted machine gun.  The forward.  Mounted.  Machine gun.  (Which they brought along in case of…um…velociraptors)

-1:42:30    I guess if it makes sense that the Armadillo has an enormous machine gun, it also makes sense that there is a handgun on-board the NASA space shuttle Freedom.  There’s probably a lot of mutiny in space.  It just doesn’t make the papers.

-1:46:28   Misspellings always make me happy.  On the official government nuclear briefcase screen, the word override appears as overrride.  With three Rs.  Yay!

-1:47:53    At 1:47:23 the bomb countdown read 1:11.  Chick hasn’t struck me as the smartest guy in the world, but I think he can still read a clock.  He’s looking at the bomb and says “one minute” right here, although if the clock has been counting properly, they’ve only got thirty seconds left.

-1:48:00 “I’ve been drilling holes for thirty years and I have never missed a depth that I have aimed for!”  And a lot of those holes were in deep-space asteroids with only an hour or so to go six hundred feet before the entire Earth is destroyed!

-1:49:16 The blue wire is cut, and the bomb stops at 2 seconds.  That clock took one minute and fifty-five seconds to count off 1:11!

-1:52:58   Question: which is stupider, the bus jump in Speed or the Armadillo jumping the ravine?  (Answer: well, they both have problems, but with Speed, I at least cared whether or not they landed successfully)

            -2:16:35 The Armadillo has a machine gun.  Of course the Crazy Cosmonaut fixes the shuttle’s thruster problem by bashing a wrench against the panel.

-2:16:59 Oh good, they have that unexplained light shining through the shuttle windscreen again.  Plus the takeoff is loud (sound in space) and the shuttle turns as it leaves the asteroid.  (“Screw the laws of physics!  Just get us out of here!”)

-2:19:19 Shots from around the world make it look like the asteroid’s detonation is visible everywhere.  That’s not possible.  (Line of sight, baby)

-2:20:30 More round-the-world shots…it appears to be 3 p.m. everywhere!

-2:21:13 Those whiz-bang shuttle designers!  When the shuttle landed on the asteroid, we clearly saw skids coming out to land on.  Now the shuttle is coming down at Kennedy Space Center, and there’s wheels down there!  Whaddya know!

Thank the good Lord–the credits.  I could probably find something to nitpick in the A.J./Gracie wedding, but I just don’t care anymore.

So very tired.

I’m going to try and recuperate over the weekend, as we move from Ben Affleck to Ben Stiller for #48, Night at the Museum.  See you in seven…

Week Two: #50 – King Kong

October 3, 2008
The Nitpicker Guide to the Movies


“See the films you love in a whole new way!”
After the phenomenal and well-deserved success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson could pretty much do whatever he wanted.  My theory is that nobody wanted to tell him that King Kong, his pet project, was running a little long. 
            From the unnecessary Jimmy-is-a-bad-boy subplot (that never goes anywhere) to the flat-out stupefying ice-skating scene (what else would you call it?  Ann and King Kong slide around on a pond for three minutes!) this movie is way too long.  As I reviewed the film I kept track of all the times where we sat through scenes that were cool and special-effecty yet did nothing to advance the plot.  You could cut out forty-five minutes of this film and not lose anything.  That’s one-quarter of the film that could be done without.  Shame on you, Pete!
            -0:28:30    An official nit to warm us up: the radio operator’s left hand is on the earphones–shot changes–and his hand is off-screen.  Then it’s back again next shot!
            -0:45:40    We’ve watched the compass go screwy.  The first mate has reported no stars to check location.  Now the Venture ventures into a fogbank so thick you can’t see five yards in front of the ship.  Yet it takes more than a minute for the captain to reduce speed.  Full Stop, for the love of all that’s holy!!
            -0:48:06    Jimmy the Lookout stares at the oncoming wall for a good five seconds before he starts shouting about it.  Maybe they should have posted a better lookout! 
            -0:48:25    Then again, the Captain stares dumbfounded at the wall for twenty seconds before he does anything.  This wall must be really mesmerizing!  (Or this crew sucks!)
            -1:20:21   “Welcome…to Mesozoic Park.”  It is never even remotely explained why this island has giant gorillas.  And dinosaurs.  And bugs.  And vampire bats.  And spiders.  Honestly–everything on this godforsaken island is huge, except the local human natives!  What gives?
            -1:45:20    A full-fledged battle royale between King Kong and three (count ‘em) Tyrannosaurus Rexes.  It is truly amazing that in all the brouhaha, Ann doesn’t get even a little broken, much less seriously so.  (I know someone who broke a toe on a plastic laundry basket!) ((I want to give this the Will Award, but there’s something even worse.  Stay tuned.))
            -1:48:04    As Ann swings around between two dinosaurs and a raging giant gorilla, I can’t help but wonder at the strength of the flimsy underthings that she has been wearing all day.  Not a rip, not a popped seam–1930s silk had some chutzpah! 
            -2:11:51    Angry giant Kong breaks through the massive gate, and the men who want to capture him are kind enough to give him a moment to compose himself.  Guys, we’re trying to capture a giant gorilla.  Why are we sitting around for nine whole seconds???
            -2:13:20    Ann has been running through the jungle, across a splintery bridge, down some stone rock steps and now through a cave.  She’s barefoot.  Owie owie owie!
            -2:14:48    When the Captain fires the harpoon, there’s a rope is connected to it, but once fired, the rope disappears.  (From the harpoon and from the harpoon gun!  Magic rope!)
            -2:15:54    Ann watches the beast go down, looking like her world is coming to an end.  If it was one of the T-Rexes coming after them, would she be upset?  Of course not.  She would volunteer to fire the harpoon.  So what’s different?  She’s discovered the giant gorilla has a soul?  Kong ran off with her into the forest to make her his MySize Barbie plaything.  What is her deal?
            -2:17:55    “His name will be up in lights on Broadway!  Kong–the eighth wonder of the world!”  Fade to black.  Wait.  Even with a hundred guys and a dozen boats, which they don’t have, how in the name of all that is holy do they get the 8000 pound gorilla back to the ship? 
            -2:18:05    Or from the ship into the city?  Into the theater?
            -2:25:45    The ridiculous stage show goes on and Kong hunches in the background, oblivious to the world.  He drowns in his sorrow.  Wait, what?  The lights, the noise, the chains don’t matter because he’s lost his 5’5” Mattel toy?  Come on! 
            -2:35:12    King Kong flips the 1930s cab Jack is driving, the cab which has no safety devices to speak of.  Jack is knocked unconscious but in no other way injured.  They sure made guys tougher back then!
            -2:35:34    Kong rages through the city, finally catches Jack, turns and Ann is standing right there?  “Out of all the streets in New York, you had to drag your knuckles into mine…”
            -2:36:38    The Will Award!  I can’t stand it any longer!  The rampaging giant gorilla stops everything to stare in wonder at Ann Darrow.  This is a wild animal, in a completely unfamiliar environment, who has just pulled free from huge chains to escape his captors…but all he wants is to find her.  The Will Award goes to: the premise, the concept, the entire idea that this 8000 pound gorilla has fallen in love with a hundred-or-so pound female no larger than one of the bamboo shoots he eats for lunch. 
-2:44:33    Up the Empire State Building we go.  Ann is wearing a flimsy dress.  No coat, no gloves, no scarf, it’s winter in New York and she is out in the open air, over a thousand feet up.  You would think she’d be shivering just a wee bit…
-2:53:10    I don’t know about today, but in the 30s, the Empire State Building cleaning crew really knew their stuff!  Kong drops Ann onto the top of the tower.  The top of a skyscraper, and she’s wearing a pure white dress.  She gets onto her knees, chases Kong around, and the dress remains spotless.
            -2:57:04    “It wasn’t airplanes.  It was beauty killed the beast.”  Well, the 1,200 foot fall might have had something to do with it…
            There was a lot more to be found in King Kong, but we’re out of time.  Try if you can’t stand the wait, or just come back here next Friday for…Armageddon!  (They put Ben Affleck into space–why didn’t they keep him there?)