COVID Movies

Well it happened - I finally caught the ‘rona. Actually I think I had it quite early on, but it was a mild dose. This time I was basically insensible for two weeks and maybe even still not fully recovered two months later*. Quite the nasty bug.

To pass the time while I was couch-bound, I watched various comfort movies and movies I haven’t seen since I was a kid.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

One of my all-time favourites. I appreciate it for it’s examination of flawed characters and their very real and relatable relationship. I appreciate its message that even bad experiences sometimes have lessons to teach us, and that if we don’t integrate them we will be doomed to repeat them.

Screenshot from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Joel is in the scanning chair, on a New York street
Where is my mind?

Much of the movie resembles the recollection of memory, wandering back and forth through time, finding and losing details and emotional attachments as it goes. The largely practical effects (or so I understand) contribute excellently to this surreal quality, with literally disappearing details, spatial and temporal distortions, and even a sense of things being just on the tip of the mind, yet unreachable. It was particularly enjoyable in my delirious fever state.

The Wizard

I love Powerglove. It’s so bad.”

This glorified ad for the NES is still a good time. I was obsessed with the Californian dinosaur statues after watching this movie when I was a kid.

One notably frustrating aspect of watching this movie now is how terrible all three finalists are at SMB3. Right at the beginning of the second level there’s a koopa coming towards them, and they all stand still waiting for it. One of them even has the tanooki suit, but waits patiently for it to move into range to jump on its head instead of just spin attacking it. They all also missed the power-up box on the ground in the same level that they could have used the shell to get. Just awful to watch.

Screenshot from The Wizard where the main character is waiting to jump on a koopa in SMB3 instead of just spin attacking them, and also a Jackie Chan WTF meme
What are you doooing??

Flight of the Navigator

I used to love this one when I was a kid, but I barely remembered it - I didn’t even remember the “time-travel” aspect, or as one character exclaimed: “light-speed theory!” Yeah ok champ.

Screenshot of the meal robot, R.A.L.F.
The real hero of this movie was R.A.L.F.

It’s quite a poignant story until the titular navigator boards the ship, at which point everything is explained by Max (the ship’s computer) and the plot is basically over. The final third of the movie just consists of flying around, meeting cute alien creatures, zany antics and an increasingly annoying Max. It’s fun and looks great, but I’m not sure I would say it holds up for adult viewing.

One thing that definitely doesn’t hold up is Sarah Jessica Parker’s adult character flirting with a 12 year old. Women are only supposed to flirt with robots, aliens and weird anthropomorphic ducks!

Screenshot of Sarah Jessica Parker's character stroking the main character's face
This is an inappropriate flirtation Ms. In The City


Still amazing. Probably my favourite aspect of this movie is its realistic no-nonsense portrayal of hacking. There’s no dumb made-up jargon or macguffins, no self-conscious cyberpunk mythologising, just a kid with a modem studying a target to guess a password, with his only motive to learn and have fun. It’s so… pure, so unencumbered.

Screenshot of Matthew Broderick hacking
Just a boy and his IMSAI 8080.

The performances reflect that as well, with Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick really capturing the goofy, carefree energy of youth at the beginning of the movie.

Screenshot of Matthew Broderick smiling
A man with a face like this could get away with killing two women through reckless driving while holidaying in Northern Ireland in 1987.

One thing that has always bugged me is that WOPR/Joshua isn’t actually playing the game he’s supposed to be - if he were, he would only make moves as America. Instead he fakes a series of Soviet attacks, which should be David’s prerogative, seemingly to goad a real-life response.

Thankfully, whatever his motive, he ultimately fails, and instead learns a lesson about the futility of nuclear war in an incredibly powerful climax.

Two screenshots of the big WOPR screen showing Ireland getting nuked
Was it really necessary to nuke Ireland twice?

Star Trek: Generations

I understand some people hate this movie, but I love it. It’s the only movie that really captures TNG-era Trek at all, and it was incredibly exciting to see “my” trek on the big screen.

Screenshot of Data saying that he hates the drink that Guinan has had him try
Star Trek fans getting a taste of their first Next Generation movie.

Probably my favourite aspect of this movie is Data’s subplot of acquiring emotions and coming to terms with them. Sure, a lot of it is just comic relief (good comic relief though), but it also feels like a culmination of the character’s arc from the series.

Two shots of the Enterprise D saucer section crashing
It's just like a long episode of the TV show!

Star Trek: First Contact

There are aspects of this movie that I like - I like the Borg, I like Picard’s relationship to the Borg, I like seeing the pivotal moment of first contact, and Zephram Cochrane’s warp ship looks awesome.

However… there is much more about it that I don’t like.

I think this was the introduction of the Borg queen, and while Alice Krige is amazing in the role, I think the existence of a queen changes the nature of the Borg somewhat - from something truly alien to something much more prosaic and uninteresting - and I don’t appreciate that.

Screenshot of Geordi
Also the vibes are way off on visor-less Geordi.

Much worse than that are the changes to the character of Picard, who went from being a diplomat and a scholar to an action hero.

Screenshot of Picard looking incredibly muscular
The diplomacy of big biceps.

Also the Borg time-travel plan as a last resort doesn’t make any sense - if they have the means and will to assimilate Earth in the past they could do the time travelling from anywhere, there’s no reason to barrel into the Sol system and do it only if their cube is destroyed. And they could just try again. But then, it’s a common problem in Star Trek that things that are really easy to do one moment are impossible, or forgotten about, or work completely differently in the next.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

This movie mostly consists of the Enterprise crew bumbling around San Francisco in the 80’s and trying (and often failing) to grasp the cultural differences and blend in. It is ridiculous and hilarious, and I love it!

Shot of the Enterprise crew on a street in San Francisco in the 1980s
Look at these adorable goofs.

One thing this movie does really well is make the characters feel like they are from a very different time than the one they are visiting. Other Star Trek time-travel stories, such as the Voyager crew’s visit to 1990’s LA, Sisko and Bashir’s visit to San Francisco in 2024, or the Enterprise D crew’s visit to 19th century San Francisco (boy, they sure visit San Francisco a lot), don’t quite capture the gulf of time in the same way - they generally come across as a little too savvy.

Another great aspect is how little fucks they give about telling people they are from the future, or even sharing technology with them. I bet the boys from the Department of Temporal Investigations had a heck of a time sorting this mess out!

Screenshot of Scotty entering the recipe for transparent aluminium into a Mac Plus
Apparently they had telepathic keyboards in the 80s.

It’s also brilliant that there’s no real villain except for our society’s indifference to environmental degradation.

Shot of the Klingon ship hovering over a whaling ship
Or maybe the villain is just... whalers?

Star Trek VII: The Undiscovered Country

I think this was the first Star Trek movie I got to see in the cinema. I was definitely too young to understand the political allusions at the time, but I seem to remember enjoying it anyway. The themes are classic Star Trek stuff - overcoming prejudices, working to secure peace, etc.

Screenshot of the Klingon character Chang, who has an eye patch
A somewhat less abstract enemy than the previous Star Trek movie on this list...

One striking aspect of this movie is how differently the Klingons are portrayed than they are in The Next Generation, particularly the early seasons. In this movie they are erudite, sophisticated, and almost Romulan in their sneakiness. In TNG’s early seasons I guess we mostly just see Worf, but he is almost bestial, without the temperance and nuance of character that he would develop later. It’s interesting that the releases overlap with this apparent disconnect.

Screenshot of the Enterprise crew and the Klingon crew they are escorting having dinner together
Contrast this with scenes of Klingons dining in TNG...

Back to the Futures

I used to watch these once a year, but it has been a while since I’ve watched any of them, and even longer since I’ve watched all three in a row.

Screenshot of Marty sidling away from the Doc as the Delorean is about to speed towards them, and the Doc looking at him accusingly
How dare you?

I had some really weird misconceptions about these movies when I was a kid. In particular, I thought that every era had versions of the same characters - not family members who happen to look remarkably the same, but actually incarnations of the same characters. For example I thought 1885’s Doc was a different Doc than 1985’s Doc - and that Seamus was actually “another Marty”. It’s hard to even grasp now what I was thinking with my undeveloped child brain, but somehow I also remember it really clearly.

Of course, now that I understand it fully, half the fun of a movie like this is poking holes in the time-travel logic. Obviously I’m not saying anything new here, but a couple of the things that stood out to me on this viewing were:

  • The way “artifacts” from other timelines change is ridiculous. If the future has been changed, why would they ever be in an intermediate state where things are fading away?
  • Marty has a picture of himself and his siblings, and after he changes the future they all fade away because they were never born - but why would the picture even have been taken then?
  • Similarly, Jennifer takes a fax from the future indicating that future Marty will be fired. After the timeline is changed, the contents of the paper are erased. Why would she have even taken the paper in this new timeline? It’s a blank piece of paper, what are you doing Jennifer??
  • Also LOL when she holds it up to the Doc at the end of III and says “It erased - what does it mean?” He has no context for what this piece of paper is!
  • The same thing happens with the picture of the headstone in the third movie. It changes between showing different names, and then in the end it becomes a photo of an empty patch of ground. Why would they have taken a photo of an empty patch of ground?
  • Also hilarious is when newspapers are shown changing from one story to another, very conveniently about the same person!
  • There’s a big question of why changes effect objects, but not people. Why does Marty not remember being raised by his new, cool parents, or that he has his dream truck? Why does he not remember his dad dying and his mom marrying Biff when that becomes the new reality? The only effect we see on Marty is when he is about to fade out of existence when it seems like his parents aren’t going to get together - but he should also become a different person, like his siblings did.
  • The oft criticised scenes where Marty appears to inspire black men to achieve and create are really bizarre. His other actions change the future, but Mayor Wilson was already Mayor before the time-travel antics, and Chuck Berry had already made his music. They can’t be time loops if Marty never changes along with everything else.

The other half of the fun is, as it has always been, Christopher Lloyd’s wonderful face:

Various shots of Doc Brown expressing emotion
Such range.

Despite having seen these movies so many times, this was the first time I realised that Marty’s future daughter in BTTF2 was also played by Michael J. Fox! And I still didn’t even catch it when she was on screen, I only noticed it in the credits!

Shot of Marty's future daughter coming down the stairs
I still don't see it to be honest.

The Warriors

I’m not sure what age I was when I saw this before - probably too young - and all I really remembered about it was that there was a bunch of outrageously costumed gangs running around, and the bit at the end when they make it back to Coney island.

I get the impression that the violence depicted was shocking and realistic for the time, but now it seems quite tame - just some light, bloodless brawling.

One thing I can say after watching this now is that we don’t have enough mime gangs or Star Trek alien baseball gangs around these days. I think crime would be a lot more fun if people injected some theatrics into it.

A couple of shots of the baseball gang who look like the Star Trek aliens with the half black and half white faces.
They could be straight out of DS9.
Shot of the mime gang coming out of the subway
Uh-oh I hope they don't mime beating me up!

The copy I watched this time was the director’s cut, so I got comic-book style transitions and a voice-over opening which apparently weren’t in the initial theatrical release. The transitions in particular suited it well because the gang uniforms are so cartoonish.

Short Circuit

The impact this movie had on me as a kid was to make me want to be friends with robots - and to be Ally Sheedy’s boyfriend.

Screenshot of Johnny 5 and Stephanie dancing
I'm jealous of both of them.

As with the character Max in Flight of the Navigator, Johnny 5 becomes increasingly annoying as the movie goes on, though he remains somewhat more endearing. His repeated insistence that he is alive and that he wants to remain so, and doesn’t want to be involved in hurting any other creatures, was a powerful message to receive as a kid.

Unlike Flight of the Navigator the plot continues all the way through to a fantastic fake-out downer-upper ending.

The Rocketeer

Shot of the rocketeer flying towards a biplane
Outta my way, I'm a rocketman!

A barely controlled rocket-powered superhero foils the plans of some horrible Nazis - what more could you want from a movie? How about the gorgeous Jennifer Connolly also kicking ass?

Shot of Jennifer Connolly's character smashing something over a bad guy's head

The action set-pieces in this movie lack the impact of those from more recent superhero movies, but it’s also somewhat refreshing that he’s just an ordinary guy who can take an ordinary amount of abuse. Also the art-deco Iron Man aesthetic is amazing.

Except… how does he not burn his arse? Forget the helmet, what he needs are some thermally insulated pants!

Screenshot of the Hollywoodland sign becoming the Hollywood sign when a Nazi drops on the "land" part and explodes
Did you know that the sign used to say Hollywoodland until they blew it up for this movie?

Note: Once I was feeling better I got into other things and never finished off this post. It has actually been over six months now since I originally intended to post it, and therefore the opening paragraph is a bunch of lies. I’m finishing it off now because I think I have COVID again for the second (or maybe third) time, though less severe! Back to top.