Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



I will review this movie, but first I have some other things to say, and this seems like the place to say them. You see, this is the first movie we have watched on our new Blu-ray player.

I had never intended to get one, but we wanted to stream movies from Netflix to our big 42-inch 1080 HD flat screen, and I learned that you needed either a set-top box of some sort, or a Blu-ray. Well, why the hell not? They’re not very expensive anymore. So we bought one … and now it seems we have to buy a router to stand between the cable box and the Blu-ray and the TV. They never tell you these things. (If anyone knows how to stream without a router, and without moving my computer, or running a long wire from it, or buying a wireless adapter for the Blu-ray, please contact me.)

So we’re not streaming yet. But I figured I’d like to watch a Blu-ray disk while we waited, so I tried out another technology we had yet to use: Redbox. You know, those high-tech Coke machines owned and operated by McDonalds. We rented this one.

First, picture quality. I’d say it was slightly better. Five percent? Ten percent at the outside. If I hadn’t known this was a Blu-ray, if I hadn’t been looking for it, I’d never have known. So what’s all the goddam fuss? What was the point? I don’t know. But I do know they never took off like regular DVDs did, back in the day.

But something else really pissed me off. Like most DVDs, this one started with trailers for brain-dead CGI idiot comic book movies. Some horror called Immortals, some atrocity called Season of the Witch, and some idiotic thing called X-Men: First Class. None of them movies I would look at if I had a choice between viewing them, say, and having my fingernails pulled out with hot tweezers. (I mean, one trumpeted that it was made “By the producers of 300!” If they were actually proud of inflicting that pestilent piece of shit on the world, that’s all I need to know.) So I hit the Chapter key.

Nothing. Hit the Menu key. Nothing. The other Menu key. Nothing. Fast Forward. THIS OPERATION CURRENTLY PROHIBITED! I hit every key on the fucking remote and all I got for my troubles was that I accidentally started the whole process again from the beginning, unable to speed up, skip, or do anything at all. That fucker was locked, it was going to play all that awful crap no matter what I did. We settled back on the couch, steaming.

Because this was all new to me, I am not sure what was going on. I saw three possibilities.

One, it was a property of Blu-ray disks. Some genius thought it would be a good idea to hold on to the captive audience, like they do in theaters where, these days, you have to sit through trailers for movies you detest, plus half a dozen Coke commercials. Well, if that’s the case, I’ve just watched my last Blu-ray. I put up with it in the theater, but I will not be held hostage in my own fucking living room. One of the delightful things about DVDs was that you could just skip all that early crap, you didn’t even have to watch the VHS tape FF through it.

Two, it was one or all of the five or six companies listed in the opening credits that decided to do this. Maybe movies from other studios were saner.

Three, maybe it was a special property of Redbox disks. Seems I heard that some huge rental companies like Blockbuster and Netflix had special editions of DVDs for their own stores. Maybe Ronald McDonald wants me to see these trailers, and decided to give me no option but to do so. Well, fuck you, clown, and the French fry you rode in on. I do have an option, which is to rent or buy no more Blu-rays, or not rent them from you.

Or, just possibly, Four, I’m missing something. Maybe there was a way to skip all that shit and I just haven’t found it. If anyone knows how, please write!

Okay, one more comment, and on to the movie. I swear that despite all the frothing at the mouth above, none of that will have the slightest bearing on my review. I would have done that anyway, but I recently came across an Amazon low-life who calls himself SA (Alabama). He is one of 13 reviewers of my book The John Varley Reader. Nine of them gave the book 5 stars. Three of them gave it 4 stars. SA (Alabama) gave it 1 star. Must have hated it, right? Well, that’s cool. I wouldn’t dream of arguing with him. But here’s part of what he had to say: “Great author, greedy publishing.” What? The motherfucker is giving me 1 star because the book is overpriced? Tell me, SA (Alabama), do you review movies badly because the popcorn is stale? This turd has done this with at least half a dozen other books he thinks cost too much on Kindle. Well, shithead, I agree, it is overpriced. You think I had anything to do with that? You think I can lower the price? Dream on. So write the publisher, why don’t you? I can’t imagine who priced it at $22.99 (though compare it with the paper edition at $33), and I’d like to kick his ass, too. But the ass I’d really like to kick is yours, you toad.

Now, finally, on to the review. My review of Limitless. You remember?

It’s actually a pretty good movie. It concerns a new drug that hugely enhances one’s mental powers. You have total recall, and are able to collate all that information usefully. You can learn a new language in a day, learn how to fight by recalling all those old Jackie Chan movies, see patterns in the stock market that no one else sees, and get very rich. You can even get your old girlfriend back, the one who dumped you early on in the story. But when it wears off, you’re just dumb old you again. And it turns out that long-term use has some side effects … Well, we knew it wasn’t all roses, as the movie begins with the hero perched on a ledge about to jump off a skyscraper to avoid torture from thugs who are breaking into his house. But we flash back and the development is pretty interesting. There’s some implausible stuff, but the story keeps moving and it didn’t bother me much. There’s some very inventive camera work that mostly serves to illuminate the story visually.

Now, if you haven’t seen it and intend to, stop reading right here, because I’m going to end with a SPOILER. I wouldn’t do it, but I can’t resist because I’ve thought of a better ending than the one they used (which wasn’t bad). Okay, when the girlfriend is rediscovering the new, improved hero, at one point he orders food in an Italian restaurant, then shmoozes with the waitress in fluent Italian. Naturally, she’s impressed. So in the last scene they are back together, in a Chinese restaurant. (She had been forced to try the drug earlier, to escape an assassin, and immediately saw the drawbacks he ignored. But we have learned that through experimentation, he has improved the drug, worked out the bugs, and now it’s perfectly safe to use it forever. And he’s the only one who knows how to make it and has any of it.) So we see him speaking Chinese with the waiter. Wouldn’t it have been better, and more thought-provoking, if she had been the one to speak fluent Chinese? Lee and I thought so. Once again, why do they leave it up to me to point out these things?