Sunday, December 1, 2013
Robot and Frank is not a good movie. It's just not. It has all the right ingredients but mixes them wrong. The movie is about an old man named Frank. Frank (Langella) used to be a cat burglar. However, now he lives alone- forgetting that his favorite eatery is now a candle shop, and shoplifting trinkets just for the heck of it. His adult children try to stay involved and help him in vastly different ways. His daughter tries to be as supportive as humanly possible- from afar. She travels for a living and regrets she can't help her father in person. And then there's Frank's son who laments having to make the ten hour round trip drive to see his dad only to find the house a pig sty, and Frank intent on eating at "Harry's". (Which... is now the aforementioned candle shop) So his son's solution is to buy him a helper robot. Thus the movie kicks off...
Any seasoned moviegoer can predict this movie like the back of their hand. Frank is going to detest the robot at first, then he'll find out that the robot can be his burglary buddy (has a cute ring to it doesn't it?), then he'll grow fond of the robot and not want to part ways with it. Which is more or less exactly what happens. Only they missed a beat. I guess this review is semi-spoileristic, but bear with me. Frank is a jerk. He's manipulative, rude, abrasive and doesn't care. You expect Frank to befriend the robot... Unfortunately, despite an adorably charming personality that actor Peter Sarsgaard infused into this plain looking robot- Frank never actually befriends him. Which is a problem because the last act revolves around the fact Frank suddenly considers the robot his friend. Yet they never developed a friendship.
A casual moviegoer might be confused and argue this fact with me. Yet consider this, Frank uses the robot to help him with his burglaries. He manipulates and tricks and coerces the robot into helping him pull off heists. That is all the robot is good for to him. Sure, Frank gets used to the Robot's superb cooking... but there is no development of a friendship here. It's hollow. I'm sure the filmmakers thought they had a decent character arc, but no sir they do not. Frank starts out as a jerk, and ends the movie as a thoroughly senile jerk. It's hard to care about Frank and is easier to care about the lifeless robot which Frank uses like a tool no less animate than a lock pick. Frank lies to his children, lies to his love interest, and spends the movie lying to everyone who cares about him. You'd expect him to learn his lesson and when the robot quotes back to Frank something he told it earlier on- you're ready for Frank to have a revelation that he's been an asshole. He doesn't. Instead he gets away not only with a crime, but with being an asshole.
Every tender moment that Frank shares with another human being in the movie, is often a ruse for him to get what he wants. Amazingly, Frank and the Robot have excellent chemistry. If the movie was made better there might have been a real friendship arc between them. All we currently have is the potential for one. The potential for a friendship, and the potential for a better movie. Despite how heartwarming this had the potential to be, it left me cold and upset. I emotionally invested myself in these characters only to be jerked around for a while and manipulated. Just like Frank does to anyone who cares about him. The movie tries to convince you that in the midst of using the Robot, like well... a robot, and manipulating it into doing his bidding- he actually formed a meaningful friendship with it. Yet, he didn't. He really didn't. They bicker and there's tension, and only when Frank gets his own selfish way does he claim to appreciate the Robot. This is horrible. It's just not good.
The movie never redeems itself, just as Frank never does. The movie and Frank himself seem to parallel each other. They're both manipulative, conniving, and they never learn their lesson. I felt bad for this movie because it could have been fun and heartwarming. It had all the potential to be. Unfortunately, I felt it was a waste of my time. If you want your emotions manipulated and jerked around for an hour and a half, give this movie a shot. If not... steer clear. I can't recommend this at all. Which is a shame due to the level of talent and good acting involved. A total misfire.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Many may disagree with me, but I think AVP: Requiem, in the whole of the Alien and Predator franchises, steals the trophy for worst movie of all from Alien Resurrection. I didn't think so the first two times I saw it, but I'm more than convinced now. Resurrection is the much maligned fourth entry in the the Alien franchise, and while it's no doubt the worst of all four, it had it's moments. The crew of "The Betty" was fun to watch, in the same way the cast from Predators is fun to watch. It seems like nobody gets along, and that's kinda funny to me. There was also the virtuoso underwater scene that still looks awesome to this day. Even the weird scene with the failed clones was twisted in a really cool way. Bear with me...
My point is, that even the worst movie of both franchises had moments worth not changing the channel on. Even I pop it in every so many years if I'm marathoning the movies. Sure it was a shitty sequel that felt alien to it's own franchise, but it wasn't a horrible movie on it's own right. Just... not wholly good either. I'm not here to make enemies by making excuses for Resurrection, the point I've been getting to is that Requiem has no redeeming moments. None. There is not one moment in the movie that I could sit back and say... okay... now that's cool. Even a movie as shitty as Resurrection had moments like that! First off, this movie repeats the cardinal sin of the previous movie. It makes an infestation of xenomorphs (a.k.a. aliens. Duh. Keep up with the lingo!) on Earth seem underwhelming as hell. This movie isn't scary. At all. Period. That's a problem when you have one of cinema's most iconic and nightmare inducing creatures infesting an entire town.
Second MAJOR issue. The lighting. What the actual hell? This movie is so dark, I thought something was wrong with my TV. The directors must've gotten their shit mixed up. Darkness doesn't necessarily equal scariness or suspense. In fact, if used properly it's used to augment a suspenseful scene by keeping your imagination racing about what you can't see. Unfortunately, there's no way in hell that would work for a movie in this franchise at this point. Both the xenomorph and the yautjas (aliens and predators) have been visually exposed already. There's no mystery to the audience about what they're going to see. We want to see these creatures clash, and fight. Lemme repeat, we want to SEE them fight. Not muck about in dark sewers and trip over rubble and shit. Good god, the sole light source in every scene seems to be either behind or on the side of everything, and fifty feet away. It ends up only highlighting the profile of people and the creatures. I don't fucking know how they also managed to make scenes in the middle of the damn day look just as dark. Absolute technical incompetence. At least I hope it was. If this was by design, this directorial duo... "the Brothers Strauss" are even bigger fuck ups than I thought.
Speaking of technical incompetence, the xenomorphs in this movie look like crap. Paul W.S. Anderson had some slick looking brawl-ready xenos in his AVP movie. In this one, they literally look like dudes in rubber suits. The faces have lost articulation, there's no visual flair to them at all, and honestly... I don't think Greg nor Colin Strauss gave a shit. The xenomorphs are treated like a minor... secondary thing in this movie. They pose NO threat to the predator, who's content to bitch slap each one who gets in his way until the big fucking Predalien comes along and knocks him on his ass, breaking his kill streak. This exact scenario seems to happen over and over. Normally I don't get this profane in my reviews, but for the first time, I'm legitimately angry with this movie. It's not mere discontent. It's pretty much anger.
Next issue? The plot. A predator ship, carrying xenomorph facehuggers- wait wait wait... we're still hung up on that? I've always hated the idea that predators breed their own prey. It's just a lazy way to put the two species together on film. Anyways... A predator ship, more specifically, the one from the end of the last movie... (with the xeno laden corpse of the Scar Predator) carrying loads of xenomorph facehuggers crash lands on Earth after the alien/predator hybrid hatches from the Scar Predator's chest and kills a bunch of other predators. (They apparently didn't leave orbit fast enough? Why did they end up back on Earth anyways? The trajectory is all wrong and NO it's not a fanboy gripe.) So the ship lands in America conveniently, cause... doesn't everything? It lands in a small town called Gunnison, Colorado. Then shit hits the fan. Only not for... over 45 minutes. Drag. This time is populated with lots of teenage high school drama. a protagonist's issue with being a pizza delivery boy, and the fact he likes a blonde chick who dates a douchebag jock. Bore. What the hell even? Who said this was shit to put in an AVP movie?
Not to mention, it doesn't endear any of the protagonists to us remotely, and nobody's acting is good enough for us to even give a shit anyways! The ones who have competent acting, are given the lamest character arcs, and again we can't muster a shit to give. Horrible characters. Calling them two dimensional, would be insulting to two dimensional characters, and buddy... that's hard to do. The plot gets dumber. Hang in there. The predator in this movie, comes all the way from the predator homeworld to clean up the xeno outbreak basically. Why? I dunno. It's his job? Do they have jobs...? I thought they were all hunters? Is he hunting? No. He's doing damage control. Why? I dunno. Does he care about humans? No. He kills them too. Doesn't give a shit about humans. Even takes the time to skin a dude. Why? I thought he wasn't hunting! He's not. Then why does he skin him? I dunno. See how this works...? Ass-loads of "I dunno". Apparently the Strauss brothers call him the "Wolf" Predator, after Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction who cleans up Vincent and Jules' little dilemma. God, what an insult to Pulp Fiction, Harvey Keitel, Winston Wolf, and Quentin Tarantino. Jeez.
Now for my one paragraph of compliments to the movie. Amazingly, by the last twenty minutes, you're so numb to the movie's bullshit, that you actually find yourself hoping a few of these cardboard characters don't die. The really insufferable ones you really wanted to die? They die. Horrible painful deaths. Yay! The archetypical good guy characters, most of them live. Yay! The Wolf Predator himself, has some cool gadgets, and wears dual plasma casters on his back.... which... is decidedly badass. He gets to kill a pair of stoners with them too. It was a scene that elicited more laughs than it probably should have. The Predator, despite his bullshity plot function, is actually the sole highlight of the movie. He does what a predator should do. He hunts, and kills, and fucks shit up with all his cool gadgets. Furthermore, the last twenty minutes, in the hospital was surprisingly not bad. We could actually see what was going on at times, and there was lots of alien on predator fights, and people died, and it was cool. Not remotely cool enough to make up for the rest of the bullshitty movie, but it was alright.
All the competence Greg and Colin could possibly muster went directly into two things, making the predator look as badass as humanly possible, and making the last 20 minutes somewhat watchable. Or maybe I'm actually giving them too much credit as... whenever the badass predator does something badass, it's obscured in fucking darkness, and maybe the last twenty minutes wasn't watchable- maybe I was just so brainwashed by the horribleness I was numb to the last twenty minutes of awfulness. Either way, amazingly, I don't regret watching it. It's a firm guidepost on how much more you can go wrong (from the previous AVP), and how making something rated R, doesn't make it any better, and it shall stand as a warning of everything to not do in an AVP movie for future filmmakers. The predator himself is cool, and him blasting away at xenos is cool, it makes good B-roll footage if I wanted something on while I drew a picture, or wrote a paper, and didn't want to dignify something with my full attention. It would make for great white noise. I would also love to say I'd like to see a new AVP movie, because you can't get worse than this... but somehow, the universe might take that as a dare.
I'm fairly sure if you dig hard enough you can find my original review of Predators on here. Came out in 2010, which was the second year I was running my blog. It was theater-fresh. Meaning I probably wrote it the same night I came back from seeing it on the big screen. I myself am too lazy to go back and re-read it, partly because I just don't want to and partially because I remember what I said. It was a positively glowing review. I recommended it to fans and newcomers, and I said it was the best Predator flick since the original. However, rewatching pretty much every Predator movie several times over the span of the almost four years since this movie's release...
I can safely say my opinion of it, and of the franchise in general, have evolved.
After the lukewarm reception of Aliens vs. Predator, and the abysmal reception of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, people were of a like mind with the makers of this movie: take it back to what works. They did this fairly well. They brought the hunt back to a tropical setting, they gave us fun and interesting characters to watch, and it was indeed rated R. Yay! I do really like this movie. I consider it to be a good movie. There's no mistaking that. Fans loved it, people liked it. However I felt I've been long overdue to voice my updated opinions about this movie. It has been called a 'breath of fresh air' for the Predator franchise. I disagree to an extent. If we're going to use the air analogy, then we're going to like AVP, and AVP:R (leave Predator 2 out of this...) to rancid air. Nasty, yucky, cartoonishly green air. So, then comes Predators. It's a breath of normal smoggy, polluted air. Sure! It's a damn sight better than breathing in the hurk-worthy fumes of AVP:R, (I didn't think AVP was awful, but it's sequel sure was) but that couldn't be that hard to do. Any breath of air would seem preferable right? That's where I believe opinions got skewed with this movie.
I say this because there is nothing to get excited about with Predators. It's not fresh. It's far from fresh. The filmmakers obviously didn't want to do anything too radical and end up alienating the fans, but they also needed something. So they came up with this spin on the story. There's another clan of bigger predators (to be nice, lets ignore the fact the actors behind the dreadlocks in this movie are the shortest to ever don the outfits...) called "Black Super Predators" (though they're never directly referred to in the movie by this title, thank god) that apparently hunt not only the human prey, but they're total murderous dicks to the smaller predators as well. Geez. Why don't I like this? Because it has -no- bearing on the story. The last act is structured around this, and it seems flimsy. It gets worse in my opinion. Bear with me. It's a cheap plot device, or whatever you want to call it. Whenever sequels run out of creativity, all they do is bring the villain back- bigger and badder. Which is all these black super predators are, a purposeless sequel ploy.
They ugly as hell too. Not scarier. Uglier... as in "Ew, who approved these designs?". Ironically, the best thing about the worst Predator movies, is the predator himself. Usually, he's a well-designed badass, who despite being stuck in a shitty movie, manages to kick lots of ass. These predators have fewer cool gadgets, their fundamental tech and weaponry have been redesigned in a strange way. I don't much care for any of it. This is akin to James Cameron removing the dome on the aliens heads for Aliens. It ended up being canon. The domed ones are drone aliens, and the others are warrior aliens. (Cue eye roll) Whatever. He did it because he thought it looked cool (I've always hated it) not because he was enriching the mythos. However, the makers of this movie weren't content with just making it a design choice. It's a whole new breed of predators. Why is this pointed out? I don't know. It has the most tenuous relevance ever. Normal predators have killed plenty of humans just fine, why did we need "super" predators? It even sounds silly. Why? Because it fucking is.
I didn't like that aspect of the movie when I saw it, but it took me several repeat viewings to articulate this. You could call it a fanboy gripe if you want, but it's also a cheap move that is entirely devoid of use, meaning, or even purpose. I call that lame moviemaking. I don't know where this concept came in. If it was on the art level, or the writing level, or what. I wanna say it was producer Robert Rodriguez, but I'm not sure. Fortunately, in the movie's defense they do indeed avoid the most common pitfalls of the franchise that started way back in 1990. The characters in Predators may not be the most fully realized ever, but they're still by far the most fun to watch since Dutch's crew in the original Predator. I love the characters in this movie, probably way more than I should. Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, and the rest of the cast. They all have great chemistry, and surprisingly Brody pulls off the whole Rambo-esque badass character thing quite well! Surprising, but welcome. This movie may have been lacking the star power of 80's action paragon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they had quite the roundup of badasses here.
I'm fairly certain Adrien Brody doesn't come to mind when one is thinking of action stars, but I'd love to see him in a sequel to Predators which I hope happens. Predators may not be amazing, but it was good. All around just good. Not great, not oh my god this is awesome. Just good. Better than what we'd been getting for over a decade. So I accept Predators. It's definitely a throwback, and it works. This movie also works, because it seems to know how to deliver a good time. It's aware that there is no longer any real suspense about what the hunters are, they're predators. Everyone knows. They know the lines too. So they changed up the setting, and made it much more of a straightforward action movie. There's not a lot of suspense or terror in this one. Just lots of shooting, falling, yelling, and running. It really proves why the original is greater, but there's also nothing overly bad about this streamlined approach. It's fun and it doesn't rape the Predator mythos. At this point? That's good enough for me.
There's more to be said about Predators, there are some awkward plot points, a complete waste of a perfectly good Laurence Fishburne, and some other minor gripes as well as some completely unspoken praises. Unfortunately, I don't feel compelled to dissect the entire movie this time. It is a good movie, and I'll reiterate that as much as I need to, but I don't like it as much as I once did. It is however a step in the right direction, and for that (as well as that kick ass climax) I am eternally grateful.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
"From the makers of Ghostbusters" seems to be the first and only thing people saw about this movie before so harshly judging it. They saw a sci-fi comedy with a makeshift team of heroes fighting an otherworldly menace, and they couldn't get over those completely benign similarities to Ghostbusters. People going so far as to call this movie a rip off of Ghostbusters, or at the very least trying to copy it's success. Boy do I feel sorry for those people. Because beyond their own hardly formed opinions, lies a very fun and original movie that's funnier than 90% of comedies cranked out on regular basis. Director Ivan Reitman has a knack for movies like this. Does that mean he's ripping off his own prior work? No. This movie is so far removed from Ghostbusters, it'd be hard to even call it a riff on the same idea.
What Evolution is, is just lots and lots of fun. It's easy to get caught up in these characters because they're so damn funny. This is my favorite David Duchovny since The X-Files. Orlando Jones is given a character he can really make his own, which... is truly a highlight of the movie. He's hilarious. In fact, all the leads are. They're great. Perfectly cast. They're also capable of taking things serious when necessary, because the story is only a vehicle for the comedy. It gets pretty serious at times. No less than Back to the Future, or even, yes, Ghostbusters. I compare those movies to Evolution as a compliment. Both movies are hilarious, but their story is still serious and intense. None of these movies are spoofs or slapstick. Evolution is no exception. It strikes that perfect balance of sci-fi seriousness and genuine comedy. It's honestly fantastic.
The movie also looks great. On a technical level, it's designed extremely well. The special effects team were tasked with creating a wholly alien ecosystem that is not only plausible, but visually striking and imaginative. Boy, did they succeed, and with flying colors no less. The scenes with creatures and alien environments are so visually interesting, they well and truly capture the imagination. This alone goes above and beyond the call of duty for a simple sci-fi comedy. It's so damn cool, even almost a decade after it's release. On the flip-side, the humor is every bit as engaging and effective as it's special effects and production design. This is one of the very few movies that make me laugh my ass off from start to finish. I could quote this movie nonstop. All of the leads act very well off of each other. The quartet of Duchovny, Jones, William Scott, and Moore is amazing. All of them get their moment to shine, and each character is just loads of fun to watch.
Evolution is a simple movie when all is said and done. It never seemed like it was going to be met with much fanfare, which is also sad because it deserved it. The downside to this movie is that it's lacking a certain spark that would ensure the 'classic' status that Ghostbusters achieved. Though don't ask me exactly what that spark is. As far as I'm concerned, the movie works on every conceivable level. It's nothing more than a fun matinee movie. The kind of movie I'd love to watch with friends. It'd make a great double feature with a movie like Galaxy Quest. This movie is infectiously fun. Each time I watch it, and I've seen it like five times, it's like I'm seeing it for the first time. Every joke is just as funny, and every intense scene is just a thrilling. From chasing a flying Pterodactyl-esque alien lizard thing through a shopping mall, to navigating the underground alien ecosystem, the movie doesn't skimp on outright awesome moments.
There's not much left to dissect because I virtually have no complaints about the movie. The writing, acting, humor, action, and pacing are all impeccable. Some people may facepalm at the end of the movie, but I think it fits the tone of the rest of the movie. If anything it just makes me smile. The movie isn't clever enough to be satirical, but it's smart enough to stick to what it's good at and avoid falling flat on it's face. Similar to how Stephen Sommers' Deep Rising knew it was contrived and silly, and managed to be all the more fun for it. Thankfully, Evolution isn't contrived, and if it's silly, it's only by design. I can't compliment the movie enough, yet if I compliment it too much... I'll make it out to be a masterpiece. I'm sure it's flawed, I'm sure of it. I'm just always having too much fun to even notice if it is or not. This movie makes me smile from start to finish.
A good time to be had by all, and not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. Evolution is just plain fun.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Whilst Alien Vs. Predator was not my first introduction to the acidic goodness of the always classy xenomorph (I have James Cameron and Aliens to thank for that) it was however my first look at the ever-iconic Predator. For that reason alone, my little pre-teen mind was blown by AVP. The movie could do no wrong back then in 2004. Yet 2014 is only a couple months away, and thanks to a swank eBay deal, I figured it's time to give this childhood classic a totally objective rewatch through older, wiser, and far more jaded eyes. Let the hunt begin!
My thoughts on this movie are vast and varied, I could write a thesis paper on it. Mainly because I absolutely love both the Alien and the Predator franchise. Aliens is my #1 all time favorite movie, and Predator ranks at #5. I think highly even of Predator 2 and Alien 3 (which I actually believe to be one of the most underrated movies ever). So clearly not only am I well educated in both franchises (whether or not you agree with my assessments is your problem) I am also pretty forgiving. I've seen every movie in each franchise at LEAST twice. I have well formed opinions about all of them. I can back up every argument, and provide logic to all my reasoning. I'm even well versed in the wider lore and mythology founded through the comics.To put it simply, I'm not the guy to argue about Aliens or Predators with. Just throwing that out there.
Aliens and Predators were indelibly intertwined far before AVP ever showed up. There were games, comics, pocket novels, you name it. It was a legitimate thing. When you would see Batman and Captain America team up in the comics, it was also for only a few issues. Then it'd be over. However, when Aliens and Predators started crossing over, it fit so damn well, that they were connected for good. One couldn't be mentioned without the other one far behind. Which brings us FINALLY to this movie. The concept of seeing xenomorphs (the "aliens" if you haven't figured that out already) battle Yautjas ("Predators") on screen was mind-blowingly cool. There was enough amazing source material to ensure that no matter what else, seeing them on screen together would be worth it.
O' ye of too much faith. I can't pretend to really know what the hype was like, but I can imagine. Anyway, the movie doesn't disappoint on that level. When the Alien and the Predator have their first real fight, I still get chills. It's awesome. It's cool. It's well done, and looks good. That was never a complaint. Seeing them slug it out is still really damn fun. So before I get into the thick of the movie's issues, let me compliment it for a bit. The movie is directed well. Contrary to popular complaints, the characters aren't awful. They're written to the fullest extent of their function in the story, and then some! The lack of a well known lead hurts the movie somewhat but not how you might think. We'll get to that later. So, the characters are good in my opinion, the premise isn't bad, and visually the movie is fantastic. Probably the most polished and well defined movie of either franchise.
The movie functions best as a saturday matinee movie; a creature feature slugfest. It has all the slime, special effects, and creature on creature violence one could hope for. It's nothing more than that. Even Predator manages to be a classier movie. The movie succeeds in this respect, it is fun. Simple, mindless fun, of the best variety. It's not insultingly bad like some Michael Bay fare. Which are often called mindless fun as well, I beg to differ and submit they are simply mindless. AVP is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. When you hold a Transformers movie to the expectations set for it, invariably you will have a laundry list of things left to hate about it. I'm looking at you Revenge of the Fallen. However, AVP does what it sets out to do. It's biggest crime is it's painfully short runtime, and it's occasional silliness. Yet, I reiterate, it is not bad. The acting is good, the dialog is good, the pacing is a liiiiitle too brisk, but at least it's not glacial. The special effects are still good, the visual aesthetic is solid. So no, it's not bad. The action on display is even fun to watch, unlike the visual junkyard of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Aliens and Predators fight! They slash, stab, impale, bite, and even blow each other up! This is very fun to watch, no doubt.
Yet, as a fan... this movie displeases me on some levels directly. First, the story contradicts WAY too many things from the previous movies to the point where it just doesn't work. It's been established that the Predators hunt humans. We are worthy prey. Specifically, dude's like Dutch (Schwarzenegger) in Predator. Predators would not have been here thousands of years ago, teaching humans how to build pyramids. (cause apparently we worshipped them ages ago) They hunt humans for sport, they don't use us as cattle to breed xenomorphs. Not only is that ludicrous, it undermines the entire concept of the xenomorph and the Predators. Not to mention xenomorphs on EARTH? That was the sole scariest thought through EACH Alien movie. Not on Earth, c'mon, not Earth. That'd be devastating. Not here apparently. The Predators got shit under control. Because unleashing them every 100 years in a pyramid for hunting sport is cool. No way that could ever go wrong. And if it does, they blow up everything. This is NOT anything the Predators would do. Would a big game hunter go to a zoo to hunt a leopard? No. That's silly. Which is exactly how this story seems when you start to really look at it. It stops being silly fun, and ends up being just... dumb. The story at least. The movie itself is still fun.
Next up is what they did to the Aliens. First, yay, they have domed heads. They're just scarier with the domed heads as opposed to the look from Aliens. Something I can't forgive Cameron for, but I love his movie so it's all good. However, the reproductive cycle of the xenomorph has been reduced to a fraction of the time it actually takes. This is the first movie to do this too. In Alien, when a facehugger latched onto Kane, it tooks hours and hours to do it's deed. Then, a few more hours before the embryo gestated enough to break free. Then it took several more hours for the chestburster to grow to full size. Which was well over the height of a tall human male. This is already considered super fast! In fact, the reason the chestburster is very light-skinned at birth, and then totally black in it's adulthood, is because it grows so fast that it bruises over it's entire body. Yet in AVP they sped it up to a fraction of that time cycle. Several long hours' work, reduced to increments of ten minutes. It's just lazy in my opinion and rather disrespectful to the creature itself.
My final complaint is about the lead character Lex, played by Sanaa Lathan. While Lathan was good in the role, and owned it 100%, there's a twist at the end of the movie that just makes no sense when you think about it. It's a major point of the movie that Lex is a survivor, not a soldier. She would rather retreat and regroup than push ahead with guns blazing. Not only is this probably what's kept her alive, it has defined her character. On the other hand, you have the Predator. On the whole, it has been shown (Predator 2) that when a human proved himself/herself to be a worthy warrior or hunter, the Predators wouldn't kill them and instead present them with a token of respect. Spoiler alert. After everyone else she arrived with is dead, Lex decides to show the Predator that she's on his side. The Predator proceeds to not give a shit. Until a xeno bursts onto the screen and Lex gets lucky and impales it. This is very important to note because this is why their impending team up always felt like bullshit to me. Lex is not a 'worthy' warrior or a hunter. The first xeno she killed was in self defense. Like, it fell on her weapon. She's only a survivor. She has shown no battle prowess, and has actually been crying and sniffling for the past 20 minutes of screentime. Granted, this is probably what any real person would do in her shoes, so I don't fault Lathan.
However, that plot required a stronger lead. A character with enough gravitas to stand toe to toe with a Predator and make that shit work. Better still, a strong actress to fill the shoes. The concept of a Predator teaming up with a human woman is not unprecedented. They had a very popular character in the comics (which predate the movie) named Machiko Noguchi. This is her here. Look at that intensity. Never in a hundred years should Lathan be cast in a role that echos of a character like this. She does not have the gravitas. That's not saying anything bad about her, she's simply not that kind of actress. The role itself wasn't written to require that gravitas either. So when the Predator spares her, and teams up with her- sure it looks cool, and it's fun to watch, but it makes no sense. In a logical situation, the Predator would've killed her before she ever saw it coming, took back his plasma cannon and finished the rest of his hunt alone. Certainly he wouldn't have teamed up with her, because any Predator could tell you - she's useless to you. At that point, he has no reason to believe otherwise. She has done nothing impressive thus far except run a lot.
In closing, you either like this movie for what it is, a saturday creature feature slimefest...
Or you just don't like it. I haven't found much middle ground. It's fun. There's no denying that. I like watching it, it's a simple carefree time. Yet... it's also not the clash of titans everyone wanted, and it's nowhere near the movie fans deserve. However, it's the best we got for now and that's good enough until Hollywood wises up. I would be fine if they never made another Alien Vs. Predator. This movie's successor showed how badly one could be screwed up, and that was lightyears worse than anything in this one. There are literal stacks of stories though... that exist on AVP that would make fantastic movies. Movies so awesome, peoples faces would melt off. No xenomorph acid necessary even. I hope to see one of those stories adapted, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it either way.
Belated half written Halloween movie reviews abound! I have drafts just sitting around on reviews for Rosemary's Baby, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Curse of Chucky, and The Exorcist! However, if I never get to those, you'll at least have this. Everyone knows about those other movies, yet it took a fair bit of digging for me to discover this movie. Possession was worth discovering, and is worth taking the sole place of my ultimate belated Halloween movie review. This movie had me figuratively crawling out of my skin in the first hour alone, which is nothing more than soap opera-esque melodrama between an estranged couple. However, the second hour... is insanity on a stick and had me squirming at much more visceral things.
The strength of this first hour is the laser-like precision in which the melodrama plays out. It feels real. You almost forget it's even acting. The tension is palpable as Mark (Sam Neill) returns home from his job abroad to his small son, and distressed wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani) who is insisting upon a divorce. She is adamant that it's not because she found someone else, but Mark isn't so sure. The tension between them steadily climbs as the movie progresses until it's almost unbearable. You can FEEL their rage, anguish, sadness, frustration, and ultimately... their insanity.
When things take a strange turn though, Mark starts uncovering something especially sinister and unnatural behind his wife's behavior. The movie descends into darkness midway through it's second act, and plunges into mind-bogglingly weird territory in the third. The transition from nerve grating marital feuds to a dark and supernatural occultish mystery is handled with surprising mastery. We don't realize how much the first act, was setting up the last two. When things start revealing themselves, Anna's behavior make newfound sense. ...Even if little else does at that point. You're so caught up in the sheer craziness though that you cannot even stop to ask 'why' because the movie never attempts to fool you as to what it is: an unbridled descent into pure madness.
It would make a fantastic double feature with In The Mouth of Madness. Though this movie is less... flamboyant in the way that Madness was. Though if any other movie deserved that amazing title, it's Possession. Sam Neill is on the ball as Mark, a spy who's work seems to be messing up his home life, we think nothing of his profession right away as it's played very low key. It doesn't seem to be of any consequence until the insane (it's pretty much the perfect adjective for this movie. Bear with me.) third act.
He plays Mark with brutal sincerity, he cares about Anna and goes to unreal ends trying to make things work between them. It shows in every intense moment of his screentime. He balances his role perfectly, going crazy and desperate, but never chewing scenery. He plays well with Isabelle Adjani who gets so little screentime with him, in which they're NOT being totally hostile to each other, one would readily believe they hated each other off camera as well.
The movie has a small contained character list, but the few that are there are colorful and bring the movie to life. However, this movie is singlehandedly stolen in ONE scene by Adjani. It's a scene which I refuse to spoil, but it has her character freaking out and flailing around. This scene is disturbing, and she takes it to the limit and the goes beyond. She hurls herself across the set with the recklessness of a mental person. Her physical devotion to this seen is unrivaled, it's almost painful to watch, because you refuse to believe the actress herself doesn't have a massive headache. What's even more amazing (or cruel. Up to you.) is that the scene goes on... and on and on and on. It's all in one take and it escalates more and more and more. It feels almost neverending. I kept expecting that any second they'd cut away, or change scenes. Nope. They follow this crazy moment all the way to it's grueling conclusion.
Even with all that description, I doubt anyone could be prepared for that moment when it comes. It's so intense, I was wide-eyed and glued to the screen. That one scene is so amazing on every level that it alone is worth seeing the movie for. That one moment is so worth it. The movie is amazing already, and then it had that scene and just blew me away. The movie only gets stranger from there on out. I would be crazy myself to think I could even make sense of the final act, but it was certainly captivating! It has built up so much tension and nerve grating suspense that when everything begins to unravel it all violently spirals out of control. Which is honestly, fascinating to watch. It feels like an H.P. Lovecraft story, so much of the raw horror stems from something creepy, unknown, and lurking in the shadows of the plot around every turn. When we finally get to see it, we're hardly prepared for it. However, I do know one thing, this movie was awesome.
I wholeheartedly recommend you see this movie if you can handle it. The melodrama of the first hour is just as brutal and disturbing as the second hour, which somehow manages to out-do the first by sheer insanity. It's creative, creepy, disturbing, enthralling and very well acted. It may not always make sense, but it knows it too. It's a nightmare in every sense of the word, and believe me, that's a compliment! It plays like a lite version of Antichrist. (that's not really a bad thing either...) And it's also akin to the fantastic Jacob's Ladder, with all the Lovecraftian stylings you could want. How does that not sound awesome?
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
This is undeniably a classic movie. However with all the advances in technology since freakin' 1968, I think it's safe to say it'd be hard pressed to find an accepting audience in today's world. The movie is a good one, no doubt. Full of wide-eyed spectacle, some thrilling set pieces, and some really good acting. Planet of the Apes is also unfortunately, criminally dated. I can't imagine the youth of today not laughing at the incredibly stilted ape prosthetics. Which could alienate whole audiences. I can't say I grew up with this movie, I first saw it when I was 12 or 13. Which was only 6 or 7 years ago. Yet, I loved it. I took it seriously. I was capable of appreciating what it was, and when it came from. Thus, I enjoyed it alot.
Sci-fi spectacle nowadays, outside of the indie market, usually has someone like Will Smith heading it, and David Goyer behind the scenes somewhere. While this isn't necessarily bad, I believe that most science fiction movies nowadays, have lost their sense of grandeur and scale, and most certainly their sense of importance. My point is honestly that Sci-Fi has become a genre all about special effects. Which is why a modern audience might very well reject Planet of the Apes on it's own merit. It's not impressive compared to anything we have nowadays. Not visually at least. And while I do believe it was certainly ahead of it's time for the 60's, it's no longer that advanced anymore.
However, if you can appreciate older movies without judging them next to today's standard, then you might enjoy Planet of the Apes. A movie so indelibly ingrained into society and pop culture that we're still making movies in the franchise. (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is coming out in 2014 as a sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a rather successful reboot.) However there is more to 'Apes than the makeup effects and prosthetics. The movie has a sense of old school charisma. Due in no small part to star Charlton Heston (playing the eponymous 'Taylor). He plays off of his co-stars wonderfully. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall are simply wonderful as the benevolent apes, Zira and Cornelius. Who also seem to be the only ones on Heston's side in this freakish world.
For the sake of anyone who hasn't seen Planet of the Apes, it's about a team of astronauts who're sent into deep space, looking for another habitable world I believe. Yet, thousands of years have passed while they were in hypersleep and they crash land on a foreign planet... that is ruled by apes. Walking, talking, apes. With their own laws and society, and everything. Humans also exist on this planet, yet they can't articulate any better than a primate you might find at your local zoo. So imagine the shock when the apes are confronted with this man who can articulate as well as any of them. The catch? His throat, and subsequently his vocal chords, were injured early on. Which conveniently prevents him from speaking for most of the movie. Yet when he finally does... hot damn. There's a reason why that line is so iconic. Heston's delivery is as chilling now as it was back in 1968.
The movie is pretty exciting in my opinion, and some actually criticize it's pacing, saying it's rather slow for today's audiences. I think everything is too slow for today's audiences. I don't think that's a valid critique to level at the movie. The movie opens with a spaceship crash landing on the planet, then the astronauts have to traverse the alien terrain and end up smack in the middle of a hunt, in which apes on horseback, with guns, are violently pursuing a herd of wild humans. The movie then settles in to it's main plot, which is Taylor trying to convince the apes that he's not from this world. He's faced with execution and being lobotomized around every corner. He stages multiple escape attempts, and in the end is granted a small iota of leeway to prove his statements which culminates in another skirmish, and concludes with a most shocking ending. Which despite being plastered all over posters and box art, is still quite shocking in context.
In conclusion, if your idea of good sci-fi is the Star Wars prequels or i,Robot... then it's a good possibility you won't enjoy Planet of the Apes. However, if you are someone who enjoys the original Star Trek TV series, and movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, then yes, odds are you'll have a blast with this movie.
I expected nothing more than a simple revenge flick. Maybe one of those highway thrillers with the band of deranged rednecks who hunt a simple couple to the point of a psychotic break. It's a good thing I watch movies now with next to no knowledge about them, because this movie blind sided me... and trust me, that's a good thing. With a serviceable cast, headed up by the fantastic Luke Evans, and a story full of great twists and turns, No One Lives elevates itself above and beyond a run of the mill splatterfest and becomes a rather great movie.
I'll give you the basic shakedown of the plot. If the back of the DVD tells you any more, than whoever wrote it should be shot. Preferably by Luke Evans while he stands there looking like a badass. Anyways, the movie is about a group of criminals whose latest haul of ill gotten gain has to be abandoned for their own safety. Looking to make up for their losses, they decide to hijack the trailer, "containing all their worldly possessions..." of a couple who is moving to a new state. Suffice it to say, they did not know who they were fucking with. Seriously. The movie reels you in, in it's first half with a daunting atmosphere and some good acting by Luke Evans and his lovely counterpart. However, you're 110% hooked by the time shit starts getting crazy.
I will say this though, the major plot twist will instantly land you in one of two categories. One, you're completely alienated. You'll likely be disgusted with the movie and find little reason to keep watching. Two, you find this twist brilliant and can't wait for the inescapable bloodbath to ensue. I can't tell you what the twist is, but your enjoyment of this movie will definitely hinge on it. This movie does not offer a clear cut protagonist. This is not the revenge flick of ye olden days. Despite the fact this has a definite exploitation sensibility about it, it's not a movie where it's easy to find the good guy and just cheer for him. You'll see why, because I wholeheartedly suggest you watch this movie. I thought it was great.
It's equal parts slasher flick and action flick. It's impossible (provided the twist didn't turn you off) to not have a blast with this movie. Luke Evans is amazing in the role and I think he deserves way more notice for it. I thought he was a serviceable villain in Fast & Furious 6, but here his character is brought to live in such a way... it's just fantastic. The movie is not without it's fair share of shortcomings, but with all the points it's earning for sheer creativity, it's hard to fault it something serious. Also, major props go to Adelaide Clemens, who plays possibly the one balls to bone protagonist here. She holds her own in a boys club full of heavy hitting acting and some serious dramatic shit. She may be playing a damsel in distress (of sorts) but if so, she's the kind that would make Ellen Ripley proud.
She's definitely a smart girl, and a fighter. She wasn't the typical wood chipper fodder that runs about in the woods until some hockey masked maniac machetes her in half. I actually liked this girl's gusto, her drive to survive was measurable in more than just how shrill and loud her scream was. Early on, she's running away from someone/something, and she cuts her foot on some glass. Rather than roll over like a wounded puppy, she pulls a motherfucking John McClane, yanks the glass out, wraps her foot, and keeps fucking running. It was then and there I knew I liked her character, and also when I knew I was in for a treat with this movie. I'm happy to say she didn't get shafted by the ending, something which horror movies seem fond of doing to their protagonists more often than not.
Her and Luke Evans' character play off of each other brilliantly although they don't come face to face until the last act, their dynamic has been building up the whole movie, and when you see it, it sizzles. The movie has a snappy energetic pacing that kept my attention glued to screen the whole time. This may not be a typical popcorn flick, but if you roll with the punches it's so much fun. It's a gory grindhouse of a good time and I recommend it to anyone whose interest is even remotely piqued by this review. See it!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I have nobody to blame except myself for not having seen this sooner. This Spielberg/Hooper movie is actually fantastic. I've been on a roll with classic horror movies I've never seen before, this was definitely on my list to finally watch. After going through Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Shining, and Halloween (all of which have reviews pending) I took a break to work on some video reviews. Still haven't published those reviews yet, but I saw Poltergeist last night and felt it was perfect to start off this trend with. The 80's as anyone can tell you is my favorite era for movies. Movies from that era pretty much dominate my favorites list, so I was starting to feel weird that I'd never seen some of these. Boy I was missing a lot of fun. There might be some mild spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't seen it. Fair warning.
Poltergeist eases you into the story with this middle-class, all-American family going about their daily routine. The young boy has Star Wars posters on his wall, the little girl plays with toy dolls and ponies, the teenage daughter stays up all night on the phone, and goes out with friends. The parents of course are rarely granted reprieve from their kids. One little thunderstorm and half the family climbs into mom and dad's bed.
So it's a very typical sight. However, it's also a welcome one that never directly descends into cliche.
They seem like a very loving family and they're instantly endearing. They're in for quite the shitstorm though.
As it turns out the developers the dad works for built the entire neighborhood over old burial ground and the spirits are pissed off. They start messing with this family's house. Small things at first. Objects slide across the floor by themselves. Chairs stack themselves when nobody is looking. Voices communicate with the little girl through the TV and she states, rather iconically: "They're heeeere!" It's a very unnerving moment despite having seen it out of context only a hundred times. However, things begin to escalate. Another thunderstorm hits, and the creepy tree outside smashes through a window and pulls the boy out... and begins to eat him. Things go crazy all over and it's sheer chaos.
The special effects on display, while a few decades old, hold up VERY well. I believe that special effects main purpose are to help the story tell it's tale without getting in the way or distracting from it. The effects in Poltergeist do just that. They seamlessly blend into the narrative, heightening the scare factor exponentially. Some older movies aren't so lucky, (i.e. ED-209 in RoboCop) when you see an effects heavy scene, sometimes it's so jarring the only thing you can think is "oh look, a special effect." Thankfully that disconnect never occurs in this movie.
At one point in the movie, the family has a team of paranormal investigators over. The trio boasts about having seen a toy car move across a linoleum surface, by itself, over a period of... seven hours. The dad's reaction is priceless, right before he shows them a whole room of objects swirling around and being animate all by themselves. Again, more priceless reactions. A lesser movie would've had the trio of paranormal investigators run out of the house, screaming. Usually when paranormal investigators show up in movies, they're crackpot hacks with an agenda, and almost ALWAYS out of their league. Thankfully, these characters didn't fall into cliche like that. They stick around and despite being way out of their depth, they make every effort to assist the family in every way they can. This trio of characters was pretty great like that. They seemed like people genuinely interested in helping. Not just making money or something. That was refreshing.
The special effects only get bigger and better as the story careens towards it's impressive and gut wrenching climax. In my humble opinion, 90% of any effective horror movie is good acting. Even a movie with outstanding special effects can be reduced to pseudo-parody by shoddy acting. Safe to say, this movie was excellent acting from all the actors. Special credits to the mom who went through some crazy shit in this movie. Also, I've always felt the stakes in anything are raised when kids are involved. You don't mess with parents and their kids. Threaten their kids, and they'll brave demons and hell itself to protect them. It's amazingly emotional. It's also why Aliens is one of my all time favorite movies. The trio of main characters, Ripley, Newt, and Hicks, form a sort of makeshift family unit. Forged together under the fire of survival. It works so well in almost any movie where the actors are up to it. Poltergeist is no exception. Fighting to save the lives of your kids is always more intense than fighting to save your own life. There's something about that which takes Poltergeist to the next level, managing to be a thoroughly effective, moving, funny, and scary horror movie despite it's PG rating. I've seen R rated horror movies that were nowhere near this stirring.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
This... movie... broke me. Almost at least. I contemplated turning it off and walking away from it. I never do that. Yet... I feared for my sanity. (Thar be spoilers in these waters, ye've been warned. Arrr.) Did I turn it off at the mob of hobos who abduct a woman, and presumably rape and murder her? No. Did I turn it off when a man drinks a strange acidic drink, and melts himself down a toilet? No. It was when someone ripped off a guy's penis, and played catch with it in a junkyard. I paused the movie as the severed fake looking plastic dild- er I mean penis, flew through the air... and I sat in shock. Already quite audibly stunned at the ripping off of said
Well, safe to say, I did finish it. I can't say I regret it either. It's a top contender for one of the craziest, nastiest, most colorful, vulgar, and most disgusting movies I've ever sat through. In a good way if that's possible. I don't know how to classify this movie. It's funny enough to be a comedy, it's horrific enough to be horror, and in a peripheral sense it can even classify as action and sci-fi.
Can any one genre contain it? I don't personally think so. It's so batshit crazy, that things like plot, story, and acting fall by the wayside here. The star of the movie is it's gore, and the best supporting role is it's unique brand of insanity. It's like if Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, John Carpenter and someone from the Crayola company (yes the one that makes crayons) all got drunk off their asses and decided to make the most crazy random and gross-out movie they could think of. I can certainly see the appeal believe it or not. The appeal is in it's strangeness.
I'll get back to it's appeal after I tell you what it's about. It's about this mysterious liquor called "Viper". A liquor store owner digs up a crate from the basement of his shop as something to sell all the hobos that come around for dirt cheap. What this guy doesn't know, is that Viper melts people. One sip, and it melts you on the way down. Some people melt into the colors of a rainbow, as chunks of their flesh fall off and their rib cage hangs out, and some people explode in a veritable geyser of nearly neon pink blood. Seeing as how the store owner sells it so cheap, apparently only the hobos buy it. A bunch of people get caught up in this ever-evolving web of lies, deceit, homeless people, police, murder, rape, and this fuckin' booze that melts people.
There's quite a few characters here, and frankly too many to list, but you got your protagonists, and your antagonists, and then you got the police. So yeah.
Anyways, the appeal of Street Trash lies in it's strangeness. There's always someone who thinks they've seen it all, and then there's another person smug with the fact they know that person hasn't seen Street Trash. It's not going to win points for good acting, or a good story, or anything like that. But it's super fucking weird. "Have you seen the one about the booze that melts people?" No? Well, if that's the kind of question that would pique your interest, congratulations. You'll probably find a way to watch this movie before the end of the week. I track down movies like this. Movies so crazy and nuts, you just gotta show em around to see other people's reactions. Not being able to contain your laughter as all the meat comes to life in the butcher shop and tries to kill everyone inside (Dead Heat) or when the giant alien worm molests the lady to death (Galaxy of Terror) and you're watching everyone's facial expressions. That's the appeal of Street Trash.
It goes above and beyond the call of duty to maintain it's weirdness, and honestly it does it alot better than a movie I just realized it reminds me of, Class of Nuke Em' High. Both movies deal with gross out factors like so, but Nuke Em' High drags, unable to keep my attention glued to the screen like this movie did. From it's impressively well executed opening chase, it's tongue and cheek nature is irrepressible. It is funny. Not in a so-bad-I-need-to-laugh way, but in that there was some decent humor written here. I warn you, I may just be in some form of shock, and this might not be funny at all, but I found myself actually laughing a few times. It was surprising, but welcome. It doesn't stop to crack a joke, like a Troma film would. It doesn't grind to a halt in it's attempts to be funny. It flows naturally. I think some of the actors do a decent enough job to sell it too.
Beyond it's humor lays a neon colored, lurid mess of gore, junkyard violence, street fights, foot chases, vietnam flashbacks, and one of the coolest, most icky ways to finish off the villain in a climax ever. I liked Street Trash. It was shocking, but not traumatic. It's cheesy enough to take the edge off of it's disgusting gore, even though a few scenes are surprisingly unnerving and incredibly effective. The plot meanders from encounter to encounter. Story lines are picked up and then dropped like a hot potato. Narratively, the movie is a mess. However I can't bring myself to dislike it. It may be a mess, but it was more captivating and weird than any number of movies who promise the same disgusting attractions. It's about booze that melts people, and the hobos whose lives it changes. This isn't exactly high brow cinema. I hate it when reviewers use that excuse, but for this once, I give it a hall pass. The whole goal of this movie, is to be gross and stick in your head. If it has to puke up it's internal organs in a colorful variety of blue, pink, green and purple to achieve that, it'll do it. If you actually want to see it after this review, than I wholeheartedly suggest you do so. If not? Stay away. You may need therapy afterwards.