I want my money back – Lockout (2012)

 

Ah, France – one of many countries that I hope to visit before I die. In the world of film, France gave birth to some of the most influential directors of all time. The “autership” of Jean-Luc Godard (“Breathless”), Robert Bresson (“A Man Escaped”), Francois Truffaut (“The 400 Blows”) and Jean-Pierre Melville (“Le Samourai”), just to name a few, have been interwoven into modern film so seamlessly that even the most jaded of moviegoers are unaware that most of the cinematic styles and techniques that amaze them were done before by these directors. Had it not been for the “French New Wave”, there wouldn’t be a Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas”), or a Jim Jarmusch (“Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” which was inspired by “Le Samourai”), or a Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen”), or to a greater extent, a Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2). Back in France, many directors were influenced by the “French New Wave”. One of these directors is a little-known individual named Luc Besson.

 

Active in the film industry during the mid-80s, Luc Besson was introduced to the American art-house circuit with his feature film “Nikita” (or “La Femme Nikita” as it’s commonly known).  With its story of a young female criminal named…you guessed it… Nikita being transformed physically and mentally into a hardened assassin, “Nikita” was a success in the box office. It also spawned a forgettable American remake (“Point of No Return”), a cult TV series (“La Femme Nikita” – which I never quite got into when it aired on television) and a currently-airing remake of that series (“Nikita” – which I do NOT watch, not because it stars the attractive Maggie Q as the title character, but because it’s on CW11, the cable station responsible for fucking up the Superman lore with the 10 (TEN?! DIEZ?!!) season ‘soap opera’ “Smallville”).

 

But it was his next two offerings – the BRILLIANT action drama “Leon” (or “The Professional” as it’s commonly known) and the wildly entertaining sci-fi adventure “The Fifth Element” that made Luc Besson a household name. These films, both critical and commercial successes, helped launch the Hollywood careers of Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Milla Jovovich. Today, Luc and his production company  EuropaCorp has become synonymous for producing stylized, action-packed, (oftentimes) over-the-top, French/American collaborations like Jet Li’s “Kiss of the Dragon” and “Unleashed”, Jason Statham’s “Transporter” trilogy, Liam Neeson’s “Taken”,  John Travolta’s “From Paris with Love” and Zoe Saldana’s “Colombiana”.

 

And here we have their latest offering – the sci-fi action flick “Lockout”. I put the word “action” in bold since this was promised in the film’s trailer. I’ll explain later. Anyhoo, “Lockout” is NOT directed by Luc Besson but it is written by him and the two directors of the film – James Mather and Stephen St. Leger (whoever the hell they are).  What interested me about the film was not its unoriginal plot, or its rehashing of elements from the superior sci-fi films of yesteryear, but in its poster. At the top, you can see the following text: “From the producers of ‘Taken'”.  Through extensive research (which only took a few minutes, thanks to Wikipedia and IMDB), I learned that “Lockout” was produced by Marc Libert and Leila Smith. “Taken” was produced by Didier Hoarau (executive producer), Franck Lebreton (line producer), Michael Mandaville (American line producer) and Luc Besson (uncredited). Marc and Leila, the “producers of ‘Taken'”, aren’t even in the fucking credits of “Taken”! So why couldn’t the distributors simply say “From the company that brought you ‘Taken’ “? Why give credit to two individuals who were in no way (according to Wikipedia and IMDB) involved in making that film in the first place? Only Luc Besson knows. The rest of the world, myself included, really couldn’t give a shit.

 

But I digress.

 

PLOT

In the year 2079, an ex-CIA operative named Snow is arrested for the murder of an undercover agent named Frank Armstrong (probably the great grandson of Neil Armstrong…..HA HA HA…hmm) who has uncovered evidence of another agent selling secrets concerning a space program. Snow’s contact Mace is the only person who knows the location of Frank’s briefcase which contains the secret information. The problem is, Mace was recently arrested and sent to MS One, a maximum security space penitentiary which houses 500 – yes, FIVE HUNDRED – prisoners (even though they show far less in the film). And this, ladies and gents, is the solution to overcrowded prisons. Send the guilty to outer space! Yeeeeeeah.

 

Meanwhile, Emilie Warnock, the daughter of the President of the United States (who’s a white man – which totally destroyed my dream of an African-American president in 2079….sigh!) goes to MS One to investigate claims that “stasis” (or a gas-induced state of sleep) has mentally affected the prisoners. Emilie questions one of the prisoners, a psychotic Scotsman named Hydell, about the effects of stasis. Hydell, of course, grabs the gun from the security guard behind him, shoots him,  and runs amok. He releases all the prisoners, including his less-psychotic but still cold-blooded brother Alex, and starts a riot. For reasons unexplained, the personnel in the L.O.P.D. – or Low Orbit Police Department (facepalm), located in a lower section of MS One, do not intervene in stopping the riot.  I think it has to do with the safety of the President’s daughter or some shit. Anyhoo, Snow is requested by the Government to hop on a rocket and save Emilie from the 5,000 sticky fingers (pinkies and thumbs also) of the 500 prisoners who’ve taken control of MS One.

 

CHARACTERS

Snow – Guy Pearce

Emilie Warnock – Maggie Grace

Scott Langral – Peter Stormare

Harry Shaw – Lennie James

Alex – Vincent Regan

Hydell – Joseph Gilgun

Mace – Tim Plester

 

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re knowledgeable of sci-fi films, then you’ll quickly realize that the premise of a man being hired to sneak into a futuristic prison to save the President’s daughter is anything but original. It’s been done before in the still-watchable 1981 cult classic “Escape from New York”, whose bad-ass, eye-patch-sporting hero ‘Snake’ Plissken inspired the character Solid Snake from the Metal Gear video-game series. Even the concept of a bunch of criminals taking control of an aerial, or in this case, space craft has been done before in an adrenaline rush of a movie called “Con Air” which delivered one of the greatest lines in film history spoken by post-Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage: “Put the bunny back in the box”. Yes, I was being sarcastic.  The point is, “Lockout” rips bits and pieces of action and sci-fi films from the early 80s to today. But for some reason (perhaps the PG-13 rating), the film doesn’tentirelytake itself seriously. However, if the film had set out to be a mindless action film, or even an action film for that matter, I would’ve forgiven the formulaic approach of “Lockout”.

 

Which leads to my main quarrel with the film. From the first few minutes of the film, which begins with an interrogation scene involving Guy Pearce (in which he’s periodically slugged by a cop, and in one of the film’s few attempts at originality, an opening credit is displayed on the screen when Guy’s head is knocked to the left side of the frame) and ends with a brief, and ridiculously fake, chase involving Guy Pearce on motorcycle, you’re expecting a film loaded with action. And as I mentioned earlier, this was what was “promised” in the film’s trailer. But to me, the film felt more like a thriller than an action movie. Yes, shots were fired, and there were a couple of dogfights involving spaceships dodging gunfire from the space prison, and there were a few bombs with automatic timers (not as if anyone in the film is focused on how long it’ll take for shit to blow up) put to good use. But still, it didn’t deliver the high-octane goodness that you’re guaranteed to get from a Luc Besson-produced action movie. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even have the depth and heart of a Luc Besson-directed action movie.

 

I felt that the performances in “Lockout” were sub-par, to say the least. Joseph Gilgun is fucking awful as Hydell, and he delivers his role as a senseless cartoon character devoid of human conscience, pity or remorse. If he’s not trying to scare someone with his over-the-top insanity, he’s always shooting someone with a pistol (which, like a cartoon, never runs out of bullets). Luckily (or unfortunately depending on your tolerance for cinematic violence), his violent antics occur off-screen. Some may say this decision is meant to secure a PG-13 rating. I say, slap a R rating and show us the fucking goods – not that it would make the film any better though. Guy Pearce plays his character with dry sarcasm and wit, but he fails in developing good chemistry with his co-star Maggie Grace. When they’re together, Guy acts like a prick and Maggie reminds him that he’s acting like a prick. No wonder he wears a “WARNING: OFFENSIVE” T-shirt in the film. Also, he delivers his lines with a slight sense of boredom. I could imagine that he was probably thinking the following: “I was in Memento. I was in The King’s Speech. I was even in Prometheus! What the fuck am I doing HERE?!!” – but in a British accent since he was born in England but moved to Australia with his family when he…. Oops, that was my short attention span catching up with me.

 

Which brings me to my final issue with the film. The film was never engaging enough to hold my interest in its poorly-written story. I actually found myself bored at times while watching the damn movie. It’s just scenario after scenario (get past the prisoners in this room, make your way through the ventilation shafts, get in the escape pod, blah blah blah) without anything new or unique. In an action film, it’s really hard to stay focused when there’s a lack of action in the film, a lack of originality in the story and a lack of motivation in the characters. Not even the visual effects (cartoonish in the first few minutes and pretty cool in the last) are enough to save it. Overall, the film tries desperately to be a cutting-edge action movie set in outer space. But with a predictable story, one-dimensional villains, an unappealing protagonist with little to no motivation except to get the fuck back to Earth, and a lack of entertaining action sequences, “Lockout” should be incarcerated in a maximum security prison for bad movies – in space.

 

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  I won’t recommend watching this shit, but if you’re looking for a sci-fi film that’s not a SyFy Channel original movie that you can laugh at for being so terrible, then by all means…..watch “Lockout”. If you’re looking for a sci-fi film that’s actually good, or should I say awesome, go watch “The Fifth Element”.  It’s still really decent for a 1995 movie. And if you’re curious about the French New Wave (and you definitely should be), I strongly recommend viewing the four French films that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review. Jean-Luc Godard would be SO proud of you. He is still alive, by the way. And he’ll know if you haven’t seen them. Trust me….he’ll know.

 

MY RATING – 2 out of 5 stars (“I want my money back”)

– Matthew

 

“Mirror Mirror” vs. “Snow White and the Huntsman” – The Fairest Fight of them All

Once upon a time in the magical kingdom of Hollywood, there lived a man named Walt Disney.  After the success and popularity of his Mickey Mouse short films, Walt began production of the first ever feature-length, full-colour animated film. Based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this film was called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  With its revolutionary animation, charming characters and timeless story, this film was a milestone in cinematic history. The first of its kind, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” laid the foundation for nearly every fairy-tale themed film released since then.

 

More than 70 years later,  the fairy-tale film became a cash cow for the kingdom of Hollywood. While there were a few critical and commercial successes (“Shrek”, “Enchanted”, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Tangled”),  and those which made a substantial amount of money despite mixed reviews (“Hoodwinked!”, “Alice in Wonderland”), the rest of these movies SUCKED ASS (“Beastly”, “Hoodwinked Two”, “Red Riding Hood”, “A Cinderella Story”). It seemed as if every classic fairy tale (from “Jack and the Beanstalk” (ridiculously re-titled “Jack and the Giant Killer”) to “Hansel and Gretel” (I shit you not!)) was destined cursed to be adapted into a movie.

 

But then, an extraordinary event took place. Two films were released in 2012, almost three months apart from one another, which were both adaptations of the “Snow White” fairy tale – and to a lesser extent, the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” animated film.  Both were commercial successes, and both received positive and negative comments by critics and viewers alike.  But in the fight for box office supremacy, only one live-action “Snow White” film is cursed destined to stand tall.

 

And now for the MAIN EVENT!

 

 

First, from Relativity Media, with an estimated budget of $85 million, directed by  Tarsem (“Just call me Tarsem”) Singh, and starring Lily (“I don’t even know what ‘Sussidio’ means”) Collins,  Julia (“I will not play a hooker with a heart of gold…AGAIN”) Roberts, and Armie (“It’s ARMIE Hammer….not fucking ARM & HAMMER!”) Hammer, it’s the PG-rated “MIRROR, MIRROR”.

 

 

And its opponent, from Universal Pictures, with an estimated budget of $170 million, directed by Rupert (“This is my first feature film, bitches!”) Sanders, and starring Kristen (“Did that kid just call me Bella?”) Stewart, Charlize (“I want another Academy Award”) Theron, and Chris (“I’d like my fucking hammer back, Sir!”) Hemsworth, it’s the PG-13 rated “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”.

 

Those of you looking for a faithful adaptation of the Snow White story and/or animated film will be extremely disappointed. Both “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” differ immensely from its source material.  This can be viewed simply as an attempt to present the Snow White fairy tale to a modern, Twilight-esque generation. While “Mirror Mirror” strays far from, and modernizes particular conventions of, the original story, “Snow White and the Huntsman” maintains most of these conventions, while presenting the story as a medieval epic.

 

“MIRROR MIRROR” – With this film, you get a light-hearted, and sometimes trippy, comic adventure in which Snow White (Lily Collins) seeks to re-gain her kingdom from the clutches of her stepmother, Queen Gertrude (Julia Roberts). Yes, she meets the seven dwarfs. And yes, she falls in love with a prince (named Andrew Alcott and played by Armie Hammer). But in an ironic twist, the Queen herself also falls for Prince Alcott, and desires to marry him for his wealth. So now the villain of “Snow White” has been reduced to a fucking gold-digger! Yeeeeeah.  The performances in the film are good, but it’s Julia Roberts who steals the show as the self-obsessed, neurotic and partly psychotic Queen Gertrude. The visuals, as expected from a Tarsem Singh film, are gorgeous and unique, and the costume design by the late, great Eiko Ishioka deserve to be Oscar-nominated. However, there are moments in “Mirror Mirror” where the story screeches to a halt and pointlessly revels in its own weirdness, almost as if it’s not sure where it should go next. Take, for example, a bizarre-ass sequence (which lasts fortunately for less than a minute), where the Queen is the subject of a beauty makeover. BIRD SHIT is used as a facial mask, worms and bugs are spread over her skin, and scorpions are used to pinch her lips (call that the earliest form of lip augmentation, folks).  In a later scene, Prince Alcott is given a love potion by the Queen while in her bedchamber. This love potion….wait for it…. was meant for a puppy! Get it? Puppy love? Clearly, this joke was meant for six-year old kids. And six-year old kids are guaranteed to laugh their heads off when Armie Hammer acts like a fucking puppy. Even the dwarfs in the film exist to make six-year old kids laugh, and nothing more. In my opinion, “Mirror Mirror” feels more like a kids movie instead of a solid family movie.  Now I admit – the film had style, but it lacked character depth, a cohesive theme and a story entertaining enough for me to give two fucks about what was going on. In the end, “Mirror Mirror” was, simply put, a bad apple.

 

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” – In the vein of recent medieval adventure flicks like “King Arthur” and “Robin Hood”, this film delivers a dark and grimy version of its source material. An adult Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is introduced as a prisoner held captive in the tower of a castle owned by her cruel stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron). After killing Snow’s father on the night of their wedding (OUCH!, Ravenna rules the kingdom of Tabor with an iron fist. She sucks the life force of virgin girls to prevent herself from becoming old and withered. But everything changes when the man in the mirror (not Michael Jackson – RIP) warns Ravenna that there is another one fairer than her. Without revealing much of the plot, Snow escapes from the tower, and eventually winds up in the Dark Forest where she meets Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). Later on, they meet a band of eight dwarfs (yes, I said EIGHT) who guides them through an enchanted forest, where Snow learns of her true destiny. As expected in a medieval adventure flick, there is a final battle involving cavalry riding along the beach in slow-motion, a rousing pre-battle speech delivered by Kristen Stewart (of all people) and of course, the final confrontation between Snow and Ravenna.  From the nightmarish Dark Forest to the beautiful enchanted forest, this film is visually stunning. Kristen Stewart is surprisingly good as Snow White, even though she loses her British accent at times, and her facial features still resemble that of her Twilight character, Bella. The rest of the cast, especially the actors who play the dwarfs (who had their faces digitally transmuted on small bodies, by the way), deliver decent performances. But it’s Charlize Theron who, similar to Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror”, steals the show. Her performance is so grandiose and over-the-top that she literally commands every scene that she’s in.  There are a few flaws however. The pacing in the film, more particularly the second act in which Ravenna is almost non-existent, is a bit uneven. Also, there’s a couple of unexplained events in the film. Like when Snow escapes from the tower, she winds up on a beach and there’s a white horse just standing there. Where the fuck did that horse come from? And logically, what’s the odds of finding a solitary horse on a beach while being chased by a band of soldiers? It’s never explained. Yeeeeeah. But anyway, while “Snow White and the Huntsman” is far from perfect, it’s still a very entertaining film.  And it’s more fucking entertaining than all the Twilight movies put together! I’m just saying.

 

AND THE WINNER IS –  “Snow White and the Huntsman”, by a fucking longshot, wins this battle. Unless you really hate looking at Kristen Stewart’s buck teeth, or you have a gripe with five-foot actors playing dwarfs, then this film is worth your time and money. But whether you check out this film or not, I highly recommend that you see the 1937 “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It’s dated (DURRRHH!) but it’s a rather enjoyable movie and a masterpiece in all respects. And it’s actually a family film, which is more than I can say about “Mirror Mirror” – I mean, “The-Film-Which-Will-Not-Be-Remembered”.

 

“MIRROR MIRROR” – 2 out of 5 stars (“I want my money back”)

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” – 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

– Matthew

A Thousand Words on “A Thousand Words”

 

There was once a man called Eddie Murphy who was literally the funniest African-American comedian since the late, great Richard Pryor.  From the early 1980s (“48 Hrs”) to the mid-1990s (“The Nutty Professor”), he was THE leading black comic actor in Hollywood. But suddenly in the early-2000s, his career experienced ‘technical difficulties’. His appearances in box-office hits like “Dreamgirls” and “Tower Heist” were overshadowed by the critically-panned films in which he played the lead role (“The Adventures of Pluto Nash”, “Showtime”, “I Spy”, “Daddy Day Care”, “The Haunted Mansion”, “Norbit”, “Meet Dave”, “Imagine That”).  How could this happen? Could it be that times were changing, and people were desensitized into accepting black actors dressed in drag (*cough*Martin Lawrence – Big Momma’s House*cough*)? Or maybe he’s getting wiser, and he wants to remove himself from the fast-talking, expletive-spitting brand of humour that made him famous, which is why he picks family-friendly roles in a continuing attempt to stay relevant in Hollywood (*cough*Martin Lawrence – College Road Trip*cough*)? Whatever it is, the fact still remains – HE’S EDDIE MURPHY. The man has a LEGION of fans, and I bet at least one-quarter of them are praying for a film that’ll herald his major comeback.  Unfortunately, “A Thousand Words” is NOT that film.

 

Intended for release in 2008, but delayed for four years (for reasons other than a shitty script), “A Thousand Words” tells the “riveting” story of Jack McCall (cause he’s always CALLing someone. Get it? I don’t either). He’s a fast-talking literary agent with a fancy house, a wife (“Caroline” – Kerry Washington) and son (some kid), and a reputation for talking anyone into doing anything (except maybe watching this movie).  Caroline complains that she feels like a “guest” in their fancy house (whatever that means), and desires to move into a simpler home. Also, he has to cope with his elderly mother’s (“Annie” – Ruby Dee) dementia, which explains why she calls him “Raymond”.  Even Ari Gold from “Entourage” has more fucking character depth than Jack.

 

Anyhoo, Jack’s life changes when he tries to get a book deal from a self-help guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff “I’m only playing an Indian” Curtis).  Realizing that Jack is trying to scheme his way into endorsing the book, Dr. Sinja curses him with a Bodhi tree that magically (or spiritually, I guess) sprouts from the ground in his backyard.  Every time Jack says a word, a leaf falls from the tree. If he says a thousand words (hence the title), and all one thousand leaves are off the tree, he’ll DIE. He tries to get help from Dr. Sinja, but he quickly hops on a jet heading to Bolivia. He’ll be back in 3 days. Jack is now forced to keep his mouth shut until Dr. Sinja returns. (A lack of) hilarity ensues.

 

If this film was made in the 1980s, I probably would’ve been better able to endure “A Thousand Words”. This film has the cheesy sensibilities of a ‘80s movie, and this is one of its major flaws. Even though the concept of a life-sucking tree is unique, the entire premise of the film (working man put into an extraordinary situation where he learns a lifelong lesson about love and family) is SO FUCKING OLD! This premise has been used and re-used over the years that it’s amazing it hasn’t contracted syphilis yet. The second flaw – ALL the jokes in the film fell flat! I didn’t laugh once. Not even a chuckle.  I just sat there, silent, as I watched a mute Eddie Murphy spend 3 minutes in a Starbucks store ordering coffee, and “unintentionally” causing a series of car crashes to occur while preventing a blind man from crossing a street. In three painfully unfunny scenes, the Bhodi tree is watered by Jack’s Hispanic housekeeper, scurried up by two computer-generated squirrels, and sprayed with pesticide gas. The outcomes of these scenes were: (a) Jack sweating profusely during a business meeting; (b) Jack “dancing” in front of two foreign businessmen; and (c) Jack in a state of euphoria during a business meeting. And they even played Afroman’s stoner anthem “Because I Got High”. Think about that. Jack got high…..off pesticide gas. WHADAFUCK?!  There’s even a scene where Jack uses action figures to answer a phone call. Examples of Jack’s “responses” are: “Yeeeeah Baby!”, “Theyre Grrrrreat!” and “Hasta La Vista, Baby!

 

Among the many questions raised by this film, the easiest is: Why didn’t Jack simply BUY A NOTEPAD and WRITE his responses instead of acting them out? Because that won’t be “funny enough”, and this film is supposed to be funny…enough.  Also, If the movie was filmed in 2008, and released in 2012, why wasn’t Jack’s cell phone ringtone updated to something more up-to-date than Lil Wayne/Kanye West’s “Lollipop (Remix)” (which was a GREAT remix – BACK IN 2008)?  Is the refusal of a husband to “open up” to his wife a viable reason for her to dress in a dominatrix outfit? Well, Kerry Washington did – and that was the only good thing about this movie. (Fuck it. I’m a guy. Sue me!)

 

Finally, what the fuck was up with that third act?! I love happy endings in movies, but this cliched final act desperately tugged at your heartstrings, while trying so hard to make the viewer care about a guy who acted like a complete asshole for 7o minutes. It felt almost the equivalent of listening to 20 minutes of sappy, syrupy-sweet 1980s love ballads! (See how I returned to the “cheesy ‘80s movie” metaphor?)

 

“A Thousand Words” is a film that will be remembered as one of the worst films of any year, be it 2012, 2008 or 1982. When I say “remembered”, I mean “quickly forgotten”. The Eddie Murphy Fan Club will have to wait a lot longer for their hero’s prophetic return to the spotlight. Until then, Eddie will remain in the Direct-to-DVD Club with longtime members Martin Lawrence and Nicolas Cage. Oh, did I mention the film was PRODUCED by Nicolas Cage?!


MY RATING –  1/2 out of 5 stars (“Burn this movie. Literally!”)

– Matthew

See this movie – Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus” is not just another big-budget summer blockbuster. It heralds the return of the legendary British director Ridley Scott (who’s known in this millennium for the films “Gladiator”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Matchstick Men” and “American Gangster”) to the film genre of science-fiction. Why should anyone care, you ask? Well….first and foremost…..HE REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE!

 

In 1979, two years after the worldwide success of “Star Wars”,Twentieth Century Fox stumbled upon a little script called “Alien”.  Seeking to create the next big sci-fi hit, they green-lighted the “Alien” project. Ridley Scott, fresh off the critical success of his first feature film “The Duellists” (a film I have yet to see), was hired to direct the film. In a nutshell, “Alien” involves the crew of the spaceship Nostromo who investigate a SOS on an uninhabited (or so it seems) planet. When one of the crew members is attacked by a small, freaky-ass alien, he’s carried back to Nostromo for medical assistance. The result is the birth of a tall, freakier-ass alien that proceeds to slaughter the crew.  While I won’t say who lives and dies in the film, I can safely say that one of the survivors is Sigourney Weaver (who plays the all-round BAD ASS Ellen Ripley, a role that she was literally born to play). “Alien” was a massive success in the box office, and it was critically praised for its tense, haunting atmosphere, superb set design and blood-curdling creature effects. The film’s overall blending of sci-fi and horror helped establish it as a highly influential work in both genres. It also kick-started the career of Sigourney Weaver, whose character Ripley is among the greatest female characters in film history. And it has a tagline so fucking brilliant that it stays with you, whether you’ve seen “Alien” or not: “In space, no one can hear you scream”. “Star Wars” (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”) ain’t got SHIT on that!

 

The success of “Alien” led to three sequels, all of which involved Ellen Ripley:- James Cameron’s “Aliens” (my all-time favourite “Alien” movie),  David Fincher’s “Alien 3” (fucking awful to say the least) and Jean Pierre Jeunet’s “Alien Resurrection” (a piss-poor attempt to rejuvenate the “Alien” franchise). Oh, and how could I forget the laughable attempt by Twentieth Century Fox to combine the “Alien” franchise with that of the dreadlock-sporting, human-hunting, “ughly muthafuckah” (as quoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first and best movie in the series) “Predator”? I can’t remember the events from both “Alien vs. Predator” and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” but I do remember hating them.

 

Anyhoo, back to Ridley Scott. After the success of “Alien”, Ridley made a film that not only changed science fiction forever, but also cemented him as one of the great modern film directors. This film was called “Blade Runner”. Released in 1982, it stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a retired police officer in a dystopic Los Angeles of the near future. He’s re-hired by his supervisor to locate and kill four human-looking androids known as “replicants”. However, things get complicated when Deckard falls for another “replicant”, the gorgeous Rachael (played by the now-Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew regular Sean Young). Though it was a commercial flop, “Blade Runner” is still praised by critics and viewers for its groundbreaking special effects, powerful imagery, and seamless blend of sci-fi and film noir elements. Its influence can be seen in contemporary sci-fi blockbusters, from “The Fifth Element” to “The Matrix Trilogy”. It’s widely considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, and it remains one of my personal favourites.

 

And now we have “Prometheus”. Before I lay down the plot of the film, please keep in mind that while it’s set in the world of “Alien”, it’s not technically a prequel to that film. It’s a new story with new characters,  but with motifs from, and references to, the original “Alien”. Capiche? Buono. Let’s begin the review.

 

PLOT

In 2089, a star map is discovered by the archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway on a prehistoric cave painting. This star map points to a distant moon. Four years later, Elizabeth, Charlie and the crew of the spaceship Prometheus embark on a journey to explore the moon (which is called LV-223 in the film).  Led by mission director Meredith Vickers, the crew seeks to prove the theory that human life originated from that planet. Once they land on LV-223, they discover a gigantic structure. A team of scientists, including Elizabeth, Charlie and a human-looking android called David, is sent to explore it.

 

Inside the structure, they find a number of stone cylinders, a monolithic head (check the poster) and a corpse of a large humanoid alien. Also, a gargantuan spaceship is discovered inside. Questions are asked: Is the alien part of a race that are indeed the forefathers of humanity? Were they born on this planet? If not, what planet did they come from? And what was their purpose for landing on LV-223? But all these questions are set aside when one of the scientists (I won’t say who) is attacked by a freaky-ass alien. And similar to the original “Alien” film, the rest of the crew must face a large freakier-ass alien in the warmth and comfort of Prometheus. Will there be one survivor or two? Will Idris Elba, the only black man in the movie, make it to the end? Will Michael Fassbender be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in this film? And on the subject of androids, is Rick Deckard really a “replicant”? Some of these questions will be answered in “Prometheus”.

 

CHARACTERS

Elizabeth Shaw – Noomi Rapace

David – Michael Fassbender

Meredith Vickers – Charlize Theron

Janek – Idris Elba

Charlie Holloway – Logan Marshall-Green

Peter Weyland – Guy Pearce

 

MY THOUGHTS: Since its release, “Prometheus” has received mixed to positive reviews.  While the visuals in the film are universally praised (and rightfully so), some viewers complain that certain questions are never answered, thus underwhelming their enjoyment of the film. But to me, that is the beauty of “Prometheus”. Like the great science fiction films of the last century, more particularly “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the aformentioned “Blade Runner”, this film asks questions but leaves it to the viewer to figure out the answers. This doesn’t mean that the film is entirely hard to understand. The plot of “Prometheus” is pretty much straight-forward (humans land on planet looking for some shit, shit happens to humans, shit eventually hits the fan). But the questions surrounding man’s origins, and the origins of the aliens themselves, are enough to have the most jaded of moviegoers thinking about the film once it’s over. And besides, there’s the possibility of a sequel anyway, so what’s wrong with a couple unanswered questions? Well, at least I hope there’s a sequel. If not, then at least there’s the original “Alien” film to fall back on. On the subject of “Alien”, I was impressed by the references to that film in “Prometheus”. If you’re a fan of “Alien”, you’ll find yourself noticing particular details (if you look really closely) and connecting them to that film. Luckily, your knowledge of “Alien” or lack thereof doesn’t detract from the overall experience of watching “Prometheus”.

 

“Prometheus” is chock full of stunning visuals that are worth the admission price alone. The story is well-written, the music is haunting and oftentimes, hopeful, and the performances are near-perfect. But the two standout performances in the film belong to Noomi Rapace (a.k.a. the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Michael Fassbender (a.k.a. Magneto from “X-Men: First Class”). Noomi, who exudes strength and courage in the face of danger might just be the Ellen Ripley of the new millennium. Michael, on the other hand, delivers an amazing performance as David and brings a sense of wit and humanity into his android character. And the aliens? Let’s just say if you were scared shitless of the aliens from the first film, you’ll be cringing in, and jumping out of, your seat when these ones hit the screen! And just so you know, I didn’t jump….much. But the girl who sat in front of me did, however! Real talk.

 

As I mentioned earlier, “Prometheus” is technically not a prequel to “Alien”.  In my opinion, I see “Prometheus” as yet another Ridley Scott merger – but not a merger of film genres like “Alien” and “Blade Runner”. Instead, it blends elements from both “Alien” (more particularly, menacing extra-terrestrials that can jump out of the dark and fuck you up) and “Blade Runner” (its major themes of humanity and existentialism).  In the end, I enjoyed “Prometheus” a lot more than I anticipated. It’s not a perfect film, but as a sci-fi flick that entertains you, scares you and makes you think even after the end credits stop rolling, it works.

 

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? Unless you truly hate sci-fi movies, or you hate films that require you to use the organ between your ears, you should buy a ticket, get a free pair of non-sanitized 3D glasses and watch this movie. Besides, the other new 3D movies you can watch this week are “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” and “Piranha 3DD”. Your choice, my friend.

 

MY RATING – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

– Matthew

Burn this movie. Literally! – Piranha 3DD (2012)

Just a few points before I begin:

(1) The following post is part of a rating category that I call “Burn this movie. Literally!”, dedicated to the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life.

(2) The final rating of this film, and any other film in this category, is 1/2 out of 5 stars.

(3) The title of this category simply means that if you buy this film on DVD (either original or bootlegged), you should, immediately after viewing it, pour gasoline or any flammable liquid on the DVD and set it on fire. If you borrow the DVD, you should do the same. But make sure to inform the person that you borrowed it from that it was either misplaced, lost or stolen. Don’t worry, he or she will understand. Why burn a DVD, you ask? ‘Cause the movie that’s encoded on it is FUCKING AWFUL and no one else should see it! EVER!

(4) During the short history of my blog, the first film to be inducted into this category was the Adam Sandler “comedy” “Jack and Jill”. Unlike that review, and from now on with this category, I’ll skip the plot and cast member list and just cut to the chase:- brief synopsis of film, why I hate film, why you should burn film.

(5) Finally, I plan to throw a bitch fit over why I hated this film, but I will keep it entertaining and to the point. Anyhoo….

 

Tonight’s episode is dedicated to “Piranha 3DD”, the pitiful excuse of a sequel to my guilty pleasure movie of 2010“Piranha 3D” (or “Piranha” as it’s called in the DVD version). Yes, I admit it. I enjoyed the hell out of “Piranha”. How could I enjoy a movie so incredibly stupid, you ask? Well, for one thing, the film is self-aware of its own ridiculous premise (flesh-eating fish attacking a bunch of tourists during Spring Break), and as a result, it never takes itself seriously. Secondly, the film was so over-the-top in its goriness and sleaziness, that you had no choice but to sit back and enjoy the ride. Thirdly, the deaths in the film were so bloody and so hilarious that it blurred the line between genuine horror and gut-bursting comedy quite nicely! Finally, and most importantly, it was HIGHLY ENTERTAINING. In layman’s terms, it’s a Sy-Fy Original Movie – but one that’s actually intended to be funny.

 

So how, after the surprising success of “Piranha 3D”, could “Piranha 3DD” fail? Where do I begin? Look at the title, first of all. They added an extra “D” to the original title.  I could imagine the male execs in an office meeting at Dimension Pictures thinking: “What’s the perfect title for the ‘Piranha 3D’ sequel?”. Just then, a full-figured female secretary hands each of the execs a cup of coffee. When she leaves, all the guys remain enamored by her gorgeous looks. And suddenly, an idea pops – “Why not call it Piranha 3DD? It’s a reference to boobs and they’ll be in 3D! Get it? Tee-hee-hee-hee!”.  Now, as a marketing tool, that title actually works.  People will watch this film, expecting 3D and topless women. But when you think about it, it’s a REALLY DUMB TITLE. And many people WILL NOT watch this film, because of the title alone. Unfortunately for me,  I was one of the few that did.

 

Which brings me to the story. One year after the disastrous events that occurred in Lake Victoria (the setting of the original film), the flesh-eating piranha have managed to find their way into a water-park. It’s owned by a guy named Chet (in a career-ending performance by comic actor David Koechner) and his step-daughter Maddy (played by Danielle “Look how far I’ve come from the Disney Channel” Panabaker).  Chet has opened an adult-themed section of the water-park called “The Big Wet”, much to the disapproval of Maddy.  After her friends are attacked in separate incidents by the piranha, Maddy warns Chet that the fish will find their way into “The Big Wet” via the pipe system. Chet, being the douchebag that he is, ignores her. As expected, the piranha attack, biting the flesh off little kids and grown strippers alike (Yeah, there’s “water-certified” strippers in the water-park. Don’t ask). I’m not going to sp0il the end of the film, but I can say, with a heavy heart, that a sequel is hinted at. You’ve officially been warned.

 

While “Piranha 3DD” maintains the trademark gore of the original film, the humour that was tagged onto these gory sequences in “Piranha 3D” is almost non-existent in this film. And when these scenes try to be funny, it’s already too late to give a shit. Take for example a later scene involving Ving Rhames, who reprises his role as Deputy Vallon. Having lost his legs in the Lake Victoria attack in the first film, Vallon is fitted with shotguns for legs (which is a homage of sorts to Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” – a perfect example of a horror comedy done right). When he starts blasting at cheap-looking CG piranha in a swimming pool, it’s neither funny or awesome. It’s just LAME!  Of course, there’s nudity in the film, but it’s mostly scenes with topless chicks either in the water or running out of the water before they’re bitten by cheap-looking CG piranha. They’re also a couple of sex scenes – but they play out like slasher-film sex scenes where someone either dies at the hands, or should I say fins, of cheap-looking CG piranha, or are horribly disfigured by cheap-looking CG piranha. There’s even a sex scene involving a guy, a girl and a cheap-looking CG piranha that’s actually less kinky than it sounds. Let’s just say that they’ll NEVER have sex again. Ouch! And did I mention the cheap-looking CG piranha?!

 

The plot of “Piranha 3DD”, thin as a fishbone, takes itself way too seriously. Am I supposed to care that a school of piranha are attacking a bunch of people IN A WATER-PARK?! Am I supposed to care that Barry (Matt Bush), who has a crush on Maddy and aspirations of marine biology, can’t swim?! The movie wants me to, but I just can’t. Also, the acting sucks. Yes, I know the film’s supposed to be reminiscent of the B-movie horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, but still…. the acting SUCKS! And not even the cameos by Gary Busey and David Hasselhoff (yes, ladies and gents, the Hoff is in this shit) help the film. David plays himself….or should I say a caricature of his iconic “Baywatch” lifeguard character Mitch Buchannon. In a nutshell, he delivers an unfunny performance that’s yet another nail in the coffin of his career.

 

But the true kick to my nuts is the running time of the film. Even though the full running time is approximately 83 minutes (including the end credits), the story itself plays out for 70 MINUTES! I shit you not! The next 10 minutes of the film is a mixture of end credits and non-hilarious bloopers. There’s even a bizarre-ass sequence with David Hasselhoff emulating his trademark “slow-motion run” from “Baywatch” while singing an equally bizarre-ass song. In that scene alone, my dreams of a movie version of “Baywatch” were shattered. Sigh.

 

I came into “Piranha 3DD” with lowered expectations, and boy, were they lowered even further. I was a huge fan of the original film and I must say, this sequel left me fucking pissed. Even if it was released straight to DVD, it still should’ve never been made. It’s a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of the original film, and a slap to the face of the moviegoers who actually enjoyed it.  Whether you liked “Piranha 3D” or not, you will loathe “Piranha 3DD” with every essence of your being. This may not be the worst film of 2012 just yet, but it’s definitely one of the top 10. Avoid this like bad fish.


– Matthew

THAT SHIT CRAY! – “Project X” (2012)

 

Ah, the found footage movie. The one genre that you can rely on for non-realistic stories done with natural authenticity, realistic acting and of course, queasy shaky handheld camera shots. And who doesn’t love to watch a movie with a lot of shaky-cam shots, especially on a big screen? Anyhoo, this film genre, which was revived in 1999 with the highly-overrated horror mockumentary “The Blair Witch Project”, has become rather popular during the last five years. It spawned some hits like the BRILLIANT 2008 sci-fi thriller “Cloverfield” and the impressive supervillain film “Chronicle”, and some misses like “Apollo 18” and “The Devil Inside” (two films which I REFUSE to watch).

With the commercial successes of “The Devil Inside” and “Chronicle” in January and February respectively, it was rather surprising (or not, depending on your view of Hollywood) that another found footage film, this time from Warner Bros., would be released in March. Out of a lack of ideas (and creativity), this film was given the ominous name “Project X”.  Honestly, when I first heard about this film, I could have sworn it was about some fucked-up medical experiment or some shit. I would have never imagined that it was about a house party that gradually descends into hell.

 

Not surprisingly, “Project X” was bashed by a number of critics who called it “tasteless”, “unlikeable”, “unpleasant” and “loathsome”. And who can blame them? They’re adults (and most likely, parents), and they were forced to watch 87 minutes of teens getting drunk and high, having sex, and running wild. However, some critics praised the humour and the out-of-control nature of the film. There were even attempts in the United States to stage parties similar to the one depicted in “Project X”.  Due to property damage, police intervention and, in one case, a fatal shooting, these copycat parties were epic failures.

 

So the question remains: Is “Project X” a morally damaging representation of the 21st- century American teenager or is it simply an attempt to create the party movie to END all party movies? Whatever it is, there’s no denying that the film is anything but a cinematic flop. With a budget of $12 million, it made a worldwide total of $94.7 million in the box office. And it’s currently nominated for three awards (Best Comedic Performance, Best On-Screen Dirtbag and Best Music) in this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards.

 

But then again, who gives a fuck about the MTV Movie Awards?! I mean, do you need a music video network that hardly plays music videos to tell you which movies are the best, or most popular for that matter? Besides, you and I both know the film that will win this year anyway, whether we like it or not (*cough*Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1* cough*).

 

Damn, this is going to be a tough movie to review.

 

PLOT

Thomas has just turned 17. Since his parents are gone for the weekend, Thomas’ friends Costa and J.B. decide to throw a birthday party for him at his house. If the party is successful, the trio will become three of the most popular guys at their school.  Thomas, being the protagonist, is reluctant of hosting a party of unimaginable magnitude at his house. But of course, the plot of this movie dictates that this party must take place, or else we won’t have a fucking movie! And since all three guys are horny motherfuckers (especially Costa who constantly talks about sex), they need a social event of some sort in which they can successfully lose their virginity. And so, our story begins.

 

Cut to nighttime, and the party has begun.  The music is pumping, alcohol is flowing, and everyone is having a great time. Even Thomas’ dog is involved in the partying, and in one scene, is tied to a bunch of balloons. Two underage boys are hired as security guards for the night. And yes, they take their jobs WAY too seriously! After the first hour or so, more people arrive to the party. Even though Thomas, Costa and J.B. are having a hell of a time, they’re still finding it hard to maintain control of the party. Very soon, shit gets completely out of control. Activities increase in carnality and chaos. Ecstasy pills are ingested, beer bottles and windows are smashed, everyone’s either getting laid or wasted, and even a midget is forced inside an oven (I shit you not!). The party spills out into the street, getting more and more chaotic by the minute. By then, the police, news helicopters and even a SWAT team arrive to stop the revelry. With the party spiraling out of control, will our heroes be able to get things back to normal? Or will they lose their virginity in the county jail? And will they play LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” in the film? These life-changing questions will be answered in (cue movie-trailer guy voice here) – “Project X”.

 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that all these events are filmed by Costas’ friend Dax. He lives alone since his parents have disappeared. That’s the only info that’s given about him. Creeeeeeepy.

 

CHARACTERS

Thomas – Thomas Mann

Costa – Oliver Cooper

J.B. – Jonathan Daniel Brown

Dax – Dax Flame

Kirby – Kirby Bliss Blanton

Alexis – Alexis Knapp

 

MY THOUGHTS: When a film begins with 2 Live Crew’s self-explanatory sex anthem “We Want Some P***y”, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the point of the film is. There’s even an early scene where Costas asks a Latin guy about his expectations for the party. The guy responds by saying: “Get high, fuck bitches”. In a later scene, when Costas finally comes to terms with the destructive outcome of the party, Costas foolishly says: “I only wanted to get some p***y”.  And this is clearly the main theme of “Project X” – getting laid without any thought of the consequences, however disastrous and fucked up they might be. Really?!

 

With a one-track minded film like “Project X”, it’s easy to pick out the bad aspects of it.  For one thing, the film isn’t genuinely funny. Yes, there are some funny moments (like the aforementioned scene involving Thomas’ dog and the balloons), but these are mostly sight gags. The viewer is forced to laugh because these moments are so ridiculously absurd, and not because they were written to be funny. Speaking of which, I highly doubt there was an actual script written for this film. The acting is aight for a found footage film. You pretty much believe that Thomas Mann is unsure of his place in life (He’s probably thinking “Will I get another acting role after Project X”?), and that Oliver Cooper is an annoying asshole in real life (and should win the MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Dirtbag), and that Jonathan Daniel Brown is the new Jonah Hill (theSuperbad Jonah Hill, not the 21 Jump Street “clone” of Jonah Hill).  But you don’t feel for or connect with any of them. All they’re concerned about is having sex and becoming popular. Then again, nobody really gives a shit whether they get laid or not. The main reason why anyone would watch “Project X” is the party.

 

And the party itself is one of the two redeeming factors of “Project X”. The tagline for the film reads: “The party you’ve only dreamed about”. And it is! Thanks to the clever tactic of shooting the film in hand-held, you feel as if you’re in the middle of the party! A lot of “oh shit” and “what the fuck” moments take place within the party, but you just can’t help but watch these events unfold with your eyes wide open, your jaw on the floor and your head nodding to the music.  And speaking of music, let me get to the second redeeming factor of “Project X”. The soundtrack to this film FUCKING KNOCKS! The music ranges from hip-hop bangers like Eminem’s W.T.P. and Jay-Z & Kanye West’s H.A.M. to club hits like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)  and Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness (Steve Aoki Remix) (which was deservedly nominated for Best Music at this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards). The selected songs work perfectly, making the experience of viewing this film a lot more enjoyable than it actually is. Whoever hand-picked the songs for “Project X” deserves a pat on the back! Not a handshake and definitely not a round of applause. Just a pat on the back.

 

As I mentioned earlier, “Project X” is really a hard film to review. At first glance, it’s both a feel-good party movie and a fun coming-of-age teen comedy. But then it gradually becomes dark and disturbing as social misbehaviour is added into the mix. But maybe it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously in the first place – which I do understand. But this proves to be difficult when the whole film is meant to look like actual real-life footage. Personally, I felt that the film reveled too much in its own debauchery, anarchy and misogyny, making it less satisfying as it could have been.  Though I want to rate this film as “See it if you really want to (2 1/2 stars)” or even “I want my money back (2 stars)”, I can’t. As I knew this film would be mindless and really fucking stupid, I will give it 1  1/2 stars. But since the film lived up to its promise of a party movie to end all party movies, I could only think of one quote to describe”Project X”. This quote is provided by Jay-Z and Kanye West from their hit song “N****s in Paris”: “THAT SHIT CRAY!”

 

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  Honestly, the world won’t end if you don’t see it. However, if you do see it, keep in mind that it’s crude, tasteless and mean-spirited, and will offend you in some way or another. But if you really don’t give a fuck, and you just want to see topless chicks making out with each other, and guys getting drunk just so they could dance like epileptics, then by all means, watch “Project X”. But whether you do or not, make sure to get the songs from the film’s soundtrack. I didn’t say BUY the soundtrack album. These songs are essential to your music collection, and are guaranteed to rock the party (if you ever plan to host one) for years to come – or at least until police in riot gear arrive at your house complaining about you “disturbing the peace”. And that’s definitely CRAY!

 

MY RATING – 1  1/2 out of 5 stars (“THAT SHIT CRAY!”)