Saturday, October 23, 2004

ALIEN VS PREDATOR

The Bitch is cack

Director: Paul WS Anderson
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner
Tagline: Whoever wins, we lose

(NOTICE TO READERS: I promise to review a semi-tasteful film in the near future)

The film with perhaps the most mocked tagline in cinematic history (the best parody of which eloquently summarises the US Election) is upon us at last. It is in fact the biggest befoulment of a good thing in recent memory; almost the worst prequel ever and almost the worst film to contain the word ‘versus’. The more you know about the two franchises, the more hurt you’ll be. The Predators’ entire honour code is abandoned, allowing them to collaborate with puny humans and remove their exploding wrist gadgets and Alien history is rewritten something shocking (in a number, 2004).
Of course, none of that matters when confronted by the crash course in abysmal storytelling on display. All sense of time and space evapourates as Aliens gestate in minutes (formerly three days), maturing into two-metre long adults the instant they’re offscreen and multiplying without needing human hosts (the entire flimsy premise of the film hinged on the fact that they do). The big, shape-changing pyramid (running on metric time, the Predator’s choice) dribbles all over physics as we know it and the giant Jurassic Park-style Alien Queen actually appears to change height drastically from shot to shot.
This film needs attacking because the hard work of some extremely talented individuals has been ruined by the director, writers, producers and actors (pretty much all of ‘em). The Aliens in particular are stunningly built and I could happily wander around the heavily detailed set for hours poking about the various sculptures and engravings. Shame. Before you can say ‘character development’, the film has prematurely blown its load in your face. The plot is so hurried that one character suddenly says ‘It’s all starting to make sense’ and then vomits a graphic novel’s worth of storyline as if he’s pitching it to an executive. Even some of the Aliens (‘Checkers’, the frisky one, for example) have a more fleshed out back-story than most of the humans, despite dying less than twenty minutes after they’re born. There’s lost penguins, paedophile jokes, product placement (Pepsi, thrice), multiple hints at sequels and no-one to empathise with at all. In short, if you watch this film, you’ll wish you’d had what John Hurt was having.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

MAN ON FIRE

A bomb up the arse of human sensitivity

Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Christopher Walken

Tagline: (The posters are too classy for taglines so either of these lines from the film will suffice)
Revenge is a meal best served cold
Death is his art, and he is about to create his masterpiece

Okay, let’s start with the positive. There is genuine chemistry between the big, silly, stubborn façade of Denzel’s Creasy and the admirably restrained Dakota Fanning’s insightful, inquisitive little girl. Not exactly Leon, but certainly innocent and careful enough to make what follows look a shambles. It’s as if Tony Scott’s evil twin took over the project and said “You know what? Fuck kids”, preferring instead a terrorist killing spree (he really gets Middle Eastern on their asses) that would make Mel Gibson queasy. Even meathead boomfest The Punisher (either of them) has a more balanced, astute approach to family turmoil. All action scenes are unfulfilling, wobbling about in frustrating slo-motion under a horrible puke-green hue, a mix of Training Day’s PCP scene and the title sequence to The Sopranos.
The soundtrack is appropriately baffling. Acoustic flamenco collides with fruity party rave, the Spanish version of ‘Hey Mickey!’ and a giant mashup of every Nine Inch Nails song with a vaguely relevant title. The odd decision to play the one of these songs (a massively dumb, ultra-crunchy, industrial-grade meat pie of a thing) for about fifteen minutes throughout the film especially renders Creasy’s suicidal contemplations, finger-burning massacres and general moodiness unintentionally hilarious.
Worst of all though, any trace of respect for poor Pita disappears in a plume of bazooka smoke; previously smart enough to run the United States, it becomes apparent that in her diary she doodles like a toddler. Not a single member of the cast, including the girl’s own mother, appear to give a quarter of a fuck when it appears that they will never see her again. In fact, the excitement of it all brings out the best in Christopher Walken and rekindles the sex lives of two others. At least half an hour too long, this schizophrenic landfill of confused dross is best represented by its now infamous epitaph: “Dedicated to the people of Mexico City: a very special place”.

Summary in Haiku form:
Guns, nuns, explosions
torture, Jesus, Jack Daniels
and a little girl

Saturday, October 09, 2004

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE

I’m the fuck is Alice

Director: Alexander Witt
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Matthew G Taylor, Mike Epps

Tagline: The evil continues...

My name's Cheven and i remember everything. 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead have stripped away the annoyingly camp, brought back slow, clever terror and display post-millennial human coldness like nothing else, whereas Shawn of the Dead crammed Romero’s horrors into a tired old rom-com template to produce the funniest British film in years. All this has made the zombie flick the most self aware horror genre of the moment, far ahead of where the slasher was six years ago.
It is a bit unfair in this undead renaissance to direct blind hatred at Resident Evil: Apocalypse purely for not being as deep as the competition. It is after all a relatively faithful videogame adaptation which deserves respect for being packed with affectionate references while simultaneously avoiding the rigidity of the games storyline and having more fun with the format. Commendation also required for not being full of the ‘up close and impersonal’ confusing action sequences that a certain useless director by the name of ‘McG’ has somehow made standard. What is onscreen is rather exciting throughout and ultimately well directed, except for the bizarre choice of reducing the frame rate to a dial-up crawl every time a crowd of zombies appears.
The whole thing nods back to a simpler age (i.e. when there was just the one Matrix), with references to sinister corporate powers kept appropriately insubstantial as a rubber brute called Project Nemesis (a bulletproof creation somewhere between Alien and Ving Rhames) struts around with a minigun as if looking for a duke to nuke. Instead he it finds a now (less visibly) genetically enhanced Alice, who unlike in the first film, absolutely whups. Remember kids, when bullets fail, try punches. As a side note, Milla Jovovich also appears to be carving herself the world’s smallest fetish niche, appearing in her third nude sci-fi bondage-escape scenario in a film where she is romantically involved with the writer or director. Long may the motif continue.

Summary in Haiku form:
Once again we see
Umbrella Corporation
Are complete bastards

Saturday, October 02, 2004

SAW

I seen it

Director: James Wan
Cast: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell, Dina Meyer, Monica Potter, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell, Ken Leung

Tagline: “Every piece has a puzzle”, “Every puzzle has its pieces”

It hasn’t been a good few years for serial killers. With everyone now more afraid of the maniacal actions of terrorists or under qualified world leaders, there’s no more room under our bed for bogeymen, boogeymen or Hannibal wannabes with pathetic excuses for carrying out elaborate murders on average people. This year has seen some of the genre’s silliest fare yet, with Ben Kingsley’s serial killer-killer in Suspect Zero and Jim Caviezal uttering the immortal lines “His headlights are like his eyes… One of them doesn’t work” in The Highwaymen. Remarkably, Saw’s trailer promises to outdo both of these for sheer moronic thrills.
After a promisingly claustrophobic opening act in a dingy bathroom, our two trapped victims slowly grasping the severity of their rather grisly predicament, the first flashbacks start. From here the film instantly decides to alienate any non-teenagers with a stream of spinning camera whirls, fast motion blurts and a videogamey industrial-lite soundtrack from Nine Inch Nails’ Charlie Clouser, all more reminiscent of Chris Morris’ Brass Eye Paedophile Special than anything by David Fincher. The plot itself hops from Seven to The Game and back via a couple of X-Files and Twilight Zones.
Kudos go to Cary Elwes (Robin Hood: Men in Tights), who delivers perhaps the most unintentionally funny dramatic performance in cinema since the Matrix Revolutions. His character’s gradual transformation from a ho-hum doctor straight outta Pleasantville to a furious, blubbering Will Ferrell-esque drama queen had the audience roaring with laughter, and the dialogue between him and Danny Glover’s insane policeman attains an almost Lynchian weirdness. All in all, the proceedings are very entertaining and if you like villains who belong in batman comics, scary puppets on tricycles, “reverse bear traps” and at least three more plot twists than are necessary, you’ll certainly see Saw with childish glee (no pun intended).

Summary in Haiku form:
Use your belt you fool
I thought you were a doctor
BELOW THE SHACKLE!!!!!
I'm gonna try and write a review every week. If I don't, get f++ked.