Archive for February, 2011

Screamers (1995) Christian Duguay

Posted in S on February 24, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $20 million

Gross: nearly $6 million

Screamers is set in the future on a distant mining planet. There are two warring factions on the planet: the evil corporation that wants mining continued (called the NEB), and the workers who realize the work is too dangerous (the Alliance). The Alliance developed a weapon which helped turn the tide in the conflict called a Screamer. It is a machine that burrows through the ground sensing the enemy’s heart rate and kills using blades. Col. Hendrickson (Peter Weller) is given a message from NEB command demanding peace, which is coupled with several strange events involving the Screamers.

I remember seeing this really young on cable and basically dismissing it after. But after all these years watching it again I have a new appreciation. This is an underrated little creature feature. While the original short story is inspired by Philip K. Dick, I like to think this is a bigger budget version of an Outer Limits episode mixed with a little monster horror. It is actually surprising the movie looks so good despite being on a small budget. Kudos to director Duguay who uses practical effects to turn a desolate patch of wasteland look like an alien planet. You are drawn into the isolation of the characters who really don’t care about fighting anymore but just want to do anything to get off that dead rock. The Screamers are also used really well and it makes me realize how much modern CGI would fuck up any tension or horror this movie has.

I really liked the first half of the movie. You had everything working together to make a good sci fi horror movie. The setting was done well, the characters were likable in their own way, and the monsters were scary enough in a Tremors-ish kind of way. The second half changes things up a bit and that’s where a few flaws come out (if you care about spoilers for a 16 year old movie). In the second half the movie becomes a bit of a Thing rip off where the Screamers evolve to mimic humans and that’s where the plot holes come out. There is something of a pleasant simplicity when you have mindless machines attacking anything with a heartbeat. But the writers give the Screamers some kind of elaborate plan which I don’t really understand, which is never explained, and the motives are never explored. I kept waiting for Weller to ask the main villain “Seriously, what the fuck is your problem?” but it never happened. That leads me to my other problem of dumbing down the characters to fit the plot twists. We are shown early on the Screamers can take human form when Weller goes on his mission. For the next 30-40 minutes I kept muttering to the screen “You should call your base and tell them about this…you should really tell your base about this…I think that is information they really need to know…you have a radio what is wrong with you” Sure enough about 40 minutes later they come back to base and (SHOCKER!!!) they infiltrated the base while he was gone. That is just a small sample of the stupid coming from these people.

None of these things really kill the movie. For all my complaining I still had fun with it. The lapses in writing just turn the movie from being an awesome lost gem to a really fun B grade sci fi thriller. For anyone that likes the creature feature films of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I recommend you check it out. Plus, I’m a sucker for Peter Weller.

 

 

The Mechanic (Simon West) 2011

Posted in M on February 14, 2011 by moviemoses

I hate the month of January for movies. I haven’t been out in so long. I get so stir crazy that I sometimes go to the theaters for movies in which I would never go ordinarily. I would not normally spend 7-10 bucks to see The Mechanic in theaters.

The Mechanic is a remake of a movie of the same name which starred Charles Bronson. The original is probably the most underrated Bronson movie. But instead of a more dramatic movie about a soul crushingly lonely hit man, instead we get essentially The Transporter 4. Which, I mean, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m always saying I don’t necessarily have a problem with remakes as long as they do something interesting with it.

The story is about Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) who is a mechanic; a hit man who makes his victim’s deaths look like accidents. Bishop is put on a job to kill his mentor (played by Donald Sutherland) which he completes. Bishop feels sorry for his son (and black sheep of the family) Steve who is played by Ben Foster. Bishop trains Steve to be a mechanic and the two later go on a mission of revenge on the people that ordered the hit on Sutherland’s character.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that I wasn’t bored by it. Mechanic does just enough for me to be mildly entertained by everything and to provide a distraction for a brief period of time. The action is rather standard. There are a few shootouts and your stock chase scenes. You don’t get any of the Statham fight scenes like you are used to like in the Transporter movies which is rather disappointing. Actually the part I appreciated most in the movie was not Statham (who is a block of wood) but the acting of Foster. He is given the only meaty part and Foster gives a very good performance given the schlocky movie he is in. You almost want him to save it for a movie people are actually going to see.

The word I keep going back to is “stock”. Everything here is so by the numbers. And while it is all done well and I have no major gripes about it, there is nothing that really stands out either. The acting is okay, the action is okay, the story is dumb but does enough to get things moving and not be too stupid. If you were to rent this movie and you are a Statham fan then I think you would like it. Don’t waste good money on this at the theaters though. Really I would rather you all just rent the original and forget this one.

 

Offside (Jafar Panahi) 2006

Posted in O on February 14, 2011 by moviemoses

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian director who has recently been sentenced to a six year prison sentence and permanent ban from making movies for “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”  After doing some research, I really have to admire the sack this director has.  This person will do anything it takes to get his message out.  In the making of Offside (which is about a particular Iranian law) he broke said law in order to film the movie, did shooting behind the back of government monitors, and even presented fake cuts of the movies in order to get approval to make more.  This is a person that really doesn’t care because his message is what is important.

Offside is about a group of women who try to sneak in the 2006 World Cup qualifier match between Iran and Bahrain.  Under Iran law, women are not allowed in football stadiums on the grounds they could be harmed or offended by verbal abuse.  This movie is shot guerrilla style with a mix of characters at the real life locations during a soccer match and in closed locations.  It is an impressive bit of trickery and you can see why some were questioning if parts of the movie were actually shot during the match in question.

The movie of course has its mix of mild humor and social outrage.  There are times when it is clear some of the characters are a mouthpiece for Panahi who is saying the law is completely moronic.  And there are other times when there is a playful mockery of the law and its purposes.  Some of the women being protected from verbal abuse are some of the more verbally abusive people you will meet and give some of the guys a run for their money.

There isn’t a ton of depth to this movie.  We don’t really get to know any of these characters and I can’t say this is a super funny movie.  The best I can say for this movie is that it is charming.  For the purpose of raising awareness and getting a message out, it does it’s job.  I personally find it interesting to see what world cinema has to offer.  I don’t really recommend this movie but it was nice for me to check out after hearing the news about the director.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Daniel Alfredson) 2010

Posted in G on February 14, 2011 by moviemoses

This series has been a roller coaster for me so far. In relating this to another movie series, Dragon Tattoo is probably the Manhunter (or Red Dragon for the remake crowd), and Girl Who Played With Fire was the Hannibal Rising for me. So where does Hornet’s Nest fit in? Sadly I can’t think of a Lecter comparison because none of those movies are as dull as a CSPAN marathon.

The plot picks up where the last one immediately left off. Lisbeth is in the hospital and is awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her father. The evil shadow group who supported Lisbeth’s father is trying to get her committed instead of a long drawn out trial because that would expose their secrets. And Mikael is trying to print a special edition of his magazine exposing those secrets in order to get Lisbeth free.

The reason this movie is so dull is because we know everything as soon as the movie begins. Unlike the last two movies there is no mystery to unravel. All of the secrets have been revealed to us. There is nothing more to learn. The movie is literally about Mikael getting his sources straight in order to print his friggin’ magazine. I’ve never seen a movie spin it’s wheels for two hours and thirty minutes in order to tell me what I already know. I take it back, I can make a Lecter parallel. It would be like making a movie that takes place after Hannibal in which Clarice is arrested for the murder of Paul and the whole movie is about finding out that it was in fact Hannibal Lector who made Paul eat his own brain.

The movie tries to inject some kind of suspense in the movie by having this shadow organization try to scare Mikael but I just don’t care. The group comes off as clown shoes when for the longest time the best they can come up with are spam emails. Congratulations, you have graduated to 4chan levels of annoyance. What’s next; flaming bags of dog poop on Mikael’s door step? Near the end we do get an attempt on Mikael but it is too little too late.

The second major flaw in this movie is that Lisbeth has absolutely nothing to do. The appeal of this series is seeing this unique character interact with the world. Here she is shut away while bland side characters bicker endlessly about what they are going to do. So the one character I actually want to see is made to essentially sit in the corner and have a time out. And just to hammer this point home, this movie is two hours and thirty minutes long. As much as I hated Girl Who Played With Fire for being completely ludicrous, at least stuff happened. It was moronic, but at least it didn’t evoke the memory of waiting at jury duty.

As much as people are weary of remakes, I think the series has nowhere to go but up by having David Fincher make an American version. The last two sequels had the problem of directors with no vision or imagination adapting books which are as dull as white gravy. To anyone that is interested in seeing this series, see the first movie then run far far away from the other two sequels.