Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Saw This!! Ghost of a Chance of Waves

The Conjuring, 2013, James Wan -- download
Tidal Wave, 2009, Youn Jk -- download
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Cody Cameron, Kris Pearson -- download

The whole idea of I Saw This! is to capture those movies I have let pass without review, with a good enough time gone by so anything but some primary details fade. I know you know this, but I am saying it again as it really applies to these three movies.

The Conjuring is a "period piece" horror movie set in the 70s where a family moves into a house haunted by a violent spirit and seeks out the assistance of a pair of paranormal investigators, known for either debunking or dealing with the nasty things. Think Sam & Dean from Supernatural but without all the CW trappings, and they are husband and wife.  These are the legit investigators with a basement full of the trophies of defeated demons, spirits and ghosts. The Perron family needs their help to keep their lovely fixer upper house.

James Wan, known for Saw, directed this. I didn't let that deter me as he also did one of my favourite horrors of late, Insidious. The trouble is that he brings back Patrick Wilson as investigator Ed Warren. You might end up mixing up the two characters in your head or maybe it was just me. Anywayz, its a great atmospheric movie, full of dark shadows, claps & bumps in the night and some fun, legitimate scares. And it looks good. Despite horror plots always blurring for me, as their tropes are repetitive, if the visual imagery sticks with me, the tones and colours and textures, the I know I enjoyed the movie.

P.S. Check out this great fan-art poster by myrmorko at DeviantArt. It actually struck me as a better image than most of the official posters.

Next we have something that I indulged in because of a dearth in disaster porn lately. As I explained on FB, no, disaster porn doesn't involve a young lady answering the door, during a tornado, in revealing negligee, but likens to my guilty pleasure in enjoying movies where natural disasters are causing great destruction. As I said, dearth. I can watch my copies of 2012 or Deep Impact again or I can try some from other countries. I now avoid the stupid SyFy / Asylum flicks. My enjoyment of bad for bad's sake has waned.

Unfortunately, this has all the trappings of the same genre -- low budget, terrible effects and is wrapped up in the incredible melodrama that is South Korea cinema. In many instances, such as Oldboy or in horror movies, this works. Here, it becomes grating. I didn't care about any of the unlikable characters and didn't feel anything for the resort town that was about to be swamped by a tsunami... excuse me, MegaTsunami.

The basic plot is that a geologist knows about an unstable area of the ocean and is convinced that a mega-tsunami will come in the next few years, wiping out the coast of South Korea. Everyone ignores him. Of course. Meanwhile a handful of annoying characters living in the coastal town cause drama for each other oblivious as to how their normal lives are about to end. When the bad CGI wave comes, they all have to forget their differences and help each other out. Some die, some live. Boo hoo.

The only part I enjoyed was thinking about the unlicensed (as far as I could tell) restaurant that Yeon-Hee ran on the waterfront. Imagine if you could set up some lawn chairs and a blue tarp tent and call it a restaurant. Catch the fish yourself, cook the fish yourself and hope people don't get poisoned by the lack of any hygiene regulations. Its a concept that I don't think would fly in Toronto, despite what the foodtruck fans tell you.

Finally we have Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I loved the first. And the idea of them spinning a sequel off the same plot as Jurassic Park 2 is brilliant. The characters from the first movie return to the island that has been changed by the food-life machine. Problem is that the base-plot (evil food scientist with ulterior motives) is boring. And the puns are no longer cute and giggle worthy, just run of the mill and in your face. The voice acting is still spectacular and the animation is great. That said, Steve still cracked me up, as well as Tim Lockwood's eyebrows.

And that's it. Actually less to say about it that a stupid CGI tidal wave movie.  Wow. Plot? Well, the return to the island, defeat evil food scientist pretty much covers it. Nothing else stuck with me.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Larry Crowne

2011, Tom Hanks -- Netflix

Tom Hanks is an affable kind of guy, not the kind you would think of being a lead in a romantic comedy. And yes, I am ignoring the fact that he starred in two of the most popular romantic comedies of the 90s (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail). He's almost 60, kind of pudgy and still carries himself in the awkward kind of way that betrays his comedian roots. And yes, here he is opposite Julia Roberts in a meek-shall-inherit-the-earth role. I still have a thing for Julia because we share a fondness for a stack of buttered toast so I think Tom Hanks should be out of her league. That may be kind of the point of the movie.

I felt a compulsion to watch this movie as it struck a note with me, and not just to share some toast with Julia. As a middle aged guy who seems perpetually doing ... new jobs, I was drawn to a story where a guy working the same job for most of his adult life is laid off. Yep, that connects directly to my experience this summer past. Well, not the "in the same job for a long time" but the laid off part. But, if I want to be completely honest, that was the longest tenure I've had in one job, in my entire adult life. So, yes, that concept of "what now" is always in my brain. How will I handle this 5 years from now or ten? How does a guy almost 60 start over? That is what this movie is about, at least from one of its plot points.

You see, really, its more generally about how this job loss forces him into re-starting his life. He is a guy who has been doing the same thing for ages -- same job, same schlub life, no GF, no close friends. By losing his job at the local big box store, he goes back to college, meets a wide array of interesting people filled with life and he finds love in the last expected place -- from his teacher. Roberts, as the teacher, is going through her own change of life, in that she is finally realizing she can leave the dillweed of a husband and find charm & romance with someone else. The movie is charming, funny where it needs to be, touching as it should be and all around, a likeable easily smiled at movie directed by Tom Hanks. It's not Sleepless... but its a good little Netflix romp.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Double Oh...19: The World Is Not Enough

1999, Michael Apted

The World Is Not Enough Preamble:

Oh boy, here we go.  I was actually writing reviews of films when this one came out, but those archives are currently inaccessible since I let my personal domain lapse (only to be appropriated by a hospital bed company), so I can't pull some quotes of what I thought of this movie at the time.  My recollection though is that I adamantly hated it, getting less and less enthused with each passing minute.  I really like Robert Carlyle at the time, so I was excited to see him as villain, but I thought he was terrible, and while I could tolerate Denise Richards in Wild Things and laugh at her (as we were supposed to) in Starship Troopers, there's fewer greater miscastings in cinematic history than her as Dr. Christmas Jones.  She decimated the movie for me, such that I couldn't bring myself to watch it on for over a decade.  After a recent James Bonding episode, wherein Matt and Matt said, effectively, outside of Richards, it's not altogether terrible, I watched a few minutes on a recent televisual airing and true enough, the scenes with Sophie Marceau were actually really meaty and quite good... but i didn't stick around for more than a few minutes on it.  I'm both apprehensive and intrigued to rewatch at this point actually.


Renard (Robert Carlyle) aka Victor Tsokas is an ex-KGB agent that took a bullet to the head that  remains lodged in his brain and is slowly moving inward, in the process it's damaging his nerve receptors numbing any pain and making him stronger.  Like the shrapnel in Iron Man's heart, eventually it will kill him.  Renard killed the MI6 agent who put a bullet in his head, the agent was following a cash-for-information exchange M's buddy, English tycoon Sir Robert King had arranged.  This draws Bond into the fray to retrieve King's cash from a Swiss banker in the cold open, but it goes terribly wrong.  After King is assassinated (at MI6 headquarters no less), M, Bond and company suspect King's daughter, Elektra, is next, since she was once kidnapped by Renard and held for ransom before escaping (her farther wouldn't pay).  We don't actually meet him until 48 minutes into the film, up until then he's just mentioned in conversation.

Robbie Coltraine returns as Valentin Zukovsky, now heavily invested in caviar production.  He's a little friendlier to Bond's investigation once it suits him to be, and ultimate is killed by Elektra, but not before he frees Bond from Elektra's trap.

Zukovsky has an aide, Bullion (Goldie) who works for him as well as Elektra.  He's dubbed a bodyguard, but he's ridiculously cowardly and borderline comic relief with his mouth full of gold and blond hair.

Gabor (John Seru) is Elektra's bodyguard, most notable for his mane of dreadlocks.  He's brawny but not a giant like Jaws or any of the German uber-monsters that have been quiet right-hand men in past Bond flicks.

Bond Girls:

The film opens with Bond sitting in a Swiss banker's office in Bilbao, Spain admiring the assets of his personal assistant, played by Maria_Grazia_Cucinotta, but never given a name on screen (credited as "Cigar Girl" but given the name Giulietta da Vinci in the script.  She's a trained assassin, killing the Swiss banker before he can reveal that Renard was responsible for the MI6 Agent's death.  I like her from moment one, because when the banker makes a very generous set up of "Would you like to check my figures?" Bond's leering reply of "I'm sure they're well-rounded" results in a tremendously executed eyeroll on her part.

She escapes from Bond thanks to covering fire, but emerges again in London just after Sir Robert King's explosive assassination.  She has an impressive boat chase with Bond and seems exceptionally capable as an assassin, only marginally outmatched by Bond's persistence.  She eventually blows her own balloon up rather than, you know, become another of Bond's conquests... that's how much she disliked that "well-rounded" comment.

Samantha Bond is back as Moneypenny but has less to do than even the last outing... a role of diminishing returns.  Meanwhile Judy Dench is Back as M, and her performance feels rushed here, never quite getting the gravitas that she managed in earlier films (and definitely not up to the Craig films).  The establishment of her friendship with Sir Robert King wasn't very well done, nor was her reaction to his killing.

There's Serena Scott Thomas as Dr. Molly Warmflash, one of the absolute worst Bond Girl names, as an MI6 physician who has to look 007 over (why do they keep sending female doctors and psychiatrists to examine him, unless they want him to seduce them into putting him back in the field?) and gives him a "clean bill of health" (noting particularly his stamina).

Sophie Marceau's Elektra King, I had hoped, would be the revelation here, but it's a wildly uneven performance.  Marceau never seems quite sure how to portray Elektra.  She was once a victim of a kidnapping, of abuse, but she appears to have come through it as a strong, confident, self assured woman.  Bond woos her, but it turns out she was ultimately manipulating him, eventually revealing herself as a bit of a sadist and a megalomaniacal  psychopath, hellbent on both revenge and commercial aspirations, which don't seem to jibe well.  Renard, her former captor is now her lover (though he can feel nothing physical in their lovemaking), altogether a fully unhealthy situation in which Elektra seems all too at ease.  Marceau takes what should be a complex character and slowly whittles her down into a petty nutbag.  With Elektra being the villain of the piece, it winds up pulling back Renard's role in the proceedings and diminishes his character quite a bit.  Next to Elektra's craziness, he never seems quite as dangerous.

Finally there's Doctor Christmas Jones as "portrayed" by Denise Richards.  There has never been, nor will there ever be, a less convincing nuclear physicist on screen.  There's barely a single word uttered from Richards' lips that doesn't come across as strained and you never get a sense that Richards understands, nevermind owns the words she saying.  Perhaps it's the midriff tank top and short shorts that undermines her performance or perhaps it's the dopey grin on her face at the most inopportune moments, but she always looks out of place.  You could more convincingly put a Golden Retriever in her place.  And yet, I disliked her performance less this time around, in direct contrast I disliked Marceau's performance more.


The theme sung by Garbage (written by the film's composer David Arnold with Don Black) isn't the most memorable of Bond themes but it's not that terrible either. It's too long by one stanza for sure and it has a bit of that late-'90s post-trip-hop drone to it that makes it kind of monotonous.  It feels as much like a Garbage song as a Bond theme, which I guess is a compliment to the fusion, but it's also the lesser of both.

The credits sequence, though, beyond the opening 10 seconds is dull.  A lot of oil-based imagery (dancing women in oily black catsuits and naked women being doused in an oil like product) and at least one unforgivably hacky transitional effect.  This fits very much at the bottom of the franchise's credit sequences.  One commenter on the below youtube video mentioned how this is supposed to be shot from the POV of Elektra King.  How incredible would that be if it were an arty montage of Elektra's harrowing kidnapping and escape?


 Brosnan is on autopilot at this point, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  He knows who his version of Bond is, as do the writers (he's quick with a comment, he's quick to get angry, and he's quick to fall for the wrong girl.  He's always performing hurt, running through the story with a fractured collarbone, and going his own way, typically against orders.  That's the thing about the Brosnan years, he wasn't a bad Bond.  In theory he should be the perfect Bond.  Tragically, though, the movies he was in, particularly this and the next, were just out of control trying to be something other than -- or at the very least, more than -- Bond. 


There was the potential from this cast (less Richards) to pull out a decent film, but so much of the primary cast doesn't seem to give a shit about what's getting to the screen, or perhaps it's the director unsure of what he wanted to put there.  There's no chemistry between any of the characters (no scene chemistry between Richards and Brosnan, or Densch and Carlyle, or Marceau and Carlyle..) and the character portrayals are either uneven or lacking in conviction,.  The overall plot is muddy (which is status quo for a Bond film, bu this is next level.  What is the real scheme, is it terrorism or economic destabilization or revenge?

Brosnan's doing his share, but here his presence seems almost sidecar to the Elektra King story, and being pulled down in every scene by Richard's awful mugging.  Unlike the Craig films, which are very character-focussed, and previous Bonds which keep the character familiar yet somewhat enigmatic for the audience, here Bond is kind of left exposed, duped by Elektra King, which is a terrible position to put Bond in (compare against Vesper's betrayal in Casino Royale to see it done far, far better without compromising the character's integrity).

Let's just be blunt, this is a terrible film.  It's thoroughly unenjoyable, and actively unlikeable.  It starts off middling, and gets progressively worse.  Every big sequence past the opening boat chase (and even then it's gloomy overcast London sky and lack of access to the London Eye/Millennium Dome left it bland looking) is mishandled.  The missile silo heist is overblown and ridiculous (not good ridiculous either), the caviar factory sequence is ugly and shot terribly like a set with all the logic of an MC Escher drawing, and the finale with Bond against Renard on a sinking submarine never feels like the conflict nor the stakes are real and it concludes with such a deus ex machina. 

I hate this movie.


This introduces John Cleese as "R", Q's replacement.  It's a cute scene, but it (as well as Cleese) feel completely out of place.  Overall the Q sequences have increasingly felt out of place in the modern films. Q gadgets were initially disguised weapons or other limited functionality tools in everyday items, but that idea has become more nonsensical and self-parodying with each film (and each spy spoof thereafter).  They're fun but they don't have a place anymore (Skyfall handled it's beautifully).

Glasses that set off a small detonator in his gun
Bagpipe machine gun/flamethrower
Winter coat-that expands into safety bubbleX-Ray glasses, bond uses to perv out at a casino
Credit card lock pick
Rappelling watch

Classification [out of 01.0] - 00.2, I'm not sure if this is worse than Octopussy or not.  It feels like it's on the same level.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Saw This!! Kids stuff

In this I Saw This!!:
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
TMNT - 2007, Kevin Munroe - blu-ray

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blew up just at the tail end of my adolescence, when I was about 11 or 12 or so when peer pressure was starting to take hold and make me feel silly for watching cartoons, reading comics and playing with toys.  I didn't abandon these things that I quite loved, but if it was exceptionally juvenile, like, say, talking turtles who know martial ars, well it was too goofy for me to take up. 

I was a rather adamant anti-Ninja Turtle guy, the characters were cheesy and they very concept itself seemed like it was designed by a four-year-old.  Plus, Ninja Turtles had dethroned He-Man and superheroes and Star Wars as the boys' franchise-du-jour and that just rankled me.

Even still, I bloody know all about the Ninja Turtles.  As a geeky teen, even if you didn't like something you still had to know it.  By the late 1990's (and my 20's) I decided to give up on this quest of knowing all things geek, as with the burgeoning internet started to reveal all manner of geeky thing I had not time, nor money, nor access to.  I mossed out on the last Ninja Turtle movie, and the 2000' revival with the female turtle, Venus, and yes, this rather larger budgeted cgi animated feature meant for an audience that had grown up with the property.

It's set after the Turtles' defeat of Shredder and the gang has split.  Leonardo spends his time haunting a rainforest, Michaelangelo is a kids party rent-a-dude, Donatello is in tech support and Raphael spends his nights as a vigilante.  There's a lot of tension between the brothers and when Leo returns from his excursion, things only get worse.  Not a good time for them all to be fighting as a centuries-old prophecy is about to come true as an unstoppable army from the past, resurrected by an immortal, is about to invade New York.

Truth told it's a decent film, surprisingly mature without alienating a younger audience completely, but I still can't see fit to care all that much about it.  My daughter has become a huge Ninja Turtles fan somehow which explains how we came to watch it, and she quite enjoyed it, though certainly not as much as the current TV show  (which this movie is one iteration removed from).  The animation, for a feature, is on par with what's considered television animation today, so it's acceptable but not incredible.

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids - 1989, Joe Johnston - netflix
I was surprised to learn that this film came out in 1989.  I thought I was a bit younger (like 9, versus 13) but that doesn't make it any less a crucial film from my childhood.  Despite the unruly title and the looming Disney moniker, this is a flat-out great family movie.  Watching it with fresh eyes (I can't even guess how long it's been since I last saw it, 20 years or more) I was overjoyed by how much it holds up.  Stylistically it's a product of its time, but the adventure is absolutely timeless.  It's a unapologetic rehash of The Incredible Shrinking Man, but it's tribute to the sci-fi classic is what makes it so good.  The use of practical effects take the everyday world and make it alien terrain with countless dangers, recognizable but unfamiliar at the same time.  Blades of grass are like trees, a drop of water like a five-foot water balloon, an and the deadliest creature you could face (until a scorpion comes along)... it's like Avatar without all the bullshit.

The cast of kids here are amazing, playing into their archetypes of popular girl, thoughtful loner, bratty bully, and science geek, but naturally revealing a deeper side as their harrowing adventure across their backyard progresses, and ultimately respect, if not something more.  Meanwhile, the parents (Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland) all have their own issues to deal with when their kids seeming disappear.  Moranis is the perfect grounding force for a movie like this... he's got an easy charm, a hint of mania always percolating underneath.  Frewer, meanwhile, does a hot head like no one else, but is able to layer it with something resembling humanity.

Director Joe Johnston does a phenomenal job of making the 1-inch-tall world and the normal-side world interact, and gaining appropriate measure of the difference between the two.  Sure the sets look like sets and the props look like props, but it's all charming rather than obvious.  Unless you really want to resist, it's easy to buy into the conceit and follow along for the ride.  I'm anxiously anticipating Edgar Wright's Ant-Man motion picture which, hopefully, will feature much of this kind of spirit of adventure and not get too bogged down in tying a world of heroes and villains into the Avengers/Marvel universe.

And I dare you not tear up just a little when poor Anty bites it.

Enchanted - 2007, Kevin Lima - netflix
Something about Enchanted racking up three nominations in the Best Song category at the 2008 Oscars really put a hate-on for me towards this film.  I don't know what it was, partly that I was pulling so strongly for Once's "Falling Slowly" to take the win, but also not only did I hate the film, but also Amy Adams for no discernible reason, and it took me years (basically until she turned up in the The Muppets) to finally warm up to her (thankfully I did, because she's literally in every movie made now).  Also, let's face it, it's a princess movie (a Disney princess movie no less!) starring Patrick Dempsey at the height of his "McDreamy" phase which was about as laughable and annoying a moniker ever created. 

Oh, that moment in the trailer where A-OK-as-a-prince James Marsden (Cyclops!) starts to sing "I've been dreaming..." and then gets plowed into by a blur of bicycles, I have to admit I laughed, but still, no further love.  I forgot about enchanted for the past 5 years, until my daughter started to get into princess stuff (she's still a Ninja Turtles freak, but the peer pressure to be into princess things as a girl is hard to escape), so I wanted to direct her to more respectable princess-y things.  Enchanted, which seemed to be somewhat of a arch presentation of the typical Disney Princess story would certainly be more palatable.  

I have to say, in all honestly, I loved Enchanted, and far more than my daughter actually did.

The film opens in an animated fairy tale land, "Andalasia", where our heroine, Giselle (Adams), lives in a glorified tree house with a myriad of forest creatures as friends and happy workers.  Life is good, but despite her furry friends, she dreams of romance.  Likewise, Prince Edward (Marsden), quite content to hunt giant ogres, still longs to have his heart filled.  As fate has it in Disney fables, the two meet, fall in love immediately, and are to be wed the very next day.  Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) will not tolerate her step-son's fanciful whim, mainly because she is only Queen until the Prince is married.  She disguises herself as a hag and pushes Giselle into a wishing well which acts as a portal between the animated world and the real one.  Giselle emerges in New York City where it's painfully obvious how out of place she is in her sweeping princess wedding gown, and how unlike this city is to her fantasy homeland...full of technology and noise and rudeness.

Despite his common sense, divorce attorney and all-round practical guy Robert (Dempsey) helps her out, even letting her crash at his apartment at his daughter's behest.  Robert's about to enter into a practical engagement with his girlfriend (played by Frozen's Idina Menzel, although strangely she doesn't sing), but naturally Giselle is going to win him over.  But Prince Edward hasn't given up on his bride-to-be and along with the Queen's toady, Nathaniel (Timothy Spell), and Giselle's chipmunk friend Pip, they enter the real world as well in search of.   Nathaniel takes every effort to keep Edward from finding Giselle despite Pip's every interference (being unable to talk in the real world is a definite hindrance to him), and, at the Queen's behest, even endeavors to poison the young woman.  Eventually the Queen herself must get involved, leading to a climactic showdown where it's Giselle that must save Robert, and not the other way around.

It's a film that delightfully explodes the "princess myth" with reality creeping in at every turn, threatening to beat the upbeat out of Giselle.  But as much as the film pops the bubble of fairy tale romance, it doesn't deny the wonder of fantasy and rewards proactivity and optimism, instead of succumbing to negativity and pessimism.  Though not nearly as successful as the 90's Disney heyday, Enchanted still marks itself as an integral turning point in positive princesses on screen.  The Disney princesses to follow (Rapunzel in Tangled, Anna and Elsa in Frozen, and, to an unfortunately lesser extent Merida in Brave) would all be stronger, more independent, more self-realized characters than those of the past, being the hero of their own stories and not be utterly reliant upon a male supporting character to rescue them.

The film's use of traditional animation in its opening sequence (when Disney has otherwise long abandoned the form) and then throughout in tandem with live action sequences is its strongest stylistic choice, which pays off from moment one (the change in aspect ratio a nice touch).  Even Pip, the chipmunk, transitions into the real world as an animated rodent (in the vein of the live action chipmunk or Smurfs movie) but his character serves as the best shorthand for how the two worlds differ.  Where I should detest this little uncanny valley rodent, I loved how he played out in the film, ever frustrated by this world.

If there's any negative aspect to the film, it's the surreality of Nathaniel adapting to the real world (able to don any manner of disguises such as hot dog vendor or pizzeria waiter) without any sort of self-awareness.  It's the one leap the film continually makes that just doesn't make sense within its own fantasy logic.  So much more could have been done with all of the characters adjusting to the real's understandable how the shamelessly self-involved prince is kind of oblivious to it, but Nathaniel should really be at odds with his new surroundings.  It's not a minor quibble, it's a flaw of the film, but one I can look past to enjoy the plentiful better moments.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: The Last Days on Mars

2013, Ruairi Robinson -- download

** SPOILER ALERT Don't read the below if you want to experience any surprises from the movie **

I never commented on how much I like the design esthetic in Europa Report.  There is probably a whole line of thought of how the interior of real space ships and habitats should look and that in our current age, it is starting to become rather chicken and egg. Do the movies inspire NASA on how the interior of Mars lander would look or are industrial designers on movie sets still looking at the interiors of the space station for ideas on realism? Either way, there is something about that mix of clean white plastic, smudged with filth after months or years of use, and the novel ways of organizing interiors that appeals to me. Some day, probably soon, someone will probably depict the interior of a star ship in a fundamentally new and intriguing way and our viewing paradigm will shift. Until then, we are given rounded edges, vacuum sealed doors out of submarines and slow moving all-terrain vehicles... all white. This is the visual cue that tells us this is a scifi movie based in realism, not future tech.

The Last Days on Mars is about the last few days of the second team to land on Mars. We don't know what happened to the first team, but likely they just finished their 6 month term and went upstairs to the orbital ship. The problem is that this second expedition hasn't discovered anything startling, and since the first team did all the "first men on mars" work, these guys feel stressed and let down. Also, a little space batty. Tensions are high between the multi-national team and most of them are dicks to each other. So, nobody is surprised when the Russian lies about why he has to go outside one last time and they all freak out when he falls into a crack in the ground.

The crack in the ground has two things: proof of life on Mars and ... well, proof that this is a horror movie. You see, the bacteria they discover is the zombie plague. There is no way around it, this is a zombie movie, just one set in a wonderful looking space exploration movie. This follows all the tropes of a zombie movie to the cue: the dead come back to life and snarl & gargle while they try to bite you, if you get scratched or bitten you eventually die and change, and you have to bash them repeatedly in the head to stop them from moving. Talk about a sucky way to end your trip to Mars. Luckily, everybody dies off before the infection / bacteria / zombie horde can get back to the orbital ship and then... well, then it would actually become the answer all the other zombie movies were looking for --- where did the zombie plague come from?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Geek Cred: Rock Jocks & Knights of Badassdom

 Is it a good sign when a movie doesn't yet have any Rotten Tomatoes ratings and I saw it months ago? I guess "leaking" it on the internet was not such a good idea. I readily admit; the only reason I saw Rock Jocks (2012, Paul V. Seetachitt), a scifi comedy meant for geeks, was Felicia Day. Unfortunately, if you extract her, there is no reason to see this terrible terrible movie.

Seetachitt wants to be a new Kevin Smith, creating an irreverent indie movie full of slackers we are supposed to root for when the shit hits the fan. The particular shit is that they may lose their jobs to government cutbacks, a job of shooting asteroids out of the sky. Yes, an idea extracted from an 80s video game, and that the sort of witty point -- everything looks and feels like an out of date video game, as the whole system was designed 40 years ago. The staff actually are slacker gamers so when The Man comes along and wants to shut them down, its up to them to prove their mettle against the expected big rock that shows up.

The movie feels like a long webisode,  low budget and a handful of recognizable faces in supporting roles. You probably haven't heard of the stars, besides Felicia Day. There are a few gems of line, but not much at all to like. Maybe I have matured? Maybe I like some substance to my geek material? I think I just like some wit to my lines and in the absent of presentation, I want brilliance in the scripting, not just sub-par.

Now, if this was a well rounded review, I would come along and say, "Now, conversely, if you want a great geek movie with recognizable people, brilliant acting, a great plot and a Hollywood budget, I would watch Knights of Badassdom (2013, Joe Lynch) !!"  Unfortunately, I cannot say that either.  Harrumph.

I have been waiting for this movie all year(s). The trailers started coming out ... three (?!?!) years ago after debuting at Comic-Con and after the usual production delays, and some apparently nasty post production delays, the movie is coming out.  Soonish. One of the rumors around the delays, is that the movie was taken out of the director's hands and chopped to bits by producers and distributors. Honestly, I think it shows.

This is an exquisitely brilliant ultra-geeky plot. Joe, an ex-D&Der (Ryan Kwanten), now into black metal and car repair, is dumped by his GF. Eric, his best friend and roommate (Steve Zahn) never grew out of the gamer psyche (like many of us) and is a weekend LARPer. He and the third of their triad, Hung (Peter Dinklage), drag Joe off to a weekend of ultimate LARPing so Joe can experience Eric finally levelling his wizard character, and get over his GF. Eric has even brought along a new spell book, to add some authenticity to his spell casting. Said spell book is a real spell book and they summon a demon. As the friends fight it off, they are supported by Summer Glau and Danny Pudi.

Brilliant ultra-geeky plot, you ask? Straight-to-DVD plot more likely, right? Its brilliant in its simplicity, smacking back to the gamer geek's love of 80s horror movies. This is all cliches with sexy demons and lost in the woods characters and overly violent jocks who want to ruin the fun. But this is real LARPing depicted -- not some Hollywood mockery of it. Oh its, mocked, as LARPing is not for every gamer (i hate it, in fact) but its all done lovingly and with knowledge. Everyone in this movie plays true to their roles as pretend heroes having to become real heroes.

But, but but. There is a problem somewhere in this movie. Perhaps the wrong scenes were edited together, perhaps the script wasn't tightened enough and perhaps it was cut short of desperately needed connecting material but something fell flat, something felt missing. So many of the individual parts were great fun and made me smile, but it never came together. This was supposed to come across as a labour of love, done by and for geeks.  It felt almost like they wanted it watered down for the general audience. It ends up failing for both audiences.