300: What Made It Work?
It has been a decade and a half since the release of 300. Released in 2006, the film was a blockbuster. Grossing over four hundred million dollars, the film was praised for its style, unique color palette, quotable dialogue, and over-the-top action and gore. Although the film was released fifteen years ago, people still quote it today and wear 300 t shirts. So I have to ask myself: what made 300 so good? Why is that movie a classic?
A little background on me. I first saw this movie in 2006, when I was a teenager. I went to the theater in my small town with a friend and we sat in the back, ate some popcorn, and watched. I remember when, coming out of the theater, my friend was so pumped about it. He stood on the street corner and said, “Where do you guys wanna go eat? Because I was thinking that tonight, we could dine in hell!” He screamed that last part. I’m not the pubescent video-game-playing Red Bull-swilling kid I was then, but I vividly remember seeing 300 in the theater that night. It’s an experience I can’t forget.
And the unforgettableness of that movie really is what makes it a classic. But that, in turn, begs the question: what makes it unforgettable?
A few things. First, the movie is all about style more than substance. Or, to put a finer point on it, it’s style-as-substance. Who cares if it’s historically accurate or implausible? The point is the style. The whole movie is shot in a weird color scheme to make it look like a comic book, and this reinforces the surreal, mythological view of the whole thing. It doesn’t feel realistic. It doesn’t feel like real life at all. But it’s not supposed to! The whole point of 300 is to feel like some strange dream, the kind you have when you’ve got a high fever and just had a lot of cough syrup before bed. Everything in 300 is over the top and cartoonish, and that’s what makes it so delightfully archetypal.
The second aspect of 300 that makes it immortal (but not like a Persian Immortal!) is its quotability. Say any of the following to someone:
“Tonight, we dine in Hell!”
“Spartans, prepare for glory!”
“Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!”
Everyone knows those quotes. Everyone! Even people who have never seen the movie because they weren’t born when it came out know those quotes. They’re all over t shirts and memes and everything else. The quotable dialogue and unique style together make 300 an unforgettable film. Nobody can forget the over-the-top getup worn by Xerxes when he makes his first appearance, nor the sheer violence and gore. Add the agelessly quotable lines of dialogue ot that and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Star Trek Retrospective: Episode 3 Where No Man Has Gone Before
This is an interesting episode in that it is the second pilot for the series. The first one, the Cage, was rejected of hand by NBC. Thankfully Lucille Ball convinced them to run a second pilot and this one came out great. I guess all Trek fans owe a great debt to the late Lucille Ball. I think I will add some I Love Lucy shirts to our site next in thanks.
You can tell this is a pilot as the women were still wearing slacks. I guess the mandatory short skirts and 70s black disco boots came down as notes from the studio executives. You don’t hear me complaining. I just Googled some Uhura pics and she makes that uniform look amazing. I admit I have a weakness for women in Star Trek uniforms from any series. When we set up our booth a Star Trek convention it is always extremely distracting.
Anyway, this episode is also the only time in TOS that we see the Phaser Rifle. Of course from TNG onward the rifle was so prevalent you’d think they were insulating the ship bulkhead with them but Roddenberry really didn’t want to make this show into a shoot em up. That being said I’ve always felt one great weakness of Star Trek is all the guns look like TV remote controls. Not like this Aliens beauty I pulled from the horror movie t shirt category.
the Infamous Dave Inman
The Pros at Cons A Review of Convolution 2014: Halfway Home Part 7
Day 2 Continued: Star Trek or Star Wars, LARP, and making new friends.
On my way back down in the elevator, there was another convention-goer and a layman on the lift with me. The non-Con attendee asked us, “Are you guys with the Star Wars convention or the Star Trek Convention?” And we were like, “No, it’s all one big Science Fiction Convention. We’re with both.” (Image courtesy of the Star Wars t-shirt category) After that, I had every intention of going to panels, but they were hard to find and I kept getting distracted. Plus, all of the panels were scheduled in blocks from 10-12, 12-2 and 2-4, and it was already around 3pm by the time I left the hospitality suite. There may have been a fourth block of panels from 4-6 on Saturday only, but the schedule guide and key to where to find things was small, poorly designed and hard to understand unless you had used it before. Then there was the mighty task of choosing between similar panels that were held on opposite ends of the hotel at the same time, which is something I always detest about the whole convention-going experience. So I went in search of LARP groups instead in order to pass the time until Day 2 was concluded.
I did not find the Firefly LARP group (that day) and it might not have mattered if I had since their game for the night was for 21 people and 25 had pre-registered, not including the people actually working the Con or helping to run the game itself. But I did stumble across the table of the Victorian World of Darkness game, “Gaslight”. They invited me to sit and have a cup of fresh brewed tea from a nice China tea set and I ended up spending the next 2-1/2 hours talking with them about writing, running game vs. playing NPCs vs. being a PC and having less control and less responsibility. Then I sat down with Glenn Barett, the only founding member of the group still on and running things after several incarnations, and we talked OOC about RL stuff, like family and feeling like a creeper at Cons because you’re getting older while fans are getting younger, and about feminism and the school system and California’s crisis with prisons and how that relates to youth, feminism and what we as individuals can do about it. That’s all not as deep or hysterical or even as liberal-hippie-fight-the-power as it sounds, either. It was just a gentle yet sweeping reminder that I get to be myself at these things. I come to Conventions to have fun, to spend money and to meet new people. Vendors come for the same reasons, but also to make money, to make inroads towards a better future and connections within their industries. Convolution was convoluted, poorly advertised and expensive, but it was also the single best experience I’ve had at a Convention so far yet, and it was for no other reason than that these people weren’t just other fans at the same place as me, these were my people. I went for work reasons and came out with new personal friends. That is not to say that I didn’t learn anything. More on that in my next post.
15 Fictional Characters I wish were real life friends of mine: 5 of 15
11. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters.
This one’s a no brainer. I would want Venkman to be my friend because he is just funny and sarcastic as hell. Of course this could totally backfire when he started making fun of me and treating me with contempt like he does pretty much everyone. However I think I could hit him back with the fact that he has a PhD in a pseudo science and got fired for doing nothing but torturing undergrads. On the other hand he is pretty smooth with the ladies and kind of a horn dog. I don’t know if I need that competition.
Why would Venkman want to be my friend? I honestly am struggling with this one. He seems to have no real friends just guys he works with and treats with contempt and disrespect. I guess he is friends with Stantz and Egon but doesn’t show them a lot of love. This is a situation where I would have to count on my natural charm to win him over. In the castle in my head everyone loves me.
By the way the Ghostbusters logo I found in the Horror Movie t shirt category but for the life of me can’t decide if it belongs there or not.
15 Fictional Characters I wish were real life friends of mine: 10 of 15
6. Grandpa Munster
Admit it. You know without a doubt that Grandpa Munster would be a blast to hang out with. Herman too, but Herman is nothing without Grandpa. He is a dirty old man vampire who can whip up magic potions and has his own laboratory in the basement. Plus he’s always smiling and having people smiling around you is a great way to pick up your attitude. Hanging out with him would give me the chance to solve two great Munsters mysteries: where does he get that amazing hair cut and if he is Lily’s father why is he called Grandpa Munster? Shouldn’t he be Grandpa Dracula (Lily’s maiden name. Never try to out geek-fu me!).
Why would Grandpa want to be my friend? Honestly I don’t think he needs an excuse. He is so friendly and cheerful that I think he just likes everyone (or at least likes sucking out everyone’s blood, although that part was never really addressed in the Munsters). Plus with all the schemes and shenanigans he and Herman get into I’m sure another friend and/or alibi might come in handy.
Grandpa image from the horror movie t-shirt category.
Star Trek Retrospective: Episode 30 Amok Time
Of course when you think of Star Trek the Original Series this is one of the first episodes that come to mind and for good reason. It has some very cool Spock development, is a perfect example of the bond of friendship that was such an important part of this series (and kind of lacking in all the latter shows. In almost all of them the friendship was just assumed and kind of perfunctory, while in this show it seemed truly genuine) and let’s see. I think there’s one more thing that’s escaping me. Hmm. What is it? Oh, yeah. THE GREATEST FIGHT SCENE IN TV OR MOVIE HISTORY.
I will argue this to my grave. In truth it wasn’t the best choreographed (although it was brilliantly choreographed) nor was it the most athletic or brutal, but the greatest dramas occur when you see stuff happen to characters you care about and you know are in a bad spot. In this sense you can’t let this one go with less than the top prize. Kirk knows he doesn’t really have a chance against Spock nor does he want to hurt him. Spock is frenzied and actively trying to kill Kirk but you know he really doesn’t want to while McCoy stands helpless to the side. A more dramatic fight scene you won’t find.
Sure, you can talk about the fight scenes from They Live, or Enter the Dragon, or the Empire Strikes Back as brilliant fight scenes (and they are. They Live image courtesy of the Horror Movie T-Shirt category) but put all the camera and chroreography on a level playing field and you will not ever find a better, more engaging fight. Of course it is all set to the greatest fight music song off all time in my humble opinion (as an aside, should you ever come to trade fisticuffs with me and for some reason the Star Trek fight music is playing in the background prepare to have your ass handed to you six ways to Sunday. There isn’t a song in the world that gets my blood pumping harder or my aggression more up. On the other hand if you manage to get something by One Direction or Justin Bieber playing I will probably just roll up into a fetal position and let you kick me in the stomach until I puke up my small intestine).
Anyway, if you want to see the power of this scene watch it and then go watch Cable Guy again (one of Jim Carrey’s most underrated films). Also, while this observation probably won’t go over with all two of my female readers but this fight, like most brutal fist fights between best friends (and casual acquaintances) is all the girls fault. Just saying.
the Infamous Dave
The Expendables 3 Review
A little less expendable than the last one.
In my bizarre form of personal narcissism I naturally assume that everyone I meet knows who I am and is familiar with me and my life. In particular I assume everyone has at least read my blog (if that were true then according to my tracking data California has a population of about 87 people). Of course my rational brain understands this is tremendously far from the truth and most people I meet assume I am some kind of mover, truck driver, or thug in the employ of the local criminal element. However when I let my blog fantasies write themselves in my head I see all of Hollywood eagerly reading each review, rejoicing at each crumb of praise and bemoaning each gentle criticism (“I really don’t want to hate it and him on all levels (even subatomically) but he just makes it so, so very easy” – recent Transformers review) and taking in my feedback to the betterment of their craft or at least committing ritual seppuku.
(classic Expendables poster from the movie t-shirt category)
The point is it almost feels like the producers of the Expendables 3 read my Expendables 2 review and took out 70% of the stuff that really bugged the hell out of me. They cut back on the classic action star deluge to a manageable level and didn’t have them popping out of the scenery like heavily armed prairie dogs. They got rid of the horribly invasive plot devices to include all of them. They had a story that didn’t suck (and was almost coherent). The non-classic action movie actors they hired could deliver a line with more nuance and emotion than an Animatronic buccaneer from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The plot advanced organically and didn’t leave giant plot holes in its wake like massive road apples. The film felt adequately long at 126 minutes. There was no completely unnecessary and annoying romantic love interest. The comic relief was actually pretty cool and fitted in well. In general a true improvement over the last film.
What, then, about the remaining 30% that annoyed me you ask? Well, unfortunately nothing was done to improve most of that. In fact it got tragically worse. The biggest problem this movies suffers from is the fact that they went in for a PG-13 rating. I have talked about PG-13 draping over other action films like a wet blanket but in this film it is like an ocean container full of wet blankets landing on the screen and flattening it out. They tried to push the PG-13 boundary as far as they could and took full advantage of the one per film allowable S-word and F-bomb but were I a witness in court and was asked if I had actually seen any of the several hundred peopled killed in this film die I would have to answer “I don’t know”. For all I know they were all stunned with rubber bullets fired by a completely different team never shown on screen.
The Quiet Ones Review
A horror movie sans horror.
While I am an aficionado of all things zombie and sci fi, horror is not a category I can comfortably call myself an expert in (I see zombie movies and horror movies as entirely different categories BTW. I’d be happy to discuss the difference with anyone who actually cares). Friday the 13 and Halloween never actually did much for me. I like stories where the protagonists have a chance to fight back, not be hung on a meat hook by an immortal force of nature. (Halloween image courtesy of the Horror Movie T shirt category)
(Incidentally, meat hooks and things hanging from them is something I am way too familiar with. My father was a meat cutter and I spent an unhealthy chunk of my childhood surrounded by dead animals and insanely sharp knives. Good thing I’m so well adjusted today. You know, quiet fellow. Keep to myself for the most part).
That being said I am not illiterate in this area. I have seen most of the classic horror films and understand what works or doesn’t work for them. More importantly I understand what works and doesn’t work for film in general, and unfortunately there is less that works than doesn’t work here.
I’m not happy to say that as I am a fan of Hammer films. They made a name for themselves in the B movie horror film arena with such classics as the Vampire Lovers, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, The Devil Rides Out, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The Plague of Zombies, Vampire Circus, Hands of the Ripper, and the Camp on Blood Island. Most of these are weirdly amazing and super fun to watch with some friends and some beers on a Saturday afternoon. More recently they have tried to break into bigger budget, bigger name films with the Woman in Black and Let Me In with mixed results.
I won’t say this film was bad. Just that there was an absence of good. The film focused on building suspense to a denouement that really wasn’t a whole lot more exciting than the rest of the film. The “horror” was mainly derived from found footage style surprises, like “wouldn’t it be surprising if we were watching a possessed woman on 8mm film and all of a sudden the nearby radiator blew up with a loud bang?”. Off camera bumps, knocks, and things happening out of the shot or suddenly flying across the screen in a blur that ends up showing you nothing is not the zenith of horror making in my opinion. The net result of this constant build up to next to nothing was 98 minutes that dragged for 92 of them, with lots of time spent watching the creepy professor smoke and bitch his students out.
I also have an issue with the whole “found footage” aspect of this film in that if you are going to commit commit. You can’t go parachuting and hang from the planes landing gear for an hour and a half. The camera shifted back and forth from what was being “shot” by Brian, the camera guy, and a regular film camera. Very little attempt was made to make the shot footage look like it was one on a single camera in 1974 so the shift back and forth really did nothing for the film. They should have either gone all found footage or just blown the whole thing off. Also the sound was flawless in spite of the fact that there was no sound guy. SPOILER ALERT Given that all the found footage was reportedly destroyed by the end of the film it made this aspect even more annoying.
A lot has been said about this film being taken from a true story but if so perhaps there is a reason most movies are written from fiction. The scientist was kind of either comically evil or laughable stupid. The rest of the cast was Shaggy and a slutty Wilma from Scooby Doo, a straight man, and the possessed girl herself. As a whole they seemed like complete idiots in that they didn’t all bug out the first time random evil crap started happening around them. No real reason was given for anyone other than the professor and the possessed girl to hang around, and characters with no sense of self preservation make for incredibly lame protagonists.
Of course regular readers should remember that I hate the ’70s with a burning passion so that definitely colored some of my perception. I think I was fair in my assessment of the film regardless of that. For the record given a choice between traveling back on time to the 70’s or the Great Plague I would have to give serious consideration to London in 1665. At least they didn’t wear bellbottom pants suits.
The story. It starts off with Professor Joseph Coupland of Oxford (Jared Harris-Natural Born Killers, Lincoln, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. By the way, the “real” story they took this from happened in Toronto. I guess the film need the most prestigious university ever to make it work. It makes more sense to me that weirdness like this would come from the Great White North. Hail to our Canadian nerd brethren! You guys rock!) hiring a camera guy named Brian (Sam Claflin-Snow White and the Huntsmen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) to document a study of a girl he believes to be manifesting ghosts and apparitions with her mind using “dark energy” (? Oil? The theoretical glue of the universe? A generator powered by burning babies? What is dark energy?). His is assisted by tech geek Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne-Vampire Academy, Stealaway) and super blond and slutty ill defined scientist of some kind Krissi (Erin Richards-Open Grave, Breaking In, Being Human).
He introduces him to the subject Jane (Olivia Cooke-Bates Motel, the Signal, Ouija), who looks exactly like she is possessed by an evil spirit that seriously wants to kill everyone. They are recording her with some kind of electronic devices while forcing her to stay awake with the help of Cum on Feel the Noize by Slade. She is sort of a prisoner with no privacy and sort of a volunteer. Joseph’s plan is to force her evil, dark energy filled side out and some how remove it (he is truly short on explanations on how he intends to do anything other than torture the girl and get his grad students killed. At one point he seriously said something about harnessing the dark energy and I swear I thought he was going to add a maniacal laugh and the words “then take over the world!” but that might have made the film interesting). He also thinks that if he can cure Jane he can cure everyone in the world with mental problems (what, and put my poor therapist out of work?).
They lose their funding from Oxford and have to move out to some super creepy house to avoid all the noise complaints. At that point the film turns into about 75 minutes of bad X-Files episodes. You know, the ones where every few minutes you think you are about to see something super cool and interesting but it turns out to be a damned cat? Interesting stuff almost happens a lot, and on the rare occasion something happens it is always off screen. There are some dopey twists and betrayals. I won’t spoil the ending but I was more glad the film was over than anything else.
I don’t know. Both of the girls were super hot, and you almost see them naked in a very PG-13 way. One star. I will give credit for an original setting. You don’t see a lot of horror movies set in England. Usually they are outside of some bumbling Bible belt cow town. One star. I do appreciate stories derived from reality. One star. Given an original idea and their obvious attempt to move from the straight-to-DvD world I will award Hammer Films one more star as an A for effort. One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes:
Nothing in this film is remotely new or interesting. Recycled from a ton of other films. One black hole. Pacing sluggish as hell. I’ve seen raw security camera footage of nothing happening that seemed better paced. 98 minutes that felt like 198. One black hole. The whole “found footage, not found footage” thing was annoying. Make up your mind. One black hole. Everything that might have been interesting happened off camera. Honestly I think they did it to keep their PG-13 rating. One black hole. A distinct lack of motivation, as in why the hell didn’t any of these people decide being far away from this weird ass girl was more in line with their interest in breathing? I’ll buy people sticking around a dangerous situation as long as you give me some form of excuse as to why. One black hole. At the end of the film I really didn’t know what point was being made. Was she possessed or not? Did she manifest everything with her mind? Was the professor right? One black hole. Total: five black holes.
So a total of one black hole. For me that’s at the low end of mediocre. The film is not irredeemable. Had they tightened up the pacing and given us some actual events prior to the last 10 minutes I might have been much more engaged. However, if you have seen any 10 horror films and the Blair Witch Project you have seen this film. I’d say see it when you are bored at home with nothing else to do. Date movie? Not really. Bathroom break? There’s a scene towards the end when Brian goes back to Oxford for more film or something but really spends a ton of time doing research at the library. Nothing he is doing is explained while he does it and he later reveals everything anyway.
Thanks for reading. Hitting a dearth of film lately. I saw a couple recently and never got around to writing them up so maybe I will do one of those tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Email me any off topic questions or suggestions and if you have a comment on this film or my review feel free to leave it here. Talk to you soon.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
Enough with the ******* vampires!
I now look upon Hollywood’s desperation to launch anther teen franchise with the same contempt I reserve for losers who spend all their money on Lottery tickets. Sure, they have all failed miserably to produce results but THIS time it’s going to be a winner. Face it guys. Twilight and Harry Potter won the lottery. It’s a miracle lightning struck twice. You literally have a higher chance of being hit by a meteor, and a massively higher chance of sending all your money into a black hole never to see it again. The studios would be better served spending all their money on King Cobra and cigarillos.
(That reminds me. What is the Mega Jackpot up to? I better grab my tickets.)
That being said I think I can say the Vampire Academy is the best of the worst. Oh, it’s horrible in every way that you can imagine mixing the lamest elements of Twilight, Mean Girls, Buffy, and Bloodsport can be. The vampires still suck (haw!), the script should have spontaneously combusted out of shame (and possibly did), the “male” actors are mostly sizzle chested man/boys, and the girls all manage to make you hate them with the burning passion of 10,000 suns in spite of the fact that they are all drop dead gorgeous. You know, a typical Twilight movie or Tuesday at any white suburban high school (that’s sort of FTW in a weird way). However in the Valley of the Blind the slightly less migraine inducing teeny bopper launch movie is king. I’m saying in looking back at all the other “This film is the new Twilight ” movies that have come out in the last few years this one may just be the best. I resent the time and money spent watching it less than I did the Host, Mortal Instruments, Percy Jackson, I am Number Four, and Green Lantern (technically Green Lantern really wasn’t an attempt at grabbing teenagers (or anyone actually living on this planet). I just really resent it) so I guess that’s sort of a recommendation? Sort of in the same way I would recommend you jump into a pit full of scorpions and used syringes if your only other choice was a pit full of acid, burning napalm, and Andy Dick.
Wow this is weird. I just looked up the director of this canker and discovered he actually did direct Mean Girls. I guess he’s not going to travel much outside of his comfort zone. I’m going to put this movie not making me want to kill anyone (more than a typical day, I mean) on the fact that it was released by the Weinstein Company. I guess I respect them on some level. They do a lot of cool, smart, smaller movies and Harvey Weinstein knows how to make a film. The writer of this did Heathers, Demolition Man, and Batman Returns (Danny Divito Batman, NOT Batnipple Batman. That’s enemy of all things cool Joel Schumacher) so I guess he’s decent?
I’d also like to comment on the acting in this film. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t even particularly good. However, it was functional and when it comes to films of this ilk that’s about as good as we can get. It’s obvious that the producers strapped Zoey Deutch into a chair with her eyeballs wired open Clockwork Orange style and forced her to watch every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever (even Where the Wild Things Are). Like I have said before imitating something halfway decent can sometimes result in something tolerable. Most of the people in this movie were given a set of programming (or just arrived at the casting office with the program already running) for their characters and ran the length of the movie on it. Not awesome but not not seizure inducing.
I remember when I reviewed Mortal Instruments bitching about the fact that the film creators assumed we had all done a doctoral thesis on the rules and intricacies of demons and slayers. Without a reasonable understanding of why the characters do what they do and what the endgame for each move is it’s hard to stay in the theater. Well, looks like screenplay writer Daniel Waters is among the tens of regular readers I have as he hooked up the exposition fire hose and spent about 2/3rds of the movie shooting the audience in the face with it. By the end of the film you will understand every nuance and subtlety of being a vampire in the world created by Richelle Mead, knowledge that will be of great use when the studio opts to let this series die a meandering death and never make the sequel (opening weekend gross: $3.9 million. Give me a budget and I could get that much filming the homeless people rooting through my trashcans).
Also, if you didn’t think movies about teenage girls treating each other like something something stuck on the bottom of their shoe is a pleasurable experience prepare for a kidney stone passing experience. Take all things trite and trivial about being a high school girl and then ad some magic and modest amount of bloodsucking and you have this movie. For the record the vampires in this film are so laughable when compared to their source material you will never feel anything remotely resembling apprehension. Anyone else remember when vampires were something to be feared, not romanced and/or laughed at?
Do I really need to recap the story? Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry-no other film credits, and a slew of crappy TV ones. I don’t know if this film will be her springboard) is a good vampire (part of the orientation lectures tells you specific names for the different types of vampires and half vampires but I have already wasted enough brain cells on this film) who is good because she doesn’t kill when she feeds. Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch-Beuatiful Creatures, Ringer, Mayer Cupcake) is a half vampire or something and is Lissa’s best friend and bodyguard. Apparently if you are born half vampire you are automatically a slave or something to the full vampires and spend your life as a bodyguard for them, ready at any time to take a stake for them.
Oh, also if you kill while feeding you turn in to a bad vampire called a Strigoi (I only remember this because it is a term used in Warhammer). I found this really confusing to be honest. The drinking of blood from a person who is going to live is not inherently different from the drinking of blood from someone who is about to die. I supposed there is a morality issue that could be associated with damage to your soul but if so what happens if you are at a party (or blood orgy) and you drink from a human who, six vampires later, dies. Do all seven of you turn into Strigoi? What if you drain a human to the point of incapacitation and in his or her lightheadedness they fall off a cliff? If the death changes your soul wouldn’t that be the same as draining them dry? If a moral choice manages to make physiological changes in your body wouldn’t you turn Strigoi if you shot somebody? For that matter it is said that Strigoi are faster, stronger, and most importantly immortal while regular vamps just kind of shuffle off the mortal coil. Sure, they look ugly but why not enjoy your good looks while you are young and then once you start to get a little long in the fang (haw!) go full Strigoi and live forever? Someone look up the definition of “cursed” and email it to the author. In spite of the reams of data force fed to us I’m still confused.
Oh, yeah. Also apparently being fed upon by a good vampire has some kind of narcotic effect and they have humans volunteering all the time, spending a year in the “feeder program”. I don’t want to dump all over the author of this epic (although really, I do) but there is a reason humans can’t really donate more than about a pint of blood every two months. It seems like Lissa needs to feed every day and I’m willing to bet she takes more than a teaspoon full. Oh well. I’m sure no harm could come of giving teenagers misinformation regarding health and safety issues.
Anyway, Lissa and Rose are on the run from the Vampire Academy. Apparently (I’ve noticed the more times I feel compelled to use the word “apparently” in my story recap the weaker the script tends to be. I might be going for a record here) Lissa felt like her life was in danger from something (?) but it might have been stress from being bullied by other students. They get caught by Vampire Academy Secret Police (where the writer proves she has no idea how motorcycles work) and hauled back.
On the way home they get attacked by some Strigoi who want something (? I really don’t know. Maybe they felt a burning desire to keep this film from being godawfully boring) from them but are beaten back by Fabio looking love interest Dimitri (Danila Koszlovsky-My is budushchego, Dikhless, Garpastum (I swear I’m not making those up)), the head vampire slave. The two of them get hauled into the headmistress’s office and read the riot act. Turns out Lissa is the last survivor of the Dragonmir clan and eligible to inherit the throne or something (anyone want to take bets as to whether she get the throne or not? The good news it it looks like we won’t have to find out).
Anyway, at that point the story, which had been chugging along at a fast clip (relative to the land speed Galápagos tortoise) slows down like a car with three flat tires and a fourth tire that is actually a Hefty bag full of treakle and used chewing gum. The girls start going to classes. Lissa spend a lot of time in her magic class (cough cough Harry Potter cough cough) and Rose in her combat bodyguard class (cough cough umm…Buffy meets the 36th Chamber of Shao Lin? cough cough). Oh yeah they share some kind of mental bond where at random (very plot convenient) points Rose can see and feel everything Lissa can but not the other way around. Stuff starts to happen that may be a serious threat to Lissa’s life but may also just be crazy high school vampire hijinx. Lissa’s ex boyfriend (I couldn’t pick him out from the other man/boys if you held a gun to my head. Sorry guy) has a slutty new girlfriend who hates Lissa. Some dude who might have been somehow associated with the school (or may have been just some creepy old dude hanging out with hot high school girls) asks Rose and Lissa to hang out with his daughter Natalie (Sarah Hyland-Modern Family, As the World Turns, Geek Charming). Lissa meets some emo dude (Dominic Sherwood-Not Fade Away, the Cut, Sadie J) and sort of romances.
I don’t really want to get into this any further. Bitchy high school hijinx ensues. There may or may not have been some kind of plot going on. There is some other teacher who Rose knew who opted to go Strigoi and now wants revenge for something (?). The Queen shows up periodically to bitch out and embarrass Lissa. Lissa uses her magic to brainwash herself into popularity. Inappropriate romance blossoms between Rose and the Russian Fabio dude. A lot of film rolls by without anything really happening. The end.
I know I said this is the best of the worst, but that is not really star worthy. I’m not in the habit of rewarding relative mediocrity. You can’t just hand out trophies to every kid who plays in Little League, can you? Well, most of the girls were amazingly attractive and if seeing hot high school girls in sexy ass Catholic school girl uniforms does it for you fuhgettaboutit. Of course this film suffers under the PG-13 rating like like a fragile oceanic eco system under a crude oil spill so don’t go waiting for anything higher than mid thigh. One star. In spite of the brain aneurism inducing script the acting, editing, and pacing were adequate. This puts this movie miles above such classics as the Host.. I guess I am in the habit of rewarding relative mediocrity. One star. There were a couple of laughable moments. Few and far between but I did catch myself laughing out loud (much to my embarrassment). One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes.
Story from Hell (possibly literally. If Satan were to take up scriptwriting this just might be the story he comes up with). One black hole. The director collected all of the vampire lore this movie ripped off or made up into a 50 gallon drum and then held the audiences head under it for about 55 minutes. One black hole. Speaking of ripping off, this film managed to “borrow” heavily from every vampire, high school, and teenage romance film, book, or play ever with the grievous and ironic exception of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category). One black hole. The motorcycle stunt from the beginning of the film (if you see it you will both understand and agree with me). One black hole. The big bad guy doesn’t really get introduced until the last 20 minutes. Until then it’s just HS BS. One black hole. What’s the deal with the half vamps getting shanghaied into taking a stake for the good vampires? Isn’t there one of those kids who wants to be an artist, doctor, or pot head? One black hole. Can someone please tell me where the good vampires got the idea that going Strigoi was a bad idea? If your options are to go teetering off into senility and death or killing someone and becoming a red eyed immortal monster I think after 70+ years the decision process could be pretty quick. In fact, the one thing all the exposition did was convince me that I not only don’t give a crap about these vampires and their rules but don’t have any interest in learning it ever. It’s like reading an instruction manual on how to punch yourself in the testicles. One black hole. Hollywood really needs to let go of the two ideas that they can launch another franchise based on the “Bland teenage girl with two romances from guys who’s interest in women is difficult to establish” and that vampires are even remotely cool. Face it guys. All the freaks who love vampires probably killed themselves at the end of Twilight when they realized that in four very long movies absolutely nothing happened. One black hole. PG-13 sucks. One black hole. This movie is 104 minutes you won’t be getting back. Two black holes. Total: eleven black holes.
So a total of eight black holes. Still not worse than Hercules but in the ballpark. Worth seeing? If you are a huge fan of the books maybe, but other than that the only other reason I can think of for seeing this is if you died the night before in the theater and the ushers haven’t noticed yet. However, it is certainly better than all the rest of the failed franchise launches so if you want to see it for some kind of sociological research go for it. Date movie? Well, the male characters with the exception of the Russian guy have all the machismo of the Vagina Monologs so you should be able to look kind of manly in comparison, but odds are if you either suggest or agree to this film there is a part of her brain that will be thinking “WTF is up with this guy?”. Pass. Bathroom break? Oh, pretty much any time you see a scene with actors in it.
Thanks for reading. I really didn’t expect this one to ramble on this long but it’s 12:49am on Febuary 15th and I’m working on this instead of being out with a Valentine so I guess I’m trying to convince myself I have a life. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have a comment about this film I pity you but feel free to leave it here. Off topic questions or suggestions should be emailed to [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
I, Frankenstein in 3D Review
Ay yi yi.
January is a fascinating month when it comes to movie releases. This is when all the films that were not really good enough to go head to head with the Xmas releases timidly stick their heads out of their hole in an attempt to sneak a little bit of leftover scraps still on the table only to get caught and eviscerated by the household cat (that would be me in this particular case). What is really interesting to me is that there is even enough money in Hollywood for movies they apparently know are going to suck but still managed to green light.
The studios are rarely wrong in the area of timing and that brings up another question: how can the studio be dumb enough to give the production of a stinker like the Legend of Hercules a $70,000,000 budget based on the script equivalent of the crayon drawings of a slightly above average chimpanzee yet turn into the Stephen Hawking of scheduling when it comes time to release their sewage onto the market? It seems like whoever they have deciding that this film just isn’t strong enough to swim in the adult pool should have been consulted a couple months before production started. Oh, well.
Not that I, Frankenstein is horrifically bad. Based on what I have seen so far (this and Hercules) it is literally the best release of 2014. It is a weird study in contrasts. The quality of the movie bounces back and forth like the needle on a Richter Scale during a 7.2 earthquake. The story is Ass from the Planet Ass in the Asstastic Nebula but for some bizarre reason they cast some exceptional actors and the acting is far superior to the actual dialog. The CGI seems pretty awesome at times and then all of a sudden it looks like you are watching the flying monkeys from the original Wizard of Oz. There are some really awesome action scenes and the world they have created is somewhat intriguing, but they literally overexplain every detail to death and then you realize that the werewolves and vampires (I’m sorry, gargoyles and demons) have been dredged up from the deepest literary pit and have no relationship to anything that makes sense. The plot moves in fits and starts but at least it moves, only to have every smidgen of good will you have garnered ruined in the last two minutes by one of the dopiest hero monologs since the ending of Cave Dwellers. I am a fan of Aaron Eckhart but he would have to absorb the acting talent of every actor in the history of the universe to make his oath to defend humanity against demons sound anything other than laughably annoying.
I would like to bring up another issue that got on my jock in this film. It would be fair to say that if I had a flatter head, some scars, and bolts coming out of my neck I would not need much more to look like the classic Frankenstein (Franky image courtesy of the Horror Movie t shirt category). Where do they get off casting a guy with the body of Adonis and a face that women seem to drool over? Sorry but when they keep calling a guy who looks like an ex Calvin Klein model a “monster” just because he has some scars it is an insult to those of us with average (or challenging) looks. Also, realistically what function is served by this? Do they really think they are going to pull in women to their Frankenstein action movie with him? I see this film as a real failing in forward planning. The main guy is too old to bring in the teeny bopper Twilight fans, too good looking to be believable to the guys who like action films, and the film is too action oriented to appeal to the women who might like to see Aaron Eckhart shirtless. Fail deluxe.
The story. Adam (Aaron Eckhart-Thank You for Smoking, Battle Los Angeles, Olympus has Fallen) starts off telling the story of his creation by Dr. Frankenstein and how he murdered Mrs. Frankenstein and let his creator freeze to death. While burying the good doctor he is attacked by demons who talk about bringing him back alive to Prince Naberius. Suddenly the demons are attacked by three living gargoyles; Gideon (Jai Courtney-A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher, Spartacus), Ophir (Mahesh Jadu-Taj, the Three Stages of Sasha, Singularity), and Keziah (Caitlin Stasey-All Cheerleaders Die, Evidence, Please Like Me). They pick up Adam and haul him in front of their queen Leonore (Miranda Otto-The Lord of the Rings, What Lies Beneath, War of the Worlds).
They turn out to be the Earthly manifestation of something that may or may not be angels sent to Earth to fight against demons. The demons want Adam for something and Gideon wants to kill him to keep them from him, but Leonore (after explaining every detail of the whole gargoyle/demon thing) opts to let him go after giving him some magic weapons. Adam wants nothing to do with their war but decides to dedicate his life to hunting down and killing demons (how is that from joining the gargoyles in their war exactly?) for some ill defined reason.
Flash forward 200 years and Adam is still running around the world looking for demons to kill. Meanwhile Naberius (Bill Nighy-Hott Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, About Time) is a very rich something and is experimenting with reanimating the dead. To do this he hires the hottest scientist ever Terra (Killer Elite, Chuck (yes, the blond), The Canyon) who for some reason doesn’t have alarm bells go off when a very evil looking and sounding dude tells her he wants to be able to reanimate corpses for humanitarian reasons.
(As another aside, sorry but this girl does not pull off the nerdy scientist very well. I know, I’m a big sexist jerk but honestly she looks and acts like the evil demons head of Marketing, not R&D. I’ll buy a woman scientist in a heartbeat but when they clearly look like the just got dressed from their Maxim photo shoot I can feel my suspension of disbelief gasping for oxygen.)
So Adam shows up in the City of Location Unknown (seriously, what city was this? It all started over 200 years ago and seemed to be somewhere in Europe but the few humans had British accents and the cop looked like a NYPD officer), where no one ever notices things like giant flying gargoyles and thousands of demons attacking a local Gothic building of unknown provenance and bursting into flame when the gargoyles attack them with medieval weapons. They pick him up and chain him to a chair for no apparent reason. The demons attack, and force Dr. Frankensteins notebook out of them in exchange for Leonore.
Honestly this plot is pretty predictable. Naberius wants to use either Adam or the notebook to build thousands more Frankensteins. Apparently if you are reanimated you have no soul and a demon can possess you. There are a lot of cool fight scenes and the movie ends with the stupidest monolog ever.
I can’t say the acting is exceptionally good but it far exceeded the boundaries set by the story and dialog. I think it’s just that they hired a bunch of really good actors. None of them did what I would consider a stellar performance when compared to any of their other work but overall the acting was actually kind of pleasant. One star. Most of the action scenes were pretty good, with some excellent transition from flying to ground combat. Looks like the fight choreographer really thought about what combat with flying statues would look like. One star. At the moments when the hamsters running the CGI wheel were well fed the CGI was really good. One star. While extremely derivative of Underworld (as in the clump of hair I just pulled out in frustration at another movie with a $65 million budget spending $114 and a case of Old English on the writing is derivative of my scalp) the world created was at least an interesting concept. One star. Bill Nighy was his usual awesome self. He plays possible the best villain out there. One star. The blond was at least easy on the eyes, although you see more of Aaron Eckharts body than hers. One star. At the end I didn’t feel like it was a total waste of 93 minutes of my life. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes.
The story was kind of dopey without any reason for the audience to connect to it. Who are these gargoyles and why should we care exactly? What is Adams motivation to do anything at all? This film also fell into the scope trap I talk about a lot. Destruction of the human race? Do they really think that I am going to believe that is how the film will end? If I can’t believe that the film producers would ever let the bad guys plan come to fruition how can I care about anything the good guys do? One black hole. If you are going to do a movie about the Frankenstein monster and call him a monster the whole time can you not at least make him look a little monstrous and not like an extra from a Gold’s Gym advert? One black hole. When the hamsters powering the CGI wheel ran out of food they died and stank up the screen with their bloated corpses, giving us creature movement that would have embarrassed the original Clash of the Titans. One black hole. The film sat right on the fence about being about the character of the Frankenstein monster, this hypothetical war between demons and gargoyles (can we just call them angels? For God’s sake commit to something and take a chance. Otherwise call them gargoyles and orcs, or insectoids, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters. It’s about the same), and just a dopey action film. One black hole. The PG-13 rating was a serious anchor on this film , with both demons and gargoyles dying in kid friendly evapo-explosions (kids should never see corpses or blood. That might damage their fragile little brains), only one female showing no skin below her knee, and all the other wet blanket aspects that a movie that should be going for an R rating but opts to try to make more money brings to the screen. One black hole. The whole plot is predictable and very by the numbers. It kind of just plods along like a horse pulling a plow and has about the same level of surprise and suspense. One black hole. Way too much dialog for an action movie. I normally applaud having things laid out but at a couple points I wanted to yell STFU to the screen. One black hole. While I suppose most of you could assume this will be my feeling in any 3D film but the 3D added nothing to the movie except an extra $3 for the ticket. One black hole. And finally the really insanely bad monolog at the end where Adam Frankenstein swears an oath to no one to defend humanity against the demons while posing on a church roof really made me want to burst my own eardrums with a knitting needle. One black hole. Total: nine black holes.
So two black holes, which puts it on the down side of mediocre. Better than the last film I did, making it my current contender for best film of 2014. I honestly don’t think it will hold that slot past this weekend. Worth seeing? I suppose if there literally isn’t anything else you want to see. There are good parts that you will enjoy but honestly other than occupying two hours of your life will add nothing else. Odds are you will have forgotten this film two weeks later. Date movie? Not really. The only thing that would appeal to your date would be Aaron Eckharts washboard abs and I don’t think you want to put yourself in that contest. Bathroom break? There is a scene where the hot blond is stitching up Adams shoulder that is 100% worthless filler. Go nuts.
Thanks for reading as always. Lots more to see this weekend. I need to get caught up and expect to have more funny reviews soon. Follow me on Twitter if you can @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this review or movie feel free to post them here. If you have off topic questions or suggestions email them to me at [email protected]. Thanks and have a great day.