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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I hope you brought eye protection because there will be a lot of bile flying around on this one.
I know I was only supposed to do the worst 10 to match my best 10 from last post but honestly the field was so thick with candidates I didn’t think I could limit myself. Remember writing these posts is more for my benefit than anyone else and after most of last year I have a lot of pent up movie frustration to expunge in a literary orgy of tortured metaphors, run on sentences, and analogies to horrible sexual, scatological, and blasphemous images.
Once again I can only list the films I saw. I’m sure there are plenty out there that make these films look cinematographic masterpieces rather than the pond scum that they are but I don’t have the time or inclination to seek them out. I will also say that while most of these movies truly do suck they serve some function if only to give us perspective. Without these 15 films to set the bar low enough to trip a wiener dog the worst film last year would have been Parker or Stand Up Guys. The scripts of those films should have been used as radiation shielding at Fukushima but it did have a few watch-worthy moments and if you were passed out in front of your TV the subliminal suckage your subconscious mind absorbed would not have been TOO damaging. There’s always a low man on the totem pole and if you can’t identify him it’s probably you.
15. G.I. Joe Retaliation. Imagine if you will a reproductive artist creates the ultimate sculpture of a giant pile of poo. It is flawless in every detail, with just the right proportion of corn to excrement and moisture glistening in the carefully positioned lighting in way guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of any coprophile. Literally a polished turd so perfect and flawless you can almost smell it. Well, that is pretty much what G.I. Joe Retaliation was; a perfect, flawless representation of the sewage outflow of Hollywood action movies. Well executed, but at the end of the day it’s still based on s&$&.
14. Jack the Giant Slayer. Some films take classic literature and tell a cool story with neat twists that makes you appreciate the classic tale with a warm satisfied sense of childhood nostalgia. Others take the stories and molest them in ways no amount of therapy or drinking will ever blot from your memory. This is definitely the latter type. I have a problem with great literature being beaten into a shape that appeals to the brain softening “creative” people of certain companies who’s name may or man not rhyme with “fisney”. This movie would worth your time if you feel the need to see Ian McShane in his douchiest role ever (until they cast him as Douchy McDouchalot, the lead singer of the Douchetones). Normally a crappy period piece at least has some redemption available in the costumes but outfits in this film would embarrass a troupe of transvestite circus clowns.
13. 21 & Over. This one ended up at 13 but to be honest it could have ended anywhere. I know I watched it. I know I wrote 1,343 words about the experience. I think there was an Asian guy and two naked white guys in it. However, except for those details I can’t for the life of me recall this film. I had to read my own review in detail in order to even consider it. Now, I wouldn’t call myself an expert on film theory or legitimate film criticism but it seems to me a movie that is so forgettable that I can’t remember a single scene from it six months later just might be a bad one. I’m just saying. Anyway, it’s foggy nature puts it in the relatively harmless position of number 13, but if I were actually able to recall it odds are it would have ended up lower.
12. Spring Breakers. I’m now at the point that I reach every year while writing this where I want to make every film left the number one worst movie. The funny thing is I don’t have such a hard time with the best films. I will give this film some credit for at least attempting something out of the box and having some white trash nudity, but realistically this film was a laughable joke that wasn’t actually funny. However if you are into scenes being repeated ad nauseam and chicks in bikinis dancing in slow motion while some frat boy squirts water all over them then this or the latest Girls Gone Wild is the film for you.
11. A Good Day to Die Hard. This film may very well show up again when it comes time to hand out the special awards (cough cough Franchise Killer of the Year cough cough). Hollywood in many ways is resembling a vampire stuck forever in an old mausoleum, breaking open caskets to suck on the dry bones of past films in the desperate attempt to find the slightest hint of moisture and blood remaining. John McClane was a staple of my youth. This film is a staple in my taco. This is why if you are going to do a sequel to a classic it is worth talking to the director of the classic if only so he can tell you what you are doing to the series it tantamount to a body cavity search. Or at least watch the original.
10. After Earth. Sci fi movies should never be done by people who aren’t actually sci fi fans. I mean, you wouldn’t go see your lawyer to have your gall bladder removed, would you? Similarly you wouldn’t go to a science fiction movie to unwittingly learn about a religion popular among celebrities invented by a writer if some mediocre sci fi novels that involves the spirits of dead aliens would you? I see this movie as evidence that Will Smith grossly overestimates his and his families star power. The thought process seems to be “Sure, we can write a boring script filled with plot holes, bad science, weird ideology, and have it star my box office unproven son while I yell at him over a radio and it will be successful because I AM A CINEMA GOD!” Well I guess you are not. Also this film has pretty put the final nail in the coffin of my admiration of M. Night Shyamalan (which started dying as the final credits for Unbreakable began to roll).
9. Machete Kills. This film was supposed to be a spoof on bad film making but it seems to have forgotten the spoof part. The first Machete was a fun spoof. This is just all the pain of a bad film with none of the humor. I mean, all the potential good of this very concept had already been milked dry in the first one, leaving us with the corpse to watch decay for two hours. Also someone grab Robert Rodriguez and tell him a crappy joke doesn’t get funnier when you redo it 4-5 times.
8. R.I.P.D. Now I’m at the point where I have to decide which movies would literally cause me less pain to watch a second time and of the eight remaining films on my list this one is only a modest beating. Honestly this film is more boring than painful (although it is also painful) so I guess if I needed a massive dose of Ambien and couldn’t find a street dealer it would work in a pinch. Also if the last thing on your bucket list is to see Rooster Cogburn join the Ghostbusters this would let you die in peace. However it is in all ways awful and deserves to be buried in a shallow grave outside of Kettleman City California.
7. The Counselor. Can’t I just take this and the next six films and call them all the worst films of 2013? Ridley Scott, what happened to you? Honestly this film sounds like the opening scene to a Ridley Scott remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers wherein an acclaimed director comes out with a dull, convoluted, and pointless film much to the confoundment of his fans and a humble reviewer of a very minor blog is compelled to investigate, discovering the current Ridley Scott to have been grown in a pod in his garden and the real Ridley Scott is now Soylent Green. I wasn’t looking for another Aliens necessarily but at the same time I didn’t expect to see the Heaven’s Gate of the 21st century.
6. Hansel & Gretal. This and the next five films collectively could be considered a crime against humanity if shown back to back so the actual order is really kind of irrelevant. The reasons this film is number 6 rather than 3 or 2 is because there was one really, really excellent nude scene and because while the movie sucked like 10,000 Romora eels at least I liked the concept. Kind of a Brothers Grimm version of Vampire$ (the book not the movie. Thinking of the Vampire$ movie just made me throw up a little in my mouth. Thanks a lot, Hansel & Gretel). Also I find it amusing that Jeremy Renner is now a big star but had this stinker back in his closet and the studio opted to capitalize on his recent fame by embarrassing the crap out of him. BTW in answer to the question that I know is burning through her mind yes Gemma Arterton I will marry you in spite of your participation in subjecting me to this monstrosity. In fact it seems the least you can do.
5. A Big Wedding. A big failure, really. We are really scraping the bottom of the barrel (and yet, I still have four movies to talk about). This has everything I hate about assemblage story telling along with all of the assorted stories being ass too. This film is like cutting up 14 of the worst episodes of Threes Company and randomly sewing them together like the Movie Centipede. The reasons why it is number 5 and not number 1 is first off like Hansuck & Regretal it had the most pleasantly surprising nude scene ever (it was like being force to grind up broken glass by chewing on it only to find one of glass fragments you just destroyed your mouth with was actually a decent diamond) and for the fact that this is the only film in my top 5 that did not sully the world of nerd interests. It was not sci fi, supernatural, or interesting.
4. Getaway. I guess pointless, convoluted, plot hole infested stories is a thing for me as 3 of my 15 could accurately be described as such. This one takes it to a new level. I’m not sure what brain parasite ate into Ethan Hawke in order to make him think this script was worth doing but he should get a brain flush immediately (also known as firing his agent). Also, I guess every year I need to have one star end up twice on this list. Last year it was Ryan Reynolds (who only appears once here, a 50% improvement! Well done Ryan) and this year it is Selena Gomez. I honestly don’t hate her as an actor but she is drawn to bad films like a baby seal to the business end of a club and in this one she felt as natural and unforced as Tom Servo, Crow, and Joel do in any episode of MST3K (with the exception that I would have been very glad to see the Satellite of Love crew in this bomb). Also if you are going to force in some eye candy can you have her wear something other than a hoodie?
3. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Ha ha ha. There are days when I really love doing this, and when handed teenie bopper tripe like this and the next two films (you might see a pattern in my bottom three films) I start to salivate like Jason Voorhees stumbling across a college cheerleader camp (Friday the 13th image from the Horror Movie T Shirt category BTW). It is saying a lot when I tell you that this movie was actually worse than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I think Hollywood is perplexed as to why all their attempts to ignite a new vampire-ish teenage franchise keeps falling on it’s face like a drunk with a broken beer bottle stuck in the back of it’s head but I think I have an answer. This stems from my experience in the skateboard market. You see until the last cycle skateboarding tended to follow a 7 year cycle where a bunch of kids would get into it for a time making it the biggest thing out there only to have most of them realize that skateboarding is hard, dangerous, and hurts (the last cycle was extended by one thing: Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It’s way easier to dress like a skateboarder and play a video game about it than actually get on a board). It troughs out until the next group of testosterone rediscovers it. I think all the morons who fell for Twilight have had their fill and all the younger kids who would be those morons are so turned off by the first group that they refuse to get into it. I’d say Hollywoods best bet would be to let the sparkly vampire genre lie fallow for another 6-7 years and try again. Meanwhile let the Hunger Games have it’s day. Really, though, there can be only one.
2. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. See everything I just said about Percy Jackson and then multiply that times some of the most odious characters since Divine from Pink Flamingos. While Percy Jackson gets a bit of applause for the effort behind it, this film I would happily see get run over by a combine. Also, with a $60 million budget you would think they could do fake tattoos that didn’t look like a high school kid doodling on his arm with a Marks-a-lot. The entire cast should be wedgied daily, with the blond main kid getting a covered wagon. In my review I gave a list of reasons why this film sucks that resembles the invite list of the worlds biggest wedding. I know most of Hollywood is either completely brain damaged or thinks we the audience are but is a decent story and some direction so hard to accomplish? It’s not like there aren’t examples of what a good movie should be. Next time rent a couple of Scorsese films and when it comes time to make your film do what he does.
1. The Host. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to have predicted that this film would be my number one. It’s the perfect storm as far as I’m concerned: a story style I hate written by an author I have contempt for for an audience I despise in a genre I love. For me she is like Cruella Deville except instead of making her fur coat out of her own Dalmatians she came to my house, skinned my puppy alive in front of me, and sewed it into her jacket still bleeding. Fortunately I was able to let the air out of her movie by illustrating in graphic detail exactly how much it sucked. If this film were placed in a time capsule and opened in 5,000 years by Doctor Who he would probably come back here and give the Daleks a detailed map of how to get to Earth. Awful in every regard unless you are really turned on by cute but bland chicks (where else have we seen that formula used…?).
So that’s my list. Do I feel better now that I have dumped on these cinema surgical remnants? Yes. Yes I do. Have I made the world a better place because of all the reviews I did last year? Well, since I’m sure no one in Hollywood would ever deign to read my blog or ever take any of my criticism to heart in one sense no, not at all. On the other hand if even one of you, my beloved readers, opted to see a great film or avoid an eye raping thanks to what I have written over this last year then yes I believe I have. So my special awards are still to come up and I have a big backlog of new movies to see (I was in LA this last weekend and didn’t get to see anything) so look for more reviews coming up soon. If you have any comments on this list or these movies feel free to post them here and if you have any off topic questions or suggestions email me at [email protected]. Thanks and have a great week.
A mixed bag of good and bad.
I’ll admit it has been years since I read Enders Game. In fact I think I read it when it was a novella (the book actually went through several revisions) as when I went home and reviewed the story it was closer to the movie than I remember. It was a good book, and good source material for a decent movie. However, what we got seemed to alternate between good and seat squirming bad.
The biggest issue here is the pacing. The book is a tremendous story (actually several different stories, depending on which version you read. Orson Scott Card likes to match his book to the political clime) that takes place over six years. This movie tries to incorporate all that but in truth leaves the entire movie rushed and feeling like there are a lot of missing scenes. The whole development of Ender as a military genius had a very organic approach, with him and his friends at age six figuring out how to beat the other teams in the zero gravity game. In time they become a very tight group who knew each other instinctively and worked together as a team. In this film it all seems to come together like a portrait made by tossing cans of paint into a tree shredder. All of a sudden there is a completed mess and not a dook of an idea how it all came together. I honestly am going to blame this on the director not being willing to cast several boys to play Ender at different ages.
Another problem is this film more or less starts off with the base assumption that Ender is the savior of the human race and everyone is just there to help him realize it. In the book he was just another kid recruited into the Battle School and over time exhibited his command potential, along with certain psychotic personality traits.
Yet another issue that the movie actually shares with the book is the squirmingly inappropriateness of recruiting preteen children to fight wars. It’s actually harder to watch here than in the book (although the book started them off at six). When you see a bunch of kids together your brain wants to channel a Disney film, and to then see a bad imitation of Gunnery Sergent Hartman from Full Metal Jacket yell and scream at them like they are in Li’l Tykes boot camp is just dumb. The whole time you see these kids learning to fight you can’t help but feel that this is just wrong on so many levels. One of the adult characters more or less says the same thing by mentioning that using anyone under the age of 15 to fight is a war crime, but the issue washes off the screen and is never really approached again.
On the other hand the film is very pretty if you like long video game trailers, and all the acting exceptional. I am a huge Ben Kingsley fan and he looks weirdly great with face tattoos. Harrison Ford is a welcome presence on any screen for me, and Asa Butterfield pulled his role off nicely. Like I said, there is a lot of good here too.
The story starts off with a personal bee in my jock strap, a monolog about how the Formics invaded Earth and were defeated by a hero named Mazer Rackham (I wish Hollywood would realize how out of the film a monolog really takes us. It is a lazy directors tool to get around actually having to film something). Skip forward 60 years and the Earth forces are preparing for the next big push on the Formics by training children (in the book the training took the form of increasingly complicated games (kind of like the title of this movie) but here it is all classroom stuff) to be the soldiers. Ender (Asa Butterfield-Hugo, the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Wolfman. Image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category (yes I know it’s not the same Wolfman. I only have so many resources)) beats another kid in a game and gets bullied by him afterwards. He beats the kid near to death and is expelled from the program.
Meanwhile Col. Graff (Harrison Ford-Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner) decides that the cold blooded psychotic approach Ender took with the bully might be just what they need and with Major Anderson (Viola Davis-the Help, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Won’t Back Down) re-recruit him. He goes into orbit where Graff purposely alienates him for some reason (there was a lot of missing motivation in this film too) and he is more or less hated by his classmates. They don’t do any of the zero gravity games that were such a big part of the book until Ender is transferred to another group. There he has to deal with miserable bully Bonzo (Moises Arias-Hannah Montana, Despicable Me 2, the Kings of Summer) but meets good friend (and closest thing to a romance) Petra (Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit, She’s a Fox, Romeo & Juliet).
There he gets pushed around by Bonzo until he excels and is given his own army. His army beats Bonzo, who takes it the wrong way and tries to beat him up. In the fight Endor cracks Bonzo’s skull for him (in the book I think Bonzo dies) and feels so badly he resigns (again, missing motivation here really). Graff gets Enders sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin-Zombieland, Signs, Little Miss Sunshine) to talk him back. Once back in orbit he trains more. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book so sufficed to say aliens/human space battle is joined.
Visually stunning, with great CGI and special effects. Camera work was really good too. Two stars. All the acting and casting was excellent, especially Asa and Harrison. Two stars. Sci fi movie. One star. Sci fi movie based on a book that made a strong effort to remain true to the book. One star. Ben Kingsley. One star. In the end a decent time watching. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
The pacing issues really hurt the story, giving you little connection to the continuity of the plot and consequently made me not really get invested into the characters. A lot of good stuff got cut out I think. Two black holes. The whole child soldier thing was really off putting. One black hole. There were a lot of unexplained motivations, like why Ender even wanted to be in the program and then later why did he quit? One black hole. The ending, while true to the book, was truly underwhelming and opened up a whole new box of unanswered questions. I guess they are setting up for the movie version of Speaker of the Dead, but while Enders Game was great that book was garbage. Bottom line the whole movie kind of puttered out. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A total of four stars. Decent, but based on having seen about 100,000 trailers all of which seemed more interesting and exciting than the actual movie I was expecting more. I’ve noticed that I tend to come down harder on films that are based on books I have read, but I really tried to see this film as a stand alone project. Should you see it? If you read the book, like science fiction, and are not bothered by pacing and continuity issues absolutely. See it on the biggest screen you can track down. It will be worth it. Date movie? Probably not. There isn’t the slightest whiff of romance in this film, and the cute kid is kind of off putting as a young sociopath. I’d choose something else, although I don’t know what based on what is out right now. Kind of a dearth of date friendly movies. Maybe Free Birds?
Thanks for reading as always. I’ll try to see at least one more movie this weekend. Maybe two. Follow me on Twitter for review announcements. If you have a comment on this film or my review feel free to post them here, but I get a lot of spam so don’t hate me if I accidentally delete it. If you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at [email protected]. Thanks and have a great night.
Carrie, Carrie quite contrary. Why was this movie made?
I’ll give you all fair warning: this review is going to have a lot of me bitching about and bemoaning my own miserable high school experience (or, as I like to think of it “The years whose name must not be spoken”). To say this movie struck a nerve or two with me is like saying being eaten alive by fire ants is an unpleasant way to die or George Lucas has ruined his legacy. However, you know how the saying goes: cows moo, pings oink, Dave bitches about high school. Read on if you are cool with it.
The real question here (and the same question that came up in movies like Footloose and Red Dawn) is “Why did this film have to be made?” It has been years since I saw the original Carrie (image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category) so I had to look up the plot in order to make sure my impressions were correct and sure enough this one is almost a scene for scene remake (with some YouTube thrown in). Remakes are as always a sure sign that Hollywood has just given up on the whole original idea thing (hey, creativity is hard work) and as the trend continues we can expect to see inevitable remakes of Citizen Kane, Blade Runner, Alien, Dumb & Dumber, and the Neverending Story (oh, wait. That last one is in production). Since there were two other remakes for Carrie done already (one for TV and one for something else I forget) this is actually the fourth Carrie, so I guess in three years we can look for another Carrie starring Willow Smith.
Where this film differs from the original is in tone and scope. The first film was a true horror film in the sense that Carrie goes nuts and mind murders her entire class. This film is more a teenage outsider angst drama with 20 minutes of action but none of the horrible dread that so made the first film work. Only the real trouble makers get killed, the gym teacher survives, and you tend to lose your hatred of Chris (the main bitch) when she is pleading with her daddy via text to come rescue her. A true horror film has one (and only one) survivor, not a bunch of kids sitting on the lawn while firefighters come to save them.
That being said, the fantasy of the alienated outsider gaining super powers and using them to kill most of his or her school mates is one that sat heavily in my mind from 1st grade up until my 30th birthday. In most films you are supposed to identify with the protagonist and revile the antagonist. When a film has you thinking “there but for the lack of mind powers goes I” while watching Carrie incinerate her class the film stops being a horror film and kind of turns into a dark comedy. I’m sure for those of you who enjoyed high school and didn’t view each school morning with the dread of a prisoner walking the Green Mile this film looks pretty awful but there was a big part of me wishing for a higher body count.
The story. If you have seen the original Carrie skip ahead a few paragraphs. If you haven’t and find them annoying there are a bunch of spoilers incoming so SPOILER ALERT. It starts out with Margaret (Julianne Moore-Crazy, Stupid Love, Children of Men, Magnolia) having the creepiest birthing scene since It (another film that is on deck for a remake. Can’t wait). She has a child who grows up into Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz-Kick Ass, Hugo, Let Me In). Margaret is a crazy super religious nut and more or less raises Carrie in a Bible Skinner box. Chloe has an awkward menstruation episode in the shower at school and thinks she is bleeding to death. Her classmates, headed by main bitch Chris (Portia Doubleday-18, Youth in Revolt, Big Mammas: Life Father, Like Son) and Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde-the Three Musketeers, Dark Horse, Endless Love), throw tampons at her and make fun of her. Chris films it on her phone. While this is going on a lightbulb bursts. Carrie is rescued by Mrs. Desjardin (Judy Greer-Three Kings, the Village, What Women Want), the PE teacher.
Carrie is picked up by her mother and locked in her prayer closet. Over the next few days Chris posts the video on YouTube and has the whole school laughing at her. Meanwhile Carrie is discovering she has telekinetic abilities and is researching and practicing with them. Mrs. Desjardin is pissed at the whole group of girls and forces them to do punishing exercises. Chris refuses and is expelled and banned from the prom.
Sue is feeling guilty and gets her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort-first film credit) to ask Carrie to the prom. At first she refuses but he shows up at her house and she agrees (with some encouragement from Mrs. Desjardin). Chris is pissed and gets her hoodlum boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell-the Host, Chronicle, Wasted on the Young) to kill a pig and rig a bucket with it’s blood over the stage at prom. She arranges for the king and queen vote to be rigged and Tommy and Carrie are voted in. On the stage the blood is drenched on Carrie and the bucket falls, knocking out Tommy. Carrie thinks everyone is laughing at her and goes on a mad TK killing spree, ending with the death of Chris and Billy in their car.
She eventually ends up home and washes the blood off. Her mother finds her and they pray together, but Margaret stabs Carrie in the back with a knife convinced she is a witch. Carrie kills her as Sue arrives to help her. More TK nonsense ensues leaving Sue pregnant.
Very well executed. The director Kimberly Peirce also did Stop-Loss and Boys Don’t Cry and her expertise shines through. Two stars. I am hesitant to give this film a star for story as you literally can’t get more derivative but if this were a stand alone film I would reward the plot, so one star. All the acting was excellent, and the characters all very believable. The bitch is a bitch, the hood a hood, the little goody goody a goody goody, and the alienated religious girl just as troubled as you would believe. One star. A bonus star each for both Chloe and Juliane. Both were awesome characters and very well portrayed. Two stars. If you have a burning hatred of your high school experience and all the little pretty children who went to prom (guess who was working at a pizza restaurant that night instead of attending? I spent most of the evening hoping they all got each other pregnant) than the last 20 minutes are very gratifying. One star. In spite of the first 60 minutes being all high school drama and build up I thought the pacing was excellent. I was engaged the whole time and never felt the need for a fast forward button. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
This film will get a black hole from me until someone can explain to me what function was served by actually making it. Remakes are like wearing water wings in a wading pool. One black hole. I don’t know where Kimberly Peirce went to high school but if I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was the world of the Time Machine where all the fat, ugly, nerdy, pimply kids were forced to move underground as Morlocks leaving the beautiful Eloi above ground to attend the Prom. One of the reasons Chloe worked as Carrie is until she dresses up for the prom she is the least attractive girl in the film and you know that is saying a lot. Normally I reward films for only casting hot chicks but in this case I really think a kid with self esteem issues (i.e. all of them) could really be damaged. Also all the dudes were pretty much hot chicks too if you know what I mean. One black hole. This film failed to really strike a tone. Was it a horror flick or a teeney bopper coming of age film with 20 minutes of blood? Were we supposed to hate Chris or feel sympathy for her? Are we supposed to identify with Carrie or Sue? A lot of grey in this film. One black hole. This film ate the rated R pie and then toned down the actual horror and violence anyway. Without the cussing it really was straddling the PG-13 line. It definitely felt softer than the first film. If you are going to draw a zero comp on your Warhammer army anyway I say make it as broken as possible. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A total of four stars. Not bad. If you are a fan of Chloe or never say the first Carrie I’d say this is well worth your time. However there is nothing really hear to require a big screen. Even the action horror parts of the film would not have look out of place on an after school special. There was only one scene that had the potential for visual excellence and it cut short super fast. Date movie? Odds are your date has fond memories of prom night and therefore you should probably steer clear. Bathroom break? You absolutely don’t want to miss Prom night but the rest of the film really is just so much lead up. I’d say any scene up until Carrie finishes making her dress is disposable.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to see something else tonight and write it up tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have a comment on this review or the movie feel free to post it here. If you have an off topic question or suggestion email me at [email protected] (single ladies are especially welcome to take advantage of this option). Have a great night.