Tag Archives: bad ecology

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Dinosaur

“Little arms, big heart”

Directed by Peter Sohn
Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliot, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright

65 million years after a giant asteroid doesn’t hit the Earth, a family of apatosaurus headed by Ida (McDormand) and Henry (Wright) work a small family farmstead with Flintstones-style technology. Their smallest child is Arlo (Ochoa), a runt with out-sized feet, and Henry asks him to protect the grain silo from ‘critters’ to earn a sense of self-esteem. When he takes pity on the critter – a young caveboy (Bright) – Henry is killed in a flood when they pursue the boy.

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Admittedly, it lacks the subtle depth and melancholic introspection of Only Lovers Left Alive...
Admittedly, it lacks the subtle depth and melancholic introspection of Only Lovers Left Alive…

“Some interviews with some vampires.”

Directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Starring Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement (you may notice a pattern here; they also wrote it), Rhys Darby, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford, Jonathan Brugh, and Ben Fransham

In a dingy house in Wellington, four vampires have a flat share: Viago (Waititi) is a 16th century dandy, Vladislav (Clement) is a former Transylvanian warlord, Deacon (Brugh) is the 180-year old rebel bad boy of the group, and Petyr (Fransham) is Deacon’s 8,000-year old progenitor, a taciturn monster who lives in the cellar and looks like Count Orlock in Nosferatu. Their quiet lives of slightly sad dissipation among New Zealand’s vampire community are thrown into disarray, first when they become the subjects of a documentary film crew, and then when Petyr turns one of their victims, Nick (Gonzalez-Macuer).

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Blast From the Past – The Lion King (1994)

It's kind of fortunate that baboons are among the primates with fully opposable thumbs.
It’s kind of fortunate that baboons are among the primates with fully opposable thumbs.

“The greatest adventure of all is finding our place in the circle of life.”

Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Starring  Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin

The young cub Simba is born to Mufasa (Jones), King of the Pridelands. While Simba is still a young, reckless cub, his father is killed by his brother Scar (Irons) with the aid of his hyaena minions (Goldberg, Marin) and flees into exile.

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Blast from the Past – The Jungle Book (1967)

Nature, cheerfully technicolour in tooth and claw.
Nature, cheerfully Technicolor in tooth and claw.

“The Jungle is JUMPIN'”

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Starring Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway and others

A young infant is adopted by a family of wolves and named Mowgli (Reitherman), but the pack kick him out when Shere Khan (Sanders) the tiger comes hunting. As his guardian Bagheera the Panther (Cabot!) tries to escort the reluctant Mowgli to the nearest man village, he encounters the insinuating python Kaa (Holloway), the cheerful bear Baloo (Harris) and the mocking monkeys of orangutan King Louis (Prima,) before his final showdown with Shere Khan.

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Dragon Wasps

dragonwasps_300

“A New Breed of Evil”

Directed by Joe Knee
Starring Corin Nemec, Dominika Juillet and Benjamin Easterday

When her father disappears, entomologist Gina Humphries (Juillet) takes her best friend and a military team led by going-native Captain John Hammond (Nemec) and his 2IC Meyers (Easterday) into the Mexican jungle to look for him. Here, they uncover a corporate conspiracy to create a breed of fire-breathing giant wasps, and are caught between the wasps and a band of voodoo drug growers led by the psychopathic Jaguar.

What’s wrong with it?

Like most SyFy Channel creature features, Dragon Wasps is incredibly cheap, and heavily reliant on CGI. Not only are the wasps themselves pretty lame, every explosion and every bullet impact is CGd.

There were clearly a few changes in running order late in the day, as the pistol Hammond gives to Gina disappears for a while.

The history between Hammond and the cartel is never really explored, in particular, it’s not clear why Jaguar calls him ‘Beastman’*, which is super-confusing since he does so more often than anyone calls him Hammond. I just figured it was his name.

What’s right with it?

The performances, if not Oscar-worthy, are not terrible, and the terrible CGI action sequences are spaced out with humorous character moments. Also, cheap horror is hard to do, but insects laying eggs in people is a reliable trigger.

How bad is it really?

Dragon Wasps is a blast. It knows it’s bad, so it has some fun, but without being all wink-at-the-camera or cheesy.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Discovering that coca paste repels the wasps, the leads spend the second half of the movie slightly high from rubbing coca leaves on their skin. At the denoument, they discover that they are out of leaves but that Gina has accidentally brought a dozen bricks of import grade cocaine from the cartel compound after mistaking it for C4.

Gina: The good news is, it’s super potent.
Meyers: And the bad news?
Gina: It’s super potent.

What’s up with…?

  • ‘Nature’s Napalm?’ How does a fire-based chemical defence make sense for a species living in a densely forested environment? I guess they were engineered.
  • Jaguar’s crazy voodoo cartel? They’re lifted whole-cloth from Predator 2 and I can’t see how they would be a credible threat given their extremely skewed weirdness-to-professionalism ratio.
  • Name-dropping Mansquito and Sand Sharks? Man, monster movies just got meta.

Ratings

Production values – Cheap and cheerful, which at least means that it’s cheerful. 12
Dialogue and performances – The script is basic stuff, but with enough humour to carry it, and the players deliver it straight, never mugging for the camera or winking at the audience. This is the work of solid pros earning their supper. 6
Plot and execution – Sets up its premises and works them through. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but again, it neither pretends to be, nor makes any claim to be a satire when it isn’t. It does the job it came here to do. 10
Randomness – Beastman? Voodoo cartels? Fire-breathing wasps? Okay, that last one is pretty much in the title. 11
Waste of potential – Oh, if only all creature features did their job this well! 3

Overall 42%

* In retrospect, it might have been ‘police man’.

The Other Side (2011)

Ferocious_Planet_DVD_poster
AKA ‘Ferocious Planet’

“They’re not on Earth anymore!”

Directed by Billy O’Brien
Starring Joe Flanigan, John Rhys-Davies and Dagmar Döring.

Dr Jillian O’Hara (Döring) is demonstrating her dimensional window to a doubting Senator, when a malfunction sends a group of observers into a deadly parallel dimension, full of giant carnivorous beasties and cultivated pine trees.

What’s wrong with it?

A stock team of quirky characters – the uptight scientist, disgraced military man Colonel Synn (Flanigan, phoning it in as basically the same character as he played in Stargate Atlantis), his upbeat black 2IC, a hippie assistant, a stick-up-the-butt senator (Rhys-Davies with a terrible accent) and a plucky, preppy presidential adviser – battle CGI not-dinosaurs in a planted pine forest, while a pair of ‘enterprising’ jerks die badly for their greed.

The dimensional window is cheap, the accident cheaper, the dinosaurs positively bargain basement. One man is critically wounded with a length of pipe under the armpit and several others die in a clearly CG splatter of gore.

What’s right with it?

It’s kind of fun in a very stupid way.

How bad is it really?

Even for a stablemate of Wyvern, this is pretty weak fare, with no real distinction.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Running out of ammo, Colonel Synn grabs a branch from the forest floor, which snaps in half; just like a real branch would.

What’s up with…?

  • The formulae that the science bods scribble in a book to brainstorm the problem? I’m pretty sure that they mean nothing.
  • The complete lack of prey animals in a forest full of apex predators?
  • The conflation of ammonia, acid and explosives?

Ratings

Production values – Possibly the cheapest dimensional window ever, and tacky CG dinothings. 14
Dialogue and performances –  The performances are entirely adequate, which sadly just brings the paucity of the script to the fore. 12
Plot and execution – A basic stranded storyline is not enlivened by a weak SF gimmick. 14
Randomness – Nothing is truly left-field, making predictability about the only thing that this film has going for it. 7
Waste of potential – Poor, even for SyFy’s Maneaters line. 15

Overall 62%