Tag Archives: there should have been only one

xXx: State of the Union (2005)

xxx-sotu

“Get ready for the next level”

Directed by Lee Tamahori
Starring Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Peter Strauss, Samuel L. Jackson

A commando team bust into the secret HQ of the xXx programme, killing everyone except station chief Agent Gibbons (Jackson) and technical comic relief Shavers (Michael Roof). Informed of the incident, the president (Peter Strauss) is determined that his State of the Union address must tackle the causes of such attacks by building up international relations, much to the chagrin of hawkish Secretary and obvious villain Deckert (Dafoe).

Continue reading xXx: State of the Union (2005)

Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)

Monsters

“Fear has Evolved”

Directed Tom Green
Starring Johnny Harris and Sam Keeley

When alien life-forms spread from Mexico to the Middle East, the active role of US forces stationed there in combating the aliens provokes local insurgency. Four friends from Detroit are dropped into the midst of this two-fronted campaign under the command of experienced sergeants Frater (Harris) and Forrest. When a search and rescue mission goes pear-shaped, Frater and the last surviving recruit, Michael (Keeley) are trapped, surrounded by unfriendly forces.

Continue reading Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Never mind the dialogue, check out the corsetry.
Never mind the dialogue, check out the corsetry.

“Vengeance Returns”

Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James and India Eisley

Following directly from the end of the previous movie, we open with a narrated montage to get rid of Scott Speedman’s character and accelerate the plot into the future, because fuck continuity; am I right?

Anyway, humanity finds out about the Lycans and the vampires and a purge begins under a militarised medical establishment led by Dr Jacob Lane (Rea). Selene (Beckinsale) and Michael are blown up and she wakes upside down in a cryonic tank twelve years later, collects her combat catsuit, battle corset and eight inch assault heels from a cupboard right beside the tank and murders her way out of the building to look for Michael. Instead, she finds a vampire named David (James) and a girl named Eve (Eisley) who turns out to be a hybrid, and her daughter.

Continue reading Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Summer of Lovecraft: Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

beyond_re_animator_poster

“Welcome to a world where death is only the beginning”

Directed by Brian Yuzna
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Simon Andreu and Elsa Pataky

The Story

This film is a sequel to Re-Animator, rather than an adaptation of the original story. It ignores much of the ending of the first film, however, largely in order to bring Combs’ West back in.

The Film

During the ‘Miskatonic massacre’, one of the reanimated corpses escapes and kills a young woman as her brother, Howard Phillips (geddit?), watches. Phillips later sees Herbert West (Combs) being taken away by the police. Years later, West is continuing his work in prison, when Phillips (Barry) arrives as the new prison doctor, bringing the last of the reagent and asking to work with West.

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Terminator: Genisys

Okay, fine; the character stack will never die.
Okay, fine; the character stack will never die.

“New Mission. New Fate.”

Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke

In 2029, the human resistance is on the verge of victory over the Skynet AI and its army of machines. In a last ditch attempt to protect itself, Skynet sends a Terminator (Schwarzenegger), a machine disguised as a human, back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Clarke), mother of the resistance leader John Conner (the other Clarke), while John sends a lone soldier, Kyle Reese (Courtney) to save her.

Continue reading Terminator: Genisys

Jurassic World (2015)

This poster is bullshit, as like any live attraction park, Jurassic World doesn't feed its exhibits live prey in front of the tourists. Well, not on purpose.
This poster is bullshit, as like any live attraction park, Jurassic World doesn’t feed its exhibits live prey in front of the tourists. Well, not on purpose.

“The Park is Open”

Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins

Zach (Robinson) and Gray (Simpkins) Mitchell are sent by their parents to visit Jurassic World, the fully functioning dinosaur theme park on Isla Nublar, to distract them from their parents’ divorce. Their aunt Claire Dearing (Howard? Dallas Howard?) is the career-oriented manager of Jurassic World, juggling the titanic egos of InGen rep Hoskins (D’Onofrio), CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), chief geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong), and raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Pratt) and the expectations of sponsors and holiday makers who want bigger and badder thrills.

Enter Indominus Rex.

Continue reading Jurassic World (2015)

Blade Trinity (2004)

Are these three the Trinity? Because I always thought the members of a trinity were supposed to be equal.
Are these three the Trinity? Because I always thought the members of a trinity were supposed to be equal.

“The Final Hunt Begins”

Directed by David S Goyer
Starring Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds and Dominic Purcell

A cadre of savvy vampires seek out the first vampire in an attempt to increase their own power and destroy their nemesis, Blade (Snipes).

Continue reading Blade Trinity (2004)

Cyborg 2 (1993)

Cyborg2poster

“Future Beware: The Soul is in the Software”

Directed by Michael Schroeder
Starring Elias Koteas, Angelina Jolie, Jack Palance and Billy Drago

In the future, cyborgs have replaced humans in all jobs (except for all the ones we see anyone doing in the film) and two corporations struggle for dominance of the cyborg market. Casella ‘Cash’ Reese (Jolie) is created and trained to be the perfect corporate infiltrator, with the goal of inserting her into Kobayashi Electronics and destroying their entire board with an undetectable explosive, called Glass Shadow, loaded into her circulatory system.

80% of this plot setup will never be relevant in any way, as with the aid of the mysterious Mercy (Palance) and her human combat instructor Colt (Koteas), Cash escapes. Hunted by fellow cyborg Chen (Karen Shepherd) and cyborg-hunter Daniel Bench (Drago), she must find a way to get rid of the Glass Shadow then make her way to the Cyborg Free Zone in Mombasa.

There’s a whole Romeo and Juliet thing with Colt and Cash, but… meh.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, it’s a super-cheap, video-shot dystopian action movie from the early 90s, so the picture quality is for shit and the cyborg PoV shots are hilarious. I’m pretty sure they’re running DOS.

Jolie – in her first starring role – is… okay, but nothing to write home about, and with Koteas being pretty bland the lack of chemistry is pretty crippling for a Romeo and Juliet flick. Plus, he’s about thirty and she’s seventeen. It’s hard to put that out of your mind in the sex scene.

Oh, and yes, there’s another sex scene which even the movie admits is gratuitous. The Glass Shadow demonstration takes the form of a female cyborg who detonates at climax, and the lead creepy scientist admits this is because ‘it seemed the most entertaining way’.

What’s right with it?

Jack Palance is… pretty damned awesome in this one. Sometimes he chews on the scenery, but here he’s nicely reserved. It’s quite surprising. Billy Drago is… Billy Drago; he’s a smiling psychopath, just like always.

In fairness, Cash is pretty badass; no faux action credentials here.

How bad is it really?

It’s mostly just dull, especially in the bits which have neither Jack Palance nor Billy Drago in. It’s also pretty nonsensical, and spends an awfully long time setting up a plot which has almost no relevance whatsoever.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Having spent most of the film as a disembodied mouth on a TV screen, Mercy shows up to lay some hurt on the Pinwheel Robotics goons hunting Cash. He steps out of the shadows, chuckles dryly at the heavily armed opposition, and growls:

“If you want to dine with the devil, you’re gonna need a long spoon.”

And somehow he makes it work.

What’s up with…?

  • The universal prevalence of cyborgs, when we don’t actually see that many of them?
  • Mercy’s cyborg beagle?
  • The palm reader? Cash wanders into her consulting parlour unbidden, she gives a slightly sinister reading, says she can offer Cash a job, and then Cash beats her and her assistant up and leaves. Why?
  • Danny Bench and his plastic surgery? There is apparently some major backstory there, but it’s not really explained that well, and certainly isn’t tied into the rest of the film. Neither does it have anything to do with Cyborg, despite the clips of Van Damme.

Ratings

Production values – The effects are cheap, and only saved by the low resolution of the 90s video shooting. Film; it just ages better. 13
Dialogue and performances –  Jack Palance is stealing the show here with a low key performance. He also gets the only real quotable of the film. 14
Plot and execution – The setup is overly complicated and largely pointless, and the Romeo and Juliet plot is largely unconvincing, but it’s pretty much by the numbers and that’s hard to screw up too badly. 12
Randomness – Cyborg dog? Random palmist? Cyborg flashbacks? 16
Waste of potential – A sequel to Cyborg could at least be a sequel to Cyborg, you know? 13

Overall 68%

Prometheus (2012)

prometheus_poster_LARGE

“The search for our beginning may lead to our end”

Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba

This is going to be a more in-depth summary than usual, because the devil in this film is most definitely in the details.

On primeval Earth (I think, but it might be somewhere else), an alien who looks kinda like Mark Strong is left behind by his ship, drinks black goop, disintegrates and his DNA creates life (well, animal life, there are already plants). Well… maybe. See below.

In 2093, an expedition on the starship Prometheus reaches the moon LV-223, following an ancient star map discovered by archaeologists Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and funded by by-now-totally-dead-so-not-showing-up-unexpectedly-at-all industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in gratuitous old-guy make-up). Their mission is to find the ‘Engineers’, whom Shaw believes created humans and left the maps for their creation to follow when sufficiently advanced. In accordance with the requirements of long-haul, long-term deep space missions into the unknown, the crew are a mismatched pack of squabbling, psychologically unstable pillocks who have neither worked nor trained together, nor even met before waking out of cryosleep in a tin can the size of a farmhouse, surrounded by hard vacuum.

The crew includes Weyland’s creepy android protege, David (Fassbender); corporate executive Vickers (Theron), who has clearly been mainlining books on how to get ahead by being an unsympathetic ice-queen; and the ship’s captain, Janek (Elba), a slacker with integrity. Lesser roles go to an idealistic young Scottish doctor (Kate Dickie), an uptight security specialist who gets pouty about not being allowed to bring a gun to the dig (not conspicuously named, so I don’t know who played him), mad as a bag of spiders geologist Fifield (Sean Harris) and Pollyanna biologist Milburn (Rafe Spall). Of the crew, at least two are Englishmen doing American accents for no discernible reason.

Landing on the moon, they find and enter an alien structure. Fifield sends a group of drones to map the complex, and they then find a recording of the Engineers running from something. This leads to a chamber full of cannisters – which looks a lot like the egg chamber in Alien – and the discovery of an alien body and head and some black goop.

And this, sadly, is where it starts to get stupid.

A storm forces them back to the ship, but without Fifield and Milburn, who got separated from the rest because they left earlier and got lost, despite Fifield being the one who controls the mapping drones. The alien head explodes for no adequately explored reason when they do bad science at it, then Fifield and Milburn are killed by Freudian snake-things.

David infects Holloway with the black goop, because he has been given bad orders by the totally mysterious person still in cryosleep, which causes him to knock-up the previously infertile Shaw and then begin to decompose. Shaw uses a ‘men only’ medical pod installed in Vickers’ personal quarters/lifeboat to cut out the ‘child’, which is a squid.

David also finds a living Engineer in stasis, wakes Weyland from cryo (what! It was Weyland! And Vickers is his daugher? No way!) and takes him out to meet his maker, which ends up way more figurative than planned.

Realising that the facility they have found is a WMD factory and that the Engineers intended to unleash its weapons on Earth before they had a breakout, Janek crashes the Prometheus into the Engineer’s ship. Everyone dies but Shaw and Vickers, and the latter is promptly squashed by a falling spaceship when she forgets how to corner.

The Engineer tries to kill Shaw, but is glomped to death by the now-grown squid-baby/face-hugger.

Shaw and the decapitated David set off in another Engineer ship to find the Engineer homeworld and learn why they wanted to destroy their creation.

FIN/TBC

What’s wrong with it?

Prometheus was heavily sold as ‘a return to the universe of Alien‘ for director Ridley Scott. This promotion weighs on the film like a lead albatross, forcing the parts that work to conform to a pattern which does not suit them. Also, Scott clearly gives not a fuck for anything after Aliens, so that gets confusing for anyone unlucky enough to have seen Alien vs Predator.

There are a lot of WTF moments, and some of the science is iffy – the ‘map’ is a set of five stars which match a given constellation invisible to the naked eye, but a constellation is not a location; David opens the cockpit blast doors especially to pass by a planetary ring system – although some of the apparent inconsistencies make sense in retrospect.

Guy Pearce is unrecognisable under his old man makeup, but there are no scenes of the young Weyland, so I’m not sure why they didn’t cast someone older. Speaking of Weyland, his motivations drive much of the plot, but are batshit crazy. Sure, he wants to cheat death and sees the Engineers as his ticket, but why not crew his ship with people on board with that idea and link it to Shaw and Holloway’s goals, instead of sneaking around and hiring a crew of barely-functional misfits? Is this just part of his habit of being a total douchebag to anyone who cares for him?

David’s fixation with Peter O’Toole.

Idris Elba’s accent? If they needed him to be American, why not get him to do the Stringer Bell Baltimore drawl he was so good at? Likewise, why is Rafe Spall doing an accent? Why was it so important that character be American?

Vickers’ fling with Janek. It comes out of nowhere, goes nowhere, and adds nothing to the film.

Holloway is a complete arse. He mocks his girlfriend’s faith, is moronically insensitive of the feelings of inadequacy her infertility clearly engender in her, and calls David ‘boy’. I guess that could be a reference to Aasimov, but damn.

The Freudianness of it all! An incomplete Freud count is:

  • daddy issues all around
  • the facility is shaped like a boob, complete with nipple
  • it is also full of shafts which are explicitly warm and moist
  • the penis-vagina snakes; they look like ambulant penises, then open up to reveal their vagina dentata jaws. The double act of sexual fear.
  • the infertility subplot
  • the monster miracle pregnancy
  • the giant, extra-Freudy face-humper, which basically makes to engulf the Engineer with its vagina-jaws and then deep throats him with its ovipositor.

Someone must have unlocked the idiot multiball, because… Well, again an incomplete list:

  • Weyland’s pointless and ultimately self-defeating scheming
  • Holloway takes off his helmet out of impatience, then everyone else does the same when he doesn’t instantly drop dead
  • Fifield and Milburn completely forgetting the existence of a map so as to conveniently get lost
  • The security team just walking over to Fifield when his corpse shows up at the foot of the ramp, bent over on itself like unto a pretzel
  • Milburn trying to pet the penis-vagina snake
  • Randomly running current into the Engineer’s head, pretty much to see what happens
  • Vickers hiring this useless crew!
  • The abject failure of an entire crew to contain a traumatised, sedated, pregnant woman and to prevent her reaching a medical pod in a sealed lifeboat
  • Vickers and Shaw both running directly away from a falling spaceship, made worse by the fact that Shaw gets out of the way in the end by rolling sideways about three feet

Shaw remains incredibly badass for a woman who has just had major abdominal surgery with only local anaesthetic.

The black goop does pretty much whatever it wants, acting more like the monster in a supernatural slasher movie than a scientifically-based bio-weapon. Once more, a list:

  • causes complete genetic and cellular breakdown and reconstruction
  • engenders monster pregnancy
  • that leads to face-humpers
  • which impregnate victims with Aliens-like aliens
  • spontaneously generates vagina-penis snakes
  • animates corpses

The movie offers no explanations for anything much, which is fine, but in this case is more confusing than mysterious.

And why do the aliens look so much like Mark Strong?

What’s right with it?

Fair play to it, this film looks great. I mean that, it is gorgeous to behold, from the majestic sweep of the planet in the opening crawl to the Prometheus‘ descent over LV-223, to every aspect of production design, the cinematography and the shot compositions, this is a masterclass in technical film-making.

Some of the things that bothered me on first viewing make sense in retrospect. Most of Vickers’ unpleasant characteristics pan out as the result of being second-string to a robot because her dad wanted a son so much he wouldn’t legitimise her, and David’s super-creepy behaviour, which seems odd in a robot, makes sense as the result of Weyland’s creepy instructions (although see above re Weylan’s creepy instructions). Even the overarcing plot makes more sense when you realise that the planet at the beginning isn’t named as Earth, and maybe that scene is actually the start of a purge, not the creation of life.

Or not. It’s not explained.

How bad is it really?

Prometheus is its own worst enemy. If it had just knuckled down to its own story of aliens and faith and identity and not pissed about with Alien, it would have been a much better film. It would still have had problems, but they would have been fewer and easier to ignore in the grand sweep of the visuals.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Any given long shot of landscape, but especially the landing shot on LV-223, as the Prometheus passes vast mountains and descends through the clouds.

What’s up with…?

  • The fixation on lionising or tearing down faith?
  • The crew?
  • The goop?
  • The stupid decisions?
  • Idris Elba singing badly in a cod American accent?

Ratings

Production values – Pretty much flawless. 0
Dialogue and performances –  There are some weird accents on display, which is odd, because otherwise a top-notch cast gives top-notch performances of a mostly-coherent script. There are a few pseudoscience clangers and pretty much every assault on Shaw’s faith is hamfisted, but nothing too egregious. 8
Plot and execution – There are no clear explanations, which comes across as messy, not enigmatic. People forget stuff when it is convenient to the plot, and the idiot ball in this film is a sharer. The second half of the movie is a mess after a pretty tight opener. 14
Randomness – The Freudian symbolism; the goop; the Engineer ship being controlled by a flute. Every plot development brought on by stupidity. The entire corporate conspiracy plot. The attempt to pretend Weyland wasn’t the one in the pod. 16
Waste of potential – This film promised so much, literally as well as figuratively. It is not terrible, but it is terrible compared to what it offered. 19

Overall 57%

In the Name of the King: Two Worlds (2011)

In-The-Name-of-the-King-2
Man, this poster makes the film look so much more badass than it is.

“Fight to the End”

Directed by Uwe Boll Starring Dolph Lundgren

Ex-Special Forces nice guy Granger (Lundgren) is rescued from ninjas by a sorceress, who dies, but not before taking him into a mediaeval fantasy world where he is prophesied to battle an evil witch.

Or IS HE!

What’s wrong with it?

Losing the Dungeon Siege license, Uwe Boll creates an alleged sequel to In the Name of the King which is no such beast, but actually a shaky crossworlds fantasy jaunt, with Dolph Lundgren in the role usually given to a plucky schoolboy or hopelessly romantic librarian.

Lundgren was a powerful man in his day, but years of action have taken their toll and here he is just ponderous, his body apparently so battered that he can barely move. I’m sure he was better in The Expendables, so it may be a matter of having enough time in the shoot for him to limber up. The fact that his only expression remains the ever-popular dull surprise is no help, especially given that he’s given the role of narrator.

The twist in the tale is poorly concealed, yet makes little sense. The film as a whole is also much longer than I expected, denying it even the virtue of brevity.

What’s right with it?

The Seer – a crazy woman living in a tree – is pretty creepy, and the stab-happy king, who seems to have some sort of compulsion to shiv up his own people, is awesome in a crazy kind of way.

How bad is it really?

The film reeks of complete pointlessness. The plot is hackneyed, twists and all, and for much of the duration the internal motivations of the characters seem to be ‘hey, stuff needs to happen so let’s chase Dolph until it does’.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Manly McRoyalguard tries to get Granger to let him buy time to escape, and when Granger won’t run just up and kicks him off a cliff.

What’s up with…?

  • Granger’s bland acceptance of everything that happens to him?
  • All these women throwing themselves at Granger? It’s not as if there are any actual sex scenes.
  • The entirely random role of women in this pseudo-mediaeval society? ‘Bed-warmer’ sits oddly alongside ‘trained physician’.
  • The bizarre quasi-ye olde dialogue? It mostly seems to be there so that people can misunderstand Granger’s modern idiom, but it’s horribly forced.
  • Dr Manhattan? It’s a strange name for a pseudo-mediaeval physic.

Ratings

Production values – The film lacks any of the redeeming qualities of the original, like good lighting and clear audio. Conversations are as often as not talking heads to keep the reshoots down and the choreography is second string at its best. 14
Dialogue and performances –  Lundgren is the heart of the film, and he misses most of his beats. It’s not easy to blame him, however, given the godawful material he is given to work with. 16
Plot and execution – The plot is dull, the characters unconvincing, and the film shambles ploddingly on without pace or vavavoom. 15
Randomness – The bad Shakespearean dialogue, the terrible and pointless narration; the lack of any real direction in the film actually makes chunks of the main plot into randomness. 13
Waste of potential – After what was Uwe Boll’s finest, this is a let down even from him. 12

Overall 70%