Reviews written by registered user
|11 reviews in total|
I recorded this movie on my PVR, thinking it was going to be just
another cheapo actioner imitating Asylum's garbage. Planned to
fast-forward through the painfully boring parts, and stop by only for
the delightfully stupid or violent (nudity was also promised by the
warnings, but it turned out to be not female :)).
...and I ended up watching it from beginning to end. This movie actually has an interesting SF and Cold War premise; several great veterans of acting (Michael Ironside and Adam Beach) and performers I have never heard of before (Camille Sullivan, and Gabriel Hogan whose evil perfection is genuinely captivating), and they all seem to fill out their roles comfortably and believably. The actors manage to make their characters interesting enough that you want to listen to what they say, however banal that sometimes turns out to be. The writer(s) also tried to drag a bit of science and historical 'authenticity' into their story, and the dialogue is pretty decent (sometimes even good) most of the time.
On top of all that, the sets are solid (if indubitably inexpensive), there is an excellent use of real life locations, and the effects range from competent to good. This film is not a shoot'em-up actioner, but the action it does have (and when it has it) seems well-paced, and integral to the story.
Low-budget, frequently flawed, and somewhat cliché'd (I thought the 'big reveal' at the end was obvious after the first 5 minutes of the film), it is mediocre at best. Considering how many TRULY horrible movies you are flooded with on a daily basis, though, 'Ice Soldiers' is definitely not a bad movie; and it tries in every area - and really hard - not to go out of its way to offend your intelligence. Plus, this is one of perhaps only two or three movies in which Dominic Purcell is actually perfect for the character he plays!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No matter where you stand on the issue of immigrants/refugees, this
series will give you stomach cramps from the get-go. Admittedly, the
acting is decent, and some of the characters are somewhat interesting,
but by and large watching this show is like having to sit through hours
of a banal party meeting where the minutes were prepared by childlike
demagogues who lack the slightest artistic merit or sensibility.
The metaphors/allegories are so obvious, forced, and in-your-face that they choke the living daylight out of what otherwise would be a valid message. Since there is literally no distinguishable difference shown between humans and aliens (other than a couple of gimmicky plot devices), most of the time I found myself struggling to figure out who is an alien and who isn't, and got frequently confused about what is happening on screen, and why. Not to mention the seemingly endless series of inane jokes made at the expense of the homosexual character, who comes across as the cheapest of stereotypes...
If you want the same message in an infinitely better and more refined wrapping, try 'District 9', any of the old 'Alien Nation' entries (whether they be from the TV series or its follow-up feature-length installments), the original 'V' TV miniseries, or any of the two dozen or so other films and shows that have explored the mechanics and insanity of discrimination and racism much better, and with a truckload more nuance, than this tripe.
I understand the importance of the film's message, but if this is the best you can put forth to try to convince people about it, something is seriously wrong with your attitude towards both your cause and your audience. People who are not on board with it already, will find this series annoying, pretentious, and dogmatic; and people who are already on its side will find it insulting to both their intelligence and to their cause.
While watching it, I could not help but see the parallels between 'The Aliens' and the cheapest, most dogmatic, most amateurish movies in what I would call (for lack of a better term) the 'evangelical Christian' genre, even though they are supposed to represent the exact opposites on the political scale. I get equally irritated by 'Left Behind' (ANY of its installments) and by 'The Aliens' - except the latter enjoyed a much bigger budget, much better (professional) actors, and much more polished film-making expertise, so it has no excuse for turning all that into such a terrible drag.
Let me start by stating that I loved DR1, and found DR2 a surprisingly
(and unusually) well-made and entertaining sequel, even if (clearly)
not of the same caliber as the first movie. As such, I admit I had
fairly high expectations for this third film, although I was not hoping
for anything more than just a plain, good ol'fashioned, B action fest.
What you get instead is a badly edited piece of manure that lacks coherence, but is rich in really poor and amateurish performances, stuffed with mostly mediocre (and occasionally outright pitiful!) f/x. I cannot understand how the same director (and largely same cast) responsible for DR2 could end up with this mess! Sure, most of the problems - 'snipped' action sequences, scenes sequenced so quickly and randomly that they resemble a meaningless collage of music videos, nonsensical dialogue that makes you think the actor/actress is responding to lines cut from the final product, words dropped/missing, incoherent scenes, confused camera work etc. - could be explained by a hatchet-job in editing. Still, no matter how bad the editor may have been at his/her job, it cannot possibly explain the amateurishly exaggerated performances from virtually all the actors/actresses involved, very much including Ving Rhames, Luke Goss, and Danny Trejo, all of whom have proved themselves before (to a greater or lesser extent) to be able to carry their lines and scenes rather well.
This movie obviously had a much smaller budget, and did not have the benefit of inheriting the original cars (and probably some sets) as DR2 did. It is all the more surprising, then, that the director did not even make full use of the f/x and explosions/kills that they did spend money on, oftentimes opting to cut away from them and not letting them play themselves out on the screen!(?) There are a few genuinely nice (sometimes even beautiful) shots (courtesy of the stunning desert location) a few somewhat interesting cars (though most are entirely too reminiscent of those in Fast Five) and Eugene Khumbanyiwa (the actor who played the Nigerian warlord in District 9) is as deliciously psychotic as ever - but they are the rarest of exceptions in this otherwise confused, utterly amateurish endeavour. I found myself beginning to yawn about halfway through, and could not help but feel that DR3 compares to DR2 much the same way as, say, the Nemesis sequels compared to the original Nemesis.
I've never played the video game, nor have I ever heard of it (other
than the recent TV ads for its latest release) so I can't write much
about how authentic or faithful it is to its roots. This, in a sense,
is a good thing, since a movie should be able to stand on its own.
'Red Faction: Origins' clearly proves two things. The first is that you don't need gazillions of dollars to make a halfway decent movie. Sure, it will certainly not be an Oscar contender, and it uses plenty of (sometimes soap-operaish) clichés and plot twists - some of which you will likely see miles ahead - but compared to the usual idiotic mess that Sy Fy scrapes up from the bottom of their production barrel, this is actually pretty good! It has got a fairly interesting and cohesive story that doesn't violate the basic rules of logic, it has engaging actors/characters, serviceable (if rather low-budget) sets and props, and SFX that range from low- to medium-TV quality. Brian J. Smith is proving himself again to be a reliable performer, Danielle Nicolet is fairly good, and there is a whole host of well- and semi-well-known actors who offer up (mostly) solid work - though the characters as written don't necessarily offer much to work with.
The other thing this movie proves is that Sy Fy is obviously capable of producing SF B-movies of reasonable quality - which means all the crud they have been pushing unto the long-suffering fans for nearly a decade is not by accident; they must be doing them on purpose. And this thought, frankly, is both depressing and maddening.
If you are an SF fan, 'Red Faction: Origins' is well worth watching. Again, not in the same class as 'Dune' or some other, more polished efforts, and SyFy sure as heck didn't invest more money in it than the absolute minimum they could get away with, but it is solid Sunday afternoon/evening entertainment. In short: the first SyFy movie in a decade or so that didn't send me into screaming fit of rage over SyFy Channel's industrialized incompetence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vile, repetitive, self-serving, stupid, and worst of all: BORING.
This series has never survived on the strength of its story lines or character development, but on one or more of the elements most people expect from a slasher flick: an interesting antagonist who could be killed but doesn't, characters you are afraid to lose but do anyway, and gore that is both spectacular and original in its presentation.
This garbage gets rid of all the above. Once you realize that Jason survives absolutely ANY and ALL forms of destruction imaginable, it simply becomes an endless cycle of the same 5-minute segment of killed/revived, killed/revived, killed/revived... ad nauseum infinitum. Once you realize that all the characters could be reanimated at any moment (though, most stupidly of all, the protagonists introduce this tech in the beginning, and then promptly forget about it for most of the remaining ninety-something minutes) you stop caring about whether they get killed or not. Finally, the vast majority of the gore scenes come from the seen-that-many-times-before collection, so even originality is out through the window - or airlock, in this case.
The saddest part is that the special F/X are generally very good (i.e. ranging from TV-level-serviceable to feature-film-quality - hence my rating of 3 stars), and the cast (composed mostly from the crew of the TV series 'Andromeda') features several talented - or at least visually appeasing - actors and actresses. By the time the end credits roll, you feel like you have just been violated in the nether regions of your body, but so badly that you fell asleep in the middle of it.
This movie is exactly what you expect from the genre: mindless fluff
with adolescent jokes, nudity, and lots of gross-out stuff. It is,
however, unapologetic about it, and invests a lot to carry things to
the extreme, which is what gives it its charm. If you cannot take any
of the above and find enjoyment in them, don't waste your time with Van
If, on the other hand, you like vomit-inducing pranks, beautiful young girls flashing their boobies, and hilarious one-liners galore peppered by a huge dose of stereotypes (but without hatred), you will have one of the most entertaining 2 hours of your life. Every time it plays on TV I find myself watching it again and again. The two leading male actors, Ryan Reynolds and Kal Penn, are exceptional as usual, and Tara Reid, while she offers her customary wooden non-performance, fills out her role enough not to be painful. A surprise find is the actor playing Tara's boyfriend: he plays so well, you will LOVE to hate him.
All I can say is, with college for 20 years behind me, I wish I had a Van Wilder when I was attending school. And the movie even has a message!
This is a strictly B movie that manages to successfully disguise its
true identity up until the last 1/3rd of the story.
The story is nothing new - Clint Easywood, amongst others, charted the same territory of vigilante cops pulling the wrong newbie into their group in 1973's MAGNUM FORCE - but it has been spiced up with some bullet ballet that is actually more realistic than most big budget affairs produce. Overall, the photography and lighting are very professional in a gritty way, and so is the editing, which gives the movie a very polished, well-budgeted look. Still, police dramas with mediocre plots need to be carried by their characters, and while Stephen Baldwin does make an interesting hero, his shooting does more for character development than his dialogue. Tia Carrere is nice, but she comes across way too smart, and definitely way too composed, for a call-girl, and she shows virtually zero skin - an especially big disappointment in a genre film of this kind...:) If anything, the supporting characters, the 'baddies' who make up the police team, are the ones that carry you through several scenes: their action is fairly nicely choreographed, and it is a pleasure to see them die.
...but, ultimately, Scar City really fails. The first third is somewhat engaging, because the director wisely spends his time to establish the protagonists' and the antagonists' strengths and weaknesses. The second third rolls well because of all the action suddenly exploding onto the screen. In the third, though, where action and characters could be nicely pulled together into a tight, plot-driven finale, the film crumbles into a dozen silly clichés and inconsistencies instead. Why would you ask someone whether they can shoot, a few hours after they showed you their gun, telling you how they used to shoot squirrels with it? The mess is hardly mopped up by an incomplete and nonsensical ending that makes it look like the director was too tired to tie up a dozen characters and plot lines.
Still, for a slow weekday evening it is good gunplay.
Your typical summer blockbuster: short on story and dialogue, long on
action and looks.
It is a fairly entertaining movie with special effects that range from the weak (scaly cats) through the mediocre (most of the ultra-wide-angle CGI shots were extremely blurry) to the absolutely superb (the ships and all CGI hardware in general).
The production design is generally breathtaking. Although not absolutely original, it does an excellent job of mixing elements of Nazi-baroque with a Gigeresque tapestry of shiny biomechanoid black-and-white.
Regrettably, the dialogue is forgettable, the background legend is cliché'd, and the characters are barely more fleshed out than the 2D cardboard cutout figures set up in the lobby.
The real strength of "Pitch Black" - a favourite of mine long before Vin Diesel was ever discovered - was that, in lieu of a decent budget, Twohy advanced the film's narrative and held the viewers' attention through character-driven miniarcs. In "Pitch Black" ALL the characters are in constant change and growth; by the end of that movie, all of them go through a radical change of perspectives, and all have a personal journey of redemption - or final fall into darkness.
For "The Chronicles of Riddick", Twohy got the chance to play with a $100 mil. budget, and in the process completely forgot that strong character development can only help an action movie, not hurt it. Although one can see the germs of fascinating personalities behind the heavy costumes, the actors and actresses never get the opportunity to make the viewer CARE for them. The Lord Marshall - an ideological offspring of Hitler and Torquemada - gets too little screentime to make us hate and respect his powers enough, and hence his faceoff with Riddick lacks punch. The same applies to his rvial and second-in-command. Kyra and the imam seem to appear only to establish continuity with "Pitch Black" (and to supply Riddick with a flimsy motivation). One interesting exception to this is the Necromonger who saves Riddick's life on the prison planet: his dialogue is brief, but those few lines make his character more memorable than half the movie's cast put together.
There are some minor flaws in logic, but the most abused aspects of this movie (why Riddick is caught by the group of mercenaries, surviving the firestorms on Crematoria etc.) are actually very well explained and, within the rules of physics that govern Twohy's Universe, are absolutely logical (for real-life inspiration, read up on the planet Mercury).
There are two SERIOUS technical flaws that I found personally annoying.
First, most of the action scenes are edited so fast and blurry that in many cases (e.g. the shootout in the prison office) you simply lose track of who is doing what to whom. This is supposedly done to give the audience a taste of Riddick's speed and power, but it becomes so incomprehensible that it leads the viewer to detach him- or herself from the story. You simply give up trying to understand what is happening, and just lean back waiting for the end so a wide-angle shot can explain to you who survived the confrontation. For an action scene to be visceral, it has to make you feel like you are a participant - it has to make you clench your fist and jump from your seat with tension. Instead, it just makes you reach for the popcorn.
Second, Riddick's constant pull-on/pull-off of his sunglasses becomes comically repetitive by the middle, and makes some scenes look like a long Ray Ban commercial. In addition, Twohy made Riddick a bit more 'touchy-feely' than in "Pitch Black", and it does not suite him in this context. I wish he had retained his devil-may-care cynical sense of humor: droopy-eyed puppy-sad brooding is Stallone's specialty, and Sly is much better at it anyway.
Overall, I really hope this franchise succeeds. I like Vin Diesel; I think he is a talented actor, and brings a strong presence to the screen. Similarly, Twohy ("The Arrival", "Pitch Black", "Below" etc.) is an extremely gifted director who has an uncanny ability to transform a low budget B movie concept into a well-scripted A class flick. I truly hope they will make a third one which might combine the best of "Pitch Black" (strong characters with an interesting morality play) with the best of "The Chronicles of Riddick" (superb visual design and special effects).
Overall: go and watch it! It will give you a pleasant if forgettable two hours. It is no "Second-hand Lions", but neither is it a tripe "Alien 3".
This is one of the most captivating SF movies I've seen in ages.
PLEASE, do not rent it if you expect to see another Matrix or Die Hard 298. This is not a slam-bam-blow-them-up thrillride (which I also like), but a slow, visually stunning exploration of the human mind and soul. Oshii uses the camera like an artist uses his/her brush and canvas: this movie is a painting, clear and simple, a decadent orgy of colors and music, of shadows and lights, of reality and surreality fused into a single dream. It is also VERY heavy (occasionally even preachy) which is something you might already be used to if you have seen "Ghost in the Shell" and similar Far-Eastern films, and multi-layered with symbols and allusions and metaphors. No matter how many times you watch it, you are always finding new meanings and messages unfolding like petals of a flower.
The special f/x are excellent, although many of them are designed to retain their 'artificial' flavour which is essential to the understanding of the film's message. In fact, in many places the REAL images of the REAL world are intentionally made to look like hand-painted cells from a Japanese anime, and at times you literally cannot decide if what you are watching is animation or film - which is no small feat, especially when you realize that (with the exception of some 3D work) the original 'rough' shots are made with as traditional a technology as possible.
What is the movie about? Well, there are multiple interpretations. It may be about whether we live in reality or not; whether we under-appreciate our 'ordinary' life in a reality that others would consider heaven; whether in the modern world it is still possible to be a hero, or are we forced to escape into cyberspace if we want to be heros ourselves; whether life is a game, and if it is, can we win it - and should we keep playing it even if we know we cannot win in the end; whether we can control our fate, and whether control means willfully choosing a slavery of real life, or accepting a virtual slavery that we can control; etc. The movie plays with the same concepts that surface in "Ghost in the Shell" (of course) and "Blade Runner" and "Kaffka" and "Matrix" and "Gattaca" and "Brazil" and "The Twelve Monkies" and "Dark City" and "Solaris" and "Stalker" and many-many other films, but it is much better and more tightly integrated than any of the others. In fact, there are many indications (e.g. the 'Ghost' of the little girl, the design of the tanks, the figure of the Bishop) that it may be a 'prequel' to "Ghost in the Shell". At the minimum, there is definitely a tight intellectual connection between the two.
WARNING! "Avalon" does have some 'traditional' action scenes in it, and they are executed with style and gusto, but it also slows down a couple of times, and has about 7 minutes (overall) that could have been trimmed without losing its character.
ALSO, the DVD I watched (Miramax NTSC release) is set to the Polish language by default, so you have to actually go to Setup and switch to English (it has both an English language track AND optional subtitles) before you start playing if you want to watch it in English.
A must-see for everybody who appreciates fine cinema.
Starquest II (often run on TV as "Galactic Odyssey")is yet another Roger
Corman quickie, and regrettably from the producer's very late - and
irredeemably awful - period.
Corman is a legendary producer who has never been all that concerned with quality in his films, but he is famous for giving hundreds of young directors and actors/actresses a fair chance to break into the movie industry by financing their efforts, and so he may be justly credited with the discovery of many great - or at least solid - talents from James Cameron to Helen Hunt. In addition, in the '70s, '80s, and early '90s he also managed to release - among hundreds of other films - quite a few decent B movies across the entire spectrum of escapist entertainment, often with pretty decent sf/x and almost acceptable scripts.
Beginning some time in the mid-'90s, however, Corman started releasing 'montage' movies. These films were literally spliced together from his previous movies, the disjointed sequences glued to each other with a flimsy storyline (usually stuffed with dream sequences and such) and 30-40 minutes of original footage where the action takes place on one or two sets. As an added bonus, these movies feature tons of big-name performers who have no control over what the director does with the footage of their previous appearances. Insidious.
Starquest II is one of the worst examples of this: there is really no story to speak of, nor acting, nor even any consistency. Corman had run out of shame by the time he reached this travesty of celluloid. You will find the by-now-customary starwars-like sequences from his Battle Beyond the Stars (ALL of them...), followed by footage of battles in the Vietnamese jungle that are followed by shots of attack scenes in a North American stone quarry, then sequences from various monster- and cop movies, as well as many other cheapo shots from sci-fi action flicks. Just so you can prepare for the horror: there is, for example, a scene where the aliens talk about how some of their people rebelled against their empire, and the narrator states that these alien rebels behaved not unlike some animal rights activists - and you suddenly find yourself watching scenes from another (circa 1980) movie where HUMANS are releasing animals from their cages!!!
It is not merely a bad movie - IT IS NOT A MOVIE, just a collection of stock footage. It has one redeeming quality, though: there are plenty of - from a North American perspective very explicit - sex scenes, and the starring ladies seem to exhibit less than the usual tonnage of silicon. Strangely enough, in this unnatural beast there are many nice and natural boobies...
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