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Monday, October 8, 2012

Category 6: Days of Destruction (2004)

With the advances in computer software that allow even the cheapest effects houses to churn out scenes of incredible, if not totaling convincing, mass destruction the boom in made for TV disaster movies has really escalated over the years. Category 6: Day of Destruction is prime example of one of these and it tosses the viewers a roster of B list actors and has been veterans into pretty much paint-by-number scripts in cacophony of CGI destruction, but the thing is if it is viewed in the right light and with proper expectations these films can still be a lot of fun.
This film starts off with a God giving sin city the finger as Las Vegas is torn apart by tornadoes that completely caught the people at the Severe Weather Center off guard. Running the show at the SWS is Andy Goodman (Brian Dennehy) a weather man who praises his guts and instinct over doppler radar, and is legendary in the field (I had no weathermen had heroes). Upon seeing the way the weather is going lately he isn’t all that upset that he’s being put out to pasture. He is of course being replaced by a smarmy jerk who doesn’t think instinct and hunches have any place in weather forecasting. Meanwhile Mitch Benson (Dharma and Greg's Thomas Gibson) is trying to keep the lights on in Chicago at Greater Midwest Electric during a record breaking heat wave, but is a bit distracted as he is having an affair with Rebecca Kerns (Chandra West) a public relations head working for the evil energy company Lexer Corp (I’m assuming the name of the company is suppose to make us think of Smallville's Lex Corp) whose practices of cutting corners makes them especially vulnerable to hackers. Reporter Amy Harkin (Nancy McKeon Fact's of Life) tired of puff pieces her boss keeps sticking her with finds a whistleblower, but is it too late? Secretary of Energy Shirley Abbott (Dianne Wiest) declares that America is a first world super power with a third world energy network and if things aren’t upgraded soon it could lead to…wait for it…DISASTER! Rounding off the cast of characters is Amy’s brother who flies for the U.S. Air Force Weather Hunters and his pregnant wife, but the gem in this ensemble is Tornado Tommy (Randy Quaid) who is a storm chaser par excel lance, and who will get you closer to a twister than you’d really rather be.

A massive hurricane rips through the Gulf of Mexico destroying everything in its path which of course enrages Goodman because none of his people saw it coming...again, “And now people are dead! From now on if a dog farts in Duluth I want somebody in this office to know about it.” Then a huge lightning storm destroys the generators that keep Chicago lit so Lexer Corp steps in to save the day, but pushes their plants beyond safety regulations and ends up polluting the waters, but of course they claim it was an accident (psst It’s cause they’re evil).

Goodman and his cute young intern discuss concerns that the arctic front pushing down towards them fueled by the polar jet stream is going to collide with the storm coming up from the Gulf being fueled by the tropical jet stream, and guess where they are going to meet? Yep, down town Chicago. Amy’s whistleblower gives her the scoop on the vulnerability of the Lexer Corp power system but her boss won’t run the story because he’s afraid of fighting such a big company (he must later get a job at Fox News). So the whistleblower decides the best way to show people how easily the system can be wrecked is to hack into it himself and shut down the power to the city. Of course he does this just as the two major storms are about to converge on the city and with no television or phone systems operating the people can’t be warned. Needless to say things go from bad to worse. Mitch Benson’s wife and rebellious daughter (are there any other kind in these films?) are trapped in the bank with the daughter’s gun wielding boyfriend, Amy’s pregnant sister-in-law gets stuck in, you guessed it that hoary old chest rears it’s ugly head, an elevator. To paraphrase Elmer Fudd, “North winds blow, south wind blow. Typhoons, Hurricanes… Earthquakes! CLICHÉS!!!”
A band of tornadoes (F-6 in scale) race up Tornado Alley taking out St. Louis and its landmark arch heading to join up with the category 6 hurricane coming down from the north and when they meet it will be as Goodman states, “Nagasaki and Hiroshima times fifty.” Our band of characters have a lot to contend with as the whistleblower futilely attempts to undue the damage he caused, while Mitch and Amy team-up to rescue his wife and daughter and the trapped sister-in-law.
The storm roars over the city as triple twisters take Tommy Tornado up into their loving embrace (he goes laughing so we don't feel bad), the evil head of Lexer is taken out by his exploding escape helicopter, and the Air Force Storm Hunters form a daring plan to fly into the eye of the storm to rescue their loved ones.

Now the visuals this movie provides for these storms consist of three elements; stock footage, CGI effects, and scenes from The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake and in some cases they are very effective but in others they come off really, really cheesy. We certainly didn’t get anything like the cover art implies of an F-10 tornado ripping through the heart of Chicago while a massive storm surge sweeps across the city, in fact the mentioned storm surge is never shown.

I can only recommend this film to die hard disaster buffs, and tell everyone else to just move along as their really isn’t anything to see here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, but still there is worse...Category 7: The End of the World leaps to mind.



Poseidon (2006)

When it comes to remakes this film to me is the way to do it, you take the premise ship hit by rogue wave, is flipped over, and a group of survivors must climb their way up to freedom, and then populate it with completely original characters. There are some scenes that mirror the ones in the original, but overall Wolfgang Petersen has put his stamp on the story.
It’s New Years Eve and the immense luxury liner Poseidon cuts it’s way majestically through the waves. On board is Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) a professional gambler, Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell) ex-mayor of New York City as well as former firefighter, his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel), Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfus) whose boyfriend recently dumped him and is suicidally depressed, there is cute stowaway Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro), single mom Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Conor (Jimmy Bennett). After our introductions to these characters, and a fairly painless “meet cute” moment between the gambler and the single mom, we find ourselves in the grand ballroom as the New Year is rung in…and then disaster strikes! And face it folks this is the moment that gets you in theatre, and like Irwin Allen before him Petersen doesn’t waste time getting to the good stuff. Practically effects and stunts abound, but of course much of the effects of the ship being hit by the wave and the results of it rolling over are liberally enhanced by CGI, and some times the effects look great, while other times they lean a little to the cheesy side. But all quibbling aside watching the Poseidon getting hit by the rogue wave, and all it’s occupants being tossed higgledy-piggledy is damn impressive. Once the ship settles upside down in the water, the survivors take stock of what happened. The captain (Andre Braugher) wants everyone to stay where they are and wait for rescue, while Kurt Russell wants to find his daughter who is one deck below (now above) at the disco. Josh Lucas has no intention of waiting around for a rescue, and upon hearing his plan the mom, her kid, the heartbroken Dreyfus and Russell decide, with the help of a crewmember, to make their way up to the bottom of the ship. Surprisingly there is no scene where Kurt Russell implores the rest of the people to come with them, the small group just decides to leave, and aside from an argument with the captain, they leave rather quietly. What follows is a torturous journey through deck after deck of death and destruction. Dead bodies are constantly floating by to remind the viewer of how precarious the situation is, and while not too grisly it may not be appropriate for the kiddies. The only scene in the movie that I didn’t like was when Elena the stowaway goes into hysterics when told she must crawl through a small air duct, sure claustrophobia is a crippling affliction, but in disaster films I’m sick of the screaming hysterical woman stereotype. Slap her, and if that doesn’t work leave her behind. Well I won’t get into anymore detail as to what happens to our intrepid cast of survivors, just to say that each hurdle they must pass will keep you on the edge of your seat.
This film caps off Wolfgang Petersen’s water trilogy, and though not as dramatically satisfying as Das Boot I did like it more than The Perfect Storm. So if you’re in the mood for a good popcorn film this weekend you have my hearty recommendation to go and see Poseidon.

Next (2007)

Nicolas Cage’s latest film is Next and is about a Vegas magician who actually has supernatural abilities. Cage plays Chris Johnson, or Cadillac Frank as he goes by on stage, and he has the power to see the next two minutes of his personal future and thus he can change the outcome of certain specific events. He uses this ability for his magic act and to quietly rip-off casinos. Two events then pop up to interrupt this idyllic life; the first is a forewarning of Liz (Jessica Biel) who he sees in a premonition well beyond his standard two minutes, and the second is the FBI’s sudden interest in him helping them stop a nuclear detonation somewhere in California. Now one of these elements could lead to possible sex with Jessica Biel so it’s not hard to believe that Cage would blow off the whole saving millions of lives thing. In all fairness the movie tries to make his choice seem less assholish by telling us he and his abilities were treated very poorly when he was a child, and that he believes his two minute window into the future couldn’t possibly help national security (later we get a scene where the FBI straps him to a chair ala Clockwork Orange to help our sympathy along), but I for one don’t buy it. I’d like to think that if I were told that there was even the slightest chance I could save millions of lives that I’d feel obligated to at least try.

Now the movie has some great elements, primarily having to do with the use of his ability; seeing him looking into multiple futures to foil pursuers, win a fight, or to find the best pick-up line that could lead to sleeping with Jessica Biel. These moments are a lot of fun but the films use of the terrorist bomb threat badly offsets the story. The nuke itself is just a silly Maguffin as we are never told who the terrorists are or what their agenda is. The bad guy team is composed of French, German, and Asian members while the apparent architect of the attack is just a person on the phone that we neither see nor even hear. Were the makers of this film to afraid to pick a villain?

In the acting category Julianne Moore is that stand out victim here as she is asked to bark out some of the worst dialogue ever written as the head of the FBI team that is trying to track down Cage. It’s as if the makers of this film saw her performance in Hannibal and then asked her if she could crank up the suck a few notches. Cage himself is good and engaging, giving us the quirky performance we have all come to know and love, as for Miss Biel…well she gives it her best shot on making us believe she could fall in love with a guy she just met, and who is old enough to be her father.

*Spoilerish* I don’t think this is much of a spoiler but more of a warning. The movie never bothers to explain why Cage’s character’s two minute future seeing ability was expanded into the days when dealing with Biel’s. Is it destiny as the film kind of hints at or is it simply lazy writing? You be the judge. The ending itself left the audience in a stunned silence, and not a happy silence either more of a “What the hell?” kind of silence.
*End Spoiler*

When I exited the theater I had the distinct impression that I’d just watched a ninety minute television pilot that somehow got a theatrical release. The hero of Next could certainly make an interesting protagonist who week to week is seen solving crimes while fleeing the evil FBI agents that want to turn him into a guinea pig, but as a movie we are left with to many unanswered questions for it to work. I have not read the Philip K. Dick short story the film is based on, I can only assume he took what is a very intriguing premise and did something intelligent with it, unlike what the people responsible for this movie turned out.

So consider this review your own two minute forewarning and give this film a miss.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

For those of you who are fans of the Fantastic Four comic books you can begin your hate mail campaign to Tim Story now (well that is if you hadn’t already started after the first movie), and pray to what ever deity you believe in that he never gets another shot at a comic book movie. Now in all fairness it isn’t as bad as some other Marvel movie attempts, but if the best thing you can say about your film is that it is better than Elektra you are in deep trouble. At eighty-nine minutes the film is padded with sitcom moments and a returning villain that has no place in a story about the coming of bloody Galactus!

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer starts out with us seeing a planet being eaten by a large cloud (upon seeing The Transformers Movie this weekend I now know were Tim Story got this visual), but soon we are back on Earth where the arrival of the Silver Surfer is causing strange environmental anomalies. Reed would love to investigate them but he has promised Sue that he would keep his great intellect focused entirely on their upcoming nuptials. The military gets pissy, Doctor Doom shows up to “help” and Johnny is altered by the Surfer so that he can transfer powers with a simple touch. Wackiness ensues.

Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans once again get the best lines as Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, and even Ioan Gruffudd was more Reed like this time around, but Jessica Alba was still as much an emotionless void in this outing as she was in the first film. Julian McMahon (who I'm told is a good actor) is so horribly, horribly miscast as Doctor Doom that every moment he is on screen it hurts my feelings. I really wish they had given Doug Jones the job voicing the Silver Surfer as well as the body work because I found Laurence Fishburne's very identifiable voice distracting at times. Andre Braugher, who I think is a damn fine actor, was given some of the worst lines as the nasty General Hager, and I doubt that any actor could have pulled off.

I'm sorry but if your Fantastic Four movies concludes with our heroes sitting on the sidelines while the Silver Surfer saves the day you need to go back to the drawing board and rethink your strategy. The Surfer's noble sacrifice (which you find out isn't even a sacrifice if you wait five minutes) seems so out of left field because I can't buy his reasoning, which is basically that Jessica Alba has shown him the true meaning of Christmas.

My biggest gripe about Tim Story’s version of the Fantastic Four is of course Doctor Doom, who is thee quintessential Marvel villain, and yet in two films he comes across as nothing more than a two-bit Snidely Whiplash clone. And as I mentioned the character of Doom is certainly not needed in story about the coming of The Devourer of Worlds! And I’m sorry but if Galactus doesn’t say, “I HUNGER” than it simply isn’t Galactus, and the fact he has no lines at all (being just a nebulous cloud with the personality of a weather front) is just plain criminal and another waste of a classic character.

Shame on you Mister Story.

Evan Almighty (2007

Can a $200 million dollar comedy hope to recoup its cost? My guess is that if it involves director Tom Shadyac the chances have moved from slim to none. Having watched Bruce Almighty for the first time just prior to seeing this “sequel” I had even less hopes of being entertained, and thus I went into the theatre with expectations so lowered you’d need a unobtaniumed drilling machine to find them. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself not hating every moment of this film (note there are still plenty of moments to hate), but that is as positive of a note I can give a film that runs out just one too many clichés and tropes for it's own good. Steve Carell is the only reason to even think of sitting through this film as he is very likable (unlike Jim Carrey in the first film), and somehow maintains his dignity throughout this enterprise.

Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) has moved on from his career as Buffalo news anchor to the exciting world of politics as a freshman congressman. His wife (Lauren Graham) is supportive but his three kids are angered about moving to Washington and losing all their friends. Yes, five minutes into the film and cliché number one rears its ugly head, and is further piled on with the tired old trope of the dad who puts work before his family. If only someone would answer their prayers and make this family a close knit picture of Norman Rockwell proportions. Enter God (Morgan Freeman) who tells Evan that a flood is coming and that he must build an ark. At first Evan is skeptical but after God harasses him into submission (I must have missed that part in the original Noah story) he agrees to build the ark. This of course doesn’t sit well with the wife or his co-workers. We also have the shady congressman played by John Goodman who wants Evan to sign a bill that would allow development of park land, and he is even more displeased when Evan starts dressing like a hermit and leading animals around two by two.
This leads to one of the biggest leaps of faith the movie expects you to make as more and more animals arrive to help build the ark or just hang around making Evan’s life more complicated. If one can buy that God is “magically” making lions, tigers, and bears show up in a fashionable suburb outside of Washington they may find it harder to swallow the lack of repercussions. One newsman (played by old Daily Show friend Ed Helms) makes mention that with all these species what is being done about the feces? More to the point what are all these creatures eating? That is assuming God is doing his usual number and preventing them from eating each other. But the big problem I had was the complete lackadaisical reaction the world had to all these animals showing up at Evan’s home in the first place. Come on people! How can any character doubt that Evan is talking to God when he has elephants and giraffes showing up to follow him around? (Not to mention all the animal rights groups and agencies that would be all over him for having such a collection of dangerous and endangered species in his backyard) Add in the fact that he has a magically re-growing beard, and he shouldn’t have any difficulties proving Devine intervention.
One particular idiotic moment in the movie is when he first comes down to breakfast with his new miracle grow beard and his wife asks him, “When did you start growing a beard?” WTF??? She has to be one of the most clued out wives in the history of the world if she hadn’t noticed that the night before her husband was beardless and now somehow has one. That the whole “magic beard” bit is lifted right out of the Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause just makes it that much sadder.
Now I won’t get into the flood, as that leads to major spoiler issues, but if one remembers that God promised Noah he would never flood the world again you may have an inkling as to where the filmmakers are going with this, and plus it would be hard pressed for anybody to make a comedy that ended with the death of billions.

So that does sound like a movie most people should avoid like the plague, but I must admit I smiled and chuckled from time to time (when not being hit over the head with the film’s message) so I can’t condemn the movie completely. At a cost of $4.20 Steve Carell made it worth checking out for me (experiences may vary wildly), and it was leaps and bounds more enjoyable than Bruce Almighty. So if you are bored and want a harmless and silly film to take the kids to you could do worse than Evan Almighty.

Transformers (2007)

I’ve not seen a single episode of the Transformers cartoon, and having only just recently seen the animated Transformers: The Movie so my review of this incarnation will be quite free of comparisons. How Michael Bay has created a bastardized version of a generation’s childhood will be up to another reviewer. What I will say is that we do get another big, loud and fairly unintelligent film that one has come to expect from Michael Bay. That said I’ll have to admit that it does have it’s entertaining moments, and if your desire is to simply see giant robots kicking the crap out of each other in an urban setting you won’t be disappointed (though the shaky-cam frenetic photography does take some of the joy out of a couple of the action sequences).

The first forty minutes of the film, before the Autobots make them self known, I found myself really digging the story. We get a little opening narration from Optimus Prime (voiced by the original actor Peter Cullen) informing us how there was a war on their home world of Cybertron between the Autobots and the evil Decepticons over a powerful cosmic cube called the Allspark (a device that apparently can turn any machine into a Transformer). Their planet is destroyed and the Allspark ends up on good ole planet Earth where it lies dormant. Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, followed it to earth but ended up frozen in ice for his troubles. In 1850 his ice-covered body is found by Captain Archibald Witwicky, and it’s this Artic explorer who provides the films primary maguffin.
The films human hero, well one of them as this films got plenty, is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBoef) who is the great grandson of the Captain Archibald Witwicky, and when he puts his great grandfather’s glasses on EBay things starting getting strange for our poor hapless teen-ager. The used car he buys turns out to be a robot, a cop car that chases after him turns out to be a robot, and the hottie he has a crush on turns out to be a robot…no just kidding, but that would have been more believable. It seems both the Autobots and the Decepticons want those glasses as they have the location of the Allspark imbedded in them. That’s all of the plot I’ll get into (actually that’s really all the plot Michael Bay gets into), but just know that wackiness does ensue. And that is when the film started to lose me.


What will determine your level of enjoyment will depend heavily on how you can handle Bay’s attempts at humor. From Bernie Mac as a slick used car salesman to an Autobot taking “a leak” on John Turturro we get plenty of scenes that are played strictly for laughs, and most definitely aimed at the younger audience members. Having not seen the cartoon series I can’t say how accurate the movie depicts their original characters, but what I came to conclude is that Michael Bay saw Small Soldiers and liked the goofy dynamic used in that film and so what we get are a lot of one-liners and slap-stick humor from these giant robots. This caused me to roll my eyes more than a few times, but I guess I’m not really the target audience here.
The other problem with this film is the lack of focus. It really should have been about Sam Witwicky and the Autobots, but we get a really useless side story about a computer language expert (Rachel Taylor) and her hacker friend (Anthony Andersen) who aside from a few expository lines of dialogue add nothing to the story. We also have a group of soldiers, who survived an early attack by the Decepticons, lead by standard hero sergeant (Josh Duhamel), and who are not even as fleshed out as your average G.I Joe characters. Also added to the pot (simmer until flavorless) is the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) giving a performance so wooden they most likely had to spray the set for termites, and a looney toon Sector Seven Agent (John Turturro) whose seemingly sole job is to be goofy and be piddled on by a robot.

What is truly sad is the amount of lifted material to be found in the 144 minute running time; aside from the aforementioned Small Soldiers Michael Bay has ripped off elements from Independence Day, Jurassic Park: Lost World, Men in Black and the Mighty Joe Young remake. And I’m sure there are others. That Steven Spielberg was one of the early names attached to this project is a bit distressing, and when he hired Michael Bay I thought maybe he’d slipped a gear or two, but the result is a true hybrid as you have your typical boy and his dog elements found in many Speilberg films, and they are tossed into the hyper-kinetic mixing bowl of Michael “King of the two second edit” Bay.

Like Live Free or Die Hard I can’t give the film a harsh thumbs down because I did have a lot of fun. The robot action was well handled and as expected the effects were amazing, and the early scenes with Shia LaBoef, his girlfriend, and his family were really quite good. I only wish they had toned down the jokes and tried to make a good ole fashioned sci-fi adventure film instead of an overblown “Family Film” because there really good have been a good movie here.


Underdog (2007)

Right off the top the movie makes a huge mistake by starting with clips from the original cartoon. Some one should have told the filmmakers that it’s not too good an idea to remind the few fans of the show that might be in the audience of what they’re not going to be seeing over the course of the next 84 minutes. Now from seeing the trailers I knew I was in for, but as Underdog was one of my childhood favorites I had too see just how bad they were going to muck it up. With director Fredrick Du Chau (Racing Stripes and Quest for Camelot) and the writer Adam Rifkin (Zoom) I certainly wasn’t expecting Batman Begins or even Ghost Rider, but even with lowered expectations this film still managed to surprise me on its level of lameness.

The movie starts off with the Mayor giving a speech about all the unsolved crimes in Capital City and points to a massive pile of boxes containing all the case files. A little police beagle smells something and barks, this cause everyone to assume there is a bomb in the box and to go into full on panic mode as people trample over each other to escape. Of course it’s revealed that the box in question contained nothing but a piece of meat, a gift from the Pork Association. In disgrace the poor beagle, with the other police dogs laughter in his ears, leaves the force. It’s while wandering the streets in depression that he is abducted and taken to the labs of Simon Bar Sinister (Peter Dinklage) where he and his sidekick Cad (Patrick Warburton) experiment on dogs for some strange plan to create super animals to replace normal police dogs. The cute beagle of course doesn’t want to be jabbed with a genetic cocktail and while trying to escape his pursuers he gets a whole rack of genetic chemicals (apparently DNA comes in liquid form) dumped over him and thus Underdog is born.
The beagle flees the lab and shortly there after runs into Dan Unger (Jim Belushi), or more accurately Dan runs over the dog. Dan happens to work as a security guard for the company that houses Simon Bar Sinister’s lab, now he was a hero cop before taking up security but he quit that job when his wife died so that he wouldn’t end up making his kid an orphan one day. Dan thinks maybe a dog will help his son get over all that dead mother stuff and brings him home. The beagle, for some inexplicable reason, keeps licking Dan’s shoes so he is given the name Shoeshine. This is of course referring to Underdog’s alter ego Shoeshine Boy from the cartoon.
Jack (Alex Neuberger) isn’t too keen on having a dog and is more than willing to let his dad take it to the pound, but once he finds out it can talk and has superpowers things change, and later after Shoeshine saves Molly (Taylor Momsen) from muggers, Molly being a girl that Jack has the hots for, Jack decides that Shoeshine is a superhero. Now Shoeshine is still dealing with the whole inferiority complex of being an incompetent police dog and so only wants to be a normal dog, but Jack convinces him too don the costume and truly become Underdog.
Meanwhile having had their lab destroyed during the creation of Underdog Simon Bar Sinister and Cad have moved into sewers to set up shop, and to finance his further experiments Cad enlists some goons to knock over a jewelry shop. Underdog of course saves the day but Cad escapes. Now Simon Bar Sinister wants Underdog so he can use his DNA to create super dogs (once again he really doesn’t seem to have an evil plan just evil methods), and after a really lame attempt by Cad to capture Underdog they do manage to get his collar, and with the address from the collar the villains head on over and kidnap Dan. Jack and Shoeshine race to the rescue…or would if the two actually had any brains as all Jack does is provide a second hostage. Not being able to save both Jack and Dan the brave little beagle gives himself up to Simon Bar Sinister’s evil experiments (why a dog that can fly around the world in second can’t defeat a little person and his moronic sidekick as fast is never explained) Underdog’s DNA is extracted and from that the mad scientist creates two types of pills, one gives you super powers and the other makes you normal (this is another reference to the cartoons as Underdog got his powers from super vitamin pills that he kept in his ring and which gave him the power of twenty atom bombs for twenty seconds). Simon Bar Sinister forces Underdog to take one of the pills that rob him of his power and then gives three German Sheppards the power pills and along with the Cad they storm the steps of City Hall.
What nefarious demands will Simon Bar Sinister make? Will Underdog get his powers back? Can Dan retake the mantle of Hero Cop? Will Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas? And when oh when will they stop making favorite cartoons into lame-o live action movies?

There is one name I haven’t mentioned yet and that is of actor Jason Lee who provides the voice of Shoeshine/Underdog, and I’d say not having his face associated with this film was a brilliant career decision but then I’ve seen the trailer for Alvin and the Chipmunks so I know he isn’t actually interested in good career moves. Casting wise he isn’t the worst choice but he certainly isn’t the persona I think of when I think of Underdog, and really who could compete with Wally Cox who voiced the character in the original cartoon. Both Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton manage to put in decent performances and don’t completely embarrass themselves, but any scene involving James Belushi would be a good time for you to make that popcorn run or bathroom break.

In all fairness this film is clearly aimed at eight your olds and going by the reaction of the kid sitting three seats down from Underdog is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if you are an adult, or even remotely a fan of the sixties cartoon, please stay away for your own good.

Superman: Doomsday (2007)

DC follows in Marvel's footsteps with this straight to video movie, and it really is a nice first outing. It is also the first PG13 rated Superman cartoon and it really shows as the violence and collateral death is quite a bit more than one is accustomed too from watching Superman: The Animated Series, and really the whole look of it is quite different from the series. And it's not just the look that is different but the voice cast is all new with Adam Baldwin doing an excellent job as Superman, Anne Heche holding her own quite well as Lois, and though James Marsters is no Clancy Brown he still makes a good Lex Luthor. My biggest criticism of show is the character design of the Man of Steel himself because for some bizarre reason they added weird ass cheekbones to his face.

Story wise it isn't anything like the comics, not even a little bit, with only the fight with Doomsday himself that remotely seems familiar. In this version it is Lexcorp that uncovers and accidentally releases Doomsday, and once we have the titanic fight between Superman and Doomsday it becomes entirely a different entity. There is no "Funeral for a Friend" as not one single hero from the DC universe makes an appearance, there is no Eradicator, Cyborg, Steel, or Superboy instead we have Lex Luthor creating a Superman clone to help bring order to lawless Metropolis (in the comics it was Cadmus that created the Superboy clone), and of course Lex has more nefarious agenda for his Superman than just being a big Boyscout.

The fights are really superbly done, the acting overall is excellent, and though the story changes are vast even a comic purist like me can really enjoy what they've done here. The DVD itself is loaded with cool extras; commentary track, "Behind the Voice" featurette, a sneak peak at the upcoming Justice League: The New Frontier, but the best extra is the 45 minute documentary "Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives" which is look at how the whole Death of Superman story came to be.

In the Name of the King (2006)

Uwe“I’m the only genius in the industry” Boll makes another glorious attempt at translating a video game to the big screen and with no surprise at all he again makes a large steaming pile of cinematic dung. The film isn’t as technically bad as previous outings like House of the Dead, and that is almost a stroke against it as the joy of watching spring board launched zombies is sadly missed here. Now this time Boll tries to make an epic with the scope of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and fails on about every level, and the scenes that are direct rip-offs from Jackson’s trilogy just make it all the worse by pointing out how it pales in comparison.
The story centers on farmer who is named Farmer (Jason Statham), even his wife calls him Farmer which is just plain silly. Now of course there is a reason he is called simply Farmer and that is because he isn’t just a farmer he’s a bloody superhero with a mysterious past. When his wife is kidnapped and son murdered by low rent orcs he goes into full vengeance mode and teams up with fellow farmer Norick (Ron Perlman) who also has a mysterious past, to save his wife and possibly the kingdom.

Observations
• Farmer has the fighting skills of Aragon and Captain America combined but we are never given any explanation as to how he got those skills. The big revelation about his past does not explain this at all.
• The woods are full of Cirque du Soleil amazons.
• The king has his own company of ninjas.
• Burt Reynolds is starting to look like Richard Lynch due to one too many plastic surgeries.
• Ray Liotta as the evil sorcerer Gallian is so badly miscast that I longed for Jeremy Irons from Dungeon and Dragons during all his scenes.
• All the battles are fought in the woods when it is tactically the dumbest thing an army can do.
• John Rhys-Davies is no Gandalf.
• Leelee Sobieski is no Arwen. She was so bad I kept wishing Nicholas Cage would show up in a bear suit to punch her in the face.
• Farmer never wears anything but his stupid shirt, even when he decides to join up with the army. No one had a spare chain mail shirt?
• Jason Statham can not deliver rousing speeches. I doubt he could inspire a group of cubscouts.
• Having your showdown between the hero (Farmer in full Aragon mode) against the villain (Gallian in full Suruman mode) makes little sense. Gallian had been clearly established as very powerful so having him up against a non-magic user the fight should have lasted ten seconds.

At two hours in length it often seems longer than Peter Jackson’s trilogy and that is mostly because we care nothing for any of the characters (with the possible exception of Ron Perlman but that’s cause he’s Ron Perlman), and when the film reaches it’s heroic conclusion my only thought was, "Eh, it could have been worse, it could have been three hours." It’s certainly not the worst sword and sorcery film every made, but if the money spent on this film had been put towards a good script, and given to a talented director, you could have maybe had something halfway decent.


Death Race (2008)

Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 this is not as it is quite apparent that Paul W.S. Anderson is just your generic action director from the school of Michael Bay with not an ounce of real creativity to set himself apart from the likes of Bay or Brett Ratner, and some one should seriously tell him to leave the writing to the professionals.

In this update of the Corman camp classic it is the year 2010 and America has suffered an economic collapse (I guess Obama wasn’t the way to go) and unemployment has reached an all time high which has resulted in the crime rate soaring and causing the prison systems to become overburdened. Big corporations come to the rescue and create a Prison-for-Profit system with gladiatorial games to the death to bring in revenue, and the latest craze is Death Race where inmates must survive several laps of a killer course in the hopes of winning their freedom. Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is a disgraced Nascar driver whose wife is murdered and him framed for the crime, he is sentenced to Terminal Island, the most brutal of the corporate run prisons, and is run by evil Warden Hennessy (Joan Allen) who has her own agenda when it comes to the race. It seems the most popular racer was a masked man by the name of Frankenstein (voiced by David Carradine who played Frankenstein in the original) has died in his last race but Hennessy doesn’t want to lose her most valued commodity so she wants Jensen to don the mask and keep Frankenstein alive and her revenue stream up.

The action scenes are competent and there are some genuine cool moments, but the plot and key elements are so moronic it takes most the fun out of it. It’s no spoiler to reveal that Warden Hennessy was behind the death of his wife as that is practically stated in the trailer so that big “revelation” lands with a resounding thud, the race itself is so chaotic and with out any consistent rules that I can’t see how anyone could get much enjoyment out of it. At one point to increase viewership Hennessy introduces “The Juggernaut” which is an armored tanker truck outfitted with machine gunners, napalm flame-throwers, and rockets which just barrels into the middle of the race to blow the crap out of several drivers. Now how could one expect viewers to get invested in which driver will win if an outside element can just show up and blow anybody away?

This is a movie where stock characters roll out clichés as required and nothing much original happens in its 89 minute running time, and the hero is only slightly more engaging than the villain. The only nod to the original is the characters of Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe, but they are name only homage’s to Corman’s film. When the film ends you are left a pretty empty feeling as if you had eaten too much cotton candy but still feel hungry for some reason.


Absolute Zero (2006)

“Science is never wrong,” is the mantra for this made for TV movie, repeatedly endlessly by characters that one finds hard to believe graduated junior high let alone a university, but when hero scientist David Koch (Jeff Fahey) says it you know he has the cold hard facts. So put on your windbreakers, and ready the hot cocoa, as this chilling tale will freeze you in your tracks.

The movie starts with a team of scientists stationed in Antarctica (actually stationed in front of blue screens and Styrofoam snow) who are researching global warming, and when sudden seismic shifting causes parts of the ice shelf to crack open right through their camp, dropping one of them into the abyss, lawyers from The Day After Tomorrow start suing. The company that is funding this research sends in another team, this one lead by brilliant climatologist David Koch, to find out what’s going on. And faster than you can say “Jack Frost” sudden shifts in temperature strike the area with only David surviving the freezing CGI storm, but not before discovering through cave paintings that this has all happened before. It seems that the ice age didn’t happen over a long period of time (as most silly scientists believe), but due to the Earth’s shifting polarity it all went down in one day.

David rushes to his offices in Miami, which has been experiencing increasing strange weather, to crunch some numbers and it is there that he discovers that another ice age is coming as the Earth is reversing polarity again (the reason given is that global warming has melted too much ice at the poles thus changing the shape of the Earth, causing it to wobble and change polarity). His boss of course ignores him as he believes it will be happening over the next two hundred years, and his company will make huge money off of military contracts to solve the problem. You see his boss is a scientist that is in it just for the money (the boss of course gets frozen to death while trying to pick up the contracts). My guess is he also has a black SUV.

David teams ups with an old colleague who just happens to be married to David’s old flame, played by the “Where is she now?” actress Erika Eleniak, and who has a daughter that is old enough to possibly be David’s daughter (this thread is abandoned immediately, and never addressed again, when an iceberg floats into a Miami harbor). So with the help his old colleague, his wife, their kid, and two teaching assistants, David discovers that everything thirty degrees north or south of the Equator is going to reach absolute zero in four hours. So it’s a race against time, and the clock is ticking.

A palm tree is thrown by storm winds through the windshield of the old colleague car and thus clears the way for a rekindling of romance between David and the old flame. But there’s no time for romance you say? Pish posh I say, how else can they pad the running time to 86 minutes? The roads quickly clog with evacuees and the temperature plummets (we get a lot of CGI matt paintings with blowing snow superimposed to show this), and we now have only two hours before absolute zero is reached. What ever will our intrepid band of heroes do? Well they decide to hole up in David’s “Absolute Zero Lab” and ride out the temperature drop. So the last twenty minutes deals with the group trying to restore power to the building so they can open the door to the lab, rescue greedy boss from stuck elevator, survive an exterior excursion when one stairwell is blocked when a helicopter crashes into the building, and then make it back to the lab where the spunky daughter waits for them.

This is one of those great movies that show just what you can’t do without a decent effects budget. From the crappy CGI storm clouds to the blowing Styrofoam snow its just one cheesy set piece after another with some of the worst written dialog even spoken on screen. In one scene Erika Eleniak is terrified and can’t go on so Jeff Fahey tries to calm her down and her response is to freak out saying, “You have no idea what this feels like. Everything is logic and numbers to you. Just feel something for once!” Wow, that’s got to hurt. But really if you don’t think with your heart you’re never going to win over the washed up actress and her precocious kid.

If you get nothing out of this movie you will at least learn that, “Science is never wrong!” (This movie, on the other hand, is rarely right.)

The Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

In this latest animated movie from Marvel we get a story aimed strictly for the kiddies as I can’t see any other audience clamoring to see tween superheroes battling the forces of evil…well maybe if they gave us a Power Pack animated movie I could get behind that, but I certainly could have lived without seeing the twelve year old son of Captain America going up against the likes of Ultron.

The story takes place after The Avengers have been defeated the powerful robot Ultron, and by defeated I mean killed. Captain America, Wasp, Giant Man, and Black Panther are among the deceased while Hawkeye is missing in action and Iron Man fled the battlefield with the children of the world’s mightiest mortals. Right there I’ve got a major problem as the idea of Tony Stark exiting the battle for any reason is just idiotic as he created Ultron in the first place and would surely be one of the best bets on defeating him. What is a real crime is we never see the battle that brings down The Avengers; I mean they’ve defeated Ultron scores of times in the past so it’d sure be nice to see how he defeated them so absolutely this time. Anyway Iron Man flees with the kiddies and takes them to a hidden base up in the Arctic where for twelve years he raises them on stories of their parents.

Kiddie Roll Call:
James Rogers son of Captain America and Black Widow. He’s got some kind of armored bracer that can generate a Captain America shield type force field. He’s the moody angst filled one of the group.
Torrun is the daughter of Thor and wields a magical sword. Now Thor didn’t die with The Avengers as he left Earth to take over the rule of Asgard after Odin passed on (Ragnarök is not mentioned). Why he left his daughter behind is poorly explained at the end, and really comes across as dick move by anyone’s standards.
Pym is the son of Giant Man and The Wasp, he has the ability to turn into a winged pixie like his mom, with Wasp Sting, and to turn into a giant like his dad. He’s the youngest of the group and resident comic relief.
Azari is the son of The Black Panther and if we were told who is mom is maybe it would explain why he has electricity powers as well as cat powers.
Francis Barton is the son of Hawkeye and was left behind and presumed dead along with his father by Tony Stark, later he is found leading the human underground movement against Ultron.

Now comes the hard part to swallow, how can the children of the heroes that DIED fighting Ultron have any chance of defeating him when their more experience parents couldn't? Will their sense of wonder and naiveté help them find the weakness that their parents were too jaded to see? Will their mere appearance cause Ultron to laugh so hard he’ll fry his circuits? *Spoiler Ahead* What do our stalwart little heroes do? They lead him to Banner who has been hiding out in the desert. Enter Hulk vs. Ultron fight. Well you’ve got to give the writers credit for coming up with the only plausible way these kids could win this fight and that is by not fighting it. Sure we get to see them take out Ultron’s robot minions (they also defeat Robot Avengers that Stark had built as some kind half-assed back up plan, and that Ultron immediately compromised. Way to fail Tony), and it’s Pym’s job to get Banner angry, but the heavy lifting at the end lies in the Hulks enraged hands. I really enjoyed Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man and Doctor Strange animated features, and even their take on The Ultimate Avengers wasn’t too bad, but this seems like a step back towards Saturday morning cartoons.

Bonus: Also on the disc is a look at the next two animate features from Marvel; Hulk vs. Wolverine which takes place before Logan joined the X-Men and kind of looks like a re-telling of his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk issues #180-181 only with special appearance by Deadpool. The second one is another versus movie and this time it’s Hulk vs. Thor and looks basically Hulk having a good rampage through Asgard. If these two films are a success can Marvel Team-Up movies be far behind?

Against the Dark (2009)

Against the Dark: Promoted as Steven Seagal vs. Vampires this film sucks on toast in more ways than one can imagine. This is the latest installment of "Why do they keep paying Seagal to be in action movies?"

Some Points to Ponder

1. No vampires in this movie just infected people that turn all crazed cannibal like and need to feed on human flesh. Some do apparently like to file their teeth.

2. Steven Seagal leads a group of "vampire" hunters that all dress in leather (Seagal of course wears his black leather trench coat buttoned up to hide his ever increasing bulk), and mainly use swords and knives when it is clearly established that these things can easily die from being shot. Hell, some get taking out by being punched.

3. The movie mainly focuses on a group of survivors trapped in a hospital and their attempts to find away out. Something is mentioned about a security door in the subbasement as being the only way out and only if the generator doesn’t fail. I had no idea it was that hard to leave a hospital. I guess they are really concerned about patients skipping without paying.

4. Seagal is basically a glorified cameo in this movie and doesn’t even hook up with the main characters until well past the hour mark. This of course is not necessarily a bad thing in this case.

5. Seagal does almost no fighting in this film except to wave his katana around and occasionally kick someone. Most the fight stunt work is done by one of his flunkies.

6. There are two girls in Seagal’s team, both attractive all leathered up, but of course given no character or lines of dialogue. When one gets bit, and presumably infected, Seagal runs her through we’re not sure if we’re suppose to care.

7. Keith David cameos as a military dude who is in charge of “cleansing” the infected and this of course means bombing the crap out of the area are “heroes” are in and thus giving us a “suspenseful” timeline to worry about.

8. Two characters make reference to the fact that “If we’re the only ones left maybe we are the monsters.” Fuck the right off movie!

Wonder Woman (2009)

Wonder Woman (2009): We may never get a live action version of Wonder Woman again, Linda Carter will always be in our hearts, but at least we have DC putting out kick ass animated movies and this take on Wonder Woman is fantastic. The voice cast of this movie is nothing less than perfect; Keri Russell brings heart to the strongest of the Amazon warriors, Nathan Fillion is Steve Trevor and if they ever get a live action movie off the ground hes got my vote, and Alfred Molina takes on another villainous mantle as that of Ares the God of War. Simply put you don’t get better than that.

This movie is an origin story and begins back in the days when the Greek gods were constantly making life miserable for poor mortals. Ares leads a monstrous army against Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) and her Amazons, his plan is to create hate, pain and suffering across the globe to increase his power, but it is easier said than done when you’re up against one as tough as Hippolyta who shows what it takes to win by lopping off the head of her and Ares’s son. Before she can dispatch Ares Zeus butts in and prevents her from dealing the killing blow, instead Ares is bound with magical bracelets that prevent him from tapping his powers and he is imprisoned. Hippolyta doesn’t feel this is fair compensation for the death of so many of her sisters so Hera grants the Amazons immortality and an island paradise hidden from the eyes of man. Later Hippolyta sculpts a baby out of clay and Hera grants it life (she’s kind of like a Greek Blue Fairy) and thus the Queen of the Amazons has a daughter.
Fast forward to present day where Steve Trevor and two other United States Air force pilots find themselves in a nasty dogfight over the Aegean Sea. Steve’s friends are killed (what country the black jets belong to is never addressed) and he crash lands on Themyscria. Now we’re in more familiar territory as the Amazons have to hold tournament to see who is worthy of being an ambassador between Themyscria and the outside world, Hippolyta of course refuses to let her daughter Diana to enter the contest but we all know how that turns out. Unfortunately during the games one of the Amazon warriors betrays her people, killing one of her sisters, and frees Ares. So Diana’s mission gets upgraded from ambassordship to finding and defeating Ares once and for all.

This movie well deserves its PG13 rating as the violence, though not all that bloody, is still quite brutal. Heads are lopped off, necks snapped, and throats are cut in some really intense battle scenes. This is not for the kiddies. I really hope DC keeps up with the quality we’ve been getting from their straight to DVD productions, and has me really looking forward to the upcoming Green Lantern movie.

Note: I kind of liked how the filmmakers didn’t bother explaining the Invisible Jet. Some things are better left unsaid.

Earthstorm (2006)

A massive asteroid strikes the moon causing it to start to crack open. With the moon breaking up and debris pelting the Earth time is running out, if the fissures can't be closed the Moon will break in two and thus ending life on our planet. Only a daring band of heroes can save the day:

Dr. Lana Gale (Amy Price-Francis) is the scientist who figures out the danger, but her opinion hinges on the theory that the moon's core is iron, this is the same theory her dad had and which caused him to be discredited in the scientific community. (Science Note: If the moon was actually composed largely of heavy metals like iron, as determined by our plucky heroine, scientists would have already determined this by measurements of the moon's density, which is easily measurable from Earth.)

Victor Stevens (Dirk Benedict) Science adviser to The President and the man chiefly responsible for discrediting Dr. Lana Gale's father. His main purpose in the movie is to be a dick and be constantly wrong.

John Redding (Stephen Baldwin) Blue collar worker and all run good Joe, but also work obsessed widower. He demolishes buildings for a living. The space agency immediately snap him up as "He's the top man in his field" and just the kind of guy you need to blow up celestial object.

With storms raging over the planet due to the Moon's orbital shift they have a matter of hours to launch Baldwin into space and heal the Moon. The plan is simple, explode nukes and collapse the fissure. Dr. Gale thinks the nukes won't work because if the Moon's core is iron it would just fracture and make things worse, so they need to use a MEG (no, not a giant shark but an electromagnetic explosion). Dirk Benedict disagrees and they load the shuttle with nukes and launch it at the Moon (to get to the Moon fast enough they use untried Nuclear Pulse Engines). He of course is proven wrong when Baldwin's plucky assistant shows up with a meteorite sample proving Gale's theory on the Moon's composition. Now we move away from ripping of Armageddon to ripping off Apollo 13 as the scientist at the space agency have to figure out what on board the shuttle can be used to build an electromagnetic bomb. Turns out all you need is a stove timer, a nuke and those spiffy nuclear pulse engines. The shuttle pilot flies down into the fissure (she's warned to be careful as it's dark down at the Moon's core). She maneuvers around the debris and hovers in position. Yes, without any thrusters used this shuttle can actually hover in place. Baldwin jettison's their makeshift bomb and they take off for home (of course without those Nuclear Pulse Engines they'll run out of oxygen, food and water long before making it back to Earth). So the day is saved as the pulse goes off and the fissure seals itself up and the moon corrects it's orbit.

Favorite Moments:

A meteorite heading for Earth is pursued by fighter jets and shot down by sidewinder missiles. That you'd be looking at an impact crater before you even had time to scramble the jets is overshadowed by the silliness of jets that can fly as fast as a plummeting meteorite.

This movie's space agency NSI (NASA obviously threatened to sue if they were even mentioned in this film) loses power because of the storms. They have to complete the mission before their generator runs out power. Of course space flight command rooms do not rely on municipal sources for power. And they would have multiple redundant generators if something happened to the main power. That the generator in this movie can run out of power and not be refueled is a tad odd. Not in the budget perhaps?

Dr. Lana Gale is seen reading a scientific document where Astronomy is incorrectly spelled "ASTRONOMEY.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th (2009): This Platinum Dunes remake/reboot of the series takes a page out of the Godzilla series by having the first film considered to have happened but that the following sequels do not exist.

The film opens with a black and white prologue stating that it is 1980, Mrs. Voorhees is chasing the "Final Girl" screaming about having revenge for the drowning of her son (strangely we get a shot of young Jason watching all this from the bushes), but of course as in the original movie the "Final Girl" cuts of Mrs. Voorhees's head with a machete. The film then jumps ahead 20 years as a group of teenagers stumble across the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake while hunting for a crop of marijuana. Two of them find the Voorhees home and the withered head of Mrs. Voorhees. When finding a locket with a pictures of the young Jason and his mother the guy comments that the girl looks like the woman (this is important). All the teens get horribly killed and we cutaway just as Jason grabs the mom lookalike. We jump ahead another six weeks and find another group of teens visiting the lake and they run into Clay Miller played by Jared Padalecki (Supernatural) and he is the brother of the Mrs. Voorhees lookalike and he has been searching for her. Will he find his sister dead or alive? Will the sex crazed and drug addled teens become new notches on Jason's machete? Will any of the audience care?

The major failing of this film is that they have turned Jason from a supernatural force of evil into an inbred hillbilly with mommy issues. Though ignoring the sequels the filmmakers toss in tons of homages to them; Jason starts off wearing a burlap sack over his head until he trades up for the hockey mask, the barn that appeared in the second movie is prominently featured in this one, and trophies of his past kills (ie wheelchair) are visible in his underground lair. Yes, Jason lives in tunnels that run under his house. Worst of all is the ending, it is beyond stupid and will hopefully revealed to be a dream sequence if they ever make a sequel to this piece of cinematic dung. If all you want is nudity and gruesome kills this film with satisfy, but if any more is required to entertain you then give this one a miss.

Interesting Note: Jensen Ackles, who costars with Jared Padalecki on Supernatural, starred in the recent remake of My Bloody Valentine. Could we maybe get a horror movie crossover?

Alien vs Predator (2004)

Has Paul W.S. Anderson saved the Alien franchise? Does this film suck on a galactic scale? The answer to both these questions is no. Instead we get an abbreviated action film that rushes to the end just when things might be getting interesting.

The biggest failing this film has is in its characters…because there are none. Paul W. S. Anderson claims to have studied the previous film religiously, but some how he forgot that the success of the good ones relied on the audience giving a crap if the people we’ve been watching die or not. In AvP we barely give a damn about the main hero and you gleefully wish for a quick death to most of the others, who could only be generously called “walking exposition”.

The film starts out ripping off Jurassic Park as some millionaire rounds up experts by promising to fund their private projects, if they’d just help him out for a few days. The millionaire is Charles Bishop Weyland, played by Lance Henrickson the films sole attempt at character continuity for the franchise, and he’s discovered a pyramid buried under the ice way down in Antarctica. Our stalwarts heroes don’t know it but there just being lured to this pyramid by a group of predators that are secretly orbiting earth. And when the expedition arrives on site the find that someone has already drilled a whole through the ice to the pyramid, and from the trajectory of the blast it probably came from space. With out a second thought to the implications of this the team crawls down the shaft to the pyramid below. During all this the predators above have awakened a frozen queen and she’s now spitting out eggs. Meanwhile our intrepid explorers find a sacrificial chamber where the victims appear to have died by something bursting out of their chests, so the audience now knows where this is going. While stumbling around they activate ancient machinery that turns the pyramid into a maze that shifts it’s layout every ten minutes. Soon face huggers are leaping and people are dying. And then the predators arrive.

Well that’s all I’ll reveal of story because…well because that’s just about all you get anyway. From that point on it’s just a bunch of running around with a maybe a moment or two of ridiculous exposition, broken up by an attack by an alien or a predator.
One of the greatest offenses for me is the needless acceleration of the alien’s life cycle. Now Ridley Scott never laid out exactly how long it took to go from face-hugger to full grown alien, but in AvP it’s in under twenty minutes. I can only guess the reason for this was to make sure the film stayed under its ninety minute running time. And will somebody please tell these action directors that we are sick of seeing people out running fireballs!

Now, for what I liked about the film. The aliens looked fantastic and moved great. The predators themselves while not quite in stature with Kevin Peter Hall of the original, they still looked pretty good. And when these two creatures went toe to toe with each other in full out battle fury, well it was damn fun to watch.

So in conclusion I would place this film just above Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, and put it on par with Predator 2, but they still have a long way to go before they approach the quality of the first two Alien films or the first Predator. I can recommend this film to people who are curious to see what an alien fighting a predator would be like, but if you like a good narrative driven by interesting characters you might want to see what’s playing in the theatre next door.

Battle For Terra (2007)

The Battle For Terra is a CGI animated film that tackles a topic one wouldn't expect from a film most would expect to be aimed at kids in fact the subject matter is pretty adult (and not due to violence or sex). Terra is a peaceful planet whose inhabitants are one with nature and revel in art and music. The Elders keep a tight rein on what types of science and thought is explored due to a history they keep secret. Then the invaders arrive. A huge ship "The Ark" arrives in orbit over Terra and sends down fighters that abduct some of the Terrans. Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) sees her father abducted and in her attempts to get him back befriends Lt. James Stanton (Luke Wilson) and discovers that the invaders come from the planet Earth which generations ago was destroyed due to war. They have been seeking a world that can support life and Terra is the first one that fits the bill. Unfortunately the Terrans don't breathe oxygen so terraforming will be required which of course won't be to healthy for the natives. The Earth Council is in debate as what to do but General Hammersmith (Brian Cox) is sick of watching his people dying because of their failing ship (they have mere months left of oxygen and parts of the Ark constantly fail) and he wants to wipe out the weak Terrans and give his people a home.

The voice acting across the board is excellent including aforementioned Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox and James Garner, David Cross, Justin Long, Chris Evans, Danny Glover, Mark Hamill, and Dennis Quaid.

The moral dilemmas and complexities of the characters are dealt with intelligently and poignantly. I could see this as a good movie to show younger kids in school as a way to start some thought provoking debates.

This is a movie well worth checking out.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

This remake is for those who thought the original Clash of the Titans was too faithful to the mythology. Not only does this movie depart further from the Greek myths than 1981 version it actually makes me wish they'd gone the route of Troy and had no gods at all as then this story would have made at least a little sense because in this movie version mortal man decides to declare war on the gods, and if the Greek pantheon did actually exist, the obvious question would be, "What happens on page two?

King Acrisius of Argos is worried about the prophecy that his daughter Danae's son will be the death of him so he locks her up, but Zeus turns into an image of Acrisus and sneaks in and knocks her up. The original myth has Zeus impregnate her as a "golden shower" and not a rip-off of Excalibur. Enraged he locks the wife and baby in a box and tosses her into the sea. He screams a nasty threat at Zeus and is promptly hit by a lightning bolt (about what one would expect) but he doesn't die he just gets horribly disfigured and hangs out in the swamp and becomes this movies Calibos. The box is picked up by a fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite) the baby is fine but sadly Danae is dead. The Fisherman raises young Perseus and spends most of his time bitching to his about how the gods are screwing the the local fishing.

The new king of Argos declares war on the gods, and during a toppling of a statue of Zeus the fisherman's family is killed during a retaliatory strike by Hades. Perseus of course survives and when he hears that Andromeda is going to be sacrificed to the Kraken he joins up on the expedition...nope, that's what you'd think would happen, but no this Perseus has abandonment issues and really hates the gods and really wants to kill Hades and even on numerous occasions refuse help from Zeus. Killing the Kraken will apparently weaken Hades and allow Perseus a shot at killing the god of the underworld. So basically saving Andromeda is just a nice bonus. She isn't even the films love interest as there is this immortal woman who has been watching over Perseus his whole life for some never explained reason.

Questions

Why do most Greeks have cornrow type hair styles and Perseus has a Marine crew cut?

What is the deal with those giant scorpions? We see they are created from the severed hand and blood of Calibos but later these wood Jinn are riding around on them like Oliphants.

You are declaring war on the gods, seriously?

Note: The 3D was pretty terrible, and at times the image doubled and it looked Zeus or Perseus had a twin standing directly behind them.

MEGAPIRANHA (2010)

The Asylum brings it's latest creature to the SyFi channel and this could be their best entry yet. The script is moronic, the acting is bad across the board, and the CGI drifts between bad and "What is that suppose to be?" but when you combine all those elements together you get one helluva fun movie.

The United States Ambassador to Venezuela is killed when his boat is attacked by a school of really nasty piranha, at first nobody knows what caused the boats destruction so Secretary of State Bob Grady (Brady Bunch's Barry Williams) calls Special Forces Baddass Jason Fitch (Paul Logan who is basically a poor man's John Cena) to find out what happened. Fitch arrives in Venezuela and is accosted by scientist Sarah Monroe (aging popstar Tiffany) who tells him that it's giant piranha behind the deaths. And why is there giant piranha tooling around the rivers of Venezuela? Well once again scientists are trying to end world hunger by making the food larger (Has this ever turned out to be a good idea?) but what is never explained is why Dr. Monroe was genetically engineering huge and super aggressive piranhas. I guess nobody would go see a movie called "Mega Catfish" Now it's revealed that the Mega Piranha grow exponentially every hour and also have three stomachs, two hearts and can impregnate themselves. Now that's some radical science!

Jason Fitch calls Secretory of State Bob Grady, "There was no explosion, there were no terrorists, it was giant piranha!" How can you not love a movie with dialogue like that?

So stopping the Mega Piranha before they grow big enough to swallow the world becomes our heroes top priority. Unfortunately there is a side plot with a crazy Venezuela colonel who thinks the whole thing is a plot to take over his country. As silly plots go that would be up there with killing a guy by smuggling snakes on a plane. So crazy colonel tries to kill the piranha by shooting them from helicopter gunships but all he accomplishes is blowing up the natural damn that was keeping the Mega Piranha contained in a small estuary. So now they are free and reaching the size of Winnebagos. Now the Mega Piranha are heading downriver towards the ocean and as that type of fish can't survive in salt water this will form a barrier that will allow the military to kill them before they turn around and head somewhere else...I guess? A United States Destroyer bombards the river with 9mm shells from it's deck guns and kills a bunch of them, but guess what? The Mega Piranha can survive in salt water and they attack and eat the destroyer. Next they have a submarine launch a nuclear torpedo at the Mega Piranhas but the big beasts just shrug it off and eat the sub.

The Mega Piranhas are now heading for Florida! Secretory of State Bob Grady wants to launch a full nuclear attack which would hopefully take out the fishy menace but also "sadly" remove the state of Florida from the map. Now Super Soldier Jason Fitch has an idea, earlier he got into a knife fight with one of the piranhas (seriously) and when he injured it the other piranhas went into a feeding frenzy. So his plan now is to lead a Seal Team of scuba clad morons to go toe to fin with the Mega Piranhas who are now reaching the size of two story houses. They'll shoot them in the eyes or gills to make them bleed and spark off a feeding frenzy so that they will wipe each other out (I'm really not sure the makers of this film know how a feeding frenzy works).

Now what truly makes this movie awesome is the Mega Piranhas attack. We get scenes of people screaming and running down the city streets in panic and one would immediately question "Why are they running from piranhas in the middle of a city?" Well that would be because the Mega Piranhas tend to favor suicide attacks by leaping out of the water and crashing into buildings (a visual that left my sides aching from laughter). One Mega Piranha leaps out and impales itself on a lighthouse like a giant shish kabob. Brilliant!

Here is an example of our hero in action: Jason Finch bicycle kicks attacking piranha.

This movie is a must see for fans of aquatic menaces. Two big thumbs up!

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic is something I watched every Easter as I grew up, now older I usually just watch it when another special edition gets released. Now on Blu-ray it looks better than ever, sadly the content of the story has lessened a tad over the years. The first half of the movie is still fantastic with Prince Moses (Charlton Heston) and Rameses (Yul Brynner) going head to head over who will rule Egypt and win the heart of Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), then the discovery that Moses is in fact a the son of Hebrew slaves and is sent into exile. In the land of Midian he falls in love with Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo), has a son and all is good until he gets a call from God. This Moses is a man of passion, he honors the Pharoah who raised him as a son, worships Nefretiri, and his relationship with Rameses is rife with great conflict. When he discovers the truth about himself his world view is shattered and he puts himself in the mud pits to find out just what it's like to be a beast of burden. At every turn Moses is given a chance to remain in power but he cannot turn his back on his people. Heston is pretty much perfect in this role.

It's in the second part where things become less fun and decidedly more dodgy (I'm guessing much can be blamed on the source material), but this new Moses who comes to demand his people to be freed is a bit of a stick in the mud, just blaring out declaration and scriptures with barely any feeling (his wife and kid all but forgotten), then he starts unleashing God's wrath and things get a little more interesting, ten plagues descend on Egypt and the Pharaoh eventually frees the Hebrew slaves (this is after his heart is hardened so many times I became worried he'd have a stroke). During the exodus Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) spends every moment proclaiming that Moses has doomed them all and at almost every turn the Hebrews eat it up with a spoon. You'd think a guy with the backing of god capable of plagues, fiery columns, partings of large bodies of water would have earned a little bit of slack, but no, Moses disappears up a mountain for forty days and Dathan has them worshiping idols and performing human sacrifices. Talk about your fickle people. Moses of course returns and brings explosive wrath on the orgy and then everybody sheepishly follows him for next forty years while God tries to get over being ignored.

I do enjoy this movie and this presentation is simply stunning, but there are certainly enough cringe inducing moments to not make it for everyone. Though none can deny the awesome scope of the picture when you look at the crowds of thousands that aren't computer generated.

Note: You'd think one of those ten laws God passed onto Moses would have mention something along the lines of "Though shall not enslave another person."

"Where's your Messiah now, Flanders?"

Blow Out (1981)

A nice taught thriller by Brian De Palma with a very good performance by John Travolta as the sound-man who accidentally records a car accident that he later discovers to be murder. Nancy Allen is fine as the ditzy damsel in distress who Travolta must enlist to get to the bottom of the mystery, and John Lithgow is decidedly creepy as the killer. The final scene of the movie with Travolta back at work in the studio is brilliantly weird as John Travolta's character has obviously gone off his rocker due to the events of the movie.

Of course the assassin Lithgow plays has got to be one of the most incompetent hired killers in the history of movies and only succeeds as far as he does due to extreme luck. Let's break it down:

Dennis Franz plays a sleazy photographer who makes his money taking pictures of men cheating on their wives, he is hired to set up the Governor by getting compromising shots of him with Nancy Allen who is Franz's go to girl for these kind of things. Lithgow was hired to oversee this but he really wanted the Governor dead not disgraced (his employers pooh-poohed his assassination idea in favor of sleazy photos that would disgrace the Governor), but Lithgow goes ahead with the killing by shooting out the tire of the Governor's car, sending it into the river. Franz got all this on film including the muzzle flash of the gun. So Lithgow decided to commit murder even though he knew it was being film. Brilliant!

Lithgow wants to get rid of the loose ends and witness Nancy Allen is one of those loose ends, so he decides the best way to kill her without tipping off the world to the conspiracy is to make her death just one in a series of killings by some pyschopath. His first red-herring victim he grabs off a crowded street as she is lined up to get on a city bus, and the only reason he get's away with this is because nobody turned around or has peripheral vision. His second serial killing is a of a prostitute at a busy bus terminal, he follows her into the woman's washroom, get's into the next stall and leans over the top to strangle her. This all takes place in they cities major transit terminal and his plan hinges on nobody coming into the washroom while he was committing the murder or anyone seeing a man entering or exiting the woman's washroom. Then it's time to get the incriminating evidence and kill Nancy Allen. He pretends to be the local reporter that has contacted Travolta about his theory about the accident and tells her to meet him at the transit terminal (he must love that place) in broad daylight. This plan only works because it relies on the fact that Nancy Allen's character never watches the news, something which Lithgow's character isn't aware off. He then leads her down to the subway platform, passing dozens of witnesses, to where he plans to murder her. He get's spooked by a subway worker and so takes her on a trip down to the waterfront where he get's the film and tape from Nancy, tosses it into the water, and thus revealing himself to be the villain. Does her strangle her and leave her to be found by some passing stroller? No, apparently it's too dark and secluded of an area so Lithgow decides to drag her some place else to be killed. WTF? Not enough witnesses? Max Von Sydow's assassin from Three Days of the Condor would have been appalled at this man's lack of planning and execution.

Those quibbles aside it is still a fun movie and well worth watching. The Criterion Blu-ray is very nice as one would expect from them.

Day of the Triffids (2009)

Do you know what John Wyndham's novel Day of the Triffids was missing, it was missing an evil super villain that would hound and threaten the heroes, oh wait no it wasn't that would be retarded, but that's what this latest update of the classic novel throws at us. Eddie Izzard plays Torrence who was aboard a jetliner when a cosmic solar storm made 99 percent of the world blind, the plane crashes in downtown London but Torrence survives because he hid in the planes washroom, surrounded himself with inflatable vests (and yes it looked as dumb as it sounds), and he makes it out with practically not a scratch, just a soot covered face and torn clothing, so he steals a nice suit and proceeds to take over London. He teams up with Major Coker (Jason Priestley) who has the brilliant plan of handcuffing one sighted person with one blind person (he doesn't seem to understand how that ratio wouldn't quite work), but he is betrayed by Torrence and soon Torrence is running the whole show. With a personal army at his beck and call he attempts to create a little fiefdom inside London...well for as long as the Triffids will let him.

Now let's not forget our heroes:

Doctor Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) is a Triffid expert who was temporarily blinded by one of the plants and thus escaped the cosmic blinding that permanently zapped everyone else. His mother was killed by a Triffid when he was six as both her and his father were scientists studying the newly discovered creatures. She wanted to crack the Triffid language as she believed that not doing so would have dangerous repercussions down the road (how right she was), while her husband wanted to make millions genetically altering them so they could produce oil that would save the world from global warming.

Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) is a reporter who survives the cosmic blinding by being off camera when it happened (apparently she was underground for some reason instead of reporting on the invent which is what she was doing when we last saw her). She almost immediate bumps into Bill Masen and the two join forces. They meet up with Torrence but don't want to hang with him because he's creepy Eddie Izzard, but later when they are press-ganged into Coker's army they fall prey to his evil scheme's again, and again, and again. Seriously, Torrence seems to have some personal obsession with her and Masen.

Our heroes escape Torrence (separately as for awhile Jo is told that Bill is dead so that Torrence could have a shot at seducing her) and fight their way pass the Super-Triffids, which act more like a cross between Ents and zombies than your typical roaming man-eating plant, and try to find Bill's father Dennis Masen (Brian Cox) because he may have a solution to the Triffid problem. Everyone meets up at Dennis Masen's house where he has a plan to genetically alter the Triffids a bit further so that the female will spread pollen that will sterilize the males. Sadly Dennis dies when he plays back a recording of a Triffid that causes his imprisoned one to go berserk and kill him. So the plan now shifts to escaping to the Isle if Wight, but that get's interrupted when Torrence and his goons arrive. Torrence tells Bill that he's got 12 hours to come up with away to defeat the Triffids or he's going to rape Jo and kill everyone else. You see, he's eeevil! Also he is very stupid and not once are we given a reason for anyone following him. Bill comes up with a brilliant plan of using the Triffid recording to attract hundreds of the plants so that while Torrence and his men are distracted they can sneak out through hundreds of man-eating plants...oh wait that plan is moronic. Luckily Bill has a flashback of when his mother was killed by the Triffids and how a native put a tribal mask on his face and dribbled Triffid venom through the eye slits. I'm guessing this makes you appear to be a Triffid to the other Triffids because when Bill and company do this the plants sniff them and let them pass, but not before Torrence tries to shoot them. The plants rip the gun out of Torrence's hands and swarm him. Our heroes escape to the Isle of Wight and apparently live happily ever after.

This was a very stupid, stupid movie.

Almighty Thor


Asylum Studios brings the Syfy Channel the latest in the "Let's cash in on the current blockbuster" genre with Almighty Thor. To say this movie sucked could be the greatest understatement ever uttered. The effects are your standard cheap CGI and bad photo-shopped disasters but what makes this film stand out is the complete lack of a single entertaining moment in the entirety of it's poor excuse for a script, and the failure to hire a single talented actor. When Richard Grieco as Loki is the best you got then you'd just as well pull out a gun and shoot yourself.

The Story *snicker* has Odin, Thor and Thor's older brother Baldir (what?) go visit the cave of the Norns, Norse versions of the Three Fates, who explain that Odin must give the Hammer of Invincibility (Asylum couldn't be bothered to look up Mjölnir) to Loki so he can destroy the Tree of Life, as that is what fate has decreed. The worlds must end! Odin is like "No way!" and Thor is all "As if?" and the three storm of the the cave to do battle with Loki.

Loki raises a bunch of giant jackal like CGI monsters to attack Asgard while screaming, "Odin!" over and over again. Odin, Baldir and Thor finally show up and charge into battle where Thor is knocked out almost immediately, Loki tricks Odin into stabbing Baldir, and then stabs Odin himself. Before he dies Odin chucks the Hammer of Invincibility through a magic portal to keep it out of Loki's hands. Thor wakes up and attacks Loki and is only saved an instant death by warrior woman Jarnsaxa. Thor get's all "I must kill Loki!" but after she beats him repeatedly to show him what a useless tit he is they flee Asgard through another portal to Midgard AKA modern day Los Angeles. Jarnsaxa takes Thor on a tour of the alleyways of L.A. where he thwarts a mugging. They stop off at her place (she has a storage room in L.A.) and gives Thor a .45 automatic and an Uzi. He is impressed with this world's weapons.

They retrieve the Hammer of Invincibility by defeating some dude in medieval armor who I guess is the guardian of the Tree of Life. Jarnsaxa wants Thor to go into hiding and to let Loki destroy all the nine worlds, because as long as the Tree of Life is alive they can rebuild. She believes Thor is not yet ready to face Loki and could maybe use a few thousand years practice with the whole fighting thing. And from what we've seen of his skills in this movie you can kind of see her point. But Thor is all "I must kill Loki!" and repeatedly tracks down the god of mischief and get's his ass handed to him each and every time only to be saved repeatedly by Jarnsaxa. Eventually even Jarnsaxa luck runs out and Loki tricks Thor, for about the third or fourth time, and get's a hold of the Hammer of Invincibility. Loki casts Thor and Jarnsaxa into Hell and he proceeds to destroy the Tree of Life.

While in Hell Thor scoops up some molten magma and states, "I'll make my own hammer!" Which he does by sculpting the molten metal with his hands into a real cheezy tinfoil looking prop. Thor climbs out of Hell, lays the beat-down on Loki, and then dashes off to pour some healing potion on the Tree of Life. Thor then revisits the Norns and smashes their loom. The End.

Special Props go to:
The costumer who made all the Asgardians look like Renaissance-Faire hopefuls with out much of a budget. Thor's armor consist of chain-mail that is clearly coming apart at the seams with a half dozen metal plates randomly placed on his chest.
The Hammer of Invincibility is a large lump of stone tied to the end of a stick and looks more like something Fred Flintstone would use at work than a weapon of war.