Archive for the Post-Apocalypse Movies Category

THIS IS THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bad Behavior, Comedies, Disaster Films, Exorcism Movies, James Franco, LL Soares Reviews, Possessed By Demons, Post-Apocalypse Movies, R-Rated Comedy, Stoner Comedies with tags , , , , , , , on June 14, 2013 by knifefighter

THIS IS THE END (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

This-Is-The-End-PosterBack in the old days, director Roger Corman used to make “quickie” films over the course of a weekend between his regular features. Sometimes he would have the sets for a few more days or an actor might get done with a role early and have some availability (since they signed up for a certain amount of time), and Corman would take advantage of it to make a fast extra film while he still could. Sometimes this resulted in an incomprehensible flick like THE TERROR (1963), and sometimes it resulted in an accidental classic, like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960).

THIS IS THE END, the new movie by directors and screenwriting partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was probably not made over the course of a weekend, but it has that kind of feel to it. Like a bunch of friends were sitting around one afternoon and decided “Let’s make a movie!” While it clearly had an actual budget, there’s an “of the moment” aesthetic to the whole thing, some of which works in its favor, and some of which doesn’t.  It’s based on a short film called “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse” (2007) which was written by Jason Stone, about actors and friends Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogan confronting the end of the world. Now, it’s been expanded into a feature-length movie.

It features a bunch of actors playing “themselves,” or a facsimile thereof, and what happens when they get caught in the middle of the “End Times.” They’re able to make this concept work because in the movie each person’s personality is well-defined enough so that they can play on that familiarity—even if they exaggerate things a bit—and we get sucked in because we feel that we know these people. Fans of the short-lived TV series FREAKS AND GEEKS (which only lasted one season, from 1999 to 2000) will especially find things to like in the movie. That was the show that put Judd Apatow on the map, as well as giving actors Seth Rogen and James Franco their first big break.

The movie begins with Rogen (KNOCKED UP, 2007 and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, 2008) meeting Jay Baruchel—who was in another Judd Apatow series, UNDECLARED (2001-2002), and had roles in movies like KNOCKED UP and TROPIC THUNDER, 2008) —at the airport. The two of them are long-time friends who haven’t seen each other in about a year, and they’re trying to kick-start their friendship again. This involves burgers from Carl’s Jr., smoking lots of pot, and playing video games on a new 3D TV. Then Rogen remembers that he was invited to James Franco’s (most recently in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, earlier this year) house for a party. Baruchel isn’t too eager; he feels uncomfortable around Rogen’s newer “Hollywood” friends, but he agrees to go.

The party has its own pleasures, one of the biggest being Michael Cera (from SUPERBAD, 2007, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, 2010 and the cult TV series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) playing himself as a kind of coke-snorting, super-cocky lady’s man. Who knew? Cera is so obnoxious playing “himself,” that he had me laughing out loud several times. He is friggin hilarious. It’s only too bad he’s not in the movie longer. Also at the party are such familiar faces as actress Emma Watson from the HARRY POTTER movies, comic actress Mindy Kaling (from the American version of the TV show THE OFFICE and her new show, THE MINDY PROJECT), singer Rihanna, and, in smaller roles, other FREAKS AND GEEKS alumni, such as Jason Segel and Martin Starr.

While on a trip to a convenience store to pick up some cigarettes, Rogen and Baruchel find themselves in the middle of an earthquake. Or what they think is an earthquake. A bunch of stuff falls on Rogen, so he doesn’t see it, but Baruchel witnesses several customers in the store being zapped by blue beams of light from the sky and sucked up through the store’s ceiling. Back at the party, no one will believe him.

That is, until the next tremor. Then the earth opens up as the mother of all sinkholes suddenly appears in front of Franco’s house, sucking down most of the partygoers into the flaming pits of Hell.

ThisistheEnd1There’s lots of death and destruction, until just a handful of the gang are left to survive—insecure Rogen, grumpy Baruchel, pretentious Franco, as well as Jonah Hill (from everything from SUPERBAD to MONEYBALL, 2011) in full diva mode and Craig Robinson (who you might recognize from HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, 2010 and the TV series THE OFFICE.). And, once they all try to get some sleep, out of the bathroom comes the shambling form of Danny McBride, who crashed the party the night before and was passed out in the tub when all of the scary stuff went down.

How much you’ll like this movie has a lot to do with how much you like these actors. I for one have been a fan of some of these guys since the FREAKS AND GEEKS days, when they were just kids. I like all these guys, and it’s just funny to see them interact in light of the horrific situation they’re in.

For me, though, the biggest plus here is Danny McBride, who I just think is one of the best comic actors around today. From his debut in the indie comedy THE FOOT FIST WAY (2006) to his hilarious HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN, I am a total fan. Although my enthusiasm for the guy doesn’t mean I’m delusional enough to have thought 2011’s YOUR HIGHNESS (starring Franco and McBride) was a good movie. His completely obnoxious persona completes works in this one, though.

Not everything works in THIS IS THE END. Once we have our six men trapped in Franco’s house, trying to figure out what is going on, there are moments when it almost seems like they’re not sure what to do next, and there are a few parts that go on too long. It’s the downside of a movie that feels improvised; sometimes the improvisation can seem to run out of steam. There are parts where they seem like they’re making it up as they go along.

There are some special effects, mostly involving CGI monsters, which aren’t too bad. But most of the movie is just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking, and on that level it works. I thought it was a lot funnier than a majority of comedies I’ve seen lately. It’s got its flaws, but it’s also a lot of fun. It seems to go on a little long, but if you judge a comedy by the amount of laughs it gives you, then you’ll probably feel like you got your money’s worth as you leave the theater.

I thought the trailers for this one looked pretty hilarious, and the movie does have its share of big laughs. I know I was laughing a lot during its running time, but I was a little disappointed that it did not live up to my expectations all the way through. I will say that, whenever Danny McBride is onscreen (or Michael Cera earlier in the film), the laughs increase. Another big plus is the segment where Jonah Hill gets possessed by a demon, and the other guys try to perform an exorcism on him. Oh, and a scene where we find out what happened to James Franco’s neighbor, Channing Tatum, is pretty hilarious as well.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

It has its flaws, but there’s a lot to like about THIS IS THE END. I like these guys a lot, and it’s kind of like hanging out at their house for a couple of hours. It seems like that would be fun, even if the world was ending outside.

I give it three out of five knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THIS IS THE END ~three  knives.

Lady Anachronism’s Fallout Shelter Inhabits the REFUGE OF FEAR (1974)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2013, Cold War Chills, Lady Anachronism's Fallout Shelter, Post-Apocalypse Movies, Radiation, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel Columns with tags , , , , , , on January 23, 2013 by knifefighter

Lady Anachronism’s Fallout Shelter Inhabits the
REFUGE OF FEAR (1974)
By Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

Refugeoffear

Pull up a chair, pass around some rations, and get comfortable. Here at Lady Anachronism’s Fallout Shelter, I’ll take you back into time, when Atomic Age cats and dolls fretted over the bomb and visions of alien invaders flickered on the big screen at the local drive-in. Technological or political developments may have made these films obsolete, but I hope you’ll join me in rediscovering forgotten Cold War-era cinema.

It’s hard to make a boring film about nuclear annihilation, but REFUGE OF FEAR (1974), which was also called CREATION OF THE DAMNED, makes surviving a nuclear holocaust seem like the dullest fate imaginable.

The bomb has already been dropped when we meet the two couples surviving underground in a sophisticated shelter. We witness the survivors—Carol (the lovely Patty Shepard) and her husband Arthur (Fernando Hilbeck), Margie (Teresa Gimpera), her husband Robert (Craig Hill) and their son Chris (Pedro Mari Sanchez) —playing billiards, chatting, and having impromptu striptease shows. There’s actually no full nudity, which means the first hour of the film is pretty boring.

Chris attempts to contact other survivors over the radio, with no initial success. The group watches a Geiger counter to see if the radiation levels go down enough to leave the shelter.

The group begins fighting, mostly over petty things. Boredom sets in. Arthur develops an addiction to pills. Carol starts taking her clothes off and dancing provocatively for the group’s entertainment.

The survivors discover their pet cat dead. Robert, being the strict military man he is, skins and cooks up the cat. They can’t afford to waste anything, he tells Arthur.

Meanwhile, Chris is able to find another faction of survivors over the radio. They keep him updated on the radiation levels. Knowing that others have survived is of little comfort. They’re unable to leave. The air is still poisonous.

Eventually, boredom and her husband’s whininess drive Carol to have an affair with Chris, who is much younger and much more studly than Arthur. Carol taunts Arthur that her period is late. Arthur puts two and two together and tells the whole group that Carol is pregnant with Chris’s child.

Things become extremely tense in the shelter, so Chris leaves for the surface. We get a brief glimpse of the impact of the bomb. Chris enters a home, only to discover the fried and decomposed bodies of the former residents. Chris succumbs to the radiation and drops dead.

Back in the shelter, Arthur dies. Robert is convinced he committed suicide over the news of Carol’s illegitimate baby. Carol thinks Robert killed him. She’s so convinced that he’s a killer that she ties him up and holds him hostage. His wife, Margie, doesn’t seem to mind any of this.

Robert escapes. The three remaining members of the group try to get along, but Robert murders Margie, leaving him alone with Carol. He tries to control her, even going as far as drugging and raping her.

Carol eventually fights back. She keeps hearing someone over Chris’s radio. The other faction of survivors comes over the airwaves to tell them that the radiation levels have improved enough for them to leave. Robert doesn’t want to leave. He’s afraid Carol will go to the authorities and tell them that he killed Arthur and Margie. He attempts to kill her, but she locks herself into a room. She finds a gun and shoots through the door, killing Robert.

In the final scene, which seems odd and out of place, we see the whole gang back before the bomb hit, having a barbecue and discussing the construction of the bomb shelter. It’s a bizarre way to end the film.

REFUGE OF FEAR drags on at times. The characters are forgettable for the most part. The film could have been about half an hour long, and it would have been much more effective. We do see some tension, but tempers never fully boil over, which would have made the movie more exciting. People mostly snip at each other and storm off. It’s almost like a feature-length Spanish soap opera.

The one interesting thing about REFUGE OF FEAR is that it is a Spanish film about a nuclear weapon striking the United States. It’s a unique choice. Other Spanish films have addressed a nuclear weapon striking Europe, including Leon Klimovsky’s far superior THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1976).

Despite its failings, the film captures the very real paranoia of the United States during the Cold War. People did build underground bomb shelters. People did stockpile food and medications. REFUGE OF FEAR is a solid example of the fact that the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union troubled the whole world.

© Copyright 2013 by Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

PRIEST

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Monsters, Post-Apocalypse Movies, Vampire Hunters, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PRIEST (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(The Scene: The interior of a giant, dark cave, full of labyrinth-like tunnels and eerie-looking passageways. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES make their way through the cave. MA is holding a flashlight to illuminate the way.)

MA: Welcome, everybody! We’re here in this vampire hive to witness yet another big battle between vampires and their adversaries—humanity’s heroes—the priest warriors!

(Unseen audience cheers)

LS: Really? Since when do vampires have hives? Are they vampire bees? I thought we were in a beaver tunnel looking for Mel Gibson.

MA: Wrong movie. It’s vampires vs. humans today, because that’s the type of battle you’ll see in the new 3D vampire vs. human movie PRIEST (2011). Wait a minute. I hear something.

LS: That’s my stomach. I wonder if this place has a snack bar.

MA: No. I hear footsteps.

(A horde of batty-looking vampires emerge from the darkness)

LS: Any of you fellas know where I can find a snack bar?

(Vampires hiss and close in on MA & LS)

MA: I think we’re the snack bar.

LS: That’s not going to help me any.

MA: You think?

(A PRIEST suddenly enters the scene, and with a few nifty slow motion moves, quickly and neatly disposes of all the vampires.)

MA: That’s it? That’s the battle?

LS: And that’s pretty much the movie. Can we go home now?

PRIEST: You two men—are movie reviewers.

MA (rolls eyes): Yep, that’s the kind of obvious thought-provoking dialogue you’ll hear in the new movie PRIEST. (To Priest) I hear there’s some more vampires down that passageway building a snack bar. You should investigate.

PRIEST: Yes, I should investigate. (Exits)

LS: And we should do this review. I’m hungry, and those vampire body parts strewn all over the place are starting to look mighty appetizing.

MA: Okay. I’ll start this one.

PRIEST takes place in an alternate world where vampires and humans have battled for centuries, but the humans have finally won the battle because of their secret weapon: warrior priests. The few vampires left have been banished to live on reservations, and the humans now live in futuristic cities that reminded me a lot of the cities Harrison Ford traipsed through in BLADE RUNNER (1982).

LS: How dare you mention a great film like BLADE RUNNER in comparison to this dreck!

MA:  That’s what happens when you’re in a theater watching a lousy movie—you daydream about better movies.

LS:  Oh, you forgot to mention that the Vatican controls all the cities with an iron fist. Wow, who knew the Catholic Church would eventually take over? And everyone is so docile and compliant.

MA: Outside these cities, the world looks like the old west, as the towns and the people look like they just left the set of TRUE GRIT. A strange combination.

LS: A lame combination, you mean.

MA:  Sure, and why stop there?  Let’s call it what it really was:  a stupid combination.  I mean, what’s up with mixing futuristic cities with the old west?  It makes no sense.

LS: Which I guess means you should love the upcoming COWBOYS VS. ALIENS.

MA: In this movie, priests are vampire hunters. They even have crosses tattooed on their faces so you know who they are. One of them (Paul Bettany)—the most famous of the priest-vampire hunters, of course—is drawn back into the conflict when his brother’s family is attacked at an outpost in the wasteland, and his niece is kidnapped by vampires. In order to search for his niece, The Priest has to go against the church’s wishes, because the Monsignor (Christopher Plummer) tells him that there’s no more vampire problem, and if he goes against his church’s wishes, he’ll be excommunicated. The Priest thinks about this long and hard for about two seconds, and decides he’s going after his niece.

LS: This entire set-up is moronic. The church ignores any signs that the vampires are making a comeback, and claims it’s just a superstition. Why? Because they want to maintain their iron grip on the populace and make the people think they are safe. But even among each other they perpetuate the lies? You would think they would rise up against any possible threat to their power. If vampires are back, you’d think they would want to stamp them out–not deny their existence. I mean – there was a war with them in the past, there are even some left on the reservations as a reminder – it’s not like there’s no proof of their existence! This isn’t the Boogie Man here; it’s a proven danger. This plot point just seemed incredibly stupid to me.

MA:  I agree.  You’d think they’d want to find out if the vampires were on the prowl again. It’s never clearly explained why the church is so against admitting that vampires are back.  It just gives Christopher Plummer a chance to be a grumpy old man and spout out authoritative hogwash about disobeying the church’s wishes.

There’s also this recurring line “If you go against the church, you go against God,” which I guess is supposed to be this deep Orwellian warning, but really, if you think about it, if you belong to a church, and you believe in that church’s teachings, isn’t that just an obvious statement? It’s like saying if you disobey the 10 Commandments, you disobey God. Well, yeah!

(LS yawns)

MA: Anyway, back to the plot. The priest is joined by a young sheriff, Hicks (Cam Gigandet), who happens to be in love with the priest’s niece. Small world. They go off in search of the vampires in order to rescue the niece.  It’s a plot that made me wish I was watching the classic John Wayne western, THE SEARCHERS (1956) instead.

They’re also joined by a female vampire priest, and their search eventually leads them to the main vampire baddie in this one, a slick dude in a black cowboy hat aptly named Black Hat (Karl Urban).

LS: The priestess is played by Maggie Q. She’s one of a group of fellow priests that the Vatican sends to kill Paul Bettany’s character for heresy, but she decides to join forces with him instead. Man, is this storyline stupid. Instead of sending more priests out to kill Bettany, wouldn’t it make more sense to have them investigate whether the vampire threat is real or not?

MA:  That would make too much sense.

And that’s the plot. In a movie like this, the ending is never in doubt. This movie is called PRIEST. Do you really think the priest from the main title is going to fail?

LS (with mouth full): Are you asking me?

MA: No, I’m asking our audience—what are you eating? (Sees that LS is chomping on a severed vampire arm) Put that down! You don’t know where that hand’s been!

LS (pulls out a bottle of Stubbs BBQ sauce): Awww, you’re no fun. I had to eat something. And you’re using your arm. Go on with the review.

MA: PRIEST could have been a good “bad” movie. When it started, I had an open mind, and tried as best as I could to be into it, and the filmmakers tried as best as they could to see that that didn’t happen. The plot is downright silly, but I would have looked past this had the film been made better.

The worst part is there is absolutely no character development. We don’t get to know these folks at all, and as a result we don’t care for them. Cory Goodman wrote the screenplay based on the graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung, and it’s about as deep as a paper cut.

LS: You’re giving the film too much credit. I’ve had some pretty deep paper cuts.

MA: Paul Bettany as the Priest is about as exciting as a piece of wood. He’s boring. We saw Bettany as the angel Michael in LEGION (2009) and he was slightly better in that, but not much.

LS: Didn’t he play the same exact role as an enforcer for the church in THE DA VINCI CODE (2006)? He sure has a thing for playing avenging clergymen. I actually think Bettany can be good when given a decent role. He was good in the British gangster film GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000) and the Lars Von Trier movie DOGVILLE (2003), and I also liked him in the nautical epic MASTER AND COMMANDER (2003), but he hasn’t impressed me at all in action films like this. He needs to go back to serious acting.

MA: Karl Urban looks cool as the villainous Black Hat, but he’s way underdeveloped. He has a personal history with the Priest, and so his motives for kidnapping the niece are personal, but we know so little about this history. Black Hat used to be a priest, I think. Were they friends? Brothers? Rivals? Your guess is as good as mine since the writer of this piece didn’t bother to show us.

LS: I thought Urban was the best thing in the movie, but you’re right, he has very little to do. His Black Hat character was kinda cool, but had no substance. He’s been in a lot of movies we’ve seen recently, and I almost always enjoy his performances. He’s even slated to play JUDGE DREDD in the upcoming reboot of that franchise. I sure hope it’s better than this movie.

MA: Cam Gigandet as Sheriff Hicks is about as fleshed out as a toothpick. Gigandet looked familiar, and it’s no surprise, since he’s shown up in a number of movies we’ve reviewed the past few years. He was in PANDORUM (2009), THE UNBORN (2009), and, most recently, THE ROOMATE (2011).

Brad Dourif, an actor I enjoy watching, is wasted in an all too brief stint as an exceedingly cliché Salesman. You know the character, that guy who’s trying to bamboozle the local townspeople by selling them phony remedies? How many times has this scene been replayed in the movies?

LS: Brad Dourif is way too good for crap like this.

MA: And Christopher Plummer is relegated to looking constipated and stating authoritative lines that a grumpy old monsignor would say.

And the look of PRIEST isn’t anything to brag about either. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic visuals in SUCKER PUNCH (2011) much better than anything I saw here in PRIEST. I did like the futuristic city, but the western scenes were unimaginative, and the scenes in the vampire hive were dark and looked like a million other dark cave scenes I’ve seen before.

PRIEST also didn’t have any memorable action scenes. Did you like any of the battles? (nudges LS) This time I am talking to you.

LS: Battles? Oh yeah, there were some of those in here, huh? I wasn’t much impressed by them either. There’s one where Black Hat and the Priest fight on a train that’s almost good. But not quite. Yeah, the battles kind of suck.

MA: I wasn’t impressed, either. And I wasn’t impressed by Scott Charles Stewart’s direction at all. Stewart also directed LEGION (2009), a film I enjoyed more than PRIEST.

LS: I’m starting to see a pattern here. Stewart directed both LEGION and PRIEST. Paul Bettany starred in both of them. And both were over-sold at the movie theaters. By the time the actual movies came out, I was already sick of them because of the trailers—I think I saw the PRIEST trailer like 25 times before the movie was released! Neither one redeemed itself in the actual viewing—both were kind of lame—and you’ve already seen some of the best scenes in the trailers beforehand several times. So why bother?

MA: The vampires were also a disappointment. They looked like rejects from PAN’S LABRYNTH (2006). They weren’t scary looking at all. I liked the little we saw of Black Hat. He was cool-looking, and I thought Karl Urban— who we saw as Dr. McCoy in STAR TREK (2009) — did a good job making him something of a sly menace, but we know so little about him, and he actually does so little in this movie, that he’s far from a decent villain. He certainly could have been one.

LS: The vampires are my number one problem with this movie. They’re lame, CGI creatures who can move very fast, but they don’t look realistic at all. They’re these giant eyeless things with lots of teeth. Nothing like vampires we’re used to. I guess this is supposed to be something new and original – but it’s not. It’s just kind of dumb.

So the vampires these people have been fighting for ages are definitely non-human monsters. And then, it’s revealed that Black Hat is their big secret weapon against mankind. And what makes him special? He’s the first human vampire! I’m not sure if this is a spoiler, but if it is, it sure is a friggin stupid one. God, is this world slow on the uptake. We’ve had human vampires in movies for over a century and it took them this long to come up with them? What a sorry-ass alternate world. I hate CGI monsters and I hate dumb alternate worlds.

MA: Then there’s the whole 3D fiasco. Yep, PRIEST was in 3D, yet another movie where the 3D failed to make a difference. Now, I can understand why you’d want to make this one in 3D, since it takes place in an alternate word, and so there’s a lot of room for creative landscapes and cool 3D imagery, but guess what? The filmmakers didn’t exploit this at all! There is hardly anything impressive visually about this movie, and the 3D effects flat-out fail to impress. It actually kind of amazed me how lackluster the 3D effects were in PRIEST, and compared to the 3D effects we just saw last week in THOR, THOR was much better, but even those I wasn’t crazy about.

LS: I wasn’t that impressed with the use of 3D in THOR, either, but that movie was a masterpiece compared to PRIEST. Man, did I hate this movie! I actually almost nodded off a few times, it was so predictable and dumb. But I made sure to stay awake for the sake of our readers. And the 3D was just adding insult to injury. I had to pay an extra five bucks for pathetic 3D effects that didn’t improve this movie one iota.

MA: Too much 3D! Knock it off already! Or make it better. The theaters are certainly charging enough for these movies, so there’s no excuse for these films not looking better.

And lastly, PRIEST is not scary, which is a disappointment, since this is a movie about vampires. The scariest part about PRIEST is one of the final lines of the movie, where Christopher Plummer’s Monsignor yells at the Priest, saying the vampire war is over, and the Priest replies, “It’s not over. It’s just beginning.” And you know what that means: PRIEST 2. Now that’s scary.

LS: I can only hope this one does horribly at the box office. That’s the only thing that can protect us from the horror that is PRIEST 2.

MA: I give PRIEST one and a half knives.

LS: As usual, you’re more generous than the movie deserves. I give it half a knife. This thing is a dog.

MA:  Yeah, I almost gave it a lower rating, but I did like Karl Urban as Black Hat, and unlike you, I didn’t hate the movie.  I just thought it was lame.

(PRIEST returns from the catacombs)

MA: Did you find any more vampires?

PRIEST: No. Did you like the movie?

LS: No, we hated it. Now show us how to get out of here. We’re done talking about PRIEST.

PRIEST: You can stay here. And rot.

MA:  You know, if you had talked this tough in the movie, we might have liked it better.

PRIEST:  Bite me.

(PRIEST flips them off and then disappears into the darkness)

MA:  Now, what?  How are we going to get out of here?

(Suddenly a giant neon sign flickers and comes to life. It’s a gigantic hand pointing with the words “WAY OUT” above it).

MA: There’s something to be said for movies that constantly state the obvious.

LS: We are obviously outta here.

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives PRIEST 1 and a half knives

LL Soares gives PRIESThalf a knife

SLIME CITY MASSACRE!

Posted in 2010, Apocalyptic Films, Campy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Low Budget Movies, Post-Apocalypse Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SLIME CITY MASSACRE (2010)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A blasted-out housing project after a nuclear apocalypse.  As L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA approach, they notice that there’s a banner strewn between two bent lampposts that reads, “WELCOME BACK.” A glowing, radioactive JOHN TRAVOLTA pops up from behind a street sign, dressed as Vinnie Barbarino and begins singing…)

TRAVOLTA: Bar – Bar – Bar .  Bar-Bar-Barino

LS: No, no, it’s not that old TV show WELCOME BACK, KOTTER! This is Cinema Knife Fight.

TRAVOLTA: Who?

LS: I’m not gonna play this game. Why don’t you go make some more awful movies so we can make fun of you in a future column.

MA:  Actually, Travolta’s made some pretty good movies.

LS: Really? Let’s see. (Counts on one hand) PULP FICTION (1994), GET SHORTY (1995) and FACE/OFF (1997). That’s barely “some.”

TRAVOLTA: What?

MA: Ahh, the old Barbarino schtick!  I used to love that.

LS: Figures. You probably loved Arnold Horshack, too.

TRAVOLTA: Where?

MA: As much as I used to enjoy WELCOME BACK KOTTER, you do realize that nobody under the age of 30 is going to understand this joke.

LS: What about reruns? Besides, this is fun because it will piss off Greg Lamberson. I know he’s reading this right now wondering “When the hell are they going to review my movie!”

TRAVOLTA: Who?

(LS throws TRAVOLTA in front of a passing car, getting splattered with blood)

MA: Why?

LS: Don’t you start!  We have a movie to review.

MA:  Yes we do.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be caught dead in SLIME CITY.

LS:  You don’t like it here?

MA:  It’s not bad, but it feels as if we were just here!

LS:  That’s because we were, and the last time we were here was to review THE SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION on DVD (Note: we originally reviewed this box set in August 2009 for Fear Zone, and it was republished here in February 2010). But that was a collection of movies director Gregory Lamberson made from 1988 to 1999 (and a video he did in 2007). This time, we’re here to see something brand new, SLIME CITY MASSACRE!

I’m not sure if SLIME CITY MASSACRE is going to get a proper release, but I hope so. Either way, it’s bound to come out on DVD at some point. And it has been making the rounds of several film festivals. It was just nice to have someone send us a screener disk, instead of having to pay for a movie ticket.

MA: Yes, it certainly was, and wouldn’t it be nice if it happened more often?

Why don’t you start this one and tell the fine people what SLIME CITY MASSACRE is about.

LS: Well, in the original SLIME CITY (1988), Robert C. Sabin, as a young guy named Alex, moved into an apartment building where the followers of alchemist Zachary Devon used Himalayan yogurt and weird-looking wine to control, and eventually possess, the bodies of young people, in order to live forever.

MA:  The brightly colored yogurt looks like something conjured up on SESAME STREET.  Had the stuff looked more like real yogurt, I would have found that scarier, but obviously that’s not the point here, to scare.  We’re not talking serious horror here.  We’re talking camp.

LS: This time we get to see more of Zachary Devon himself, in the past, as well as several people in the future, after a nuclear blast, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world – who happen to stumble upon Zachary’s stash of weird edibles.

The 1950s scenes are shown as flashbacks in black and white, and this time Robert Sabin from the original movie is now portraying Zachary – a weird guy who runs a soup kitchen in the city and brings in stray people like Nicole (Brooke Lewis), a prostitute. Zachary is a kind of cult leader, and when he finds out that he is dying of cancer, he convinces his inner circle to commit suicide with him, thus setting the stage for them to “live forever” by possessing other people over the years who eat the yogurt and drink the wine.

Kind of like a strange unholy communion.

MA: With the emphasis on strange.  These people are about as believable as SCOOBY DOO villains.  I know, I know:  camp.

But, if I were to find a way to live forever, this wouldn’t be it.  They just become slime monsters and kill people.  What kind of existence is that?  It’s boring!  If I could live forever, I’d be doing things, things I wouldn’t normally do, since I can live forever!

LS: Then, in the future, four people try to stay alive in a bombed-out housing project, much like the one we’re standing in now. One couple, Cory and Alexa (Kealan Patrick Burke and Jennifer Bihl), are looking for shelter from the streets. The other couple we focus on are Mason and Alice (Lee Perkins and Debbie Rochon), who live in the “abandoned” building that Cory and Alexa try to squat in. The four become allies and begin foraging for food together. When the two guys stumble upon Zachary’s now-abandoned cellar, they get more than they bargained for. Desperate for supplies, they bring back jars of neon-colored yogurt and bottles of Zachary’s “special elixir,” that looks like homemade wine. But this turns out to be a bad idea.

MA:  You think?

LS:  As we know from the original SLIME CITY, both of these things turn people into slime-oozing monsters who must kill to revert back to normal. Meanwhile, as they undergo their weird transformations, Zachary and his followers slowly get a foothold into the world of the living through them.

Hey, look what’s inside this dumpster! A jar of Himalayan yogurt. This one is bright purple! And it’s unopened.

MA: You’re not going to eat that stuff again, are you?  Don’t you remember what happened to you last time you ate that?

LS: No. What happened?

(LS opens the lid and gulps down the yogurt)

MA: Is it just me?  Or does anyone else out there think it might not be such a hot idea to eat stuff in jars that you have no idea what it is?  Like the folks in the movie.  It could be radioactive for all they know, yet they eat it.  I realize they’re supposed to be starving (though they don’t look it at all) but I’m not sure I’d go the route of neon-colored goo, but then again, maybe I’m wrong.  (LS burps and wipes purple yogurt from his mouth, chucking empty container into dumpster).  Wow.  You finished that quick.

LS:  That’s because it’s yummy for your tummy – which you would know if you ever ate the stuff.

MA: I’ll stick to yogurt from the supermarket.

LS: I found a few aspects of this movie interesting. Like the link to the horror writer community. Director Lamberson is not only a filmmaker, he’s a novelist who has several books out (many of which are published by Medallion Books, who also helped produce this movie).  But he hired a few writers as actors here, too. Kealan Patrick Burke plays Cory, one of the main characters, and Sephera Geron plays Zachary Devon’s wife, Ruby, in the flashback scenes. Burke, in particular, is actually pretty good for someone who is new to acting. Not that anyone here is Shakespearean trained, but it was interesting to see.

MA:  I’ll go one step further.  I thought one of the strengths of this movie were the performances by the four leads, and Burke in particular.  Burke came off as a professional actor.  He was really good.  I thought he had the strongest performance in the movie.

LS:  Yeah, Kealan rocks here.

Probably the most famous name in the credits, for a major role at least, is “scream queen” Debbie Rochon who plays Alice, and she turns in a good performance here. Lee Perkins, who plays Mason, has also got a lot of previous credits in mostly character roles, and he’s pretty good, too.

But my favorite was Jennifer Bihl as Alexa. I sympathized with her character the most.

MA:  Yes, they were all excellent and really made the proceedings, which so often bordered on the ridiculous, enjoyable to watch.

LS: Like the original movie, there’s lots of multi-colored slime, and people walk around wrapped in bandages like the Invisible Man, to hide their oozing faces.

I liked parts of SLIME CITY MASSACRE, especially the future scenes. The scenes in the 1950s weren’t as good, and I never really bought that we’d gone back in time. Despite the black and white, people don’t seem to be wearing genuine 50s clothes or have the hairdos of the day. It just looks like modern-day people in black and white.

MA:  Yes, I would agree with you here.  These scenes really didn’t work all that well, for that very reason, they looked like modern-day scenes shot in black and white.

LS:  And while it’s good to see Sabin here, (I really liked him in SLIME CITY), he’s not in this movie enough.  Then again, I thought Zachary would be a much more sinister character.

MA:  He’s in it TOO MUCH for me.  I mean, Sabin’s OK, but the four leads deliver much stronger and much more believable performances.  And you’re right, his Zachary is not scary at all.

LS:  His co-star from the original, Mary Bogel (back in 1988, she was credited as Mary Huner), is in it as well. Even Lamberson regular Tommy Sweeny shows up (from UNDYING LOVE (1991) and NAKED FEAR (1999) as McBain, another soldier who meets a grisly end. I always thought Sweeny should have had a bigger acting career.

The production values seem to be a step up from Lamberson’s previous films, but a big “killer brain” scene toward the end – that pays homage to the original film – just didn’t look as cool this time around. I actually preferred the original brain scene! Sometimes low-budget horror is more effective, I guess.

MA: Yes, I would agree.  The production values were much higher this time around, and SLIME CITY MASSACRE looks much better than the original.  That being said, I agree that the killer brain scene toward the end was also kind of a letdown, though the little brains oozing around reminded me of the critters in the old 1958 chiller FIEND WITHOUT A FACE.  I thought the brains in their bright neon colors looked rather silly, though.

LS: Really? I thought the creatures in FIEND WITHOUT A FACE were kinda scary for a 50s movie.

MA:  Yes, they were scary, scarier than the ones in this movie.  They just reminded me a bit of each other.

LS:  The brain monsters in this movie were kinda “cute.”

MA: The whole movie wasn’t all that gruesome, either.  While there were some gory scenes, I thought this one was a bit milder than I expected.  Were you surprised there wasn’t more gore?

LS:  I’m always looking forward to gore. And yeah, this one didn’t really deliver on that. There’s barely any nudity for most of the film, either – although Rochon solves that toward the end, at least. But it’s too little, too late.

There are also cameos by Lloyd Kaufman (of TROMA fame) playing himself in the beginning of the movie (He’s reading the newspaper and does a goofy reaction shot when the nuclear bomb goes off), and Roy Frumkes (the director of STREET TRASH) as an evil corporate guy who wants to wipe out the homeless people who are squatting on his property (Frumkes is actually pretty good!).

As characters get hooked on the slime stuff, it could have been an allegory for addiction, but it never gets that poignant. Overall, I’d hoped this movie would be more serious – and more dark – than it is. With a bigger budget, I was hoping Lamberson would roll up his sleeves and give us some bonafide horror. I wanted some real scares, but a lot of the characters are kind of goofy.

MA:  There’s a lot of goofiness in this one.  If you’re looking for something dark, this isn’t the movie for you.  To me, the neon colors say it all.  They’re happy colors, silly colors, colors you’d see on PBS kids’ shows.  When all was said and done, I wasn’t feeling all that dark and depressed.  I felt like eating birthday cake and ice cream, and singing “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison.  I don’t think that was the intended effect.

Not that this kind of formula couldn’t be successful.  Take THE BLOB (1958) for example, considered a classic science fiction movie.  THE BLOB has silly special effects, a bright red giant globule of goo that looks horrendously fake, and an upbeat theme song by Burt Bacharach!  But it was anchored by a young Steve McQueen, and it took itself seriously, and by the end of the movie, it didn’t matter that the blob looked like a massive jelly spill, it mattered that the believable characters in the movie were in danger, and we as an audience cared about that.

That’s one major flaw with SLIME CITY MASSACRE.  I didn’t find myself caring all that much.

Plus, in THE BLOB, there was enough of a budget for the director to craft some creative scenes, like the “blob-in-the-movie-theater” bit.  That scene really resonated.

SLIME CITY MASSACRE really doesn’t have anything like that going for it, there’s no scene here that really resonates and lifts it to another level.  I will say though, that what happens to Alice in the bath tub was an interesting scene, and while I wasn’t blown away by it, I did like it.  So, I’ll give credit where credit is due.  The slime in the bath tub scene was a memorable image, but it wasn’t enough to save this movie.

LS: I like Rochon, and I liked that scene a lot. The face floating in the slime was cool, and what she eventually becomes is even cooler. (Eyes grow wide)  Hey, look what I found in the dumpster while you were yammering! A copy of Zachary Devon’s book FLESH CONTROL which teaches you how to control your own flesh and possess the bodies of others!

MA: That thing is huge.

LS: That’s what she said.

MA:  Hey, a joke that someone under 30 will get!

LS:  Gotta stay contemporary. But do you really think anyone has ever read Zachary Devon’s book? It looks more like a door stopper.

MA:  You could eat dinner off that thing.


LS:  I’ll admit SLIME CITY MASSACRE wasn’t perfect, and it could have been even better – but it was a fun flick. Don’t you like anything that’s fun?

MA: I like a lot of things that are fun, but I wouldn’t describe this movie as being all that fun.  It was more like— eating a yogurt.  When I eat yogurt, I enjoy it, but it’s not the same as eating, say, an ice cream sundae!  It’s just not that exciting, nor all that fun!  I feel the same way about this movie.  It was just sort of there.  If you like straight horror, then it’s certainly not scary enough, and if you like camp, I don’t think it’s campy enough.

I said this when we reviewed THE SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION, but I liked Greg’s novel JOHNNY GRUESOME better than any of his movies.  I hope that his next film project is a bit more like that novel, more serious and ambitious, and darker as well.

(LS wipes his forehead, which is covered in slimy purple ooze. His entire head is purple)

LS: It sure is hot out today.

MA: You’re turning into slime!

LS: Oh yeah. I forgot that’s what happens when you eat Himalayan yogurt.

MA: I told you not to eat it.

LS: And I’ve got a stomach ache!

MA: We better leave before you become a slime monster. See you next week, everyone!

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(Correction: In the original post of this article, it was stated that Kealan Patrick Burke also starred in the short film, “Peekers.” However, this was wrong. He wrote the short story that film was based on, but he did not act in that one).

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW

Posted in 2004, Apocalyptic Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Disaster Films, Post-Apocalypse Movies with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT # 3: THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (2004)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m Michael Arruda and this is L.L. Soares.

L.L. SOARES: Yep, that’s me.

MA:  Today we look at THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (2004), the much hyped disaster movie that is taking the nation by storm.

And storm is what THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is all about.  Scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) warns a group of world leaders that unless serious measures are taken to stop global warming, there will be changes in the ocean currents that will lead to a second ice age.  When severe storms break out across the entire northern hemisphere, and temperatures drop dramatically, Hall realizes his predictions are happening right now.

We see tornadoes in Los Angeles, a huge tidal wave in New York City, and ice and snow that covers just about everything in its path.  The movie follows small groups of survivors who fight against the elements, including Hall’s teenage son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Hall himself, who travels from Washington D.C. to New York City to rescue his son.

As you would expect, the true star of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is the special effects.  To this end, I was disappointed.  When creating fantasy worlds, such as Middle Earth in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, CGI effects are close to flawless, but in real life settings, there’s just something missing.  The look is almost animated and as a result the anticipated sense of awe and terror you expect when seeing scenes of great destruction, it’s just not there.

This is not to say I didn’t like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. As a fan of the disaster flicks from the 1970s, I enjoyed watching this movie, though I wish somewhere Charlton Heston would have shown up to say with his ’70s cynicism, “Oh my God.”

LS (doing a Charlton Heston imitation):  “Damn Dirty Apes!”

Ahem…..This movie wants to be a new generation’s EARTHQUAKE (1974) or THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972), but those movies had interesting characters, and storylines that kept you wanting to see more. I’d take Gene Hackman or Ernest Borgnine over Dennis Quaid any day of the week.

MA (pulls out ice pick.) (Hums).

LS:  I think I liked the effects a little better than you did, although I didn’t find them realistic as much as just fun….what are you doing?

MA (waving pick):  Just listening to what you have to say. That’s all.

LS: OK….Director Roland Emmerich provides us with a few good images, but when it comes to engaging characters, he consistently comes up short, as anyone who has seen his god-awful GODZILLA remake (from 1998) already knows. The movie starts off fast with a lot of potential. By the time giant tornadoes are ripping Los Angeles apart, I was actually digging it. But all the really good stuff happens early on and the second half of the movie just didn’t do much for me.

MA: I agree the characters weren’t all that interesting, but I did enjoy Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Sam.  He reminded me of a cross between Tobey Maguire and a very young Oliver Reed- I guess that’s the horror film fan in me!

LS: Jake Gyllenhaal is okay, until you realize this is the same guy who was the lead in DONNIE DARKO (2001), and in comparison, his DAY AFTER TOMORROW character is one-dimensional and inconsequential. He’s just some smart kid without much personality. So what?

And Dennis Quaid looks like he’d make a good leading man, but his acting is pretty wooden. I didn’t feel much empathy for his character because he seems like someone going through the motions, rather than someone who has genuine emotions. We’re expected to believe that he desperately wants to connect with his son again, even though most of his son’s life he’s been an absentee father by choice, choosing his career over his family. His goal to reach New York and his son doesn’t seem to have any emotional investment. It’s just a plot device to provide motivation for the second half.

I’d even go so far as to say that not one of the characters in this movie convinces us they are worth saving. There isn’t anything about them that makes them special compared to the millions who presumably die. They’re just dots on a line from Point A to Point B.

MA (slams ice pick into wall):  I completely disagree.  I thought Sam and his friends were likeable, and I bought into their plight in the library.

(PuLS out ice pick) For me, the biggest disappointment, especially in terms of this column, was that I didn’t find the film very frightening.  It’s rated PG-13 for “intense situations of peril” and to be honest, I didn’t find the situations very intense.  As much as I like to lump all sorts of movies into the horror category, I can’t do that with THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.  It’s just not horror.

LS: Actually, nature striking back at humanity has a long history in horror. Done right, this could have been an effective movie. But as is, it’s just a mediocre and often implausible story with some nice visuals.

I also had a problem with a few times where things got preachy – it was like a big budget public service announcement for global warming. That kind of stuff really bugs me in a movie. Just tell the damn story!

MA:   Lucky for you, I agree.  (tosses pick aside)  I was also bugged that everyone in the movie watched “Fox News.”  That was the scariest part of the movie!

LS: I went into THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW expecting to absolutely hate it. I didn’t. But it’s only a so-so movie. And so-so movies just don’t justify a $10 ticket price.

MA:  No they don’t.  But Jake Gyllenhaal is good, and I hope one day he plays a werewolf!

—END—

(Originally published in the Hellnotes Newsletter on June 17, 2004)

© Copyright 2004 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

TERMINATOR SALVATION

Posted in 2009, Cinema Knife Fights, Post-Apocalypse Movies, ROBOTS!, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009)
by Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares

FADE IN

(THE SCENE:  a futuristic landscape, decimated by war, with screaming people fleeing in every direction, as an 80-foot tall terminator machine opens fire on them. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are among the fleeing humans. They jump into an abandoned jeep, and with L.L. behind the wheel, race away with the giant machine in hot pursuit).

MA (raising his voice to be heard over all the pandemonium):  Welcome to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT. L.L. and I have traveled to the not-so-distant future to see firsthand what it’s like to live in the TERMINATOR world, to bring you the most authentic review possible of the new movie, TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009).

LS:  Yeah, and it sucks!

MA:  What?  The movie or visiting this futuristic world?

LS: Both! This world isn’t exciting enough for me. If we gotta be in a post-apocalyptic future, I’d prefer the one from THE ROAD WARRIOR or even Romero’s zombie world. This one is tired and predictable.

MA:  This is also a Cinema Knife Fight first:  the first time we’ve attempted to review a movie while traveling at excessive speeds in a burnt-out vehicle while being chased by an impossibly huge terminator machine. So, here goes. I hope you can hear me okay!

LS:  Hold on just a second. (while still holding the steering wheel with one hand, LS holds a machine gun with his other, and aiming over his shoulder, opens fire at the terminator behemoth with a hail of bullets.)  Take that, you oversized piece of mechanical shi—! (machine gun fire drowns out his words). Go to hell, mother f— (more well-timed machine gun fire).

(LS turns to MA) I hate that you insist on keeping this column PG-rated!

MA: Stop complaining and keep shooting!  Anyway, today’s movie, TERMINATOR SALVATION, is the fourth movie in the TERMINATOR franchise, following TERMINATOR 3:  RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003), and it’s the first not to star Arnold Schwarzenegger. This one stars Christian Bale, who gets to strut his tough guy self on screen once again, only this time sans the BATMAN mask.

I’ve always liked the TERMINATOR movies, with my favorite being the original THE TERMINATOR (1984), though I enjoyed TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991) nearly as much. Still, I wasn’t all that interested in seeing this one. For some reason, the thought of another Terminator movie did nothing for me. I had low expectations, and though it wasn’t as bad as I feared it might be, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.

This one is the first movie to take place in the future, and it tells the story of an adult John Connor (Christian Bale). Connor was the boy in the original movies who had to survive in order to grow into adulthood so he could lead the successful resistance against the revolting machines. Yeah, I know it’s kinda crazy, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too much. Thanks to the “good” Schwarzenegger Terminator of movies 2 and 3, Connor does survive, and we find him here in the future doing his thing leading the humans against the machines.

Connor is also looking for Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) (Yelchin also plays Chekov in the new STAR TREK movie), the young man he must send into the past to save his mother from the original Terminator.

LS: Yeah, and Reese also gets to bang Linda Hamilton, since he also happens to be John Connor’s father in the past. Chew on that one for awhile.

MA:  Lucky, Reese. Anyway, trouble is, the machines are also looking for Reese, and for Connor, so they can kill them both.

While you would think John Connor would be the most interesting character in the film, he isn’t. That distinction belongs to new character Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). As the movie opens, we witness Wright on death row, and just before he is to be executed, he signs his body away to be used for cancer research.

Wright awakens in the future, and finds himself in the middle of the war between humans and machines. He also finds Kyle Reese, though he doesn’t know Reese from a hole in the wall.

LS: Don’t forget Reese’s sidekick, the little mute girl played by Jadagrace.

MA:  I don’t know. I wasn’t that impressed by Jadagrace. Aren’t there always likeable little kids like her in these futuristic movies?  Like the kids with Charlton Heston in THE OMEGA MAN (1971)?  I think that’s where it started. They must all belong to a secret club.

After Reese is captured by the terminator machines, Wright hooks up with resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and accompanies her to her base, where he meets John Connor.

LS: Moon Bloodgood? What kinda name is that? Well, despite the goofy moniker, I thought she was really good here. And kinda hot.

MA: It is here where the discovery is made that Marcus isn’t human anymore, but is half- human/half-machine.

LS: Whoa! That’s a major spoiler you’re giving away. But it’s kind of hard to review the flick without spilling the beans. Then again, the trailer already gives that away, and there are plenty of clues beforehand. So it’s really not that much of a surprise, after all. Ho hum.

MA: It is also here where the film hits its high note and is most interesting. Marcus has to deal with the horror of learning that he’s really a cyborg. And John Connor is caught off guard by this discovery, because in the audio tapes his mother left him from the past, filling him in on every possible piece of information she deemed would be helpful to him, nothing is mentioned of half-human/half-machine beings. He realizes he is facing something new.

Connor is also confused because his first inclination is to destroy Marcus, but Marcus displays more humanity than he expects, and when he tells Connor he knows the location of Kyle Reese, and offers to find him for Connor, Connor is faced with the dilemma of not knowing whether or not he can trust the cyborg.

In addition to wanting to save his friend Reese, Marcus is also driven by the need to find out who made him this way and why.

The film builds to a conclusion that ultimately brings Connor, Marcus, and Reese together as they fend off the unrelenting, unstoppable terminator machines, with the future of the human race at stake.

LS: Well, they’re not really “unstoppable” – otherwise humans wouldn’t stand a chance!

MA:  Tell that to big dude chasing us!

I liked TERMINATOR SALVATION, but I didn’t love it.

The best part of the movie for me was the performance by Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright. I thought he delivered the best performance in the movie, by far. Whenever he was on screen, the film was that much more entertaining. And it also didn’t hurt that Marcus was the best written character in the film, by screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, who also wrote TERMINATOR 3:  RISE OF THE MACHINES.

LS: Yeah, I totally agree about Worthington. He’s the real actor to watch here. In fact, I would go so far as to say he is the ONLY reason to see this movie.

MA: Though John Connor is trying to save the human race, his character isn’t fleshed out anywhere near as much as Marcus. With his personal plight of discovering that now he’s half machine, Marcus is in a league above the rest of the characters in the film, in terms of drama.

Christian Bale is OK as John Connor. He certainly delivers a solid performance, but as written, Connor isn’t all that interesting. We know he wants to save the human race, but other than the fact that he’s the “Chosen One”, we don’t really get to see how he’s qualified to be that leader. He doesn’t say or do anything that puts his stamp on the label that he’s the “guy” to save the world, which I think is less the fault of Bale and more the writers.

LS: I am so tired of the whole “Chosen One” archetype. It’s so damn narcissistic! Oh look at me, I’m the only one who can save the whole planet. Look how special I am!

How lame. Too many movies rely on this crap.

As for the acting, I actually don’t think Bale is as great as everyone thinks he is. He was good in smaller movies like AMERICAN PSYCHO and THE MACHINIST. But I still contend that ANYONE can play Batman. He’s one-dimensional.

MA:  Tell that to Adam West!

LS:  I’m not talking about that show. That was a comedy. I’m talking about the recent movies.

MA (wearing Batman costume):  I’m Batman.

LS (opens fire at MA with machine gun):  Now, you’re dead Batman.

And John Connor isn’t much different. Connor seems to have just one emotional reaction to everything that is thrown at him – righteous anger. He’s so ultra-serious and ultra-bland that I found him to be the least interesting character in this movie. Every time he’s on screen I just found myself hoping it would be over soon.

MA (now without the Batman costume): Gotta love that Batman body armor!   I enjoyed Bale in the 3:10 TO YUMA remake with Russell Crowe, and I didn’t really mind him as Batman, but as John Connor, I’d have to agree with you that he wasn’t that interesting.

Moon Bloodgood is bloody good (heh, heh) as Blair Williams, and Anton Yelchin turns in a respectable performance as young Kyle Reese, though he was more memorable in the new STAR TREK flick. And Yelchin somewhat resembles a younger version of Michael Biehn, who played the Kyle Reese role in the original TERMINATOR in 1984.

LS: Like I already said, I thought Moon was good. But I couldn’t give a crap about Yelchin. I kept hoping the robots would kill him. Bale too.

MA: The weakest part of TERMINATOR SALVATION, however, is the lack of a central villain. This film needs a baddie, desperately. The bad guys here are terminator machines, and there are tons of them, in all their animatronic/CGI glory, but there’s no one main bad guy, who really gives Connor and Marcus a run for their money. Even in the films where Schwarzenegger’s terminator was the hero, there was a single bad guy, a central terminator villain for him to square off against. In general, the hero is only as good as the villain, and in this case, there really wasn’t a villain.

LS: I agree. Movies like this are only as good as their bad guys. In this movie, the bad guy is Skynet – a friggin military computer system that has acquired consciousness. How exciting is that?

(Quick shot of MA slumped forward on the dashboard, asleep, with a pool of drool beneath his lips).

See what I mean?  That said, there are some cool robots this time around. For example, it’s interesting how a lot of the man-sized terminators, with their exposed skull faces, reminded me an awful lot of zombies this time around. There’s even one scene with a robot who’s lower body has been blown away, that attacks Connor with just its upper torso, that really conjured up George Romero’s zombies. In fact, these models of the terminators even have a vulnerable spot in the back of their heads that causes them to lose control if you hit it.

MA: Aim for the heads!

LS: Yee-haw! Exactly. Another robot, that looks like a giant metal man without a head – just like the one that’s chasing us! – reminded me an awful lot of the recent remake of WAR OF THE WORLDS. Not only did the robot make the same screeching metal noise as the Martian ships did in that movie, but it also grabs humans and drops them into a gigantic basket, which is very similar to WAR OF THE WORLDS as well.

MA:  Too similar. I thought it was a rip-off of the WAR OF THE WORLDS movie.

LS:  Oh yeah, those worm-like aquatic robots were pretty cool, too. But wasn’t there something similar in the MATRIX movies?

It seems like the writers this time around took some ideas and imagery from other movies. I guess that’s called a “homage.”

MA:  Really?  I thought it was called “running out of ideas.”

I also thought the look of the film was nothing to get excited about. With its charcoal gray landscape, the film almost looks black and white at times.

LS: Yeah, it wasn’t bleak enough at all!

(A robot MOTORCYCLE zooms past the jeep)

MOTORCYCLE: Nyah, nyah, you guys can’t catch me!

LS: Who cares? You’re lame anyway (fires machine gun and the motorcycle explodes)

MA: The special effects were slightly above average. They certainly didn’t wow me by any means, but they served their purpose. The film was dedicated to the memory of Stan Winston, who passed away last year. Winston’s special effects in TERMINATOR 2 won an Academy Award that year.

Director McG handled the action sequences very well. While I’ve seen more intense sequences, I’ve also seen a lot worse

I thought the music by Danny Elfman pretty ordinary, and not up to his usual standards of film music. Other than the original Terminator theme music, which was played sparingly, nothing else stood out.

As a science fiction action movie, TERMINATOR SALVATION hits its mark. It’s not all that intelligent, but it is slickly done, generally entertaining, and far from boring.

LS: Far from boring? (laughs loudly)

MA: While you may find that funny, I wasn’t bored at all. However, it’s certainly not dark enough or horrific enough to be considered a science fiction horror movie, and this is consistent with the previous films in the series, which all leaned toward action rather than horror. If action’s your thing, especially of the science fiction variety, you’ll enjoy TERMINATOR SALVATION. It’s a decent enough thrill ride that won’t wow you, but it will entertain you. What did you think, LL?

LS: I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Terminator series, but I did love the first movie. Despite its low budget, the first TERMINATOR was a lot of fun, and featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in perhaps his best role ever as a murderous robot from the future. He was just terrific in that role. T2 brought the storyline into the big budget blockbuster realm, and it never looked back. For me, I lost interest in T2 when Edward Furlong tells the Ahnald-bot “Do not kill.” In that moment, not only were Arnold’s balls snipped, but the entire series was neutered as far as I was concerned. Arnold’s killer robot wasn’t some kid’s pet to be domesticated.

By the time the third movie rolled around, I had just lost interest. The TV show, THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, was much of the same. It started out promising enough (especially Summer Glau as a terminator who also happened to look like a teenage girl!), but over time got so bogged down in its own mythology that I  just found it all incredibly boring, and stopped watching.

So, I didn’t have very high hopes for the newest installment, TERMINATOR SALVATION. And, for the most part, it was as underwhelming as I expected. Although as we have discussed, Sam Worthington is the only reason this movie is not a complete waste of time.

It was also good to see the usually great Michael Ironside here, as resistance leader General Ashdown, even if his character was a complete idiot who refused to heed John Connor’s advice, just for the sake of creating dramatic tension.

The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable, including Bryce Dallas Howard as Connor’s pregnant wife, Kate. She has been the only saving grace in a few M. Night Shyamalan movies recently, but here she has a totally thankless and undeveloped role.

I didn’t totally hate TERMINATOR SALVATION, but I can’t really recommend it either. I found a lot of it rather tedious, and, aside from Worthington, there’s nobody here that really grabs your attention.

Maybe it’s time for this series to finally be put to rest. It’s starting to become as tiresome as the god-awful MATRIX movies, another series that I hope we’ve seen the last of.

MA:  I don’t know. The way things ended, it sure looks like someone out there is thinking about TERMINATOR 5.  And though I didn’t love this movie, unlike you, I do recommend it. I think the action is entertaining enough to make it worth your while, even though the story isn’t as imaginative as it could have been, and I didn’t mind the acting as much as you.

LS:  Well, I liked the fact that there were several different kinds of terminators, even if they were kind of “familiar.” There’s even a surprise appearance by an old school terminator late in the film.

(LS’s cell phone rings, and he answers it)

LS: Who the hell is this?

ARNOLD: This is the governor of California calling. I vanted to thank you for mentioning my cameo in the new TERMINATOR movie.

LS: That wasn’t even you, it was some kind of CGI effect.

ARNOLD: Oh no, that’s me. I’m bigger and stronger than ever now. I hope you enjoyed my performance. I am very big and strong, you know.

LS: Yeah, yeah.

ARNOLD: I must go now. My state needs me.

LS: So long.

ARNOLD: Hasta la vista, baby! (laughs uncontrollably)

LS: Jeesh, what a ham.

The ending is incredibly sappy, and the manipulative music score doesn’t help (so no, I wasn’t impressed with Danny Elfman’s work here either).

And, like I said before, this is easily one of Bale’s weakest roles in awhile. Then again I’ve never really cared much for the character of John Connor. Even though he’s supposedly some kind of messiah who is fated to save mankind from the machines, I never found him all that compelling. Which is why I always root for the robots in these movies.

MA:  I would have to agree with you about the character of John Connor. He’s boring.  But I like Bale, and I think had the John Connor character been written better, the results would have been more satisfying.

LS:  The robots are way cooler.

MA: Well, those same robots you like so much are trying to kill us now!

LS: It’s not their fault. They’ve just never met a cool-ass human before. Their loss.

(The jeep pulls up in front of a KFC restaurant, with tires screeching)

MA: You’ve got to be kidding me. This is no time for a snack.

LS: No, in the back, there’s a time machine, right next to the deep fryer. We can get back to our own time again.

MA: Finally! Well, this wraps things up for this installment of Cinema Knife Fight, the only review column where the writers put their lives on the line to bring you the truth about today’s movies.

(The giant robot fires a missile that blows up the KFC before they can reach it)

MA:  Ooops!  Not to worry, though. We’ll just implement Plan B.

LS:  Plan B?

MA:  As in, we just walk off the set.

LS:  We can do that?

MA:  We’re writers, we can do anything.

(LS and MA step from the jeep and walk down a set of stairs which leads them off the soundstage into a lobby).

LS: So much for the wonders of time travel.

MA:  We’ll see you all next time.

LS:   That’s right. (in his best “Arnold” voice)  Ve’ll be back!

FADE OUT


(Originally published on Fear Zone on 5/29/2009)

© Copyright 2009 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares



LEGION

Posted in 2010, Cinema Knife Fights, Post-Apocalypse Movies, Zombie Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  LEGION (2010)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are seated inside a greasy spoon diner. They are looking over their menus. Around them sit a few other patrons, a waitress taking an order, a cook behind a greasy grill, and the owner fiddling with the TV set mounted on the wall. An OLD LADY sitting next to them initiates a conversation.)

OLD LADY:  I just love the food here.

LS:  That’s nice. (under his breath)  You old hag.

MA:  Hey, she’s just a sweet old lady. (Smiles at old lady). What’s your favorite item on the menu, M’am?

OLD LADY:  Raw steak with maggots.

(MA grimaces, but LS nods his head, drooling in approval.)

OLD LADY (to LS):  So, tell me, how far are you along?

LS:  Excuse me?

OLD LADY:  How many months have you been carrying your baby?

LS:  Get some glasses, you old bat!  I’m not pregnant! I’m a man!

OLD LADY:  Your baby’s going to burn!!! (OLD LADY suddenly bares razor-sharp fangs and hisses at them).

LS (Pulls out flame thrower and blasts OLD MONSTER LADY, engulfing her in flames):  No. You are.

(Looks around at stunned customers)  Sorry.

DINER OWNER:  Don’t worry about it. This sort of thing happens here all the time. Last week we had a midget who sprouted a second head.

MA:  What’s up with that?

OWNER:  Don’t know, but he left twice the tip. Okay, people, everything’s fine now. We’ll put out the fire. In the meantime, enjoy the ambiance. (OWNER goes back to pounding on the television, trying to get reception)

LS:  Let’s get this review started. Why don’t you start things off while I toast us some marshmallows before they put out the fire?  (Begins toasting marshmallows over to the charred body of the OLD LADY).

MA:  Sure thing. Today we’re reviewing LEGION (2010), a movie that attempts to answer the question, what would happen if God got sick of his creation and sent his angels to destroy us?

The story takes place for the most part inside a diner called Paradise Falls in an out-of- the way desert location somewhere south of Los Angeles. The diner is owned by Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid), and he employs his son Jeep (Lucas Black), a young waitress Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), and a chef, Percy Walker (Charles S. Dutton). There are a few customers inside the diner on this particular day, a married couple with their rebellious teenage daughter who are waiting for their car to get repaired, and a mysterious man, Kyle Williams (Tyrese Gibson), on his way to LA for a court date, presumably to fight for the custody of his kid (based on a phone call he makes in Hanson’s office).

Charlie is eight months pregnant, and Jeep, though he’s not the father, has pledged to stand by her and her baby. He’s intimated that he’d marry her, but Charlie hasn’t acted on his offer, instead showing continued interest in other men, much to Bob’s dismay, who’s worried about the decisions his adult son Jeep is making.

The characters here are all fleshed out rather nicely and things are set up neatly for what’s to come. What’s to come begins in Los Angeles, as we witness the arrival of an angel, Michael (Paul Bettany), in a scene that reminded me of all those arrival scenes from the TERMINATOR movies.

LS: Definitely a TERMINATOR vibe with that arrival scene. Although, he goes the extra mile to become human, by cutting off his wings. For some reason, I thought that would be a lot more difficult and messy than it actually is.

MA: At the diner, things grow unsettled when the TV suddenly flashes the Emergency Broadcast System logo, just before it loses its signal, along with the radio and phones, including cell phones.

An old lady arrives at the diner, and after shocking Charlie by telling her that her baby is going to burn, she sprouts fangs and leaps onto the ceiling.

LS: Hey, just like the lady here!

MA: As things grow weirder when a horde of flying insects descend upon the diner, Michael arrives in time to explain to everyone that God is miffed at the world, and he has sent his angels to earth to punish mankind. It seems, God has allowed his angels to possess the bodies of humans, and it is these possessed humans who are attacking mankind, a la zombies.

LS: They sure don’t act like any angels I know of. Aren’t demons the ones who possess humans?

MA: As far as I know, that’s the way it’s always worked. Angels have been the good guys. But in this movie, not so much.

Why are the angels here? Well, their goal is to kill Charlie’s baby. If Charlie’s baby survives, so does humankind, and thus it becomes Michael’s job to protect the baby. What follows is just that, a battle between Michael and the diner’s occupants vs. the possessed humans, as these angel zombies attempt to kill the baby. And just when you thought that maybe the human folks had an edge with the super angel Michael on their side, his counterpart, the angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) shows up to finish the job, and dispose of both Michael and the baby.

I gotta tell you, I really enjoyed the first half of this movie a lot. I thought the horror scenes early on worked really well, but when the film shifted from a story about a small group of people trapped in a diner fighting for their survival against some unknown horrific threat, to a story about evil angels, it lost it for me. It became silly, hokey, and way too simplistic. In short, though I really liked the first part, the second part of LEGION completely falls apart.

(Another OLD LADY enters the diner from the restroom).

OLD LADY #2:  Where’s my sister? I was meeting her here for lunch!

MA:  Uh oh.

LS:  Here, have a toasted marshmallow while you wait. (Hands toasted marshmallow on a stick to OLD LADY #2).

OLD LADY  #2 (sniffs marshmallow):   This smells like— did you turn my sister into a marshmallow?

MA:  Not quite.

OLD LADY #2:  I’ll fix you two!

(She sprouts long fangs and leaps onto ceiling before stopping dead in her tracks. She suddenly has a heart attack, groans, and falls to the floor, dead.)

LS (To deceased old lady): Not quite the spring chicken you thought you were, are you?

DINER OWNER:  It’s alright, folks. Let me get a dust pan and broom.

MA:  Better make it an extra large dust pan and broom.

(Someone enters the diner and a bell rings above the door. LS claps.)

MA: I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. Every time someone comes in, you clap. What’s up with that?

LS: Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!

MA:  I never would have pegged you as a fan of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

(LS starts singing “Buffalo Gal Won’t You Come Out Tonight”)

MA: Anyway, back to LEGION.

In the beginning, this movie rocked. I liked the opening sequences involving the angel Michael. The scene where he has to stitch the wounds on his back where his wings used to be induced a few grimaces, and the shoot-out with the police officers upon his arrival I thought was exciting.

LS: I think you just like him because his name is Michael!

I dunno how well the whole “cutting off wings” thing works. He cuts his wings off pretty easily, considering they’re a part of him. And those wounds he stitches up seem like minor cuts instead of the gashes they should be. And how is he able to stitch himself up so well? It’s not like it’s easy to reach your own back!

And the whole point of cutting off his wings seems to be so he can be human like us. But he still seems to have super strength, he’s amazingly accurate with guns, and when he drives by buildings, their power shuts off. Doesn’t sound like a normal human to me.

MA: The scenes early on in the diner were well-crafted, and I liked all of the characters involved here. The acting performances were all excellent. I enjoyed the two young leads very much. Adrianne Palicki as Charlie delivered one of the best performances in the movie, and Lucas Black as Jeep, though not as dynamic as Palicki, still made for a very believable, likeable character.

LS: There are a LOT of TV actors in this movies. Palicki, some people might recognize as the bad girl Tyra from the excellent show FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. And even Lucas Black was in one of my favorite shows – as a kid he starred as Caleb in the very cool, but short-lived series AMERICAN GOTHIC (1995-1996).

MA:  I remember that show, and I remember Lucas Black in it as well. That was a good show. It’s too bad it never caught on.

LS:  And the mother of the teen-age girl is Kate Walsh, another TV star from GREY’S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE.

As for Lucas Black’s character – I found him really annoying. His passive character might have been realistic (not everyone’s a hero), but I found it very hard to believe his importance later on in the story. I just didn’t like him.

MA:  The character of Jeep becomes important because he’s a caring person, and he’s been there to take care of both Charlie, and his dad Bob, and that’s what the angel Michael has been looking for in the human race. Like I said, it becomes very hokey.

But back to the cast. I sometimes poke fun at Dennis Quaid, because he makes so many movies, and a lot of them are just OK, and often he’s just OK, but I thought this was one of his better performances that I’ve seen in recent years. Quaid is really good in this movie, as is Charles S. Dutton as the cook, Percy Walker.

LS: Charles S. Dutton is another actor from TV. He used to have his own show back in the early days of FOX, called ROC. But he’s also been in lots of genre movies since, including ALIEN 3 (1992), MIMIC (1997), and GOTHIKA (2003).

As for Quaid, he does make a lot of movies: some of them are good, and some of them ain’t so good. One of my favorite genre flicks he starred in was ENEMY MINE, way back in 1985! How many of you remember that one?

MA: But my favorite performer in this one was Tyrese Gibson as Kyle Williams. His performance was the strongest by far, and I wish his character had been the lead in the story. He was better than just a supporting player.

LS: Yeah, I thought Gibson was good, too. And he would have made for a strong lead actor. His character isn’t given enough to do here, and I wanted to know more about him. You might have seen Gibson in the TRANSFORMERS movies and the recent remake of DEATH RACE (2008).

MA: The two angels, Michael and Gabriel, were rather blah characters, and there wasn’t much actors Paul Bettany or Kevin Durand could do to make them more interesting.

LS: I actually disagree about this, but more on that later.

MA: The scary stuff early on also really worked for me. The old lady sequence was very intense and much better than the way it came off in the trailer, which made me laugh. I also liked the Ice Cream Man and the Minivan boy.

LS: Y’know, I would have found the old lady sequence a lot more effective if I hadn’t seen it 20 times already in the trailer! This is definitely one of those movies where the trailer gives away THE ENTIRE PLOT. And the old lady sequence is almost shown in its entirety, which sucks for poor Jeanette Miller who does a great job with the old lady/demon character, named Gladys.

MA:  I don’t know, the language she used, which was not included in the trailer for obvious reasons, made the scene better in the movie, and I liked it, even though I had seen it many times in the trailer.

LS:  As for the Ice Cream Man (another character who we saw too much in the trailer), how many people recognized him as Doug Jones, the go-to guy for people who need an actor to play monsters? Jones’s resume is pretty impressive. He’s done everything from play one of the “Gentlemen” in the classic silent episode of the TV show BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1999),  to the Pale Man from PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) to Abe Sapien from the HELLBOY movies, to the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (2007).

As for the Minivan Boy (Cameron Harlow, with a cool devil voice by Django Marsh), I thought he was the best of the three you mentioned, but then I’ve always dug evil/monster children.

(MONSTER BOY taps LS on the shoulder.)

MONSTER BOY (with deep voice):  Have you seen my mommy?

LS: How the hell is a little kid able to tap me on the shoulder?

(LS and MA realize the kid is levitating)

MA:  Whoa!

LS:  Your mommy wasn’t a little old lady, was she?

MONSTER BOY:  No.

LS:  Good.

MONSTER BOY:   I want to play with the baby. (To LS)  You look like a baby.

LS (rolls eyes):  What is it with this diner?  First someone thinks I’m pregnant. Now this kid thinks I’m a baby. I’m a grown man, kid. How many babies you see with whiskers?

MA:  You must have one of those faces.

LS:  Hey, kid, here’s a quarter. Go run in the street and see if you can bounce if off one of those Mack trucks driving by.

MONSTER BOY:  Gee, thanks, Mister!  (Takes quarter and leaves).

MA: Where were we? Oh yes. So where does LEGION go wrong?  Pretty much with its entire angel plot. Bodies possessed by angels?  It’s kinda stupid when you think about it. If God really wanted to destroy humankind, why send angels in the bodies of humans to do it?  Seems like an excuse for a horror/fantasy/action movie plot to me!

LS: And why now? What’s so special that God would want to destroy the earth now? What finally broke the camel’s back? I’d just like to know.

Okay, back to the angels. The whole “evil angels” plot has been done before, and better, from movies like THE PROPHECY (1999), with Christopher Walken as an evil angel, to CONSTANTINE (2005). So it’s nothing new. But I didn’t really mind it here. You said the angel characters here were “blah,” but I thought the battle scenes between Michael (Paul Bettany) and Gabriel (Kevin Durand) were the best fights in the movie.

MA:  Really?  I was bored.

LS: I dug the way Gabriel used his wings as a weapon. C’mon, it wasn’t that bad.

What I had a problem with was the way this movie seemed to make up its rules as it went along.

First, there’s this gigantic cloud of flies that descends on our heroes. Then, just as conveniently, they’re gone. Then the possessed people show up, become a major problem for a while, and then they’re gone (and I still didn’t buy that “people possessed by angels” thing – mainly because the angels would have been a lot more powerful and effective just showing up as themselves!). Then the possessed people come back only when it’s convenient to the story, and are rendered inactive when Gabriel shows up. Why? The explanations for why one threat ends and another begins isn’t properly explained, and isn’t believable. If any of these creatures kept their onslaught going instead of running away, they would have been able to defeat a handful of humans!

I think a lot of this has to do with the budget. Maybe it cost too much to outfit a bunch of people with angel costumes, so they went for the easier to do “possessed humans” thing. But angels are just as easy to do in CGI as crowds of zombies are. This whole aspect just seemed dumb to me.

MA: I would have to agree with you on all these points. Plus midway through this movie the pace really deteriorates. It’s almost as if after an intense exciting first half, the movie runs out of gas.

LS: The reason for the bad pacing in the second half is exactly because of the stuff I just mentioned. One threat comes, then suddenly leaves without reason. It totally messes up the pacing of the movie.

MA: There’s some other holes in the plot as well. It’s never explained who the baby is supposed to be. Why is the baby so important?  If the baby dies, so does humankind. Why?  This is never explained. Imagine the TERMINATOR movies not really explaining why the unborn John Connor had to be killed?

LS: Yeah! Is he the messiah? Is he a human/angel hybrid somehow? Does he wear lots of Angel Repellent? There is absolutely no attempt to explain why he is so important.

MA: The threat isn’t really explained all that well either. Just why exactly do the angels need to possess human bodies to do their dirty work?  Why doesn’t God just end things himself?  The story just doesn’t make much sense, and this really kills a lot of the suspense.

LS: Exactly.

MA: I also thought the plot point of trying to save an unborn child borrowed too heavily from the TERMINATOR series, so this didn’t help.

If LEGION hadn’t been about angels, it would have been a much better movie. Had the threat been something else, something that made more sense, the story would have held up better. Then again, even if the threat had been something other than angels, the movie still would have had problems because the pacing slowed down to a Romero zombie pace, and the ending was nowhere near as exciting as the beginning.

LS: Hey! Don’t bring Romero into this! He knows how to pace a movie!

MA: No, I said it moves like one of his zombies!

I highly recommend the FIRST HALF of this movie, which is a wild, fun ride, but the second half completely falls apart, as it descends into a silly storyline about battling angels. To put it in perspective, I enjoyed the first half of LEGION better than any part of the other January new releases, DAYBREAKERS or THE BOOK OF ELI, but the second half was sillier and made less sense than either of those two movies.

So, what does this all mean?  Like the other two movies this month, LEGION is a mixed bag, and it’s definitely one where you wouldn’t mind stepping out for that bag of popcorn midway through the movie.

LS: I think the first half is better, too. But I don’t think the problem is the angels. I think the problem is the writers just didn’t know what to do with the angels. In a flashback scene, we see hordes of angels filling the sky as Michael and Gabriel look on (this is before Gabriel comes to earth). And you wonder, why couldn’t that have happened in present day? Hordes of angels attacking the diner (instead of just ONE!) would have been so much more dramatic and visually exciting than the same old possessed people/zombie thing we’ve seen a million times! If you’re going to do something creative, go all the way with it! Don’t sell it half way and then drop the ball.

Despite a mostly good cast, and a promising plot, this movie ends up being a big dud. Definitely wait to rent the DVD for this one. I paid $11 for a ticket, and I don’t feel I got my money’s worth by any stretch of the imagination.

MA:  Well, that about wraps things up.

LS:  Yeah, let’s pay our bill and get out of here before somebody mistakes me for Santa Claus or something.

MA:  Yeah, right.

(They pay their bill, and as they exit, they bump into a LITTLE GIRL.)

LITTLE GIRL to LS (in demonic voice):  Hey, Santa, where’s your fluffy white beard?

(LS and MA scream and run away from the diner.)

-END-

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares