Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Thing (2011)

Merry Christmas! This movie has snow in it. It must be Christmassy, right? Right?!

Sometimes Hollywood cranks out really interesting, good movies. Other times they get the idea to take perfectly good horror movies and “remake” them in a way that, while not doing anything terribly different on the surface, is actually the Devil incarnate when you really think about it.

I mean, it's not a real remake. Okay. It's a prequel. I'll disregard the obvious fact that most prequels are festering boils on the face of cinema. It's a prequel to the fucking Thing from 1982, one of the scariest movies ever made by anyone. That's a pretty tall order. That's not just something you can throw together in an afternoon. But apparently some douchebags decided they could, and that's why The Thing (2011) exists!

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton

And there's your bedtime story, kids – a cautionary tale, of when Hollywood producers try to remake a classic movie but also simultaneously don't care. The punishment they get at the end is a plague of endless explosive, fiery diarrhea. Or that's what I'm telling myself happened anyway.

We start this off with a bunch of trucks driving to a base in a vast empty white wasteland, which is the same as the vast empty wasteland of the minds who thought this would be a good idea. Yes that was a cheap shot. I should probably actually review the movie instead of taking potshots, huh?

Apparently, just like in the original, we get a bunch of scientists doing scientist-y things in this arctic base I guess. The only difference is that one of them is a woman, played by Mary Elizabeth “Ramona Flowers” Winstead. The character is as bland as any other and has no personality, but she's a woman, and she has tits, so even though you can't see them under her bulky-ass jacket, that makes it worth the writers' time to put her in the film. Just the mere suggestion power is enough.

Not that a female character wouldn't be welcome in a good script, but in this one there's just no reason for it other than "hey! We need something different from the 1982 one!"

Not like the the dialogue is much better. Just listen to this. Or, read it, you know:

GUY: I was hoping to get an American newspaper.

MARY ELIZABETH: What information did you need?

GUY: I wanted to check on how the Cavaliers were doing.

MARY ELIZABETH: Oh, well I don't follow football.

GUY: They're a basketball team.

Amazing how insightful and interesting that dialogue is, huh?

They find the alien frozen in a block of ice at the base, I guess, and start trying to thaw it out. This sequence is really suspenseful since we don't know at all yet that these people are going to die and then the alien is going to get out and go to the other base where Kurt Russell is hangin' out. Nope. We're totally holding our breaths on that one!

Anyway, they examine the frozen alien back at the lab and we get some more boring-ass exposition as they try to figure it out. I was going over in my head while watching this exactly WHY this is so much worse than the first one even despite having the same basic traits. Sure, it isn't as well written, but why does this one specifically make me want to punch someone (usually the Hollywood exec who green-lit it)? Well, it's probably a lot to do with the fact that all this exposition where the characters are wondering what the alien is, is pretty much boring to us. We fucking know what it is already. There's no mystery for us.

So really all we're left with is shitty scenes where the head scientist who has a stick up his ass so far I'm surprised he isn't just a shishkebab at this point pulls Winstead's character aside and goes, “Don't contradict me, your only job here is to get that creature out of the ice.” Even though she was trying to help when she offered suggestions – but I guess being a fucking dick for no reason other than to swing your bloated ego around is cool. And I guess this guy just forgot that Winstead's magical main character powers make her automatically right about everything.

"I am the boss of everyone!"

There's also this other guy, who constantly looks confused or amazed at everything and all his dialogue is literally just pointing out the obvious and dumbing down the explanations for the audience.

Was Keanu Reeves not available? Did you really need this guy just to point out the obvious in your patchwork script?

If all of this was too serious and intellectual for you, don't worry. We have a party scene full of people playing banjos and dancing! What's that? Atmosphere and tension like the original had? Nah. Just throw in more banjo playing scenes.

Exactly what I wanted when I turned on a Thing remake.

So unfortunately, the party is broken up when one dude comes across the alien, which isn't as impressive due to the fact that it's all very poor CGI. More on that later, but seriously, just look at this shit:

The best gore scenes always look more like jigsaw puzzles being taken apart rather than actual human beings dying. It's just kosher.

Oh yeah. Totally worth making this movie at all when this was the type of monster design you went with, right?

So I guess some more very rote, boring “discovery” scenes plod along with Winstead and the other interchangeable jackasses discovering that the monster is replicating people and that it could be any of them. It's all very predictable and dull, again, because we know the story behind it. It's the same exact thing as the 1982 version except worse. How many different ways can I say this? Do I have to make a flow-chart complete with pictures to make this review interesting and make up for just repeating the same stuff over and over again about why the movie is bad?

Sure, a few people die, and you get some halfway-decent ambiance with the cold winter nights outside, but none of it is arresting. The formula is the same – We get a few gross-out CGI scenes, Winstead says something true about the monster, nobody believes her because she is a woman and the main character, and then the scientist leader guy says something arrogant while that other guy just looks bewildered and repeats whatever the scientist leader said. That's the whole rest of the movie. I dunno, man, that icepick lobotomy is starting to look pretty good right about now.

"Dammit, Angela; again? I told you I'm not into anthropomorphic spider-human hybrids! Now put your clothes back on."

Then we get a very lethargic, boring 45-minute climax in which everyone dies except Winstead and Joel Edgerton, because they were the best looking in the entire cast. Oh and we also get to see the really goofy looking spaceship straight out of a Saturday morning superhero cartoon.

I didn't know the rejected Tron: Legacy sets were so easy to steal.

Why bother even showing us the spaceship? It just feels like the writers went, “oh, this is too similar to the original! Better shoehorn in something pointless and ridiculous that doesn't even jive with the story!”

Then we get a really predictable, seen-it-all-before ending where Winstead gives Edgerton a big speech for the audience about how she figured out he's actually the alien in disguise because his earring was on the wrong side, and then kills him. Why would she bother explaining that to the alien at all? Just fucking kill it! It's not that hard. The idea that she would really take the time to say all this is just icing on the shit-cake of the rest of the movie Рsuch dumb fucking clich̩. Such soulless regurgitations of mediocre tropes.

Then because there is no God, we get the end credits interspersed with flashes of the remaining characters chasing after the alien after it transformed into the dog that runs into Kurt Russell's camp in the 1982 version.

I guess it's supposed to be a “tie-in” with the original one, but come on; was the audience so fucking mongoloid retarded that they needed to see that in order to “get it”? Were people so dumb that Hollywood really needed to spend thousands of dollars and make a shitty, boring movie like this to spoon-feed them the truth of what REALLY HAPPENED at that other camp when Russell's guys found it at the beginning of the 1982 The Thing?

Come on. The reason the original was so scary was that you didn't need to see everything that happened to those other scientists! The horror came from the freaky shit that went down when Russell's people started dying and getting paranoid – because not only did you get the complete shock and unexpectedness of that, you also got to imagine in your head the horrors that happened at the other camp where no one survived. That's what horror movies are all about. It's also the exact reason this movie doesn't work. The foreboding mystery and intrigue of what happened to that other camp followed by the explosion of terror later on was the core, basic story structure of that movie. The idea that some numbnuts went 'hey, what if we showed what happened before The Thing' goes directly against that and pisses right in its face!

The power of suggestion when you saw Russell and those other guys exploring the abandoned base and seeing the creepy shit in there and what not is so much better, more evocative and scary than anything in this hour and forty minute waste of time. The Thing (2011) is really one of the most pointless, valueless experiences I can remember having with a movie in, well, maybe ever.

The real cincher of this whole mess is what happened to special effects gurus Bob Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis. Apparently back when this movie was still being made, Woodruff and Gillis made a bunch of awesome practical effects for it, which probably wouldn't have made this great, but would have given us at least a few entertaining moments.

That is, until the producers nixed absolutely everything they'd done, claiming the effects Woodruff and Gillis made were “too much like an 80s movie.” I'll give you a second for that to sink in.

Okay. Done? Good.

Because that is just fucking insane. I mean, the effects we got in this movie were so shitty I'd rather just watch sock puppets pretending to disembowel each other and use my imagination. Too much like an 80s movie? What's next – is it going to be uncool to make Shakespeare adaptations too much like Shakespeare, and so you add in guns and some terrible modern acting to update it? Oh wait, that already happened. Have you no shame? No appreciation for great works of art?

It's very clear to me now how much Hollywood just hates horror movies. Lazy, boring, “we can just throw this together and no one will care.” That's what classic horror is now to Hollywood. Fuck that and fuck you.

And besides – this wasn't even that Christmassy. I'm so sorry I failed you on that front. This whole review is ruined now. I'll have to try again next time.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Woodruff and Gillis have taken their too-much-like-an-80s-movie effects and made their own movies, which will come out next year – Harbinger Down and Fire City: Interpreter of Signs.

Now those look awesome. I can't wait to see those movies. I mean they gotta be better than the crap I just reviewed today...not that that would be a huge accomplishment...

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fuck Fandoms

Unless you've been living under a rock or paying attention to the actual important things going on in the world lately, you know there's a new Star Wars trailer out. Yes. Even though the film doesn't come out until next December, we got a trailer now, because Star Wars is just the kind of thing people need to be reminded to be excited about.

And while most of the feedback has been pretty level-headed, you DO get a certain subset of backlash over silly things like the very minor changes in design to the Millennium Falcon:

Or the three-pronged, vaguely cross-ish lightsaber we see:

Because apparently a fictional sci-fi universe can't deviate at all from its own rules when a new chapter is made like 40 years later – or maybe just 15 if you're counting the prequels, which I personally don't as they were terrible. Honestly, it just baffles me. These things are problems now? They're little tidbits in a 50-second trailer for a movie that isn't coming out next year. A movie which we know very little about so far. I didn't know you could glean information about the quality of the whole product from a few minor details that haven't even been explained to us yet. You must be psychic. Please, tell me my fortune, too!

I'm just going to come out and say it: if any of those things bothers you, you need to go outside. Just...put down the laptop and go outside, and breathe some fresh air for a second, because you have a problem.

And I'm going to go on a special tangent on the backlash against the black Stormtrooper we see for like a second, which was pronounced enough to get a reaction from CNN.

We see this black dude in a Stormtrooper outfit for like, a split second, which was apparently enough for people to start whining and crying about that too. Oh, is it because all Stormtroopers were “supposed” to be clones of Jango Fett? I'm not even a big Star Wars guy and even I know that doesn't have to be fucking true – and hell, maybe he just snuck into one as a disguise like Luke did in The New Hope. You don't know shit yet. Why would you get mad about this?

Oh yeah – it's because you're secretly a racist piece of trash and trying to cover that up by pretending to care about the franchise.

Some people will also complain about deviations from the “Extended Universe” novels, as apparently some kind of official voice has spoken and said the “EU” no longer “counts” and the movies will be the only official canon. I'm sorry, but what's the problem? You can't just ignore that bullshit and pretend your favorite books are what counts? Who gives a fuck if some multi-millionaire out-of-touch-with-reality movie studio tells you what's what? You like what you like and you make your own canon! That's why it being a fictional universe is cool. I read some of those Star Wars “EU” books – some of them were pretty fucking good! But I just don't see how the studio making a movie that disregards those storylines is so offensive. Unless they're sending Stormtroopers to your house in big black vans to collect and burn all your Extended Universe books, I don't see the problem.

All this just points out one important factor to me that I feel like I just have to say plainly – Star Wars fans can be real nitpicking whiny babies about this stuff.

Not to exclude fans of any other big franchise or fantasy world. Lord of the Rings fans, Harry Potter fans, Doctor Who fans and many others can all be like that. Over the last year or two, I've liked hanging out with people less and less who are super obsessed with movies and TV shows, especially with ones that are big multi-verse fantasies like Star Wars. Which sounds weird, given what I do on here and how invested I can get in a good movie or show, but hear me out.

When I say “emotionally invested,” I don't mean you just can't care AT ALL about these things – certainly you're supposed to get into what you're watching; that just means it's done a good job telling its story. I myself get very much into certain movies and shows and can find them immeasurably powerful. However, there's a certain point when it just gets too far. I think that point is when you start actually referring to yourself as a member of a “fandom.”

If you're not familiar with this term, it's best summed up as a cultlike fanaticism around certain popular series – Harry Potter. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. Doctor Who. The list goes on – some people are just really, really into that stuff and call themselves part of the fandom. This just means they're super big fans of it. Fine. Yes. OK. I've got plenty of friends who love these things and I have nothing against them for that. If you just really like something, that's cool with me and you're not who I'm talking about here.

The problem though, is that for a disturbing amount of people, fandom seems to be an excuse for “I take this way too seriously and will get mad about changes to it, and then get in pithy overly emotional online debates about it.” Because, frankly, that's what the Internet is for I guess – stupid arguments over fandoms.

So I'll come out and say it – fuck fandoms. Fuck them forever.

I'm just tired of it. Tired, tired, tired of the endless bickering and shit-flinging over what should just be good entertainment. People will go on about this shit for days on end if you let them about how the world of the fiction of their choice is a sacred, real thing and everything in it should be a part of continuity. It's kind of a strange argument because it strangles the hell out of actual creativity. Which is why they like their preferred fandom to begin with (whether they have the articulation to realize that or not) – that big, expansive, fantastical universe the original creators made up that they can dive into and forget their own lives for a little while. It's fiction! You can do whatever you want with it! The Star Wars universe is basically the modern equivalent of a whole mythology, it's got so much you can do with it. Why would you care if someone new who has new ideas made a few changes?

I guess I also just don't get it because honestly, even if the new Star Wars sucks and totally shits on the established franchise and books and what not, why do you care that much? Just acknowledge that it sucks, and then go back to reading and watching the stuff you actually like. Pretending like a fictional universe like Star Wars can be "disrespected" in some way is the dumbest thing ever. Even if the new Star Wars movie is full of rapping Jar Jar Binks, Ewoks everywhere playing competitive sports and Han Solo turning gay, you can still just ignore it and go back to watching the movies or reading the books you actually like.

The only exception to this would be if you are like me and want to lampoon shitty things on a blog for humorous purposes and don't actually let it affect your real life. Then you're totally okay and, since you're like me, are probably an Adonis-like God figure and should be worshipped and showered in gifts. But I digress.

I'm not really talking about one person or one fandom in particular; it isn't just about Star Wars. I have seen this stuff all over the place, from many different people and many different subjects. This stuff should be fun. It shouldn't be some kind of incentive to go to war with people you don't know over stupid shit that doesn't matter. It's escapism – it should be something that makes you happy.

Bottom line is this – if you get mad or upset about anything in a fictional universe changing with the times, you probably need to take a deep breath and just leave the room for a while until you calm down. Seriously. It isn't really a big deal.

P.S. The new trailer actually makes me excited for that new Star Wars movie. I'll go see it.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Talking Cat!?! (2013)

It's time, dear readers, to take a break from our usual intake of gruesome horror tales, and instead look at something different. Something involving talking felines, and no dignity or common sense.

Director: David DeCoteau (as Mary Crawford)
Starring: Johnny Whitaker, Janis Peebles, Eric Roberts

...yeah, I guess that's as good of an intro as I'm going to get. Boy, am I out of steam! It's almost like I'm doing these reviews and consciously mentioning how out of steam I am just to cover up how out of steam I am! And plus I'm reviewing a movie about a fucking talking cat. Which is, frankly, as low as you can go.

Apparently director David DeCoteau is something of a brainchild as he has done many other movies exactly like this. Some titles include A Talking Pony!?! and My Stepbrother is a Vampire!?! because it's apparently impossible to have a good title if you don't include !?! at the end of it. Am I right!?! No. No I'm not. I'm really just ashamed I just did that.

But really the most interesting part of this whole affair is this:

What? Seriously, what?

Oh well. This is mere chump change compared to the movie we're about to see. Are you ready? No? Well, nobody is ever going to be - not for this. We'll just have to get used to it.

The movie begins with our hero, Duffy, a talking cat whose mission is to help people. We get a voice-over in his head about, I dunno, walking around and shitting in peoples' yards or something. The voice-over by Eric Roberts of The Dark Knight and Heroes fame sounds like your drunk stepfather in a bar at 2 p.m.

He isn't the hero we want, but he's the hero we deserve. Also that looks nothing like the cat on the cover, goddamn you! Was it so hard to take a picture of the actual cat in your fucking movie?

He decides to help two separate families in “trouble.” By that I mean one of them has a dad played by a mordibly obese Bill Murray who likes to do soul-crushing things like sit down in the random car-shaped seat they have for some Godforsaken reason in their living room, and go “Vroom! Vroom!” like he's a 10 year old. The son, who is sitting on the couch reading what I am positive is a book of blank pages just intended to make him look smart, sighs exasperatedly and goes “Dad, why do you keep doing that?”

Did they steal that chair from a mall kids' play area display?

The story is told by the dad, Phil, who explains very calmly and actually kind of happily that he lost his job and will now just laze around the house all day. The son doesn't give a shit at all, and I guess that kind of dead-eyed apathy runs in the family – must be a dominant gene. Phil's apparent plan is just to hang around and eat pizza and stuff. I'm so glad he's a positive role model.

The son, Chris, by the way, is a total wimp who gets this really hot girl to come over and “study” with him, which for her means swimming in his pool while he reads her books for her. Kid, I'd tell you to skip this chick and wait for someone better, but to be honest, your totally wimpy reaction to this in which you run away from her like a pussy tells me you don't have it in you. I mean, come on – even the fucking cat is thinking he's terrible. Really; we get a voice over with the cat thinking how lame Chris is. That's pretty bad.

"How am I using a phone when I'm too stupid to even know how to operate one?"

The other family is a “poorer” family, which means they don't have a house that a hipster art college student would design while he was drunk. The daughter is trying to apply for business school, but the mom says they don't have money for that, and actively antagonizes the daughter for...trying to better herself as a human being and having ambition. Meanwhile, her lazy slacker son who just spends all day in his room and acts like a wooden plank, she loves and adores. mommy has some issues which will likely be projected onto her weak-willed son. Sound familiar?


So if you can actually believe it, the cat can talk to these people only once and tell them something they need to do or know to make their lives better. I'd say this is ridiculous and implausible, but frankly the audience for the movie – whoever the fuck they are – is already close enough to believing shit like this is possible. Whether through extremist hippie new-age belief or being dropped on their heads, the audience for A Talking Cat!?! will probably accept this plot without complaint.

Above: the look of all the legitimate movie studios when confronted with the plot for A Talking Cat!?!

I also love the animation for when his mouth moves, and by animation I of course mean they just photoshopped a black hole over the cat's mouth and had it move vaguely in tandem with the dialogue. Didn't I see this kind of stuff in 2002-era Internet animation cartoons? Why am I watching it in a 2014 movie?

Even old games had better graphics.

So I guess the cat gives them some really vague, weird advice – he tells Phil to “go take a walk in the woods.” Which honestly sounds kinda creepy, doesn't it? Is this cat some kind of mafia hitman enforcer? I dunno. Unless there's Ryan Gosling and a place beyond the pines involved here, taking a walk in the woods with anyone in this movie sounds like a terrible idea to me.

The only acceptable outcome of this movie for me.

He also tells the girl, Tina, to look at her computer, which has Phil's website on it. I guess Phil's job, which he lost recently, was something involving computer programming. Because this guy really looks and acts like a guy who knows anything about computers, right?

I guess the whole point of all this is when Phil takes his walk in the woods and meets up with Susan, the mom from the other family. They have a conversation about Humphrey Bogart movies, which I'm guessing is because the director didn't have the money to buy the rights to talk about anything else. I love Humphrey Bogart and all, but this whole sequence is hilarious to me. Yes, truly that is the barometer of quality here – Humphrey Bogart movies on one end and A Talking Cat!?! on the other.

Above: The face of the Humphrey Bogart fan club, circa 2013.

There's also a plot point, if you can call it that, about Susan being this caterer for business parties or something, and she's constantly trying to make cheese puffs to take with her. They talk about this a lot, to the point where my friends and I started to wonder if someone just lost a bet and had to shoehorn in the phrase “cheese puffs” in their script as many times as possible. I mean Jesus Christ, what is the big fucking deal with the cheese puffs? Are they really that good? Will they make you orgasm if you eat just one? Will they make you see beyond our puny reality and soar to the cosmos inside your mind while rainbows shoot out of your ass? I mean, you're setting the standards pre-etty fuckin' high here.

Apparently Susan wants Tina to make more cheese puffs instead of doing work to try and get into computer school. She really acts like a bitch to Tina for wanting to do stuff to try and get into a computer school instead of making cheese puffs – yeah, furthering your education and improving life prospects is lame. She should just be a docile house wife!

All women should be forced to stay in kitchens and make food all day with no other career prospects - A Talking Cat!?! says so, so it must be true.

Phil leaves and Tina goes with him to his house to make the cheese puffs while also talking about computers! They mash their fingers on the keyboards while smiling like a Hallmark commercial, so I guess that counts as the plot moving forward:

"Alright! You found my favorite animal porn website!"

The other son comes up and finds Chris trying to swim in the pool – because he apparently doesn't know how to swim when they clearly have a pool right there and the ocean is just a few miles away, too. I mean, I don't know; maybe there's some rational explanation. But given the movie's titanic levels of stupidity I'm guessing it's because Phil shrugged his shoulders, got that doofy look on his face and went “aw shucks, I ain't good at anything except computer science and embarrassing my entire family in public. You just won't be able to swim I guess!”

There's actual dialogue in this scene where Chris complains about being afraid of pool sharks - like, actual fucking sharks in the pool. Did he get dropped on his head?

So logically, the solution here is for the other son to offer to give Chris swimming lessons. Wait a minute, I thought the whole plot point of the other son was that he wasn't good at anything and didn't know what he wanted to do! But now he's really good at teaching people to swim and seems to enjoy that?! It's almost like the writers just didn't give a fucking shit what they were dribbling out onto the page at this point.

And then he was immediately eaten by a pool shark.

Susan comes over and gets mad at her kids for coming over there, even though they made the cheese puffs like she wanted. But that wasn't good enough because, apparently, in that short time span in which Tina left her house and came to Phil's, the mom had a meeting that went HORRIBLY because she didn't have the fucking cheese puffs! The horror! Stop the presses! So she takes it out on everyone else and ruins everyones' lives. Fuckin' A.

Then we get a montage of Phil and Chris scanning their clothes into a computer somehow, which I guess is Tina's newfangled computer system program or whatever. I dunno, since they figured this out and seem to know how it works, what's to stop them from stealing it for themselves and making even more money than they already have? Just trying to keep it real here, movie. Plus these characters being absolute irredeemable dicks to one another would just be funnier for me. And honestly, a fucking montage of this? Are you shitting me?! I've had more fun watching videos of people getting root canals.

Yes, continue to look absolutely baffled and bewildered at everything you're doing. That makes for a good character.

So I guess the cat thinks he can solve this “problem” by going over and talking to Susan, which he hasn't done yet. Unless what comes next is a suicide pact, then I'm not interested.

But unfortunately, the cat never makes it, after being hit by a car. Yes, really – that's now a plot point in this movie. Now, what I'm about to show you is a picture of the cat's injuries, and I understand that may disturb you. So if you're the type of person who is offended by gore and violence, especially against talking felines, I suggest you click the 'Back' button on your browser.

Have you done it yet? Because I'm serious. You're going to be disturbed by this.

No, really. You will be. Last warning!

Okay then. Here are the injuries the cat sustains after the car accident:

Yup. Just one bandage on his head and that's all the injury he sustained from being HIT BY A FUCKING CAR.

Yes, my sentiments exactly.

You can't make this up, people! Hell, I can't even make jokes – the movie already is one! I guess either the cat has some aluminum plates in its skull after the war or the car that ran over him looked like this:

So I guess the cat somehow tells them that to save his life, they have to go out and find a buried collar in the woods. They go walking in the woods to a soundtrack of elevator music that sounds like it was made for a clown school, and find the collar above the ground, not buried like the cat said. Because why have anything make sense now? Who really cares about having a coherent script at all, right?

So although I was really hoping when they put the collar back on Duffy, it would magically transform him into his true form as the dark lord Lucifer, spewing hellfire and brimstone from his cracked lips and with the twisted horns atop his head that seem to be able to pierce the heavens...that doesn't happen. Instead it just magically heals him.

This is apparently what it looks like when a magical cat is healed. Also, good editing is when this happens and only one out of all those characters is looking up and appears to see it at all.

Well, that was A Talking Cat!?!. It was about as good as you would've expected from the title. I mean it isn't like you'd see the DVD cover and expect anything that much better. Christ. What was the thought process behind this? Who was the intended audience?

Oh. Well...okay then.

It isn't like Sharknado or something where it's intentionally bad...there was obviously passion in this and some kind of attempt to tell a story. But it's just incredibly backwards. The cat, for whatever fucking reason, is there to “help” people – so, obviously, he picks some really well-off middle class to rich people who have no real problems. Couldn't find a poor single mom on welfare or a high school drop out addicted to meth to help out, hmm? HMMMM?!

Well actually I'm guessing he tried, but really the only people fucking dumb enough to listen to a talking cat ended up being the characters we saw in this movie. That makes sense. And honestly the 'problems' these people have don't even seem that bad – they aren't that lonely, they seem to be doing decently financially...they have it pretty good, aside from the fact that they made some new friends at the end I guess. I guess that cat just wanted to freeload off them and not sleep in the gutter for a night.

Other than that though, this was pretty much okay. I mean, who doesn't want a movie full of long shots of nothing but nature or people driving?

These kinds of time-wasting shots take up a lot of the movie's runtime - it's pretty obvious they were just put there to pad out the rather meager 80 minute (even with these shots in there) runtime.

Who doesn't want a story with zero likable characters and dialogue more fitting of a bad 1980s commercial? Yes. I'm not going back on any of that.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Noah (2014)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Back in the 1950s and 60s, Hollywood came out with a series of epics based on stories from the Bible. I admit to seeing only a handful of these, but I did watch "The Ten Commandments" (the 1956 Charleston Heston version) a little over a year ago and was very impressed with its grand scope and strong themes in regard to human freedom and faith in oneself. So while I did not exactly go out of my way to see the newest adaptation of Noah's Ark and I have mixed feelings on director Darren Aronofsky's previous works, I was at least a little hopeful that they would try to recreate the majestic feeling of these larger-than-life films.

Well, I did eventually see it. And it was...interesting...I'll give it that...

Before I get to the movie, a few housekeeping notes. First, this will be a full-film review, so there will be spoilers. Secondly, while this will mostly be in chronological order, I am going to jump around a bit to explain certain parts of it better. Thirdly, my knowledge of the Bible is very limited, so if I get some things wrong on that score, I apologize ahead of time even though I will not be talking about it much. This also means I am not going to nitpick at certain controversies that people have had about it, like the fact that they use the term "Creator" instead of "God."

Lastly, and in that same vein, I am not going to use this review as a forum for a theological discussion. It is outside the scope of this blog and this post would never get completed. Hell, it took me two years just to complete the "House of Wax" review! So it would be best to get this one out of the way. Now.

After a brief prologue, we are introduced to Noah, played by Russell Crowe. He and his family are basically nomads who wander a vast wasteland populated by now-decrepit cities. But when a flower all the sudden grows instantly from the ground and Noah starts having bad dreams, it appears that something is amiss. They decide to go find his grandfather to try and get an explanation for things. They also come across an orphaned girl named Ila, who they eventually decide to adopt. As they travel, they are chased by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a clan leader who had killed Noah's father decades earlier.

However, they are saved by holy hell what are these things...?

So, these things that lost out in meetings over the film's budget are the Watchers, who are fallen angels condemned by the Creator to life on Earth as weird stone creatures because they tried to help humans back in the day. Look, I get it, they are suppose to be ugly and unnatural. But seriously, these guys look like stop-motion monsters from a cheesy 1980s sci-fi movie. Are we really suppose to take them seriously?! Oh and two of them are played by Frank Langella and Nick Nolte. Whoopie-do.

Well, anyway Noah and his family get saved and they meet up with his grandfather, Methuselah, a powerful man who is shown in flashbacks to have defeated evil forces with mystical powers. So...if that is the case, why do they spend all their time wandering the desert hoping to avoid getting killed by savages? He seems like someone who would be handy to have around...and his place is a lot nicer too. Then again, once you get to know the character, you kind of question why they bothered going back to him...

In any case, because he is played by Anthony Hopkins, his first onscreen appearance consist of him standing awkwardly in the middle of a room just for the sake of being creepy.

"I am still waiting for my second Oscar, Clarice..."

His running gag - because, honestly, that is what it boils down to - is that he has not gotten out in a while and has a desire for the taste of blueberries (I guess human liver with fava beans and chianti are a little too exotic for someone his age). Anyway, he basically tells Noah that he should do what the visions tell him to do. So, why was his advice needed in the first place...?

Anyway, it turns out the Creator is going to wipe out humanity with a giant flood and an Ark needs to be built to house two of every animals plus a handful of human beings. I know, shocker, didn't that one coming! So Noah starts building the Ark over the course of several years and his kids grow up. Shem (Douglas Booth), the eldest, and Ila are now lovers, but it is a bittersweet romance since Ila cannot have children, a product of injures she sustained prior to being found by Noah's family. She is played by Emma Watson, who was Hermione in the Harry Potter series. So let's see how this adds up:

Gets attacked as a child. Becomes The Boy Who Lived. Later enables him to vanquish evil.

Gets attacked as a child. Becomes infertile. Feels she has nothing to offer for the future of humanity. 

Yep, seems fair. Hooray, feminism!

But whatever hurt she feels is nothing compared to that of Noah's second son, Ham (Logan Lerman, a.k.a. the "Percy Jackson" kid). Why? Because he doesn't have a girlfriend and has teenage angst! The horror! There is also a third son, Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), who is born during the construction of the Ark and...serves no practical purpose in this film. Well, he was in the Bible, so might as well just leave him in there...

As the Ark nears completion and the animals start arriving - scenes which are admittedly pretty cool - Noah heads out to find potential mates for Ham and Japheth so the human race can later be repopulated. Or maybe just to get Ham to shut up, I don't know. However, when he arrives at a human settlement, he is shocked by all the violence and depravity he sees and walks away empty-handed.

Ugh, worst grape-stomping competition ever.

Ham runs off and tries to take matters into his own hands by rescuing a girl from the settlement named Na'el (Madison Davenport). She gets killed in a stampede after only five minutes of screen time and we learn nothing about her, but I am sure she would have been a great character...*faceplam*

Anyway, as the rest of the family looks for Ham, Ila comes across Methuselah, who is still looking for those damn blueberries. He tells her that he has come to realize that he has had almost no contact with her during the building of the Ark. He apologizes by using his powers to make her fertile.


So let me get this straight...he has been living next to his adoptive great-granddaughter for roughly TEN YEARS without any real interaction with her. Why? Because he just never got around to it?! Did that take a lot of valuable time away from his normal routine of giving away obvious advice and blueberry hunting?! And his way of saying sorry is to make her able to have children, something that he could have done AT ANY TIME over the decade and spared her from all those brewing feelings of bitterness...???!!!

Well, at Ila seems to be cool with it because right after this happens, she finds Shem and they have sex right then and there. Yep, Ham has gone missing, they are surrounded by hoards of dangerous people, and the whole world is about to flood, but they are just going to take the "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus" approach: giving in to the slightest physical impulse for the sake of plot convenience! (Yes, I did just compare a Biblical film to "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus." Deal with it).

Anyway, eventually they do get everyone back together and they have this big fight with Tubal-cain's people. The stupid rock things, I mean Watchers, end up sacrificing themselves to save Noah's family and they ascend into Heaven for redeeming themselves. or just so we do not have to look at them anymore. Meanwhile, the flood comes in at full force and carries away the Ark, along with all its animal and human passengers.

The Biblical version of "Get in the choppa!"

Cool, Russell Crowe on a boat! You know what that means...! No, not "Master and Commander," I mean this:

Oh, and Methuselah gets left behind and dies. Or rather, he finally finds his goddamn berries (in a place not very far from his place that should not have taken a decade to find) and, apparently feeling perfectly content with how he has conducted himself over the years, willfully gets washed away by the waves. Normally I would question why there was no explanation for him staying behind, but frankly, given the nonsensical nature surrounding his character, I am willing just to send him off on his merry way. Believe me, we haven't even gotten to the "good" part of the movie yet...

Now, up until this point, I'm still sort of content with the film. It's not great and its flaws only get bigger the more you think about them, but it has decent special effects (other than the Watchers) and the plot still keeps me intrigued. But then Noah starts to lay out his game plan and this is where it really starts to lose me:

After Noah gives a monologue about...umm, Creationism?...forget it, not going to ask...he tells his family that the Creator is telling him that man has become too evil. So instead of trying to repopulate the planet, he tells his family that once they get back on land, they will live out the rest of their days with no more procreation before they die, effectively killing off the human race.

So...Noah is a religiously-inspired ecoterrorist now! But wait, it gets better! It is discovered that Ila is pregnant (I know, did not see that one coming either), so Noah, being the kind, gentle soul that he is, makes a deal: if she gives birth to a boy, he can live; if it is a girl that can procreate, she must be killed.

Who. Is. This. Psychopath?!!! Is he really that messed up in the head that he thinks his own family is not good enough to redeem mankind?! And as a result he is just going to basically hold them hostage, not knowing whether or not he might at some point kill one of them?! Wait, Russell Crowe plays a guy who takes direction from visions that only he can see and as a result endangers his family, including his wife played by Jennifer Crowley...


Well, before I get any further with this, I should say that Tubal-cain is actually still alive at this point: despite being badly wounded before the flood hit, he managed to sneak onto the Ark while no one was looking. When Ham discovers him, he makes a deal with the boy to keep his presence a secret until he has healed enough to kill Noah. He then gathers his strength by eating the animals nearby. Remember, there are only two of each, so just killing one effectively causes an extinction!

Tubal-cain: the reason why we no longer have Jackalopes.

So what exactly is Tubal-cain's grand plan after he does away with Noah? In a nutshell, he is going to make the remaining females on the boat his brides, and he will repopulate the human race in his image. Okay, there are many things that can cause this idea to fall apart, but I am not going to bother listing them down. You know why? Because he cannot even get the first part right! His great idea on how to kill Noah: make him come down to where he is on the ark and then jump him. Yep, jump him. Oh, by the way, when he decides to launch this "attack," enough time has gone by that Ila goes into labor. So, in other words, he had NINE MONTHS to figure this out and he still screwed it up!!! Killing Noah in his sleep? NAH, let's given him the chance to fight back and see how that turns out. Well, as it does turn out, Ham changes his mind...for some reason...and ends up killing Tubal-cain himself. And so goes another useless character due to a complete failure to judge his basic surroundings...!!!

Honestly, was there really a need for a villain at all in this movie? Noah is pretty scary already! Which do you think is scarier? The guy who you know is bad and just need to find the right time and place to kill him? Or the guy who is suppose to be mankind's savior and yet he keeps his own family in a constant state of paranoia for nine months (hey, whatever happened to "40 days and 40 nights"... ah forget it...) and is willing to kill his own grandchild based on a hunch that only he knows about?!!!

*Deep breath* Moving on...

As I mentioned, Ila goes into labor and gives birth to...twin girls! Oh, the irony! The end result? Well, Noah looks into their eyes and sees good in them, so they and the rest of humanity get to live on after all. he looks at them and sees goodness but not the other members of his know what, we are almost done, so let's just get to it...

"So, that whole me going crazy and threatening your lives thing? We're cool, right?"

The family comes across land and start their new lives. Noah spends some time acting like a bum, feeling guilty that he did not fulfill the Creator's simple favor that he commit infanticide in order to wipe out his own species. But his family tells him to get over it, so he does. Ham goes off to be his own man or something. And...the movie ends.

Wait a minute. A guy who takes direction from visions that only he can see terrorizes his family in an isolated location, to the point where his son seeks the help of an outsider to help kill him, only for that said outsider to get killed really easily. Hey, this is not "A Beautiful Mind" at all, it's...

That's it! That is what it was all along! So that means...Stephen King wrote the Bible!!!

Or this movie is just weird, I don't know...

Wow, You know one of the things about writing these reviews is that it gets you to think more about the movies you just saw, which can be both a good and a bad thing. With this movie, it is certainly the latter. The more I go into detail about it, the more I realize how bad it is. There are just so many plot holes, a number of supporting characters are useless, and the movie's namesake is such a despicable human being that you really cannot get behind him. Now I should say that making Noah a flawed character is not itself a problem; it should almost be encouraged because it makes him more relatable. But if you are going to make any story and you are going to purposely make a character with major flaws, you have to at least give a reason why your audience should still like him or her. Or at the very least give some rational reason why they are who they are, not take them so far into Walter White/Frank Underwood/Jack Torrance territory and then bring them back from the abyss, pretending they were a hero all along. It is disconcerting and ruins the whole point of what you are trying to get across. That is, if you had a point to begin with...

There is not much I can defend in this film, with a few exceptions. Some of the visuals are impressive, as I mentioned, and the acting is more or less decent. And I do not necessarily blame Aronofsky and the others for wanting to do something different with a story that has been told countless times and virtually everyone knows about. They could have easily have said "We have Russell Crowe and a multimillion dollar budget. Go see it." You can tell they were at least trying. But as I have said in the past, different is not always better, and this time it really did not work out. So let that be a warning to all those planning to see the upcoming "Exodus: Gods and Kings" movie coming out. It might be better than this film, but just be careful what you get yourself into.

As for this film...yeah, I do not recommend it.

Thanks, Yul Brynner. You know what, go see "The Ten Commandments" instead. It's 10,000 hours long, but it's all worth it. And it's not "Noah," so that's a bonus!

The pictures and videos in this post do not belong to me and are being used for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me; it says so in the Bible.