Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable is a thriller and drama that was written, produced, and directed my M. Night Shyamalan. Now, before you click away, I want you to look at the year this movie was released. This was hot on the heels of The Sixth Sense and naturally, Shyamalan wanted a more ambitious project to work on. He already killed it in the supernatural thriller genre once, and I guess he wanted to solidify himself as a thriller powerhouse while everybody’s eyes were still on him.

Unbreakable is the story of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a family man and security guard who’s marriage is tumultuous at best. He’s just chugging along his dreary life until on his way back from a job interview in New York, he gets in a massive train accident. Hundreds are killed, and not only is he the only survivor, but he emerges completely unharmed. This garners the attention of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book obsessed art gallery owner, who believes that Dunn is completely impervious to harm. Dunn obviously doesn’t believe him at first, but after slowly learning more and more about himself and revealing and honing his natural abilities, he then has to try and reconcile the idea of having the potential to be a superhero while navigating his broken family life. (more…)

Hackers (1995)

Hackers (1995)

I’m going to preemptively defend myself here: I love trash films most of the time. I watched The Bye Bye Man, for Christ’s sake. It was atrocious, but honestly, I kind of love that I hate it so much. It’s a weird feeling. But you’re not here to read about my gross, icky feelings, you’re here to read about my gross, icky feelings about movies.

Hackers might just be the most ’90s movie I’ve ever seen. I cannot stress this enough: Hackers might just be steeped in it’s own decade more than any other movie in existence. Everything about the ’90s shows up in Hackers, and even the plot itself couldn’t have been conceived in any other decade.

Dade “Crash Override” Murphy (Jonny Lee Miller) has just moved to New York City with his mom and has enrolled in a new high school in his senior year. He’s excited, not just for a new start but because he’s been banned by law from interacting with any computers or touchtone phones since he was eleven years old, and now the ban has been lifted. How was young Dade banned from using computers? Well, he hacked with them. He hacked so good that he caused a stock market crash in 1988 and crashed over fifteen hundred computers. Dade makes friends with Kate “Acid Burn” Libby (Angelina Jolie!), Ramon “The Phantom Phreak” Sanchez, Emmanuel “Cereal Killer” Goldstein, and Paul “Lord Nikon” Cook, all young students who are also a part of the local hacking scene. Why the crazy alias, you might ask? Because on the internet you need a sick, radical username when you’re surfing the net and fighting the good fight, man. The the hacker gang gets framed by Eugene “The Plague” Belford (who always insists on being called by his online alias), another hacker who happens to work for the FBI and who is framing innocent hackers for a virus that is causing oil ships to capsize and pollute the ocean.

I want you to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation here. The bad guy has hacked a bunch of boats so hard they flipped over and caused an environmental crisis. Bogus! It’s up to our ragtag group of hackers to take down the man and clear their names once and for all so they can continue to do their illegal hobby lifestyle.

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Misery (1990)

Misery (1990)

The worst facet of any artist, is their fans. I don’t know who said it originally but I can say, tongue fully removed from cheek that I believe that statement to be true. Maybe more now than I ever thought possible.

Misery is one of many Stephen King novels to be turned into films, Made in the 1990 (although written in ’87), the novel was written at the height of King’s party hard phase. While I have not read the book, I firmly believe that the film imparts some of the source material’s author’s wild side with it. Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a prolific author, much like Stephen King himself. However, unlike King he’s painted himself into a corner writing sappy historical romance novels for longer than he cares to admit. The novels focus around a woman named Misery and follow her trials and tribulations, and have garnered him great success and wealth. Sheldon is tired of Misery, though. He yearns for something new, something that will solidify him as a serious tour de force in the world of fiction literature. When he finally finishes his first draft of the final novel in the Misery series, he gets into a terrible car accident on his way to his editor. Rescued and being cared for by his self-proclaimed number one fan, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), Paul Sheldon finds himself learning that fandom is a deep, deep rabbit hole and those who live in its furthest depths can be warped and perverted by it’s pressures. (more…)

Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005)

Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005)

For those out of the loop on my self-imposed suffering: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992), Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000), and Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002). Let’s get down to business.

Hellraiser: Deader is the seventh and worst titled sequel in the Hellraiser franchise. At this point, the franchise is past dead (you could say it’s deader?), with both this and its successor Hellraiser: Hellworld being released straight to TV in the same year. Rick Bota, often credited with singlehandedly destroying the Hellraiser name was directing this entry, as he did with the sixth and was going to do with the eighth. Again, this is a movie made from an unrelated horror script that Miramax and Dimension Films had laying around where they shoehorned Pinhead in and sprinkled the Hellraiser mythos over top.

This time, we follow Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer, Anaconda), a hardened guerrilla journalist for a British paper who often goes deep undercover to get her story. We’re introduced to her pretending to be a hard drug addict in a crack house, taking pictures and doing journalist stuff, not that the story she’s working on is ever explained, but whatever. When she returns to the paper that she writes for, her boss gives her a grisly new assignment: investigate the alleged suicides and resurrections that have been happening in an underground scene in Bucharest, Romania. The people who kill themselves are brought back to life by a cult leader type figure named Winter where they are new referred to as “Deaders”. I hope somebody got fired for writing that in the script. There’s been a leaked VHS tape of one of the necromantic rituals, and going off of only the return address on the package, Amy needs to track down this cult to expose them to the world.

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Dune (1984)

Dune (1984)

Frank Herbert’s Dune is probably one of the most important sci-fi novels of all time. Published in 1965, I think it’s fair to say that most sci-fi books and films since then owe something to Dune. So it’s understandable that Hollywood would be eager to produce a film adaptation to capitalize on the love that people have for the series. However, I don’t think it’s possible to create a faithful Dune film; the original book is around 800 pages of deep lore descriptions and internal dialogue, both of which are difficult to elegantly convey in a movie. Despite this, David Lynch tried to do it in 1984, and… oh boy, is it ever something else.

I absolutely love the novel Dune. I’m currently in the middle of my second read-through and I think it was way ahead of its time. The concepts that Herbert included were clear inspirations for a multitude of sci-fi staples. However between all the cool space magic, energy shields, and giant sandworms is a compelling story of betrayal and revenge. The story follows young Paul Atreides, son to Duke Leto Atreides who has been given control of the desert planet Arrakis by the Emperor of the Universe. Unbeknownst to them, a trap has been laid for them on Arrakis by an alliance between the Emperor and the evil members of House Harkonnen, who have feuded with The Atreides for generations. Dune is mainly the story of the fall of House Atreides on Arrakis, and Paul’s journey of revenge to bring down the Harkonnens and Emperor that destroyed his world. Complete with spiritual and mystical concepts and touching on themes of fate and determinism, good vs evil, and justice, I would recommend this book to anyone.

But the film is a piece of trash.

Not only does it fail as an adaptation of the novel, but it fails as a film in general. This brings me back to why Dune is difficult to properly adapt as a single film. The book is nuanced, subtle, and intelligent. It doesn’t hold your hand and it slowly gives you exposition and teaches you the lore of the universe in a way that is elegant and organic. It is also able to do this without sacrificing the progress of the plot. The film is the total opposite, smashing the audience in the face with expository monologues right from the opening shot. These are usually delivered by Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter (who is not introduced or established in the rest of the film), as she looks directly into the camera and tells the viewer about the plot. The whole movie subscribes to the tell-don’t-show philosophy and it sucks.

To be fair, there are a lot of things to establish in Dune. There are the politics of the galactic government, the psychotropic spice and its importance, the faction of space witches called the Bene Gesserit and their search for the Kwisatz Haderach (a prophesised all-powerful messiah), the climate on Arrakis and the culture of the native Fremen who live there, the complex web of characters and their relationships with each other, and all the cool space technologies like energy shields, intergalactic travel, and laser guns. However the novel has 800 pages to do all this, so it can take its time with story and exposition, giving each element the time that it deserves to establish it. The film tries to cram everything into 2 hours, so don’t blink, or you’ll miss something crucially important.

Pro Tip: Don’t open your film with a character feeding complex exposition to the audience like this

This film is just relentless. Stuff is happening non-stop. It tries to hit all the important points in the story, but rushes through everything to get there. For example, Paul’s love interest Chani is introduced in one scene, and in the next, the two of them are having a make-out montage. Their relationship is never given any time to develop because the film HAS no time for it. In another scene, we get a voice over from Princess Irulan who describes how Paul’s mom drinks “The Water of Life” (don’t worry, the film doesn’t describe what that is) and gives premature birth to a daughter who has all the knowledge and memories that she has. Pretty weird, right? This should be a big deal, but it’s just narrated to the audience because this movie has no time to handle the scene with any sense of subtlety or art. The story needs to move on to the next EPIC THING that happens. It’s like someone tried to make a History of Everything video, but of the book Dune. It’s heavy-handed and fails to capture the subtle elegance of the novel.

I’ll refrain from commenting on how accurate the film is to the novel because I don’t think adaptations need to be 100% faithful, as long as the film is good (which this film isn’t). But there are definitely some strange choices that David Lynch made. For example, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the principal villain, is supposed to be 400 lbs. of imposing evil. He uses anti-gravity tethers to take off some of that weight so he can walk around. In the film, Harkonnen is maybe 250 lbs, covered in boils, and is somehow able to fly around rooms like Peter Pan. Every single time he takes off, I burst out laughing at how stupid it looked. You never want the audience to laugh at how dumb your villain looks. He’s dorky and is not a formidable threat. I’m not upset that they changed his aesthetic, but David Lynch was clearly trying to borrow from the book and created something that didn’t work.

The acting in Dune varies from a quality performance from Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, to cheesy one from Dean Stockwell as Dr. Wellington Yueh, to a show-stealing one from Sting as the cocky Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. Yeah, you read that right, Sting is in this movie! He’s looking damn fine and captures the arrogance of the young Harkonnen heir well. The rest of the cast is nothing special, which is disappointing as there are other talented actors that I know can do better, including Patrick Stewart, Max Von Sydow, and Jurgen Prochnow. I credit their mediocre performances to poor directing; all of the characters have issues with the timing and delivery of their lines. They all come across as slightly awkward.

But let’s move on for a moment and talk about the things I enjoyed. In general, I liked the aesthetic of the movie. The design of the spaceships, costumes, and settings were colourful and creative. There was clearly a talented art and design team at work here. I have to complement the design of the sandworms as well; they truly felt enormous and imposing, although there was some very poor green-screening whenever anyone was riding a worm. I also have no idea why the worms shoot lightning as they burrow, but whatever.

I could go on about how stupid the Imperial soldiers look (they look like they’re wearing garbage bags), the atrocious blue-eyes effect on the Fremen, the ridiculous space fish, and the unexplained pug that happens to be in all the important scenes, but it would be overkill. The biggest problem with the film is that everything moves at a breakneck pace and the movie spends no time establishing anything before rushing on through the plot. The film would work best as a television series or three separate films (the book is divided into three sections, so there’s already a framework for what each film would contain). But trying to cram it all into a single 2-hour film just can’t work.

So that’s my opinion on David Lynch’s Dune. A big thanks to David for inviting me to join the site. You’ll be hearing from me every so often, probably focusing on video games, but maybe with a few more film reviews. Bye for now, and remember to walk without rhythm.

– Matt

The Marine (2006)

The Marine (2006)

Despite my love of weird, artsy movies, I’ve got soft spots for schlock and Big Dumb Action Movies. Commando, Predator, Crank are all well within my wheelhouse, and while I thought at most of these films were stuck in the ’80s or only found in crazy neo-grindhouse directors like Neveldine/Taylor, turns out I only needed to look at the most popular modern incarnations of Big and Dumb and Action. Lucky for me, they all reside in the same thing: WWE Wrestling.

The Marine is a 2006 action movie starring John Cena as John Triton, a marine who is honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps for single-handedly annihilating an Al-Queda base in Iraq against orders. Once he’s reintegrated back into the normal, mundane life of being a war-hero-turned-office-security-guard, he finds himself yearning to use the skills he learned out on his tour of duty that would get him arrested or fired here. Lucky for Mr. Triton, his wife gets kidnapped by some high profile diamond thieves (read: his wife gets plot deviced by some shoehorned plot devices) while they’re at a gas station, and BAM!

John Triton gets to go on a wild rampage across rural America to save his wife by murder, violence, explosions, guns, guns, boom, pow, running, jumping, car chase, running, blam blam blam, ka-pow! Maybe an American bald eagle soars in the distance, I don’t know. This movie was a flurry of blows to the senses, so it’s hard to write about it coherently. It’s produced by WWE Studios, which I always dismissed as being the producers of low budget, low quality action flicks that are just made to cash in on the success of whatever wrestler is popular at the time and while I can’t vouch for any of their other movies, they’ve definitely marked themselves on my radar after watching The Marine.

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