In other news, had a real splurge on films these last few days. Prepare for OPINIONS!!!
PREDATORS --> The very definition of 'solid'. Well acted/directed, and all the rest of it, but missing that extra little 'something' that would make it worth watching again and again. Perhaps 'fun'? I was going to say Laurence Fishbourne is worth the price of admission alone but I think that honour has to go to Adrian Brody's voice. Magnificent.
A bunch of hardcases literally drop out of the sky onto an alien planet, where the Predators hunt. And that's pretty much it. There's a Russian with a mini-gun, a Mexican with two uzis, a Spanish (?) lass with some sort of sniper rifle, Adrian Brody with a grenade launcher and incredible voice, a near-silent Yakuza chap and...a doctor?! New alliances must be forged and tenuous friendships etc etc etc. Ol' Larry plays someone who's been stranded on the planet for ages and is now a bit loopy, but he's only in it for maybe 5 minutes.
The Predators themselves look cool but they don't really do that much - ie they're not as actively involved in the story as you might hope/think. They mess with the people a little bit, and you get to see them quite a lot, and there are some fight scenes between them and the humans, and them and each other...but it's lacking. You get the impression they're tough but not actually skilled hunters, as the traps they pull are sussed-out by the humans fairly easily.
However, it does do a few things I didn't expect (that might actually have been better, but at least they didn't do the obvious) and there's a 'twist' at the end that doesn't really serve any purpose, not to mention a 'convenient' story element that so shamefacedly exploits dramatic tension it should get an award. But, despite all this, it is still SOLID.
STAR TREK --> Yep, the latest film. It's brilliant! All the casting is spot-on (although I was a little unconvinced by Simon Pegg's accent) with my favourite character easily being Bones (played fantastically by Karl Urban). Seriously Hollywood, give him more films!
I was a little unsure what the deal was with it at first - prequel? reboot? - as it starts with the death of a Kirk...but it soon turns out this is the (explosive) birth of Captain James T Kirk himself. Alriiiiiight! We then fast forward to the Star Fleet Training Academy, where the now 20-something Kirk meets his future shipmates (Uhurhurhruuhu, Bones, Chekov, Sulu? Zulu?, and of course SPOCK). Cue hi-jinks and calamity as they boldly go...into SPACE!
I always find Star Trek baddies a bit boring, and the one in this isn't too incredible - Nero, a Romulan miner who was pissed off that Spock (accidentally) let his planet get destroyed. He (Nero's) pretty tough and merciless, but not too gripping. And why does his ship, which we're told is a mining vessel, look like a bad guy's ship? Admittedly it's cool, with tons of spikes and things, and all in black, but if this ship came to mine my planet I'd shit my pants.
Speaking of Spock, not only do we get a more 'push me too far and I'll smack you' version in Whatshisface from Heroes, but we also get a nice amount of Original Spock(tm), with Leonard Nimoy popping up to explain a few things. Turns out that he's from the Original Timeline(tm) and the one the film occupies is an alternate one, caused by something earlier in the film. Crafty buggers, those writers, as this now allows more sequels with their own stamp on proceedings to follow.
And I hope they do - this film's Kirk is a cocky smartmouth who gets by on brains and charisma - perfect! Plus all the other crew have interesting facets worth exploring, although I'm not sure about Uhrhurhuhuhu's blooming romance with a certain alien. But most importantly: MORE BONES!!!
DAYBREAKERS --> The Sperig Brothers created this, and their (last?) film, Undead, was a good title wasted on a bad film. You can't really go wrong with zombies but somehow they did. Well it's not rocket science - the tone of that film was completely at odds with the actual look. It was gritty, dark, with a highly stylised colour palette, but with some outright goofy humour, and ALIENS. It did have some excellent lines though, but ultimately was a bit of a mess.
SO...I was a bit wary of Daybreakers, despite it having Ethan Hawke (who only seems to bother appearing in films every few hundred years) and One Of The Best Actors In The World And Not Just Because He Appeared In In The Mouth Of Madness Well Okay Mainly Because He Appeared In That Film(tm) Sam Neill in it. Oh and Willem Defoe!
In went the DVD, and on went the film...and initial signs were intriguing. Things kick off with a little girl vampire burning to death in sunlight, and from there we're introduced to what feels more like an alternate reality than future progression - a lot of people are dressed a bit 1940's, but there are sci-fi advancements like cars with high-tech computers onboard and self-inflating tyres, that sort of thing.
We then discover that, apparently, ten years have passed since a virus outbreak that turned most of the world into honest-to-goodness vampires. In that time, they rapidly became the dominant species and started using humans as cattle, sticking them in these labs where they're constantly drained of blood by machines so the vampires can feed off them without any of that messy neck-biting business (not that there isn't plenty of this throughout the film).
The only trouble is, the human population is running dangerously low, and if the vampires can't develop a blood substitute soon they'll effectively starve and devolve in 'subsiders', monstrous creatures that are part bat.
Almost everything in the film is excellent, to no-one's surprise more than mine, especially since I'm not overly fussed with vampires. The lore and mythology of the world Daybreakers inhabits is pretty much air-tight, with some very, very clever tricks and twists, particularly later on, when Defoe turns up, claiming to have inadvertently found an actual cure for vampirism, and then later on when we find out an unexpected side effect of this cure.
Sam Neill doesn't really do much, to be honest, apart from act a little sleazy. He does get his own mini-plot involving his still-human daughter though, that's a nice 'up yours' moment to his (business and physical) greed.
Ethan Hawke is almost always watchable, and in this he has a nice role - a vampire haematologist who doesn't like drinking human blood, and who ends up helping Defoe's 'freedom fighters'. The chap who plays his brother is also pretty good, and used as a nice counterpoint to Ethan's character (enjoys being a vampire because he "wasn't very good at being human").
There were a few things that bothered me though, and they relate almost exclusively to pace and timing within the film. For instance, Ethan has to meet some humans at noon, which he does. They then end up getting chased and, suddenly, it's night. Whoops. And if it's only been ten years since the 'outbreak', why can't Ethan really 'remember what it felt like to be human', when he's the most human out of all the main vampire characters? And it would have been nice to know what year it's supposed to be, because clearly it's more futuristic than 2010 but there's still the suggestion that, once vampires appeared, they brought an innate technological advancement with them. The last thing that didn't quite seem right relates to the girl (and later, some subsiders) as they burn in sunlight. They all go up pretty quickly, but at another point in the film a character gets blasted with it a few times and doesn't even have any marks (not even fast-healing ones), which didn't quite feel right. And the closing voiceover feels pithy and weak compared with everything we've just seen (not to mention it states the bloody obvious).
However, there IS a lot of blood and guts in this film, with a highlight being a veritable orgy of gore (or gorgy, if you will) towards the end of the film. Overall, Daybreakers is very, very good and the Sperig brothers (or however you spell their name) have redeemed themselves in my eyes. And that's all that matters, RIGHT?!
THE CRAZIES (remake) --> was a bit disappointing. I'd heard largely glowing reviews, about how it generates a succinct and effective 'small town apocalypse' feel, but it just wasn't that good.
It ticked all the right boxes (Sinister military presence? - check! / Once-polite townsfolk going mental? - check! / Radha Mitchell? - check!) but felt almost as empty as the main town of Ogden Falls gets. Timothy Oliphant plays the sheriff well, even though there seems to be a problem with his eyes (I don't think he blinks once during the film) that's particularly noteworthy when he gets a slap, and his face moves but his eyes don't. Weirdo. But...but but but.
Where are all the Crazies? After the town's water supply gets tainted by a biological weapon (a discovery made remarkably quickly - the film does have a solid, fast pace) people start going loopy. But we're told this more than actually shown it, apart from a few occasions. Ogden Falls has a population exceeding a thousand people, and there's point where the infected people get unleashed on the town...yet the sheriff and his little gang manage to walk around largely unmolested for most of the film, with the crazies taking a definite backseat to the military. Boo!
I was reminded of the excellent Twilight Zone episode where CSI Grissom goes to a small town that's slowly going nuts - that was really creepy and strange, but The Crazies is neither of these things. There's some scope for people to go steadily, almost imperceptibly mental, but we only get a small slice of this. If anything, the film's more about the aftermath of the outbreak than the outbreak itself, which is a shame. Does have an obvious, but cool, ending though.
PANDORUM --> was the last film in my splurge-fest, that I watched last night. Almost conversely, this received 'okay' reviews compared to The Crazies, but I found it more enjoyable.
Corporal Bower (played by Ben Foster) and Lieutenant Payton (played by the ever-reliable Dennis Quaid) wake up from 'hypersleep' onboard the Elysium - a massive city-sized spaceship - with memory loss. Where are they going, and what's happened to the 59, 000 other people onboard? They don't know, but luckily for us the well-worn plot device of 'cryogenic amnesia' allows the audience to discover the facts at the same time as the main characters, and what facts they are!
Upon its release, Pandorum was largely called 'cookie-cutter', and a favourite reference point was the film Event Horizon. Pandorum doesn't break any new ground within the genre but neither does it really resemble Event Horizon. For starters, the monsters in Pandorum are real, physical creatures, not supernatural/demonic forces. Yeah, it's a big empty spaceship with weird stuff happening on it, but that was also the plot of Alien, and you don't see Pandorum getting compared to that.
So anyway. Bower remembers his an engineer, and realises the ship's reactor is getting close to meltdown. Away he goes exploring the ship on his way to fix it, guided by Payton, who remains in a command room. Along the way, Bower meets a few other survivors and the aforementioned monsters, who look pretty cool - all pale and deformed, with bits of metal growing from their bodies. I won't reveal what they are exactly, but the video game player in me loved the reason for their existence.
That right there is a pretty good description of Pandorum overall - it's survival horror, and were it a video game, would probably be classed as a solid 8/10 title worth picking up once the price had dropped a bit.
The 'Pandorum' of the title is actually a space mental illness, where people basically go nuts, and lose all sense of morality, not to mention suffer a pretty sizable 'break with reality', as the quacks say. It plays into proceedings quite heavily, as Bower and Payton find out what's happened to everyone else, why they're on the ship, and what their mission actually is/was. Things get a bit daft at the end with some needless melodrama, but it's compensated for with an ace reveal (when they open the ship's windows, they can't see any stars - and THAT is a cool idea right there). Worth watching!
And that's the end of Film Club for this week. Stay tuned for more quick reviews. OR NOT!