Prometheus

I am probably one of the largest sci-fi geeks in existence. I live and breathe everything and anything science-fiction.  Naturally, this means I am a huge fan of the Alien and Blade Runner films directed by Ridley Scott. When I heard that after a 30 year break he was returning to sci-fi I must have nerd-gasm’d with the power of a million flux capacitors. This, however, is the problem with fandom. If you are so eagerly anticipating something, dedicating a large amount of time and energy into that anticipation, isn’t it a given that you are setting yourself up for disappointment? I’ve learnt this lesson before and I did my best to quell the bubbling excitement inside but it proved a hard task surrounded by equally enthusiastic sci-fi geeks.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus starts on earth with a duo of scientists discovering the final in a line of ancient clues that point to a particular star-system where they believe they can find the answers to life’s biggest questions. A few years later the scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), along with a sizable crew have been awoken from stasis aboard the Prometheus space-craft. They are greeted by their android care-taker David (Michael Fassbender), the ships captain Janek (Idris Elba) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) the corporate representative among other miscellaneous crew members.

They have arrived at their destination, a moon in a solar-system with a sun not unlike ours, the very one pointed at on Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway’s cave paintings. The scientists and the crew aboard go straight to work when they find a hollow dome-like structure on the moon’s surface and soon find evidence of a doomed intelligent habitation. What secrets lie inside this structure? Is it too late to turn back or have they already unleashed the contents Pandora’s Box?

Ridley Scott once said that “…Audiences are less intrigued, honestly, by battle. They’re more intrigued by human relations…” and I would be the first person to agree with him, unless said human relations break up the action to the point of a tonal mess. One of the main problems with Prometheus is it’s inconsistency in tone and build-up. An awful amount of time is spent on exposition and by half-time there still doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of development on the main plot. When we do get down to the nitty-gritty and start exploring the horrors that lurk on this new world instead of letting the tension build to achieve genuine emotional-response it is broken up with scenes of inter-crew relationships that jars the viewer out of any sense of thrill or suspense.  There is, however, that hit that suspense nail very squarely on the head. I think cinema audiences will be talking for a long time about Ms. Shaw’s emergency medical procedure.

The design of the entire movie was definitely one of its finest qualities. The gleam of a futuristic, sterile and technological world on the Prometheus contrasted greatly with the H.R. Giger influenced design of the shadowy, slime-slicked labyrinth that houses the horrors beneath the dome and creates the perfect mise-en-scene to represent the fresh and new versus the ancient and forbidden. If there’s one thing you can’t complain about in Prometheus, it’s the seamless beauty of the world they created.

Unlike the design of the film, the score was somewhat less inspirational and was often accountable for the tonal imbalance that the film battled with. The looming, impressive shrieks seen in the music of the trailer were nowhere to be seen in a very hollow and understated score that seemed to decide it didn’t want to assist with raising audience heart-beats in moments of crises or deepening emotion of more dramatic scenes. An unpleasant surprise considering composer Marc Streitenfeld’s previous credits include such esteemed scores for The Grey, Robin Hood and American Gangster.

With a project whose story is shrouded in as much mystery as Prometheus has been it’d be unfair to go into too much detail in a review. What I will say is that while it has a bunch of hiccups and should have been stream-line, it is a very grand and ambitious tale that achieves what it sets out to do. There are very strong references to the nature of war-fare that really brings these issues to the foreground. In a recent interview with Collider.com Scott states that, You don’t do 9/11, you just get a teaspoon of bacteria, drop it in, and eight days later the water is clean and then suddenly on the eighth day the water goes dense and cloudy, but by then it’s been sent to every home and several million people have drunk it, you’ve got bubonic. It’s that simple.”

One of Prometheus’ greatest strengths is in its cast. Mr. Scott has always been fantastic at casting his films and this is no exception. Noomi Rapace plays a strong female lead that the audience wants to cheer for; Idris Elba plays an extremely charming Captain that contrasts well against Charlize Theron’s strict and uptight Meredith Vickers. Most notably, though, is Michael Fassbender’s truly wonderful performance as the android David. He is the one character that never ceases to stop the audience guessing and Fassbender’s performance truly had me wondering whether or not a robot could feel.

While it is largely over-ambitious and lacks the tonal consistency it needed to be a truly successful film, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is still worth the trip for its spectacular visuals and inspiring performances. Sci-Fi geeks should be truly delighted, if not by the film itself, then by the hours of entertaining debates that are certain to follow.

I give this film 3 and a half cups of Dark Biological Ooze (the ingredients of which may or may not have been found in a jar on a distant moon). While it may seem like a fresh and exciting new beverage, there’s something undeniably wrong with the formula. Still pretty tasty, though. 

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What’s Your Number?

I’m quite the fan of Anna Faris. I’ve enjoyed her in basically all of her performances even if I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie. She is often the best part of a shitty movie. When I heard she was starring in her own Rom-Com co-starring Chris Evans with supporting roles from Joel McHale and Andy Samberg I was most excited. Unfortunately, I think I may have had my hopes up a little too high…

What’s Your Number tells the story of Ally Darling (Anna Farris) who, after reading a Marie Claire article, realises that she has slept with 20 men.  A point at which, according to STATISTICS, the likelihood of a woman settling down drastically drops. Ally decides that people get better over time and she can probably find her future husband amongst her battlefield of ex-boyfriends. Along for the ride is her boundary-retardant neighbour, Colin Shea (Chris Evans).

This isn’t really a bad film, in fact I quite like the premise and all of the actors involved. Everyone had chemistry and the direction was on the most part quite slick. Despite everything working in its favour something is just off. Using my expert deduction skills I have devised that it is a Romantic Comedy with one integral element missing – the comedy.  The premise is rife with opportunities for comedic moments – 20 of them in fact – but none of them are utilised to their full potential, that is if they’re even utilised at all. An example is Andy Samberg as a Puppeteer that Ally had sex with but they just don’t really go anywhere with it, and I know they could have because I saw footage of him in the trailer that wasn’t in the movie. This leads me to believe that the film may have suffered a bit in post-production.

Despite not being very funny, the film still manages to be quite enjoyable thanks to its charismatic cast. Anna Farris is great as always with her wonderful comedic timing, Chris Evans is sex on a stick and an appearance of Joel McHale and his balls made me a happy chappy. It’s definitely not the worst time you could have at the Cinemas.

I give this a “Does this taste right to you?”. Just one of those beverages that has that uneven amount of soda-water and syrup but you still drink it anyway because you can’t be fucked asking for your money back. 

P.S.  Remember when she was a brunette? 

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The Guard

For some crazed reason I haven’t been watching much independent cinema recently. I guess so much has been coming out in the ‘blockbuster’ category that I have completely forgotten about it’s smaller, brilliant cousin the ‘indie flick’. I won’t be making that mistake any time soon because The Guard reminded me that it can be so so so much better.

The Guard follows a somewhat debauched, drug-taking, prostitute hiring and kind of racist Irish policeman Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) as he ‘serves and protects’ a small irish town. Trouble brews as murders pop up around the very small, Gaelic town and the local police are informed of a major drug smuggling operation that’s about to go down. There to stop the operation is straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle). Through chance events Gerry and Wendell end up working together on the case but can they stop the psychotic existentialist drug dealer Clive Cornell (Mark Strong) and his gang when all of Ireland seems to be against them?

Well, folks, have you ever felt yourself wishing there was an Irish-Buddy-Cop-Black-Comedy film out there? Well you should have, because The Guard was delightful. It was dark, comedic (as any ‘black comedy’ should be), sometimes touching and just so well written. No time is ever wasted in this film, every scene serves a purpose and it wraps up in a nice and tidy 96 minutes. Really, what happened to the 90 minute film? You will find yourself engaged with every character, soaking up every plot point and laughing at every joke, sometimes in spite of yourself.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle would have to be the best big-screen character I have seen in quite a long time. From his crassness, prostitute-hiring, drug-taking, small-minded ways to his off-kilter sense of humour and touching relationship with his mother, this is definitely one of the most well-rounded characters I’ve seen in quite a while. The very first scene sets this character up perfectly and makes you think, “I’m going to enjoy the next 96 minutes I have with this man…” I won’t describe the scene, you’re just going to have to go see it for yourself.

The supporting cast is almost as great as Brendan Gleeson’s Sergeant Boyle. Don Cheadle is excellent as the straight-man of the duo, he has great comedic timing and bounces off of Gleeson admirably, these two have great chemistry. Also worth mentioning are Mark Strong as the leader to a rather philosophical-thinking drug dealing gang who seems to be working through some existential issues of his own and Dominique McElligott as Aoife O’Carroll a sex-worker hired by Boyle who has an oddly sweet relationship with him.

First time feature writer/director John Michael McDonagh does a wonderful job directing. The pacing is slick, the scenes blend together perfectly and the film is just utterly enjoyable to watch. Oh, and did I mention how well written the film is? John Michael McDonagh comes from a talented family, his brother being the writer/director of another Irish Black-Comedy starring Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges. I can’t wait to see more of him.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the typical Hollywood Blockbusters we’ve been seeing so far this year you cannot go much better than The GuardWith an amazing cast and a great script, this is a highlight of 2011 cinema you shouldn’t miss.

I give this a “Hearty Irish Stout”. Substantial, tasty and ultimately satisfying, this a brew you shouldn’t miss out on! 

P.S. See In Bruges if you haven’t already! Here’s a little taste of what you’re in for…

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Conan the Barbarian

In a world full of remakes, reboots and re-rerere’s the next in line is the remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger 80’s classic Conan the Barbarian. I had a choice to make this Monday. I had a choice between the supposedly delightful Paul Giamatti comedy Win Win and the action-packed blockbuster remake Conan the Barbarian. Judging by the title of the review and the very not Paul Giamatti man in the photo it’s quite obvious which film I chose. Don’t get me wrong, I have no preference for action-packed blockbusters by any means. In fact the decision came down to the question “Which movie would I rather not pay money to see?”.

Conan the Barbarian tells the story of Conan (Jason Momoa), a barbarian born in the blood of battle and given life while his mother gave up hers. As a young boy, while being raised by his father (Ron Perlman) to be a strong warrior, his village is slaughtered by the evil Warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) over a bone fragment that is part of a magical Necromancer’s mask that will help him resurrect his dead sorceress wife. Years later, being the sole survivor of his village’s slaughter, Conan is all grown up, substantially more muscular and hunting Khalar down. Ignorant to Conan’s pursuit, Khalar is after the last ingredient to becoming a powerful necromancer, the ‘pure blood’ who happens to be a beautiful Monk named Tamara (Rachel Nichols). Helping him find Tamara is his creepy sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan). Adventures and action ensue.

I’ve learnt in recent times that any movie that begins with a disembodied voice narrating back-story is probably not going to be great (*cough*Green Lantern*cough*). Sure, Lord of the Rings did it and it was awesome but I honestly can’t think of anything else since then that succeeded with this technique. It just seems like sloppy writing to me, if there’s back-story to tell then tell it through the narrative and the world you’re creating. Don’t just throw words at us that we don’t understand or give a shit about. The story of Conan the Barbarian was silly, sloppy and jumped all over the place. It was a nice world and could have been told much better but let’s face it, you’re probably not going to see  Conan expecting Lord of the Rings. You’re going to see Conan expecting a shit-tonne of violence and maybe some boobs. Don’t worry people, it delivers on both counts. The action scenes were very well done and quite impressive and also quite ridiculous in parts (a horse-drawn carriage crashes in a way that would make Michael Bay proud) but it’s entertaining and I imagine that’s what most people who want to see this care about.

Jason Momoa as Conan, you ask? Can he possibly replace the beloved Arnie depiction? Well, I think he works. One of the best things about the movie is that he definitely looks and acts the part of a Barbarian. To me he was Conan. On the other hand the Villains all played out like caricatures of, well, Villains. Stephen Lang is a good actor, it’s disappointing that all he’s been given lately is two-dimensional villain characters. As for the other main baddie, Marique? I think the film-makers must have thought that if they slapped enough villainous make-up on Rose McGowan she wouldn’t actually have to act.

The visuals were fine, it made good use of relics and ruins to make you believe they were in some kind of Barbaric fantasy land. The 3-D was ok, it started off well but it got flat further into it. The best use of 3-D was in the credits. What is it with movies using 3-D badly in the actual film but then having great looking credit sequences? The main technical problem I had was with the audio. I’m not entirely sure if it was the Cinema I was in (it was a new V-Max) or a general fault with the film’s production but as stunted as I expect the dialogue was I actually couldn’t hear most of it. The score was so overpowering and so much action was going on that all the other sound drowned out most of the dialogue. It’s not just me getting old, either, I verified with others who saw the film. Couldn’t hear shit. Again, not that much of a problem if you’re just there for blood and tits.

Conan the Barbarian is everything you expected, but not much more. A basic plot, hard to hear audio and lack-lustre characters disappoint but it’s not too shabby on the action side of things. If you’re up for some good old Barbaric sword-swinging action then Conan is right up your…space between stick-huts.


I give this a “Tankard of Meh-ead”. It’s a dizzying brew that’s not very substantial but alright if you’re just out for a good time. 

P.S. Conan the Barbarian: The Musical. That is all. 

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Cowboys & Aliens

When I first heard that this movie was coming out I knew instantly there was no way I wasn’t going to see Cowboys & Aliens. The premise alone is an insufferable geek-boys dream. As one of these insufferable geek-boys I am a huge fan of genre-mixing and also a big fan of Sci-Fi (go figure). Geeze, it’s almost as if the film-makers had 15-30 year old Males in mind when making this movie…

The story is exactly as you’d expect, lone bad-ass Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up without any memories, walks around being a bad-ass and then comes across a little Western hole-in-the-ground town where he finds out he’s a wanted man. Turns out he caused a bit of trouble with the local big cheese Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who wants his head. Among the fray is Sam Rockwell as the adorable comic-relief bartender Doc, Noah Ringer as the Sheriff’s grandson Emmett, Olivia Wilde as the beautiful stranger Ella and a long list of impressive supporting cast. Oh! Did I mention that Aliens attack, space-lasso numerous hostages and the rag-tag gang has to band together to rescue their loved ones?

The story is very basic, I know, but it’s done in such a fresh way that it’s exciting. It actually kept my attention for the most part, I only found it lulling once but that was quickly rectified, and it’s dang entertaining. The thing I love about this movie is that it does what other Blockbusters tend to forget to do, it develops the characters! Hallelujah! It’s become a weird experience watching a movie where I actually gave a damn what happened to the characters. Each character has a motive, each character has a purpose and each character grows. A loner learns the value of friendship, a helpless innocent finds his courage, a bumbling bumbler gets less bumbly and a gruff old man learns he’s not so gruff after all. On that note, in a movie of awesome things, Harrison Ford is easily the best thing about the movie. The role of Woodrow Dolarhyde was clearly written especially for him and boy does it pay off. Go see the movie, you’ll see what I mean.

There’s certainly a great deal of Cowboy in this movie but the Aliens are a very secondary element. They’re just there to add conflict for the main protagonists and I kind of liked it that way. I enjoyed that the entire movie had a very Western feel to it, it made me wish they still made awesome Westerns. The Aliens themselves were beast-like and creepy but not actual characters. The thing that makes a great Villain, to me at least, is sympathy for them. Being able to understand their motives, seeing that they have humanity. To me, this makes Villains all the more terrifying. It was disappointing that the Aliens weren’t anything more than boogeymen with creepy little rape-arms (you’ll see what I mean) but in a way it still worked.

Get ready for me to ruin the movie for you. I’m not going to give away any major plot-points or any of the twists and turns. I’m just going to discuss the notes I wrote down. See, after seeing a movie that I intend to review I get out my iPhone and open the notes section and write down key points I noticed/enjoyed about the movie. The main thing, it seems, that I notice in Cowboys & Aliens is that the theme and certain visuals had a very ‘rapey’ aesthetic to them. It’s obviously not Freudian to the point of Alien or Aliens but it makes me think that this stuff HAS to be intentional, right? Here are my notes. Minor Spoiler Warning, I guess.

Hey, at least the last point was positive, right? 

Overall, Cowboys & Aliens is exactly what you should expect it to be. A fun, action-packed Western full of bad-ass Cowboys, monstrous Aliens and a surprising amount of heart.

I give this a “Good Ol’ Fashioned Sarsaparelli”. It takes two classic flavours and mixes them into a delightful and fun new concoction. 

P.S. On the note of Olivia Wilde, it was nice to see a female character that was both strong AND had a purpose in the story. She still needed rescuing by Daniel Craig, though. Let’s not get crazy now. 

P.P.S. When I think of Harrison Ford I think of this. Sorry for shit quality. 

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Green Lantern

So, as anyone who has had any interest in this movie at all would know, Australia was one of the last places in the entire universe to receive it. Kazakhstan, yes, Kazakhstan received Green Lantern before we did. I’m really not sure what their reasoning was behind staggering Green Lantern‘s release, maybe they were trying to cut off Captain America’s profits, but regardless I don’t think it’s going to work out well for them. Unfavourable reviews from across the globe have been streaming in, dampening my hopes on there being an enjoyable movie at the center of it’s glossy green shell. It’s just as well that my expectations had been lowered dramatically, because if they hadn’t I would have been crushed flatter than an inter-galactic criminal under a shiny green hard-light mallet construct.

Green Lantern tells the story of how Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) comes in possession of a magic space ring that creates green constructs from the power of his thoughts and willpower. With this ring comes the responsibility of becoming an inter-galactic space cop called a Green Lantern. The Green Lantern Corps are currently under threat from an ancient and deadly enemy called Parallax who uses the yellow power of fear to destroy worlds and Earth is next! Also along for the ride are a bunch of under-developed alien buddies, the love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) and the ethnic best friend Tom (Taika Waititi). Oh, and I forgot to mention the Xenobiologist Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) who makes neck-bearded internet trolls seem like well-adjusted, contributing members of society.

Now with Superhero movies I’ve come to expect ups and downs, elating moments and to be rooting for the main character. Reynolds is charming as always, he’s sexy and well fit but his character isn’t given any chances for us to go “F**k yeah! This guy rawks!”. It’s really hard for me to pin-point exactly where the movie is failing, it’s not particularly awful, it’s just nothing. It fails to evoke a single emotional response out of the audience. You can tell when you’re watching a movie how the energy in the cinema is, well, there wasn’t any. The aliens were all well and good, but each only had one or two scenes where they didn’t even build a proper relationship with the main character so who gives a shit about them?

I know that it’s possible to tell a good Green Lantern story, I’ve seen it plenty of times in animation. If you’d like an example check out Green Lantern: First Flight, it has all that space opera goodness a Green Lantern film should have. Anchoring the first film to earth seems to be their greatest downfall. I think a much better film could have come out of him training out in space and growing a connection to his new alien cop buddies. A buddy-cop movie in space. I’d see that.

An inescapable issue I can see a lot of people having is with the entire premise. The film doesn’t handle the premise with any finesse, it doesn’t even do it’s best to embrace the campness of magic green rings. You know something is wrong with the writing when I, a self-confessed geek who is very familiar with the Green Lantern lore, find myself thinking “Well this sounds f***king stupid”.

It’s a mindless Blockbuster, it isn’t awful but it’s not in any way good. If you’re looking for something shiny to distract you for two hours then by all means, get your Green Lantern on. Just sit back, turn your brain off and enjoy the lacklustre ride.

P.S. The 3D was forgettable and quite disappointing considering the potential of the premise. There were even a few distracting ghosting issues. I’d just save your money and see it in 2D.

Flavourless and without any real ‘fizz factor’. I’d give this a “Excuse me, my drink is flat…”.

P.S. Here’s the trailer for the far superior Green Lantern: First Flight.

 

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Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

I actually didn’t go to see Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. I intended to. Heck, I even had free preview screening tickets to go see it.  It seems that fates had other plans and I opted to go see Green Lantern instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love Glee, but the screenings were on at the same time and I had to decide which movie I would like to not spend money on. Because of this, I have not got a proper review for Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Fear not, though, for the tickets did not go in vain. I gave them to my housemate James to use and he has issued the following statement:

“It was good. Darren Criss was well hot.”*

I think that just about sums it up. Probably, more concisely than if I’d actually seen the movie and posted a review myself.

James also mentioned the delight of seeing Darren Criss (Blaine from Glee for the uninitiated) perform Teenage Dream. On that note, I will leave you with this.

*Quote slightly paraphrased. Just slightly. 

 

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