Tagged in: 6 years too late

Push (2009)

Chris Evans demonstrates non-Captain America super powers in an X-Men variation that gets muddled in its own mess.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

This review was written 6 years too late.

It’s a world where among us normal folk are those blessed/cursed with various abilities including seeing the future, telekinesis, mind control and, er, shouting really loud. Needless to say, a shady government organisation called Division has been capturing and experimenting on these mutants to create an army and then, well, they don’t actually say what.

Hiding out in Hong Kong is Nick (Chris Evans), a low-level “mover” earning money by trying to manipulate dice games with his powers. When he meets precognitive Cassie (Dakota Fanning), he gets embroiled in a race to find a suitcase that contains a power-enhancing drug. But Nick and Cassie are not the only ones after it, as the bad guy Djimon Hounsou‘s Division want it too, while a gang of empowered Triads are also in the chase.

And a chase is all “Push” really is. The facets of different powers don’t really distinguish it, and in fact, serve to muddle it. Take Pushers, who can push thoughts and emotions into minds and control people. All this delivers to us are a series of bluffs – did it really happen or am I being tricked? – that quickly become tedious and undermine motivations. Or Watchers, who see varying degrees of accuracy in their predictions depending on what the script demands. The slightly seedy Sniffs, meanwhile, can locate a person simply by smelling something that once belonged to the target, but the dimensions of this ability are cloudy and, like Watchers, suit the plot more than anything. Sploshers I won’t even go into, while the intensely irritating Bleeders and their glass-shattering shrieks are unintentionally comic.

Too many action scenes are devoid of logic: a gunfight between two movers making pistols hover not only looks cheesy (weapons clearly on CG-removed strings) but is just plain silly. Why have the guns slowly move up on their targets, taking cover, and shooting to get closer? Me, I’d send the gun straight across the room and blow my adversary away. Job done. It’s a visual equivalent of monologuing as described in “The Incredibles“.

Evans is acceptable in the lead role. Fanning’s tween Cassie is irritating, and making the character a young adult serves no purpose. Her drinking alcohol or wandering the mean streets of Hong Kong alone late at night are pointless scenes that only serve to undermine an already stretched credibility.

Only one thing to do with this movie: Push the off button.



Outlander (2008)

220px-OutlanderposterEssentially an Army of Darkness remake that swaps Bruce Campbell‘s goofy time-traveller with Jim Caviezel’s earnest alien stranded in Viking-era Norway. Outhouse would have been a more appropriate title.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

This review was written  6 years too late

One should give time to filmmakers who at least try to do something different, especially in the crowded and cliched SF space.

Take something like Highlander (1986), which mashed up past and future (not to mention France and Scotland in its lead actors) and there was a film that at the time felt fresh, new and different.

So it can be done. Sadly, Outlander doesn’t do it. Jim Caviezel, a few years after taking a pasting as Jesus H himself, gets a tad biblical again as Kainan, a spaceman transporting the monster that killed his family only for his ship to crash and free the scary beast to kill and kill again.

Lucky for the beastie, it’s on the rampage in Norway a thousand or so years ago, meaning there are plenty of poor quality fortifications and stupid people for it to make hay with. With feuding villages blaming the attacks on each other (lots of macho posturing and long red hair) only Jim knows the answer, and after downloading the local lingo, he goes to sort things out.

This gives the plot equation: Jim + alien + king + princess who doesn’t like him + Norseman who loves princess and resents Jim. What happens next?

Take a wild fucking guess.

Outlander gets worse as it goes along. As predictable as cheap horror but with none of the knowingness or fun, we get the people who by choice separate from the pack and become beast bait. We get the “We killed it!” moment when villagers kill a bear that could never have massacred on the scale our monster does. We get the anachronisms – Vikings shouting, “Hold your fire!”. There’s an orphan kid, and John Hurt as the King, with the rest of the forgettable cast (excluding Sophia Myles who looks happy enough to pocket the cash for what she can clearly see is tosh) being abandoned extras from “Braveheart” or “Lord of the Rings”.

Caviezel is a likeable actor, indeed his turn in conspiracy TV series “Person of Interest” is nicely understated. Here, and like most of his big screen appearances, alas, he does not have the charisma to carry it off.

I’d rather buy the car.

Watch the trailer

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30 Days of Night (2007)

30 Days of Night (film)

30 Days of Night (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excellent, alternative and refreshing vampire film, with an intriguing premise, stylish direction, and some satisfying, choppy violence.
Rating: ★★★★½

This review was written 6 years too late

A month-long polar night in the small Alaskan town of Barrow gets nasty as well as cold when a herd/troop/flange (insert your collective noun for vampires here) of bloodsuckers descend on the place – and boy, are they hungry.

The vampire genre, much like the zombie genre, is pretty much dead (boom-tisch!) these days. It’s hard to get interested in another take on the fang-toothed undead that does not seem a variation on some approach already taken. Welcome, then, is 30 Days of Night, which strands a bunch of humans in a snow-bound town in perpetual darkness.

30 Days whips along at a cracking pace, and very soon into the film most of the town has been decimated by the fierce, multi-fanged vampire clan led by Danny Huston. Up against them is Ashton Kutcher‘s sheriff, his estanged wife and small bunch of survivors moving from house to house as they wait out the month until the sun returns.

While the vampires have speed, agility and strength on their side, the survivors have local knowledge of both Barrow and the weather conditions to aid them in their struggle.

Danny Huston in 30 Days of Night

Sharp-toothed guy.

Circumstances continually force their hand, of course, and their numbers dwindle as they lose more and more each time they move on. The vampires also get it a bit too – spectacularly torn to shreds by snowploughs, axes, and assorted crunching machinery. A final, unexpected showdown concludes the film just as the sun returns.

Brit director David Slade does a superb job creating atmosphere and gives his film a real style, making the vamps extra menacing by having them communicate in their own, feral language and filming them in such a way to give them a hungry, kinetic desperation to their movement. And for a film set entirely at night, it’s lit very well, meaning you don’t miss a drop of the red, red blood sprayed, pumped and drank.

Originally a rejected screenplay that subsequently became a successful graphic novel, it rose again as a film thanks to Evil Dead-ites Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghost House Pictures. 30 Days delivers in much the same way Raimi’s own, post-Spider-Man stylish horror Drag Me To Hell – a novel approach, assured direction, and a respect for the audience. Recommended.