Sunday, 29 May 2016


An effective if rather simplistic monster–movie, PREDATORS (2010) by Nimrod Antal, is poor SF–horror which does not compare favourably to obvious sci-fi genre inspiration, Aliens (1986). A mixed group of imperfect strangers with an international multi-ethnic mix (one warrior woman among the chosen men) are all UFO abductees parachuted onto a hell-planet hunting reserve.  

Mercenary, Royce (Adrien Brody, Brothers Bloom) is the nominal leader for jungle rebel Isabelle (Alice Braga, Repo Men), cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo, Machete), enigmatic ‘doctor death’ (Topher Grace, Dollhouse), hulking Spetsnaz soldier, taciturn yakuza hitman, Sierra Leone revolutionary, and a death-row convict - as most-dangerous-game targets for inter-world safari scenario. Discovery of empty cages leads humans to a first encounter with tusked and horned mega-wolf-boar creatures, bullish attackers under a green canopy and an overcast sky which conceals the panoramic view of alien view finally seen from a clearing, in a supposed revelation that’s telegraphed by an international poster’s blurb strap-line.

Sequel, or franchise reboot, this copies its signature elements (mini-gun mayhem, camouflage/ invisibility fields, primitive booby traps, energy weapons, human slaughter in camps), including music cues, from John McTiernan’s original Predator (1987), but lacks the fun entertainment drawn from macho parodies of muscle–bound heroes. The predators are revealed to be classic ‘tracker’ sort or new black ‘berserker’ type, as racially different castes/ breeds apparently engaged in a blood feud (perhaps one affecting their entire tribal species’ evolutionary development beyond that of savage conflict?), whilst eagerly preying upon other species’ morality, seen here as the primary human weakness.

Even while looking out for a plot ‘ambush’, Noland (Laurence Fishburne, a black actor with genuine screen presence in an era of repurposed rappers), is a surprise as the schizoid loner, survivor/ scavenger, but he only explains the movie's xenopedia back-story, and then betrays everyone. Aptly, for a picture that proceeds through levels of skill, just like standard video games, the cast do role-play, instead of even basic acting, yet confidence without any competence invites disaster.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Bad Lieutenant

A vague remake of and/ or sequel to Abel Ferrara’s notorious 1992 movie, BAD LIEUTENANT - PORT OF CALL: NEW ORLEANS (2009) comes from Werner Herzog, an unlikely choice as the director for such a project. With levee systems broken, post–Katrina, policeman Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), recklessly saves a trapped inmate from his flooded prison cellblock, and the cop receives a promotion for bravery, but also suffers a severe back injury. This prompts his painkiller addiction to cope with daily New Orleans’ grind of trying to locate and build a strong case against local gangster Big Fate (rapper Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner, at least making an effort to abandon the daft moniker by admitting his real name here).

While supporting his girlfriend/ hooker, Frankie (Eva Mendes, also Cage’s co-star for Ghost Rider), Terry indulges in coked–up zany mania (and such craziness is the key appeal of Cage’s favoured screen persona, of course), runs up big debts to ‘understanding’ bookie Ned (Brad Dourif, remarkably, so restrained, he seems like someone else), flubs a homicide case by threatening the granny of a witness, and then he loses said witness in a Biloxi casino. Mainstream crime drama is cunningly dovetailed with episodic surrealism enhanced by the haunting score.
With alligator road-kill, weird iguanas, break-dancing souls, Terry’s work and home life unravels gradually, due to unspecified psych disorder, and it’s all greatly amusing as unhinged diversion into unfamiliar territory rather than story interruptions for theatrical hallucinations. Sometimes it’s funny to a blisteringly mischievous degree, especially when Cage is quite un-hesitantly wringing a dozen shades of lunacy from his quirky or mildly ‘pretentious’, and even unadventurously procedural, dialogue. (“I’ll kill all of you. To the break of dawn... To the break of dawn, baby.”) Meanwhile, at other times, the film’s cloggy aural swamp feels like some already too creepy semi-Cajun soundtrack that’s been slyly remixed by David Lynch.

It’s worth mentioning Val Kilmer (nowadays seemingly intent on carving a niche as a proper character actor, if only to escape from motley mediocre supporting roles), and grossly underappreciated Fairuza Balk (Humboldt County, American Perfekt, The Craft), both of whom turn in solid but un-showy performances here that contrast with and inevitably elevate Cage’s unstable drifting away from routinely horrid reality. For the ending, there are more ironic twists and darker tragedies (albeit tinged with hope) than expected, making for a sublime pay-off. This is very highly recommended, whether you’re a fan of Ferrara’s classic sleaze–fest original, or not.   



Saturday, 14 May 2016

7th Dimension

British weird sci-fi horror THE 7th DIMENSION (2009) harks back to a time of subversive conspiracy theories of 1980s, filtered through surreal coincidences with a distinct Quatermass vibe. Students Zoe (Lucy Evans, Mayo, Rocket Man) and Sarah (Kelly Adams, Bronson, Holby City) visit a tutor’s flat, inadvertently meeting the computer hackers of ‘Beacon77’.  

Radical–atheist Declan (Jonathan Rhodes) is the amusingly prickly character who turns psycho, Malcolm (David Horton, Asylum Night) offers a voice of reason - but to no avail, and Kendra (Calita Rainford, Return To House On Haunted Hill) is an ‘assisted’ suicide case. Scurrilously indulgent anonymous Internet radio fills number-crunching break times, as our self-proclaimed hacker heroes crack Vatican security, to read bible code in the 4th dimension, scan torah pages, and hope to predict the future... any futures.  

Director Brad Watson might be the new Terry Gilliam, or John Carpenter. Weaving together manic dialogues and crazy genre notions, this recalls 12 Monkeys (without enough monkeys!), and Prince Of Darkness (sans gory zombies). Spectral visitors appear to be ‘remote viewer’ spies from a top secret Pentagon lab. Murder via mind–control is just one SF concept in the flurry of ‘pseudoscience’ gibberish that remains genuinely fascinating, and highly enjoyable. Despite this movie’s obviously low-budget production, it is imaginatively unrestrained with an instantly engaging sense of edginess and a fervently dramatic intensity.

As the miraculously-cured cripple’s consciousness uploads to a higher reality, and “the paper is burning” line refers back to destroying the sketch of metaphorical flatland, an apocalypse seems to face the surviving heroine. The 7th Dimension is heartily recommended to all fans of strange psychotronic movies!


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Book of Eli

Directed by American brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, whose From Hell (2001) was a very worthwhile adaptation of the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore, THE BOOK OF ELI (2010) is a post–apocalypse epic, one that compares grandly and favourably to the utterly pretentious wank of John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009).  

Denzel Washington portrays the titular character as a symbolic smidgen of hope, albeit in a form of religious dogma, for all that remains of humanity after WW3. Our stoic hero is a stone cold warrior of the wastelands, either slicing ‘n’ dicing or shooting up unwary ambushers and he’s extraordinarily capable, as a samurai/ gunslinger in this doomsday western scenario of a  scorched landscape where raggedy inhabitants pray for rain, beg for justice, and expect painful deaths. “This is a civilised town. We don’t eat humans.” Amen.

Eli’s a long walker, heading west on a hard trek through the wraparound greyed–out colour scheme of nuclear winter. A ruined and rebuilt town can recharge his MP3 player in trade (lip–balm or shampoo is preferred currency), but the tumbledown place is run by tyrant Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who really, really seriously wants a bible as the ultimate weapon of salvation, and Eli just happens to own last surviving copy of the King James version. Differing perceptions of biblical values serve to remind us of Arthur C. Clarke’s assertion that perhaps greatest tragedy in history is that morality was hijacked by religion...

Carnegie’s concubine, the born–blind Claudia (Jennifer Beals), might be the only liberal conscience alive, concerned for the welfare of a daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis), pimped out by Carnegie as a recruitment ‘favour’ to Eli, but rejected by the spiritual champion. Of course, wicked Carnegie wangles that magic book from honourable Eli’s possession yet - since Claudia has forgotten how to read Braille - Carnegie is left alone to preside over ill–fated pandemonium.

Along unhappy trails, Eli and Solara meet amusingly potty couple, George and Martha (Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour), who are like cranky old survivalist cousins of the Bloggs from animated feature When The Wind Blows (1986). After reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, the badly wounded Eli meets Alcatraz’s archive curator (Malcolm McDowell) who transcribes and prints a new bible edition. Although he is, eventually, revealed as a blind prophet (a “darkness on the face of the deep”), Eli ends up as the people’s hero, making The Book Of Eli a new Mad Max for 21st century... until George Miller’s excellent actioner Fury Road appeared to reclaim that territory.