War-mongering aliens, armour-plated hunters and mythological bridge-dwelling giants - the out-of-this-world concepts filmmakers think up (and I actively watch) these days...
Blu Review: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
12 – 116mins – 2011
Undetected by NASA satellites until they have already entered our atmosphere, a series of meteors are plummeting to Earth just off the coast of major cities and bringing with them more than just steaming boulders of white-hot rock... All too quickly, the world is at war with an extraterrestrial enemy who destroy everything and everyone in their path.
In the eponymous US community, the marines are assigned to stem the destruction and fight back against the attackers from outer space. Despite standing down following a tragic mistake on the battlefield, grizzled Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhert) is drawn back into the action and deployed alongside a new platoon to rescue a group of civilians stranded in a Santa Monica police station. The team have just three hours to complete their mission before a bomb is dropped to flatten the entire zone, whether they're clear or not.
With such a time-sensitive alien invasion premise, I was instantly reminded of Cloverfield, albeit shot from the perspective of the military. Jonathan Liebsman's direction may not employ the shaky cam technique, but it is erratic and jumpy enough to draw parallels. The ET's themselves bring to mind the scrawny looking “prawns” from District 9, but with Predator-like additions to their arsenal and Skyline's “attack first, ask questions never” attitude towards war.
Attempts at characterisation to help distinguish between the uniformed marine unit/future casualties with individual pre-battle introductions is laudable but ultimately futile. Battle: Los Angeles is little more than one giant two hour set piece; loud, blazing and hectic. It scarcely takes its foot off the accelerator and while never boring, it's also never original. Beginning and ending with explosions, gunfire and devastation, most of the film's dialogue is either screamed in terror or barked as an exasperated order.
CR@B Verdict: aaaaa
Blu Review: PREDATOR 2
18 – 108mins – 1990
Having barely survived round one against the deadly skin-flaying extra-terrestrial hunter three years previous, it's no surprise that Arnold “Get to da choppa!” Schwarzenegger refused to return for this inferior second bout, which moves the bloody game of cat and mouse from the rainforests of Central America to the urban jungle of Los Angeles in the “future” of 1997.
The technologically-advanced lone killing machine (again brought to life by Kevin Peter Hall, playing a different member of the same alien species) wades into a brutal drug war between hideously stereotypical Columbian and Jamaican gangs (he must be jealous of the dreadlocks!) before slaughtering a policeman and raising the suspicions of rule-breaking vigilante Lt. Mike Harrington (Danny Glover) who blindly vows to bring down whatever it is that slaughtered his friend and fellow officer.
It is through no fault of the trophy-collecting, spine-ripping Stan Winston-designed creature that this sequel fails; the effusive climatic showdown of man versus monster is dazzlingly realised and leads to a neat and unanticipated pay-off. However, the hyper-realised depiction of a city in chaos is often so corny it's laughable (news reporters presenting from the middle of a gun fight is a prime example) and leader of the mysterious special task force, Agent Keyes (Gary Busey), is so drippy and non-threatening you wonder how he ever got promoted to such a position of importance.
From a technical standpoint, it would be negligent of me not to admit that my enjoyment of Predator 2 was further depleted by a shoddy high definition transfer. Aesthetically, the two decade old film was more than adequate, but the synchronisation between the audio and visual components always felt slightly out of sync, leading to the unnatural impression that the whole film was rather poorly dubbed.
CR@B Verdict: aaaaa
Cine Review: THE TROLL HUNTER
15 – 103mins – 2010
This Norwegian steady-cam shocker from last year first came to my attention when a promotional inlay inside the Monsters Blu-ray proclaimed it to be “The most important film of our time”. That's quite a bold claim and, naturally, curiosity lead me to investigate online. The "Teddy Bears' Picnic" trailer blew me away and my hopes were high that when – and if – The Troll Hunter made it to UK cinemas, the feature length film would have the same effect on me.
To my surprise the subtitled film received a pretty decent theatrical run on our shores in early September and I went along expecting something very special. As is often the case, the film failed to meet my stoopidly high standards, and while I can't claim it to be a bad film, I did leave the cinema disappointed; not quite as disappointed as I was with the slow Monster-less talky, but I have absolutely no urge to watch The Troll Hunter again. There's a reason it's taken nearly a month for me to muster the enthusiasm to scrawl even this skeletal evaluation!
Shot [REC] stylee from the POV of a handheld camera, André Øvredal's mythological creature feature sees a trio of wannabe-documentarian college students trail a man they believe to be an illegal bear poacher, only to discover that the creatures he is hunting are far more dangerous... Otto Jespersen does a fair job as the eponymous Hans; gruff and antisocial but with a secret weighing heavy on his shoulders: he's a member of the Troll Security Service tasked with killing the lumbering fantastical beasts and keeping their existence secret from the public.
Even with the grainy ultra-realism of he “found footage” form, I still failed to believe that the cartoony trolls really existed – one of them had three heads for gawdsake!! Sticking rigidly to the legend that trolls can smell Christian blood was also a step too far away from believibility for my liking (Hans ascertains that the students don't hold any religious beliefs before agreeing to let them document his work), while The Troll Hunter was simply far too long for a film of this calibre - and when giant rampaging trolls fail to hold your attention, you know something's not right! A courageous but imperfect production.
CR@B Verdict: aaaaa