Film Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

Also known as: Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine (original script title), Invasion (some Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: November 4th, 1997 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Edward Neumeier
Based on: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Bruce Gray, Marshall Bell, Amy Smart, Dean Norris, Rue McClanahan

Big Bug Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rico] I need a corporal. You’re it, until you’re dead or I find someone better.” – Jean Rasczak

I shouldn’t have slept on this movie in 1997 but I missed it in the theater, as the marketing for it made it hard to peg what it was. As it picked up a cult following, however, I eventually got intrigued enough to check it out and I was really surprised by it.

I also didn’t know that it was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Had I been aware of that, I probably would’ve seen it on the big screen, as RoboCop is one of my top films of all-time and I also really liked his interpretation/loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s story that became Total Recall.

Now I hadn’t seen this in a really long time, so I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up. While it does feel very ’90s, it’s still fun as fuck and I had a great time revisiting it and honestly, it made me wonder why I didn’t revisit it more often.

This is over the top and pretty damn nutty, at times, and in fact, it almost plays like a comedy while also being a much smarter, layered commentary film than one might expect. But Verhoeven has proved, with his sci-fi pictures, that he can take what could be easily written off as hokey bullshit and turn it into something with real merit that sticks with you, makes you think but also checks all the boxes under the cool, badass and entertaining categories.

Starship Troopers is unique and cool but it’s also so unique and cool that it’s a really hard formula to replicate, which is probably why the sequels are looked at, by most, with disdain. It’s kind of similar to RoboCop in that the formula only seems to be really effective once.

Beyond just Verhoeven’s work, the film is carried by its characters and their stories. You care about these people in this batshit universe and you want to see them succeed and crush the invading insects that want to conquer mankind and use Earth as just another one of their many hives.

People for years have debated the meaning of the movie and while some might take issue with the fact that it’s not made abundantly clear, I think that it’s a lot more effective and interesting that its kind of left open for interpretation and I think that its message isn’t made clear because Verhoeven was really just exploring his own thoughts on the subjects presented in the film.

Besides, that shit isn’t even that important, as this is just a fun movie about space marines blowing up giant bugs and it can be enjoyed as simple, mindless entertainment without trying to over-analyze the fuck out of it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other releases from the Starship Troopers franchise, as well as other sci-fi films by Paul Verhoeven.

Film Review: Piranha 3D (2010)

Release Date: August 20th, 2010
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Written by: Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg
Based on: Piranha by John Sayles
Music by: Michael Wandmacher
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. McQueen, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Kelly Brook, Riley Steele, Dina Meyer, Paul Scheer, Eli Roth, Ashlynn Brooke, Bonnie Morgan, Genevieve Alexandra, Gianna Michaels

The Weinstein Company, Atmosphere Entertainment, Chako Film Company, Intellectual Properties Worldwide, Dimension Films, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Kelly, trust us. It’s never cheating if it’s with another chick.” – Andrew

Well, this was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be: nothing more, nothing less.

There are killer fish, boobies (but not enough), gore (but it’s mostly CGI bullshit), bad science and insane characters. There’s also Elisabeth Shue and she’s a sheriff and well, I love a woman in uniform.

For the most part, this was just a hair above being boring and mundane. The story is weak and it completely misses the social commentary that was worked into the script of the original Joe Dante Piranha movie from 1978.

Okay, I guess there is some commentary here but it is mostly just about how party people are dopey meat heads, figuratively and literally, as they become fish food.

The overabundance of CGI in this film is disappointing. The original worked so well in its use of practical effects. All you need in these sort of films is some bubbly water, a person screaming and fake blood being released all around them. It’s pretty easy to create. But Alexandre Aja, a director I’ve never been a fan of anyway, would rather have people flail around and scream in the water and then just plug in some computerized fish in post-production with effects that reveal how limited the film’s budget really is.

The highlight for me was that the film had cameos by Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss but both of their contributions were minimal and didn’t enhance the movie very much.

This just had a terrible script and frankly, a film like this isn’t hard to write. You don’t have to come up with Oscar caliber dialogue or write in a bunch of character development for people that will just get eaten but you should come up with a solid string of action sequences or chaos that keep this film afloat.

Honestly, after about 30 minutes for setup, the remaining two-thirds of the film should have been insanity mixed with gore and boobs. And good gore, not just CGI fish burping up a CGI penis for cheap laughs that didn’t even get laughs. All we got with this film was ten minutes of Spring Break chaos and then a lame sequence of the teen hero trying to save his annoying girlfriend from a sinking yacht.

Making a Piranha movie shouldn’t be rocket science, especially in the 2010s. And the problem is, this wasn’t a bad movie but it also wasn’t a good one. It’s in that sort of limbo that I hate where I can’t praise the film and I can’t enjoy trashing it.

I’ll probably check out the sequel though because I heard its worse and in the case of this emotionless and creative dud, worse would be better.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the Piranha movies: original series, remakes, sequels, etc. However, nothing tops the greatness of the original Joe Dante film.

Film Review: Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Also known as: Star Trek X (working title)
Release Date: December 9th, 2002 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Written by: John Logan, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Dina Meyer, Kate Mulgrew (cameo), Wil Wheaton (cameo), Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Bryan Singer (cameo), Majel Barrett (voice), Stuart Baird (voice)

Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“We supported you, Shinzon, when you assassinated the Senate. You told us the timing was perfect for an attack on the Federation. I don’t understand why now you delay.” – Commander Suran

A lot of people despised this movie. Well, good thing I don’t really care about what most people think because this is one of my favorite Star Trek films of all-time. I certainly have some issues with the plot but I’ll discuss that as the review rolls on.

To start, this was a really dark chapter in the Star Trek film franchise, which was definitely welcomed at the time, as the previous film, Insurrection, was a pointless romp and almost felt like a nice vacation for the Enterprise-E crew. This mirrors First Contact in its level of darkness and even eclipses it, as there aren’t a lot of funny scenes like all the Earth stuff from that movie. I guess some people didn’t like how “doom and gloom” this picture was but I dug it in the same way I really dug The Wrath of Khan, twenty years earlier than this.

The thing that really made me like this picture too was that it featured the Romulans heavily. It took ten Star Trek motion pictures to get a Romulan story and this one really setup what could have been a good trilogy of films surrounding the oncoming storm of Romulan civil war.

So many things happened in this film that changed the playing field for not just the Romulans and the Federation but also the crew of the Enterprise. I feel like this should have kicked off a trilogy within the film series, sort of like how The Wrath of Khan started its own trilogy of films surrounding the Genesis Project. I really, truly wanted to see the Enterprise with Picard fighting alongside the Titan with Riker with good Romulans on one side and bad Romulans and Remans on the other. This could have lead to massive, epic things but the film series ended with this picture. I heard that the novels that covered Riker’s time as captain on the Titan were pretty good though. I should check those out.

Anyway, I also really liked Tom Hardy as the villain Shinzon, even though I didn’t like his backstory. Shinzon was a clone of Jean-Luc Picard and was there to sort of challenge the core of who Picard is. Could he be this psychotic evil man under different circumstances? At the same time, could Shinzon be a noble and heroic character if he were raised under similar circumstances as Picard. I like how this plays out even though I felt that the clone part was incredibly cheesy and friggin’ strange.

But this also tapped into Data sort of having his own clone in the movie too, as the crew discovers an older model of Data on a remote planet. Data spends time trying to help the new android evolve and adapt beyond his simple programming and B4, this new android, is even given Data’s memories at one point and essentially carries Data inside of him.

It’s interesting that Brent Spiner, the man who plays Data, helped write the script, as this is very much a picture where Data is the focus and his journey here is his most important in the character’s history. I feel that Spiner’s inclusion in the writing process helped to enrich this part of the story in a more personal way.

I also thought that the special effects were a big step up from Insurrection, which was the first Star Trek movie to go full CGI instead of using models for the ships. This film didn’t feel as cheap as its predecessor, which came off like a “made for TV” movie for the SyFy channel.

I also loved the design of Shinzon’s battleship. That thing was sick and is one of my favorite Star Trek vessels of all-time.

I really like this film but unfortunately, it didn’t give fans the right sort of closure that they should have gotten with this exceptional cast. And for me, it left me hanging, wanting to see where the Romulan storyline could have gone.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.