Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

Film Review: Ghost In the Shell (2017)

Release Date: March 16th, 2017 (Shinjuku premiere)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
Based on: Ghost In The Shell by Masamune Shirow
Music by: Clint Mansell, Lorne Balfe
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Michael Wincott

Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Amblin Pictures, Arad Productions, 106 Minutes

Review:

Almost every single review I have seen of this film bitches about the whitewashing of its characters. To the point where the movie isn’t even discussed, it is just attacked by social justice warriors disguised as movie critics looking for anything to latch onto and rant about for 600-to-1000 words.

In all honesty, I don’t give a shit. American remakes of foreign films are typically full of famous Hollywood Americans. I don’t recall anyone bitching about the The Deaprted not featuring Chinese actors and it went on to win a bunch of Academy Awards and was the Picture of the Year.

When comparing The Deaprted to Ghost In The Shell, the context of each is different. The Departed was set in Boston, as opposed to Hong Kong like its source material Infernal AffairsGhost In The Shell is set primarily in Japan but I don’t recall the character of Major ever being specifically given a racial identity apart from a Japanese surname, as she is a brain set inside of a shell (or a cybernetic body). Besides, and a bit of a spoiler alert, she is shown to have been Japanese before her brain was put in the shell that looks like Scarlett Johansson. Although, in the film, her surname is changed to Killian from Kusanagi in the source material.

But I’m here to talk about the movie and not get fixated on the sociopolitical rhetoric it seems to be drumming up. Besides, at the end of the day, Hollywood has always been racist.

In regards to the content of Ghost In The Shell, the film actually turned out to be better than I anticipated. I thought that there was a lot more that could go wrong with this picture and that it was a risky move for something that didn’t really need to be made. I still don’t think that it needs to exist, as it isn’t great, but I did enjoy the 106 minute investment I made. Granted, I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

First of all, the visuals are gorgeous and they did a fine job recreating the world of the manga and film in a live action format. The color palate was alluring, the cinematography and especially the lighting were superb and the costumes and sets were perfect.

Unfortunately, the visuals are the biggest positive of the film.

Scarlett Johansson was very dry and emotionless. I get that the part calls for that but she felt distant in the worst way possible and it was hard to connect to her. The only time you really feel anything, is when she discovers her mother and they meet for the first time.

Pilou Asbaek and Takeshi Kitano were both fabulous, though. Asbaek really became Batou and Kitano was a stellar choice to play Chief Daisuke Aramaki. Both men brought gravitas to their roles.

Michael Pitt was pretty good as well. His body movement and voice felt authentic, even if there were effects added in post production. Even though he is a cyborg like Major, his performance was much more human than Johansson’s.

Juliette Binoche was solid as Dr. Ouélet. She had a gentleness to her and even though you knew she was into some bad stuff, she was able to convey that she was a good person underneath and not once did I think she would turn her back on Major. She serves the story well and was a pivotal part in the film despite not having a lot of screen time.

The plot seemed to borrow from various parts of the overall Ghost In The Shell mythos. It has been awhile since I’ve seen the original anime and television series. I’ve also never read the manga. The gist of the story is there but it just isn’t that exciting and you never feel emotionally invested in it. The problem could be in that the film feels like a summary of events and not its own fleshed out tale. I’m not really sure where it could go, if there were a sequel in the future. I also feel that a sequel is as unnecessary as this film was, which did nothing to justify its existence.

Again, the ambiance of the picture was stunning eye candy but it isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before and presented in a better way. Ultimately, it looks like an update of the visual style from 1982’s Blade Runner but we have an official sequel of that on the way later this year.

I’m not wholly against anime movies being made into live action blockbusters but they need to be treated with care and done in a way that can justify their existence. I’ve never been a fan of the idea of Akira becoming a movie with real actors. Ghost In The Shell just strengthens my argument against it.

While I am huge on the visual aspects of the films I watch, that element alone isn’t enough to make a great picture. Ghost In The Shell had enjoyable moments, where I thought it wouldn’t deliver in any way, but ultimately, it is a shell without the ghost. If anything, the visual razzle dazzle is there to distract from the lack of everything else this needed to work.

 

Film Review: Hitchcock (2012)

Release Date: November 1st, 2012 (AFI Fest)
Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Written by: John J. McLaughlin
Based on: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Michael Wincott, Kurtwood Smith, Ralph Macchio, Wallace Langham

The Montecito Picture Company, Cold Spring Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 98 Minutes

hitchcockReview:

I really wanted to see Hitchcock when the film came out at the end of 2012. The holiday season is usually a bad time for me to try and catch a movie. This picture also came and went pretty quickly, which was a bit of a disappointment when I tried to see it after the holidays. Well, slightly over four years later, I finally got to check it out.

To start, this isn’t a biographical piece of Alfred Hitchcock’s whole life. It actually just focuses on his time while making his most successful picture, Psycho. It examines the process behind the famous film as well as his marriage and how he became infatuated with his leading ladies. It also covers the early production of the film, which saw Hitchcock have to fight the studio system in an effort to get the movie made, his way.

Anthony Hopkins was pretty good as Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately, the prosthetic makeup was distracting sometimes. For the most part, it worked. There were just those moments where it looked strange and took you out of the picture.

Hitchcock’s wife was played by Helen Mirren. She did a fine job with her role but it just didn’t seem fleshed out enough for her. Sure, she has her own story in the film but it almost just feels like it is there to fill space and isn’t as interesting as it could have been. Ultimately, you see how she feels about Alfred and his love for his “Hitchcock Blondes” but her own plot thread just seems pointless. She only really serves a real purpose when you see how she helps her husband with his filmmaking process.

Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh. She was good enough but really didn’t feel like Leigh. This is one of those situations where the producers should have probably chosen an unknown but talented actress that looked more like Leigh.

It was nice seeing Jessica Biel in this as Vera Miles. She fit her role much better than Johansson did as Leigh. In fact, Biel is often times knocked for her lack of acting prowess. This may be her best performance that I have ever seen. It would’ve been nicer though, to see her get more time on the screen and to see her history with Hitchcock fleshed out more than it was.

Also, Ralph Macchio pops up in one scene. It’s worth mentioning because you never see him nowadays and The Karate Kid is one of the greatest American movies ever made.

Hitchcock was a pretty decent biopic. It just needed some things to be beefed up. The running time is surprisingly short for this sort of picture and maybe some important stuff got left on the editing room floor.

If you are a fan of the man, then Hitchcock should be seen. Don’t expect it to knock your socks off but it is still a fun and informative 98 minutes.

And Michael Wincott as Ed Gein was a nice touch.

Film Review: ‘The Crow’ Film Series (1994-2005)

I just re-watched The Crow and all of its sequels. I watch the original film about once a year or so but it has been a long time since I have seen the sequels. Instead of just reviewing one of them, I figured I’d give my two cents on each film.

The Crow (1994):

Release Date: May 13th, 1994
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Written by: David J. Schow, John Shirley
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Rochelle Davis, David Patrick Kelly, Jon Polito, Tony Todd

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_1994Review:

The first film in the series is by far the best, that isn’t even debatable. The cast was pretty fantastic, as director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot) strung together a nice team comprised of Brandon Lee (Rapid Fire, Showdown In Little Tokyo), the late son of Bruce Lee, as well as Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Oz), Michael Wincott (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Basquiat), Tony Todd (Candyman, Platoon), Bai Ling (Anna and the King, Three… Extremes), David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks) and newcomer Rochelle Davis, who has only appeared in one other film.

The tone of the film was perfect, the music was perfect, the casting of Brandon Lee was perfect. There aren’t a lot of negatives that one can find in this near masterpiece. For its time, it was one of the best, if not the best, comic book films of all-time. The only comic book films that one could possibly put in front of The Crow are the Richard Donner Superman films and the Tim Burton Batman films. In 1994, when this movie was released, comic book movies were very scarce.

This is a film that has a strong cult following and deservedly so.

Brandon Lee died on set due to a firearm accident and it had to be finished without him. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not the film should even be released but it was and has had a certain degree of mystique attached to it. The real-life tragedy added to the emotion and darkness of the film in a way that didn’t make light of Lee’s death or try to capitalize off of it. Everything, in my opinion, was done tastefully and in a way that honored the actor and gave people a look at his best work.

The chemistry between Lee and Davis, as well as Lee and Wincott was pretty strong. Brandon Lee gave this his all and it was a good display of his talent, which never got to grow and reach the heights it could have.

Plus, there is a performance by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in the film.

The Crow: City of Angels (1996):

Release Date: August 30th, 1996
Directed by: Tim Pope
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Iggy Pop, Richard Brooks, Thomas Jane

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 84 Minutes

the_crow_2Review:

The first sequel in the series was pretty bad, which would become the trend. It starred Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) as the title character and I still can’t recall anything noteworthy that I have seen him in besides this. It also starred punk rock legend Iggy Pop (Dead Man, Tank Girl), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) and Mia Kirshner (The L Word, The Black Dahlia).

Iggy was fantastic and just completely Iggy, which made his character great. Kirshner was angelic and beautiful with a real genuine level of sweetness but she was also more or less a statue propped up in the background to add allure to a very ugly looking film. Tom Jane basically just played a weird pervert and he was unrecognizable in the role.

I would consider this film to be the second to worst in the series. And there really isn’t much one can say about it. It is empty, soulless and an awful rehash of the classic before it.

But again, it features Iggy Pop and I will watch him in anything.

And I love Mia Kirshner, who has never looked better than she does in this.

 

The Crow: Salvation (2000):

Release Date: January 23rd, 2000
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Written by: Chip Johannessen
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Fred Ward, William Atherton, Walton Goggins

IMF, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Jeff Most Productions, Pacifica Film Development, Dimension Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_3Review:

The second sequel was better than the first sequel. After the original film, this is the best installment of the series. It starred Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty, Cruel Intentions), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia), William Atherton (Real Genius, Ghostbusters), Fred Ward (Tremors, The Right Stuff) and Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified).

Mabius was much more personable and likable than his predecessor, Vincent Perez. Dunst was good but nothing extraordinary. Atherton and Goggins were both presences in the film but didn’t leave me with anything all that memorable. Fred Ward, one of those lesser-known actors I’ve just always liked for some reason, did a pretty solid job of playing the scumbag evil bastard in this film.

From a storytelling standpoint, this offered so much more than City of Angels. It involved a conspiracy, a cover-up and evil dudes sending an innocent kid off to die for their sins. It wasn’t as straightforward and as simple as the previous films in this series. Granted, it wasn’t a storytelling masterpiece but it had depth and a bit of mystery.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005):

Release Date: June 3rd, 2005
Directed by: Lance Mungia
Written by: Lance Mungia, Jeff Most, Sean Hood
Based on: The Crow: Wicked Prayer by Norman Partridge
Music by: Jamie Christopherson
Cast: Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Dennis Hopper, Tito Ortiz, Danny Trejo

Dimension Films, 99 Minutes

the_crow_4Review:

The final film in the series was god awful, and that might be an understatement. It starred Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X), Tara Reid (American Pie, The Big Lebowski), David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), Tito Ortiz of UFC fame, Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), Dennis Hopper (Speed, True Romance) and a very brief appearance by singer Macy Gray.

Furlong just looked ridiculous as the Crow. I think the hair had a lot to do with the sloppy shitty look. Also, Furlong by this point, had grown too old and looked like a washed up forty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup instead of an awesome twenty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup. Furlong’s acting was horrible but so was everyone else’s.

Boreanaz was deplorable, Tara Reid was annoying and not naked enough, Tito Ortiz was a dipshit and Danny Trejo was the worst I’ve ever seen him and I really love that guy. Dennis Hopper took the cake, however, as he stumbled through some of the worst written lines I have ever heard in a film. It sucks that such a great actor was working on shit like this so late in his career.

Technically speaking, the special effects were disastrous, the cinematography was nightmarish and the editing was shit. There isn’t anything nice I can say about this film.