Tuesday, May 28, 2013

REVIEW: Prometheus

Director: Ridley Scott
Year 2012

Prometheus is an outstandingly epic science fiction film that delves into the unknown as it attempts to answer that unanswerable question which so rightfully plagues mankind, what is the purpose of our existence. Exceptionally thought-provoking and atmospherically presented, the movie relishes in an unsettling tone that glosses over the entire production in a sense of dread and despair. Helmed by legendary director Ridley Scott and birthed as a prequel to his acclaimed science fiction masterpiece Alien, Prometheus touches upon the aspects of his 1979 work yet veers off in order to tell a broader and completely unique tale. One that is dark, disturbing, and wholly engaging.

The film follows a team of diverse scientists in the year 2093 on board the ship Prometheus, as they embark on a perilous mission to the darkest corners of the universe in search of their makers, the Engineers. Led by archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, and funded by the Weyland Corporation, the team sets off for the planet LV-223, an uncharted world with a mysterious past. Once there the team comes to the startling realization that a race of beings could have possibly had a hand in their creation and ultimately has the ability to bring about their doom. Confronted with the notion that they are on the very brink of answering man's greatest of quandaries, the team pushes on into the unknown, facing hell and high water in order to answer that age old question. Why are we here?

Noomi Rapace takes on the role of Elizabeth Shaw, the god-fearing archaeologist who discovers that ancient cave paintings may depict a race of ancient astronauts and their possible invitation to communicate with mankind. Rapace plays the hopeful archaeologist with a sense of wonder, injecting just the right amount of intrepid nature into her character to help propel us into this grand journey and place us in her shoes. Her presence in this film is essential, not only because the story arch of the film revolves around her, but because she is a virtually unknown actress. Her unfamiliarity helps to immerse us into the film, allowing us to be swept up alongside her as her character comes to understand the true nature of mankind's creation. I also enjoyed the growth that her character goes through, as she begins the film quite timid, slowly morphing into a woman driven by the desire to understand her origins and purpose for being.

Logan Marshall-Green tackles the character of archaeologist Charlie Holloway, professional partner and lover of Elizabeth Shaw. Much like Shaw's determined drive, Holloway yearns to learn from the creators, yet underneath his ambition is a darker more brooding side. Sometimes arrogant, and often outspoken, Green gives the role an energized kick that often reflects his character's spontaneous tendencies. His performance is strange and engaging, because Green's character often straddles a fine line between compassionate and cruel. This is displayed perfectly as he interacts with one of the artificial intelligence in the form of David, an android, often mocking him for being created by man and, in a sense, implying that Holloway is in some way shape or form his god. It's a concept that runs throughout the film and one that Ridley Scott was most certainly weaving within the narrative for a specific purpose.

Aside from the Adam and Eve conceptualized characters of Shaw and Holloway, Michael Fassbender brings his A game to take on the role of David, the multifaceted android who appears to have more human traits than first meets the eye. Shaded in mystery and illusive intention, Fassbender hones in a mesmerizing performance as the, now standard, artificial intelligence. Ever since Ridley's Alien, the franchise has made it a tradition in adding within the cast of characters an android and this entry is no different. What is different though, is the level of ambiguity that hovers around this character of David. Similar to Holloway, David is able to show a great deal of compassion towards his human crew members and even a sensible cruel calm when deducing a situation. He has a sinister and methodical mindset, which gives his persona a fabulously diverse range and an important place within the story's frame. It is this humanistic characteristic that really makes David for compelling viewing and it is through these contextual functions that Ridley Scott is able to pull parallels between creators and their creations. Needless to say, Fassbender nails it and his presence in the film is truly essential.

Emphasizing the similar parallels of creators and creations is Charlize Theron's character, Meredith Vickers. As captain of the ship Prometheus and a scorned daughter of a larger than life father, Theron's performance is able to add onto the already compelling comparison that creations often detest their makers and vice versa. Being lost in the shadow of her father, Vickers seems to loath the position that his empire has placed her in and there are hints that her underlying wish is to see him fall and for her to reign in his place. The same can be said with her father, as he appears to have nothing but contempt for the thing that he has brought into the world, almost as if Vickers didn't live up to his expectations. It is an interesting concept, and one that is mirrored in the bigger picture of the story with the engineers and their human creations. One could even say that it's the human's dangerous nature that threatens and ultimately forces the creators to rethink their previous actions in creating life on Earth. Be that as it may, Theron gives an intense performance that really underlines the severity of the situation and the cruel nature of the world they live in.

As with the characters of Prometheus, the world that the crew inhabits is also rather cold and detached, yet painstakingly genuine. The interiors of the ship to the barren landscapes of planet LV-223, the world that the filmmakers bring to life is authentically portrayed and dangerously vivid. Awash of color and cruel to the visual touch, it is a future ruled by corporations, greed, and ambition, and Ridley uses his Alien franchise to help bolster this conceptual view of this future Earth society. We know the rundown of the previous films and we know that this story takes place earlier in their timeline, so we already have a preconceived notion of what to expect from this time period in the scheme of things. Using the history of the other films, Ridley dives right in to the thick of it as we mingle with the cast of characters and come to realize that this is a society of scientific cowboys more or less, often going against protocol to quench their own ego. There is a strange whimsical nature to their choices, which has taken some viewers out of the picture, but for me it is a reflection on how off-kilter this god-like society has gotten. They are arrogant in their successes and view their ability to create life, in the form of androids like David, as a sign that they are equal to their makers. It may be over the top and out of context in our eyes, but I view it as an arrogant and ignorant society reacting to a situation that they deem within their control. Far fetched maybe, but I feel the shoe fits.

Again on the visual side of things, the film looks absolutely stunning and the effects work and computer wizardry on display is nothing short of breathtaking. From the planet's surface, to the sleek design of the ship, to the ancient appearance of the pyramidal alien mound, to the out of this world alien tech, the film has a succinct structure that benefits greatly in its overall conceptualization. I especially found the general look of the alien race, the Engineers, to be quite simplistic but highly effective. Almost like angelic beings, the Engineers with their huge presence and incandescent skin, make for one hell of an impressive movie creation and the concept is without a question unique. Even their very intentions are kept secret to us within the film, as we are forced to wonder who they truly are. It is this kind of secrecy that drenches Prometheus like a smoldering blanket, sophisticating it under its mysterious weight yet leaving enough air and answers to slip through as to push us along in search of the truth.

When looking over the entire concept of Prometheus from the visual splendor, to the unsettling future world, to the wonderful alien designs, and the metaphorical allegories that bring it all together, you really have to admire Ridley and crew for taking on such an ambitious narrative. To try to answer the meaning of life, if even within the context of a fictional story, makes for quite a bold undertaking. Not only that, but to lay it all out on the line, answering with vague mysterious hints, provides for an even more brash notion, but I believe they did right. Bold as it may be, I find that this sort of approach is a genuinely intriguing way to go. There is an aura that hangs over this production, which makes it more substantial than a run of the mill, by the numbers, kind of affair. Like the crew of the Prometheus, we are placed into a world that we do not quite understand. Lost in the unfamiliar, we are given bits and pieces of the puzzle, but never given the overall picture of what we are dealing with. We know the players, we know the stakes, but we can't see the endgame. Even when the story begins to open up, we are still left dreaming of the bigger picture and all that it means for the validity of mankind. I for one enjoyed the open-ended quality of the film, even if it means we are in the same place as we started, because truthfully our species' creation will always be a thesis, an idea, a dream. A concept that will always be sought after, but never obtained. Prometheus captures this beautifully and to me that is the impossible.

Prometheus is without a doubt a movie that will divide its audience, and with great fervor. Always shrouded in mystery and continually opening up new questions to ponder over, the film is a conceptual beast that continues to grow and morph as it moves along. Lost in its own mythology, the filmmakers opted to allow the visual cues and metaphorical connections to tell the story, resulting in a contemplative film that I believe makes for a more compelling watch. Held together by an outstanding cast, able to step out of their physical confines and societal trappings, and just delve headlong into a realm that is unlike anything they've ever known, is quite a leap of faith. Sometimes irrational from our point of view, but always engaging, this unorthodox science fiction movie goes above and beyond the norm to bring us a more philosophical view on the Panspermia theory. One that genuinely takes people a little off guard, and with good reason, but ultimately succeeds in what it aims to do.

Prometheus is a film for dreamers. The ones that want to know their purposes in life, but don't want the adventurous qualities of not knowing to end. This film provides that, though at possibly an irritating price, but just as the crew of the Prometheus struggled and hoped for future enlightenment, so shall the audience. In my opinion, not knowing is not so bad. It gives us something to hope for, to strive for, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a grander adventure. What I wanted to see when taking on this film, was a world unlike anything I've ever witnessed before, which tackled issues that have seldom been touched upon on the cinema front. That is exactly what I got with Prometheus and if you are willing to set aside your preconceived notions of what a true Alien prequel would be like and realize that this is the start of a whole now epic beast, then you should be quite entertained with the wonders that Ridley Scott and crew throw at you. Prometheus is.....

Just chillin.... Just chillin.

Yep.... David is a real creep.

Hey you bobble-headed freaks! Get off my front porch!

It's still rude to fart even if everyone is wearing oxygen masks.

Alien Examination Staring Contest...... GO!

Blue Room Staring Contest..... GO!

A Germaphobe's worst nightmare.

Don't pet that thing you stupid shit!

You talking to me? You talking to me?

I sure hope for David's sake that this isn't Phantasm.

When Charlize Theron has a flamethrower.... listen to her. Seriously.

Looking good buddy..... Barf.

That will teach you to stay up all night drinking you naughty Archaeologist you.

Look I can see my planet from here.

Who's that handsome alien?

Let's ride!

Just turn! Just fucking turn!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Director: Frank Marshall
Year 1995

Congo is a ridiculously enjoyable, yet highly overlooked, gem, which features an outstanding cast and a slew of impressive practical and digital effects. The film basks in its adventurous nature while never forgetting to inject an abundance of fun and wonder into the mix, and the combination of all of its elements makes for one hell of an enjoyable ride. Spirited in nature and whimsically daring, Congo whisks us away to a world filled with savage jungles, ancient temples and killer apes, all in the name of adventure and fun. Sign me up!

The film follows a motley group of scientists and adventurers, as they set off on an expedition to the African Congo for various personal reasons. Dr. Peter Elliot is there because he wants to set his gorilla Amy out into the wild to communicate with other apes, in hopes that he might learn something about their way of life. Dr. Karen Ross, on the other hand, is in search of her company's missing expedition, namely her ex-fiance who is reportedly in grave danger. Lastly there is Herkermer Homolka, a Romanian entrepreneur who is in search of the lost city of Zinj, an ancient mine that is said to contain riches beyond imagination. Set against the elements of the jungle and plagued by its many dangers, the team of adventurers soon come to find that there are some things that are not supposed to be found, and some places that should never be entered. Congo!

If there's one thing to say about Congo, it is that it is jam-packed with great characters. Dylan Walsh takes on the central role of Dr. Peter Elliot, the primatologist who has been researching the effects of sign language on primates, through the use of a mechanism that allows the animals to vocally communicate. Walsh is absolutely genuine in this role, giving a simplistic, yet heartfelt, performance that really pulls on the heart strings as well as engages you on all that is going on within the film. Coming on board the production as a frankly unknown actor, gave great credence to his authenticity as an animal researcher, and combined with his exceptional acting ability, he was able to really knock this one out of the park. Essentially paired with him is actress Laura Linney as Dr. Karen Ross, the no nonsense scientist who can dish it out as well as take it. Compelled to find her missing co-workers, Linney dispenses a great deal of courage into her character making you really root for her, even though at times she can be quite rigid and cold. Like Dylan Walsh, Linney wasn't a big name star, but she really took on the role and made it her own, showcasing a great deal of charm and sass as the determined Karen Ross.

Also along for the expedition is Ernie Hudson, who takes on the role of Captain Munro Kelly, the jungle guide. Hudson is absolutely astounding as the bombastic great white hunter, who just so happens to be black, and he is given countless moments in the film to really show his stuff. Witty, courageous, and sharp tongued, Hudson brings a special spark to the movie, and his presence only adds to the enjoyability of the movie. The last of the heavy hitters is Tim Curry as Herkermer Homolka, the opportunistic treasure seeker who has all his life dreamed of finding the lost city of Zinj. Curry, as always, is a hoot, as he steals every scene he is in with his over the top facial expressions and his delightfully entertaining persona. The man is a living legend in my opinion, and though Congo is not one of his best performances, it still is chock full of outstanding moments that will simply put a smile on your face. All in all, the cast is exceptional and it is one of the reasons that this film is so much damn fun to watch. Did I also mention that there is a small part played by the living legend Bruce Campbell? What's there not to like?

Aside from the extraordinary cast, this movie has a great deal of other aspects that remarkably make it a thing of entertaining beauty. First and foremost, the production is especially balanced in the effects department. The collaboration of practical and digital effects are seamless, and they both meld quite well together to help immerse the audience into the world that Congo is bringing to the screen. The elements that are brought together to bring Amy the gorilla to life are impressive, and the end result is really jaw dropping, as both performance and mechanized facial expressions produce movie magic which makes the unbelievable, believable. You'll find yourself caring about this little furball as if she was a living breathing creature, and in that aspect I'd say the filmmakers and effects wizards did their job perfectly.

The same can be said for the more ferocious creatures of the film in the form of the gray killer apes. These bad boys are a menace and blood-thirsty to boot, and the same practical approach of performance melded robotics are used to these creations, and with great results. They are frighteningly grotesque and they make for outstanding opposition to our unsuspecting heroes. Their initial meeting with these mythical beasts is one of the most potent moments of the film, and a great deal of the credit should go to the outstanding creature design of the gray killer apes. Of course it is the locations and presence of the jungle locales that really aid in bringing these moments, and this film in general, all together. From the majestic volcanic mountainside, to the ravaging river rapids, to the thick lush rainforests, this production allows itself to get immersed in its jungle settings making for an adventurous outing that is truly entertaining and above all, fun.

Congo is without a doubt one of the most remarkably underrated films to have ever come out during the mid 90's. Its combination of jungle exploration coupled with its stupendous cast and wild special effects, should have assured it a place in cinema lover's hearts, but instead it was overlooked and mysteriously panned on its initial release. Maybe it was the film's lack of super stars which couldn't capture the attention of a dedicated following, but in my opinion, this never came into question when viewing it for myself. All the actors involved did a tremendous job in bringing this behemoth to life and the adventurous nature of the film is impossible to ignore and write off. The sympathetic performance of Dylan Walsh, the tense portrayal of Laura Linney, the charismatic presence of Ernie Hudson, and the devilish nature of Tim Curry, is a match made in cinema heaven and I have always appreciated the strange concoction that is Congo's cast of characters.

Added onto that great structure is a film production that knows how to use effects and understands the careful balance of applying it so that it doesn't overwhelm the story and take you out of the picture. The creation of Amy the gorilla is a beautiful combination of film-making mechanisms that aid in bringing that sense of reality and authenticity to the forefront, all while presenting some overtly out of this world concepts, such as a talking ape. This same application can be seen in the film's other special effects as miniatures and digital creations form in bringing some of the most lively moments of the film to life. Possibly ahead of its time, and definitely missed by a mass audience, Congo is a movie that generates a great deal of atmospheric fun. You've got a group of adventurers, scientists, and treasure hunters, on a crash course to an ancient city crawling with killer apes. How can this not be entertaining? If you're in the mood for an adventure that is truly fun and remarkably enjoyable, then give this one a go. Congo is.....

Bruce!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Over Oppressive Work-Place Staring Contest! GO!

Oh Amy... You're such a little sweet-heart.

It's not a bad question Burt.

Oh Tim Curry..... You silly beautiful bastard you.

This ape really knows how to party first class.

Double your fun!

I get it man! You really liked Ghostbusters! Can we move on with our lives now?

Pull my monkey finger you freaky lizard.

Ernie Hudson is cool as shit... that is all.

Who wants to play king of the mountain?

Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood.

Where the shit are we?

Good idea bringing the emergency Rave equipment and not more guns... Ass!

Damn you Amy and your cuteness! Damn it to HELL!

A god among men.

What you talking about Apey?

Anyone order roast Ape?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

REVIEW: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
Director: Ralph S. Singleton
Year 1990

Graveyard Shift is a highly entertaining horror adaption of a Stephen King short story. Filthy to the core and respectively portrayed, this underrated little yarn packs quite a unique punch with its rustic locations, colorful characters, and abominable monster. Amassed with an abundance of atmosphere and a sly dark comedic tone, Graveyard Shift amuses to no end as we are presented with a cinematic world that is off the wall, yet still strangely congruent with the cast of unusual characters that reside within its disheveled walls.

The film is set within the confines of a small country town and its centralized textile mill, where the factory serves as the only source of employment for the struggling town. A stranger named John Hall strolls in looking for a job and because of a recent death at the textile mill, Hall is able to be hired rather quickly. Unknown to him though is that the mill has had a sordid history of accidental deaths, all which have happened to men who have had Hall's job before him. An unspoken evil dwells in the dark of the old mill. Something that lives in the underbelly of the aged factory. An ancient evil that lurks below in the shadows and only surfaces to feed on the flesh of men. Will John just be another tasty snack for this mysterious beast, or will his presence in this dead town finally bring about some much needed change?

David Andrews takes on the role of John Hall, the lone wanderer with a heart of gold who has just swept into town. Andrews does an excellent job with the underplayed role, giving it a subtle nuance that doesn't overwhelm the audience or take us out of the story. He seamlessly blends in with the look and feel of the film, making you believe that this fictional place and time that he inhabits could be the real McCoy. Often at times he takes the lead role with impeccable fortitude, making you wonder why you haven't seen him in more films other than this wonderfully wild entry. In Graveyard Shift, he simply nails it as he gives a commendable performance that is truly genuine and noble.

Collaborating beautifully off of Andrews subdued performance is Stephen Macht as the boastful and over the top boss man, Warwick. As owner of the textile mill and the most powerful man in town, Macht makes good with the tyrannical flavor and he milks it for all it's worth. You'd be hard pressed to find a more arrogant, intimidating asshole in all of cinema, and Macht does a truly remarkable job with the stereotypical character. You love to hate him and that is ideally what he is there for, but there is an added flare to his performance that really makes you stand up and take notice whenever he bursts on to the scene. The guy is a wild man and the character of Warwick allows him to go all out in highly entertaining fashion.

Aside from the living breathing counterparts of this film, the true eye-catcher of the picture would be the old textile mill itself. The location begs to be explored and the filmmakers do everything in their power to showcase to us its labyrinth-like corridors, endless sub-basements, and unexplored caverns. With a breadth of visual ammunition, the film unloads with a cacophony of wonderfully macabre locales which just ooze with atmosphere and seem drenched in rot and rust. As measures of authenticity go, Graveyard Shift has some of the most impressively lived in locations that I have ever had the privilege to witness on the screen. The natural decay and age of the old mill is astoundingly genuine and the fact that we are taken on a wild journey throughout this foreboding structure, from top to the very bottom, is an admiral display of imagery which push along the narrative into uncharted territories.

At the heart of this story though is the illusive, but very real, beast of the film. Shrouded in mystery and mostly kept out of view, this monstrosity is a wonder of practical effects, proving that you don't have to go all out with computer graphics in order to instill life into a fictional cinematic creature. Deliberately built up as the movie moves along, the filmmakers make a tremendous effort in slowly revealing the beast until the closing moments of the film. The tactic works perfectly, as you are always guessing to what this thing truly is. Even when we are revealed to the overall look of the monster, we still aren't sure as to what we are looking at. A combination of various animals and monstrosities, the beast of the film has an exceptionally original look to it, and it is through this unfamiliar appearance which makes the horror that much more real and bona fide. With the combination of outstanding creature effects, remarkably entertaining characters, and a wholly believable rotten textile mill, you end up with one of the most enjoyable little unknown gems to have ever snuck by audiences in years.

Graveyard Shift is an unbelievably fun film which takes its meager origins and runs with it. Based off of Stephen King's work and oozing with atmosphere, this modest entry genuinely portrays its setting in the most succinct of ways, allowing for the viewer to be soaked right up into the proceedings without a single thought. David Andrews and Stephen Macht do a fantastic job with their characters, and the contrasting nature of the two frontrunners makes for some explosive and tense filled moments. As an added bonus, Brad Dourif, Kelly Wolf, Andrew Divoff, Vic Polizos, and Robert Alan Beuth all give extremely memorable performances that really help to round out the denizens of the town.

On the visual front the film has the goods, boasting outstanding production value in its locations and creature effects, while relishing in the unkempt look of it all. Balanced with an unrestrained handle, the production vividly portrays a mind-boggling tour of the mill's grounds as we are taken to the very depths of the foundation's structure in the most brash of ways. Uncommonly, when it comes to the revealing of the monster in the movie the filmmakers go in the opposite direction, opting to gradually build up its beast with small reveals as the story moves along. The end result is nothing less than spectacular and it is the combination of all of these factors that equate to the film being so damn entertaining and enduring. If you're looking for a creature-feature that is just as determined to wow you with its effects as it is to engage you with its characters and locations, then look no further because this overlooked beast is just what the doctor ordered. Graveyard Shift is.....

Job Interview Staring Contest...... GO!

Brad you are just greasy.

Are you going to pull my finger or am I going to have to fire your fine ass!

Don't do it!

I ordered a mouse-burger, not a rat-burger.

Oil change this you piece of shit car!

That fat doofus is checking my ass out again isn't he?

Who the hell do you think you are..... Bart Simpson?

Four-Way Staring Contest.... GO!

Get your stank-ass feet off of my desk Bradley.

Shows OVER!

Say cheese.

How about a light buddy?

Someone put the coins on his eyes cause he sure don't believe what he is seeing.

The rat whisperer.

You damn kids and your hip hop music!

Look into the eyes of pure evil.