Monday, February 28, 2011

Machete (2010)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.2).

Machete is a loving parody of the 1970's B-movie exploitation film genre, this one centered on the Mexican drug war and illegal immigration in Texas. The movie is a continuous exercise in Rule of Cool and Refuge in Audacity, complete with a motorcycle-mounted gatling gun, dual-wielded machetes, and a completely over-the-top bit involving the length of the small intestine. A bit gory, but in a dark comedy way. There are some earnest political undertones, pro-immigration and anti-drug-war, but they're presented in a way that welcomes the audience to laugh and disagree. Overall I enjoyed the film quite a bit. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alien 3 (1992)

Links: TVTropes (entire series), Wikipedia, IMDB (6.3).

Sigh. I recently suffered through the Special Edition cut of Alien³, and it sucked even more than the original cut. The original had not-enough-movie smeared across too-much-buildup, a contrived plot, generally poor characterization, and a crap opening that invalidates any emotional investment in the previous film. The SE adds mammoth pacing problems, removes a few reasonably clever bits of direction, adds a few wallbanger scenes, and compensates only by making the planet slightly more three-dimensional (showing the shoreline in the opening scene, the only exterior shot in a claustrophobic movie that could just as well have been set on a space station). Score: 2 stars out of 4.

PS: Disregard every bit of hokum this movie tries to tell you about men with two Y chromosomes. By the early 1980s, long before this movie's script was written, the earlier myths from the 1960s had been disproven and it was quite clear that 47,XYY syndrome does NOT lead to aggression, violence, or sociopathy. There are some statistical differences in height (taller) and IQ (dumber), but they're tiny compared to normal human variation.

Aliens (1986)

Links: TVTropes (entire series), Wikipedia, IMDB (8.5).

One of those rare moments when a sequel equals or exceeds the already-esteemed original. Compared to Alien, this film shifts genres toward more of a sci-fi action/thriller. The plot is gently interwoven with a subtext drawn from the Vietnam War, layered on top of the first movie's established fabric of Joseph Conrad, but even so it stands up well enough on its own without awareness of this. Also, the characters — while a bit stereotypical — gel together in a way that the first film never quite developed, and the pacing is surprisingly good when you consider how long the film is. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Alien (1979)

Links: TVTropes (entire series), Wikipedia, IMDB (8.5).

A now-classic sci-fi horror film that rewrote the genre. The direction and editing is notable for slowly building tension without hurting the pacing of the movie, H. R. Giger's artwork manages to provoke the audience in ways that you'd never think a human in a rubber suit could do, and of course the film introduced the world to Sigourney Weaver's acting talents. Even in the finished product, there are some places where the pacing bogs down a bit, and the growth rate of the alien results in some forehead-slapping among scientifically-minded viewers, but the overall result is quite good. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Pandorum (2009)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (6.8).

Meh. A sci-fi psychological horror/thriller film that mistakenly believes it's the forbidden love child of Event Horizon and Memento. I thought the use of hand-cranked power was cute, albeit unrealistic for the quantities of electricity involved. The end has some twists somewhat reminiscent of The Village or Fight Club... but by the time the twists appeared, the movie had still failed to make me care. Oh, and cue a ton of whiny teenage nihilist philosophy coming out of adult mouths. Overall, I liked it better than I expected to, and I don't regret seeing it, but I wouldn't have missed a thing by skipping it. Score: 2 stars out of 4.

Piranha 3D (2010)

Links: TVTropes (mostly about the 1978 original), Wikipedia, IMDB (6.1).

It's a horror comedy, with all the emphasis on the comedy, and deliberately done as a B-movie. The 3D gets some abusive camerawork at the start of the film, but it's generally used with more grace than most 3D B-movies bother with. The plot is dumb, but it's a remake of a cheesy knockoff of Jaws (complete with Richard Dreyfuss in this remake), so you knew that. Considerable T&A for the heterosexual male demographic, and gore that's one part gruesome to three parts silly fun. Score: 3 stars out of 4.