LORD of ILLUSIONS

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Lordy what a mess! But in a good way.

***SPOILERS***

Cover image for Lord of Illusions

Lord of Illusions Cover Image–IMDB

This 1995 film, directed and written by Clive Barker begins as many horror films do with the camera showing us all the creepy things that we know spell “time to go someplace else.” We’re in the desert and looking at an abandoned one story building.

There’s an array of small animal bones, skulls, old broken dolls, dead snakes, etc. A group of people drives up and approaches the building commando-style. Inside, there’s a party going on and it’s obvious these gun-toters aren’t there to bring the dip. As these fun-interruptus types barge in, we see someone sitting on the steps. The androgynous figure is a character named “Butterfield” (Trevor Edmond) who is the biggest baddest fan of “Nix.” Nix (Daniel von Bargen) is a mellow-voiced sorcerer who has plans to sacrifice a young girl. The girl cowers in the corner while a large, nasty baboon bares its teeth and tries to bite her. I think the point of the party and the sacrifice is to kill the world and hang around after and gloat, but I’m not sure. All the party goers are having a great time. They’re shaving their heads and looking at each other like good sex is going to happen soon. The head of the commandos is a guy named Swann (Kevin O’Conner). Things get crazy and Nix ends up dead and buried with an iron mask nailed to his head to keep him dead. In the meantime, Butterfield who survives the fracas is getting really mad.

So now we jump fifteen years. Swann is a world famous magician.

A new character is introduced-a detective (who knows the “dark-side” we’re told via a flashback and a newspaper headline) named Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula). While on another case, Harry stumbles on a murder-in-progress, which happens to be a revenge killing to get back at the people who broke up the party and nailed Nix. Of course Butterfield (now played by Barry Del Sherman) is involved and of course Harry decides to investigate. This takes him to Swann’s Beverly Hills mansion and Mrs. Swann (in name only we’re told), Famke Janssen. So let’s skip ahead, shall we? Swann fakes his death; Butterfield is fooled but he still manages to dig up Nix and re-book the party with all the same folks invited and of course they bring their scissors and razors. What fun. Swann ends up in a stand-off with Nix, who is disappointed because he had counted on Swann to help him kill the world and afterwards they could just hang out together. Poor Butterfield is so unappreciated. Harry shows up and of course there’s a stand-off and of course the only people left are the best looking–Scott Bakula and Famke. The world is saved. My guess is both Famke and Scott considered firing their agents after this.

Despite the mess and confusion, mostly linked to the dangling plot lines like –the client who paid Harry to investigate the unfaithful husband, the cool woman cop, the helpful Magic Castle magician who helped Harry find some perfectly irrelevant info, I kept watching.

I think it was because of Butterfield and the party-goers. They were so passionate, so into whatever Nix was selling, it was seductive. The movie came alive during the party scenes and whenever Butterfield showed up. Otherwise I felt as if I was watching some good actors (Bakula, Janssen, O’Conner,etc.) looking like they would rather be having a root canal. All in all, I’d opt for the movie rather than the root canal, but as far as that party goes, I’m not shaving my head for no one.

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Snow White and the Huntsman

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Hi ho-hi ho-politically correct we go!

No Spoiler Alert! (Hello–It’s Snow White)

If you enjoy films with great visual effects, you ‘ll enjoy this film.The story, however, is muddled.

 

Snow White and the Huntsman-IMDB cover

Cover image for Snow White and the Huntsman–IMDB

In my opinion, the movie’s too long and I became restless about three-quarters into it. It may be that the writers were working from other versions of the fairytale and we’re all used to the Disney version. It seems that they failed to settle on one version and the result is muddled. Questions like why Ravenna doesn’t kill Snow White when she kills the King and who this Huntsman really is are not answered. We’re left with too many loose ends.

Where is Prince Charming? He’s been demoted. His name is “William” (Sam Claflin)  and he’s the son of a duke.

Ravenna’s overly devoted brother “Finn” Sam Spreull (Hamlet called and wants his hair back) keeps a handy supply of local maidens in the dungeon for those occasions when Ravenna needs a dose of youth to freshen up. Ravenna tricked the King, Snow White’s father, into marrying her. Ravenna has issues with men–and everybody else–and makes it her business to spread misery like a bad rash over the entire kingdom.

Too bad she has no other outlets. Ravenna could do a mean blog and would likely be the Facebook friend from hell.

Charlize Theron makes a believable evil queen–very intimidating. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. This actress is good in just about every role she does.

For some reason Ravenna keeps Snow White alive as a permanent dungeon resident. That is until The Mirror announces Snow White is “the fairest in the land.” Ravenna is not happy (she never is).  Especially when she learns Snow White can kill her. There is good news though. Snow White’s heart is a permanent beauty treatment. If Ravenna eats it, there need be no more messy maidens.

Kristen Stewart is okay as Snow White. She simply isn’t compelling. There’s a heaviness to her acting. No perceivable sense of humor.

When Finn comes to collect Snow White’s heart, Snow White escapes.  Then Ravenna sends out the Huntsman and one thing leads to another, including Ravenna impersonating William and handing  Snow White the poison apple. She bites, falls dead and guess whose kiss wakes her up. Not wimpy William–it’s Hunky Huntsman.

So now Snow White is really annoyed–that apple was the last straw. The result– Snow White leads an army and storms the castle to end Ravenna. The huntsman and William, and six of the seven dwarfs (one dwarf dies) join in the battle.

Several well-known non-dwarf actors hi ho it to the castle including Bos Hoskins and Ian McShane.

The dwarf scenes have lots of bathroom humor and though funny, they’re not in sync with the tone of the narrative.  Not surprisingly, this cast was a major issue for working actors who are in fact dwarfs. Of course they win and Snow White kills the queen. Kristen’s soulful Twilight stare helps Ravenna into the light.

This reworking of the Snow White fairy tale sounds a feminist note. It ends with her coronation. Who is going to be Mr. Snow White? Will it be the devoted William, the tormented rough-around-the edges Huntsman, or maybe a dwarf? Wait for the sequel.

One thing is for sure:  No white charger and no “some day my prince will come” for this girl. She has a kingdom to rule.

Prometheus–a review: An Alien Nation of Infection

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***spoilers***

 

Cover image for Prometheus--IMDB

Prometheus cover image–IMDB

Directed by Ridley Scott, who directed ALIEN, the first in the series,  PROMETHEUS was one of two eagerly awaited science fiction movies of the the 2012 summer. The other movie is THE AVENGERS.  Although there are other science fiction movies debuting that summer, PROMETHEUS and THE AVENGERS were the ones that fans had been waiting for.

 I saw THE AVENGERS and I didn’t care for it. What little I did like included performances by Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. Because I wasn’t a fan of the comics and not familiar with the characters, I didn’t think it right to review it. On the other hand, I have seen every one of the ALIEN series and really liked the first two.

Though opening is beautiful, PROMETHEUS is a disappointment.

A bald, blue, giant man, stands on the edge of a precipice, and far below is a scary Niagra-like waterfall. He drinks from what looks like a coconut shell with little bean-like things in it. Not a good idea. He isn’t jolly and this isn’t a valley–ho, ho, ho. The blue skin starts mottling a nasty black spider pattern.  He keels over and plunges into the water where we see images of organs and vessels pulsating. The images take us into his cells where we see his DNA breaking apart and blending, we assume with all that water.

Skip ahead with me to a new time and place,

where a pair of archeologists discover an ancient cave drawing of a giant being (with a bald head so start doing the math). It’s one of many drawings featuring giant men discovered in the artifacts of  ancient cultures all over the world. Thousands of miles separate these drawings done by artists with no possible way to communicate. The discovery scene with the digging and brushing off the find, as well as the excitement of the scientist love-birds  reminded me of the opening scene from JURASSIC PARK.

Now, we’re on a spaceship, off to an unknown galaxy.

The crew is in hyper-sleep, tended by an android played by Michael Fassbender, a good actor whom I find both  creepy and sexy.  The android reminded me of a baby-sitter where the kids are asleep and the absent grownups have a great sound system and supply of dvds. He walks around taking notes, peering into a female crew member’s dream (not nice) as he listens to music and watches old movies including LAWRENCE of ARABIA. His glowing yellow visor contrasts beautifully with the gleaming surface of the ship. Why did they put him in flipflops? That was odd. The beauty and serenity of this sequence reminded me of the opening of 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY. The android’s name is David. Remind you of anything–like maybe HAL’s friend, “Dave”?

Next we have the briefing of the crew.

They all sit around, joking and drinking coffee while Charlize Theron (one of the best things in the movie and is she ever on a roll this year) gives a presentation that includes graphics showing the similarities of drawings and how they point to a different creation process in terms of how we got here . There’s also an explanation of the mission by a holographic message. It’s the powerful  Weyland, the ninety-something owner of the company. Weyland is played by Guy Pearce in the worst old-age make-up I’ve seen since the last eighth grade production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Darwin was a quack and the bald men planted us on earth. Those drawings were an invitation, weren’t they? The planet landing sequence was cool. We see these big domes. And . . . they’re hollow! One by one, like an Agatha Christie play, scientists start dying–with a little help from Android David, and the stowaway–you guessed it! It’s Weyland, who happens to be Charlize’s father–a plot line thrown in like an extra onion to the stew. Didn’t help. When it comes to an invitation, BYOB takes on a whole new meaning and all the aliens, alienettes and mini-aliens slithering in that dome consider the spaceship a giant kegger. At the end of it we find out that the big blue bald guys were cooking up weapons of mass destruction at a safe distance from their world.

Yes, they were in our little corner of the universe and yes, they are our daddies.

 However, they weren’t satisfied with how we turned out and were planning to come back to re-do  us using some of their other little works of art–the ones with two sets of razor-teeth. Unfortunately for them, someone didn’t mind the stove and there was an accident. All the aliens died a long time ago. Or did they? David the Android manages to not only spike the drink of one of the scientists with alien juice, but also intends to harvest a little alien bun-in the oven, planted in the unfortunate scientist girlfriend. She outsmarts him and does her own c-section before the little nipper gets too frisky. Okay then, David’s last trick is to wheel his old boss out to see the one remaining bald alien who has been in some kind of super sleep for a zillion years. David figures out how to wake him up. Ah, good plan! Does the alien give away any trade secrets–say to eternal life? The old man eagerly awaits. The big blue guy grins, kills Weyland and rips David’s head off. David isn’t particularly upset.

By now, what’s left off the crew has figured out that they need to destroy the big alien ship.

 It was on its way to earth and after the long layover, the remaining alien will be off to off us.  With a heroic “it’s been a privilege captain” every one blows up. Everyone, that is except the bald alien, who is finally killed by the “little bun in the oven” that’s all grow’d up.  David (in two pieces now) tells the remaining scientist he has figured out how to pilot one of the small remaining alien ships. Does she want him to take her home? Nooooo. Of course not.

She wants an explanation, so off they go to find ET’s home. She explains that because she’s human, she needs to know. Really? Just call me Data.