Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Darkest Hour (2011)

This apocalyptic science fiction/alien invasion film begins with three Americans, a tall woman with an Australian accent, and a Swede with a bad goatee who are nearly the only survivors of an invasion of Moscow. [sarcastic sidenote: Because clearly the Moscvich wouldn't have a clue where to hide.]

The tone is muted and reminds me of earlier Asylum productions, which it resembles in dialogue as well, though Asylum films are less predictable. This film had brighter colors and much higher production values than Asylum films, and some of the imagery was remarkably picturesque. The aliens were frightening in a rather sanitized way, and even unique.

The plot required little science, which all seemed to be a variation on an ancient theme: [spoilers immediately ahead]

Aliens invade, all the token people of color die (even the English-speaking ones), the surviving white people discover the alien weakness and band together - developing sexual or romantic tension -, and the film ends with them bravely making a stand - usually while striking a pose.

Watch for a soldier who managed to make perfectly fitted chain mail out of house keys in less than two weeks, and very Tesla-esque light bulbs.

If you're looking for a plot hole, here's one: the aliens are looking for heavy metals and minerals, yes? So why do they come straight to earth - which is clearly, to quote Doctor Who, PROTECTED - ? Wouldn't they have first stopped at any one of a number of visible planets in the solar system or galaxy, and leave some trace? It's not like we don't monitor our astronomy. Sheesh.

Anyway, it's kind of pretty, and kind of fun, but don't set your expectations too high. Or, you know, anywhere at all, really.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Seventh Son (2014)

This isn't a review. I'm forced to watch this little stinker, so I'm going to live-blog the experience so you can all enjoy it with me. THIS POST CONTAINS SERIOUS SPOILERS. Although, to be honest, you'll probably see it all coming anyway.

Cliche #1: old guy who can kick your ass
Cliche #2: dragon in a cave
Cliche #3: men=good, woman=bad (and mother and witch archetypes, but it's a genre *shrug*)
Cliche #4: seventh son of a seventh son. This one might actually be a trope, but the world building gives no reason for its existence.
Cliche #5: mother's amulet - clearly a Chekhov's Gun
Cliche #6: witch who possesses unnatural/immortal beauty
Cliche #7: old guy with practical priorities

Oh my gosh. A Tavern labelled "Tavern"!? *sigh* Terry Pratchett's Mended Drum is the pinnacle of tavern-naming genius.

Cliche #8: beautiful girl being burned as a witch (damsel in distress)
Cliche #9: teasing the sexual tension (when Tom meets whatshername)

Okay, Tusk. I have problems with this. He's a troll-creature, clearly non-human. Think of the line "as ugly as he is loyal." and think about the political history of The Tempest. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, magical or slave species are fantasy code for race. Ugh. The only way to avoid this heinous crime is to freaking DON'T ENSLAVE SENTIENT CREATURES. How hard is this?

Cliche #10: Surprise Test
Cliche #11: trash-talk mum to get a reaction
Cliche #12: "I was aiming for your head."

I'm getting really, really tired of old dude talking like he has rags in his mouth. Is this supposed to be an accent of some kind?

Djimon Hounsou! He as come to save this movie! He's so pretty. I hope his magic is enough to dispel the bad writing. In order for that to happen, I'm pretty sure they have to let him speak.

Dead mothers. This is totally going to be a Harry Potter thing, isn't it. Well shiznit. Becky reminds me that in the golden age of sword-and-sorcery films (the eighties) it wasn't this bad. That's a relief.

Cliche #13: witches and moonlight
Cliche #14: skinny-dipping
Cliche #15: peaking at the skinny-dipper
Cliche #16: MFEO (destined to be together) - non-subjective external sign of true love
Cliche #17: "ancient code of honor" that demands a fair fight?

Oh look! Another nonwhitemale antagonist! How surprised should I be on a scale of 1 to . . .
And they're beating him up. Surprise, surprise. *sarcasm*
Is tolerating imaginary witches supposed to be some acceptable alternative to fighting actual racism and sexism? Are there any non-witch females in this film? UGH [no, there are not, just FYI]

Cliche #18: stolen kiss. I try to have moderation, but what happened to consent?
Cliche #19: love affair gone wrong created a psychotic female (I'm really not going to get started)
Cliche #20: reasoned cruelty (masculine, of course)
Cliche #21: jumping off a cliff into water (not pernicious as cliches go, just a little coincidental that there happens to be water on the other side of the cliff). The cliche is largely in the filming and camera angles.
Cliche #22: . . . and of course they go over a waterfall. What else would you do in a river? This whole scenario was written by someone who learned geography from Saturday morning cartoons.
Cliche #23: . . . and look! They've just fired Chekhovs Gun. Yay!
Cliche #24: Oh my gosh! If you're going to speak English, SPEAK ENGLISH. STOP WITH THE INARTICULATE ARCHAISMS! And while I'm being all Englishy - why are witch-hunters called "spooks?"
Cliche #25: pointless mayhem - she says it's a kind of preview, but I think it's just because somebody thought it was time for more violence.

Oh my gosh. These "bad guys" are all caricatures of non-white cultures. I'm so embarrassed for my genre. I weep for us.

Cliche #26: called it: dead mum.
Cliche #27: ooh! Near miss on the Mata Hari trope (woman seduces man to steal from him)
Cliche #28: Stormtrooper aim - "best assassins" are just redshirts
Cliche #29: Dead mom's ghost.
Cliche #30: Born special. I HATE this cliche. I HATE HATE HATE it. Why can't we write stories about people who are special because of their decisions? Because of how their choices change their character? Because of the influence of people around them? I read somewhere today that the whole "I deserve privilege" trope is related to white-maleness. I hope my brother reads this.
Cliche #31: eyeliner is evil. I only tolerate this trope because I love eyeliner, and smoky eyes.

At this point, I'm kind of rooting for the villains. Gregory really has had a reign of terror.

Cliche #32: McGuffin - the talisman is actually only a symbol, at this point. It doesn't actually do anything for anybody that I can see.
Cliche #33: monster mouth shout in the face. I'm surprised they held off on the saliva.

I'm taking a break to enjoy a "Djimon Hounsou is beautiful" moment. *sighs whistfully*

Cliche #34: bitch fight, which leads to the second dead mum cliche.

OMG, I can't believe the stupid white guy is going to survive this. It's the only cliche this movie doesn't hit straight on the head.

That's an exaggeration. Many of these cliches were arrived at slightly sideways. But Why!? Why would you save the stupid white guy and let the awesome mums die!? WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!?

Cliche #35: burn the witch/death's bier - this one actually combines them. It's very Darth Vader.
Cliche #36: congratulations, you're one of us.
Cliche #37: branded

Ooh! Nice braids! #hairprivilege

Cliche #38: disappearing female (this happens a lot during the movie). I will not explain how it's totally sexist. I will bite my tongue first.
Cliche #39: student becomes the master
Cliche #40: "do it your way" motivational speech
Cliche #41: inheriting the slave (clearly his loyalty isn't personal. So why does it exist at all?)
Cliche #42: ends with them being called off to a new adventure

It's really obvious how I feel about this film, so I won't bother to sum up. Go and do better, friends.