November 21, 2016

The Crow: Wicked Prayer

In The Crow: Wicked Prayer, John Connor comes back from the dead as the world's lamest mime in an attempt to stop Angel from having sex with Tara "New-FOUND-land" Reid in order to become Satan, while Dennis Hopper speaks in offensive gangsta patois in his most embarrassing performance of the last five minutes.

Now the original Crow really wasn't that good. I'll pause for a moment while all the goths in the audience immediately cut themselves in rage. (That's why I don't mind insulting goths. They'll hurt themselves instead of me.) Okay, now calm down, turn down the Robert Smith record, and listen to your old pal Carl Eusebius while contemplating the meaninglessness of it all as you crawl in your skin or whatever. The Crow was carried past its weak script and threadbare characters by a charismatic lead. It's got great visuals, fine performances by genre veterans Winston Zeddemore, Kurn, and Luther, and an effective pop soundtrack for its time. It's about a gang of criminals that murder Bruce Lee's Son and his girlfriend. Lee Jr. is so badass that he is resurrected a year later by the titular avian to bring the pain to those responsible. (Girlfriend, despite being raped and dying more slowly and painfully than Lee Jr., lacks the requisite penis necessary for being spectrally reanimated by a bird.) Not complicated or deep, but artistically shot and skillfully done, the film was anchored by an intense if not especially accomplished central performance. All in all, not a bad way to spend 100 minutes.

And Bai Ling doesn't even have to take her clothes off.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer is the third (yes, third) sequel to a film that died along with its star. Lacking any identity of its own, it alternately shamelessly apes the original film and totally undercuts it. Wisely, the filmmakers elected to steal the weakest elements of the original while jettisoning all the artistry and charisma that made it work. So the movie takes place in the American southwest instead of an unnamed Rust Belt city where it's constantly night and almost always raining. (Why yes, the original Crow was directed by Alex Proyas. How did you know?) That's right, a revenant dressed entirely in black and wearing white face-paint is wandering around the goddamn desert in the full light of day. Oh, and instead of Bruce Lee's Son, they got the charisma-free John Connor, who somehow became a worse actor as he grew up. I'm beginning to doubt that he's going to save us from the machine overlords.

This movie does not have fine performances. Instead, it has Bunny Lebowski showing everyone that she's just as terrible playing a brain-dead hillbilly slut as she was playing a brilliant archeologist, and also that she's not anywhere near as weirdly exotic and sexy as Bai Ling. When you make a clothed Bai Ling's acting look good by comparison, you need to re-think your career choice. It also has Angel doing the worst over-the-top Jack Nicholson impersonation this side of Christian Slater. I guess the default setting for your typical bad actor who's getting no direction and playing a character with no backstory, motivation, or recognizably human emotion is to "do Jack", when what they really oughtta do is to do Cage.

The plot of Wicked Prayer is...well, it's the same as the plot of The Crow, really, only dumber and immensely moar confusing. We start with Angel breaking out of his prison chain gang. In his quest to become Satan (incidentally, the career my guidance counselor suggested for me in high school), Angel gets his old gang together: Bunny Lebowski, Tank, Washed-Up MMA Champion, and That Guy I've Seen Somewhere. Being the worst Satanists ever, they capture a Catholic priest and douse him with gasoline and then just leave, without telling him his mother sucks cocks in Hell or anything. They go to the podunk town that John Connor and his hot Quebecois girlfriend are just about to leave on account of some Indian-white miner tension that never has any impact on the events to come. The gang gets one look at JC's godawful hairstyle and hangs both him and his French-Canadian squeeze, but not before Bunny cuts out the latter's (obviously fake plastic) eyeballs and sticks them into her own noggin. (Needless to say, the movie can't afford a shot of Bunny putting these clearly bogus orbs into her face, so you'll just have to trust the movie that this happens.) So now she can see the future, or the past, or something, and yes, Bunny Lebowski has the creepy witch/villain's girlfriend role that Bai Ling had in the original, though they drop the whole incest angle because, hey, that was bizarre and memorable and we'll have none of that in this movie, thank you very much. JC tries in vain to emote impotent rage and crushing sadness after Bunny stabs his Quebecois Indian girlfriend, and he's so bad at it that Angel kills him.

After Tank and W-UMMAC colossally fail at their simple task of "take the corpses into the desert and burn them", JC comes back to life, this time without waiting 3 days. After dragging his girlfriend's corpse back to her bed, he's horrified at his reflection (even though he was hanged so he doesn't even have a mark on his face) and tries to shoot himself, to find that he's now an indestructible zombie. So of course he paints his face in a terrible imitation of Bruce Lee's Son.

Now I know what you're thinking: Did he fire six shots, or only five? I mean, you're thinking, "Gee Carl Eusebius, you sexy beast you, this sure sounds an awful lot like a shitty rehash of the original." And you'd be right, of course. I am damn sexy. But now the movie introduces its original elements, which are even more terrible than its rip-offs. JC, you see, doesn't wanna be a warrior. He hates his powers, doesn't seem to desire revenge, and spends much of the movie whining about being brought back to life. "I'm afraid of what I've become." Uh...why? We're 45 minutes into the film's expansive 99- minute running time, and you've done jack shit! What exactly have you become? At one point he even says, "I wanna die." What the fuck kind of undead avenger is this guy? I kept waiting for the Crow to take its power back. Caw! God, what a pussy! Caw! Go back to the grave, shitnugget! Caw!

Finally, almost halfway through the film, JC confronts Guy I've Seen Somewhere, who understandably is less than intimidated by JC's bad make-up and petulant-teenager glare. When Bruce Lee's Son looked at his killers before he brought the pain, he was genuinely disturbing. The rage was seething and intense, but also cold and distant, as if the horrors that awaited these men were inevitable. John Connor looks like Mom just told him he can't go out on Friday night. I can't stress enough how terrible JC is in this movie. The film never really had a chance to work, but he absolutely torpedoes it with Costnerian finesse, alternately wildly overacting and grumbling out his lines like he's annoyed with the director for pointing the camera at him. He doesn't project anywhere near the emotion, charisma, and badassery necessary to pull off a man so hungry for vengeance that even death itself can't stop him. And he's done no favors by being a foot shorter and proportionally smaller than all of his enemies, especially Angel, which the director doesn't even attempt to hide. If you're going to be a short guy kicking everybody's ass on film, you either have to be the scrappy underdog who wins through guile rather than brute force, or Joe Pesci. Because otherwise, it looks ridiculous onscreen.

The movie then rushes to get through the rest of its "plot". JC somewhat implausibly defeats W-UMMAC in a martial arts fight after W-UMMAC starts bashing up a party with a baseball bat (along with the film's continuity, as the mask he's wearing alternately appears and disappears between shots). Bunny somehow knows the Crow is JC's weakness, despite none of the villains even knowing he was back from the grave until this scene, so they kill the Crow, making our whiny hero even more pathetic and ineffective and so Angel kicks his ass. Then they just leave again, because if they kill him while he's powerless, then the bad guys would win and the movie would be over. They reach the main Satanic temple run by Dennis Hopper, who marries the unholy couple and then gets stabbed by Bunny for reasons that are explained in a flashback that absolutely no one on Earth cares about at this point. Angel becomes Satan, but he has to boink Bunny to make it permanent, because otherwise the bad guys would win and the movie would be over. JC shows up, but he still sucks so Angel kicks his ass again, while a bunch of JC's Indian friends kill Tank in a scene so filled with boredom you'll glance over at the screen and sigh wearily. For his part, Angel, instead of taking Bunny right then and there in the Satanic temple and making himself permanently Satan--I mean, it's a Satanic temple, isn't it?--decides he and Bunny have to drive somewhere else entirely in order to do the deed. Because if they just did it right now the bad guys would--well, you get the picture.

JC, despite being crucified by SatAngel (he's playing "Jimmy Cuervo" in this movie, so the ham-handed Christ allegory is the movie's, not mine) is Only Resting, so he jumps in his stolen car and gives pursuit. (Things a reanimated spirit should never do: drive a car.) He catches up to Angel and gets his ass kicked yet again, because he's powerless without the Crow and Angel is Satan. (Ignore the fact that JC got pretty thrashed by W-UMMAC when he still had the Crow's power, at least until the script said it was time for him to win.) Then Danny Trejo joins the illustrious ranks of Hispanic Guys Playing American Indians Because Who'll Know the Difference, Right? when he leads an embarrassing "Indian" dance to bring the Crow back to life, even though the movie earlier claimed that the Crow's power comes from the Christian God. Okay, the original film's mythology was pretty vague, but it was pretty clearly not Judeo-Christian. We're a long way from the original's "Stop me if you've heard this one: Jesus Christ walks into a hotel. He hands the innkeeper three nails and asks, 'Can you put me up for the night?'" Okay, movie, just go back to aping the first film. Yes, you suck at that, too, but it's far better than your attempts at being original.

Blah blah, the Crow's back, JC starts no-selling Angel's attacks and kills him, and the Sun comes up, which I guess makes Bunny blind since now her plastic eyeballs don't work anymore(?). The End.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a shitty cash-in on the tragic death of a break-out movie star that showcases the worst of everyone involved in making it, including people that we know are capable of better and Tara Reid. Fuck this movie with seventeen crow beaks.

October 21, 2016

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero didn't suck seven different kinds of ass. I'd call it maybe a four-ass sucker.

Now I know what you're thinking: This one has forgotten whether its heat-sink is over capacity. You're also thinking, "But Carl Eusebius, a direct-to-video* prequel to an Eli Roth gorefest has to suck at least 6.3 different kinds of ass, according to my highly advanced scienmatifical calculations." But really, the worst part of this movie is that it keeps getting in the way of itself. Any time it starts to build any sort of tension or interest, it goes out of its way to shoot itself down like the Soviet air force on a jetliner full of innocent civilians. Well, and it shamelessly objectifies and abuses women, but I already said "Eli Roth". The thing is, yer old pal Carl Eusebius has seen far worse than this, even in the "stupid people aimlessly wandering around darkened rooms and occasionally shooting zombies" subgenre. I actually paid attention for the whole of this film's expansive 94-minute running time. At this level of filmmaking, that puts this movie in a higher category of suck. But I still hate it, because with just a little more effort, the movie could have ascended the quality mountain to reach the peak of "kind of okay", but the filmmakers just couldn't be bothered to strive for such a Herculean accomplishment.

Oh, and the objectifying and abusing women thing.

A shaggy-bearded No, Mr. Frodo! stars as the titular patient zero of the titular cabin fever, a disease that causes you to sprout unconvincing rash make-up and projectile vomit blood, but only if there's somebody close enough for you to spew infected puke all over. No, Mr. Frodo!, who I guess left his acting in his other beard, is being held in a secret cell on a tiny uninhabited island somewhere near the Dominican Republic because the cast and crew wanted a vacation in paradise while they shot their shitty wannabe-exploitation flick. Unfortunately for the people in the original Cabin Fever--that blistering sore on the collective ass of humanity--the scientists studying patient zero (that's scientist-speak for the first documented case of a disease, though in this movie he's inexplicably immune) are the dumbest motherfuckers on the face of our Earth and are totally incapable of preventing an outbreak, let alone actually creating a cure. They have a patient infected with a certain-death, uncurable blood-born pathogen, and not only do they allow him easy access to sharp instruments (he only has to yank a bit at the metal grating that is, of course, on the inside of his cell window rather than the outside), but they give him privacy in his cell so they can't even see him doing this. Good God, if you're going to be dumb enough to give him privacy (there's a reason cells in real prisons lack curtains, y'all), at least don't allow it where the easy-to-remove-and-slice-yourself-open-with metal grating is.

But they do, so the next time the moonsuited scientists come into his cell, No, Mr. Frodo! reaches under the hood of Guy Who Isn't the Main Evil Scientist and gives him a good NHL facewash (the guy's hood isn't even velcroed down or anything), and this causes a lockdown that quarantines the immediate environs of the cell. No, not the whole facility, just the 3 people who have speaking roles were in the area of the cell at the time. Everybody else gets to leave. This is despite the fact that Main Evil Scientist (who's really trying to be Kevin Spacey and sucking hard at it) earlier specifically said it wasn't an airborne pathogen. So why are Hot Blonde Assistant and Mangled English Scientist Lady Who Constantly Reminds Everyone That Patient Zero Is Still a Human Being being quarantined? They weren't even in the cell! Only Guy Who Isn't Main Evil Scientist snorted infected hobbit blood. How the hell is that a "containment breach" that the loudspeaker is bleating about? Nothing's been breached, and they have containment. No, Mr. Frodo! is still in the cell, and so is the one guy he infected. This ain't Captain Trips, here.

Fuck this movie.

Now we get to the significantly less interesting (no, really) part of the movie. As I said, every time this movie does something right or builds any kind of tension or interest at all, it invariably ruins it immediately, usually by cutting away from the interesting part to our merry band of thirtysomethings. (Actually the IMdb says two of the four are under 30, but they sure don't look it.) They're such stock stereotypes that I'm not going to bother giving you their names. Lord knows I never paid attention to whatever their names were. Let's see, we've got Nerd, his brother Jock (who seems to have gotten all the washboard abs in the family), and their best friend Stoner, along with Liara T'Soni as the woman the filmmakers paid enough to appear topless for about 2.5 seconds. I mean, it's so perfunctory you wonder why they even bothered. She's Jock's girlfriend (in the sole believable moment of this tripe, because a woman who looks like Liara isn't going to be with Nerd or Stoner), and she comes along on Nerd's bachelor party, which consists entirely of our foursome alone on the blood-puking plague island. I'm having flashbacks to House of the Dead here, and that ain't a good thing, since House of the Dead sucks donkey balls and Uwe Boll is a crime against humanity. After Nerd gets mad at Stoner and Jock for talking shit about his fiance (um, it's a bachelor party, you dumb asshole, that's what they're supposed to do), Liara follows him back to his cabin in the little ferry they're taking to Blood-Puke Isle and doffs her top right in front of him(!) because they apparently had a fling some summer back. So forget what I said about believable. I know Jock's a complete asshole and a lunkhead (and somehow Nerd's brother, even though they look about as alike as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rob Schneider), but, well, Nerd is kind of an asshole too (must run in the family), and he's got the build of a meth addict and Bon Jovi's hair. I refuse to believe Liara ever embraced eternity with the lovechild of Benedict Cumberbatch and Andy Dick. And now she's topless and coming on to him when her boyfriend/his brother is right outside the flimsy door to this tiny ferry cabin. Such is the raw animal magnetism of Nerd. He rather wisely leaves (probably the only sensible decision any of the characters makes), and that's it, folks. That's the first of the three functions the filmmakers have for Liara in their film. And believe me, showing a flash of nipples to Napoleon Dynamite over here is the classiest of the three.

I hate this movie.

Stoner and Nerd go off to smoke marijuana while Jock and Liara snorkel for a bit. The latter two run across the corpses of like 30 fish, causing Liara to freak out and head for the tent. Stoner and Nerd wonder what her problem is, to which Jock responds, "Liara thinks she saw something." Thinks she saw something? You swam past 30 dead fish, you dumb motherfucker! She wasn't alone, you were there! This wasn't a glimpse of a shape in the darkness. You're snorkeling in the Caribbean! The water was clear as day, and there were dozens of dead fish! You couldn't possibly have failed to see them. God, what an asshole. Jock also notices a rash on Liara's arm, which he thinks is sunburn(??). Uh, genius, sunburn on one part of one arm, and nowhere else? Even Jock realizes how stupid he sounds, so he next suggests an averse reaction to salt water(???). Um, Jock? Just stop with the suggestions, alright? She gets sick quickly, complaining of feeling hot, and the "sunburn" rapidly turns into bad make-up effects on her neck and arms. She has another freak-out, but Jock assures her some calamine lotion will fix her right up. As he goes to get it, she notices he has a rash, too, but Jock's still blasé about the whole thing. I'd be a bit more worried that you both turned up with the same rash at the same time after snorkeling with a bunch of fish corpses, ya mook. We then get the second reason Liara is here. It turns out that being infected with a blood-puking plague puts her in the mood, and Jock goes down on her right there in the tent. She lets out a blood-curdling scream that all three men mistake for orgasmic bliss, making it immediately clear that none of them has ever heard a woman orgasm outside of porn before. Proud of his work, Jock looks up so the camera can see his face and chest are covered in blood (I'm beginning to think the filmmakers have issues with women here)--uh, he didn't notice that??--and then she projectile vomits blood into his face. Um, okay, he's already ingested plenty of her blood through his earlier, uh, activity. Plus, she saw the same rash on the back of his leg, so he was already infected. See, this is what I mean about the film screwing up any hope of being any fucking good. In any decent movie, it would be the oral sex that infected him. But no, they have to pile it on by having her puke on him, and oh yeah, he was already infected just by swimming in the water with her, so none of this even matters. He was dead 10 minutes before this scene even started. Did anyone take even a moment to think about this stupid movie before they rolled camera? They're taking "gratuitous gore" to a whole new level, here.

Jock stumbles out of the tent, covered in blood, and deadpans. "I think Liara's sick." Gee, you think? The movie's so scattershot it's hard to tell what's intentionally funny and what's just hilariously bad writing, but I think that's one of three genuinely funny lines in the movie. It's suddenly almost night, and only then, hours after Liara's bloody puking episode, does Nerd decide to wander aimlessly around the island looking for help. Liara and Jock are getting sicker by the minute, though Liara is much worse off, I guess because she's a girl? I don't think infectious diseases work slower on lunkheaded oafs, so why does she get sick faster? Jock goes outside to disinfect his terrible make-up job but only succeeds in hurting himself. Liara comes out of the tent because she's having difficulty breathing, leading to Jock's immortal line, "Get back in the motherfuckin' tent!" I believe--one can never be too sure with this movie--that this is the second intentionally funny line. In the meantime, Main Evil Scientist is determined to continue experimenting on No, Mr. Frodo! even during the 48-hour quarantine, but they only have one moonsuit locked in with them, for the simple reason that if they had more suits the following scene couldn't happen. It turns out that Guy Who Isn't Main Evil Scientist is getting sick a lot faster than earlier cases, meaning there must be a new strain of the disease. Main Evil Scientist asks Hot Blond Assistant if she trusts him, to which she responds, "With my life"(??). So I'm guessing he didn't get her from a temp agency, then. He puts on the moonsuit and injects Guy Who Isn't Him with a potential cure, without strapping the guy down or anything, and HBA doesn't even put on a surgical mask. Guy starts having an episode, screaming and thrashing around, so MES demands that HBA help hold him down. She begs off, since, you know, she doesn't have a suit and the guy might puke blood all over her and infect her with the New and Improved Blood-Puking Plague, but he calls her out about her trust issues, so she comes over and helps. Suddenly, just when we most expect it, Guy pukes blood all over her. I mean, he fucking aims at her. MES is closer and moonsuited, so Guy could've puked on him, but Guy must have a grudge against HBA because he absolutely nails her, with nary a drop hitting MES. There's then a genuinely effective scene as HBA seals MES in the room with Guy (he looks at her like this is some big betrayal, but, um, you're still in the suit, and oh yeah you just got her death-puked, blockhead) and runs horrified to the chemical shower, stripping off her clothes (but on her salary, only down to her bra and panties) and trying in vain to wash the blood off, even though we know and she knows that it's too late and she's doomed to become a blood-puking zombie.

So we immediately cut away to Nerd wandering in the jungle at night bickering with Stoner over Nerd's fling with Liara that one summer. Yes! Because when your two best friends are dying horribly, Stoner, that's the time to start shit with your third best friend over petty drama from years ago!

See what I mean about the movie sabotaging itself? It doesn't know what it wants to be. Sometimes it's an almost kind of okay outbreak movie, then it's a terrible stoner comedy, then it's a (not at all) sex(y) romp, then it's a zombie movie. Each part of the movie is almost entirely self-contained and keeps getting in the way of the others. It's a Frankenstein's monster of a movie, only Frank never got around to actually sewing the parts together.

Let's speed this up. Since Liara is dying back in the motherfuckin' tent, Stoner has to play the "girl" part in the final, 28 Days Later rip-off part of the film (i.e., he has to be panicky and generally useless and as a result cause the very situation from which the hero has to rescue him). He and Nerd break into the research facility. They see some blood, leading to the movie's third and last intentionally funny line ("Don't touch it!" "Why the fuck would I touch it?"). Stoner immediately panics and gets them trapped inside. Meanwhile, Jock hears from Main Evil Scientist on his radio that he can help with the cure if Jock comes to the facility, so Jock tries to help Liara to her feet but instead tears all the skin off her arms. I hate it when that happens. He flees alone to the facility and meets up with the others, and they find that all the scientists outside the quarantine zone are blood-puking zombies who want to murder them, because that's just what zombies do. (So, the 3 people closest to No, Mr. Frodo! and quarantined with him weren't infected, and everyone farther away and not quarantined was?**) One of them tries to shoot Stoner, but when he fires his gun, it blows off his hand and sends it rocketing into his own head, killing him. My God, I laughed for a solid minute at that one. I think it's supposed to be funny, but it's still so dumb that I was laughing at the movie rather than with it. The zombie's gun turns his own hand into a deadly projectile, to himself. And where did the bullet go? Anyway, they fight their way through the zombified staff and reach the quarantined area, where Hot Blond Assistant tries to trick them into telling her where their boat is. They're dumb enough to start to tell her, even though her clothes are bloody and she's talking to them through a surgical mask, but then Mangled English Lady Scientist appears and shouts at her to "show them your skin". No, she's not trying to get HBA naked. She just wants her to take off the mask. HBA hems and haws about taking off her mask, and really, what's the point here? Even these two dumbasses have the brainpower to figure out something ain't right since she's being so squirrelly about taking her mask off. But the movie needs a stupid "scare" reveal, so she finally does it and we see that she is now Return of the Living Dead Rip-Off Zombie. Seriously, the make-up fucking blows. The guys act all shocked, but uh, didn't you just fight like a dozen plague zombies? What's so shocking about this one?

Anyway, Rip-Off Zombie escapes and makes for the raft. Just as she reaches it, Liara emerges from the tent, looking less human than she did when she was blue and had scalp crests, ready for her third function in the movie, the *sigh* inevitable cat fight. Since deception went so well for Rip-Off Zombie last time, she tries to bluff her way past Liara, but Liara got her doctorate before she was even 100 years old, so no dice. Rip-Off Zombie then doffs her surgical mask in the traditional "show my scary-ass face" ritual of challenge to estrogen-fueled combat, and the fight to the death between two characters who are both about to die from a horrible flesh-eating virus begins! Liara seems to be getting the better of it, despite not having any skin on her arms and never once hitting Rip-Off with a Singularity, but then Rip-Off hulks up, calls Liara a pureblood bitch, and starts whaling on her, pushing her inside the tent and choking her, even though Rip-Off got puked on by Guy Who Isn't Main Evil Scientist, whose version of the plague the movie earlier said was way more fast-acting, so I don't get why she isn't a hell of a lot weaker than Liara. In fact, given how fast GWIMES died and how much time has passed, I don't know why Rip-Off isn't dead already. But then the movie once again almost, almost redeems itself, as Liara reaches desperately for the giant black dildo that Stoner and Jock gave Nerd as his bachelor party present. I went from shouting, "Goddamn it Liara, put the skinny bitch in Stasis!" to "Yes! Yes, beat her to death with a massive ebony phallus! Do it!" But she doesn't do it. Well, she does, but again, the movie torpedoes itself with Trumpian skill. Instead of the classic "Grab the giant black dong and smack the zombie bitch in the face with it before she chokes you to death or you die of blood-puke syndrome" (man, if I had a dollar for every time I've seen that old gambit), she just gives up reaching for the dildo and instead grabs Rip-Off's elbows and breaks her forearms in half. Okay, how did Liara know she could do that? And how can Rip-Off exert enough force to choke a bitch when her bones are so brittle they break in half when Liara squeezes them? I don't think this movie understands how muscles work. Then Liara gets on top of her and grabs the dildo and beats her to death with it and no, movie, I'm sorry, the moment has passed. You had it, and you blew it. You had me hot and bothered and ready to go down on you, and then your phone rang and you fucking stopped to answer it, leaving me to just put my clothes back on and leave. Nope, too late, you have to beat a zombie bitch to death with a huge rubber phallus as soon as you get the chance. No trying to go back to it later.

Then of course Liara immediately dies. Goddamn this movie.

Blah blah, only No, Mr. Frodo!, Nerd, and Mangled English survive and get back to the ferry. Why yes, there is a slow-motion shot of them walking away from the facility as it explodes, thank you for asking! But the movie keeps going, so you know some kind of stupid fuck-you-to-the-audience twist is coming. Sure enough, No, Mr. Frodo! brings Nerd and Mangled English two bottles of water, which they immediately start swigging from. Now I know blood-born pathogens aren't easily transmitted, and people who suffer from them already face a stigma because of people's fear of disease and abject ignorance of even the most basic science, but really, given what these two have been through, I think it's reasonable for them to refuse to chug down something handed to them by Mr. I Started the Whole Blood-Puking Death Plague. But they gulp it down without a second thought just so Mangled English can intuit No, Mr. Frodo!'s betrayal, and we now see the water is tinted red, which it clearly wasn't in the earlier shots. Oh, and No, Mr. Frodo! just pistol-murders the ferry pilot instead of infecting him too because, um....The film leaves Nerd's state ambiguous, pointedly not revealing whether he has a rash or not. But my money's on he's dead, since he doesn't appear in Cabin Fever and oh yeah the disease kills everyone except hobbits. And no, there's absolutely no indication at any point in the film of why No, Mr. Frodo! murders everybody in the end. He was angry because he was locked up by the scientists and his wife and son are dead, yes, but Nerd wasn't even involved in any of that except to break him out of the facility, and Mangled English was the only one in the facility who gave a damn about him and tried to help him. No Mr. Frodo! specifically told her that her "compassion makes [her] different from the others". Not different enough for him not to murder her, I guess.

And you know what? There's not a single cabin anywhere in this movie.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, get back in the motherfuckin' tent!

* Yeah, it got limited release in theaters, but "limited release" for a flick like this is code for "dump it somewhere cheap and dirty so we can technically say it wasn't direct-to-video". Sorry, hack filmmakers, but Carl Eusebius is not bound by The Man's technicalities. This movie doesn't deserve to be screened alongside such worthies as Transformers: Oh God Another One and Rise of the Dawn of the Day of the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

** Hot Blond Assistant infected a lab mouse with the virus as part of the experiments (I guess?) but then dropped it on the floor, so it escaped quarantine and infected the people outside. (Yes, she was holding the thing in her hand, and while it was awake, yet.) And she doesn't even tell anybody about it! Whoops, death-mouse got away, oh well. That's how Mangled English figures out the big twist. When Nerd tells her that the people outside traced their infection to a mouse, she remembers that No, Mr. Frodo! sang "Three Blind Mice" at her one time when he was raving about being experimented on. But, but...No, Mr. Frodo! had nothing to do with the mouse escaping! He couldn't even have seen it happen, since it was him being shocked by cattle prods that startled HBA into dropping the mouse in the first place. And Mangled English knows that, because she was standing right next to her. Stupid movie.

August 24, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Random Subtitle is the story of how superheroes are great to have around unless you make the fatal mistake of attempting to bring one of their friends to justice.

Now let me start by saying I'm not exactly a fan of Marvel, or of comic books in general. My teenage boy phase of comic collecting ended around age 15 and I haven't given two shits about comic books since then. After that, I watched the occasional comic book film, and they were kind of decent. I liked the first X-Men film alright (from waaay back in 2000), and I watched Iron Man on the airplane and found it to be a movie. But basically, once I saw Spider-Man II and The Dark Knight (the latter about 3 years after it came out), I was just kind of done with superhero films. So I haven't seen The Avengers or the other Captain America: Random Subtitle movies or any of those Hulk things or any of the X-Men or Wolverine movies that came after X-Men: The One Where Everybody Dies. I've seen both of the Fantastic Four movies that have the CGI character playing the Invisible Woman and both of the hysterically silly Ghost Rider movies, and the bottomlessly shitty Daredevil and its even more shitty spin-off? sequel? funeral march? Elecktra, but those I sought out because they're crap. The other Marvel movies, to judge by Iron Man: The Iron Man, seem to be a generic, bland paste that don't really stand out enough to be either good or bad. They're just there.

I mean, for action sequences and super-powered beings punching each other, Spider-Man II seemed to be the best there ever was or will be. And The Dark Knight is the best comic book film in every respect but that of action sequences and super-powered beings punching each other. So I didn't see much point in watching any more such movies. What were they going to do that hadn't already been done better by those two films?

To judge by Captain America: Whatever, the answer is absolutely fucking nothing.

This movie was pretty bad, in ways I wasn't expecting. I thought it would just be another Iron Man: The Iron Man that I could put on to help me sleep on the plane while Iron Man punched Captain America and Captain America punched Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson struggled to speak in a remotely human fashion. Instead, I was confronted by a morally reprehensible mess, in which Captain America (and the movie is positively loath to address him as such) critically injures numerous police officers, betrays all his friends, and causes the deaths of dozens of people solely to keep his terrorist murderer friend from being arrested by the proper authorities. (To be completely fair, Cap and Iron Man do punch each other, and Scarlett Johansson remains as robotic and unnaturally stiff as ever.)

Now I never liked Captain America. I didn't dislike him, either. I just didn't care about him one way or the other, because he's basically Marvel's version of Superman. Not in the powers department (Supes is essentially Christ himself descended, while Cap is more the pushing of human physiology to its absolute limit), but in the morality/leadership department. If Superman is the Last Boy Scout of Krypton, Cap is George Washington with Arnold Schwarzenegger's physique. When I was in my comics phase, I was much more interested in the antihero asskickers who gave the bad guys what they deserved and did it with a whole lot of attitude, guys like Wolverine and the Ghost Rider. (Okay, Ghostie didn't really have attitude, but he had a flaming skull for a head. That's like 1000 cool points right there.) I didn't have any patience for namby-pamby do-gooders like Cap and Supes who tried to bring their enemies in alive instead of bringing the rain to wash the scum from the streets.

Now of course, I'm a bit older and so would probably be moar interested in the moral dilemmas of the goody-two-shoes types, if I wasn't also old enough to not give a shit about comic books any more. But what I don't understand is why people who are fans of Captain America aren't pitching a fit over this lousy movie. I don't know that much about Cap's character, but what little I do know is completely pissed on by the makers of Captain America: Does It Matter, Really?. And Jesus, how bad do you have to fuck up to be the worse half of a double-header in which the other film is Batman v. Superman? That's right, people I've never heard of who made Captain America, I watched your film back-to-back with a fucking Hack Snyder film, and you lost. When your story is less interesting than that of the man who gave us 300, you need to hang up your movie cameras and go home. I can't fucking believe I watched the two biggest superhero movies of this year and the only thing I enjoyed at all was Ben Affleck in a batsuit. If you spent a million jillion dollars on a movie and Ben "Gigli" Affleck was the best thing about it, stop making movies!

The plot, I guess. The Avengers are split in two over a proposal to actually subject them to oversight. That is, the United Nations wants to have power over the Avengers' going somewhere to deal with a problem, as opposed to their current M.O. of brazenly violating the sovereignty of any nation they please in order to handle whichever situations they see fit, without asking anybody's permission or having any kind of accountability. This is primarily because the Avengers have, according to this movie, a pretty bad track record of getting innocent bystanders killed when they perform their feats of heroic derring-do. Let me say again, the movie says the Avengers' actions have gotten an untold number of civilians killed. (Though as Cap explains to some girl who's so powerful she seems to eliminate the need to even have the rest of the team, she isn't responsible for all those people's deaths because, you know, the bad guys started it. Yes, it's the felony-murder doctrine, applied to people who can level entire cities with a thought.)

So the Avengers split, with Iron Man leading the "we gotta stop being vigilantes" side and Cap leading the "fuck the normies, we handle shit our own way" side. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right: Captain America, the conscious of the Marvel Universe, says screw the United Nations and people who don't have superpowers. We don't answer to them. We go where we want when we want, because the UN might, like, investigate a problem to see if it warrants sending in a super-powered Scarlett Johansson, and we'll have none of that, mister. I just want to make sure it's clear that Captain fucking America is taking the position that super-powered beings--or at least the ones on his team--should remain laws unto themselves, answerable and accountable to no one. That's right, Captain America, who in his last movie was in S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization of superheroes...answerable to the United Nations. This leads to an incredibly boring and silly fight as the Avengers fight each other in truly the saddest "Who would win in a fight between Superman and the Hulk?" that little boys have argued about since time immemorial. ("No way, Xenophane! Apollo would totally kick Hermes's ass if they wrestled!") It's embarrassing to the human race that the biggest movie of 2016 has all the dramatic tension of two 9 year olds arguing on the playground.

I remember being confused when I first heard about the titular "civil war". Surely, I thought, I'd misheard. Cap should be calling for an agreement to work with the governments of the world and not running around the world as uncontrollable vigilantes, and Tony Stark should be telling the world to kiss his ass, determined to do things his way. Am I the voice crying in the wilderness, here? But upon seeing the film, it's even worse than that, since Cap doesn't even stand against the agreement on principle. No, he opposes it mostly because those governments are trying to arrest his buddy Bucky, since they (and Cap) have very good reason to think the Buckster planted a bomb at a UN meeting that killed like 60 people.

I'd like to mention that again: Cap also has good reason to think Bucky committed this terrorist act, as he sees the evidence himself. In fact, at no point does Cap suggest Bucky is not guilty of this crime. (Of course he isn't guilty, because that might have been interesting, but for most of the film Cap doesn't know that.) He simply assaults dozens of police officers, causes a fight that paralyzes Don Cheadle from the waist down (the Black Guy Always Gets Crippled First), and breaks his fellow rebelling Avengers out of prison (where, need I even say, they absolutely belong as they have knowingly and willfully and repeatedly violated the law). And the movie ends, by God, the movie ends with Tony Stark admitting Cap is right and grovelling in front of him. Yes, the man who made the difficult yet absolutely morally correct decision is forced to kowtow to the very asshole who betrayed his comrades and willfully became a criminal so he could protect Timothy fucking McVeigh. And we're expected to cheer this moment! God, I want to punch this movie.

In the last 4 minutes, I just sketched out in my head the outline for what might have been a decent Captain America film with the same general plot. Of course this time, Cap will be on the right side, that of law and order and oversight and not being a fucking answers-to-nobody mete-out-God's-own-justice vigilante. Being presented with evidence of Bucky's guilt, Cap reluctantly does the right thing and agrees to work with law enforcement to bring him in, while Tony Stark castigates him for selling out his friend to the normies and vowing that the Avengers will handle the situation in-house, apprehending Bucky themselves and handing him over to the authorities only if they determine him guilty. The film would have Cap slowly realizing that some of the people's he's working with are less than committed to bringing Bucky in alive and actually giving him a fair trial and are more interested in Osama bin Laden-ing him in revenge for the terrorist attack. At the same time, Stark is dropping hints that Bucky is being framed, testing Cap's resolve for sticking with doing things the right way. The writers could take it from there. We'd still get our fanservice "Avengers fight each other" scene, but at least this time it might have some weight since it has Cap doing the right thing for the right reasons (putting aside personal feelings to follow the rule of law) and Stark doing the wrong thing but still for the right reasons (trying to save a possibly innocent man from a system that isn't giving him a fair shake). We might even get some *gaspshockhorror* tension. Can Cap bring Bucky in alive while still working with the corrupt law enforcement that's trying to take him out?

Not only would this scenario be more in keeping with each character's established, er, character (and let me stress again that I've never cared one whit about either Iron Man or Captain America, but I hate it when characters act completely out of character), but it would be a Captain America film that centers on, oh I don't know, fucking Captain America instead of being a half-assed Avengers 3.

Captain America: Avengers 2 1/2 is a morally repugnant character assassination of a character I never gave a shit about anyway. The people who made this movie need to get their fuckin' heads checked after getting their asses handed to them by Ben Affleck and Hack Snyder in the storytelling and character departments, something I didn't think was possible under the physical laws governing this universe.

Oh well. At least the, what, 3rd incarnation of Spider-Man in the last 9 years was pretty nifty. I'm glad somebody was behaving in character around here.

July 19, 2016

Revisit: Independence Day

Now that Hollywood has proven beyond any doubt that the American film industry is totally out of ideas and the studio bean counters will only greenlight something that has some sort of name recognition by not only making, but actually releasing and publicly promoting a sequel to Independence Day, I feel the time is right to revisit the original artistically bankrupt naked cash-grab.

Independence Day is the story of Cousin Eddie saving the human race just to make President Lone Starr proud, while Cypher Raige and Jeff Goldblum destroy an entire alien species with their unstoppable quipping powers.

Written and directed by the Mad German himself, Roland "2012" Emmerich, Independence Day wipes out most of the human race in "put-this-in-the-trailer" money shots of (entirely American) landmarks being blown up real good and then treads water for an hour before Steve Jobs's technological brilliance wipes out our alien oppressors. I know people regard Uwe Boll as the worst thing to ever come out of Germany, and they're right, of course. But Emmerich's in the top 5, ranking just below Hitler and just above Angela Merkel.

Ah, 1996. Cast yourselves back to a more innocent time, when movies consisting of nothing more than offensive ethnic stereotype and explosions edited together with shots of people shouting at display screens could be made by people who weren't Michael Bay. Yes, in the mid '90s, guys in suits who really should've known better would routinely hand tens of millions of dollars to a goofy German who got his start in America directing a shitty action film starring Guile and Ivan Drago. Your old pal Carl Eusebius actually liked Independence Day when he first saw it in the theater, though I suspect that had as much to do with the fact that I saw it with the girl I was in love with at the time, the year before she backed out of going to the prom with me like a week before the date (not bitter, guise, honest) as with the fact that I was a dumb teenager who gave a pass to Con Air for Christ's sake. Though even at that age I had functioning brain power greater than that of your average sea slug and so hated The Rock, so I suspect that if I hadn't spent the entire evening with my Latina dream, I would've had much less patience with the parade of idiocy that is Independence Day.

Speaking of parades, in true disaster movie fashion, Independence Day features a parade of B-grade stars of the day, while of course giving them nothing to do apart from staring at the sky, staring at display screens, and quipping. We've got President Whitmore (Lone Starr), a former fighter pilot (more believable in 1996, a mere 5 years after the Gulf War, the first war that was totally indistinguishable from a video game) for no other reason than to allow him to personally lead the final counterattack on the Communists terrorists aliens, and his wife Marilyn (Laura Roslin), a woman who dies so Whitmore will have even moar reason to kill the aliens when he personally leads the final counterattack. (You can see why Emmerich got Academy Award nominee Laura Roslin for this meaty role.) There's computer whiz Jeff Goldblum, who brings down the aliens' impenetrable shield using a virus he uploads to them on a Mac (because computer geniuses use those instead of actual computers) and his offensive Jewish stereotype father (Judd Hirsch) and offensive gay stereotype boss (Harvey Fierstein). Then there are a bunch of military guys who don't really do much, wasting the talents of Animal Mother and Robert Loggia, plus a small roll for Harry Connick, Jr. when he was inexplicably allowed to be in movies. The star of the film is the special effects department, while the lead role is assayed by His Freshness as a Marine Corps pilot so good he's able to fly an alien fighter just by watching a group of them blow his squadron to Hell.

Plot? Oh, alright, if you haven't figured it out already from the set-up and cast of "characters". Alien ships show up, we don't really do much, aliens annihilate most of our major cities, we attack and lose because they have shields, we don't really do much, Jeff Goldblum creates a Mac virus that can take down the shields, we attack while Jeff Goldblum and Hitch use a captured alien fighter to meet up with the main alien ship and upload the virus, we blow up all of their ships real good, the end. There, I just saved you two and a half hours of your life.

Really, this film has more down time than Vancouver construction workers. I left out a dozen extraneous characters. There's the subplot of Agent Jay's stripper-girlfriend (played by Vivica Not-Actually-A.-Fox) rescuing the First Lady in a dump truck just long enough for her to share an emotional scene with the Prez in which Lone Starr utterly fails to hold up his end of the scene, and Cousin Eddie's family who hates him (as well they should), and the Secretary of Defense whose only purpose is to be wrong about everything, and stripper-girlfriend's idiot friend who thinks the giant ominous flying saucers hovering menacingly over every major city are friendly, and the President's advisor who used to have a thing going with Jeff Goldblum (do you think this world-destroying crisis will rekindle their romance? have you ever seen a movie before?) and Data's star-breaking turn as an offensive geek-scientist stereotype that would be kicked off the set of The Big Bang Theory for being too broad. God, this movie is tedious even to summarize.

Probably the biggest problem with Independence Day--apart from its being stupid, boring, poorly acted, poorly directed, annoyingly jingoistic and simplistic, and having Randy Quaid in it--is that it's fundamentally a feel-good movie that involves the deaths of probably a billion people and the likely deaths of a billion more. I don't know, I just don't see us blowing up the aliens real good as a happy ending here, though the film certainly does, with triumphant music and hugs and kisses for our heroes all around. (Our male heroes, of course. Despite having so many goddamn characters, there isn't a single female character that has any impact on the plot. That's right, the military is so short of pilots for the final attack that they draft the drunk, insane, drug-addled fugitive from justice Randy Quaid (who plays a drunk in the movie, too) because he flew military planes 25 years earlier and after that flew crop-dusters, yet there is not a single woman pilot. The human race may be about to be wiped out in this all-or-nothing last-gasp attack, but gender roles must be maintained!)

I mean, I'm not saying the movie should've been unrelentingly bleak. It is a stupid disaster movie, after all, and not everything with Laura Roslin in it has to be Battlestar Galactica. But come on, people shouldn't be wildly cheering the destruction of the alien ships at the end. A glimmer of hope, a sense of relief, okay, but not unabashed joy and celebration. Billions are dead. I don't think it's time to break out the party hats. Independence Day has been summarized as a '50s alien invasion movie with '90s effects, but that does a grave disservice to its awfulness. Yes, the movie is basically Baby's First Attempt to Copy Golden Age Sci-Fi, so it takes its plot straight out of a '50s flick, definitely including the treading water portion in the middle. (Though in the '50s that was because, for these low-budget films, shooting white guys in lab coats standing around talking was cheap. I don't know what this movie's excuse is.) But it '90s up everything else, and not just the effects. You've got military porn, latent homophobia (whatever it takes to sell tickets, eh, Roland?), the stunt casting of Harry Connick, Jr., the Fresh Prince defeating the aliens with his fists, people staring, Jeff Goldblum saying "Must go faster", people quipping about genocide, close-ups of Harvey Fierstein, a lame environmentalist message, people quipping about anal probes, product placement, moar staring, nuclear problem-solving, cheesy speechifying, people quipping about space travel, occupation shaming, even moar staring, and Animal Mother prevented from being awesome.

Independence Day is long, boring, and stupid, lacking even one whit of imagination, emotion, or normal human interaction. Or as I prefer to call it, a Roland Emmerich movie. I'm sure the sequel will give us moar of the same. And I suppose I'm okay with that, as long as there's no terrible fake Godzilla in it.