Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Objective (2008)

Well, the director of The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick) has done it again.  He made another movie.  It's almost as good as Altered, the movie his co-writer and co-director (Eduardo Sanchez) from Blair Witch made.  Basically, what we got here is Aliens.  Only, it's told from the perspective of the Paul Reiser character.  Also, there ain't no fucking aliens in this thing.   Also, minimal action.  And, it takes place in the blighted deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.  Throw in some mysticism and some awkward performances and we've got ourselves a picture.  Still, it was all kind of...interesting.

Jonas Ball stars as CIA agent, Benjamin Keynes.  Keynes is in Afghanistan weeks after 9-11 under the guise of leading a mission to overthrow the Taliban.  He recruits a not-so special forces unit to aid in his mission.  Their goal is to find some Afghani cleric and record a statement from him that will apparently dissolve the Taliban.  Somehow.  Along the way, they pick up Abdul, an Afghani guide who will take them through the treacherous mountains.  Also, there's an Aussie in the unit for some reason.  And none of the troops look particularly fit.  The captain looks like Steve Austin after a year long bender and with a pasted on beard.   Still, I found myself captivated by this bullshit for some reason.

Keynes narrates the action in the drollest of monotones.  He's Fox Mulder on prozac.  He scans the horizon with his infra-red, and radiation detecting, equipment.  After a brief firefight leaves one of their men dead, and no enemy bodies, things get weird.  The mountains of Afghanistan hold many secrets.  Lights dance around the sky, compasses are useless, GPS systems fail, radio communication is fruitless, the water in their canteens is replaced with sand.  Keynes isn't opening up about anything.  His narration is using the present tense. We understand his survival is no guarantee.

I'm not sure where this thing was filmed (and I'm not about to look it up) but it seemed to use a pretty authentic location.  Could have been Death Valley for all I know.  The picture provides few answers and is the better for it.  We got weird triangles in the sky, men evaporating, guys jumping off cliffs and, in one case, some poor bastard wakes up to find himself nothing but guts and clothing (he didn't actually wake up, sorry for making it seem like he did).  I'm not sure what the picture is saying about the war in the Middle East.  I'm not sure it's saying anything.  We all know war is hell.  Sometimes you live.  Sometimes you get evaporated by a giant triangle in the sky. 

Well, if we are to believe the South Park mythos, what these guys were up against was none other than Moses and his army of macarroni pictures.  Of course, this is the real world and so South Park mythology gets thrown out the fucking window.  What we have here is something deeper than that.  Something involving satellite pictures of some weird mystical phenomenom in some Afghanistan mountain range.  Not sure if that phenomenon has anything to do with Osama Bin Laden, but that's who we were searching for in those mountains immediately after 9-11 went down.  Not these guys though.  Shit man, I think Muhammad shows up at the end.  Is it ok to have an actor portray him in shadow or is that shit a death sentence?  I don't know, but I hope Daniel Myrick lives long enough to make another movie.  This one wasn't bad.

The Curse (1987)

The Curse is one of those 80s type films involving a meteor crashing to Earth in, or around, a small town and messing shit up for the yokel locals.  In this case, it lands on the property of abusive farmer Nathan Hayes, played by the spectacularly sinister Claude Atkins.  Nathan is a puritanical monster ruling over his familial unit with an iron backhand.  The meteor contains an oozing menace that infects his crops as well as the town's water supply.  The crops mutate into worm infested apples or something, while the tainted water changes those who imbibe into puss spewing creatures of the night (I think).

Loosely based on Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" and directed with a sure hand by David Keith (yes, the actor), The Curse is an enjoyable tale well told.  Atkin's plays the Hayes patriarch as a cross between Mitchum's Harry Powell and....well....a puss dripping monster.  Able support is given by Will Wheaton as Nathan's ill fitting (adopted?) son and John Schneider (yep, Bo Duke) tags along as a scientist researching the town's odd happenings.

A side story about evil developers out to buy the Hayes farm on the cheap so they can put in strip malls or some shit only adds to the fun.  Also enjoyable, is the way Nathan continues to deny anything strange is happening even after his wife tries to eat their children.  Creepiness ensues after she's been locked in the cellar.  And then the house disintegrates for some unknowable reason that left me scratching my head.  Even some horribly shoddy effects work (meteor on a stick, anyone?) can't undermine this thing.

As an added bonus, here's a quickie review of The Curse II:  The Bite.  Well, shit man, this one is just a couple good scenes strung together by what seems like hours of tedious bullshit.  We got a guy and his girlfriend driving through the desert (were they running from someone or something?  Can't remember).  They stop to do some sightseeing on the side of the road when the guy is bit by a radioactive snake and then, SLOWLY, his arm starts to change into one (a snake I mean).  The two good scenes are the one where the young couple drive over a highway littered with snakes, which are beaten and battered in slow motion, and also when the guy's arm changes into a snake, while in bed with his girlfriend.  Then the guy chases his girl through some drainage pipes or whatever.  None of this has anything to do with the first picture.  Not much to recommend here.  Well, except for Jill Schoelen,  as the girlfriend, who is fairly adorable.  I can't remember if she got undressed in front of the camera or not.  Find out for yourself.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triangle (2009)

Wow, that poster is one giant fucking ball of spoilage.  I expected the picture to be about a group of young sailors stuck in the Bermuda triangle getting eaten by sea monsters or some shit (this was before I saw the poster).  At the very least, maybe some syfy channel level of storytelling and special effects thrown in.  Then I recognized the name Christopher Smith.  He did the disappointing (although not completely devoid of merit) Severance and also the fairly chilling horrors lurking in the London subway picture called Creep.  Neither picture blew me away but both have style and atmosphere.  Maybe this is the time Smith actually brings a story to match his visuals.  It doesn't hurt that the thing stars Melissa George (30 Days of Night).

Well, what we got here instead is a nice little twisty story marred by some atrocious computer generated imagery.  I guess water is pretty tough to render.  Anyway, this is the story of a single mother named Jesse (George) who goes sailing with some friends.  I know what you're thinking.  They end up in the Bermuda triangle.  Well, you'd be wrong.  Their boat is called the Triangle.  Also, they end up in some other triangle type anomaly somewhere off the coast of Florida.  One moment they're sailing along nicely.  The next moment the wind stops abruptly and their boat is overturned (tensest moment of the picture) by a massive storm that swoops in out of nowhere.  Also, weird distress call came over the radio just before they were flipped.  Also, Jesse has been weirdly antisocial the whole trip and now they're all clutching to the hull of their overturned ship excluding the one girl that was swept out to sea and presumably drowned.  And then a large cruise ship called "The Aeon Flux" or some shit, looking like something from the early 20th century pulls up next to them.  Saved!  Not so fast.

So, they board the ship and then shit starts getting even weirder.  They keep hearing someone else, while not seeing them.  It's a ghost ship.   It's old looking.  Their ship was called "The Triangle".  Jesse is acting strange.  Blood is all over the ship.  Some guy with a sack on his head starts picking them off one by one or two at a time.  Who the fuck is piloting the ship, if anyone?  Well, I can't really discuss the movie in any more detail without spoiling more shit, so here goes:

Turns out they went through some sort of time rift.  The person they spotted on the ship was actually Jesse (Jesse from the past).  The guy with the sack on his head killing them all with a shotgun or an axe is actually a gal.  A gal named Jesse (from the past).  Why is she killing everyone?  Well, turns out the only way to set things back and give them all a chance of escaping the ship is for them all to end up dead (even Jesse).  Once they're all dead I guess "The Triangle" will appear and the friends will board the boat.  If present Jesse can prevent that from happening or, escape the ship when the other boat appears then maybe she can make it back home to Florida to pick up her special needs kid from school or something.  Anyway, it's going to take a lot of trial and error for things to get straightened out.   If this sounds like the movie Timecrimes its because they have an almost identical plot except this one takes place on a boat.  We got the time travel angle and the guy (or gal) wearing a sack on their head angle.  See, basically the same picture.

I enjoyed it.  Melissa George gives a terrific performance as Jesse.  She's vulnerable, menacing, sympathetic, fierce, etc.  Lots of adjectives to describe her character so we can surmise she did a good job.  Lots of twists and turns in this thing.  The action becomes a bit repetitive at times but never really tedious.  Some truly shocking moments in this thing like when the one girl, after being knifed by Jesse in the gut, crawls up to some deck only to realize she's already crawled up there to die 50 times previously.  Or, when Jesse hits a seagul with her car and goes to drop it over a ravine only to discover hundreds of seaguls piled up below.  Real interesting shit like that.  Unfortunately, all the other performances are overwhelmed by George's.  We could really give a shit about anyone else.  They seem like fine people, but fuck 'em.

I spoiled a lot but there are still a couple moments of goodness left for you to discover.  Like the scene where Jesse is revealed to be an abusive parent.  Is that  Jesse Prime or one of her copies slapping the shit out of her retarded kid for spilling paint?  Who the fuck knows?  Also, sorry for spoiling that Jesse makes it home so she can beat on her kid.  I promise that's the last spoiler.  I dug this picture.  It kept me guessing.  I rank it slightly behind Creep and way ahead of Severance (maybe I should see that one again to be sure).  I guess Smith is at his best when he sticks to the dark and dour stuff, while leaving comedy-horror concoctions to the experts.*

*There are no experts.   A good horror/comedy almost always happens by accident.  Most good movies with elements of both are either comedy heavy or horror heavy.  An American Werewolf In London is the only example I can come up with that's a perfect blend.  Can you think of any?