Friday, June 29, 2012

Fire from the skies.

Prometheus is a film about a group of people following an alien signal to a mysterious planet full of dead aliens.



 Seriously though, Prometheus is one of the best sci-fiction films i've ever seen! (Well, since District 9 anyway!) i had never been so excited to see a film before, nor have i ever been this excited about a film after seeing it.

Just a quick aside, i love that trailer, it's right up there with this Watchmen trailer. It even sounds like it's sampling the same Pumpkins song. Both of them just give me chills everytime i watch.

Now there's a lot going on in Prometheus, a lot, and i don't mean plot wise, i already covered that part. This film is not only a commentary on Alien, but on the things that created Alien and the things created from Alien. It's a movie about quoting movies.

Well what do i mean by this? Think of David (Michael Fassbender), when we first meet him, alone on the ship, what is he doing? He's watching Lawrence of Arabia, he dyes and brushes his hair so he'll look more like O'Toole's Lawrence. When they arrive on the planet and find a deserted building, he says "There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing." When questioned, he responds "Oh, it's just a quote from a film I like."
Even later, after discovering the black goo, he quotes the film once again, "Big things have small beginnings."

The movie opens like 2001: A Space Odyssey, we see the sun rising over the Earth. In 2001, a black monolith appears, and causes changes in the monkeys, setting them on the course to be man. In Prometheus, we cut to an Engineer, a statuesque god.

Oh Rexy, you're so sexy.
He drinks the black goo, we see it burn through his veins, his DNA breaks down and reforms, creating new life. Again, something alien, setting the course of man. This scene tells us everything we need to know about the goo, it is the fire of the gods. And after that there's a neat shot of Shaw (Noomi Rapace), uncovering the truth, along with us, who witnessed it, in some cave in Ireland. Not sure if that's quoting another film or not. But i like it.

Not all of the film quoting is direct, it's not all like the Weyland hologram being right out of Jurassic Park, or crushing Fifeld's head being right out of Aliens, there are more genre references, things that operate with a film logic. Two teens get lost in the woods, do drugs, and die. Wielding an axe to thwart off some unstoppable killer (and goddamn do i love that space-axe). And just little things like that, though my favourite moment in the film is when David directly quotes Blade Runner, but more on that later. Now do all these elements make it a bit of a patchwork Frankenstein's monster? Well, sure! Why not? Quotes or not, the film still stands on it's own two feet, whether you find them gruesome are not is up to you.

Now, i've read a lot of complaints, and i mean a lot, more than any person should, about this film. But i did notice two common things in all of the complaints, either the people weren't paying attention to what was on the screen, or people were expecting this to be another Alien® film. The second group are judging the film based on their own expectations, rather than just watching the film for what it is. The other group griped of plot holes. There are none in this film, seriously, none. There are unanswered questions sure, but don't look to the sequel for answers, that's not how it works. This isn't a big middle finger to the audience like Matrix: Reloaded was, this is similar to District 9 or Skyline. They end on new beginnings, what happens next isn't relevant to the story we were just told.

We're visually shown what the black goo is, repeatedly, we don't need a scientific understanding of it, it is the stuff of the gods. People question why Fifeld (Sean Harris) the guy making the map got lost, well, same reason the Millburn (Rafe Spall) the biologist got killed by a snake, or the Janek (Idris Elba) the captain, being dies flying, or Vickers (Charlize Theron) the nihilistic unbeliever (she's the Ellen Ripley of this film), gets crushed by a chariot of the gods. There's a theme, of hubris, the inadequacy of human knowledge, there is a reason only the true believer survives.

i'm a bit surprised people were unsure of what to expect from this film:

i made this back in January

Oh hey, he quoted a movie!

Now let's talk about faith and aliens, obviously Daniken's Chariots of the Gods, a painfully racist diatribe about how aliens came down and taught primitive man society and culture, was an influence on in this film, the whole pictographs of giants showing humans the way. Daniken was maybe inspired by the equally racist HP Lovecraft, specifically the story At the Mountains of Madness, which involved horrible and uncaring aliens starting life on Earth. Come to think of it, it also had a geologist who did little geology and got lost in an alien ruin.... And they dissect a god in it! (It's worth noting that Guillermo del Toro scrapped his adaptation of the Lovecraft story after seeing what was going on in this film) So honestly the racism of the influences makes the gods themselves being marble Greek statues hilarious. More white, than white. You see it's a... nevermind.
There's also this Space Jesus story going around, that since they're on this planet on Christmas, and something bad happened on this planet 2000 years ago, and the ship was heading to Earth. A lot of people are assuming this means, they were going to kill us because we killed Jesus. And i can't help but to feel this is more hubris, that because these gods created us it must be all about us, we never see what happened on this planet. It might have nothing to do with us, the ways of gods are not the ways of man. It's odd because people seem to think if Space Jesus was true, than this movie is proving the Christian faith right. i don't remember the part of the bible where God was some alien that killed himself billions of year ago. Or Jesus being freakishly pale, tall, and bald. This movie is about humans being wrong, so wrong.

Now Vickers straight up calls Shaw and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) true believers, that's why they're on this trip for Weyland's immortality. Now Holloway isn't a true believer, he's just an asshole that reminds Shaw of her father, also he's an archeologist that's disappointed in finding a tomb. The father thing is important, her father died of malaria according to what David saw in her dreams, Holloway dies of what looks like an alien disease. But really, fire of the gods. Shaw however, does believe, she's happy and enthused, she's found god, turns out god doesn't really care for us, and likely wants us dead, whoops. But at the end, David is worse for wear, defeated, he wants to go home (It's like that movie again!) But Shaw wants to go on, she still has her faith. And like i've mentioned, what she may find out there isn't important, it's that she goes out looking. It's very existential, hopeful.

Now hope, there's an interesting thing. After Prometheus gave mankind fire, the gods decided to punish mankind, they gave Pandora a box, but really, box is a bad translation. What they gave her was a vase.

Like i said, there's a lot going on in this film. But among the horrors, hope was in that jar, hope is what humanity has, and it's beautiful.

Now i want to talk a bit about my favourite part of this film. Weyland and co. have gone and woken up this slumbering god, he stands confused, watching, waiting. Weyland demands David to ask him for immortality, Shaw pleads to ask him why they don't love us. Both of these questions are stupid, but i'll get into that later. So David obeys his father, he has to, and for the benefit of Weyland he quotes Blade Runner, "Give me more life Father/Fucker." Now this god, reacts by lovingly caressing David face, and it's beautiful. He then rips David head off and bludgeons Weyland with it. It's not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Now, what's going on here is Weyland, a man who has done so much for humanity, has created a new lifeform in David, a son he doesn't consider real, created life in the form of his daughter, whom he loathes, this arrogant old man, goes up to a god, gods whom sacrifice themselves to create new life, and asks them to be immortal. The Engineer literally beats Weyland on the head with his legacy, his immortality. That is why his question was dumb.
As for Shaw's question, well we only have to look to David. David is treated like shit by his creators throughout the entire movie. Weyland tells him he has no soul, Holloway belittles him at every turn, it's repeatedly pointed out that he's not human, just a robot.
Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers, to get answers why they made us in the first place.
David: Why do you think your people made me?
Holloway: We made ya 'cause we could.
David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
Holloway: [laughs] I guess it's a good thing you can't be disappointed.
David: Yes.
The thing is, we see David react to these jabs, he looks hurt, he is hurt, humans are hurt by Egineers, what do they care, we're just humans.

David is a such a wonderful character, he's got this fantastic childlike glee about him. Which could be tied into this meta quality about him in that he almost seems aware he's in a movie. i mean sure he's following his father's orders because he has to, but he wants his father dead, he wants to be free. Our god frees him from his. It's just that in his actions, it's like he's enjoying the hell out of being in a space horror film "Oh look aliens, ghosts, and slime, and joy!"

Look at the conversation with Holloway, how he asks him if he's prepared to do anything to meet his makers, before poisoning him with the black goo. Or how he pulls a Vincent Price impersonation and won't let Shaw see her child in the sonogram machine. Now the child, there's something to talk about. The squidbaby in a sense, is the child of Shaw and David. i can't help but think that's how David might view it anyway, he was fascinated with her, he couldn't understand her, her faith. It's part love, part science experiment. There is a lot leading up to this, we only see him watching only her dreams, he rescues her from the storm, her boyfriend yells at her, David asks her if she's alright, she thanks David. She doesn't treat David as something less. At the end of the movie when he comes out and says he doesn't understand her, she responds it's because he's a robot, it doesn't seem hateful, nor does he seem hurt. He'll never understand her, she'll never understand the Engineers. And yet they go on.

As for squid baby, the abortion scene made me break out into a cold sweat, i don't think anything has bothered me that much in a movie before. Considering the thing looked like it had ovaries when it was fully grown, i'm wondering if it was less her child and more her uterus. The machine was set to only deal with men, she set it up to remove foreign objects. So, she removes her womanhood, but in the end is saved by it.
The climax of the film is hilarious by the way, a giant vagina engulfs the phallic marble god, they wriggle around for a while, and then a new life form is brought screaming into the world sometime later. Oh my. Because at its heart, the horror of this film, is sex and creation. We see a god torn apart to create life, there's the sexual ending and all its goo. But the horror isn't restricted to heterosexual, Millburn and Fifeld have some homoerotic stuff going on. Millburn has a crush on Fifeld, there's the cute little helmet bump when they get in the rover, he leaves when Fifeld wants to, he tires to impress Fifeld by showing no fear in front of the freaky alien cobra. Which was a mix of yonic and phallic, i might add, but what's worth mentioning is that it phallic bit goes down Millburn's throat and acid goo gets all over Fifeld's face. Yep. My favourite "sex is gross" scene though, would have to be when Holloway and Shaw get it on, not only does it fade to black, but the next morning, Shaw is lying naked in bed, with a sheet over her crotch. "Wouldn't want to offend my lover with my vagina!" Which explains why she removes it, then uses her new found powers of creation to defeat god. As Weyland said, we're the gods now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Galaxy defenders my ass.

Nothing about Men in Black 3 is fun. It's a dark, sadistic, racist, and generally depressing film. And it's all just a terrible shame.

The first film is tons of fun, it's loving, it's bright, it's got some dark moments, but mostly in the form of dark humour. It's got a sarcastic old man showing some smart ass rookie the ropes, great buddy cop dynamic, and Vincent D'onofrio is hilarious in every scene he's in. Through fantastic physical comedy, he's able to project that he's too big for his skin, every movement is a laugh. It's a brilliant performance.

The MiB themselves are portrayed in a kind light, they welcome aliens to Earth, treat them kindly, they mostly act to keep them safe and secret. The only time they act with aggression or violence are when the aliens are putting humans in danger.

Now, in MiB3, the agency is shown to be a bunch of racist cops, they shoot first and never ask questions. We're greeted with some Chinese people, dressed in medieval Chinese clothes, but what's this, they turn out be gross slugs, whom the MiB kill on the grounds they're not human. Later we meet a mystic wearing a turban, but surprise, he's not a middle-eastern man, he's got a huge alien head under that turban. Then there's a really odd scene, with J back in the 1960s, he steals a car and gets pulled over by some racist cops because he's a black man driving a nice car. He erases their memory and says shame on them for assuming he stole the car, even though he did, and drives off. Him and K have been, and continue harassing and killing aliens for the sole crime of being alien the entire movie, the movie is condoning this.

This is a huge contrast to the first film. Take for example the beginning, the MiB tell the INS to fuck off, welcomes the Mexican immigrants to America, and then deal with the real dangerous alien, peacefully (well until he tries to kill the INS agent). If that were the K from MiB3, he would have let the INS take the Mexicans, and probably tell a racist joke, after shooting the alien dead of course.

Note also this scene:

Reggie is breaking the law, K stays kind and cool, both agents congratulate him on being a new father and let him go on his way. Also the World Trade Center is in the background.
Now, i can't say that MiB3 is bringing to attention horrible attitudes and racism in the wake of September 11th, but it certainly is built on those things. This movie is condensed xenophobia.

K: All right, kid, here's the deal. At any given time there are approximately 1500 aliens on the planet, most of them right here in Manhattan. And most of them are decent enough, they're just trying to make a living.
J:Cab drivers?
K: Not as many as you'd think.
 i'll let you imagine how that conversation would play out in MiB3.

Now the next issue i have is with Boris the Animal, played by renowned funnyman Jemaine Clement. i bring up the fact that he's known for being funny, to point out how unfunny Boris is, not that they try to make him funny mind you. He's evil, he kills, he growls, he has a bug for a hand that shoots needles. He's also the last of his species and drives around on a ridiculous space motorcycle.

Bring back Sheriff Lobo.
The thing about Lobo, he's a parody, he's not meant to be taken at face value. i've heard rumours that some comic books have taken him seriously, which i don't doubt, but i've been lucky enough to not encounter, until Boris anyway. No offense to Jemaine, but it's not like he gets hired because of his ungodly acting talents, he gets roles because he's awkward and hilarious, why are we casting someone like that for a role that has zero humour? Edgar the Bug, killed people sure, but i already went over what he a joy he was to watch as he did so. Just watch the restaurant scene in the first film, he kills those two guys, while hunched over, a look of evil glee on his face, and then stomps out of the restraunt like Frankenstein's monster. It's a fun thing to watch. Boris on the other hand, blows a hole in space prison, holds on with his ugly claw feet, and let's the woman that freed him get blown out into space, he then bounds around the moon awkwardly, all with zero expression on his face.
And tying back to my main point of this film being racist and fucked up, all the problems are caused because K didn't kill Boris back in the 60s. So guess who gets exploded into a pile of goo at the end of the movie?(Before he even shows his true self i might add!)
It's a big fuck you to everything the first film stood for.

Oh yeah, this film hates art as well, while back in the 60s it's revealed that Andy Warhol isn't real, no he isn't some alien like Elvis, he's an undercover MiB agent, who hates art, and is only doing whacky stuff so he can blend in with the aliens. The undercover agent even tells J he's a moron for liking his work. Yeah, sorry, wrap it up art, you've been had.  Not that it would really matter if somehow, for some reason, art was created as a joke, but it just seems to be this snide "Haha, we fooled those artsy intellectuals, what a bunch schmucks!" And that tied with the xenophobia, just wears me out.

No idea why they thought such a downer of a ending would be touching either.
You sucked all the fun out of my summer MiB3.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

the goods

There are no words to express how happy this has made me
i must resort to cutesy emoticons:

CD, DVDs, vinyls, and undies for days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Darker Still!

Somewhere along the lines Tim Burton has become a dirty word. In certain groups anyway, for the most part his whimsical visuals still make bank at the box office. But our strange friend Tim has gotten a reputation of being associated with mall goths at Hot Topic, and only doing fish out of water stories.
Well, the first one doesn't matter, who cares if teens still love Jack Skellington, the Nightmare Before Christmas is a great movie. And as for the second, well, can you really define any story of an ordinary person achieving the extraordinary in a strange land a fish out of water story? Because you know, that's every story. There are also groans of him always casting his spouse and best friend. However, when those people are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, why wouldn't you cast them in everything you make?

 Now i must admit, i wasn't really a fan of Charlie and Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland, hell, i even found the Corpse Bride dull. But they did all have interesting qualities. Charlie added the issue of parents and Wonka's daddy issues, which is a thing Burton likes to tackle in his movies, what with Big Fish and Edward Scissorhands, hell i could work Batman, Nightmare, and Sweeney Todd in there easily as well. It was Burton leaving his mark on the story. i also enjoyed the updating of the children and their maladies, and the oompa loompas basically being the new Oingo Boingo. But something feels off,  i don't know if it's the plastic look of the factory, or the the fact that they made Wonka a child that needed to grow up. It just leaves one feeling empty.
 Alice on the other hand almost explored some interesting themes, Alice was a teenager now, she's afraid of marriage, afraid of sexuality, of puberty, this is why she's continually growing out of her clothes, and hiding her nakedness, like some teenage nightmare i'm sure we've all shared. But this never really goes anywhere, it's quickly forgotten in order to have Narniesque kill the dragon quest. There is another neat theme of not knowing oneself, no one recognizes Alice, what if she isn't herself? A frightening prospect, and this does have a payoff at the end, she tells everyone off and says she's going to do what she wants. However, i don't feel like it was earned, i mean, if the jabberwocky was the patriarchy, why does she kills it with a vorpal penis? Is Alice no longer a woman, but now a man? i mean, i guess blood did take her into adult hood there, but still. Why the jabberwocky at all? i've also got issues with the terrible 3D (yeah i know it was post, but some things were thrown in to be come out of the screen), the Hatter not being mad, and the whole "Underland" thing.
Corpse Bride is interesting in that it reads like a modern Grimm's fairy tale, but everything not involving the undead is dull, and things like Peter Lorre worm just seemed out of place.

As for Dark Shadows, let me preface with this: It's Burton's best film since Sweeney Todd (or Big Fish, if you're some weirdo that hates musicals)
 Now, i didn't link a trailer because, well, the trailers are terrible, they do make it look like some story about a 16th century vampire trying to adapt to the whacky 1970s. But that isn't the film at all, pretty much every instance of him not getting things is in the trailer. The film is about him bringing his old fashioned values to modern times.

Not to say he disapproves of all things of modern culture, Barnabas is totally down with feminism.

No seriously, this isn't another Beaton joke about strong women, Barnabas thinks women being equal to men is great. Of course there is the sad joke of the film, all the females characters talk about being post feminist, and how women are free to be equal, and here we are forty year later...

Elizabeth is the matriarch, she's giving it all just to keep her family afloat, she's fighting against a curse, a deadbeat brother and his odd son, her own moody teenage daughter and years of declining business. The fact the Collins still have the house, and enough money to keep a doctor and hire a governess speaks to her dedication.
 Dr. Hoffman is a leech, but she's also an intelligent and skilled manipulator, Her downfalls are being vain and a huge drunk. She's draining the Collins of their dwindling money and Barnabas of his immortal blood.
Angelique is  powerful witch, and beloved local business woman, her only problem is being hopelessly in love with Barnabas.

So yeah, the women aren't perfect, but i like that, they're people. The men are no better, deadbeat Roger abandons his son for money, literally. (Hey look, daddy issues!) And Baranbas is a terrible womanizer, and the film doesn't forgive him for this. In fact, all of his problems are caused by this fact, and his future problems are going to be a result of this as well.

Now when i mentioned earlier that this is about Barnabas bringing his old fashioned values to the modern age, i don't mean anything about bootstraps or any other such nonsense, no, our undead friend brings buried treasure, black magic, and balls.
 One of my favourite moments of the film is when Barnabas is learning about how to woo a modern woman by discussing the philosophy of love with some hippies, who admit that in the 70s, they like him are now a relic. And in by far the darkest joke of the film, Barnabas thanks them for their input, but regrets that he now has to kill them. A guys gotta eat you know. But it is also him symbolically killing off the relic of the past in himself, he's not going to be a damn hippy (fascination with lava lamps aside).

Lets talk about some other characters; Victoria is the the 70s girl that Barnabas hopes to woo, she's also oddly enough the reincarnation of his old love, Josette, go figure! She's actually a really cute character, she's totally 70s chic, really sweet and innocent, but also has a dark past. Her secret however, is terribly depressing, and makes you wonder how much of her is an act, but then her existence is erased by the return of Josette anyway, so whatever. That's the only thing that bothers me about this movie, Victoria lived a terrible life, just so Josette could reunite with Barnabas. Maybe she still exists, and just rembers her past life as well now. Or maybe it's symbolic, she continually lies about her name, maybe this is just who she wants to be now. Continues the blank slate her life must be. It's weird either way.
Next we have David, Roger's son who has been troubled since his mother died, of course his troubles are the same as Victoria's in that he can talk to the dead. Barnabas is the only one who encourages him in this, and other matters.
Lastly there is Carolynn, Elizabeth's daughter. She's moody, dealing with her broken family, discovering her sexuality, and being a werewolf. She also seems to find her only joy in music, so you know, she's a pretty typical teenager. It is always kind of nice to see teenagers portrayed in realistic ways, i hate when teenagers are too smart, too clever, and act like they've never had any angst in their life. Real teenagers only think they're like that. Another surprising joke was David blurting out at the dinner table that Caroylnn purrs when she touches herself, and it's just such an awkward and little brother thing for him to do, that it makes really helps them sell that Collins are a real family.

i've heard people say the plot is all over the place, and while there is a lot going on, it's basically: "Supernatural forces conspire to kill the witch and save the Collins family."
That's pretty much it.

Now i've only seen a couple episodes of the old Dark Shadows, and they were all before Barnabas was a character, so i can't say how true it is to the show, not that it greatly matters. i can however attest that the many characters arcs, side stories, and melodrama do ring true to the soap opera roots, but it doesn't forget that it is a movie.
And movie just works, the story flows, the acting is great, the setting is perfect, the colours are vibrant, the soundtrack is superb, seriously. The opening credits to Nights in White Satin, Carolynn playing Season of the Witch (a bit on the nose, but it's a great song) or Alice Cooper performing the Ballad of Dwight Fry at the ball, it's all amazing. Don't write this film off because of some preconceived hate for Burton or because it's based on some goofy soap opera, Dark Shadows is damn entertaining.