Blog 436: Movie Night II

When Robbie’s parents leave him in command of the television, he naturally rises to the challenge. Indeed, this is exactly how he dealt with the problem of being home alone last time.

With his DVD collection now pushing the dizzying heights of a staggering sixteen items, he was ready to deal with anything the lonely evenings could throw at him.

The schedule included Babylon A.D., Fire and Ice and Casshern

Saturday: Babylon A.D.

Vin Diesel. What more reason do you need to buy a trashy sci-fi? I quite enjoyed Pitch Black.

Vin plays a very civilised mercenary (you can tell by his cookery skills and the fact that he drinks a glass of red wine) who is asked to deliver a package by a sleazy old Eastern European he doesn’t like. In the opening scene we see him stomping around to some kind of hip hop beatz, so we know that he’s a collossal bad-ass. But he also turns out to be a pretty cool guy in the end.

His mission is to take a girl from Mongolia and deliver her to America. Cue stunts and action and bad guys trying to steal her and all the rest.

The action isn’t all that great. Peaceful, cloistered nun Michelle Yeoh turns out to have known martial arts all along, and my guess as to why the girl was special wasn’t far off the mark (it was clearly too much of a sci-fi for her to actually be Jesus), though there was little more than a cursory explanation — the fact of her speciality was delivered in an almost throw-away manner and didn’t really go into any satisfying depth. Hell, the exposé was delivered at a faster pace than most of the rest of the film.

The best part is possibly Vin Diesel being carried in a car suspended from a helicopter, but that doesn’t go on for very long.

Sunday, Monday: Forbrydelsen (The Killing)

This series has been playing on BBC4 for a while now, giving us two episodes every Saturday. Unfortunately, it is the very epitome of grit and one ages several years just watching a single rocket-powered episode — so I have to split the double bill up. The Killing is an acclaimed Danish crime drama charting the brutal murder of a young woman. Unfortunately, it’s all wrapped up with politics and probably corruption and gritty gritty dark rooms.

We’re about half-way through the series by now, I think. While this would normally get watched with my parents, I’m too hooked to wait until next week and have to catch up. Shit is so cash, strongly strongly recommended… Though since it’s been showing for weeks now, I’m probably a bit late for giving you the heads up.

Actually, it’s all over BBC iPlayer so if you’re British you can catch up on what’s gone out already. Not sure I can recommend a straight binge, though, because your heart will give out.

By the way, it is subtitled. Did I mention that it’s subtitled? Not that you mind, because you’re all clearly capable of reading.

Tuesday: The Last Dragon

I didn’t buy this either, and I’m not sure it could be called a film either. Basically, a dreadful docu-drama that didn’t even know if it wanted to be a documentary or a drama and was full of awful pseudo-science. It was on Channel 4 at something ridiculous like three in the morning, so it’s probably my own fault.

Dragons are also collossal Mary Sues, according to this programme. Imba flight, fire-breathing that requires you to chew a very particular kind of rock, fire auto-wins all fights, camouflage king when necessary… And each feature was unveiled slowly, such as the paleontologists completely missing the fact that their corpse had six limbs until at least two thirds through.

It emphasised its terribly bad CGI by repeating every clip at least three times (sometimes mirrored), while it could probably have got away with it if it didn’t labour the point (but this would have halved its length).

There was even an almost vaguely implicit romance sub-plot in the lead paleontologist’s sceptic girl sidekick (at least by the way he leaned over her shoulder at the end in a sort of loving way), but she only had about four lines of dialogue so I assume it got cut in favour of… faux-documentary stuff.

Friday: Fire and Ice

We don’t have a particularly good history with dragon-based films; when I got Jack Dragon Wars (or rather, D-War) for his birthday some years ago it turned out to be terrible except for raptor cavalry and siege lizards. And then the above debacle.

But I keep going, in the hope that one day I will not be disappoint and will stumble across the perfect interpretation of a dragon in a classic fantasy swashbuckling adventure with a beautiful romance sub-plot.

Luckily, Fire and Ice was actually pretty cool. Aside from some slightly wooden acting in places and the odd computer graphics boo boo in the distance, it had a basic conspiracy-intrigue storyline.  While pretty much generic, it filled a hole of a Friday night — out of all of the films bought in this batch, it most fitted exactly what I wanted.

The dragon design was pretty… intriguing. The dragons were pretty much flying stingrays, replete with elemental particle effects (fire or… ice). Since a good part of the promised action came from aerial dragon-on-dragon action, the stingray design didn’t really lend itself to this — combat was a mixture of fire/ice breathing and body-slamming.

It also had John Rhys Davies, a.k.a. Gimli, who was good for plenty of chuckles. King Augustin was also played by Arnold Vosloo, a.k.a. Imhotep from The Mummy (I was right all along, my powers of recognition do not fail me after all) except with a beard. The rest were unknowns.

Luisa: I have a dagger!

Gimli (dual-wielding broadswords): That’s not a weapon, that’s cutlery.

The romance subplot was also quite nicely done. It didn’t go from zero-to-bed like the usual Hollywood flair; indeed, by the end of the film, while evil old mother was scheming the princess into marriage, they still hadn’t actually kissed (but were flirting). So kawaii.

Friday: Casshern

This is the obligatory £3-from-Fopp addition to the stack. It sounded awesome enough to be an unmitigated impulse-purchase, especially at that price.

Unfortunately, the box completely did not match the film. I think the only way I can describe this movie is “schizophrenic”.

“Better than both Matrix sequels put together – a truly stunning sci-fi masterpiece.”

— News of the World

That doesn’t really set a particularly high bar, but it at least implies a certain level of cinematic competence.

Unfortunately, out of its monolithic 142-minute bulk, there were no more than 20 minutes of action sandwiched between collossal piles of soul-searching and symbolism and spurious stylised animated inserts out of fucking nowhere. The plot didn’t entirely make sense; lighting strikes out of nowhere and leaves behind a big column of something (nanotech? Biotech? Fuck knows) that caused the plot to happen. This is never explained; about half-way through the film it just collapses.

It also jumped around in an annoying, juddery way. Even paying attention we were still left pretty much guessing what the hell was happening. After a night’s sleep, I still don’t even; Jack and I decided that most of the production team didn’t even either. My theory is that it was at least three films melted together into an unholy mess.

It also turned out to be subtitled. But there was hardly any dialogue to help plot exposition, so we probably blinked and missed it.

Next Week…

The show ain’t over yet, people.

Alongside Forbrydelsen being on series record (^-^), I’ve had several films I’ve never seen before taped by the BTVision box: a gritty French crime drama with Jean Reno (always a seal of quality), Alien and Highlander

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