Tag: Review


Predator [1987]

Director: John McTiernan
Actor: Arnold SchwarzeneggerCarl WeathersElpidia CarrilloBill DukeJesse VenturaSonny LandhamRichard ChavesShane BlackKevin Peter Hall

The eighties played host to the rise of the mindless action film, which went hand in hand with the insurrection of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s film career. Predator is probably the most famous of the many films in this particular sub-genre of 80s popcorn action films, mostly due to the compelling story, easy to digest plotline and the superb quality of the overall film. The direction, and cinematography are all top notch. The acting, while simple and a little caricaturish, is solid and certain doesn’t stand in the way of the solid production. Everyone on the set knows that they’re not remaking Citizen Kane, and as a result it all works really well. And now a little about the story…


Major Alan “Dutch” Shaeffer (Schwarzenegger) and his team of SAR specialists (Search and Rescue) are called into a South American jungle hell in order to rescue a diplomatic attaché to a friendly South American nation whose helicopter went down on the wrong side of the border. Dutch starts to suspect that more is afoot when it turns out he was recommended for the job by Dutch’s old army buddy, CIA agent George Dillon (Weathers) who is supposed to escort the team of veterans on their mission, something that doesn’t sit well with the group.

Dillon: “I heard about this little job you pulled up in Berlin, very nice, Dutch…”
Dutch: “Good old days…”
Dillon: “Yeah, like the good old days… How come you passed up on Lybia, eh?”
Dutch: “Oh, it wasn’t my style…”
Dillon: “You got no style, Dutch, you know that! C’mon, why? Why did you pass?”
Dutch: “We’re a rescue team. Not assassins.”

The rest of the team, gatling gun-toting Blain (Ventura) and his long-time friend Mac (Duke), the stoic Native American tracker Billy (Landham), the nerdy, comic book reading Hawkins (Black) and the intelligent scout Poncho (Chaves) reluctantly accept Dillon as a third wheel, but give him various degrees of a hard time. From Blain’s attempt to fuck with Dillon by spitting chewing tobacco on his boots while they’re in the “choppah,” to Mac giving him shit for not being the stealthy veteran out in the bush that they all are and promising him that he’ll do horrible things to him if he keeps giving away their position with his bumbling. It’s here where you start to realise that Mac’s probably suffering from some severe PTS and is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Mac: “You’re ghostin’ us, motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the world, you give away our position one more time, I’ll bleed ya, real quiet. Leave ya here. Got that?”

By this point, it’s obvious by the interaction that this group of people are long time veterans of many campaigns, who have worked together on many, many occasions and have developed an equilibrium that is upset by Dillon’s presence. Small snippets of conversations hint at a rich background with many missions, each of which could be turned into their own film;

Mac: “I seen some bad ass bush before, but nothin’ like this.”
Blain: “I hear ya. This shit’s somethin. Makes Cambodia look like Kansas.”

Poncho: “Do you remember Afghanistan?”
Dutch: “I’m trying to forget it.”

The group is trekking through the jungle and eventually find the crash site for the helicopter and notice that the diplomats are missing while the pilots have been executed. Also, the helicopter was taken down with sophisticated weaponry, not the stuff Dutch expected to encounter in a jungle populated by guerillas. Again, his suspicion that Dillon’s motives aren’t what he says they are is strengthened, especially when Billy finds tracks of the guerillas and the two prisoners, as well as a separate set of tracks of six men wearing U.S. issued army boots following in pursuit. It seems a small group of Americans soldiers had preceded them, though Dillon denies knowing anything about it. Soon after, Billy stumbles upon the mutilated bodies of the soldiers, stripped of their gear, hanging upside down, skinned and eviscerated, from a tree. They manage to salvage their dog-tags, and it turns out to be soldiers familiar to Dutch and his crew. Dillon still maintains that he doesn’t know what those soldiers were doing there.

Then they stumble upon the guerilla camp where they witness one of the diplomats being executed by a Russian-speaking commander. They decide to lay waste to the entire camp in an epic and memorable battle. The action scene is ridiculous in the way this group of veterans manage to lay waste to an entire camp of guerillas, while taking (almost) no casualties. The only one that’s wounded, though barely, is Blain, who has taken “Old Painless” out of the bag, his gatling gun. (These things are usually reserved as helicopter mounted rotary cannons.)

Blain: [Looking up to a machine gun nest at the top of a cliff] “Son of a bitch is dug in like an Alabama tick.”
Poncho: “You’re bleeding, man. You’re hit.”
Blain: “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
Poncho: [Amused] “Oh… Okay…”
Poncho: [Poncho shoots a bunch of grenades up to the top of the cliff] “You got time to duck?”

After the camp is demolished by hip-fired automatic weapons fire and explosive grenades, Dillon searches through some documents and the real purpose of the mission becomes clear; they were never meant to rescue the prisoners, they were meant to take out the camp and retrieve some intelligence on a planned, Russian-backed invasion. Dutch is furious and confronts Dillon, who rebuts Dutch’s objections by telling them that he did what had to be done to get results.

Dutch: “So you cooked up a story and dropped the six of us in a meat grinder… What happened to you, Dillon? You used to be someone I could trust.”
Dillon: “I woke up. Why don’t you? You’re an asset. An expendable asset. And I used you to get the job done, got it?”

Extraction from the base by helicopter is impossible due to guerillas moving in on their position, so they have to move towards a safe landing zone quite a bit of travel away. On top of all of that, they’ve got themselves a prisoner, a woman named Anna (Carrillo), who refuses to speak. Dutch and his men want to leave her behind, but Dillon wants to take her along in order to extract information from her. When Dutch objects, he’s put in his place, but does defiantly promise him that if she slows any of the group down, he’s going to leave her and necessarily Dillon behind. They start moving. And then the story really starts.

A mysterious killer is stalking them, picking them off one by one. First Hawkins, then Blain. They try to make a stand, but the killer seems to be aware of all their traps and ambushes. Slowly but surely everyone is driven to the brink of insanity. Billy, who remains stoic throughout the entire expedition, seems ill at ease, peering out into the trees, as if he’s listening to something that the jungle is whispering into his ear. People are getting unnerved by his silence, until Poncho confronts him, his voice dripping with fear. Billy calmly addresses him;

Poncho: “You know something, what is it?”
Billy: “I’m scared, Poncho.”
Poncho: “Bullshit! You ain’t afraid of no man.”
Billy: “There’s something out there waiting for us… and it ain’t no man. … We’re all gonna die.”

But will they!? If you’re one of the four men in the world, ages 16 to 30, that hasn’t seen this film yet, I won’t spoil the ending for you, and I seriously recommend you go and see it. If you don’t, you risk merciless ridicule and bodily harm. Not convinced? Here’s the trailer:

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno [2008]

Director: Kevin Smith
Actor: Seth RogenElizabeth BanksJason MewesKatie MorganTraci LordsRicky MabeJustin LongBradon Routh
Writer: Kevin Smith

There really is no need for a long and detailed review; a bunch of friends decide to make money by making a porno. I haven’t laughed this loud at a movie in a loooong time.

Once Were Warriors

Once Were Warriors [1994]

Director: Lee Tamahori
Actor: Rena OwenTemuera MorrisonMamaengaroa Kerr-BellJulian ArahangaTaungaroa EmileCliff Curtis

.: Synopsis

A very raw and visceral film about Beth (Owen) and Jake (Morrison), two Maori no longer living among their tribe due to the elders disapproving of their union. Beth was a special girl, offered the blessing of the elders, which happens only once a generation, and Jake a descendent of a long line of former slaves. Their life sees high highs and low lows as they live in poverty and general dissatisfaction. They have several children together; Nig (Arahanga), the eldest son, who is reluctantly seeking for opportunities within the local Maori gang. Grace (Kerr-Bell), the eldest daughter, is a young and intelligent girl, and is the only one in the family that shows any academic interest. She’s also the one that takes care of the younger kids. Boogie (Emile) is still a young boy who is basically good at heart but is hanging out with the wrong people. And then there are Polly and Huata, the two youngest kids. They live in dilapidated, government subsidized housing along the highway.

Jake has a violent temper, especially when he drinks, and he drinks a lot, often inviting his friends back to his house to continue the drinking and singing when the bar closes. All the while the kids to lie awake listening to the drunken debauchery downstairs, unable to sleep. Beth is hardly a saint, she drinks, too, and while she’s clever, and generally doesn’t agree with her husband, she’s susceptible to his charms and to the partying, and so eventually gives in and enjoys the debauchery as much as her husband does. She’s dissatisfied with her life, though, and the dissatisfaction deepens when Jake announces he’s quit his job since the dole (social security) pays out only 17 pounds a week less than his wages. She’s what Jake calls a “smart-mouth,” and she regularly gets on his nerves to the point that he severely assaults her, and when she voices her dissatisfaction with him quitting his job, he puts his hands on her.

Severely bruised and beaten up she misses Boogie’s court-date and he is placed in a boy’s home run by a fellow Maori, a strong, old man who teaches him the depth and ways of the tribe’s traditional ways. He even goes so far as teaching him the Maori martial art, dance and songs. Meanwhile, Grace is deepening her connection with her best friend, an orphaned, homeless, Maori boy who lives close by in an abandoned car underneath an overpass.

.: Spoilers
One night, as Jake’s friends have loaded up with liquor and have demolished the house with their partying, one of Jake’s best friends, Bully, who has known Grace all her life, sneaks into her bedroom and rapes her. Grace runs away from home and joins her friend underneath the overpass, smoking weed to forget about their problems, he kisses her, and she misunderstands the gesture as a sexual advance (which it wasn’t) and she freaks out, saying that he’s just like everyone else. She wanders the city for hours while Beth is looking for her (and Jake is once again partying at their house, not really caring that his daughter is gone.) When Grace once again returns to the house, she’s confronted by her father and his friends, all drunk, and “Uncle Bully” asking her for a kiss, like he used to do before he raped her. She refuses, and her father almost assaults her for her disrespect. She runs out when Jake’s friends manage to calm him down, and she goes into the backyard where she hangs herself. When Beth returns Jake dispassionately tells her that Grace came back and went out the back again. When Beth goes into the backyard and discovers Grace hanging from a branch of a tree, Jake is paralysed, and once again his friends are the ones that act, helping Beth cut her down from the tree.

All of this gives Grace enough strength to defy Jake, determining that Grace should be buried on tribal lands. Jake refuses to go back to the tribe, and refuses to attend her funeral. The funeral is very nice, with Boogie and his group performing a special Haka (tribal dance) to commemorate Grace’s passing, and indicating how he’s grown and matured. Jake is at the local bar with Bully and another friend, who both tell him that it’s not too late to attend his daughter’s funeral. He refuses, and instead continues to drink himself into a stupor.

After the funeral, Beth heads home with her children, as well as Grace’s best friend to enjoy some food together. One of the kids asks for Beth to read from Grace’s notebook – a book she carried around in which she wrote her stories, indicating that she wanted to write a book one day. When Beth enthusiastically opens the notebook to read from it, she finds Grace’s final words, explaining how Bully raped her, and how she couldn’t live with what happened. Furious, she lets Nig take her to the bar where Jake is still drinking, to confront Bully. When Bully denies the accusations, Jake angrily intervenes on behalf of his friend Bully. Nig steps in, protecting his mother from his father and urging him to read the book. When Jake does so he realises the truth and takes out his wrath on Bully. (Not pretty.)

All of this gives Beth enough strength to finally leave her bleak life, take her children and return to the tribe.

.: Opinion
It doesn’t happen very often that I write such a synopsis of the entire film, and it should be taken as a good indication of how moved I was by this tale. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the film isn’t very good, especially the acting and dialogue, but the story is a moving one. Rena Owen has a weird gift to appear stunningly beautiful, yet damaged and worn out at the same time. Temuera Morrison is tough and pathetic, and Julian Arahanga is a big paradox as well. There’s no hero in this film, no person that you could offer your support to, which makes the watch rather unpleasant, even without all the acts of depravity and violence.

Also, from what I understand, the lower-class Maori in New Zealand often live in poverty and without much chance of escaping the violence, poverty and alcoholism that runs rampant through their society. Interestingly enough, these are the same problems that the Aboriginals deal with in Australia. Coincidence? Probably not.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight [2008]

Director: Christopher Nolan
Actor: Christian BaleHeath LedgerAaron EckhartMichael CaineMaggie GyllenhaalGary OldmanMorgan FreemanEric RobertsMichael Jai WhiteCillian MurphyAnthony Michael HallWilliam FichtnerJim Priz

When Batman Begins came out, it was a break from the campy direction that the Batman franchise had taken since Tim Burton stopped working on it. It was already getting close to a gothic fantasy, which Burton is wont to do, but once Joel Shumacher took over and made Batman Forever (Batman 3) and Batman & Robin (Batman 4) the movies really started to suck real hard. It took roughly a decade before they decided to try it again, this time with Christian Bale in the lead, playing Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter ego Batman. As you can read in the Batman Begins review linked above, I really, really liked it, even though the storyline was a bit chaotic. Imagine my surprise when they got a great storyline, with a fantastic villain!

That villain is The Joker, played, masterfully, by Heath Ledger, a then young and budding method-actor who sadly, shortly after finishing the film passed away from an overdose prescription medication. It’s sad because they did a hell of a job in setting him up to become a regular and appealing nemesis to Batman. In short, his performance is brilliant; from his voice and demeanor, down to his mannerisms, like obsessively licking his lips while he talks, making him at the same time kind of gross as well as eluding to some complication resulting from the massive scaring on his face. Oh, let’s not forget the delivery of his several explanations of his scars, each different, but each told with an almost moving ring of truth to them.

I also liked The Joker’s motivation; chaos. Not greed, not revenge, not malice. No; chaos. In response to a question of money, he says; “See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, and gunpowder, and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They’re cheap!” He doesn’t need anything, and therefore material gain or any absolute ideology is not what drives his actions, which makes him all the scarier as a villain because he doesn’t follow a predetermined, cookie-cutter, formulaic course throughout the story.

Storywise, the film is simple and straightforward, without too many frills, which, after Batman Begins, was exactly what I was hoping for. The story is solid and well thought-out, and basically sets up a long-lasting rivalry between Batman and The Joker, which sadly won’t come to fruition with Ledger’s untimely death. The Joker comes to town and steals large sums of money from a mafia-run bank. He does this to verify a ruse set up by Gordon (Oldman) and Batman, who have lightly irradiated money and put it into circulation among the criminal enterprises in order to identify the banks that they use in order to launder their money. Once The Joker learns this, he approaches several crime syndicates; the Blacks, the Russians, the Italians, etc. He explains to them what Batman and Gordon are up to and proposes that in exchange for half of their money he’ll kill Batman and secure their funds for them. This is how his reign of terror in Gotham starts, while chief district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) is busy collaborating with Batman in order to convict all the crime bosses.

And there’s the Harvey Dent hook. Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart, is considered a hero in Gotham, much like Batman is considered a hero. Many similarities exist between Dent and Batman, but there’s one big, defining difference; while Dent is the public hero, Batman is the vigilante hero. Dent rules the day while Batman rules the night. Dent is the White Knight of Gotham, and Batman is the Dark Knight of Gotham. And guess what? They both vie for the love of the same woman; Rachel Dawes, this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal instead of Katie Holmes, who turned down the opportunity to reprise the role after Batman Begins.

Spoiler Alert
One of the things I didn’t like about the film was the fact that they go through great lengths in order to create this villain; Harvey Two-Face, giving him a great backstory and well fleshed out personality, only to let him die off near the end of the film. Considering Ledger’s death, it would seem even better to keep Two-Face alive, in order to give Batman a recurring villain to combat. Personally, I was a little surprised and disappointed at the fact that Scarecrow only has a small, walk-on cameo on The Dark Knight, and perhaps it’s best that Two Face died, because perhaps he’d be relegated to the same cameo-roles in future movies. Still, I considered it a missed opportunity.

And, of course, let’s not forget that Big Jim had a small, but very visible role as an extra during Wayne’s fund-raiser for Harvey Dent! It’s not hard to spot him if you know what Jim looks like, but being the only one cheering.


Doomsday [2008]

Director: Neil Marshall
Actor: Rhona MitraBob HoskinsAlexander SiddigMalcolm McDowellDavid O’Hara

What can I say about Doomsday? It’s British and it’s good, reminiscent of Dog Soldiers, but only in terms of Britishness and quality. It’s kind of what 28 Weeks Later should’ve been, but wasn’t, a post-apocalyptic urban jungle with Mad Maxian brutality.

Early 21st century a disease breaks out in Glasgow, Scotland and spreads rapidly across the Scottish peninsula. The old roman wall between Scotland and England is once again erected, only this time a lot higher. Scotland is isolated and the disease contained. Sort of. 2035 rolls around and the facist English government is confronted by a starting epidemic. They decide to send a team of military specialists and scientists over the wall. You see, for three years, orbital sattelites have been taking pictures of people in the streets of Glasgow, survivors where before there were none. The team under the leadership of Marjor Eden Sinclair (Mitra) is sent to Glasgow to find Kane (MacDowell), a scientist and arguably the person with the most knowledge of the disease before the quarantine. If Kane is still alive, it’s likely that he has figured out a cure. The team finds survivors, a lot of them, but all of them are Mad Maxian savages with a thirst for violence.

It’s a good, very well-produced movie. It’s not Oscar material, but it’s a solid one.